Death of Derby-winning training great Geoff Wragg, aged 87

Sun 17 Sep 2017

Multiple Classic-winning trainer Geoff Wragg has died at the age of 87.

During his first season after taking over the licence from his father, Harry, Wragg provided Lester Piggott with his ninth Derby success when saddling Teenoso to win the 1983 renewal of the Epsom showpiece

Twenty-three years later, Wragg memorably came close to causing one of the biggest upsets in Derby history when 66-1 shot Dragon Dancer was beaten just a short head into second place by Sir Percy.

Another top-class performer was Pentire, who won six of his seven starts as a three-year-old in 1995, including the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Great Voltigeur at York and the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. The following year he returned to Ascot to win the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Newmarket trainer and former mayor of the town, John Berry, hailed Wragg as the "father figure of Newmarket trainers".

"Geoff dying really is the end of an era," Berry told At The Races. "Harry trained two Derby winners and was at the top of the training tree. Geoff took over from him in 1983 and it was a seamless transition.

"For the next 30 years, virtually, he was as successful as his father had been. He always had a top horse and you could pretty much set your clock by him having something for Royal Ascot every year.

"He was an absolute gentleman and the father figure of Newmarket trainers.

Horse Racing - King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes - Ascot

"He's been in very poor health and it was going to happen at some point, but it's a very sad day and it leaves a big hole in the community."

Michael Hills, who partnered Pentire, pictured above, to all but one of his eight career victories, said: "I worked for Geoff for six years and we had the most amazing time.

"There was Pentire winning all those races, Arcadian Heights winning the Gold Cup, Nicolotte winning the Queen Anne, First Island winning the Prince of Wales's and Rebecca Sharp in the Coronation Stakes. I must have ridden about 10 Group One winners during that time.

"He was a fantastic trainer and a great man who was always an absolute pleasure to ride for."

Wragg also enjoyed Classic success in Ireland, with Marling landing the 1992 Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh under Walter Swinburn. The filly also won the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood that year.

Other big-race winners for Wragg included Most Welcome, Beneficial, First Trump and Balisada.

Following a 25-year career, Wragg retired from training in 2008.

Steve Drowne rode several winners for Wragg in the latter part of his career.

He said: "I sort of missed the real glory days, but we had some nice winners together and I'm particularly proud to have ridden Geoff's last Royal Ascot winner Heron Bay (King George V Stakes, 2007).

"He was an absolute gentleman and could improve a horse unbelievably well. If one of Geoff's won first time out, you knew it was a Group horse.

"Autumn Glory is probably the favourite horse I have ridden and he was trained by Geoff. He won a few Group races but unfortunately got injured, which was a shame, as I'm sure he was a Group One horse on soft ground."

Wragg leaves his wife, Patricia, and his funeral will be a family-only private affair.

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