Arthur Budgett: The only man to have trained and bred two Derby winners in the 20th century
Friday 22 July 2011
Arthur Budgett held the rare distinction of being the only man to have owned, trained and bred two Derby winners in the 20th century. Based for most of his career at the famous Whatcombe estate in Oxfordshire, Budgett was a popular figure on racecourses for more than 50 years and was renowned as one of the Turf's true gentlemen, a quietly spoken exemplar of humility and courteousness.
Champion trainer in 1969, Budgett was best known for the exploits ofBlakeney and Morston, both offspring of his mare Windmill Girl. Namedafter neighbouring villages on theNorfolk coast, the colts won Britain's senior Classic race at Epsom in 1969 and 1973 respectively. The only other person to have owned, trained andbred two Derby winners was William I'Anson, who scored with Blink Bonny in 1857 and her son Blair Athol seven years later.
The son of a scientist hailing from a prosperous family of sugar merchants, Arthur Maitland Budgett was born in London in May 1916 and was educated at Eton and the University of Oxford. Having taken out his first training licence in 1939 to prepare horses from the family home at Kirtlington in Oxfordshire, Budgett was barely months into his nascent career when war broke out. He went on to serve as a cavalry captain in the Indian Army, serving in Burma and Lebanon – without seeing an enormous amount of battle action, if his own humorous account is to be trusted. He once recalled his wartime experience involved shooting "an awful lot of duck".
Budgett renewed his licence in 1947, enjoying his first major success when saddling the eight-year-old Commissar to win the prestigious Lincoln Handicap from a field of 58 runners, never likely to be surpassed as a record for a Flat race. A notable feature of his early career was his relationship with the teenaged Lester Piggott. At the age of 14 in 1950, Piggott rode Budgett's Holmbush to win the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket; he also rode Barnacle for the trainer to land the following year's Great Metropolitan at Epsom.
Budgett's glory days came after 1951, when he moved to the historic Whatcombe stables, which he leased for 10 years before buying the property outright. Among the better horses he trained there was Windmill Girl, runner-up in the Oaks before winning the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot and later becoming Budgett's foundation mare, responsible for the horses that defined his career in the Derby.
Budgett also showed his versatility, handling top horses in various categories, such as the miler Derring-Do, winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in 1965, leading sprinters Daylight Robbery and Huntercombe, and the stayer Random Shot, awarded the Ascot Gold Cup in 1971 when Rock Roi was disqualified for failing a dope test. Budgett's prowess with those seasoned equine professionals lower down the scale in the handicap ranks was also well known, thanks to the likes of Petty Officer and Prominent, both of whom won a series of valuable races before ending long careers with their final victories as seven-year-olds in 1974. Petty Officer's prize-money record of £43,000 was a record at the time for a gelding.
For all that, Budgett's lasting fame comes courtesy of his two Derby winners, both of which he bred himself at his Park Farm Stud. In 1969, Blakeney took the blue riband by a length from Shoemaker after a late charge under his 21-year-old rider, Ernie Johnson. Although he failed to reproduce that level of form as a three-year-old, he had done enough to ensure that Budgett won his only trainers' title; Blakeney redeemed his reputation with a string of solid efforts the following year.
Morston's success four years later was among the most remarkable in the Derby's rich history, given that he had run just once before, winning a minor event at Lingfield the previous month. He was sent off a 25-1 chance but belied those odds under his jockey Edward Hide to score by a half-length over Cavo Doro, who was ridden by Piggott.
Although Budgett always regarded Morston as the best he trained, the colt never had the chance to demonstrate the fact as he was soon retired through injury after a career numbering two races with a month between them. Budgett's training career, too, did not last much longer as he retired in 1975 to concentrate on his breeding stock, but though he sold Whatcombe to the pools millionaire Robert Sangster, he continued to keep up an active racing interest as an owner.
Fishing and golf were pleasures of Budgett's later life – he was still playing at 94 – before he died peacefully at his home in Leckhampstead, leaving a widow, "Bay", and two sons.
Arthur Maitland Budgett, racing trainer: born London 26 May 1916; married (two sons); died Leckhampstead, Berkshire 21 June 2011
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