Yorkshire’s Finest – Racing’s big five.
To celebrate Yorkshire Day this year we have put together five figures within racing who all hail from the God’s Own County.
First up is retired Flat jockey George Duffield MBE. A winner of over 2,500 races during a career that spanned almost 40 years he was a well-liked and popular jockey. He was first choice rider to Newmarket maestro Sir Mark Prescott for over 30 years and together they won in excess of 800 races. He is now assistant-trainer to his wife Ann at their yard based in North Yorkshire.
Born in Skipton, and brought up in the Yorkshire Dales, William Haggas almost never entered the racing game. As a teenager Haggas had followed his father into the family textile business, but after only three months the youngster ran for the exit, escaped to Newmarket, talked his way into a job and has been there ever since. That career move has seen him saddle two Classic winners – Shaamit, winner of the 1996 Derby, and Dancing Rain, winner of the 2011 Oak. Not bad for a lad from the Dales!
A broadcasting legend of British horseracing, Derek Thompson’s dulcet tones have been enjoyed by generations of racing fans over the years. Born on the border near Middlesbrough, he gave his first commentary at a point-to-point at the tender age of 15. His highest-profile moment came when he was part of the negotiating team trying to recover Shergar, the 1981 Derby winner who had been captured by the IRA. Now known for his jovial presenting style, he can be found at racecourses across the country uttering his catch phrase ‘big fella’. And this internet gem…
Dame Judi Dench
Born in Heworth and educated in York, Dame Judi is of course known far more for her acting roles than her involvement in racing, but she has owned a number of high-profile horses over the years. Smokey Oakey gave her the biggest win as owner when he took the 2008 Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster. A small but consistent string of horses have kept the Oscar-winning actress returning to the racecourse and she is now patron of the British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre (TRC).
A bastion of Yorkshire Racing, Mick cuts a familiar figure in the parade rings of northern racecourses. Popular Yorkshire racing pundit Tom O’Ryan once said, ‘when God made Mick Easterby, he obviously threw away the mould’ and we couldn’t have summed him up better ourselves. Donning his traditional puffa jacket and flat cap, Mick is widely known to be a canny judge of horse (and cow) and can place a horse to win a race in his sleep. He flirted with the idea of retirement in 2013, stating the licence would be handed onto his son, but three years and many winners later it is still Mr Michael Easterby who holds the reigns at New House Farm in the heart of North Yorkshire, and long may that continue.