Racing: Gatwick points Channon down Derby's runway to immortality

Former striker saddles an Epsom outsider part owned by Sir Alex Ferguson.

There were overcast skies over Mick Channon's main gallops at West Ilsley yesterday and the Didcot power station did not help, belching matching grey clouds into the atmosphere.

There were overcast skies over Mick Channon's main gallops at West Ilsley yesterday and the Didcot power station did not help, belching matching grey clouds into the atmosphere.

Yet there is glee in the heart one of Britain's most successful horse trainers, the man responsible for Britain's heartiest batch of thoroughbreds, the man who sent out more domestic winners than anyone last season.

Channon, on Saturday, sends out the supplemented Gatwick for the Derby, sends out the best of his nationwide record brood of 140 horses into action. It is an interesting addition to the field as it continues the public feud between Sir Alex Ferguson, who owns one twelfth of the Gatwick syndicate, and John Magnier, due to be represented by one of the ante-post favourites, Yeats.

Ferguson, unlike Magnier, is not a lifelong racing man, but he does understand a challenge, and he is happy that his handicapper is sent into war against the cream of the substantial Irish crop. "He [Ferguson] has been threatening to come down here a few times and I'm sure he will do," Channon said yesterday. "I speak to him on the phone and I know he loves his horses. He's very enthusiastic. He was the first one to suggest we have a go."

Channon spoke from the roof of Berkshire, from the turf which used to resound to the hooves of Dick Hern's Derby horses, the likes of Troy, Henbit and Nashwan. They still remember the Nashwan gallop round these parts, when stable staff streamed down the hill, like villagers escaping a volcano, to get a bet on after a particularly exciting piece of work.

The present trainer has been up since five and the first dribbles of Classic horses. The former footballer is a typical, colourful self. His language could kill a maiden aunt at five paces, and, without editing, this article could have blown away an asterisk record.

At the top of the gallop, West Ilsley's leading apprentice, Sam Hitchott, has broken a rein and Channon is unconvinced by the method of re-attachment. "Have you never heard of a reef knot, you clot," he says. "Am I the only furry fellow that was in the boy scouts?"

Back home, the premises may have changed because the builders are in. But Channon has not modified in the environs of an office Portakabin. He wears a brown, corduroy flat hat on a head that is light grey where there is hair and outdoors pink where there is not.

The years may have had an affect on his appearance, but not the opinions. Channon does not like Epsom as a championship course. The promotional motto for the Blue Riband on Saturday is: "Flat? It ain't." The trainer's is rather less beaming.

"It used to be racing's day, then they threw it away," he said rhythmically. "Epsom have frittered the Derby up. They got the wrong frittering day and it would surprise me if they fritter the whole thing up.

"It used to be a special day, when there was no football, cricket or anything else on. It was an unofficial holiday with politicians there and you didn't mind if you bumped into your boss because he wasn't supposed to be there as well and probably had a bird with him.

"We run our best race on the worst track. I'd run it anywhere else apart from Epsom. Who wants to run over roads, uphill and downhill and see horses hurt and injured at the end of it all?"

It may be worrying for some of us to learn that Mick Channon will be 56 in November. His thoughts on horses may be troublesome for others. If he had been the arthritic figure he now poses in horsekind, the abattoir door would certainly have been slid open some time ago.

"Horses are the tools of our trade," he says. "I enjoy them, they're great fun, but I'm not what some people would call a horse lover as such. I respect them, but you can't afford to fall in love with them. If they're moderate I've got to let them go to someone else."

What marries between Channon's careers is the buzz he gets from both sports. He has won the FA Cup final and now has a shout at racing's equivalent. "As a footballer I only had myself to worry about, here the only thing I have to worry about is everything. The horses, the owners and the staff," he says. "But it's a great way of life because no two days are alike. You have massive highs and plenty more lows. For me, it's a drug. This is my fix.

"This is a crazy game. When it goes right you feel like King Kong, but we're going into a different league now with Gatwick. There is a massive gap to Group One, even from Group Two. I can't imagine being 80 and sitting on the sofa wondering whether I should have had this runner in the Derby. I'd rather run and get well stuffed than thinking later I should have had a go."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence