Godfrey Maundrell, who made headlines when riding winners under Rules in his 60s, becoming a source of inspiration to so many, died peacefully at home on Sunday. He was 70.
Maundrell (pictured above), an arable and dairy farmer, rode for more than four decades, notching his first treble at the age of 61 and his 150th point-to-point winner aged 62, during a season in which he also landed three hunters' chases on Lisadell King, who he also owned and trained. Other good horses with which he was associated included multiple winners Rhythm King and Think Positive.
Yet he not only defied age, but illness, having been struck down with cancer at the age of 47. It was complications arising from surgery and other cancer treatments which, years later, led to his death at the weekend.
His widow, Angie, speaking from their home high on the Wiltshire Downs near the village of Ogbourne St Andrew, said this morning: "He stopped riding out in March this year, but wouldn't let on to anybody about his illness. He had defied it for so many years, and his oncologist once said to him: 'Godfrey, you are my shining light as a patient'.
"When he was first struck down with cancer he was back riding out as soon as possible, and from that point on he was determined to achieve as much as he could for as long as could. He said, 'I have nothing to lose, now'. Everyone admired him for coming back.
"He used to load the horses up in the old lorry and off he would go, as enthusiastically towards the end of his career as he had been at the start. He was great mates with John Dufosee – he rode for John's father [Peter] when he first started – and they always parked their lorries next to each other at the races.
"To ride his first treble at Larkhill, which was his favourite track, was a wonderful occasion. When he gave up riding he found it very difficult to watch other riders on his horses, and was not a fan of jockeys with just their toes in the stirrups, but then Zac Baker came along and did him proud – they formed a wonderful bond."
Baker paid his own tribute, saying: "Godfrey was a proper gent who will be sorely missed. He was still riding when I started, but when he packed up I managed to get a ride on one of his horses. My first winner for him came on Arthurian Legend [in 2014] and we went on to land six races unbeaten that season. Later that year I rode Tambura in a bumper at Ffos Las and she won at 66/1 – she's a quirky mare, but I've now won seven races on her.
"I always thought of Godfrey as a very wise man, and because he rode, bred and trained so many winners he knew the game inside out. I'll always be very fond of him, and it would be wonderful to ride more winners in his colours. Paul Thompson, who did much of the training while Godfrey worked on the farm, has Tambura to run under Rules and a handful of pointers so I'm hoping his name will be associated with more winners in the coming months."
Maundrell inherited his farm from his father, and being from farming stock accepted injuries were part of working with horses and other animals. Angie recalled: "Godfrey was the bravest man I knew and the most determined – on one occasion a horse galloped loose into the yard and I went out to find Godfrey had come off and the horse had trodden on his face, breaking various bones and almost costing him the sight in one eye. I put him in the old Land Rover and we headed off to hospital, but the gearbox became stuck on a roundabout, and it was awful to think we were going to have to get someone else to take him when he looked in such a state.
"When we arrived at hospital the experts were all alarmed and spent ages discussing what would be the best course of action – Godfrey just fell asleep in the arms of a nurse.
"He always said he wanted to make three score years and ten and he did, but he was a fighter. It was only his body that let him down."
Maundrell, who lost his sister in a riding accident in 2016, married Angie nine years ago – he leaves her and his step-son, Charlie.