A history of Woodditton Stud

From its beginning over 150 years ago, via Derby winners and G1 stallions to its current use as a rest and recuperation facility, Darley's Woodditton Stud near Newmarket has had a long and varied past

Woodditton Stud has enjoyed a long history with top horses and international owners dating back over 160 years since its foundation in 1851.

A sale advertisement in the Newmarket Journal in November 1894 gives an accurate picture of the property just before the turn of the last century, when it was described as: ‘an excellent small stud farm of about 69 acres, of which 26 acres are of grass, divided into seven convenient Paddocks, with excellent Farm premises and three cottages’ also ‘The Bungalow’, a newly erected residence, with Glass houses and Pleasure and Kitchen Gardens.’

The advert clearly caught the eye of at least one Newmarket resident, the Derby-winning trainer Martin Gurry, who purchased the property and named it the Bungalow Stud.

Gurry had, after a long-running dispute, received a large sum of money as severance pay from his former principle owner George Alexander Baird. Bungalow Stud offered a wise investment for Gurry, along with his building of the Newmarket yard which he pointedly named Abington Place after the nom de course of the mercurial Baird.

A year before his death in 1923, Gurry sold the stud to a professional gambler called Archie Falcon, who in turn sold it on in 1925 to Sir Victor Sassoon. Just a year earlier Sir Victor had inherited £15m on the death of his father as well as the baronetcy conferred on his great-grandfather by Queen Victoria for his contribution to India’s prosperity.

One of Sir Victor’s first moves was to rename the property Eve Stud, reflecting the nickname used by his closest friends taken from the initials of his first names: Ellice Victor Elias.

In possession of an international pedigree himself, Sir Victor was living in Shanghai at the time he purchased the stud. His first foray into racehorse ownership had been in India and he later purchased the bloodstock interests of Mathradas Goculdas, a Bombay cotton mill owner whose large string included horses in both Britain and India.

Sir Victor would go on to be named champion breeder on three occasions as Eve Stud, while he twice topped the owners table in Britain in his own name. His roll call of top performers includes a quartet of Derby winners in Pinza (1953, pictured), Crepello (1957), Hard Ridden (1958), and St Paddy who gave his owner his final Classic victories in 1960, a year prior to Sir Victor’s death.

Sir Victor’s famous colours of peacock blue and gold hoops were also carried to Classic glory by Exhibitionist in the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks of 1937; Honeylight, a half-sister to Crepello, in the 1956 1,000 Guineas; the 2,000 Guineas by Crepello; and the St Leger by St Paddy. 

Pinza, who famously defeated the Queen’s horse Aureole in the Coronation year Derby of 1953, later retired to stand at Eve Stud. Although not a successful stallion, Pinza did get a Royal Ascot winner in Pindari who won the King Edward VII Stakes in 1959, and remained at the stud until his death in 1977.

Aside from his great successes in Britain, Sir Victor’s racing contribution is also remembered in India thanks to his foundation of the Eve Bloodstock Scheme, which saw him export a number of fillies and mares via his stud to India in conjunction with the Royal Western Indian Turf Club.

Such was the importance of the Eve Bloodstock Scheme to the Indian racing industry, that the RWITC names Sir Victor as one of the four most important names in Indian breeding.

The mastermind behind Sir Victor’s racing success in Britain was trainer Sir Noel Murless who became manager of his studs in 1952, and later purchased the property from Sir Victor’s widow in 1970.

It was Sir Noel who christened the property Woodditton Stud, and he continued the practice of standing stallions there, including the top-class racehorses Connaught and Welsh Pageant, both of whom are buried at the stud along with Pinza. 

The stallion tradition was maintained when the stud was purchased again in 1981 by Mr Yong Nam-Seng of Singapore, being home to Damister and, for a short time, his champion son Celtic Swing, as well as Bin Ajwaad, Superlative and Sayf el Arab. 

After 20 years of ownership, during which time he expanded the stud to 185 acres, Mr Yong Nam-Seng, a steward of the Singapore Jockey Club and former chairman of the Australasian Racing Conference, sold Woodditton Stud in November 2001 to Darley and it is now used as a rest and recuperation facility.