Stanley Thomas Wootton

(18951986)
Epsom Racehorse Trainer

Stanley Wootton
Stanley Wootton
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

The text for this page has been reproduced from the book
RACEHORSE TRAINING AT EPSOM
Over 400 trainers, over 50 stables, over 300 big race winners.

By
BILL EACOTT
ISBN 978-0-9548278-1-6
with the kind permission of the author.

NameAddressKnown Dates
WOOTTON, Stanley T.Treadwell House1915, 1917, 1919-1932
 Shifnal Cottage1931-1941
 Treadwell House1949-1959
 Shifnal Cottage1960-1962

In a brief riding career, Stanley Wootton rode Elizabetta to win the Chester Cup (carrying 6st. 11lbs.), and the Northumberland Plate in 1910. He claimed to have ridden nearly four hundred winners in Britain, France, Belgium and Germany. However, with increasing weight, and with his brother breaking records as a jockey Stanley eased himself into the role of assistant to his father. With his brother Frank, Stanley returned to Australia in November 1913, returning to the U.K. the following April for the Flat racing season. He first took out a training licence in 1915, but his career was interrupted by the outbreak of war. Stanley Wootton took part in the Battle of the Somme, and stories of his wounds received at the front emerged.

Evening Post 13th July 1916:
"Lt. Stanley Wootton of the 17th Royal Fusiliers has been wounded at the front."
Numerous papers Auckland Star, Northern Advocate, Dominion, Evening Post 29 July 1916 reported that Stanley Wootton had subsequently died from wounds. Then, two days later,

Evening Post 31st July 1916:
"Stanley Wootton Not Dead
A cable message on the reported death of Stanley Wootton brought the following reply from his father: "Cannot understand the cable. Stanley awarded Military Cross. Home, convalescent."
Stanley had been part of a four-man unit that undertook nocturnal raids behind enemy lines; he was awarded the Military Cross on 8th August 1916 by Queen Alexandra at Buckingham Palace. He was later en route to Palestine when the boat was sunk, in addition to the many men lost, five hundred horses drowned. He rescued the ship's ensign and brought it back to Epsom.

In 1919 Stanley Wootton returned to Treadwell House to continue training racehorses. He always bought his horses cheaply, and on three occasions between 1921 and 1926 he trained more winners in a season than any other trainer. He won several big handicaps including the Cambridgeshire, the Imperial Cup, and City and Suburban. By the mid-1920s Wootton had so many horses, (all owned by himself), that he expanded to use Shifnal Cottage as an additional stable. In 1928, he moved into Shifnal Cottage, he later stated that Treadwell House contained too many memories of his late mother and his sisters.

In 1924 Wootton was involved in a bizarre court case, when a man appeared in court, charged with stealing 105 by means of a trick, i.e. purporting to be Stanley Wootton. A man called Crowe met the victim Edward Moore near Marble Arch; he claimed to have "inside information" from "his friend Stanley Wootton". He later introduced the accused, James McMahon to Moore, who told him he was Stanley Wootton and that he had "something very good for Wednesday better than the last"; he was having 200 on it and asked Moore to give him 200 to place on it. In the event Moore could only raise 105; he went to Epsom saw the horse finish third, and saw the real Stanley Wootton unsaddling the horse. McMahon placated Moore by telling him he had something better coming up; they met the following week by which time Moore had finally realised that a trick was perpetrated; McMahon offered his watch and cigarette case in part settlement; after Moore attempted to detain McMahon he was assaulted. Another man called James Saunders had been a previous victim of the trickery. McMahon was convicted of impersonating Stanley Wootton to obtain money by deception, and sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment.

On 2nd March 1925, Stanley Wootton instructed his solicitors to write to the Epsom Grand Stand Association enquiring if they would be prepared to sell to him the training gallops on Six Mile Hill. The E.G.S.A. was in the process of buying Epsom Downs, and needed to sell the surplus land to raise finance. The negotiations, sometimes acrimonious, continued for fifteen months.

