Sam Turner, man behind Robin Goodfellow of the Daily Mail

Sam Turner has made himself a household name over the years, without many people even realising. He of course is the man behind Robin Goodfellow of the Daily Mail, where he has worked for over seven years. Article by Josh Bradley

He is the resident tipster who has found great success since taking up the role, which has led to more work across a variety of platforms including becoming a regular on Racing UK and William Hill Radio. However his alias is solely for the Daily Mail, and he can’t quite recall how the name came about.

“The alias either comes from a character in Midsummer Night’s Dream or a horse of the same name (more likely). I’m not sure which came first.”

Wherever it has come from, it has served him well so far, in a career that has blossomed from a very early stage. He recalls his earliest memories of getting into racing, which has led to a successful journalism and tipster career, which many will aspire to match.

“I first got into racing at 16 when a friend at school suggested we should go to the local bookies rather than a French lesson. Up to that point my life revolved around cricket and Wolverhampton Wanderers!”

Since taking an interest in the sport, he has always had a soft spot for the Grand National and is looking forward to the Aintree feature, which is always extremely competitive. The race itself is always extremely hard to call with 40 runners lining up at the start at Aintree, before embarking on a marathon trek over thirty obstacles, making it the most unique race in the country.

It has the biggest worldwide audience of any race, reaching over an estimated 600 million people across 140 countries. It is beamed into households up and down the country where families gather together to watch the race, which for many, will be the first they have ever seen.
Many racing enthusiasts, and even casual punters can remember their first Grand National, and Sam is no different, recalling the 1991 spectacular as his first recollection.

“My earliest recollection of the National was Mr Frisk and I remember having a tiny bet on Rhyme And Reason which would have been the first winner of the race I backed. I had to wait till Party Politics in ‘92 for the next one!

“I think the general public have probably been bought up with their relatives having a bet on the race and they simply follow tradition. It’s the race that stops a nation and pretty much a fair proportion of the world given the incredible audience figures.”

That is certainly the case for many, and this year’s renewal looks set to be no different, with the marketing campaign beginning to get into full flow. Excitement is building and tickets are selling quickly as the Crabbie’s Grand National exceeds £1m prize money for the first time in its illustrious history.

With less than a week until the meeting starts, many bookmakers are now offering non-runner-no-bet scenarios, meaning any horses that are backed now, and don’t run (72 still entered, with only 40 being allowed to race), you will get your money back. This means the punters can start to get stuck into the prices on offer, with the safety of knowing unlike with most ante-post bets, you will not be missing out on the day if your horse doesn’t run.
am, like many punters, is yet to select his pick for the race, as so much can change up until the start of the race. With English weather as unpredictable as ever, and ground conditions likely to change, many often wait until the ground is confirmed on the day of the race.

“I’m afraid I haven’t got a strong view on this year’s race as yet. A lot can happen in a week in racing and there is no way you would have fancied Earth Summit back in the 90s until a deluge of rain during the week of the race.

“I think the race is changing given the alterations to the track and the fact the handicapper is trying to encourage the better horses to run. With that in mind I quite like Long Run as he has been trained for this race specifically unlike one or two who had hard races in the Gold Cup. His rider has an excellent record over the fences and he won’t mind what the ground is. He would be my tentative choice at this stage.”

Sam will be confirming his selection for the big race closer to the time, and this will be eagerly anticipated by many, who will be ensuring they follow Robin Goodfellow’s selections for the entire Aintree meeting, as his success rate is often good on Merseyside.

Amberleigh House

Grand National Legend – Amberleigh House

The 2014 Grand National is the first time in the race’s illustrious history that it has had a purse of over £1m.

It is the first time the race has been run, since Crabbie’s secure a three-year sponsorship of the Aintree festival and this coincides perfectly with the ten-year anniversary of Amberleigh House’s Grand National victory, as the gelding was owned by Halewood International, of which Crabbie’s is a key brand.

Halewood International’s founder, the late John Halewood, was always extremely interested in racing and purchased Amberleigh House, who was at the legendary Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain’s stable.

He only managed to win five of his 43 starts over the obstacles, but managed to complete a magnificent story back in 2004, when landing Ginger McCain’s fourth and final Grand National, as a trainer, after Red Rum famously landed the race three times during the 1970’s.

Amberleigh House was the ultimate in consistency over the unique Grand National obstacles, racing over the fences a grand total of 11 times, without ever falling. He raced five times in the big race itself, and always managed to give a solid performance. He was brought down in his first attempt back in 2001, before returning two years later to finish a gallant third, at 33/1 for Graham Lee.

This was enough to ensure Ginger put all his effort in to readying the then 12-y-o, for another crack at the Aintree feature twelve months later. No-one knew just how to ready a horse for a big race at Aintree like McCain, and Amberleigh House entered the 2004 renewal as a well-backed 16/1 shot, despite not having won a race for nearly two years.

He was ridden extremely patiently by the now flat jockey Graham Lee, and he was switched off in the early stages after settling extremely well. He began to make steady headway, stalking the co-favourite Clan Royal as he began sweeping through the field towards the end of the second circuit.

After a faller left Amberleigh House in third place coming over the last, the sense of something special began to exude from the Aintree crowd, as the famous Halewood International colours starting cutting down the distance between the front pair on the flat. Coming past the elbow he still had ground to make up, but he managed to seize the momentum that Clan Royal had lost when making a mistake at the last, and pass him close home to land the Aintree feature by three lengths going away.

