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."

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week