Trainer's move across Sussex means end of a racing era in Lewes

It’s the end of an era for racehorse training in Lewes.

Thursday, 9th July 2020, 9:00 am
Suzy Smith and Sergio Gordon-Watson with flowers presented by the Lewes Racecourse History Group
Suzy Smith and Sergio Gordon-Watson with flowers presented by the Lewes Racecourse History Group

Locals have had to bid farewell to the last trainer in town, Suzy Smith, as she takes switches to West Sussex to start work on the Angmering Park site vacated by William Knight, who has moved his operation to Newmarket.

Smith had been training in Lewes for 16 years and she invited the Lewes Racecourse History Group to say goodbye and give members a chance to look around the stables and the old racecourse for the last time.

They conducted a presentation and the group’s John Turley interviewed Smith. Some gifts including flowers and Lewes Racecourse memorabilia were presented by the club and by Tessa Masson, the daughter of the late Lewes trainer Mick Masson.

Suzy Smith, second from right, after a win at Plumpton with Invicta Lake

The poignant event was filmed by Tom Bonner of Seahaven Communication Production, who will make it available on DVD, and also present were Bunny Hicks, a jockey who rode many times on the racecourse.

It was on this racecourse where Tessa Masson’s grandfather Tom Masson had the very last winner in 1964.

Barry Foulkes from the racecourse history group said: “I think by Suzy leaving Lewes means it will be the end of more than 200 years of racing trainers in the town, I only hope I am wrong.”

Smith was born and brought up in Epsom and started riding out for local trainers in her free time from the age of 14. She gained the National Stud Diploma in Newmarket at 18 and started out working for National Hunt trainer Gardie Grissell and subsequently John Hammond in Chantilly.

On her return to the UK she was assistant trainer to C J Bennett, where she trained her first point-to-point winner,. She started training for herself at County Stables at 25. She is now a south east regional representative for the National Trainers’ Federation and is part of The Diversity In Racing Steering Group.

Her early success came in her first season with the brilliant one-eyed mare Material World, who won numerous races and was second at the Cheltenham Festival, gaining a loyal following around the country and putting her on the map in the process.

She is well known for sourcing and developing young horses with winning potential. She attracts a high number of owner/breeders tbecause of her success with mares and takes a keen interest in the breeding industry.

Smith said of her move to West Sussex: “We have moved to the stunningly beautiful Angmering Park estate in West Sussex. It is an amazing set-up and we are all very excited. We are currently just settling in.”

The old racecourse staged racing from 1727 to 1964 and has been home to a number of trainers since fixtures finished.

See more on the town’s racing past at www.lewesracecoursehistory.co.uk

Anyone who wants a copy of the DVD of the group’s visit should email Barry Foulkes at [email protected]