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Monday, 19 November, 2018

Classic-winning breeder Lennie Peacock dies aged 97

The owner of Manor House Stud bred dual Guineas winner Tirol

Lennie Peacock (right) with Christine St George at the Timeform Dinner in York
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Lennie Peacock, owner of Manor House Stud in Middleham and breeder of talents such as dual Guineas winner Tirol and top-class sprinter Redkirk Warrior, has died at the age of 97.

Her nephew, Charlie Nelson, led the tributes on Thursday, saying: "She was a remarkable lady. For a small stud, the amount and the quality of winners really is special. And, of course, the stud is still producing Group 1 winners. That just shows her judgement and talent."

Born Lenore Quinlan, her involvement with Manor House began when she married Middleham-based trainer Dick Peacock in 1953.

Her husband oversaw the careers of Group 1 winners like Tudor Melody and Fearless Lad, and was the son of Matt Peacock - who trained Dante to win the Derby in 1945 - and the grandson of Dobson Peacock - who founded the stud in 1883 and became the first Yorkshire-based handler to train 100 winners in a season in 1932.

Two Classic winners had been raised at Manor House - the aforementioned Dante and his younger brother Sayajirao, who landed the 1947 Irish Derby and St Leger - before Peacock wrote her own memorable chapters of the stud's story.

Her crowning achievement as a breeder is undoubtedly Tirol, a son of Thatching bred in partnership with Robert Sangster. Peacock went to 13,000gns to buy out Sangster's share at the 1987 December Sale, before reoffering Tirol as a yearling at the following year's Highflyer Sale, where he was bought by Peter Doyle for 52,000gns on behalf of John Horgan.

Tirol lands the 1990 2,000 Guineas under Mick Kinane

Under the care of Richard Hannon snr, Tirol developed into a top-class miler, winning the 1990 2,000 Guineas before following up in the Irish equivalent just two weeks later. Tirol retired to stud, from where he sired Group 1-winning fillies Miss Tahiti and Tarascon.

"Tirol wasn't the first Classic horse we bred, but he did show that it can be done - that a small breeder can breed a 2,000 Guineas winner without having to use a very expensive stallion," she once said in an interview. 

Her expertise in harnessing unheralded sires was again highlighted when Redkirk Warrior, who she bred from Notnowcato and the Selkirk mare Flag, became the first top-flight winner by his sire, who is now more closely aligned with jumps breeding.

Redkirk Warrior confirmed his status as a top-class sprinter when landing the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning at Flemington in mid-February.

Other notable runners bred by Peacock include Bold Arrangement, an ancestor of Redkirk Warrior who became the first British-based horse to run in the Kentucky Derby when runner-up to Ferdinand in 1986, the Group 3-winning Eveningperformance, who was also second to Pivotal in the 1996 Nunthorpe Stakes, and last year's Senator Ken Maddy Stakes winner Belvoir Bay. 

"She was still enjoying the success of the stud and her lifetime's work," said Nelson. "She certainly knew about Redkirk Warrior's win - although I think she just wanted to know if there was a breeders' prize!

"What she achieved is remarkable. She was very much dominant in running what was a dynasty, and it's a tribute to her that most of the people at the stud have worked for us for decades rather than years. The stud continues and hopefully the families will continue to breed good horses."

Redkirk Warrior wins the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning at Flemington

Among the long-standing members of staff at Manor House is stud manager Alan Hogg, who said: "I actually took both Tirol and Bold Arrangement to the sales, so I've worked at Manor House Stud for a very long time. Mrs Peacock was a very astute breeder of racehorses. She could be tough but she was very fair and very generous and let you get on with the job. She bred some fantastic horses over the years. She's been a legend."

As well as a decorated career as a breeder, Peacock also held a trainer's licence for a short while following the passing of her husband in July 1984, before handing over to Harry Wharton to allow her time to focus on the stud. A number of trainers have since occupied the racing yard at Manor House, including James Bethell, Patrick Haslam and the current incumbent, Jason Ward.

"We moved into Mrs Peacock's yard in 1992," said Bethell. "We had a very good time there, she was a lovely person - quite a character - and she was very astute.

"She was always the life and soul of every party and an incredibly generous lady. It's very sad as she's the last of a dynasty really. She was always very kind to us, she loved our late daughter Jessica - they got on like a house on fire. I couldn't speak more fondly of her.

"She knew her breeding off by heart and she was an extremely good breeder. We were always lucky with horses we bought from her stud, horses like Hartley and Arlequin."

Peacock's own silks were most recently carried to victory by the promising three-year-old Mountain Breath, who is in training with Chris Fairhurst. 

A memorial service will be arranged in due course.

She certainly knew about Redkirk Warrior's win - although I think she just wanted to know if there was a breeders' prize!
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