Dorothy Paget: The Eccentric Queen of the Sport of Kings Graham Sharpe and Declan Colley (Racing Post, £25)
What a horse! What a bloody horse!’ roared Golden Miller’s overwrought trainer, Basil Briscoe, as his charge galloped past the finishing post of the 1934 Grand National and into history as the only horse to complete the Aintree-cheltenham Gold Cup double in the same season. Shrieking women burst through the cordon to pluck the horse’s tail hairs for mementos as a curious crowd surged forward to glimpse the mysterious owner, a shy, pallid, unadorned woman of ‘ample’ proportions in ‘stockings worn strictly for utility’.
Dorothy Paget may have been unprepossessing, but if Golden Miller was the most famous horse in Britain, she was the most talked-about woman. her paternal grandfather was the Marquess of Anglesey—who famously said at Waterloo: ‘By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!’—but it was via her American maternal grandfather that she inherited her vast riches.
this was just as well, as she was an erratic gambler—regularly placing £10,000 wagers that were so spectacularly unsuccessful that the bookmaker William hill let her bet on races that had already happened—and had expensive tastes in cars, horses and obscene amounts of food.
She lived an anti-social, nocturnal life, surrounded by secretaries whose main job seemed to be ensuring an always vacant lavatory for their mistress, and drove trainers mad by ringing them at all hours; she died, vastly overweight, at 54.
Golden Miller’s story ended sadly, too; he won a fifth Gold Cup in 1936, but Miss Paget’s obstinate, overweening ambition for the horse caused a rift with Briscoe and the public petering out of a brilliant equine talent.
the authors have cleverly woven together colourful memories from her trainers, jockeys and their living relatives to produce a lively, absorbing biography of an enigma whose legend stretches far beyond the racing world. Kate Green
Paget leads in Golden Miller, the 1934 Grand National winner