I have heard it said that you will never know complete contentment until you achieve your long-held ambition. I suspect ‘ambition’ might be changed to ‘hopes and dreams’ for many of us. Only a very small proportion of the population have the stomach for the sacrifice and pain that is involved in achieving ambition. The rest of us simply dream.
Winning the Euro Lottery, for instance, is neither my ambition nor is it central to achieving my personal hopes and dreams. In fact I don’t even play the Euro Lottery. I might, though, if the profits went to the N.H.S. and not the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Though I admit a sum in the region of 150-million would be needed to bring to reality my most cherished hopes, my most fantasised of dreams.
Of course with 150-million in the bank I would own racehorses, perhaps a string, and it would allow me to publish in proper paper form (for some obscure reason these are now known as hard copy, even though a paper back would have to fall from a blooming great height to hit someone with the force hard enough to do any damage to the average man’s cranial) the many novels I have written over the long lain years. I will include an apology as by way of introduction to my readers. But they must be aware that though they might think their modest outlay to be poor reward for the entertainment provided I sweated and laboured over these works of fiction; it would be folly of great magnitude not to publish when financial clout allowed me not to have to grovel to publishers and literary agents. It is arguable whether they or I would have the last laugh.
What I dream of achieving is to make a mark upon the racing landscape by way of instigating a few new races that I believe the powers-that-be lack the will and imagination to create themselves. I have no vanity and the titles of these races would not include my name. What I do, or dream of doing, is for the love of the sport.
If you think about it, and please do, the signature type of race throughout the jumps season is the long-distance handicap chase. In fact I believe there are 16 localised ‘Nationals’ these days, and that does not include the Grand National and the Welsh and Scottish variations. So why isn’t there a championship race run over 4-miles. I believe the only weight-for age or conditions chase over such a distance in the entire calendar is the National Hunt Chase for amateurs at the Cheltenham Festival. When my boat comes in, when my bank balance bulges to obscene, though still beautiful excess, I shall correct this oversight.
I have written to Sandown in the past about this subject, suggesting that a 4-mile championship chase would sit comfortably on the Tingle Creek card. But they believe there is greater merit in having a London National. So I won’t be bothering Sandown with my 10-million pound investment over ten years. I will ask Newbury if they are willing to allow me to sponsor my 4-mile championship chase. I like Newbury and think it undervalued.
I first thought of the idea when Denman and Kauto Star were coming to the end of their careers, thinking such a race would be encouragement enough for Paul Nicholls to want to keep them in training for a further year. But of course that was not to be. But it would be an obvious race for Grand National winners, those who are not quite Gold Cup class and horses with handicap marks that make winning a tiresome task. It is a race that is needed and when the gods look favourably on me I will be on the case faster than a nine-dart finish. I would like to name this race the Spanish Steps Memorial Gold Cup.
On the flat I would create ‘The Ladies Race’, a 1-mile 4-furlong conditions race for female professional riders with a prize fund of £500,000. I would fund this race for 10 years. Remember, in my dreams I have 150-million in the bank. Again I would ask Newbury to stage the race. There is a blinding need for a signature race for professional female jockeys and I would hope all the top females from around the world would be keen to compete. Females are our future, they need to be encouraged and helped.
I would also create a series of races, both on the flat and over jumps, confined to jockeys who have only ridden a limited number of winners over the previous 12-months. The journeyman jockeys deserve a helping hand and such a series would put their skills in the spotlight. I have always argued that it is a major mistake to have races confined to amateurs, conditionals, apprentices, females and celebrities but not a single race for the hard working jockeys who are the backbone of our sport. Such a series of races would be a negligible cost on racing’s finances and I believe it short-sighted of racecourses not to include at least one such race every season.
Alas, I can only dream. But out there on the sea of self-delusion, steaming to port, battling the trade winds that are my nemesis, is the boat laden with my fortune. Let no man tell you I do not deserve a windfall from the Gods. And when it arrives I will be generous to the great love of my life. But only if I have my 4-mile championship chase, my Ladies Race and my journeyman jockeys series.
Keith Knight is a workaday writer of fiction, worker in the real world but foremost a horse racing fanatic. The joy of the sport is the horse - all horses.