Meet the 'reclusive' British billionaire bookies mocked for buying 'donkeys' who now owns the Grand National favourite

THE 'reclusive' British billionaire who owns the favourite to win the Grand National used to be mocked by bookies for buying 'donkeys'.

Cloth cap-wearing Trevor Hemmings is the proud owner of… Cloth Cap.

Yes, this somewhat secretive businessman, who according to the Sunday Times Rich List is worth £1.025billion, is known for his choice of headwear.

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But the racing tycoon could have another claim to fame come Saturday evening if his red-hot 4-1 favourite – who shares a name with his choice of hat – wins.

Victory would make Woolwich-born Hemmings, 85, the most successful owner in Grand National history.

No one has won it more than three times.

Cloth Cap can give Hemmings his fourth victory in the world's most famouse race.

He previously won with Hedgehunter in 2005, Ballabriggs in 2011 and Many Clouds in 2015.

Those three iconic horses were among the best of the 100 or so he owned before scaling his back his racing operation last August.

At the time of the announcement, Hemmings' runners had accounted for £1.8million in winnings from the past five seasons alone.


A mere patch on his personal wealth, but still pretty good for a man bookies used to bash.

Not that Hemmings, who owns Championship side Preston North End, was bothered.

Touted as a perennial underdog, former bricklayer Hemmings made his vast fortune after starting his first building business with just £12.

That was in the 1960s. By 1970 he had sold it for £1.5m.

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He then struck up a great personal and professional friendship with Fred Pontin, of Pontins fame.

Pontin made Hemmings work the day his horse Specify won the National in 1971.

He used to tease his young apprentice that he would never have a Grand National winner.


Most successful Grand National owners

  • James Octavius Machell – Three wins (Disturbance, 1873; Reugny, 1874; Regal, 1876)
  • Noel Le Mare – Three wins (Red Rum, 1973, 1974, 1977)
  • Trevor Hemmings – Three wins (Hedgehunter, 2005; Ballabriggs, 2011, Many Clouds, 2015)
  • Gigginstown House Stud (owned by Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary) – Three wins (Rule The World, 2016; Tiger Roll, 2018, 2019)

Eager to prove him wrong, Hemmings, whose business empire grew to include thousands of pubs and Centre Parcs, splashed out on his own runners.

But his success with horses did not immediately match that of his businesses.

The Guardian, who called Hemmings 'reclusive' in one article, also wrote of a betting insider saying: "We used to wonder why he bought so many donkeys.

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"But you can't say that of him these days."

Too right.

Considering how much he gives to charity, you'd think Hemmings would fancy giving someone else a go in the big race.

But with a shot at history and a horse who, on paper at least, looks almost unbeatable, who can blame him for one last shot at immortality.

Even Pontin would doff his cloth cap to that.

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