Henderson draws in the crowds
When you’re the only show in town it helps if you have a star-studded cast. That was certainly the case at Nicky Henderson’s historic Seven Barrows stable, which was flying solo as Lambourn hosted its annual Good Friday open day, staged in honour of the legendary late broadcaster Sir Peter O’Sullevan.
Event organisers have faced long nights, early mornings and grim weather forecasts in advance of this year’s jamboree, which was all but washed away because of the heavy rain that left car parks waterlogged.
Twice before in nearly 30 years of the party Lambourn has had to shut its doors, but they were not closed at the village’s main attraction – home to Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Altior, Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air and handsome Gold Cup runner-up Might Bite, whose James Bond swagger made him a must see.
Bobs Worth, another famous character in the Seven Barrows story, also made a brief return to the yard and welcomed a steady stream of visitors when things got under way at 8.30am.
“We’re going for it,” said open day secretary Sandra Nolan as the smell of frying onions from the adjacent burger van added to the carnival feel.
The weather, which hadn’t played ball in the build-up, provided a peace offering by staying dry and brightish as Dave Spicer from Swindon got his snap of Might Bite.
“It’s more for the missus I’m here,” he said. “Normally I’m on the golf course every weekend, but this is her thing all year – it’s like Christmas for her and she loves it. She’s horse mad and reads the Racing Post every day.
“She’s already spent £350!”
“On what – exactly! Pictures from the stall; we’ve got them all over our hallway.”
Richard Lees, an IT worker originally from Wolverhampton, on a double date with some close friends, was another satisfied customer.
“It’s the second time I’ve been,” he said. “I’m disappointed the other yards aren’t open as I’d have loved to have seen La Bague Au Roi at Warren Greatrex’s, but what’s impressed me is the strength in depth Nicky has.”
That was evident when Henderson paraded his big guns Buveur D’Air, Might Bite and Altior, along with stalwart My Tent Or Yours and Bobs Worth.
The goodwill from the weather didn’t last long and it started to drizzle while jockey Nico de Boinville posed for selfies and autographed tea towels, which sold like hot cross buns at Easter, or tea towels on a damp day.
Sir Anthony McCoy jetted in from Barbados – he didn’t bring the sunshine with him, however – to make an appearance and was swamped, but De Boinville’s right hand might not mind getting jocked off that particularly gig.
“They haven’t half turned up,” said Henderson. “It’s been an amazing turnout, incredible, and everyone has been fantastic.
“It’s very good of the boys AP, Nico, Mick Fitzgerald to come, and the staff have done a brilliant job. Many have started at 5am to get the horses exercised before people arrive. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s lovely so many people have said thank you for opening.”
As things wound down approaching 1pm, one lady uttered: “I’m so glad I came.” Just don’t expect any gratitude for the weather gods though.