The History of Beckhampton

The history of Beckhampton features the seven Classic winning Beckhampton trainers, starting with William Treen in the 1830’s. I would like to thank David Acock who has been following the stable for several decades, for his time, effort and research.

In the Domesday Book, the comprehensive survey of England ordered by William the Conqueror in 1086, Beckhampton appears as Bachentune, being held of Ansfrid of Gilbert. At the time it consisted of eight acres of meadow and 40 of pasture, having an annual value to the Crown of £6 in geldrum or land tax.

Beckhampton House
Beckhampton House, Avebury. Mid C18 formally 'The Catherine Wheel' Inn, meeting place of the political Beckhampton Club
1,000 Guineas
Year Name Jockey Trainer Owner
1868 Formosa George Fordham H. Woolcott William Graham
1931 Four Course Charlie Elliott Fred Darling 4th Earl of Ellesmere
1942 Sun Chariot Gordon Richards Fred Darling HM King George VI
1948 Queenpot Gordon Richards Noel Murless Sir Percy Loraine
2,000 Guineas
Year Name Jockey Trainer Owner
1868 Formosa George Fordham Henry Woolcott William Graham
1897 Galtee More Charles Wood Sam Darling John Gubbins
1907 Slieve Gallion Billy Higgs Sam Darling Henry Greer
1925 Manna Steve Donoghue Fred Darling Henry Morriss
1931 Cameronian Joe Childs Fred Darling Arthur Dewar
1938 Pasch Gordon Richards Fred Darling Henry Morriss
1942 Big Game Gordon Richards Fred Darling HM King George VI
1947 Tudor Minstrel Gordon Richards Fred Darling Arthur Dewar
1963 Only For Life Jimmy Lindley Jeremy Tree Monica Sheriffe
1980 Known Fact Willie Carson Jeremy Tree Khalid Abdullah
Year Name Jockey Trainer Owner
1839 Deception John Barham Day W. Treen Fulwar Craven
1868 Formosa George Fordham Henry Woolcott William Graham
1870 Gamos George Fordham Henry Woolcott William Graham
1901 Cap and Bells II Milton Henry Sam Darling Foxhall Keene
1941 Commotion Harry Wragg Fred Darling Arthur Dewar
1942 Sun Chariot Gordon Richards Fred Darling King George VI
1975 Juliette Marny Lester Piggott Jeremy Tree James Ian Morrison
1979 Scintillate Pat Eddery Jeremy Tree James Morrison
Year Name Jockey Trainer Owner
1897 Galtee More Charles Wood Sam Darling John Gubbins
1902 Ard Patrick Skeets Martin Sam Darling John Gubbins
1922 Captain Cuttle Steve Donoghue Fred Darling 1st Baron Woolavington
1925 Manna Steve Donoghue Fred Darling Henry E. Morris
1926 Coronach Joe Childs Fred Darling 1st Baron Woolavington
1931 Cameronian Freddie Fox Fred Darling Arthur Dewar
1938 Bois Roussel Charlie Elliott Fred Darling Peter Beatty
1940 Pont l’Eveque Sam Wragg Fred Darling Fred Darling
1941 Owen Tudor Billy Nevett Fred Darling C. Macdonald-Buchanan
1990 Quest For Fame Pat Eddery Roger Charlton Khalid Abdullah
St. Leger
Year Name Jockey Trainer Owner
1868 Formosa Tom Chaloner Henry Woolcott William Graham
1897 Galtee More Charles Wood Sam Darling John Gubbins
1898 Wildflower Charles Wood Sam Darling Henry Greer
1916 Hurry On Charlie Childs Fred Darling James Buchanan
1926 Coronach Joe Childs Fred Darling 1st Baron Woolavington
1942 Sun Chariot Gordon Richards Fred Darling HM King George VI
1949 Ridge Wood Michael Beary Noel Murless Geoffrey Smith
  • Beckhampton Stables
  • William Treen

