Sir Michael Oswald dies at 86 after half-century of racing service to the Queen

Sir Michael Oswald, pictured with the Queen at Epsom on Derby day in 2013
Sir Michael Oswald, pictured with the Queen at Epsom on Derby day in 2013Credit: Max Mumby/Indigo

Sir Michael Oswald, who for over half a century played a key role in the royal family's horseracing interests, has died aged 86, leaving those who loved and knew him to remember a man described by Nicky Henderson as "spectacular".

Oswald became manager of the Royal Studs in 1970 and served in the role for 28 years, with the first part of his tenure coinciding with a golden age that featured twin Classic triumphs for Highclere and Dunfermline.

Although that job underlined Oswald's passion for Flat racing, he was also synonymous with jumping and acted as racing manager to the Queen Mother, following whose death he became jumps adviser to the Queen.

Oswald's widow, Lady Angela – for many years a lady-in-waiting to the Queen Mother – paid tribute to her husband, saying: "He always said he had the most wonderful job anybody could ever have had and that for all his working life he was simply doing what he would have done had he been a rich man who didn't have to work."

The Queen's racing adviser John Warren said: "Sir Michael did a magnificent job managing the Royal Studs for so long. He was deeply committed to the studs, the Queen and the Queen Mother. He was extraordinarily enthusiastic and got such a buzz out of all the royal winners."

Barry Geraghty talks to Michael Oswold ,The Queen's former racing manager,in the paddock before Close Touch's win in the 2m 4f NH novices handicap hurdleSandown 9.3.13 Pic: Edward Whitaker
Sir Michael Oswald, pictured with Barry Geraghty at Sandown in 2013Credit: Edward Whitaker

That enthusiasm was very evident to Henderson, a trainer of royal jumpers for well over two decades.

"Sir Michael had the most amazing twinkle and such a lovely impish air about him," said Henderson. "He really was the most lovely man and came out with such wonderfully witty lines. He had a marvellous military background and always referred to his wife, Lady Angela, as the commanding officer.

"He was very close to the Queen and the Queen Mother and loved his role with their horses. He would go absolutely anywhere to watch them run, even in the last few years when he was in his eighties. He lived in Norfolk, but would happily drive all the way to Exeter. The Queen once said to me that we had to stop Michael travelling all over the country. I did very respectfully point out she was the only one who could do that."

Henderson added: "A few years ago we won the EBF Final at Sandown for the Queen with Close Touch. The race was sponsored by Paddy Power and for the trophies Paddy Power had made three bronze sets of pants. They were laid out on the table ready for the presentations, when they suddenly realised that giving the Queen a pair of bronze pants might be deemed inappropriate, so they removed that particular trophy and replaced it with a vase.

"Sir Michael made very clear he wanted the pants not the vase and announced he would be driving them straight to Windsor Castle. The following morning I spoke with the Queen, who said the Duke of Edinburgh had been highly entertained by the prize."

Paying his tribute, another long-time friend, bloodstock agent David Minton said: "Like Prince Philip, he was one of those people who enjoyed talking to everybody. He was amazing and one of the nicest, most charming men you could ever meet."

Lee MottersheadSenior writer

Published on 18 April 2021inNews

Last updated 16:58, 18 April 2021