Sports betting PR legend GRAHAM SHARPE writes…
GINGER McCAIN is widely recognised as the best trainer of Grand National horses, courtesy of Red Rum’s three victories in the race, in which he also landed victory with Amberleigh House.
Yet, you are unlikely to know much, if anything, about the man who sent out three different winners of the great race – and who also stood for election as a Conservative candidate.
Tom Coulthwaite, a Lancastrian, was born in 1861 and grew up showing a talent for athletics and rugby, but also enjoyed training horses, which he began doing in Carlisle, before moving to Rugeley where his name soon became well known, initially as a result of his habit of routinely paying the fares of everyone travelling on the same omnibus, and also for giving meat to impoverished mining families, and boots to impoverished children.
His racing breakthrough came in 1907, when the teetotal non-smoking, one-time bookmaker, trained 8/1 chance, Eremon, third favourite, now seven, and who hadn’t raced until the age of 6, to win the Grand National.
The next year saw him standing for his local Council as a Conservative candidate, but defeat saw him concentrating fully on the training.
It was revealed that he had a miniature Grand National course built at his Flaxley Green stables to enable him to prepare his contenders for the rigours of Aintree.
Now housing the stables of Steph Hollinshead – which have been home for three generations of Hollinsheads, and are located in the village of Upper Longdon on the edge of Cannock Chase, Tom Coulthwaite prepared his Grand National runners on what are now family gallops.
Tom’s eye for detail paid off off as he again won the National in 1910, with Jenkinstown at 100/8, before demonstrating his training versatility as Balscadden won what was then hailed as the richest ever hurdles race run, at Auteuil in France, worth £4000. He named his home after the horse as a result.
Between 1911 and 1936, Tom also won 15 Cheltenham Festival races.
His upwardly mobile status suffered a blow in 1913 as he fell foul of the then ruling racing authorities as he was warned off as a result of a clampdown on non triers.
The National Hunt Committee initially barred him for thirty years.
Tom protested his innocence and eventually had his licence reinstated seven years later, in 1920.
He was now intent on training a third Grand National winner, and even delayed his retirement to do so, achieving the objective at the age of 70, in 1931, with Grakle – whose name Coulthwaite also gave to his invention of a type of crossed noseband, designed to control headstrong horses.
After this win, the horse’s owner, Mr Cecil Taylor gave a half-crown (12.5p) coin to every child in his village. The horse was buried in the grounds of his owner’s home, Brook Hall, Tattenhall in 1940.
Tom, clearly multi-talented, also kept prize pigeons, grew prize-winning roses, and became an accomplished hoofer himself, after being taught to dance by popular band leader of the time, Victor Sylvester.
Despite his wide range of activities, it appears that he never sat on a horse in his life.
He died on January 13, 1948, aged 86, and was buried at Brooklands Cemetery in Sale. In 1977 a road in Rugeley was named Coulthwaite Way in his honour.
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