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Ascot Ladies Day with the First Lady of racing

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Anne Diamond | 16:38 UK time, Thursday, 17 June 2010

It's Ladies Day at Ascot, and today I've had my own celebration of what it takes to be a modern, feisty, strong-minded woman here in the studio. Talk about inspirational.

Anne and Jenny PitmanJenny Pitman joined me, with her lovely "pillar" of a husband, David Stait. I first met Jenny in 1983, which was my first year in breakfast television (in fact, the year that breakfast TV was born in the UK, on TVam and the BBC), when her horse, Corbiere, won the Grand National - making her the first woman ever to train a National winner.

To me, Jenny has always been the woman with the sparkling eyes. She says that's the best way to spot a winner at the races. Go down to the ring, she says, and look your horses in the eyes. The ones with "diamond eyes", as she put it, have got the spirit to win.

We were talking about those moments in life when you have to find your inner strength. She remembers doing it when, after a hurtful divorce, she had to keep on going as a mum of two young sons, and a wannabe stable owner, making her name in the world of horse racing. She moved into a run-down ruin of a house and stables, called Weathercock House, in Upper Lambourn in Berkshire. Everyone told her it was an unlucky yard, she said. But it was all she could afford. So she made it work for her, through sheer force of will, strong personality, and feistiness.

Many days, she recalled, she drew strength from walking around the stables, and talking things over with the horses. Her horses have heard her darkest secrets, she said - the sort of secrets you DON'T put in an autobiography.

Nowadays, with one son a successful accountant in Dubai, and her other son who followed in his mum's footsteps now running the Weathercock stables, Jenny has turned her hand to writing. She's penned five best selling novels, all of them set in the racing world and peppered with stories that must have come directly from Jenny's life.

Sarah Walker with AnneBBC Radio Berkshire's Sarah Walker went off to the races today, it being Ladies Day of course!

Yesterday she mentioned how hard it is to be pregnant and glamorous at Ascot.

I well remember going along to Ladies Day whilst being pregnant. One year, the designer Gina Fratini made me a special maternity dress for the occasion. Thought I'd bring it in and show it to Sarah.

Can't find the hat that goes with it, though!

Anyway, Sarah had managed to come up with a lovely Ascot frock to cover her growing bump.


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