This index sets out to give a brief resumé in alphabetical order, of some of the more interesting animals to have graced the turf in the 20th and 21st century. Starting with Affirmed and finishing with Zarathustra I hope that followers of the great sport of Horseracing will find the blog interesting and informative.
Affirmed: Foaled in February 1975, Affirmed became the 11th winner of The United States Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes). He won 14 Grade1 Stakes over his stellar career, topping the champion table in all three seasons he raced. He was the last horse to win the Triple Crown for a 37 year period which was ended by American Pharaoh in 2015. Named horse of the year in 1978 following his Triple Crown triumph, and again the following year, it was an accolade well deserved, as it was gained competing against an animal described as “the best horse in the history of thoroughbred racing never to have won The Championship”, Alydar.
As 2yo’s, Affirmed and Alydar met 6 times with the score 4-2 in the formers favour, but despite that, come the first leg of the Triple Crown, The Kentucky Derby, Alydar was sent off the 6/5 favourite. However, as so often is the case, the market got it wrong and supporters of the “Jolly” needed their mint Julips after the race, as Affirmed beat him fair and square by a decisive 1 1/2L. It was a lot closer between them in the 2nd leg, The Preakness, with Affirmed prevailing by a neck which set things up for a dramatic final leg in the Belmont Stakes. In a race described as one of the greatest of all time, the duo took each other on from over 6 furlongs out, and battled head to head all the way to the line, with Affirmed just holding a late Alydar surge.
He was by The Arlington Classic winner, Exclusive Native, who also sired the filly Genuine Risk, one of only 3 of her sex to have ever won The Kentucky Derby, and he was ridden by a teenage Steve Cauthen, who readers of a certain vintage will remember subsequently winning 3 British Champion Jockey titles when riding as first jockey for Henry Cecil and incidentally, also landed a British Triple Crown on that fabulous filly, Oh So Sharp
Akiyda: A British bred filly foaled in April 1979, she was by Labus, a son of that tough customer, Busted. Trained in France by the top handler Francois Mathet, (trained some of the best French horses of the 20th century including Tantieme, Reliance, and the 2 Epsom Derby winners, Phil Drake 1955 and Relko 1963) she raced only once as a 2yo, winning a Saint-Cloud maiden in November 1981 by 5 lengths. Campaigned at the highest level as a 3yo she finished 2nd in both the Prix de Diane and Prix Vermeille before earning her place in the history books with victory in The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe. Racing prominently in 4th place on the rails throughout, she showed impressive acceleration at the 2 furlong marker going a couple of lengths clear but top French pilot, Yvette Saint-Martin must have felt that he had gone for home a little prematurely when the one sight no jockey wanted to see in his wing mirrors, Lester Pigott on Ardross, hove into view. Under a typical Pigott drive Ardross made relentless progress, but the filly found more and held on. Akiyda never raced again and was retired to stud where she only produced one foal who lived to adulthood, a filly named Arishka. Arishka never won a race but as a brood mare produced the colt Akbar who won the Group2 Henry11 Stakes in 2002.
Aldaniti: Trained at Findon in West Sussex by the ex champion jockey, Josh Gifford, (won the title 4 times) his victory in the 1981 Grand National at the age of 11, returning from what seemed a career ending leg injury sustained at Sandown 18 months previously, and ridden by Bob Champion recovering from cancer, was certainly the stuff of legends. Carrying 10-13 he started the 10/1 2nd favourite behind Spartan Missile, ridden by the redoubtable 54 years old Warwickshire farmer/amateur rider John Thorne, who had won the 2 previous runnings of The Fox hunters Chase over the National Fences. Aldaniti and Champion took it up at the 11th fence and maintained their advantage for the rest of the race, fighting off a late challenge from Spartan Missile on the long run in to win by 4 lengths. Needless to say there wasn’t a dry eye on the racecourse and the victory gave a huge boost to cancer charities. Great credit should be given to the sporting grandfather aboard the runner up who was conceding 6 lbs, including 3lbs overweight. The following years race was something of an anticlimax however, as Aldaniti and Champion ended up on the floor after the first fence; such is horseracing!
Al Boum Photo: This years winner of The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the 9th animal to win the race more than once, and still only an 8yo and relatively lightly raced, must have a serious shot at joining that elite band who have won it 3 times or more, Golden Millar(5) Cottage Rake(3) Arkle(3) and Best Mate(3). French bred, by Bucks Boum, a son of the excellent NH stallion Cadoudal, out of a mare by the high class French hurdler, Dom Alco, the Willie Mullins trained gelding is certainly bred to be a top class staying chaser, and so it has proved.
He made an inauspicious start to his career, coming to grief at the 3rd last in a French 3yo hurdle and didn’t race again in France. He joined the Co Carlow yard of Willie Mullins in October 2016 and won 2 of his 4 starts over hurdles. He made a successful debut over fences in a Navan 2m1f beginners chase in Nov2017 but fell next time out, and again, when sent off an 8/1 shot for the 2018 RSA Chase at the Cheltenham festival. He got his career back on track with a Grade1 victory at Fairyhouse 18 days later but then was the victim of a dreadful riding error by jockey, Paul Townend. He looked to have the race at his mercy in Punchestowns Champion Novices Chase when his rider took the inexplicable decision to try and bypass the last fence and crashed into the wings. Al Boum Photo wasn’t seen again until making a successful seasonal debut at Tramore on New Years Day 2019 and 74 days later lined up for The Gold Cup as the third choice (12/1) of Willie’s 4 runners. However nobody told him that and in the lead turning in, he stayed on strongly to win by a comfortable 2 1/2L. He had to work a little harder this year where he again led after the last but was all out to hold the late challenge of the Nicky Henderson trained Santini. Whatever the future holds for Al Boum Photo he has already proved himself an outstanding chaser, and I’m sure Willie Mullins, who must have despaired of ever landing National Hunts greatest prize, will be forever grateful to him for bringing it home to Carlow not once but twice to date.
Alderbrook: Not many entire horses have won The Champion Hurdle but one that did was a son of that great stayer Ardross, Alderbrook. Trained in the early part of his career by Sally Hall he didn’t see a racecourse until he was three, and it was only on his 5th attempt that he managed to get his head in front, a modest Class6 handicap, which he won off a lowly mark of 58. Transferred to Julie Cecil things took a decided turn for the better, winning his first 5 races for the Newmarket handler. Progress was maintained and he rounded off his Newmarket sojourn with a fine win in the Group2 Prix Dollar at Longchamp in October 1994 after which the 5yo was transferred to the Grand National winning trainer, Kim Bailey with a hurdling career in mind. Having only his 2nd start over timber, (had run unsuccessfully in a 3yo hurdle for Sally Hall) he won Wincantons Champion Hurdle trial, The Kingwell Hurdle on his debut for his new yard. Heavily backed at odds of 50/1 for the Champion Hurdle on the morning of The Kingwell, he proceeded to demolish a top class field, and 19 days later started an 11/2 chance for The Champion Hurdle itself. Held up, he travelled sweetly for jockey Norman Williamson, and when asked after the last, quickened impressively leaving the 2 joint favourites, Large Action and Danoli, toiling in his wake. After Cheltenham he finished runner up on the flat in a French Group1 and a German Group 2 before retiring for the season. Always difficult to keep sound he only raced 3 more times winning his Champion Hurdle prep race at Kempton in February 1996, finishing 2nd in the big race itself 16 days later, and rounding off a great career with a win in The Scottish Champion Hurdle the following month. He lost by 2 1/2L in The Champion Hurdle and many feel that jockey, Richard Dunwoody overdid the waiting tactics and gave Alderbrook too much to do, an allegation strongly rejected by one of the best riders the sport has ever produced. Alderbrook was retired to stud and had some success, siring plenty of good NH performers such as Ollie Magern and Baron Windrush.
All Along: Foaled in 1979 She was undoubtedly one of the greatest fillies of the second half of the 20th century. French bred, by Targowice, a son of the great American Horse, Round Table, her breeder Daniel Wildenstein, was himself a fascinating character, and it’s worth digressing a little for a quick cameo of one of the most successful, but rather acerbic and irascible, owner/breeders in the history of the turf. A scion of the famous art dealing family, The Wildensteins a business started by his grandfather in the 19th century, he took over the running of Wildenstein &Co’s Paris and NewYork branches in 1959 and those in London and Buenos Aires in 1963. He was a terrifically successful businessman, and Art critic, so much so that a profile of the family in the magazine, Vanity Fair in 1998 estimated his fortune at more than $5 billion, but when it came to racing he could be a very difficult character indeed. Following what many considered the unjustified criticism of Pat Eddery for his ride on Buckskin in the 1978 Ascot Gold, trainer Peter Welwyn told him to remove his horses
From Seven Barrows, (Now Nicky Henderson’s base). Henry Cecil took over the Wildenstein horses and enjoyed plenty of success but that relationship also broke down following the art dealers criticism of Henry’s jockey, Lester Pigott. Lester responded in typical Pigott fashion by describing the Wildensteins as “inveterate bad losers”.
All Along was trained by Maurice Zilber as a 2yo and won her only start but was then moved to Patrick-Louis Biancone for the remainder of her career. She won some notable races at three including the Group1, Prix Vermeille, but it was in the second half of her 4yo career in 1983 that she demonstrated what an exceptional filly she was. Following defeats in the Grand Prix de Chantilly and The Grand Prix de Paris she was given a summer break and on her return put in a highly promising effort in the Arc trial, The Prix Foy. Held up she came with a strong late run to get within a length of Henry Candy’s super filly Time Charter, form she reversed 3 weeks later in the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe itself. Given a great ride by “The Choirboy” Walter Swinburn, she came with a great run up the rails to collar Dick Hern’s Sun Princess a hundred yards out and was a length clear at the post. She immediately headed for Toronto where she won
The Rothmans International at Woodbine and only 2 weeks later won The Turf Classic at Aquaduct in New York. From there she headed for Laurel Park where she landed
The Washington International. She was the first animal to win these 3 prestigious North American/Canadian races in a row and in the process landed a $1Million bonus for connections. It was an amazing feat for the filly to win consecutively 4 of the Worlds top horse races, but to have done it within a 41 day time frame was truly staggering.
Alleged: Foaled in the US in May 1974 he was by the American stallion,
Hoist The Flag. He was bought as an unraced 2yo by Robert Sangster and associates and brought to Ballydoyle to be trained by the legendary Vincent O’Brien. He only ran once at two, winning a back end Curragh Maiden by 8L. He made a flying start to his 3yo campaign with a win in The Ballydoyle Stakes at The Curragh, and then surprised most people when starting at odds of 33/1 he beat his 2 stable companions,
Valinsky the favourite, and Meneval, the previous years Irish St Leger winner, in The Royal Whip Stakes. His unbeaten run continued with success in The Galinule Stakes at The Curragh, and The Great Voltigeur Stakes at York. His unbeaten run came to an end in his next race, The St Leger, and many good judges blamed the man on top, Lester Pigott. Dick Hern the Queens trainer was intent on giving her stoutly bred filly Dunfermline, every chance, and ran 2 pacemakers. Instead of ignoring them and conserving Alleged’s finishing speed, Lester took the 2 pacemakers on from the start leaving his mount with little left at the finish, and he could only finish second to the Royal filly. However back over a mile and a half in The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe next time out it was a different story with Alleged winning readily from Balmerino with Dunfermline back in 4th.
Alleged only raced three times at four, winning all three races, and he became only the 3rd Postwar dual winner of Longchamps Blue Riband, (Tantieme 1950, 1951 and Ribot 1955, 1956). Indeed it was another 35 years before we saw another animal land the great race twice, the filly Treve in 2013, and 2014. Syndicated for $16 Million, Alleged has left his mark on the breed, siring such talented animals as Miss Alleged, Midway Lady, Shantou, Legal Case, Law Society, Leading Counsel, and Strategic Choice to name but a few.
Alverton: A top class chaser who was trained in North Yorkshire by probably one of the best dual purpose trainers the country has ever produced, Peter Easterby. He is the only handler to have trained more than a thousand winners in both codes of racing, and his Cheltenham record alone which includes 2 Gold Cup winners, Alverton (1979) and Little Owl (1981), 5 Victories in The Champion Hurdle, Saucy Kit (1)
Night Nurse (2) and Sea Pigeon (2) a Stayers Hurdle and 3 Arkle’s is one equalled only by N. Henderson and W. Mullins. Peter purchased Alverton’s dam for £700 from a local breeder and had her covered by the Cambridgeshire winner, Midsummer Night 11. It was a shrewd business move and an even shrewder piece of breeding as her son went on to run 22 times, (11 on the flat and 11 over jumps) winning 12 times. Mind you it took all Easterby’s skill to keep the gelding sound as he broke down badly at four and it was a great credit to Peter that he won Cheltenham’s Arkle Chase 2 years later. The following years Gold Cup started in a blizzard and Tommy Carberry aboard Tied Cottage set a furious pace in the dreadful conditions racing well clear of the pursuing field. Coming to the last fence he was still 2 lengths clear of the closing Alverton with pilot Jonjo O’Neill looking to have plenty left in the locker. However Carberry’s mount put in a tired looking jump and fell leaving Alverton to stroll home by 25L. Tommy insisted afterwards that if Tied Cottage had jumped the last he would have won, but needless to say Jonjo would have none of it. Tied Cottage was indeed a very unlucky animal as he won the following years contest by a distance from Master Smudge but was subsequently disqualified for failing a blood test, skewed apparently for having been fed a Mars Bar. 16 days after his Cheltenham victory, Alverton lined up as favourite for The Grand National and was probably going better than anything else coming to Beecher’s Brook on the 2nd circuit when inexplicably he failed to take off and fell heavily breaking his neck. Jonjo felt that the horse was full of running and the most likely explanation was that Alverton had suffered a heart attack. It was a sad end for such a brave and talented young horse and who knows what he might have achieved in the future had connections decided to sidestep that years Grand National only 16 days after his gruelling race in the mud at Cheltenham.
Ambush II: In 1897 The Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, bought an unraced Irish bred 3yo for 500 Gns from the tenant of Eyrefield Lodge, on The Curragh, G.W. Lushington. It was a fortuitous purchase as the colt went on to win The Grand National 3 years later. Trained for his entire career at Eyrefield, his racecourse debut when four in 1898 was a rather inauspicious one, falling at Navan, ridden by
Algy Anthony. However compensation awaited the duo 29 days later when they won The Maiden Plate at Punchestown despite a refusal at the course’s famous double bank. He rounded off the year with a win in The St Stephens Day Plate at Leopardstown on December 26th. His best performance the following year was a 7th in the 1899 Grand National again with the intrepid Algernon in the plate. He made a very promising start to the new century winning a NH flat race on St Patrick’s day at the now defunct Baldoyle Racecourse near Dublin, with his previous owner G.W. lushington riding, and then lined up for the 1900 Grand National with plenty of confidence behind him, starting joint second choice in the market with Manifesto who had won the great race in 1897 and 1899. On the second circuit the favourite, another Irish horse, Hidden Mystery, had just taken over the lead when he was brought down by a loose horse, (ironically Ambush 11’s stable companion Covert Hack who had fallen at the first fence) leaving the rest of the contest to be fought out by Manifesto and Ambush 11. It was an epic struggle up Aintree’s long run in but in the end Manifesto’s welter burden of 12-13 proved too much and Algy Anthony drew clear. George Williamson then eased the gallant Manifesto and was just pipped for second place. Described by many as one of the most exciting Grand Nationals ever, Algy Anthony would certainly have had fond memories of the race as The Prince gave him a
“Present” of £500, a serious sum of money in those days. Manifesto must surely rank as one of the greatest “Aintree horses” ever as he was 3rd again in 1902 carrying 12-8, (ridden by Lester Pigott’s grandad, Ernie Pigott) and 3rd yet again at the age of 15 with 12-3 and ridden by Ernie in 1903. Ambush 11 came to the last looking like the winner in that 1903 race, with Algy up, but there was no happy ending this time as he fell and never won again. He died 2 years later in 1905 still only 8, and his head was removed for a post mortem. Also, Lushingham had his hooves removed, thinking Edward, now King, would like them mounted, (a rather macabre practice) as souvenirs of his Grand National victory. However a quick reassembly job was required when the royal command to forward the entire skeleton for display in a museum, was received.
Anglo: Foaled in 1958, he was Irish bred, by Greek Star out of Miss Alligator and had many owners. He was sold as a foal to Mr Padge Berry in November 1958 for 170 Gns and sold on the following August to a Mr Quilty for 310 Gns. 2 months after that he was acquired for 460Gns at The Newmarket Houghton Sales by Mr J.E Oxley and he raced as a 2yo named, Flag of Convenience, on the flat in the colours of General Fielden. His efforts were marked by such a conspicuous lack of success that he was sold for 110Gns to a farmer named Mr J. Nichols at Botteril’s Sales in Leicestershire who kept him on his farm for 18 months. He next appeared on a racecourse, in The Ramsey Hurdle race at Huntingdon in June 1962 where he caught the attention of Captain Ryan Price, who bought him on behalf of a partner in The Anglo Amalgated Film Studio, Mr Stuart Levy for £2,500. Perhaps seeing an opportunity to promote the company Stuart changed the 4yo’s name to Anglo, and he did well for his new connections. When Price was disqualified from training over his handling of the Hurdler, Rosyth, in 1964, Anglo moved to Fred Winters Lambourn yard. He continued to do well for Fred, (won 11 races over hurdles and fences in his career) in the 1964-1965 season, but the following year was disappointing, his only win coming in a modest Windsor Chase. Fred had won the 1965 Grand National with the American owned, and ridden, Jay Trump, but there was little confidence that Anglo, with his poor form to date in 1966, could emulate his heroic stable mate in what was the120th renewal of the great race, and he started at odds of 50/1. However, the horse didn’t know he was a 50/1 shot, and in a field of 47, ridden by Tim Norman, Anglo came home 20L clear, of the great hope of Scotland, Freddie, who had been sent off the 11/4 fav. He won for his lucky owner, record prize money of £22,334 and 5 shillings. The following year, having changed hands yet again, he was involved in the debacle at the 23rd fence which saw Foinavon romp home at odds of 100/1 and that really was his Swan-song. Interestingly, the 1968 Grand National was won by his half-brother, Red Alligator, with Red Rum’s future partner, Brian Fletcher in the plate.
Ardross Foaled in May 1976, and bred by the great Irish trainer, Paddy “Darkie” Prendergast, he was by Run The Gantlet out of a daughter of Levmoss, that exceptional animal who not only won the top staying races in France and Britain but also had the speed to win The Prix de I’Arc de Triomphe in 1969. Bred on such stout staying lines, Ardross was always going to need a trip, and so it proved, becoming one of the top staying racehorses of the last 40 years. Trained by “Darkie, he didn’t see a racecourse until he was three, running unplaced on his debut, but causing one of the shocks of the 1979 season when hosing up at odds of 50/1 in the Group2 Gallinule Stakes next time out. He only ran once more that season, finishing unplaced in The King Edward V11 Stakes at Royal Ascot. Sadly Paddy died in June 1980 and his son Kevin took over the training of Ardross. Finishing unplaced over 10 furlongs on his seasonal debut in 1980, Kevin stepped him up to 2 miles for Leopardstown’s Saval Beg Stakes, where he was a revelation, trotting up by 6L, establishing him as a potential top stayer. Starting at 6/1 for the Ascot Gold Cup the following month he gave the outstanding stayer, Le Moss, plenty to think about, pushing Henry Cecil’s Champion all the way to the line, and only going down by 3/4L. He had to give best to Le Moss again in both The Goodwood and Doncaster Cups, albeit reducing the losing margin on both occasions to just a neck. However he finished off the 1980 campaign on a positive note. Partnered by L. Pigott for the first time, he won Newmarket’s Jockey Club Cup, and then finished 3rd in Longchamp’s Prix Royal Oak.
Purchased by that great racing enthusiast, Charles St George, he moved to the Newmarket yard of Henry Cecil for the 1981 campaign, and started the season in great style, winning The Yorkshire Cup, The Ascot Gold Cup, and The Goodwood Cup, in succession, before reverting to 13 furlongs for Newbury’s Geoffrey Freer Stakes in August. In a contest that featured the future St Leger winner, Cut Above, who went on to win that years final Classic from the legendary Shergar, Ardross showed plenty of pace, winning easily from Castle Keep with the future St Leger winner back in 3rd. From the worst possible draw, 24/24, he went on from Newbury to finish 5th to Gold River in The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe, but 3 weeks later, reversed that form in the Prix Royal Oak, winning by 4L from Proustille with Gold River, 2 1/2L back in 3rd.
Ardross got his 1982 campaign off to a great start, winning The Jockey Club Stakes from Glint of Gold, and followed up with a comfortable win in Sandown’s Henry 11 Stakes, before easily landing a second Ascot Gold Cup. Further success followed with another win in The Geoffrey Freer at Newbury, followed by a second Doncaster Cup. Now six, he rounded of a great career, under a great ride by Lester, running the super filly Akiyda close in his final race, The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe.
Syndicated as a stallion for £2 Million, he failed to make much impression on the flat, but proved a significant NH influence, siring amongst many other stalwarts of the winter game, the Champion Hurdler, Alderbrook, and the winner of The Stayers Hurdle, Anzum.
Arkle: Those who braved the miserable wintry conditions to attend Navan’s National Hunt meeting on the 20th of January 1962, didn’t know it when they arrived at the Co Meath track, but that come the running of the 27 runner Bective Novice Hurdle on the card, they were going to see a slice of racing history unfold. The talented mare Kerforo, who was to win The Irish Grand National only 3 months later for her trainer Tom Dreaper, was sent off the even money favourite, and looked like justifying the odds between the last 2 obstacles, when an unconsidered outsider, (20/1) also trained by Tom, cruised past to win the modest 1st prize of £133, as he liked. The winner, a 5yo gelding by Archive, out of the mare Bright Cherry, who went on to leave an indelible mark on National Hunt racing, was the mighty Arkle, and it was the first of the legend’s 27 victories.
Foaled on 19th April 1957 at Ballymacoll stud in Co Kildare, then owned by Miss Dorothy Paget, (the 5 times Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Golden Millar,1932-36 raced in her colours) and 3 years later, in August 1960, was submitted for sale at Ballsbridge by his breeder, Mrs Mary Baker. Purchased for 1150Gns by Anne Duchess of Westminster, he spent the following year at the Duchess’s, Eaton Lodge estate in Cheshire, before returning to Ireland, to be trained by Tom Dreaper at his Kilsallaghan, North Co Dublin yard, Greenogue.
Tom, a firm believer in giving young animals plenty of time to develop, and a quiet introduction to racing, won’t have been the slightest bit concerned, when his future champion ran 4th on his racecourse debut in a Mullingar “Bumper” on Dec 9th 1961, and 3rd in a similar contest at Leopardstown 17 days later. Ridden on both occasions by the amateur, Mark Hely-Hutchinson, who amusingly remarked, “that he is the only rider of Arkle never to have won on the great horse”
Arkle’s Cheltenham career got off to a flying start with victory in the 1963 Broadway Chase, (now The Arkle Chase in his honour) and the following year he won The Gold Cup itself, beating the previous years winner, Mill House, by a length. The 1965 Gold Cup saw him extend that advantage over Millhouse to 20 lengths, and in the 1966 renewal, despite a serious blunder early in the contest, strolled home by 30 lengths at odds of 1/10. Besides winning 3 consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cups he put in some eye watering, weight carrying, performances, including winning 2 Hennessy Gold Cups carrying 12-7 both times, and The Irish Grand National under 12-0 in 1964. Another outstanding performance was his concession of 16lbs to Mill House in the 1965 Gallagher Gold Cup, winning in a time 17 seconds faster than the course record. One of his greatest efforts was in defeat. In the 1966 Hennessy Gold Cup, he failed by just 1/2 a length, to concede 35lbs to the talented Stalbridge Colonist, who went on to lfinish a close 2nd in the Cheltenham Gold Cup 4 months later.
In the 1966 King George V1 Chase, Arkle struck the guard rail with his hoof jumping the open ditch, and fractured a pedal bone. Despite the injury, he kept going to finish runner up, but it was to be the great horses’ swan song at the age of just nine, and he never raced again.
A winner of 27 of his 35 starts at distances from 1m6f to 3m5f, his Timeform rating of 212 is the highest ever awarded to a steeplechaser, with only his stablemate Flying bolt on 210, coming close. Next on their ratings are Sprinter Sacre on 192, followed by Kauto Star and Mill House on 191. His owner the duchess, continued to ride him as a hack, but his retirement was sadly curtailed when he contracted a crippling bone disease and had to be put down at the young age of 13. The concensus is that we are most unlikely to ever see his like again, but the skeleton of the great horse has been preserved, and can be seen at the Irish National Stud at Tully in Co Kildare.
Ayala: We get to the end of the A’s with a horse sired by the 1950 Ascot Gold Cup winner, Supertello, whose exploits on the turf, with one outstanding exception, are largely forgettable, but is pretty interesting nonetheless for the characters who were part of his story.
Foaled in 1954 at the Dalham Hall stud in Newmarket, (purchased by Sheikh Mahommed in 1981) he fetched a mere 400Gns at the same years Newmarket December sales. Useless on the Flat, he changed hands for 40Gns and when resubmitted to the sales as a 3yo was bought by, Mr John Chapman, a patron of trainer, Keith Pigott, father of Lester Pigott. Mr Chapman hoped he would make a hunter, but found to be unsuitable, sold him on to Keith for 250Gns as a 6yo, who saw some potential in the hitherto equine failure as a future chaser. Pigott sold a half share to a London hairdresser named Raymond Bessone, otherwise famously known as Teazie Weazie Raymond. Coiffure to the rich and famous, Teazie Weazie was once summoned to Hollywood by the fifties blonde bombshell, Diana Dors, for a shampoo and set at a fee of £2,500, so I don’t imagine training fees would have been a problem.
However, Keith’s intuition about Ayala proved correct, and under his tutelage won 3 chases in the 1960-61 season, but developed a ligament problem and was Pinfired. (Pinfiring or Thermocutery while widely practised back in the day, was considered by many to be a cruel and barbaric practice, and as far as I can ascertain is now forbidden by racing’s rules). Being the son of jockey, Ernie Pigott, who had ridden the winner of 3 Grand Nationals, winning Aintree’s blue riband as a trainer, was one of Keith’s overriding ambitions. So, one suspects with more hope than expectation, he aimed his recovering, but very inexperienced chaser at the 1963 renewal of the great race.
Despite starting at odds of 66/1 in the 47 runner field, (which contained 3 previous winners of the contest, Mr What, Kilmore and Nicolaus Silver) Keith’s confidence in Ayala’s chances must have dramatically increased by race day since it is rumoured that he was backed to win over £1Million, a really huge sum in 1963. Given a great ride by the 19 years old Irish jockey, Pat Buckley, he only made a single mistake, at the Canal Turn on the first circuit, and came to the final fence a length behind the amateur ridden, Carrickbeg, who following a terrific struggle up the long run in, weakened near the finish, and the gallant Ayala went on to win by 3/4 of a length.
The runner up was ridden by that, Doyen of the racing press room, and excellent amateur jockey, John, later Lord Oaksey, whose greatest contribution to racing was undoubtedly founding The Injured Jockeys Fund. I’m sure that, that myriad of National hunt and Flat riders who have had the misfortune to suffer the injuries which are an inevitable part of the sport over the years, are forever grateful for his foresight. Ayala never won again. He was pulled up in the 1964 renewal and only got as far as the first in 1965, but his ebullient and very camp co-owner, Teazie Weazie, enjoyed further Aintree glory when the Fred Rimell trained, and Richard Dunwoody ridden, Rag Trade brought home the bacon in 1976.
Badsworth Boy: Winner of The Queen Mother Champion Chase in 1983, 84, and 85, he remains to this day, the only horse to have recorded 3 consecutive victories, in what is effectively the deciding heat of the two miler’s championship, an outcome surely beyond the imagination of his breeder, who had a sprint bred mare, (by Falcon)
covered by a son of Bold Ruler, (best known as a sire of precocious 2-year olds) Wolf Hayes in 1974. Foaled in 1975, Badsworth Boy did indeed win 2 of his 8 starts as a juvenile, when trained by Snowy Wainwright, minor 6f events at Beverly. However, suffering from Navicular disease, a condition affecting the feet, he was difficult to train and was sold to Mr Doug Armitage who had him gelded, and sent to the Dickinson’s jumping academy near Harewood in Yorkshire, to try his hand at the Winter game, a discipline he turned out to have a rare talent for, winning 8 times over hurdles, and eighteen times over fences.
In the first of his 3 Champion Chase victories he won by 35 lengths from Artifice with the previous years winner, Rathgorman well behind. The following year he won by 10L from the Gordon Richards trained Little Bay and in 1985 beat the talented Far Bridge by a similar distance.
Great credit for Badsworth Boy’s success has to go to both the Dickinson family, for keeping such a fragile animal sound, (as well as having Navicular disease he suffered all his life from a form of equine arthritis) and his rider, Robert Earnshaw, who is credited with teaching the horse his rapid fencing technique, more akin to hurdling than jumping. Indeed, Mary Reveley, who took over the reins from Son Michael for the 1984-85 campaign was certainly fullsome in her praise of Earnshaw, (now a senior NH steward) putting him right at the pinnacle of steeplechase jockeys. Michael Dickinson, still training very successfully in The US, has no hesitation in nominating Badsworth Boy as “the best I have trained”. Retired to his owners farm at the end of his highly successful racing career, Badsworth Boy enjoyed a long retirement before departing for even greener pastures, at the age of 27 in 2002.
Bahram: Foaled in 1932, he became the first winner of the traditional British Triple Crown, The 2000gns at Newmarket, The Epsom Derby, and The St Leger at Doncaster, since Rock Sand in 1903, and indeed, the only animal to have completed that elusive treble to the present day, was the mighty Nijinsky in 1970. Bred at his owners Egerton stud farm in County Kildare, he was by that hugely influential stallion, Blandford, who in the seven years between 1928 and 1935 sired The Derby winner 4 times. A real equine “goodlooker” his owner, The Aga Khan, (Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan111, to give him his full title) sent Bahram to be trained at Newmarket by Frank Butters.
Bahram remained unbeaten in his 9 race career, winning Sandown’s, National Breeders Produce Stakes on his 2yo debut, and followed up with 4 further juvenile victories, The Rous Memorial Stakes at Goodwood, The Gimcrack at York, Newmarket’s Boscawen Stakes, and rounded off his 2yo career winning The Middle Park at the same venue. Having developed into a really handsome, powerful looking colt, he got his 3yo career off to a flier with victory in The 2000gns. Starting at odds of 7/2 and partnered by his usual jockey, Freddie Fox, he won by 1 1/2L from Theft. Again partnered by Freddie, he started the 5/4 fav for The Derby, and was an easy winner, coming home 2L clear of The field. Bahram then started at 1/8 to maintain his unbeaten record in Ascot’s St James’s Palace Stakes and he did so, but was less than impressive in beating Portfolio. He was then made a very hot favourite at 4/11 to land the 3rd leg of The Triple Crown, and partner, Freddie, must have been cursing his luck when he sustained a serious injury in a fall the day before the Doncaster centrepiece. However, one man’s poison is another man’s meat, and the jockey who came in for the ride was the colourful Charlie Smirke, (son of a London fruit and fish dealer who earlier in his career had been warned off for 5 years)who had ridden the previous years Derby and St Leger winner, Windsor Lad. The new partnership never looked in any danger and they won by 5L from Solar Ray. Amusingly, after the race, Charlie expressed the opinion, that twelve stone and a brace of riders on his back wouldn’t have stopped the son of Blandford winning that day. Bahram was one of those really laid back horses, who did little on the gallops, and on the racecourse was rarely impressive, doing just enough to win, but neither at home, or on the racecourse, did any opponent ever succeed in getting to the bottom of him. His talented and highly successful trainer, Frank Butters, said that he could never really find out just how good he was.
Being by that huge influence on the British thoroughbred, Blandford, Irish and British bloodstockdealers were dismayed when the Aga Khan sold him to an American syndicate for £40,000 after only 2 seasons covering mares on this side of The Atlantic. While never siring anything nearly as good as himself he was moderately successful in The US, but was subsequently sold on to Argentina for $130,000 where he died at the age of 24.
His owner, Aga Khan111 was not only hugely influential on the turf, (won The Derby 5 times) but he was the Imam of the Shi’a Isma’ili Muslims, one of the most progressive, peaceful, and prosperous branches of Islam. During his reign of over 70 years his Golden, Diamond, and Platinum anniversaries we’re celebrated by his followers with a gift of either gold, diamonds, or platinum, to the weight of the Aga. You can’t blame him for carrying a few pounds overweight, can you? But on a more serious note, these amazing gifts were used to set up many international educational and charitable institutions, which survive to this day.
Ballinode: In the 91 renewals of The Cheltenham Gold Cup since it’s inception in 1924 only 4 members of the fairer sex figure on the great race’s roll of honour, and the first to do so was Ballinode. Owned by Sligo man, Christopher Bentley, from the village of Ballinode, he named the mare after his birthplace, and as her reputation blossomed she became known as “The Sligo Mare”. She was by a little known stallion called Machakos, (a son of the Coventry stakes winner Desmond) out of a mare called Celia, who was a half sister to The Ascot Gold Cup winner Love Wisely.
Trained on The Curragh by Frank Morgan, she won plenty of races in Ireland, gaining quite a reputation for her speedy, (but not always accurate) jumping.
She made her Cheltenham debut in the 1924 National Hunt Handicap Chase, a race then worth over £1000, (The Gold Cup was worth nearly £400 less) and finished second. A month later she finished 8th in The Grand National, and that Autumn landed her first British success, The Grand Sefton Chase over Aintree’s National fences. In 1925, she warmed up for her attempt at Cheltenham’s Blue Riband with a victory at Nottingham in February, and about 4 weeks later on March 11th, lined up at Cheltenham the 3/1 second favourite in a field of four. Ridden by Ted Leader, the race soon developed into a duel between the odds on favourite, Alcazar and Ballinode. Full of running coming to the second last fence, the “Sligo Mare” flew the obstacle and galloped up the hill to win easily by 5L, and bring the £685 first prize back to Sligo. 18 days later, she started a 10/1 chance for the rather more valuable Grand National but there was to be no happy ending this time, and she failed to finish.
The other three mares to win The Gold Cup were Kerstin in 1958, Glencarraig Lady in 1972 and the great Dawn Run in 1986, who became the first animal to win both The Champion Hurdle and The Gold Cup, but it is worth noting that the first 2 raced carrying the same weight as their male counterparts, whereas when Dawn Run was making history, she benefited from the relatively newly introduced mares 7lbs allowance. For those of you who can remember that epic finish, fought out between Dawn Run and Wayward Lad in 1986, I just wonder if she would have won her unique place in the history books with another 7lbs on her back?
Ballymoss :Foaled in 1954, Ballymoss became the first Irish trained winner of The St Leger. He was by Mossborough, (not a top class performer in his racing career, only won 5 of his 17 starts, but became a highly successful stallion and sire of brood mares) out of a daughter of Singapore, Indian Call. Indian Call was pretty useless on the racecourse but was a daughter of the well bred Flittermere, winner of The Yorkshire Oaks, who was sold for 3,500Gns at the end of her racing career in 1929. Flittermere proved a disappointment at stud, and both her and her daughter, Indian Call were sent to the December Sales in 1939. Mum, Flittermere, was knocked down for a derisory 10Gns and then Irish Breeder, Mr Richard Ball landed, what must be one of the of the greatest equine bargains ever, when securing her daughter, Indian Call, for 15gns. (besides Ballymoss she bred 6 other winners).
Submitted to the Doncaster yearling Sales in 1955, the chestnut colt who was to become Ballymoss, was bought for 4,500gns by the 38 year old Vincent O’Brien, (already the winner of 4 Cheltenham Gold Cups, 3 Champion Hurdles and 3 Grand Nationals) acting on behalf of the American, Mr J. McShain.
Backward at two, Ballymoss only ran 4 times, his sole success coming in Leopardstown’s Laragh Maiden Plate, worth £202 to the winner. He made a stuttering start to his 3yo career, finishing unplaced in the 7 furlong Madrid Free Handicap, but stepped up to 1 1/2 miles for The Trigo Stakes next time, won comfortably, and generous odds of 100/1 for Epsom’s Blue Riband were quickly snapped up. Starting at 33/1 on Derby Day, despite his preparation having been held up by a foot injury, the son of Mossborough finished an honourable 2nd under jockey T.P. Burns, a length and a half behind the top class Crepello. After Epsom, Ballymoss comfortably won The Irish Derby, but then probably in need of the run, finished unplaced in that good St Leger trial at York, The Great Voltigeur Stakes. With testing conditions prevailing on Town Moor on the day of the St Leger, the odds on the O’Brien horse drifted from 5/1 to 8/1, but belying the lack of market confidence, he had little difficulty in seeing off the challenge of the runner up, Court Harwell. Finishing out the back in the final race of his 3yo campaign, the Champion Stakes, did nothing to enhance Ballymoss’s burgeoning reputation, but with another year on his back, greatness awaited!
He made his 4yo debut in Chester’s Ormonde Stakes in the Spring of 1958, and lost nothing in defeat, when clearly in need of the run, he finished 2nd to Doutelle. He then went on to win in succession, four of the racing worlds premier contests, The Coronation Cup, The Eclipse Stakes, The King GeorgeV1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and finally, Europe’s championship event, The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe. Regrettably, his final race came in The Washington International, at Laurel park, a very tight track, with a short run in, totally unsuited to the long striding chestnut colt. In a particularly rough race, where the winner was disqualified, he finished 3rd, bringing the curtain down on one of racing’s most outstanding careers.
Ballymoss won a record £114,150 in prize money, a sum only surpassed by the Paddy Prendergast trained Ragusa 5 years later. His career as a stallion wasn’t exceptional, but he did produce one outstanding animal, the 1967 Derby winner, Royal Palace.
