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Paving the way to honour Newmarket's turf legends

Legends of the Turf, Newmarket (1997208)
Legends of the Turf, Newmarket (1997208)

Newmarket’s four latest racing legends have been honoured with the unveiling of commemorative paving stones honouring their achievements.

The latest batch of inductees have been selected through the Legends of the Turf project which was set up to recognise the very special contributions of people and horses to the town’s unique horseracing heritage. The project was originally launched in 2014 and there are now 22 slabs bearing names which have been chosen by the community voting through the Journal from a short-list drawn up by the project’s planning group.

The latest inductees are Walter Swinburn, the jockey forever associated with Shergar, former jockey and popular town character Willie Snaith, Derby winning trainer Sir Jack Jarvis and Pebbles, the Classic winning filly who, in 1985, went on to become the first British-trained horse to win at the Breeders’ Cup meeting in America.

Their names join those already honoured who include Hyperion, Frankel, Fred Archer, Sir Henry Cecil, Lester Piggott, Doug Smith and Bahram .

Members of the Legends of the Turf committee invited connections of all the latest inductees to Thursday’s dedication and local school pupils who helped to unveil the slabs.

Walter Swinburn’s daughters, Claudia and Millie, saw their late father’s plaque unveiled alongside his parents, Wally and Doreen, brother Michael and trainer and mentor Sir Michael Stoute, for whom, at just 19, he partnered Shergar to Derby glory in 1981. He spent four days in a coma after a fall in Hong Kong 1996, which was thought to have caused him to develop epilepsy and finally gave up riding in 2000. Four years later took up training, but he died in 2016 following a fall from the window of his home in London’s Belgravia.

Sir Jack Jarvis trained nine Classic winners from his Park Lodge yard, in Park Lane, including 1939 2000 Guineas and Derby winner Blue Peter for Lord Rosebery and Flamingo who won the 2000 Guineas 90 years ago.

A member of the Jarvis racing dynasty he was knighted for his services toracing in 1967 and also played an active part in public life in Newmarket as a member of the county council for a number of years.

Watching his commemorative stone unveiled were his great nephew, Newmarket trainer William Jarvis and his great nieces Jane George and Melanie Shuttler.

“I was wearing primrose and rose pink, Lord Rosebery’s colours, which I thought was appropriate,” said Melanie. “My father (Bill Rickaby) rode for Park Lodge for about eight years in the 1950s and then again in 1968, the year he retired.” Also present was trainer James Eustace the current incumbent at Park Lodge.

Known as the Pocket Hercules during his riding days, Willie Snaith hailed originally from Newcastle and served his apprenticeship with Newmarket trainer, Sam Armstrong. He was a popular choice with Newmarket residents as a Legend because of the special place he occupies in the heart of the community.

'When I told dad about it he shed a tear and said why me?' - John Snaith, son of Willie Snaith

He rode 1200 winners in a career which saw him wear the Royal silks on more than one occasion. After retiring from race riding Willie continued as a work rider, first for Sir Noel Murless at Warren Place, and later for his son-in-law Sir Henry Cecil. When he finally hung up his saddle he became a popular tour guide taking visitors around the town and regaling them with his racing stories in a way only he could. Such was his popularity he was called upon by Tesco to open its new store in the road which bears his name. Willie’s proudest moment was when he was made an MBE by the Queen in 2004. Now 89 and very frail, he was unable to attend the unveiling, but his slab was unveiled by his son John and granddaughter Tilly, a pupil at Newmarket Academy who read out her own special tribute to her granddad.

“It was lovely,” said John, “when I told dad about it he shed a tear and said why me?”

This year’s only equine inductee was Pebbles, the champion filly bred by Capt Marco Lemos at his Ashley Heath Stud and trained by Clive Brittain at Carlburg stables in Bury Road. After winning the 1000 Guineas she was bought by Sheikh Mohammed and was kept in training as a four year old and went from strength to strength.

Her victories included the Eclipse Stakes when she became the first of her sex to win in 99 years and the Champion Stakes at Newmarket which she won so easily, punters joked she must have ‘jumped in at the bushes’.

At Aqueduct in New York she won the Breeders’ Cup Turf in a then course record time. She later became a broodmare at her owner’s Dalham Hall Stud where she died in 2005 at the age of 24.

Stud director Liam O’Rourke was at the unveiling of her commemorative slab.


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