Les Boots: The Worst Jockey in the History of Horse Racing?

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com! Today’s post is one I really wanted to share because I had never heard of this story until recently and thought if I hadn’t then how many others hadn’t? So without further ado, let’s get right into it!

Les Boots was an Australian jockey who’s professional jockey spanned 18 years. In those 18 years he broke just about every bone in his body which included a broken neck which saw him out of action for two years.

Less started as an apprentice jockey, working at Harry Butler’s stables. He began riding out and mucking out stalls until one day Harry called him into the office and told him he wanted him to go to Cheltenham in England and ride a horse called Umbalir in a jumps race, however he parted ways at the first hurdle with Les ending up in hospital. He rode Umbalir twice more, both rimes resulting in a hospital trip. Three for three – It didn’t look great.

Les Boots then went on to be known as the worst jockey in the history of horse racing due to the fact that he never had a winner, never placed in fact, he never even stayed on a horse for more than half a mile in any of his races. In fact, out of 39 starts, he fell 40 times – 41 if you include a non-horse related incident. He explained this to interviewers:

I rode a horse at Cheltenham one day, fell going out the straight, I caught him, remounted him, fell at the half-mile and I fell out the ambulance coming to hospital.”


Les himself told people that out of his 18 year career, he believes he spent 12 of them in the hospital, also saying that Adelaide Hospital used to get a bed reading in advance whenever they saw he had a ride. Les used to ride out many horses each weak and was totally fine, however when it came to a race he just couldn’t stay on.

It got to a point where his wife, alongside a packed lunch, would pack him some pyjamas and anything he would need for a couple of days in hospital whenever he went to a race. In fact it got so bad that whenever he was the jockey, his horse would be 100/1, regardless of how good the horse was due to him being on board.

However Les Boots became a national hero with his jokes and sense of humour with lines such as:

I went to a picnic one day and they even barred me from the merry-go-round – said it wasn’t safe”


A dream of Les’ was always to take part in the English Grand National, he later explained why this never happened:

I never did realise my life’s ambition to ride in the English Grand National at Aintree. My wife cancelled my passport, she reckoned I’d be the first jockey to drown at the water jump.”


Les Boots lived to be 80 years old and it’s good to see he never lost his sense of humour. Les will go down as one of the worst jockey’s in the history of horse racing, but also someone who will never be forgotten due to the fact he laughed the whole way through his career and although he ended up spending the majority of his time in hospital it was clear to see how much he loved horses and racing.

I thought this was so interesting to read, I had never heard of Les Boots so I really wanted to share. I hope you all enjoyed this one and I will see you all Saturday morning when I have a look at the history of the Irish Derby ahead of this years renewal.


Best Mate: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to another post here on zoelouisesmithx.com. Today’s post is a new post in my What Makes a People’s Horse series all about Best Mate, thank you to @WattyRacing for this suggestion. Let’s just get right into it!

Best Mate was foaled on 28th January 1995 by Un Desperado out of Katday. He was bred by breeder Jacques Van’t Hart and owned by Jim Lewis who sent him into training with Henrietta Knight.

Best Mate started his career on 14th November 1999 at Cheltenham in a National Hunt Flat Race (Bumper). He had Jim Culloty on board and a starting price of 10/1, shocking a lot of people, he won by 3/4 lengths to Hard To Start (14/1). A couple of weeks later, he then headed to Sandown on 3rd December 1999 for a Novices’ Hurdle where he started as the 5/4 favourite, again under Jim Culloty, he easily won by 10 lengths to Rosco (100/30).

We then move into the new millennium and on the 8th January 2000, Best Mate headed back to Sandown for the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle. Here he started at 4/1 under Jim Culloty, here he finished second by 2 and 1/2 lengths to the 11/8 favourite Monsignor.

