Thornton hoping Apple Tree Stud venture will bear fruit
New horizons in bloodstock for former leading jump jockey
Robert Thornton was back on his old stamping ground on Friday, 20 years after his breakthrough festival double as an 18-year-old amateur and a decade after taking top jockey honours with four winners, including Voy Por Ustedes in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
There with his partner Jennie Prust and their three-week-old son Wolfie, a brother for William, six, Thornton is now focusing on the Flat in his role as manager of Apple Tree Stud, the growing breeding and racing venture set up by Paul Dunkley, who owned Thornton’s Grade 1-winning chaser Medermit.
There are big ambitions for the 120-acre stud, near Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds, and horses are in training with Clive Cox, Luca Cumani, William Haggas and James Fanshawe, as well as Thornton’s old boss Alan King. Among the more exciting prospects is a Tapit two-year-old colt, as yet unnamed, who will run for Haggas.
“We’re a breeding operation with a view to selling the colts and running the fillies to try to make something of them on the racecourse and then bring them in as broodmares,” said Thornton. “We’re also buying foals and yearlings, so there’s lots of angles.”
Thornton enjoyed 16 festival winners and the memories of his 1997 double on the David Nicholson-trained King Lucifer and Pharanear remain vivid.
He said: “It was pure excitement. The riders seem to be getting younger now, maybe that’s because I’m getting older, but at the time 18-year-olds didn’t do that kind of thing. I’ll never forget it, it was the start of something very special.”