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Last Updated:  Monday, 31 March, 2003, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Parrott's lifetime affair
By Ed King

David Flores of America alongside John Parrott and Kierron Fallon
Parrott captained Great Britain and Ireland in the 2002 Shergar Cup

New BBC TV racing recruit John Parrott has been hooked on the sport for more than 25 years.

His interest was sparked back in 1976 when at the age of 12 his father took him to Haydock Park for a National Hunt meeting.

Parrott cannot remember who he saw race that day - but it was his first step into a world of furlongs, racecards and Tic-tac - and he has remained absorbed ever since.

Now a pundit on racing for the BBC, the former snooker world champion credits his dad, and a bit of luck, for his passionate interest in the sport.

"My father loved having a bet on a Saturday afternoon when he'd finished his work - he was a very keen punter," says Parrott.

"A couple of times he won a few bob - threw the money in the air when he got home and took us all on holiday to Spain, which was nice.

"After that we managed to get the odd win with multiple bets, and went on a few holidays with the winnings."

I don't have to go and have a big bet or anything - I just enjoy solving the puzzle
John Parrott
Parrott's family were not alone in Merseyside with their love of the races - besides its passion for football, the region is racing-mad.

And in Haydock and Aintree, it boasts two of the country's finest National Hunt courses - something Parrott is unequivocal about.

"Haydock is my home course, but it is also one of my favourite three," he says

"It's a very fair track - the fences do take a bit of jumping, but generally you get good quality horses.

"I'm also a big fan of the three days at Aintree, which has improved immeasurably over the years.

"I love going there - and I'm glad they use it a little bit more now than they used to - thankfully the Merseyside punters turn up in their droves at every meeting.

"And, of course, I rate the home of racing - Cheltenham - which is simply fantastic."

Jonjo O'Neill on Dawn Run in 1986
Dawn Run's 1986 Gold Cup win is Parrott's top memory

If his hometown is a racing hotbed, then Parrott's chosen career - snooker - is barely different.

The 2002 Embassy World Champion Peter Ebdon owns and breeds a few horses, while John Virgo and Willie Thorne are both keen racegoers.

Given the chance of a 147 at the Crucible, a Grand National winner or a Wayne Rooney hat-trick at Anfield (Parrott is an avid Everton fan) he says he will always choose the maximum snooker break.

But he admits to structuring his practice hours around live races, such is his interest.

"I just love the horses - I don't have to go and have a big bet or anything - I just enjoy solving the puzzle," he says.

"For me it's all about working out what the trainers are thinking, where they are running them and why.

"There's nothing better than seeing a top-class horse winning a race, and winning impressively. I don't exactly know why but National Hunt does it for me."

As far as top-class races go, you would do hard to beat Parrott's favourite horse-racing memory - which dates all the way back to Cheltenham in 1986.

Dawn Run, trained by Paddy Mullins and ridden by Jonjo O'Neill, had already won the Champion Hurdle in 1984 - and was an outside bet for the Gold Cup in '86.

"Watching Dawn Run win the Gold Cup in 1986 was the most remarkable day's racing I have ever witnessed," Parrott recalls.

"I'd seen her win the Champion Hurdle - and then for her to win a Gold Cup was fantastic.

"I stood on the winner's enclosure that day - and I could have opened a hat shop. I've never seen so many hats in the air and Irish people cheering.

"Jonjo's ride was brilliant; obviously he'd had health problems, so it was just an unbelievable day.

"It's as vivid a memory as I've got of a day at the races."


SEE ALSO
Hurdling greats
13 Nov 02 |  Horse Racing
Six of the Gold Cup best
07 Mar 02 |  Cheltenham Festival
1991: Parrott finally gets reward
12 Apr 02 |  World Champs 2002

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