Behind every great man there’s a great woman, as the old saying goes.
And behind every great horse racing trainer there’s a head lad earning their stripes by keeping his employer’s horses in fine fettle.
That’s the role that Albert ‘Corky’ Browne has been playing at Nicky Henderson’s yard for more than 40 years, but all good things must come to an end and now the 77-year-old has finally decided upon a long overdue retirement.
His career started back in 1964 when he worked for Fred Winter, and in the next five decades he would develop a reputation as something of a magician in working with horses with injuries and ailments.
Henderson himself claims that See You Then, his three-time Champion Hurdle winner and the horse that made his name as a young up-and-coming trainer, would never have enjoyed the success he did without Browne’s healing hands.
Their success, as is often the case, was forged in the pub.
“I went to see Corky one night – we had a few drinks, I must admit – and we decided to set off together, and it’s been an amazing journey. He was someone I could rely on so solidly and I knew I could call on him any hour of the day,” Henderson has said.
A Winning Team
That was back in 1978, and the pair have been inseparable ever since. Together they have enjoyed more than 3,000 winners around the globe, with Henderson claiming the champion trainer crown on five different occasions. Gold Cups, Champion Chases and King Georges have all been won, too.
Browne has been regarded as one of the key innovators in the treatment of injured horses, and it was he who developed swimming-based rehab sessions while working at Roger Charlton’s yard at Windsor House.
“The reason horses were sent to Roger’s was because they were crocked, so they were sent swimming with Corky repairing them, which is basically the whole story of his life!” Henderson recalls.
Corky and the Irish trainer worked on a number of special horses together that have dominated National Hunt racing through the years: Altior, Sprinter Sacre and My Tent or Yours being just three, but both have a special place in their hearts for See You Then, who provided the springboard for Henderson’s training operation.
“Things grew, but I think the big horse for us and one who would have struggled to do what he did without Corky was See You Then.
“He’d have never survived without that swimming pool and [vet] Frank Mahon, who bought him, and Corky were the ones patching him up, while I was trying my best not to break him.
“Keeping See You Then sound, with help from the swimming pool and Frank, was Corky’s masterpiece.”
But time waits for no man, and in rapidly-approaching octogenarian status Browne has decided to call it quits.
“It’s about time. I feel it’s the right time – to leave it to the young chaps, but I’ll miss it,” he said this week.
“It’s been a massive part of my life; 41 years I’ve been with Nicky and I’ve enjoyed every year, month and day.”
For Henderson, it leaves a huge void to fill.
“We’ll still see lots of him – he knows the doors are open any time – and we’ve loved having him around. It’ll be very sad, and very strange when he’s gone.
“He has missed a few days because of knee operations, and he didn’t like it a few years ago when Michael Buckley got him a golf buggy to get around the yard. It’s a brilliant machine with the number plate Cork 1 and he loves it now.
“We’ve had to repair him a few times – a bit like See You Then!”