Revolutionary who left his mark

ROBERT SANGSTER changed the face of racing with his revolutionary approach to the sport in the 1970s and 80s.

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 pre-eminent in the world of breeding.

Sangster was the best-known and most-successful British-based owner of the last 30 years, topping the table in 1977, 1978, 1982, 1983 and 1984, before the Maktoum family became heavily involved in racing.

He had adopted a considerably lower profile in recent years, though remained successful in Britain, Ireland and Australia.

Sangster was born in Merseyside on May 23, 1936, and inherited the Vernons football pools company, which he sold for £90million in 1988.

His racing colours of green, blue sleeves, white cap with green spots were first registered in 1967 and his horses were initially trained by Eric Cousins.

But he came to the fore in the 1970s as the operation founded with O’Brien and Magnier swept all before them.

The trio adopted a considerably more commercial view of the sport than had been the norm, with O’Brien spotting yearlings who were potential top-class stallions at the sales, Sangster and partners providing money to buy them and Magnier managing the breeding side to great effect.

The three went into partnership in the Coolmore Stud, near Fethard in Co Tipperary, which is now the foremost breeding operation in the world, with major farms in Kentucky and Australia as well as the home base in Ireland.

Sangster and O’Brien still hold the world record for the highest price paid for a yearling after buying Seattle Dancer for 13.1 million at the 1985 Keeneland July Sales.

The champion owner and his partners earned huge revenue by selling top-class racehorses like the Derby winner The Minstrel and dual Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Alleged back to North America.

This brought in the finances required to buy more top-class yearlings, with the emphasis on the hugely successful Northern Dancer line.

When Sangster won the owners’ title in 1982 he had Golden Fleece and Assert among his big-race winners, and the following year there were Lomond and Caerleon. In 1984 it was the turn of El Gran Senor and Sadler’s Wells.

In all Sangster owned the winners of over 125 Group One races, including two Derbys, with The Minstrel in 1977 and Golden Fleece in 1982, both trained by the Ballydoyle maestro.

He sold the subsequent 1992 Derby winner Dr Devious as a two-year-old and his other big-race successes included the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (1977 & 78 Alleged, 1980 Detroit), 2000 Guineas (1983 Lomond, 1984 El Gran Senor, 1992 Rodrigo de Triano), 1000 Guineas (1994 Las Meninas) and the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (1977 The Minstrel).

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

Sangster, a socialite and bon viveur, bred world champion sire Sadler’s Wells, who is based at Coolmore .

In later years, as an almost unlimited supply of money made the Maktoum family the sport’s big-hitters, Sangster changed tack and slipped into the background, but with yet more success.

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

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

Sangster has had strong links to Australian racing for many years and won the Melbourne Cup in 1980 with Beldale Ball after teaming up with the great trainer Colin Hayes.

As well as a Melbourne Cup he has also won Sydney, Perth and Adelaide Cups, the Victoria Derby, Golden Slippers and Newmarket Handicaps.

His initial foray into the Australasian thoroughbred industry came when he bought the Collingrove Stud in Hunter Valley, New South Wales, and he was a pioneer of the revolutionary shuttle stallion system.

The major Collingrove Stud operation now is located in Victoria.

This stud was established in 1995 and is the stallion base for Collingrove.

Sangster mainly raced home-bred horses latterly and had about 160 broodmares divided between Europe, North America and Australia.

The majority of Sangster’s racehorses are with trainer John Gosden at his 2,500-acre Manton estate in Wiltshire.

Previous Sangster trainers on the estate include former champion National Hunt trainer Michael Dickinson, Barry Hills and Peter Chapple-Hyam.

As an owner he was also innovative in his choice of jockeys, and was instrumental in bringing the brilliant American teenage rider Steve Cauthen to Britain.

Sangster was elected to membership of the Jockey Club in 1972.

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