Ian Balding lost his father at an early age, but a benevolent American millionaire paid for his future education. Luckily, he managed to catch a book thrown by an eccentric don or he would not have been given a place at Cambridge where he won a blue at rugby. If Peter Hastings-Bass, the father of his future wife, Emma, had not tragically died just three months after giving him a job as assistant, he would not have become the trainer at the famous Kingsclere stables at the tender age of 26.

Every racing fan knows that this outstanding amateur sportsman soon reached dizzy heights on the Turf, preparing the peerless Mill Reef to win the 1971 Derby and a host of other top races. Sadly, only a year later the horse’s racing career was cruelly cut short, when he broke a leg in an early morning gallop.

This brief summary reveals a life that contains two important ingredients for an exciting autobiography ? triumph and disaster. Fortunately, Mr Balding is a proficient enough writer to make the most of his rich experiences. His memoirs are easy to read, informative and full of brilliant anecdotes about the renowned racing figures he has known and the best horses he has handled. He is also endearingly modest and self-critical, revealing any mistakes he made while training his valuable equine charges.