Senior figures in horse racing have paid tribute to Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the Leicester City owner who died in a helicopter crash on Saturday.
Vichai had given full rein to his interest in racing over the past 16 months, spending tens of millions in building up one of the most powerful strings of racehorses in Britain, and his blue and white silks were carried to victory at Newbury and Doncaster just hours before the accident that claimed his life.
Racing’s response was led by Nick Rust, the British Horseracing Authority’s chief executive, who said: “The death of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is a tragedy for the world of sport and horse racing. His enthusiasm for racing was clear and I am sure we had seen only the beginnings of what would have been a tremendous love affair.
“King Power Racing currently has 67 horses in training with seven different trainers. That is a tremendous investment and Vichai’s passion for horses has helped support the livelihoods of many people working in our industry.”
Richard Hannon, who trained a dozen winners for the Thai owner this year, remembered “a hard-working, self-made man” who had recently decided to make a success of his interest in a second British sport. “It’s shocking, you couldn’t meet a nicer man,” the trainer said while attending Leicester racecourse.
“He was kind, generous, he enjoyed his sport immensely. The hole he will leave in his businesses is irrelevant compared to the hole he will leave in the lives of his family, so we’re thinking of them. He was just getting the bit between his teeth on the racing front and enjoying it. It’s just all happened so quickly, it’s quite surreal.”
Leicester’s clerk of the course, Jimmy Stevenson, said Vichai had been a regular at the low-profile track. “He used to come here with his entourage and was a very private person, he kept himself to himself. He just loved being at the races, he was passionate about it,” Stevenson said. “It’s a sad time for Leicester.”
Vichai’s involvement had been greatest at the Hampshire yard of Andrew Balding, home to Beat The Bank, who won major races for the pair at Ascot and Goodwood this year. Balding’s assistant, Hollie Watts, took to Twitter to pay her own tribute. “Whenever Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha came to the yard he would visit every one of his horses & show them love & was completely captivated with the world of racing,” she wrote.
Meanwhile, hopes remain high that a deal can be done between Britbet and the Tote/Alizeti alliance before the deadline on Wednesday. The two sides agreed a standstill agreement four months ago to allow for talks over possible collaboration on pool betting in British horse racing. A deal has taken longer than was expected by some of those involved but is still believed to be odds-on.
Eleven horses including Thistlecrack and Bristol De Mai have been declared for Saturday’s Charlie Hall Chase, one of the highlights of autumn jump racing. But the Wetherby race is at risk of withdrawals, with little rain in prospect and no mention of soft in the going description.