Racing: Alec Stewart, Mtoto's trainer, dies at 49

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The Independent Online

Alec Stewart, the Newmarket trainer best known for his association with the 1980s middle-distance star Mtoto, died at the age of 49 yesterday. He had been suffering from cancer. Mtoto, who raced for the youngest of the Maktoum brothers, Sheikh Ahmed, was the best horse Stewart trained but other high-class performers to emerge from his Clarehaven yard included Mutamam, Wagon Master, Braashee, Waajib, Opale, Dubian and Filia Ardross.

Alec Stewart, the Newmarket trainer best known for his association with the 1980s middle-distance star Mtoto, died at the age of 49 yesterday. He had been suffering from cancer. Mtoto, who raced for the youngest of the Maktoum brothers, Sheikh Ahmed, was the best horse Stewart trained but other high-class performers to emerge from his Clarehaven yard included Mutamam, Wagon Master, Braashee, Waajib, Opale, Dubian and Filia Ardross.

Stewart's last winner, Raakaan in a Leicester maiden three weeks ago, and his last on a major stage, Mandobi in the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot, came in the same yellow silks as borne by Mtoto.

Yesterday the tributes to a man widely regarded as one of the sport's gentlemen were led by the jockey with whom he established a formidable partnership, Michael Roberts. The South African partnered Mtoto to his Group One successes in the 1987 and 1988 Eclipse Stakes and the 1988 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. He also won the Queen Anne Stakes on Waajib that year.

"This is very sad news indeed," said Roberts. "He was a great man and a true friend. I owe him a lot as he helped me a great deal when I first came to the UK and he was always there for me. In my eyes he was a great trainer, fantastic. You could get beat on one of his horses but the next morning he would be just looking forward to that day's meeting, which was why I enjoyed riding for him and why we got on so well.

"When I was working in the UK and was offered other jobs I would always discuss it with Alec and he said he would still support me, which he always did. I feel so sorry for his wife, Katherine, and the children, who grew up in front of me."

Richard Hills was another to benefit from Stewart's guidance. He rode Mtoto to win the Prince of Wales's Stakes before his first Eclipse, Wagon Master to take the 1994 Princess of Wales's Stakes and Mutamam the Canadian International three years ago.

"He was assistant to Tom Jones when I was an apprentice there," said Hills, "and so I have known him all my racing career. He gave me my first real chance in the big time, when I rode Mtoto at Ascot. He was a great friend, a greater trainer."

Stewart took out a licence in 1983 and deserves the utmost credit for his handling of Mtoto, one of his second yearling intake. The horse had a leg injury at two, suffered from brittle, shelly feet at three but was given the time to emerge as a top-class performer at four and five.

This year Stewart had 68 horses listed in training and had trained nine winners. His assistant, Ed Vaughan, who has been at Clarehaven stables for 18 months, has taken out a temporary licence and will run the yard to the end of the season.

* The favourite for next year's 1,000 Guineas, Damson, is one of 72 fillies entered in next month's Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket. Before that, the David Wachman-trained unbeaten daughter of Entrepreneur, who races for John Magnier, will take on the colts on Sunday in the first Group One juvenile contest of the campaign, the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh. Kieren Fallon will be in the saddle, replacing Jamie Spencer, who will be required for one of the five Ballydoyle contenders.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Salut Saint Cloud

(Brighton 5.55)

NB: Dallool

(Haydock 2.10)

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