McMahon and big Jack shun the chic

Richard Edmondson on the trainer taking on the blue bloods from his home-made stables
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A lot of racehorse trainers are snooty, failed-merchant-banker types but Bryan McMahon is not. He is the son of a Liverpool docker. He comes from Birkenhead, where the locals are not greatly known for the use of the "h" in pronunciation of their birthplace.

They say that any little boy can become President of the United States and it is an appealing dimension of today's Blue Riband of the turf that there is some sort of chance afforded to McMahon's Jack Jennings, who is trained in the racing wilderness of Woodside Farm, Hopwas Hill, north- east of Birmingham near Tamworth.

This is a team which has managed to avoid chic. Jack Jennings is named after his owner's father-in-law, a Castleford watchmaker who died just before the colt was bought for the (relatively) cheap price of 15,000gns at the Newmarket Sales.

McMahon does not go in for the surgery-cleanliness which some Newmarket ogres demand at their stables (this correspondent has seen a lad polishing a tap, an outside one). In fact, his yard is a bit of a tip. "It's a bit Swiss Family Robinson because I've built it up around us," McMahon said. "If we got a bit of timber one year, we'd knock up a few boxes. I suppose we're tattier than most but the horses don't know that.

"Providing you give him the right exercise, feed and groom him properly, the surroundings don't matter that much to a horse. Look at those athletes that are brought up in not much more than mud huts in Kenya. They come over here and wipe the floor with us. You can't stop ability."

When the second big deluge arrives, Woodside Farm will probably be the site of a large plank going into the surviving craft. McMahon owns sheep, dogs, chickens, pheasants, partridges and an orange-tipped Amazon parrot called Perky. He used to rear golden pheasants but they kept disappearing, and he has a good idea where he can find a pair of foxes when the time comes.

Bryan McMahon may have a doctorate in self-deprecation but he is no fool, as more than 300 Flat-race winners will testify. He would have better horses, but his schooling and blather have not been conducted with the moguls.

Jack Jennings, an enormous chestnut, is the best he has ever had. When you witness the colt's enormous backside swinging around the parade ring it is reminiscent of a rear you normally see disappearing over Becher's Brook. "He's a big animal," McMahon said. "He weighs 550 kilos when the average is about 500 and he's certainly heavier than a lot of National Hunt horses."

You will recognise Jack Jennings then and Bryan McMahon should not be that difficult to spot either. He will be the one without the cigarette holder and monocle.

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