Obituary: Eric Cousins

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Eric Cousins, feared by the bookies for his coups, was one of Britain's shrewdest trainers. He changed the face of racing by introducing to the sport his neighbour, the man from the pools, Robert Sangster.

Cousins' first really big "touch" was with the first Sangster horse, Robert's wedding present to his wife, Chalk Stream, bought by Cousins for pounds 1,000 from Sir Foster Robinson, whose grandson Nick has long been Sangster's valued friend and partner. Narrowly beaten in the 1959 Lincoln, Chalk Stream had been cleverly placed by Cousins until the day of the big gamble.

The chosen race was the 1961 running of Kempton Park's famous one-and- a- quarter-mile Great Jubilee Handicap, so beloved by the old gambling trainers like Atty Persse, who won it six times. Top weight with 9st 5lb was the French challenger Prince Ali Khan's handsome chestnut Sallymount ridden by the Australian star Neville Sellwood. Chalk Stream, with two stone less, piloted by the apprentice Brian Lee, had been a slightly dodgy starter on several occasions.

So, on his trainer's instructions, the 24-year-old Sangster stationed himself on the rails by the bookmakers, looking up at the top of the stand where Cousins was positioned with a clear view of the start. If Chalk Stream jumped off all right, he would raise his hat.

Sure enough, as the tapes went up and Chalk Stream jumped, Cousins lifted his hat and Sangster swung round to the rails to have a huge bet at 8- 1. A tremendous race saw Chalk Stream get up in the last stride to beat Sallymount by a head. Young Sangster had got the racing bug for good.

After having served as a pilot in the RAF during the war Eric Cousins rode 50 winners as an amateur over obstacles between 1950 and 1957. In 1954 he began training at Rangemore near Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire and achieved his first important success with Bonhomie in the Ascot Stakes of 1957.

After moving to Tarporley in Cheshire during the 1960 season he earned the reputation for turning out winners of the most important handicaps, having landed the Kempton Jubilee four years in succession with Chalk Stream, Water Skier (1962-63) and Commander-in-Chief (1964), the Lincolnshire with John's Court (1961) and Hill Royal (1962), the Victoria Cup with Tudor Treasure (1963), the Portland Handicap with Audrey Joan (1966), the Ayr Gold Cup with Dawn Watch (1960), Kamundu (1965) and Brief Star (1969), and the Cambridgeshire with Commander-in-Chief (1963).

Two of the best fillies to have been trained by Cousins were Ludham, who won the Doonside Cup at Ayr in 1967 after having been third in the Oaks, and Shell Shock who was shared by Sangster and Nick Robinson, his breeder, who was third to Mysterious in the 1,000 Guineas of 1973.

After Cousins had bought Tudor Treasure from the late Doug Smith, who trained him for Lord Derby, the colt was very successful. Smith declared: "Every time Tudor Treasure wins I feel as though someone has stabbed me in the back.' "

Cousins' stable jockey was George Cadwaladr, who had been his apprentice. "He never tied me down with instructions," Cadwaladr said. " 'Ride it as you find it as long as you are on the bridle.' 'If you can't go with them, they are going too fast' was one of his favourite expressions."

Eric Cousins retired from training in 1977, but he continued to farm at Tarporley. He died while bathing in the sea off Barbados.

Eric Cousins, racehorse trainer: born 12 December 1921; married 1943 Patricia Reay (three sons, one daughter); died Barbados c27 January 1996.