Best Mate took a 66 day break before heading back to Cheltenham, this time for the Festival and the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on the 14th March 2000. Under Jim Culloty again, he started the race at 6/1, where he finished second by 3/4 of a length to Sausalito Bay (14/1), however beating the 5/4 favourite Youlneverwalkalone by 1 and 1/4 lengths. Next up for Best Mate was Aintree on the 7th of April 2000 for a Grade 2 Novices’ Hurdle, where as the 4/11 odds on favourite, under Jim Culloty, he beat Copeland (9/2) for AP McCoy and Martin Pipe by 2 and 1/2 lengths.

Best Mate then took a 193 day summer break before returning to the track at Exeter on the 17th of October 2000, this time for a Novices’ Chase. He started as the 1/2 favourite and unsurprisingly won by 2 and 1/2 lengths under Jim Culloty to Bindaree (3/1). Just under a month later, with Jim Culloty, Best Mate headed back to Cheltenham for a Novices’ Chase in the November meeting on the 12th of November. This time starting as the 8/13 odds on favourite, where he won comfortably by 18 lengths to Fathalkhair (33/1) for Richard Johnson and Brian Ellison.

Swiftly we move into 2001 and after an 83 day break, Best Mate returned to Sandown on the 3rd of February for a Grade 1 Novices’ Chase and as the 5/4 favourite, under Jim Culloty, he won by 13 lengths to Crocadee (5/1). Best Mate avoided Cheltenham and after a 63 day break he headed to Aintree on the 7th of April for the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle, under Jim Culloty as the 3/1 favourite he finished second by 14 lengths to Barton (9/1) for jockey Tony Dobbin and trainer Tim Easterby.

Best Mate then took a 213 day summer break before returning to Exeter on the 6th of November 2001. As the odds on 8/13 favourite under Jim Culloty he won by 20 lengths to Desert Mountain I (14/1) for jockey Joe Tizzard and trainer Paul Nicholls. We then move forward a couple of weeks and on the 24th of November 2001 Best Mate headed to Ascot for the First National Gold Cup, here he started as the 8/13 favourite under Jim Culloty where he finished second by just 1/2 length to Wahiba Sands (4/1) for AP McCoy riding for Martin Pipe.

One month later, on Boxing Day 2001, Best Mate headed to Kempton for the King George Chase, this time being rode by Champion Jockey AP McCoy, where they started at 5/2, however they could only manage a second by 3/4 of a length behind Florida Pearl (8/1) for jockey Adrian Maguire and trainer Willie Mullins.

We then move into 2002 and back to the Cheltenham Festival, so after a 78 day break, Best Mate headed to Cheltenham on the 14th of March 2002 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Here he was back under his regular jockey Jim Culloty where they started at 7/1 and won by 1 and 3/4 lengths to Commanche Court (25/1).

After winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Best Mate had a 254 day summer break before returning to the track in November, this time heading to Huntingdon on the 23rd of November for the Peterborough Chase, starting as the 8/15 favourite under Jim Culloty, Best Mate won by 8 lengths to Douze Douze (7/2). Just over a month later on Boxing Day 2002, Best Mate headed to Kempton for the King George Chase, where as the 11/8 favourite, back under Champion Jockey AP McCoy, Best Mate won by 1 and 1/2 lengths to Marlborough (14/1) for jockey Timmy Murphy and trainer Nicky Henderson.

As we head into 2003, Best Mate took a 77 day break before returning to the Cheltenham Festival on the 13th of March 2003 to try and retain his Gold Cup title. With regular jockey Jim Culloty taking the ride on the 13/8 favourite, he won by 10 lengths to Truckers Tavern (33/1) meaning he was now a duel Gold Cup winner.

After impressively winning his second Gold Cup, Best Mate took a 254 day break before returning to Huntingdon for the Peterborough Chase, here he was the 8/13 favourite under Kim Culloty, however he could only manage a second place to Jair Du Cochet (100/30). To end 2003, on the 28th of December, Best Mate crossed the Irish Sea and headed to Leopardstown for the Grade 1 Ericsson Chase, here he started as the 8/11 favourite under Jim Culloty where he won impressively by 9 lengths to Le Coudray (14/1).

