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Man who loved the filliesoved the fillies; The racing world was in mourning yesterday after the death of tycoon Robert Sangster. The Record tells how the pools magnate changed the face of horse racing, taking on Arab oil billionaires in bidding wars, and dated some of the world's most beautiful women.

Byline: By Alan Thomson Racing Editor

ROBERT Sangster, the dashing bon viveur and socialite of the Swinging Sixties, broke the hearts of women and bookmakers in equal measure.

His death on Wednesday, at the age of 67, marked the end of an era for the Sport of Kings.

Sangster, who had been battling pancreatic and liver cancer, died at his London home, surrounded by his family.

The quietly charismatic tycoon married three times but his appeal to the ladies was known to be rooted deeper than the hundreds of millions he had in the bank.

During his years as a giant of the world racing scene, his dates included beauties such as supermodel Jerry Hall and author Tara Moss. He later married Melbourne socialite Susan Renouf.

Yet the racing blood which charged Sangster's life earned him respect throughout the world, from the royals to the punter on the street.

The pools magnate was undoubtedly a revolutionary and his exciting, cavalier approach to racing, and life in general, made him the best-known and most successful British-based owner of the last 30 years.

Sangster topped the owners' prize-money table in 1977, 1978, 1982, 1983 and 1984.

He won the Derby twice, with The Minstrel in 1977 and Golden Fleece in 1982, along with a raft of other big races including the 1000 and 2000 Guineas, Eclipse Stakes and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Inherited The triumvirate he formed with legendary trainer Vincent O'Brien and stud boss John Magnier left a legacy that exists to this day, with the Coolmore operation in County Tipperary pre-eminent in the world of breeding.

He remained one of the most prominent domestically based owners right up to his death, even though he had adopted a lower profile in recent years.

Sangster was born in Merseyside on May 23, 1936, and inherited the Vernons football pools company, who he sold in 1988.

He came to the fore in the1970sas the Coolmore Stud operation founded with O'Brien and Man United powerbroker John Magnier swept all before them.

Their approach was the most commercial the sport had seen.

O'Brien's knack of spotting yearlings who were potential top-class stallions, combined with Sangster's buying power was a recipe for making millions.

He used his fortune to create a racing and breeding empire with interests in Australia, England, the United States, Ireland, France and New Zealand. With Magnier managing the breeding, profits rocketed.

In all, Sangster owned the winners of more than 125 Group One races. He also bred world champion sire Sadler's Wells, based at Coolmore.

However, as the Dubai-based Maktoum family became the sport's big hitters, Sangster slipped into the background with even more success.

He set up a thriving family business, with a successful commercial breeding venture, allied to a large private operation.

His sons Guy, Ben and Adam are heavily involved and there are major studs in England and Australia.

Sangster had strong links to Aussie racing for many years and won the Melbourne Cup in 1980 with Beldale Ball.

Lord Bell, speaking on behalf of the Sangster family yesterday, described the racing great's final hours.

He said: 'He was surrounded by his family and he died very peacefully after a long illness that started nine or 10 months ago.'

Jockey Lester Piggott, who rode scores of Sangster's winners, said: 'It's a very sad day and the end of an era. I've known Robert since the 60s and we had great days and so many great horses.

'He was a great friend and a marvellous person to ride for. We'll miss him.'

Sangster returned home after falling ill while playing golf in Barbados in January. It is believed he wanted to return to Barbados but doctors advised against it.

The funeral of Sangster, who was separated from his third wife Sue, will be at St Paul's in Knightsbridge, central London, on April 19.

My last encounter with this essentially shy man - he relied on his great pal and raconteur Charles Benson to make his public speeches was in Dubai three years ago.

His close friend Tony Collins set up the meeting. The eccentric owner and stockbroker from Troon had shares in many of Sangster's horses, including 1994 Derby third Colonel Collins which was named in his honour.

At the lavish Jumairah Beach Hotel, Sangster recalled the precise moment he realised the Maktoum family and other Arab royalty packed too much firepower for his team to compete.

Although Sangster sold his pools empire for pounds 90million, this was chicken-feed compared with Sheikh Mohammed's deep wells of petro-dollars.

After one extraordinary head-to-head at horse sales in Kentucky, Sangster's team pushed the Maktoums to a record $13.1million for a colt called Seattle Dancer, which turned out to be useless on the racetrack.

A few days later, Sangster and his team were summoned to a pow-wow in Dubai.

The Maktoums were keen to call a truce to the crazy horse-trading which was sending bloodstock prices through the roof.

Sangster said: 'We arrived by private jet and were immediately whisked away by limo without the preliminaries of customs.

'All the traffic lights were at red and everything stopped to allow us through, like some Politburo chiefs in communist Moscow.

'The shiekh's palace was like something out of the Arabian Knights and if the idea was to let us knowwe just couldn't match their spending power, it succeeded.

'But the trip had a plus point because one of the belly dancers certainly caught my eye. Unfortunately, she wasn't for sale!'

Anew strategy was born.

The Coolmore boys decided they would snap up Europe's best bluebloods for stud duties.

Sangster even sold Balanchine, who went on to win the 1994 Oaks and Irish Derby, and 1998 1000 Guineas heroine Cape Verdi, to the Maktoums before their Classic successes.

Talk about selling sand to the Arabs.


LEADING THE PACK: Sangster was friend to the great and good of horse racing. He met sheikhs, left, and was a friend to jockey Lester Piggott. Right, Sangster with the Queen after one of his many triumphs; MARRIED: Sangster with his wife; Sue in 1989
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 9, 2004
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