Barnes was a man of many parts, as Tit­mus would tes­tify

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Mar­cus Army­tage Rac­ing Cor­re­spon­dent Je ne sais pas.

Last week was a bad one for rac­ing folk go­ing be­fore their time, but Mick Barnes, one of the great char­ac­ters to have at­tached them­selves to the sport (it may well have been vice versa), will not have had too many com­plaints when he hopped the twig aged 84.

Born in Adle­strop, died, and buried last week, in Od­ding­ton (one mile away), briefly lived in Stow-on-the-Wold (three miles away, but he thought it “rough”), in his time Barnes was one of the finest stone­ma­sons in Glouces­ter­shire.

He had sev­eral claims to fame or, in­deed, in­famy; his work brought him into con­tact with the Glouces­ter builder Fred West, sub­se­quently dis­cov­ered to be a se­rial killer. He once spent an evening in a pub talk­ing to Kate Winslet about gar­den­ing but, hav­ing never watched tele­vi­sion or films, had no idea who she was, and he was a more regular drink­ing buddy of Ni­cholas Par­sons.

When­ever the sub­ject of cricket cropped up – he was an ex­cel­lent vil­lage player – he main­tained he saved the bowl­ing ca­reer of Fred Tit­mus by get­ting him to move a fin­ger fur­ther round the ball.

This last claim was largely dis­missed as fan­tasy by his le­gion of friends un­til the jump jockey War­ren Marston ac­com­pa­nied him on a trip to a Lord’s Test. They were mak­ing their way to their seats when they bumped into Tit­mus. “Hello there, Mick,” said the great Eng­land off-spin­ner be­fore turn­ing to Marston. “Do you know, this man here changed my ca­reer.” Marston spent the rest of the day in shock.

He had var­i­ous shares in jump horses, in­clud­ing Pak Jack and Ber­tie Barnes, and in re­tire­ment he be­came an al­most per­ma­nent at­tach­ment to trainer Richard Phillips who, be­cause of his lo­cal knowl­edge, orig­i­nally em­ployed him as an “ad­viser” when he moved to Adle­strop.

It started by Barnes of­fer­ing to drive him rac­ing, but ended with Phillips driv­ing Barnes ev­ery­where. On one horse-buy­ing trip to Ire­land, they spent a night at a ho­tel over­look­ing the sea in Cork. As they left, Barnes said wist­fully to the trainer: “One day, mate, we’ll come back here.”

The next day they drove two hours on to look at horses. All went well un­til they had seen the last horse and Barnes an­nounced to Phillips that he had left his blazer at the ho­tel. “That’s fine,” said Phillips. “It’s a smart ho­tel, they’ll post it on.” “Yes,” said Barnes. “But my passport is in the pocket.”

On the two-hour jour­ney back to the ho­tel, there was a stony si­lence in the hire car, the trainer in a fu­ri­ous state. When they had fi­nally re­trieved the of­fend­ing blazer, an un­re­pen­tant Barnes spoke to break the si­lence. “I told you we’d be back here one day, mate,” he said.

When French rac­ing was back, but be­fore we had got go­ing this side of the Chan­nel, I spent some time on the web­site of France Galop, its rul­ing body.

My French not be­ing up to much, I re­sorted to the au­to­trans­late func­tion, which, it seems, has trou­ble with rac­ing.

Though it can cope with ParisLongc­hamp, Au­teuil and Saint-Cloud, its trans­la­tion of Chan­tilly is the race­course known as “sweet whipped cream”.

Races on French Guineas day in­cluded the Soap­ware Price, the Rus­sian Wood Price and the Great Dis­abil­ity of Mil­ers. The Clas­sics took the bis­cuit though; the Poule d’Es­sai des Poulains (2,000 Guineas) was the “Emi­rates Poul­try Test” and the Pouliches (1,000) was the “Poul­try Test Hen”.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.