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Here's to you Philip Robinson, Jose is only trotting after you

This is a sports story from the weekend. But it's not about Jose Mourinho. Let's leave that parody of a figure to the Fleet Street scribes and their lazy cliches.

No this is a real sporting story. It's about a man who, on the Richter Scale of fame, is a minor tremor in the Atlantic, not a tsunami to match theatrical Mr Mourinho.

It's about a man who hardly gets a mention on his own sport's pages let alone on the front page, but in his own way says more about the power of sport to write the narrative of our lives than any number of overhyped prima donnas.

The man is Philip Robinson. See what I did there? Left just enough time for you to scratch your head in puzzlement.

Mr Robinson is a jockey. A flat race jockey with, if truth be told, a middling career with many more also-rans than winners to his name.

But Philip Robinson means a lot to me. Back in 1984 when I was a half-starved student he gave me one of the best nights of my callow life. You see in 1984 he saddled one of the greatest little fillies ever seen in English racing. Her name was Pebbles and she won the 1,000 Guineas with breathtaking ease against bigger and stronger animals. And when she strode home with grace and style, her nostrils flared and ears pricked, she had the last of my monthly student grant on her back, too.

She was the last of my accumulator bet which, as Pebbles strode across the line, turned a modest punt into more than £300, a huge sum in those days.

In what seems now an unbelievably generous gesture I treated two friends to dinner at one of Cardiff's swankiest restaurants that night and toasted Pebbles and Philip Robinson into the wee small hours.

I'm not a huge gambler, but I love the drama and colour of flat racing, the beauty of the animals, bred purely to run and the matter-of-fact mumbling midgets who sit on their backs, oblivious to the glory of it all.

Pebbles was magnificent. Type her name into YouTube. Up will come the stunning victory she achieved in the Breeders Cup in America the following year against the best that country could throw at her. Listen to the excitable America commentator shout, "And here comes Pebbles, England's super filly. She's going to win it." I can't watch it without a lump forming in my throat. In 2005 when I found out she had died I shed a genuine tear. And, as time went by, I kept an eye out for Robinson. Truth was, though, he has had very few days to match that spring day at Newmarket in 1984.

But here's the rub. He's still trying. Almost 30 years later he is still the gnarled, impossibly tiny figure he was then, albeit with a plastic left hip after a nasty tumble. He's 50. An unheralded sporting star. A world away from the swagger of the soon-to-be Real Madrid manager, but a symbol of the very essence of sport in a way Jose would not understand.

And so on Saturday my friend and I are at the gorgeous Goodwood race course in the Sussex Downs. We are four races in. Friendship and Pimms has turned us from the gimlet-eyed gamblers we think we are into emotional amateurs. We are in the space where The Man can't get us. Our eyes scan the card. Philip Robinson is on Amanda Perrett's horse in the next. She's a local trainer and Trouvare looks a decent bet. We owe it to Philip to keep the faith.

Two furlongs out Trouvare is struggling, the pacemaker Boston Blue is staying on. Robinson is making no headway. Come on, Phil, I shout, as if lifelong friends. It looks like there'll be another crumpled slip to join the pile on the floor until, a furlong and a half out, our man gets something out of his ride. We shout louder. Trouvare is flying. He takes the race by a short head.

We embrace like the half-inebriated fools we are. We race around to the winners' enclosure to see Robinson dismount quickly, nod to the beaming owner, not a smile on his walnut face, and disappear into the darkness of the weigh-in room. Perfect. We wouldn't want our hero to be any other way.

That night I see Mourinho cavorting across the Bernabeu turf as his team lifts the European Cup. I know who my sporting hero is. While Jose picks up more millions as he moves on, you might look out for Philip Robinson. He'll be on the racing cards somewhere today. Probably on an outsider. But he might be worth an each-way bet.

Mike Gilson is editor of the Belfast Telegraph