Battleship: Foaled in 1927, he was by that great American racehorse, Man o’War, who would have remained unbeaten in a 21 race career but for the incompetence of his rider. ( in a small field 2yo heat, jockey Loftus, managed to get himself hopelessly boxed in) As a stallion, Man o’War exerted a powerful influence on the breed, but I’m sure that few would have anticipated him siring the only animal to win both The Grand National, and the US version, The American Grand National; Battleship.
Campaigned on the flat at two and three, with plenty of success, he won 10 of his 22 starts before being sold for $12,000 to Mrs Marion Du Pont Scott, a scion of the fabulously wealthy Du Pont clan, and wife to that well known hero of the silver screen, Randolph Scott. Despite Battleship standing at less than 15.2 hands, extremely small for a chaser, that was the route Marion chose for her new acquisition, and her judgement proved correct. He won 3 of his 4 starts over fences in his first season, and in 1934 won America’s most prestigious chasing event, The American Grand National.
Never a very sound animal, but recovering from a bowed tendon, Ms Du Pont decided in 1936 to have a crack at the real thing, and sent her “pocket” Battleship to be trained in England by Reginald Hobbs for the 1937 Grand National. He won several races for Reg but many in the press considered Aintree a step too far for such a small animal, and he was withdrawn from the 1937 renewal. However, the son of Man o’War continued to perform on the racecourse, including winning the Welsh Grand National, and he was again entered for the 1938 renewal. Now an 11yo he was to be partnered by a rider only six years older than himself, the trainers son, Bruce, and between them they made history that day in April 1938 when they beat the Irish Horse, Royal Danieli, (ridden by Tommy Carberry’s future father in law, and trainer of the dual Gold Cup and Grand National winner L’Escargot, Dan Moore) by a short head. Bruce was, and still is the youngest jockey to have ever ridden the winner, and of course Battleship became the first to win both the American and English Grand National’s.
A real rarity amongst the National Hunt brigade, Battleship was an entire animal, (the previous winning Grand National entire was Grudon in 1901) and he sired 2 steeplechase champions, plus the 1952 winner of The American Grand National, Sea Legs. Following a long retirement, he sank to his own spot in “Davy Jones’s Locker” at the age of 31 in 1958.
Footnote; the American Grand National has some interesting connections to the British hurdling scene. The late Toby Balding, trained Morley Street to win it in 1990, and again in 1991, having won The Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham about three months earlier. The American horse Flatterer won the 1983 renewal of The American Grand National and 4 years later ran the three times winning Champion Hurdler See You Then to a length and a half in the 1987 renewal of Cheltenham’s hurdling Crown.
Best Mate: Bred in Ireland by the Dutch businessman, Jacques Van’t Hart, the triple Gold Cup winning Best Mate was by the French stallion Un Desperado, out of the mare Katday. His dam was pretty useless on the racecourse but certainly made her mark as a broodmare, not only producing Best Mate, a winner of 14 of his 22 starts, but also bred his two full brothers, Cornish Rebel and Inca Trail, who between them won 16 races. Foaled in January 1995, he was trained by Henrietta Knight, (ably assisted by her husband, the 3 times champion Jockey from the sixties, Terry Biddlecombe).
Best Mate made his racecourse debut in a NH flat race at Cheltenham in November 1999, sporting the claret and blue colours of midlands businessman Jim Lewis, (Jim was a lifetime Aston Villa supporter). He won by a hard fought 3/4 of a length, but 19 days later had a much easier time, winning his first hurdles race in a canter at Sandown. A close 2nd in The Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival, and a Grade2 victory at Aintree, followed in the Spring of 2000, before he was put away for the season.
Best Mate made his chasing debut a winning one, at Exeter in October 2000, (a Mr Markus Jooste had purchased a 40% share in Best Mate for £242,000 in the meantime) and the following month demonstrated his liking for Prestbury Park, easily winning the Grade2 November Novices Chase at the big Autumn meeting. Another easy victory followed in the Grade1 Scilly Isles Novices Chase at Sandown in February 2001, but alas, Cheltenham plans had to be shelved, as The Festival was cancelled due to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth.
Beaten 3/4 of a length by the Willie Mullins trained Florida Pearl in the 2001 renewal of the King George VI Chase, Christmas 2001, he lined up eleven weeks later for his first attempt at Cheltenham’s Blue Riband, and won by 1 3/4Lengths and 8Lengths, at odds of 7/1, outstaying the Ruby Walsh ridden, Commanche Court, and the 1999 victor, See More Business.
The following season he went one better in the King George V1 Chase, beating the Nicky Henderson trained Marlborough by a length and a half, and then had little trouble in landing his second Gold Cup, winning by 10 Lengths from Truckers tavern. He looked better than ever when taking the 2003 renewal of The Ericsson Chase at Leopardstown in December, and 81 days later started at odds on to become the first horse since the mighty Arkle to win three Cheltenham Gold Cups. He did so, but not in the style expected, having to be driven out by Culloty to win by 3/4 of a length from the 155 rated outsider Sir Rembrandt. Put away after Cheltenham, he reappeared at Exeter in November 2004 where he struggled to beat an animal rated 19lbs his inferior, and 39 days after that was well beaten by Beef or Salmon in The Lexus Chase at Leopardstown, never looking as if a 4th Gold Cup was in prospect. Missing the 2005 Cheltenham Festival, he reappeared at Exeter 308 days after Leopardstown, and going wrong before the third last, was pulled up by Pilot, Paul Carberry, where sadly, the Cheltenham hero collapsed and died.
Undoubtedly Best Mate was an outstanding chaser, but suggestions by some, including the late lamented Terry Biddlecome, that he was better than Arkle are fanciful. The only thing they had in common was winning 3 Gold Cups, and the highly respected Timeform organisation have Arkle rated on 212 and Best Mate 30lbs lower on 182.
Bosra Sham: An American bred filly by Woodman out of the Riverman mare, Korveya, foaled in February 1993, was sent from Kentucky to the 1994 Tattersalls Houghton yearling Sales at Newmarket, and her breeder, Mr G, Leigh, must have been hoping to see the filly realise a substantial price as she was a full sister to the colt, Hector Protector, who had been the champion French juvenile in 1990, and French 2000Gns winner in 1991. She was also a half sister, to the French 1000Gns winner Shanghai.
His hopes were certainly not in vain, as she was knocked down to the Syrian businessman, Wafic Said for 530,000gns, the highest price paid for a yearling anywhere in Europe that year. Named after the ancient Syrian town of Bosra, (Busra ash Sham) the chestnut filly was sent to be trained by the master of Warren Place, Henry Cecil. As Henry’s record graphically demonstrates, he was the consummate trainer of the thoroughbred racehorse, but having trained 8 winners of The Oaks, and 6 winners of The 1000Gns, he clearly had a particular touch with fillies, and he needed all his skill in that department to keep the new inmate of Warren Place sound for the 10 races she contested between 1995 and 1997. The apple of Henry’s Eye was a real speed machine on the Newmarket gallops, but she had a very dodgy front off fore foot, so it was to his great credit that he managed to train her to win 7 of her 10 starts, three of them at the top level.
She bolted up on her racecourse debut in a Newbury Maiden in August 1995, and 24 days later won the Group1 Fillies Mile at Ascot just as easily, before retiring for the season. She reappeared in the 1000Gns trial, The Fred Darling Stakes at Newbury the following April, winning very easily on easy ground, before lining up for The 1000Gns 16 days later as the 10/11 favourite. She duly justified the price winning by 1 1/2Lengths from the subsequent Irish 1000Gns winner, Matiya, on the good/firm ground, but entered the winners enclosure as if she was walking on hot coals, and Henry wisely gave her an extended Summer break. She reappeared in The Queen Elizabeth11 Stakes at the end of September, needing the run after 146 days on the sidelines, and on the good/firm ground, went down by 1 1/4Lengths to Mark Of Esteem, with all guns blazing. 3 weeks later she put up the best performance of her career when comfortably beating the 5yo Halling in The Champion Stakes, and finished the season with the title of, “European Champion Three Year Old Filly”.
She commenced her 4yo campaign with victories at Group3 and 2 level, but then could only finish 3rd in The Eclipse Stakes at Sandown behind Pilsudski, and was clearly past her best when trailing in last of four behind Singspiel in The International at York, bringing the curtain down on the career of one of the highest rated fillies of the last 50 years.
At stud Bosra Sham produced 5 live foals, but nothing nearly as good as herself, the best of them being the horse Rosberg, who won a Group3 at the Vancouver track, Hastings Racecourse, and he still stands as a stallion in Canada.
Brigadier Gérard: when John Hislop, owner/breeder and racing journalist par excellence, was looking for a name for his newly foaled son of Queens Hussar, out of The Prince Chevalier mare, La Paiva, (foaled 5th March 1968) he was inspired to call him after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s eponymous hero, and what a prescient name it turned out to be. Doyle’s comedic character, arrogant and self confident in the extreme, was totally convinced of his own superiority in all things, and his equine counterpart, when it came to performing on the racecourse, certainly showed that he was. Trained by Dick Hern at West Ilsley, and ridden in all his races by Joe Mercer, the “Brigadier” was only beaten once in an 18 race career, and that was following an unbeaten run of 15 straight wins.
The beautifully balanced, bay colt, made an instant impression on his racecourse debut at two in Newbury’s Berkshire Stakes , winning by an eased down 5 lengths. He followed up with two further facile victories before stepping up to the top level in Newmarket’s Middlepark Stakes. He again won with his head in his chest, from that top sprinter, Mummy’s Pet, and was retired for the season with his connections eyes firmly fixed on the 1971 2000Gns.
Hern, trainer of 16 British Classic winners, deemed that a prep run before the Guineas was unnecessary, and Brigadier Gérard lined up at Newmarket as the market’s 3rd choice (11/2) behind the previous years two top juveniles, Mill Reef, (6/4) and My Swallow, (9/4). Despite the two market leaders running up to their best form, they were no match for the impressive “Brigadier,” who showing an amazing turn of foot, accelerated past them both and won by 3 Lengths from the brilliant Mill Reef. When you consider the runner up remained unbeaten for the rest of his career, winning The Derby, The Eclipse Stakes, The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe, The Prix Ganay and finally The Coronation Cup, that Guineas run must have been one of the greatest ever. After The Guineas “The Brigadier” continued on his unbeaten path, landing The St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, The Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, which he won by 5 Lengths from another subsequently unbeaten animal, Faraway Son, and then doubled that winning distance in The Goodwood Mile. Further success followed in The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and then, stepped up to 10 furlongs for the first time in The Champion Stakes, he brought the curtain down on a magnificent season, winning, albeit by only the minimum distance, from the Irish horse Rarity.
His sparkling form continued at four, winning his first 5 races, including, The Prince of Wales at Royal Ascot, The Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, and The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes again at Ascot, so when he lined up for the inaugural running of The Benson and Hedges Gold Cup at York for his 16th undefeated start the overriding majority of the racing public thought that defeat for the 1/3 favourite was unthinkable. However, nobody told the Derby winner, Roberto, nor his Panamanian jockey, Braulio Baeza and the pair set off at a breakneck pace. The Vincent O’Brien trained Roberto maintained the furious pace right to the finish, easily breaking the course record and crossed the line 3 lengths in front of Brigadier Gérard. Pilot, Joe Mercer, in an effort to excuse his mounts defeat, tried to assert that he was a sick animal, but considering that The Brigadier also broke the course record, and finished 10 lengths (a revue of the tape recording showed it to be more like 17 Lengths) clear of the 3rd horse, the talented Gold Rod, it was in fact one of “The Brigadiers” best performances ever, a conclusion his sporting owners Mr and Mrs Hislop were more than happy to concur with. It was back to winning ways with a second win in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes next time out for the “Brigadier” and then he brought his magnificent career to an appropriate end, winning a second Champion Stakes, beating the French horse Riverman, by 1 1/2 lengths. Co-rated on 141 with Mill Reef at the end of his 3yo career by Timeform, a mark increased to 144 at four, makes The Brigadier, along with Tudor Minstrel, the two highest rated English trained horses of the 20th Century.
Brigadier Gérard wasn’t a great success at stud but he did sire one Classic winner, Light Cavalry who Dick Hern trained to win The St Leger.
Brown Jack: one of the most popular racehorses of the post World War I era, was foaled in County Offaly, in the midlands of Ireland in 1924. A brown colt by the stallion, Jackdaw, it didn’t require any great stretch of the imagination to find a name for the colt, who in the course of a 7 year career, caught the imagination of not only the racing public, but the nation as a whole.
Thoughts of the yearlings future popularity will have been far from the mind of his breeder, George Webb, when the brown colt didn’t attract a single bid at the Ballsbridge Sales in 1925, and George had to accept the offer of a paltry £110 from a Mr Marcus Thompson who spotted him in the unsold pen. The Brown Jack story might well have ended there but for the unreliability of racehorse trainer, Charlie Rogers’ motor car. It broke down outside Thompson’s Tipperary home the following year while on his way to Limerick Junction, (now Tipperary) racecourse, where he spotted the now gelded 2yo, grazing contentedly in a paddock. Liking what he saw, and impressed by the fact that he was by the 1912 winner of the Queen Alexandra Stakes, Jackdaw, Charlie managed to get Thompson to part with him for £275.
While Charlie’s new stoutly bred acquisition , (his dam was by the stayer Kroonstad) was always going to need a trip, he decided to give him a couple of outings as a 3yo, firstly over 6 furlongs at Navan and then over five at the now defunct Phoenix Park racecourse. He finished last at Navan, and unplaced at Phoenix Park, but Charlie liked what he saw and offered the horse to Wiltshire handler, Aubrey Hastings. Hastings who was looking for a potential Hurdler on behalf of patron, Sir Harold Wernher who was keen to have a contender in the newly inaugurated Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, was happy to pay £750 for the gelding, with a further contingency £50 to be paid if Brown Jack managed to win a race, and the horse was shipped to Aubrey’s yard at Wroughton in Wiltshire.
He made his hurdling debut over 1 1/2 miles at Bournemouth in September 1927 finishing 3rd, and over the course of the following 11 weeks won his next 5 races. Laid low with a virus over Christmas, he reappeared in February 1928 needing the run, and then landed his 6th victory at the end of the month at Leicester. He had a final prep race before his attempt at The Champion Hurdle, the weekend before Cheltenham, finishing 2nd to Peace River at Lingfield, form he reversed the following week. He won the Champion Hurdle at odds of 4/1, beating Peace River by 1 1/2 Lengths, and had the 2/1 favourite, and winner of the inaugural running of The Champion Hurdle the previous year, Blaris, 6 Lengths back in 3rd.
Accompanying the winning connections after the race was the Ex champion (10 times between 1914 and 1923) and hugely popular flat jockey, Steve Donoghue, and when asked if he thought the 4yo was good enough to campaign and win on the flat, his reply was emphatically in the affirmative, and added that he would ride him. So started a famous relationship that would see the duo winning an amazing 6 consecutive renewals of The Queen Alexandra Stakes at the Berkshire venue.
Clearly an Ascot specialist, he won his first race there in 1928, The Ascot Stakes, and when you consider the Royal event, (the biggest and most prestigious in the racing calendar) was the sole meeting held in the year at Ascot in those days, it is amazing that Brown Jack actually ran there 11 times, winning on 7 occasions. He was by no means a one track phenomenon though, as besides landing Cheltenham’s hurdling Blue Riband he also won The Goodwood and Doncaster Cups in 1930, The Chester Cup in 1931 and the same years Ebor Handicap at York carrying 9st-5lbs. A glaring omission on the CV of such an outstanding stayer is an Ascot Gold Cup victory, but in those days geldings were excluded from the contest. However, even a cursory glance at many colatteral form lines, strongly suggest that he would have comfortably won the prize on more than one occasion.
In 1934, at the age of 10, Brown Jack lined up for the Queen Alexandra Stakes for the 6th time, and partnered by the man who had ridden him to nearly all his successes, in front of an enormous crowd, the gallant brown horse didn’t let his adoring fans down, easily winning the race for the sixth time. He entered Ascot’s hallowed winners enclosure for a record 7th and final time, bringing the curtain down on his fabulous career. Retired to his wealthy owners estate he enjoyed a 14 year retirement before dying at the age of 24 in 1948.
Brown Lad: When we hear “triple Grand National winner,” thoughts immediately turn to the Aintree legend that is Red Rum, but there is another largely forgotten equine hero whose CV also includes victory in three Grand Nationals, and whose racecourse achievements certainly merit comparison with Red Rums’, Brown Lad.
Foaled in 1966, he was by the St Leger winner, Sayajirao, and bred by his owner, Joe Osborne of Naas, was trained by Paddy Osborne. A grandson of the great Nearco, he was certainly an extreme example of the late developer, as he was nearly eight before he faced the starter. Amusingly, when asked the reason for his late introduction, Joe quipped, “because we couldn’t catch him”. When he did get to the racecourse he won a couple of bumpers just before his 8th birthday, and then having followed up with 3 straight victories over hurdles in early 1974, was made favourite for the Royal & Sun Alliance Hurdle at The Cheltenham Festival,a race he won very easily, by 8 Lengths under Ron Barry. Following Cheltenham, Joe accepted an offer from Mrs Peter Burrell, and she transferred the horse from Paddy Osborne to Jim Dreaper, (son of Tom “Arkle” Dreaper) at Kilsallaghan in North Co Dublin.
Jim sent the strapping 8yo straight over fences at the start of the new season, and he made an immediate impact under his new partner, Tommy Carberry, winning a Punchestown Maiden, and then the prestigious Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot. Reverting to hurdles for the 1975 Cheltenham Festival, he won what is now The World Hurdle, completing a pretty unique double for trainer Jim Draper, jockey Tommy Carberry, and breeder Joe Osborne, all three who were also responsible for The Gold Cup winner, Ten Up, that same day. The following month Brown Lad showed what a versatile animal he was, contesting Ireland’s Premier Chase, The Irish Grand National. Still not out of the Novice class, and with Carberry doing the steering, he won the very competitive event, by an easy 8 lengths.
The following year, now ten, he won the valuable Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park before contesting The Cheltenham Gold Cup for the first time. With two fences to jump in Cheltenham’s Blue Riband, the chances of him even claiming 4th place money looked remote, but he came up that famous hill with such a flourish that he finished 2nd, and if the race had been 100yds longer, might well have caught the Fred Rimell trained winner, Royal Frolic. However, it was upwards and onwards for the tough Brown Lad, and the following month landed his second Irish Grand National, this time carrying an eye watering 12-2 by a comfortable 4 lengths.
Sidelined by injury for the entire 1976/77 season, he made a winning reappearance just before his 12th birthday at Down Royal, and then put up a terrific performance in the 1978 renewal of The Thyestes Chase, going down by a head to the useful Kintai, who was receiving 37 pounds. With the ground coming up heavy at Cheltenham, conditions looked ideal for the 12yo to add a Gold Cup to his impressive CV, but unfortunately the fates thought otherwise, and the race was postponed due to snow, and rescheduled for April. So It was straight to Fairyhouse for Brown Lad and his date with destiny, aiming to be the first, (and to date the only) horse to win 3 Irish Grand Nationals. With Carberry unavailable, Jim gave the ride to the inexperienced Gerry O’Dowd, who justified the trainers faith, bringing the gallant 12yo home in front with 12-2 on his back.
The rescheduled Cheltenham Gold Cup, run on good ground, very soon after after Brown Lad’s record breaking win at Fairyhouse, resulted in victory for the Fred Winter trained Midnight Court, ridden by Johnny Francome, but for connections of the Irish runner, the race must have evoked memories of the 1976 renewal. The 12yo’s chances again looked remote before the second last fence, but then in hallmark fashion, he flew up that attritional hill, passing five horses to finish second. Hindsight is a wonderful, thing, but I’ve little doubt that had the race been run on its original date in March, on ground that Brown Lad thrived on, the prize would have been destined for North Co Dublin.
Bula: A 3yo gelding by Raincheck out of the winning Hurdler, Pongo’s Fancy, was knocked down to Captain Bill Edwards-Heathcote for 1,350Gns at the Ballsbridge Sales in 1968 and he immediately sent him across the Irish Sea to be trained by Fred Winter, at his Uplands yard in Lambourn. Euphisms such as Carthorse, Warhorse, and even more insultingly, Lunatic, were used to describe the new arrival, but it soon became clear that the Irish bred 3yo was a Hurdler of exceptional potential.
He made his racecourse debut at Lingfield in November 1969, winning easily under Stan Mellor, and followed up in similar fashion at Worcester before winning 3 further races at Wincanton. Unbeaten, he was made favourite for the second division of The Gloucestershire Hurdle, at the 1970 Cheltenham Festival, and won with his head in his chest, making it a 6th straight win for the 5 year old.
Retired for the season, he reappeared in the Autumn of 1970, and kept the winning streak going with 6 further victories the last of which was in Wincanton’s Champion Hurdle Trial, The Kingwell Hurdle, which he won easily and had the triple Champion Hurdle winner Persian War, 10 Lengths back in 3rd. Bula was then made favourite to win The Champion Hurdle itself, and he sent his supporters home on excellent terms with themselves, winning comfortably by 4 Lengths from Persian War, and in the process registering his thirteenth consecutive victory
Bula might easily have made it a fourteenth the following term on his seasonal debut, but for a mistake at the last, as he was only beaten a neck. However he soon resumed winning ways with a comfortable Sandown win, but unfortunately sustaining a minor injury. On the easy list for 4 months, he reappeared at Wincanton in February, and showed that he was fully recovered, winning a second Kingwell Hurdle. Made the 8/11 favourite to win his second Champion Hurdle he did so in the manner an odds on chance should. He won by 8 Lengths from The Triumph Hurdle winner, Boxer, but it could have been a very different story if his pilot, Paul Kelleway, who had been tracking Dondieu all the way, hadn’t been inspired to alter course just before the 3rd last, where the unfortunate Dondieu came down, breaking his neck, and causing all sorts of havoc around him. Bula could only manage 2nd place in The Welsh Champion Hurdle in his final race of the season, but this didn’t stop him being nominated by an overwhelming majority of the panel, “Champion NH Horse” for the second year running.
His 1972/73 campaign commenced with a walkover, followed by a facile win in a 2 runner affair, before finishing 4th to Captain Christy in The Sweeps Hurdle at Leopardstown. He then won his next 2 races including a third Kingwell Hurdle and was again made a short priced favourite to land a third Champion Hurdle, and a place in the record books alongside Hattons Grace, Sir Ken, and Persian war. It wasn’t to be however and he finished 5th behind the Fred Rimell trained, Comedy Of Errors, and was then beaten by the same animal in The Welsh Champion Hurdle in receipt of 6lbs.
Now eight, and with his prospects in the hurdling field looking rather diminished, connections opted for a change of disciplines, and the son of Raincheck embarked on a career over the larger obstacles. While never reaching the heady heights he did over hurdles, Bula proved to be a natural over fences winning his first 4 chases, the first two by an aggregate of 32 Lengths, and finished the 1973/74 season with a tally of 5/6. Having won a 3 mile chase at Windsor in early 1975 connections were encouraged to enter him for The Cheltenham Gold Cup, hoping he could become the first Champion Hurdler to land Chasing’s Blue Riband. Hopes were still alive with just the one obstacle to jump, but a mistake at the final fence on the heavy ground proved his undoing and he finished 3rd, 6 lengths behind the winner Ten Up.
The 1975/76 season saw him notch up wins at Haydock and Windsor and he was made favourite for The Gold Cup but now, eleven he could only finish 6th to Royal Frolic. The 1976/77 campaign saw him win twice before Christmas, at Market Rasen and Haydock Park where he had Red Rum back in 3rd, and following a promising run in The Gainsborough Chase, was entered for The Two Mile Champion Chase at the Festival. However, the gallant Bula, now twelve years old, got no further than the 5th fence where he fell heavily, and sustained such a severe injury that he had to be put down a couple of months later. A real champion, he won an amazing 34 times and many think that if the weather gods had been kinder on that Thursday in March 1975, Dawn Run, 11 years later, would have only been the second horse to claim Cheltenham’s two top prizes.
Burrough Hill Lad: local Leicestershire farmer and small businessman Stan Riley, paid £450 for a mare called Green Monkey, who proving pretty useless on the racecourse, had her covered by the less than prolific local stallion, Richboy, (won the Brittania Stakes at Ascot) and the product of this rather improbable union, born in April 1976, turned out to be one of the best chasers of the last 50 years. (His Timeform rating of 184 is the 7th highest ever awarded to a Steeplechaser) Stan named the foal for his local village, Burrough-On-The-Hill and 3 years later sent the tall unfurnished horse, to be trained by Jimmy Harris, a never say die ex NH jockey, who had to train from the confines of a wheelchair. The big, backward, brown gelding did well for Jimmy, winning twice before meeting with a near fatal accident at Kempton Park in January 1980. He lay motionless by the last hurdle, his rider trapped beneath him, and the men with the green screens hovering ominously for at least 5 minutes, before miraculously struggling back to his feet. He had sustained severe damage to his neck and it took all the skill of equine osteopath, Ronnie Longford to realign his many displaced vertebrae.
Following a brief stint with Walter Wharton for whom the big horse won a couple of handicap hurdles, Stan, with a Chasing career in mind for the son of Richboy, decided to send him to that Doyenne of Steeplechase trainers, the Lambourn female Maestro, Jenny Pitman. In this first season with Jenny, (1981/82) he raced 9 times, 7 of them over fences where his cavalier approach to the obstacles cost him dearly, and he failed to complete on a couple of occasions. Notwithstanding his lack of care at his fences, Burrough Hill Lad, showed that his career was on a very definite upwards trajectory when landing the valuable Mildmay Chase at Aintree in April 1982. Leg trouble was a concern, (as it continued to be throughout his career) the following season and he only raced 3 times, winning twice, and in November 1982 put up an excellent performance, running the Gold Cup winner, Silver Buck to 2 1/2 Lengths at Haydock.
He started the 1983/84 campaign with a 3rd over hurdles at Nottingham in December 1983, but then ran up a fantastic sequence of 8 consecutive victories which included the 1983 Welsh Grand National, The Cheltenham Gold Cup, The Charlie Hall Chase, The Hennessy Gold Cup and The King George VI Chase at Kempton. He was an impressive winner of Cheltenham’s Blue Riband under substitute pilot, Phil Tuck, where he beat the John Francome ridden, Brown Chamberlain, by 3 Lengths, but made an even bigger impression in The Hennessy Gold Cup where he won by 4 Lengths, carrying twelve stone, from The RSA Chase winner, Canny Danny, to whom he was conceding 21Lbs, a performance evocative of the great days of Arkle 20 years earlier.
His dodgy legs in 1985 kept him on the sidelines until he made a winning reappearance in Sandown’s Gainsborough Chase in 1986. However leg problems again intervened, and attempts to train him for the 1987 Gold Cup were again frustrated. He finally broke down on the gallops in 1988 and was retired to enjoy a well earned, 16 year long retirement.
Caergwrle: A filly named after the Flintshire village of Caergwrle, was bred by Gwen Murless, wife of the Legendary Noel, at their Castle Stud near Helmsley in Yorkshire.
Foaled in 1965 she was by the outstanding racehorse and stallion, Crepello, winner of both The 2000 Guineas and Derby, out of Caerphilly, a brood mare by Abernant, who was probably the best sprinter of the 20th century. As husband Noel, trainer of 19 English Classics, 11 of them with fillies, (1000Guineas x6 The Oaks x5) had overseen the careers of both Crepello and Abernant, the outlook for the well made new female addition at Castle Stud looked propitious.
Racing in Gwens colours, (as she did for all her career) the filly made a fairly promising debut, finishing second in the 5f Star Stakes at Sandown, and on the strength of that run started at 2/5 in a field of 4 for The Findon Stakes at Goodwood over the same trip. Much to the disgust of punters who took the skinny odds, she bolted before the start but still took part in the heat finishing 12Lengths behind the winner. In her only other race at two she got off the mark, winning The Combermere Maiden Stakes at Chester in September 1967.
Caergwrle looked a vastly improved animal in Kemptons 1000 Guineas Trial on her 3yo debut the following April. She easily won the 7f heat by 4 Lengths and was made 4/1 favourite for The 1000 Guineas itself. Partnered by the 19 year old Scot, Sandy Barclay, she never looked in trouble on the Rowley Mile, and won the Classic comfortably by a length from Photo Flash, with Soverign back in 3rd, once again underlining Noel Murless’s genius with fillies. She only had one more race before retiring, finishing a disappointing 2nd in Epsom’s Ebbisham Stakes over 8 1/2F the following month. Now a Classic winner with an enviable pedigree, the decision to retire her to the paddocks must have been an easy one to make. At stud she remained in the Murless family’s ownership, and produced 11 live foals, but alas none of them approaching anything close to her own class. The best of them was probably her last, St Ninian, foaled when she was 21, and a winner of 7 races.
Camelot: Foaled in March 2009, he was bred by Sheikh Abdulla Bin Isa Al-Khalifa and reared at the Highclere stud in the heart of the Hampshire Downs. He is by the outstanding stallion Montjeu, a son of Saddlers Wells, and sire of three previous Epsom Derby winners, out of the Kingmambo broodmare Tarfah, a winner of 5 of her 8 races including at Group level, so it wasn’t surprising that Coolmore’s principal buyer, Dermot “Demi” O’Byrne had to fork out north of half a million Guineas to secure the athletic looking colt at Newmarket’s Tattersalls yearling Sales in 2010.
Put into training with the Ballydoyle Maestro Aidan O’Brien, Camelot made his racecourse debut in mid July 2011 in a Leopardstown Maiden, and winning the relatively minor heat so easily, encouraged the layers to install the son of Montjeu as favourite for The Derby, still 11 months away. Three months later, in the Group1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, he confirmed the favourable impression created at Leopardstown with another facile victory and retired for the season as the winter favourite for not only The Derby, but also The 2000 Guineas.
He made his seasonal debut in the Newmarket Classic, and starting at odds of 15/8 looked to have it all to do approaching the two furlong marker, but under strong encouragement from the plate, (Joseph O’Brien), led inside the final furlong, and staying on well, won by a neck. Four weeks later, in the smallest Derby field since 1907, starting at the cramped odds of 8/13, Joseph gave his pretty inexperienced mount plenty of time to find his feet coming down that tricky hill, but entering the straight he closed readily on the field and taking it up a furlong out went away to win impressively by an eased down 5 Lengths from the subsequent 4 times American Grade1 winner, Main Sequence. Aidan and the 19 year old Joseph made a piece of racing history on the day, becoming the first father and son combination to win Epsom’s Blue Riband, and Camelot became only the 3rd animal since Nijinsky in 1970, (Nashwan 1989 and Sea The Stars 2009 the other two) to bring off the 2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby Double. A subsequent 2 length victory in The Irish Derby left many convinced that Camelot must be a shoe in to go one better again, and equal the great Nijinsky’s Triple Crown achievement by winning The St Leger. Starting at a prohibitive 2/5 in the 9 runner field, Joseph again held the hot favourite up towards the back, and 3 furlongs out went for an ambitious run up the rails, but finding his way blocked had to be switched. Meanwhile the 25/1 outsider Encke, given a great ride by Mickael Barzalona, had poached a 3 length lead, and despite the unbalanced Camelot’s best efforts, he couldn’t close the gap and went down by 3/4 of a Length. (Encke the following year along with 21 other horses trained by Mahmoud Al Zarooni tested positive for Anabolic Steroids and was suspended). In his final race of 2012 Camelot could only finish 7th to the filly Solemia a 33/1 outsider ridden by Olivier Peslier in The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe and was retired for the season. He did win a Curragh Group3 on his reappearance in 2013, and was a respectable second and fourth in two Group1s at The Curragh and Royal Ascot, but never again showed anything close to his marvellous form at Epsom, and was retired to stud at Coolmore. He is proving a success as a stallion and is the sire of plenty of quality winners amongst them, the recent Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet in Australia, and The Irish Derby winner, Latrobe.
Captain Christy: One of the best chasers of the 1970s and indeed of any other decade, was Foaled in 1967. By Mon Capitane out of the Bowsprit mare, Christy’s Bow, he made his racecourse debut 4 years later ridden by his rather eccentric owner, Major Joe Pidcock. The gelding did manage to win one of his six starts in that 71/72 season under the sixty something Major, but proved such a difficult/dangerous ride for his ageing pilot that he sent him to that outstanding horseman, Pat (Arkle) Taffe, to continue his instruction. At the Taffe yard he caught the eye of a wealthy New Zealand couple, Mr and Mrs Samuels, who made an offer the good Major couldn’t refuse, and Captain Christie spent the rest of his career racing in the colours of Mrs Jane Samuels.
It proved to be money well spent by the New Zealand pair, as in the 72/73 campaign their purchase won 5 hurdle races, including the valuable Sweeps Hurdle at Leopardstown, a non handicap in those days, where under Bobby Beasley he beat the 1972 Champion Hurdle winner Bula by 4 Lengths. Another win at the Co Dublin track in The Scalp Hurdle followed, before finishing an excellent 3rd in The Champion Hurdle behind Comedy Of Errors and Easby Abbey, and then brought the curtain down on his hurdling career with a facile win in The Scottish Champion Hurdle.
Switched to the larger obstacles for the 1973/74 campaign it soon became clear that the son of Mon Capitaine was clearly an exceptional chaser but did have a worrying tendency to miss out the occasional fence, spectacularly illustrated when coming to grief at Ascot and Haydock with both races at his mercy. However he won all six completed starts, which included The 1974 Cheltenham Gold Cup, a fantastic feat for a novice. Mind you supporters at Prestbury Park would have had their hearts in their mouths when he made a hash of the last fence, but the 3 times Champion Jockey, Bobby Beasley didn’t panic, got the 7yo back on an even keel, and galloped up the hill to land the spoils, winning by 5 Lengths from the 1973 winner, The Dikler. Captain Christy went on to conclude his first season over fences on another high note, winning the valuable Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse.
The 74/75 campaign again featured a mixed bag of performances, which was becoming his hallmark, ranging from the abysmal to the sublime. He never looked likely to successfully defend his Gold Cup Crown on ground that was close to unraceable, and failed to feature in either The Thyestes Chase or Irish Grand National, but ran brilliantly in The Leopardstown Chase, gave the brilliant Pendil a thrashing in the 1974
King George V1 Chase at Christmas, and just failed to give the very useful April Seventh over 2 Stone in The Whitbread Gold Cup. His trainer Pat Taffe never doubted his stable stars jumping prowess, blaming very soft ground which the horse hated for his inconsistency, and there was certainly little wrong with his fencing technique on trips to France when winning over Enghien’s tricky circuit, and finishing a close 2nd when running out of petrol in The Grand Steeplechase de Paris at Auteuil over 4 miles.
He kicked off the 1975/76 season with a trip to the USA for the Colonial Cup in South Carolina where he finished 4th under Bobby Coonan, and on his return, won The Punchestown Chase from Davy Lad, which set him up nicely for the defence of his King George VI Crown at Kempton. In what was undoubtedly the finest performance of his career, Captain Christy set off in front under a young Gary Newman, and literally galloped the exhausted opposition into the ground. As the race progressed he went further and further clear, and crossed the line, looking as if he could go around again, an unbelievable 30 Lengths ahead of the 174 rated Bula, easily beating the course record.
Unfortunately he developed a leg problem soon afterwards which forced the retirement of this superb chaser who was right at the peak of his powers.
Caughoo: Bred by Mr P Power of Fethard-On-Sea in Co Wexford, Caughoo was Foaled in 1939. With a pedigree bereft of any National Hunt blood, I wouldn’t have thought that Vet, Herbert Mc Dowell, was entertaining thoughts of Aintree glory when paying 50 Guineas on behalf of his brother John, a Dublin jeweller, for the entry from Co Wexford, at Goff’s Ballsbridge Sales. However, as the flat bred gelding’s career developed, and particularly after he scored back to back wins in The Ulster National at Downpatrick in 1945 and 1946, the Aintree dream didn’t seem totally impossible, and the Mc Dowell brothers, (Henry, the eldest brother, trained Caughoo) entered him for the 1947 Grand National.
The Winter of 1947 was particularly harsh causing multiple cancellations of race meetings, and with gallops either frozen, snowbound, or waterlogged, keeping horses fit was especially challenging, but Henry kept their contender in excellent order, training him on nearby Sutton beach, just North of Dublin City. His 36 years old jockey, Eddie Dempsey, had ridden some decent horses in the past, Prince Regent amongst them, way back in 1941, but his career was on a very definite downward trajectory, and he was just about making ends meet as a work rider, when he got the winning ride on Caughoo in the 1946 Ulster National, cementing his association with the horse. So the duo headed for Aintree (Eddie had never been to England, let alone ridden at Aintree, and was a total unknown to British punters) hoping to belie their generous, but rather insulting odds of 100/1.
The awful weather didn’t relent, and on a cold, fogbound (visibility less than 100 yards) day, 55 runners lined up for the 1947 renewal of the great race. With nearly zero visibility, commentary was virtually impossible until Eddie and Caughoo appeared in splendid isolation over the last fence. He galloped up the long straight for a magnificent victory, with the runner up, Lough Conn, ridden by another Irishman, Daniel Mc Cann, trailing in his wake and the winning verdict of 20 Lengths looked conservative.
A rather amusing sequel to the race occurred some time later when McCann ran into Eddie and accused him of pulling up Caughoo at the 12th fence on the first circuit and rejoining the race when the field came around for the second time. Well, perhaps not surprisingly, blows were exchanged, and one would have thought that was the end of the matter, but unbelievably, McCann persisted with his outrageous claim and took Eddie to law. Reassuringly, the judge gave McCanns silly accusation pretty short shrift, and quickly threw the case out. Mind you, many years later, a hard up Eddie, desperate for funds, did sell his story to a tabloid newspaper, embellishing the tale by saying that he had hidden behind a haystack on that first circuit. Alas, nobody could ever remember seeing the elusive haystack.
