Lady Herries, eldest daughter of the 16th Duke of Norfolk, has died aged 76, following a recent illness. She was the 14th Lady Herries of Terregles, the eldest of four sisters, and lived at Angmering Park, near Arundel, from where she trained racehorses with great success, both on the Flat and over jumps.
Married to the late England cricket star, Sir Colin Cowdrey, later Lord Cowdrey, who died in 2000, she leaves three sisters: Lady Mary Mumford, Lady Sarah Clutton and the Most Honourable Jane, Marchioness of Lothian.
Renowned as an excellent judge of horses and breeding, her first major success as a racehorse trainer was with the grey Sheriff’s Star, bred and owned by her late mother, Lavinia, Duchess of Norfolk, which won the Coronation Cup at Epsom in 1998. She also enjoyed another prestigious training success when Taufan’s Melody won the 1998 Caulfield Cup in Australia.
But the horse she trained, which really captured the hearts of the public, was Celtic Swing, bred by her mother and owned by Peter Savill. As a juvenile, he won the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in 1994 in unprecedented style, beating the Aiden O’ Brien-trained Annus Mirabilis by 12 lengths. On his second start as a two-year-old, he beat the highly reputed Singspiel at Ascot by an easy eight lengths.
The following year, with Celtic Swing heading for the 2,000 Guineas, Sir Colin Cowdrey persuaded his wife, who despite all this success was a shy and retiring person, that Angmering Park should be open to racing journalists and cameramen, to see the talented Celtic Swing.
This outstanding colt was accompanied by regular work rider Bob Mason. Sir Colin Cowdrey’s daughter-in-law, top lady amateur jockey Maxine Cowdrey, who married his son Graham, was also there.
In the 2,000 Guineas, Celtic Swing was beaten a head by Pennekamp, but went on to win the French Derby, running at Chantilly in preference to Epsom. Owner Peter Savill paid tribute to Lady Herries, saying: “She trained two Group One winners for me, in itself a fine achievement. She was a wonderful lady and I spent many happy days with her and Colin Cowdrey.
“Celtic Swing was obviously an outstanding horse, but I am sure he wouldn’t have achieved all he did without her. He didn’t have the best conformation and she nursed him along, looking after his best interests. I had utmost faith in her as a trainer.”
Trainer William Knight, based at Lower Coombe Stables at Angmering Park said she had been ill for a while but described her as ‘ a very kind and generous lady’, saying she was a very shrewd trainer who loved her horses and all her animals.
Few people knew that another of her passions was rescuing, and rehoming donkeys from Greece on the 11,000 acre estate, She ensured that they were able to enjoy grassland by day and slept in a heated stable with a plentiful supply of fresh hay at night, and had the best possible veterinary attention when needed.
Two years ago there were nine of them, after a white-nosed donkey named Fotis, and a companion named Christoforos joined an existing seven, having made the five-day journey to their new home on a special equine vehicle.
She was a very special lady indeed- extremely modest and a private person, much loved, highly respected, and a talented racehorse trainer.
The funeral will be private but there will be a Memorial Service in Arundel Cathedral on December 16 at noon.