Archive for 2020

Sam Chifney – Villain or Hero

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Sam Chifney – Villain or Hero

Sam Chifney (1753-1807), at his peak, was the greatest jockey seen on the Turf up to that time. He was the first jockey to introduce riding tactics and became famous for his late ‘Chifney rush’.

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Chifney rode four winners of the Oaks – Ceres (1782), Maid of the Oaks (1783), Tag (1789) and Hippolyta (1790) and the Derby winner Skyscraper (1789), pictured below, with Sam aboard. Note the horse’s clipped ears, which was the fashion at the time.


Born in Northwold, Norfolk, around 1753, Sam Chifney became an apprentice in Foxe’s stable, Newmarket from 1770.  There he gained a reputation for exercising control over the more difficult horses in the yard. The Druid describes Chifney in Post and Paddock, as, “He was about 5ft 5in in height, weighed  about 9st 5lb, in the winter months, and could ride, if required for a great race, 7st 12lb to the last. With the exception of Frank Buckle, perhaps no man was so exactly built for his profession.”

Chifney was a dandy in appearance; curls framed his face from under his jockey’s cap and he wore bunches of ribbons on the tops of his riding boots. Whilst there was never any doubt about his ability in the saddle, or his self confidence: “In 1773 I could ride horses in a better manner in a race to beat others than any person ever known in my time”, and in 1775, “I could train horses for running better than any person I ever yet saw”, nevertheless, his race riding was sometimes open to suspicion.

On Thursday, 20th October, 1791 at Newmarket, in what was to become known as “The Escape Scandal”, Chifney rode the 6-y-o Escape, for the Prince of Wales (later King George IV).

Escape (pictured below), by Highflyer out of a Squirrel mare, was at the time thought by Chifney, “Much the best horse in England”. Even so, with 8 st 4 lb, over the Ditch-in Course (2 miles), and starting at odds of 1-2, he finished last of four to Mr Dawson’s Coriander.

The next day, against similar opposition, Escape, carried 8 st 13 lb, over an extended 4 miles (Beacon Course),  and completely reversed the form to win at odds of 5-1. There followed, accusations that Chifney had pulled Escape the first time to get better odds the next day. Some, even suggesting that the Prince was in on the plan. One rumour that flourished, however, was, that two rouges of the ring, fearing the follow up money for Escape, had seen to it that he was over fed on the morning of the race.

As the runners cantered to the start of the Beacon Course, the activity in the ring resembled bees round a honeypot. Those convinced of the previous “Chifney pull”, clamouring to get on, while those who believed the “well fed” rumour were happy to lay Escape at all prices up to 5-1. All of which flew in the face of the Prince’s belief in Chifney when making a hefty wager and, the popular belief that Escape would be all out to win. As it turned out the adage “Why believe a rumour when the truth is staring you in the face”, won the day.

When eventually summoned before the Stewards of the Jockey Club, Chifney claimed that Escape, untried for two weeks, needed the first race ‘to clear his pipes’ for the next day. He therefore, had no bet on him the first time, but 20 guineas the next day. Ironically, it is likely that Chifney’s account of the proceedings, would now be accepted by present day stewards. Nevertheless, at that time, the Stewards refused to accept his explanation and treated the case as yet another example of the jockey’s dishonesty. Sir Charles Bunbury, who may well have suffered as a result of the first race, then informed the Prince of Wales that if he continued to engage Chifney, no gentleman would start against him. Soon after, rather than make Chifney a scapegoat, the Prince gave up racing and sold his horses. Even so, he continued to pay Chifney’s £200 annuity, telling him: “You have been a good and honest servant to me.”

In 1795, Chifney published his autobiography Genius Genuine, in which he describes his reasons for his slack rein method of riding: “The phrase at Newmarket is, that you should pull your horse to ease him in running. When horses are in their great distress in running, they cannot bear that visible manner of pulling as looked for by many of the sportsmen; he should be enticed to ease himself an inch a time, as his situation will allow. This should be done as if you had a silken rein as fine as hair, and that you were afraid of breaking it. This is a true way a horse should be held fast in running.”

Samuel Chifney married the daughter of Newmarket trainer, Frank Smallman; they had two sons, William, who owned and trained the great Priam to win the Derby in 1830 and Samuel, who rode nine Classic winners, including the Derby winners Sam(1818) and Sailor (1820). They also had four daughters, one of whom married a Mr Weatherby of Newmarket and another, the Newmarket trainer Butler, to become the mother of the Triple Crown winning jockey, Frank Butler (West Australian 1853).

Chifney left Newmarket for London in 1800. Six years later, pursued by creditors, he sold the Prince’s annuity for £1,260.

Nevertheless, having invented and patented a bit for horses, he proposed, “If the Jockey Club will be pleased to give me 200 guineas, I will make them a bridle as I believe never was, and I believe never can be, excelled, for their light weights to hold horses from running away.” The Jockey Club, under the Presidency of Sir Charles Bunbury refused and sadly, going alone he became indebted to the saddler, Latchford, for £350. Thereafter, history has been kind to Chifney, for the bit named after him is still in use today.

Imprisioned for many years as a debtor in Fleet Prison, when released, he moved to a humble dwelling in Fleet Lane opposite the prison, where he died on 8 January 1807, aged 52.

Escape, went on to win 11 races and became a prominent sire. As a footnote: when an unruly yearling, kicking out in his box, he got his foot wedged between the boards. Bravely his groom released him uninjured, giving rise to his name Escape.




Lord Derby & Sir Charles Bunbury

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Lord Derby & Sir Charles Bunbury

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 Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby (1752-1834), on becoming of age, bought a country house, at Woodmansterne, near Epsom, called ‘The Oaks’, from his uncle by marriage, General John Burgoyne. For the Epsom May Meeting in 1778, Lord Derby, a steward, invited a party of friends to his house, where it was proposed that the following year, a single race over one and a half miles for three-year-old fillies would add some spice to the meeting. The race was named after Lord Derby’s house and appropriately, won by his filly, Bridget. The event was considered a great success and as a result, another new race was proposed, this for both colts and fillies, to be run over a mile the following year – but what to call it – “The Bunbury” or “The Derby” – they tossed a coin and, “Heads it is, so it’s The Derby –  The Derby Stakes.”