Celtic Shot: A compact, strong, Chasing type, by the stayer Celtic Cone, (winner of The Ascot Stakes and Queen Alexandra Stakes) out of the mare, Duckdown, twice a winner over hurdles, was Foaled in January 1982, and made a winning racecourse debut at Leicester over 2miles, nearly 5 years later, in December 1986. Trained by the canny and patient Fred Winter, he was given plenty of time, and wasn’t seen again for nearly 10 months, winning a second Novices Hurdle in October 1987. The inexperienced gelding made rapid progress winning 3 of his next 4 starts and lined up for the 1988 Champion Hurdle a quietly fancied 7/1 chance. Under a great ride from Peter Scudamore, (Scu partnered him in most of his races) the son of Celtic Cone took it up at the last flight, and ran on strongly up the hill to beat the 33/1 outsider Classical Charm by 4 Lengths, and had the 5/2 Favourite, Celtic Chief, a further 3 Lengths back in third. Celtic Shot fluffed his lines 3 weeks later in Chepstow’s Welsh Champion Hurdle, coming down at the fifth flight at odds of 1/3, and connections pulled up stumps for the season.
He started the 1988/89 campaign with a win, but having lost his next 3 races was an easy to back 8/1 shot to successfully defend his Champion’s Crown. Again ridden by Scudamore, he made a mistake at the fifth, became outpaced, and despite running on strongly, had to settle for 3rd place behind the 50/1 outsider Beech Road, and the Mercy Rimell trained Celtic Chief. He gained a little compensation a few weeks later, winning a two runner Welsh Champion Hurdle at the unbackable price of 1/7.
Chasing was always going to be Celtic Shot’s true metier, and now in the care of Winters assistant at Uplands, Charlie Brooks, (Fred had been forced to retire through illness) he made a really promising start to his career over fences. On his first venture over the larger obstacles he ran the top class Waterloo Boy to a neck at Chepstow, and went on to win 4 of his next 7 starts, including an impressive victory in Ayr’s Future Champions Novices Chase to round off the 1989/90 campaign.
He made a terrific start to the 1990/91 season, winning in succession, three of the top pre Christmas heats in the Chasing Calendar, The Charlie Hall Chase, The Edward Hanmer Memorial Chase, and The Tommy Whittle Chase, landing the latter by 8 Lengths from the subsequent Gold Cup winner, Garrison Savannah. He finished a well beaten 4th behind Desert Orchid in The King George V1 Chase on Boxing Day but got back to winning ways next time, comfortably landing the Gold Cup Trial at Prestbury Park in January, after which he was made favourite to land Cheltenham’s Blue Riband itself. In a strongly run Gold Cup, Celtic Shot went to the front after the 16th travelling strongly, but then unfortunately got the third last wrong, injuring his pelvis in the process, and immediately weakened, to finish 7th, 22lengths behind the winner Garrison Savannah.
The 1991/92 campaign started on a positive note with a back to back win in The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby followed by a close second to Auntie Dot in The Edward Hanmer at Haydock, but something was clearly amiss when he finished more than 73 Lengths last of six behind Carvills Hill at Chepstow.
Sidelined for over 2 years, he reappeared at Haydock in January 1994, but was a sad shadow of the wonderful animal he had been, finishing a distant last, 46 Lengths behind Flakey Dove, over hurdles, and only a few weeks later was pulled up in a Sandown Chase.
Now 12 years old, one would have thought the Champion Hurdle Hero had earned a comfortable retirement, and the time had come to say farewell, but 355 days later, connections had him running in a humble Ludlow Hunter Chase where he finished 39L behind the winner, and 16 days later saw him ignominiously trailing around Kempton, a distance behind, before pulling up in another modest heat. A truly sad end to such a talented and genuine horse’s career!
Charlottown: Meld, one of the best fillies of the 20th century, (she won the fillies Triple Crown in 1955, a feat not repeated for another 30 years when Oh So Sharp landed The 1000Guineas, The Oaks, and St Leger for Henry Cecil in 1985), produced 5 live foals at stud. The first four were a disappointment on the racecourse but in 1963 she produced a foal by the French Derby and Grand Prix de Paris winner, Charlottesville, who was to prove outstanding. Foaled at Lady Zia Wernher’s Someries Stud and named Charlottown he was sent to be trained by John “Towser”Gosden (John Gosden’s dad) at Lewes in Sussex. None of Meld’s previous offspring had been forward enough to train as two year olds but the son of Charlottesville proved an exception, and Towser had him fit and well for his racecourse debut in The Solario Stakes at Sandown, where he spread eagled a fairly mediocre field by 8 Lengths. He followed up by winning The Blackwood Hodge Stakes at Ascot, and ended the season undefeated, winning The Horris Hill Stakes at Newbury. As all three victories had been over 7 furlongs, nowhere near Charlottown’s optimum trip, and the wins at Ascot and Newbury had been more workmanlike than impressive, he finished the season rated 5lbs lower than Paddy Prendergast’s speedster, Young Emperor.
Following Towsers premature retirement due to illness, training duties fell to Gordon Smyth, who took over Gosdens Heath House yard at Lewes. He started off Charlottown’s 3yo campaign in Lingfields’ Derby trial, where the Epsom hopeful was given a less than ideal ride by the Australian Ron Hutchinson, losing by 3 Lengths. It was a heat many felt Lady Wernher’s colt should have won, and Hutchinson was replaced by another Aussie, “Scobie” Breasley, for the colts upcoming date with destiny at Epsom. Mind you on Derby Day itself, Scobie must have been wondering what exactly that destiny might be after Charlottown trod on his own off fore, tearing off his racing plate, just as the Aussie was getting mounted before the race. The 15 minute delay that ensued, while the blacksmith replated Charlottown’s thin soled foot, wouldn’t have helped their cause, and the duos prospects weren’t looking any rosier following the first third of the race, when Scobie found himself out the back, with only 3 horses behind him. Embracing a do or die attitude, the shrewd Australian decided to take the shorter but much more precarious route down the rails to try to get into contention. This brave, but decidedly dicey decision paid off, and miraculously, having had an uninterrupted passage, the duo entered the final furlong with only the joint favourite, Pretendre in front of them. Deftly getting his courageous partner organised on the tricky camber, Breasley mounted a perfectly timed challenge and they edged past Pretendre to win by a neck.
Lady Wernher’s colt raced 3 more times in 1966, and each time was opposed by the sometimes brilliant, but enigmatic animal, the George Todd trained Sodium, who had finished 4th at Epsom. Sodium reversed the Derby form in the Irish Derby, beating
Charlottown by a Length, but the next time they met, in The Oxfordshire Stakes at Newbury, (now The Geoffrey Freer Stakes) Charlottown got the better of the argument by
13 Lengths. Their final meeting came at Doncaster in The St Leger with Sodium prevailing by a head. Charlottown only ran 3 times at 4, winning The John Porter Stakes at Newbury, and The Coronation Cup at Epsom before finishing 6th in The Grand Prix de Paris, the only poor run in his entire 10 race career. Having made little impression on the breed at stud he was exported to Australia in 1977.
Footnote : Charlottown’s pedigree was certainly out of the top drawer and his owner, Lady Wernher, had one to match. Also titled, The Countess Anastasia Mikhailovna de Torby, she was Born Anastasia Mikhailovna de Torby in 1892. She was the elder daughter of His Imperial Highness, Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich, grandson of Tsar Nicholas1, and her mother, Countess Sophie of Merenberg, was descended from the renowned Russian Poet, Alexander Pushkin. She died in the city of London, in South Ontario in 1977.
Cockney Rebel: Foaled in Ireland in March 2004 he is by Val Royal, winner of The Breeders Cup Mile at Belmont Park In 2001, out of the Known Fact mare, Factice.
(Beautifully bred, Factice was sold for 240,000Guineas as a yearling in 1993 but never justified her price on the racecourse. She only ran twice, her sole success coming in a modest Tipperary Maiden for trainer Dermot Weld) She hadn’t made much impression at stud either, her first 4 offspring managing just 7 wins all at a low level, between them, when the Cockney born business man, and keen greyhound aficionado, Phil Cunningham paid £30,000 for her fifth, in 1995.
Sent to Newmarket handler Geoff Huffer, the son of Val Royal made his racecourse debut a winning one in a 6f 2yo Maiden on The July Course. He could only manage second in a valuable Sales Race at York 5 weeks later, (2nd place prize money was over £65,000) and then rounded off his 2yo campaign finishing a very promising 3rd
In York’s Group2 Champagne Stakes, and earning a very respectable rating of 115.
Having won first time up at two, connections elected to go straight to
The 2000 Guineas, and with top French Pilot Olivier Peslier booked to do the steering, Cockney Rebel lined up on The Rowley Mile a generous looking 25/1 chance for a very open first Classic of the year. Drawn towards the middle of the 24 runner field, Peslier switched to race stand side after a furlong. Keeping a tight hold of the strongly travelling colt, the Frenchman timed his challenge to perfection inside the final furlong, and went clear to win by 1 1/2Lengths from Vital Equine, with Dutch Art 3/4Length back in third. It was a terrific performance by the relatively unsung colt, and it looked even better when the time transpired to be the fastest for 12 years, and was more than 2 seconds faster than the mighty Frankel recorded four years later.
Three weeks later, again partnered by the brilliant Peslier, he started at odds of 6/4 to become only the 6th horse to bring off the English and Irish 2000 Guineas double. He did so comfortably beating the Jim Bolger trained Creachadoir and had the New Market runner up, Vital Equine 3 1/4 Lengths back in 6th.
It looked all systems go for The St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot 24 days later where he started the even money favourite, but hanging badly he could only finish 5th, and was retired to stud.
Comedy Of Errors (1967-1990): Whatever else a mating of a King’s Stand Stakes victor, with the winner of Scotland’s oldest race, The Lanark Silver Bell, (endowed by King William the Lion 1165-1214) was likely to produce, a dual Champion Hurdler wouldn’t have been anywhere near the top of most breeders predictions, but that indeed was the result of the covering of the Kingsway (won the 1943 2000 Guineas) mare, Comedy Actress, by the stallion Goldhill, winner of the 5 furlongs, King’s Stand Stakes (1965)
Bred for the flat, Comedy Of Errors had developed into a useful middle distance performer for the Shropshire handler Tom Corrie when the big (over 17 hands) gelding caught the eye of Fred Rimell who bought the 4yo for £12,000 on behalf of a new patron, Ted Wheatley, the wealthy boss of Allied Carpets. The new inmate of the Kinnersley yard made an immediate impression over timber winning on his debut under Ken Whyte, and hopes were high that the big gelding would land the first division of The Gloucestershire Hurdle, (now The Supreme Novices) at the 1972 Cheltenham Festival. Ignoring Fred’s instructions to hold onto the inexperienced Comedy Of Errors until after the last, stable jockey, Terry Biddlecombe, kicked for home far too soon, and was collared on the line, inviting the ire of the normally placid trainer, and costing Terry any future association with the horse, who went on to win 3 more races before the end of his first season.
The first time Comedy Of Errors crossed swords with the 1971 and 1972 Champion Hurdler, Bula, was the 1973 Cheltenham Trial Hurdle, (now The Bula Hurdle) where Fred Winters charge was the clear winner, the Kinnersley runner finishing a distant third. However, on their 3 subsequent meetings the younger horse finished in front. He was runner up to Captain Christy in The Sweeps Hurdle where Bula finished 4th, and then won The Champion Hurdle in fine style from Easby Abbey, with Bula back in 3rd, before again comprehensively beating Bula, conceding 6 lbs, in The Welsh Champion Hurdle at Chepstow, his last race of the season.
Following impressive victories in The Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, The Cheltenham Trial Hurdle, and The Sweeps Hurdle at Leopardstown the apple of Fred Rimells eye, started a red hot favourite for the 1974 Champion Hurdle. In a race where the front running Lanzarote was given an easy time of it up front, Bill Smith seemed to give the favourite an awful lot to do and unable to make up the leeway was beaten by 3 Lengths. Post race, connections were furious, and the unfortunate Smith lost his plum job at Kinnersley. In fairness to Smith, who maintained that his mount wasn’t right on the day, and insisted that a Comedy Of Errors on the top of his game, would have easily got past Lanzarote, a claim borne out by a superb 6 race unbeaten campaign the following season, which included three wins over the Winter horse.
That 1974/75 campaign saw Comedy Of Errors register a third victory in The Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, land a second Cheltenham Hurdle Trial, followed by easily winning The Sweeps Hurdle, and Wolverhampton’s Champion Hurdle Trial. He then carved his own niche in the record books becoming the first horse ever to win back his Champion’s Hurdle Crown, and rounded off a fantastic season with an impressive win in Scotland’s Champion Hurdle.
Rising nine, and getting old for a Hurdler, the 1975/76 season saw him having to contend with a couple of exceptional younger hurdlers, Night Nurse and Sea Pigeon. Attempting to win a 4th Fighting Fifth he finished 2nd to the 4 years younger Night Nurse , and could only finish 4th behind the same brilliant animal in The Champion Hurdle. However he did manage to win 3 times including a victory over Grand Canyon in the inaugural running of Aintree’s 3 miles Templegate Hurdle.
Very much in the veteran category for the 1976/77 season, he still managed to perform at the top level, dividing Master Monday and the future Champion Hurdler, Monksfield, in the 1977 Irish Champion Hurdle, prior to landing the odds in Fontwell’s National Spirit Hurdle. A crack at The Stayers Crown in The Lloyd’s Bank Hurdle at the Festival proved a step too far, with the great horse finishing lame in 5th place.
Sent over fences for the first and only time in the Autumn of 1977 he finished 2nd in a Chase at Worcester but concern for the horse’s well-being saw him revert to hurdles for a final 4 unsuccessful runs and was retired. Described by the hugely successful Fred Rimell as “the best horse he had ever trained” Comedy Of Errors lived out his “Golden” years in honourable retirement at Kinnersley, making himself particularly useful as Mercy Rimell’s hack.
Commander In Chief: The great Dancing Brave, one of the best racehorses of the 20th century, didn’t enjoy the same success at stud, siring only 4 top flight winners,
Ivanka, (Fillies Mile) White Muzzle (Derby Italiano) Wemyss Bite, (Irish Oaks) and the best of the quartet, the dual Derby winner, Commander In Chief.
Bred by Juddmonte Farms, Commander In Chief was out of the outstanding Roberto brood mare Slightly Dangerous, (she had been runner up in the 1982 oaks and at stud produced 10 live offspring, including the top class quintet , Warning, Deploy, Dushyantor, Yashmak and Jibe).
Foaled in 1990 he was trained at Newmarket by Henry Cecil, and proving too backward to train for a 2yo campaign, didn’t make his racecourse debut until April 1993, when under a confident ride from Pat Eddery, won a Newmarket Maiden by an eased down 6 Lengths. Two further comfortable wins in minor Newmarket and York Condition events followed, and the son of Dancing Brave headed for Epsom, attempting to become the first, unraced horse at two since Morston 20 years previously, to land Epsom’s Blue Riband. Eddery had ridden the unbeaten colt in all three victories, but opted to ride Prince Abdullah’s other contender, (the 4/5 favourite Tenby) and the plum ride fell to “super sub” Michael Kinane.
Starting second favourite at odds of 15/2 on the day, Kinane held him up towards the rear and turned into the straight in 6th place, then made rapid progress, took the lead 2 furlongs out, and quickly went clear for a facile win from the 150/1 outsider Blue Judge. (Stable mate Tenby weakened badly in the straight and finished 10th) 27 days later, Commander In Chief, reunited with Pat Eddery, lined up for The Irish Derby, a 4/7 chance to complete the Epsom-Curragh double. His closest opponent in the betting was the French colt Hernando at 9/4, The Prix Du Jockey Club Victor. On the Curragh’s wide open galloping track, the race developed into an Anglo French duel from the 2 furlong marker, and with Eddery applying maximum pressure from the plate, the English colt prevailed by 3/4 Length, a performance that post race prompted Pat to describe the gallant winner as “comparable to all the good ones I’ve ridden”.
Now undefeated in his 5 starts, he was a warm order to land The King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes 27 days later. He looked as if he might keep that 100% unbeaten record at the 2 furlong marker, but weakened inside the final stages of the race and finished 3rd,1 1/2 Lengths and a Short Head behind Opera House, and White Muzzle. The result was a disappointment, and one can only speculate that the hard race at The Curragh had left it’s mark. Whatever the reason, Commander In Chief was retired and sold to Japan as a stallion. He did have some success in his new role, (leading first season stallion) before being euthanised in 2007 after breaking a leg in a paddock accident.
Cottage Rake: In 1945 having failed to find a buyer for the tall backward gelding with a possible wind problem, bred by his brother Richard, Dr ‘Otto’ Vaughan of Mallow, in desperation sent the unfurnished 6yo to a young local trainer just beginning to make a name for himself at his old family home of Clashnagiff House, just outside the nearby hamlet of Churchtown in Co Cork. The stars must certainly have been in alignment that day for the horse, Cottage Rake, went on to win 3 Cheltenham Gold Cups and took the 27 years old Vincent O’Brien’s career to an altogether different level.
By the stallion Cottage, sire of three Grand National winners, (Workman 1939, Lovely Cottage 1946 Sheila’s Cottage 1948) out of the Hartford mare Hartingo, Cottage Rake was foaled in 1939 and was rising seven when contesting his first race for Vincent at the end of December 1945, a Limerick Maiden, which he won easily. He won a Leopardstown Bumper with similar ease 2 months later, and despite the persistence of some veterinary doubts, was sold to the English businessman Frank Vickerman for £3,500.
Now seven, he ran unsuccessfully in two flat races over 2 and 2 1/2 miles in the Autumn of 1946 before showing plenty of pace and a useful turn of foot to win The Naas November Handicap over a mile and a half. The following month, partnered by Aubrey Brabazon for the first time, the partnership, which was to become legendary, won the prestigious Carrickmines Chase At Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting. Further success followed over fences in 1947, and towards the end of that flat season, he won the Irish Cesarewitch under a great ride from pilot George Wells. Further Chasing success with Aubrey in the saddle followed at Christmas, but in February 1948 he suffered the only fall of his career, not the ideal preparation for his first tilt at Cheltenham’s Gold Cup (and Vincent’s first runner in England) the following month.
Starting at 10/1 in a race run at a good clip, Cottage Rake with Aubrey up, and Happy Home (the previous years runner up) with Martin Moloney in the plate, came to the last locked together, where Martin, with real do or die commitment,(some might say in true Kamikaze fashion) hurled his mount at the fence and landed 2 Lengths to the good. The unruffled Aubrey, fully confident in his mounts flat racing speed, fiddled the obstacle, then relentlessly closed the gap up the hill, and went past the gallant Happy Home 50 yards from the post to win by 1 1/2 Lengths, bringing The Gold Cup (and plenty of the bookmakers lolly) back to Churchtown. His final race of the 1947/48 campaign was The Irish Grand National where he found the concession of 3 Stone to the useful Hamstar beyond him.
Vincent’s stable star kicked off the 1948/49 campaign winning The Croom Chase at Limerick shouldering 12-7, and following an unplaced run in The Irish Cesarewitch, headed for The Emblem Chase at Manchester. Again burdened with top weight of 12-7 he beat the subsequent 1951 Gold Cup winner Silver Fame, to whom he was conceding 19 lbs, by a neck, (the runner up was at least 2 Lengths clear jumping the last when Aubrey dropped his whip following a dreadful mistake by “The Rake” who responded magnificently lto his pilots hands and heels urging, and the duo got up in the shadow of the post). Victory in The King George V1 Chase at Kempton followed and he headed for Cheltenham to defend his Gold Cup Crown.
In a race reminiscent of the previous years renewal, Cottage Rake and Cool Customer came to the last, stride for stride, and putting in the better jump, the latter emerged a length to the good. However the pace of Aubrey’s mount again proved decisive up the hill and he wore Cool Customer down to win by 2 Lengths.
The 49/50 Campaign got off to a winning start with a repeat win in The Croom Chase at Limerick, followed by a Sandown victory in The Withington Stayers Chase before attempting to defend his King George V1 Crown. At Kempton he found the concession of 11lbs to the brilliant Finnure, ridden by Dick Francis, just beyond him. Things didn’t get any better in his next race, being brought down in The Leopardstown Chase, not the ideal preparation for his attempt to become only the second horse to win 3 consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cups. (Golden Millar won five 1932-36)
In a six runner field, the bookies effectively made the race a match between the Churchtown contender at 6/5 on, and Finnure at 5/4 against. With a mile to travel Aubrey kicked on, and maintaining a relentless gallop all the way to the line, won easily by 10 Lengths from his Kempton conqueror, Finnure. Now eleven this was the last of the great horses 12 wins over fences, and he was retired.
For readers of an epicurean bent some of the items on the celebratory menu held at the world famous Jammet Restaurant in Dublin to celebrate Cottage Rakes third Gold Cup victory might be of some interest.
Apperitifs included, Le Cocktail Brabazon, starters included, Le Saumon Fume’ Churchtown and Le Potage Vincent. The main courses included such delights as Les Paupiettes de Sole Cheltenham-te-ne-ham and Les Poussins ‘a La Rake garnis. The star of the desserts was Le Gateau ‘a La Gold Cup Brenda, all to be washed down with gallons of Moët Chandon 1938.
Crepello: A handsome well made Chestnut, he was owned by Sir Ellice Victor Sassoon, a fabulously wealthy scion of an old Baghdadi Jewish Sassoon merchant and banking family, which had huge commercial interests across the Asian continent. (Did very well in the 18th and 19th century opium trade). By the Italian bred stallion, Donatello 11, out of the well bred brood mare, Crepuscule, who was by the top class French horse, Mieuxce, a multiple winner at the top level, including The Prix Du Jockey Club, and The Grand Prix de Paris. (Crepescule didn’t make much impression on the racecourse, her sole victory coming in a modest Hurst Park Maiden, but she became a hugely influential brood mare. Her first foal Honeylight won The 1000 Guineas, and her second was Crepello. None of her subsequent 6 offspring were Classic winners but one of them, Twilight Abbey, by Night Court, won The Ascot Gold Cup.)
Bred at Sir Victor’s Newmarket Eve Stud, Crepello was sent down the road to be trained by Noel Murless. The son of Donatello 11 was bred to stay 2 miles but had tremendous speed, and the subsequently knighted Sir Noel, always maintained that he had the pace to win the 6f July Cup. Crepello certainly showed plenty of that speed on his racecourse debut in Royal Ascot’s 5 furlongs Windsor Castle Stakes In 1956. Despite being decidedly backward, he was only beaten by the minimum distance. Given time to mature, he wasn’t seen again until the Autumn, when he reappeared in The Middle park Stakes at headquarters. Looking in need of the race, with stable jockey Piggott again in the saddle, he finished 4th to Pipe of Peace. It was a very different story two weeks later when he put up a scintillating performance with Lester doing the steering to win The Dewhurst Stakes, convincing many of the spectators that they had seen the 1957 Derby winner.
The Spring of 1957 was a particularly dry one, which made the training of Crepello whose delicate legs had always been a concern, particularly trying, and the colt had to line up for The 2000 Guineas without the benefit of a preliminary outing. However plenty kept the faith, and starting at odds of 7/2 Lester brought him home a 1/2 Length in front of Quorum, with his Middle Park conqueror Pipe Of Peace back in third.
Team Crepello then headed for Epsom with Sir Victor hoping to land a second success in the great race, (won with Pinza in 1953) Ditto for Lester, (had won on Never Say Die 1954)
and Noel Murless trying to get his name on the score sheet. Well Crepello didn’t let the trio down, winning by 1 1/2 Lengths from another great horse Ballymoss who many good judges considered good enough to win The Derby any nine years out of ten.
Down to run in The King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes the following month, he was disappointingly withdrawn just an hour before the start, connections blaming the ground. (Following heavy morning rain the ground was actually on the easy side of good)
Sadly the Derby hero did break down on his off foreleg on the gallops the following month, and was retired to take up stud duties. He proved to be a great success at the job, his progeny include the Classic winners, Caergwrle, Mysterious, Crepellana, and Celina as well as many other top class animals such as Busted, Linden Tree, Lucyrowe and Cranberry Sauce. He was also the damsire of the outstanding filly Altesse Royale, winner of The 1000 Guineas, The Oaks, and The Irish Oaks In 1971 and he led the Sires list in 1969. He retired from stud duties in 1974 and was put down soon after. Postscript : Sir Victor ended up owning 4 Derby winners, Lester riding 9, and Sir Noel training 3.
Dalakhani: Foaled in February 2000, he was by The French Derby hero, Darshaan, out of the Group 3 placed Miswaki mare, Daltawa, and is therefore a half brother to the seven times Group1 winner Daylami. Owned and bred by Aga Khan 1V he was born at his Gilltown Stud in County Meath, was trained in France by Alain de Royer-Dupré, and ridden in all his races by Christophe Soumillon.
He made his racecourse debut a winning one in a modest Deauville heat for unraced juveniles at the end of August 2002, and 3 weeks later hosed up in a Longchamp Group3. He faced a much sterner test 6 weeks after that in Saint-Cloud’s Group1 Criterium International, and had to work hard to beat the Aidan O’Brien trained Chevalier by a neck.
Put away for the Winter, he reappeared towards the end of April in a Longchamp Group2 over 1m2 1/2f which he comfortably won, and 23 days later started at 11/8 on for the Group1 Prix Lupin over the same course and distance. Impressively maintaining his unbeaten record in The Lupin, he was sent off the 11/4 on favourite for the French Derby (Prix Du Jockey Club) at Chantilly 3 weeks later. Stepping up to a mile and a half for the first time, he travelled smoothly throughout the race, challenged inside the 2 furlong marker and quickened clear to win by 2L in a time over 2 seconds faster than standard. 4 weeks later he headed for the Irish Derby where despite two thirds of the nine runner field hailing from Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle academy, Dalakhani was made the 7/4 on favourite. In the event, the threat to Dalakhani’s unbeaten record didn’t come from any of the Ballydoyle Battalion, but from the Aga Khan’s own colt, the John Oxx trained Alamshar. In another strongly run heat Dalakhani again travelled well within himself, took it up and looked like justifying his short price two furlongs out, but the Johnny Murtagh ridden Alamshar, running on with great resolution from the back, got his nose in front inside the final furlong, and stayed on the better to win by 1/2 a length. (Alamshar went on to win The King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes the following month)
Given an eleven week break, Dalakhani reappeared in Longchamp’s “Arc trial” The Prix Niel, and got back to winning ways, beating the subsequent King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner(2004) Doyen by 1 1/2 Lengths. Drawing the unpopular outside berth in The Arc itself, he started the 9/4 second favourite behind Ballydoyle’s High Chaparral at 13/8. Given a great ride by Soumillon who dropped him in, then made relentless progress from over 3 furlongs out, led at the distance, and held on to win by 3/4 Length from the Richard Hills ridden Mubtaker, with High Chaparral 5 Lengths back in third.
Unsurprisingly, with his great pedigree, and four top level successes under his belt, he was retired to stud where he made quite an impact on the breed, siring 10 individual Group1 winners, including the outstanding horse Conduit, who won The St Leger, The King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and was twice a winner of The Breeder’s Cup Turf.
Dancing Brave: Foaled in 1983 in the US, he was bought at The Fasig-Tipton July yearling Sales for $200,000 on behalf of Prince Khalid Abdullah, and was sent to be trained by Guy Harwood at Pulborough in West Sussex. Beautifully bred, his dad Lyphard was by the great Northern Dancer, and his dam Navajo Princess, a winner of 16 races, including at Grade2 level, was a daughter of Drone, a son of Sir Gaylord, sire of Sir Ivor.
Backward at two, he only contested 2 minor events, both of which he won and was retired for the season with the 1986 2000 Guineas his principal target. Over the winter he was always at or close to the top of The 2000 Guineas market, and following a scintillating performance in Newmarket’s Craven Stakes on his 3yo debut, he became a very warm order indeed for the seasons first Classic. The market got it right, and under jockey Greville Starkey, he pulverised a high class field, winning by 3 Lengths from the subsequent July, and Sprint Cup winner, Green Desert with Huntercombe back in third.
Despite stamina doubts arising from his pedigree, (his sire was best at a mile, and his dams sire Drone, was prematurely retired to stud having broken down as a juvenile) he was promoted to the top of The Derby market, and lined up at Epsom the 2/1 favourite. Concerned about the trip, it obviously made sense to hold the Guineas winner up for a late challenge, but unfortunately Starkey totally overdid the waiting tactics, (was more than 12 Lengths behind the leaders rounding Tattenham Corner) and Dancing Brave was left with an impossible amount of ground to make up. However he fairly flew up the straight and was only half a length behind the Walter Swinburn ridden Shahrastani at the post.
He got back to winning ways the following month, again ridden by Starkey, winning Sandown’s Eclipse Stakes by 4 Lengths from the French filly Triptych, and headed for the mid summer, all age, middle distance Championship, The King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
In a top class field that contained the 1985 winner Petoski, the French filly Triptych, and his Epsom conqueror, Shahrastani, who in the meantime had won The Irish Derby by 8 Lengths, the market made it a two horse race, with Michael Stoute’s dual Derby winner the 11/10 Favourite, and Dancing Brave at 6/4. In the event the expected dual between the pair never materialised, with Guy Harwood’s charge, (now ridden by Pat Eddery substituting for an injured Greville Starkey) winning by 3/4 Length from Shahrastani’s stable companion, Shardari, with Triptych in 3rd and Shahrastani only 4th.
Only one other 3yo, the wonderful Mill Reef, had ever brought off the King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes/ Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe double in the same season, and connections of Dancing Brave were now seriously optimistic that their colt could become the second. In what was perhaps the best field ever assembled for any middle distance European race, the 15 runner field for the 1986 Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe contained the outstanding 3yo’s Bering, unbeaten in 4 races at 3, including wins in The Prix Du Jockey Club and The Prix Neil, the dual Derby winner Shahrastani, the filly Darara, 5 Length winner of The Prix Vermeille, and the older horses Shardari and Triptych who had finished first and second in The International at York. In a race run in a course record time, Shardari and Triptych came to the front two furlongs out with Bering starting a run on the outside, where he showed a great turn of foot to go past them both at the furlong marker, and looked the winner, but then Dancing Brave, galvanised, under a great ride from Eddery, came with an electrifying burst of speed, and went past the whole field as if they were standing still, to win by the best part of 2 Lengths from Bering, with Triptych in 3rd and Shahrastani 4th.
Perhaps it was a case of going to the well once too often when connections sent their brilliant colt, who had had such a long and arduous season, to the West coast of America for The Breeders Cup at Santa Anita, just a few weeks later. In what turned out to be his swan song, he never looked like justifying his short price, and with his hallmark burst of finishing speed nowhere to be seen, finished 4th behind the American horse Manila.
At stud Dancing Brave sired the Derby and Arc winner Commander In Chief, The Derby Italiano winner, White Muzzle and the Irish Oaks winner Weymss Bite, but perhaps his greatest contribution to the breed was siring the mare Hope, dam of Oasis Dream, and grand dam of Kingsman, two of Prince Khalid’s Juddmonte breeding operation’s most successful stallions. Following 5 years Stud duties in England he was sold to Japan, where he died aged 16 in 1999.
Dante: The fates were smiling on Sir Eric Ohlson when he attended the dispersal sale of Lord Furness’s bloodstock in 1941, for he was inspired to purchase a 5yo French, in foal brood mare, called Rosy Legend. She had been a 4 times winner in her native France and was in foal to the great Italian Sire, Nearco. He paid 3,500 Guineas for the daughter of Dark Legend, and brought the expectant mum back to his recently founded Friar Ings Breeding operation at Manor House Stud in North Yorkshire. The French mares offspring, later to be named Dante, was sent to the Newmarket sales where Lady Luck again smiled on the Yorkshire Knight, as the son of Nearco failed to meet his reserve, and as all subsequent efforts to find a buyer proved unsuccessful, Sir Eric retained the good looking colt for himself, and sent him to be trained by Matthew Peacock at Middleham.
Following a highly successful juvenile campaign, where the handsome colt remained unbeaten in all six starts which included a 4 Lengths victory in The Coventry Stakes (Run at Newmarket because of the war) and a 2 Lengths victory in The Middle Park Stakes, Sir Eric must have been counting his lucky stars that he had been unable to find a buyer for the son of Rosy Legend, particularly when the 1944 Free Handicap was published, rating him the top 2yo in the land.
Having wintered well, and now become something of a Yorkshire celebrity, dubbed “The Hope Of The North”the impressive looking 3yo won his pipe opener at Stockton in April with his customary ease. He was made the even money favourite for The 2000 Guineas and there were few amongst his devoted fans that didn’t think the first Classic of the year was already in the bag. Alas, 2 days before the race his left eye clouded over, (a harbinger of his future blindness) and he had to miss his final gallop. In the event it probably proved decisive as he was beaten a neck by the Cliff Richards ridden Court Martial. (many of his Northern followers maintained that had Richards challenged on their hero’s right hand side the Yorkshire colt, seeing the challenger, would have prevailed) However his legions of supporters never lost the faith, and Dante lined up as favourite to become the first Northern trained Derby winner since Pretender won the 1869 renewal 76 years previously. Run over Newmarket’s July Course, their faith was well justified, as he ran a magnificent race to win by 2 Lengths from Midas, with his Guineas conqueror, Court Martial, a neck away in third place, signalling the start of days of celebrations across the county of Yorkshire.
Dante then became a very short price favourite to land the final Classic of the year, but negative reports of the colts well-being started to circulate. A harassed Matthew Peacock strongly protested his charges’ soundness, but days before The St Leger, the racing community were shocked when Dante was scratched from the race with a terse statement from connections saying “that the colt was perfectly sound but couldn’t be prepared in time”. It was in fact the end of his racing career and the outstanding horse was retired to stud where his sight continued to fail. At stud, he sired plenty of winners including the Classic hero, Darius, (2000 Guineas), and Carozza, owned by The Queen, winner of The Oaks in 1957. Totally blind, Yorkshire’s Derby hero died in 1956 at the relatively young age of 14, and sad to say, 75 years later, the North is still awaiting another winner of Epsom’s Blue Riband.
Postscript : Rosy Legend produced seven other winning offspring, including the 1947 St Leger Hero, Sayajirao, also by Nearco, making him a full brother to Dante.
Dawn Run: In 1981 a Co Cork based breeder, John Riordan, submitted an unraced 3yo filly called Dawn Run to the Ballsbridge Sales in Dublin where she was knocked down to a 60 years old, keen amateur rider, Charmian Hill for 5,800 Guineas. By the prolific stallion Deep Run, (Covered an astonishing 2,226 mares in his stud career) out of Twilight Slave, a daughter of the good NH Stallion, Arctic Slave, Mrs Hill sent the bay filly to be trained by Paddy Mullins at his idyllically situated stables, Doninga House, on the banks of the river Barrow near Gorsebridge in Co Kilkenny.
Charmian, a very accomplished rider, (despite never riding in a race before her 40th birthday, she became the first woman in Ireland to win a race on the flat, over hurdles, and over fences) was also a very “hands on” owner, regularly riding out her exciting new acquisition, and it was she who was in the plate when Dawn Run made her racecourse debut at Clonmel on May 24th 1982. Unplaced at the Tipperary track, the duo finished 4th at Thurles the following month, and 6 days later the pair broke their duck in The Castlemaine Flat Race at Tralee. It must have been a bittersweet moment for the 62 years old “Galloping Granny” because the authorities withdrew her licence on the grounds of age and she never rode again under rules.
So stable jockey Tony Mullins, (Paddy’s son) took over riding duties and the combination won 5 of the 7 races they contested prior to the 1983 Cheltenham Festival. Tony was a first class pilot and had always got on particularly well with Dawn Run, to everyone’s satisfaction, so it came as quite a shock when Hill refused to allow the talented 20 year old to ride the mare in The Sun Alliance Hurdle at the Festival. Forced to find a replacement, Paddy engaged the veteran Irish born jockey, Ron Barry, (rode The Gold Cup winner The Dikler In 1973) and the pair finished 2nd to Sabin Du Loir at the Festival. Tony resumed riding duties for the mares next 3 races, winning 2 of them, The Page Three Hurdle at Liverpool, and The BMW Champion Hurdle at Punchestown, before retiring for the season.
Dawn Run kicked off the 1983/84 campaign finishing 4th in a flat race at The Curragh before winning Down Royal’s Trial Hurdle under Tony, but 13 days later it was
Jonjo O’Neill in the plate when she won The VAT Watkins Hurdle at Ascot. The Co Cork born rider retained the ride for the mares next 4 races, finishing 2nd in The Racehorse Trainers Hurdle at Naas before winning The Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, The Wessex Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown, and The Champion Hurdle itself at Cheltenham.
18 days after Dawn Runs great win at Cheltenham, the jockey musical chairs continued, and Tony was back in the saddle for her win in The Aintree Hurdle at Liverpool, and rode her in her last 2 races of the campaign, landing two fabulous victories in France. They won The Prix de Barka at the end of May, and 25 days later won The Grand Course de Haies, (The French Champion Hurdle) after which the mare was retired for the season to prepare for a campaign over fences.
Dawn Run got her chasing career off to a winning start in The Nobber Chase at Navan at the beginning of November 1984 under Tony, but following a setback was absent from the racecourse for 13 months. She reappeared triumphantly in December 1985 winning The Durkan Brothers Chase at Punchestown and The Sean P Graham Chase at Leopardstown 16 days later, ridden on both occasions by Tony Mullins. Entertaining Gold Cup ambitions, Paddy elected to give the mare some experience of the Prestbury Park fences, and sent her over for Cheltenham’s, Holsten Distrubitors Chase, on January 25th. Partnered by Tony, the mare was in her customary position, bowling happily along in front when disaster struck. She fell, but Tony remounted, and finished the race last of the 4 runners.
Having partnered Dawn Run for her last 7 races, and won six of them, Tony was fully justified in expecting to keep the ride in The Gold Cup but reckoned without the intransigence of Mrs Hill, and once again, much to the chagrin of both father and son, was jocked off in favour of Jonjo O’Neill. Well the records tell us that history was made on that Thursday in March 1986 when the mare became the first, and to date, only animal to land The Champion Hurdle/Gold Cup double, but spare a thought for the talented young jockey who was denied his place in racing’s pantheon by the inexplicable refusal of Hills to give him his riding due.
