Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 21 July 2019

Obituary: Miles Napier

Racing journalist and author with encyclopaedic knowledge of horse breeding

EXPERTISE: Miles Napier
EXPERTISE: Miles Napier

Miles Napier, who died in December, aged 84, was a racing journalist and author, noted for his works on thoroughbred pedigrees and breeding.

Napier brought his expertise to the pages of The Irish Field for more than four decades, writing under the nom de plume "Reynoldstown". His books included the often reprinted Thoroughbred Pedigrees Simplified (first published in 1973), which explains the intricacies of bloodlines to the layman, defining the meaning of thoroughbred and addressing questions such as: which is the more important parent, the sire or the dam?

Trevylyan Miles Wentworth Napier (always known as Miles) was born on October 12, 1934 in Chelsea, London, the son of Trevylyan Michael Napier and his wife Priscilla. His father, who was from an illustrious naval family, died during the war while on active service; his mother's brother was Sir William Hayter, ambassador to the Soviet Union in the 1950s and later Warden of New College, Oxford.

Following his father's death Miles's mother took him to live for the rest of the war at Rockingham, the Norman castle in Northamptonshire then owned by his cousin Cdr Sir Michael Culme-Seymour, 5th Bt. As a boy, Miles hunted with the Fernie in Leicestershire, and at his prep school used his exercise books chiefly to trace horses' bloodlines.

By the time he was at Wellington College, the school doubted he was prime military material, and at its suggestion he moved to Millfield.

He did, however, successfully complete National Service with the Rifle Brigade before learning the basics of stud management with Mme Couturie at Haras du Mesnil in Normandy.

It was there that Napier began to gain his encyclopaedic knowledge of breeding. Mme Couturie remained a great friend until her death in 1982.

In his early 30s Napier served on the Jockey Club's National Hunt Committee as an official handicapper, and he also did research work for the stud book department at Weatherbys. Napier's true calling, however, was as a writer. As Reynoldstown for The Irish Field he reported weekly on all the Irish-bred horses which won races in England. He also contributed to Sporting Life and to racing journals around the world, including The South African Racehorse, Thoroughbred Owner Breeder (California) and Hoofbeats (New Zealand).

Two other books on racing pedigrees were Breeding a Racehorse (1975) and Blood Will Tell (1978); and, with Leon Rasmussen, he compiled Treasures of the Bloodstock Breeders Review (1990). Racing Men of TV (1979) offered profiles of personalities such as his friends Sir Peter O'Sullevan and Julian Wilson.

Napier was quick to recognise the future of ownership syndicates and was one of the early members of the Elite Racing Club, in which members pay a modest annual fee to have a share in a racehorse.

Although not a betting man, he treasured his moments at the racecourse, especially Newmarket. He continued to enjoy riding near his Lincolnshire home until the age of 83.

Napier was known for his charm, self-effacement and courtesy. He loved opera and literature - Trollope, Dickens and Kipling were his favourite authors. In 2013 he wrote the foreword to a new edition of a forgotten John Masefield poem, the rollicking and romantic Right Royal.

Miles Napier is survived by his wife Mary (nee Bourke), whom he married in 1971, and by their son, Lennox.

© Telegraph

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