Peter Newell

(July 1st 1950 - July 28th 2022)

PETER Newell’s life centred on three of the great equine pastimes: hunting, polo, and racing. As the grandson of the celebrated MFH Ikey Bell, he was true to the tradition of participation no matter what. Neither discomfort nor impossibility were ever part of his vocabulary and long after he was fit for riding, and long after he could haul himself aboard unaided, Peter could be found during his final weeks, slowly progressing around the walkways of Readsland. And from there, atop his favourite tall and fierce grey hunter, he could survey and comment and instruct on the future of the many thoroughbred mares, foals and yearlings that would keep apace with him in adjacent fields.

However, let us start with the polo. Encouraged by his mother (née Diana Bell who herself was a noted point-to-point rider in the 1930s), Peter took up polo in his 20s and soon progressed to international standard, representing Ireland with trips to Florida and Hawaii. And his source of ponies was, exclusively, small thoroughbreds whose racing careers were compromised by their stature: 15hh was ideal up to maybe 15.2hh, above which the ball becomes too distant to be assured an accurate strike! During this time Peter would also embark on lengthy four-month tours of England during the summer in his custom-built four-horse trailer pulled by a somewhat challenged Toyota Land Cruiser over trips far longer than the manufacturer’s design specification.

After many years though, retirement came unexpectedly when a commentator at the Phoenix Park Polo Grounds announced that “it is a pleasure and privilege to have the veteran polo player Peter Newell here to umpire the final”. A shocked looking Peter returned after the Chuka and said, “Enough of that, I shall play no more”. And true to his word he retired from polo and took up (the presumably) less exacting sport of amateur race riding. The polo ponies, who were almost all quite well-bred mares, were not abandoned though, and found themselves drafted to a new career of broodmares to produce horses for Peter to race.

He did indeed manage to eventually win at Dundalk on Red Radical by a length, beating the WP Mullins-trained West Of Waikiki, who was ridden by one Ruby Walsh and who (on his own description) forgot that Peter had gone a furlong clear at the start, clean out of sight around a corner.

And the ongoing story is the subsequent success of the progeny of those foundation polo pony mares all the way to the extraordinary and poignant win of Surrounding in the Listed Arthur Guinness Corrib Stakes on the day of Peter’s death only a week ago.

But for Peter, it was always the case that hunting remained the great constant, against which all the above and everything else was judged. Ikey Bell would have approved.

As the traditions change, Peter did not.