Three weeks later, Dawn Run with O’Neill in the plate, fell in Liverpool’s Whitbread Gold Label Cup, but got back on the winning trail under Tony in a match organised in her honour at The Punchestown Festival, beating Buck House ridden by Tommy Carmody to collect the stake money of £20,000. It had been a long season but Mrs Hill entertained hopes of winning the very valuable French Champion Hurdle for a second time, so Dawn Run was sent to Paris at the beginning of June for The Prix La Barka as a prep race for The Grand Course de Haies. Ridden by Tony they were comfortably beaten by the top class French Hurdler, Le Rheusois, and Tony expressed the opinion that reopposing in the Champion was pointless, a view with which his father strongly concurred. However Mrs Hill couldn’t be persuaded and saying that “if Tony hadn’t the confidence to ride the mare to win we’ll get someone else”.
A senior French pilot, 41 year old Michel Chirol was booked and on the 27th Of June 1986, despite Paddy’s serious misgivings, the pair lined up for The Grand Course de Haies at Auteuil. All looked to be going to plan until the 5th last hurdle, where the mare, for whatever reason failed to take off, fell heavily breaking her neck, and probably died instantly. It was a terribly sad end for such a magnificent horse, and one can only wonder at the callousness of Charmian Hills’ alleged, single remark to a crestfallen Paddy Mullins when he returned to the enclosures with the mares death certificate in hand, “horse’s come and horses go”.
Denman: Foaled in 2000, he was by that excellent NH stallion Presenting, and was bred in County Cork. He was the 8th live foal of the prolific brood mare Polly Puttens, and as all of her previous offspring were winners, (altogether her 10 foals won 43 races between them) breeder, Colman O’Flynn, must have been a very disappointed vendor when the big dark chestnut 4yo store was rejected by the vet at Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale in 1984. (Thought the gelding needed a breathing operation). So Mr O’Flynn sent the imposing gelding to the retired jockey, Adrian Maguire, (won the 1992 Gold Cup on Cool Ground) who finding no pulmonary problems, embarked the big horse on a training regime and entered him for a Maiden at The Duhallow Point-To-Point at Liscaroll in March 2005. Partnered by the top amateur, CJ Sweeney, the duo duly won by an easy 12 Lengths, and the son of Presenting was bought in partnership by Paul Barber, (trainer Paul Nicholls landlord) and the high flying gambler Harry Findlay for €100,000.( Findlay is reputed to have staked two and a half million pounds on New Zealand to win the 2007 Rugby World Cup which unfortunately for Harry, the Kiwi’s lost)
Sent to the Nicholls academy at Ditcheat, Denman won his first 4 races over hurdles, including the Grade1 Challow Hurdle at Prestbury Park, and was a warm order to win The Royal & Sun Alliance Novices Hurdle when returning to the same venue for the 2006 Cheltenham Festival. In the event he was beaten 2 1/2 Lengths by the Noel Meade trained Nicanor, a defeat jockey Ruby Walsh blamed on himself for not having made much more use of the giant Denman’s great stride and bottomless stamina. Retired for the season, he made a winning debut over fences at Exeter at the end of October 2006, and remained unbeaten in his next 8 races over the larger obstacles. He scored top grade victories in The Royal & Sun Alliance Novices Chase at the 2007 Festival, in the 2007 Hennessy Gold Cup, and in Leopardstown’s 2007 Lexus Chase. The climax of his fabulous 9 race undefeated run, came in the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup which he won imperiously by 7 Lengths from his outstanding stable mate, Kauto Star. He was ridden to this, the greatest of his victories, by Sam Thomas, who maintains that the big horse travelled so well throughout the race that he was just unbeatable on the day.
Off the track for 330 days after Cheltenham, he finished a well beaten 2nd at Kempton in February, before lining up 34 days later, hoping to retain his Gold Cup Crown. On a day when his stable companion was at his magnificent best, Denman couldn’t get anywhere close, but did run on resolutely to finish 2nd, albeit 13 Lengths behind the flying Kauto Star. Things didn’t get any better 20 days later when he fell at Liverpool, and was retired for the season.
Following a 240 day break he reappeared in the 2009 Hennessy Gold Cup and put up a terrific weight carrying performance to land the race for the second time, conceding
22lbs to his stable companion, What A Friend.
Having unseated at Newbury prior to his third Gold Cup challenge in 2010, Denman started at odds of 4/1. Stable mate Kauto Star was the hot favourite to land a third Gold Cup, but in the event neither of them were good enough, and it was the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Imperial Commander, who took the bacon home. Kauto Star never jumped with his usual fluency and fell four out, while the gallant Denman never had the speed to challenge Nigel’s charge but kept on bravely to finish 2nd.
Now a 10yo, but still retaining plenty of his old ability, connections were hoping that Denman could land a record breaking third Hennessy in November 2010. However, having his first race for 220 days, and conceding nearly 2 stone to most of the field, the challenge proved beyond him, and he finished 3rd, behind Diamond Harry and Burton Point, both of whom were receiving lumps of weight.
Given a 111 day break he started at odds of 8/1 for The Gold Cup in 2011, but found the 5 years younger, Long Run, 7 Lengths too good. Well beaten at Liverpool 20 days later he was retired and suffering from a painful arthritic knee was put down in 2018.
Undoubtedly one of “The Greats” Denman must have been a joy to have been associated with. He won 14 of his 24 starts under rules and accumulated prize money of£1,141,347.
Desert Orchid: Back in the day, a mare named Grey Orchid was purchased by a Leicestershire Point-To-Point enthusiast, Jimmy Burridge for £175 pounds. Dangerously headstrong, she proved pretty useless between the flags, and was sent to be covered by a son of Nearula, Brother. The resultant offspring, Flower Child, possessed most of the negative attributes of her mother, and was just as dangerously headstrong, but she did manage to win a very minor 2 runner heat at Plumpton. Mr Burridge seeing little prospect of any further success on the racecourse, had his intractable mare covered by Grey Mirage for a fee of £350. (Grey Mirage wasn’t top class but did win a couple of 2000 Guineas trials and was briefly favourite for the 1972 renewal of the Classic) The result of this fairly haphazard mating was a pretty undistinguished looking grey foal born in April 1979. Unprepossessing at birth he may have been, but the little grey foal grew up to be one of the finest and most popular Chasers of all time, Desert Orchid.
Despite the young Horse displaying plenty of his mother’s wilful personality, Jimmy’s son Richard, became sufficiently impressed by the developing son of Grey Mirage, (Dessie as he became affectionately known to his myriads of fans) that he was persuaded to part with £2,000 of his hard earned, for a half share in the grey, and sent him to be trained by David Elsworth at Whitsbury near Fordingbridge in Devon. (coincidentally his sire, Grey Mirage, had also been trained on the Whitsbury gallops by Bill Marshall)
Ridden with restraint, Dessie failed to win any of the four races he contested in his first season at Whitsbury and actually fell on his racecourse debut under jockey Colin Brown, but did manage to finish 2nd in a Sandown Novices. (Colin, one of 5 jockeys to have ridden Dessie, rode him 42 times winning on 11 occasions) It was an entirely different story the following season when it was decided to give the freegoing gelding his head from the start, and he won 6 of his 8 starts. Victories included The Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown and The Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton but he was well beaten in The 1984 Champion Hurdle behind Dawn Run.
The 1984/85 campaign yielded just a single win, The Oteley Hurdle at Sandown, but he did finish 2nd in The Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, where he had the subsequent triple Champion Hurdler, See You Then, back in 3rd. What did become very clear to connections however was the Grey’s definite preference to race going right handed.
The 1985/86 campaign looked like getting off to a flying start at Kempton where with 2 hurdles to jump Dessie was coasting along, 15 Lengths clear of his field, but capsized at the penultimate obstacle. However, he soon made amends, making an impressive debut over fences at Exeter, and then landing 3 further scintillating victories, twice at Ascot, and once at Sandown, all before Christmas 1985. He unseated in his first race of The New Year, before finishing 2nd in The Scilly Isles Chase and then headed to The Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. His tendency to jump to his right cost him several Lengths and he finished 3rd, 9 Lengths behind the Irish horse, Boreen Prince.
He started the 1986/87 campaign with an all the way victory over 2 1/2miles at Sandown and when dropped back to 2miles for Ascot’s Frogmore Chase, was equally impressive. With plenty of doubters that such a freewheeling type would last the 3miles of Kemptons Boxing Day showpiece, The King George V1 Chase, Dessie started at odds of 16/1 for the top grade event. Ridden by Simon Sherwood for the first time, (Colin Browne was aboard the stables better fancied Combs Ditch) the duo set off in front and confounded the stamina doubters, maintaining a relentless gallop all the way to the line and finishing 15 Lengths clear of a really top class field. Further success followed in Sandown’s Gainsborough Chase and Wincanton’s Jim Ford Chase before Dessie finished 3rd in The Queen Mother’s Champion Chase at The Festival.
He couldn’t quite manage the concession of 2 stones to lone Engagement in the 1987 renewal of Tingle Creek the following season and had to settle for the runner up spot in The King George V1 Chase at Kempton. Another 2nd place, behind Pearlyman in The Queen Mother Chase followed, but the 1987/88 season finished on a more positive note when he won his first chase travelling left handed, Aintree’s Chivas Regal Cup, and followed up with a spectacular victory in Sandown’s 3miles 5furlongs Whitbread Gold Cup to round off the campaign.
His 6 victories in the 1988/89 campaign included wins in The Tingle Creek, The King George V1 Chase, The Victor Chandler Chase, (conceding 22lbs to the talented Panto Prince) and The Gainsborough Chase, before heading to Prestbury Park, hoping to land Cheltenham’s Blue Riband. Ridden by Simon Sherwood in really atrocious conditions, he won The Gold Cup by 1 1/2Lengths from the John Edwards trained mud lark, Yahoo, with the 1988 winner, Charter Party, 8Lengths further back in 3rd.
He landed a third King George V1 Chase in December 1989, and then put up probably the best performance of his entire career when winning the 1990 renewal of The Racing Post Trophy by 8 Lengths, carrying 12-3 and conceding 2 Stone to the runner up, Delius. It earned him a Timeform rating of 187, the 5th highest ever awarded, an amazing achievement for a horse at the age of eleven. Dessie could only finish 3rd in The Gold Cup the following month behind the 100/1 outsider, Norton’s Coin, but then finished the season with another fantastic weight carrying performance in The Irish Grand National. Despite a last fence blunder he won the valuable heat conceding the best part of 2 stones to the entire field.
Rising 12, he won a 4th King George V1 Chase at the end of 1990, followed by another Gainsborough Chase victory about 6weeks later. Now 12 he ran another solid race to finish 3rd behind Garrison Savannah and The Fellow in the 1991 Gold Cup before retiring for the season.
The 1991/92 campaign saw him unplaced in his two outings prior to attempting to land an unprecedented 5th King George V1 Chase. It wasn’t to be however as the gallant veteran, now rising 13 fell, bringing the curtain down on his amazing 70 race career.
He enjoyed a long and healthy retirement before shuffling off his mortal coil in 2008.
Devon Loch: Foaled in 1946 Devon Loch was a bay horse by Devonian, a son of Hyperion, out of the brood mare Coolaleen by Loch Lomond. Bred in Ireland by Mr WA Moloney, he was submitted to The Ballsbridge yearling Sales in September 1947 and was bought by the Co Meath, horse dealer/trainer, Colonel Stephen Hill-Dillon for 550 Guineas. Interestingly, another yearling who was to become a big part part of the Devon Loch story, ESB was sold at the same Sales the previous month. Trained by Hill-Dillon at Hayes House, close to Navan Racecourse the bay gelding ran unplaced over the track on his debut in 1951, but showed his potential next time winning at Naas, and was sold to Lord Bicester, acting on behalf of Queen Elizabeth,The Queen Mother. Sent to the Queen Mothers trainer, Peter Cazalet, at Fairlawne in Kent, the 6yo was placed on his debut for his new yard in November 1951.
Over the next 3 years the son of Devonian developed into a decent three mile chaser, and having won twice in the 1955/56 campaign, and finished 3rd in Cheltenham’s National Hunt Chase the previous month, was quite well fancied for the 1956 renewal of Aintree’s Showpiece. Starting at 100/7 in the 29 runner field, his prospects improved when the favourite, Must, came down at the first fence, and they looked even brighter when the strongly fancied Early Mist fell a few fences later. The 10yo, jumping boldly, continued throughout the race, to give pilot, Dick Francis, a great ride, and with 3 fences to go looked the most likely winner. Jumping the last fence 1 1/2 Lengths ahead of the Dave Dick ridden ESB, he continued to extend his advantage all the way up the long finishing straight and less than 50 yards from the finish, 6 lengths ahead of his nearest pursuer, ESB, it seemed that nothing could prevent a Royal Victory, when the unbelievable happened. To the astonishment of the huge crowd, he collapsed onto his stomach in the most amazing fashion, with 4 legs stretched akimbo, and shocked rider Francis still sitting bemusedly, in the plate. He was passed by the other 8 finishers before struggling back to the vertical, a devastated Dick Francis having quickly hopped overboard.
Theories abound as to what happened to cause such a bizarre event, ranging from the plausible to the frankly ridiculous. Amongst the latter was the theory that a member of the entourage of the Soviet Union president, George Malenkov, (briefly succeeded to the presidency of The U.S.S.R. on the death of Josef Stalin) who was present on the day, had used some form of “Ray Gun” to dazzle the Royal runner. Others of a spiritualist bent preferred to believe that a malevolent ghost from Fairlawne was responsible, two other luckless losing inmates from the same stable, Davy Jones and Cromwell, being invoked to support the theory.
On the plausible side, Dick Francis felt that it was the sheer volume of noise emanating from the 1/4 of a million spectators that distracted his mount, others point to the long shadow cast across the track at that spot by the water obstacle, encouraging the tired horse to attempt to jump an imagined fence, while many noted that pooling of water in the area, leaking from the above mentioned jump, may have played a part.
For perhaps the most credible explanation, to yours truly anyhow, we have to travel back 5 years to the days just after Lord Bicester bought the gelding on behalf of his Royal boss. Before being dispatched to England it was decided to give the horse a full workout over two full circuits of the big galloping track at Navan, about the equivalent distance of the Grand National. According to his work rider, but not revealed until many years later, that having completed two laps of the course and jumped the last fence, Devon Loch had done the splits in exactly the same manner as at Aintree. It was probably caused by a condition that affects many athletes performing at maximum effort, when their bodies fail to adequately metabolise the excessive lactic acid that builds up in their muscle fibres, and leads to severe cramp. It isn’t recorded whether his Lordship was informed of this new development before the Royal purchase was consigned to Fairlawne, (I think we can hazard a guess) but it does seem likely that a bare 4 miles, galloping with the throttle out, was as much as Devon Loch’s constitution could tolerate.
ESB, who was the main beneficiary of the strange occurrence, became the first of Fred Rimell’s 4 Grand National winners, and Devon Loch continued to race for another 10 months until retiring after finishing unplaced in The Mildmay Memorial Chase at Sandown in 1957. He was put down at Fairlawne 5 years later, but remains very much alive as a much used metaphor in the English Language, for sudden, unexpected, last minute failure, to complete an imminent anticipated victory, Don’t do a Devon Loch!
Don’t Push It: Foaled in June 2000 he is by the very successful NH Stallion, Old Vic,
(top class winner of The Irish and French Derby’s) out of the Alleged mare, She’s No Laugh Ben. Useless on the racecourse, the oddly named dam did better at stud, not only producing Don’t Push It, ( winner of 8 races and £754,616 in prize money) but one of her other 4 foals, Larifaari won three times on the flat.
Racing in the yellow and gold hoops of his legendary owner, JP McManus, and trained by his tenant at Jackdaws Castle, Jonjo O’Neill, Don’t Push It finished 3rd in a Warwick NH flat race on his debut in December 2004 and was then given a 9 months break before winning for the first time, a lowly, Class6, Market Rasen NH flat affair, ridden by the amateur, Mr AJ Berry, in September 2005. Success over timber followed at Haydock 12 weeks later, and following a 313 days break, Don’t Push It made a successful debut over the larger obstacles at Stratford in October 2006. He followed up with a close 2nd to the future Gold Cup winner, Denman, at Cheltenham’s November meeting, before landing a Class2 Chase at the same venue the following month.
The following 3 years were something of a mixed bag with a tally of just 3 wins from 15 starts but they did include a victory in the valuable John Smiths Handicap over the Mildmay fences at Liverpool in April 2009. He kicked off the 2009/10 campaign by finishing a well beaten 4th in Aintree’s Old Roan Chase, before demonstrating emphatically that staying races were his true metier in the 3miles 3 1/2furlongs Servo Trophy Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in November 2009. Carrying 11-11 and conceding 25 lbs to the winner on holding ground, he ran on with great determination up the hill, to get within 1/2 Length of the well handicapped, Galant Nuit. With eyes now firmly focused on Liverpool, the son of Old Vic had a pipe opener in The Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle at The Cheltenham Festival in March, and although making no show in the race, (he was tailed off and pulled up before the last by pilot AJ Berry) connections were hoping that the outing had left him spot on for Aintree, and enable them, messrs McCoy, McManus and O’Neill, to lay their longstanding Grand National bogey. (It was to be Tony’s 15th ride in the race)
Starting the joint 10/1 favourite with the Paul Nicholls trained Big Fella Thanks, (finished4th) McCoy gave his mount plenty of time to get into a good jumping rhythm before making steady headway to track the leaders going out on the 2nd circuit. Travelling better than most, he took 2nd place at the penultimate fence, joined Black Apalachi over the last, and staying on well from the elbow, forged clear to win by 5 Lengths from Dessie Hughes’s charge.
Retired for the season, he was trained very much with the 2011 Grand National in mind, and despite showing precious little in any of the four heats of his 2010/11 campaign, he was made the 9/1 joint 2nd favourite to retain his Aintree crown. Carrying the steadier of 11-10, McCoy followed the same tactics as the previous year and quietly crept into the race from six out, but unfortunately made a mistake at the third last which knocked them back and the duo were only fifth with two to jump. Anchored by his big weight he couldn’t get to the leaders, but did stay on bravely for 3rd place behind Ballabrigs and Oscar Time. The Aintree hero only raced once more, in a 3 miles handicap hurdle at Cheltenham the following November, where he trailed in a remote 6th and was retired to an honourable, and luxurious retirement at JP’s Martinstown estate in Co Limerick.
Double Trigger: A light chestnut with a prominent white blaze, the front running Double Trigger was instantly recognisable and became one of the most popular Stayers of the last 30 years. Irish bred and foaled in 1991, he was a son of The King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Ela-Mana-Mou out of the French mare, Solac, by Gay Lussac.
(Solac’s second foal, Double Eclipse, born the following year, and a full brother of Double
Trigger also proved to be an exceptional performer over staying distances) Owner RW Huggins wisely sent the son of Ela-Mana-Mou to be trained at Middleham in North Yorkshire by the outstanding Scottish born handler, Mark Johnston. Mark not only trained him to win 14 of his 29 starts, including 12 at Group Level and a Stayers Triple Crown. (Ascot Gold Cup, Doncaster, and Goodwood Cups)
The handsome chestnut made a 10 Lengths winning debut in a 9 furlongs Redcar 2yo Maiden in September 1993 and confirmed his potential as a stayer 5 weeks later when, up in class, he easily landed Newmarket’s 10 furlongs Zetland Stakes.
Retired for the season, he wasn’t seen back in action until finishing unplaced over 12 furlongs in the middle of August 1994 in York’s St Leger Trial, The Great Voltigeur Stakes, and then finished 3rd in the the Doncaster Classic itself, 4 1/4 Lengths behind the winner, Moonax. Two months later, the decision to send the colt to Turin for the Italian version of the same Classic, proved inspirational, but the Piedmont trip was followed by a fruitless journey, halfway round the world, to Sha Tin for The Hong Kong Vase in December.
Double Trigger started off his 4yo campaign with a win in Ascot’s Sagaro Stakes in May 1995 and following an easy 6 Lengths victory in Sandown’s Henry 11 Stakes the same month, lined up as the 9/4 2nd favourite for The Ascot Gold Cup. Ridden by his regular partner, Jason Weaver, (Now a popular racing pundit and pretty good tipster, Jason rode him 21 times) the duo made the running, quickened 4 furlongs out, and stayed on strongly to win by 5 Lengths from the St Leger winner, Moonax. There was only a neck in it 5 weeks later when Double Trigger and Jason landed the second leg of The Stayers Crown at Goodwood beating Double Eclipse, (the year younger stable companion was receiving 21lbs) and 7 weeks later, the pair easily completed the Stayers Treble at Doncaster.
The 1995 campaign was undoubtedly the high point of Double Trigger’s career, but he continued to perform at the top level. In 1996 he again won The Sagaro and Henry 11 Stakes before finishing 2nd to Classic Cliche in The Ascot Gold Cup. A second victory at Doncaster followed 2 months later, and the following year, a his 5 race campaign yielded another Goodwood Cup.
Ignored in the market for the 1998 renewal of The Ascot Gold Cup, the chestnut with the big white blaze started at odds of 25/1, but easily outran his rather insulting price, finishing a rapidly diminishing neck behind the dual Ascot Gold Cup winner, Kayf Tara. Obviously no back number, a 3rd Goodwood Cup followed 40 days later, and it was the perfect end to a magnificent career when the 7yo brought the curtain down at Town Moor on September 10th 1998, winning a third Doncaster Cup.
Footnote: Double Triggers handler, Mark Johnston, is undoubtedly one of the finest exponents of the craft of training the thoroughbred racehorse in the land. He was the first in this country to train more than 200 winners in a season in 2009, and has repeated the feat on 8 subsequent occasions. He became numerically the most successful British trainer of all time when he landed his 4194th winner in August 2018 and one is left wondering why such a talented individual has only 2 English Classics (Mister Baileys, 2000 Guineas 1994, and Attraction, 1000 Guineas 2004) to his credit after 33 years in the game. Isn’t it time that some of that assorted crew of Sheiks, billionaires, and zillionaires “smelled the coffee” and sent more of their genuine Classic aspirants north to Middleham?
Dr Devious: Irish bred, he was foaled at the Lyonstown Stud near Cashel Co Tipperary in March 1989. His sire Ahonoora was a sprinter, (won the 6 furlongs Stewards Cup, and the 5 furlongs William Hill Sprint Trophy at York)so when retired to stud it was assumed that his offspring would follow in the same vein. However the son of Lorenzaccio exceeded all expectations, and proved capable of siring top class performers at a wide range of distances, becoming a most influential stallion. Indeed many would say that he is the most successful and important representative of the Byerley Turk line in the modern era, (all thoroughbred racehorses descend from either the Byerley Turk, the Godolphin Arabian or the Darley Arabian, and more than 95% of modern thoroughbreds descend directly from the latter). The dam of Dr Devious, Rose Of Jericho, by the dual Arc de Triomphe winner Alleged, out of a daughter of the great Northern Dancer, was also regally bred, so trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam, and owner Luciano Gaucci, must have been more than a little hopeful that the colt’s ability on the racecourse might match his fancy pedigree, and happily it did.
He won four of his six starts at two, including a very impressive victory in the Group1 Dewhurst Stakes, from the subsequent top level performer Great Palm, in the final race of his juvenile campaign. The performance certainly must have impressed the American, Mrs Jenny Craig, for she is reputed to have forked out $2.5 million for the colt as a birthday present for husband Sidney. His new owner entered his very generous gift for America’s most prestigious contest, The Kentucky Derby, but unfortunately, Dr Devious, never having raced on Dirt, failed to act on the surface and finished a well beaten 7th.
The son of Ahonoora returned to England to continue his career on much more suitable turf, and showing no ill effects from the abortive trans Atlantic trip, lined up 32 days later an 8/1 chance for Epsom’s Blue Riband. Ridden by Northern Irishman, John Reid, in the 18 runner field, the duo travelled well throughout the race, took it up over a furlong from the finish, and came home 2 Lengths clear of the Jim Bolger trained St Jovite.
St Jovite emphatically reversed the placings 8 weeks later when, with a Pegasus like performance, he won The Irish Derby by 12 Lengths in a time nearly 5 seconds faster than standard. With the score standing at one all, the two Derby winners met for the last time in The Irish Champion Stakes over 10 furlongs at Leopardstown in September and this time Dr Devious prevailed by a short head. It was to be the colts last victory, although he ran respectably enough in The Arc and The Breeders Cup Turf, before bowing out with a disappointing performance in The Japan Cup at the end of November 1992.
Retired to stud at Coolmore in County Tipperary and eventually to Italy, he had some success. His most successful offspring was that doughty international traveller, Collier Hill, a winner of over £2.3 million in prize money across the globe, and the son of Ahonoora also headed the Italian sires list on two occasions. He died in Sardinia at the venerable age of 29 in 2018.
Dylan Thomas: By Danehill, the most successful stallion of all time, (sired 349 individual stakes winners, 89 of them at the top level) and out of the Diesis brood mare, Lagrion, who had produced the European Champion two year old filly, Queens Logic, (by Grand Lodge) 4 years previously, Sue Magnier and Michael Tabor must have had high hopes for their bay colt, foaled in April 2003. Well their hopes were indeed eventually fulfilled in spades, but following a fairly mundane 2yo campaign, the dizzy heights to which the son of Danehill would eventually rise were far from obvious. He did win 2 of his 4 juvenile starts, a Tipperary Maiden, and a valuable Leopardstown sales race, (by 3/4 Length from an animal only rated 73 at the end of his career) but he could only finish 2nd in a Salisbury Group3, and then made no impression in The Racing Post Trophy, finishing second last of the 7 runners.
His 3yo campaign started on an altogether higher note, winning the Group2 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes at Leopardstown, before lining up for Epsom’s Blue Riband 18 days later. Starting at odds of 25/1 for the 18 runner heat, pilot Johnny Murtagh, travelling strongly after a mile, took the initiative and sent the bay colt into the lead. Responding to Johnny’s urgings Dylan galloped on with great resolution all the way to the finish, and it was only in the shadow of the post that Sir Percy and Dragon Dancer got past to win by a Short Head and a Head. Needless to say there was no 25/1 available about the son of Danehill 29 days later when he made short work of a 13 runner field for The Irish Derby. Starting the 9/2 favourite, with Kieran Fallon doing the steering, he won by 3 1/2 Lengths from the French contender, Gentle Wave, and had the Epsom runner up, Dragon Dancer a further 3 Lengths back in 4th.
Following a 51 day break, he could only finish 4th in York’s International before getting back to winning ways 3 weeks later in The Irish Champion Stakes. In a memorable contest, that fantastic mare, Ouija Board, headed Dylan Thomas over a furlong out and looked the winner, but under a typical Kieran Fallon drive, the gallant Dylan responded bravely and fought back to win by a neck. A fruitless trip to Belmont Park on dirt followed and he was retired for the season.
The son of Danehill made a winning start to a glittering 4yo campaign. He won a listed race at the Curragh, and then, contesting 7 straight top level events, won 4 of them, and finished runner up in the other 3. Victory no 1 in The Prix Ganay at Longchamp was followed by consecutive seconds, in The Tattersalls Gold Cup at The Curragh, and The Prince Of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot. Victory no 2 followed in The King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at the same venue, followed by a 2nd in The Juddmonte international at York. 18 days later win no 3 came when repeating his 2006 success in Leopardstown’s Champion Stakes (becoming the first horse to win the race twice) and then crowned his magnificent season by landing The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe for his 4th top level victory of the campaign. Mind you many observers felt that he was lucky to keep the race as he had veered sharply right in the straight interfering with the well fancied Zambezi Sun whose promising looking run had to come to a withering halt. Connections must have been on tenterhooks, but following a half hour inquiry, Dylan Thomas was confirmed the winner and jockey Kieran Fallon could celebrate his second win in the great race. (won on the Andre Fabre trained Hurricane Run In 2005)
Dylan raced twice more in 2007, finishing well beaten on both occasions, in The Breeders Cup at Monmouth and in The Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin, but notwithstanding, was voted the 2007 European Horse Of The Year, an honour hard earned and richly deserved. A winner of 6 Group1 races in all, and nearly £3.4 million in prize money, he retired to stud at Coolmore. Now 17 he continues as a dual purpose stallion at Coolmore’s satellite, Castlehyde Stud.
Early Mist: The first of the legendary Vincent O’Brien’s 3 Grand National winners,
Early Mist was by the French bred stallion Brumeaux, out of a broodmare by the great stayer and sire of Stayers, Hurry On. (won the war time St Leger at Newmarket in 1916) Bred in England, he was bought at The Newmarket Yearling Sales in 1946, and subsequently, entered at Ballsbridge by Mr P Doyle, was purchased by the millionaire flour miller, Mr James Voase Rank, (brother of the film magnate J Arthur Rank) for 625 Guineas.
Sent to be trained by Tom Dreaper at Kilsallaghan in North Co Dublin he won all 4 starts in 1950, and the following season displayed his potential as a possible Grand National candidate, (the winning of which was an ambition long held, and very close to the heart of his wealthy, sporting owner) winning over fences at Naas, Fairyhouse, and Leopardstown. Sadly the 69 years old, James Voase Rank, wasn’t destined to realise his dream of Aintree glory, as he dropped dead on January 4th 1952. Nevertheless the deceased’s plans to run the son of Brumeaux at Liverpool were adhered to by his executors, and following a win at Baldoyle on March 15th lined up at Aintree a fortnight later. Starting at 18/1 in the 47 runner field, with Pat (Arkle) Taffe in the plate, he got no further than the first fence,
(along with 9 others)
Ending his sojourn at Kilsallaghan , Early Mist was included in the dispersal sale of Mr Rank’s bloodstock which was held on Derby Day in June 1952.
The 7yo was purchased by Vincent O’Brien for the not inconsiderable sum of 5,300 Guineas on behalf of Dublin businessman Joe Griffin, better known as “Mincemeat” Joe, the eponymous product being the source of Mr Griffins wealth. Following two unplaced runs, at Leopardstown on February 7th 1953, and at Baldoyle a fortnight later, Early Mist’s handsome purchase price wasn’t looking the shrewdest of investments, and things looked even darker next time when the 8yo was disqualified for crossing, after winning The Newland Chase at Naas. Still every cloud has a silver lining, and following three disappointing efforts, Joe was able to back his Grand National contender at fancy odds
to take out £100,000.
Starting at odds of 20/1 in the 31 runner field, jockey Bryan Marshall managed to avoid the multiple fallers which resulted in just 5 contenders making it to the finish, and from Valentines on the second circuit, the race had developed into a duel between Early Mist and the previous years Cheltenham Gold Cup hero, Mont Tremblant. Jumping from fence to fence the Irish horse (he was receiving 17lbs from Mont Tremblant) always looked in command and fairly scooted away after the last for a long looking 20 Lengths victory.
Footnote: Vincent O’Brien won the following two Grand Nationals, with Royal Tan in 1954, again owned by Joe Griffin and ridden by Bryan Marshall, and with Quare Times in 1955 ridden by Pat Taffe. It was an amazing feat by Vincent to win 3 consecutive Grand Nationals with 3 different horses, and added to his 4 Cheltenham Gold Cups (Cottage Rake 1948,49,50, and Knock Hard 1953) plus his 3 Champion Hurdles (Hattons Grace 1950,51,52) it is safe to say that it is a record that will never be beaten.
Easter Hero: Considered by many to have been the greatest steeplechaser before the mighty Arkle arrived on the Chasing stage. By the hugely influential National Hunt stallion, My Prince, out of the broodmare Easter Week by outbreak, he was bred by Co Meath based Larry King, and was foaled at Greenogue Co Dublin in 1920. The story of his Sire, My Prince, who became one of the great influences in the success story of Irish Bred Steeplechasers, is fascinating, and is well worth a slight digression. Bred in England, by Marcovil, out of a St Simon mare, he was a moderately successful flat racer, (5th in the 1914 Derby) and when his owner, Viscount St David’s decided to withdraw from racing following the loss of two sons in the Great War, he sent him to the sales. Failing to attract a bid in the very depressed wartime market, he was sold for 100guineas to The British Bloodstock Agency who, to the great good fortune, and benefit of Irish breeding, sold him on 6 weeks later for a mere £200 to The Irish Board Of Agriculture, and he was installed at The Corduff Stud outside the village of Lusk, Co Dublin where he remained until his death in 1937. As an Irish Board stallion, commanding a very low fee, (after a number of years a cover still only cost £24 and 19 shillings) he was unlikely to produce high class flat racers from the assorted medley of mares (some of them half breeds) sent to him, but as his stock matured their ability over jumps became increasingly obvious, and he became one of the most influential NH stallions ever. Besides siring Easter Hero he also got the 1946 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Prince Regent and on four occasions was responsible for The Grand National winner, including Reynoldstown who won the great race twice. My Prince also sired many daughters who produced good winners, both on the flat and over jumps, including Greenogue Princess, who established the steeplechasing family that included the immortal Arkle.
Having failed to win for his owner/breeder Mr King, the small but athletic chestnut passed into the hands of a Mr Bartholomew in 1925 who also drew a blank with the son of My Prince, (fell or unseated in 4 of his 8 starts) and in 1927 he sold the gelding to a Belfast businessman, Frank Barbour who sent him to be trained at his establishment in the Wiltshire village of Bishops Cannings by Alfred Bickley. (Had trained KoKo to win the 1926 Cheltenham Gold Cup for Frank) They enjoyed considerable success with the rapidly improving chestnut winning 8 races including The Molyneux and Beecher Chases at Liverpool as well as The Coventry Chase at Kempton. Unable to resist an offer of £7,000 + a contingency of another £3,000 should he win the 1928 Grand National just weeks before the Liverpool marathon, from a Belgian millionaire, and jumping enthusiast, M. Alfred Loewenstein, Barbour accepted the hugely generous offer for the 8yo gelding.
One can only try to imagine the thoughts that must have gone through the wealthy Belgian’s mind when on the big day his expensive purchase came to grief at the 8th fence. (The Canal Turn). Bowling along in front of the enormous 42 runner field, he landed on top of the fence, and fell back into the ditch, causing scenes not unlike those at The Foinavon fence, 38 years later. At least 20 runners came down at the 8th, and in an accident strewn race, the only horse that got around without hitting the turf, Tipperary Tim, won at 100/1. Easter Hero did win a race in France for Alfred, The Prix des Drags, in the summer of 1928 but a month later the Belgians bad luck was compounded many times over when his plane disappeared over the North Sea, and Easter Hero was sold to Mr John Hay Whitney, a scion of the wealthy eponymous American family. Whitney sent him to be trained at the Letcombe yard of Jack Anthony and there he stayed for the rest of his career.
His first season at Letcombe yielded a rich harvest, winning 4 times over hurdles before contesting the 1929 Cheltenham Gold Cup where he spread-eagled the field, coming home 20 Lengths clear of his closest pursuer at odds of 7/4. Ten days later he put up one of the great weight carrying performances ever seen in the Grand National, finishing 2nd to the 100/1 winner, Gregalach (another son of My Prince) carrying 12stone 7lbs. Taking it up after jumping the 2nd fence he led the field a merry dance for nearly two circuits, until joined by the winner crossing the second last. Racing with a wrenched plate didn’t help his cause and many believe the twisted shoe prevented him collecting the spoils.
He won twice in the 1929/30 campaign before retaining his Gold Cup Crown with another 20 Lengths win at Cheltenham, but then had to be withdrawn from The Grand National with tendon trouble.
He won 3 times the following season, (the 1931 Gold Cup was abandoned) and was travelling as well as any in The Grand National when brought down on the 2nd circuit, but once again demonstrated what a tough and talented performer he was when turning out the following day, he dead heated for Liverpool’s 2miles Champion Chase. Retired to his owners property in America he died in 1937.
What really sets Easter Hero apart from the rest, including the 5 times Gold Cup winning Golden Millar (1932-36) was the absolute ease of his two Cheltenham victories, the likes of which weren’t seen again at Prestbury Park until Arkle’s imperious second victory in 1965.
El Gran Senor: Edward P Taylor, Canadian owner breeder of the mighty Northern Dancer, probably the most influential Sire of the 20th century, in partnership with Vincent O’Brien, trainer par excellance, John Magnier, unparalleled guru of the stud book, and Robert Sangster, racehorse owner and breeder extraodinaire, who in association with the two aforementioned helped to transform Ireland into Europe’s foremost producer of the thoroughbred racehorse, had the Buckpasser mare, Sex Appeal, covered by his famous stallion, and the result of this happy equine union, a good looking bay colt, was foaled at Mr Taylor’s Maryland stud, Windfield’s farm, on April 21st 1981. Father of the newly foaled colt, Northern Dancer, who prior to establishing himself as the most important influence on the thoroughbred breed in the 20th century, had been a championship racehorse, (winner of The Kentucky Derby and The Preakness Stakes) had been trained by the Argentinian born, Horatio Luro. Horatio, during the course of a high profile, stellar career, had acquired the moniker, El Gran Senor, and in his honour the partners named the horse for the South American born handler.
Sent to County Tipperary to be trained by Vincent, (had trained his full brother Try My Best, the Champion British and Irish 2yo In 1977) he only raced on 8 occasions before illness/injury curtailed his career, but won on seven of them, and many feel that he should have retired undefeated.
Having developed into a well balanced attractive colt, his good looks only marred by a pronounced parrot mouth, (a malformation of the jaws where the teeth don’t meet evenly, with the upper jaw protruding, parrot like, over the lower ridge) he won all four juvenile starts, including the Railway and National Stakes at The Curragh before contesting Newmarket’s Group1 Dewhurst Stakes where he prevailed by 1/2 Length over the Jeremy Tree trained, Rainbow Quest, and finished his 2yo campaign with a highly satisfactory rating of 131 from Timeform.
