Thornton Stud

Thornton-le-Street, Thirsk, North Yorks, YO7 4DW

Owner: Trevor & Pauline Nicholson (Property currently for sale)
Acreage: 125 acres currently laid out as stud, total 801 acres
Type: Private (formerly public)
Previous Stallions: Kris, So Blessed, Hard Sauce, Relic

'Thornton Stud' was placed on the market in September 1994 for 1.75m. The then owner Lord Howard de Walden had owned the property since 1967 and during the 20th Century it was owned by three of the most successful owner breeders in the country, more importantly perhaps it was home to the most recent Yorkshire based champion sire. The property was again on the market (with more land) in July 2004 as 'Thornton Park' for 7.75m.

The Hall was originally built between 1660 and 1680 by the Talbot family. In 1794 the Compton family, who were bankers from Derbyshire, purchased the estate which then stood at 1,971 acres. The estate (now 2,533 acres) passed by marriage to the Earl's Cathcart in the mid 19th Century. In 1911 Earl Cathcart leased the estate to the Vyner family of Newby Hall, with Lady Vyner purchasing it outright in 1920, and giving it to her son Commander Claire Vyner in 1921. It was Commander Vyner who founded the stud in 1918 but, following his inheritance of Studley Royal and Fountains Abbey, the estate was gradually broken up, and the Hall demolished.

Private Stud at Thornton, with park in front. Click for larger image Private Stud at Thornton. Click for larger image

The rump of the property, comprising 311 acres and including the stud and the central parkland, was sold by Commander Vyner to the Seventeenth Earl of Derby in 1925, who retained ownership until his death in 1948. During the war it was felt that the possibility of a stray bomb hitting Lord Derby's great stallion Hyperion was a bit too likely in Newmarket so he was relocated to Yorkshire outside of the covering season. He was initially sent to Lord Bolton's Bolton Stud (or perhaps Wynbury Stables from where Ferdy Murphy now trains - the story seems to vary in the telling!) before moving on to Thornton Stud for the rest of the war, only returning to Newmarket for the covering season. Whilst in Lord Derby's ownership the great stayer Alycidon and Derby winner Watling Street were reared at Thornton. After Lord Derby's death the family stud interests were gradually reduced and Thornton was sold to trainer Jack Colling in 1955. His ownership of the property was relatively short, although he did stand the useful sire Relic for one season, and also reared some of the National Stud yearlings leased to the Queen on the property.

On the advice of Sir Noel Murless (who had once trained only a few miles away up Sutton Bank at Hambleton House, and earlier Hambleton Lodge) the property was bought by Sir Victor Sassoon in 1957. Sasson was one of the leading financiers of his day and twice champion owner and three times (using the name Eve Stud) champion breeder. The entire Sassoon crop was despatched upto Yorkshire from Newmarket, as Murless believed Yorkshire limestone was the best environment to rear young horses. However the pick of the crop typically went to the Murless family Cliff Stud, a few miles away at Helmsley and Sassoon also owned the Cartoft Stud in Yorkshire. Principle amongst the Sassoon horses raised at Thornton was the Derby and St.Leger winner St.Paddy.

Whilst Sir Victor's widow carried on with the stud for a while after his 1961 death Thornton was eventually sold, along with four mares and three fillies, to Lord Howard de Walden in 1967. One of these mares was Soft Angels who, as grandam of Kris, was destined to play a major role in the breeding history of Yorkshire, as well as a critical player in the success of the de Walden stud's which also included Plantation in Newmarket and Templeton on his 3,000 acre estate near Newbury. Included in the Thornton deal was resident stallion Hard Sauce (sire of Sasson's Derby winner Hard Ridden) but he died one year later and was replaced with leading sprinter So Blessed, around this time John Day (later manager at Sledmere) became manager and stayed until it's eventual '94 sale. For the 1980 season there was no stallion at Thornton, with So Blessed (sire of Duboff etc.) having been exported to Japan, but there was an admirable replacement for the 1981 season in the shape of champion miler Kris. In a career spanning 3 seasons and 16 races he was only beaten twice. His stud career was, if anything, more spectacular - his championship year coming courtesy of the brilliant Oh So Sharp (1000 Guineas G1, Epsom Oaks G1, St.Leger G1). His other good horses included Unite (Epsom Oaks G1, Irish Oaks G1), Shamshir (Fillies Mile G1), Rafha (Prix de Diane G1), Sudden Love (EP Taylor S G1), Common Grounds (Prix de la Salamandre G1), Flash of Steel (Irish 2000 Guineas G1), Fitnah (Prix Saint-Alary G1) and Lord de Walden's good miler Shavian (St.James's Palace S G2).

