Sunday, 24 July 2011

John Meacock - Still making us smile today

Whilst searching the web this week I came across an article from “Ask the Anorak” in which David Hewett-Emmett of Houston, Texas asked the following question… “While a teenager in Britain in the 1960s, I was fascinated by John Meacock's runners, including Vakil-ul-Mulk and Qalibashi, who was bought by Julian Wilson. In Horses in Training, C Wall was listed as one of his apprentices - was that the current Newmarket trainer?

The Anorak replied: To judge from the number of letters and emails from readers, Hampshire trainer John Meacock still has a healthy international fan club, 34 years after he retired from racing and five years after his death. His eccentricities, including giving his horses unpronounceable Persian names, transcended his lack of success and made him one of racing's great characters. His apprentice was Christopher Wall, not the trainer Christian Wall, who was still a schoolboy at the time, but there are plenty of other people with unforgettable memories of him. In his memoirs “Some You Win”, Julian Wilson wrote of Meacock: “He wore a battered trilby hat, smoked incessantly through a cigarette-holder, scattering ash indiscriminately, wrote unintelligible poetry and was quite the dottiest man that I had ever met!”

I can recall encountering John Meacock myself a couple of times at the races in the late sixties. On the first occasion I was a young 15 year old apprentice not long in racing, we were at Bath races where we had some runners that day. I went to the stable-lads canteen with another of the lads and as we sat having a drink this guy walked in who just looked totally out of place, he didn’t look like a stable lad, didn’t dress like a stable lad and he wasn’t the right size for a stable lad either. There was certainly something about him that transfixed me; I watched intently as he sat down… he wasn’t alone, as there were three or four young lads with him who were obviously racing lads, apprentices looking at their size and age. The stable lad who was with me gave me a nudge and a wink and said "you watch this kid"… I asked who the bloke was and he said “it’s that John Meacock, a complete Hat-stand he is”, I said who’s John Meacock and he replied he’s a trainer but he hardly ever has a winner, all his horses have foreign names, he’s more of an expert at training losers! Meacock sent one of the young kids up to the counter to get some cups of tea for them all, then a little while later he sidled up to  the counter himself and perused what was available and when he came away from the counter he had a whole cooked chicken on a plate. I thought he’s bought a chicken to share with the young lads, however when he seated himself back down it was reminiscent of something like a Victorian scene, say from a Dickens novel… he did no more than ate most of the chicken himself whilst the young apprentices sat all around him in silence looking as though they wanted a bite of it too… he left  the young apprentices with about as much between all of them them as he had for himself then with a “come on boys” he upped and left the canteen with the kids trailing behind him!


The second time I encountered John Meacock was at Newbury races when one of our horses went head to head with one of his, the ground had dried out to very firm and by the day before the race it had cut up badly to a match, a no betting affair due to the wide gulf in class between the two competing horses.

Willipeg was a very useful sprinter with a fine turn of foot who had won many races whilst John Meacock’s runner Biyaban Shah was still a maiden and in fact up to that day had not managed to finish in the first three in any race. It was usual for Meacock to have Charlie Patton, Frank Morby, or a young apprentice riding his horses and on this day he had a 7lb claimer A. G. Hall from Arthur Budgetts stable on Biyaban Shah. The gulf between the two horses was illustrated by the ratings and comments for both horses in Timeform Racehorses of 1968. The young apprentice Hall entered the paddock and approached Meacock twirling his whip with expertise just like you might expect from a budding Lester Piggott. Meacock didn’t appear to be quite as impressed as Hall may have been hoping for, with his usual eccentricity he glared at the young apprentice and did no more than snatched the whip from him saying “give me that bloody thing you won’t be needing it to win this one son”… upon legging Hall up into the saddle he must have then had second thoughts and decided to return his whip.

Willipeg was the sort of horse who was best left waiting till the last 150yards to use his excellent turn of foot to snatch the race in the dying strides however on this occasion he was going so well that he joined the lightly weighted Biyaban Shah two furlongs out and then pulled his way to the front hard held a furlong from home to win going away in a canter by four lengths. On his return to the unsaddling enclosure young Hall was greeted by an annoyed John Meacock who chastised Hall with a second helping of his eccentricity saying to the kid “ What the hell were you playing at… I told you in the paddock not to go haring off and make the running but to sit in behind him until just inside the final furlong and then pull him out and come with a late run and pip him on the post… You've cost me a bloody fortune today, I had a very big bet on the forecast you stupid little fool”.

