Peter Walwyn, former champion and trainer of Grundy, dies at 84

Peter Walwyn, the legend of Lambourn and a Classic-winning trainer famous for his handling of the brilliant Grundy, has died. He was 84.

Tributes from all across racing immediately flowed for a great trainer and a man treasured for his eccentricity, humour and love of Lambourn that earned him the title 'Mr Lambourn' after he set up the Lambourn Trainers' Association.

Walwyn, champion trainer in 1974 and 1975, died on Thursday and will forever be linked with the brilliant champion Grundy, who captured the Derby, Irish Derby and Irish 2,000 Guineas in 1975.

Grundy went on to defeat Bustino in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot after his Classic successes, in a contest dubbed 'the race of the century'.

Joe Mercer knew Walwyn all his racing life and said: "He will be sadly missed. Everyone adored and admired him. We called him 'Cleese' in the weighing room after John Cleese.

"He was a lovely guy full of fun and I knew him from when he was working for Helen Johnson Houghton when he held the licence.

"I rode for him near enough as first jockey for years, riding Be Hopeful, Golden Wedding and a Cesarewitch on Halsbury and again after leaving Henry Cecil I rode for him in his last two seasons.

"I saw him six weeks ago and it was typical of him that he was squinting at the papers but still insisting he didn't need glasses."

Nicky Henderson, who swapped stables with Walwyn from Windsor House to take over Seven Barrows, paid a fulsome tribute to his close friend.

The champion jumps trainer said: "It really is the end of a quite staggering innings. He was a wonderful friend. He did so much for so many people. He led a lot of crusades. He was such an amazing character and incredible enthusiast for everything, but racing and Lambourn in particular.

"We go back a very long time to the days when my Dad had horses with him. His great character sometimes made you overlook the fact that he was a legendary trainer during his days at Seven Barrows when he was at the pinnacle of Flat racing.

"They made Seven Barrows what it is and I was the lucky person who got to take it over from them.

"He kept us all entertained the whole way through. He was a very special man who racing will miss enormously but Lambourn in particular. It's a very sad day."

Another Lambourn resident and former champion, jockey John Francome added: "He has been Mr Lambourn for a long time and has done a lot of good in the village.

"He was a great man and trainer and immensely loyal to Pat Eddery when Daniel Wildenstein wanted to get rid of him. He and his wife Bonk were a great couple."

Ralph Beckett, another Classic-winning trainer in his own right who was Walwyn's assistant for the final four years and then his tenant for another six, said he owed everything to Walwyn.

Beckett said: "It would be absolutely true that I wouldn’t have started training if I hadn’t worked for Peter.

"In every way I owe him a huge debt. He and Mrs Walwyn were enormously kind to me, my wife Izzy and our family.

"I last saw him at the Derby and asked him who he thought would win and he said ‘who knows, anyone could win – stick a pin in’ and he was right!

"He was a huge influence on me and while I inherited five horses off him, more importantly I inherited three of the old owner-breeders which gave me a leg-up.

"While I was his assistant for the last four years of his career someone once said you would pay to hear Frank Sinatra in his eighties and similarly I learned an awful lot from Peter in the autumn of his career.”

Grand National-winning trainer Nick Gaselee, whose sister was Walwyn's late wife Virginia, more widely known as 'Bonk', said: "He hadn't been good for some time, but his record speaks for itself. In his heyday at Seven Barrows he was a wonderful trainer and he was particularly loyal to his jockeys.

"He was a complete one-off, a unique character and he was affectionately known as Big Pete by some and Basil Fawlty by others, which was obvious if you knew some of his exploits, which were legendary."

Eve Johnson Houghton, who has celebrated her best year's training, added: "It is the end of an era and very sad. He was a brilliant trainer, amazing and trained great horses.

"He was always uncle Pete to me and we saw lots of him and Bonk. He followed my career and used to ring me up and say how proud he was.”

Henry Candy joined in the celebration of all things Walwyn, adding: "He had tremendous success – he was brilliant.

"The only thing I would say is his training prowess did not extend to his gundogs. When he came shooting it was legendary to have a sweepstake on when he would start bellowing and shouting at his two spaniels – it was 19 minutes one day.

"He was great company, very forthright and you didn’t want to be on Pete’s bus like Mr Wildenstein – you were in trouble.

“He did wonders for the village and was devoted to it.”

Walwyn spent his entire career in Lambourn and retired from training in 1999. He was made an MBE in 2012 for services to horseracing.

Walwyn is survived by two children, Edward and Kate, and two grandchildren.