Readers of a certain vintage will probably always remember Michael Roger “Mick” Channon as the former Southampton and England footballer famous for his whirling arm goal celebration. However, Channon last played professional football three decades ago and has since carved out a highly successful second career as a racehorse trainer.
He worked as assistant trainer to John Baker and Ken Cunningham-Brown before setting up on his own, with a string of ten horses, at Kingsdown Stables in Upper Lambourn, near Hungerford, Berkshire in 1990. He saddled his first winner, Golden Scissors, in a maiden stakes race at Beverley in March that year and finished his first season with a highly respectable 16 winners.
He steadily increased that number in the seasons that followed, but took his training career to another level in 1994, when he saddled his first Group winner, Great Deeds in the Ballyogan Stakes at the Curragh, and his first Group 1 winner, Piccolo in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York. Piccolo actually finished second, beaten 1½ lengths but, having been bumped by the first horse past the post, Blue Siren, in the closing stages, was awarded the race in the stewards’ room.
In 1999, Channon moved to the historic West Isley Stables, near Newbury and, in 2000, exceeded £1 million in total prize money for the first time. Highlights of that season included Cd Europe in the Coventry Stakes and Miletrian in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot and Tobougg in the Prix de la Salamandre at Longchamp and the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.
Over the years, Channon has handled many highly talented racehorses and won major races too numerous to mention individually, but his best horse ever was top middle-distance performer Youmzain. Between 2005 and 2010, the son of Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Sinndar won six of his 32 races, including two at the highest level, and finished runner-up in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe three times.
In August, 2008, while travelling back to West Isley from Doncaster Sales, Channon suffered serious injuries, including several broken bones and a punctured lung, in a single vehicle crash on the M1 motorway in Leicestershire. The driver of the vehicle, bloodstock agent Tim Corby, was killed in the crash.
In May 2012, Henrietta Knight, who trained at nearby West Lockinge Farm, near Wantage, Oxfordshire relinquished her National Hunt licence to spend more time with her husband, Terry Biddlecombe, who had suffered a stroke the previous October. Channon assumed control of most of her string and, unsurprisingly, enjoyed his most successful National Hunt seasons ever, in monetary terms, in 2013/14 and 2014/15, including winning the Haldon Gold Cup Chase at Exeter in 2013.