Walter Haefner, founder and owner of Moyglare Stud in Ireland, has died in Switzerland at the age of 101.

He owned and bred many top-class horses, the latest of which was Princess Highway, the impressive winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot last week and now a leading fancy for the Darley Irish Oaks.

Recent Curragh winner Speaking Of Which is prominent in the betting for this weekend's Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.

The Zurich-born businessman acquired the stud 50 years ago after a chance meeting in a Dublin hotel.

Working closely from the start of the operation with stud manager Stan Cosgrove, Haefner built one of the world's most influential operations.

With Dermot Weld as his principal trainer for almost 40 years, Moyglare have enjoyed considerable success in virtually every corner of the globe, including the Belmont Stakes with Go And Go in 1990, the 2000 Guineas in 2003 with Refuse To Bend and the Tattersalls Gold Cup with Casual Conquest in 2008.

A statement on behalf of the Haefner family and Moyglare Stud read: "The Haefner family and Moyglare Stud announce that their patriarch Walter Haefner has passed away peacefully in Switzerland.

"A Zurich native, born in 1910, the 101-year-old Haefner, a gifted businessman and visionary philanthropist, was a true sportsman at heart with a deep and abiding love for the breeding of thoroughbred racehorses and the techniques and science of racing.

"Advised by his doctor at a relatively late age to take up riding, Haefner chose amateur Flat racing and pursued this with typically energetic dedication, winning the Fegentri Champion Amateur Championship in 1963.

"A consummate businessman, the horses were his escape and a corner of Ireland became his enduring passion. A great fan of Irish sport horses, Haefner first came to Ireland to buy a show-jumper.

"A delayed flight, a chance meeting in a Dublin hotel, a few Irish whiskies and Haefner went home with an Irish stud farm. That was 1962, and Moyglare Stud was born.

"A firm believer that the strength in the pedigree comes from the quality of the broodmare, and that the ultimate test for any racehorse is racecourse competition, Haefner stuck to this doctrine throughout the stud's development.

"He acquired, often in the USA, top-class race mares such as Grenzen (ancestress of Refuse To Bend and Casual Conquest), Talking Picture (ancestress of Trusted Partner, Dress To Thrill and recent Group winner Sapphire) and Aptostar, acquired by manager Stan Cosgrove for the stud at Fasig-Tipton in 1989.

"Top racecourse competition was what was important.

"The Derby was always a goal, the ultimate test, and following Speaking Of Which's nine-length Gallinule Stakes win a few weeks ago, Haefner was excited about his prospects for the Irish Derby (at the Curragh on Sunday).

"In recent years, he was overjoyed to share his passion, Moyglare Stud, with his daughter Eva-Maria, and her children Chiara and Mischa, who are all now regular and infectiously enthusiastic supporters at Irish racecourses.

"Eva is now firmly in charge of the reins and Walter Haefner's great love, Moyglare Stud, has a very bright future.

"A great supporter of Irish racing, Honorary Turf Club member and unheralded benefactor of vital organisations such as RACE and the Equine Centre, Haefner's own personal tribute to excellence in his favourites, the Group One fillies, is the Moyglare Stud Stakes, and the 40th running of this special race will be 9 September at the Curragh.

"2012 is of course the 50-year celebration of the stud, and those celebrations will continue.

"Following in her father's footsteps, Eva sponsored a series of Breeders awards for winning fillies and mares in Ireland this year, called the Moyglare 50. Proving very popular, these races will take on an added poignancy now.

"A memorial service will be held in Ireland at a later date to be advised."