Archive for the ‘Racing Blog Posts’ Category

GALILEO – His Life and His Legacy

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GALILEO – His Life and His Legacy

THE DAY after the 2001 Vodafone Derby the headlines of “Galileo the star turn” and “Galileo in orbit”, extolled the tale of his impressive victory over Golan, before a modern-day record attendance of 150,000.

However, some racegoers at “Britain’s biggest day out,” suffered long traffic delays, including Sir Michael Stoute and Frankie Dettori, who had to abandon their cars to complete their journey on foot. But for most, once on the downs, this Derby Day was reward enough.

Galileo, the star of the show, was a bay colt by Sadler’s Wells out of the ‘Arc’ winner Urban Sea; bred by Mr David Tsui & Orpendale in Ireland and owned by Mrs John Magnier and Mr Michael Tabor.

The colt arrived at Epsom via three wins at Leopardstown: a maiden victory at two, by a staggering 14 lengths, followed at three by an easy win in the Ballysax Stakes from the future English and Irish St Leger winners Milan and Vinnie Roe, and then finally, he took the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes, beating Exaltation.

On the face of it, the form was not quite good enough to win the Derby but, with his ongoing improvement in the hands of trainer Aidan O’Brien, he looked sure to be a major player.  The opposition was headed by the Michael Stoute-trained Golan, winner of the Two Thousand Guineas and ante-post-favourite. Other dangers included Perfect Sunday, winner of the Lingfield Derby Trial; Dilshaan, winner of the Racing Post Trophy, and Tobougg, winner of both the Prix la Salamandre and Dewhurst Stakes, and now ridden by Frankie Dettori.

Twelve runners went to post, with Golan and Galileo going off 11-4 joint-favourites. Rounding Tattenham Corner, the Barry Hills pair, Mr Combustible and Perfect Sunday, led the field, with Galileo just outside them in third. Two and a half furlongs out, Mick Kinane brought Galileo smoothly to the front, from where he accelerated away to win by three and a half lengths, with Golan and Tobougg running on to fill the minor placings.

In the joyous scenes that followed, it did not go unnoticed that Galileo was the first son of Sadler’s Wells to win the Derby, and despite the modest early pace, he did so, in the then, second fastest time (2 min. 33.27 sec.) in the history of the race. Memorably, the previous day, daughters of Sadler’s Wells filled the first three places in the Oaks – a feat not equalled since the daughters of Birdcatcher did so in 1852.

In the Irish Derby, Galileo retained his unbeaten record by beating the Italian Derby winner Morshdi by four lengths, with Golan a further four lengths away third. At Ascot in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, Galileo received a hero’s welcome for his two-length defeat of the five-year-old Fantastic Light. However, when the pair was re-matched in the mile-and-a-quarter Irish Champion Stakes, Fantastic Light took his revenge by a head, albeit with Dettori being cautioned for his excessive use of the whip.

Galileo’s finale was in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Belmont Park, when second favourite to the Bobby Frankel-trained Aptitude. However, both ran unplaced to Tiznow (America’s ‘Horse of the Year’ in 2000), who not only beat Sakhee by a nose, but became the first horse to win the race twice. Galileo was afterwards reported as being unable to handle the dirt surface and was later retired to Coolmore Stud in Co. Tipperary.

Thereafter, his stock went from good to great, as he became Champion Sire in Great Britain & Ireland 12 times – in 2008 and from 2010-2020 inclusive. Up till his death in 2021, he had sired 17 British Classic winners including, a record five in the Derby: New Approach (2008), Ruler Of The World (2013), Australia (2014), Anthony Van Dyck (2019) and Serpentine (2020).

Amongst his many other Group 1 winners was Frankel, winner of the Two Thousand Guineas and unbeaten in 14 races. And in 2021, Frankel took over the mantel of Champion Sire in G.B and Ireland.

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As a point to note, 40 years ago top stallions were usually limited to 40 mares per season and like Shergar were often syndicated as such. Galileo’s dominant position and influence in Thoroughbred breeding, albeit with Frankel waiting in the wings, is strengthened by having had at least three times the opportunities of earlier sires.           

