Michael Jarvis: Classic-winning racing trainer regarded as one of the most highly respected members of his profession


Michael Jarvis, who has died of prostate cancer, was not only a Classic-winning racehorse trainer; he was one of the most highly respected members of his profession.

In a career lasting well over 40 years, a man described by the Racing Post as the "universally popular doyen of Newmarket trainers" saddled a multitude of major winners, highlighted by Carroll Street's victory in the 1989 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the most prestigious race on the European calendar.

Among his other big-race winners were a pair of English Classics, via Ameerat in the 1,000 Guineas and Eswarah in the Oaks, plus more than his share of significant victories on the continent, where he won Derbies in both France and Italy and two runnings of Germany's No 1 race, the Grosser Preis von Baden. Jarvis also won both the English and Irish Champion Stakes and several of the country's best-loved handicaps, such as the Ebor, Northumberland Plate, Chester Cup and Royal Ascot's Wokingham Stakes. Alongside his Arc and Classic winners, Jarvis's better horses included multiple Group 1 winners Beldale Flutter and the talented but temperamental Rakti, whom he described as the best he had ever trained, plus the leading sprinters So Blessed, Green God and Petong.

The son of a jump jockey, Michael Jarvis failed as a rider himself (he had only three winners) but stayed in racing as a groom, making him a rare example of a leading trainer who worked himself right up from the bottom of the industry. After spells with leading trainers like Ryan Price and Towser Gosden, he led up the 1966 Derby winner Charlottown for trainer Gordon Smyth. Much to Jarvis's chagrin, it was as near as he ever got to winning the Epsom Classic, although he went close in 2006 when Hala Bek threw away a winning chance when veering across the track to finish fourth behind Sir Percy. He did, though, win the French version at Chantilly in 2000 with Holding Court, plus two runnings of the Derby Italiano in Rome with Prorutori and Morshdi.

He took his first training licence in his own right in 1968 as salariedprivate trainer to a demandingemployer, the Radio Rentals tycoon David Robinson, a notoriously hard taskmaster who installed Jarvis in Carlburg Stables in Newmarket. He gained notable success right away, winning the July Cup in his first two seasons with So Blessed and Tudor Music, as well as the Nunthorpe and Haydock Sprint Cup, a race he was to win three times altogether.

Robinson left the sport in the mid-1970s, a decade in which Jarvis moved around stables in Newmarket before landing at Kremlin House, where he remained until the end of his career.

Numbering the hugely successful owner Lady Beaverbrook among his patrons, Jarvis won plenty of high-profile races in the years after his break with Robinson, including an International Stakes at York with Beldale Flutter in 1981 and a Coronation Cup at the Derby meeting a year later with Easter Sun. Although Carroll House provided the biggest success of Jarvis's career in 1989 when landing the Arc under Mick Kinane, some dark days followed in the early 1990s when he lost several major patrons, headed by Beaverbrook and Carroll House's owner Antonio Balzarini. By his own admission, Jarvis "almost went bust", his string down to fewer than 30 horses, resulting in a "personal worst" score of just 15 winners in 1994.

The light at the end of that tunnel for Jarvis came from the same place as British racing as a whole: Dubai. Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum, the youngest of the four brothers who have pumped millions into the sport, made him one of his principal trainers in what was to become a long association. It was Sheikh Ahmed's filly Ameerat who became the trainer's first British Classic winner in the 1,000 Guineas of 2001 – unsurprisingly, Jarvis always spoke of her as his favourite horse – while Ahmed's brother Hamdan sent him Eswarah, the Oaks winner of 2005.

He trained the brilliant, belligerent Rakti for the noted internationalist Gary Tanaka. As headstrong an individual as you are likely to see on a racecourse, the ex-Italian miler was famously tricky to manage, almost wild by one account. Jarvis proved more than equal to the challenge as the horse went on to a string of Group 1 victories, among them the Champion Stakes, Prince of Wales's Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Rakti's CV was a powerful advertisement for his veteran trainer's enduring talents, and Jarvis went on to enjoy a golden autumn in his 60s, despite health worries. Remarkably, he enjoyed his best season numerically at the age of 70 in 2008 when his select operation was responsible for more than 100 winners for the first time.

His name was a byword for integrity in an industry not always overblessed with the attribute, and Jarvis was noted for his dedication and loyalty: in 43 years he employed three stable jockeys, Frankie Durr, Bruce Raymond and Philip Robinson. His health failing, Jarvis announced retirement with immediate effect in February this year, handing over the reins at his Kremlin House yard to his long-term assistant, Roger Varian. He is survived by his second wife Gay and three daughters, Sarah, Lisa and Jackie.

Michael Andrew Jarvis, racing trainer: born Lewes, Sussex 14 August 1938; married twice (three daughters); died Newmarket, Suffolk 20 September 2011.

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