Onwards and upwards ...

The end of an era

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

"Be well. Do good works. And keep in touch."

Garrison Keiller.


Mark (in the middle) with his mother and two brothers and below his late father, George


We should like to thank everybody who has sent us letters, cards, e-mails, texts and phone calls for all their very kind words. We have been overwhelmed by their generous sentiments and their numbers.

For my part it has been a priviledge and honour to train at Newmarket, the home of horse racing. Every horse has given me pleasure and although some have been quicker than others they are still in our memory. Through horses we have met amazing people and made wonderful friends. Horses have taken us all over the world and it has been a fantastic life.

I couldn't have wished for a more encouraging and loyal set of owners who have given me so much support over the years. Thank you all. 

Our sport has changed so much during the period and is completely different than when I started, but the one thing that doesn't change is the horse, and it is the love of them that keeps all the professionals going.

I must have had hundreds of staff during the forty years from so many different countries. Some have only lasted a day but the majority have been brilliant, and I hope I've given them some sound advice and encouragement for their futures. If you work your hardest and do your very best, as we have always tried to do, you will never regret a life with horses. My senior staff have all been friends and I could not have had better. My motto is treat everybody as you would like to be treated, and I am sure we have done this over the years.

Today is my last day holding a training licence. Although it is an end of an era when one door shuts another one opens, as an old owner wrote to me the other day, and anyone who knows me will know anything could happen!


Flint Cottage main yard


Starting out


Richard Evans who rode Mark's very first winner


Mark with Bob's Return after winning the St Leger and below at home



Philip Robinson jockey and family friend


Even Top after winning Mark's 500th race, and below when second in the 2000 Guineas



Mark with the late Johnnie East, a proper person, whose wife Joan is still a staunch supporter and friend


Mark with his old favourite Halkopous after winning the Magnet Cup



Mystic Meg's Astroscarlet who won his 1000th race 


Mark with his trusted friend Phil Green

To most of the outside world he is your typical blunt, no-nonsense Yorkshireman. But having known Mark (and I reckon I can call him that rather than Guvnor after working for him or with him for more than 30 years) it’s time to put the record straight.

For a start – and he probably won’t thank me for this - he’s not even a Yorkshireman in the true sense of the word. Yes, he spent most of his early life there but he was, in fact, born in Leicestershire. Coming originally from outside Yorkshire he wouldn’t have been allowed to open the bowling at Headingley with Freddie Trueman, even though he was to become known as Terror Tompkins in his days with the Newmarket Trainers XI.

Now for the second revelation. While he has done nothing to discourage the perception of a brusque, sometimes even hard-hearted exterior, he is in truth, deep down, the kindest, most generous person you could ever wish to know.

My family and I have experienced this many times, both on a material and an emotional level. That is why we asked him to be Godfather to our second son and were delighted when he agreed.

Talking of our second son, he was only a baby when Even Top was so narrowly beaten in the 2,000 Guineas. That was the last time, I think, I shouted excitedly and pointlessly at a television screen – so loudly, in fact, that poor little Sam cried in fright. Mark would never display such emotion, even on days of such grave disappointment as that, or those which brought great victories.

His successes on the turf are well documented – Halkopous, Staunch Friend, Cool Edge, Babodana, Franklins Gardens and, of course, Bob’s Return among others. All I did was ring up to confirm the entries of the outstanding horses that passed through Mark’s hands and were nurtured by him, but it was a privilege to be involved at all.

Ending my previous career in journalism and then using the opportunity to join up with Mark was probably one of the best moves I ever made. He introduced me to some marvellous people and gave me memories I shall cherish for ever. He is one hell of a man to know.

On his ‘retirement’, this famous quote is perhaps appropriate: “This is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning.” Knowing Mark as I do, and given Angie’s unwavering support, I reckon this could be the beginning of a wonderful and sustained period for Dullingham Stud.

Good luck, Guvnor. 



Jenko, who ran Mark's syndicates for him, was an owner and rode 4 winners as an amateur rider


Ian and Phil in the hut 


David our stud groom who will now be plagued by the guvnor


Dear Carol who has been keeping us in order for years and is part of our family


"I can no other answer make, but, thanks and thanks."

William Shakespeare.