The 2004 Cheltenham Festival quickly came around and after an 81 day break, Best Mate headed straight into his third Gold Cup on the 18th of March, where as the 8/11 favourite, under Jim Culloty, he successfully won his 3rd consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Best Mate then took a 246 day break before returning to Exeter on the 19th of November 2004 where he won the William Hill Chase as the 4/7 favourite, this time under Timmy Murphy. Best Mate ended 2004 by heading back over to Leopardstown for the Grade 1 Lexus Chase on the 28th of December 2004, however as the 9/10 favourite, back under his regular jockey Jim Culloty, he could only manage a second place, finishing behind Beef Or Salmon by 7 lengths.

The plan was for Best Mate to head straight to the Cheltenham Festival to try and win a 4th Gold Cup however just 8 days before he was due to run, he was withdrew from the race after he burst a blood vessel on the gallops. So therefore Best Mate wouldn’t be seen again until the 1st of November 2005, when he returned to Exeter, sadly, this day turned out to be the saddest day for racing fans, jockey Paul Carberry pulled up on Best Mate during the running of the Haldon Gold Cup, however when he dismounted, Best Mate stumbled and fell to his knees, sadly he collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack.

When Best Mate died, it made national news with everybody within the sport and outside of the sport feeling absolutely heartbroken at the loss of a complete legend. Government regulations meant that his body could not be buried at Exeter like his owner wanted, instead Best Mate was cremated and on the 10th of December 2005, his ashes were buried beside the winning post at his much loved course Cheltenham.

In March 2006, a life size bronze sculpture of Best Mate was unveiled at Cheltenham Racecourse, which still stands to this day. There is also a bronze stature near to the farm in Lockinge where he trained. In March 2007, Best Mate was named one of the ‘elite 12’ on the Cheltenham Hall of Fame.

So there we have Best Mate’s career. I don’t even think we need to go into much detail about his career, because as you can see he was a complete legend. However, let’s have a look at his career form:


So from that, as you can see, Best Mate had 22 races, winning 14 of them and finishing 2nd in 7 of them, the 22nd, sadly being where he pulled up before his life ended. This means that in Best Mate’s career, he never once fell. Matching Arkle’s record, Best Mate won three consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup’s and he was the first horse to win multiple Gold Cup’s since L’Escargot who won in 1970 and 1971.

So, to sum it up, Best Mate was an unreal horse who everybody fell in love with. I was alive during his time, but I was young and don’t really remember much about him, but even though, he is still a horse that I know of and have been told about many a times by my family and those online who were lucky enough to remember him. I don’t think I need to say anymore about him, he was a legend and always will be and I’m so happy that his statue remains at Cheltenham so generations like my own can respect him for what he did during his career.

I want to thank you for reading this post and I hope to see you all in my next one!

10 of The Most Beautiful Racecourses in the World

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today’s post is a little different for me, but I was inspired this week on Twitter when I seen photos of racecourses around the world that look absolutely stunning, so I wanted to create a post where I look at some of the most beautiful racecourses I could find and any information I could also find. So in no particular order, here are, in my opinion, 10 of the most beautiful racecourses in the world.

Parx Racing at Parx Casino

Based in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, USA, Parx Racing was formally known as Philadelphia Park. It opened as the Keystone Racetrack on November 4th, 1974 and was purchased by International Thoroughbred Breeders on December 28th 1984 for around $40,000,000, they then changed the name as well as the look of the track. Whilst International Thoroughbred Breeders owned the course, they began to put major improvements in place, including the construction of a turf course. In December 1990, Greenwood Racing Inc brought Philadelphia Park.

On December 18th 2006 a temporary casino opened on the first and third floor of the racetrack. 3 years later on Decemeber 18th 2009, a standalone casino opened. In 2010, the name was changed from Philadelphia Park to Parx Racing.

Website: https://www.parxracing.com/

Flemington Racecourse

Based in Flemington, Victoria, Australia, Flemington Racecourse opened in March 1840 known as the Melbourne Racecourse, by the late 1850’s, the name Flemington was more commonly used after Flemington in Morayshire, Scotland. This was because the approach road from Melbourne crossed Moonee Ponds Creek and passed through a property owned by James Watson, he named the property after his wife Elizabeth’s hometown.

