If there is more than one man who’s owned both a Derby and a Grand National winner, we don’t know him. What we do know though, is that Jim Joel did. We’ll come to the horses that made it happen, but first about his legacy.
Jim Joel was a son of Jack Barnato Joel, whose connection with the turf came with his acquisition of Childwickbury Stud in England’s Hertfordshire in 1906. Though Jack Joel knew very well the poverty and hardships of 19th century East End London, by the time of his acquisition of Childwickbury, he was a very rich diamond and gold merchant. His great grandfather was a rabbi, his grandfather Isaac Isaacs a dealer in old clothes, and his father Joel Joel had run the “King of Prussia” public house. Jack’s mum Kate, was the sister of the founder of the Joel fortune, Barnet Isaacs, more popularly known in South Africa as the pugnacious Barney Barnato, who borrowed £50 from his mother and travelled to South Africa in 1873, intent on making his fortune.
From Cape Town, Barnato journeyed to Kimberley, and through his sheer hard work, cunning and the good luck of being in the right place at the right time, he quickly accumulated a vast fortune. He founded the family business Barnato Diamond Mining, and in 1880 he was joined by his nephews Jack (Jim’s father) and two brothers, Wolff and Solly. When Jack Joel died in 1940, his son Harry “Jim” Joel, inherited the estate and carried on the family interests at Childwickbury, joining his father among the most successful British owner/breeders of the 20th century. His colours, the black shirt and scarlet cap we see aboard the Mary Slack runners these days, were carried to Classic victories by the English Derby hero, Royal Palace, the St Leger ace, Light Calvary, and the serene heroine of the English 1000 Guineas, FairyFootsteps. To explain the Slack connection, Mary we all know, was born Oppenheimer, and we know that De Beers, the greatest of the world’s diamond mining businesses, was an amalgam many years ago between the family of Barnato and those of Cecil John Rhodes, headed up for four generations by male members of the Oppenheimerfamily.
We did say we’d come to the Derby/Grand National double once we’d discussed the legacy, but since the identity of the Derby winner is already out of the bag, we may as well recall that, when he was well into his 90s, Jim Joel was virtually blind. That didn’t deter him from his regular holidays to South Africa, and it was on his flight back from one of his trips, that he was famously advised by the captain of the aircraft that his Maori Venture had carried off the laurels in the world’s greatest steeplechase.’
Mr. Joel was an extraordinary man, respected as much for his grace and sportsmanship as an owner, as he was for his generosity as a philanthropist. He never forgot where he came from, and he never forgot the role South Africa had played in providing his family with the comforts of life. In 1985 a foundation of substantial proportions was established, and his charitable causes in this part of the world are supported today by the Childwick Trust.
Among the Trust’s more noble causes, is their support of the work done by NGOs whose primary interest is children of five years and under. A couple of years ago, when two of the five trustees, Anthony Cane and John Wood were taking a short sabbatical at Hartford House from their arduous travel through our rural plains, they were introduced to our School of Management Excellence. To explain their interest, these are two sporting men, and Anthony Cane happens to be the present Chairman at the home of England’s most famous horserace, Epsom.
We think they liked what they saw at our school, and they offered to assist with a scholarship for the top student each year at the English National Stud, aimed principally at a graduate of our disadvantaged community. It has to be said, Jim Joel would’ve been proud of the work his trustees are doing: one of the objects of the trust reveal his keen personal interest in the people involved in the racing industry, and the welfare and breeding of thoroughbred racehorses. They’re the embodiment of the things he stood for, gentlemanliness, decency and generosity, and their gesture in providing this scholarship to the English National Stud has paid immediate dividends. Those who follow these columns, will know that in its very first year, our top graduate was Thabani Nzimande, who as one of twenty-six students from around the world, became that august institution’s outstanding practical student of 2012.
The trustees visited again recently, to touch base with those of our team involved in their project. There’s plenty going on in the world at the moment, and much of it is not pretty. These men represent the prettier side. The Trust has distributed in excess of £52 million (more than R700 million) since 1992.