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Boss Vestey looking for a clean sweep.

AS local grandee and chairman of the Steeplechase Company at Cheltenham, Lord Vestey is a busy bunny during the Festival, discharging his responsibilities on course and entertaining friends in the evening. Sam Vestey rubs along on a mildly indecent few thousand acres of Gloucestershire at Stowell Park, between Cheltenham and Cirencester, and Vestey Towers is the Festival base for a number of racing luminaries, such as that hero of the revolution, Stoker Hartington, and senior steward Christopher Spence.

Incidentally, connoisseurs of the tweed suit will be interested to hear that the genial Spence's current one is in its third incarnation, having been made for Bertie Wooster, who found it a touch 'fast' and passed it on to Mr Toad from Wind In The Willows.

It is a truly splendid garment in what I believe tailors refer to as "eyepop check" and looks good for another 100 years at least.

Host Vestey says: "I am very much on duty each day, entertaining sponsors and others in the Royal Box, but I also have the family box where our friends and guests for the week are to be found.

"I arrive early on course by car, but we all return in the evening by minibus.

"We have 14 people staying and sit 24 down to dinner in the evening."

Sadly, there are no weird aristocratic Festival rituals observed at Stowell Park, such as having steak and kidney pudding for breakfast, or covering Stoker Hartington's head in golden syrup and throwing him in the fountain.

Indeed, some of their priorities are the same as the rest of us - notably the search for winners.

Vestey says: "Charles Benson always stays and his job is to spend all his time on the phone trying to find some winners." Neither Vestey nor history relates as to whether this exercise is a success from anyone's angle other than that of British Telecom.

To date Vestey's sole Festival success was Stayers' winner Karshi in 1997, but Sam has high hopes this year of Castle Sweep and says: "We had a rather fruitless journey to Ireland with him. We were sharing a box with Robin Cook and were splendidly looked after, but when Castle Sweep departed at the second fence I have never known such complete silence descend on a room.

"Castle Sweep is very well and, although a final decision hasn't been made, it looks as if we are veering towards the Cathcart."

Approachable and less haughty than he sounds over Cheltenham's PA, Vestey may have been irritated by some of the criticisms of his beloved Cheltenham over the years, but at least he has listened and taken note. He is a positive force around the place and it would be no more than just for his colours to succeed again at the big meeting.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Down, Alastair
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Mar 3, 2000
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