He had been in poor health for some time but he had appeared to be recovering. His daughter-in-law, Sheila Collins, said, 'We are not sure at this stage what he died from.'
Stephenson, who trained more than 100 horses at his yard Crawleas, just outside Bishop Auckland, was one of the most prolific trainer of winners that National Hunt racing has seen. His finest achievement was sending out The Thinker to win the Gold Cup at a snow-covered Cheltenham in 1987.
A very shrewd trainer, he tended to be underestimated because he was a private man who chose to keep a low profile. His favourite saying, 'little fish are sweet', was his way of explaining his commitment to lower grade races at northern course, where he was a dominant force.
It was typical of the man that when The Thinker was bringing him what the rest of racing would have seen as his greatest success, he was 300 miles away saddling lesser horses at Hexham.Reuse content