We recently received a letter from Lynn Atkinson, a regular (and certainly amongst our favourites) correspondent and follower of our blog, and decided that its publication was a wonderful opportunity to share Lynn’s latest memoirs, which were described by Mick as “moving”; we’re quite sure our readers will agree.

Lynn's work has been in computing, designing process and production control systems for the food industry, abattoirs in particular. She is married to Rodney Atkinson, whose work is far more important but less glamorous than that of his little brother, Rowan, 'Mr Bean'. All her best work, like that of most women, has been for love rather than money, and in the political sphere. Lynn was invited into The Carlton Club (an exclusively male enclave) by Norris McWhirter and Sir Alfred Sherman, (the epitome of the Conservative Party) for her political contribution. Mrs T and Lynn were the only women there.

Lynn and her husband live in Northumberland in Bamburgh Castle (dating from 540) the home of the 'Kings of Northumberland', notably St Oswald, who by his protection of Cuthbert on Lindisfarne, caused England to become the first Christian Country in the world.

We asked Lynn to pen a short piece on herself, and her relationship with Hartford in particular, as an introduction to her latest correspondence. This is what she had to say:

Sentinel / Summerhill Archives (p)

"I was lucky enough to have access to the Hartford horses in my youth. My aunt was married to Joe Joseph and he trained at that time, exclusively for the Ellises. I had always loved horses but it was picking Sentinel when he arrived as a leggy baby at Summerveld, that hooked me for life. You see, I'm not blessed with Mick's Eye, I have picked a lot of stylish-but-slow horses in my time, but Sentinel, by his brilliance, gave me the hope at the very start, that I might spot another... It's a bit like my golf really... I hit just enough good shots to keep me playing.

I rode out with Clem Magnier in Ireland and regret greatly that I was never going to be a jockey... but I love being with horses and revere the memory of the wonderful ones, most of which are not household names. Then of course there is Kauto Star and The Minstrel, Magic Mirror and Sea Cottage, Hawaii and Brigadier Gerard, Bustino and... and... and! In my dotage, it's the memory of these great beasts and their fantastic exploits that will have made it all worthwhile."

I do agree that Timeform are less generous when allocating ratings now than they were in the past, and they have gone some way to historical recalibration. The great attraction of racing is comparing horses, in the same race, in the same generation, and, hardest of all, across the centuries.

This is an Art and perhaps why horse racing is, as you say, part mystical, intuitive, hardly scientific at all in our overtly scientific age - and therefore utterly absorbing.

The times clocked up are just indicative. The races won reflect luck and a range of opposition. Lester hardly ever won by more than a length. His eye was on winning more races and keeping the Handicapper in the dark, not riding into the history books. So how good his horses actually were we can only guess. Some may have been not too good and clocked up more impressive records than they merited, due purely to Himself being astride.

In the end we have to acknowledge that Arkel was the only horse in history to impose a new handicapping rating for races he contested. All the other horses were dropped in weight to 'fit him in' at the top. The Irish, undoubtedly the World Champions, still worship him, they have his skeleton and his saddle. That says much. Much as I loved Red Rum and for all his achievements including being nominated for 'Sportsperson of the year (he should have won!), he was not Arkel. Desert Orchid was rated 26lb worse, and he had the nation entranced. Sprinter Sacre is spectacular and a thrill to watch. What would he do if Arkel was on his shoulder? Who knows.

Man o' War, Secretariat and John Henry stride lengths / Lynn Atkinson (p)

Secretariat took things into his own hands and showed us what he could do in the Belmont. What a superstar performance, but his unbelievable 25' 5" stride looks modest compared to the 28 ft of Man o' War, and Frankel at 22' hardly seems to rate. Yet we know that Henry Cecil thought that there had never been a better horse than Frankel, and to some extent he showed us what he could do in the Guineas, and entranced us all. He was fast asleep in the stalls (talk about switching them off,) and gave a very good field a 'bedroom start' (is this unique?), in his last race. It was like a weapon of Mass Destruction - we all bloody nearly died! But he made them look not too clever. We can only guess at the Ultimate List, The Tetrarch, Park Top, Grundy, Petit Etoile... On and on and on.

In the end maybe we have to judge the men who were left speechless; if they were impressed, it must have been impressive. Mill Reef and Oaksey spring to mind.

Which is best? God only knows, perhaps Lester is right after all... 'They were all good horses'. But it's a joy to speculate, to relive the fascinating displays we are so privileged to witness.

This is why your thoughts and analysis are so important. You are a yardstick. When you are impressed, we all need to pay attention."

Thank you, Lynn, for your constant interest and insights.

Bob Coglianese-MCT/Landov (p)