One of racing’s most colourful characters. A gifted trainer, first and foremost, but he is also one of the sport’s great historians and a wonderful storyteller who, if he ever chose to, could make a fortune as an after-dinner speaker.
They don’t come much more ‘establishment’ either. An English baronet, an Old Harrovian and the son and grandson of Conservative Members of Parliament, Prescott is unashamedly old-school and non-PC.
He is not one of the ‘premier-league’ trainers, with just the one European Classic to his name (Confidential Lady, in the 2006 French Oaks), but most racing fans would agree that he lacks nothing in shrewdness. Many of his horses string sequences of wins together in handicaps.
His secret? Assess your horse carefully, then seek out exactly the right races for it.
That approach has brought him more than 1,500 winners, including three Cambridgeshire Handicaps, at a surprisingly high strike rate. Some of his campaigns have become legendary. In 1980, his two-year-old Spindrifter won 13 races in a season, equalling the record for juveniles. Between 1981 and 1985, he trained Misty Halo to 21 wins from 42 starts, a post-war record for a mare.
The other ingredient to Prescott’s success is loyalty. This is a man who sticks by you. “I have looked at many another woman, but I have never looked at another jockey,’ he once quipped of his extraordinary 30-year plus association with George Duffield, a Yorkshire miner’s son. .
Prescott, who broke his back in a riding accident in 1965, concedes that he may not be to everyone’s taste. Those of a modern, metropolitan disposition, for instance, would do well to enjoy him as a fabled raconteur rather than ask him for his views on coursing or bullfighting (although they might find him more persuasive on the subject than they would care to admit).
As Prescott puts it: “I suppose I’m not absolutely sort of conventional. I’ve got different interests. I’m out of fashion and out of time.”
2015 brought about a long overdue victory in the QIPCO British Champions Series for Prescott when the giant stayer Pallasator ground out a victory in the Doncaster Cup. It was a popular success for a popular man.
In 2017, Marsha won the Group 1 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York for him, although he was away in Iereland inspecting yearlings at the time.