The photograph above was taken twenty nine years after I first walked through those gates. The first time I dared to enter the Jockey Club HQ was back in 1982. I was sports researcher at Yorkshire Television. My colleague Charles Flynn, a quietly spoken man of the countryside, and very good film director, was given the task of getting the Jockey Club to agree to a behind the scenes, access all areas film. Charlie made many a journey from Leeds to Newmarket.
As sports researcher I expected to be working on the project. While I knew my racing, the Jockey Club suits didn’t like the cut of my jib. They immediately took a dislike to this council estate born and bred Londoner. I was too ‘familiar’ with them in conversation and ‘displayed an antagonistic manner.’ I was out! With hindsight, that was a blessed relief.
The Jockey Club made life difficult for Charlie Flynn. He was diplomatic but his patience was tested to the limit. The head of our department was John Fairley. Decades later he would set up Highflyer Productions and for many years oversee Channel 4 Racing. He knocked heads together in a very polite but firm way and the film was made, albeit despite some members of the Jockey Club not wanting anything to do with the Yorkshire Television documentary.
My charming, posh and well spoken colleague, the late Mark Meysey-Thompson, was brought in to be the researcher. He spoke proper! The racing suits approved of Mark and he got the job done. Mark actually came up to me and said he hoped there were no hard feelings about his replacing me. I told him I would be eternally grateful to him for so doing.
During this lockdown period when we have no live racing to enjoy, sit back and watch this hour long film. Laugh, shake your head in despair and be grateful these stuffed shirts are no longer in charge of racing. If we think that the British Horseracing Authority we often complain about in 2020 is out of touch with those who love racing, a look back at this 1982 film proves that the racing authorities have moved with the times. They are no longer living in the 19th century!