The passing of three-time Hatton’s Grace heroine Solerina received honourable mention in Changes further up this magazine, and while Molls Memory did not scale such giddy heights, she too was in the news recently as the winner of the same race for a third time.
In her case it was a seven-furlong handicap at Newbury’s October meeting, which she took for the third year on the spin and with a mighty winning distance of four and threequarter lengths – some going for an 18-runner handicap over that trip, even allowing for the heavy going.
That was the penultimate run of her career, while the six-year-old’s final start came last month at Doncaster, where she finished a highly respectable fourth of 15 in the Listed Wentworth Stakes.
Molls Memory’s owner-breeder Andrew Buxton had the mare’s dam, the dual winner Bright Moll, in a partnership, bought his fellow owners out when she was injured early in her career and started breeding with her – along have come five winning progeny. Alongside Molls Memory there have been Lochan Mor, who ran for Buxton and finished in the first three in 13 of his 17 starts; Tartiflette, another who was at her best over seven furlongs for Buxton, winning three times and now a broodmare; Hezmah, who achieved black type and won three times for the late Hamdan Al Maktoum; and the Group 3 Chipchase Stakes winner Aeolus, also a close second for Buxton in the Stewards’ Cup.
Explaining his background in racing and as an owner, Buxton, a banker for 40 years with Barclays and who ended his career as its Chairman, says: “I was brought up in Cheshire, where all my family rode ponies/horses and hunted with the Cheshire and Wynnstay, so I was used to horses from an early age.
“We went to the local point-to-points and to the Grand National almost every year. However, Flat racing seemed a strange sort of racing that never entered my head until, much later in my life, my brother-in-law became a handicapper and encouraged me to take an interest, which resulted in various fairly unsuccessful partnerships.
“That changed about 20 years ago when I became a part-owner of first Glen Ida and then Bright Moll, and there is nothing like some success, however small, to stoke the fires of enthusiasm.”
Indeed there is not, and while Bright Moll ran only five times, all at two, she was a winner on debut at much missed Folkestone, finished a fine fifth in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes and concluded her short but sweet career with a commanding victory in a novice event at Haydock.
Buxton continues: “Bright Moll was bought for Michael Bell by Luke Lillingston and she was a wonderful filly with a lovely nature. As well as being a first-class racehorse, she was a pet.
“She would certainly have got black type but suffered a career-ending injury and was retired. She was such a pet that I wanted to keep her, so I bought out my two partners and started to breed from her.
“I knew nothing at all about breeding but was helped by my sister and then by Rachel Wilson, who ran Hockham Lodge Stud in Norfolk. Bright Moll had six foals, before her injury got too much for her, all of which won apart from one. Two got black type. With prize-money and sales included, the short line produced £500,000 and has provided the financial backing for a lot of fun.”
That ongoing fun has come from around ten racehorses owned to date. Buxton continues: “I started with Michael Bell. I was looking for a competent trainer, preferably in Newmarket, because I lived in Suffolk, and asked David Thompson [the late owner of Cheveley Park Stud] for advice.
“There’s no point in a small owner, like myself, going to a trainer with 200 horses, being relegated to yard three and hardly ever meeting the boss. I wanted someone who I could communicate with and who would be sympathetic to a newcomer.
“Michael was very welcoming and the breakfasts provided by his then wife, Georgina, were legendary, very often with Hayley Turner, who used to ride a lot for Michael. However, Newmarket is an expensive place to have a horse trained and Bright Moll’s first foal, Lochan Mor, wasn’t a star.
“He ran 17 times and won only once, although he came second nine times and gave me lots of fun. When he was four, I moved him to Ed McMahon, near Lichfield, who had trained for my brother-in-law and charged much less than Newmarket prices.
“He was a down to earth, practical trainer who used his own farm for the gallops and, having moved there, Ed trained my next two foals, Tartiflette –my wife’s favourite Alpine dish – and Aeolus, the Greek god of the wind,named by my granddaughter, very well. He won the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock with Aeolus.
“Ed’s farm had the bad luck to be on the planned route of HS2, which was going right through the middle of the farm, and, at the same time, Aeolus started to have some problems with his feet, so I decided to move back to Newmarket.
“Rachel Wilson and I went round various yards on a Newmarket Open Day, talked to trainers, looked at the feed and the bedding in the horse boxes, and ended up with Ed Walker as our first choice.
“Ed took over the training of Aeolus, found a solution to the foot problems, and has proved again and again a wonderful trainer. He won the Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle with Aeolus, and has trained the next two foals, including Molls Memory.”
Buxton has plenty of good days tucked away in the memory banks, with hopefully lots more to follow. All of his family have become a fan club, which has given him some wonderful family occasions, while asked to identify his magical moments he replies: “I can think of three specially magical moments, although every winis a magical moment.
“Firstly, Bright Moll winning her first race at Folkestone, with my wife and I listening to the commentary on a mobile phone on a train from Inverness to London and going wild, much to the surprise of the other passengers, when she won very easily.
“Secondly, but probably the most magic of all magic moments, Aeolus winning the Group 3 Chipchase Stakes the day after my wife’s funeral. I am absolutely sure that she organised a party of angels who pushed him to the front. I had travelled down to Newcastle from Aviemore that day and went back by train that evening holding the extremely large Newcastle cup, which I didn’t know we were even racing for, and placed on a table in the train, much to the amusement of the other passengers.
“Thirdly, my last foal, Molls Memory, winning at Newbury this year, which meant she’d won the same race three years running. Both Aeolus and Molls Memory inherited Bright Moll’s wonderful temperament, as did Lochan Mor.
“I have had a policy of giving away my geldings – Lochan Mor is now showjumping and Aeolus is training for dressage, both helped by the calm temperament of their dam, Bright Moll. Molls Memory is a great favourite of Ed Walker’s four-year-old daughter Matilda.”
Buxton adds: “Racing is a game of highs and lows. The highs are when you win and have a fabulous day’s racing, the lows are when your horse is injured.
“Glen Ida was fatally injured in a race at Goodwood, Bright Moll was injured on the morning gallops at Newmarket and never raced again. Another horse, Ambertide, was struck into in a race at Hamilton and never raced again.”
Molls Memory won’t be racing again either, but happily, following a successful career in which she did honour both to her name and dam, that is for entirely positive reasons, and her proud owner-breeder can look forward to playing more generation games.