Corky calls time on an illustrious career
Albert ‘Corky’ Browne, Nicky Henderson’s legendary head lad since the Lambourn icon started training in 1978, has called time on his illustrious career.
Widely regarded as a genius with horses’ tendons and limbs, Browne served his apprenticeship in Ireland before moving to Britain in 1963. In 1964, he started working for another of Lambourn’s favourite sons Fred Winter, a towering figure as a jockey then trainer in jump racing.
Winter’s Uplands base – now home to Warren Greatrex – was the sport’s dominant force then and Browne’s hands graced the talented legs of household greats Bula, Crisp, Lanzarote and Pendil in that golden era, although he experienced one of his toughest days on track when exciting chaser Killiney – thought by many to be better than Pendil and a Gold Cup winner in waiting – broke a shoulder at Ascot.
When Henderson started training, Browne’s door was the first he knocked on and that imperishable and fruitful partnership has endured ever since.
The understated 77-year-old has helped Henderson cram five champion trainer titles, a record seven Champion Hurdle crowns and two Gold Cups on to his CV and said: “It’s about time. I feel it’s the right time – to leave it to the young chaps, but I’ll miss it.
“In the last year I’d gone down to Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, but I’ll be up to watch some schooling and see them work – Nicky’s told me to come up.
“It’s been a massive part of my life; 41 years I’ve been with Nicky and I’ve enjoyed every year, month and day.”
Browne, who has also seen six Champion Chases and three King Georges won during his time with the Seven Barrows maestro, added: “The whole lot was special and things got bigger and bigger until it became the empire it is now. You’d never dream it would become this big, but it did – more than 3,000 winners.
“It started off with First Bout in the Triumph and See You Then in the Champion Hurdle, which got the ball rolling at Cheltenham and we’ve never looked back since – it’s an incredible record.”
Browne, who unsurprisingly finds it tricky to nominate a favourite or best horse, promised wife Diane they would get married if Winter’s Anglo captured the 1966 Grand National, but was not hedging when having “a shilling each-way on him at 50-1”.
“There were so many great ones it’s hard to pick, but I had a soft spot for the likes of My Tent Or Yours,” he continued. “He got beat in some big ones but gave everything and was as honest as hell. Those things are part of the ups and downs of racing though.
“And how could I pick the best? See You Then was a three-time Champion Hurdle winner, which is hard to beat, but we’ve had other winners of that, lots of Champion Chases and a couple of Gold Cups, so it’s difficult to pick.”
As well as being an equine ace, Browne has mentored Henderson proteges Charlie Longsdon, Jamie Snowden, Tom Symonds and Ben Pauling among others, along with many more stable staff and young riders.
“Some of the boys at the yard have asked if they can ring me and I said, ‘Of course, you can, I’m just down the road’,” he said. “But they’ll be all right, it’s a good team there.
“I’ll miss them, but have just given them a warning not to let me down at Cheltenham; to keep the results coming in March!”
Jumps trainer Charlie Longsdon is one of many to have benefited from the wisdom of Corky Browne and pays tribute
I worked with Corky for five years at Nicky’s and he ran the show and has done since day one. He’s won a lot of recognition and quite rightly so as he’s a legend in the Lambourn area.
He’s been a great person to learn off and there’s no doubt I learned more off him in those five years than anyone else in my career, in terms of horse management and looking at their legs.
He knew the horses inside out and picked up on any slight change in soundness rapidly.
He’s been a stalwart of the Seven Barrows team and has played a huge part in its success, but he’s also overseen and educated a lot of people, from Harry and Ed Dunlop and Charlie Vigors before me, and then Jamie Snowden, Tom Symonds and Ben Pauling.
There’ll be loads more who have come through and Corky’s straightened a fair few of us up. We probably weren’t the best before him, but a lot of good people have come out of his and Nicky’s academy.
You learn plenty off the trainer but it’s the head lad where the real education is and having someone of Corky’s stature and knowledge was brilliant.
I still ring him now – I think we all do – and I left more than ten years ago! The show will go on, but it will be a different show.