Monday, 6 April 2009

Sport of Kings?

An eventful sporting weekend last week, with the 100-1 outsider Mon Mome romping home to win the greatest steeplechase in the world, the Grand National at Aintree. The horse not only had the longest odds for 42 years, cheering the spirits and bank balances of bookmakers, but was trained by Venetia Williams and owned by Mrs Vida Bingham. As a final satisfying flourish, the race commentator was Clare Balding, one of the BBC’s premier sports commentators.

And to dispel any thoughts that this was a fluke in the feminine statistical graphs, four of the seven winners at Aintree that same Saturday, 4 April, were trained by women.

Mon Mome’s owner, Mrs Vida Bingham, is a 75 year old international bridge playing widow. She says, "I asked Venetia to be my trainer because she looked honest and trustworthy."

Trainer Venetia Williams was originally a jockey, but a fall in the Grand National in 1988 followed by another just two weeks later that broke the Hangman’s bone in her neck, put paid to her riding career. Hence the shift to trainer. Now she is hailed as the heiress apparent to the grande dame Jenny Pitman, who has trained two Grand National winners.

After 56 years with Queen Elizabeth II on the throne - a skilled horsewoman, daughter of a renowned follower of the turf and mother and grandmother of world class equestriennes - isn’t it about time horse racing was renamed the Sport of Monarchs?

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