Poignant Win For Connell

17/02/2013

By Andrew Norman

 

Legal Legend carried the famous grey, red cross belts and emerald green cap of the late Sir Michael Connell to victory in the first division of the Open Maiden at Thorpe Lodge on Sunday in what was an emotional success.

Trained by his wife Annie and ridden by Richard Spencer, the six-year-old gelding travelled sweetly throughout and hit the front turning for home before motoring up the run-in.

Sir Michael, a former High Court judge, lost his battle with leukaemia last month and sadly passed away at the age of 73.

His involvement in racing included owning, stewarding, breeding and riding - all successfully – and undoubtedly goes down as one of the leading all-time patrons of Point-to-Pointing in the South Midlands Area.

Interviewed after the race on the public address system, stable jockey Spencer thanked Sir Michael for giving him and others, most notably Tim Lane, the opportunities to ride successful horses.

Lady Annie Connell’s assistant trainer Chris Henn, who has worked at Steane Park for eighteen years, reflected on the afternoon:

“It was very emotional. There were a lot of family members present, including children and grandchildren, who were all determined to be there and see him run.”

“He rode around fifty winners as an amateur and has put an enormous amount back into the sport through stewarding and his work for the BHA.”

“A special day that lives in the memory was when Broad Steane, a horse he bred himself, won the Grafton members race ridden by his own son, Jonathan."

Legal Legend, bought by Sir Michael as a yearling, was having just his first run over obstacles after three outings in bumpers last year. Chris Henn explained what Sir Michael had thought of the horse:

“He was keen to have something by Midnight Legend and was very excited about this one. His full-brother, Tiqris, was an impressive winner at Whitfield last year. Today was even more difficult with everyone knowing just how much the horse meant to him.”

 

Richard Spencer and Sir Michael Connell collect their prizes after a win at Whitfield in February 2011