He made his 3yo debut in the 7furlongs Gladness Stakes at The Curragh a winning one, beating his stable companion, and future champion sire Sadlers Wells, very easily, before lining up for The 2000 Guineas as the 15/8 favourite. Ridden with great confidence by Pat Eddery, and showing an impressive turn of foot, he cruised into the lead at the furlong marker and won going away by 3 Lengths from one of the classiest fields ever assembled for the Newmarket Classic. Runner up Chief Singer went on to score 3 times at the top level in 1984, (St James’s Palace, July Cup, and Sussex Stakes) third home Lear Fan won the Group1 Prix Jacques Le Marois and the fourth horse Rainbow Quest won The Coronation Cup and Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe the following year.
Inevitably, when a horse wins a 2000 Guineas showing such an amazing turn of foot as El Gran Senor had done, doubts are bound to be raised about his ability to stay another 4 furlongs at Epsom. There were no guarantees from his pedigree either, with plenty of speed on the distaff, and his dad Northern Dancer was probably best at 10 furlongs. Nevertheless, he lined up a heavily backed odds on favourite for The Derby, and riding a possible non stayer, it was expected that Pat Eddery would hold onto him for as long as possible and use his blinding speed at the business end. In the event Eddery rode an ill judged race, found himself in the lead over 2 furlongs out and had to engage in a sustained stamina sapping duel up the straight with another son of Northern Dancer, Secreto, ridden by the wily Christy Roche who prevailed by a shot head. (Secreto had also been foaled at Windfields and was trained by Vincent’s son, David O’Brien who at 27 became the youngest ever Derby winning trainer)
Bitterly disappointed Eddery and El Gran Senor headed for The Curragh hoping to make amends in The Irish Derby. With Secreto sidelined by injury, (he never raced again after Epsom) El Gran Senor won in convincing fashion from Rainbow Quest, but going lame, was diagnosed with a Keratoma (a benign tumor in his hoof) which prematurely put an end to his career.
At stud El Gran Senor had low fertility, producing less than 400 named offspring in a 15 year career, but 55 were Stakes winners, 12 of them at the top level which in the breeding world would be considered the mark of a very successful stallion. His continuing influence on the breed was guaranteed by the success of his best daughter, the Grade1 winning Toussaud, who belongs to that über rare group of broodmares who have produced more than one individual Group1/Grade1 winner. Toussaud actually produced four.
English Prince: Foaled in 1971 English Prince was by the Champion miler, Petingo, who in a relatively brief career at stud (died of a heart attack at the age of 11) sired plenty of high class animals, including The Oaks winner, Fair Salina, and Troy, winner of The Derby, The Irish Derby, The King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and The Benson and Hedges Gold Cup. His dam English Miss, was also a very well bred mare. She was by the French stallion, Bois Roussel, winner of the 1938 Derby and her dam Virelle, was a half sister to the top class pair Sayani, (Prix Jacques Le Marois 1946) and My Babu (2000 Guineas 1948) so his owners/breeders, Colonel and Vera Hue-Williams, must have been more than a little hopeful that their big, good looking bay colt, would show ability on the racecourse to match his looks and pedigree. They had to wait 3 years to find out however, as their trainer Peter Walwyn found the big bay too backward to train for a juvenile campaign, and the son of Petingo didn’t make his racecourse debut until April 1974, when he finished 2nd in a Newbury Maiden.
Benefiting from his introductory run he took the step up in class in his stride when winning the Group3 White Rose Maiden Stakes at Ascot on the 1st of May, and then emphatically proved his stamina, winning Goodwood’s 1 1/2miles Predominate Stakes in great style by 6 Lengths. Connections, feeling that their still immature colt would be unsuited by the demands of Epsom, by passed The Derby, in favour of a tilt at The Irish Sweeps Derby. Enroute to The Curragh they took in Royal Ascot’s Group2 King Edward V11 Stakes which he won easily by 6 Lengths in record time.
The Irish Derby was the Petingo colts first attempt at a top level event, and in a high quality field, which included The Derby runner up Imperial Prince, (running in the colours of Colonel Roger Hue-Williams) the winner and 4th home in The Prix Du Jockey Club, Caracolero and Mississippian, (winner of the 1973 Grand Criterium) plus Furry Glen, winner of The Irish 2000 Guineas, the Epsom 2nd, ridden by Geoff Lewis, was sent off the11/4 favourite. English Prince, ridden by the French Maestro, Yves Saint-Martin (riding in the colours of Vera Hue-Williams) was an easy to back 8/1 chance. Well ridden by the French Champion, who showing maximum confidence in his mounts stamina credentials, kept him to the fore throughout what was a strongly run heat, and took up the running entering the straight. Galloping on in great style English Prince never looked in any danger and comfortably beat Imperial Prince by 1 1/2 Lengths, making it a one two for the Hue-Williams couple.
Looking such a strong stayer at The Curragh, the big bay was aimed at the St Leger and started a hot favourite for York’s trial for the years final Classic, The Great Voltigeur Stakes. Disappointing in the race, (was beaten 4 Lengths by Bustino) he was found to be very sore on returning home to Walwyn’s Seven Barrows yard. (now Nicky Henderson’s base) Scratched from The St Leger, (won by Bustino) English Prince never raced again, and was retired to stud duties at Ballylinch stud in County Kilkenny.
At stud his early crops failed to make much impression and he was sold to Japan in 1980, but as so often is the case, his later progeny took a decided turn for the better. His 3yo daughter, Prince’s Polly won the Irish 1000 Guineas in 1982 and his 4yo son won Evzon won the same year’s Queens Vase at Royal Ascot. His 1980 crop included the fantastic filly and broodmare Sun Princess. She won The 1983 Oaks by 12 Lengths and followed up with victories in The Yorkshire Oaks and The St Leger before finishing 2nd in The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe. At stud she bred at least 8 winners including the Group1 winner, Prince of Dance. Sadly English Prince died in the year of his best offspring’s stellar success, departing the scene at the young age of 12 in 1983.
Epatante: At the time of writing, the 2020 Champion Hurdle winner is still very much a work in progress, but having already won 8 of her 11 starts, 3 of them at the top level, and nearly £1/2 a million in prize money, the 7yo mare is hard to ignore. Foaled on 27th February 2014 she falls into that peculiar category of Gallic racehorse, AQPS, which readers might find interesting. Autre Que Pur-Sang, translated as, other than thoroughbred, (not Other Than Pure Blood) is a general term used in France to refer to horses not listed as thoroughbreds (to be thoroughbred all ancestors must appear in The Thoroughbred Stud Book) but destined to race. The designation usually means one parent is not listed in the Thoroughbred Stud Book, but in practical terms, an AQPS is akin to a thoroughbred, except they are not eligible to be included in the above tome. The term almost always applies to those horses with Selle Français breeding in the dam line,(a breed of sport horse from France of some renown, primarily in the show jumping field) even if it is extremely remote through multiple crossings with thoroughbred stallions over the generations.
So our Champion Hurdle heroine gets her AQPS designation because her dam Kadjara was not a thoroughbred, as her maternal grand sire Useful, was descended from a mare whose ancestors don’t appear in the Thoroughbred Stud Book. Her dad, No Risk At All, certainly was though, being from the same family as that top class NH performer and successful stallion, Nickname, and he was a decent enough performer on the flat, winning at Group3 level. Having won 2 of her first 3 races in her native France, (all NHF and AQPS) the last at Grade1 level, Epatante was sold to JP McManus for an undisclosed sum and sent to Nicky Henderson at Lambourn.
Arriving at Seven Barrows in November 2018 she won her first two races, minor affairs at Kempton and Exeter, before lining up as the 15/8 favourite for the Grade2 Dawn Run Tattersalls Mares Novices Hurdle at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival where she proved a major disappointment, finishing a well beaten 9th, and was put away for the season. Reappearing 261 days later in a Newbury Handicap, Cheltenham losses were handsomely recovered when she won very easily by 6 Lengths at 3/1, (what a good thing she must have been, racing off a mark of just 137) and 28 days after that was even more impressive when winning Kemptons Christmas Hurdle by 5 Lengths from Silver Streak. Rated 22lbs higher than for the Newbury Handicap, she started the 2/1 favourite for the Champion Hurdle and comfortably justified her short price, winning by 3 Lengths from the Willie Mullins trained, Sharjah.
Again, given a long break following her Cheltenham victory, she reappeared in Newcastle’s Fighting Fifth at the end of November and couldn’t have been more impressive, seeing off the challenge of Sceau Royal by over 4 Lengths. 28 days later at Kempton, the betting suggested (1/5) that all the mare had to do, was go down and come back, to retain her Christmas Hurdle Crown but unfortunately nobody had told Adam Wedge aboard the tough Silver Streak who set out from flag fall to make all. Setting a strong even pace throughout, the duo arrived at the last 3 Lengths to the good over Epatante, who having made a mistake at the 3rd last struggled to close the gap. With nothing more to come from the hot favourite Silver Streak went on to win by 6 1/2 Lengths.
Epatante retains her place at the top of The Champion Hurdle market and who can tell what the future holds for this outstanding mare but to date she has certainly proved exceptional. It does seem to be the case however, with just 11 starts in three and a half years, that she doesn’t take a lot of racing and will probably always be at her best after a break.
Espoir D’Allen: Bred by Bruno Vagne and foaled in France on 23rd of February 2014, he was by the Group1 winning sire Voix Du Nord, out of the AQPS brood mare, Quadanse. (Voix Du Nord, sire of Kemboy, Defi Du Shuil, Vibrato Valtat, Tarquin Du Seuil, and Vroum Vroum Mag to name but a few of the top class performers he has fathered, unfortunately died at the young age of 12 in 2015 just as he was getting to the top of the NH stallion’s table) Trained by Mlle A-S Pacault, Espoir D’Allen made his racecourse debut a winning one, with victory in a NHF (AQPS) heat at the provincial track of Lignieres, in the
Centre-Val de Loire region, before being sold to JP McManus six months later.
He was sent to the talented Gavin Cromwell in County Meath, whose training career was on an impressive upwards trajectory, at the beginning of October, and a fortnight later made his debut for the Navan handler in a 3yo Hurdle at Punchestown where despite a few minor jumping errors, comfortably won his first race over timber. Three further victories followed before the end of the year, including a Fairyhouse Grade3, and the Grade2, Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 27th 2017. 40 days later his winning run came to an abrupt end, finishing 4th of 5, 23 Lengths behind the winner, Mr Adjudicator, in Leopardstown’s Grade1 Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle at odds of 4/5, and was retired for the season.
Reappearing in a Naas Grade3 following a 279 days break, he turned the form around with the Leopardstown Victor, winning by 11 Lengths from Mr Adjudicator at odds of 3/1. Mind you he may have been a little lucky as the favourite, Saldier, was probably going just as well when coming to grief at the last, but the Cromwell runner continued to show what an improved performer he was, hosing up in Limerick’s Grade3 Irish Independent Hurdle 48 days later. Easily winning a Leopardstown Grade3 conceding 7lbs to that excellent yardstick, Wicklow Brave, the following month, confirmed the upward trajectory the son of Viking Du Nord’s form was on, and one can only wonder at how he was allowed to start at the very generous odds of 16/1 for his next race, The Champion Hurdle. I suppose the fact that a 5yo hadn’t won Cheltenham’s hurdling centrepiece for 33 years, the presence of the two outstanding mares, Apples Jade and Laurina in the line up, plus the winner of the two previous renewals, Buveur D’Aire, running in the same colours as Espoir D’Allen, influenced the layers. Nevertheless Espoir D’Allen and Mark Walsh never looked like a 16/1 chance in the race, travelling supremely well from Flag fall, hurdling like a veteran, and scooting clear after the last to win by a record breaking 15 Lengths from the previous years runner up Melon. (finished a neck behind Buveur D’Air in 2018)
Only five, and with a glittering career in front of him, the new Champion Hurdler was retired for the season with every hope of retaining his crown in 2020 but it wasn’t to be. Following a routine canter the following August, something spooked the gelding, and rearing over he suffered a severe shoulder injury. Despite the best efforts of Fethard Equine Hospital for nearly a fortnight, continued treatment was thought to be inhumane, and sadly the youngest Champion Hurdler for 33 years had to be euthanised.
Exterminator: Bred by F.D. “Dixie” Knight, Exterminator was by Mc Gee, (sire of Donerail, winner of The Kentucky Derby in 1913) out of the Jim Gore brood mare, Fair Empress, and was foaled in Lexington (‘horse capital of the world’) Kentucky, in the heart of the states bluegrass region in 1915. He was sold as a yearling for $1,500 to owner/trainer J. Cal. Malim who, unimpressed by the tall and unfurnished colt’s rather coarse and unprepossessing looks, had him gelded. Handsome is as handsome does however, and his looks didn’t stop “The Galloping Hat Rack” as he came to be known, winning his first race in June 2017 by 3 Lengths. Put away after sustaining a severe muscle strain in a heat in Windsor Ontario, he was sold to Willis Sharpe Kilmer for the not inconsiderable sum of $9,000. Willis can’t have been overly impressed though, as his instructions to trainer Henry Mc Daniel, had been to purchase a “workhorse” for not more than $700 to help his rising star, Sun Briar, (top American juvenile colt of 2017) in his workouts. Mind you, I suppose $9,000 wasn’t much more than loose change to Willis who on his death in 1940 left a fortune of $15,000,000, acquired largely through the successful marketing of his uncle, S. Andral Kilmers, Swamp Root Patent medicine formula. Only in America!
Well as things transpired, the “workhorse” made a serious impression on handler McDaniels when training with Sun Briar. The tall geldings ability on the track became increasingly obvious, and when Sun Briar was sidelined by injury just before the
1918 Kentucky Derby, Henry tried to get Willis to run Exterminator instead. Well the Swamp Root purveyor took some convincing, feeling that he didn’t want to be represented on such a grand stage by an animal he referred to as, That Goat, and it was only the intervention of the president of Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby’s venue, who having seen the geldings impressive work on the track convinced the reluctant Willis to run. Having his first race for nearly a year, on a deep muddy surface, Exterminator started as an unconsidered 30/1 chance for “The Run For The Roses” and last into the straight those odds looked about right, but galvanised by jockey Willie Knapp (took over the training of Exterminator in 1921) he passed the whole field to win America’s most prestigious race by a length.
Getting better as he got older, Exterminator ran in 99 races, winning 50 of them, and his career record of 33 Stakes victories still stands as an American record to this day. Hugely popular with the public, and racing until he was nine, he was affectionately referred to as ‘Old Bones’ and was voted US Champion Older Male Horse three times in 1920, 21, and 22. He also received the highly prized accolade, ‘American Horse Of The Year’ in 1922.
The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame was founded in Saratoga Springs in New York State in 1951 to honour the achievements of American Thoroughbred Racehorses, Jockeys, and Trainers, and ‘Old Bones’ is one of fewer than 215 horses since Sir Archy (1808-1809) to have been inducted into that hallowed academy. Having enjoyed 21 years of happy retirement, accompanied by a succession of pony’s, all called Peanuts, this great American Thoroughbred Hall Of Fame Racehorse, died on September 26th 1945.
Fair Salinia: Following an outstanding wartime career with the Ayrshire Yeomanry, the highly decorated, Major John Hubert De Burgh MC, returned to his run down family estate, Oldtown House, on the outskirts of Naas, Co Kildare, at the end of the 2nd World War. As part of a programme to re-establish the financial viability of the property, which had been in the De Burgh family for over 3 centuries, he started the Oldtown stud. The business thrived, producing plenty of top class animals, such as Galaxy Libra, (Man’O War Stakes) Indigenous (triple Hong Kong Group1) and Miss Petard (Ribblesdale Stakes) over the decades, but it was thanks to the Major’s penchant for the American thoroughbred, that the stud achieved its biggest success, breeding a filly who was destined to become a triple Oaks winner.
Appreciating the quality of the pedigree of the American bred mare, Fair Arabella, (by Chateaugay, winner of 2 legs of the American triple crown, the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes, out of the Spy Song mare, Locus Time, making Fair Arabella a half sister to the Group1 Prix Du Moulin winner, Faraway Son, and the Group2 Prix d’Harcourt winner Liloy) the Major shrewdly bought the beautifully bred brood mare for a bargain basement price of $14,000 and had her covered by the top miler, Petingo.
The result of the Major’s breeding strategy was born on the 18th March 1975, and was purchased the following year by Sven Hansen, for 13,000 Guineas at the Newmarket Houghton Tattersalls yearling Sales. Sven’s fortune was made in the Salt industry and he appropriately named his newly acquired filly, Fair Salinia.
The bay filly was sent to Michael Stoute at Freemason Lodge in Newmarket, and she made her racecourse debut at the beginning of September 1977 in a 7f Sandown heat open to both fillies and colts. Starting at 20/1 she belied her long odds, taking up the running turning in, and going clear up the Sandown hill to win by 2 Lengths. Stepping up to the top level, and dropping back a furlong in trip for her next race was a big ask, but she acquitted herself well, finishing a running on 3rd, (promoted to 2nd) in Newmarket’s Group1 6f Cheveley Park Stakes, and retired for the season.
She made a slightly disappointing start to her 3yo campaign, finishing 4th in Newbury’s Fred Darling Stakes, but left that form well behind next time, finishing second to Enstone Park in the 1000 Guineas, doing all her best work in the final furlong. Despite her strong finish at Newmarket, there were stamina doubts about her ability to stay the extra 4 furlongs of the Oaks, and she started an 8/1 chance for the Epsom Classic. With two furlongs to go, the French filly Dancing Maid, who had been an impressive winner of the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, (French 1000 Guineas) quickened impressively to pinch a 2 Lengths lead, but Greville Starkey, who had won the Derby on Shirley Heights 3 days previously, always had the move covered, and came with a perfectly timed run to win by a short head. With Oaks number one in the bag it was on to the Curragh the following month for the Irish Oaks, and in a controversial finish, the daughter of Petingo finished 2nd to the John Oxx trained Sorbus, but following an objection to the winner by Starkey, Fair Salinia was awarded the race. The two met again in the Yorkshire Oaks and the Irish result was confirmed, with Fair Salinia beating Sorbus by 1 1/2 Lengths and landing
Oaks number three in the process. Her last race, the “Arc” trial, the Prix Vermille at Longchamp proved a disappointment, finishing 5th, 3 1/2 Lengths behind the winner, Dancing Maid, and she was retired to the paddocks.
At stud she produced 11 live foals, 6 of them winners, but perhaps the most memorable of the eleven was her foal by Great Nephew, born in 1983, Legend of Arabia, who became the first filly to sell for 1,000,000 Guineas at the yearling Sales. The Uber expensive filly never raced but she did produce that good Hurdler Nomadic, winner of Punchestown’s Grade1 Morgiana Hurdle in 1998. His grandma, the triple Oaks winner died at the age of 29 in 2004.
Fairway: Edward Stanley (1865-1948)17th Earl of Derby, may have left a mark, large or small, on the Military, Political, and Diplomatic professions to which he belonged, but in the world of breeding thoroughbred racehorses, he will be forever lauded as the individual, who bred the great stallion Phalaris, responsible through his 4 sons, Sickle, Pharamond, Pharos, and Fairway, for establishing the most dominant sire line in Europe, and later in America.
His lordship had his home bred mare Scapa Flow covered by the prepotent Phalaris in 1924, and the outcome, foaled, in 1925 was a good looking brown colt, who was destined to become the best racehorse of his generation at 2, 3, and 4. Named Fairway, he was sent to to be trained by George Lambton (Champion handler in 1906, 1911, and 1912 and trainer of 10 Classic winners for his boss) at the earls’ Newmarket stables, Stanley House. In 1926 George took over as Lord Derby’s racing manager, and the Austrian born, Frank Butters was offered the post to replace him on a 4 year contract. Frank, the son of, and assistant to, Joseph Butters, an English trainer operating in Vienna, was interned during the Great War, and following the conflict trained in Italy. When offered the post at Stanley House he accepted and enjoyed plenty of success for Lord Derby, not least with Fairway. (Although his contract with Lord Derby wasn’t renewed in 1930, it didn’t prevent Frank becoming one of the most successful trainers of the first half of the 20th century, winning 15 English Classics, 3 Irish Derby’s, and the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe In 1948. He was also Champion trainer on 8 occasions.)
Fairway was unplaced on his racecourse debut in a York Maiden in May 1927, but won the remaining 3 heats of his juvenile campaign, the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, the July Stakes at Newmarket, and the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September, where he sustained a minor injury, and Butters retired him for the season, with one eye on the 1928 2000 Guineas. It wasn’t to be however as he developed a nasty suppurating infection in his mouth and had to be withdrawn from the Newmarket Classic. Recovered, and gaining an impressive win in the Derby trial at headquarters, he was made favourite for Epsom, but boiling over in the Derby preliminaries, ran no sort of race and finished 9th. His dented reputation was restored in some style next time out, winning the Eclipse Stakes by 8 Lengths in a course record time, and then despite stamina doubts, (his sire, Phalaris was a sprinter) he was made the 7/4 favourite for the St Leger. Despite the doubts, jockey, Tommy Weston, rode a very positive race on the son of Phalaris in the final Classic, coming from off the pace in the closing stages, the colt saw out the mile and three quarters trip really well, and won by a length and a half. A few weeks later, racing over 4 furlongs shorter, he finished his 3yo career on a high note, comfortably winning the Champion Stakes.
3 /3 in his first three races of 1929, Fairway was attempting to make it 7 straight wins in a row in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, but came up short, finishing 4 Lengths behind Royal Minstrel. He got back to winning ways following a 3 months break, landing a second success in the Champion Stakes and finished off the 1929 campaign in great style winning the Jockey Club Cup over 2 1/4 miles at Newmarket in a canter. He was kept in training at five with connections hoping to add an Ascot Gold Cup to his impressive CV, but he sustained a tendon injury, never raced again, and was retired to stud.
He was a great success as a stallion, topping the sires list on 4 occasions (also 2nd on the list 3 times) and siring 6 individual Classic winners. His most influential son however, was the Champion sire, Fair Trial, sire of 4 Classic winners, and in 1951 the leading brood mare sire in Great Britain and Ireland.
Faugheen : Bred by Dr John Waldron, Faugheen was by the American bred sire Germany, (a first class racehorse who won twice at the top level ) a son of the Arc de Triomphe winner Trempolino and rather appropriately was trained in Germany. He is currently making a serious impression for himself as a NH stallion. Faugheen’s dam, Miss Pickering, by one of the leading National Hunt stallions, Accordion, never raced, but she too, albeit distantly, could boast an “Arc” winner in her pedigree, Saumarez. Foaled on May 2nd 2008 he was consigned to the sales the same year making €4,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Sale, and 3 years later, in 2011 was sold for €12,000 at Goffs National Hunt Sale. Named for a small church in deepest Co Waterford, the bay gelding made his racing debut in the Devonshire Arms Hotel Maiden, at the Co Limerick Point-To-Point course of Ballysteen on April 29th 2012. Racing in the colours of Mr Thomas Hassett and trained by Andrew Slattery he won impressively under R. Quinlan, and was sold to Rich and Susannah Ricci soon afterwards. Sent, like most of the Ricci horses, to the Mullins Academy at Closutton, to further hone his education, he made his debut for the Co Carlow yard in a Punchestown bumper in May 2013 which he won very easily by 22 Lengths. Sent over timber, he won his first two races, minor heats at Punchestown and Navan, with ease, before tackling Graded company for the first time at Limerick in December 2013 where he made all for yet another very comfortable win in a Grade3 heat, and 74 days later won his first top level event, Cheltenham’s Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle. Top level win number two came 52 days later with a 12 Lengths win in Punchestown’s, Grade1, Hearld Champion Novice Hurdle, finishing off a highly satisfactory 6 race unbeaten campaign.
Having recorded impressive wins at Ascot and Kempton (The Christmas Hurdle) before the end of 2014 he lined up at Cheltenham a very warm order for the 2015 Champion Hurdle and obliged in great style under Ruby Walsh, making all for a 1 1/2 Length and 5 Length win from his stablemates, Arctic Fire and Hurricane Fly. (who had won the 2 previous renewals of Cheltenham’s hurdling Crown) 52 days later, and now popularly referred to as “ Faugheen the Machine” the bay 7yo put in another fabulous front running performance to win Punchestown’s Champion Hurdle, this time beating the Cheltenham runner up by 8 Lengths.
Unbeaten in his 10 starts for Willie, the master of Closutton, Faugheen made his seasonal debut for the 2015/16 campaign in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown the following November, hoping to make it 11. Starting at the unbackable price of 1/6 he ran at least 20lbs below his best, and was beaten by his stable companion Nichols Canyon, bringing the long winning streak to an end. He soon got back to winning ways however, landing a second Christmas Hurdle on Boxing Day 2015, and 29 days later, on January 24th 2016 won the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown by 15 Lengths, and it looked long odds on that he would win a second Champion Hurdle. It wasn’t to be however as Willie announced on February 17th that his champion had damaged a suspensory ligament and he was withdrawn.
Off the track for 665 days he made a winning comeback in the Morgiana Hurdle in November 2017 but following 2 disappointing runs lined up a 4/1 chance for the 2018 Champion Hurdle and finishing 6th, 22 Lengths behind the winner, Buveur D’Air, many felt the great Hurdler was on the downward slope, but 44 days later he proved the doubters wrong and was back in the winners enclosure having won Punchestown’s Champion Stayers Hurdle by an impressive 13 Lengths. It was to be his last victory over timber however though he did finish 3rd in the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2019. Amazingly at the age of 11 he embarked on a career over fences and just 6 weeks short of his 12th birthday won his first Chase despite making a couple of howlers on the way round. 5 days short of the same anniversary he left the National Hunt world applauding this unique veterans first Grade1 victory over the larger obstacles at Limerick on St Stephens day 2019. Now 12, another top level success was gained at Leopardstown on February 20th 2020 and he followed up with a great effort in the Grade1 Marsh Novices Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, finishing just a nose and a Length behind Samcro and stablemate Melon.
What does the future hold for this fantastic animal? Well at the time of writing he holds no entries anywhere, and at the age of 13 has certainly earned a more than honourable retirement, but who knows with such an amazing horse!
Ferdinand: Foaled on March 12th 1983, he was bred and owned by Howard B.Keck and his wife Elizabeth A. Keck. He was by the English Triple Crown winner, Nijinsky out of the broodmare Banja Luka, who was by Double Jay, US Champion two-year-old colt in 1946 and the North American Champion broodmare sire on 4 occasions, and number two on the list on another 3. Trained by the legendary Charlie Whittingham, one of the most acclaimed trainers in the history of the American turf, Ferdinand won 8 of his 29 starts including the Kentucky Derby in 1986 and the Breeders Cup Classic In 1987.
He ran 5 times at two, winning at the 4th attempt and completed a pretty low key juvenile campaign in very promising fashion, finishing 3rd in the Grade1 Hollywood Futurity in December 1985. His early form figures in 1986 read 2/1/2/3 before lining up for the Kentucky Derby on May 3rd as one of the lesser fancied contenders (18/1) in the 16 runner field. Given a great ride from Willie Shoemaker, riding in his last “run for the roses” the duo won from the English challenger Bold Arrangement (trained by Clive Britain) giving Willie his final victory in the Classic and Charlie Whittingham his first. He went on to finish 2nd in the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness before finding the 12 furlongs of the third leg, the Belmont beyond him and finished 3rd but ended the season with another top flight success, again ridden by “The Shoe” in the 7 furlongs Grade1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita in December.
His form figures for his first 6 races of 1987 read 4/2/2/4/3/4 but at the end of June he got his head in front in the Grade1 Hollywood Gold Cup and keeping up the good work in his next 2 races was clearly in the form of his life before the Breeders Cup Classic at Hollywood Park on November 21st 1987. Opposed by the 1987 Kentucky Derby hero, Alysheba, it was the first time that consecutive Derby winners had raced against each other since Affirmed faced Spectacular Bid in the 1979 Jockey Club Gold Cup and in the keenly anticipated heat the audience weren’t disappointed with Ferdinand under another great ride from Willie, winning by a nose. It was the high point of a marvellous career and though racing another 5 times in 1988 never won again and was retired to stud.
Failing to make much impression he was sold to Japan in 1994 where 8 years later, much to the dismay of racing fans across the world, he is rumoured to have been slaughtered and sold for human/animal consumption. It was an appalling end for such a terrific horse but at least on the positive side it became a catalyst for the introduction of the “Ferdinand Fee” an optional donation program to fund a decent retirement for superannuated racehorses.
Flying Bolt: The assertion that the breeding of thoroughbred racehorses can be an exact science is proven somewhat apocryphal when considering the chronicle of the begetting, of one of the greatest National Hunt horses ever, Flyingbolt. Born in 1959, his sire Airborne, the winner of the 1946 Derby, had become almost totally infertile by 1958 only managing to get 3 mares in foal in each of his previous 2 seasons at stud, and declared redundant as a stallion, was adopted by the owner of a small Newmarket stud farm, Robert Way, as a companion for his retired 19-year-old brood mare Eastlock. The mare, by the ex French horse Easton, bought by Robert for 50 Guineas at a dispersal sale 17 years earlier in 1941, hadn’t produced a foal for 3 years, and all 10 of her offspring had proven pretty useless. To the surprise and delight of Mr Way, the two old pensioners, sharing their retirement paddock, hadn’t totally lost all of their equine libido, and Airborne found the energy and enthusiasm from somewhere to get his companion in foal. The outcome, a tall gangly chestnut foal, was consigned to the Newmarket December sales of 1959, where with his very uninspiring pedigree, was purchased cheaply by Larry Ryan from Co Clare for 210 Guineas and taken to Ireland. He was sold on as a yearling at the Ballsbridge Sales in Dublin for 490 Guineas to George Ponsonby, a patron of the North Co Dublin trainer Tom Dreaper, who sent the big unfurnished chestnut to Tom’s yard at Kilsallaghan where he became a stable companion of the two years older legend, Arkle. Passing into the ownership of Mrs Jean Wilkinson, who showed plenty of linguistic creativity, using the geldings breeding,(Airborne-Eastlock) to christen her new acquisition Flyingbolt, a name that resonates down the generations whenever great National Hunt horse’s are discussed.
The big backward chestnut ran unplaced in a 12 furlongs Leopardstown Maiden on his racecourse debut in May 1963, but benefiting from Tom Dreaper’s patient handling, reappeared a considerably more mature animal, the following October in a Navan Bumper, and flew home at odds of 8/11. Win number 2 came in the 2 miles Cabinteely Plate on the flat at Leopardstown the following month, before being switched to hurdles at the same venue’s Christmas meeting, easily winning his first heat over timber in the hands of Pat Taffe. Another facile victory followed in the Killester Hurdle at Baldoyle in February 1964 following which the rapidly improving chestnut was aimed at one of Ireland’s top conditions events, the Scalp Hurdle, (now the Irish Champion Hurdle) a huge ask for such an inexperienced novice. Flyingbolt easily rose to the challenge, winning in a hack canter from some of the best talent in the country, and headed for the first division of the Gloucester Hurdle (now the Supreme Novices) at the Cheltenham Festival, where he consolidated his position as the top novice in Britain and Ireland with another smooth victory.
Now an imposing looking individual, the big chestnut was sent chasing in November 1964, and won all 5 starts, including Cheltenham’s 2 mile Champion Novices Chase (now the Arkle Chase) by an average of 6 1/2 Lengths, and finished off the 1964/65 campaign with an easy win in the Easter Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse, carrying 12-2, and registering an 11th straight consecutive victory.
His winning run came to an end at the start of the 1965/66 season when finishing 4th over timber, conceding 28lbs in a Phoenix Park Handicap, but reverting to fences he won all 6 chases of his campaign, over distances ranging from 2 miles to 3 miles 2 furlongs. His 6 stunning victories included the Black and White Whisky Gold Cup at Ascot, The Massey Ferguson Gold Cup Handicap at Cheltenham in which he carried 12-6 and won by 15 Lengths, the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park, one of Ireland’s top handicaps, where he carried 12-0 and won by more than 30 Lengths, the Champion Chase over 2miles at Cheltenham, (finished 3rd in the Champion Hurdle the following day) and most impressively of all, the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse over 3miles 2 furlongs carrying 12-7, taking the country’s top Handicap so easily he looked as if he could go around again. He won by 2 Lengths from the top class mare Height of Fashion to whom he was conceding 40lbs and had the previous years winner Splash receiving 42lbs back in 3rd. Such a fantastic season by the 7yo inevitably invited comparisons with his two years older more famous stable companion, Arkle, and the racing world looked forward to a meeting of the pair in the 1967 Cheltenham Gold Cup the. It wasn’t to be however as over the Summer, out at grass, sharing a field with some cows, Flyingbolt contracted Brucellosis, and was never the same horse again, while Arkle broke his pedal bone in the King George V1 Chase at Kempton in December and never raced again.
Flyingbolt, moving on from Kilsallaghan soldiered on for another 6 years and did win once more, but ended up a mere shadow of the animal that many good judges considered to have been at least the equal of his illustrious stable companion. His career ended rather ignominiously after falling in the Topham Trophy at Liverpool at the age of 13 in 1971, and he died 12 years later in 1983.
Foinavon: To many the name Foinavon conjures up an image of a poorly bred, talentless, slow animal who was the luckiest winner ever of the worlds greatest steeplechase and while there may be a solid argument in favour of the latter, he was neither talentless, slow, nor poorly bred. In fact a cursory glance at his pedigree would suggest that he had the perfect lineage to land a Grand National. He was by Vulgan, the outstanding French Bred stallion, (won Division 1 of the Gloucestershire Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival In 1948 on his sole appearance under NH rules in Britain) who not only sired Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, and Irish Grand National winners, but had also sired the winner of the Aintree spectacular itself, Team Spirit In 1964. (sired a third winner in 1970, Gay Trip)
Foinavon’s dam Ecilace never raced, but she had proven her value as a broodmare when her son, ‘Umm’ won both The Galway Plate, one of Ireland’s major steeplechase’s, and the Irish Grand National in 1955.
Foaled in 1958, his Co Limerick breeder, Tim Ryan consigned the well bred colt to the Ballsbridge Sales the following year where he was purchased for 400 Guineas and was then sold on to Tom Dreaper, acting on behalf of the Duchess of Westminster. Named for a mountain on the Duchesses’ Sutherland estate, he entered the Dreaper academy at Kilsallaghan a year and a half later where it became obvious in his 22 runs in the Duchess’s livery, that the geldings ability didn’t match up to his exalted pedigree. However he did win 3 times, and in the Spring of 1965 was sold to Jack White. Finishing unplaced for his new owner in the Dunboyne Chase at Fairyhouse Mr White sent him to the Doncaster Sales where he was purchased by the Berkshire trainer Mr John Kempton for 2,000 Guineas. New patrons to Kempton’s yard, Cyril and Iris Watkins and Max Bennelick were looking for a potential Grand National runner and Foinavon fitted the bill. Mind you his 1965/66 campaign lent precious little hope to his new connections that their Aintree dreams were likely to be fulfilled, but 1966/67 looked better when their son of Vulgan was placed in 7 of 8 starts and finished 4th in the King George V1 Chase at Kempton. Nevertheless, with the young jockey John Buckingham (having his first ride in the race) in the plate he lined up for the 1967 renewal of the great race a totally ignored 100/1 chance in the 44 runner field, (paid 444/1 on the tote) and it wasn’t just the markets signalling zero confidence in Foinavon, his trainer had gone to Worcester, and none of his 3 owners bothered to turn up.
The 28 riders still upright after jumping Beecher’s Brook on the 2nd circuit must have
breathed a collective sigh of relief having safely negotiated that notorious obstacle for the second time, but little did they know what awaited them at the next, the 23rd, and at just 4 feet 6 inches, the easiest on the course. Popham Down, who had unshipped his rider at the first fence, led the field into the obstacle and then veered dramatically to his right colliding into Rutherford, ridden by Johnny Leech, precipitating a pile up resulting in panicked animals, either running up and down the fence, preventing others from jumping it, or even worse, running back towards Beechers. Young Buckingham, who had been travelling well within himself towards the rear of the field, skilfully plotted a course through the melee, and finding a small gap, was the only contender to jump the fence cleanly. (Rondetto, one of the leaders did jump the obstacle but unseated his rider) Having got over the next fence, the Canal Turn, Johnny, taking a quick backward glance was delighted to discover that he was racing in glorious isolation with his nearest pursuer over 30 Lengths behind, and still 20 lengths ahead jumping the last, maintained that advantage all the way to the finish. Luck obviously played its part in Foinavons victory but it’s worth reminding the cynics who think the winner was just a one paced plodder, that the race was run in a time 3 seconds faster than the previous year despite the mayhem at the 23rd, and indeed was faster than some more recent renewals.
Foinavon continued to race, falling at the 16th fence in the 1968 renewal, but he did win 2 more races, ridden both times by young Buckingham, at Exeter and Uttoxeter, (sole finisher in a field of 7) but called it a day after falling at Kempton in February 1969. He sadly died of colic at his trainers yard 2 years later.
Footnote : Michael O’Hehir, the famous Irish sports commentator whose broadcast on Grand National Day traditionally covered the stretch of the race that included the 23rd fence, suggested at the time that the fence should be named after the only horse to have cleanly, cleared the obstacle on that fateful day, and some years later his idea was adopted, insuring that Foinavon’s name, along with those two other Liverpool stalwarts, Captain Beecher and the horse Valentine, will be forever, part of the fabric of the great race.
Fortina : By Formor, a son of the Dual Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe winner Ksar, out of the broodmare, Bertina, a daughter of the leading French stallion La Farina, Fortina, was foaled in France in 1941. He was bred to be top class on the flat, but it was in the National Hunt world that Fortina was destined to make his mark, and a pretty lasting one it turned out to be. Already successful 4 times over fences by the Spring of 1946, Fortina added to his burgeoning reputation, finishing 2nd to the top chaser Lindor, in France’s richest and most prestigious National Hunt race, the Grand Steeplechase de Paris. (Lindor doubled up in 1947) Catching the eye of the English banker and breeder, Ralph Beckett, 3rd Baron Grimthorpe who bought the handsome chestnut and sent him to be trained by Hector Christie in Wiltshire.