John Meacock, who trained under both codes from 1960 to 1971, died in hospital in Southampton at the age of 85 in October 1999. He was a larger than life and very colourful owner-trainer who, after his wartime experiences in the Middle East, named his horses in relation to Shakespearian quotations translated into Persian.  He was also an enthusiastic yachtsman, ran an estate agency and even wrote a book of poems... Meacock was an innovator too in laying down and training on an artificial track at his stables near Alresford, Hampshire. – R.I.P John Meacock, even today you’re still making us smile at your eccentricity.
What a great era the sixties and seventies was for interesting people in racing…  David Ashforths book “Hitting The Turf” amusingly recalls one of the characters - Lieutenant-Colonel "Ricky" GRA Vallance, the trainer of Red Candle who won the 1972 Mackeson Gold Cup and the 1973 Hennessy. Apparently, Vallance "used to step out in his underpants and slippers at a frosty six o'clock in the morning and wash his hair in a tank of rainwater. Later, he might dip his nine Maltese terriers in a washing machine". His marital disputes with Mrs Vallance were the stuff of local legend one began with an oil-filled radiator flying out of a bedroom window! Ken Payne was another... a former Atty Persse apprentice turned window cleaner, then turned racehorse trainer who from small beginnings in the New Forest rose to a 120 horse stable in Middleham. However things changed rapidly when his licence was removed by the jockey club for doping followed by a downward spiral of despair with bankruptcy, the death of his son, and a suicide attempt which culminated with him fleeing to Los Angeles only to flee from there to Australia after allegedly being wanted on a police arrest warrant not to mention a mafia hitman being in hot pursuit of him! Characters like Vallance, Payne, and John Meacock were the life blood not just of horseracing but of life itself.

His stable in 1971

A summary of some of Meacock’s horses

Kouli-Kuh – Bay Mare, 1956.
Bought in 1959 as a three yr old by John Meacock she won a five furlong handicap at Lewes carrying seven stone seven pounds at the age of 5 yrs. Winning at odds of 20-1 and paying 56-1 on the tote this was her only glimmer of form from 22 Starts winning just the one race and being unplaced in her other 21 starts. Kouli-Kuh was unraced at 2yrs or 3yrs while named Trixodix, the mare who was Meacock's first winner ever winner as an owner/trainer was a half-sister to the good stayer and decent hurdler Curry's Kin (1957) and their dam was a half-sister to the excellent stayer Curry (1951).

Vakil-Ul-Mulk – Grey Colt, 1960 (sold on in 1966 to R. Johnston).
Won two 16f handicaps on flat (Warwick & Birmingham) at 5yrs and two more at 6yrs (both at Warwick) for new owner; earlier, in January 1965, won 20f novice hurdle (Worcester) and won five Handicap hurdles (20f-21f75y 1966-68) for new owner. Probably owner-breeder-trainer-poet-Persia expert John Meacock's least untalented horse (35-2-3-1 flat; 9-1-1-1 hurdles); rank outsider & trailed at the back as a maiden in 1963 Epsom Derby.

Khoja Hafiz - Bay Colt, 1960.
In 38 flat races Khoja Hafiz managed to win just once, his only win came in a seven furlong handicap at Warwick at 3yrs old. Was placed at 2yrs, 4yrs and 5yrs. Tried over hurdles but was unplaced in 4 hurdle races. Full record read as 42 races, 1 win, and 5 places.

Kavar-Ul-Mulk - Bay Colt, 1960. (Sold on to the Peter Chesmore stable in 1966)
He managed to reach a place on just one occasion when finishing third in 21 races on the flat. However, Kavar-Ul-Mulk did manage to finish second on four occasions in 19 races over hurdles for John Meacock. Later on under his new stable Kavar-Ul-Mulk failed to gain a win but finished second four times and third five times. The overall record for Kavar-Ul-Mulk reads as 72 races, no wins, eight seconds, and six thirds… sad really that the horse managed to gain quite a few places yet was still a maiden after running 72 times.

