I just got word last night that Pip Payne, a longtime friend of mine – and many, many others in the racing world – was found dead, apparently a suicide. Pip was one of the most optimistic, helpful and supportive people on the planet, and I can’t believe he’s not around any more. Not only was he indispensible for all of my horse-buying trips to Newmarket, but he was always available for a quick call for advice on any horsey subject. Of all the people I know, I can’t think of one least likcly to take his life. When I made the decision to switch careers and take up training full time, Pip was one of the few who said he had no doubt I could be a success. I bought one of my first horses from him when he was still training, and we kept in touch ever since. I just saw him four weeks ago at the July sales, when we had drinks with him, his wife and one of his three sons. I stood next to him in the sales ring as I bid on Derringbay, a three-year-old gelding who, thanks to Pip, I paid way too much money for! We were laughing about it later, and now he won’t be around to see who gets the last laugh when – and if – this horse ever makes it back to the track.
I can’t imagine a trip back to Newmarket without seeing Pip, who was always ready with a joke, a beer and did things like have me paged over the public-address sytem at Tattersalls just to improve my name recognition. The town, and racing, will not ever be quite the same. I can’t imagine what personal demons he was fighting that pushed him to do this, but I hope he is now at peace.