Trigg, Charles

With his unconquerable sense of humour, strong personality and an absolute determination never to injure a fellow jockey, Charles George Twigg (always known as Charlie) made himself into one of the most popular riders ever. He could recall being taught to walk, but could not remember being taught to ride - he was sat upon ponies long before he took a stride.

Born at Westbury-on-Severn, Chaxhill, Gloucestershire in January, 1881 he was brought up by his uncle, a horse-dealer in the West Country. They would visit all the fairs in Gloucestershire, Hereford and Monmouth buying yearlings – or ‘suckers’ as they were then known. They were Welsh ponies and Charles’ uncle would pay between £2 and £5 according to what he thought they were worth. Charles was then twelve. They would get permission off the local farmers to turn the ponies out into the fields overnight while they slept in one of the inns. Once his uncle had accumulated 100  yearling ponies, they would travel from fair to fair until they were sold. They would fetch between £5 and £10 each. Charles would trot and canter them up and down to show them off.

One day someone suggested a race between two ponies at £10 a side. It was readily agreed, with Charles to ride his uncle’s pony. Charles won, and a spark was lit inside him. Some time later – purely by chance – he found an old copy of the ‘Sportsman’ in which an advert had been placed saying ‘Apprentice Wanted.’ Charles answered the advert and, by return of post, received a letter from Sir John Thursby inviting him to his house in Park Lane for an interview. At the appointed time - weighing just 4 stone 7 pounds and feeling somewhat intimidated - he knocked on Sir John’s door. His son George – himself one of the best gentleman riders ever – answered. George hired him and, on the gallops next morning, was surprised at how well he could ride.

His first winner, in 1902, came on Aggressor some months later. Recalling it Charles said “Nobody but an apprentice who has done it will ever know what it means to a jockey to ride his first winner. No words can explain it. You walk on air. You do not care what happens. You have done it. You have ridden a winner, and nothing on earth can ever take that away from you.”

Sir John Thursby knew what it meant to Charles – after congratulating him he said “Trigg, I would like to give you a little present to mark you first win. What would you rather have – a ten-pound note or a racehorse?”

Charles remembered how his uncle had always made a profit out of a horse so that’s what he took. The horse in question was an unnamed two-year-old, still full of fever having come over from America. Charles immediately gave it to his uncle, then living outside Gloucester, who later wrote back saying that he had galloped the colt over five furlongs across a nearby common and that he had returned an extraordinary time. He informed Charles that he intended to enter it into a race at Birmingham and that he wanted Charles to ride. At the racetrack Charles borrowed a set of colours and was weighing out when he was approached by Mr Wetherby’s representative who said ‘Where is Mr Trigg? I must have the jockey’s fee before he can be weighed out.’ Charles told him that Mr Trigg was his uncle, and that he would go and find him. Knowing that his uncle had no money, Charles spent the next few minutes hunting round the paddock to find someone who could lend him three guineas to pay his own riding fee.

A friend came up with the money and Charles passed the scales. All was in vain – the horse finished fifth and was sold at the next fair for £25. His new owner renamed it Poor Beast and the horse went on to win race after race under National Hunt rules.

Having won on Aggressor and still on a high, Charles was put on a mare at Windsor called Debutante. It was regarded as a certainty and had over two stone in hand of its rivals – but it was time for Charles to come back to earth. The horse got beat, largely because of the attentions of Lewis, an Australian jockey, who constantly bored  and harrased Debutante. Charles objected, but the Stewards over-ruled it and the young jockey was inconsolable. The stable lads waiting for him back at Cranborne (who’d had all their shillings and half-crowns on him) did not spare him, and it was a very sad, lonely youngster who cried in his bed that night.

On his way back from a racecourse where his intended mount had not run, he was spotted on the station platform by Mr F Hunt who offered him the ride on Oversight. Charles accepted and won, and was booked to ride the same horse at the Hurst Park Bank Holiday Meeting. Once again Charles won and Mr Hunt’s friend Mr Goodwin asked him to ride a horse called Water Wheel in that day’s big race. Again Charles won and from that moment he never looked back.

There was a Bank Holiday regatta and fair going on at Cranbourne that evening. Charles arrived back from the course to a hero’s welcome – all the stable had read the evening papers and knew he’d landed a double.

The next day Mr Thursby received wire after wire asking for Charles to ride their horses.

Charles Trigg - who stood at 4ft 10ins - had arrived.

The greatest number of winners he ever rode in a season was 111 in 1911. In 17 Flat seasons, Charlie rode 843 winners.

Charles rode the first ever winner at Newbury Racecourse when partnering Copper King in the opening race on September 26, 1905. For this, he received a gold mounted whip (valued at £10).

In 1910, Charles won the Epsom Oaks on Rosedrop. He had come a long way from the fairs he had once gone to with his uncle.

Charlie rode the last five winners at Worcester in October 1906. Four years earlier, he had won five consecutive races at Edinburgh.

He completed his first century of winners when riding Mirador to victory in the Touchstone Stakes, Friday October 20th 1911.

On Saturday, August 1st 1914, Charles - who had been riding in Austria – set out on the return journey to England. He was obliged to change trains nine times and tramp over three miles in order to get from one to the other. By the time he boarded the steamer for the last leg of his journey, he had lost all of his luggage.

Partly on account of increasing deafness, Charlie retired after obtaining his final success on Frenzy at Catterick in 1918.

At the beginning of his racing career, he said (in an interview, July 29, 1911) that he used to lead the field whenever he could until it dawned on him that in many instances this was precisely what not to do. 'Sometimes I won by this method, but more often I ran unplaced.'

And so skill came with experience.

Asked to name the best horse he ridden he replied, without a moment's hesitation, 'Pretty Polly. I was the first to ride her in public, being only a boy then. Her action was magnificent. I only had to sit there and let her go. She may not have been as good a mare as Sceptre. I suppose she wasn't. but I never wish to ride a better. Perhaps I'm fondest, really fondest, of Rosedrop. I won the Oaks with her last year, and positively grew to like her. She had such a nice and patient temper and responded so well to everything I asked her to do. Mind you, horses are just like human beings. Some are amiable and some are disagreeable, fickle and obstinate. The public, looking on from the stands at a race with their money staked, little imagine the tantalising experiences jockeys sometimes pass through, while those who have backed them say anything but complimentary things about their riding. Any jockey will tell you that you may start off on a race with the conviction that your horse is going to win, and then all of a sudden the animal cracks up, and there's nothing you can do will bring him on again, though you try every device known to good horsemanship. On other occasions a horse will absolutely astonish you by is going. He may be a 10/1 or a 20/1chance. You may have ridden him many times before in the rear of the field. This time he simply takes it into his head to win and nothing will stop him from doing so. Horses, like men, have moods. One day they feel fit, another day they are off colour. This is true of all horses, and the best horse is the horse that oftenest feels fit, provided, of course, he has the necessary qualities of speed and stamina.'

Charlie Trigg's marriage produced just one child, Phyllis. Charles made a lot of money, but lost it all during the war when his wife ran off wife a young officer,

Charlie divorced in 1919 and won custody, and Phyllis was brought up by Charlie's relatives.

Sadly, after the divorce, Charlie fell into a wanton life, and died a pauper in Gloucester on 26 December, 1945, aged 64