Country Life Every Week - - Books -

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

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