This advent blog comes from Museum friend, Tony Lake.
A life in the cotton mills of Lancashire did not appeal to Albert “Snowy” Whalley so he ran away from home. The thirteen year old eventually turned up in Newmarket and was employed as an apprentice jockey to Alfred Heyhoe at Palace House Stables. However, seven years later and still to ride in public, Whalley decided to try his luck in India. The next few years were much more fruitful and “Snowy” enjoyed great success becoming champion jockey eight years in succession. With a new found confidence he returned to England in 1910 to be part of one of the most memorable periods in Turf history.
In the “Suffragette Derby” he was placed sixth on Day Comet. “Placed” was the operative word since photographic evidence revealed his mount finished third, if not second. (Judge Robinson was not having the best of seasons as by all accounts he got the result of the 2000 Guineas wrong too.) Craganour was given the verdict, Aboyeur was second and Louvois third – Day Comet, on the far side of the four from the judge, wasn’t spotted.
Albert’s day went from bad to worse since in the very next race, his mount Felizardo suffered a bad fall, broke a leg and had to be destroyed, whilst he was shaken up.
Two weeks later Whalley had a premonition. Steve Donoghue recalled, “at dinner Whalley told us that he had a horrible presentiment that suffragettes would make another attempt at interference with horses (during the Ascot Gold Cup)... 'If they come at me - well- there's only one thing to do, I shall drive straight at 'em', he said.”
And sure enough, when riding Tracery, a deranged man, Harold Hewitt, ran out in front of him waving a pistol and shouting ‘Stop. Stop. I will stop the race.’ Whalley could not avoid colliding with Hewitt. Hewitt was knocked down as Tracery and Whalley were also thrown to the ground. Whalley was taken to hospital where he was treated for concussion.
It was the luckless Tracery who gave Whalley his greatest successes before the Great War, having won both the Eclipse and Champion Stakes on him in 1913. After the War, he went on to win two Classics, the 1,000 Guineas (1919) on Roseway, and the Oaks (1924) on Charlebelle. His other significant wins included Ivanhoe in the Cesarewitch (1919) and Re-echo the Cambridgeshire (1922).
Numerically, his most successful season was in 1912 when he notched up 99 wins (from 642 rides) and finished third in the jockeys' championship behind Frank Wootton and Danny Maher. In 1913, Whalley finished behind that illustrious pair again, with 86 wins from 576 rides.
“Snowy” Whalley retired from race-riding in 1924 to set up as a trainer at The Yews, Compton, Berkshire. He never had a big string and enjoyed only limited success before retiring to Newmarket in 1939. The man who the Newmarket Journal described as having “a very likeable personality” died on January 7, 1949, at his Revel Cottage. He was 63.