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David Thompson, influential Cheveley Park Stud owner-breeder, dies aged 84

David Thompson: influential owner-breeder died on December 29 after a short illness
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David Thompson, who along with his wife Patricia built up one of Britain's most important breeding and ownership operations in Cheveley Park Stud, has died of renal failure at the age of 84. 

The Thompsons purchased Cheveley Park outside Newmarket in 1975 and have developed it into a major power on the Flat, standing a number of influential sires including Pivotal, and enjoying Classic success at home and abroad with 1,000 Guineas heroine Russian Rhythm and Prix de Diane winner Confidential Lady. 

David and Patricia Thompson, who were both made CBEs by the Queen for their services to charity last year, also famously purchased 1992 Grand National winner Party Politics shortly before his Aintree triumph.


David Thompson: the private individual whose achievements will speak volumes for generations


Their interest in jump racing has been rekindled in recent years, with a string of high-profile purchases being sent into training with Gordon Elliott, including Envoi Allen.

Cheveley Park Stud's managing director Chris Richardson said on Monday: "David Thompson was a very generous, meticulous, sometimes unpredictable man who always had a certain charm. He inspired everyone with his insatiable enthusiasm for business which, thankfully, included a love of racing and breeding, alongside his wife Patricia and their family. 

Pivotal puts on a show at Cheveley Park Stud

"He had tremendous foresight and would often ask a question, knowing full well the answer. I always tried to be prepared as one never knew when the thrill and challenge of another equine adventure would catch his imagination. His latest venture into National Hunt racing proved a huge success and gave him so much pleasure.

"DBT's recent visit to the Cheltenham Sale held in Newmarket, and to the stud, gave him and all here so much joy. He certainly enriched the lives of all those he met and who knew him. He will be much missed."

Thompson left his family agricultural business in 1968 to strike out on his own and became a hugely successful entrepreneur at the helm of a series of companies that would become Hillsdown Holdings. 

Having created a FTSE 100 company with an annual turnover of £4 billion, Thompson selling his share in the late 1980s, he and Patricia began to channel more of their energies into Cheveley Park, as well as into philanthropic ventures which gave more than £70 million to medical, educational, social and scientific charities. 

Russian Rhythm wins the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot

Success on the track came early with sprinter Music Boy, and the red, white and blue silks of Cheveley Park quickly became associated with a series of top-class performers on the Flat. 

Pivotal won the Nunthorpe Stakes in 1996 for trainer Sir Mark Prescott – who would also be responsible for Confidential Lady a decade later – and the son of Polar Falcon certainly lived up to his name with a stellar career at the stud, which continues to this day. 

Cheveley Park's Group 1 successes frequently came with fillies, and to Russian Rhythm's four top-level successes can be added such classy performers as Echelon, Integral and Breeders' Cup winner Queen's Trust – all under the stewardship of Sir Michael Stoute – while Fillies' Mile and Coronation Stakes heroine Nannina was one of several stars for John Gosden.

Patricia Thompson and Jimmy Fortune pose after Cheveley Park homebred Nannina's second Royal Ascot triumph in the 2007 Windsor Forest Stakes

The Thompsons returned to jump racing with some intent over the last three years, with Envoi Allen the flagbearer on the back of Cheltenham Festival wins in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper and the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle. 

One of a number sent by the Thompsons to join Elliott, Envoi Allen is unbeaten in ten starts under rules and is the even-money favourite for the Marsh Novices' Chase at this year's festival, while stablemates Ballyadam and Sir Gerhard are also to the fore in the ante-post lists for their Cheltenham targets.

And in the Henry de Bromhead-trained A Plus Tard – whose win in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown came just a day before Thompson's death – Cheveley Park have a genuine Gold Cup contender. 


Tributes to David Thompson from some of Newmarket's finest

James Fanshawe

Mr and Mrs Thompson have been owners at Pegasus since I started in 1990. He was very loyal and we had some wonderful horses such as Spacious, who was second in the Guineas and won at Royal Ascot, as well as Cesare and more recently Preening. 

Spacious (white cap) leads home Heaven Sent for a Royal Ascot 1-2

It's really sad news to hear that he's departed from a racing point of view as he has a lot of wonderful horses to go jumping with at the moment.

As an owner 'DBT' kept you on your toes, and away from racing he could offer you some very good advice. When we were buying Pegasus he was a big help in that respect. 

Our condolences go out to Pat, Richard, Rosalind and Katie. 

John Gosden

An extraordinary man whose accomplishments have been a testament to his genius. His business acumen has been unparalleled. With Pat his wife, their achievements at Cheveley Park and their legendary philanthropic generosity are an example of a magnificent lifetime fulfilled. 

Sir Mark Prescott

They gave away a lot of money for a long time before anybody knew. And they were determined to pay English taxes and not become tax exiles, while their red, white and blue colours show them to be very patriotic people. The honours they both received were richly deserved.

Pivotal was the linchpin of Cheveley Park. I was very lucky to train him and while he was a very good horse, he is a much better stallion. 

He's been a phenomenal success for them, being their first homebred Group 1 winner and then going back to stand at the place where he was born. 

Confidential Lady powers home under Seb Sanders in the 2006 Prix de Diane at Chantilly

And Confidential Lady was their first homebred Classic winner, so I was very lucky to get them both.

Hooray is very easily forgotten, but she won the Cheveley Park by four and a half lengths and was the world champion two-year-old filly. It was a great performance that day. 

When they started it was the racing that was Mr Thompson's love, while the stud was more Mrs Thompson's interest. As things developed he obviously took a keen interest in the stud and the success of Cheveley Park has been a combination of Mr Thompson's dynamism and Chris Richardson’s level temperament. 

Sir Michael Stoute

Those who met David Thompson will never forget him: he was unique. His life was a great success story. His business acumen and generosity are legendary and he and his wife Pat were a formidable team. The success of Cheveley Park gave them much pleasure.


Read more on Cheveley Park Stud:

Members' Club: Cheveley Park latest owners to cut back as Covid financial crisis bites

Members' Club: Cheveley Park Stud: how the operation became a major force in European racing

Cheveley Park Stud owners David and Patricia Thompson recognised with CBEs

A Plus Tard flies home to enter Gold Cup picture as main contenders crash out

Perfection from Envoi Allen – did you really expect anything less?


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He inspired everyone with his insatiable enthusiasm for business which, thankfully, included a love of racing and breeding
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