    Billy Treen took over as landlord of the Beckhampton Inn primarily to gain access to the stabling. The Beckhampton Inn had started life as the Catherine Wheel when the landlord of the hostelry of the same name in nearby Avebury saw an opportunity created by the opening of the turnpike to Calne in 1751. The new inn was sited in the fork in the road created by the junction of the new turnpike and the road to Devizes. Billy closed the inn in the late 1820s. In 1839 he sent out Beckhampton’s first classic winner when Deception won the Oaks. The first patron of the stable was Fulwar Craven a somewhat eccentric squire from Chilton near Hungerford. Billy had been apprenticed to John Barham Day just over the Hampshire border at Danebury and it was another Day apprentice who took over from him for the 1868 season.

  • Harry Woolcott

    Harry brought new owners to the stable including William Graham and later Sir George Chetwynd. Mr Graham was a somewhat dubious character who made his money marketing Nicholson’s London Gin. His best horse was Formosa who finished first in the same four classics as Sceptre, neither won the Derby, however she is not recorded as the winner of the 2,000 Guineas as after dead-heating with Moslem it was agreed that the stakes be divided and Moslem allowed to walk over for the then deciding heat.

    He won the Oaks in 1870 with Gamos. Sir George Chetwynd of Grendon, Warwickshire was an owner of a different kind. He was primarily a gambler and his string consisted mainly of lower grade handicappers on which he could rely when the money was down. Sir George left the stable in a serious financial position when he sent his string to Joe Dawson in 1879. Harry soldiered on with a much reduced string until the beginning of 1882 when he put the property up for auction.

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    Sam Darling

    The Darling way was one of order, routine and attention to detail. Born at Bourton on the Hill where his father worked for Edwin Weever, who trained two Grand National winners for Lord Coventry, Emblem and Emblematic. He was the grandson of a St Leger winning jockey Sam Darling who won on Rockingham in 1833. After riding as a jockey both on the flat and over jumps he started training. In 1877 he moved to Emblem Villas Worcestershire to train for Lord Coventry who lived at Croome Court. He later moved to Sandford House nearby at Severn Stoke before moving to Heddington not far from Beckhampton in 1882. Hearing that Beckhampton House had not reached its reserve at auction he promptly made an offer which was accepted and lodged a deposit of £500.

    The yard at that time consisted of 58 boxes and needed 30 lads plus ancillary staff to run it. Part of the trial grounds ran across a farm owned by Colonel Holford, despite being very run down Sam bought the farm to secure the gallops. He named the farm after his Triple Crown and first Derbywinner Galtee More.

    Sam upgraded the cage boxes installing ventilation, acetylene lighting and drainage. Much of what can be seen today has changed little since his time. He also applied himself to the farm improving both the buildings, the soil and the stock winning many prizes not only for his Hampshire Down sheep, cattle and cart horses but also his crops of swedes, mangolds and turnips.

    His early owners included Mr C W Lea of Worcestershire Sauce fame, the Duke of St Albans, Lord Colmondeley and Mr Fenwick, the stable being run on mixed lines. Later he concentrated on the flat. In 1893 Mr Gubbins, the Master of the Limerick Hunt and owner of the Bruree and Knockany studs transferred his horses to Beckhampton from Lushington’s stable in Sussex. Included in the draft was Blairfinde who in 1894 won the Irish Derby. Later to follow were the half brothers Galtee More the Triple Crown winner of 1897 and Ard Patrick who took the 1902 Derbyand 1903 Eclipse defeating Sceptre on both occasions.

    Sam also went into a breeding partnership with Captain Greer and together they had success with the likes of Bird of Passage, Good Morning, Kilcock, the 1898 St Leger winner Wildfowler and the 1907 2,000 Guineas winner Slieve Galleon. Some of the stable cottages are named after Wildfowler. The best stayer that Sam trained was Willonyx who won the Chester Cup, Ascot Stakes, Ascot Gold Cup, Jockey Club Cup and the Cesarewitch (with the then record weight of 9stone 5). When nearing retirement Sam built himself a new house in the village naming it Willonyx. Sam trained for many notable owners of the day including the Tsar of Russia, Lords Rosebery, Lonsdale and Clonmel, Baron Rothschild and Count Lehndorf. He can also be credited with beginning the yards long association with the United Statesas he trained for Foxhall Keene, James Keene and Joe Widener. For Foxhall Keene he won the 1898 Oaks with Caps and Bells. The unbeaten (15 out of 15) Belmont winner Colin was in the yard at one time but didn’t stand training.