In June 1926 the E.G.S.A. wrote to all Epsom trainers to confirm that Stanley Wootton had taken over the Six Mile Hill gallops on Walton Downs. The purchase price was 35,000. At the same time Wootton took a lease on the Winter Gallops, i.e. those within the racecourse.

In 1926, Wootton announced that he was sending a team from England to the United States:

Evening Post 24th February 1926
"Stanley Wootton the well-known Anglo-Australian trainer, is sending several members of his huge team to America to race. "I am confident that I will get a fair chance. The American Authorities were splendid to me during my tour.""
In 1930 Stanley Wootton left Epsom to take a six-week holiday in Australia. Edwin de Mestre, formerly assistant to Richard Wootton, was rumoured to be taking over at Treadwell House. This story was dismissed by Stanley; "I am merely going on an extended holiday and the stable will be taken over by brother Frank."

Younger brother Richard, and sister Brenda accompanied Stanley Wootton. They arrived at Brisbane via Singapore. At a Press Conference, Wootton explained the difference in riding and training techniques in Britain and Australia. He opined that there were "too many racecourses in such a small country", and that consequently public facilities were surprisingly poor in Britain. Adding that there was no meeting in the world to compare to Ascot. He told the Press this was his first visit to Australia since 1913, and that he needed a break from the rigours of managing a large stable, plus his apprentices. When asked if he had the largest stable in Britain, Wootton replied, "I know of none larger."

On his return to Britain, Wootton gradually reduced the number of horses he had in training to concentrate on his expanding property interests. On 14th January 1938 he was appointed as a Justice of the Peace, serving on the bench at Epsom magistrate's court.

Auckland Star 22nd January 1938
"Emperor of Epsom" Cuts Down Stable.
An Australian who settled in Surrey 30 years ago took up the training of racehorses and became known as the "Emperor of Epsom" was this week sworn in as a magistrate. Mr Stanley Wootton has announced his decision to cut down his able to only a few horses.
The Sydney Morning Herald 17th January 1938
"In future I will have only a few horses and will devote myself to being a bad farmer and, I hope, a good honorary magistrate. I am more or less giving up racing."
The Sydney Morning Herald, 17th January 1938 reported on Stanley Wootton's wedding to Kathleen Griffiths at St. Joseph's Church, Epsom; "It was a quiet wedding, only immediate family being present. Mr. Wootton's staff was not aware of the event."

Stanley Wootton had proved to be the best tutor of jockeys in the 20th century. Although conditions were hard, and pay low, there was a waiting list of boys who wanted a place in Wootton's stable. The boys slept in dormitories above the stables, or three to a room at the house of a local landlady who reported to Mr Wootton on their behaviour. Competition was intense to get accepted for a place at Treadwell House, and Wootton favoured boys who had a brother who had already shown the right aptitude. The brothers Smyth, Dick, Cordell, Ingham, Smirke and Hunter passed through the system. (John Dick brother of David and Robert Dick, was killed in a riding accident on 16th September 1915, aged eleven)