The Woodcote Stakes

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A race titled the Woodcot Stakes, was first run at Epsom in 1794. Open to two-year-olds, and run over the last half-mile of the Derby Course, colt’s carried 8st 0lb and fillies 7st 11lb.

The first winner was Mr Rutter’s, Filly by Dungannon, a son of Eclipse. The race continued to its last running in 1799, when Mr Dawson’s Jack-a-Lantern by Meteor (another son of Eclipse), beat four rivals.

The race was not run between 1800 and 1806, but continued from 1807 (the inaugural date of the race given in early editions of Ruff’s Guide to the Turf), when won by Mr Lake’s filly, Marybella by Walnut.

In 1837, the race name changed from Woodcot to Woodcote Stakes, but in1839, with colts 8st 6lb and fillies 8st 3lb, the distance was extended to six furlongs and run over the new two-year-course – an off-shoot taking them down to Tattenham Corner, and still the present course.

Due to the two World Wars the race was not run from 1915 to 1918, or in 1940, or from 1942 to 1945. However, in 1941, the race was run at Newbury as the Woodcote Plate and won by Ujiji.

The race, although boasting an illustrious roll of honour in the Victorian era, has sadly, had very few Classic winners since, the last being Lerins, renamed My Babu and winner of the 1947 2,000 Guineas. The other Classic winners are tabled below.

Lord Clifden (1863 St Leger)

Fille de l’Air (1864 Oaks)

Achievement (1867 1,000 Guineas, St Leger)

Cremorne (1872 Derby)

Surefoot (1890 2,000 Guineas)

Ladas (1894 2,000 Guineas, Derby)

Chelandry (1897 1,000 Guineas)

Sceptre (1902 2,000 Guineas, 1,000 Guineas, Oaks, St Leger)

Rock Sand (1903 2,000 Guineas, Derby, St Leger)

Cicero (1905 Derby)

Humorist (1921 Derby)

Dastur (2nd in 1932 2,000 Guineas, Derby, St Leger)

However, perhaps the greatest winner of the Woodcote Stakes was The Tetrarch in 1913. Drawn on the outside and ridden by Steve Donoghue, he was fast away, crossed to the rails and after blitzing the field was eased down, to set a new Course record time of 1 min. 7.60 sec.

A light grey with dark spots, the press called him “The Spotted Wonder.” He was never beaten, but due to injury, ran only as a two-year-old. When put to stud he confounded breeders by siring  three St Leger winners and the speedy 2,000 Guineas winner, Tetratema. The Tetrarch was Champion Sire in 1919.


The Woodcote Stakes was a Listed race prior to 2017, when it was downgraded to a Conditions race and run as the first race of the Derby Festival. The race has been generously sponsored by Cazoo since 2021.



Herbert Jones, Lester Reiff & Danny Maher

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Herbert Jones, Lester Reiff & Danny Maher

Derby winning jockeys of the Edwardian era

 Herbert Jones (1881-1951), having started as an apprentice to royal trainer, Richard Marsh at the age of 10, he later developed a talent for humouring difficult horses, including the bad tempered Diamond Jubilee (see below). And since none of the stables regular jockeys could master him, not only did he keep the ride, but in 1900, won the Triple Crown on him for the Prince of Wales.

Jones won five other Classic races, including the Two Thousand Guineas and Derby for the now, King Edward VII on Minoru (1909), and the Oaks for William Hall Walker on Cherry Lass (1905). He is also remembered as the jockey thrown from the King’s horse, Amner, when brought down by the suffragette, Emily Davison in the 1913 Derby. Marsh wrote of Jones in his autobiography, “A better servant no man ever had, and a straighter or more honest jockey never got on a horse.”


Lester Reiff (1877-1948), and his brother John were two talented American jockeys who came to England at the turn of the century. Riding in the short-stirrup, crouching style made famous by Tod Sloan, Lester Reiff became Champion Jockey in 1900 with 143 winners. The following year, 1901 he won the Derby for William Whitney on Volodyovski (see below).

