Champion hunter chase trainer Rose Loxton has died at the age of 59 after losing a lengthy battle with cancer.
Loxton, who in recent years was a familiar figure at British point-to-points in company with her husband Sam, also made a mark in Ireland, where she was born, through training Caid Du Berlais to win the Champion Hunters’ Chase at successive Punchestown Festivals in 2018 and 2019.
Loxton had worked for champion trainer Paul Nicholls for many years and first came to prominence as the groom who looked after his outstanding staying hurdler Big Buck’s. He was an inveterate box walker, of whom Nicholls once said “he was a temperamental horse, and Rose, who rode him every day, played a big part in his success”.
In 2010 Loxton began training ex-Nicholls horses to run in point-to-points, ostensibly to provide racing experience for amateur riders associated with his yard, including his secretary Sarah West. Napolitain’s victory under Ryan Bliss in an open race at the Mendip Farmers’ meeting in March 2010 was Loxton’s first training success, and the winners began to flow in quantity four years later when Nicholls’ daughter Megan became 16 and old enough to ride in races.
In the 2013/14 season Megan recorded 17 victories on the Loxton-trained trio of Gwanako, Join Together and Current Event, taking both the Point-to-Point Owners’ & Riders’ Association’s Princess Royal Trophy and the national novice women riders’ title. She is now a successful apprentice on the Flat.
Bryony Frost and Stan Sheppard – now professional jockeys – were among those who benefited from rides on Loxton horses the following season when Frost enjoyed a win at the Cheltenham evening hunters’ chase meeting on Current Event, while Lorcan Williams and Bryan Carver are two other riders who teamed up with Loxton in point-to-points and hunters’ chases before joining the ranks of paid jockeys.
Loxton trained a few miles from Nicholls’ yard at Ditcheat, and while she was fortunate to train some quality former chasers she did not waste the opportunity. Working with a small, select group of horses she saddled 55 winners from 104 runners (52 per cent) in point-to-points, and 23 winners from 47 runners (48 per cent) in hunters’ chases. In 2018/19 she became Britain’s champion hunters’ chase trainer with eight winners, thanks largely to the exploits of Monsieur Gibraltar and Virak, and she would have been odds-on to regain the title outright in the 2019/20 season. Instead, due to the curtailment of action in March, she shared it with Nicholls and Josh Guerriero, the trio all training three winners.
In addition to Caid Du Berlais’s memorable Punchestown triumphs under Will Biddick, Loxton had also trained the two most recent winners of Larkhill’s Coronation Cup, namely Monsieur Gibraltar (Harriet Tucker) and Chameron (Angus Cheleda). She also trained Shantou Flyer (David Maxwell) to finish third in this year’s St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham.
Rose and Sam Loxton at their Somerset stables
In November 2018 Loxton was airlifted to hospital after enduring a fall from a young horse on the gallops resulting in a broken leg, fractured knee and collarbone and punctured lung. Sam stepped in, and with the help of staff who worked at Nicholls’ yard and would join him to ride out in their lunch breaks, the winners kept coming. However, while in hospital receiving treatment it was discovered she had cancer, resulting in lengthy chemotherapy sessions. Despite the demands of that treatment Loxton took a positive attitude and attended both the Wessex Area and National Point-to-Point Awards ceremonies to collect trophies.
She returned to work last autumn, but at the turn of this year decided to step down from her job at Nicholls’ yard to concentrate on working with her pointers. All seemed to be going in a positive direction, but in late May it was discovered the cancer had returned and she began further treatment.
Loxton died yesterday (Friday), leaving her husband, their children Martina, Polly and Freddie, and four grandchildren.