MICHAEL DICKINSON has led the tributes to Christine Feather who owned his 1982 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Silver Buck and who has died at the age of 79
“She was the best owner any trainer could possibly wish for. She loved her horses. She was a good owner, but she was a great loser which you have to be in our game,” he said.
His appreciation of Mrs Feather stems from her stoicism when Silver Buck, one of the best steeplechasers of his generation, failed to defend his Gold Cup title in 1983 – the year that Dickinson, then based at Harewood, saddled the first five horses home in jump racing’s premier race.
“We were all excited and the only person who had a right to be disappointed was Christine Feather. She had the best horse and he only finished fourth because the silly trainer did not have him right on the day,” he recalled, “She was really pleased for me and really generous in defeat when I should have had a telling off. After the race, she had a painting commissioned of the five Gold Cup horses which I still have at my home in Maryland.”
The owner’s association with Dickinson, and the trainer’s now deceased parents Tony and Monica, stemmed from the 1973 Cheltenham Festival-winning steeplechaser The Chisler who was owned by her then father-in-law John Haggas. Her first horse was Tempting Times who won a New Year’s Day race at Catterick before she had the good fortune to acquire Silver Buck, a point-to-pointer from Ireland.
Mrs Feather, whose children include the top Flat trainer William Haggas, had a special affinity with Silver Buck’s jockey Robert Earnshaw who assumed the riding responsibilities when Tommy Carmody returned to his native Ireland.
“She gave me my first big job,” said Earnshaw, now a BHA senior steward. “She was great fun and very loyal. When I finished work, and you can imagine the state I’d be in after a morning mucking out, there would be a call to say that Mrs Feather wanted to see me. I’d drop in at her house in Leathley on my way home – she just loved talking about her horses.”
Christine Feather’s memorial service takes place at noon on Monday at St Andrews Church, Gargrave. Donations to the Injured Jockeys’ Fund.