Better to have loved and lost (heavily)

Sir Clement Freud took particular pleasure in the triumphs and frequent defeats he experienced as a racing devotee. On the day of his funeral, his friend Charles Wilson recalls their adventures

Racing for Clay Freud was largely but not exclusively an ambitious, twin-forked search for both the new messiah and the holy grail.

The messiah was the trainer who would win him the Triumph Hurdle, the incredibly competitive race for four-year-olds at Cheltenham, and the grail was the three-year-old gelding, bought off the Flat the previous season, that would take him into the Festival winners' enclosure.

Clay changed trainers more often than some people change their minds. A colleague in the press room only had to say: "So and so's a shrewd judge of a young jumper," and Clay would be phoning the newly discovered genius with a commission to find him a Triumph winner. Or if he watched a new young trainer interview well on TV, he would be lauding this tyro of the turf to anyone who would listen and sending him a horse.

I had a leg, or even two, in a number of Clay's Triumph tilts and the partnership brought endless fun and laughter, but only if you were capable, like him, of laughing at yourself.

A consistent racing foible of his was the unerring ability to part with horses prematurely. He didn't do patience.

One of our contenders showed little promise in his early runs and, against the advice of the trainer, Clay insisted we sell him. We did and five years later Kristoffersen is still winning races.

He became convinced that Orpen Wide, a horse he shared with another good friend Andy Wright, would not jump obstacles and he let himself be bought out. It has since won 14 races, on the Flat and over hurdles and fences, and £138,000 in prize-money.

The nearest we came actually to having a runner in the Triumph was with the gelding Star Protector, who won a good three-year-old hurdle at Ascot then ran well in a trial race at Cheltenham. We were planning how we would celebrate a famous victory when the horse broke a leg on the gallops and had to be shot.

Another of our well-bred hopes managed to get to a racecourse just once before "going wrong". He spent time with three different trainers, each of whom told us regularly that he was just six weeks off a run. When the six weeks had stretched to two years we let the final trainer keep him to settle a month's keep.

One of Clay's better investments was in the Ascot syndicate that owned the Derby winner Motivator. He wasn't totally pleased with the share of pot that came from the victory but it did motivate him to try to win the Derby on his own.

He spent more than he had ever spent on a racehorse (he told me he had been skiing – spending the kids' inheritance) on a yearling that he sent to a fashionable Flat trainer. After an inglorious start to its career the trainer rang him and said he thought they should try it on the allweather. Clay was so incandescent that his Classic candidate should be thought worthy of such lowly company that he immediately took the horse away. It wasn't much good over hurdles either.

Our best adventure was with a filly called Nagnagnag, a cheap two-year-old we bought from Jack Berry. She turned out to be something of a superstarlet, ran at Royal Ascot and won twice at Epsom. We switched trainers (naturally!) for her three-year-old career and had champagne days running her in Group races in France. A few days before she was due to run in a major race at Longchamp the trainer said he'd had an offer of £100,000 for her.

Clay and I had a chat. "Are you short of £50,000 at the moment?" he said. "No," I said. "Are you?"

We convinced each other that we were in it for the fun and glory of success, not the money.

She didn't win another race for us and a year later she fetched £10,000 at Ascot sales.

Charles Wilson is a former editor of 'The Independent'

Freudian tips: Wit and wisdom

Sir Clement Freud wrote regularly in the Racing Post. These extracts give a flavour of his greatly missed column:

On an experience as a jockey: I hadn't realised that jockeys could hear the commentary and the shouts of the punters and the bookmakers. I was so taken with this that I forgot to steer, until I heard a man shout: "Open the gates, he's coming in!"... I got off and found I was too weak to remove the saddle to weigh in, which is not essential when you finish 15th... Why did they dope-test the horse, I wondered, when it was I who was up to the gills with amphetamines and diuretics in order to make under 12st, which God had never intended as my weight?

On turning unofficial bookmaker: My cricket club chartered a plane to take a party to Longchamp for the Arc in 1965 and I went along laden with money – I fancied Sea-Bird a lot. I went to the parade ring to ensure that my fancy was in good shape and found that he was not. He was a dead ringer for a giant shaving brush: sweat ran down his neck, litres of what looked like Greek yoghurt oozed from beneath his saddle. I returned to my party and offered to lay Sea-Bird at pari-mutuel odds: "Save you queuing and I pay out more quickly than the Gauloise smokers behind the windows." I wrote the bets on my racecard: £50 Fred. £65 Angus. £40 Charlie. £3 Charlie's girlfriend... As Sea-Bird paraded the sweat glistened in the afternoon sunlight; when he cantered to the start, specks of white foam flew into the air. I nodded smugly. Sea-Bird won rather comfortably, but I was absolutely right – the people who had not bet with me spent an age waiting to be paid.

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child