Although now best known for his connection with the race, in his lifetime he was celebrated as the champion cockfighter of all England – then the National sport, breeding and fighting with his own strain of game cocks known as the Knowsley Breed.

In 1774, Edward Stanley married Lady Elizabeth Hamilton. It was not, however, a lasting relationship. At a summer house party in 1777, a cricket match took place between two local teams, during which the Duke of Dorset gave an impressive display. A second game followed, where in the interval Lady Elizabeth took her lady guests on to the field to meet the players – two years later, Lady Elizabeth, now a mother of three, absconded abroad with her cricketing hero. In the scandal that followed, Lord Derby refused to divorce her, eventually taking solace in the company of Elizabeth Farren, a famous actress playing the part of Lady Teazle in Sheridan’s popular play, The School for Scandal.  In 1797, soon after the death of Lady Elizabeth, Lord Derby married Elizabeth Farren. Smitten, he named two of his mare Papillon’s produce Lady Teazle and Sir Peter Teazle, after characters in the play. The success of the Teazle’s on the stage was matched by their success on the turf – Lady Teazle was second in the Oaks and Sir Peter Teazle won the Derby on his first racecourse appearance.

Sir Thomas Charles Bunbury (1740-1821), was the son of a vicar at Great Barton, near Newmarket. He was elected a Whig MP for Mildenhall, Suffolk, at the age of 21 and became a strong opponent of the slave trade. He was the first outstanding member of the Jockey Club and became a senior Steward at the age of 28, thereafter taking the role of ‘perpetual president’. However, like the Earl of Derby, he too was subject to a scandal. After his marriage to the notorious Lady Sarah Lennox in 1762, she had an affair with Lord William Gordon, giving birth to his daughter. The couple eloped taking the child with them, but when Lord William abandoned her, Sir Charles refused to take her back.

Thereafter, he gave more time to Parliament and the Turf, and although losing the legendary coin toss to name the race, Sir Charles had the pleasure of owning the first Derby winner – Diomed. He also owned Eleanor (1801), the first filly to win both the Derby and the Oaks, and Smolensko (1813), the first horse to win both the Two Thousand Guineas and the Derby. Famously, he also bred Highflyer (b.c. 1774), by Herod ex Rachel by Blank, who was never beaten on the racecourse and the Champion Sire 13 times. It was during his reign at the Jockey Club that the five Classic races were formed, a pattern, that in time, would be replicated around the world. Without doubt, on the Turf, Sir Charles was the most influential man of his age.

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ST. SIMON – Has there been a better horse?

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ST. SIMON – Has there been a better horse?


       ST. SIMON (b.c.1881) by Galopin ex St. Angela by King Tom


Bred by Prince Gustavus Batthyany

Won 9 races incl. Epsom Gold Cup (walk-over), Ascot Gold Cup, Newcastle Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup.

Champion Sire in G.B. & Ire. (nine times): 1890, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1895, 1896, 1900, 1901.

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NO ONE will ever know just how good a racehorse St Simon was, although Mathew Dawson, trainer of the winners of 28 Classic races affirmed “I have trained only one good horse in my life – St Simon.”


His owner/breeder Prince Gustavus Batthyany, however, thought so little of the colt early on, that he took him out of the Guineas – his only Classic entry.

It was true, St Simon’s dam St Angela, had won only a modest Newmarket maiden from eight starts and, at the time of St Simon’s birth, when 16, she had apparently foaled nothing of note. But, ironically, when St Angela was first put to Galopin two years previous, she produced Angelica, the future dam of Orme, a dual Eclipse winner and Champion Sire.

Sadly, but more to the point, Prince Batthyany died of a heart attack before St Simon raced, so his would be Classic nominations under the Rules of Racing would automatically have become void.

Purchased by the Duke of Portland for 1,600 guineas at the Prince’s dispersal sale, St Simon won all his nine races – four as a juvenile, including two Nurseries, giving lumps of weight to the runners-up, and five as a three-year-old, including 20-length victories in both the Ascot Gold Cup and the Goodwood Cup.


Which brings us back to “Just how good was he?”

In a poll of leading Turf personalities taken around two years after St Simon’s final race, he was voted fourth best ‘Horse of the Century’, behind Gladiateur, Isonomy and West Australian.

At stud, St Simon was Champion Sire nine times within the period 1890 to 1901. He sired the winners of 17 Classic races, including the Royal Derby winners Persimmon (1896) and Diamond Jubilee (Triple Crown 1900). In total, he got the winners of 571 races worth £553,157. Later, he became the six-time Champion Sire of Broodmares: 1903-1907 inclusive and again in 1916.


A bay colt of 16.1 hands, St Simon measured 8 1⁄2 inches below the knee and 6 feet 3 inches round the girth.

Stud-master at Welbeck Abbey Stud, John Huby, said of him: “I always thought there was something superior, both in his action and his contour, to anything I had noticed in any other horse. His shoulder was a study. So obliquely placed that it appeared to extend far into his back.. so placed, there is little wonder that he showed such marvellous liberty of action.”


The contemporary writer Mr Sydenham Dixon commented: “If both Turf and Stud career be taken into account, the only horse I can find to compare with St Simon is Eclipse, who like St Simon, won every race without being asked to do his best, and the stud careers of both may be said to have been of equal brilliance.”


St Simon died on 2 April, 1908, aged 27 years. The Bloodstock Breeders Review described his final minutes:

“He was returning from exercise just as sprightly and handsome as ever that morning, and so far as appearances went, might have lived for years. When, within 20 yards of his stable door, as he was passing over a soft sandy patch of ground, he suddenly dropped, and in less than 20 seconds his heart ceased to beat.”



