I have known Bob Champion for over 45 years since he was a successful jockey and rode Burbling Brook, a less than useful racehorse, for me over hurdles. I have always supported his courageous fight against cancer which almost felled him in 1979 when he was found to have had the testicular variety. It is part of sporting history that he recovered enough to win the Grand National 18 months later in 1981.
Over the years Bob has raised more than £15 million for his cancer trust which has built research facilities and wings at the Royal Marsden hospital, dedicated to the cure of cancer – mostly in young children.
Bob, who was awarded the CBE in this year’s Honours list, is currently engaged in walking from Aintree which hosts the Grand National to Findon in Sussex where his iconic Grand National winner Aldaniti was trained. As this was 40 years ago Bob is doing this in 40 days, calling in at many racehorse stables on his way south.
I caught up with him last week when he was at Alan King’s stables just south of Swindon where my brilliant staying flat horse Trueshan is trained. I was able to present Bob with a cheque for £200.00, part of the profits from my memoir Pressing My Luck. Downs Syndrome charities will also benefit from these profits.
Bob is remarkably fit for a man of 72 and he lost two stones in weight to prepare for this walking marathon. Your correspondent found it difficult to walk upsides for four miles up the Barbary Castle hills which we traversed. My only excuse is that during Covid I have let my fitness go a bit – and I am seven years his senior!
I am glad to say he is well on his way to raising his target sum of £40,000 on this journey. Racing folk have been very generous and he has been able to renew friendships along the way. Every penny he raises will go to the Bob Champion Cancer Trust which has saved hundreds of lives since it was set up in 1983, a year after Bob retired from the saddle.
PS Trueshan was narrowly beaten in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester this week, beaten three quarters of a length by the 2019 Derby favourite Japan to whom he was conceding 5lbs in weight. He remains on track for the Ascot Gold Cup next month where, hopefully, he will again beat the legendary Stradivarius who has won the race for the past three years.