Lord Oaksey recalls his ride on Taxidermist in the 1958 Whitbread Gold Cup at Sandown

Taxi was the best horse I ever rode and, apart from Carickbeg, gave me the biggest thrill. The first time I saw him run was at Newbury in 1957, the day I had my first ever ride over fences.

It was the 1958 Whitbread Gold Cup that I shall never forget. There was a huge field, 31 runners, and there is one quite scary sort of fence, going down the hill away from the stands. Then you turn into the railway straight, nine fences ending with three that must be the closest together in the world.

When we got to the railway straight the second time, we were going so fast that I remember feeling that one mistake would be fatal – even if you didn’t fall, you would lose your place. It was a truly thrilling experience to go ping, ping, ping along that straight and Taxi made no mistake.

Mandarin hit the front from Kirstin round the final bend and I was still motoring behind them. But then Taxi met the hill and absolutely flew, jumped past Mandarin at the last and won by four lengths.

The sad thing was that Taxi only really had two seasons when his wind was right. He ran in one Grand National tubed and eventually came to live here with us in retirement.

My wife and I hunted him with the VWH. He was a jolly good hunter and hardly pulled at all. But then his wind went again and the vet said: ‘You can take him to meets and show him hounds, but then really he needs to come home.’

We lent him to a great friend whose father-in-law was himself under much the same orders and he went on for several seasons. He was more than 20 years old when he was eventually put down.

Taxi was a truly great steeplechaser with a wonderful turn of foot and astonishing reserves of stamina. I shall never forget how he went up that hill at Sandown. He was the best horse I ever sat on.

  • Don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound (28 March 2002) in which Jane Holderness-Roddam talks about her “ride of a lifetime” on Warrior at Badminton in 1978.

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