John Ayres – an industry Champion

John Ayres and his family celebrating one of Victory Gunner's many wins
One of many wins for Victory Gunner, pictured here after winning the Evening Post Handicap Chase for owner John Ayres at Chepstow in January, 2008. From left are jockey Lee Stephens, head lass Lisa Mason, John, Bridget (John’s wife), Charlotte (John’s daughter) and her husband Nick Jeremiah.


John Ayres, co-founder and chairman of Champion Manufacturing Ltd and Finest Brands International, passed away on the morning of the 4th of June, following a courageous battle with cancer.

John was a true gentleman that was loved by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. His death is an enormous loss to the equestrian industry and wider community and all the staff at Champion feel privileged for having worked for such an amazing man, who always made work feel like a pleasure.

Born on the 15th of October 1952, John was a Cardiff man born and bred. His knowledge of and passion for horses was immense, his love of racing and equestrian sports and genuine affection for the animals themselves was at the heart of everything he did.

Few individuals have made more of a contribution to the equestrian industry than John. Together with his wife Bridget, they started their very first mail order saddlery business from home over 40 years ago and have since set up a number of equine based businesses, with their love of riding and concern for safety leading to the creation of Champion. Dedicated to supporting British manufacturing and with an unfaltering and continual pursuit of quality, through the Champion brand John has been a driving force in the design and development of protective riding wear for over three decades. Under his stewardship, Finest Brands International has grown into one of the most respected organisations in the industry, with the Toggi and Champion brands now recognised as household names in equestrian circles.

The Champion brand is chosen and trusted by riders of all levels and ambitions, from Olympians to pleasure riders and nothing made John prouder than to see the mud spattered face of legends such as Ruby or Katie Walsh, Choc Thornton, Christian Williams or Micheal Nolan grinning at him from the television screen with the word “Champion” emblazoned on the front of their crash skulls! On hearing of John’s death, Ruby himself commented “John was always far more interested in the state and condition of my brain than I was, but its thanks to him and his Champion helmets that I have one that’s fully intact. Thanks John. RIP.”

John loved what he did and remained in work throughout his cancer treatment, working until the day before he passed away. A genuine ‘people person’, John always put his family, friends and the many people that worked for him first and he will be desperately missed by all those that had the pleasure to know him.

A memorial service was held for John on Friday the 21st June at Chepstow racecourse, the perfect location for a fitting tribute to John and his life-long love of racing. The many hundreds of people who turned out in celebration of his life was testimony to the fact that he touched so many hearts, in all corners of the world. What was undoubtedly an incredibly sad day was turned into a celebration of the life of a man loved by many, respected by all and whose premature death is an enormous loss to the equestrian industry, his family and all those who knew him.
His legacy will live on.

John was a fantastically generous man and always put the needs of others before his own. He was a dedicated supporter of a number of worthy causes and charities and in lieu of flowers John and his family requested that donations be made instead to two charities particularly close to their hearts: The Injured Jockeys Fund and Tenovus Cancer Charity. To support either of these causes simply go to