Making it as a professional footballer in your lifetime is probably a one-in-million chance these days, but that’s exactly what Stuart King has already done playing for the likes of Preston, Ross County and Linfield over the course of a lengthy career in the game. Football gaffer King – who was once under the management of David Moyes while at Preston – is now set for another crack at what people would see as a one-in-million odds, as he is one of the 11 qualifiers for our Paddy Power Millionaire Chase prize.
Our entrants have already netted £/€10,000 each after we ran qualifying races over the last few months, all leading to what should have been the climax on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham. Unfortunately, the weather gods were against us on the day and the meeting was cancelled, forcing us to postpone our sweepstake and the same thing as bloody happened on our two subsequent tries at having it on January 30 and February 13.
But, it finally looks like (and hopefully we are not jinxing it) that all systems are go for us to hold the Millionaire Chase at Sandown on Saturday in the Paddy Power Imperial Cup (14:25). That’s where King hopes the horse that he draws can score him another £990,000 on top of the £10k he’s already won, making him a millionaire in the process! But, this almost didn’t happen because the manager of Banbridge Town in Northern Ireland wouldn’t pick up his phone when we called him!
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“I didn’t answer the first few times Paddy rang (sorry Paddy), but my wife Bernice told me to answer the phone as that person has been ringing all week,” Stuart chuckled.
To be honest, I thought it was one of the football lads taking the pi** when I finally answered.
“I still didn’t really believe it until I saw the £10k in my account. I remember entering just after Christmas. My £5 bet didn’t win at the time, but 10k and the chance to win £1m wasn’t a bad return in the end!
Stuart is more than glad he picked up our call now though, but admits it could be a struggle to sleep by the time Saturday rolls around.
“I’ve settled down a bit now (since the news), as I’d have a bit of time to digest what’s going on. But, I’d say sleep will be hard to come by as we get closer to Saturday’s race!”
Stuart drew Thaki in our third attempt at the Millionaire Chase at Chelmsford last month and he has now stuck up an unlikely friendship with the gelding’s owner Dean Forrester on the back of that, even though the horse never got a chance to represent him in the end.
“I can’t talk highly enough of Dean Forrester,” said King.
“I put on Twitter that I’d drawn Thaki in Chelmsford and asked did anyone know anything about him. Within five minutes Dean was on to me. Thaki had actually just run in Newcastle that night (finishing fourth) and a horse called Paddy Power actually finished behind him in fifth, so I thought that was a good omen!
“He hasn’t run since, but I’ll ring Dean when he’s entered again to see what he thinks.”
Stuart is planning on reaching out to connections of the next horse he draws for the race at Sandown on Saturday, that draw will take place once the declarations are made on March 11.
“I’m definitely going to try employ same tactic,” Stuart said smiling.
“As a football manager I like to know everything about my players and my opponents when preparing for matches. I even do my own scouting! So, it’s the same approach here. I’ve learned a lot about racing over the last few weeks through Dean and friends, but not sure I’m an expert form reader just yet.”
Of course, we had to ask Stuart what he will do with the money should he claim the big prize and he had a certain Caribbean destination in mind if he was to be the overall winner, once it is safe to do so again.
“If it wasn’t for Covid, the whole of Banbridge would be up at the football club bar watching the race with me, but I’ll have to settle for the man cave out my back,” said Stuart.
I might even allow Bernice and the family in this week!
“We got married in Barbados a few years back, it an amazing place and we’ll be on the first plane back there again when things settle if I win it all.
“Also, Banbridge Town – like all clubs – have had their struggles in the last year and I’d love to be able to give something back to the club. Who knows, Crystal Park might become Paddy Power Park next week!”
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