To see further details of Michael’s Classics Chart 1776-2020 go to BOOKS FOR SALE in the top menu.

See below the two lineage charts of St Simon taken from The Classics Chart 1776-2020..

Colts are in Red, fillies in Green. Classic winners with date of victory in CAPS.

Key to races won: 2000 Guineas (2); 1000 Guineas (1);  Derby  (D); Oaks (O); St Leger (L); King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (K); Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (A); while stars either side indicate Champion Sire.













BAHRAM’S Triple Crown

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Bahram’s Derby victory in 1935 entitled him to become “Derby Winner of the Decade”, however, the stories surrounding his Triple Crown victories have largely been forgotten. This brief account, therefore, aims to bring to life the achievement of one of the greatest horses of the 20th century.

Trained by Frank Butters at Newmarket, Bahram is only the second horse to win the Triple Crown and remain unbeaten – Ormonde being the first in 1886. He was also the second of five Derby winners owned by the Aga Khan III, who, at the time, said he would never sell his Triple Crown winner, but he did, and despite criticism from British breeders, he also sold the other four – Blenheim, Mahmoud, My Love and Tulyar.

A handsome, well proportioned, bay colt of 16.2 hands, with a 69 inch girth, Bahram, had an impressive pedigree – his sire, Blandford was to be Champion Sire three times, siring four Derby winners in seven years, while his dam, Friar’s Daughter, had previously produced Dastur (by Solario), second in each leg of the 1932 Triple Crown and winner of the Irish Derby.

Bahram’s first race was the National Breeders’ Produce Stakes at Sandown, for which his stable companion Theft was preferred. The pair dominated the finish, Bahram winning by a neck at odds of 20-1. He then ran up victories in the Rous Memorial Stakes at Goodwood, the Gimcrack Stakes at York, the Boscawen (Post) Stakes and the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket, starting odds-on each time.

At the end of the season he was the top-rated two-year-old in the Free Handicap with 9st 7lb, one pound higher than Hairan and Theft – all three colts were owned by the Aga Khan.

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Wednesday, 1 May 1935  Two Thousand Guineas Stakes  Newmarket

3-year-olds, colts and fillies.

Rowley Mile.

1 Bahram               9st 0lb F Fox               7-2

2 Theft                    9st 0lb G Richards      11-2

3 Sea Bequest         9st 0lb E Smith         100-7

Won by 1½ lengths, 2 lengths. 16 ran.


After receiving a slight setback, Bahram made his reappearance in the Two Thousand Guineas, where questions of  his fitness caused him to drift in the betting from 5-2 to 7-2. This in the face of strong support for Lord Derby’s Richmond Stakes winner Bobsleigh, whose impressive home gallops sent his price from 100-30 to 7-4 favourite.

Entering the Dip, Theft held a narrow lead from Bahram, with Sea Bequest, Apollo and Bobsleigh close behind. On meeting the rising ground, Bahram quickly took the measure of Theft and went away to beat him by one and a half lengths with Sea Bequest a further two lengths away third.



Wednesday, 5 June 1935     Derby Stakes    Epsom Downs


3-year-olds, colts and fillies.

1 mile 4 furlongs 5 yards.

1 Bahram                    9st 0lb F Fox      5-4 Fav

2 Robin Goodfellow     9st 0lb T Weston   50-1

3 Field Trial                   9st 0lb R Dick         9-1

Won by 2 lengths, ½ length. 16 ran.



BAHRAM walking along Epsom High Street to the Derby.

After heavy rain in the morning, the sun came out to restore the going to good. Sixteen runners went to post, with Bahram clear favourite at 5-4. The Aga Khan, also ran both Theft, and the second favourite, Hairan. All in vein, however, as it was to be Bahram’s day.

Approaching the top of the hill, First Son took them along from Pry, Sea Bequest and Field Trial. Behind them, Theft, ridden by Harry Wragg, was well placed on the rails, however, Freddie Fox on Bahram was trapped in a pocket behind him. Feeling the frustration, Fox shouted to Wragg, on the Aga’s third string, to pull over; Wragg duly obliged and Bahram shot through the gap.

Descending to Tattenham Corner, Field Trial forged ahead of First Son and Pry, with Bahram in pursuit. The order was maintained into the straight, but by the two-furlong marker, Fox had Bahram poised just behind Field Trial, and letting him go at the distance, gained a comfortable two-length victory from the running-on Robin Goodfellow.

In the post-race press interviews, Harry Wragg, on Theft, said, “I had a lovely position going up the hill. I had intended to go along just behind the leaders and not wait as so many people thought I would do. Before we reached the top of the hill I heard somebody shout; I had to glance over my shoulder and found that it was Freddie Fox trying to squeeze through. There was not room for him to do so, but when I realized it was Bahram, and I was also riding for the Aga Khan, I gave way and he was able to take a position which might have been mine”.

After the race Wragg was cautioned by the stewards regarding his riding of Theft. They drew his attention to Rule 139, which stated: ”Every horse that runs in a race shall be run on its merit, whether his owner runs another horse in the race or not”. Wragg was then warned that any repetition of his ride would be severely dealt with.

Two weeks later, Bahram went to Ascot, winning the St James’s Palace Stakes – five went to post and starting at 1-8, he beat Portfolio and Rosecrag by one length and four lengths.



Wednesday, 11 September 1935 St Leger Stakes   Doncaster


3-year-olds, colts and fillies.

1 mile 6 furlongs 132 yards.

1 Bahram          9st 0lb C Smirke    4-11 Fav

2 Solar Ray         9st 0lb J Sirett          100-6

3 Buckleigh         9st 0lb H Wragg       25-1

Won by 5 lengths, 3 lengths. 8 ran.


In the St Leger, Charlie Smirke took the ride on Bahram, Fox, having incurred serious head injuries from a fall at Doncaster the day before.