In 1840, the land was acquired from the Lang brothers and regarded as Crown Land by the government. In 1848, the Governor of New South Wales formally ordered that the site of 352 acres would be considered a public racecourse and he appointed six men as trustees of the area. In 1871, the government passed a Victoria Racing Club Act, which made the club the new trustees of the racecourse. In August 2006, Victoria Racing Club became Victoria Racing Club Limited, meaning the club is now governed by a board of directors who are elected by members of the club.

Flemington Racecourse is famously the home of the Melbourne Cup since 1861 where it was ran in front of just 4000 people, a vast difference from the 100,000 people who attended in 1880, which was a phenomenal amount at the time as the population of Melbourne at the time was only 290,000.

The Melbourne Cup is very popular with British and Irish trainers and jockeys with the likes of Ryan Moore, Joseph O’Brien, Charlie Appleby having won the race in previous years.

Website: https://www.flemington.com.au/

Chantilly Racecourse

Based in Chantilly, Oise, France, Chantilly Racecourse opened on May 15th 1834. In 1879, the main grandstand, which still exists today, was built by famed architect Honoré. Chantilly Racecourse was built in connection to the already existing Grandes Écuries (Great Stables) which were built by estate owner Louis Henri, Duc e Bourbon, Prince of Condé in 1719. Designed by the architext Jean Aubert, the stables are 186 meters long and considered the most beautiful in the world.

L: http://domainedechantilly.com/en/private-events/our-spaces/great-stables/ – R: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/550354016956816539/

In 1886, the Duc d’Aumale donated the racecourse to the Institut de France. In 1982, the Living Museum of the Horse was created as part of the stables. In July 2006, the museum was acquired by the Foundation for the Safe-keeping and Development of the Chantilly Domain, presided over by the Aga Khan IV.

Chantilly Racecourse is managed by France Galop and is the home to the Prix du Jockey Club since 1843, Prix de Diane Longines since 1843 and the Prix Jean Prat since 1858. In 2016 and 2017, Chantilly hosted the Qata Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe weekend whilst Longchamp was being reconstructed.

Website: https://www.france-galop.com/en/node/60

Meydan Racecourse

Based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Meydan Racecourse opened on March 27th 2010, replacing Nad Al Sheba Racecourse which formally occupied the same site. The Grandstand is over 1 mile in length and can accommodate over 60,000 spectators. The racecourse also includes The Meydan which is the worlds first five-star trackside hotel, with 285 rooms, restaurants, a racing museum, a gallery, nine-hole golf course and 72 corporate suits.

The racecourse has hosted concerts by Lady Gaga, Elton John, Kylie Minogue, Janet Jackson, Sia, Toni Braxton, Seal, Jennifer Lopez and more. The interior of the track was also used as a filming location for Star Trek Beyond.

But more importantly, Meydan Racecourse is the home the Dubai World Cup which has seen the likes of Silvestre de Sousa and William Buick, amongst others win the race.

Website: http://www.dubairacingclub.com/visit/meydan-grandstand/about-meydan-grandstand

White Turf Racing Association, St Moritz

Saint Moritz is an upmarket ski resort primarily known for its world-class winter sports. However on 3 days a year, in February, they hold the White Turf event where horses and jockeys compete on a frozen lake with the Engadine Mountains hovering over them.

Each year, this event attracts more than 35,000 spectators. Not only for the gallop and trotting races but also the fan favourite skijöring, where skiers are pulled behind unsaddled horses around a 2,700 meter icy track

Website: https://www.whiteturf.ch/en/

Santa Anita Park

Based in Arcadia, California, USA, Santa Anita Racecourse opened on December 25th 1934. In 1907, Elias J. Baldwin opened the original Santa Anita Park Racetrack slightly east of the current location of Arcadia Park. In 1933, the legalisation of pari-mutuel gambling (of which I understand is essentially tote/placed betting) inspired San Francisco dentist Dr. Charles H Strub and movie mogul Hal Roach to create what we now know as Santa Anita Park in it’s current location at the foot of San Gabriel Mountains.

