Famous Racehorse Owners: Queens, Knights, Duchesses, and More
Queen Elizabeth II of England
The current Queen of England and her late mother were both most enthusiastic supporters of jump racing. The Queen currently has a fine stable of thoroughbred racehorses that compete throughout the racing season at events including the Grand National.
Almost all of the Royal Family is keen on racing. Prince William and Kate Middleton (pictured in gallery above), along with Prince Harry and Zara Phillips, attend many prestigious races.
There is also a long history of success from racehorses belonging to the Royal Family. The Queen Mother's first big-race winner was Manicou, who, ridden by Bryan Marshall, won the King George VI Steeplechase at Kempton Park in1950.
lt seemed there would also be a royal victory in the 1956 Grand National at Aintree when her grand chaser Devon Loch jumped the last fence well clear of his rivals. But inexplicably, with less than 50 yards from the winning post, the horse’s legs collapsed under him, nearly dislodging his rider, Dick Francis. Devon Loch could not recover in time and the race was won by E.S.B. Happily, all was well with Devon Loch after the race, and he went on to run again and, indeed, win again.
Royal Patron of horse racing, Her Majesty has a profound knowledge of and interest in racing and breeding and virtually all of her successes now come from home-bred horses. She first started as an owner in 1952, leasing horses from the National Stud.
From this Aureole finished runner-up to Pinza in the 1953 Derby and the following year won the Coronation Cup and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. And Carrozza, ridden by Lester Piggott, won the 1957 Oaks.
Pall Mall gave her a first classic victory as an outright owner when landing the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in 1958. Other good horses included Canisbay, winner of the 1965 Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, and those two fine stayers, Agreement and Magna Carta. In 1974, Highclere won the 1,000 Guineas and the valuable Prix de Diane.
The Queen headed the list of winning owners in 1954 and 1957, the first reigning monarch ever to achieve this feat twice. Her horses are trained by Dick Hern at West Ilsley and Ian Baldirng at Kingsclere. Dunfermline won the Oaks for Her Majesty in her Silver jubilee year of 1977.
Other line performers for Her Majesty include Makaldar, who was runner-up to Saucy Kit in the 1967 Champion Hurdle, that talented two-mile Champion winner Dunkirk and more recently Game Spirit. For many years, her horses were trained by the late Peter Cazalet. They are now with Fulke Walwyn at Lambourn, Berkshire.
Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson is the manager of Manchester United Football Club. This is the team that David Beckham played for before later moving to LA Galaxy in California.
Under the management of Sir Alex, Manchester United has become one of the most successful teams in the history of the English Premier League. They have also become the most commercially successful team in the world with a name and brand that is recognised in many countries.
This success has allowed Sir Alex to build up his wealth, and he spends much of this on his hobby of horse racing. Sir Alex part owns the horse, What a Friend, which ran in the 2011 Grand National at 16-1. Sir Alex attended the race and was one of the most high-profile people there.
Sir Alex has a number of other racehorses, including Last Three Minutes, which was named in memory of the 1999 Champions League final triumph over Bayern Munich in which Manchester United scored goals in . . . yes, you guessed it, the last three minutes to go on an win the cup. He has also owned the racehorse Rock of Gibraltar, although this led to some legal disputes over the stud rights with Manchester United shareholder John Magnier. The manager also became part of a racing syndicate in 2011. This included horses that were hand-picked by the Queen's racing John Warren.
Sir Alex is not the only member of the United team who owns racehorses. The striker Michael Owen, who once played alongside David Beckham for England, is also known to be a big fan of racing who owns horses and watches them regularly. He has links to the Manor House Stables in Cheshire.
Sir Alex frequently attends races, particularly outside of the football season in the summer months. When he retires, it is likely that he will continue to be seen at race meetings around the country, especially the Grand National, which he is a big fan of.
Anne, Duchess of Westminster
The Duchess of Westminster is another member of the British Royal Family who has a passion for horse racing. She was the owner of Arkle, one of the greatest racehorses that ever lived.
A breeder of thoroughbreds at her Stud in the Midlands, she was also a hunting and stalking enthusiast. She regularly used her own aircraft to visit her racing interests in Ireland looked after by Tom Dreapers' son Jim and her string of Steeplechasers in England at the stable of legendary trainer and former jockey Fred Winter.
Noel Le Mare
Noel Le Mare was the son of a missionary. He worked as a merchant seaman and became a millionaire. With the vast sums of money, he dreamed of winning the National after reading of Ascetic Silver’s victory in the 1906 National. In 1973, his dream came true with the now legendary Red Rum.
