George Lambton: The story behind one of Newmarket's and horseracing's most recognisable and respected figures
It’s a street name familiar to many Newmarket residents but few know too much about the man it commemorates yet in his day he was one of racing’s most recognisable and respected figures.
Seventy five years ago last month, the Hon George Lambton, to give him his full title, closed his eyes for the final time at his home at Kremlin House in Fordham Road.
He was 84 and his association with racing as first an amateur rider and most notably as a trainer had spanned more than 65 years.
Brought up in a manner befitting the son of an earla military career beckoned but the young Lambton had other ideas. As one commentator noted wryly: “At Eton he was rather too near Ascot, and at Cambridge rather too near Newmarket.”
He competed as an amateur rider with some success, riding in five Grand Nationals but a crashing fall at Sandown in 1892 ended his career in the saddle andand he turned to training and owning racehorses. Through a partnership with the 16th and 17th Earls of Derby that lasted 40 years, he became one of the most successful trainers and racing managers of the period sending out the winners of 13 Classics including 1933 Derby and St Leger winner Hyperion.
Lambton was an instantly recognisable figure in Newmarket and could often be seen striding across The Severals in his Savile Row suit, bow tie and buttonhole complete with trilby and his pekinese terrier snapping at his heels.
His training career had begun modestly with 12 horses in leased premises in St Mary’s Square before he began his association with the Stanley family in 1893 and moved to train for Lord Derby at Bedford Lodge and then in 1903 at nearby Stanley House.
In 1908 when he wasinhis late fortieshe married Cicely Horner, a society beauty half his age from a Somerset gentry family, the origins of whose wealth and lands could be traced back at least to the mid-sixteenth century and one of Henry VIII’s commissioners for the dissolution of the monasteries, the ‘little Jack Horner’ of the nursery rhyme.
The couple made their marital home in Mesnil Warren across the road from Stanley House.
Classic winners came first in the shapes of Canyon, Ferry and Tranquil but it was in 1924 that the Derby-Lambton partnership made headlines nationally when Sansovino won the Derby for the family which had given the great race their name and had been trying to win it for 137 years.
Ridden by 21-year-old Tommy Weston, the victory provided another footnote for the family’s racing history in that after the race Weston’s white stock was found to have got caught around the top button of his all black silks and as a result Lord Derby stipulated his colours should from that day forward be black jacket with one white button.
A portrait of Sansovino still had pride of placein Mesnil Warren when Lambton’s grandson, also George and one time mayor of Newmarket lived there with his family.
“The story goes that a long time after buying Mesnil Warren he had a good bet onSansovino, winning theDerby and that with the money he made he decided to build a large extension,” said George. “Whether this actually happened we really don’t know, but what is true is that my grandmother, Cicely Lambton, knew the architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, and so he was commissioned to design the new wing.”
Champion trainer in 1906, 1911 and 1912, Lambton will forever be associated with Hyperion one of the most popular racehorses of the century and made even more special because he was so small standing just over 15 hands. But what he lacked in stature he certainlymade up for with talent becoming not only a champion racehorse but also a champion sire no less than six times.
The success of Hyperion wasn’t however enough to keep the partnership between Lord Derby andLambton intact as the peer shocked the racing world by terminating the relationship.
Although by then getting on in years Lambton was far from ready to be turned out to grass and set up as a public trainer at Kremlin House and continued to train with much success and eventually handed over to his son Teddy.
He died on July 23 1945 and his funeral service was held at All Saints’ Church three days later.
In the 1920s he had created the 200 acre Moreton Stud in Fordham Road which later through the family passed into the hands of the local authority which used it to create the Phantom and Moreton estate on which George Lambton Avenue is quite rightly the principal thoroughfare. The neighbouring Lambton playing fields were later given to the council by the family on a 99-year-lease.