Sports Memorabilia #3 – Horse Racing

Memorabilia collections need storing somewhere – and in #3 of our look at interesting objects from sporting history we focus on one of the world’s oldest sports – Horse Racing.  For the ancient Greeks, Babylonians, Romans, friends and countrymen… horse racing has been a part of human activity since well, we first teamed up with the horse.

Here in the UK it’s a national institution. Coined ‘Sport of Kings’ (largely due to the nature of those who can afford to own and train top-flight racehorses) we host some of the oldest and most established  horse racing classics.  There’s National Hunt chasing and hurdling over fences to keep racegoers entertained during the cold winter months – including the  King George VI Chase, The Champion Hurdle, The Gold Cup and The Grand National.  For the summer season the attention turns to the flat  with the  1,000 and 2,000 Guineas, The Derby,  The Oaks and St. Leger. Don’t forget to take your obligatory wicker picnic hamper and bottle or two of champagne.

Unlike any other sport the  heroes aren’t always human. The equine greats are as important (sometimes more) than the Jockeys who piloted them to victory. You’ll have heard of Grand National legend Red Rum (3 firsts and 2 seconds in 5 years) but can you name his Jockeys for those 5 races? They were Brian Fletcher (73,74 & 75) and Tommy Stack (76, 77).

In recent years we’ve seen all-time-great equalling performances by some big horse names. Best Mate (3 Cheltenham Gold Cups) Dessert ‘Dessie’ Orchid (1 Cheltenham Gold Cup, King George IV Chases) Kauto Star (2 Cheltenham Gold Cups, 4 King George IV Chases). On the flat, Dubai Millennium (9 race wins in 10 starts) and Frankel (unbeaten in 14 races) are hailed as some of the greatest horses ever.

These modern greats feature in the history books alongside legends of the past.  Golden Miller (he won the Gold Cup an unprecedented 5 times and is the only horse to have won both that and Grand National in the same year – 1934) and Arkle (3 Gd Cups and a 5 race winning streak in the 1965/66 season). In flat racing Eclipse (began racing in 1769 and won 18 races in a 4 year career), Ormonde and Robot are amongst the UK’s greatest of all time.

Anything associated with these superstar animals is highly collectible. Jockey silks, britches boots and skull caps, tack … even parts of horses…


The Arkle Skeleton

In Arkle’s surreal  case, what’s left of the horse himself.  His skelton is on display at the Irish Horse Museum in Tully.  Whilst not strictly ‘memorabilia’ – as he isn’t for sale  – it is perhaps one of the most poignant artifacts from one of the most famous race horses of all time. It’s very strange to think that these are the very bones that saw so much triumph.

Horse Hair 

If the Arkle Skelton seems a bit much, how about some genuine horse hair? For sale at a sport and memorabilia auction in November 2012 was a collection of ‘hair trophies’ from famous horses. The range of legendary locks is impressive – Arkle featured again – along with equine fibers from (amongst others) Red Rum, Dawn Run, Desert Orchid, Corbiere and Aldaniti> The estimate was between £2000 – £3000.

Riding Tack

The hardware used by some of the greatest jockey’s is always popular. That same autumn 2012 catalogue features a pair of stirrups, race used and signed by superstar jockey Lester Piggot. Expected to fetch between £200 – £250


Used jockey silks…

Jockey silks come up at auction in much the same way as you can buy a set of used Motor Racing Overalls or Football Shirts.

It’s not always about the commercial value – in this case a set of ex-Frankel silks were auction in aid of the Charity Cure Leukemia.

…or your own racing colours 

If you’ve got the wherewith-all you might decide to become an owner. If you do you’ll need colours that your jockey can ride in. Well, handily, the British Horseracing Authority auction the ‘right to colours’. So whether you fancy a Red cap with a Green Tunic or a Black and White cross-belts and sleeves , the choice is yours.  You don’t have to race them either – so you could just buy them and have a set made and put on your wall.

With over 250 years of horse racing history, memories and legends, UK racetracks themselves are steeped in history. Redevelopment means that, occasionally, some really unique pieces of memorabilia come up for auction.

The Ascot Racecourse Winners Enclosure Entranceway

When does a simple iron railing and gate take on iconic memorabilia status? Why when it is from one of the world’s most famous race courses. Ascot in Surrey underwent major redevelopment in the 2000’s and the venues Racecourse Winners Enclosure Entranceway sold at auction for £280,00o in 2005.

Bigger than sport itself: The Emily Davison Suffragette  Scarf

Sometimes sport presents an opportunity to further a cause to a bigger audience.  Suffragette Emily Davison’s sad death at the Epsom Derby in 1913 was a tragic but iconic moment in UK history. For a long time it was believed she committed suicide to make her point, but recent evidence (and a documentary) supports the view that she was attempting to throw a ‘Votes for Women’ sash around the Kings Horse – thereby petitioning him with her message.

That sash was collected by the clerk of the course and it was sold at auction by his daughter in 1997. Bought by Barbara Gorna – who outbid the jockey club to get it – it is  an important part of national history and cultural change. So much so that it is now on display at the Palace of Westminster in the House of Commons.

So if you need somewhere to keep your collection of horsey photographs, silk and tack a storage unit at ABC Selfstore is a safe and secure place to keep it.

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