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Catfish Keith, The Racehorse
The following is an article reprinted in full from the British newspaper, The Guardian, on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 26, 1999, in the Sport Section after the racehorse that trainer Henrietta Knight named after the singer:
Knight in the swim with Catfish
by Colin Fleetwood Jones
What's in a name? Quite a lot, if you happen to be a racehorse. For example,
you can be a nice-looking, rangy gelding with a lot of scope and well-related - but, if your title is not, shall we say, refined, you could turn a few noses up.
That seemed to be the fate of Catfish Keith. Henrietta Knight fell in love with him on a visit to Bill O'Keefe's establishment deep in County Cork, but then she found she was in the minority. She saw the potential in the five-year-old son of Be My Native, but then she has always been an adherent to the "handsome is as handsome does" philosophy.
It transpired that Catfish Keith had been named after an American pop star who very few will have heard of over here and that did not impress many. As Henrietta, who trains at Lockinge, Oxfordshire, says: "Two people I put him to wouldn't have him because of the name. They thought it was dreadful.
"I don't think they would have had him if he was called Fleetwood Mac either," she added with a smile.
"We never call him Catfish here," his trainer continued, "that is just about the lowest form of fish life. It's just Keith."
However, Keith can boast a famous father in his sire and he is the first foal of Diklers Run, who is out of an unraced half-sister to 1973 Chetenham Gold Cup winner The Dikler.
And he found supporters in the end. Jamaican journalist Val McCalla, editor of The Voice, a best-selling newspaper for the black community, who, along with Winton Bloodstock, decided to take a chance on him despite his handle.
Anyway, the clue to Keith's future was there for all to see. There are about 2,500 species of this unlovely fish spread around the waters of the world and some river varieties have a certain talent - they can jump.
Henrietta, not an angler herself, added; "He turned out to be a very good jumper and very quick on his feet." Indeed, he won on his hurdling Debut last November. And on his first taste of fencing at Exeter earlier this month put in a good round of leaping to finish third to Zafarabad. Better was to come and last Saturday at Ascot he jumped his rivals into the ground in the Betterware Novice Chase under Timmy Murphy to score by four lengths from Lord York.
His handler says; "As a long term prospect we would have to be considering the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham's National Hunt Festival.
"I shall probably give him longer than a fortnight after the Ascot rec, but there isa novice chase at Sandown in less than a fortnight and it looks tempting. Otherwise, we will wait until around Christmas."
It used to be verry much a woman's world on Henrietta Knight's West Lockinge farm. She championed the use of females on her staff and bristled at the subject of marriage.
The former biology teacher once told me: "I never want to get married. I'd rather be on my own." It is a woman's prerogative to change her mind, however, and Henrietta - one of the country's leading lady [sic] trainers - took full advantage of the privelege.
She is now married to Terry Biddlecombe, a champion jockey in the 60s who rode Woodland Venture to victory in the Gold Cup of 1967.
Biddlecombe observed after Keith's latest victory: "Hen has always liked him and he is a very clever jumper. "They went quite a nice gallop and I told Timmy [Murphy] to sit in behind and not win by too far. He's still growing up and has great potential."
There is a line in the song Small Fry that goes: "You ain't the biggest catfish in the sea". But, frankly, I believe Keith is beginning to think he is.
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catfishkeith.com - String-Twanging Home of Catfish Keith - Nov. 26, 1999