Our Honest Charlie Wood book cover (left) and image of a horse race (right). Photo by Gene Devine on Unsplash.

The story of Hull Champion Jockey who fought the establishment and won

On Tuesday, the eyes of the sporting world will turn to Royal Ascot – one of horse racing’s most prestigious festivals.

For five days, stars of flat racing from all over the globe will join hundreds of thousands of racing fans, as well as royalty, for one of the sport’s showpiece events.

Horse racing has always been synonymous with the upper classes – but do you know the incredible story of the Hull runaway who went on to become the sport’s most unlikely Champion Jockey, while ruffling a few feathers along the way?

Charles Wood could not have been born further away from the world he would later rise to the top of.

Born into poverty in Hull in 1856, he left home at just 11 to become an apprentice at a stables in Newmarket. He eventually became Champion Jockey before completing one of sport’s greatest ever comebacks.

And now his incredible life is being documented in a book, Our Honest Charlie Wood, by author Josephine Carr.

Josephine said: “When the Yorkshire boy, born into poverty in Hull, rose to become the nation’s favourite jockey and a wealthy man in his own right, the aristocracy, who owned racing at that time, set out to destroy him. They were to learn that they had severely underestimated their man.”

In the 1880s, Charles won the 1,000 Guineas three times, the Epsom Oaks and the Epsom Derby twice. He also won the Gold Cup at Ascot two years running, on two different horses. The boy from Hull became flat racing’s Champion Jockey in 1887 – which became an achievement too far for the British aristocracy.

Charlie was singled out and dragged into a scandal aimed at destroying his reputation – deleting his name and his achievements from the records. He was accused of organising a gambling ring from his Newmarket stable, as well as having shares in horses which was strictly forbidden.

He was banned from horse racing. For nine years, the Hull-born Champion Jockey disappeared, but his exile only added to the legend.

In 1897, as soon as his nine-year ban had finished, Charlie returned. His name had been dragged through the mud, he was the outsider the sport had tried so hard to keep out. Then in 1897, he got back on a horse – named Galtee More – and won the Holy Grail of flat racing, the Triple Crown of the sport’s biggest races – the 2,000 Guineas, the Derby and the St Ledger.

It was a remarkable defiance, an incredible comeback rivalling the greatest stories from any sport.

Our Honest Charlie Wood is due to be released later this year. It is available to pre-order on Amazon.

You can also find out more about the book by visiting its Facebook page.

Eastern Cemetery in Preston Road
Queens Gardens in Hull city centre.