Look up Kimberella on the web and you will find it is, or rather was, a mollusc – a slow-moving, slug-like creature.Thankfully for owner Clive Titcomb, there is nothing slow or sluggish about Kimberella the racehorse, who continues to provide him and a growing fanclub with plenty of excitement.
Titcomb’s teenage years included moped trips to Fontwell and Brighton – as far as his parents were concerned he was in the library– and after beginning a job at IBM came atrip to Southwell that was the precursor to ownership, Titcomb and his friend and colleague Lionel Beecroft making themselves heard when shouting home Beecroft’s Eriny.
The following year they got together to purchase a horse, Astrac, and he was to prove a brilliant buy.
His debut came at Redcar on a bank holiday in May 1993, with a certain L Piggott in the saddle.
Titcomb says: “He finished sixth. We couldn’t really understand much of what Lester said but we did get the words, ‘You’ve got some horse there’.”
Piggott’s judgement was spot-on and Astrac was to prove himself some horse, graduating from a first win at Southwell to landing the Coral Sprint Trophy at York, the Wokingham at Royal Ascot, and Listed races at Doncaster and Evry.
“Astrac was with Steve Norton but when he gave up we moved him to Reg Akehurst, and he told us three months before the Wokingham to get our money on,” recalls Titcomb.“We put rather a lot on at 33-1.
“Sir Peter O’Sullevan was calling the race and Astrac wasn’t mentioned. I couldn’t figure out why; I thought I must have been watching the wrong horse. But then about a furlong out he realised he had been calling Amron instead of Astrac.
“Astrac was ridden by a young Seb Sanders and he was one side of the track and three other horses flashed home on the otherside, unbeknown to Seb. ‘What photo?’ he asked when he came back into the winner’s enclosure!
”In those days – 1995 – there was no trophy or presentation for the Wokingham; instead Titcomb and Beecroft were invited into the “bowels of the stand” for a couple ofglasses of bubbly and the signing of their name in a book – “like a marriage register it was,” explains Titcomb, “and there was‘Clive and Lionel’ a couple of lines down from Sheikh Mohammed”.
It was a memorable occasion, at least the parts of it he can remember. Titcomb says:
“When Astrac passed the post in front I turned to Lionel and let out an expletive. A bowler-hatted gentleman then asked me to leave the racecourse for foul and abusive language! I issued a further expletive about that and charged off down the steps.“Later on, we rather outstayed our welcome in the winners’ hospitality as one set of subsequent connections had been and gone, and we were still in there a couple of races later! They asked us to leave.”
After some singing round the bandstand came more celebratory drinks. “That’s when it started to go a bit hazy,” admits Titcomb.What was crystal clear was that he had won enough money to save his business, called Astrac, a software company he had founded in 1986 and which was experiencing some difficulties. Titcomb was to sell the business around ten years ago, freeing up some cash to get back into ownership after a dormant decade.
If Astrac was the abiding memory from his first spell as an owner, Kimberella is the dream-maker from his second.
“I’ve been involved with 12 horses, seven of them winners, over the past 25 years, but those two are by far the best,” says Titcomb.
Kimberella blew his budget but has proved money wisely spent, giving Titcomband wife Gill – whose help and support hehugely appreciates – marvellous days out.
Previously with David Nicholls, the seven year-old is now with Richard Fahey and won the All-Weather Sprint Championship at Lingfield on Good Friday, before finishing mid-division in the Palace House Stakes.
Fahey’s stable is a long way from Titcomb’s Worcestershire home, but he hasa great affinity for the area and was happyto keep the horse in the region with atrainer who has had success with sprintersof Kimberella’s class.
“I’ve been very lucky,” continues Titcomb, who has experienced several moments he describes as magical.
“My first win at Southwell – when we deafened the other five people there! –would be one, as would when Astrac won at York. Jim McGrath thrust a microphone in our face but we were in such a state of euphoria we couldn’t really say anything comprehensible. We filled our silver trophy up with wine on the train back to London.
“The Wentworth Stakes was also amazing; Kieren Fallon rode an absolutely phenomenal race.
”Of Kimberella’s magical moment making, Titcomb says: “His first win for me at Ripon, on just his second run for me, was a special day as he won by four lengths pulling Adrian Nicholls’ arms outand we realised then we had a ‘Saturdayhorse’ on our hands.
“Another highlight was when he broke the course record at Ripon last backend,because the plan to go for the All-Weather Championships was hatched.
“Finals day itself was fantastic. I was there with my mother, who has dementia, and I’d had what I’d call my first mini-stroke.
”Indeed, Titcomb, now semi-retired, admits to having been hospitalised ten times, all of them emergencies. “I’ve used up about five of my lives,” he says, in what you might call a rather British, matter-of-fact way.
“You’ve got to live life,” adds Titcomb, a big part of which is Kimberella.
Kimberella also just happens to be an unofficial ownership marketing tool, as Titcomb says: “One positive thing that has happened since the Kimberella ball has begun rolling is a sizeable number of friends, associates and family have become interested in horseracing, some of whom now plan to take it to an ownership level.He has quite a following!”