    Sam trained 428 winners totalling prize money of £238,000. In addition to his achievements at Beckhampton his family is indelibly linked with the turf. His eldest child Grace married Richard Marsh the Royal trainer. His eldest son Samuel Henry assisted Richard Marsh before training on his own at Yatesbury in a yard his father built before moving back to Newmarket to Green Lodge. After the First World War he trained from the Links Stables before buying Warren Towers and building Warren Place. After its sale to the Maharajah of Baroda he moved to Abington Place later selling that to Harry Wragg and retiring.

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    Fred Darling

    “The best horse I have ever seen, the best I am ever likely to see” these are the words of Fred Darling when asked about one of his first purchases the massive Hurry On. Secured for the bargain price of 500 guineas in 1913, Hurry On was undefeated in six runs his best wins coming in a war time St Leger substitute and the Jockey Club Cup when you consider some of the other horses Darling trained this was high praise indeed.

    The second of Sam’s five sons Fred started training National Hunt horses for Lady de Bathe, Lily Langtry, at Kentford before moving to Germany to train near Frankfurt for the Von Weinberg brothers where Joe Childs and Freddie Fox both rode for him. Fred married whilst in Germany but with war threatened and his father thinking of retiring he decided to move back home to Beckhampton. Sadly his wife returned to Germany and they never saw each other again.

    Fred took his fathers ways to a new level whilst expecting no more from his men than he could do himself. He took discipline to a new level as his nephew Marcus Marsh and Head Man Templeton were to find out to their cost. Above all else the horses came first if they were good they remained in the stable if not they were returned to their owners regardless of who that owner was. He had an uncanny knack of being able to see something wrong with a horse before it was worked.

    He trained for King George VI, Lord Woolavington and his daughter Lady MacDonald Buchanan, Lord Dewar and his nephew J A Dewar, Lord Lonsdale, H E Morriss, the Maharajah of Kohalpur, and Peter Beatty among many.

    He employed the top jockeys of the day and after many years of trying he obtained first choice retainer on Gordon Richards’ services for the 1932 season and together they had 16 memorable seasons.

    Six times champion trainer, seven Derby winners, seven horses of the year, his 19 classic winners stand comparison with Sir Henry Cecil’s 25 John Porter’s 23, young Alec Taylor’s 21 and Vincent O’Brien’s 16. Hurry On sired two of his early Derby winners Captain Cuttle and Coronach enabling the building of a second yard off the Avebury road. Sun Chariot and Big Game did much for the nation’s morale when they took four of the five classics for the King in 1942.

    Tudor Minstrel’s career coincided with Fred’s final two years as a trainer before ill health forced his retirement. At a time when racing occupied a pre-eminent place in the nation’s sporting hierarchy Tudor Minstrel did what Frankel did. He ignited interest outside the sport. He had brilliant speed winning four races at two including the Coventry and then after taking the 2,000 Guineas by eight lengths became odds on favourite for the Derby. The status of the Derby at the time was such that he was expected to run and whilst his pedigree contained stamina it was the speed element that prevailed, running in a similar way to Dawn Approach he finished a tired fourth. He bounced back winning the St James Palace by 5 lengths but he was again found out when beaten a length and a half in the Eclipse.

    Fred retired at the end of 1947 selling Beckhampton to Mr Dewar who installed Noel Murless on the recommendation of both Fred and Sir Gordon Richards. Both saw it as a good thing that he carried his own saddles from the weighing room!

