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.