Obituary: Humphrey Cottrill

ALTHOUGH HE was a notable and successful trainer, it was perhaps after his retirement from that role that Humphrey Cottrill made his most significant contribution to British horse-racing.

Cottrill was acting as a steward at Newbury races when he was introduced to the Saudi Arabian businessman Khalid Abdullah. Abdullah was keen to develop an interest in horse-racing on a major scale. Cottrill, recruited to be Abdullah's racing manager between 1977 and 1982, had the skill and foresight to start him off with just three, low-level horses.

A greater investment would have been unlikely to reap significant, quick rewards and almost certainly have disillusioned Abdullah before he had time to make his mark. But, a year after those first purchases, Cottrill bought for him a yearling who was named Known Fact. The colt turned out to be a top-class miler and later an influential stallion.

Abdullah, spurred on by that purchase, went on to become one of the most significant owner/breeders that British racing has ever seen. The number of mares he now breeds from extends into three figures. His most successful horses have included two Derby winners, Quest For Fame and Commander In Chief.

Cottrill's racing background was significant, but not quite as glamorous as the deals he found himself conducting for Abdullah. Cottrill's father Harry was also a trainer and succeeded where his son was later to fail by training a British Classic winner, first Adam's Apple in the 1927 2,000 Guineas, then Lovely Rosa in the 1936 Oaks. Humphrey's own instinct for horses underwent a severe challenge when he was just seven and fell from a pony. He lost his nerve as a result and subsequently feared horses.

It was a family tragedy that helped him overcome that fear. His brother Alec, a successful amateur rider, was killed in a fall at Lewes racecourse in 1933, when Humphrey was 26. His father broke his leg shortly afterwards leaving his surviving son in charge of the well-known training yard at Seven Barrows near Lambourn in Berkshire.

After serving during the Second World War in India and Burma, Cottrill spent time in South African racing working as a race-course steward. Much to Cottrill's frustration, his own instincts for integrity were not always shared by the locals. So he returned to England to act as assistant trainer first to William Pratt, whose daughter Lola he later married, and then to Marcus Marsh, trainer of the Derby winner Tulyar.

It was the notoriously awkward owner Major Lionel Holliday's latest falling out with one of his trainers, in this case Geoffrey Brooke, that gave Cottrill the chance to take out his own licence. Among the notable horses he trained for Holliday were the two-year-old filly Bride Elect, a winner at Royal Ascot, and Narrator, who was a maiden when taking the 1954 Champion Stakes and went on to win the following year's Coronation Cup.

In 1956 Cottrill finished third in the trainer's championship; a year later he enjoyed his best ever total of winners in a season, 46. Soon after he was sacked by Holliday. In anticipation of that inevitability, Cottrill had already bought the Beverley House stables in Newmarket, from where he trained a top-class sprinter in Bleep-Bleep, who won the Nunthorpe Stakes at York.

The closest he came to winning a British Classic was with St Pauli Girl, second in the 1967 1,000 Guineas and Oaks. Unfortunately, he had earlier rejected the opportunity to train Pia, the filly who won the Oaks. He had even suggested that Bill Elsey should train Pia instead. None the less, Cottrill did win the prestigious Irish Derby with Your Highness in 1961. He quit training in 1974, but left a legacy by being the founder member of the trade organisation the National Trainers' Federation.

He was well known for a cynical sense of humour, which was highlighted recently by his friend Jeremy Hindley. Cottrill, a keen golfer, had suffered a stroke while watching Greg Norman win the Open at Royal St George's in 1993. Doctors had ruled out a complete recovery and warned of serious long-term consequences, only for Hindley to receive a midnight call from Cottrill in hospital, saying: "What the hell am I doing here? Come and fetch me immediately."

Humphrey Lawson Cottrill, racehorse trainer and bloodstock manager: born Ashton upon Mersey, Cheshire 10 September 1906; married 1951 Lola Pratt (one son); died Newmarket, Suffolk 26 August 1999.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent