Racing: Man who would be kingmaker

Greg Wood talks to Robert Parsons, who is guiding Richard Quinn's quest for the title
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The Independent Online
Richard Quinn, the only rider with a realistic chance to deprive Pat Eddery of his 11th Flat championship, enjoyed a rare day off yesterday, but for Robert Parsons, his agent, it was simply another day at the office. Quinn trails Eddery - who was also idle yesterday - by 14 winners, 120- 106, and has until 11 November to overhaul the Irishman, and while the bookmakers do not care to quote odds about him doing so, Parsons is adamant that the race is far from over.

"Paul Cole's runners were all pulled out yesterday so we thought he'd take a day off," Parsons says, "but I'd like to think that come the end of August we can be within two or three winners of Pat Eddery, and if we are, he's really going to have to work if he wants to equal Lester Piggott's record of 11 titles."

When the season started, Quinn would not have been the choice of many punters as the next champion jockey, but while Lanfranco Dettori's elbow injury has undoubtedly opened windows of opportunity, the Scot can also point to the fact that when rode his 100th winner of the campaign at Goodwood last week, he was reaching three figures for the fifth time in as many seasons. The three months he spent riding in Hong Kong during the winter also seem to sharpened the edges of a rider who was already a very strong and capable performer.

In such a dangerous and fickle profession, however, it is not wise to look any further than the next day's rides, and Quinn prefers to keep any thoughts of the championship to himself. "Richard doesn't really talk about it at all," Parsons says, "but if you get a chance at something you want to achieve, you go for it."

Parsons knows what it takes to win a riding championship, having been the man who booked the rides when Richard Dunwoody won two of his three National Hunt titles, most memorably in the 1993-94 season when just three winners separated Dunwoody from Adrian Maguire after 10 months' hard graft. "I was thoroughly exhausted after that," the agent says. "Richard did all the travelling and the riding, but when you're sitting here for 16 or 18 hours every day of the week reading form, it can be quite stressful."

Parsons' opposite number in the Eddery camp is Terry Ellis, who is the former champion's brother-in-law and he will be attempting to secure the title for his man just as vigorously.

"Terry's a nice guy and I get on well with him," Parsons says, "but at the end of the day you have your friends in racing out of work hours and during work hours there are no friends. You have to go out there and do your stuff. The majority of people accept that but there's always one or two who don't. You try not to upset people but invariably it does happen."

For Parsons, doing his stuff is a year-long job, since David Bridgwater, the hot favourite for this year's National Hunt title, is also on his books. Tony McCoy, the defending champion, clearly has a considerable tussle to look forward to. "Tony McCoy will not be the champion this season, I can assure you of that," he says with complete confidence. "Barring injury, Bridgy will be champion."

The bookmakers concur, with Coral offering 4-7 about Bridgwater, and 2-1 against McCoy (Maguire, incidentally, is 11-2, with Dunwoody a 12- 1 chance and then 20-1 or more the rest). Parsons, a man who is not given to thinking in terms of second place, can sense that a unique three-timer may be within reach.

"My ambition is to have Richard Quinn as the Flat champion and Bridgy as the National Hunt. Then I'll have had all three of them as champions, and that will do, I think." If the dream is ever realised, he might even, you suspect, allow himself the occasional day off.