However, ‘the American invasion’, as it became known, also included a ring of unscrupulous gamblers and trainers, who, in the main, had taken doping – not unlawful in Britain at this time – to a new level of expertise. Race riding to suit heavy gamblers was also a thorn in the Jockey Club’s side and, after watching Lester Reiff (see below), carefully for many weeks, culminating in his short-head defeat by his brother at Manchester on 27 September, 1901, they withdrew his licence and warned him off.



Danny Maher (1881-1916), was born of Irish parents in Hartford, Connecticut. He became Champion Jockey in the U.S.A. at the age of 17, then around 1900, together with many other top American jockeys, he came to England. Soon after, riding regularly for Newmarket trainer George Blackwell, he won the Triple Crown on Rock Sand in 1903 (see below).

Three years later, he set a new record time of 2 min. 36.80 sec. when winning the Derby for Major Eustace Loder on Spearmint. In 1908, Maher became Champion Jockey with 139 winners and again in 1913 with 115 winners. Maher rode with style and was strong at the finish. However, unable to ride at less than 8st 0lb, his efforts to waste took their toll and he died of consumption in 1916. A British citizen from 1913, he was buried in Paddington Cemetery, Mill Hill, London.


Michael now has his histories of the Derby for sale under




The hottest handicap in the history of Hurst Park

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The hottest handicap in the history of Hurst Park

Hurst Park racecourse was situated in Molesey Hurst, Surrey, close to the River Thames. The Victoria Cup was first run there in 1901 over two miles, then over various distances, until establishing itself in 1908 as a handicap run over a straight seven furlongs.

History relates that four days after Emily Davison brought down the Kings horse in the 1913 Derby suffragettes were reported setting fire to the stands at Hurst Park, causing an estimated damage of £10,000. The delayed repairs followed by the outbreak of war, prevented racing at Hurst Park from 1916-1918.

Later, due to World War II, there was also no racing from 1941-1945, during which, it was used as a prisoner of war camp. However, in 1946, racing was back with recorded crowds of over 70,000 and the need to close the gates.

In 1948, with racing and the Classics back in full swing, My Babu, ridden by Charlie Smirke, won the 2,000 Guineas equalling the record time of 1 min. 35.6 secs, beating The Cobbler (Gordon Richards) by a head, (see below). Four lengths away, third, was Pride of India (Edgar Britt).

  A year later, on 21st May at Hurst Park, the three re opposed in the Victoria Cup (Handicap), over the straight 7 furlongs; My Babu with 9st 7lbs, The Cobbler 9st 5lb and Pride of India 8st 0lb.

The star packed field of 14 also included: Combined Operations (7y-9st-7lb), winner of the Diadem Stakes at Royal Ascot, Master Vote (6y-9st-4lb), twice winner of the Royal Hunt Cup and Fair Judgement (4y-8st-12lb), favourite when a two-length winner of the Lincolnshire Handicap from 42 rivals.

The betting was heavy, with The Cobbler, a recent winner at Newmarket, backed from 4-1 to 5-2 favourite. There was strong support, 5-1 from 6’s, for the lightly weighted Pride of India, thought by many the blot on the handicap; whereas My Babu, coming from a victory at Alexandra Park, was thought to need further and drifted from 4-1 to 7’s. At 100-8, there was good each-way support for Welsh Honey (5y-8st-6lb), a recent three-length winner over a mile at Newmarket.

The race underway on good ground, Brogue took them along, with Kety, Pride of India, Welsh Honey and Combined Operations close up. Two furlongs out The Cobbler rushed to the front, only to give way at the distance when passed by Welsh Honey, Pride of India and My Babu, the latter, striding out impressively to win by three lengths. Pride of India ran on well to be second, with Welsh Honey a head away third.

Without doubt, this was the hottest handicap in the history of Hurst Park.

The last days’ racing at Hurst Park was on 10th October 1962, after which it was sold for housing-development.

In 1963, the Victoria Cup was transferred to Ascot, though the fixture was temporarily moved to Newbury for one year in 1964, both races run over seven furlongs, as it remains at Ascot today.