    Whilst convalescing in South Africa he spotted Pasqua a half-sister to his 1938 2,000 Guineas winner and Derby third Pasch in the December sales. He instructed Mr Dewar to purchase her and she was subsequently sent to Fred’s Blacklands Stud at Calne where the next spring she foaled Pinza who was Sir Gordon’s only Derby winner. Fred lived just long enough to hear the race on the radio dying three days later.

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    Sir Noel Murless

    Noel Murless moved from Hambleton near Thirsk at the end of 1947. His first classic runner The Cobbler was beaten a head in the 2,000 Guineas, two days later Queenpot took the fillies’ equivalent. The two year olds of that year included the Macdonald Buchanan’s Abernant, and Royal Forest, the King’s Berrylands and Gigantic, Faux Tirage and Wat Tyler. Abernant would go on to be one of the great sprinters of the century. In his first season at Beckhampton he was champion trainer, and was champion a further 8 times in his career. It seemed very much a case of business as usual.

    However after two good years the next three saw a tailing off of results. Noel always found the winters cold and damp and he resolved to leave. Mr Dewar had removed his horse some months earlier and subsequently sold the house and yards to Herbert Blagrave who trained his own horses at Beckhampton Grange a few hundred yards along the Calne road. Noel purchased Warren Place at Newmarket from the Maharajah of Baroda and in September moved his horses and men including Sir Gordon and a young Clive Brittain with him, who had joined at 14 and lived in the lad's hostel. Whilst at Beckhampton he trained the winners of 265 races and reached a total of £198,331 in prize money. Throughout his career he won 19 British classics, had three Derby’s and five Oaks winners.

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    Jeremy Tree

    Jeremy Tree was the epitome of an English gentleman whilst, in fact, he was mainly of American descent. His father, Ronald Tree MP, was the son of Arthur Tree a former minister to Russia and Ethel Field a daughter of Marshall Field co-founder of Marshall Fields department store in Chicago now Macys. The Field family had horses in training with Captain Boyd Rochfort at Freemason Lodge in Newmarket. Ethel Field later married Captain David Beatty, subsequently the 1st Earl Beatty and First Lord of the Admiralty. Their second son was the Hon. Peter Beatty who had horses in training at Beckhampton with Fred Darling notably the 1938 Derby winner, Bois Roussel. Tree’s mother, Nancy Lancaster, was a niece of the first Lady MP Nancy Astor.

    Born in 1925 and with that background it was inevitable that Tree was exposed to some of the finest bloodstock of the age. Frequent visits were made to Cliveden and Manton but also to Beckhampton which shaped his later life. Fred Darling was someone he greatly admired.

    After spending a couple of years in the city, Tree worked for Col. Dick Warden at Kremlin House. The two seasons he spent gave him enough confidence to start on his own in 1952 at Lansdowne House in Newmarket. His uncle the Hon Peter Beatty had died in 1949 and left his bloodstock to his nephew and these horses formed the bulk of his small string. He turned out 8 winners in his first year.

    With Noel Murless moving to Newmarket Tree jumped at the chance to move to Beckhampton. He leased the main house and the stables at the rear. The top yard was leased to Gordon Richards by Mr Blagrave. Whilst on the face of it the arrangement worked well Gordon was never happy with the arrangement particularly the sharing of the gallops with Tree and Blagrave. At the end of the year he moved to Ogbourne on the other side of Marlborough where he had lived before his marriage.

    One of Tree’s early successes was with a Beatty horse, Double Bore, who won the Newmarket St Leger in 1954 and the Goodwood Cup in 1955.

    The sad death of Gerald Balding in 1957 followed by the retirement of Noel Cannon resulted in horses owned by Jock Whitney and the Morrison family joining the stable. 1960 saw Whitney’s Persian Road winning the Ebor and Sir Philip Dunn’s Monet the Steward’s Cup. Sir Philip’s daughter, Lady Rothschild, still has horses in training at Beckhampton.