The ex French entire made a winning debut for Hector in the Lancashire Chase at the now defunct Manchester track at Castle Irwell before Christmas in 1946. (the final running of the Lancashire Chase at Castle Irwell took place in 1963 when the Manchester track closed, but has been revived as the Betfair Chase, registered as the Lancashire Chase, at Haydock Park) The winter of 1946/47 was one of the worst on record, causing huge disruption to racing, including the postponement of the 1947 Cheltenham Festival, so the next time Fortina saw a racecourse was at the rescheduled Cheltenham Gold Cup on
April 12th. Starting at odds of 8/1 in the 12 runner field he was given a very confident ride by his amateur rider, Richard Black, who took up the running early on the second circuit, went clear, and maintained his advantage all the way to the finish winning by 10 Lengths and 5 Lengths from the 3/1 favourite Happy Home and Prince Blackthorn.
Only a six-year-old, this was a terrific performance for such a young horse, and connections must have been looking forward to plenty of further success with their French import, but it wasn’t to be. Following a disappointing 2nd to Silver Fame (Gold Cup Victor in 1951) in Kempton’s Emblem Chase in the Autumn of 1947, further despondency awaited connections when the still entire horse finished down the field in the King George V1 Chase at the same venue, and he was retired.
Every cloud has a silver lining however, and with his reproductive tackle still intact, the only entire horse ever to have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, was retired to a stallion’s happy life at the Grange Stud in Fermoy Co Cork, and it was in this new role, as a National Hunt sire, that the well bred Fortina was destined to make a considerable impact. He sired four winners of the Irish Grand National, Olympia, (1960) Fortria, (1961) who also won the Champion Chase twice, and was the winner of the Inaugural running of the Mackeson Gold Cup, Last Link (1963) who was also the dam of Last Suspect, winner of the 1985 Grand National, and Splash. (1965) He also sired 2 winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Fort Leney, (1968) and the mare Glencarraig Lady (1972)
Fortina also made his mark on the other side of the Atlantic, siring Bampton Castle, winner of the American Grand National in 1966 and 1968, the winner of the Carolina Cup, Flying Cottage, and the winner of the Maryland Hunt Cup, Fort Devon, in 1976. He died at the age of 27 in 1968.
Frankel: Following the birth of a bay colt at Banstead Manor Stud, a few miles south of Newmarket, on February 11th 2008, connections were inspired to name him for one of the greatest trainers of all time, Robert J. Frankel. (Robert set the single-season, world record, for the most Group1/Grade1 training success’s, with 25 Grade1 wins in 2003, an amazing number, and a record that stood for 14 years until it was beaten by the training phenomenon, that is Aidan O’Brien, who landed an even more amazing 28 in 2017) Well, the colt was extremely well named, as in his 3 seasons racing, he won all of his 14 starts, including 9 at the top level. By the great Galileo, out of the Danehill broodmare Kind, a Listed sprint winner, and a half sister to the triple Group1 winning horse, Powerscourt, Frankel was certainly bred to be a top class racehorse, and under the tutelage of Master trainer, Henry Cecil, so it proved.
Racing in the colours of his owner/breeder, Khalid Abdullah, the son of Galileo made his racecourse debut in a modest, Class4, Newmarket Maiden, on August 13th 2010, which he won by half a length from another debutant, Nathaniel, who was also destined for great things. (won the King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and the Eclipse Stakes In 2011) Returned at 7/4, it was to be the only time that Frankel in his 14 race career would start at odds against. Never off the bridle, he won his next two races by an average of 12 1/2 Lengths, before stepping up to Group 1 level for the first time in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, on October 16th. Despite running a little green, he comfortably landed his first top level event, winning by 2 1/4 Lengths from the Aidan O’Brien trained Roderic O’Connor.
He started the 2011 campaign with another facile victory, in the 2000 Guineas trial, the Greenham Stakes, at Newbury on April 16th, before absolutely pulverising the 13 runner field in the 2000 Guineas itself, a fortnight later. Starting at 1/2, his jockey, the Co Waterford born Tom Queally, (rode the great horse in all his 14 races) kicked on from the start, by halfway was an unbelievable 15 Lengths clear of his field, and then just freewheeled home for a stunning 6 Lengths victory, the biggest winning margin since Tudor Minstrel in 1947.
Although the Derby was a serious option, stamina doubts steered connections away from Epsom, and keeping to a mile Frankel completed his 3yo campaign with victories in the St James’s Palace Stakes, the Sussex Stakes, and finally a scintillating victory in the Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes after which he received a Timeform rating of 143, the 4th highest of all time, behind Sea Bird, Brigadier Gerard, and Tudor Minstrel.
Frankel commenced the 2012 season, easily winning Newbury’s Lockinge Stakes by 5 Lengths. On to the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, where the bay colt ran his greatest race to date. Starting at the unbackable price of 1/10, he cruised into the lead 3 furlongs from home, and drawing steadily clear of the top class international field, won by 11 Lengths. Timeform’s reaction to the fantastic win was to raise his provisional rating to 147, the highest in the organisation’s history. A 6 Lengths win in the Sussex Stakes followed before connections stepped him up to 10 furlongs for the first time in York’s Juddmonte International, sponsored by his owner, Khalid Abdullah. If any stamina doubts were entertained before the race, there were certainly none afterwards, as he won by 7 lengths without breaking sweat, and many felt that the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe, over 2 furlongs further, would now be well within his stamina limits, and would be the ideal swan song to the great horse’s stellar career. However connections opted for the 10 furlongs Champion Stakes instead, and perhaps it was the right decision, as he did have to work quite hard for this his final victory, eventually getting the better of the French challenger, Cirrus des Aigles, by1 3/4 Lengths on the heavy ground, and enabling the marvellous animal to retire with his richly deserved, undefeated record intact.
Retired to Banstead Manor Stud where he was born, Frankel has been a very successful stallion, siring to date, over 20 Group winners, 12 of them at the top level, and commands an eye watering stud fee, of £175,000.
Funny Cide: Foaled in April 2000, Funny Cide became the first ever New York bred horse to win America’s most prestigious race, the Kentucky Derby. Born in upstate New York, at Saratoga, there was little in the foal’s lineage, to suggest that the little chestnut was destined to not only achieve great things on the track but also to become one of the country’s most popular racehorses. He was by a son of Mr Prospector, Distorted Humour, a decent enough racehorse, but never a top level performer, out of an Oaklahoma bred mare, Belles Good Cide, who was by a once raced animal named Slewacide. (one wonders if Slewacides’ connections might have been fans of the TV series, M*A*S*H and its rather macabre theme song).
Well despite his unfashionable parents, and more worryingly, that he was a ridgling,
(one of his testicles had failed to descend) he caught the eye of a pin hooker named Tony Everard who bought him as a yearling for $22,000, had him gelded, and sold him on as a 2yo to the trainer Barclay Tagg for $75,000 acting on behalf of a group of 10 pals who had financed their syndicate, ‘Sackatoga Stable’ with an initial contribution of a modest $5,000 from each member.
Well the ‘Sackatoga’ mates, and their trainer, Mr Tagg, must have been on extremely good terms with themselves at the end of the geldings’ two-year-old campaign in October 2002, as he had won all his 3 starts, putting well north of $100,000 in the kitty and his rider, the Chilean born Jose A.Santos, was hugely enthused about the geldings’ Classic prospects for 2003.
Finishing 5th in a Gulfstream Grade3 on his reappearance in January, he improved 50 days later to finish 2nd in a Grade 2 at Fair Grounds, and then, going down by a hard fought 1/2 Length to the favourite for the Kentucky Derby, Empire Maker, at Aqueduct, put himself firmly in the picture for the Derby, and hopefully become the first gelding, since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929, to win the famous “Run For The Roses.”
Starting at what looks in retrospect, a very generous 13/1 at Churchill Downs on May 3rd 2003, Funny Cide took the lead entering the straight, and running on strongly, had no trouble to hold the challenge of Empire Maker, and won by 1 3/4 Lengths becoming the first ever New-York bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby.
On to the Baltimore track of Pimlico for the second leg of the coveted Triple Crown, where Empire Maker had initially declined a rematch, but after a bogus story from the Miami Herald, that Jose Santos had cheated at Churchill Downs, it gave connections some hope that the Triple Crown might still be possible. Empire Maker was reinstated. As it transpired the Derby runner up didn’t take take up the engagement and as the race unfolded the rest of the field might just as well have taken a leaf from Empire Maker’s book. Scooting clear over 2 furlongs out he left the 10 runner field for dead, and won by the best part of 10 Lengths, the second largest winning margin in the history of the Preakness. He started the even money favourite to land the 3rd leg of the Triple Crown 3 weeks later, The Belmont Stakes, but ran very freely on the testing ground, and didn’t see out the 12 furlongs trip, finishing 3rd, 5 Lengths behind Empire Maker. Failing to fire in his last two races of the 2003 campaign, he had a 77 day break before making a winning reappearance in January 2004 in a minor Gulfstream Park claimer. However, his disappointing tally of a single win from his next 7 races which came in a Grade3 at Aquaduct didn’t prevent the markets from making him favourite for Belmont Park’s Autumn highlight, the Grade1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, on October 2nd 2004, and he duly obliged, showing plenty of his old sparkle, landing what was to be his last top level victory.
Beset by lung and back problems, he continued to race for another three seasons, with varying degrees of success, and happily went out on a winning note at the age of 7 at Finger Lakes New York on Independence Day 2007, bringing his lifetime winnings to nearly $3,000,000, and is happily retired at the Kentucky Horse Park, a working stud farm and international equestrian competition venue.
Gainsborough: Foaled in 1915, Gainsborough was an extremely well bred individual. By Bayardo, winner of the Prince of Wales Stakes, the Eclipse Stakes and the St Leger in 1909 and the Ascot Gold Cup in 1910, out of the 1910 Oaks heroine, Rosedrop, by Frusquin, winner of the 2000 Guineas, Prince of Wales, and Eclipse Stakes in 1896.
The bay colt was sent to the Newmarket yearling Sales by his owner/breeder Lady James Douglas in 1916 and when he failed to meet his reserve of 2000 Guineas she sent him to be trained by the Newmarket handler, Colledge Leader. Colledge soon afterwards enlisted in the forces so Lady Douglas sent the colt, now named Gainsborough (seeking inspiration for a name for the son of Bayardo, her ladyship consulted a railway time table, and working her way from A-Z, liked the name of the Lincolnshire town when she got to the Gs) to the “Wizard Of Manton” Alec Taylor Junior, at the magnificent training centre built on the downs West of Marlborough in Wiltshire, by his father Alec Taylor Sr.
The powerfully built colt ran three times at two, finishing 4th in two minor heats in July and August before stepping up considerably in class and winning the Autumn Stakes at headquarters. He was unplaced on his 3yo debut in the 5 furlongs Severals Stakes at Newmarket’s Craven meeting in April 1918 but stripping a much fitter animal for the first Classic of the year a few weeks later, ridden by Joe Childs, he won the 2000 Guineas from Somme Kiss, and Blink, giving “the Wizard” his 3rd success in the Classic, and her Ladyship, a niche in the history books, as the first woman owner to win a Classic in her own colours.
Impressed by Gainsborough’s win in The Guineas the market made him a hot favourite at 13/8 on to win the Derby, (held at Newmarket) and again ridden by Childs, he justified the short price, winning comfortably from his stable companion Blink by 1 1/2 Lengths with Treclare two lengths away in third. On to the substitute Ascot Gold Cup, again Run at Newmarket, where he defeated two older opponents, and then became the 13th horse to land racing’s elusive Triple Crown, winning the September Stakes, the war-time substitute for the St Leger, run over the last 1 3/4 miles of the Cesarewitch course, easily beating his two stable companions, My Dear and Prince Chimay. Probably being a case of going to the proverbial well once too often, Prince Chimay reversed the form, beating the Triple Crown hero by a length in his final race, the Jockey Club Stakes, and he retired to take up stallion duties at his owner’s Harwood Stud, (later renamed the Gainsborough Stud) near Newbury.
At stud he had a lasting influence on the breed. He was champion sire in 1932 and 1933, second in 1931, and in the top four on five other occasions. A potent influence for stamina, he was the sire of the great Hyperion, winner of the Derby and St Leger in 1933 and who was champion sire on 6 occasions. Other Classic winners sired by Gainsborough were Solario winner of the 1925 St Leger and the Gold Cup in 1926, Singapore, the St Leger winner in 1930, and Orwell winner of the 2000 Guineas in 1930. He died at the age of 30 in 1945 and is fittingly, buried at the stud that bears his name.
Galileo: In light of the subsequent exploits, on and off the track, by a colt foaled in Co Tipperary on March 10th 1998, I’m sure that Galileo Galilei, the great renaissance polymath from Pisa, whose enormous corpus of work, included many treatises on speed and velocity, would have been more than happy, indeed flattered, to have had his moniker bestowed on the bay foal, who was destined to become the fastest middle distance performer of his generation, European Champion 3-year-old-colt of 2001, and the leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland on 12 occasions (to date) after he retired from the track.
One of the most sought after stallions in the business, he has sired the winner of the Epsom Derby a record 5 times, (New Approach 2005, Ruler Of the World 2010, Australia 2011, Anthony Van Dyck 2016, Serpentine 2020) and having fathered his 89th top level winner in 2020 is the most successful source of Group1 winners in the entire history of thoroughbred breeding. He achieved the unique distinction of siring a winner of all 5 English Classics when his daughter Minding won the 1000 Guineas in 2016. He is also a leading broodmare sire, and sire of sires, not least with his son, the mighty Frankel, who has already fathered 12 top level horses.
Beautifully bred, by Sadler’s Wells, 14 times champion sire in Great Britain and Ireland, out of Urban Sea, that fabulous mare who won the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe in 1993, and has been such a fantastic success at stud. Her 2006 foal, by Cape Cross, Sea The Stars, also won the Derby, (2009) making her one of only 10 brood mares to have produced two Derby winners.
By Miswaki, a son of the Champion American sire, Mr Prospector, Urban Sea was bred in Kentucky, but sent as a foal to France, she was purchased at the Deauville yearling sales in 1989 by the sharp eyed trainer, Jean Lesbordes, for $47,796, acting on behalf of the Hong Kong businessman David Tsui. After Urban Seas’ retirement from the track, David, in a joint venture with Orpendale, (Coolmore stud) in 1997 had her covered by Coolmore’s champion sire, Sadler’s Wells, producing Galileo, who has become universally recognised, as the finest sire in the world.
Trained by the Ballydoyle Maestro, Aidan O’Brien, and owned in partnership by Sue Magnier (in whose colours he raced) and Michael Tabor, the son of Sadler’s Wells made a belated start to his career in a Leopardstown Maiden for 2yo’s at the end of October 2000 where he made a most impressive debut, winning by 14 Lengths. Put away for the Winter, his 3yo debut in the 10 furlongs Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown on April 16th 2001 was no less impressive. The winning distance was only 3 1/2lengths and 1 Length, but it was achieved very easily from two extremely useful individuals, Milan (won 2001 St Leger and runner up in the Breeders Cup) and Vinnie Roe (4 times Irish St Leger winner) On to Epsom 3 weeks later where Galileo started an 11/4 JFav with the Michael Stoute trained Golan, and under a confident ride from Mick Kinane landed Aidan O’Brien the first of his record breaking, 8 Derby’s, winning unextended, by 3 1/2 Lengths from Golan. Another easy win in the Irish Derby, by 4 Lengths from the Derby Italiano winner, Morshdi, followed at the beginning of July, before he tackled older horses for the first time in the King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. Starting at 1/2, and again ridden by Kinane, he moved smoothly into the lead two furlongs out, and had little trouble in seeing off the challenge of Fantastic Light to win by 2 Lengths. His winning run came to an end 44 days later in the Irish Champion Stakes, where reverting to 10 furlongs, he found the trip too sharp, and was beaten a head by Fantastic Light. His final race was again over 10 furlongs, in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Belmont Park at the end of October, but he failed to act on the dirt, and having finished a well beaten 6th, the superbly bred colt was retired.
Initially he operated as a “shuttle” stallion, covering mares in both hemispheres in their appropriate breeding seasons, but he now plies his trade solely in Ireland, and is rumoured to command a fee north of €500,000 (if one were fortunate enough to get a nomination). Capable of covering upwards of 100 mares a season, the maths is eye boggling!
Garrison Savannah: Named for the racecourse just outside Bridgetown, Barbados, the bay foal was born in Ireland in 1983. By the stayer Random Shot, who’s main claim to fame was finishing 4 Lengths behind Rock Roi in the 1971 Ascot Gold Cup, and subsequently being awarded the race, after Rock Roi tested positive for a banned substance. Following a largely undistinguished career, he was retired to stud in Ireland, and was available at the modest fee of £150. Garrison Savannah’s dam, Merry Coin, had a slightly more salubrious lineage, being a daughter of Current Coin, a grandson of Mossborough, and she had won a race, albeit at 6 furlongs. Purchased by Autofour Engineering, a precision engineering company based in Cheltenham, he was sent to be trained by the indomitable, and hugely talented, Jenny Pitman, at Lambourn in Berkshire. (Jenny, by the time of her retirement in 1999, had 2 Gold Cups and 2 Grand Nationals on her impressive CV.)
Unplaced in a Sandown NH flat race in October 1987, he made a successful debut over hurdles the following month at Worcester, but it would be another 13 months and 5 races later, before he caught the judge’s eye again, in a 3 mile Cheltenham Handicap Hurdle in December 1988, where showing a liking for the track, he stayed on strongly up the hill for a comfortable 4 Lengths win.
Off the track for just over a year, he made his chasing debut at Haydock in December 1989, and following two further efforts, landed his first victory over the larger obstacles at Wincanton on February 8th 1990, and an impressive one it was, winning unchallenged by 25 Lengths. He put in another decent effort at Warwick 13 days later, finishing 2nd to the future Grand National hero, Party Politics, (1992) before tackling his first Grade1 event, Cheltenham’s Sun Alliance Chase, on March 14th 1990. Starting at 12/1 he again showed his liking for Prestbury Park, staying on strongly up that stamina sapping finish, to win by 5 Lengths under pilot Ben De Haan.
Retired for the season, he reappeared in Haydock’s Tommy Whittle Chase in December 1990 where he would have given the Champion Hurdle winner, Celtic Shot, plenty to think about, but for a serious mistake at the last fence, after which he headed straight to Cheltenham 92 days later, for his date with destiny in the Gold Cup. Under a great ride from Jenny’s son Mark, the duo covered themselves in glory despite his 13 week absence from the racecourse. In the 14 runner field, which contained 2 previous winners, Desert Orchid and Norton’s Coin, and 2 future winners, Cool Ground and The Fellow, Mark, kept the bay handy throughout, took it up after the 3rd last and looked as if he had the race in safekeeping but had to resist a strong challenge from the French challenger, The Fellow. Inside the final 100 yards it looked as if the Gallic challenger would prevail and Jenny must have been wondering if that 13 weeks absence had left her contender slightly undercooked, but she needn’t have worried, as “Garry” bravely responding to Mark’s urgings held on to win by the minimum distance.
Seeming to have had such a hard race at Cheltenham many were surprised to see him turn out for the Grand National just 3 weeks later, but showing no ill effects he ran a blinder to finish 2nd. Always prominent he led at the 23rd, went clear after the last and just ran out of petrol in the closing stages, and had to settle for the runner up spot behind Seagram.
After Aintree, due to a combination of injuries and set backs, he was never the same horse again, but he did soldier on for another 5 years, winning 3 times at a lower level, and finally called it a day at Wincanton in 1996, just 7 weeks short of his 14th birthday. Sadly he had to be put down after a paddock accident in 2005.
Gaye Brief: One of the all time greats of National Hunt racing Fred Rimell, (not only won the Champion Jockey title 3 times, and the Champion Trainer accolade 5 times, but he also trained the Grand National winner on a record 4 occasions , a feat only achieved by Ginger McCain, and the 19th century handler George Dockeray), departed this world in 1981, but before he left had purchased an unbroken 3yo gelding who was destined to rank very close to the top of the hurdling tree.
Born in 1977, the gelding was by Lucky Brief, out the Artists Son mare, Artiste Gaye, which made Freds’ final purchase a full brother to the Stables upwardly mobile 5yo Gaye Chance, and racing in the colours of one of the most successful owners of the day, Sheik Ali Abu Khamsin, remained at Kinnersley to be trained by Fred’s widow, Mercy Rimell.
Noted for his excellent hurdling technique, Gaye Brief made an eye catching winning debut at Hereford in November 1981, and followed up with another 3 victories in his novice campaign, including easy wins in two of the better events for Novices, the Panama Cigars final at Chepstow, and the Rossington Main at Doncaster.
The 1982/83 campaign saw the son of Lucky Brief make such exceptional progress that he became a serious Champion Hurdle contender, and he lined up in March at Prestbury Park as the fourth market choice, a 7/1 chance behind For Auction,(the previous years winner) Ekbalco, and Royal Vulcan. Ridden by Richard Linley and jumping superbly, the 5yo was 4 Lengths clear approaching the final obstacle with the race at his mercy when he flattened the hurdle. The mistake didn’t stop him winning as he crossed the line 3 Lengths and 7 Lengths clear of Boreen Prince and For Auction, but it did cause damage to his back which was to plague him for the rest of his career. However there was little sign of his incipient back problems 3 weeks later when he put in another superb effort, seeing off the challenge of the rapidly improving Dawn Run in Aintree’s 2miles 6 furlongs Templegate Hurdle, and was retired for the season.
Physical setbacks in the 1983/84 campaign confined him to just 3 starts and he was unable to defend his Champion Hurdle Crown, but he did win the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, was 2nd to Dawn Run in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, and finished the season on a winning note in the Fred Rimell Hurdle at Hereford. He reappeared in Ascot’s Fairweather Hurdle over 2 1/2 miles in November 1984 and looked as good as ever, beating that very good animal Very Promising, but it was to be his last success of the season. He looked like winning the Bula Hurdle in December but surrendered tamely after jumping the last, and it was a similar story in the Champion Hurdle 3 months later, where he led over the last, but was not only collared by See You Then who went on to win, but was passed by two of the lesser lights in the 17 runner field, and finished a tame 4th. He finished the campaign with another weak effort at Liverpool, but reappeared in November, winning the Fairweather Hurdle for a second time, before finishing 2nd in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton in December. Running in his third Champion Hurdle In 1986 he jumped the last upsides with See You Then, but again found little, faltered up the hill, and was beaten 7 Lengths by the Henderson horse. However things took a turn for the better the following month when upped in trip, he won the Keith Prowse Long Distance Hurdle by 6 Lengths from the Stayers Hurdle winner, Crimson Embers, but his season ended badly, falling in the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil in Paris. (A race that is better remembered for the death of the brilliant Dawn Run).
He drew a blank in the 1986/87 campaign, but the following year showed there was still life in the old horse when he won the Keith Prowse Long Distance Hurdle for a second time at the ripe old age of 11 (at 14/1). He won again at Wolverhampton on his seasonal debut in November 1988, and finished an honourable 4th in the 1989 Stayers Hurdle at the festival at the age of 12. Ridden by his adoring trainers’ Granddaughter, Katie Rimell, he finished 2nd in an amateur heat at Newton Abbot, bringing the curtain down on a marvellous 44 race career on May 5th 1989. He enjoyed another 13 years of happy retirement at Kinnersley until 2002 when pain from that longstanding back injury dictated an early plane to the equine Valhalla and he was euthanised.
Gay Trip: When Gay Trip crossed the finishing line 20 Lengths ahead of Vulture and Miss Hunter in the 1970 Grand National, he was completing a remarkable treble, not only for his trainer Fred Rimell, who had trained ESB, (1956) and Nicolaus Silver (1961) to win the great race, but also for his dad, the remarkable prepotent sire of Jump horses, Vulgan, (French bred, stood in Co Kildare, and was the leading National Hunt stallion in Great Britain on 10 occasions) who had fathered Team Spirit In 1956 and Foinavon 11 years later. We shouldn’t forget the man on top either, the legendary Pat Taffe, who had ridden his first Grand National winner 15 years previously on the Vincent O’Brien trained,Quare Times, in 1955. Now in his 41st year, and well beyond the normal pensionable age for National Hunt jockeys, Pat only came in for the ride because of injury to Fred’s stable rider, Terry Biddlecombe. Gay Trips’ dam, Turkish Tourist was by Turkhan, owned by the Aga Khan, a very well bred animal, who was runner up in the 1940 Derby, and followed up with victories in the Irish Derby, and the St Leger, which rather surprisingly, because of the war, was run at the small Yorkshire track of Thirsk, over 1mile 7furlongs late in November 1940.
Bred by Mr FD. Farmer, and owned by Tony Chambers, Gay Trip, born in 1962, was a relatively small horse, and raced on the flat until he was five. Despite his size he proved a great recruit to the jumping ranks, and won the first of his two Mackeson Gold Cups, (now the Paddy Power Gold Cup) in 1969. He won The Mackeson again in 1971, and might have won the 1970 renewal but for slipping when landing after jumping the 2nd last when still very much in the hunt.
Despite never having won a race over further than 2 1/2miles, the small but compact son of Vulgan was saddled with top weight for the 1970 Aintree marathon. Starting at odds of 15/1 on the day, (April 4th 1970) he survived a major pile up at the first open ditch which saw 9 contenders depart the 28 runner field, and then, masterfully ridden by the great horseman that was Pat Taffe, mindful of his mounts possible stamina limitations at the trip, hunted the small bay around just off the pace, and jumping faultlessly, arrived full of running at the penultimate fence, where Pat gave him the office, and he cruised into an easy lead, and went on to win by a very long looking 20 Lengths from the Irish horse Vulture.
He got no further than the first fence in 1971 under his usual rider Terry Biddlecombe, but the following year, again ridden by Biddlecombe, ran a really great race to finish 2nd to the Captain Tim Foster trained, Well To Do, while attempting to concede a punishing 22lbs. 1972 was to be Gay Trips Liverpool swansong but his handler Fred Rimell went on to train a record equalling 4th Aintree hero when Rag Trade won four years later. The marvellous jockey/ horseman Pat Taffe, who alongside his outstanding Aintree record, partnered the Cheltenham Gold Cup Winner on 4 occasions, the Irish Grand National winner 6 times, and won countless other important races, retired soon afterwards to pursue a career as a trainer which wasn’t conspicuously successful and he sadly died at the relatively young age of 62 in 1992, having been the 3rd recipient of a heart transplant in his native country.
Generous : A regally bred, flaxen chestnut (where mane and tail of a chestnut coloured horse are noticeably lighter than the body colour, often a golden blonde shade) foal, who was destined to become the British and Irish Horse Of The Year In 1991 was born at the Barronstown Stud in Co Wicklow Ireland on February 8th, 1988. By Caerleon, winner of the Prix du Jockey Club and Benson and Hedges Gold Cup, and a son of the Triple Crown winner, the mighty Nijinsky, out of the mare, Doff The Derby, a daughter of the Preakness Stakes winner Master Derby and the broodmare Margarethan, which made her a half sister to the brilliant multiple Group1 winning French filly Trillion, the dam of one of the best fillies of the 20th century, Triptych. Regal breeding indeed! Bloodstock agent, Hamish Alexander must have thought so for he bought the foal for 80,000 Guineas, and when consigned to Goff’s yearling Sales the following year, was purchased for 200,000 Guineas on behalf of Fahd bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, eldest son of the Saudi Monarch, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Prince Fahd, (to give him his abbreviated title) sent the yearling to be trained at his historic Whatcombe stables, by Paul Cole.(Dick Dawson trained the winner of 7 British Classics there, including 3 Derby’s and Arthur Budgett trained another two, Blakeney and Morston, at the superb facility near Wantage in Berkshire which the prince had purchased in 1984)
Generous made a winning racecourse debut in an Ascot Graduation Stakes at the beginning of May 1990 but disappointed in his next 3 races, running deplorably in the last of them, a 6 furlong Deauville Group1, where he finished 10/12, 13 Lengths behind the winner Hector Protector on August 19th. However, stepped up to a mile in a minor Sandown heat 20 days later things took a turn for the better when he won easily and headed for the Group1 Dewhurst Stakes at headquarters 31 days later. Unconvinced by his Sandown victory, the bookmakers allowed him to start at 50/1, and in a slowly run race his chances didn’t look great with 2 furlongs to go, but jockey Richard Quinn, got to work and the flaxen chestnut responded gallantly, and ran on strongly to land Britain’s top juvenile event by 3/4 Length.
Finishing a disappointing 4th, 8 3/4 Lengths behind the winner Mystiko in the 2000 Guineas on his 3yo debut, his usual pilot, Richard Quinn was replaced by Alan Munro and the new combination lined up for the Derby an easy to back 9/1 chance. Finding the step up to a mile and a half right up his street, the son of Caerleon took it up 2 furlongs out and surging clear won by 5 Lengths from Marju with the 3rd horse another 7 Lengths further back. 25 days later in the Irish Derby he was even more impressive, beating the top class French Derby winner and subsequent Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe hero, Suave Dancer by a comfortable 3 Lengths. 4 weeks later, taking on older horses for the first time in the King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Generous made it a truly magical seven and a half weeks for the 24-years-Old Alan Munro when he spread eagled a top class field to win by a record breaking 7 Lengths from Sanglamore. He was made an odds on chance to finish his career on a winning note in the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe but could only finish 8th, 9 1/4 Lengths behind his old rival Suave Dancer and was retired.
At stud he never sired anything nearly as good as himself and having stood at his owners Barnstead Manor Stud for 4 years after retirement, his career as a stallion took on something of a peripatetic nature, covering mares in Japan, New Zealand, Dorset and finally at the Scarvagh Stud in Northern Ireland. Given an impressive rating of 139 by the Timeform organisation he was undoubtedly one of the outstanding racehorses of the second half of the 20th Century and died on January 15th, 2013.
Golden Fleece: There have been two horses called Golden Fleece that have graced the Irish Turf in the 20th Century. The first of them was a very successful National Hunt horse, racing during the First World War, the acme of whose career came when winning the Galway Plate in 1918, and of whom one disconsolate bookmaker made the observation, ‘that he could have saved himself money if he had bought the horse as a yearling for £30,000 (more than a £million in today’s money) and had him shot’. However, the subject of this article is the second animal to bear the name of Chrysomallos’s overcoat (for the benefit of the few readers amongst you who may not be Classical Greek scholars, Chrysomallos, was the Golden-Wooled, Winged Ram, of Hellenic Legend, whom Jason and his Argonauts spent so many years searching for).
Bred by Mr and Mrs Paul Hexter, Golden Fleece was Foaled at Wimbledon Farm, Fayette County in central Kentucky. Bred in the purple, the bay foal was by the triple crown winner, the great Nijinsky, out of Exotic Treat, a daughter of the 1968 Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe winner Vaguely Noble, and a half sister to What A Treat, dam of the leading miler and future Champion Sire, Be My Guest. His regal breeding and fine conformation caught the attention of the Coolmore set, and he was knocked down to Robert Sangster for $775,000 at the Keenland Yearling Sales in 1980 and sent to Ballydoyle to be trained by Vincent O’Brien.
He made a very impressive racecourse debut over a mile in a Leopardstown Maiden in September 1981, winning very comfortably from Assert, the future winner of both the French (Prix Du Jockey Club) and Irish Derby’s, and the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup. He won the Ballymoss Stakes in similar fashion in the Spring of 1982, this time leaving Jim Bolger’s tough filly Stanerra (future winner of the Prince of Wales Stakes and the Japan Cup) struggling in his wake, and completed his Epsom preparation with another easy win at Leopardstown in the Nijinsky Stakes, from his old foe, Assert.
It looked full steam ahead for the Derby, and his prospects looked even better when his main market rival, the Henry Cecil-trained Simply Great, had to be withdrawn, but a swollen hock a few days before the big event threatened to spoil the party. Happily he responded to treatment, but then on the day before the Derby, a rather more sinister threat arose. Pat Eddery was giving the big bay a workout around the track when to his consternation the horse coughed, and coughed again after Pat, as surreptitiously as he could, returned to the stables. What to do? Should O’Brien withdraw the horse, or hope the cause was something minor, such as dehydration, on what was a very warm day. An anxious, night long watch was mounted, connections knowing that if he coughed again, withdrawal would be mandatory, but happily, not even a wheeze was heard, and he was able to take his place at the start of the 203rd renewal of the Epsom Classic.
Held up by Pat towards the back of the pack, he was still towards the rear of the 18 runner field at the bottom of the hill, and backers of the 3/1 favourite must have been feeling a little anxious. But they needn’t have worried, as he cruised up to the leaders inside the 2 furlong marker – and when Eddery gave him the office – shot clear in spectacular fashion to win by 3 Lengths from the future St Leger and Irish St Leger winner, Touching Wood, in the fastest time since Mahmoud in 1936. The future did indeed look “Golden” for the son of Nijinsky on that day in June 1982, but it wasn’t to be, as he developed training problems and had to be retired. At stud, having produced less than 60 live offspring, and just five years old, events took a disastrous turn for the worse. The young stallion developed an inoperable intestinal cancer, and the horse who Pat Eddery had no hesitation in describing as the best of any of his Derby rides, (Grundy, El Gran Senor, Quest For Fame, et al) had to be put down.
Golden Horn: A brown foal, born on March 29th 2012 at the Hascombe and Valiant Stud was by the miler, and very successful stallion, Cape Cross, ( sire of Sea The Stars, Ouija Board, and Able One, to mention just a few of his outstanding offspring) a son of the top sprinter, and July Cup winner, Green Desert. The foals’ dam, Flèche d’Or, a daughter of Dubai Destination, never raced, but was a half sister to his owners mare Rebecca Sharp, winner of Royal Ascot’s one mile, Group1 Coronation Stakes in 1997. Golden Horn was bred and owned by Anthony Oppenheimer, the retired president of The De Beers diamond conglomerate. (Founded by Cecil Rhodes in 1888, and now owned by Anglo American Plc, who took control of the company following the purchase of the Oppenheimer family’s 40% stake for £3.2 Billion in 2011) Mr Oppenheimer, a highly knowledgeable owner/breeder, consigned his good looking colt to the October yearling sales in 2013, where as we all know, the sale and purchase of untried yearlings can be something of a hit and miss exercise. So as the vendor, he must have been disappointed when the bidding for his handsome son of Cape Cross faltered at 190,000 Guineas, someway short of his reserve. However he took the positive option to buy the yearling back to race in his own colours, and what a lucky decision that turned out to be, as the strong brown colt, in a 13 months career, was destined to bank over £4 million in prize money, be chosen as the joint-second best racehorse in the world, and to be voted Cartier’s Champion Three-Year-Old Colt and Horse Of The Year for 2015.
Andrew sent the colt to be trained by the brilliant John Gosden, (learnt his craft in the US, and with the Tipperary genius, Vincent O’Brien) at his Clarehaven yard in Newmarket. Gosden gave the pretty backward Golden Horn plenty of time and he didn’t appear on a racecourse until the end of October 2014. Despite looking in need of the race, and running very green, he won the one mile Nottingham Maiden by a head, and was put away for the Winter. He made his three-year-old debut in Newmarket’s Feilden Stakes under Frankie Dettori the following April, and despite again running green, hanging in the closing stages, he stayed on over the 9 furlongs trip, and won by a length and a half from the Royal runner, Peacock. Connections, wisely heeding jockey Frankie Dettori’s sage advice, ignored the 2000 Guineas, and aimed the still backward colt for the 2 1/2 furlongs longer, Dante Stakes at York, as the better option for a tilt at Derby glory. The Italian pilot’s advice proved sound! Golden Horn under pilot William Buick, stayed on to lead inside the final furlong and drew clear to win the York heat by 2 3/4 Lengths, clearly enjoying the trip. Following his York success, the omens looked pretty positive for Epsom, but would he stay that extra 1 1/2 furlongs in the Derby? a serious question posed by the colts pedigree, (by a miler, out of a mare bred to be best at a mile) and his owner for one, certainly harboured some lingering doubts. However, he needn’t have worried, as on the day, the son of Cape Cross answered the stamina question in spectacular fashion, running on strongly under a great ride from Frankie Dettori, to win by 3 1/2 Lengths from his stable companion Jack Hobbs, fulfilling a lifetime ambition for his lucky owner.
Four weeks later, meeting older horses for the first time, he had little trouble disposing of The Grey Gatsby In Sandown’s Eclipse Stakes, and was then all the rage for the King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, but due to incessant rain on the morning of the race, was withdrawn. Redirected to The International at York on August 19th, the race looked something of a formality when the 2000 Guineas winner Glenstal was withdrawn, but that wasn’t how it turned out. Starting at 4/9, Golden Horn was urged by Frankie inside the final furlong to join the leader, Arabian Queen, a 50/1 outsider, but drawing level, his trademark acceleration failed him, and finding little, was beaten a neck by the filly, suffering the first defeat of his career. He restored his slightly tarnished reputation 24 days later, winning the Irish Champion Stakes by a length from the Aidan O’Brien trained filly, Found.
There was a controversial finish to the Irish heat, as he did veer sharply right in the closing stages, causing some interference, but his victory 24 days later in Europe’s premier contest, The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe, can best be described as, not just clear cut, but masterful. Badly drawn in stall 14, Dettori gave the horse a textbook ride, taking a wide path down the outside, and then patiently working his way across to track the leader. He took it up at the 2 furlong marker, and stayed on strongly to win by 2 Lengths from the Andre Fabre trained, Flintshire.
His final race was in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland on October 31st where his victim in the Irish Champion Stakes, Found, turned the tables, proving a half length too strong, and he was retired to stud.
At stud, it is still early days, but some of his first crop, racing as 3yo’s in 2019 have been promising, and his second crop includes the Andre Fabre trained Botanik who was just touched off in the Group1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud.
