Youngest ever National winner dies

TRIBUTE has been paid to a legendary racehorse trainer and jockey who has died aged 84.Bruce Hobbs, of Saxon Street, near Newmarket, was the youngest ever jockey to win the Grand National and the last ever trainer to occupy the world's oldest surviving racing stables.

TRIBUTE has been paid to a legendary racehorse trainer and jockey who has died aged 84.

Bruce Hobbs, of Saxon Street, near Newmarket, was the youngest ever jockey to win the Grand National and the last ever trainer to occupy the world's oldest surviving racing stables.

Mr Hobbs, who died at Kingfisher House, Newmarket on Tuesday after a long illness, won the Grand National in 1938 on board Battleship, when he was aged just 17.

Standing 6ft 1 ½” tall, Mr Hobbs as also probably the tallest jockey ever to win the race.


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Later in his career, he was the resident trainer at Palace House Stables, Newmarket, built in the 17th Century to house Charles II's racehorses.

Former BBC racing pundit Julian Wilson, who had horses in training with Mr Hobbs for 20 years and was a close friend, said: “He was a wonderful trainer and he trained my horse Tumbledown Wind, which won the Gimcrack, the highlight of my racing career.

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“He was a man who observed the highest standards in everything he did, in the way he dressed, his manners and his professional life.

“He was firm but fair with staff and they respected that and valued their time with him, wherever they ended up in their careers. He was skilful and professional on the racecourse, and very good fun socially away from the course.

“After he retired we remained friends and each year until his eyesight gave out a couple of years ago he would umpire at my charity cricket match between my village team and the Newmarket trainers XI, he will be much missed.”

Jockey Club senior steward Julian Richard-Watson said: “Bruce was a true gentleman, always courteous and helpful, from a family steeped in racing.

“Bruce was one of the old school who believed in doing things properly, he was an outstanding horseman and his natural talent with horses set him apart and was the key to his success both as a jockey and a trainer.

“I am privileged to have known him personally as he successfully trained horses for my father. He will be greatly missed, although his place in racing's history books is almost certainly assured.”

Mr Hobbs was born in 1920 at Long Island, New York, where his father trained horses for an American millionaire, who later set him up at a yard at Lambourn, Berkshire.

Here the young Bruce became the stable's amateur jockey, aged just 14, and enjoyed a successful career over the jumps until breaking his spine in a bad fall in the 1938 season.

Nevertheless he enlisted in the Yorkshire Dragoons during the war, rising to the rank of captain and earning a Military Cross.

After the war he assisted several Newmarket trainers, giving up briefly to work for a saddler in 1960, eventually establishing himself at Palace House in 1965, where he remained for the next 20 years, sending out the winners of the Duke of York Stakes, the Middle Park, the Coronation Stakes and the Irish Derby, among numerous others.

Upon retirement he was elected to the Jockey Club, where he sat on the disciplinary committee and the disciplinary review committee.

He had a leg amputated earlier this year, and his second wife Vicki, who survives him along with his daughter from his first marriage, said he had never fully recovered from that operation.

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