In the financially depressed 1920s and 1930s, small boys from large families in the cities were eager to join the "Wootton Academy". The number of apprentice jockeys in the country was at its highest in the 1920s peaking at 234 in 1926. Philip Welch recalls in his book Stable Rat that he had an introduction to Wootton because his father knew Charlie Smirke's father. He recalled that Wootton inspected him feeling his bones to anticipate how big he would grow before declaring that there would be "ten boys in front of him", and recommending that they approach Herbert Smyth. Charlie Smirke was the most successful jockey to "graduate" from the stables. He rode four Derby winners, four St Leger winners, two 2,000 Guineas winners, and one 1,000 Guineas winner. In Ireland, he won the Oaks on four occasions, the Derby twice, the 2,000 Guineas twice and the 1,000 Guineas once. Wootton believed good jockeys needed to be tough and tenacious and staged impromptu boxing bouts to identify who had the right qualities. Other Wootton boys to ride Classic winners include Vic Smyth who won the 1923 Oaks, Tommy Carey who rode the 1943 Derby winner Straight Deal, Bobby Dick who won the 1936 2,000 Guineas, and Joe Marshall who won the 1929 Derby. When Zabara won the 1952 1,000 Guineas, both the jockey Ken Gethin and the trainer Vic Smyth had served an apprenticeship with Wootton. Under National Hunt rules Billy Stott and Frenchie Nicholson were both champion jockeys who started from Treadwell House. Stott achieved the Cheltenham double in 1933, and was champion National Hunt jockey for five successive seasons in the years 1927 to 1932. Frenchie Nicholson rode the Champion Hurdle winner in 1936 and the Gold Cup winner in 1942, and was champion National Hunt jockey in 1945. Another "graduate", Sean Magee, (the son of the Irish Rugby captain), rode the Champion Hurdle winner in 1940. Johnny Gilbert set a record by riding ten consecutive winners over a period of twenty-two days in September 1959; it was part of a sequence of sixteen wins from seventeen rides. He was later the first Chief Instructor at the British Racing School, and was awarded the M.B.E. for his services to racing.

Victor Smyth was Champion Apprentice in 1916 and 1917, Charlie Smirke in 1925 and 1926, and Leslie Cordell in 1928.

Jack Crouch, another star apprentice, was jockey to King George VI, but died in a plane crash. Alfie Sharples was killed in an accident in a race at Windsor.

Staff Ingham, Jackie Sirett, Bobby Dick, Vic Smyth, Ken Gethin, Tommy Carey, Peter Ashworth, Dave Dick, William Smyth and Mick Haynes were all former Wootton boys who later trained at Epsom. Frenchie Nicholson trained at Cheltenham, and like his mentor Stanley Wootton, was an exceptional tutor of jockeys. Freddie Hunter, John Hunter, and Alec Jack were other Wootton boys who became trainers.

Other jockeys trained by Wootton included Tommy Hawcroft, Arthur Wragg, Frank Field, "Monkey" Morris, Billy Turtle, Archie Smirke, Bernard Rook, Dick Broadway, Pat O'Leary, Dennis Savage, and Maurice Hunter. South African Terry Ryan was sent over to Wootton's at the age of twelve, having ridden sixty winners already. Stanley Wootton ruled his "academy" strictly. Breaches of discipline were dealt with by corporal punishment, or instant dismissal. Boys who showed promise, but a liking for Epsom's nightlife, were sent down to Gil Bennett's stables at Polegate for a month or two. Bennett had a reputation for being as strict as Wootton with the added advantage that his stables were in isolated countryside. In 1928 when Wootton suspected that one of his apprentices, Noel Carroll, was supplying information on the stable runners to a bookmaker, he immediately reported the boy to the Jockey Club, Carroll and the bookmaker concerned were both warned off. The previous year, Carroll had been involved in a serious accident, while riding his bicycle to Wootton's stable; a car knocked him down. He sustained a fractured skull, and was on the critical list for some time.

Wootton's teaching methods were much admired by his colleagues. Scottish trainer John McGuigan said, "The fairest, most conscientious and pain-staking trainer I know with regard to apprentices is Stanley Wootton, who has been rewarded by turning out so many useful jockeys." "Confidence, obedience, cleanliness, -that could be described as the motto of the Wootton Academy, and results have proved there could not be a better one for turning out successful jockeys," recalled Charlie Smirke.

Wootton stopped training on the outbreak of war in 1939. The Dundee Courier 28th June 1940 reported that he had rejoined the Army, taking up a commission with the King's Royal Rifles. In October 1945 he flew to Australia to visit his father who was seriously ill; he told The Sydney Morning Herald, that because of low prize money it was impossible for English owners to make it pay. Wootton stayed with his father until leaving for England on 21st May 1946. Wootton was in Australia again from late 1947 until 9th April 1948; he was at this time developing his bloodstock breeding in Australia, and had a few horses in training there with Maurice McCartan. He spent the winter of 1948-49 in South America, and on his return he took out a training licence in January1949, telling the press that he intended to train twenty of his own horses and also have three or four apprentice jockeys. He moved back into Treadwell House in 1951.

His post-war success in Australia was first recorded in The Sydney Sunday Herald in April 1951, under the headline "Brilliant Donegal may get Stradbroke Start" the paper noted that owner Stanley Wootton purchased Donegal in France, the horse was an instant success in England, and now had a strong claim to be champion sprinter in Australia.

Back in England, the following year, with just ten horses, Wootton finished 20th in the Trainers Championship. The main contributor was Rawson who won six races including Ascot's Cumberland Lodge Stakes. In 1952, Rawson also won the Princess of Wales Stakes. Wootton continued to train on a small scale throughout the 1950s; at this time he invariably travelled to New York on the Queen Mary (1952-57) returning in April for the start of the Flat racing season. Staff Ingham in 1953, Marjorie Nightingall in 1947 and 1953, and Walter Nightingall in 1954 made the same trip, although their training careers necessitated an earlier return to England. Wootton's 1948-49 cruise to South America was apparently recommended to other Epsom trainers, with Staff Ingham making the trip in 1952 and 1954, and Marjorie Nightingall in 1950.

Staff Ingham trained most of Stanley Wootton's horses during this period, and provided mounts for the top boys like O'Leary, Broadway, Henry Jones and Mick Haynes.

Wootton extended his interests in Australia to include racehorse breeding. He purchased the horse Star King in 1950, following the horse's success in the Gimcrack Stakes, Richmond Stakes, Jersey Stakes and Greenham Stakes. Star King was known as Star Kingdom in Australia where he sired the first five winners of Sydney Turf Club's Golden Slipper Stakes, and three future stallions in Todman, Biscay and Bletchingley. The Canberra Times, 24th December 1956, described Todman as the "Best Colt Ever" noting that Stanley Wootton the breeder was in Australia when Todman smashed the record for fastest Australasian two year old on his racecourse debut at Randwick the previous day.

By the 1950s Wootton's business affairs attracted the attention of the Inland Revenue. The horse training business was showing a massive loss, year on year. In 1954 the tax inspector for Epsom wrote to the Chief Inspector of Taxes for guidance, pointing out that Wootton "enjoyed a substantial standard of living, but has paid no taxes during or since the war."

Wootton's explanation was that since 1940 he had won 375,000 betting.

The Chief Inspector of Taxes observed, "It is understood that Wootton has the reputation of betting on a grand scale, even so, the suggestion that he has acquired 375,000 by betting is extremely unusual."

Epsom's tax inspector observed that in 1952, "accountants noted that betting receipts and payments were recorded in detail."

The Chief Inspector concluded that Wootton "could be considered primarily as a successful backer who carries on training and farming as a sideline." However, if, he should be taxed on the profits of betting it would provide an opening for trainers to set betting losses against business profits, and the matter was dropped.

Stanley Wootton relinquished his training licence in 1962. In November 1967, after a somewhat uneasy truce of forty years, the Epsom Grand Stand.Associatio gave Wootton notice to quit some of the land on Epsom Downs that he was leasing from them. He contested the notice to quit on the grounds that agricultural land was outside of the landlord and tenant ruling. This was upheld in the courts, and Wootton promptly gave the Six Mile Hill gallops on Walton Downs to the Horserace Betting Levy Board on a 999-year lease, at the rent of "a peppercorn if required." Epsom and Walton Downs were now under one administration.

Stanley Wootton said, "In handing over the gallops, I have in mind what the people of England have given the Wootton family."

Stanley Wootton left an estate valued at 596,650 in the United Kingdom.



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