Cazoo Oaks 2021 – SNOWFALL

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(b.f 2018)

Winner of the 2021 Cazoo Oaks Stakes

RUN on Friday, 4 June. 2020, as the Cazoo 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 £224,004.50.


1st    SNOWFALL         Frankie Dettori    11-2

2nd   MYSTERY ANGEL    Ben Curtis     50-1      16 lengths

3rd   DIVINELY        Seamie Heffernan 20-1       1¾ lengths


Also ran: 4th Save A Forest (Callum Shepherd 40-1; Santa Barbara (Ryan Moore) 5/2 Fav; Ocean Road (Oisin Murphy) 25-1; Technique (Sean Levey) 125-1; Saffron Beach (Adam Kirby) 10-1; Sherbet Lemon (Hollie Doyle) 28-1; Teona (David Egan) 12-1; La Joconde (William Buick) 40-1; Dubai Fountain (Franny Norton) 4-1;  Zeyaadah (Jim Crowley) 6-1; Willow (Wayne Lordan)  22-1 (last, 39¾ lengths behind the winner).    14 ran.             Time 2m 42.67 sec.      




Commentary:  Fourth in the 1,000 Guineas with the promise of more over further, Santa Barbara started the  5-2 favourite. Dubai Fountain now 4-1 and Zeyaadah 6-1, renewed their challenge after finishing first and second in the Cheshire Oaks, where Dubai Fountain, in receipt of 3lb, won by a length. Snowfall, an impressive winner of the Musidora at York, was well supported at 11-2.

With rain throughout the day, the 14 runners got underway. Hollie Doyle, drawn 14 on Sherbet Lemon, was quickly away to negate any disadvantage and  led early from Mystery Angel, Dubai Fountain and Saffron Beach. Settling down after 2 furlongs, Mystery Angel led from Sherbet Lemon on  her outside, with La Joconde and Willow, third and fourth and  Santa Barbara, held up last.  The order was maintained as the pace slowed in the descent to Tattenham Corner. As a result of the downpour, on leaving the Corner, the field came up the stand side and from 3 furlongs out Mystery Angel took a two lengths lead. Soon after Frankie Dettori and Snowfall forced their way through beaten horses and with Santa Barbara no longer looking a threat, turned the last 300 yards into a procession. A record 16 lengths behind the winner Mystery Angel and Divinely plugged on for the places. In a memorable interview with Lydia Hislop, Frankie described his victory as going, “Like a hot knife through butter.”



The winner was BRED by Roncon, Chelston Ire. & Wynatt; OWNED by Mr D. Smith, Mrs John Magnier & Mr M. Tabor and TRAINED by Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle, Co. Tipperary.



The winner, SNOWFALL (b.f), has won 3 races (from 9 starts): Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden, The Curragh, Tattersalls Musidora Stakes, York, Cazoo Oaks Stakes, Epsom.

The sire, DEEP IMPACT (b.c. 2002), won 12 races (from 14 starts) incl. Hochi Hal Yayoi Sho Stakes & Satsuki Sho, Nakayama, Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger), Tenno Sho Spring & Takarazuka Kinen, Kyoto, Japan Cup, Tokyo, Arima Kinen, Nakayama.

The dam, BEST IN THE WORLD (b.f. 2013) by Galileo, won 2 races (from 9 starts): Staffordstown Stud Stakes, The Curragh, Irish Stallion Farms EBF Give Thanks Stakes, Cork. She is a full sister to the Arc and Breeders’ Cup Turf heroine Found, both out of Red Evie, winner of the Matron Stakes, Leopardstown and the Lockinge Stakes, Newbury.

SNOWFALL is her first foal.


