We bought Sporting Gesture as a yearling in October 1998 at Doncaster Bloodstock Sales. It was his second time in the Doncaster Sales ring, having not sold during an earlier visit to in January. In between his visits to Doncaster he had moved to David Spence's Forbes Arms Stud in Aberdeenshire from his breeder, Wood Farm Stud in Shropshire.
By Safawan, there was winning blood on the dam side of the family. Half sisters Sun Street and Kiawah were multiple winners, whilst half brothers Upton Park and Regal Reform were also winners, the latter winning six races on the flat and four over jumps. Sporting Gesture was the last, and the best, of her offspring.
Prepared for a two year old career, Sporting Gesture was to run in the purple silks of owner Steve Hull and made his debut at Catterick in July 2000, finishing midfield. He ran five times in maiden company and began his handicap career at Catterick rated 65. Ridden by Terry Lucas he was last at the half way point but the penny soon dropped and he went from last to first to record his first win at odds of 16/1. Asked about his rapid improvement, his trainer explained that he benefitted from a handicap mark which may have been 'too lenient'.
In July 2000 Sporting Gesture was to win for the first time at York, ridden by Joe Fanning, and the same jockey was in the plate the following month when Sporty was to win at Chester.
The following season, in his usual midsummer resurgence, Sporty reeled of a hat-trick, winning at Nottingham, Thirsk and Pontefract for three different jockeys. A quiet 2002 followed, but amongst his notable outings was the debut ride for apprentice jockey Phil Greally. Phil worked at the yard with an ambition of being a jockey, and that ambition was realised on 13th April 2002. Sporting Gesture was Phil's favourite horse and it made for a fitting debut. Tragically Phil died in an accident in December 2002. Phil and Sporting Gesture were commemorated in a portrait commissioned by Phil's family.
In 2003 Sporty was back to winning ways, winning under Dale Gibson at Pontefract and then in June he won the Queen Mother's Cup ridden by Serena Brotherton. Back on the Knavesmire in September he was victorious again, this time with Kieren Fallon in the plate.
Sporty had to wait until 2005 for his next win, which came at Doncaster in May, followed by another York victory in July. He made it three wins for the season at Thirsk in September.
It was clear that Sporty by this time preferred to win in years with an even number at the end! The year 2006 was winless, but in 2007 his fifth and final York victory came when he took a Gentleman Amateur Riders Race on the Knavesmire.
Following the sequence, he was not to win in 2008 but in 2009 Sporting Gesture graced the winners' enclosure for the final time, winning the 'Yorkshire Society Handicap'. His handicap mark was dropping and his final win came off a mark of 54. Given just three more runs, his final outing was at Haydock Park, where he finished fourth in the hands of Oliver Greenall.
It was time to give Sporty the retirement he deserved and after 121 races and 14 wins he owed nothing to his owner and trainer. He had collected almost £145,000 in prizemoney and his career included an amazing five wins at York, our local track, as well as wins at Pontefract, Thirsk, Doncaster, Chester and Nottingham. A versatile horse, he was at his best on fast ground but was suited to a variety of tracks, from York's long galloping straight to Chester's tight turns. Sporting Gesture had been a yard favourite for many years, and would be missed by everyone when he left the yard for pastures new, especially Jane Bedford who had expertly looked after him and ridden him daily.
Sporting Gesture spent a wonderful retirement in Scotland with Màiri Leith-McGaw, in the same part of the world where he had lived as a yearling. Sporty died aged 19 in 2016, but his legacy will never be forgotten by those who had the pleasure to own, train, ride and work with him.
Phil Greally's story can be read here