Racing: A perfect owner goal

The untold stories in a year of buried treasure: LORD HOWARD DE WALDEN

In racing it is the owner who starts, and keeps, the ball rolling. And at the Derby meeting at Epsom in June one of the sport's elder statesmen reached a remarkable milestone. At the end of the afternoon on which Shatoush edged out Bahr in the Oaks a three-year-old called Dower House became the 600th winner for Lord Howard de Walden in his 50th year of ownership.

The race, the Vodaphone Paging Handicap, was not one of the meeting's showpieces and took place at an hour when many were already heading home. But the stage was the right one: the scene of Lord Howard's greatest triumph, his 1985 Derby with Slip Anchor.

To take half a century to knock up six centuries of winners - the first was the two-year-old Jailbird at Chepstow in 1949 - might seem Boycottesque by the standards of those who spend profligately and number their broodmares and horses in training by the hundred.

Indeed, Lord Howard once described himself as a dinosaur, meaning that he represented a dying species, the old-style English aristocratic owner- breeder whose decline has been accelerated by upsurge of the petro-dollar. And he is right to admit that he, and others like him, can no longer compete horse for horse on the racecourse with the Dubaian and Saudi legions. But in terms of quality his breeding operation, based at Plantation Stud near Newmarket, need defer to none. Names like Amerigo, Oncidium, Magic Flute, Parmelia, Kris, Diesis, Paean, Lanzarote, Shavian, Slip Anchor, Pursuit of Love, Grand Lodge and Catchascatchcan testify to that.

Lord Howard's pale apricot silks are among the most famous and best- regarded in British racing. He inherited them from his father, the eighth baron, whose best horse was Zinfandel, winner of the Coronation Cup in 1904 and the Ascot Gold Cup a year later. The colour was the one that a family friend, the artist Augustus John, considered would show up best against a green racetrack.

The 86-year-old former Jockey Club senior steward's first broodmare was Silvery Moon, bought as an in-foal five-year-old at the 1948 Newmarket December sales for 6,800 guineas. She became grand-dam of one of Lord Howard's first famous horses, the Coronation Cup winner Oncidium, and is three-greats grandmother of the latest of his top-level winners, this year's Yorkshire Oaks heroine Catchascatchcan.

When Lord Howard added Thornton Stud in Yorkshire to his breeding operation he acquired with it a mare, Soft Angels, who turned out to be even more significant and influential than Silvery Moon.

Had Soft Angels' first two foals, both fillies, not died young their very inferior half-sister Doubly Sure would not have been retained. Easily the worst of the Plantation broodmare band at the time, she was sent twice to a cheap, unproven local stallion and proceeded to produce the champion miler Kris and the high-class two-year-old Diesis, both subsequently exceptional sires.

The Holy Grail for any owner-breeder is a Classic, particularly a Derby, but for many years it seemed that luck in that department was not on the family's side. Back in 1903 Zinfandel might have won but for a now-defunct rule that barred him from running because of the death of the man who entered him. Oncidium had the ability to win his Derby, but declined to do his best on the big day. Kris chose the 2,000 Guineas as one of his only two defeats in 16 races.

The quest for Classic glory finally ended courtesy of Slip Anchor. The colt never won again, but no matter, the luck had held long enough. It did, however, appear to revert four years ago, when Grand Lodge was beaten about an inch in the 2,000 Guineas.

Among the products of Lord Howard's 19-strong broodmare band carrying hopes for top honours next year are the Arazi colt Initiative, a half-brother to Pursuit of Love; Spry, by Suave Dancer out of a half- sister to Slip Anchor; and Purse, a Pursuit of Love half-sister to Dower House. The score is 609, and counting.

SUE MONTGOMERY

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Support - Helpdesk Analyst

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a customer focu...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Learning & Development Manager - North London - £53,000

£45000 - £53000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Learning & Develo...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - Magazines

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's largest regional newspaper pub...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn