Mel Gee here!
When affording to buy a newspaper is at times challenging but necessary to peruse that day’s racing cards, owning a racehorse is a far-off distant dream that could never be realised, could it? That’s how it was at the start for me, back in 1970, and my dream of horse ownership would surely never be realised.
Sat here writing this article in the garden, a lovely summer’s afternoon, how could I possibly have plotted and navigated a course to where I am today? It would be totally and absolutely impossible.
My own life’s tapestry is chequered, holey, sad and happy; full of regrets to the people I have hurt along the way; basically, I’m honest, and full of self-sacrifice. I would change none of it because to do so would mean I would not be me and I would not arrive at the destination I have found myself at today.
Plotting a career course for me was more reactive and not proactive…
The wonder that is Google can give you a myriad of career options at the push of a button. Google was not even a twinkle in someone’s eye when I was career hunting. With my GSEs and CSEs safely earned, I was determined not to be factory fodder in my local city. I am a people person, not a machine person. I secured a junior position in an export office and duly learned more world geography in weeks than the previous years at school.
My interest in all things horse racing was now in “full on” mode and with the introduction of new TV technology – Teletext and Ceefax – (some of you reading this don’t know you’re born!) I was able to get results almost instantly rather than listening to hourly news updates on the radio or legging it to the nearest bookmaker!
This new advancement allowed for ‘tipsters’ to advertise their prowess in picking winners and charge upwards of 60p/minute to blah, blah, blah before giving their tips! Goldmine, so it was.
This new business was my first opening to get to real racing people. One company, now long gone, operated from Newmarket and I decided to try to get behind the business, meet the people, and being in Newmarket, who knows what might happen?
I certainly couldn’t afford the telephone calls, and so this was my plan: meet the people, look for an ‘in’ for me, gain access to other like-minded racing people, become more knowledgeable. I quickly realised my enthusiasm for the sport was way ahead of my newfound friends but there was an opening….
The company was going to buy a horse and syndicate it and I could get on board for a one-off payment of ‘pence’. I was in! I was an owner! Well, a hair or two at least. We had some success with a win at the newly formed fibre sand track at Southwell ridden by top apprentice Seb Sanders, who later became champion jockey and is now a presenter on Racing TV. The trainer was the late Mel Brittain (these Mels are good guys, you know!).
I repeated the process with another similar company but with less success. It did however introduce me to Jack and Lynda Ramsden whose young stable jockey was Kieren Fallon, who later became multiple champion jockey and father of the current jockey, Cieren Fallon. I was regularly at racecourses up and down the land, visiting stables, meeting racing folk and building my knowledge of all things racing.
I felt I was on a ladder to somewhere. As years went by I continued to hold shares; gradually building up to 5%, then 10%, and eventually to 100% owned.
The further up the ladder I climbed, the more input I could have. Working with trainers to select suitable races for the horses. Opting for the best jockey available and being quite awestruck and proud with some of the jockeys being legged up on my horses. I was meeting trainers that were once just names in a newspaper. Lunching with other owners who shared my passion of horse racing. I felt I had arrived. I felt I belonged.
As you can read, dreaming isn’t always pie in the sky. With a little bit of guile and good fortune, my dream did indeed come true. I have stood proudly in the winners’ enclosure surrounded by horse, trainer, jockey, others and most importantly to me, my wife.
I have held pre-race interviews and post-race interviews on TV. Unreal, so it was.
To a small degree, I had achieved a lifetime ambition.
Never stop believing. Never stop dreaming. Keeponkeepinon!