The flickering images on the big screen told the story. Super filly Pebbles ground- breaking Breeders Cup win; Julio Mariner winning the St Leger and Bold Arrangement’s heroic bid for glory in the Kentucky Derby.
All racing greats and all trained by Newmarket’s longest standing trainer Clive Brittain who recently announced he would be retiring at the end of this season after a glittering career of more than 40 years.
One of racing’s true pioneers, the one-time stablelad, who was born one of 13 children, defied tradition by becoming a trainer and became the first to have 100 horses on Newmarket heath and the first at Headquarters to install an equine swimming pool. He was the first British trainer to land a Breeders’ Cup and the first to win a Japan Cup.
He began his training career in 1972, initially from Pegasus Stables before moving to his current base, Carlburg, on Bury Road, three years later.
His first Newmarket success came 43 years ago on September 28th, 1972, when he landed the 1m 6f Melbourn Handicap with Imperial Crown, the Willie Carson-ridden 16-1 outsider of a seven-runner field. Forty eight hours later, he had saddled Vedvyas to finish third, beaten in a three-way photo in the Cambridgeshire.
Since then Brittain’s best moments on the Rowley Mile came with Mystiko winning the 2000 Guineas in 1991, and Pebbles and Sayyedati landing the fillies’ equivalent in 1984 and 1993 respectively.
Pebbles went on to record a scintillating victory in the Champion Stakes on the Rowley Mile in October 1985 just two weeks before travelling across the Atlantic to Aqueduct in New York to become the first British-trained Breeders’ Cup winner .
“Winning the Guineas here with Pebbles was the highlight for me,” said Brittain. “She was great but she could blow the race before the race. We had to do everything right with her. I had to saddle her in the horse box in the car park and brought her in late.
“She never turned a hair before and took off in the race. That was probably my best training performance.”
On Saturday Brittain, now 81, was honoured by Newmarket Racecourses at the Rowley Mile, with the presentation of an engraved Armada dish. Visibly moved by the tribute, his first thought was of his wife Maureen and his sadness that she could not be with him.
“The reason I am giving up is that my wife is very ill in hospital. I left hospital this morning and I really didn’t want to leave her. This occasion is really not the same without her standing by my side. But I am deeply honoured.”