Let's talk about: Our writers nominate their favourite low-grade horses

Cartmel features in our latest memories article

Our new series continues with Matt Brocklebank and Ben Linfoot highlighting their favourite horses from the lower echelons of the racing pyramid. We want yours too.

We want your feedback! Thanks to Tom Horner who emailed with the suggestion for favourite 'lower-league journeyman horses'.

So what's your unheralded superstar? Check out details of how to contact us towards the foot of the article - and the views from our readers.


Matt Brocklebank - Peter's Imp

"There's a special feeling you get the first moment you enter a church," writes the official website for Cartmel Priory.

Of that there's little doubt, but it was just along Priest Lane and onto Park View - via Cavendish Street - and the Cumbrian village's quaint racecourse where I fell head over heels at first sight.

It takes decades to even begin to fully understand what some maintain to be the most complex sport on the planet, but merely a few blissful moments to be completely and irreversibly in love with horse racing.

It was Peter's Imp who lit this particular everlasting flame, a dual-purpose operator I grew to learn to be a horse of seriously limited ability but at the time felt like something between mighty warrior and family pet.

Rated 40-odd on the Flat and a peak 103 over hurdles, Peter's Imp was clearly rubbish in the grand scheme of things but I cared not for such things back then and his Cartmel heroics between May 2003 and August 2007 were inspiring.

Familiarity bred anything but contempt in this instance, with Alan Berry's 'star' racking up five glorious course victories from 16 appearances.

He won selling handicap hurdles at the August Bank Holiday fixture on four occasions (doubling up on one weekend) and was in essence a little horse with heart and desire to spare when he chose to put it all to best use.

If you're a fan of the Best Mate three-runs-a-season route then I suggest you look away now as Berry kept old Peter's Imp pretty busy, running 118 times all told, but he clearly thrived on racing and the quirky challenges Cartmel's tight twists and turns posed seemed to work in harmony with his complex character.

Peter's Imp was pretty remarkable in many ways and one could write a book based on the 41 jockeys who had the privilege of riding him through his career.

They range from champion Flat jockey Kevin Darley, to Jason Weaver, George Duffield, Ted Durcan and a Miss E Ramsden (Emma Spencer) who won on him at Hamilton in 1999, while over the sticks his riders included Grand National hero Tony Dobbin, subsequent multiple Group One Flat winner Dougie Costello, as well as current trainers Ollie Pears and Neil Mulholland.

A suitably colourful bunch for a particularly colourful, low-grade superstar.

1999 Tote Scoop6 November Handicap

Ben Linfoot – Flossy

Given where she ended up it’s probably unfair to describe Flossy as a lower-grade heroine, but she certainly started out that way.

It was the summer of 1999 and my racing-mad Grandad had given me this filly to look out for. He had a sharp eye for a handicapper to follow on the Flat and he somehow knew someone who knew something about Guy Reed’s horses.

I lived down the road from Ripon at the time and must’ve been underwhelmed when she made her handicap debut at the track in the April of that year. It’s odds-on I was there, I don’t remember, but she finished 10th of 23 under Dale Gibson.

We didn’t give up on the daughter of Efisio, though, and she turned into a money-making machine after that.

She was an eased-down 33/1 winner at Beverley off a mark of 43 in July and was even more impressive three days later under a penalty at Musselburgh.

Later that summer she was back at Ripon and dead-heated for first, only to be disqualified, but she won at Newbury, Newcastle and Haydock off marks of 57, 66 and 75 respectively as she continued to rocket through the ranks.

Following this filly in the famous yellow and black chequered silks with pink sleeves was a sheer joy and she topped off her season by winning the November Handicap at Doncaster (see the video, above) carrying just 7st-7lb.

She ended up being 100-rated and won a Listed handicap at Chester later in her career, but following her progress in 1999, from a mark of 43 to her Doncaster win off 82, was an early introduction into the joys of racing.

And it’s pure coincidence that both myself and Flossy had daughters called Ella...


Send us your views

Send your comments and contributions to racingfeedback@sportinglife.com and if you’ve any ideas for more topics you want covering over the coming days and weeks please let us know.


Philip Morre

The Celestial Traveller in the early 1970s. He was perhaps not very quick over his fences but liked Sedgefield where there used to be a endless run-in. In those days there were no pictures in betting offices, just the old tannoy, and the Traveller would often not be mentioned at all until after the last. One year he won three handicap chases there, coming from the clouds, under Tony Meaney.

