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Robert Sangster 1936-2004: Racing mourns death of pioneer Robert Sangster; Tributes flow following the death of titan of Flat racing.


THE world of Flat racing yesterday united to pay tribute to one of its towering figures, Robert Sangster, who died on Wednesday evening having left an indelible imprint on both the sport and the bloodstock industry.

For 30 years one of the world's leading

owners and breeders, Sangster passed

away in London, with his family beside

him, at 8pm on Wednesday following a long

battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 67.

Five times Britain's champion owner and a bloodstock pioneer, Sangster saw his famous blue, green and white colours carried to

victory in most of the globe's major races,

including the Derby, King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Melbourne Cup and Breeders' Cup Mile.

Yesterday, those who shared in his success nFrom front page

spoke with warmth and respect about their late friend. Vincent O'Brien

described him as "a true visionary", while Lester Piggott said that Sangster's death marked "the end of an era". Sheikh Mohammed lauded Sangster as a "wonderful competitor" and "a great sportsman".

Confirming Sangster's death, Lord Bell, speaking on behalf of the family, said yesterday: "He died at home late afternoon, early evening time yesterday.

"He was surrounded by his family and he died very peacefully after a long illness that started nine or ten months ago."

Bolstered by the Vernon pools family fortune, Sangster was instrumental in changing the face of international bloodstock in the mid-1970s, joining forces with Vincent O'Brien and John Magnier in a concentrated effort to purchase leading stallion prospects from the Keeneland sales ring.

Having joined his partners by investing in Ireland's Coolmore stallion operation, Sangster sought to acquire the best blood from the Northern Dancer sireline, making huge profits from the sale of The Minstrel and Alleged, both multiple Group 1 winners in his colours.

Over the next two decades, the likes of Caerleon, Golden Fleece, El Gran Senor and Storm Bird all cemented his status, while Sadler's Wells, owned and bred by Sangster at his Swettenham Stud, left his not inconsiderable racecourse achievements behind to become the pre-eminent European stallion of modern times.

O'Brien, who trained Sadler's Wells and most of Sangster's major winners through the 1970s and 1980s, yesterday described him as "a wonderful owner and part of our family, young and old, for many years".

He said: "Robert was a true visionary whose large-scale investment in the best American-bred yearlings in the 1970s was one of the principal factors in establishing Ireland and Coolmore as major forces in the bloodstock world."

Piggott, who sported Sangster's silks when partnering his own final Classic winner on the Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained Rodrigo de Triano in the 1992 Irish 2,000 Guineas, said: "I've known Robert since the 1960s 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."

Among the other top-flight jockeys to ride for Sangster was Steve Cauthen, persuaded to relocate to Britain by Sangster in 1979 and who yesterday said he would "always be grateful" and hailed Sangster "a great person to be around".

Sheikh Mohammed, who took over Sangster's domination of the international bloodstock market in the early 1980s, became a keen buyer of Sangster bloodstock in the 1990s, acquiring subsequent Classic winners Cape Verdi and Balanchine.

Praising Sangster as a "great friend", Sheikh Mohammed said: "It was always a pleasure to race our horses against

his and, in more recent years, we enjoyed doing business with him.

"In many ways, Robert helped to revolutionise the international bloodstock world and he will always be remembered for that. He will be sadly missed."

Racing Post editorial director Brough Scott said of Sangster: "He was a really good friend to me, as he was to so many other people. Without Robert the world will be a much duller place this morning."

As evidence of his international approach, Sangster also became a leading owner-breeder in Australia, winning the 1980 Melbourne Cup with Beldale Ball, establishing his own breeding operation in the country and advancing the shuttling of stallions across both hemispheres.

Sangster, who leaves six children and was married three times, prided himself on not interfering with the training of his horses, his favourite saying being: "When the passengers want to fly the plane, it's time to get off!"

His funeral is due to be held at St Paul's in Knightsbridge on April 19.


Robert Sangster: visionary who changed the face of the racing and bloodstock industries
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Apr 9, 2004
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