Former Newmarket trainer Michael Jarvis died today at the age of 73.
Jarvis had suffered from ill health in recent years, undergoing heart surgery and having treatment for prostate cancer.
He leaves a widow, Gay, and three daughters, Sarah, Lisa and Jackie.
The son of a former National Hunt jockey, Jarvis turned his hand to training having ridden three winners himself.
He became head lad to Towser Gosden (John Gosden’s father) in Lewes and stayed for another two years when Gordon Smyth took over after Gosden’s retirement.
It was in 1968 that Jarvis set out on his own as a salaried trainer to David Robinson at Carlburg Stables in Newmarket.
In 1975 he moved to Clarehaven Stables and a year later on to Pegasus Stables, but it was at Kremlin House he enjoyed his greatest successes.
Carroll House won the Irish Champion Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 1989, Eswarah won the Epsom Oaks in 2005, Ameerat landed the 1000 Guineas in 2001, Holding Court won the French Derby in 2000 and the brilliant Rakti claimed a host of big races between 2002 and 2005, including the Champion Stakes, Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the Lockinge.
Last season, Jarvis handed over the reins at Kremlin House to his assistant, Roger Varian, who described him as a “wonderful man” as well as a “great trainer”.
Varian said: “It’s a terribly sad day. Michael passed away this afternoon having lost his battle against cancer.
“His achievements and racing exploits go without saying, but first and foremost he was a wonderful man, a true gentleman and I imagine a great husband, a great father and a good friend to many.
“That was Michael Jarvis. He happened to be a great racehorse trainer as well, but first and foremost he was just a wonderful man.
“He won many big races, but probably put up the bravest fight of his life against cancer. He battled hard and he saw it out as long as he possibly could.”
Jockey Philip Robinson was employed by Jarvis for a hugely successful spell.
“It’s really heartbreaking. I was trying to get to see him at the weekend, but I was informed by his wife Gay that he was in a very bad way and not able to talk. It’s very sad,” he told At The Races.
“At the end of the day all you can say is that he was a very, very nice man. In all the years I’ve had anything to do with him I’ve never known anybody say a bad word about him. That for me sums it up.
“We had a run of a few exceptional years. We won the French Derby with Holding Court, the Italian Derby with Morshdi and then Rakti came along. We had a purple run and it was lovely to be there with him.”
Richard Hills partnered plenty of winners for Jarvis in his role as retained jockey to owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.
“The first year Sheikh Hamdan had horses with Michael there was Eswarah, she went on to win the Oaks and we formed a very good partnership straight away,” said Hills.
“For us and our team we were very grateful for the advice and the fun we had and now with Roger (Varian) he is very much passing it on.
“He’s still part of the team, we do the things that he did and his legacy will carry on. Respect and professionalism sum him up, a lot of his staff were with him for many years and it was like a happy family.”
Mick Kinane rode Carroll House to his big victories and credits the horse and trainer with launching him on the world stage.
Kinane said: “He was a thorough gentleman and such a lovely man. It’s so unfortunate that he didn’t get to enjoy his retirement and such is life.
“Carroll House got me off to a great start, I’d have to say he got me on to the international stage in winning an Irish Champion Stakes and then going on to win an Arc. He was my big breakthrough horse so he’ll always have a high place in my book.”
Jockeys’ agent Dave ’Shippy’ Ellis fondly remembers the day Holding Court won the French Derby.
He said: “I worked with Michael a long time. I flew with him by private plane when Holding Court won the French Derby. The horse made all and ran away with the race.
“We got back on the plane and phoned the guy who ran a restaurant near Newmarket. We took the place over for the night, for a dinner and a party for all the staff. It was some night.
“I used to talk to him every Sunday morning and he’d give me a plan for the week. If there was a change of plan he’d let me know. Michael always knew what was happening. He was a jockeys’ agent’s dream
“He had a quiet demeanour, always talked sense and did not trumpet his own ability.”
Clive Brittain now runs the Carlburg Stables where Jarvis began his training career.
“It’s very sad news, and for Gay and the family. If there was anybody you never heard a bad word about, it was Michael,” said Brittain.
“He was one of life’s special people. The credit I give him is he knew he was ill and he trained Roger to take over and prepared everything for this moment when he would go.
“Great credit to the man. The foresight he showed as a trainer, he showed in life. We followed each other round. He trained at Carlburg and then I was at Pegasus. When I came out of there he went there and I came to Carlburg, and then he went to Kremlin House.
“I’ve known him for many years and we were always pleased for each other when things went right and sorry when things went the wrong way. That’s how it is in Newmarket.
“He’ll be sadly missed because he was so loyal to everybody and it was a privilege to have known the man.”