Golden Miller: One of the giants of the Winter game, Golden Miller was bred by Laurence Geraghty, grandfather of the outstanding Irish jockey Barry Geraghty, and was foaled at his property in Pelletstown, Drumree, Co Meath on April 30th 1927. He was by an unraced grandson of Gallinule, Goldminer. Gallinule had been champion sire towards the end of the 19th century on two occasions, and Goldminer had sired the winner of 2 Irish Grand Nationals, so at the modest stud fee of 5 Guineas, certainly wasn’t overpriced. His dam, Millers Pride, a retired hunter, was by Wavelets Pride, a winner over hurdles, and a top National Hunt sire, who was from the same family as Barcaldine, an animal described by the great 19th Century jockey Fred Archer, “as one of the best he had ridden”. Consigned to the sales in nearby Dublin, I don’t suppose that Barry’s grandfather was terribly impressed when his decently bred yearling was knocked down to a Mr P. Quinn for only 100 Guineas, and even less so in the light of the son of Goldminers future achievements. The young horse passed through three further pairs of hands, a Mr Nat Galway-Greer, the trainer Basil Briscoe, and Philip Carr, before finally in 1931, ending up in the ownership of the eccentric heiress, Dorothy Paget (1905-1960).
Trained by Basil Briscoe, Golden Miller won the first of his 5 Cheltenham Gold Cups, (a record hard to imagine ever being equalled) as a 5-year-old In 1932, becoming the third of that age group to win the Cup in its first 8 runnings, (Red Splash 1924, Thrown In 1928) and intriguingly, in the 82 renewals since, no 5-year-old has managed to repeat the feat. In that 1932 contest, Golden Miller, ridden by Ted Leader, and trained by Basil Briscoe, started at the generous odds of 13/2, and won comfortably by 4 Lengths from the 8/1 chance, Inverse, with the third home, Aruntius, a distance behind. Ridden by Billy Stott the following year, and starting at the rather more cramped odds of 4/7, he won very easily, coming home 10 Lengths clear of Thomond with Delaneige 5 Lengths back in 3rd place. Another facile win, this time under Gerry Wilson, followed in 1934, but life got a little more difficult in 1935. In a race described as one of the most exciting of all time, Golden Miller and Thomond 11 fought a sustained duel all the way to the line, with Golden Miller under Gerry Wilson prevailing by 3/4 Length. Normal service was resumed in 1936, but under the guidance of a new handler, Welshman, Owen Anthony, (trained 2 other Gold Cup winners, Thrown In, 1927 and Roman Hackle, 1940) and ridden by fellow Countryman, Evan Williams. He strolled home by 12 Lengths and 2 Lengths from Royal Mail and Kellsboro Jack. Who knows what might have happened the following year had bad weather not forced the cancellation of the 1937 meeting, but he was still good enough to finish 2nd to Morse Code in the 1938 renewal at the age of eleven.
At the peak of his powers in 1934, he became, and remains the only horse to have won both the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and the Grand National in the same year. Ridden by Gerry Wilson, and starting at 8/1 he won from Delaneige and Thomond 11 in a time of 9mins 20.4secs, breaking the 72-years-old record of The Huntsman. His record stood for 39 years until beaten by the immortal Red Rum in 1973. However, Liverpool, unlike Cheltenham, wasn’t really the great horses’ cup of tea, and his other 4 attempts at the Grand National ended in failure, unseating in the 1933 and 1935 renewals, and refusing in 1936 and 1937. He continued racing until he was 12, retiring in 1939 and happily enjoyed a long retirement, departing for pastures new in 1957.
Grundy: Foaled in 1972, he was bred at the Overbury Stud near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. His sire was the miler, Great Nephew, who largely thanks to Grundy was to become Champion Sire in 1975, and due to the efforts of another of his outstanding offspring, Shergar, was again awarded the title in 1981. Grundy’s dam, Word From Lundy, stayed two miles but was from a family that had produced the top class sprinter Tower Walk, so one presumes her stamina derived from her sire, the very tough and consistent French bred, Worden 11, winner of the Premio Roma in Course record time in 1952. He was also placed in the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe in 1952, finished in the money twice in the King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and won the Washington International In 1953 by 6 Lengths. His grandson, a flaxen chestnut yearling, was submitted to Newmarket’s October Sales in 1973 and was purchased on behalf of the Italian Banker and stud proprietor Carlo Vittadini, (owned a stud farm in Italy, and bought the historic Beech House Stud in Newmarket, now the property of Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s racing enterprise, Shadwell) for 11,000 Guineas, and was sent to be trained by the upwardly mobile Peter Walwyn, who had trained his first Classic winner, Humble Duty (1000 Guineas) two years previously.
Based at his Seven Barrows yard in Lambourn, Peter entered Grundy along with No Alimony for the 6 furlongs Granville Stakes at Ascot in July 1974, which the chestnut colt under Pat Eddery, (rode him in all his races) won comfortably from his stable mate. He followed up in Kempton’s 6 furlongs Group 3 Sirenia Stakes the following month, and then took the step up in class and trip in his stride to win Doncaster’s Group2, 7 furlongs Champagne Stakes by 1/2 Length from the Coventry Stakes winner, Whip It Quick. He rounded off his juvenile campaign in great style, winning the Dewhurst Stakes by
6 Lengths from the Gimcrack and Middlepark winner, Steele Pulse, and went into Winter quarters voted British Champion two-year-old colt.
Having suffered quite a serious setback, (kicked in the head) he could only finish 2nd in Newbury’s Greenham Stakes on his 3yo debut in April 1975, and was then beaten 1/2 Length by the 33/1 outsider Bolkonski, (Henry Cecils’ first British Classic victory, and ridden by Frankie Dettori’s dad, Gianfranco) in the 2000 Guineas. A facile victory in the Irish 2000 Guineas followed, easily beating the French challenger, Monsanto.
With stamina concerns about his ability to see out the Derby trip as the son of a miler, he was only second choice in the market at 5/1 behind the French trained Green Desert at Epsom, but the anxiety was unfounded, and Grundy cruised home, winning by 3 Lengths from the filly, Nobiliary. Another comfortable victory in the Irish Derby followed 3 weeks later, where he won by a very easy 2 Lengths from King Pellinore, a victory which set up the perfect scenario for a clash between the top three-year-old of 1975 with the older generations in the King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.
Taking on a field that included probably the best filly of the second half of the 20th Century, Dahlia, winner of the last two renewals of the Ascot feature, the exceptional winner of the Irish Oaks, Dibidale, the Eclipse and future Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe winner, Star Appeal, and the previous years St Leger hero, Bustino, assisted by his two pacemakers, Highest and Kinglet, was always going to prove a huge ask for the son of Great Nephew. And so it proved on that unforgettable day on July 26th 1975!
The two pacemakers set a blistering pace from the start, and four furlongs out, their job well done, their stablemate, the stamina laden Bustino takes up the running. Turning in to Ascot’s relatively short straight, lady Beaverbrooks’ 4-year-old under Joe Mercers’ driving has gone 4 Lengths clear. Eddery meanwhile mounts a sustained challenge on Grundy, and relentlessly reduces the deficit, until he gets his head in front inside the final furlong. 99 times out of 100 it’s game over, but Mercer galvanises Bustino for a renewed effort and regains the lead, but then, 50 yards from the finish, running on empty, has to surrender to the final, do or die challenge from Eddery and Grundy, who win by 1/2 Length, breaking the course record by 2 1/2 seconds. It was a fantastic duel between two Brave horses and two top riders, but Grundy was never the same horse again, and was retired after a dismal performance in the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup 3 weeks later.
Hard Ridden: Lady Lambart, mother of Sir Oliver Francis Lambart, purchased the very stoutly bred ex French brood mare, Toute Belle 11 for 460 Guineas. She had failed to ever win on the track, and at stud had only bred the winner of one very minor heat, but her dam, the well bred Chatelaine, was a half sister to the very talented, out and out stayer, Vatelys, winner of the Grande Course de Haies (French Champion Hurdle 1946) and the Prix Gladiateur. (Frances’ oldest race, now run over 2 Miles, but when Vately won in 1950, it was nearly twice as long, at 3 miles 7 furlongs) Sir Oliver opted to sell the mare on, and sent her to the Newmarket Sales in 1953. Failing to attract a bid, the disappointed Baronet had her covered at Newmarket by the July Cup winner and top Sprinter, Hard Sauce. (never won beyond 6 furlongs) Safely in foal, Toute Belle 11 returned to the Lambart family home, Beau Parc, just outside Navan in Co Meath, Ireland where in 1955, her offspring was born. The lengthy bay clot was consigned to the Ballsbridge Sales in 1956 and he was knocked down to the owner of his sire, Sir Victor Sassoon, for a modest 270 Guineas, and was sent to be trained by J.M. Rogers, (Mick) the upwardly mobile young handler, representing the 3rd generation of the Rogers clan, to train on the Curragh, the headquarters of Irish racing.
Named Hard Ridden, he was given plenty of time by his talented young trainer, finishing a promising second on his sole juvenile appearance in 1957 but not so promising when occupying the same position, in receipt of 8lbs from an animal called Tharp, on his three-year-old debut at the Curragh in 1958. However the son of Hard Sauce put that form far behind him in his next race, the Irish 2000 Guineas, winning the Classic impressively by 4 Lengths from the future Irish Derby winner Sindon, with Paddy’s Point back in third. Despite the fact that he was to be ridden by one of the finest jockeys of the era, Charlie Smirke, seeking a fourth victory in the World’s No1 Classic, few believed that the son of a 6 furlong sprinter could win the 1 1/2 mile Derby and he started at odds of 18/1. Well the 50 year-old Charlie Smirke wasn’t one of the doubters and when a gap appeared on the inside early in the straight he drove his mount through and the pair flew home for an easy 5 Lengths victory over Paddy’s Point with the future Coronation Cup winner Nagami back in 3rd place. It was the first win for an Irish trained horse since Orby in 1907 and Mick Rogers (33) became one of the youngest handlers ever to win the great race. (He won again with Santa Claus in 1964) For whatever reason, Hard Ridden failed to show his form in his next race, the King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July finishing unplaced behind Ballymoss, and was retired to stud.
He had some success at stud in Ireland, siring two top level performers, Giolla Mear, (Irish St Leger) and Hardicanute, who Paddy Prendergast trained to win the Champagne Stakes, The Timeform Gold Cup, and the Ballymoss Stakes. He was exported to Japan in 1967 and died at the age of 26 in 1981.
Hardy Eustace: Bred by Patrick Joyce, and foaled on April 5th 1997, Hardy Eustace was sold as a 4yo gelding for Ir£21,000 to Mr Laurence Byrne who sent him to be trained by the outstanding horseman Dessie Hughes. (As a jockey Dessie rode the 1977 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Davy Lad, and the super game Monksfield, to win that unforgettable duel with the great Sea Pigeon for the 1979 Champion Hurdle) The Bay gelding was by Archway, a sprinter who never won beyond 6 furlongs, but whose progeny got further, perhaps not surprisingly, as through his dam, Rose Of Jericho, he was a half brother to the Derby winner Dr Devious. His dam, Sterna Star, was by the ex French stallion Corvaro, a Group2 winner in his native country who stayed 1 1/2 miles well, and her mother, Star Girl, was from the same family as the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe winner, Star Appeal. So, at least on paper, Laurence Byrnes’ recent purchase was likely to have the requisite stamina to make the grade as a hurdler, but Mr Byrne can’t have imagined in his wildest dreams, that over the following 8 years, his bay son of Archway, was to carry his colours to 14 victories, including two consecutive Champion Hurdles, and net him over one million pounds in prize money.
Hardy Eustace contested 3 NHF races, winning the second of them at Fairyhouse by 2 Lengths from his stable companion, the future top chaser, Central House, on April 2nd 2002. He made his hurdling debut the following November in a Punchestown Maiden where he hosed up by 8 Lengths, but failing a post race test for a banned substance was disqualified. He made spectacular amends a month later, winning the Grade1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse, and followed up with another comfortable win at Leopardstown on December 28th 2002.
Beaten 2 Lengths by James Bowes’ talented mare Solerina, in the Grade1, Delottie and Touche Hurdle at the same venue in early February, he started at 6/1, 3rd market choice, for the Royal & Sun Alliance Novices Hurdle (2m5f) at the Cheltenham Festival on March 12th 2003. Ridden by K.A. Kelly, he was outpaced with 4 hurdles to jump, but ran on with his hallmark tenaciousness, took the lead after the 2nd last, and driven out won by 1 1/2 Lengths from the subsequently disqualified, Coolnagorna.
His 2003/04 campaign started on a winning note on the flat in a 2 mile Navan Maiden in October, but failing to catch the judges eye in his next 4 outings, lined up at Prestbury Park on March 16th as an unconsidered 33/1 chance for the 2004 Champion Hurdle. Taking the initiative from Flag fall, his jockey Conor O’Dwyer set out to make all, and despite being joined at the last, Hardy Eustace kicked clear, for a very comfortable 5 Lengths victory over the previous years winner, Rooster Booster, and 45 days later beat the same rival in Punchestown’s Champion Hurdle.
Taking a 226 day break he reappeared on December 12th 2004 at Navan finishing 2nd, and followed with a disappointing 3rd at Leopardstown 16 days later. An improved effort in the AIG European Champion Hurdle 25 days later was to follow. Again at the south Dublin track he was only beaten a Short Head and a Neck by Macs Joy and Brave Inca, and 31 days prior to the defence of his Champion Hurdle Crown, he contested the Grade2 Red Mills Hurdle at Gowran Park which he won very easily by 25 Lengths from L’Antartique at odds of 1/6.
At Cheltenham, starting the 7/2JF, Conor O’Dyer again set out to make all, and the tactics looked likely to succeed until the duo were joined after the last by the Paul Carberry ridden Harchibald, looking to hold a double handful. However Carberry’s mount found very little and under maximum pressure, Hardy Eustace held on to win by a neck.
1/5 was the poor return from his 2005/6 campaign, and finishing 3rd he lost his Champion Hurdle Crown to Brave Inca, but the 2006/07 season took a turn for the better, winning the Ascot Hurdle before Christmas, and 50 days later winning the Leopardstown Champion Hurdle, beating Brave Inca by 3 Lengths. However a well beaten 4th behind Sublimity in the Champion Hurdle was the best he could manage, and ended the campaign finishing a tame 3rd in Punchestown’s Champion Hurdle.
He got back on the winning trail, landing the Ascot Hurdle for a second time at the age of 10 on November 24th 2007, and continued to run well, finishing 2nd in his next three races, all Grade1 events. However the season ended on a disappointing note, finishing 12/17 in the Stayers Hurdle, 65 Lengths behind the winner, Inglis Drever.
Two hundred and forty eight days later and just just 35 days shy of his 12th birthday, most would have concluded that winning a top level event must be beyond him, but the marvellous animal confounded the doubters by winning the Grade1 Maplewood Developments Hurdle at Punchestown by 2 1/2 Lengths from Sizing Europe.
It was to be Hardy Eustace’s last victory, although he did run another 8 times, and finished 9/23 at odds of 100/1 in the 2009 Champion Hurdle at the age of 12. He ran his last race on the eve of his 13th birthday at Punchestown on December 31st and finished an honourable 2nd bringing the curtain down on a wonderful career.
Hatton’s Grace: Part of the myth that surrounds the amazing Hatton’s Grace who was the first Hurdler to win 3 consecutive Champion Hurdles, the last one at the age of 11, is that he arrived at Vincent O’Brien’s Churchtown yard as an inexperienced low grade 8yo whom the great man transformed into the Champion that he became. In fact when he came to Vincent from fellow trainer Barney Nugent, he was already a veteran of 23 races, 5 of which he won and was rated very close to the top of the Irish Hurdles Handicap. What in fact Vincent’s genius achieved was to find another 2 stones of improvement, both over hurdles and on the flat, in the small but strongly built gelding, who had changed hands as a yearling in 1941, a son of the stallion His Grace, in the Sales ring at Goffs in Ballsbridge for the paltry sum of 18 Guineas.
Nearly 6 months after arriving at Churchtown in 1948, Hatton’s Grace made his debut for his new yard in a Naas Handicap finishing unplaced under Aubrey Brabazon in the colours of Mrs Harry Keogh, but the same combination made no mistake at the same venue early in 1949, and following this first success the duo headed for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. Starting at 100/7 with Aubrey in the plate, and carrying plenty of Churchtown cash, he won by 6 Lengths from Vatelys, (winner of the French Champion Hurdle in 1946) with Captain Fox a further length back in third. Hard as it is to imagine that few if any trainer would consider that reverting to a top mile Handicap on the flat was the logical next race for a horse who had just won a Champion Hurdle, but that was the genius of Vincent O’Brien, and the month following his Cheltenham triumph Hatton’s Grace won the Irish Lincolnshire under Morny Wing carrying 9 Stone.
The “pocket battleship” failed to catch the judges eye in either of his first two races of the 1949/50 campaign, both on the flat, but hit the bullseye next time with a resounding victory over 2 miles in the Irish Cesarewitch under Martin Moloney (6 times Irish NH Champion jockey). Two Handicap Hurdle victories, both at Leopardstown followed, before heading to Prestbury Park to defend his Champion Hurdle Crown. There was no 14/1 available about the O’Brien runner this time, and he started the well backed 5/2 favourite. In a thrilling contest, there were 4 or 5 still in contention coming to the last, but under a great ride from Aubrey, Hatton’s Grace finished the strongest, and won by 1 1/2 Lengths from Harlech. Showing no ill effects from Cheltenham, the 10-year-old finished second in the Rank Hurdle at Phoenix Park a month later, and ended the season winning a mile and a half flat race at the Curragh on April 19th.
His 1950/51 season followed much the same pattern as the previous year, twice unplaced but then victorious in the Irish Cesarewitch for a second time, except this year he carried the welter burden for a flat race of 10 Stone, a feat which in the opinion of Martin Moloney, marked him out as a truly great horse. Two hurdles victories then preceded his attempt to win the 1951 Champion Hurdle at the age of 11, and become the first horse to land 3 Champion Hurdles.
With Aubrey Brabazon claimed to ride the 11/4 favourite Average, Tim Moloney, (5 times British Champion jockey and destined to win the Champion Hurdle 3 more times on Sir Ken) came in for the ride, and the duo came home 5 Lengths and 1/2 Length clear of the two French challengers, Pyrrhus 111 and Prince Hindou for a historic victory.
The great horse won the Shankhill Hurdle at Leopardstown just before his 12th birthday but finishing unplaced in both the 1952 Champion Hurdle and Imperial Cup, he embarked on a brief chasing career, bowing out on a winning note in the Dundrum Chase at Leopardstown on January 24th 1953 at the age of 13. He retired to a contented retirement at Vincent’s new base at Ballydoyle, near the historic town of Cashel in Co Tipperary.
Homeward Bound: When the Bristol businessman, and first class cricketer, Sir Foster Gotch Robinson, (captained Gloucestershire 1919-1923) purchased the filly Sabie River as a yearling for 620 Guineas in 1950, he got a rare bargain. She not only won 4 times for Foster, but became a highly successful broodmare at his Wicken Park Stud near Wolverton in Buckinghamshire. Amongst her winning offspring were Morsgail, a winner of 4 races, Chalk Stream a winner six times, including victory in Kempton’s prestigious Jubilee Handicap, and finally, 2 years before her premature death in 1963, she produced Homeward Bound, who was destined to win the Princess Elizabeth Stakes, (Run as an Oaks trial at Epsom over a mile in April and now discontinued) the Oaks, and the Yorkshire Oaks for her cricket loving owner.
By the stayer, Alycidon, (winner of the 3 major staying heats of 1949, the Ascot Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup, and Doncaster Cup, and leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland in 1955), Homeward Bound was born at Wicken Park in 1961, and sent to be trained by the ‘Old Etonian, John Oxley, at Hurworth House Stables in Newmarket. Very backward as a two-year-old, Oxley gave the light framed chestnut, plenty of time, and she didn’t appear on a racecourse until October 1963. (Coincidentally, both her parents, Alycidon and Sabie river, both died in 1963 before their daughter raced) Finishing unplaced in Newmarket’s Alington Stakes wasn’t the most promising of debuts, and she was put away until the Spring.
Taking giant strides forward over the winter, she reappeared in Epsom’s Oaks trial, the Princess Elizabeth Stakes over a mile in April 1964, and showing plenty of pace over a trip short of her best, left her Newmarket form far behind, winning easily from Feather Bed and Rose Rock. On to Epsom on June 5th for the 186th renewal of the fillies Classic where despite her comfortable success in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes she started at the generous price of 100/7 (14/1). Ridden by the enigmatic Greville Starkey (won the Oaks for a second time on the Michael Stoute trained Fair Salinia in 1978) she belied her odds and won by a comfortable 2 Lengths and a neck from Windmill Girl, winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot later that month, and La Bamba, who reverting to a mile won longchamp’s Prix Jacques Le Marois the following August.
The lightly built filly was given a 2 1/2 months break following the Oaks which paid a handsome dividend when she won the Yorkshire Oaks, again with Greville doing the steering. She didn’t stand a lot of racing and when unplaced in the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp in September Oxley put her away for the season.
She was kept in training as a four-year-old but never again reached the dizzy heights of the previous season. Nevertheless, despite never troubling the judge in 1965 she did run some decent races, finishing 3rd behind Oncidium and Soderini in the Coronation Cup and following a long break ran another excellent race to finish second to Prince Hansel in the Doncaster Cup over 2 1/4 miles.
Following Sir Fosters death in 1967 Homeward Bound was sold to the United States where she had some success as a broodmare. One of her daughters, Prime Abord won 3 good races in France and produced the top French two-year-old Super Concorde who became a moderately successful stallion at Nelson Bunker Hunts Gainsway Farm in Kentucky.
Huntercombe: Bred by Mr Horace Renshaw, Huntercombe was foaled in 1967 and was sent to be trained by Arthur Budgett, one of only two people to have bred, owned, and trained, 2 Derby winners, Blakeney (1969) and his half brother Morston (1973). For those of you who are interested in such ephemera, the previous successful breeder, owner, trainer, was a chap called William L’Anson who was successful with Blink Bonny (1857) and Blair Atholl (1864).
Huntercombe was a good looking, well built colt of 16 hands, and like his sire, the successful stallion Derring Do, (also trained by Arthur) a bay. His dam Erigna was a daughter of the hugely successful sire, Fair Trial, and Erigna’s mothers lineage, extended through her ancestor, the broodmare, Overture, back to the famous Irish bred, Pretty Polly, (foaled in 1901, won 20 of her 22 starts, and was runner up in the other two) Matriarch of the most successful female family in thoroughbred racing history. So when arriving at Mr Budgets’ base on the Whatcombe estate in Berkshire in 1968, with his impressive pedigree and looks to match, hopes that the colt might prove exceptional must have been high, and as the son of Derring Do’s career unfolded, such optimism was to prove well founded.
An exceptionally speedy two-year-old, he won the six furlongs July Stakes at Newmarket on his racecourse debut in July 1969, but then fell victim to the dreaded equine flu,
(Cough) and was beaten the following month by the top class, Yellow God, in York’s two-year-old centrepiece, the Gimcrack Stakes. He gained his revenge in the Middle Park Stakes at headquarters in October in a very exciting heat, prevailing by a Short Head over his York conqueror, with the talented Divine Gift a close third, and then rounded off the season by winning Ascot’s five furlongs Cornwallis Stakes.
At three Huntercombe proved an exceptional sprinter, winning two of the most important Sprints in the British calendar, the six furlongs July Cup at Newmarket, and the five furlongs Nunthorpe Stakes at York, ridden both times by the young Scot, Sandy Barclay. The good looking bay also finished second to the Gallic challenger, Amber Rama, trained by Francois Mathet and ridden by the French ace, Yves San-Martin, in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. His career ended very positively, finishing a close second to the year older, Balidar, in the Prix de L’Abbaye at Longchamp, before exiting the stage on a winning note in the Prix de Seine-et-Oise, at Maisons-Laffite in October 1970, and he retired to a career at stud in Ireland which proved both long and successful.
Hurricane Fly: The filly Scandisk, (1995) a daughter of Kenmare, only ran 5 times, winning a decent San Siro Maiden on her juvenile debut in 1997, but was subsequently disappointing, so her owner/breeder, the Italian agricultural operation, Agricola Del Parco, retired her to the paddocks in Ireland. Her first foal, Heir To The Throne (2001) by Desert Prince was useless, and her second, Thunderwing (2003) by Indian Danehill wasn’t much better, achieving a lowly rating of 52 on the flat and 91 over hurdles so I don’t expect anyone was getting too excited when her third foal, a small bay colt by Montjeu was born on April 5th 2004. Well granted the gift of divination, connections most certainly would have been, because Scandisk’s third foal was destined to become the World Record Holder for the most Top Level successes (22) achieved by a racehorse anywhere on the planet, a record only surpassed by the great Australian mare, Winx in 2018. Sent to Goffs Orby sales in 2005, the yearling son of Montjeu was purchased on behalf of Raoul Teman and Hans-Peter Breitenstein for €65,000 and sent to France to be trained by Jean-Louis Pelletan to pursue a career on the flat.
Hurricane Fly failed to win in his 4 runs as a Juvenile, but things took a turn for the better on his three-year-old debut in early March 2007, winning a small race in the French provinces, before taking a serious step forward 19 days later, beating the future Champion Stakes winner, Literato by 2 Lengths, in a Saint-Cloud Listed race. This however was the acme of his flat racing efforts, and following 4 failed attempts at Group Level he was sold to George Creighton late in 2007 acting on behalf of himself and Mrs Rose Boyd. The new owners moved the small bay colt to the County Carlow yard of Willie Mullins, Closutton, to pursue a career over hurdles.
He made an impressive debut over timber on May 7th 2008 for “Maestro Mullins”, winning a Punchestown Maiden without coming off the bridle, but had to work a little harder 18 days later to land a valuable Grade3 heat at Auteuil from the French filly Grivette, who reversed the form the following month at the Paris track on 5lbs better terms. In the Grade1 heat, the Prix Alain du Breil, she beat Hurricane Fly by 2 Lengths, and had the Closutton second string, Quevega a further 2 Lengths back in third. However, put away until the Autumn, the small bay son of Montjeu continued to progress under the Closutton training regime, and he made a winning reappearance in Fairyhouse’s Grade1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at the end of November 2008. Probably helped by a gelding operation at the end of 2008 he continued to improve at a serious rate of knots and over the following two years won a very impressive 6 of his next 7 races, all competitive Grade1 heats. In the early Spring of 2011, having carried all before him in Ireland, he headed across the Irish Sea to Prestbury Park, to make his belated Festival debut at the age of seven, with the Champion Hurdle firmly in his sights.
Starting the 11/4 favourite, the master tactician Ruby Walsh, gave him a textbook ride, putting him into the race after the penultimate hurdle, taking it up after the last, and under strong driving kept on to hold the persistent challenge of Peddlers Cross by 1 1/4 Lengths. He finished off his five race unbeaten 2010/11 campaign 52 days later with an easy win in Punchestown’s Champion Hurdle on May 6th and wasn’t seen again until making a winning reappearance in the Irish Champion Hurdle on January 29th 2012. 43 days later, he never really looked like retaining his Champion Hurdle Crown, finishing 3rd behind Rock On Ruby and Overturn, but finished the season on a very positive note winning Punchestowns Champion Hurdle for a third time.
Having won all his first 3 starts of the 2012/13 campaign he was made the 13/8 favourite to regain his Champions Crown at Cheltenham on March 12th, and duly did, but in a more workmanlike than brilliant fashion. (both Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins felt that Hurricane Fly was never really happy on the Prestbury Park undulations, and reserved his best for elsewhere).
Having won the Punchestown Champion Hurdle for a fourth time, he commenced the 2013/14 season in similar fashion to the previous year, winning the same three Grade1 races, but when it came to Cheltenham in March he could only finish 4th behind Jezki in the Champion Hurdle, and was beaten by the same animal in Punchestown’s Champion Hurdle 52 days later. Age was obviously catching up with the marvellous Hurdler but it didn’t prevent him winning three more top level events including the Irish Champion Hurdle at the age of 11 in January 2015.
Finishing well beaten in the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil on June 7th 2015 the great horse was retired having won 22 Grade1 events and in his hurdling career amassed a cool £1,861,015 for his lucky owners.
Hurry Harriet: The great Irish trainer Paddy Mullins will forever be remembered as the man who oversaw the career of the immortal mare, Dawn Run, the only horse ever to win both the Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but it is easy to overlook the great mans achievements on the Flat, the greatest of which was winning the 1973 Champion Stakes at Newmarket with the filly Hurry Harriet. How the filly came to be born in the first place, is a story in itself. Her owner, Dr Malcolm Thorpe, based in Canada but hailing from the same neck of the woods in Co Kilkenny as the Mullins family, wishing to get into racing in the late 1950’s asked the Goresbridge handler to buy a yearling filly with possible future broodmare potential. The filly Paddy bought for the Canada based practitioner, Lavandou Mink, was no great shakes on the racecourse but bred a winner, and another of her progeny, a broodmare, was killed in a stable fire, so Doctor Thorp asked Paddy to buy a replacement with the insurance payout. Having a particular liking for the progeny of the 1947 Coronation Cup winner Chanteur 11, (Champion Sire In Great Britain and Ireland in 1953) Paddy purchased one of his daughters, the broodmare, Somnambula, and had her covered by the oddly named American sire Yrrah Jr, who stood in Ireland for only 2 seasons, at a fee of 98 Guineas, before returning to the land of his birth. Yrrah Jr had only won two small races in America, but was regally bred, by the great Italian dual Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe hero Ribot, out of a winner of the Italian Oaks, Ola. The outcome of the mating was Hurry Harriet, a bay filly born in 1970, who was to remain at Paddy’s yard, Doninga house, near Goresbridge Co Kilkenny for the next 5 years.
She made her juvenile debut under the 9 times Irish Champion jockey Johnny Roe at Gowran Park In 1972, and while not winning, showed Johnny plenty, and next time out some serious bets were landed, many at odds as long as 33/1. She went on to contest the Irish Stakes, the sole heat in Ireland where juveniles take on their elders, and won comfortably, earning a slot towards the top of the Free Handicap.
Although the daughter of Yrrah Jr. (harrY spelt backwards) could be brilliant on her day, as when winning the Champion Stakes, she did tend to be inconsistent, and in her 1973 campaign only won two of her 12 starts. The first of her 2 victories came in the Group2 Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh, before finishing a respectable 3rd in the Irish Oaks, 3Lengths and 4 Lengths behind the brilliant Dahlia, and the top class, Mysterious, winner of the 1000 Guineas and the Epsom Oaks. Hurry Harriet also put in another vey solid performance to finish second, to probably the best French filly to race in the 20th Century, Allez France, in Longchamp’s Prix Vermeille, before tackling the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe. She could only finish 19th of the 28 runners under the young American jockey, Angel Cordero, behind the Lester Pigott ridden Rheingold but there were excuses. On the way to post she ran away with her young American rider and had to be resaddled, but a more serious handicap, was her poor draw in stall 27, one from the outside on bad ground. With the lower drawn horses racing on fresh turf the best option would have been for Cordero to drop back and take a position nearer the rails but with no experience of the Longchamp track he continued to race wide and the rest is history.
However nothing ventured is nothing gained, so undaunted, connections headed for Newmarket, and the Champion Stakes a few weeks later. First run in 1877 the 1973 renewal featured a particularly stellar cast that included Allez France, second to Rheingold three weeks earlier, the Derby winner Morston, the 1000 Guineas and Oaks winner Mysterious, the Eclipse winner Scottish Rifle and the Irish 2000 Guineas winner Sharp Edge, so it isn’t that surprising that the cheaply bred filly from Goresbridge was considered something of a no hoper, and was freely available at odds of 33/1. Well no one told Hurry Harriet that she had no chance and under a great ride from the French-American jockey Jean Cruguet, (was to partner Seattle Slew to his American triple crown triumph in 1975) swept past Allez France to win impressively by 3/4 Length with the 3rd horse Sharp Edge a further 5 Lengths behind. An abortive trip to America for the Washington International followed when her saddle slipped early in the race giving Cruguet no chance, and she retired for the season.
She was plagued by tendon trouble for the rest of her career but did win her only race in 1974, the Trigo Stakes at the Curragh under Walter Swinburn and won the Ballymoss Stakes at the same venue in 1975. Happily she retired to the paddocks on a winning note at the Phoenix Park on October 13th 1975 taking the Whitehall Stakes under the well known National Hunt troubadour, Tommy Carberry.
Hurry On: For a man who trained 19 English Classic winners that included such greats as Tudor Minstrel, Sun Chariot and Owen Tudor to describe one of his charges as “the best I have ever trained or am ever likely to train” is high praise indeed, but such was the opinion of one of the greatest trainers of all time, Fred Darling (1884-1953) when describing the huge son of Marcovil, Hurry On, who stood 17 hands tall, and was built like the proverbial tank. He couldn’t be described as having a lineage out of the top drawer, as the best his dad had achieved on the racecourse was winning the Cambridgeshire with the featherweight of 7-11 on his back, and his mother, Toute Suite, a diminutive daughter of Sainfoin, (winner of a substandard Derby in 1890 who ended his career as a five-year-old being beaten in Handicaps) was too small to put into training. Sold to Mr James Buchanan, (who in a later incarnation as the 1st Baron Woolavington, we can be thankful to for developing that excellent blend of whisky sold in bottles with a label featuring a black Scottish terrier and a white West Highland terrier, popularly known as “Black and White Whisky) as a yearling for 500 Guineas, he was sent to be trained by Fred Darling, at the historic Beckhampton Stables in Wiltshire.
The huge, ungainly, and unfurnished chestnut, was too backward to train for a juvenile campaign, but over the winter of 1915/16 developed physically in all the right places, and by the Spring had matured into such an imposing individual, with the strength to match, that connections were expressing serious regret at not having made a Derby entry for the big son of Marcovil. (the 1916 war time Derby was run at Newmarket and was won by Fifenella, the 6th filly to win the Classic, and was ridden by Joe Child who regularly rode Hurry On in his homework) However, while the Derby may have been the Classic that got away, the imposing chestnut was to go unbeaten through a six race three-year-old campaign, which included impressive victories in the September Stakes, (the war time St Leger run at Newmarket) and the Jockey Club Cup, before being retired to stud, never having been seriously extended, either on the gallops, or on the racecourse.
At stud he was an outstanding success, siring three Derby winners, Captain Cuttle (1922) Coronach (1926) and Call Boy (1927). He also sired two winners of the Oaks, Pennycomequick (1929) Toboggan (1928) and two winners of the 1000 Guineas, Plack (1924) Cresta Run (1927). He was the leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland in 1926 and was the leading broodmare sire on three occasions 1938 1944 1945. At the age of 20 he sired Precipitation, a successful racehorse who also had a major influence on the breed, siring such top class animals as the Derby winner Airborne, the St Leger winner Chamossaire, the Oaks winner Why Hurry, and the Ascot Gold Cup winner, Sheshoon, sire of the future Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe winner, Sassafras.
Hyperion: Of all the twenty Classic winners, which included seven 1000 Guineas, Two 2000 Guineas, three Derby’s, two Oaks, and six St Legers, owned and bred by Edward George Villiers Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby, Hyperion, a small chestnut son of Gainsborough, foaled in 1930, was undoubtedly the public’s favourite. His mother, Selene, a daughter of Chaucer, was as tough as old boots, never finishing unplaced, in her 11 starts as a juvenile, winning seven of them, including the Chevely Park Stakes, and dead heating in the Houghton Stakes at Newmarket. She was just as consistent at three, winning 8 of her 11 races including the Park Hill Stakes over the St Leger Course at Doncaster. She was an even bigger success as a brood mare, producing ten individual winners of 30 races, amongst them the three colts Sickle, Hunters Moon and of course most importantly Hyperion, three stallions, through whom she had a huge influence on the future of the thoroughbred breed worldwide.
Just over 15 hands, Hyperion was so small and weak in his early days that some felt he would be impossible to train, and putting the little chestnut colt down was even contemplated. Fortunately such drastic action was forestalled, and growing stronger he developed into a small but beautifully formed racehorse with a near perfect action and a lovely temperament. Trained for his first two seasons by George Lambton, (trained 10 Classic winners for Lord Derby during his 11 year tenure at the Earl’s Stanley House Stables in Newmarket) Hyperion made his debut in the Zetland Maiden Plate at Doncaster, and having shown nothing in his home work, pleasantly surprised connections by finishing 4th in a big field of juveniles, (always a lazy individual on the gallops it was only when he came to the racecourse that the little son of Gainsborough sparked into life) and connections were even happier the following month when he came home 3 Lengths clear of a 21 runner field in the New Stakes at Royal Ascot. He followed up in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes over 6 furlongs at Goodwood, but reverting to 5 furlongs in Newmarket’s Boscawen Stakes, found the trip too sharp, was badly outpaced, and finished third. However stepped up to 7 furlongs for the prestigious Dewhurst Stakes, again at headquarters, he ended his juvenile campaign on a winning note.
His three-year-old career got off to an impressive winning start in the Chester Vase, although Thomas Weston (first jockey to the 17th Earl for 10 years between 1924 and 1934), had to administer a few sharp reminders soon after the start, to waken the bonny chestnut up. Always hugely popular with the racing public he was far and away the most popular selection on Derby Day, and starting the very well backed 6/1 favourite, won easily by 4 Lengths and a Length from King Salmon and Statesman, inflicting some serious financial pain on the bookmaking fraternity. Hyperion continued unbeaten in the final two races of his three-year-old campaign, the 13 furlongs Prince of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot, and the final Classic of 1933, the St Leger.
The 73 year old George Lambton, suffering from ill health retired at the end of 1933 and Colledge Leader took over the reins at Stanley House, but failing to appreciate what a lazy home worker Hyperion was, never gave the little chestnut sufficient work, and he missed out on his principal four-year-old target, the Ascot Gold Cup, finishing a well beaten 3rd. However he did win twice at four, the Marche Stakes and the Burrell Stakes, but was beaten in his final race, the Dullingham Stakes at Newmarket, by his solitary opponent Caithness.
