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Humphrey Cottrill dies at 92; Successful trainer who introduced Khalid Abdullah to racing.

HUMPHREY COTTRILL, the former Newmarket trainer who helped fire Khalid Abdullah's interest in racing, has died at the age of 92.

Cottrill was private trainer to Lionel Holliday in the 1950s, and his most notable horses were champion sprinters Dumbarnie and Bleep-Bleep, Irish Derby winner Your Highness, and Narrator, Gratitude, Pirate King and St Pauli Girl, but perhaps his greatest service to the sport was to introduce Khalid Abdullah to British racing.

Humphrey Lawson Cottrill, born at Ashton upon Mersey, near Manchester, on September 10, 1906, was the elder son of Harry Cottrill, trainer of Hunt Cup and Portland winner Irish Elegance and Classic winners Apple Sammy and Lovely Rosa. He assisted his father at Seven Barrows, Lambourn, from 1928, served during the war in India and Burma, and was then a stipendiary steward in South Africa for three years.

On his return in 1950, he was assistant in turn to Willie Pratt (who became his father-in-law) and George Colling at Stanley House, and he moved to Marcus Marsh in time for Tulyar's Classic campaign.

In June of that year, 1952, the prominent owner-breeder Lionel Holliday dismissed his private trainer, Geoffrey Brooke, and installed Cottrill at Lagrange Stables, Newmarket. The new trainer's first two winners were Court Gallant at Birmingham and Dumbarnie in the Salford Borough Handicap at Manchester.

Dumbarnie did not reach his peak until the age of five in 1954, when his defeat of March Past, Vilmoray and Set Fair in the Stanley Ford Stakes at Birmingham suggested he was the best sprinter in the country.

That season, Holliday became champion breeder for the first time, and his other home-grown winners included Noble Chieftain (Coventry Stakes), Hethersett's dam Bride Elect (Queen Mary Stakes), Courageous (National Breeders' Produce Stakes), Chatsworth (Great Jubilee Handicap, Manchester Cup) and Narrator, a maiden when causing a 20-1 upset in the Champion Stakes.

The following year, Narrator won the Coronation Cup, Chatsworth his second Manchester Cup, Gratitude the New Stakes and Dacian the Dewhurst.

In 1956, Cottrill finished third behind Charles Elsey and Cecil Boyd-Rochfort in the trainers' table, and Holliday was both champion owner and breeder.

THEIR best winners that season were Pirate King (Craven, Newmarket and St James's Palace Stakes), Dacian (Gordon Stakes), None Fairer (Fred Darling Stakes), No Pretender (Lingfield Oaks Trial), Persuader (Horris Hill Stakes) and Pharsalia, unbeaten in a four-race career including the Queen Mary, Molecomb and Lowther Stakes.

Cottrill had his best season numerically in 1957 with the winners of 46 races, including Gratitude in the Nunthorpe Stakes.

Also in 1957, Holliday beat his own British record for a breeder with 53 wins, but he rewarded his trainer with the sack, as happened so often to employees of that supremely awkward owner.

Dick Hern took over at Lagrange as Cottrill made the move to Beverley House to set up as a public trainer.

Among his new charges was Bleep-Bleep, the best horse he ever trained, though the colt seemed unlikely to earn that accolade early in his four-year-old career in 1960, as he had been hobdayed and lost 16 races in succession.

Nevertheless, Bleep-Bleep suddenly graduated from handicaps to beat Sing Sing and Tin Whistle in the King George Stakes, and proved himself the best sprinter in Europe with a clear-cut victory in the Nunthorpe Stakes before coming second under top weight in the Portland Handicap.

Cottrill won the Cumberland Lodge Stakes with Mon Fetiche in 1958, the Richmond Stakes with Dollar Piece and the Solario Stakes with Intervener in 1959, the Chester Vase with Mr Higgins in 1960, and the Irish Derby with Your Highness in 1961. Your Highness, owned by his principal patron Stanhope Joel, was Cottrill's only Classic winner, when springing a 33-1 shock in a substandard Irish Derby.

THE trainer came closest to winning a British Classic when, in 1967, Stanhope Joel's St Pauli Girl was a narrow runner-up to Fleet in the 1,000 Guineas and to Pia in the Oaks.

Cottrill's other good winners included Portofino (1963 Brighton Derby Trial), Miba (1965 Princess Elizabeth and Pretty Polly Stakes), Boy Wonder (1965 Hush Puppies Handicap), Alcan (1966 Horris Hill Stakes), Aberdeen (runner-up in 1967 Lincoln) and Bell Song (1969 Fern Hill Handicap) before he quit training at the end of 1974.

However, his 'retirement' was considerably more active and rewarding than that of most former trainers, thanks to a chance meeting with Khalid Abdullah at Newbury races, where he acted as a steward.

Abdullah, at that stage not involved in the sport, asked Cottrill to act as his agent in order to realise his lofty long-term ambitions, and the former trainer bought the Saudi Arabian prince's first four yearlings at Newmarket in 1977.

The following year, he and Jeremy Tree bought Known Fact at Keeneland, and that champion miler's victory in the 1980 2,000 Guineas made Abdullah the first Arab to own an English Classic winner.

Teddy Beckett, racing manager to Abdullah, said yesterday: "Humphrey was a great help to the prince-he was his first major adviser and was responsible for horses like Known Fact. The prince was very sad to hear he had died."

Another of Cottrill's early purchases was Abeer, who became Abdullah's first Pattern winner in the 1979 Queen Mary and Flying Childers Stakes.

Cottrill continued for several years as the owner's racing manager, adviser and purchaser, and by the time of his ultimate retirement in 1982, he had helped to lay the foundations of one of the world's biggest racing and breeding empires.

A FUNERAL service will take place at St Mary's Church, Newmarket, at 1pm on September 9.

A MEMORABLE CAREER

Full name: Humphrey Lawson Cottrill

Born: September 10, 1906

Assistant to: H L Cottrill (1928-37), W Pratt (1950) and

M Marsh (1951-52)

Date of first trainer's licence: 1952

Stables: Lagrange, Newmarket, 1952-57; Beverley House, Newmarket, 1957-74

Big-race wins: Noble Chieftain (1954 Coventry S),

Narrator (1954 Champion S, 1955 Coronation Cup), Dumbarnie (1954 Stanley Ford S), Dacian (1955

Dewhurst S, 1956 Gordon S), Pirate King (1956 Craven

S, 1956 Newmarket S, 1956 St James's Palace S), Pharsalia (1956 Queen Mary S, Molecomb S, Lowther S), Gratitude (1957 Nunthorpe S), Bleep-Bleep (1960 Nunthorpe S), Your Highness (1961 Irish Derby)

Champion sprinters: Dumbarnie, Bleep-Bleep.

Best horses: Narrator, Chatsworth, Pirate King, Gratitude, St Pauli Girl

Highest position in trainers' table: 3rd in 1956

Most wins in a British season: 46 in 1957
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Randall, John
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Sep 1, 1999
Words:1062
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