Provost started his career in the care of Mark Johnston. A son of Danehill Dancer out of winning Lake Coniston mare Dixieland he had cost 72,000 guineas as a yearling. He had run once unplaced at the age of two before winning as a three year old for Mark Johnston at Yarmouth. At the end of 2007 he was sent to the sales where I bought him for just 15,000 guineas.
Throughout his career here at Sheriff Hutton he would run in the red and blue silks of York-based estate agent and chartered surveyor Alan Black whose colours had been carried to multiple victories in recent years by Blessingindisguise and Middlethorpe.
The association with training racehorses for the Black family went back to 1961, the year I took out my licence. Alan's father George had been one of the very first owners here at New House Farm and the giant Nigarda had provided me with a winner at Beverley in the yard's maiden season of 1961. It was a victory that would remain in my memory for decades, and for the very wrong reasons. Shortly after the race George Black collapsed and died of a heart attack on the Westwood whilst giving an interview about the victory. Nigarda would go on and run in the name of his son Alan.
In 2008 Provost made his debut for his new owner and quite frankly he showed little, his rating steadily falling before finding his feet in October at Ayr when Paul Mulrennan got him home by a short head.
He was a winner again the following March at Southwell, a heavily backed favourite it was again Paul Mulrennan who landed the odds. It was to be another year before Provost would again taste success, Graham Gibbons getting him home in front on the polytrack at Wolverhampton. Later in the summer, over course and distance, Provost would land his fourth career victory, picking up a mere £1,433 first prize money in the second division of a Class 6 race.
It was at that point that Alan and I discussed the future plans for Provost. A true racing enthusiast, Alan has always taken a key role in planning the races for his horses. On days when we've sent runners all over the country I can tell you tales of Alan taking his own horse to the races and saddling it himself, but let's leave those for another time.
After much debate we decided to try Provost over hurdles and he schooled well, jumping seemed to be something he enjoyed. We looked through the local fixtures and we found a little race at Market Rasen.
In March 2011 Provost was sent off at odds of 50/1 on his jumps debut, finishing eighth of 12 runners. Despite being soundly beaten in three runs in novice company he was handed a mark of 95. At the time it seemed harsh, but in May Provost would win the "Albert Hill Commercials Amateur Riders' Novices' Handicap Hurdle" at Sedgefield in the hands of Mark Walford. He was handed a further seven pounds by the handicapper and a month later attempted to defy the weight back at Sedgefield. Jake Greenall took the ride.
Lining up at Sedgefield the field set out with Provost switched off at the back. Provost's participation was to be cut short and at the fourth hurdle the chestnut took a crashing and fatal fall. Just as we'd found Provost's true talent the dream was over and the seven year old had paid the ultimate price. Racing is a tough game and it wouldn't be the first or the last time that this wonderful owner would experience the loss of a beloved horse.
Provost's final career statistics showed six wins for 38 starts, but his owner will never know what his 100+ rated hurdler could have achieved had fate not dealt a cruel hand on that woeful day at Sedgefield.