Ashforth's Angles: A sentimental race at Brighton

Brighton: The scene of the formerly Carnaby-Ashforth Selling Handicap

  PICTURE: Getty Images  

 By David Ashforth 17:50PM 21 AUG 2016 

IT IS possible that you don’t know that we have arrived at the 20th running of the Ian Carnaby (formerly the Ashforth-Carnaby) Selling Handicap (Class 6) at Brighton (2.30). Well, we have. If it’s of no interest to you then now would be a good time to stop reading this and read something else, instead. Charles Dickens is very good.


Ian and I first met at Cambridge University or, more accurately, in a betting shop in Cambridge. When the shop closed, at 6.30pm, we would sometimes stand outside listening to the Extel commentary which the staff helpfully left on. Less helpfully, the outcome was much the same.

Over the years, we enjoyed many outings to Brighton races and eventually decided to celebrate our affection for the course by sponsoring a race befitting the venue.

The Ashforth-Carnaby Selling Handicap was first run on August 15 1997, over one and a half miles. Tony Clark won on Keen Waters, trained by Rupert Arnold, who declared afterwards, “It wasn’t a great race.” What it lacked in greatness it made up for with prizes of Brighton rock and copies of Graham Greene’s novel of the same name. There was even a stick of rock for the jockey who finished last – Richard Hughes.

Later, we dropped the prize for finishing last, partly because it was not universally recognised as an honour and partly because a jockey who hadn’t eaten for three days might come last deliberately to get his hands on some food.

A year later the 11-year-old Modest Hope won for Sue Lamyman off a handicap mark of 28, which gave hope to a lot of no-hopers.

2001 was particularly memorable. There were 18 runners for the 0-60 handicap, none of them rated higher than 47 and only four rated over 40. The winner, Scenic Lady, was rated 35. There was something perversely pleasurable about that.

The same year saw the debut of my mate Mart’s (in)famous quiz, with questions such as “Which biscuit did Willie Carson ride to victory in the 1975 Dante?” The quiz has become a regular feature of Carnaby Day. Mart likes it.

Afterwards we repair to the Regency Tavern, which used to be near the West Pier until that expired and was replaced by a big pole with a doughnut going up and down it, called British Airways i360.

After that the great, now sadly late Rocking Billy would do his thing at the Chequers. Billy wore a long red jacket, brothel creeper shoes and Teddy Boy hair and played records by Billy Fury, Eden Kane and, of course, Elvis.

As the 2004 race approached so did a crisis of the kind Mr Micawber would have recognised. I think it was the HFC Bank that failed to see the merit of lending me more money to continue sponsoring a horse race at Brighton. Ian manfully sustained the cherished event, which lives on, as do we, for the time being.

The biscuit that won the Dante was Hobnob. The winner of the Carnaby Selling Handicap will be Wahaab.

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