Starting the 4-11 favourite, Smirke gave Bahram his head two furlongs out and cruised to the front from Field Trial, Fairburn and Solar Ray. Field Day faded a furlong out, allowing Solar Ray and Buckleigh to run into the places. Although Bahram’s official winning distance was five lengths, photographs show it was nearer ten.

An exuberant Charlie Smirke said “He could have won with 12 stone and two men on his back!” Meanwhile, Freddie Fox had listened to the race on the radio in a Doncaster nursing home. The Aga Khan, as a sporting gesture, sent both Smirke and Fox £1,000 – worth more than £50,000 today.

In the absence of the Aga, Bahram was led in to a noisy and triumphant reception by a strangely subdued Aly Khan, possibly troubled by the breaking news scandal of his affair with Joan Barbara Guinness. Aly, named in the subsequent divorce, paid the costs, then married Joan soon after.

In 1936, Bahram retired to stud to become the sire of:

TURKHAN b.c.1937, won Irish Derby, Yorkshire St Leger (St Leger Substitute), second in New Derby Stakes.

BIG GAME br.c. 1939, won New Two Thousand Guineas Stakes, sire of QUEENPOT b.f. 1945, won One Thousand Guineas Stakes & AMBIGUITY b.f. 1950, won Oaks Stakes.

MAH IRAN gr.f. 1939, won 5 races and bred MIGOLI gr.c. 1944 by BOIS ROUSSEL, won Eclipse Stakes, Champion Stakes, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, second in Derby Stakes.

PERSIAN GULF b.c. 1940, won Coronation Cup, sire of ZABARA ch.f. 1949, won One Thousand Guineas Stakes & PARTHIA br.c. 1956, won Derby Stakes.

In 1940, the Aga Khan sold Bahram to a syndicate of American breeders for £40,000 and although the sale was deplored by British breeders, he travelled by boat to America in August that year. After a perilous sea voyage, Bahram took time to recover before standing in Maryland at Alfred G. Vanderbilt’s Sagamore Stud the following year – he was not a great success.

In 1946, Bahram was exported to Argentina, where he sired SENEGAL b.c. 1953, twice winner of the Clasico Simon Bolivar over one mile, four furlongs at La Rinconada in Caracus, Venezuela.

Bahram, unbeaten Triple Crown winner, died on 24 January 1956, aged 24.















Investec Derby 2020 – SERPENTINE

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        Investec Derby 2020


              9-c (ch.c. 2017)

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Run on Saturday, 4 July, 2020 as the Investec Derby Stakes over the Derby Course of one mile and a half and 6 yards, Epsom Downs. For three-year-olds; entire colts 9st 0lb, fillies 8st 11lb. Reopened 28 June 2020 with 17 entries at £10,000. Value to winner £283,550

1st   SERPENTINE        Emmet McNamara        25-1

2nd  KHALIFA SAT      Tom Marquand             50-1    5½ lengths

3rd  AMHRAN NA BHFIANN  William Buick  66-1    ½ length 

Also ran: 4th Kameko (Oisin Murphy) 5-2 Fav; English King (Frankie Dettori) 100-30; Mogul (Ryan Moore) 7-1; Russian Emperor (Saemie Heffernan)  6-1: Vatican City (Padraig Beggy) 17-2; Gold Maze (David Egan) 150-1; Highland Chief (Ben Curtis) 20-1; Pyledriver (Martin Dwyer) 16-1; Mohican Heights (Andrea Atzeni) 25-1; Mythical (James Doyle) 100-1; Max Vega (Harry Bentley) 33-1; Emissary (Jim Crowley) 40-1; Worthily (Martin Harley) 40-1 (tailed off last, 93 lengths behind the winner).               16 ran. Time: 2 min. 34.43 sec.  

Serpentine clear of Khalifa Sat and Amhran Na Bhfiann


   Commentary: Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Derby was run a month later, behind closed doors and, as a one-day Summer Meeting, was run on the same card as the Oaks for the first time.

The Two Thousand Guineas winner, Kameko by Kitten’s Joy, was backed into 5-2 favourite. Strong support also came for the Lingfield Derby Trial winner, English King at 100-30 and three of Aidan O’Brien’s six strong entry: Russian Emperor, Mogul (the choice of Ryan Moore) and Vatican City. Before the race there was much debate on the draw, with English King and Mogul having been allocated the so called “coffin boxes” of 1 and 2.

From the stalls, English King swerved left and took a little time to get into the pack. Meantime, Serpentine and Khalifa Sat were quickly into their stride, followed by Highland Chief and the hard pulling Kameko. After half a mile, Serpentine led Khalifa Sat, Amhran Na Bhfiann, Max Vega and Kameko. Travelling down the hill, the order maintained, Serpentine, under Emmet McNamara, quickly built up a lead extending to 12 lengths at Tattenham Corner. Two furlongs out and still 8–10 lengths clear, Serpentine had turned the race into a procession, with none of the fancied runners able to strike a blow. At the post, Khalifa Sat finished 5½ lengths second, with Amhran Na Bhfiann half a length away third, followed in by Kameko, English King and Mogul all running on too late.

Well that was easy – Serpentine

Entering into Derby history, Aidan O’Brien has trained a record 8 Derby winners (2001-2020), with Mrs John (Sue) Magnier and Michael Tabor, owning all 8. Galileo has now sired a record 5 Derby winners, having added a 4th Oaks winner in Love, earlier that day. By contrast, Emmet McNamara, had not ridden a winner since October and Serpentine had only won his Maiden the previous week.

 Footnote: Due to the Coronavirus, the Derby could not be run as planned on 6 June. Therefore, the original 356 yearling entries were cancelled on 8 April 2020 and entry fees refunded. No fees were taken for the 12 second stage entries.

OWNED by  Mr Derrick Smith, Mrs John Magnier & Mr Michael Tabor.

BRED by Coolmore Stud.

TRAINED by Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle, Co Tipperary.         __________________________________________________________________________________________

The winner, SERPENTINE, has won 2 races (from 4 starts): A 1m2f, Maiden at The Curragh, Investec Derby Stakes.

