Skip to main content

Notes from the Archive: The King of Sports

In 1971, our founder David Robinson gave a speech at York racecourse to an audience mostly populated by members of the Jockey Club. Although he left behind few personal papers, we are very fortunate to have in the College Archive the text from which he gave this speech. It gives a fascinating glimpse into his character, showing his tenacity facing a somewhat hostile crowd - in his many years involvement with racing, his man-of-business approach had won him few friends in the Jockey Club. He describes himself as Daniel in the lions' den, and David facing Goliath.

He goes on to describe his ‘dream’ of developing Kempton Park (which he had bought in 1969) into a viable business, pointing out what he saw as the decline of British racing and the perils of failing to adapt and modernise the sport.

He took up racing as a hobby in the 1940s, buying his first racehorse in 1947, and went on to own a number of champion horses, including Our Babu, So Blessed, My Swallow, Green God and Deep Diver. He set up his own stables at Newmarket in the 1960s, and following his selling off of Robinson Rentals in 1968 he took to racing full time, and was ranked leading owner (on races won) every year from 1968 to 1975.

There was to be no happy ending, though, as his grand vision for Kempton Park did not ultimately meet with the approval of local planning, and, typically, rather than compromise, he sold it to the Levy Board for the same as he paid for it, plus £1 (as he always had to make a profit on any deal).

This fascinating text is part of our collection of material passed to us by David Robinson's estate, giving a glimpse into the life of this most private of philanthropists. As records of his life in racing, we have a split pedigree book (RCPP/Robinson/5/1) and two stud books (RCPP/Robinson/5/1), as well as albums of photographs of his horses.

All text of the speech is © the estate of David Robinson (ref: RCPP/Robinson/5/5)


Find out more about the Robinson College Archive.

For any archives enquiries, please email