Article by Chris Pitt
For the last 15 years of his life Alfie was among the most popular ambassadors at Newmarket’s National Horseracing Museum, showing visitors around and coaching them on the mechanical racehorse simulator.
Alfred James Westwood, better known as Alfie, was born on August 8, 1935, and raised in Greenwich, London. Being small of stature, when he left school he decided to pursue a career in racing and in 1950 began his apprenticeship with Claude Halsey, who trained at Somerville Lodge in Newmarket.
Alfie rode his first winner on Halsey’s three-year-old gelding Ivernia, a 25/1 outsider, in a one-mile seller at Newmarket’s Guineas meeting on May 1, 1952, beating no less a figure than Gordon Richards, who was riding the hot favourite Pink Cocktail. Alfie later reflected: “Kids didn’t beat Gordon in those days.”
That, however, proved to be his only winner as an apprentice.
After two years of National Service, Alfie returned to racing, this time as a lad with trainer Reg Day at Terrace House in Newmarket High Street. Six years later he joined Harvey Leader’s Shalfleet stables in Bury Road. It was Leader who persuaded him to resume his riding career.
On July 25, 1964, Alfie, by then aged 29, rode his first winner for 12 years (and only
Alfie notched the third winner of his career on June 23, 1965, aboard Harvey Leader’s Osotis in the six-furlong Town Walls
Handicap at Yarmouth. It was only his eighth ride of the year. He was back in the winner’s enclosure the following month, at Windsor on July 12, after winning another six-furlong handicap, this time on ‘Fiddler’ Goodwill’s 25/1 outsider Lady Cortina (left).
That was to be the last winner Alfie rode, although he came close later that season when finishing second at Yarmouth on a horse named Gratel.
In June 1969 Alfie met with a bad accident when unseated by Golden Trail at the start at Folkestone. He declared himself unhurt and rode in the very next race, but it not until a decade later that it was discovered that he had fractured both his hips, signalling the first of three hip replacement operations.
He retired from race riding in 1971 but continued to ride out and worked as travelling head lad for Peter Robinson before joining Peter Haslam, who was then based at Pegasus Stables in Snailwell Road. When Haslam moved his operation north to
The Alfie Westwood Lifetime in Racing Handicap was run in his honour at Newmarket on November 2, 2007. He was also honoured in the Betfair Pride of Britain Racing
He thoroughly enjoyed his role at the National Horseracing Museum (right) where he worked three mornings a week, helping visitors and instructing them on the simulator. In a statement following his death, the National Horseracing Museum said the Newmarket racing fraternity had lost “one of its long standing treasures”.
Written by John Berry, the tribute below appeared on the Betfair Forum on November 25
...but much worse news came today when we lost one of the very best, Alfie Westwood. Alfie was known to many and liked by all during his long life working in racing, and then known to and liked by even more after he had eventually retired and joined an elite band of ex-trainers and ex-jockeys, also including John Powney and Eric Eldin, who give up their time to dispense knowledge, enthusiasm and kindness in equal measure to visitors, particularly children, to the National Horseracing Museum. Alfie was wonderful with all people, but particularly wonderful with children, and there will be many thousands of children around the country (some of whom will presumably be on their way to being lifelong racing enthusiasts as a result of the inspiration which he gave them) who will have happy memories of a morning or an afternoon spent spellbound under his wing in the museum.