The Croft Stables
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1903-1915 Tom Worton
Tom Worton,born in 1845, was a very lucky owner who went on to train successfully in Lambourn for a number of years, building Waltham House and stables in 1894. His best horse, which made him a fortune, was Victor Wild, who won the 1894 Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot at 50/1, the Jubilee Stakes at Kempton in successive years in 1895 and 1896, and also won the Coronation Cup at Kempton in 1897. Many of Worton's horses, including Victor Wild, were trained by Hornsby, before he moved his horses to J Lowe at Ilsley. In January 1897 he moved Victor Wild to Joe Cannon in Newmarket, where the horse continued to notch up victories in valuable races. All the while Tom Worton was training a small string at Waltham House stables before moving to his own premises at The Croft, selling Waltham House to J F Hallick. The Croft had only 12 stables right up until 1989, afterwhich it increased to 44. Tom Worton trained there until 1915, but then moved to The Cock Tavern at Walthamstow where he died on 18th November 1921.

1939-40 Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Warden
Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Henry Warden began training at Barrett's Farm, Eastbury Cottage, on the outskirts of Lambourn, in 1934 and remained there until 1938. He was plagued with trouble during his time at Eastbury, being issued with driving licence endorsements in 1936 and facing a court appearance for non-payment of debts totaling £2000 in April 1938. However, he must have cleared his name by 1939 because he then moved to The Croft to continue his training career.

1940-April 1950 Fred Pratt
Frederick Charles Pratt, born on 4th March 1876 in Tewkesbury, was a nephew of the great Fred Archer, as his mother was Fred Archer's sister Alice. He was one of six sons of the Cheltenham trainer Frederick Pratt senior. His brothers were Ormonde, killed in 1915, Ernest Hayward, killed in 1917, Arthur Wyndham, died in 1920, Charles, a distinguished Lambourn racehorse trainer at Uplands Stables who was tragically killed in a light aircraft crash, and William Archer, a jockey who dead-heated in the Cesarewitch on Cypria. The champion jockey thought so much of his nephew that he left him £2000 in his will for him to complete his education, and a further £2000 on reaching the age of 21. After completing his formal education he went to James Ryan's Green Lodge Stables in Newmarket where he served his apprenticeship, gaining his first ride at Newmarket in 1887 aged just 11.

I am grateful to Ordnance Survey (© Crown Copyright) for permission to use the 1830 map shown above.
In 1895 he got his chance to shine in the saddle when regular jockey Tommy Loates was unable to take the mount on St Frusquin in the Middle Park Stakes which he won, later in the season partnering the colt to success in the Dewhurst Stakes, making him the top-rated colt that year. St Frusquin (SR 1935) went on to fulfil his early promise by winning the 2000 Guineas, Prince of Wales's Stakes and Eclipse Stakes, although by then Tommy Loates was back in the saddle. In 1896 he won his only Classic, the 1000 Guineas aboard Galeotta (SR 1939) 100/8 owned by Alfred Cox, aka Mr Fairie, and trained by James Ryan, however he went on to win the 1000 Guineas as a trainer in 1911 with Atmah (SR 1877) owned by James de Rothschild and ridden by Freddie Fox, the only time the filly won a race. She contested 4 Classics, finishing 10th in the Derby behind Sunstar (SR 2059), and was also unplaced in the Oaks behind Cherimoya (SR 1890) and in the St Leger behind Prince Palatine (SR 2032). For good measure, she was also unplaced in the 1912 Royal Hunt Cup. After a short spell riding on the Continent in Austria, and training in 1901, Fred returned to England to begin his English training career in early 1903 at Russley Park, when he was appointed as private trainer to James de Rothschild. He was reported to have traneferred to Rhonehurst Stables, Lambourn in August 1903 but, at some stage John Hallick expanded into the yard and Fred trained at Letcombe Regis. The untimely death of John Hallick enabled James de Rothschild to purchase Waltham House and stables, opening a new chapter of Fred's training career in April 1919. By then he had already notched up 4 Royal Ascot victories for his trainer, Beppo 4/5 fav won the 1907 Hardwicke Stakes, Bomba won the 1909 Gold Cup, Broadwood 25/1 won the 1914 Ascot Stakes, while a year later Apothecary 33/1 won the 1915 Ascot Gold Cup. Rothschild was a legendary gambler and almost certainly landed two nice touches with the two Ascot outsiders in 1914 and 1915. Two additional coups were landed in the 1919 and 1921 Cambridgeshires with Brigand 25/1 and Milenko 100/7 respectively. He achieved his final Royal Ascot victory in 1936 when Rondo won the Queen's Vase. Fred retired in 1939, and owned The Croft where he enjoyed over 10 years of retirement. He briefly came out of retirement in 1945 to train at The Croft, but that was short-lived. He died at The Croft on 20th April 1950 aged 74, leaving a will of £35,085.