Standard practise during the de Walden era was for the foals to be born at Plantation, transferred up to Thornton after being weaned, before being moved down to Templeton in time for Christmas. Thus all the de Walden stars such as Kris, Diesis (Middle Park S G1 and Dewhurst S G1), Slip Anchor (Epsom Derby G1), the aforementioned Shavian, Paean (Ascot Gold Cup G1), Grand Lodge (Dewhurst S G1, St.James's Palace S G1, 2nd.2000 Guineas G1), Catalpa (Ribblesdale S G2) and Strigida (Ribblesdale S G2) all spent time at Thornton, even if only a few months!

Kris was eventually moved to Plantation for the 1995 season, following the sale of Thornton, and was eventually retired after the 2001 season, with further good offspring including the Oppenheimer's Balisada (Coronation S G1). Lord Howard de Walden died on 9th July 1999 aged 86, it looks at though the family stud's at Plantation will continue on a semi-commerical basis, whilst the property at Templeton has been sold and is still used as a stud.

In total the property at the time of the '94 sale covered 450 acres (173 acres of paddocks, 93 acres rough and parkland, 49 acres arable and 105 acres of woodland) and included 63 loose boxes, 3 houses, 7 cottages, 3 bungalows and 3 flats. The purchaser was a local farmer, Mr.Trevor Nicholson, and his wife Pauline, who expressed a wish to build a new house on the property. At their other estate close by Mrs.Nicholson had bred the ever-popular chaser Gunner Welburn (Martell Foxhunters' Chase, Rowland Meyrick Handicap, 2nd.Christie's Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup, Martell Foxhunters' Chase, 3rd.Coral Welsh National, 4th.Grand National), although as he was not sold (to Peter Easterby for 4,000gns) until 1996 it is possible that he also spent time at Thornton Stud.

Yearlings at Thornton, Sept 94. Click for larger image Thornton Stud from park towards public stud. Click for larger image.

For a while after the '94 sale it looked as though Thornton would no longer be used as a major flat stud. However in 1995 it was announced that Sheikh Mohammed was leasing part of the property and would be sending some weanlings up to Yorkshire for the first time. Darley Stud Management had a five year lease which expired in February 2000. Unfortunately history doesn't record which Darley star's were raised at Thornton, so we can only speculate ...... !

Then in May 2000 it was announced that the 'Thornton Stud Partnership' would be set-up. This would involve Rita Myatt (of Evelyn Stud, Hutton Wandersely), the Nicholson's and the TBA's Northern region chairman, John Wills (Skiddaw Stud in Cumbria, later breeder of Park Hill Stakes G2 and Lupe Stakes L winner Rising Cross, who was second in the 2006 Epsom Oaks G1 and third in the Irish Oaks G1). Ms. Myatt would become resident manager and the partnership would be selling and breeding both NH and flat horses, as well as taking boarders and resting racehorses. The new operation had use of 115 acres of paddocks and 44 of the boxes. However, after a lot of sales activity (see below) this partnership ceased towards the end of 2001 and Thornton was left in the sole control of the Nicholsons.

The '04 sale includes all the '94 property, but the estate now extends to 801 acres (although some of the '94 stud land has been integrated into the parkland in accordance with the original 18th century design), and includes an additional farmhouse, as more land had been purchased to the North and East by the Nicholsons. It is to be hoped that this wonderful property will continue as a stud.

Napoleonic Wars Triumphal Arch at entrance to Thornton. Click for larger image

 

2004 Bloodstock Sales
Doncaster May Sales 2004
Lot 47 3yo bg Karinga Bay - Twenty Winks (Gunner B) 12,500gns (Peter Molony)

Lot 48 4yo bf Minster Son - Half Asleep (Quiet Fling) 3,500gns (Harvey Smith)

Doncaster August Sales 2004
Lot 296 4yo bf Primitive Rising - Orphan Annie (Gunner B) Not Sold (1,500gns)

Some Previous Sales

2000 Sales Season   Lot Col/Sex

Pedigree

Price

Purchaser

Donc St.Leger

Prop of Peterwood Stud

155

ch c

Magic Ring - Try Vickers (Fuzzbuster)

12,000gns

William Muir

Donc St.Leger

Prop of Mr.J.Wills

156

br c

Inchinor - Woodrising (Nomination)

16,500gns

Mrs.Amanda Skiffington

Donc St.Leger

Prop of Mr.D.B.Lamplough

157

ch f

Bijou d'Inde - Ballagarrow Girl (North Stoke)

9,000gns

Chris Fairhurst

Donc St.Leger

Prop of Peterwood Stud

383

b c

Greensmith - Leprechaun Lady (Royal Blend)

5,500gns

D.McKeown

Donc St.Leger

 

384

b c

Makbul - Bollin Victoria (Jalmood)

24,000gns

Linda Tate Bloodstock

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Mr.D.B.Lamplough

304

ch f

Timeless Times - Off Camera (Efisio)

3,000gns

Tim Easterby

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Mrs.D.R.Schreiber

442

ch f

Beveled - Miss Ritz (Robellino)

3,000gns

D.T.Williams

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Mr.EJB Maude

443

b f

Presidium - Mrs.Magic (Magic Mirror)

3,200gns

BBA

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Mr.D.B.Lamplough

444

ch f

Cosmonaut - Jarrattelle (All Systems Go)

2,000gns

BBA

Donc Oct Yrlg

 

553

b c

Son Pardo - Dash Cascade (Absalom)

5,000gns

Cash

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Mr.J.Wills

554

ch f

Greensmith - Stealthy (Kind of Hush)

4,500gns

Mark Brisbourne

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Warren Estate

575

b c

Lahib - Little Love (Warshaan)

.

