Racing: New generation of Mitchell dynasty hits stride in style

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The Independent Online

And though his mount, Wild Pitch, failed to catch the judge's eye in the opening amateur riders' race, Mitchell had notched his first career victory on the gelding at Newmarket 16 days earlier, his third ride in public. The teenager is tracing some distinguished genetic footsteps; there have been Mitchells gracing saddles on Epsom Downs for three-quarters of a century.

His grandfather Cyril, who died four years ago, was the first. One of the best jump jockeys of the wartime era, he started his career as an apprentice with Vic Smyth in 1929 before switching to the winter game, and then earned fame as trainer of Peter O'Sullevan's two best horses, the top-class sprinter Be Friendly, whose wins included two Haydock Sprint Cups and a Prix de l'Abbaye, and the smart staying handicapper Attivo, winner of a Chester Cup, a Northumberland Plate and a Triumph Hurdle.

Jack's father, Philip, who took over the licence at Downs House Stables, hard by the Epsom one-mile start, in 1974, was the best amateur rider of his generation, champion five times and winner of the Moet & Chandon Silver Magnum, the so-called amateurs' Derby, on his local course four times. Young Jack already has one over on Dad; like his son, Philip had his first race-ride at the age of 16, but was 18 before he rode his first winner, on Creditable at Haydock 39 years ago tomorrow. In second and third places, incidentally, were two more 5lb claimers, the future fellow trainers Henry Candy and Bill O'Gorman.

Jack first sat on a horse at three, and his first success in the saddle, a cool neck victory, had a certain poignancy. His older half-brother Guy, now 31, showed every sign of being a chip off the old block too, but the loss of an eye from cancer at the age of two meant he could never be granted a licence to ride. He has, however, developed a fine career as a surgeon.

"He was a lovely rider," said Mitchell senior, "but being a jockey was not to be. So Jack's first win meant a great deal to me, and indeed the whole family. It was a wonderful day, my best moment in racing, better even than all the fun we had with Running Stag round the world. He has been a natural since day one. He has quiet, soft hands, which are a wonderful asset for a jockey, and rode an intelligent race at Newmarket."

There may be another in the Mitchell pipeline. Jack was watched yesterday evening, by dad, mum Trish, older half-sister Holly (who picked up several creditable placings from just a few rides) and young brother Freddie who, at the age of 10, is, like big brother before him, making his own mark in a form of junior racing.

The Shetland Grand National series, in which the ponies race over hurdles on a small circuit, started life as a novelty display at the Olympia horse show two decades ago but now has a vibrant identity, with qualifiers up and down the country for the big London pre-Christmas indoor equestrian extravaganza . On Sunday, Freddie and his pony Snowman gained their Olympia ticket at Gatcombe.

"He's going the same route as Jack," added Mitchell. "He rode at Olympia two years ago. It's early days yet for both, but my father would have been very proud to see the next generation on a racecourse."

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Fu Fighter (Newton Abbot 4.30)

NB: Wester Lodge (Bath 3.45)