Were it not for the late Julian Wilson, Barbadian Sir Michael Stoute – he was awarded a knighthood for services to tourism and sport in his native country in 1998 – may well have become BBC television racing correspondent rather than multiple champion trainer. In November, 1965, the 19-year-old Stoute made a shortlist of six candidates who travelled to Newbury racecourse for final screen tests, but the powers that be preferred the patricianly, slightly raffish, style of Wilson, leaving the young man to find fame elsewhere in the racing world.
Stoute subsequently served as assistant trainer to Hubert Patrick ‘Pat’ Rohan in Malton, Yorkshire for three years. In 1968, he moved to Newmarket and, having abandoned his original intention of returning to the Caribbean, also served as assistant trainer to Douglas Smith and Harry Thomson ‘Tom’ Jones before renting a yard and setting up on his own, with just 15 horses, in 1972. He saddled his first winner, Sandal, owned by his father, at Newmarket in April that year and so embarked upon a brilliant career that has, so far, spanned five decades.
Stoute, now 73, can rightly be considered one of the all-time greats of British Flat racing. He has been Champion Trainer ten times and won a total of 14 British Classic races, including the 2,000 Guineas five times, the 1,000 Guineas twice, the Derby five times, the Oaks twice and the St. Leger once. In June, 2018, Stoute also became the all-time leading trainer at Royal Ascot; the victory of Poet’s Word over hot favourite Cracksman in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes took his career total to 76, beating the previous record of 75 set by the late Sir Henry Cecil. Stoute has also recorded numerous high-profile victories around the world, including the Breeders’ Cup Turf five times, the Japan Cup twice, the Dubai World Cup and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Nowadays based at Freemason Stables and Beech Hurst Stables, on either side of the Bury Road in Newmarket, Stoute will always be remembered as the trainer of Shergar. Stoute describes Shergar – a runaway, 10-length winner of the Derby in 1981, but subsequently kidnapped, probably by the IRA, and never found – as “the most talented middle-distance horse I have ever trained.” However, his most satisfying training performance, he says, was saddling Pilsudski and Singspiel to finish first and second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Woodbine Racetrack in 1996.