1950-1951 Captain Robin Oates
Captain Robin Dorrien Grace Oates, born in Kensington, London on 9th August 1919, was the son of Bryan William Grace Oates and Alma Edith Oates (nee Kirby). During the Second World War he served in the 7th Queen’s Hussars, was awarded the Military Cross for combat in both Egypt and Libya, and was promoted to Lieutenant in January 1941, but by December 1941 he was further promoted to Captain. He trained at The Croft in 1950 after Fred Pratt had died, but left The Croft in 1951, continuing his training career at Pegasus Stables, Newmarket until 1962. Robin married Enid Ovenden in Devonshire and inherited his father's estate on 15th April 1964 on the death of his father, Bryan, his mother having died on 5th November 1941 at Hopleys in Horringer, Sussex. He died in Braintree, Essex in November 1986 aged 67.

1953-1954 Captain H L Christie
Captain H L Christie trained at Tunworth, near Basingstoke until 1953. He and his wife Lady Jean Christie then moved to Lambourn to take over at The Croft, bringing with them a string of 9, although Christie only remained there until 1954. He moved to France to train, but one of his most successful horses, multiple winner Popjoy, was left behind at Saxon House to be trained by his friend Fulke Walwyn.

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1965-1976 Captain Peter R Lowis
Peter Lowis served as adjutant in the North Irish Horse (TA), reaching the rank of Captain before he decided to joini the training ranks. He took over The Croft in 1965 where he remained until 1970. During his 6 years at The Croft he trained both over the jumps and on the Flat, winning the 1965 Punch Bowl Hurdle at Ascot Heath with Happy Warrior. He won the 1966 Richmond Handicap Hurdle at Fontwell with Hot Pursuit, and two years later he landed the Beau Brummell Stakes at Brighton with Round the Twist for loyal owner Pat Upton. Lowis and his wife Penelope continued to live at The Croft where she had numerous horses. Mrs Penelope Mary Lowis was one of Britain's top horsewomen in the 1970s.
1965 Punch Bowl Hurdle at Ascot Heath HAPPY WARRIOR 100/8 owned by John Baillie, trained by Captain Peter Lowis and ridden by Owen McNally
1966 Richmond Handicap Hurdle at Fontwell HOT PURSUIT 3/1 trained by Captain Peter Lowis and ridden by D Briscoe
1967 Chilham Chase at Wye SABRE POINT 11/2 trained by Captain Peter Lowis and ridden by Brough Scott
1968 Beau Brummell Stakes at Brighton ROUND THE TWIST 20/1 owned by Pat Upton, trained by Captain Peter Lowis and ridden by Geoff Baxter

1986-1988 Dan T O'Donnell
Dan O'Donnell had a wide range of careers all involving horses. In his early life he appeared as a film extra and then became a stunt man on horseback in such well-known films as Spartacus, Solomon, El Cid and Sheba. He looked after studs in California and Venezuela before launching his training career. He was a nomadic trainer, training in Ireland, the Isle of Man, Saudi Arabia and Iran, enjoying particular success at Tehran racecourse in the late 1970s, winning 60 races in 1979. However, Iran became a dangerous place in the early 1980s and he made his way to Lambourn, taking over at The Croft in 1986. He remained at The Croft for 3 years until 1988, where his best horse was the handicapper Gershwin, who won a number of valuable handicaps, including the Redhill Handicap at Lingfield and the Marine Handicap at Brighton. He was replaced at The Croft in 1989 by Tim Thomson Jones.
1987 Redhill Handicap at Lingfield GERSHWIN 10/1 owned by D Ayres, trained by Dan O'Donnell and ridden by Billy Newnes
1987 Marine Handicap at Brighton GERSHWIN 7/2 owned by D Ayres, trained by Dan O'Donnell and ridden by John Reid

1989-1997 Tim Thomson Jones
Tim Thomson Jones, son of legendary Newmarket trainer Harry Thomson Jones, was born in Marylebone, London on 6th May 1956. He was destined to carve a career in racing, and was crowned champion amateur jockey for 3 consecutive seasons from 1985 to 1988. His most high-profile winners were Flying Diplomat in the 1979 Imperial Cup at Sandown, and City Boy in the 1985 Foxhunters Chase at Aintree. In 1989 he launched his training career, taking over at The Croft and Berkeley House in Upper Lambourn. He enjoyed early success with Pukka Major in the 1898 Grand Annual Chase at the Cheltenham Festival for his relation Mrs Solna Jones, and with Fidway in the 1990 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Two years later he won the historic National Hunt Chase Cup with Keep Talking 5/2 fav owned by Jim Joel. Tim ended his training career in 1997 when still based at The Croft, selling it to John Hills and beginning a new career building a business based on equine nutrition and allergies.
1989 Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival PUKKA MAJOR 4/1 jt fav owned by Mrs Solna Jones, trained by Tim Thomson Jones and ridden by Peter Scudamore
1990 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton FIDWAY 100/30 owned by A R Coley, trained by Tim Thomson Jones and ridden by Steve Smith-Eccles
1992 National Hunt Chase Cup at the Cheltenham Festival KEEP TALKING 5/2 fav owned by Jim Joel, trained by Tim Thomson Jones and ridden by Marcus Armytage

