LA GRANGE is one of the most historic racing stables in Newmarket and has a rich tradition. Not only has it been home to many top-class horses, including Classic winners, but also a Grand National hero was based in the yard.
It was built in the late 1870s by Tom Jennings, a renowned trainer, who had a host of big-race successes in his illustrious career. He named the stables after his patron Comte Frederic de Lagrange for whom he’d famously trained Gladiateur, the 1865 Triple Crown winner. Jennings, something of a legendary character in Newmarket and racing circles (‘He never asked a question and never answered one’) went on – in 1882 – to send out Tristan to win the Gold Cup, which was then the principal Turf race in England for older horses.
Jennings died in 1900 and Geo Blackwell became the master of La Grange. The highlight of his lengthy stay surely arrived in 1923 when Sergeant Murphy won the Grand National.
But it is for Flat horses that La Grange is most famous and Captain Tommy Hogg’s arrival at the stables, as private trainer to Lord Glanely, triggered a series of Classic victories. In 1930 Rose Of England won the Oaks and Singapore the St Leger for connections. Four years later and Colombo registered a ‘home’ win in the 2000 Guineas before Chulmleigh prevailed in the 1937 renewal of the Leger.
After World War II, when Geoffrey Brooke trained at the stables for Major Lionel Holliday, Neasham Belle won the Oaks (1951). He was followed at La Grange by Humphrey Cottrill, who won both the Coronation Cup and the Champion Stakes with Narrator (1954) and the Nunthorpe Stakes with Gratitude.
Brooke’s departure from La Grange in 1957 marked the starting-point of the training career of Major Dick Hern, who was employed on a private basis by Holliday. Hern wasted little time in revealing a master’s touch, with Hethersett taking the 1962 St Leger.
Incidentally, the Hern era is not forgotten at La Grange as his pig-stys remain – not that Ed Dunlop is planning on restoring them! Major Holliday’s final trainer at La Grange was Walter Wharton, who won the 1000 Guineas with Night Off in 1965. Vaguely Noble, generally regarded as one of the greatest post-war middle-distance champions and successful in the 1968 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, was another top horse based at the yard under Wharton.
In more recent times, Geoff Huffer trained Persian Heights to win the St James’s Palace Stakes and James Fanshawe rented the yard ahead of Ed Dunlop acquiring it in late 2008.