Note: Michael has recently published The Classics Chart 1776-2020, showing the male lineage of every Classic winner – see Michael’s BOOKS FOR SALE for more details


Cazoo Derby 2021 – ADAYAR

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(b.c. 2018)

Winner of the 2021 Cazoo Derby Stakes 

For easier reading Mobiles view landscape

Run on Saturday, 5 June, 2021 as the Cazoo 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.  387 entries. Value to winner £637,987.50

1st      ADAYAR                          Adam Kirby       16-1

2nd     MOJO STAR                    David Egan       50-1     4½ lengths

3rd     HURRICANE LANE       William Buick      6-1        3¼  lengths

 Also ran: 4th Mac Swiney (Kevin Manning) 8-1; Third Realm (Andrea Atzeni) 14-1; One Ruler (James Doyle) 17-1; Bolshoi Ballet (Ryan Moore) 11-8 Fav: Youth Spirit (Tom Marquand) 25-1; John Leeper (Frankie Dettori) 8-1; Gear Up (Ben Curtis) 50-1; Southern Lights (Declan McDonogh) 33-1 (tailed off 42 lengths behind the winner.



Commentary: Minutes after the winner crossed the line all the talk was of the jockey, not the horse; Adam  Kirby, having been offered the ride on the much fancied John Leeper, apologetically, turned down the ride on the Godolphin long shot Adayar. However, when Aidan O’Brien released Frankie Dettori, he took over the ride on John Leeper, returning Kirby to Adayar. Fate, however, later sought fit to reverse Kirby’s misfortune.

The betting centred on Bolshoi Ballet, Aiden O’Brien’s sole representative, a Galileo colt having won the Ballysax Stakes and the Derrinstown Derby Trial, to send him off the 11-8 favourite. Other fancies were Godolphin’s, Hurricane Lane, winner of the Dante Stakes, now at 6-1, while John Leeper, winner of Newmarket’s Fairway Stakes, and Jim Bolger’s homebred Mac Swiney, winner of the Irish 2,000 Guineas, were both on offer at 8-1. The mystery of the betting was Adayar –almost exclusively backed on the exchanges from 40-1 down to 16-1.

On a glorious sunny day the 11 runners left the stalls on good to soft ground. After a furlong, Gear Up led from Youth Spirit with Bolshoi Ballet close up. Soon after, Adayar, drawn 1, dubbed by experts as “the coffin box”, was driven up to lay handy alongside his stable companion, Hurricane Lane. From the mile post to the top of the hill, the order was unchanged, but rounding Tattenham Corner, Bolshoi Ballet ominously closed on the front two, while Adam Kirby on Adayar saw to track Gear Up at the rail. When half a gap appeared Adayar courageously went through and with authority went on to win by 4½ lengths. Mojo Star and Hurricane Lane came out of the pack to fill the places, but by now the bird had flown.    

11 ran. Time 2 min 36.85 sec.     

The winner was OWNED and BRED by Godolphin and TRAINED by Charlie Appleby at Newmarket, Suffolk.

Finally, two quotes that will live long in the memory:

Adam Kirby revealed, “I always said I’d rather win the Derby than be Champion Jockey”. And when Charlie Appleby suggested to Sheikh Mohammed that Adayar was more of a St Leger horse, the Sheikh replied, “No Charlie, there’s only one Derby – you need to keep him in the Derby.”           


Footnote: Due to the Government’s revision of the Coronavirus situation, the 2-day Cazoo Derby Festival was run before a limited crowd of 4,000, with no access to The Hill.

The winner, ADAYAR, has won 2 races from 5 starts: EBF Stallions Golden Horn Maiden Stakes, 1m 75y, Nottingham, Cazoo Derby Stakes, Epsom.

The sire, FRANKEL b.c. 2008 ex KIND by DANEHILL, (unbeaten), won 14 races incl. Two Thousand Guineas Stakes, St James’s Palace Stakes, Sussex Stakes, (twice), Queen Anne Stakes, International Stakes, Champion Stakes. Sire of 3 Classic winners since retiring to Judmonte’s Banstead Manor Stud in 2013, incl. ANAPURNA , 2019 Investec Oaks; LOGICIAN, 2019, William Hill St Leger Stakes .

The dam, ANNA SALAI  b.f. 2007 by Dubawi. Won 1 race from 8 starts : Prix de l’Grotte, Longchamp. She has bred 1 winner from 3 runners.


