A new play sharing the story of Sprowston Boy’s Royal Ascot win is set to be shared with audiences later this year.
The 12/1 underdog was victorious in the 1987 Queen Alexandra Stakes with Gay Kelleway, marking the first Royal Ascot win for a female jockey. It was a record Gay held for 32 years.
Sprowston Boy was owned by Norwich coal merchant Kenny Blanch and his friend Geoff Whiting. Geoff’s granddaughter, Katie-anna, has written the play, which combines puppetry, film and acting from two live actors playing a variety of parts.
It is a story Katie-anna has wanted to tell for a long time, and she told Your Horse how she found out about her grandfather’s history and the events leading up to Sprowston Boy’s Royal Ascot win.
“There were pictures of Sprowston Boy in my grandfather’s house, and I knew there was this big story around him, but I didn’t know much about it,” she said.
Using scrapbooks and war diaries from her grandfather, as well as newspaper cuttings, photographs and interviews, Katie-anna (pictured below) pieced together the inspiring story.
She explained that her grandfather had always been interested in horses, and as a 14-year-old he applied to a newspaper advert for a stable hand in Newmarket. Without his parents’ knowledge he set off to his new role, only to be swiftly sent back home once his father realised he had gone.
However, Geoff’s love for equines persisted despite this early setback. At 18 years old, while stationed in Rangoon with The Royal Norfolk Regiment WWII, Geoff described the mules as “the real heroes”, when he wrote about his experiences.
His passion for horses and racing ultimately led him to purchasing Sprowston Boy, whose fairytale journey caught the hearts of many. Katie-anna recalls being put on the gelding’s back as a child, remembering her late grandfather as a “kind and lovely man”.
She said the play will appeal to horse and history lovers alike, as well as those who like to see an underdog come out on top.
Horse Play will tour several venues in November, including The Garage in Norwich and the National Horseracing Museum, where Gay will also give a talk.
It features original music by Skinny Boy Tunes, as played on BBC Radio 6 and BBC Introducing, and is supported by Arts Council England, The Garage Norwich and the National Horse Racing Museum.
Tickets go on sale shortly.