I’m a trainer and an undertaker with dreams of Cheltenham – horses definitely help ease the grief of my job

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THERE is no such thing as a certainty in racing, but there are two certainties in life.

When he’s not running a stable Paul Robson has made a living from one of them… and it’s not taxes.

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Trainer Paul Robson also works as a funeral director in ScotlandCredit: Mark Pinder

In fact, ex-jockey Robson, 40, was a successful undertaker long before he realised his dream of training horses like Cheltenham hopeful Cannock Park in the Scottish borders.

Who knows how things would have turned out had his career in the saddle not been blighted by injuries.

He’s been under the knife more times than he can remember and gained qualifications to work for his family carpentry business after calling it a day in 2005.

Heavy falls and a dodgy shoulder – which had a habit of dislocating every other week – meant he was unable to realise his potential as a rider.

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Robson said: “The last time my shoulder popped out was at Stratford and I didn’t even fall, it was just jumping a hurdle.

“I remember the doctor coming in to see me and Joe Tizzard, who had broken his wrist.

“He said to Joe ‘you’ll be fine’ then turned to me and said, ‘you’re f*****d!’ 

“I studied carpentry at college but when the recession hit we had to diversify the business because it was tough.

“You’ll find a lot of carpenters end up doing undertaker work in one shape or another because we spend most of our time making coffins!”

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He has heard every joke in the book about horses and hearses, and he has now got a top-of-the range fleet of the latter, which wasn’t the case when he started out.

He continued: “We had to borrow money to buy our first hearse, which leaked onto the passenger seat whenever it rained.

“Now we are doing over 150 funerals a year and we’ve got a Mercedes hearse and a couple of limos – so no-one needs get wet.”

As much as he finds his job as a funeral director fulfilling it does take an emotional toll at times.

Just days before his star horse Cannock Park gave him his first ever winner at Cheltenham, he had been helping his friends deal with the shocking death of their 23-year-old son.

He said: “Hawick is a small town, you’re always dealing with people you know or know of which can make it difficult at times.

“Just before we left for Cheltenham a friend’s son was killed in a car crash, which of course was absolutely horrific.

“We lost three young people in the area in November so it was a really tough month, it affects everyone in the town.

“When you’re confronted with grief most days, wandering into the stable and seeing the horses poke their heads out is such a wonderful thing.”

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And it’s the horses that Robson really wants to be known for.

He only took out his licence three years ago and has a small squad of a dozen horses, but among them is a potential top-notcher in Cannock Park.

The horse bolted up on his first hurdles start at Bangor and then repeated the trick at Cheltenham in November – a track Robson went 0-7 at during his riding career.

He would never have run the horse in such a competitive race were it not for the encouragement of close friend Henrietta Knight, herself on the verge of a comeback to the training ranks.

Robson said: “Hen is an amazing woman and she was the one who talked me into running the horse at Cheltenham, she told me not to be afraid if I thought the horse was good enough.

“I went through a few operations on my back a years ago and the second to last one I had, they nicked my spinal cord and I was very ill. 

“I had to spend some time in hospital in Edinburgh and I basically couldn’t do anything but lay on my side for 12 days.

“During that time I read Hen’s book and I gave her a ring while I was pretty high on morphine! We became good friends and we have been ever since.

“She taught me a lot, though she’ll probably stop helping me buy horses now seeing as we are technically rivals!”

Who knows, maybe Knight will find one good enough when she has her first runners next month to take on Cannock Park.

The long-term aim is a return to Cheltenham for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March – but first he will go to Aintree on Boxing Day first for the Grade 1 Formby Hurdle, formerly the Tolworth.

Robson said: “We have been offered life-changing money for him, but that’s not what it’s all about. 

“Whether he ends up a Grade 1 horse or a handicapper, we want to be on this journey with him. 

“He’ll go to Aintree and I think the race will be perfect for him. I expect there will be some big yards represented but they will still have to get by us. 

“And I can guarantee that won’t be easy. We have him as good as we can possibly get him.” 

Death, taxes… and Cannock Park?

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