Tributes have been paid following the death on Monday night of Robert Alner, a popular West Country trainer whose many big-race successes included the 1998 Cheltenham Gold Cup with the 25-1 outsider Cool Dawn. Alner, who was 76, had been paralysed after a car crash in 2007 and there were emotional scenes at Chepstow the following month when his Miko De Beauchene won the Welsh Grand National.
“It’s said horses take after their trainer and his did,” said Andrew Thornton, the jockey who was aboard for both those victories. “They just kept coming back and he did the same. He was given two years to live after the crash and he lasted over 12.
“He was one of the last old-school trainers. He had around 65 horses, predominantly chasers, and a lot that came from Ireland like Cool Dawn and Super Tactics, but he moved with the times; Miko De Beauchene came from France. He was never fazed about going to Ascot to take on the big boys and he’d just tell me to jump out and keep kicking.”
That remorseless stayer The Listener won him two Grade Ones in Ireland and was only collared close to home in the Irish Gold Cup. Memorably, the 33-1 shot Sir Rembrandt came within half a length of nailing Best Mate when that horse won his third Gold Cup, which would have been one of the biggest turn-ups in racing history. Only the bookmakers would have welcomed such a shock result, but no one would have begrudged Alner, a man with jump racing in his blood.
Six years after the crash, Alner spoke of coming to terms with his injuries in an interview with the Mail on Sunday. “I was in a ward with teenagers in wheelchairs who were all paralysed,” he recalled. “It broke my heart to watch these young lads, yet they never moaned and were so positive. That definitely helped me. Their lives were all in front of them, while I came to realise I’d done everything I wanted to do, really. I feel lucky that I was fit enough to do it.”