Last Sunday's Racing Post supplement was full of "'Arry Findlay" aka mega gambler of truly monumental proportions, owner of one of the best chasers to ever grace a racecourse (Denman), self-confessed loud mouth, lifelong lover of the greyhound among many other things. Harry has published his long awaited book.
Paragraph two of last week’s supplement says "we tried to keep it (the book) to stories that somebody could vouch for, because otherwise people wouldn't believe it" and I can see why, much of what goes on in horse racing is so unbelievable that it is hard to accept as true to life, yet it is, in fact the stories written are often so weak they don't touch the sides and where Harry is concerned George and I can vouch for plenty. I haven't read the book yet although it duly arrived last week, just as Harry promised it would.
I have my own fond memories of the man, starting with the day we met at Doncaster sales when Harry called me over to his side and promptly ordered me to "go find a little whizz bang for a bit of fun". That was in 2008 which happened to be the last time our yard was savaged with a virus and sick horses stared at me through bloodshot eyes and snotty noses.
Harry's article mentions him being 'at rock bottom' and that's exactly where I was that bright August day, gobsmacked that Harry wanted to talk to me at all, after all we had never met before and although I recognised him, how did he know me? I even assumed he thought I was working as an agent because I didn't initially understand that he was telling me to buy him a horse for ME to train! I even said as much to him, announcing to Harry "you do know I can't train pigs to be dirty at the moment?" To which Harry laughed and said "it ain't about that love, it's about the people - now go find one and let’s have some fun".
I did, and we did. The little horse duly won on the day he was supposed to and any fears I harboured about training for this mega gambler had already melted away. As my father and first husband were both bookies, the latter also liking a bet (but only if things went his way), gambling had bought me nothing but angst and aggravation by the bucket-load and I was initially worried sick that the big fellow would be a thorn in my side - but I could not have been more wrong.
There are so many amusing tales it’s hard to know where to begin but I remember how Harry wagered his biggest ever bet on a horse race on a colt I trained for him only for jockey error to cost him the race by the shortest of short heads. Then there was the time Harry accused me of making him sleep in a "sauna" (he was in the spare bedroom above the kitchen where the aga is situated) before he proceeded to walk around the yard and gallops wearing only his underpants and a tee shirt.
On another occasion six of us went to the Wensleydale Heifer for dinner where Harry fell in love with the menu and ordered two of everything on it before ensuring the entire restaurant was emptied in super-fast time when he started roaring with laughter and swearing like a trooper. It was a great way to make sure we all enjoyed complete privacy, although I don't thing Harry meant to do that!
We have seen Harry at his funniest and most buoyant, and at his lowest ebb too during the time he was being investigated and eventually warned off by the BHA, who have been known to allow 'other owners' to remain in racing for doing the same thing. I am sure if those in charge of today's BHA were in charge back then, Harry would have been treated very differently.
In short, I thought Harry would be tricky to train for but I could not have been more wrong.
I once told him his filly "Zenella" who ran in the famous "Sangster" colours was “above average” but I couldn't be sure she would win on her debut due to a few small issues she had during her preparation. Harry was on a boat in the middle of the Aegean Sea when I called him to say she had "romped in" at massive odds. Many gamblers might be unhappy at missing out but Harry was delighted that she was indeed 'above average'- she went on to win a Listed race after that.
All Harry's horses managed to win for us, one won four races as a two year old and we had a lot of fun. Not once did he cause us any grief or concern, he was - and is a superstar, a true legend and a great owner and it was a privilege to train for him His quitting the sport was a black day for racing because it needs characters like “Arry”.