1999-2014 John Hills
John William Hills, oldest son of Barry and Maureen Hills, was born on 25th September 1960 and was followed 3 years later by twins Michael and Richard. While the twins forged careers as jockeys, John remained a keen amateur jockey and became an adept trainer. His earliest ride as an amateur was at the age of 16 when partnering Matinale (5/1) to success in the historic 306th Newmarket Town Plate on Thursday 14th October 1976, defeating Marie Tinkler on Rowdy Elf. At that time the Town Plate was still recognisable from the Articles presented by King Charles II in 1665, with the first running taking place in 1666. The 1976 version was still run on the second Thursday in October over the Round Course, although it was impractical to run the race in heats. By 2006 the decision makers abandoned the sacred second Thursday in October for an August date, and some purists thought it marked the end of the Town Plate's links with King Charles II. In 2022 it was run in July, not over the Round Course but over just 2 miles, making it literally half the race which King Charles had decreed. John's first ride under the Rules of Racing was aboard Humdoleila (4/7 fav) at Redcar on Tuesday 1st August 1978 in the Rosedale Amateur Riders Stakes which he won by 4 lengths. It was the first of his 21 winning rides, the best of which was aboard the Josh Gifford trained Lumen in the 1979 Moet & Chandon Silver Magnum at Epsom. However, it was always more likely that the twins would become successful jockeys while John was destined to join the training ranks. He enjoyed a good grounding in the art of training through Eddie O'Grady, Tom Jones at Newmarket, John Gosden and Colin Hayes in Australia before becoming assistant to Barry at South Bank Stables. When his father was offered the prestigious job at Manton in November 1986 John oversaw the stables for a short time before taking on the trainers license in early 1987, marrying Fiona in the same year, the marriage being blessed with 4 daughters, Jessica, Olivia, Martha and Isabella. He quickly marked his arrival to the training ranks with a win by Sanamer in the April Maiden Mile at Pontefract on 23rd April 1987 when partnered by his brother Michael. Although he had limited success in high profile races during his time at South Bank, he later won the 1993 Old Newton Cup with Glide Path, the 1994 Chester Vase with Broadway Flyer, the 1995 Group 1 Aral-Pokal in Germany with Wind in her Hair, the 1996 Newbury Spring Cup with Royal Philosopher, the 1999 Hong Kong Mile with Docksider and his sole Royal Ascot success in the 2000 Queen Alexandra Stakes with Dominant Duchess. In late 1990 Barry Hills time at Manton came to an end and he needed to reclaim his old South Bank Stables, so John moved elsewhere in Lambourn to the Hill House yard where Paul Cole had once trained successfully. He remained at Hill House Stables for 7 years before transferring to The Croft, Upper Lambourn.
2000 Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot DOMINANT DUCHESS 7/1 owned by Mrs Diana Patterson, trained by John Hills and ridden by Richard Quinn
2019-present Oliver Signy
Oliver Signy enjoyed a successful Eventing career, representing Great Britain as a junior, and began breeding event horses. He then studied at Cirencester Agricultural College, completing his degree in International Equine and Agricultural Business Management. He realized that he then needed to gain wider experience before he was ready to branch out on his own training career.

He joined Oliver Sherwood at Rhonehurst where he remained for 2 years, before then venturing across the Atlantic to join Jonathan Sheppard. Once he returned to England he was fortunate to be appointed assistant to Jamie Snowden at Folly House Stables where he spent 3 years, after which he thought the time was right to apply for his own licence. He was successful with his application in 2019 and based himself at The Croft just before Covid 19 closed the whole country and whole racing industry down. With the country open up again he can look forward to a bright future at The Croft.
2020 EBF Stallions National Hunt Hurdle Qualifier at Newbury FRENCH PARADOXE 7/2 owned by Mick Fitzgerald Racing Club, trained by Oliver Signy and ridden by Tom O'Brien
2021 Mansionbet Insurance Hurdle at Sedgefield NO WORD OF A LIE 5/2 owned by Dunkley, Gumienny, Mackenzie & Signy, trained by Oliver Signy and ridden by Jack Andrews
2022 Virgin Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster FRENCH PARADOXE 100/30 owned by Mick Fitzgerald Racing Club, trained by Oliver Signy and ridden by Gavin Sheehan
2022 Karen Dunbar Handicap Chase at Wetherby FRENCH PARADOXE 4/1 owned by Mick Fitzgerald Racing Club, trained by Oliver Signy and ridden by Gavin Sheehan

Top 5 The Croft Stable horses of all time
DOMINANT DUCHESS (2000 Queen Alexandra Stakes)
PUKKA MAJOR (1989 Grand Annual Chase)
KEEP TALKING (1992 National Hunt Chase Cup)
FIDWAY (1990 Christmas Hurdle)
GERSHWIN (1987 Marine Handicap, Redhill Handicap)
© John Slusar 2023

ISBN 978-0-9957632-0-3

652 pages

774 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-1-0

352 pages

400 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-2-7

180 pages

140 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-3-4

264 pages

235 former courses

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