Driven man cut down in his prime: Alex Scott, racehorse trainer - born, 8 February, 1960; died, 30 September 1994. Jamie Reid traces the short but brilliant career of a gifted horseman

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FROM the outside, Alex Scott, the 34-year-old racehorse trainer who was shot dead on Friday night, appeared to be one of the most successful and enviable members of his profession. The public school and Cambridge educated son of an army officer, he seemed destined for a brilliant career in racing. He served his apprenticeship as assistant trainer to such impeccable establishment figures as Harry Thomson Jones and the former royal trainer, Major Dick Hern. Both men rated his abilities highly.

Hern said yesterday: 'I am appalled and horrified by what's happened. He has been cut off in his prime. It's a tragedy for his wife and young family.' His sentiments were echoed by the jockey Frankie Dettori. 'He was a great person and will be greatly missed. It's something very hard to accept,' he said. Although one of the youngest trainers in the game, Scott had already established himself, with a host of Group One victories during his five-year career.

Successful 10 times as a point-to-point rider, Scott became assistant trainer to Peter Calver in 1981 after studying land economy at Cambridge. A year later, he joined the Newmarket trainer Thomson Jones, before moving on to Dick Hern's West Ilsley yard in 1986.

When he set up on his own at the Oak Stables on Newmarket's Hamilton Road in 1989 on the retirement of Olivier Douieb, who had returned to France owing to ill health, Scott enjoyed the immediate and vital patronage of the Maktoum family and top-flight success soon came his way. That first summer he sent out Maktoum al Maktoum's Cadeaux Genereux to win the July Cup and the Nunthorpe Stakes.

Two years later, he enjoyed the biggest triumph of his career when saddling Sheikh Albadou to take the million- dollar Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs in Kentucky. It was only the second time that an English trainer had managed to win a race at the Breeders' Cup meeting and Scott's victory - with Pat Eddery in the saddle and beaming Arab owners offering congratulations on all sides - seemed to confirm his arrival as one of the sport's brightest stars.

Achievements have been rather more modest since then, but so far this season the yard had managed the not inconsiderable feat of amassing some pounds 250,000 in prize money. A principal contributor to that sum has been the miler Fraam, owned by Maktoum al Maktoum, who won a valuable Goodwood handicap in June and triumphed again in a listed race at Newmarket last Thursday, when Scott was present to welcome him in the unsaddling enclosure. This, sadly, turned out be to the trainer's final victory. There was a minute's silence at Newmarket yesterday.

Scott also had the hugely- promising two-year-old Lammtarra, a prospect for next year's Derby, to look forward to. Scott trained a career total of 164 winners and was on course for his best season this term, with a tally of 30 so far.

But the public image of a confident young man at the helm of a smoothly functioning operation and with his best years still ahead of him may have been a deceptive one.

Close friends and colleagues of Scott (who was married in 1986 and leaves three young children) have spoken privately for some time about his tense and driven personality and commented on his vulnerability to bouts of intense depression. All the normal worries and anxieties of a trainer's life - the fear of viruses in the yard, of sudden injuries and of priceless animals not living up to their owners' expectations - played keenly on Scott's mind. Newmarket's racing community think of themselves as living in the headquarters of the country's racing industry. But theirs remains a small and introspective town where talk of horses and of human and equine reputations - who's up, who's down, and who's on the way out - dominates to the exclusion of almost all other subjects. There are no shortages of marital, gambling and drinking problems in this highly- charged world and a sense of objectivity about life's wider meaning is often hard to attain.

Whatever combination of circumstances brought Alex Scott's life to such a tragic end with nearly six weeks of the 1994 Flat racing season still to run, the reverberations of his violent death will be felt for a long time to come.

(Photograph omitted)