Obituary: Tom Egerton

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The Independent Culture
TOM EGERTON was from the old school of racehorse breeders who played an active role in the administration of racing.

When not pursuing his passion on the Turf, he was involved in politics and local government. He farmed the family estate near Hastings, and bought Heads Farm at Chaddleworth, near Newbury in Berkshire, where he bred a number of good horses, including the high-class Town and Country, the Royal Ascot winner Final Chord and the talented two-year-old Foothill.

As chairman of the Tattersalls Committee during the 1970s, Egerton was responsible for adjudicating betting disputes. There are no laws compelling bookmakers or punters to settle their gambling debts and Tattersalls Committee acts as arbitrator when disputes arise. The committee has no legal force and its authority stands on the reputation of its members and, in particular, the chairman.

Egerton's integrity was beyond question. He was elected to his position at the head of the Tattersalls Committee as a popular and well- respected member of the Jockey Club. He served as a local steward at Newmarket, Ascot, Newbury, Kempton, Windsor, Bath and Lingfield.

He was a considerate man with perfect manners who never courted publicity, though in 1954 he was persuaded to stand as the Conservative Party candidate for Houghton-le-Spring in County Durham, where he unsuccessfully fought a 26,000 Labour majority. In his private life there was a time when he was identified as Princess Margaret's escort. In 1949, after she visited Mountfield, there was intense speculation in the media which described Egerton as "one of her newest friends".

Egerton was born in 1918 at the family seat, Mountfield Court, in Sussex, the only son of a Royal Navy Commander. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, where he read History. During the Second World War he served as an officer in the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards in Italy and North Africa.

After the war he became involved in horse racing. He rode his own point- to-pointers and in 1951 bought the 750-acre Heads Farm, where he started a small stud. He sent his horses to be trained at West Ilsley by Jack Colling. He was a patron at West Ilsley when Dick Hern, one of the greatest modern-day trainers, took over the historic stables from Colling, himself a master practitioner. The handicapper Sherry Netherland started his career with Colling and continued under the care of Hern. He won six races for Egerton.

The best horse bred by Egerton was Town and Country, whom he sold to the Queen's racing manager Lord Carnarvon for 10,500 guineas. Town and Country went on to finish second to Northern Baby in one of Europe's top races, the 1979 Champion Stakes at Newmarket.

In 1963 Mara River, who was out of Egerton's mare Buckham Hill, won four races and the following year her half-brother Foothill (from the same mare) won the competitive Horris Hill Stakes at Newbury and was a close second at Ascot to Meadow Court, who won the following season's Irish Sweeps Derby and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Egerton also saw his Final Chord win the 1974 Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot.

During the early 1950s Egerton worked in Conservative Central Office and was personal assistant to Peter Baker, the Tory MP for South Norfolk. Later, following his unsuccessful attempt to become an MP, he became a member of Newbury District Council and then of East Sussex County Council. He was High Sheriff of East Sussex in 1975. He was chairman of the Poor Clergy sub-committee for 30 years, a trustee of the Chatsworth Settlement from 1973 to 1998 and a trustee of Henry Smith's Charity from 1956 to 1998.

His son Charlie trains at the family stud at Heads Farm.

Tim Richards

Thomas Edward Sydney Egerton, racehorse breeder and racing administrator: born Mountfield, Sussex 13 October 1918; married 1962 Anne Cobbold (one son, two daughters); died Chaddleworth, Berkshire 2 December 1998.