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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Owner of Dublin Flyer and Royal Marshal II dies aged 94

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John Sumner, whose predominantly dark green and yellow colours were carried most famously by Tim Forster's top-class chasers Royal Marshal II and Dublin Flyer, has died. He was 94.

Royal Marshal won the 1974 Hennessy Gold Cup and the 1976 King George VI Chase and would almost certainly have won more top chases but for a tendency to burst blood vessels.

Dublin Flyer was one of the most popular chasers of his era and won 14 of his 34 races. In the course of three seasons, between 1994 and 1996, he won the Tripleprint Gold Cup, the John Hughes Memorial Chase (now Topham, under 12 stone), the Mackeson Gold Cup and the Peterborough Chase. He also beat Travado and Viking Flagship in the John Bull Chase at Wincanton.

Ian McKie, Sumner's son-in-law, said: "John had over 100 winners with Tim Forster, and later with Henry Daly, the last of them The Falklander at Ffos Las in 2012.

"He was a member of the Jockey Club since 1971 and he was very influential in committee work, sticking up for jumps racing when the emphasis was on the Flat and being instrumental in the start of mares only races and bumpers."

The Sumner family's wealth came from the sale of Typhoo Tea, from which the Marston Estate was purchased. Habat, who won the Norfolk, the Mill Reef and the Middle Park Stakes in 1973 was among the horses bred at the family's Marston Stud.

Daly said: "John was the original archetypal English gentleman who owned racehorses. He was a very gentle man."

He added: "When his wife Heather died it was in her will that the Captain should take his pick of the horses, which she technically owned. Tim knew Royal Marshal was the best of them, but he didn't think he could take him and so went for the steady old handicapper Well To Do.

"John should therefore have owned a Grand National winner, but he was thrilled for Tim all the same."

Brendan Powell, who partnered Dublin Flyer to all of his biggest wins, recalled Sumner as "a lovely man who was always the same whether the horse won or lost".

He added: "I remember one time when Dublin Flyer fell at the last at Wincanton someone close to Captain Forster tried to get me jocked off. Mr Sumner's answer to that was Dublin Flyer would retire before I was jocked off."

He added: "Captain Forster believed that jockeys should live in a caravan behind the yard, be paid £5 a ride, and be there to ride out every morning. He always told his owners not to give jockeys a 'present', but Mr Sumner ignored him.

"A week or so after a winner I would get an envelope with a little something in it along with a note saying 'Whatever you do, please, please, please don't tell the Captain'."

Sumner leaves daughters Victoria 'Tockie' McKie, a former trainer and now a steward, and Lady Richard Wellesley, who also stewarded, and a son Timothy.

There will be a private family service for Sumner's committal, followed by a memorial service at a date to be announced.

John was the original archetypal English gentleman who owned racehorses. He was a very gentle man
E.W. Terms
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