    In 1963 Tree’s first classic came along when Miss Monica Sheriffe’s Only for Life ridden by Jimmy Lindley, triumphed in the 2000 Guineas. It was nearly a fantastic double as the Morrison’s Spree was only beaten a length in the 1000 Guineas won by Hula Dancer. Tree also trained for Nijinsky’s owner, Charles Engelhard, most notably Double Jump, Mandera Riboccare and Roy Rock. Other successes for Whitney were Gulf Pearl (Chester Vase) D’Urberville (Norfolk, Temple and Kings Stand Stakes), Swing Easy (New, July, Richmond and Kings Stand Stakes, Quiet Fling (John Porter Stakes and Coronation Cup), and Bright Finish (Yorkshire Cup).

    Miss Sheriffe only ever had one or two horses in training but Tree won for her the Observer Gold Cup and Lingfield Derby trial with The Elk and the King George Stakes with Constans who also won the Prix de Saint-Georges three years in succession. Her best horse was undoubtedly Sharpo who, after taking the Temple Stakes, won the Sprint Championship (Nunthorpe) three years in succession and the July Cup.

    23 of Tree’s 52 principal winners in the UK, those races that were pattern from 1971 onwards, were in the colours of Prince Khalid starting with Abeer in the 1979 Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot continuing with Known Fact (Middle Park, 2000 Guineas, Goodwood Mile, and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes), Rainbow Quest (Great Voltigeur & Coronation Cup) Damister (Classic Trial Dante Stakes and Great Voltigeur) Dowsing (Diadem & Haydock Sprint Cup) and finishing with Two Timing (Prince of Wales Stakes) and Danehill (Cork and Orrery Stakes and Haydock Sprint Cup) in 1989.

    Tree’s second and third classic wins came from Spree’s half sister Set Free her offspring Juliette Marny (Blakeney) and Scintillate (Sparkler) both won the Oaks with Juliette Marny following up in the Irish Oaks. Typical of Tree having decided Juliette Marny needed to concentrate more he fitted blinkers for the first time in the Oaks. Tree nearly pulled off the autumn double for Whitney in 1976 with Intermission (Cambridgeshire) and John Cherry (Cesarewitch) but due to the unusually dry summer he sent Intermission to Michael Stoute at Newmarket to complete her preparation.

    Tree also had some notable successes in France. Rainbow Quest took the Arc, Double Jump the Prix Robert Papin, John Cherry the Prix Gladiateur and Sharpo the Prix de Saint George and Prix de L’Abbaye. Tree trained the quirky Sea Pigeon for Whitney. He only won once despite being good enough to run in the Derby. After moving north his notable wins were the Chester Cup and the Ebor on the flat and the Champion Hurdle over the jumps.

    Tree was also responsible for putting a small band of mares together for Jock Whitney. Mainly kept at Mount Coote Stud in Ireland although some were sent across the Atlantic to Whitney’s Greentree Stud in Kentucky. Some of the mares came from the Beatty stock, others notably the Cambridgeshire winner, Lacquer the dam of Bright Finish and Brilliantine, were acquired privately. A few were bought as yearlings. The small band of mares included the female ancestors of Erhaab (Derby), Shaamit (Derby) Attraction (1000gns), Carotene (Champion Mare in Canada) as well as Frankel.

    In 1967 Tree purchased a chestnut yearling for Whitney at the Houghton sale for £16,000gns, by Klairon out of Sun Rose she was called Peace and in 1971 he bought another chestnut yearling who was later named Rock Garden for 15,000 gns. After their racing careers both fillies went to Greentree, Rock Garden remaining there for the rest of her life. On Whitney’s death Prince Khaled acquired Peace, her daughter Flaming Peace and Rock Garden’s Lingfield Oaks Trial placed daughter Rockfest privately purchasing Peace’s Cambridgeshire winning daughter Intermission at Tattersalls December Sale. Whilst Peace and Intermission had an immediate impact for Juddmonte it took a good deal longer for Rockfest to have an impact through Rainbow Lake, Kind and ultimately Frankel.

    Tree became unwell in the late eighties culminating in a brain operation which forced his retirement at the end of the 1989 season. He handed over the stable to his assistant of 12 years Roger Charlton.

