Wednesday, 13 January 2016

An interview with...Alan Greenhorn


Happy New Year - Blwyddyn Newydd Dda - Bliadhna Mhath √ôr!

I'm back, kickstarting the new year with an interview which leads on nicely from the final interview from 2015 with William Greenhorn - this time I've tracked down his brother, Alan, to see if he can dispel the mystery surrounding the answer William gave to what he would do if he was invisible for the day - which would be to follow his brother around to see what he gets up to.  I'm not sure whether the truth of this is contained below, due to the length of some of the answers (for which I'm grateful Alan, I promise) and my short attention span (kidding), but what does shine through clearly is the character of a driver whose ability is renowned and who I would love to see back in his colours and on the track (which would make a change from the world and his wife driving in his colours at Corbiewood).

It came to my attention a couple of nights ago that Alan has informed some of his friends (referenced below) that this interview had taken place and would be published imminently; a fact which sent one friend in particular into a frenzy, worrying what embarassing and/or sordid tales of his past (or present) would be revealed.  Fear not, as much as he may have wound you up, I think the answers below are considerably tamer than they could have been.  Anyway, I'll not waffle on with any further introduction as this fella introduces himself perfectly well...

For anybody who doesn’t know you, how long have you been involved in the sport and where did it all start?
Along with my brother we were pretty much born into the sport. Our dad owned some great horses in the 70's: Tarport Chief and Almondell Sunstar to name but a few. In 1985 he bought Anslow Moonlight and as they say the rest is history. He would think nothing of throwing us in the car (literally) and taking us down to Carriages (Droylesdon), Wolverhampton, Tir Prince, Lanark. We were so enthusiastic back then! My brother and I being Cambusbarron boys spent every hour at South Kersebonny Farm, home of the famous Dilly's breed. We spent a few years there and other training centres before we moved to Clayfaulds Farm, our family home. My dad is still their now and although the track and horse walker are all but away we still breed a few and my little sister looks after a few ponies there as well.

Which is the best horse you’ve driven in your career?
I've driven lots of nice horses in my time, Steven's Cover, Stoneriggs Jet, Blue Russian but the best for me is Artisan. I got him as a novice and took him all the way to a grade 10 before I sold him. In the 3 years I had him he never saw a vet in all that time which is unheard of! He could compete with the best on his day although probably just fell short of being a true FFA performer.
On another note I'm proud of my work along with friends in creating our own fund/committee for our pal Red John who unfortunately passed away last year. We are in the process of sponsoring the Hurricane Pace Final at Musselburgh in 2016 and it's great to see his legacy live on in one of the biggest meetings of the season.
Also very proud of my family being top owners in the BHRC in 1993.

Which horse, past or present that you haven’t driven, would you like to drive and why?
This isn't easy as I've seen some real superstars in my time. My list would be, in no particular order:
Jimmy Long - I never saw a turn of foot like it.
Monkroyd Mystery - superstar mare who I witnessed winning off 100 yards at Corbiewood one night.
Scoot Around - he looked the easiest of drives and was up there with the best for a longtime.
Johnny's Decision - what a horse! Very fragile but on his day he was probably unbeatable.
I could go on all day!
Of the present day horses the obvious one would be Stoneriggs Mystery for his pure class. Rewrite History could be one of the best we've seen in Scotland and I've got to mention Jack Swagger, he has the potential to be the best horse the family have ever had, he has so much potential and having witnessed his homework he is a monster, we can but pray!

Who did, or do, you admire as a driver?
I could seriously go on all day with this! My all time favourite is Alan Haythornthwaite, he seems to have been about for ages (sorry Alan!). I remember him fondly around Kendal on Stay Cool and Missing Link then in later years with Golden Dale, Trapper, Prospect, Scoot etc. etc. His longevity in staying at the top is amazing.

A few drivers up here I admire are: 
Brian "Nova" Kilgannon - Ian Pimlott said to me one day that Nova could have been one of the very best if it wasn't for his eye accident...what a waste of a talent. 
David "Buster" Moncrieff - his ability to get any horse to gallop is unbelievable.
Andrew "Flannel" Dick is another wasted talent, not just at football but anything else he ever does.
I also admire the way the chuck waggon driver Patrick Kane Jnr kicks the ear plugs out and last but not least the way that Watson Harrop Jnr never seems to know where the rail is.

Which is your favourite track in the UK and Ireland?
Easy one this, Musselburgh will always be my favourite. I've been lucky enough to train and drive a few winners around there. A lot better than me have tried and failed.

Have you driven outside of the UK and Ireland? If not, where in the world would you choose to .have one drive?
I've never actually driven in a competitive race but I warmed up Western Dreamer for Mike Le Chance at the Jug one year. Mike and mee are tight, although I don't like name dropping...

Out of you and your brother, who is the better driver (and be honest!)?
I would say it has to be Wull as it would be pretty unfair if I were to have that as well. Obviously I have the best looks, best patter, I'm the best dancer,I'm better at football and I'm a better horseman. I don't mind giving him that one and I'm very proud of his achievements, he's a great "wee" brother and uncle.

If you could change one thing about the sport in the UK, what would it be?
I suppose regardless of anyone's thoughts or ideas it will never please everyone. I think what we must always try and maintain and remember is that this has always been a working man's game but unfortunately that isn't the case anymore and we have lost many an enthusiast due to the cost, whether it be the cost to watch racing or the ludicrous fees to register and actually race a horse now. The prize money only scratches the surface in reality.