 The sire, GALILEO (b.c. 1998), won 6 races (from 8 starts) incl. Vodafone Derby Stakes, Budweiser Irish Derby, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. Champion Sire in G.B. & Ireland 11 times: 2008, 2010-2019. Sire of 4 Investec Oaks winners and 5 Investec Derby winners. Also sire of FRANKEL b.c. 2008, won 14 races (unbeaten) incl. Qipco Two Thousand Guineas Stakes.

The dam, REMEMBER WHEN, ch.f. 2007 by Danehill Dancer. Maiden after 6 starts incl, 2nd in Investec Oaks to Snow Fairy. She has bred 5 winners from 5 runners, all by Galileo, with a 2-y-o and a yearling on the ground. Serpentine is brother to Wedding View (b.f. 2012), Beacon Rock (ch.c 2013), Bound (ch.f. 2014) and Bye Bye Baby (b.f. 2015).           ___________________________________________________________________________________________________

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Investec Oaks 2020 – LOVE

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                                     Investec Oaks 2020


                                                                 1–k (ch. f. 2017)

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RUN on Saturday, 4 July. 2020, as the Investec Oaks, over the Derby Course of one mile and a half and 6 yards, Epsom Downs. For three-year-old fillies, 9st 0lb. Value to winner £141,775.

1st   LOVE                    Ryan Moore            11-10 Fav

2nd  ENNISTYMON     Seamie Heffernan  6-1  9 lengths

3rd  FRANKLY DARLING  Frankie Dettori  7-4  ¾ length

Also ran: 4th Queen Daenerys (William Buick) 16-1; Passion (Padraig Beggy) 25-1; Bharani Star (Oisin Murphy) 50-1; Gold Wand (Andrea Atzeni) 22-1; Tiempo Vuela (Martin Harley) 100-1 (tailed off last, 52 lengths behind the winner).

Two furlongs out Love surges ahead

Commentary:  Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Oaks was run a month later and behind closed doors. As a one-day Summer Meeting, the Oaks was run on the same card as the Derby for the first time.

Love an impressive, staying-on winner of the One Thousand Guineas at Newmarket, was the 11-10 favourite. Frankly Darling, a 5-length winner of a 10-furlong AW Maiden at Newcastle, on the first day of racing’s resumption, followed up by winning the Ribblesdale Stakes at Ascot, beating Ennistymon by 1¾ lengths. Frankly Darling, strongly supported, went to post at 7/4 with Ennistymon at 6-1, and 16-1 bar.

Passion and Tiempo Vuela, stable companions of the first two favourites, set a strong gallop through the early stages, extending a 6-length lead at the mile post to 12 lengths coming down the hill. However, all was about to change three furlongs out, when the pacesetters collapsed, Ennistymon briefly took over, with Love and Bharani Star in close attendance. Approaching the two pole, Love cruised past Ennistymon and, Ryan Moore, straightening her up after a sudden left dink to the rails, went on to win by 9 lengths in a record time. Frankly Darling made some headway to be third with Queen Daenerys forth, 14¾ lengths behind the winner.

Love storms home setting a new record


8 ran. Time: 2 min. 34.06 sec. (New race record)

N.B. Unlike in previous years, no extra yards were added to the distance to protect the ground on the inner rail for the Derby.   

BRED by Coolmore Stud.

OWNED by Mr M. Tabor, Mr D. Smith & Mrs John Magnier.

TRAINED by Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle, Co. Tipperary.


The winner, LOVE (ch.f), has won 5 races (from 9 starts), incl. Moyglare Stud Stakes, The Curragh, Qicpo One Thousand Guineas, Newmarket, Investec Oaks Stakes, Epsom.

The sire, GALILEO (b.c. 1998), won 6 races (from 8 starts) incl. Vodafone Derby Stakes, Budweiser Irish Derby, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. Champion Sire in G.B. & Ireland 11 times: 2008, 2010-2019. Sire of 4 Investec Oaks winners and 5 Investec Derby winners. Also sire of FRANKEL b.c. 2008, won 14 races (unbeaten) incl. Qipco Two Thousand Guineas Stakes.

The dam, PIKABOO (ch.f. 2003) by Pivotal, ran unplaced in 5 races. She has bred 6 winners from 6 runners, incl. PEACH TREE ch.f. 2016, won 3 races incl. Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Stannera Stakes, Leopardstown.


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31 July 1917 – The latest ever Epsom Derby day

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31 July 1917 – The latest ever Epsom Derby day

Although, due to the Covid-19 virus, this year’s Derby was put back to 4 July, the latest the great race was run was on 31 July 1917, and this, because of a national emergency.

Despite the First World War still raging, racing in Britain continued, albeit within limitations. However, when the First Spring Meeting at Newmarket, which included both Guineas races, ended on Friday 4 May. The Government then banned all racing in Britain because not only was the war with Germany a bitter struggle, but there was a national food crisis and Parliament had questioned the large quantities of oats required to feed racehorses. The total ban on racing was fought by the Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Breeders Association, and on 4 July, the Board of Trade informed the Jockey Club that the Cabinet had agreed that racing could be resumed with a limited fixture list until the end of the season. Racing recommenced on 17 July at Newmarket and the New Derby was run there on the 31 July.

The winner this year, Gay Crusader, was bred and owned by Alfred Cox, who without the benefit of hindsight, raced under the name of ‘Mr Fairie’.

Sired by the Eclipse Stakes and St Leger winner Bayardo, Gay Crusader was the first foal from Gay Laura, a Maiden winner by Beppo, who later bred six winners. 

Gay Crusader with Steve Donoghue up

Trained by Alec Taylor at Manton, Gay Crusader ran twice at Newmarket as a juvenile, running unplaced in the Clearwell Stakes and winning the Criterion Stakes.

