Merseyside-born Robert Sangster's impact on thoroughbred racing was once compared to that of The Beatles' impact on music. Most of the tributes that poured in after Sangster passed away last Wednesday in London after a 10-month battle with pancreatic cancer, spoke of influence, vision, his knowledge and dominance of horse racing. Top Hong Kong trainer David Hayes, who flew to visit Sangster less than a fortnight ago and will return for the April 19 funeral, was deeply saddened by the 67-year-old's passing. 'Robert was a lovely man, with a great sense of humour, always a fantastic sense of fun. He was my father's biggest client during the 1980s and they had great racetrack success, but his influence was greater than that,' Hayes said. 'He internationalised racing in Australia, and I don't think our Lindsay Park Stud would be where it is today without Robert's interest.' It was no surprise that two horseracing visionaries such as Sangster and Hayes' late father, Colin, became close after meeting in the early 1970s, not long after the trainer began to develop Lindsay Park - then just a nice patch of land outside Adelaide - into a world class operation. Sangster also had horses in other yards, and his northern hemisphere success spilled into the southern hemisphere, where winners included Beldale Ball's Melbourne Cup, Derby and Oaks victors, and champion sprinting mare Special. 'Robert had a major impact on the beginning of my career,' Hayes recalls taking over Lindsay Park when Colin retired in 1990. 'I was in my 20s and unproved, but Robert backed me to the hilt. And when you get a major international player's support like that, clients who might have been thinking about jumping ship were probably influenced to stay, and others were encouraged to move to me just to follow Robert. 'We raced many horses together, were partners in Collingrove Stud in Victoria and very close friends. Racing has lost one of the rare, really international owners who had Group One winners on almost every continent. Like anyone, Robert's fortunes on the track went through ups and downs but he was as great a sportsman in defeat as he was in victor.' He also raised Peter Chapple-Hyam to a place among the industry leaders as Chapple-Hyam met classic success as Sangster's private trainer in the 1990s. 'If it wasn't for Robert Sangster I would not be training and I owe him everything,' said Chapple-Hyam, who returned to England from Hong Kong last year with high hopes of training big winners for Sangster again. 'He took the game to a different level and it's important to recognise what he did for racing as an industry.' Robert Edmund Sangster was the son of Vernon Sangster, a self-made man who started the gambling game, Vernons football pools, in 1926 with #400 and ultimately left the business and a vast fortune to his son. They used to say that every week when they announced the pools winners, Robert Sangster was always among them. After losing a small bet on a horse called Chalk Stream in 1960, Robert Sangster bought the horse as a wedding present for his first wife. The horse later landed a major race and more than one betting plunge and Sangster's career was away. By 1967, he had bought Swettenham Stud in southern England and registered the famous blue and green silks under which his horses raced. His fun brought more than 800 stakes races, well over a century at the ultimate Group One level, and he was five times Britain's leading owner during the period 1977 to 1984. In 1970, Sangster sent Deep Diver from stud duties in the northern hemisphere to a posting in Victoria, Australia - a thoroughly-unorthodox move at a time when stallions performed during each spring then rested until the next season. Deep Diver was being asked to service mares during the Australian spring as well as at home, thus handling twice as much business - and the shuttle stallion era we take for granted today had begun. But the crucial event in Sangster's racing career came in October, 1971. As sponsor of the Vernons Sprint Cup at Haydock Park, he met John Magnier, a 23-year-old stud farmer from County Cork, Ireland, a friend of great trainer, Vincent O'Brien. The trio, collectively known as 'The Brethren', became foundation owners of Coolmore Stud which then revolutionised the linked worlds of racing and breeding. The revolution was one of simple arithmetic - the realisation that, contained among the best 20 yearling colts sold every year, there were usually one or two classic winners, which were syndicated to stud for vast sums. The stud sale price of the best-performed colts was more than the purchase price of all these yearlings combined, so The Brethren set about paying whatever it took to corner the top colts' market then syndicate the successful ones for stud. In the early days, the scheme worked even better than hoped as their colts won a raft of major races and were sold off to stud for handsome profits. By 1979, Sangster was paying 20 per cent of the gross outlay for horses at Keeneland, Kentucky. By the early 1980s, he had horses in training with 36 different trainers in six countries. By 1982 his second wife, Susan, was quoted as saying: 'We usually win about three races somewhere in the world every day.' So widely flung were his interests, Sangster was spending 200 days a year flying in airplanes to keep watch on them. As their buying imperatives drove the prices of colts higher, The Brethren syndicated them for more and more, pushing prices higher again but the bubble eventually burst with the entry to the market of Arab owners with even greater spending power. In 1983, Sangster's team was outbid by the Maktoum family of Dubai for a record US$ 10.2 million colt at Keeneland. The horse, Snaafi Dancer, was too slow to bother racing and proved infertile at the stud. In 1985, Sangster paid $13.1 million for a yearling half brother to 1977 US Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew but he too flopped and that signalled the end of the bloodstock boom as the Arabs and Sangster's group called a truce, agreeing that prices had spiraled out of control. Almost 20 years on, that $13.1 million figure remains the world record. Sangster had largely withdrawn from the yearling market as a buyer by the early 1990s, and became a seller, giving him the mixed pleasure of seeing his horses, like Dr Devious, Carnegie and Balanchine, win classics for other owners. Sangster no longer dominated, though he did continue to win his share of major races. Sangster's playboy image was well earned and he preferred not only his horses in the fast lane. He was a regular in gossip columns, his romances the subject of media scrutiny, with three marriages and flings with the likes of Mick Jagger's consort, Texan supermodel, Jerry Hall. When he threw a party with fireworks at his Isle of Man estate, The Nunnery, for his 50th birthday, Sangster's extravaganza brought complaints from neighbours living more than two kilometres away. He was famed for post-big race celebrations at London's Annabel's nightclub, with the place decked out in his racing colours. The chairman of the British Horseracing Board, Peter Savill summed up Sangster: 'Robert was a truly special man - wonderfully generous and gentle, a lover of the good things in life and a wicked storyteller. He was forever easy-going, sporting and fun. A chapter in racing's history has sadly closed.'