Michael has recently published The Classics Chart 1776-2020 showing the male lineage of every Classic winner – see Michael’s BOOKS FOR SALE for more details.

MILL REEF – 50 years on – His career and his legacy

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MILL REEF – 50 years on – His career and his legacy

***Mobiles view landscape


It is now 50 years since Mill Reef won the Derby, proving to the doubting pedigree experts that he really could stay a mile and a half.

Mill Reef, a handsome, strong, compact colt, was by Never Bend (second in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness), out of the maiden Milan Mill, bred in America by his owner Paul Mellon. He was then sent to England in December 1969, to be trained by Ian Balding at Kingsclere.

As a juvenile, he won five of his six starts and after taking Newbury’s Greenham Stakes as a three-year-old, he finished a three lengths second to Brigadier Gerard, in the Two Thousand Guineas.

So lets now go to Derby Day, and despite his sires’ owner/breeder, Harry Guggenheim, strongly doubting Mill Reef’s staying ability, the bookmakers sent him off the 100-30 favourite.

On a warm day, under blue skies and after a long delay at the start, caused by, Bourbon breaking his bridle, the 21 runners finally got on their way. Linden Tree took them along and led into the straight from Homeric, Lombardo and Mill Reef. Two furlongs out, Linden Tree was still going strongly, but Homeric weakened and Lombardo soon gave way. Soon after, Mill Reef, with Geoff Lewis aboard, cruised up to the plucky Linden Tree and inside the distance, went on to win by two lengths, in 2 min. 37.14 sec.

Mill Reef then won all his remaining starts, kicking off in the Eclipse Stakes when annihilating the French crack Caro and lowering the Sandown Park course record. Next up, he won Ascot’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, then in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe he broke the Longchamp course record, defeating the popular French filly, Pistol Packer, by three lengths.

Kept in training as a four-year-old, he won the Prix Ganay by a contemptuous 10 lengths and followed up taking the Coronation Cup. Soon after he contracted a virus infection, missing his second Eclipse Stakes. Then. sustaining a swollen hock, he also missed the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup and so the long-awaited rematch with Brigadier Gerard failed to come off.

The tragic run continued when on 30 August, Mill Reef broke his near-foreleg while working at Kingsclere. After a six-hour operation involving the insertion of a steel plate in his leg, followed by six weeks in plaster, he fully recovered and retired to The National Stud in 1973.

In 1977, his problems returned when he contracted contagious equine metritis. As a result, he got only nine mares in foal. Nevertheless, two of the offspring proved exceptional: Fairy Footsteps won the One Thousand Guineas Guineas and Glint of Gold went on to take six Group 1 races.  The following year, when Shirley Heights won the English and Irish Derby’s he became Champion Sire, and then again in 1987, when Reference Point, won the Derby, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the St Leger. In 1988, he sired his fourth Classic winner when Doyoun won the Two Thousand Guineas. Furthermore, the line of three Derby winners – Mill Reef – Shirley Heights – Slip Anchor – not only gave Thoroughbred breeders access to his legacy, but has assured his place in history.

Sadly, Mill Reef was put down on 2 February, 1986, after suffering a severe heart condition and was buried at The National Stud in Newmarket.

The above extract is from The Classics Chart 1776-2020 

see Michael’s BOOKS FOR SALE

The Classics Chart 1776-2020 (The Thoroughbred Researcher’s Chart)

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 The Classics Chart 1776-2020

(The Thoroughbred Researcher’s Chart)


After two years of research and design, Michael is pleased to release his latest chart.

The Classics Chart 1776-2020 – the male lineage of every Classic winner plus the King George, Arc and Champion Sires, back to the founding fathers.

Printed in three colours on 170 GSM bright white paper, measuring 74 cm x 59 cm or 29″ x 23 “, the chart shows every winner with dates won: colts in Red, fillies in Green and Champion Sires with  asterisks either side of their name.

The Chart encompasses 20 interlocking smaller charts, photo reduced, therefore with the accompanying Pdf file magnifying up to x 10, suitable for research.

See below with an example of Chart 14 Galileo.