The following spring, Gay Crusader reappeared in the Column Produce Stakes, to finish second to his Clearwell conqueror Coq d’Or, this time, beaten only three-quarters of a length whilst conceding 11lb. This considerable improvement led him to the Two Thousand Guineas, for which he started 9-4 favourite, beating his stable-companion, Lord Astor’s Magpie, by a head. Steve Donoghue, champion Jockey of his day, had cleverly kept Gay Crusader so close to Magpie that the latter’s jockey Otto Madden was unable to use his whip hand.

Before the Derby, Lord Astor sold Magpie to go to Australia, leaving Gay Crusader the undisputed Derby favourite. Twelve runners lined up and, after a good start, Invincible led from Dark Legend and Dansellon. After five furlongs Dark Legend took over from Invincible, with Gay Crusader just behind the leaders. Steve Donoghue then quickly moved Gay Crusader into the lead and going on, won comfortably by four lengths from Dansellon, with Dark Legend a further head away third. Diadem, the second favourite, having previously won the One Thousand Guineas, could finish only fifth. However, two days later, she finished second to Sunny Jane in the New Oaks.

Gay Crusader now reigned supreme, and went on to win the September Stakes (St Leger substitute), so becoming the 12th winner of the Triple-Crown. This he followed with the Newmarket Gold Cup (2 1/2 miles), the Champion Stakes, the Lowther Stakes and finally the Limekiln Stakes.

Gay Crusader was kept in training as a four-year-old as his owner wanted to win a second Gold Cup. However, after a superb home trial he developed tendon trouble and was retired to Manton House Stud at a fee of 400 guineas. At this time, Alfred Cox turned down an offer of £100,000 for him, worth £2.6 million today. Without being prodigious, Gay Crusader sired a number of decent horses, including Hot Night (second in the 1927 Derby and St Leger), Hurstwood, third in the Derby and Loika (ch.f. 1926, dam of Djebel, winner of the 1940 English and French Two Thousand Guineas).

Gay Crusadere died on 14 September 1932. Steve Donoghue, who partnered the winners of 14 Classic races, paid Gay Crusader a huge compliment by saying he was the best horse he ever rode.



The Origins of the 1,000 & 2,000 Guineas

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The Origins of the 1,000 & 2,000 Guineas

Both races being named after the original prize fund


2000 Guineas

First run 18th April 1809

Course: Rowley Mile 1 mile 1 yard.

Weights: Colts and geldings 8st 3lb, fillies 8st 0lb

Latest date run 25 May 1943 Summer Course (WWII)

1809 result:

1st Wizard 4-5 fav: 2nd Robin, 3rd Fair Star. 8 ran.

Prize £1,522

Owner Christopher Wilson

Trainer not listed

Jockey William Clift


1000 Guineas

First run 28 April 1814

Course: Ditch Mile, Newmarket: 7f. 178 yds

Run over Ditch Mile to 1872, then Rowley Mile.

Weights: Fillies 8st 4lb (same as for 1814 2000 Guineas)

Latest date run 26 May 1943 Summer Course (WWII)

1814 result:

1st Charlotte 11-5 fav; 2nd Vestal 3rd Medora. 5 ran.

Prize £682

Owner Christopher Wilson

Trainer not listed

Jockey William Clift



Early Players in the 1,000 & 2,000 Guineas

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William Clift (1762-1840), had the honour of riding the inaugural winners of both the 2000 Guineas (Wizard) and the 1000 Guineas (Charlotte), within a haul of 13 Classic winners that included five winners of the Derby. A man of humble beginnings, he was born on the estate of the Marquess of Rockingham at Wentworth Park, near Swinton in Yorkshire. There, starting life as a shepherd boy he was asked to ride in the pony races at one of Rockingham’s house parties. Clift rode and won with such determination that the Marquess sent him to his local trainer, Christopher Scaife, who soon after, relocated to Newmarket, accompanied by Clift.

A rough diamond in speech and in his style of riding, his absolute honesty brought him widespread patronage. He later trained for Earl Fitzwilliam, with assistance of his son Thomas. On retiring from racing, he received three pensions from his employers; Christopher Wilson, the Duke of Portland and Lord Fitzwilliam. A fit and wiry little man into his late 70’s, he would often walk the 28 miles from Newmarket to Bury St Edmunds and back as regular exercise.


Christopher Wilson (1764-1842), of Oxton Hall, Tadcaster, owned the inaugural winners of both the 2000 and 1000 Guineas. In addition he was the first owner to win the Derby and St Leger with the same horse – Champion in 1800 – a double not repeated until Surplice won both races for Lord Clifden in 1848. The son of a bishop, he was frequently employed to settle disputes on the Turf and in 60 years of racing he rarely missed a meeting at Ascot, Doncaster, Epsom, Newmarket and York. He died at Christie’s, St James’s Street, on Derby Day 1842.

Christopher Wilson

Robert Robson (1765-1838), was noticeably less hard on his horses than other trainers. He commenced his career as a private trainer to Sir Ferdinand Poole at Lewis in 1793. And later, when known as “The Emperor of Trainers,” he sent out 34 Classic winners, including six winners of the 2000 Guineas and nine winners of the 1000 Guineas, many of which never raced as a juvenile. However, when Robson trained from Newmarket before the use of the mobile horse-box, he had no St Leger winners, whereas John Scott, who trained at Malton a few years later and rented a gallop at Doncaster, notched up a record 16 winners of the Doncaster Classic. On Robson’s retirement in 1828, he was presented with a valuable piece of plate “in recognition of his skill and worthiness”, subscribed to by many notable patrons of the Turf.


Sir Thomas Charles Bunbury (1740-1821), was the son of a vicar at Great Barton, near Newmarket. He was elected a Whig MP for Mildenhall, Suffolk, at the age of 21 and became a strong opponent of the slave trade. He was the first outstanding member of the Jockey Club and became a senior Steward at the age of 28, thereafter taking the role of ‘perpetual president’.