Qebir Kuh – Bay Mare, 1960.
In 21 flat races Qebir Kuh, won just the once in a 2mile handicap at Warwick when 5 yrs old.  She was also placed 2nd at 3 years old and again at 5 yrs old. In 6 jump races she managed to win once in a 2mile selling hurdle at Plumpton when aged 4yrs and was also 3rd once. Qebir Kuh was the dam of hurdle race winner Mr. Stubbs.

Zardarkuh - Bay Mare, 1960.
In 22 flat races from 2yrs old to 5yrs old Zardarkuh managed to win just the once when aged 5yrs in a 1mile 5 furlong handicap at Alexandra Park. She was also tried over hurdles running 11 times and managing to gain a place on three occasions.

QARAZAN – Bay Mare, 1961
In 32 flat races Khoja Hafiz managed to win just once, she won a 6 furlong handicap at Warwick when aged 3yrs old. She managed to gain two other places finishing third at 3rd yrs and 3rd again at 4yrs old. Full record read as 32 races, 1 win and 2 places, she was exported to Argentina.

Karkeh Rud – Bay Mare, 1962.
The bay mare managed to win three races on the flat, a 2 mile handicap at Brighton as a 3 year old, a 1 mile handicap at Warwick as a 4 yr old, and a 1 mile and half a furlong handicap at Windsor also at 4 yrs old. Karkeh Rud was also placed 11 times on the flat and when tried over hurdles she made the frame once. From a total of 66 races flat and jumps her record stood at 3 wins, 12 places, and 51 unplaced runs.

Qasr I Zar – Chestnut Mare, 1962
The Mare proved to be of little account on the flat managing just one place from 22 races but she did manage to gain a win over hurdles.

QALIBASHI - Bay Mare, 1964 (sold on to BBC journalist Julian Wilson).
She won her only 2 races over a 3 day spell at Brighton in August 1968, a 7 furlong handicap in which she dead heated for 1st place and a 6 furlong handicap two days later. Qalibashi managed a total of two wins and four places in 32 starts before being sold. She was also placed four times in over hurdles after being sold on.
Asad-Ul-Mulk – Chestnut Gelding, 1964.
In 25 flat races from the age of 2 yrs to 5 yrs Asad-Ul-Mulk never managed to make the frame. However, he did fare a little better over hurdles but that wouldn’t have been very hard given his dismal record on the flat. Over hurdles Asad-Ul-Mulk although a little improved it still wasn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff… He managed to gain 2 wins but one of those was walkover in a lowly selling hurdle. He also managed 2nd place on one occasion and once finishing 3rd. His record overall was 53 races, his only 2 wins and 2 places coming from his 28 hurdle races.


  1. I remember an article in the mid 60s in The Sun (tipsters Templegate and Sunny Jim among others) about, I think, Meacock and Qalibashi. I seem to recall the translation was CARPET BEATER, but I can't confirm with Wikipedia.

  2. er... Sea Child?? Shome mishtake shurely?

  3. Yes Felix you're right Sea Child was one of his for sure... I tried to stick with the ones that had won a race or at least been placed and I think Sea Child failed to make the frame in some twenty odd races hence why he doesn't show here, in fact John Meacock had quite a lot of horses that were unplaced throughout their career.

  4. A couple of Meacock odds and ends here…

    A court case –

    Some Meacock poems on this page – 2

  5. Thanks, AJ much appreciated, as is the rest of your fascinating blog. No,I only meant that Sea Child was a crazy name for a (Meacock) horse!

  6. I got you Felix, yes it is funny how he had just the one horse that didn't have a Persian name... Thank you very much for appreciation too!

  7. I just noticed that JM did train for another owner , someone called Blackman, so I guess Sea Child wasn't his to name...

  8. Well that's a surprise as I certainly never knew he ever trained for anyone other than himself... could be possible that there was some family connection such as maybe Blackman was his son-in-law. Thanks for the K T-N info too, I'm just going through the links that you sent via Flickr mail and at the same time I also uploaded a new jpeg up of info on Peter Poston as an owner from the Directory of Turf for 1973.
    Many thanks Felix

  9. Interestingly , there was an estate agency in Heston, Hounslow, run by a John Meacock which was taken over by an Indian firm, Poonam Estates, estd 1987, a few years ago. Perhaps this was a son of the trainer and estate agent John Meacock with the same name? (where was his agency?) A John Meacock was born in 1957 in the Alton district according to Free BMD. Perhaps not connected.