    The relationship between the two men had developed into a great friendship. On his retirement Tree had written to Prince Khalid indicating that there were three useful maiden colts in the stable, for Roger to train in his first year. Typically of Tree, never one to over egg his horses, they nearly pulled off a classic Derbytreble with Sanglamore (French Derby), Quest for Fame (Epsom Derby) winning before Deploy, pace-making for Quest for Fame, finished second to that great filly Salsabil at the Curragh (Irish Derby).

    Sadly Jeremy passed away in March 1993

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    Roger Charlton

    Born in Flintshire in 1950 Roger’s father farmed near Banbury. Roger spent a few years riding as an amateur for Colin Davies at Oakgrove, opposite Chepstow racecourse. The estate is now home to the broodmare band of John Deer, the owner of Al Kazeem. Whilst at Oakgrove he rode three winners from thirty rides most notably when riding Pride of Kentucky owned by his father’s neighbour Edward Courage in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham festival, galvanising the big horse to pass the then top amateur John Lawrence, the late Lord Oaksey up the hill in 1969.

    After spending some time in Australia he took up a position with a stock broking firm in Hong Kong who eventually moved him to London. The desire to get back into training was still there and in 1975 Roger bought Windsor House in Lambourn and set up one of the first equine swimming pools. The summers of late 1970s were dry and hot and the business flourished. Jeremy Tree became aware and in 1976 sent Whitney’s Intermission, John Cherry and Bright Finish among others for some exercise as part of their preparation for Autumn targets. Tree was impressed with the professional way the business was run, a hallmark of anything Roger does. At the time he was looking around for an assistant who could take over at Beckhampton when he retired. He offered the job to Charlton who promptly sold Windsor House to Nicky Henderson and moved to Beckhampton.

    The original plan was that Tree would retire when his major patron, Whitney, pulled out of English Racing. Whitney had suffered a heart attack in 1976 and wasn’t well. However, the introduction of Prince Khalid to the stable changed that. At the Prince’s wish Tree remained in charge until the close of the 1989 season. A long time for Charlton to stay as assistant though in many ways it was more of a partnership with Charlton taking more of the responsibilities as Tree had bouts of illness.

    Under Charlton’s leadership both the facilities and the team have developed. The lower yard has had an American barn added and there is a full range of grass and all weather gallops including the twisting valley gallop on West Down behind the lower yard. Travel half a mile or so and cross the Devizes road and there are some of the best grass gallops in the world high up on Horton Down.

    Roger has added 70 group winners, 43 listed winners and over 1100 winners to the Beckhampton roll of honour. Assessment of ability and placement in the right race has seen the stable pick up some major handicaps the Cambridgeshire (Cap Juluca and Blue Monday), Stewards Cup (Harmonic Way, Patavellian and Genki), five Royal Ascot handicaps (Source of Light (2), Harmonic Way, Deportivo and Fifteen Love) as well as eleven Group 1s Sanglamore’s French Derby and Prix d'Ispahan, Quest for Fame (Epsom Derby), Tamarisk and Tante Rose (Haydock Sprint), Patavellian and Avonbridge (Prix De l’Abbaye), Cityscape’s Dubai Duty Free at Meydan and Al Kazeem’s hat-trick in 2013 including the Tattersalls Gold Cup, Royal Ascot’s Prince of Wales’ Stakes and the Eclipse.

    Placing horse to win multiple times in a season is also evident, Sea of Heartbreak won 5 in 2010 as did Home Advantage; Cap Juluca won 5 consecutively in 1995 as did Kind (dam of Frankel) in 2004 and in 2012 Camberley Two picked up six handicaps consecutively in the space of 46 days showing a great understanding of both horse and task. Age is not a barrier either with several older horses racing sweetly into advanced years. Winning a Group 3 with Genki at the age of 7 ranks with Striking Ambition’s Group 2 at 5 and Patavellian’s Group 1 at 5. The latter racing until he was 10. Blue Monday after six unplaced efforts in Australiain 2007 was returned to Beckhampton to win the Arc Trial for the second time at the age of seven.