However, like the Earl of Derby, he too was subject to a scandal. After his marriage to the notorious Lady Sarah Lennox in 1762, she had an affair with Lord William Gordon, giving birth to his daughter. The couple eloped taking the child with them, but when Lord William abandoned her, Sir Charles refused to take her back and thereafter, gave more time to Parliament and the Turf.

Although losing the legendary coin toss to name the Derby, Sir Charles had the pleasure of owning the first Derby winner – Diomed. He also owned Eleanor (1801), the first filly to win both the Derby and the Oaks, and Smolensko (1813), a fine looking black horse by Sorcerer, the first horse to win both the Two Thousand Guineas and the Derby. Famously, he also bred Highflyer (b.c. 1774), by Herod ex Rachel by Blank, who was never beaten on the racecourse and the Champion Sire 13 times.. Without doubt, on the Turf, Sir Charles was the most influential man of his age.

1813 Smolensko with Tom Goodisson up

The Classics Overview

If our five Classic races started off as little acorns, they have undoubtedly grown into solid oaks. Neither their conception, nor their first few running’s, can have been considered to have been part of an overall plan. However by the end of the 18th century, the Derby, Oaks and St Leger were being referred to as the “Three Great Races”. This was to continue until the mid-19th century when the two Guineas races were fast becoming thought of as something more than just trials for the Derby and Oaks.

The Triple-Crown wins of West Australian in 1853 and Gladiateur in 1865, did much to cement the pattern of the then known Classic races. The idea of the set of five events for three-year-olds, run over a graduation of distance throughout the year, seemed a natural order and once they were established as a set of Classic races, the idea proved popular and was accepted by almost all other racing countries.


Noel Murless, Dick Hern & Vincent O’Brien

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Three trainers who dominated the latter half of the 20th century

Noel Murless, Dick Hern & Vincent O’Brien

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   Sir Charles Francis Noel Murless (1910-1987), rode first as an amateur and then as a professional jump jockey for Martin Hartigan at Weyhill. Thereafter, he worked as assistant trainer to Hubert Hartigan (Martin’s brother), in Ireland. From 1935, Murless trained successfully from Hambleton, near Thirsk, albeit with horses of limited ability. However, on the retirement of Fred Darling at the close of the 1947 Flat season, Murless took over Beckhampton, retaining the association with Gordon Richards. The following year he was Champion Trainer for the first time and topped the lists a further eight times in his career.

In 1952, Murless moved to Warren House at Newmarket, and when Sir Gordon retired two years later, Murless appointed the teenage Lester Piggott as the new stable jockey. Murless (like Fred Darling) trained 19 Classic winners. He had five winners of the Oaks: Carrozza (1957), Petite Etoile (1959), Lupe (1970), Altesse Royale (1971) and Mysterious (1973). He also trained three winners of the Derby: Crepello (1957), St Paddy (1960) and Royal Palace (1967). The historian Roger Mortimer wrote of him: “Murless is a lean, lined, worried looking man….and though friendly and courteous, it is difficult to visualise any sort of party of which he could possibly be the life and soul.”


  William Richard ‘Dick’ Hern (1921-2002), was born in Somerset and, after serving in the North Irish Horse in World War II, held the position of coach to the British gold-medal winning equestrian team in the 1948 Olympics. In 1957, having worked as assistant trainer to Michael Pope, he took over the Lagrange Stable at Newmarket.

Champion Trainer four times, he trained the winners of 16 Classic races including Brigadier Gerard, winner of the 1971 Two Thousand Guineas and rated the greatest winner of that Classic in the 20th century. Hern also trained – three winners of the Oaks – Dunfermline (1977), Bireme (1980) and Sun Princess (1983) and three Derby winners: Troy (1979), Henbit (1980) and Nashwan (1989). Strong in the face of adversity, Hern continued to train after a hunting accident in 1984 that left him confined to a wheelchair. Furthermore, in 1988, soon after undergoing major heart surgery he learned that William Hastings-Bass (later Lord Huntingdon), was to replace him as resident trainer at the Queen’s West Ilsley Stables. However, a compromise was later agreed, enabling Hern to share the stable with Hastings-Bass for a year, before moving to Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Kingwood House Stables in Lambourn. And it was from that stable that Hern turned out Nashwan to win the Derby.


   Vincent O’Brien (1917-2009), is widely regarded as the greatest trainer of the 20th century, both on the Flat and over the jumps. His 16 British Classic victories included, two winners of the Oaks – Long Look (1965) and Valoris (1966), and six winners of the Derby, notably Sir Ivor (1968) and Nijinsky (1970 Triple Crown). Over the jumps, he trained the winners of three consecutive Grand Nationals between 1953 and 1955 – Early Mist, Royal Tan and Quare Times – four Cheltenham Gold Cups and three Champion Hurdles.

Born in 1917, near Churchtown, Co. Cork, Michael Vincent O’Brien supervised the training of his father’s small string at Clashganniff from the late 1930’s and, a year after his father’s death in 1943, he took out a licence to train. In 1951, the year he married Jacqueline Witternoom from Perth, Australia, he moved to Ballydoyle, Cashel, Co. Tipperary, where he developed a training establishment par excellence.

In the mid-1970’s, O’Brien formed a partnership with Robert Sangster and John Magnier. Together, they purchased yearlings with good pedigrees, many by Northern Dancer, turned them into champions and stood them at Coolmore Stud. Lester Piggott usually rode O’Brien’s runners in England.

A man of quiet, gentle genius, Vincent O’Brien retired from training in 1994. His first Classic winner in Britain was Ballymoss (1957 St Leger) and his last, El Gran Senor (1984 Two Thousand Guineas). In the 1984 Derby, El Gran Senor was beaten a short head by Secreto, trained by Vincent’s son David.


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The Herod line from Woodpecker to Dr Devious but where next?

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The Herod line

from Woodpecker to Dr Devious

But where next?

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Herod (b.c. 1758) Eight times Champion Sire

The Herod – Woodpecker sire line, although for many years secondary to the now expired Herod – Highflyer line previously shown, has up to the death of Dr Devious in March 2018, been a source of notable horses in England and France for more than two centuries. A commentary on the notable offspring and a male-lineage chart follow.

