7 APRIL 1979, Page 27


Jeffrey Bernard

Mr Charles Greville, who achieved a sort of fleeting immortality because of his diary, had a contempt for ordinary people — the Plebs — that bordered on the sticky side of kiffee-nosed. In 1845 he wrote in his Wretched diary: 'These are my holidays, exlusively devoted to the Turf, passed in complete idleness, without ever looking into a book, or doing one useful or profitable thing, living with the merest Wretches, whose sole and perpetual occupation it is, jockeys, trainers, betters, blacklegs, people who do nothing but gamble, smoke, and talk everlastingly of horses and racing Of course, what he was really worried about wasn't the plebs but the effect it all had on his particular lot. A few years later he added a further note to his diary saYing, grow more and more disgusted With the atmosphere of villainy I am forced to breathe — it is not easy to keep oneself undefiled. It is monstrous to see high-bred arld high-born gentlemen of honoured through and families, themselves marching "trough the world with their heads in the air, "all honourable men", living the best, the greatest and most refined society, mixed up in schemes which are neither more nor less than a system of plunder.'

Tutty, tut. It isn't really that awful you know. This morning, I was up on the gallops by Seven Barrows, Peter Walwyn's strip near Lambourn, with the lark. Two of them in fact. They twittered deliriously as the sun showed its nose over the top of the downs at about 7.30 am and they were in extraordinary contrast to Walwyn's earthy, businesslike and loud exhortations to his jockeys, lads and workriders. There was still a hard frost on the grass but spring having arrived the earth only gave a small impression to the hooves of the 'first lot', and as they came galloping up the ten-furlong curve of plush turf Walwyn gave me a running commentary on the proceedings. It is amazing that he recognises every one of his 115 or so horses but he does and I suppose if most ordinary trainers can recognise their 40 or 50 then he can manage.

Off he starts. 'These three coming towards us now. Two-year-olds. A Derring Do with a No Mercy and a Connaught colt between them. Not bad, slightly backward. Now, over there, on the shavings [wood shavings] gallop, here comes Wale, second in the Italian Derby, and Camden Town. They're just enjoying themselves.' In fact, they're slogging away so hard, making such a noise with their lungs, leathers and hooves that you might think Mr Walwyn has a strange idea of what enjoyment is. Then comes the Spectator mug punter's tip of the week. A chestnut of length and power comes striding up the slope with Pat Eddery aboard and Walwyn says it's Red Rufus. He's running at Salisbury on Saturday and Walwyn says, 'I've got him just where I want him.' He's talking of fitness, of course, and this is definitely one for your notebook. Another Saturday runner at Salisbury steams up the hill in the next lot and that's Persepolis. He's upsides Formidable and the news that Formidable's first outing of the season is at Wolverhampton is a cool reminder of Charles Greville's worst fears. This horse was a classic hope two years ago and now it's going to grace Wolverhampton of all places. It's in the final gallop of the morning that I see the best looker of all, Rebellion. Pat Eddery is riding again and this one is another future must.

Back at the yard humanity rears its comparatively ugly head. The American 'wonder-boy', so called by the irksome press, turns up for breakfast having got off his guvnor Barry Hills's horse and switched to a Walwyn one to evade the thousand questions he's going to be asked by all and sundry from the Telegraph to the Morning Star. Frank Morby bolts his breakfast to make sure of getting to Nottingham races in time, Jimmy Lindley drops in for coffee and Cauthen the wonder-boy himself describes a New York winter to me while I explain the mysteries of Fleet Street to him. It's dead respectable. We finish our eggs and bacon, I walk into the yard to have a look at a horse called Nureyev which cost $1,300,000 and then I go into Lambourn to collect the £8.25 that's owed to me by Rough and Tumble from the Grand National. Greville must have been talking through his topper.