The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech last Wednesday passed without much comment in the racing press, but there is a connection between the civil-rights leader and the sport.
She is long-serving, Fife-based steward and owner Jane Gillies, who has been bending recalcitrant jockeys over her knee for nearly half a lifetime. Next month, when she reaches the upper age limit for local stewards of 70, she has to quit the unpaid role, so you can hardly blame her for trying to pack in as much as possible lately.
Her Bank Holiday itinerary started with stewarding at Hamilton on Friday, Cartmel on Saturday and Yarmouth on Sunday. On Tuesday, heading home, she went to Southwell for her "own amusement", held the hand of a probationary steward at Carlisle on Wednesday and, on the last leg, dropped in on Hamilton for more stewarding.
As an owner she and husband George Weir had the well-known chaser The Engineer, a horse called October, who was placed at Cheltenham, and Clued Up and Palamon on the Flat. However, possibly her greatest feat was her first winner as a permit holder.
Of That Ilk, a mare that could barely see over a hurdle, won an amateur race at Perth in spite of the jockey - me. She has a fund of Ryan Price stories going back to the moment her mother-in-law, Viscountess Weir, on meeting the legendary trainer about whom it was once said "if that man is honest, he should his sue face for libel", naively asked: "Capt Price, how can one have a racehorse?"
He replied: "In five minutes - if you write the cheque." It was nevertheless the start of a great relationship, and 80 per cent of the horses they owned with him won, including the 1969 Gold Cup winner What A Myth.
As the daughter of the politician and permit-holder Lord Kilmany, Jane always had an interest in civil rights and, as a newly-wed following her husband to Boston, where he was completing a doctorate in engineering, she worked in public relations for, among others, the Congress of Racial Equality and the Massachusetts Freedom Movement for two years, meeting King twice.
Working on a project, not connected with King, for which funds were urgently needed, one congressman told her that if she was having trouble raising the money she should just say she was his wife.
As Jane pointed out, she was fresh out of public school, his wife was from the deep south of America and she did not think anyone would fall for that particular ruse. "It's a long time ago," Jane said of her meetings with King. "I don't think people today realise quite how much bias there was.
As an individual, he had more effect than anyone in changing American history. He was charming and articulate."
Open doors at newmarket
Newmarket will be staging its Betfair-sponsored open day on Sunday, Sept 22. It starts with horses working on Warren Hill at 9?am, moves on to some of Newmarket's biggest yards, and concludes on the Rowley Mile in the afternoon. Also open will be the Jockey Club Rooms, Tattersalls, the National Horseracing Museum, the National Stud and British Racing School. One highlight will be a football match — jockeys versus trainers.