Dickon White, the Regional Director for Jockey Club Racecourses North West, talks to Tony Dewhurst about his favourite racing memory ahead of Haydock Park’s final fixture of the year on Sunday.
On arriving in Aintree winners’ enclosure, Paul Carberry stretched up his arms, grasped the rafters supporting the roof, and swung down from Bobbyjo, the 1999 Grand National winner.
For Dickon White it provided him with a golden celebration that still burns as bright as a crackling winter bonfire, nearly two decades on from that April afternoon on Merseyside.
“It was my first Grand National working at Aintree, and I can still see them now, horse and rider fighting their way through the ecstatic crowd,” recalled Dickon.
“There was the hurly burly of the spectators, policemen and press photographers, then I looked up for a second and there he was, right in front of me, clinging on to the stand. It was one of those great sporting occasions, watched all over the world.”
After an interlude of 24 years, the Irish had won the Grand National with Bobbyjo, trained by Carberry’s father, Tommy, who had ridden the last winner from across the Irish Sea, L’Escargot in 1975.
On the long run-in, Bobbyjo surged ten lengths clear of Blue Charm, who had duelled for the lead throughout in the four miles plus stamina test over the formidable National fences.
Quietly spoken Carberry senior said that the victory had eclipsed L’Escargot’s success.
The winner carried the colours of Bobby Burke, an Irishman who had lived in London for 30 years.
He owned a chain of pubs, and his regular patrons were brought to Aintree by a convoy of coaches and they celebrated long into the night.
“We didn’t know it then but Bobbyjo’s victory was to signal an upturn in fortunes for Irish trained runners in the decade to follow with Papillon (2000), Monty’s Pass (2003) and Hedgehunter (2005) all winning the Grand National for Irish trainers.”
This year’s Grand National Trial will be staged at Haydock Park on Saturday February 16 while The Peter Marsh Chase is just three weeks away on January 19.
“This time of the season is a really exciting one for National Hunt racing and my favourite time of the year,” said Mr White.
“The horses who will compete at the Cheltenham Festival in March and the Grand National are coming into view now, and many of them will be seen at Haydock Park in the next couple of months.
“There’s so much to look forward to at Haydock Park in 2019 and it is going to be a very exciting year.”
Sunday, December 30, The Last Fling, Haydock Park. Information and tickets, 0344 579 3006 or haydock.thejockeyclub.co.uk