WOODPECKER (ch.c. 1773)

“A large, coarse horse with wide lop ears”, Woodpecker was bred and raced by Sir Charles Davers of Suffolk. A chestnut colt by Herod out of Miss Ramsden by Cade, Woodpecker, won 15 races, including the Craven Stakes at Newmarket, from strong opposition, three times, in 1778, 1779 & 1781. In addition, at the same Course he twice beat the local champion Pot-8-o’s.

Sent to Lord Egremonts’ Petworth Stud, he was four-times runner-up to Champion Sire, Highflyer (also by Herod), from 1789 to 1792. His progeny included Buzzard (see below) and the 1800 Oaks winner Ephemera.

BUZZARD (ch.c. 1787).

Like his sire, Woodpecker, due to the prominence of Highflyer, Buzzard was never Champion Sire. However, mated with a daughter of Alexander (b. 1790) by the all-conquering Eclipse, they produced three colts to give the lineage a powerful start, with Castrel (ch.c. 1801), Selim (ch.c. 1802) and Rubens  (ch.c. 1805), the latter two Champion Sires, with Selim siring six Classic winners and Sultan (b.c. 1816).

SULTAN (b.c. 1816)

Owned and bred by William Crockford, the founder of Crockford’s Club, Sultan won 14 races, including two Gold Cups at Newmarket and was second in the Derby. He was Champion Sire six times, from 1832 to 1837, siring eight Classic winners, including Bay Middleton (b.c. 1833).

BAY MIDDLETON (b.c. 1833)

Bay Middleton (b.c. 1833) Jem Robinson up

Bred by 5th Earl of Jersey, Bay Middleton was unbeaten in his seven races, winning the Two Thousand Guineas and Derby. Put to stud at the Turf Tavern, Doncaster at a fee of 30 guineas, he was twice Champion Sire, getting four Classic winners, including The Flying Dutchman (br.c. 1846).


After winning the Derby and St Leger, The Flying Dutchman, was beaten in the Doncaster Cup by his only rival – Voltigeur – that years  unbeaten Derby and St Leger winner.  A return match for 1,000 sovereigns  was made for the following spring over two miles at York, when  the weights allotted  by  Admiral  Rous were: The  Flying  Dutchman 8st 8 ½lb and Voltigeur 8st. An enormous crowd gathered on the  Knavesmire  to see The  Flying  Dutchman  win  by a length. He never ran again. At stud he sired the 1856 Derby winner, Ellington, then in 1858, he was sold to France for £4,000. After which his sire-line continued to flourish in France for eleven generations.

DJEBEL   (b.c. 1937)

Bred in France by Marcel Boussac and trained by Albert Swann at Chantilly, Djebel ridden by Charlie Elliott, won the  Two  Thousand  Guineas easily beating his 20 rivals. However, due to the  war he was  unable  to  come over  for  the  Derby.  He later won  the French Two Thousand Guineas equivalent, the Poule  d’Essai  des  Poulains, which was delayed until autumn. Djebel went on to win the  Prix  de l’Arc  de  Triomphe as  a  five-year-old. In all he  won 15 of his 22 races and never finished out of the first three. He was Champion Sire in France four times and sired the English Classic winners,  My Babu (1948 Two Thousand Guineas) and Galcador (1950 Epsom Derby).

AHONOORA (ch.c. 1975)

Bred by the Wyld Court Stud in G.B., Ahonoora, a bright chestnut colt by Lorenzaccio, surprisingly regenerated the Woodpecker line. A popular sprinter, he won seven races, including the Stewards’Cup and King George Stakes at Goodwood and the William Hill Sprint Championship at York. At stud he sired Dont Forget Me, winner of the 1987 English and Irish Two Thousand Guineas and Dr Devious, winner of the 1992 Epsom Derby.

DR DEVIOUS  (ch.c. 1989)

Dr Devious (ch.c. 1989) with trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam

Bred by Lyonstown Stud in Ireland, Dr Devious was sold a record four times before his Derby victory. A whole-coloured chestnut by Ahonoora out of the unraced Rose of Jericho, by Alleged, he was trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam at Manton in Wiltshire. He ran six times as a juvenile, winning four, including the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. At three, Dr Devious became a truly International horse, running nine times in five different countries – seventh in the Kentucky Derby, he later won the Epsom Derby by two lengths from St Jovite, who he beat again to win the Irish Champion Stakes.

In January 1993 Dr Devious was sold yet again, for around £3 million, and sent to stud at Zenya Yoshida’s Shadai Farm in Japan. In 1998 he returned to Ireland to stand at Coolmore Stud, until eventually relocating to Italy, where he was twice Champion Sire. Although failing to make his mark as a stallion, his offspring included, Collier Hill (ch.g. 1998), who won 10 flat races and two N.H. races, including the Stockholm Cup International and the Irish Field St Leger, and Demophilos (b.c. 1998), second in the Rothmans Royals St Leger. Dr Devious died in Sardinia in March 2018.

So, is this the end of the Byerley Turk – Herod – Woodpecker sire-line? It could well be.

However, most racehorses today have a mixture of all the founding fathers in them as the lines intermingle under the influence of 24 generations of Throughbred breeding. The fascination with sire-lines is because many famous sires have had a prepotency, influencing the offspring of their sons,  grandsons and further. A famous example of this is the Champion Sire Birdcatcher (ch.c. 1833), whose near hindleg flank was ticked with grey hairs and like his bay sire, a bunch of white hairs at the butt of his tail. His scattered grey hairs, known as Birdcatcher ticks were past on for many generations.


The key to the WOODPECKER chart below: Classic winning colts in RED, fillies in GREEN. Races won 1 1000 Gns, 2 2000 Gns, D Derby, O Oaks, L St Leger, A Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, ** Champion Sire, all dates are of the race victory,

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The above chart is taken from Michael’s Classic Chart 1776-2020

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