Former Cheltenham chairman and royal master of horse Lord Vestey dies aged 79

  • Racehorse owner and former chairman of Cheltenham racecourse Lord Vestey has died at the age of 79.

    Lord Vestey held the position of master of the horse for the royal household from 1999 to 2018 and was a close personal friend of both The Queen and the Prince of Wales.

    He was at the helm at Cheltenham from 1990 until 2011 and under his guidance the Cheltenham Festival grew from a three-day meet to a four-day highlight of the racing calendar.

    Ian Renton, regional managing director for Jockey Club Racecourses which runs Cheltenham, said: “We are very saddened to hear of the passing of friend and former Cheltenham chairman, Lord Vestey.

    “He was a true gentleman and genuinely lovely man who did so much for our sport, and played a huge role in creating the Cheltenham racecourse that we know today. He will be sorely missed by us all at the Jockey Club and our thoughts go out to his family and friends.”

    On the track, one of Lord Vestey’s most memorable successes came with Karhshi, whom he also bred, in the 1997 Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival. He was one of a few owners to have both owned and bred winners at Cheltenham and Newmarket.

    Newmarket trainer James Fanshawe trained Karshi on the flat and also saddled Vestey’s winners Radwell, Unblest and Macadamia, who won at Royal Ascot and Newmarket.

    “He was a great supporter throughout and was one of three remaining owners who were with me since I started training,” James said.

    “As a person he set very high standards and during his chairmanship at Cheltenham, alongside Edward Gillespie, he achieved some amazing things — but his impact wasn’t just what he achieved with the racecourse itself, he was a real hands-on chairman who was familiar with all the ground staff and the gatemen. Everything he did was meticulous and with concern for everyone involved.”

    “When he came to the yard he was brilliant with the people working there, he knew all their names and was interested in what they were doing,” he added.

    “He was an owner who got a lot of enjoyment out of racing but also put a lot back in. He was a great team with Lady Vestey and we will really miss them.”

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    Lord Vestey’s death comes soon after that of his wife Celia, who died suddenly last November at the age of 71. Lady Vestey also had a long association with racing both as an owner and as the younger sister of retired trainer Henriett Knight.

    The Vesteys were also keen eventing supporters, hosting a British Eventing horse trials for several years at their home Stowell Park in Gloucestershire.

    Born Samuel George Armstrong Vestey on 19 March, 1941, he became the third Baron Vestey on the death of his grandfather in 1954. His father the Captain Hon William Howarth Vestey had been killed in action in 1944 during the Second World War.

    He took over as chairman of the family-run multi-national corporation Vestey Holdings, which has interests in the food and farming industry, in 1995.

    Lord Vestey leaves five children, Saffron and Flora from his marriage to his first wife Kathryn Eccles and William, Arthur and Mary from his marriage to Celia, as well as grandchildren.

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