RNA (3,700gns)

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Mr.J. Wills

576

b c

Timeless Times - Skiddawk Bird (Bold Owl)

3,400gns

Alan Bailey

Donc Oct Yrlg

 

577

ch f

Inchinor - Sky Music (Absalom)

15,000gns

Kevin McAuliffe

Donc Oct Yrlg

 

578

b f

Komaite - On The Record (Record Token)

23,000gns

Alan Bailey

2001;            

Tatts Oct. Yrlg

Prop of Mr.J. Wills

1070

b c

King's Theatre - Sorara (Aragon)

4,000gns

VENDOR

Tatts Oct. Yrlg

Prop of Mrs.C.K.Paver

1072

ch f

Dr Devious - Stormswept (Storm Bird)

9,000gns

VENDOR

Donc.St.Leger

Prop of Mr.Irfon Davies

147

b c

Elbio - Inter Meaera (Toca Madera)

10,000gns

Lynda Ramsden

Donc.St.Leger

Prop of Mrs.J.E.Morton

148

b c

Alhaarth - Wilsonic (Damister)

RNA

(13,000gns)

Donc.St.Leger

Prop of Mrs.J.E.Morton

149

b f

Ali-Royal - Gargen (Mujtahid)

6,000gns

B.Palling

Donc.St.Leger

Prop of Mr.D.A.Smeaton

150

b c

Emarati - Leprechaun Lady (Royal Blend)

15,500gns

R.Millman

Donc.St.Leger

Prop of Mr.D.A.Smeaton

556

ch c

Compton Place - Midnight Spell (Night Shift)

11,000gns

Scottish Bloodstock

Donc.St.Leger

Prop of Brecongill Stud

446

ch c

Wolfhound - Royal Girl (Kafu)

8,000gns

Scottish Bloodstock

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Mr.JF &Mrs.M.Plumb

342

ch f

The West - Reckless (Mystiko)

800gns

D.Thoulis

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Mr & Mrs.L.F.Foster

343

b f

First Trump - Tweedling (Sir Ivor)

700gns

JBridger

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Mr & Mrs.L.F.Foster

344

b f

Weldnaas - Dusty's Darling (Doyoun)

RNA

(2,800gns)

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Mr.T.Trafford

497

ch c

Bijou d'Inde - Give Me A Day (Lucky Wednesday)

800gns

J.Crosier

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Mr.J.Wills

498

b f

Presidium - Stealthy (Kind Of Hush)

2,100gns

Patrick Haslam

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Mr.J.Wills

499

b f

Defacto - Skiddaw Bird (Bowl Owl)

500gns

Scottish Bloodstock

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Mrs.E.C.York

500

b f

Emarati - True Ring (High Top)

RNA

2,900gns

Donc Oct Yrlg

As agent

501

b f

Hamas - Try Vickers (Fuzzbuster)

1,600gns

Cash

Donc Oct Yrlg

 

673

b g

Emarati - Nymph (Bold Owl)

1,000gns

J.M.Berry

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Mr.J.Wills

674

b c

Emperor Jones - Woodrising (Nomination)

4,000gns

Scottish Bloodstock

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Be Selective P/ship

675

b c

Presidium - Madam Cody (Hot Spark)

3,200gns

Be Selective P/ship

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Brecongill Stud

676

b c

Bluegrass Prince - Miss Mirror (Magic Mirror)

12,000gns

Blandford Bloodstock

Donc Oct Yrlg

Prop of Brecongill Stud

677

b c

Paris House - Sky Music (Absalom)

1,000gns

D.McKeown

Tatts Dec Yrlgs

Prop of Mr.Noel Winstanley

3

b f

Wolfhound - Red Poppy (Coquelin)

1,000gns

McKeever St Lawrence

Tatts Dec Foals

Prop of Mr.D.Blacker

269

ch c

In Command - Hat Hill (Roan Rocket)

4,200gns

Geoffrey House B/Stock

Donc. Nov.

 

706

Foal gr c

Keen - Knowing (Lochnager)

11,000gns

Bloodhorse Int.

All information provided on this site is given on a 'best endeavours' basis. No guarantee as to the accuracy of the data is implied nor should it be assumed. For clarification please contact the relevant parties.
If you have any comments, corrections, suggestions, pictures or (most importantly) information please
email me.

Copyright 2002 Stephen George-Powell

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