The Masters of Manton: From Alec Taylor to George Todd by Paul Mathieu
|The Masters of Manton: From Alec Taylor to George Todd by Paul Mathieu|
|Reviewer: Peter Magee|
|Summary: A very readable look at the history of Manton racing stable from 1870 through to the 1960s. It's social as well as racing history and highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 306||Date: April 2010|
|Publisher: Write First Time|
'Manton' is one of those iconic names in horse racing: the yard on the edge of the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire and currently the home of trainer Brian Meehan. But Paul Mathieu isn't looking at what's happening today, or even in the recent past; he's looking back at the men who made Manton a household name from when the yard was built in 1870 through to George Todd's death in 1974. The first master was Alec Taylor – generally known as 'Old Alec Taylor', who came to Manton from Fyfield with a string of classic winners to his name. He, his son, 'Young Alec', Joe Lawson and George Todd were the great names in just over a century at the yard.
It's not a recitation of racing results, but rather a wide-angled look at the people and horses involved with the stables over the years. There are the successes and the failures, with forty three classic winners at the sublime end of the scale – right down to George Todd's selling platers. It's excellent social commentary on the harsh life of the stable lads, the dreadful conditions in which they lived, with brutality, poor diet and long hours commonplace. Contrast this with the life of the aristocracy who owned the horses: the Duchess of Montrose hissed a royal procession but hoped to marry Fred Archer. Lord Glasgow's hotel bill once included a waiter's broken leg after he threw the unfortunate man from a window. The owners thought nothing of betting thousands of pounds on the outcome of a race, which could well represent a lifetime's earnings for the staff looking after the horses.
I was impressed by the way in which Mathieu made the owners come off the page. My sympathies might well have been with the staff, but I still understood what motivated the owners. The setting though, was ideal for the thoroughbred horses. The Sporting Life commented that Those fortunate enough to visit the Manton establishment cannot fail to be impressed by the completeness of every detail. The buildings posses a singularly attractive and quiet beauty. [There are] spacious paddocks, splendid stables and boxes unsurpassed for size and abundance of light and air. The priorities of the masters seem obvious.
Previously I'd always thought of Manton in connection with Michael Dickinson and Robert Sangster, and it was fascinating to read the history. The research is impressive but doesn't read as though every piece of information has been shoe-horned in at the expense of readability. Anyone who is interested in racing will find this book a joy to read.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to Bookbag.
Paul Mathieu speaks of having visited many race courses and left money at most of them. If this side of the sport of kings interests you then you might well enjoy Hitting the Turf: A Punting Life by David Ashforth. For another look at the running of a racing stable, try Making the Running by Ian Balding.
The Masters of Manton: From Alec Taylor to George Todd by Paul Mathieu is in the Bookbag's Christmas Gift Recommendations 2010.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Masters of Manton: From Alec Taylor to George Todd by Paul Mathieu at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Masters of Manton: From Alec Taylor to George Todd by Paul Mathieu at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.