Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Churchill Series - Feb. 24, 2009

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Horse racing is a popular sport in both Britain and America. But it has a social status and acceptance over there that’s it’s never acquired here.

Queen Elizabeth breeds and races horses as did the late Queen Mother. Race week at Ascot is a time when politics is put aside and government leaders spend days at the track and the social events surrounding race week. They often have their own horses in some of the races.

We wouldn’t expect President Bush to spend a week at Churchill Downs looking after his best known horse, Tax Cut III, a heavy Derby favorite. And we would think it very strange to read in a Bob Novak column that in the paddock just before the Derby, Senator Bill Frist suddenly grabbed Representative Nancy Pelosi’s arm and said, “Careful, Nancy. That will be so hard to get off your shoe.”

Now what does all this have to do with Churchill?

Well, historian Piers Brandon tells us:

In the summer of 1949, Churchill embarked on a new venture - he bought a racehorse. On the advice of Christopher Soames [his son-in-law who’d married his youngest daughter Mary in 1947], he purchased a grey three-year-old colt, Colonist II. It was to be the first of several thoroughbreds in his small stud.

They were registered in Lord Randolph's colours - pink with chocolate sleeves and cap. (These have been adopted as the colours of Churchill College.) Churchill was made a member of the Jockey Club in 1950, and greatly relished the distinction.
Colonist was a small, gutsy horse who surprised the experts by winning many important stakes races. He became a great favorite with the British public.

Churchill College, a part of Cambridge University, was founded as Britain’s national memorial to Churchill. It houses his papers.

Don’t you think Churchill, with his puckish sense of humor, would relished the idea of the great and ancient Cambridge University having to give the nod to its newest college bearing his racing colors?