Simon from Newark

Trindle Down. Seven furlongs specialist who had lost the ability to hit the gate. Salisbury 1971.

I had struck up a friendship with trainer Richard Hannon over the previous year and he suggested a trip to the course as he fancied the old boy. Jimmy Lindley, one of the strongest jockeys of the era, had been engaged.

I was worried about the start: Richard said that had been rectified with a concentrated schooling session at home and he was confident Trindle Down would get away on equal terms. Equal terms....wow, he was out of the gate in a flash, led on the favoured far rail and held on in a photo finish. SP: 7-1.

Drink was then taken (vodka and tonics, I think) and my last memory of a wonderful day was woozily flinging a pile of notes on the bed and asking my wife of a year to count the winnings!

Richard Pawlowski

You have to say that one horse captured the hearts of many in low grade handicaps. SULUK. From 1989 to 1993 this horse won 25 races mainly at Southwell in both codes, it was also placed a further 8 times at Southwell. If ever there was a horse for a course this is the one, wouldn’t you agree?

George Goodenough

Tornado In Milan - Class 2 and 3, Taunton in January. 3 wins in consecutive years at 3/1,16/1 and 11/1. Gone but not forgotten.

Mike from Gloucester

As a regular visitor to chepstow got to put up major valentine who has done me a good turn more than once including at 14/1 last summer under Kate leahy . I think the John o'shea trained horse has run that often at chepstow he must make his own way there most weeks.

For future topics what about most underrated jockeys currently riding . I would put up John kington does not get the rides he should.

Graham Adams

Goninodaethat. Ayr specialist who ran at Ayr 66 times and won 8 races there.He never won anywhere else.Great fun to hear english commentators trying to pronounce his name also.He has won more races than any other horse at Ayr this century.

Gary Brook

Plumpton specialists Manhattan Boy & Ding Ding

Paul Curry

Two runners i followed round Southwell that were kind to me were China Castle and Refuse to Lose. The former was a prolific winner for Haslam, the second even rewarded me at Royal Ascot in hunt cup so I'm not sure how low grade he was! These horses got me hooked into racing as a teenager, not superstars but by means but likeable animals

Steve - email

On the low graders, I still have fond memories of Hunt Ball (maybe a lot better than low grade?) and the colourful characters that surrounded the horse. Sometimes with great sporting moments certain words can be as evocative to the memories as the actual deeds (thinking Angelo Dundee shouting at Sugar Ray, 6 minutes Ray, you’ve only got 6 minutes....new champion.) With Hunt Ball it was his colourful trainer or owner? Being interviewed and yelling “I told you he still had 2 stone in hand!” after yet another win in that season where he rise up the ratings. A real people’s horse.

Best wishes, Steve.

Anthony Knott on Hunt Ball

Catherine Rowe - email

No list of low grade heroes can be complete without Jonnie Skull (180ish runs) or Cool Roxy (Fakenham specialist with 11 course wins).

Martyn Weston - email

Mister Marcasite for Mel Brittain would be one for me. I started taking racing more seriously from a punting perspective around 2010 and this horse had caught my eye when finishing 3rd at Nottingham in a 0-75 handicap.

Next up was a step up to 10f at Beverley where I decided not to back it,as I was not sure the step up in trip would suit. That turned out to be a good decision as it finished last of 8 , was held up after previously racing more prominent and too keen.

A few weeks later it was back to Nottingham, back to a mile with a certain SDS booked to take the ride and I was hoping it was about to revert back to racing more prominently.

Mister Marcasite did exactly as I had hoped, De Sousa as always produced a brilliantly judged and strong ride from the front to get him home at 7/1 and provide me one of my biggest wins at the time.

Mister Marcasite won of a mark of 70 at Nottingham and never went on to win another race, he ended his career running around on the AW running in 0-60 and 0-52 races with no success, but he’ll always be remember fondly by me for getting the job done that day in Nottingham with De Sousa at his uncompromising best.

Silvestre De Sousa

Tom Horner - email: I’m a Thirsk member so have a good few of these. I’ll throw two in; Malcheek of Tim Easterby's seemed to generally go in when he wasn’t expected to but got a few wins and did well at Thirsk generally and then Hula Ballew of Michael Dods’, who I had a couple of nice wins on and having just checked her record has had probably the most unremarkable breeding career possible! Glenridding is another Thirsk one but I was always on him when he got turned over. Keep up the excellent work chaps.


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