Death of Duke of Roxburghe

Trainer Mark Johnston pays tribute to owner-breeder of dual Classic winner Attraction

  • Thursday 29 August
  • News
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The Duke of Roxburghe, the owner-breeder of dual 1000 Guineas winner Attraction, has died at the age of 64 following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Guy Innes Ker, who was the 10th Duke, died peacefully at his family’s ancestral home, Floors Castle, near Kelso, in the Scottish Borders, his family has announced.

“We are all deeply saddened that the Duke has lost his battle with an illness he fought with great courage and determination,” the family said in a statement.

“He really was a Corinthian figure who was a great sportsman, a passionate fisherman who made a huge contribution to fisheries management on the river Tweed and a successful businessman who modernised and turned Roxburghe Estates into the successful business it is today.

“He derived enormous success and enjoyment from racing and the thoroughbred stud at Floors – including breeding the first double Classic (1000 Guineas) winner Attraction in the early 2000s.

“We know he will be missed by so many in different spheres in particular by those staff and farm tenants on the Roxburghe Estates.”

The 10th Duke inherited the title on the death of his father in 1974, and followed his interest in racing.

His first winner False Witness whetted his appetite for the sport, and he gradually built up a nucleus of mares at Floors with a view to selling their offspring as yearlings.

Guy Roxburghe soon made his mark as a serious commercial breeder thanks to purchasing Norfolk Light for 12,000 guineas in 1977. He sold her for 23,000gns five years later – but not before she had produced a colt by Welsh Pageant that made 25,000gns. The horse was Welnor, who went on to win the Italian Derby.

But it was with Attraction that he will be best remembered in racing. Rejected by Doncaster Bloodstock Sales because of her imperfect forelegs, she was sent to Mark Johnston’s stables in Middleham – where she set out on a brilliant racing career.

Including her two Classics at Newmarket and the Curragh in 2004, Attraction won five Group Ones in all – and 10 of her 15 races.

Record-breaking trainer Johnston revealed, in a moving tribute, that the Duke played a big role in his career.

He told PA: “We knew this day was coming, because we knew how ill he’d become. We’ve been in regular contact, and it’s a shame we didn’t get the chance to see him.

“Although we knew it was coming, it’s still very sad. It’s the end of an era for us – he played a huge part of my career.

“I’ve always said Attraction was the horse I got most pleasure out of training, because there were many stages where we could have called it a day and retired her from racing.

“I often say the day she ran at Royal Ascot was the most pressure I’ve ever felt, because I expected her to win. That was just pressure I put on myself, though – it never came from the Duke.

“Almost from the day she won the Hilary Needler, the Duke’s attitude when he was talking to the jockey before the race was ‘go out there and enjoy it as everything from now on is a bonus’.

“She was a tremendous horse to be associated with, and the Duke being her owner was a big part of that.”

After signing off with victory in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown in 2005, Attraction returned to Floors to start a new career as a broodmare.

Probably her best offspring so far is Elarqam, by Frankel, who was third in the Juddmonte International at York last week.

The 10th Duke is survived by Virginia, the Duchess of Roxburghe, five children and five grandchildren. His eldest son, Charles, the Marquis of Bowmont, will succeed his father as the 11th Duke of Roxburghe.

There will be a private family funeral and a memorial service to be announced in due course.

Death of Duke of Roxburghe
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