One of the few remaining “characters” in the sport – men with a built- in epithet such as “ebullient Mick O’Toole”, “the swarthy ex-cavalry officer Francois Mathet” – he was invariably described as “the former speedway champion Ron Mason”. The son of a Gloucestershire farmer, he started his sporting life in speedway, at Bellevue, Manchester.

Immensely likeable, exuding confidence, Mason was by the age of 30 already in a fair way of business as a haulage contractor and partner in a Dublin car sales firm, in which capacity he went to sell a motor to the former top Irish jockey Aubrey Brabazon (“the Brab”). The biter bit, Mason left the Curragh having paid Brabazon’s father Cecil pounds 600 for a colt called Fuel, who carried Mason’s new red and blue colours to victory in the Irish Lincoln.

After further successes Mason bought the Guilsborough Hall estate in Northamptonshire, where he started training in 1959. Two years earlier at Doncaster sales he had bought the best of all his many bargains. The trainer Reg Hollinshead remembers taking Cecil Brabazon back to the station that day and his saying, “Nip back to the sales paddock and get Mason to give Con Collins a profit on that grey yearling.” This 700-guinea purchase, Sovereign Path, trained first by Brabazon, then by Mason, became champion miler, winning eight good races including the Tetrarch Stakes at the Curragh, the Lockinge at Newbury and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot; while on successive days at the Royal meeting at Ascot he was second in the Cork and Orrery Stakes and the Wokingham Stakes before graduating to great success as a stallion.

A steady flow of winners followed for Mason. Smartie won the 1962 Royal Hunt Cup and in 1963 Monawin (named after Mason’s wife Mona and their first son Edwin) took the Lincoln. Peter Piper won the “Pitmen’s Derby” (Northumberland Plate) in 1964, and the next year saw that handsome colt Track Spare win the first stalls-started event in England, at Newmarket, followed by the Middle Park Stakes and then, as a three- year-old, the St James’s Palace at Royal Ascot. Petite Path, a daughter of Sovereign Path, won the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Ayr Gold Cup.

Mason had very substantial bets on a number of his winners. In each of his best seasons, 1969 and 1975, he saddled 20 winners. He retired in 1978. His fellow speedway champion Jack Ormston said, “Ron was so lucky. When he gave up training to live in Australia, I trained for him and every time he came back I managed to win with them. Appropriately, his last winner, on the day after he arrived back from Australia, was Bellevue.” The BBC commentator and former jockey Jimmy Lindley says: “One day at Royal Ascot I rode two apparent no-hopers for him – at 33-1 and 100-8. Such was his charisma and confidence that, by the time I left the paddock, he had convinced me that they would both win – and they did.”

Tim Fitzgeorge-Parker

Ronald Edward George Mason, racehorse trainer, haulage contractor, speedway rider: born 1916; married Mona Savage (two sons); died Melchbourne, Bedfordshire 31 October 1995.

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