Aintree erupted, as although the 12-y-o had got the better of the well-backed Clan Royal, nobody could deny just how much Ginger deserved one more National before he was to retire. The scenes in the winner’s enclosure will live long in the memory for all who were there to witness it, and this warrants Amberleigh House’s status amongst the Grand National legends.
“He was foot-perfect. He’s a professional. He’s the best thing that has happened to me for a long, long time,” a tearful McCain said in the immediate aftermath of the race, as he was congratulated by everyone who can get within earshot of the legendary handler.

Amberleigh House returned for two more attempts, aged 13 and 14, but could finish no better than tenth when attempting to defend his crown. His final appearance on a racecourse was to be fittingly at Aintree, after he was retired when being pulled up in the 2006 Grand National, at the grand old age of 14.

Since then he has been retired to National Stud, where he is enjoying in his well-deserved retirement. He occasionally goes out to events for public visits, and was recently paraded around Goodison Park before an Everton game to celebrate the Crabbie’s Grand National meeting, during their own diversity day.

Now, the Grand National has arrived, and ten-years on from Amberleigh House’s success, Halewood International have another own runner in the race in the shape of the 13-y-o Swing Bill, who they will be hoping can emulate their former talented veteran who will be watching on from the course.

Crabbies Grand National Sponsorship

The 2014 Grand National will be a record-breaking event, even before hooves grace the Aintree turf. Thanks to Crabbie’s signing a deal to become the new sponsors of the big race, taking over from John Smith’s, the purse has surpassed the £1 million mark for the first time in its illustrious history. Article by Josh Bradely

It had previously flirted with the figure, reaching £975,000 in 2012 and 2013 under the sponsorship of John Smith’s. However, with the extra push from Crabbie’s it is now comfortably the richest jumps race in Europe.

The new deal means that Crabbie’s becomes the fourth sponsor of the race, following on from the originator Seagram, its then subsidiary Martell and John Smith’s.

Seagram distillers originally became sponsors of the Aintree showpiece back in 1984 when the future of the race was still hanging in the balance. Their financial backing allowed the racecourse to be sold from Bill Davies to be run and managed by the Jockey Club Racecourses (formerly known as Racecourse Owners Trust); giving the race much needed stability.

Then Seagram UK Chairman, Ivan Straker, was to thank for the generous sponsorship, after reading a passionate piece by racing journalist and former jockey, Lord Oaksey. His powerful and evocative piece meant that Straker felt the race deserved a sponsor to match its rich heritage and ensure its survival in the long-term.

The sponsorship ran from 1984-1991, and the final race was won by the very aptly named Seagram, who Straker had the chance to buy on several occasions before the race, but turned it down. He handed the sponsorship over to his companies’ subsidiary, Martell, who secured a contract worth £4 million over seven years.

The success of the Grand National during their seven-year sponsorship, meant they decided to sign another seven-year deal, taking their sponsorship to 14-years, which today is an unusually long amount of time for one brand to have with one event. This proves just how successful the sponsorship was for both parties, and when news broke of the sponsorship ending in 2005, with Martell deciding they needed to focus on gaining coverage in Asia and Ireland now, it wasn’t too long before John Smith’s had leapt in and managed to secure a partnership that would go on to last for eight years.

They had been involved with racing for many years, but when John Smith’s saddled up with Aintree and began their partnership for initial three-years, they became the biggest financial supporter outside of the sport. The contract was continually extended, until 2013 when they decided it was in their best interests not to renew their contact, and allow a new sponsor to come and sponsor the ‘jewel in their racing crown’, as Mark Given, the Brands Director of Heineken UK, had previously called it.

They revolutionised the way the Grand National was thought of in the racing world, taking the prize money from £600,000 in 2004, to £975,000 only nine years later when they left, making it the richest jumps race in Europe, and ensuring the popularity amongst the general public as-well as within the racing world.

Their continued support was a massive factor in the growth of the Grand National, and managed to help their own business stay in the limelight. This has led in Crabbie’s to help continue the legacy of the race, and continue the growth of the Aintree feature among the general public.

It is not solely one way success, as Crabbie’s are arriving at the right time to capitalise on the success of the race in previous years. For their sponsorship, Crabbie’s are now able to reach a UK terrestrial television audience of around nine million, with the potential of over 600 million people worldwide tuning in for the big race.

The company is owned by Halewood International, whose love affair with the Grand National started in 2004 when Amberleigh House ran home winner, owned by the company itself. So it’s very apt that only ten years later the brand will have such a big influence over the race and the entire meeting, having naming rights attached to three races, the Crabbie’s Fox Hunters’ Chase, the Crabbie’s Topham Chase and the Crabbie’s Grand National.

Peter Eaton Senior, Deputy Chairman of Halewood International has shown the drive and ambition that echoes just how much he values the big race; “The countdown to the Crabbie’s Grand National Festival 2014 has truly begun. It has always been the family’s ambition to sponsor the race and all of us at Halewood International and Crabbie’s are delighted to be part of the excitement, the drama and the thrill of the World’s greatest steeplechase.”

The Grand National itself received a bumper 115 entries, which is substantially higher than the 83 horses in 2013 and 82 horses in 2012. The reason attributed to this, is the lure of the £1m prize pool for the first time in the races 175 year history, which means with the boost injected by Crabbie’s, the race has received its highest number of entries in five years.

The future looks bright in the hands of the Crabbie’s and Eaton Senior is hopeful it will be a beneficial for both parties, for years to come. “The Grand National is a unique race with massive global reach and represents a perfect partnership for Crabbie’s and our UK and international ambitions. The brand is already enjoying considerable success in the USA, Canada and Australia and is the number one bottled ale in the UK and from a company and family perspective; we are delighted to renew our longstanding relationship with Aintree.”

The meeting is scheduled from Thursday 3rd to Saturday 5th of April, and a big crowd is expected once more, with over 154,000 visitors over the three days being envisaged.