  10. I saw that too about Poonam Estate Agents Felix and did wonder if there was any connection there. And the Alton district issue might not be a total no-go as if it's the Alton in Hampshire then it's only about eleven miles from Alresford!

  11. Oops... I did mean to say - No I'm not sure where his Estate Agents was located, I just read he used to be one but it didn't say where.

  12. Some more interesting Meacockiana here,this time involving m'learned friends. Complex old business!

  13. Apprentice Jockey and Felix
    Amazing what you can find on the Internet these days!
    I'm Kevin Perkins, I did 8 gr 10 weeks at Treetops (John Meacock's place) in early 63.
    Though I enjoyed most of my time there, I found, I was not cut out to be an apprentice Jockey, John knew that as he soon started calling me a 'City Slicker' as I came from London.
    Khoja Hafiz was my favourite horse there, I would talk to him while mucking out his stall and he seemed to understand all I was talking about.
    THAT'S WHY HE WON THE 2.30 AT wARWICK THE WEEK AFTER I LEFT, I had a chat with him!

  14. Hello City Slicker as John Meacock would say... Great to hear from someone who actually worked at Treetops. I have a jpeg of a news cutting about Khoja Hafiz, it's when he won again at Warwick in 1965 but it was deemed a false start. Khoja ridden by David East who presumably didn't realise it was a false start had run round the track alone and was then withdrawn as a result. If you would like a copy of the cutting I'll find it and mail it on to you.

    Best wishes -

  15. Wow! yes please that would be great, if you would like to attach it to an email my address is -

    I went back to Treetops for a nostalgic visit in about 1990, when Sylvia was in full swing on her court proceedings. She still had a nice bit of land around her and the Stables were still there.
    She complimented me on my memories of where each horse was stabled (including Khoja).
    At that time (1990) she had a Llama, a horse and a Doberman all of whom wondered through and around the house as they pleased.
    She told me they had a good few horses in Ireland as well, in the earlier days.


  16. Hi Kevin,
    I've sent two jpegs on to you with pleasure... I've looked up Treetops on Google Earth you'd probably find that interesting too. Was wondering do you know if John Meacock had a son named John also, and if so do you know if he became an estate agent.
    Best wishes

  17. Thanks for the great jpegs, I'll look up treetops on Google Earth.
    Yes John definitely had a Son and I think it was John (not sure, but I did meet him when I revisited, at that time he was growing and selling trees, he was paid by the Government to grow them and also profited when he sold them.
    But he didn't mention the Estate agent business, however John Snr was still alive then Living elsewhere, he may have passed it on when he died.
    But its very likely as John Meacock had several Estate agencies in Middlesex, he offered me a job in Northolt or Ruislip when I left Treetops, but I turned it down and joined the Royal Navy not long after.

  18. Hi Burnsey, if I may call you that. I found and read this with great fascination, as earlier today I posted a quiz question on a racing forum, the answer to which was John Meacock and Vakil-ul-Mulk.
    With your permission I'd like to re-post this on their in it's own thread, and obviously give you due credit.
    Please let me know.
    Ian German

  19. Hi Ian,
    That's fine, no problem at all... I could be totally wrong but I'm guessing the quiz question might have been something along the lines of a derby runner that won over hurdles at a later date or something like that!

    Best Wishes

  20. It was - "name the trainer who's horses all had unpronouncable names and were mainly rubbish, and the name of his Derby entry, who finished last at 1000-1" It transpired that he finished 21 out of 26 at 100-1, although I'm pretty sure he was 1000-1 antepost. I was a young whipper-snapper at the time so I was tempted! But not tempted enough!!! Thanks for the permission, I'll look back here again for more inspiration :)

  21. a lot of the names on this blog had connections to the 1960's pony racing era at Hawthorn Hill, Ken Payne being one of them others I recall Charlie Patton, Tom Evans, Len Dilloway to name just a few... I was a 14 year old kid at the time but even I knew most of the crowd were throwouts from the main game .... but they were fun if not dodgy - others were Carrod and D.Thomas from Wales- ringers were frequent

  22. John Meacock was a legend. I backed Karkeh Rud in 1962 and put my only fiver on it, she won at 33-1, I was rich, never will forget him or the horse, thanks John and thanks Karkeh Rud.


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