The Queen’s close friend and ex-Cheltenham chairman Lord Vestey dies aged 79

A friend of The Queen and former Cheltenham Racecourse chairman Lord Vestey has died at the age of 79.

Vestey and his late wife Celia, one of six godparents Prince Charles and Princess Diana picked for Prince Harry, were members of Queen Elizabeth II's inner circle.

Over the years, Vestey, who served as Master of the Horse to The Queen and Lord-in-Waiting, had a great influence on sport at the Home of Jump Racing.

While he served as chairman from 1990 until 2011, the Cheltenham Festival was extended from three to four days, which includes the feature Gold Cup on the Friday.

Vestey owned and bred Karshi, the winner of the 1997 Stayers' Hurdle at the meeting.

In 2020, Lord Vestey’s family were 199th on the Sunday Times Rich List, with their wealth valued at £721m – down from 195th the previous year.

They founded and still run multinational corporation Vestey Holdings, which is mainly involved in the global food industry.

In 2018 he was promoted to Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order and his son William, who also has horses in training, is on Cheltenham Racecourse's committee.

Ian Renton, regional managing director for Cheltenham’s owners, Jockey Club Racecourses, said: “We are very saddened to hear of the passing of friend and former Cheltenham chairman, Lord Vestey.

“He was a true gentleman and genuinely lovely man who did so much for our sport, and played a huge role in creating the Cheltenham racecourse that we know today.

“He will be sorely missed by us all at The Jockey Club, and our thoughts go out to his family and friends.”

James Fanshawe, who won with some of Lord Vestey's most successful racehorses, said: "He supported us for 30 years and was an extremely loyal owner.

"He really cared about things and wanted everything done to the highest standard.

"It mattered to him what went on behind the scenes in racing.

"He would visit the yard with Celia and knew all the staff here.

"He was a real man of the people."

Lord Vestey, who often joined The Queen in the Royal Ascot carriage procession, married Lady Celia Vestey in 1981.

His death comes a few weeks after she sadly passed away at the age of 71.

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