Nelson Bunker Hunt
Nelson Bunker-Hunt was born in 1926, the eldest son of oil millionaire the late Haroldson Lafayette Hunt. He gained immediate success as an owner when he acquired half-share in Vaguely Noble, who was bought at the end of his two-year-old career for 136,000 guineas, a record then for a horse in training. Vaguely Noble went on to triumph in the 1968 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and was subsequently syndicated as a stallion for five million dollars.
Nelson Bunker-Hunt has built up a vast racing empire stretching from the United States to Australia and New Zealand and controlled by racing manager Jim Shannon. In 1971, he bought stables at Chantilly, France. He owned the great Dahlia, a daughter of Vaguely Noble, who retired from racing in November 1976 with earnings of $1,543,139, making her the biggest money-winning mare in racing history.
Another fine Vaguely Noble filly of his was Nobiliary, who finished runner-up to Grundy in the 1975 Epsom Derby before going on to triumph that year in the Washington International. Following season achieved a life-long ambition when his colt Empery, also by Vaguely Noble, won the Derby at Epsom, while Youth landed him a notable double by winning the French equivalent, the Prix du Jockey Club. This colt later gave him the Washington International prize at Laurel for the second year running.
Born 1907, this international owner-breeder, from Virginia, United States, divides his interests between Britain, where Ian Balding is his trainer, and his home country where MacKenzie Miller has taken over from Elliott Burch, who retired at the end of 1976 because of ill-health.
Among the best horses bred by him and raced in Britain were Berkeley Springs, runner-up in the 1966 1,000 Guineas and Oaks, that fine performer Silly Season, who landed the 1965 Champion Stakes and Mill Reef, who was retired to stud in 1973 after winning 12 races and £309,000 in prize money. Mill Reef had a magnificent season as a three-year-old in 1971, when his victories included the Derby, the Eclipse Stakes, the King George VI, and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Top United States performers for him included Quadrangle, Arts and Letters, Key to the Mint, Fort Marcy, winner of the VVashington International in 1967 and 1970 and Run the Gantlet, who won nine races and 559,079 dollars in prize money.
Born 1925, this international financier, based in Geneva, Switzerland, had tremendous success as an owner. For many years his horses were trained at Newmarket by Harry Wragg, but he now confines his racing interests to France where his horses are trained by Francois Boutin at Longchamp.
Among his best buys was Talgo, who cost only 1,350 guineas at the Balls- bridge Yearling Sales, Ireland, and who went on to win the Irish Derby and also finished runner-up in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Other fine horses included Fidalgo, a winner of the 1959 Irish Derby, and second to Parthia in the Derby at Epsom, Espresso, twice winner of Germany's big event, the
Grosser Preis von Baden, Salvo, winner of £73,322 in prize money, Interrnezzo, who won the 1969 Doncaster St. Leger, Miralgo and Stintino. He also owns Sagaro, one of the finest stayers seen in Europe for many years, who won the Ascot Gold Cup in 1975, 1976 and 1977 as well as the 1976 Prix du Cadran at Longchamp.
Dr. Carlo Vittadini
A Milan industrialist, who had the happy knack of buying racehorse bargains and being a successful breeder as well. Started by purchasing Exar for 1,900 guineas who went on to win the Doncaster and Goodwood Cups and £25,840 in prize money. Exar and another fine purchase Accrale were the only two imported horses ever to
complete the big Italian double, winning their two major races, the Gran Premio de'Italia and Gran Premio di Milano. Dr. Vittadini also bred Ardale, who won the Italian Derby, and Ortis, who won nearly £100,000 in prize money, including the Italian Derby.
Dr. Vittadini had tremendous success in 1975 and was leading owner in England with a total of £209,492. He won the Irish and English Derbys with Grundy and the Italian Derby with Orange Bay. Grundy went on to beat Bustino in a memorable finish for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. This victory brought Grundy's total prize money to £326,422, making him the biggest money earner this country has produced.
Lord Howard De Walden
Born 1912, Lord Howard De Walden was a much respected and hard-working figure in Britain's racing establishment, combining his duties as senior steward to the Jockey Club with that of successful owner-breeder.
He bred that fine horse Oncidium, who won the Lingiield Derby Trial as a three-year-old and the following season the Coronation Cup and Newmarket's jockey Club Cup. Over the jumps Lanzarote was a wonderful servant to him. Won the
1973 Imperial Cup at Sandown and gained a thrilling victory over old rival Comedy of Errors for the 1974 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. Finished fourth to Grand Canyon in the Colonial Cup 'Chase at Camden, South Carolina, last year. Lanzarote met with a tragic accident in the 1977 Cheltenham Gold Cup. He broke his hind leg and had to be destroyed.