Sold as a Limited Edition of 60 copies, numbered & signed together with a Guide to the Chart and a magnifying Pdf file for £60.

****Mobiles view landscape



Signorinetta and the boundless laws of sympathy and love

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Signorinetta and the boundless laws of sympathy and love

Mobiles view Landscape

THE story of Signorinetta is one of true romance. In 1908 she won the Derby at 100-1, two days later she added the Oaks – and then never won again. She was bred, owned and trained by Cavaliere Odoardo Ginistrelli (1833-1920), an eccentric Italian Senator, known as ‘the Chevalier’.

 Signorinetta’s dam Signorina was also bred by Ginistrelli, but after winning 11 races and finishing second in the Oaks she was 10 years at stud before producing her first live foal. Two further barren years followed until, Ginistrelli decided to take into consideration what he called “the boundless laws of sympathy and love”.

Every day the Cesarewitch winner Chaleureux had to pass Signorina’s paddock and every day they greeted each other with a neigh. On a sentimental impulse, Ginistrelli paid the nine-guinea fee for Chaleureux’s services, and the result was Signorinetta.

After five unplaced runs as a two-year old, Signorinetta finally got of the mark by winning the Criterion Nursery Handicap carrying 6st 3lb.

The following year, she ran unplaced in the One Thousand Guineas and the Newmarket Stakes before arriving at Epsom as a 100-1outsider, preferred to only one of the 18 runners in the Derby betting.

The race appeared an open affair, with the American bred Two Thousand Guineas winner, Norman and the unbeaten Mountain Apple sharing favouritism at 11-2. The French horse, Sea Sick, who had crossed the channel after dead-heating for the Prix du Jockey-Club the previous Sunday, was well supported at 7-1. This year an interval of 55 minutes preceded the Derby, during which the jockeys weighed out and the horses preparation was scrutinised by an ever growing audience. In retrospect, it was noted that Signorinetta appeared to be the coolest and calmest of them all.

However, down at the start an element of chaos took over – the tapes were broken many times and a few runners charged off after ducking under the tapes. Eventually after a 21-minute delay, the field got under way and on settling down were led by Mercutio, setting a strong pace from Orphah, Norman and further back, Sea Sick, Moet and White Eagle. At the top of the hill, Mountain Apple surged through to take up the running, leading into the straight from Sir Archibald and White Eagle. Approaching the two-furlong pole, Signorinetta, having made steady progress, came to challenge and with Billy Bullock aboard, ran on to win by two lengths from Primer and Llangwm.

After the weigh-in, King Edward VII sent for Ginistrelli, who still wearing his battered Panama hat, was taken by the King and presented to the cheering crowd. It was a memorable occasion for all present and one that inevitably added to the romance of the Derby.

Signorinetta wins from Premier and Llangwm

Two days later, Signorinetta, returned for the Oaks, now 3-1 second favourite behind the 6-4 Rhodora, winner of the One Thousand Guineas. Ten others completed the field.

During the race an incident near the mile post caused French Partridge to fall and Rhodora, trying to jump over her also fell. From there, Signorinetta, handily placed to avoid the carnage, went on to win by three-quarters of a length.

Signorinetta contested three more races, including the St Leger, but failed to reach a place in any and was retired to stud at the end of the year. In all she had seven live foals, the best being The Winter King, winner of the Lowther Stakes and sire of the Grand Prix de Paris winner Barnveldt. She had no produce after 1921 and died in 1928.

Billy Bullock (1885-1963), who won both the Derby and Oaks on Signorinetta, was born in Morpeth in Northumberland. Both his brother and his grandfather were trainers and his uncle, Ralph Bullock, rode Kettledrum to victory in the 1861 Derby. Memorably for Bullock, after his Classic double for Ginistrelli, he received only the basic riding fee, accompanied by a cigar and a glass of wine. After the First World War, Bullock rode in Denmark, where he was Champion Jockey from 1924 to 1927. In 1933, he rode Leonard, off 7st 9lb, to win the Northumberland Plate for Captain Elsey and continued to ride work for him to the age of 74.



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.