Dedicated to racing

Lesley and Channon were a team even long before the latter was issued with a trainers licence in 1990

Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
Opal Tiara, Dubai Turf race contender from the United Kingdom, during the morning trackwork at Meydan.

Dubai: Lesley White, assistant to Mick Channon, the former Southamptin and England footballer-turned trainer, hails from Marske, a small town in North Yorkshire, England.

There is something about this particular part of the UK. Whether it’s the air, the soil or the water, but it’s something that breeds a strong, tough hardworking and very warm hearted type of person. Maybe that’s a stereo type but it’s a pretty good one and Lesley fits exactly into the mold.

So many of us that are or have worked in British racing know her and have at some point been helped, advised or assisted in some small way by this straight talking and capable lady.

Lesley and Channon were a team even long before Channon was issued with a trainers licence in 1990, both working for John Baker in the West Country and Ken Cunningham Brown. Licence granted and the move to the racing centre of Lambourn in Berkshire made and Team Channon was on its way.

Amazing to realise that nearly 30 years later most of that team is still intact, working together as a family unit.

Lesley has worked in each and every department at one time or other, though her chief role evolved over time to be the main person responsible for the horses travelling to the races.

When they are away from “base camp” for days or weeks at a time the role becomes one of a “trainer” in the absence of the boss.

Lesley steps into this role as easily as she would step into a pair of comfy slippers and the Boss trusts her implicitly.

Her straightforward but humble manner jelling perfectly with Channon’s mixture of gruffness and at the same time ebullient nature makes her special.

In 2015, Lesley received the Dedication to Racing accolade at the annual Darley Stud and Stable Awards, never was this given to a more deserving person.

Her own more personal award is to spend three months each year, January through March in Dubai where is in sole charge of the horses selected by Channon to spend the winter here.

It is possibly this change of environment that gives her a chance to recharge much worn batteries in readiness for the long season ahead in England.

One of her charges this year is Opal Tiara, a success story herself, owned initially in part by her breeder and Channon Bloodstock, Qatar Racing emerged to purchase a share in her after her first two races were a Woverhampton win followed by a second to the flying filly Eastern Angel.

Despite her reaching a rating of 109 as a 3-year-old and winning a Group 3 at Goodwood last August she was sent to the Tattersalls December Mares Sale but happily retained by her original owner.

Her sire, Thousand Words, though not a superstar, is the sire of one of UK’s most popular racehorse’s, the amazing looking, white legged Top Notch Tonto.

His fans go racing especially to see him.

She has developed rapidly out here, running second to Godolphin’s aptly named Very Special in the Group 2 Cape Verdi and then taking the Balanchine, also a Group 2 for which she has only been raised 2 lbs by the handicapper.

She is without a doubt the best horse the Lesley and Channon have had at the Carnival for a while and I hope all keeps going the right way for her up to the Dubai Turf on World Cup night.

During Lesley’s time in racing she says while changes have happened they don’t seem to be much for the better, increased wages being the main stand out good change.

She worries about staffing issues as even with better wages and conditions young people don’t seem to stay in the job for too long.

Her own daughter Mellissa is working with George Scott in Newmarket. She is most definitely not impressed by the French allowing lady jockeys a 2kg weight allowance, saying it feels sexist whilst accepting that maybe it compares with fillies and mares having a similar weight allowance in races.

Talking of her favourite horses brings up the obvious names — Youmzain, famous for his three times second in the Prixde l’Arc de Triomphe and the wonderful mare Queens Logic- 5 runs, 5 wins including 4 Group races.

It is a lowly 70 rated filly that Lesley remembers with the most affection. Misdemeanours Girl was so tiny she could barely see over her door yet she won a 0-100 handicap at Sandown off a rating of 63 carrying 7st 3lb (less than 46kg) ! She recalls arriving back from a different race meeting that night and the tiny filly was standing at her door proud as could be causing Lesley to guess correctly that she had won. A memory that is as fresh now as that day twenty five years ago.

Retirement is not on Lesley’s radar and I suspect it won’t be for a long time yet.

She is very fit looking with bundles of energy — though she wouldn’t agree with me but it’s a fact.

Many years ago when my children were just that, children, this thoughtful lady used to stop at our house on her way to work and pick up either Sophie or James for a morning at Mick Channons.

Sophie used to ride out and eventually worked there for quite a while, but James being too young used to spend the morning with Mick, opening and closing gates and just watching and enjoying what was to become his future. School holidays were never better and I have not forgotten the kind gesture by Lesley to two youngsters. It’s just part of her nature, kindness.

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