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For those who know me through my work on the chalkstreams and nature writings a book about a racehorse might seem an odd departure but it tells you something more about my life when I actually had a proper 'job' and when fly fishing was simply my hobby.
As a teenager I was obsessed by horseracing; I was always rubbish at riding but racing fascinated me. Fortunately I came from a family who shared the passion. My grandfather had owned a racecourse. My grandmother encouraged an interest in betting on the grounds that it would help my maths. My father had ridden in point-to-points. The best family trips were days to the races. My summer job was as a stable hand in a local racing yard. But education got in the way until, with a degree to my name, I did what I wanted to always do - become a bookie. It was ten great years until the call of the wild got me.
So Frankel is something of a return to my roots. Like millions I watched in awe as this extraordinary racehorse scorched away all those in his path to become the greatest equine athlete of all time. I have met him. Patted him. Observed his foibles. Chatted in that way that people do to horses. And then retraced every step of his life from birth to his current home at Banstead Manor Stud in Suffolk.
He is an extraordinary horse who did extraordinary things. I hope you enjoy reading my tale of his life and the people that made him what he is.
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In horse racing greatness is defined by speed. Being the second fastest counts for little. You have to win. And win. And keep winning until every challenger of your generation is put to the sword. Of the twelve horses lined up on Newmarket Heath that 2011 day, one would do just that. And more. To become the greatest racehorse that has ever lived.
Frankel was born on 11 February 2008, with four white socks and a blaze, from impressive equine lines on both his parents’ sides. Simon Cooper revisits the whole of the horse’s life, giving readers an inside tour of the calm oasis that is life a stud farm, where a foal will live with his mother for the first year of his life. Next, the atmosphere of heady possibility that marks the early days of training. Roadwork. Gallops. Trials. Turning raw potential into something more. Frankel begins to set himself apart.
A detailed and fast-paced narrative breathlessly recounts the racing career of the horse who, by his retirement to stud at the age of 4, would be rated the greatest of all time. Cooper weaves the horse’s tale with those of his trainer, battling cancer, the stablehands who coped with his explosive nature, the work rider who tamed him, the the jockey who rode in all fourteen of his races, and the owner who saw his potential from the very beginning. The result is a rich and multifaceted tale of modern horse racing, the lives of everyone involved, human and equine, and the unadulterated glory of winning. And winning everything.
Shortlisted for THE WAINWRIGHT PRIZE 2017
‘The best popular account of the lives of otters written so far’ Richard Shelton, Times Literary Supplement
When Simon Cooper bought an abandoned water mill that straddles a small chalkstream in southern England, little did he know that he would come to share the mill with a family of wild otters. Yet move in they did, allowing him to begin to observe them, soon immersing himself in their daily routines and movements. He developed an extraordinary close relationship with the family, which in turn gave him a unique insight into the life of these fascinating creatures.
Cooper interweaves the personal story of the female otter, Kuschta, with the natural history of the otter in the British Isles, only recently brought back from the brink of extinction through tireless conservation efforts. Following in the footsteps of Henry Williamson’s classic 1920s tale Tarka the Otter, readers are taken on a journey through the calendar year, learning the most intimate detail of this most beautiful of British mammals. Cooper brings these beloved animals to life in all their wondrous complexity, revealing the previously hidden secrets of their lives in this beautifully told tale of the otter.
This delightful book records a year in the life of an essentially English waterscape, one that is home to a vast array of wildlife and natural habitat of the keen angler – the chalkstream.
Simon Cooper grew up in Hampshire, where he first fell in love with fly fishing. Only after moving away did he realise how little people knew about the secret world of the chalkstreams.
Chalkstreams are nearly exclusive to England, ranging from Dorset to Yorkshire and including the famous River Test in Hampshire. Every river is special in its own right. Life of a Chalkstream is a lyrical and revealing voyage through the yearly cycle of this unique waterway.
From the remarkable spectacle of salmon, sea trout and brown trout spawning in winter, to the emergence of water voles in spring and the explosion of mayflies in the early days of summer, the author evocatively describes the natural wonders of the chalkstream. He introduces us to the fascinating diversity of life that inhabits its waters and environs – the fish, the angling community, the plant life and the wildlife. We learn how neglect threatens these inhabitants and why the fight to save the chalkstreams is so vital, not only for fishermen, but for anybody who values the beauty of rural England.