Which is your favourite meeting in the UK racing calendar?
The two day festival at Musselburgh will always be my favourite for the reasons stated above. The Vincent Delaney at Portmarnock is a great weekend and I also enjoy our annual pilgrimage to Skibbereen road races every January, it's something different and a great way to break up the winter months. It's a very sober weekend...

Out of all the races you have won, which has been the most memorable? Which race would you like to win that you haven’t already?
I was lucky enough to win the Hurricane Pace final with Artisan a few years ago and then came within a whisker of winning the Famous Musselburgh Pace the year after. After winning the heat quite comfortably a deluge of rain after the heat dampened our chances in the final and to finish 2nd was testament to his class and durability.
This still remains an ambition for me and to win the Welsh Classic being next on the list.

How would you describe your driving style? i.e. pace setter, strong closer, rail hugger?
Well I've learnt and copied off the best - Brian Gibb, Nova, Buster, Sean "No Wins" Kilgannon and Gavin "Stable Boy" Sinclair to name but a few. However not sure I have a particular style, don't think I can remember anyway!! 

When was the last time you drove in a race?  Is there any reason for the self-imposed break from driving?
I honestly can't remember my last drive or when it was. I vowed never to get another horse after I sold Artisan and so far I have stuck to my word. (Although with thanks to Matty Thomas I actually have the old boy back, maybe I could race him again?!)
Since his sale I play a lot of golf and although I thoroughly enjoy it you actually can't beat the buzz of race driving or training for that matter. I'm close to a return one feels!!

Where do you see yourself in the sport 10 years from now?
Not an easy question, hopefully I'm still around fit and healthy! I suppose the rest will look after itself.

Do you have any children?  Would you encourage them to get involved in harness racing in the future?
I have a beautiful wee boy who was born in August last year, he is my world and if he shows a keenness then I would never stop him. Although I do have aspirations for him to play for Barcelona or play in a Ryder Cup!
 
If you were trying to sell harness racing to the general public, how would you describe it?
It's very difficult to sell it to the general public due to the fact we have all our premier meetings on grass. I suppose the sport could be advertised better on the whole. The initiative the MFDA have shown trying to showcase our sport during flat meetings can only be good. I would also like to see a flagship track around Carlisle/Penrith area where it could be supported by most of the UK.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of racing?
I love my golf, and I'm a smidgen away from single figures. I also love spending time with my wife Jo and son Cammy, I am also an uncle a million times over and love looking after the gang!
My other pastimes include buying drinks for Wull, Dicko, Gav, Rents, Gibby, Sean, Brain, Nova and whoever else drinks in McQues...
I am also a founder member of the famous Bannockburn club the RMC (Real Men's Club - references have been made to this previously in the interview with Gregor Menzies whose membership is both questionable and under threat). Other notable members include: Sir Rants, Old Senior, Nova, Jim McManus, Gibby. Some people have tried to join but never got in, they include: Gwegwa Menzies, Wull G, Gordon Gilvear, Sean K, Gav, Dicko, Rents. However the door is always open but if you're caught with marigolds on or behind a hoover then you need not apply. (Like the aforementioned).

If you could visit one place in the world, where would it be and why?
Well I turn 30 next year (and the rest!) and since it's a landmark birthday we are all going to Dubai and Hong Kong to celebrate. I've always fancied Dubai.

You’re stranded on a desert island – what five things can’t you live without?
iPhone - addicted, toolbox - well you never know something might need fixed, Spotify - love music, golf clubs- could practise my bunker shots (!) and soap - I hate being dirty!

You’re holding a dinner party for five famous guests (alive or dead) – who would they be and why?
Eric Cantona, my football hero.  Sir Alex Ferguson, genius and legend.  My good pal Gavin Sinclair, he's not been sighted in many a year!  AP McCoy, no reason needed.  My wife Jo, as someone would have to cook the food and clean up!

If you were invisible for a day, what would you do?
I'd probably want to lie beside (on top of) Jennifer Aniston.

If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you would spend your winnings on?
I would buy a decent National Hunt horse as I would love a runner at the Cheltenham Festival. Depending how much I won I'd pay off all my family and friends' mortgages. I'd also buy Sean Kilgannon and Andrew Dick new wardrobes as it would take a lottery win to sort that out! And I'd buy big Rents new patter although it wouldn't be cheap.

What would you name your autobiography?
Strawberry Blonde

Which actor would play you in a film about your life?
Leanardo Di Caprio, heard he's alright with the lemon curds (apparently Scottish rhyming slang for 'birds' = 'women').

When was the last time you got into trouble?
Anyone who really knows me knows that I am actually never out of trouble! I can't help it and I'm thinking it's the company I keep!

Describe yourself in three words.
Funny, caring, sensitive.

Alan & Artisan winning at Corbiewood
Equally as inappropriate a photo as his brother's...
Alan's second favourite hobby (after racing, naturally)
Working out at the beach
The collection from the day Artisan won at Musselburgh - all the memories in one place.
Thank you Alan, I must admit I really enjoyed reading your responses to the questions.  I happened to be stood at Musselburgh Racecourse on New Year's Day when the email reply came through and stood and read it whilst surrounded by strangers.  Bad idea, as I burst out laughing very early on and struggled to contain it for the remainder, which earnt me more unusual glances than a standard public outing!

All the best for the forthcoming season and let us all hope that your teasers about returning to the racetrack aren't just for the purposes of this interview!

Over and out,

#1 Groom