Race horse Desert Orchid.

Racing Scoops

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The Ronnie Biggs Story.

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Hazel Adair

My mother Hazel Adair

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Diana - Her True Sory

Documentaries

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Uncategorized

Many Queens…

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The Queen, The Queen Mother, Thatcher, Elizabeth Taylor and Quentin Crisp.

Royal trainer Ian Balding with Colin and the Queen

The Queen, and The Queen Mother.

I had the great privilege, through my job as racing correspondent for the Daily Mail to rub shoulders with the Queen and the Queen Mother. My wife Linda and I had a ten minute chat with the Queen Mother in the dining room of the Ascot racecourse Trustees. She was 91 and yet very aware of everything. For example she blocked the entreaties of a Channel Four executive who was begging her to use her influence to ditch the BBC contract at Ascot in favour of his employers. No joy. She and discussed how expensive it is to have racehorses in training.

Mrs Thatcher.

I met Mrs Thatcher several times in late 1969 and early 1970 when she was Shadow Education Minister. She was full of energy and mastered her brief very quickly. She was ante comprehensive schools, having herself been educated at a selective Grammar school in Grantham, Lincs. She found me and my fellow education correspondents very left wing in our views. There was one exception – the Daily Mail’s Rod Tyler who formed a friendship which resulted in his writing an acclaimed biography of the Iron Lady.

Elizabeth & Richard.

I was fortunate to meet Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton a couple of times. On the first occasion they were playing Dr Faustus at the New Theatre, Oxford in 1966. My wife and I sat down at a post performance party in the Randolph hotel and Burton came to join us because his best friends from Wales were talking to us. We had a whole evening with him and he promised me an interview at their hotel the following morning. Burton was as good as his word, sat down in the Bear, Woodstock, with a bottle of vodka while I had a coffee and croissants. Two years later I was at the Tower of London when they moored a huge yacht beside Traitors’ Gate. They had chartered the yacht so that Elizabeth could bring her pet dogs with her – otherwise they would have had to be quarantined!

Quentin Crisp.

The Naked Civil Servant, aka Quentin Crisp, was a regular lunchtime visitor at our Battersea home on Sundays in the early 1980s. He would come over from Chelsea with his friend Peter York, the man who created the Sloane Ranger phenomenon. It was like inviting Oscar Wilde to your home. He was excruciatingly funny with put downs which had everyone in stitches of laughter. He would never use your first names – we were always Mr and Mrs Mackenzie. His principal advice was not to bother with a cleaner – “My dears,” he would say. “The dirt gets no worse after three years without one.”

Bob Champion

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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.

March 2021 news flash!

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Thrilled to have had so much reaction to a lovely book review in the Daily Mail two weeks ago and to a double page article on me in last Sunday’s Racing Post. Good for book sales, too, I have learned.

Writing Pressing My Luck has certainly reunited me with many old friends and colleagues with whom it is easy to lose touch in retirement. And even Old Boys from Malvern College have been in touch to say they enjoyed the book.

Today (March 11) I received interest from a documentary company who are making a programme about the Great Train Robbery’s 60th anniversary in 2023. They want me to tell the story of Ronald Biggs’s life and his various escapades.

So there is no peace for the wicked. I was hoping to devote myself to my annual racehorse fest at Cheltenham next week – but may be diverted by more creative demands. It is certainly making up for the ennui of Lockdown which seems to go on for ever. My wife Linda and I have had our first Covid jabs and are due our second in April. Let’s hope these vaccines are efficient enough to outsmart this horrible virus and return life to normal. Hey ho….

How I was charmed by Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs

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I speak to Daily Mail crime writer Stephen Wright for the Beyond Reasonable Doubt podcast. Listen to the episode here.

When Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs was sentenced to 30 years for his part in the biggest robbery in British history, it wasn’t the end of his story – he disappeared over the wall of Wandsworth Prison and fled abroad, becoming one of the 20th century’s most infamous wanted men. Award-winning Daily Mail crime writer Stephen Wright talks to Colin Mackenzie, the intrepid reporter who tracked Biggs down in Brazil in 1974 about how he found him, why he found himself charmed by the notorious criminal… and what happened next. Brace yourself for a heavy dose of Fleet Street and Scotland Yard nostalgia from a different era.