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Shropshire jockey ran after his horse to secure first win

By Toby Neal | Features | Published:

Ride him, jockey!

Alan Ball streaks for home. No, not that 1966-and-all-that Alan Ball, but Alan Ball the Shropshire jockey who was under the wing of the legendary Sir Gordon Richards.

And the 18-year-old from Ketley scored his first win against the odds, left breathless after comical scenes which had seen him chasing after his colt Dinzeo on foot after it threw him and bolted before the start of the race.

This picture of Alan's win comes from his brother Arthur Ball, who still lives in Ketley Town.

According to a newspaper report of that victory by Alan, which came in the Brandon Apprentice Handicap at Newmarket on April 12, 1961, "he was thrown before the start of the race and had a long chase after his mount."

A different newspaper said that leaving the paddock Dinzeo – that's how both reports spelt it, but conceivably it might have been D'Inzeo – had knuckled over and grounded Alan, and then "made off towards Newmarket High Street at high speed.

"Fortunately he was attracted by a hack, ridden by a boy, before he reached the main road and came to a full stop. A few minutes later his breathless young jockey was on the scene, remounted, and headed towards the start."

An unflustered Alan took the lead at the bushes, and rode with supreme confidence to his first win for Marlborough-based Sir Gordon since he had left school three years previously. It was also Sir Gordon's first winner of that season.

Alan had raced four times in 1960, and had won a cup for boxing at the stables that year as well.

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There is a little story, says Arthur, about how his brother became a jockey in the first place.

"Can you remember the post office which was opposite Ketley School? Well, it was run by Mr Archie Green, who told my brother he could either get him to go as a jockey, or get him on the stage.

"Alan went to Ketley School and I think they were putting on shows at the school and Mr Green had gone across and seen him. My brother decided to go as a jockey, and went as an apprentice for Sir Gordon Richards," said Arthur.

Sir Gordon, born in Donnington Wood, was himself a champion jockey and one of Shropshire's greatest sportsmen.

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"Ball is very good and should be, for he comes from Shropshire," a smiling Sir Gordon had said after the Newmarket victory.

"He's a very good boy, and a very good boxer as well, Unfortunately he'll be too heavy for Flat racing, and like that other lad I had, J. King, I shall try to get him into a jumping stable eventually," he added.

One of the newspaper reports said of Alan: "His two brothers, Arthur and Derek, are well known local footballers, and his sister Marlene is interested in athletics."

Arthur said: "When Sir Gordon Richards died, my brother went with Jeremy Tree, who took over Sir Gordon's stable, and when he finished with him he went with Mr Rumsey, a jump trainer at Halfpenny Green. He had his first winner with Rumsey on a horse named Brief Statement, beating Terry Biddlecombe at Northumberland.

"Those were the only two races he won. He finished jockeying, and when he retired he went to a garden centre, to do something with gardening, and died in 2006. He was not very old, and I classed him as a son as he was a lot younger than me, the baby of the family."

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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