The death of Richard Aston last month at the age of 68 not only left British jumps breeding bereft of one of its most successful participants but also of a hugely respected figure who was as popular as he was successful.

With his wife Sally, Aston developed the Cheshire-based Goldford Stud into one of the country’s tops jumps nurseries, winning many friends along the way. Numerous good horses have come off the land over the years, its roll of honour topped by such luminaries as Rule The World, Inglis Drever and Riverside Theatre. At the same time, the Goldford sales arm became a byword for quality, both in terms of sale ring results and on the track, where the stud has been represented to excellent effect in recent years by Shishkin and Cue Card.

Aston’s insight into the jumps bloodstock industry was put to good use during his time as member of the TBA’s National Hunt Committee but let’s not forget that the stud also hit heady heights on the Flat, notably through Allan Belshaw’s thriving Simply Times family from which the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf heroine Newspaperofrecord emerged in recent years. In 2021, Goldford sold her dam Sunday Times for 1,800,000gns at the Tattersalls December Mares Sale.

“His ambition was to always sell something for million and it was wonderful that he achieved that with one of Allan Belshaw’s mares, Sunday Times,” says David Minton of Highflyer Bloodstock, a close friend. “He was a very good horseman, he hunted and rode a lot of winners in point to points. He was very clever, very driven, very studious. He just understood the business so well. And his partnership with Sally was an integral part of it all. They were together for so long and were a wonderful pair.”

Today, a Goldford Stud pedigree is easily recognisable and Aston would have undoubtedly taken great pride in the reception given to the stud’s homebred Blue Bresil daughter of Petticoat Tails at the recent Goffs UK Doncaster Spring Store Sale, where she set a record for a British store at £210,000. Goldford’s association with the family stretches back three generations, taking in such classy performers as Diamond Sal, Ring The Boss, Theatre Girl and Tweed Skirt along the way. 

The Martaline mare Tweed Skirt, bred by Goldford out of Theatre Girl, hasn’t been out of the first four in five starts this season for Nicky Henderson and her ownership group, Just Four Men With Rose Tinted Glasses.

He was genuinely one of the good guys. If the good die young, then he is the epitome of that

“Tweed Skirt has kept us all going this year, a group of us lease her but that’s Richard’s mare, and she’s been wonderful,” says Minton. “Richard was excellent at identifying stallions. He was quick to send mares to France to use horses like Martaline and No Risk At All, and that has worked out well. He was very good at working out matings.”

Among the top sellers of stores for many years, last month’s sale record at Goffs was far from being the stud’s first.

“You could not ask to deal with a more professional pair than Richard and Sally,” says Goffs UK Chairman Henry Beeby. “They helped develop the Spring Store Sale into a leading sale. Prior to this year, they sold the sale-topper ten times, every year from 1997 to 2001 and then in 2003, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2015. They sold the sale’s first ever six-figure lot in 1999, a horse called Inca, and set a sale record for a filly in 2001 [86,000gns for Amberina]. The Goldford horses are always a quality draft, immaculately presented and Richard was always a pleasure to deal with.

“From a personal point of view, Richard was very close to my father and mother, and also to Vanessa and myself. We had many happy times together at the sales and various race meetings.”

The record books paint Aston as a major influence on British jumps breeding but speak to anyone who knew him and the memories are of a popular man with a charm and humour to him.

“He was a great raconteur, he would recite some wonderful ditties,” says Minton. “He was also a wonderful imitator. 

“We had some fantastic holidays together. Last year, we treated ourselves in London to a lunch at La Gavroche. It was a special treat and gave us some wonderful memories.”

Beeby adds: “Richard was one of those people who never had a bad word to say. But if there was a point to be made, he would make it. He was charming, kind, debonair and always very well turned out. 

“He and Sally were just was a remarkable duo. They worked very hard to build it all up. He was genuinely one of the good guys. If the good die young, then he is the epitome of that. He was a very special man.”

This daughter of Blue Bresil paid tribute to Richard Aston and all at Goldford Stud when selling for £210,000 at the Goffs UK Spring Store Sale. Photo – Goffs UK