HOW apt that Mary Reveley should have saddled her 1,000th winner on the very day – June 24, 1995 – that a Nelson Mandela-inspired South Africa defeated New Zealand to win rugby union’s World Cup.
As Joel Stranksy slotted home the winning drop goal on a defining day for world sport, Reveley – a trainer who never relished the public limelight – was happy to go under the radar. It was her way.
After Srivijaya had scored over jumps at Southwell, taking her tally to 999 winners, odds-on favourite Hit The Canvas took the dual-purpose trainer, from Saltburn, to four figures when winning on the Flat at Ayr.
Yet Reveley, a stockwoman who was self-taught when it came to training, missed both successes. She had gone racing at her local track Redcar where, ironically, she did not have a winner.
“Typically, I missed the excitement,” she told The Yorkshire Post at the time.
“I hadn’t realised we were so close until someone rang me two days ago. It’s nice to do it with a jumps’ winner and a Flat winner on the same day as both codes have been very good to me. I would never have thought it possible when we had our first winner, which wasn’t a great deal of time ago; we have been incredibly lucky.”
I hadn’t realised we were so close until someone rang me two days ago. It’s nice to do it with a jumps’ winner and a Flat winner on the same day as both codes have been very good to me. I would never have thought it possible when we had our first winner, which wasn’t a great deal of time ago; we have been incredibly lucky.Mary Reveley
Born in 1940, and brought up on her family farm at Lingdale, Reveley was – with hindsight – right on her first point. Extraordinarily her first winner had only come 15 years previously when Lottie Lehmann won a jumps contest at Sedgefield. It would be another three years before she registered her first success on the Flat.
Yet there was nothing lucky about this success. Despite Jenny Pitman breaking the mould a decade earlier, female trainers were still a novelty and had to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to win the respect required. Once asked about her infrequent appearances at racetracks, she told racing historian John Randall: “It is simply a waste of time for me to go parading about the racecourse every day or be standing in the bar.
“Races are won at home and that is where I am most useful to my owners.
“When we have winners, Mrs M Reveley gets all the credit, but this place functions on a nucleus of people who have been here for years. I am basically a very shy person, there’s no more to it than that. This is my home. Dad bought the farm and its 175 acres in the forties for what he described as ‘no more than the price of a tractor’. Except for a year in Malton, which none of us liked, I’ve always been here.”
The first woman to saddle 100 winners in a calendar year (1991), she made further history the following year when becoming the first female trainer to win 50 races in a Flat season.
Yet she attributed much of this success to her son, and assistant, Keith who oversaw the horses on the gallops: “Ask any of the jockeys who come here just how good he is. I’m in the yard, but he is on the gallops all morning and he knows exactly when to ease back on a particular horse and when to push on.”
Reveley retired in 2004 with over 2,000 winners to her name. Her son became a successful trainer before handing in his licence recently so he and his family can spend more time in France where their son James is the reigning champion jockey and flying the flag for the family.