At Chester Kitchener stands for something more than the Field Marshall and that 1914 “Your Country Needs You” recruiting poster, it is a name in just about the greatest racing story ever told.
For jockey Kitchener won the 1844 Tradesman’s Cup (the forerunner to the Chester Cup) on a three year old called Red Deer and landed bets for Lord George Bentinck of no less than £100,000 that is over £4million in today’s money. Lord George, not unhelpfully, was the official starter as well as the punter. He made the 26 runners line up in two rows. Red Deer was fractious, so he was put in the second row behind his two stable companions. When Lord George dropped the flag, they opened up and let Red Deer pop through like a rabbit. Kitchener just let him run. He had to. He only weighed 3 stone 4.
At the finish the miniscule pilot had a real problem pulling up Red Deer even after the two full circuits which, then as now, made this the most exciting event of the whole meeting. Red Deer’s victory had been the coup of coups. Lord George Bentinck had told trainer John Kent to plan for it the moment Red Deer was allocated 4 stone in the handicap with the then current superstar and eventual second, Alice Hawthorn, set to concede an astonishing 5 stone 8 to her younger rival. Lord George ran the stable for the Duke of Richmond back at Goodwood. In the unsaddling enclosure John Kent did not, it being 1844, have a mobile phone to call his owner. But he did the next best thing. He sent the good news back to Sussex by carrier pigeon.