Racing: Taylor ready to slip quietly into National consciousness

Gingembre boasts the right credentials to land Saturday's Aintree showpiece for novice trainer once known as 'the galloping nanny'

Should Gingembre win the Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, John and Lavinia Taylor, the couple behind the fancied chestnut, promise not to go wild. Visitors will be allowed on to their premises in Upper Lambourn and champagne will be provided. John and Lavinia, however, will probably not be there.

"We will almost certainly be hiding," Lavinia says. "We don't even think about winning a Grand National and there won't be any wild parties in Liverpool, never mind here."

This would not be the Taylor way. Little is. If Henrietta Knight and Terry Biddlecombe thought they had the field of English eccentricity to themselves, then the banging gate of the Taylors will disabuse them.

They first met at Roddy Armytage's yard at East Ilsley. John was the trainer's solicitor, Lavinia his dogsbody, a woman who rode work and also looked after Armytage's children, Gee and the subsequent Grand National-winning jockey Marcus.

Lavinia herself first got a taste of the Aintree mountains in 1989 when she rode in the Fox Hunters' on Galileo, before horses called Galileo started to win big races. Marcus was in the same race and Richard Pitman employed the full range of his Wildean humour to refer to Galileo's jockey as "the galloping nanny".

"It was a fantastic day," Lavinia remembers. "He was in the first two or three until the Canal Turn. Then the more fancied contenders went past. I finished eighth and I looked back at the end to see who had finished behind. There wasn't anyone there."

Fourteen years has passed but much has happened in the interim. The Taylors have returned from Ireland and, before that, the Antipodes and a sparsely populated part of Western Australia called Mukinbudin, where they kept 5,000 pigs in order. When they came home there was a pearl after the swine in the shape of Domaine de Pron, a horse purchased from France, who won the Eider Chase in 1998 but dropped dead before they could get the garland round his neck. That, they thought, was their shot. "After him we never thought we'd get another good one again," Lavinia says. "As it happens, we've got one that's even better."

This is the famous Gingembre, the French for Ginger. It is not a bad start, 30 years after Red Rum beat Crisp in one of the most celebrated of Nationals. His trainer was Donald McCain and he established that Ginger was not a bad name for a Liverpool winner.

By great coincidence, the Taylors are now in residence at the mighty Uplands, the former base of Crisp's trainer, Fred Winter. Gingembre now rolls around on shredded paper in the same box which the American horse Jay Trump used before his National victory for Winter in 1965. Anglo retained the prize for the yard the following year.

"We still can't really believe we're at Uplands," Lavinia says. "We're very much loners in that we love living away from everyone else, doing our own thing. It's quite a culture shock coming here and being almost in the village."

The Taylors are perhaps the only people in Upper Lambourn who may believe their village is twinned with the Bronx. Inner cities are not really their style. "We don't mix with people in the village and that's not because we're snobby, rather we're not social animals," John says.

"At first, we'd be riding in the village and people would ask us if our horses were hunters or eventers," Lavinia adds. "It wasn't until we won the Scottish National that we weren't a joke I think and there are those who still look askance at us. But we don't take ourselves seriously anyway."

Gingembre, in the wake of his Ayr victory, has to be treated with the greatest respect. The nine-year-old dirty chestnut has form to die for, a proven aptitude for flat, left-handed courses. "Liverpool should suit," Lavinia concedes. "If he can get over the first fence. That could be a problem. He is such a show-off that he might imagine that everyone has come to Liverpool to watch him and stand off a stride too soon.

"But he's a different horse on fast ground. The fact that he's been second in two Hennessys on soft and heavy is a bonus because on that ground he's got just the one pace, but, on fast ground, he can find another gear at the end of the race.

"He hasn't had an A1 scope or blood test for the whole of this season until a fortnight ago. When you ride him now he's squealing and he goose-steps like a German soldier. When he's really well before a race he'll goose-step in the paddock. But that doesn't get him over the blinking first fence. With this horse, I worry about every race, so the Grand National will not be anything different."

The Taylors, though, are anything but normal. They are not striking examples of the underprivileged, but they have not used their backgrounds badly. For them, each day is something to be filled. Lavinia can ride out up to three lots, John does all the business work. Mucking out and errands are shared. It is bad territory for bob-a-job week scouts.

"We're used to getting stuck in," John says. "Lavinia is not a professional as such, but she trains the horses professionally."

The owners of the majestic Uplands will share a vehicle to Merseyside, starting at 6.00am, on Saturday. It will be a horsebox and Gingembre will be the passenger. He may be a unique horse late in the afternoon. His connections will remain unique to this country, win, lose or fall.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen