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Leading owner Sir Robert Ogden dies, aged 86

Sir Robert Ogden, whose mauve and pink silks were famously carried to notable success over jumps by the likes of Voy Por Ustedes, has died at the age of 86.

One of the richest and most private men in Yorkshire, he jointly owned Cheltenham Gold Cup winner See More Business, with Paul Barber, in his later career, Gold Cup runner-up Exotic Dancer and Marlborough.

He later concentrated on the Flat and enjoyed Group One success with Sans Frontieres and Amazing Maria.

Born in Wisby, Bradford, on January 15, 1936, the eldest of six children, the proud Yorkshireman built a fortune after completing two years’ national service. Having started a demolition and site clearance business, he created an empire through quarrying, mining and moving into the property development business on a huge scale.

Voy Por Ustedes landed the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2007
Voy Por Ustedes landed the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2007 (David Davies/PA)

He became one of the first to spot the potential of developing the London Docklands, but despite his wealth – he was worth £153 million according to the 2020 Sunday Times Rich List – he never forgot his roots and was a generous donator to charities in Yorkshire, notably those connected to palliative care for cancer.

For 20 years the Ogden Group was based at Boston Hall in Boston Spa. The grade two-listed Georgian house, which was built in 1807, was sold to the Yorkshire and England cricket legend Geoffrey Boycott in 2013 and the group moved to offices in the centre of Harrogate.

The company, which also manufactured equipment used in engineering, quarrying and mining, was founded by Robert and his brothers Joseph, Victor and John. Their success was crowned with the Queen’s Award for Industry.

The financial rewards of his highly successful business empire allowed Ogden to indulge in his passion for racing.

Although brought up around horses, his racing interest began via the haulage tycoon and former trainer Jack Hanson, a friend and neighbour of his in the village of Sicklinghall, near Wetherby.

Ogden’s first winner came in a five-furlong maiden on the Flat at Haydock when Midnight Melody obliged on November 12, 1975.

He owned half-shares in horses trained by Hanson, and their best winners were Frankie, Winter Melody and Smokey Bear.

Ogden, who disliked publicity and rarely spoke to the media – except about his charity work – lived at Sicklinghall Stud, although he spent winters abroad with his wife, Ana.

He was knighted in 2001 for his charity efforts, which include the Sir Robert Ogden Macmillan Centre in Harrogate and the Robert Ogden School at Thurnscoe, with his philanthropy also including university scholarships for youngsters from poor backgrounds.

Ogden was initially a major owner over jumps and was champion in that sphere on three occasions (1996/97, 1999/00, 2000/01) with his best horses being Voy Por Ustedes, Marlborough, See More Business and Exotic Dancer.

See More Business won the 1999 Cheltenham Gold Cup and two King George VI Chases for owners Paul Barber and John Keighley, and Ogden bought Keighley’s half-share in January 2000.

See More Business was a runaway winner of the Aon Chase at Newbury in 2000.
See More Business was a runaway winner of the Aon Chase at Newbury in 2000. (Martyn Hayhow/PA)

Though See More Business never won a Grade One for him, he became the main contributor to his second title that season with a runaway success in the Aon Chase at Newbury and the Martell Cup at Aintree. He was officially rated the champion chaser, jointly with Looks Like Trouble, to whom he had been fourth when favourite for the Gold Cup.

Voy Por Ustedes and Star De Mohaison pulled off the Grade One novice chase double in the Arkle and Royal & SunAlliance Chase for trainers Alan King and Martin Todhunter respectively at the 2006 Cheltenham Festival.

Yet it was Voy Por Ustedes who became Ogden’s top chaser, landing the 2007 Queen Mother Champion Chase, the 2009 Ascot Chase and a pair of Aintree Melling Chases in a stellar career.

Exotic Dancer and Voy Por Ustedes were the highest-rated horses to carry Ogden’s colours over jumps and would arguably have won more top-level races had they not had the misfortune to share the spotlight with the likes of Kauto Star and Master Minded.

Exotic Dancer was another of Sir Robert Ogden's top horses
Exotic Dancer was another of Sir Robert Ogden’s top horses (David Jones/PA)

Marlborough, trained by Nicky Henderson, was Ogden’s first Cheltenham Festival winner in the National Hunt Handicap Chase in 2000. He also took the Charlie Hall Chase and was second to Best Mate in the King George.

The late Gordon Richards won a Great Yorkshire Chase for Ogden with General Command and also provided him with a Grand Military Chase via On The Other Hand, ridden by the owner’s son, Adam.

In business, his attention turned to property development, and he owned shopping centres in Leeds and Harrogate.

In recent years, his racing interests had also changed focus, concentrating on the Flat. He sold all his jumpers in March 2012 as he was spending his winters overseas.

He had consecutive Albany Stakes winners La Chunga and Sander Camillo (2005-06) and their trainer, Jeremy Noseda, also handled Sans Frontieres, the owner’s only Classic winner in the Irish St Leger (2010).

The David O’Meara-trained Amazing Maria was a dual Group One winner in 2015.

Ogden is survived by his second wife Lady Ana Ogden, and two sons Adam and Robert from his first marriage.

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