cricket’s loss was horse racing’s gain when Yorkshire tried – and failed – to sign farmer’s son Stan Riley after the war.
A scout had spotted Stan’s potential for Oakham in his native Leicestershire and ushered the young player to one side.
“£100 a match at Headingley,” he offered.
“Best ask my dad,” replied Stan.
He did pluck up to the courage to speak to his father Ernest that evening. “You can go,” he said. But there was a catch. “But don’t think you’re ever coming back.”
Though Riley never did appear for Yorkshire, he did have the honour of making racing history when Burrough Hill Lad won the 1984 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Trained by Jenny Pitman, it was the first time that steeplechasing’s iconic race had been won by a female trainer and Riley’s story is now chronicled in Burrough Hill Lad: The Making of a Champion Racehorse (Chequered Flag Publishing, £11.99) and which has been written by Gavan Naden and Max Riddington.
While the headlines are usually reserved for the winning trainer and jockey, Phil Tuck in this instance, they invariably overlook the story of the person who pays the bills – the owner.
It is a charming book which will delight horse racing devotees and inspire all those who cherish the dream of a big race winner. Named after a hill near the Riley farm, Pitman’s warrior also won the Hennessy, King George and Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase in 1984 in the type of fairytale success that features in The Best of Alastair Down: Cheltenham Et Al (Racing Post, £20).
It brings together many of Down’s most evocative articles – his essay on Peter Easterby’s great warrior Night Nurse is worth the cover price alone.
The writer who remains such a loss to Channel Four Racing also features in the Racing Post Annual 2015 (£12.99), which is a fantastic review of the past 12 months of turf action, not least the ups and downs in AP McCoy’s incomparable career.
The 19-time champion jockey’s career is also chronicled in pictures by award-winning photographer Ed Whitaker’s coffee table book McCoy: In The Frame (Racing Post, £20). It is a measure of greatness that the rider’s perseverance and longevity merits such a fine pictorial tribute.
The importance of the relationship between horse and rider is highlighted by If Horses Could Talk: Horse Whisperer Gary Witheford (Racing Post, £20) and Run With Your Heart (Racing Post, £12.99) in which Yorkshire’s Steve Wright and ex-steeplechaser Adelphi Warrior conquer adversity.