as told to Tiger Beat by Basil Foster
Here is an exclusive story about Davy, told to TiGER BEAT by his close friend and trainer, BASIL FOSTER!
How old was David when he entered your Racing Stable?
Davy spent time with me on his school holidays. He became an apprentice on leaving school at 15.
Can you describe the process you put all the jockeys through? What do you teach them first?
Discipline. In Davy’s case it was hardly necessary. He was well behaved when he came. He had been well brought up.
The things they work up to?
All stable duties. Cleaning out, stables, tack, yard, walking the horses home and then learning to ride them.
What do you teach them in the way of body conditioning?
Nothing. By the nature of the work involved, the body becomes conditioned.
What did you call David… Dave, Davy, David, Mr. Jones?
I called him David. The stable lads called him Jonah, or David.
Davy said the trainers gave him “horsebites” to make him tough. What does this mean and what other things do you do to make them “tough”?
I haven’t a clue what it means. I would imagine that Davy was referring to the pranks that the other stable boys played. They would keep anything of this nature from me. The life an apprentice leads is hard enough without doing things to make them tough. This especially applies in the winter, which in Newmarket can be pretty bleak.
Davy did go in for stable lads’ boxing. I don’t know how many fights he had as I did not encourage it as I saw him have a rough time once. He was a very small boy and his physique did not match his courage.
Did they have regular rising and going to bed times? Was most of their day taken up by a formal schedule?
Yes. Work would start at dawn in the winter and 6:30 a.m. in the summer. After the morning exercise, which would finish about 12:30, Davy would have the afternoon off until about 4:30. He would often take my daughter out for walks in the pram, or in the basket of his cycle. She was then 2 years old. Or he would take my son, David, who was a year older. He loved the children. Another of his hobbies was exercising my dogs; Sam, an Alsatian, Willie, a Springer Spaniel, Rex, a Labrador and Betty, a Greyhound.
At 4:30 p.m. the horses would be groomed, made comfortable and fed. He would then have his evening meal at around 6:30. His evening would be spent in various ways—mostly the movies, and then to bed at 9:30.
Do you make them eat certain foods. If so, what is the special diet they have?
No, Davy was a natural lightweight.
Do you remember when Davy first came to your stable?
Can you describe how he looked?
Very small even for an apprentice. Always clean and smart.
What was your first impression of him?
I always liked David, he was never any trouble to me. Always polite and well mannered and never ever cheeky. The first time I met him was on Cambridge Station when I went to pick him up. I remember thinking how small he looked carrying his suitcase. He was very shy and timid. I would never have thought at that time he would have had the personality that he has.
Was he a hard worker and serious about becoming a jockey?
Very serious indeed. It was his whole life, the love of horses and his ambition to become a jockey.
Was he a good rider, as he began to learn how?
He learned very fast and soon became an expert. He has a great seat on a horse. When he visits me now he rides as well as ever.
When he started doing a few show business things, did you find he lost any of his interest in riding?
He never lost interest at all. Quite the reverse. It was a hard job to get him to go away for a few days to do his radio and T.V. parts.
Were you the one who gave him the ultimatum about “You must choose between being a jockey and being in show business!”
Yes. It was a difficult decision to make. It took many hours of soul searching before I decided to put it to Davy. I knew that he would make it in show business, I also thought he would make it as a jockey. The reason why I advised him to choose the former was that it gave him two chances. I told him that I would send him to London to audition for a top show. If he made it, O.K., if not, he could come back and start where he left off. Of course he made it.