As of 2019, Santa Anita Park has held the Breeders Cup a record breaking 10 times.

Website: https://www.santaanita.com/horse-racing/live-racing/

Ascot Racecourse

Based in Ascot, Berkshire, England, Ascot Racecourse opened on August 11th 1711 by Queen Anne and is located approximately 6 miles from Windsor Castle. Ascot holds 13 of Britain’s 36 annual Flat Group 1 races and 3 Grade 1 Jumps races. Approximately 600,000 people visit Ascot Racecourse per year.

In 2004, Ascot Racecourse was closed to a £220 million redevelopment. This is the single biggest investment in British Racing. It was then reopened on June 20th 2006 by Queen Elizabeth II.

Ascot Racecourse is famously the home of Royal Ascot, which includes races such as the Queen Anne Stakes, Gold Cup, King Edward VII Stakes and many more.

Website: https://www.ascot.co.uk/

Happy Valley Racecourse

Based in Wan Chai District, Hong Kong, Happy Valley Racecourse opened in 1845 to provide horse racing for British people in Hong Kong. This area was previously swampland but the only flat ground that the Hong Kong Government deemed suitable, so they prohibited rice growing in the surrounding area. The first race was ran in December 1846.

Sadly, one of the things Happy Valley is known for is when on February 26th 1918 a temporary grandstand collapsed causing a fire which killed at least 590 people in attendance.

Happy Valley Racecourse currently has seven storey stands and holds around 55,000 people, the inner field is used for football, hockey and rugby.

Website: https://www.happyvalleyracecourse.com/

Laytown Racecourse

Based on the beach at Laytown, County Meath, Ireland, Laytown Racecourse is the only racing event run on a beach under the Rules of Racing, the first race started in 1868. Racing takes place once a year, in September.

Many top Irish jockeys have ridden winners at Laytown Racecourse, including Ruby Walsh, Colin Keane, Pat Smullen, Joseph O’Brien and Declan McDonogh. Amateur jockeys including Nina Carberry, Patrick Mullins, Jamie Codd, Katie Walsh and Derek O’Connor have also had winners at Laytown Racecourse.

Website: http://laytownstrandraces.ie/wp2/

Cheltenham Racecourse

Last, but not least, it is of course, Cheltenham Racecourse. As a jumps fan based in England, is there anywhere better to go? Cheltenham Racecourse is ased in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. In 1815, the first organised flat race meeting took place on Nottingham Hill, the first races on Cleeve Hill took place in 1818. Over the next decade, the popularity of horse racing soared, with crowds of 30,000 visiting the racecourse for its annual two day July meeting which featured the Gold Cup, a 3 mile flat race.

In 1830, the meeting was disrupted by the congregation of Cheltenham’s Parish Priest Reverend Fancis Close who had spent the previous 12 months preaching the evils of horse racing. In 1831, the grandstand was burnt to the ground. To overcome the violence, the racecourse moved to it’s current venue of Prestbury Park.

Cheltenham Racecourse is most famously known as the home of the Cheltenham Festival. Four days of racing which takes place in March each year and includes some of the biggest races in British racing including multiple Grade 1 races such as the Arkle Challenge Trophy, Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Stayers’ Hurdle, Ryanair Chase, Triumph Hurdle, Cheltenham Gold Cup and many many more.

In 2015, Cheltenham Racecourse opened the £45 million Princess Royal Stand with a capacity of 6,500. This completed the redevelopment of the racecourse.

Website: https://www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/cheltenham/

So there we have it, in my opinion, 10 of the most beautiful racecourses in the world. Whilst doing my research, I can see there are literally so many incredible tracks and I found it very hard to choose just 10, so many I can do another in the future of different courses. If you have any you think I have missed do send them to me on Twitter so I can add them to a list to potentially cover in the future.

This was a very different post for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed researching these and I hope you all enjoyed it too! I shall see you all in my next post!