At stud he was a phenomenal success, leading the sires list on six occasions, and producing 7 individual Classic winners. They were Godiva, (1000 Guineas and Oaks 1940) Sun Chariot, (1000 Guineas Oaks and St Leger 1942) Sun Stream (1000 Guineas and Oaks 1945) Hypericum, (1000 Guineas 1946) Owen Tudor, (the Derby 1941) Hycilla (the Oaks 1944) and Sun Castle (St Leger 1941).
Imperial Call: Of the 63 individual winners of Cheltenham’s Blue Riband in the 20th Century, not many are described in John Randall’s and Tony Morris’s excellent tome, (based on the Timeform rating system) “A Century Of Champions” as a ‘Superior Gold Cup winner’ and very few who witnessed his easy 4 Lengths victory over Rough House In 1996 would disagree with their conclusion.
Bred in County Wexford by Mr T.A. O’Donnell, he was by the good National Hunt sire, Callernish, out of the halfbred broodmare, Princess Menelek, (her great grandmother, Frien Gale was of unknown parentage) and was foaled on February 21st 1989. He was sold as a three-year-old gelding for 6,000 Guineas in 1992, and the following year the tall unfurnished brown gelding was sold on to Lisselan Farms Limited, and sent to be trained by the redoubtable amputee, Fergie Sutherland, (lost his left leg fighting the Communists in Korea) at Aghinagh House, in the tiny village of Killinardrish in County Cork.
You might well ask why a retired British officer, scion of a wealthy Scottish family, born in London, raised in Scotland, educated at Eaton and Sandhurst, learnt his trade, and practiced it at the headquarters of English racing, should spend the latter half of his career training in the tiny village of Killinardrish in deepest County Cork. Well Fergie’s mum, Ruth Myrtle Muriel Joan (Nee, Mc Kechnie) Sutherland, divorced his dad, and in 1951 married a fascinating character, the 23 years older, Lieutenant General Adrian Paul Ghislain Sir Carton De Wiart V.C. whose military career started in the 2nd Boer War In 1899, where he won his Victoria Cross, and ended nearly fifty years later in 1947 when he retired with the honorary rank of Lieutenant General. For whatever reason (the generals mother was Irish?his father was Belgian) the couple bought Aghinagh house in rural County Cork, where they lived in comfortable retirement. However four years after the generals demise in 1963, his widow to the alarm of her son, who loved the area for its hunting and steeplechasing connections, (despite his disability, the ever popular Fergie, loved to follow the hounds) considered selling Aghinagh, but responding to her sons wish to retain the property desisted, and over the following years he developed it into a small, but well appointed training establishment.
Imperial Call made an unsuccessful racecourse debut, finishing unplaced at Thurles on February 11th 1993, but over the following 13 months chalked up a healthy tally of four wins from six starts over the smaller obstacles, before tackling fences for the first time at Roscommon on October 10th 1994. Finishing 3rd behind Sound Man over the minimum distance, a chaser who went on to become one of the best two mile chasers in the business, was certainly a promising start. Over the following 16 months, racing over distances between 2 and 2 1/2 miles he won four of his eight starts, but stepped up to 3 miles for the first time in Leopardstown’s Grade1 Hennessy Gold Cup on February 11th 1996, we saw what the son of Callernish was really capable of. Ridden by Conor O’Dwyer for the first time, he jumped superbly from fence to fence, and despite a blunder at the last, quickly recovered and won by 6 Lengths from the previous years Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Master Oats. Ten years for the Irish is an awfully long time between drinks after a victory in Cheltenham’s Blue Riband, and hopes were high that the seven-year-old from County Cork would end the drought, and so he did, with a “Champion’s” performance, 31 days after his Leopardstown success. Again ridden by Conor O’Dwyer he put in a near faultless round, took it up four out, and galloped on strongly to win by 4 Lengths from Rough Quest. With decidedly dodgy legs Imperial Call was difficult to keep sound, but did run another 14 times, winning five races, two of them at the top level. When Fergie retired in 1998, 23-year-old Raymond Hurley took over the reins, and trained Imperial Call to win the Grade1 John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase by 1 1/2 Lengths from Danoli, in December 1998. Four months later at the age of ten Imperial Call won the Punchestown Gold Cup by 14 Lengths from the odds on Florida Pearl on April 28th 1999, earning a career high rating. It was to be his last visit to the winners enclosure however as he only ran once more, finishing last of four at Gowran Park in October 1999. He did join the yard of Augustine Leahy over two years later in December 2001 approaching his 13th birthday, but failed to ever make it back onto the racecourse.
Imperial Commander: Foaled on March 29th 2001, Imperial Commander was a bay gelding by the stallion Fleminsfirth, a son of the dual Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe winner Alleged, and a leading National Hunt Stallion. His mother, Ballinlovane, a daughter of Le Moss, winner of the Ascot Gold Cup in 1979 and 1980, never managed to win under rules, but was successful three times between the flags. Bred by Owen and Laurence Flynn, Imperial Commander comfortably won his sole Point-To-Point in April 2005, (Summerhill Co Down) and was subsequently bought on behalf of the rather amiable sounding syndicate, “Our Friends In The North” headed up by Mr Ian Robinson, and sent to be trained at Naunton in the heart of the Cotswolds by the talented Nigel Twiston-Davies.
He made a successful start under rules in a Cheltenham National Hunt Flat race, winning by 8 Lengths in October 2006, but it was only at the third attempt that he managed to break his duck over timber, in a modest Newcastle Novice’s Hurdle at the end of January 2007. It was to be his sole success in 5 outings over the smaller obstacles, but 10 months later, making an impressive winning debut over fences at Cheltenham on October 20th 2007, it was clear where his future lay. Making all in the Lady Angela Rooker Memorial Beginners Chase, he won easily by 16 Lengths. 27 days later he took the step up to Class2 level in his stride, winning the Steel Plate and Sections Novices Chase, again at Prestbury Park, even more comfortably. However his mini winning streak ended 28 days later when looking decidedly uncomfortable at his fences, he finished last of 4 runners, 39 Lengths behind the winner. (he had a hock weakness all his career) Nigel wisely retired him for the remainder of the campaign and he reappeared 337 days later fully fit and raring to go in the Paddy Power Gold Cup on November 15th 2008. With Irishman Paddy Brennan taking over in the plate, he led from the 8th fence, forged clear after two out, and staying on stoutly, won by 2 Lengths from the Queen’s, Barber Shop. Well beaten in the King George V1 Chase on Boxing Day, he got back on the winning trail in the Ryan Air Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on March 12th 2009, winning by 2Lengths from the odds on Voy Por Ustedes.
His 2009/10 campaign started in dramatic fashion at Haydock Park in the Bet Fair Chase on the 9th of November. Trailing 2 Lengths behind the legend that was Kauto Star with one to jump, he had to dig really deep, and in a sustained battle all the way up Haydocks long straight, forced the dual Gold Cup winner to pull out all the stops to hold on for an extremely hard fought victory by the minimum distance. Following such a hard race perhaps it wasn’t surprising that he was again well beaten in Kempton’s King George V1 Chase at Christmas (probably unsuited going right handed, well beaten all three starts) but following a beneficial 12 weeks break he arrived at his favourite track, (won six times at Cheltenham) on March 19th 2010 fit and ready for his date with destiny in the Gold Cup.
Many thought the race was to be the deciding contest between the two great champions, Kauto Star(2007, 2009) and Denman, (2008) who had monopolised Cheltenham’s Blue Riband for the previous three years, but Imperial Commander and his partner Paddy Brennan, took a different view, and leading over the last full of running, the duo strode clear for a majestic 7 Lengths victory over Denman. Imperial Commander’s final visit to the winners enclosure came in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November 2010, but in an interrupted career, increasingly beset by injury, he soldiered on for another three years, and ran his last race on November 13th 20013 in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, where he was pulled up before the fourth last. Retired to the Mount Top Stud in Co Antrim where he had spent plenty of time as a young horse, he sadly died of a heart attack at the relatively young age of just 16.
Imprudence: Only three fillies have won both the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, (French 1000 Guineas) and the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket in the post war era, and Imprudence, in 1947 was the first. (the other two were Miesque in 1987 and Ravinella in 1988) Foaled in 1944 she is unique amongst these three fillies for having added a third Classic, the Epsom Oaks to her CV.
By the stallion Canot, runner up to the Great Italian horse Nearco in one of the most competitive renewals ever of the Grand Prix de Paris in 1938, (the 4 Lengths winner of that year’s Derby, Bois Roussel could only finish 3rd) she was bred in France by Pierre Corbiere, and raced in his wife’s colours. Her dam, Indiscretion was a daughter of Hurry On, a sire described by his trainer, the great Fred Darling, late in his career, as ‘The best horse I have ever trained, the best I am likely to train’. Indiscretion became an influential broodmare whose descendants included the top class animals Definite Article and Rakti.
Trained in France by Joseph Lieux, Imprudence ran three time as a juvenile, winning twice but her second to Catalina in the top level Prix de la Salamandre, (dropped from the calendar in 2001) was easily her best performance. Following a pipe opener in the Spring of 1947, she demonstrated what a talented filly she had developed into over the Winter, by winning the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) at Longchamp from Montenica and Djana in April, following which connections optimistically headed for England in search of the elusive 1000 Guineas double.
So on May 2nd Imprudence lined up the 4/1 favourite in a twenty runner field, for the Newmarket Classic, and given a great ride by the outstanding Australian jockey, William Raphael “Rae” Johnstone, (son of a coal miner who moved from his native Australia to Europe in 1932 and won 13 British Classics, and the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe twice) won by a neck and a head, from Rose O’Lynn and Wild Child. 34 days later she returned to England to contest the 169th renewal of the Epsom Oaks, and with Rae Johnstone again doing the steering won easily by 5 Lengths and 2Lengths from the Princess Elizabeth Stakes winner Netherton Maid, (also runner up in the Coronation Stakes, Yorkshire Oaks, Park Hill Stakes and Princess Royal Stakes) and Mermaid. She only ran once more at three, in Deauvilles’ Prix Jacques Le Maroit finishing second to the Prix Lupin winner Djelal and was retired for the season.
As a four-year-old she was bought by the American Harry Frank Guggenheim (1890-1971), Businessman, Publisher, Aviator, Statesman, Philantropist and last but not least Owner/Breeder, in whose colours such outstanding horses as Dark Star (Kentucky Derby 1953) Bald Eagle (US champion older male horse 1960) and Ack Ack (American Horse of the year 1971) had raced. She ran five times in the colours of Guggenheim’s Cain Hoy Stables without winning, and was retired to the paddocks where she produced four individual winners. She is commemorated in her native France at the Maisons-Laffite racecourse, who stage the Group3 Prix Imprudence, a fillies Classic trial every April in her honour.
Insurance: In a deal unprecedented in the annals of National Hunt racing, Mr Phillip Carr, (father of the Nottinghamshire and England Cricketer, A.W. Carr, who with Douglas Jardine helped to develop the notorious Bodyline bowling tactic) sold two horses to Miss Dorothy Paget for the considerable sum of 12,000 Guineas. One of them, the great Golden Miller was destined to not only win the Cheltenham Gold Cup five times, but also become the only horse to ever add a Grand National (1934) in the same year to his CV. The second, Insurance, a gelding foaled in 1927, became the first animal to win two Champion Hurdles.
The eccentric Miss Paget (1905-1960) was the second daughter of Lord Queensborough, (an ancestor had led the cavalry at Waterloo) and Pauline Payne Whitney, a scion of the fabulously wealthy New York family, the Whitneys, probably the foremost racing and thoroughbred breeding clan in America. Benefiting from enormous legacies from both her mother and maternal grandfather, Dorothy launched herself enthusiastically into the bloodstock industry, purchasing the Ballymacoll Stud in County Meath and spending large sums at the sales. Despite her colours gracing the winners enclosure on an amazing 1532 occasions, including after the 1943 Derby when her colt Straight Deal won the wartime version run at Newmarket, it is fair to say that she garnered a pretty poor return for the huge sums she invested. Also a prolific gambler, we can draw our own conclusions from the fact that the bookmaking fraternity were happy to accept her bets even after races had been run.
Trained by the Old Etonian Basil Briscoe, and ridden by the future very successful flat trainer, Thomas Edward Leader, the five-year-old Insurance lined up as the 4/5 favourite for the fifth renewal of the Champion Hurdle on March 1st 1932, (inaugurated in 1927 the 1931 meeting was washed out) and justified his short price, winning by twelve Lengths from the 5/4 second favourite Song of Essex, with the 33/1 chance Jack Drummer, a distance away in third.
Thomas Leader having retired to start training on the flat, Billy Stott took over steering duties in the saddle for Insurance’s defence of his Champion Hurdle Crown in 1933, and the six-year-old, starting at odds of 10/11 had to work considerably harder than the previous year, winning by just 3/4 Length from Windermere Laddie, with Indian Salmon 8 Lengths back in third.
The reclusive Miss Paget (died at the young age of fifty five and rarely went racing in the last twenty years of her life), enjoyed further success in Cheltenham’s Hurdling Blue Riband, winning the heat twice more, with Salford in 1940, and with Distel in 1946, but that second victory of Insurance’s in 1933, completing a consecutive Gold Cup (Golden Miller) Champion Hurdle double, must surely have given this rather sad character, one of her best days on the turf.
Intermezzo: Gerry Oldham, a high flying banker/ businessman was a particularly successful owner breeder, (owned the Citadel Stud in County Kildare) and his colours were some of the commonest to be seen on British racecourses. Of all the top class horses who have performed in the old Etonians brown and white hoops with a white cap, the wonderful stayer Sagaro, the first horse to win three Ascot Gold Cups (1975, 1976, 1977) since it’s inception in 1807, has to be at the top of the list, but Gerry’s sole British Classic winner, Intermezzo, (Gerald also owned and bred 2 Irish Classic winners, Lucero who won the Irish 2000 Guineas, and Talgo who won the Irish Derby) can’t be far behind. (Sagaro’s great achievement was exceeded by Yeats when he won the Ascot Centrepiece 4 times, 2006-2009, and to date, John Gosden’s Stradivarius, 2018, 2019 and 2020 has rung up a three timer)
Foaled in 1966 Intermezzo was a bay horse by Hornbeam, an out and out stayer who also sired the amazing broodmare Windmill Girl, dam of the two Derby winners Blakeney and Morston. His dam Plaza, a daughter of another strong stayer, Persian Gulf, was bought by Mr Oldham as a foal from the Hadrian Stud for 2,400 Guineas, and enjoyed considerable success as a handicapper, winning the Exning Handicap at Newmarket and the Crazy Gang Handicap at Kempton before being retired to the paddocks.
Intermezzo was sent to be trained by Harry Wragg, the ex Jockey who had been terrifically successful as a rider, winning thirteen English Classics, and had earned the nick name,“The Head Waiter” for his great sense of pace and timing, which enabled him to produce so many winners at the last possible moment in a race. Harry also proved to be an exceptional trainer, (trained 5 English Classic winners including Psidium for the 1961 Derby) so when Gerry Oldham’s two-year-old son of Hornbeam, lined up at Newmarket in July 1968 for his first race, the Norfolk Stakes over 7 furlongs, Harry had him well primed, and he made an impressive winning debut. An even easier win in the Wills Goblet Stakes at Newcastle followed, and he was made favourite for that top level, end of season test for the more robustly bred animal, the Observer Gold Cup over a mile at Doncaster. He ran well but was beaten 1 1/2 Lengths by The Elk and retired for the winter.
He made an inauspicious start to his three-year-old career finishing a well beaten 4th in the Dante Stakes at York, and following a rough passage down the hill in the Derby, could only manage 8th at Epsom, but he was running on strongly in the closing stages raising hopes for better things to come in the St Leger. Following his rough passage in the Derby, Harry kept him on the easy list for the following 2 months and he reappeared in the St Leger trial, the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York in August. Ridden by the Australian Ron Hutchinson he won, but having got himself boxed in on the rails the Aussie had to break the rules to get out, and was disqualified.
What the steadily run Great Voltigeur did demonstrate however, was Intermezzo’s need for a strong pace to race behind, and Harry Wragg entered the pacemaker, Totalgo to ensure a strong pace in the final Classic. Well the pacemaker did his job to perfection and when Totalgo from the 2 furlongs marker started to back-pedal, Hutchinson, who had kept Intermezzo handy throughout, dashed his mount into a 4 Lengths lead, catching the wily Lester Pigott on the hot favourite Ribofilio for once off guard, and hard as Piggott tried, he couldn’t make up the deficit and Hutchinson’s mount had 1 1/2 Lengths to spare at the line.
The St Leger was to be Intermezzo’s final victory, although at four he did finish runner-up to High Line in the Aston Park Stakes at Newbury and to Karabas in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot before being sold to Japan in the Autumn of 1970 where he had some success as a stallion. He was put down at the age of 29 in 1995.
Intrepidity: André Fabre, (1945-) French horseman extrodinaire, (not only has he been the French Champion trainer on 24 occasions, 21 of them consecutively, but also, prior to taking up training, had graduated from university with a law degree, and been the country’s National Hunt Champion jockey, scoring more than 250 times over obstacles, and has a victory in France’s most important jumping event, The Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris, on his CV) has won all five British Classics at least once, but by the summer of 1993 his score stood at just two, so on Oaks day, in early June, he was hoping that either his dark bay filly, Intrepidity, or her stable companion Wemyss Bight, would ring up Classic number three.
The former, bred in Britain by Mr M Ryan, and foaled on February 19th 1990, was owned by Sheikh Mohammed and sent to France to be trained by the French Maestro. She was by the 13 times Champion Sire, Sadler’s Wells, out of the American bred daughter of Bold Ruler, Intrepid Lady, who herself was a close relative of the very successful US stallion Bold Bidder, so Intrepidity was certainly bred “to go a bit”
However, she was too backward to race as a juvenile, but when she got to the track made an impressive winning debut in April 1993, comfortably taking a listed Longchamp heat from Alice Springs, with the subsequent Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) winner Madeleines Dream, back in 3rd.
Stepped up to the top level for the Group1 Prix Saint-Alary next time, she again won comfortably under Thierry Jarnet, and headed for Epsom and the Oaks. Ridden in the Epsom Classic by Michael Roberts, she never looked comfortable on the roller coaster Surrey track, and was nearer last than first entering the final three furlongs, but at the bottom of the hill ‘sprouted wings’, took it up at the furlong post, and under a very confident ride from the South African won easily by 3/4 Length from Royal Ballerina and Oakmead with her stable companion Wemyss Bight 7 Lengths back in 5th place in a record time. For such an inexperienced filly she was probably feeling the effects of her high level campaign when only finishing 4th in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh, behind her stable mate, Wemyss Bight, who had improved by at least a stone, and the two fillies she had beaten so easily at Epsom, Royal Ballerina and Oakmead the following month. Given a mid summer break, she reappeared in Longchamp’s Prix Vermeille in September very much back to her best, beating her old opponent, Wemyss Bite by a head. Following the Vermeille, Intrepidity was strongly fancied to give André a second victory in Europe’s premier top level event, the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe (the Gallic genius won his first “Arc” six years previously in 1987 with Trempolino, and to date has won the great race an unprecedented 8 times) but held up out the back by Jarnet she faced a mountain to climb in the straight, and despite finishing strongly, couldn’t get to the leaders and finished 4th behind Urban Sea, White Muzzle, and Opera House. A fruitless trip to California for the breeders Cup followed and she was retired for the season.
Despite finishing runner up twice at Group1 level in 1994 (Prix Ganay and Prix Foy) and ending her career with a respectable 4th in the Breeders Cup at Churchill Downs in Kentucky, Intrepidity’s 1994 campaign was a disappointment, and she was retired to stud, where despite the attention of some of the finest stallions in the land, she failed to ever produce anything nearly as good as herself.
Irish Elegance: James White, a self made man who made and lost more than one fortune in his 50 years on planet Earth, was born in 1877, the son of a bricklayer, in the Lancashire town of Rochdale, and his early path to fortune included stints as a circus proprietor and boxing promoter. More conventionally, he became a successful financier and property developer, so could well afford the large sums required to indulge his partiality for the
“Sport of Kings”. He spent lavishly in the pursuit of success on the turf, not least when paying the inordinately high sum of £9,000 for the big powerfully built unraced, non-Thoroughbred, three-year-old chestnut colt, Irish Elegance.
By the leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland in 1913, Sir Archibald, a grandson of the great St Simon, Irish Elegance was bred by Mr A.Frogley from the broodmare Sweet Clorane, whose sire, Clorane, was descended from a “half-bred” mare whose ancestry was not recorded in the General Stud Book, leaving Mr White’s expensive purchase in the
“non-Thoroughbred” category. Well Irish Elegance may not have been “the full shilling” as far as the General Stud Book was concerned because of his mum’s ancestry, (incidentally Sweet Clorane also produced the steeplechaser, Cloringo, who won the 4 miles National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup at Cheltenham in 1926) but on the track he certainly was, becoming not only the outstanding handicapper up to a mile of his era, but is rated by those two experts, John Randall and Tony Morris in their authoritative tome “A Century of Champions” as the second-best British or Irish-trained sprinter of the entire 20th Century, only surpassed by the great Abernant.
Trained at Tarporley in Cheshire by Harry Cottrill, James White got a substantial slice of the £9,000 purchase price back when his big powerful three-year-old ran away with the wartime substitute race for the Royal Hunt Cup run at Newmarket, (Cambridgeshire Hunt Cup) in June 1918 over a mile, and the following month, ridden by the outstanding Freddie Fox, (won 5 Classics including the Derby twice, and due to a freak accident on the eve of the 1935 St Leger, was denied the opportunity of continuing his partnership with Bahram to become one of the very few riders to ever land a Triple Crown) and dropped down to 6 furlongs, the big chestnut delivered a second dividend just as impressively, winning the top level sprint, the July Cup. Failing too see out the 9 furlong trip of the Cambridgeshire, he finished 3rd, and was put away for the Winter.
After such a successful 3yo campaign, Irish Elegance was destined to be burdened with big weights at four, and connections must have been a little concerned when he lined up for the Salford Borough Handicap at Manchester with 9st 9lbs on his back on June 14th 1919, but their worries proved unfounded, with the big attractive chestnut winning easily by 6 Lengths. Four days later, on June 18th, he started joint-favourite along with King George’s contender, Jutland, for Royal Ascot’s Royal Hunt Cup, with the steadier of 9st 11 lbs on his back, and he again won easily, creating a new weight carrying record in the process. Six weeks later, tasked with carrying the eye-watering weight of 10st-2lbs he lined up for the Stewards Cup at Goodwood, and despite losing several Lengths at the start was only beaten by 3/4 Length, conceding 44 lbs to the winner, King Sol. A fortnight after that, carrying the same swingeing burden, he won the Portland Handicap at Doncaster by 3 Lengths with such consummate ease, that it evoked the view from many a good judge, “that he must be the fastest horse there had ever been”.
Despite his non-Thoroughbred status, he was retired to stud in 1920 where he wasn’t a success, failing to attract any well bred mares, but unlike his colourful owner, James White, who finding himself faced with overwhelming financial difficulties in 1927 committed suicide, Irish Elegance lived on into a venerable equine old age, being put down in 1940.
Istabraq: When the regally bred Istabraq was foaled on May 23rd 1992 I imagine thoughts of a career over hurdles were not uppermost in the mind of his owner/breeder Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum. On the contrary, dreams of success at Epsom racecourse, on a day in June three years hence, were more likely to be being entertained by the Shadwell Stud owner, as the little bay foal was a three parts brother to Secreto, who had won Epsom’s Blue Riband in 1984.
By the fourteen times leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland, Sadler’s Wells, (a son of Northern Dancer) Istabraq was out of the unraced daughter of Secretariat, Betty’s Secret, who had produced Secreto (by Northern Dancer) eleven years previously in 1981.
Sent to be trained by the talented John Gosden he failed to live up to his wonderful pedigree and over a three season career on the flat managed just two lowly victories from eleven attempts achieving a modest rating of 83 and was sold out of the yard to John’s ex assistant, John Durkan. Sadly John contracted a fatal Leukemia and Istabraq now in the ownership of the legendary JP.McManus was sent to be trained by Aidan O’Brien in Ireland to pursue a career over hurdles.
Following a promising debut second under Charlie Swan, (rode him in all 29 starts over timber) at Punchestown in November 1996, the 4yo entire was gelded and showing no ill effects from “the unfairness cut of all”, hosed up in the Grade1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle just 15 days later. Two further wins followed before making his Cheltenham debut on March 12th 1997 in the 2 miles 5 furlongs Royal Sunalliance Novices’ Hurdle where the David Nicholson trained Mighty Moss made him work all the way to the line for a hard fought victory. He had a much easier time of it 6 weeks later winning the Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown by 9 Lengths from another David Nicholson contender, Soldat 1, and was retired for the Summer.
Unbeaten in his first four races of the 1997/98 campaign (including 2 at the top level) he lined up at Cheltenham on St Patrick’s Day 1998 the 3/1 favourite to land his first Champion Hurdle and in what looked a pretty open renewal, Istabraq and Swan turned the race into a procession, coming home 12 Lengths clear of their field. Things didn’t go to plan the following month at Aintree where he was beaten a head by Pridwell, and he retired for the summer.
The 1998/99 campaign followed an almost identical pattern to the previous year except that he lined up at Prestbury Park in March a much warmer order at 4/9 to retain his Champions Crown, which he did, but in a fashion more workmanlike than he had done 12 months previously, and finished his season with two further Grade 1 victories at Aintree and Punchestown.
There was a slight hiccup to the Champion’s 1999/2000 campaign on November 28th 1999 when James Bowes’ gallant Limestone Lad obviously hadn’t read the script, and beat the 1/7 favourite by 5 1/2 Lengths in the Grade1 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse. However Istabraq soon got back on the winning trail, winning his next two before starting at 8/15 in his attempt to become the first horse since See You Then 13 years previously to land a third Champion Hurdle. Posting a majestic performance the result never looked in doubt with the son of Sadler’s Wells winning impressively from the French challenger, Hors La Loi 111.
Denied his chance to become the most successful Champion Hurdler ever with a fourth victory when the 2001 Festival was cancelled due to the foot and mouth epidemic, he was trained with that record very much in mind, and following victory in a Leopardstown Grade 2 at Christmas 2001 started the 2/1 favourite for the 2002 renewal. However it wasn’t to be and he was pulled up lame after jumping just two hurdles. It’s a great pity that he missed the opportunity to land that elusive 4th Champion Hurdle when at the top of his powers in 2001, but his overall record of 23 victories from 29 starts, which includes 14 at the top level, can only be described as spectacular, and retired in 2002, he continues to enjoy a luxurious retirement at JP’s pad, Martinstown, in County Limerick.
Ivanjica: Foaled at Claiborne farm in Paris Kentucky, on May 3rd 1972, Ivanjica was by Sir Ivor, (the horse Lester Pigott described as ‘the best he had ever ridden’ following his scintillating victory in the 1968 Derby) out of the broodmare Astuce, a daughter of Vieux Manoir, winner of the Grand Prix de Paris in 1950, and France’s Champion sire in 1958. Ivanjica was owned and bred by Jacques Wertheimer, a son of Pierre Wertheimer, who
co-founded, with Coco Chanel, the famous eponymous Parisian perfume/couturier business, and became one of the leading owners on the French turf. On the death of his father, Jacques inherited his fathers substantial breeding and racing operation, and developed it further, into a very successful international concern. Since 1949 the Wertheimer horses had been trained by the outstanding handler Alec Head, (scion of the amazing dynasty of Anglo-French trainers and jockeys, and owner of the Haras de Quesnay near Deauville, one of the most successful breeding operations in France) so Ivanjica was duly dispatched to Chantilly France, to be trained by the great horseman, who as a National Hunt jockey had won many of France’s top jump races, including the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil. (French Champion Hurdle)
Having shown plenty of pace over a mile to win the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches in May 1975 (the French 1000 Guineas) the daughter of Sir Ivor was strongly fancied to win the 2 1/2 furlongs longer Prix de Diane, (French Oaks) the following month, but due to industrial action by the French stable lads, the race was abandoned, denying her the chance to add a second Classic to her CV. However she did add another Group1 to her record in September 1975, winning the Prix Vermeille under the Australian jockey, Garry Moore, before ending her three-year-old campaign finishing third in the Washington International in America.
By 1975, the Head family had trained the winner of France’s greatest race, the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe three times, Dad William, with Le Paillon in 1947, and son Alec, with Nuccio, ridden by Roger Poincelet In 1952, and Saint Crespin ridden by George Moore in 1959, so following a comfortable victory by Ivanjica in the “Arc” trial, the Prix Du Prince d’Orange in September 1976, hopes were high of a fourth. The filly didn’t disappoint, winning from Crow and Youth, giving Alec his third win in the race, her rider, Alec’s son Freddie, his first, and it was also a first for the famous blue and white Wertheimer livery to cross the line in front in the race. (Gold River in 1981 gave Alec a fourth success, and Jacques Wertheimer a second in Longchamp’s Blue Riband, and Criquette added to the Head family’s impressive record, training Three Troikas to win in 1979, and the brilliant filly Treve to win back to back renewals In 2013 and 2014)
At stud, Ivanjica produced six live foals, none of any great distinction, and she died in 1992 at the age of twenty.
Jay Trump: Polynesian, winner of the Preakness Stakes in 1945, the second leg of the American Triple Crown, and voted American Champion Sprint Horse of 1947, was an outstanding stallion, siring one of America’s greatest, Native Dancer, who in turn left an indelible mark on the American thoroughbred. However, one of his lesser known sons, Tonga Prince, found himself companionably sharing a paddock at the Pennsylvanian farm of thoroughbred breeder Jay Sensenich in 1956 with the presumed infertile mare Be Trump. Well I’m sure to Jay’s delight, Be Trump was found to be in foal, and the colt born of this unplanned union on April 1st 1957, despite arriving on “April Fools Day”, was to prove one of America’s greatest Chasers, Jay Trump.
Campaigned unsuccessfully as a juvenile at Charlestown race track in Jefferson County, West Virginia, (sustained a very nasty 15 inch long gash to his leg) he was eventually bought by the well known amateur Steeplechase rider, Crompton “Tommy” Smith, for
$2,000, on behalf of the accomplished horsewoman, Mary Stephenson, whose life long ambition was to win America’s top Steeplechase, the Maryland Cup. (4 miles over upright wooden obstacles)
Mary’s hopes were amply fulfilled when her six-year-old gelded son of Tonga Prince won the Cup from Mountain Dew under Tommy in 1963, and following a fantastic repeat the following year, when he beat the same animal for the second time, plans for a trip to England to tackle the ultimate jumping challenge, the Grand National, began to take shape.
Choosing the right trainer just to get Jay Trump qualified for the great race, let alone win it, from 3,500 miles away on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, was certainly a serious conundrum, and it was a brave but inspired decision by Tommy Smith to choose the great Fred Winter, who in the Autumn of 1964 was just embarking on what was to become one of the great training careers, but as yet hadn’t trained a single winner. (a serious factor in the decision had to have been Fred’s outstanding record in the Grand National as a jockey having ridden in it eleven times and won it twice, on Sundew in 1957 and Kilmore in 1962) Well the four times Champion jockey didn’t take long to show that he was going to be just as effective training as riding, and on October 21st 1964 at the end of a three miles Sandown Chase greeted his first winner, the recent American arrival at his Lambourn yard, Jay Trump. He ran four more times, winning twice (at Windsor and Newbury) and finishing second in the King George V1 Chase, guaranteeing his place in the 1965 renewal of the great race, and with the steadier of 11st 5lbs on his back started at odds of 100/6 in the huge field of 47 runners on March 27th. Given a great ride by Tommy Smith Jay Trump prevailed denying the great hope of Scotland, Freddie, by 3/4 Length.
He completed his European sojourn finishing an honourable 3rd in the Grand Steeplechase de Paris, (won so dramatically by Mandarin with Fred in the plate in 1962) and returned to America. Following a third victory in the 1966 renewal of the Maryland Cup the great chaser was retired at the age of nine to enjoy a well deserved 22 years long retirement.
Jerry M: One of the finest steeplechasers of the first quarter of the 20th Century, he was bred by Miss Kate Hartigan, and foaled in the County Limerick village of Croom in 1903. He was bought the following year by Mr John Widger who named him for a celebrated local Horse-breaker, Jerry Mulclair, and three years later on June 12th 1907, Jerry M made a winning debut under a leading Amateur (gentleman rider) Mr T Price (Champion amateur rider in 1905) in a steeplechase at the Clonmel Harriers Hunt meeting at the eponymous County Tipperary track. He followed up three months later at the same venue, again partnered by T Price, before winning twice at the County Dublin track, Baldoyle, in January and February 1908, where he came to the attention of the Sussex based trainer, Dublin born, Robert Gore, who convinced one of his patrons, Sir Charles Assheton-Smith, who harboured serious concerns that Jerry M might be “thick winded”, to part with £1,200 for the five-year-old gelding.
Transferred to Gores’ Sussex base, Sir Charles’s £1,200 proved to be money well spent and the baronet, (received his baronetcy for services rendered during the investiture of the future King Edward V111 as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon in 1911) earned a handsome return on his investment. Over the following two years Jerry M won five valuable heats, including the Stanley Steeplechase in March 1908, the Beecher Steeplechase in November 1908, and the Valentine Steeplechase in November 1909, establishing himself right at the top of the steeplechasing tree in Britain. So following an easy victory in the Liverpool Trial Steeplechase, at the now defunct Surrey track, Hurst Park, on March 3rd 1910, the seven-year-old Jerry M lined up 15 days later for the Grand National partnered by Edward Driscoll. Carrying top weight and starting favourite, the seven-year-old ran a marvellous race, failing by just 3 Lengths to concede 30 lbs to the winner, Jenkinson. Showing no ill effects from his hard race at Liverpool he headed for France and the very valuable (£6,360 to the winner, a colossal sum in those days) Grand Steeplechase de Paris, which he won, but unfortunately sustained an injury which kept him on the sideline for the best part of 19 months. He made a winning reappearance in the Open Steeplechase at Hurst Park on January 13th 1912 partnered this time by Ernest “Ernie” Piggott. (the Nantwich Cheshire born, 3 times Champion jockey, 3 times Grand National winner, and Grandfather of the legendary Lester Piggott) The same combination, carrying top weight of 12st 7lbs lined up for Liverpool’s centrepiece on March 29th and starting joint favourite at 4/1 never put a foot wrong and won by 6 Lengths from the 40/1 outsider Bloodstone ridden by Frank Lyall. It was Ernie’s first win in the great race, which he won again in 1918 (a war time version run at Gatwick) on Poethlyn, and back at Liverpool the following year brought up the treble on the same horse. There were to be no repeat victories for Jerry M however, as connections, convinced that his breathing really had become seriously problematic, scratched him from the 1913 renewal and he retired. Incidentally that 1913 renewal was won by Covert Coat, trained by Robert Gore, and owned by Sir Charles Asshenton-Smith. It was Charles Asshenton-Smiths third success in the Grand National as he had also won the 1893 renewal with Cloister in his previous persona as Mr Charles Duff, but that’s another tale.
Jezki: The 2001 St Leger winner Milan has sired plenty of top class National Hunt horses but his most successful offspring to date has to be the winner of the 2014 Champion Hurdle, Jezki. Bred by Mr Gerard M. Mc Grath from the Phardante mare La Noire, who had previously produced the top grade winner Jered (Grade1 Champion Novice Hurdle at the 2008 Punchestown festival) was Foaled on March 8th 2008. Gelded in December 2011 he was sent to be trained by the Uber talented Jessica Harrington (nee Fowler) who before taking out a training permit in 1989 had been one of Ireland’s top Three-Day-Event riders, and was destined to send out from her yard in the tiny village of Moone in south Kildare, some of National Hunts greats over the next 30 years, including Moscow Flyer, Macs Joy, Jezki and the 2017 Gold Cup winner Sizing John, and on the flat, the brilliant Classic winning filly, Alpha Centuri.
Jezki made a winning debut in a Leopardstown National Hunt Flat race on January 28th 2012 and followed up at the same venue 5 weeks later, but then failed to make any impression in Cheltenham’s Champion Bumper on March 14th, and was put away for the season. He could only finish 5th on his hurdling debut on October 10th 2012 at Navan, but over the following 11 weeks won four on the trot, including the two top level events, the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse in November, and the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 27th in the colours of his owner/breeder Gerald Mc Grath. Following this facile win from the useful Waheeb, owned by JP Mc Manus, an offer was made by the latter which Mr Mc Grath found impossible to resist, and the bay son of Milan next appeared in the William Hill Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on March 12th 2013, sporting the famous Green and Gold Mc Manus livery for the first time. It wasn’t a case of instant success as Jezki finished 3rd behind the Willie Mullins trained Champagne Fever, but he got his revenge 6 weeks later in Punchestown’s Champion Novices Hurdle, winning by 16 Lengths and 3/4 Length from Ted Veale and Champagne Fever.
Jezki’s form figures for the 2013/14 campaign before tackling the Champion Hurdle on March 11th 2014, read 1/1/2/4 and ridden by Barry Geraghty he started at the generous odds of 9/1, 5th choice in the market behind Hurricane Fly, My Tent Or Yours, The New One and Our Conor. Leading over the last, he stayed on bravely and held on for a neck victory over My Tent Or Yours, with The New One 2 1/2 Lengths back in third, and Hurricane Fly 4th. He rounded of his season in fine style winning Punchestown’s Champion Hurdle 52 days later beating Hurricane Fly by 3 1/2 Lengths.
Beaten in his first four races, including in the Champion Hurdle (8th behind Faugheen) in the 2014/15 season, Jessica stepped him up to 2 1/2 miles for Aintree’s Doombar Hurdle which he won easily from Rock On Ruby in April 2015, and finished his season with a comfortable victory over Hurricane Fly in the Ladbroke World Series Hurdle (3 miles) at Punchestown.
On the sidelines for 632 days after Punchestown he never won again at the top level, but continued to be competitive, and retired at the age of 11 in May 2019 having won 8 Grade 1 races, and bagged nearly a million pounds in prize money. Some career!