On The Nose: The Unlikely Gas TV Star

By Keith Brookman

Apart from my annual pilgrimage to Cheltenham each year I don’t really follow horse racing, but with a wet afternoon in prospect I sat down to watch coverage of Royal Ascot on TV yesterday.

I have to admit it looked a little bit strange watching with no crowd present, but I guess that’s something we will all get used to in the months ahead, whatever sport we are watching.

Anyway, the 3.35 race came on, the King’s Stand Stakes, and was won by a horse that was fast… very fast… by the name of Battaash. After the race he was led back in by his stable ‘lad’ who went on to be interviewed about the race.

‘Stable lad’ didn’t seem quite right a label for Bob Grace and he would probably admit to not being a typical stable lad in any case; more a polite and affable middle-aged man (at least that’s how he came across). I think he said he had been in racing for 38 years and that this was the first time he’d led in a winner at Royal Ascot.

Bob Grace

Everyone seemed well pleased for him and, in his interview, it was said that he supported a football team.  When he was asked, ‘How does leading in the horse compare to your team?’, Bob replied, without drawing breath, ‘Nearly as good as getting promotion through the play offs’.  Then he was asked the name of the team he supported to which he replied, ‘Bristol Rovers.’

I almost spilt my glass of red!  Fair play to Bob for giving the Gas a mention – hopefully he will get an invite to a game when next season gets underway.

The jockey, by the way did wear blue and white, though not quarters.

However, there was a horse called Ikdam whose jockey wore blue and white quarters and won at Cheltenham back in 1989, coming in at 66/1 in the Daily Express Triumph Hurdle, beating the other 26 runners in a race run in atrocious conditions.

Gary Penrice on board Ikdam – I reckon it was a toss up between him and Phil Purnell (to the right of the photo) as to who got the ride! [Photo by kind permission of Ann Craig]

I watched it back on YouTube after my Royal Ascot ‘experience’ and Ikdam wasn’t even mentioned all the way round until the winning post came into view and he came up on the rails for a remarkable victory.

The reason his jockey, Nigel Coleman, wore racing silks in blue and white quarters was, I believe, down to the fact that the horse was part owned by the late Ron Craig, a former Director and Chairman of The Gas.

The other owners were Bob Marshall and John White, and all three co-owners were directors of LBI Law (873) property developing company.

The owners, from L-R Bob Marshal, Ron Craig and John White with Ikdam’s Trophy…and a glass of something sparkling [Photo by kind permission of Ann Craig]

Ikdam was trained by Portbury trainer Richard Holder and earned his owners £28,000 that day.  Ron said after the race; ‘We would have been delighted with a place. To win was quite incredible. The heavy rain obviously helped Ikdam and Nigel gave him a fantastic ride.’

Ron had advised the Rovers squad to have a bet on the horse whose win paid out 142 – on the Tote.  There is however no record of any of the players at that time retiring on the proceeds!

Ikdam’s win might have been due to the extra training he put in that winter with Gary Penrice in the saddle. As you can see from these photos, kindly lent by Ron’s widow Ann, ‘Penny’ looks the part and he was the right build for a jockey!

While Ikdam’s racing career, not to mention Gary Penrice’s (!) are long gone, Bob’s continues and I suspect he might be in the winner’s enclosure quite a few more times with Battaash.

Bob, a Bristolian, used to work for Jim Old who trained horses at Dundry, and we hope to see him in the winner’s enclosure again in the near future.

‘Penny’ and Ikdam [Photo by kind permission of Ann Craig]

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