16 The Daily Telegraph Friday 3 July 2020 *** Sport Final whistle Marcus Armytage The powers behind the jockeys’ thrones T A bit like Joseph’s amazing coat, Mandarino’s saddles come in many colours omorrow, the 16 jockeys who line up at Epsom for the 241st Investec Derby will have the best, and in light of racing’s Covid-19 protocols, probably the only, seats in the house. Best, however, should not be confused with biggest, and Frankie Dettori, on the now, these saddles are the fad among jockeys. A bit like Joseph’s amazing coat, they come in many colours. Dettori will insist, partly due to superstition, partly because you want to be as comfortable as possible, on the saddle on which he won the race in 2015 with Golden Horn. “It’s dark blue with red stitching,” he says. “Everyone has different colours except Pat Smullen. When he was riding, he had the same colour as mine and I lost count of the times I went to get on his horse in the paddock.” One of the worst things about lockdown was the brief closure of EJ Wicks, the saddler, in Lambourn, an emporium of racing kit, bridles, saddles, boots, breeches, waterproofs, paddock sheets, and piles of tack waiting to be mended, along with three saddlers and a seamstress, in a rabbit-warren of rooms and workshops. When I am passing, I pop in for aromatherapy, to inhale probably the best smell in the world, fresh English leather. My daughter likes it so much, not just because of a token shelf dedicated to pony bling, she wants to live there, and when I die I would not mind my coffin lined in it, so, at least, I depart this world smelling better than I entered it. Half the bridles in tomorrow’s race will have been hand-stitched in the back-room of this shop, where in the 1960s the incomparable Lester Piggott, nine times a winner of the Derby, had his saddles made with a then newfangled lightweight fibreglass tree and hand-sewn pigskin leather. In those days, weighing just over 7oz, it was cutting edge, favourite English King, and Andrea Atzeni, on Mohican Heights, will not be the only objects being carried around Tattenham Corner with “Made in Italy” stamped on their bottoms. The vast majority of jockeys will be riding on beautiful saddles handmade by the Italian saddler Selleria Mandarino and, just right the lightest saddle in the business, and nicknamed a “postage stamp” because of its size. Now some weigh 3oz. Wicks has a history as long and as glorious as any stable in Lambourn. In a village dedicated to the horse, it is part of the fabric, and for over a century was run by descendants of the founder Fred Wicks, who established it in the butcher’s shop in 1906 – bridles still hang from the old meat hooks. A brother, nephew, and Cyril Bentick – who finished fifth in the 1949 Derby on Button Boy, a 100-1 outsider, before marrying into the family – and Bentick’s son Malcolm and daughter Sandra Nolan and her husband Jimmy ran it until the business was sold to Richard Fynn and wife Sophie in 2013. She is the horsey one but he was business development manager for British Hockey around the London Olympics. A less likely person to have taken over a job which appears to be in the genes it would be harder to find. He cannot ride, not that it is a prerequisite of course for running a business, let alone ride in the Derby. “When we were looking at the business I had a few riding lessons,” he says. “The first thing they did was take away my stirrups and I got a blister in an inconvenient place. All I remember is being at a meeting the following day shifting uncomfortably in my chair.” Not a saddler by trade, Fynn had to learn it on the job but he, too, is now part of the village fabric. He has been there long enough now not to smell leather when he opens the shop each morning, which suggests, for maximum effect and the least damage to my pocket, I should start restricting my visits. Easy riders: Lester Piggott on his ‘postage stamp’ saddle, Frankie Dettori (below) celebrates his Derby win on Golden Horn Sport in brief Sport funding she seems to want to do that,” said Navratilova, who won 18 grand-slam singles titles in her career. Meanwhile, the French Open will allow up to 20,000 people to attend each day of this year’s tournament when it starts on Sept 27. Sport Premium, largely funded by the Sugar Tax, and which the Government has so far refused to guarantee from the next academic year. Christine Ohuruogu, the former Olympic, world and Commonwealth 400metres champion, and Nicky Butt, the ex-Manchester United and England midfielder, have added their support to an open letter calling for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to address falling activity levels among children. Head teachers have also expressed alarm over the drop-off and primary schools’ sport funding. Concern centres on the £320million PE and Tennis Martina Navratilova insists 16-year-old Coco Gauff has the ability to “change the world for the better” after the American delivered a powerful speech at a Black Lives Matter demonstration last month. “She’s one of those people that can change the world for the better and Snooker Several players have withdrawn from this year’s World Championship, which is set to begin in Sheffield on July 21, citing concerns regarding coronavirus and quarantine regulations.
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