Archive for the ‘Racing Blog Posts’ Category

Hambletonian – The Painting and The Horse

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The Painting and the Horse

Whilst the George Stubbs painting of Hambletonian is widely recognised, the success story of this bay colt, born in 1792 is not.

 Hambletonian was bred, owned and trained by John Hutchinson, the owner of a large estate in Shipley, near York. Early in his career, Hutchinson’s independent judgement paid off when he bought King Fergus, a son of Eclipse described as “A horse of great size and remarkably full of bone”, who after his successful racing career, had surprisingly shown very little at stud. However, when Hutchinson put King Fergus to the unnamed daughters of Herod and Highflyer, he got in two St Leger winners – Beningbrough in 1794 and Hambletonian in 1795.

After Hambletonian had won his first two races, Hutchinson decided to sell his three best horses with their entries to the young Yorkshire baronet Sir Charles Turner, for the great sum of 3,000 guineas. The bold young Turner soon made inroads into his outlay when Hambletonian won both the St Leger and Gold Cup on consecutive days at Doncaster.

Rested until August the following year, Hambletonian reappeared at York taking on the previous year’s Derby winner Spread Eagle. However, Hambletonian had thoughts of his own and soon after the start jumped over ropes and fled the course. Two days later, he re-opposed and beat Spread Eagle and the following day took the Ladies Plate, beating St George – both races over four miles.

Soon after, Hambletonian changed hands in romantic circumstances.

Sir Charles Turner had fallen in love with the daughter of a wealthy banker who would not give his consent to the marriage unless Sir Charles gave up the Turf and sold his horses. This he did, selling Benningbrough back to John Hutchinson and Hambletonian to Sir Harry Vane-Tempest.

Sir Harry, had while only receiving a small estate from his Reverend father, received a vast estate from his uncle John Tempest (whose only son had died in a riding accident), by hyphenating his name to Vane-Tempest.

With Hambletonian now heralded as the Champion of the North, Sir Harry threw down a challenge of a 3,000 guinea Match with a 800 guineas side bet, to Joseph Cookson’s colt Diamond (by Highflyer out of a Matchem mare), see aside, at that time the best horse at Newmarket. The race to be run at the Craven Meeting the following year, over the Beacon Course of 4 miles 1 furlong, 138 yards, Hambletonian to carry 8st. 3lbs and Diamond 8st. 0lb.

With so much public money resting on the match and Hambletonian absent from the racecourse for 18 months, Sir Harry turned again to John Hutchinson to assess his fitness. Hutchinson’s opinion that he could not win in his present state caused his trainer to resign leaving Hutchinson in charge of his preparation and the booking of Derby winning jockey, Frank Buckle to ride him. Meanwhile, Joseph Cookson arranged for Dennis Fitzpatrick to ride Diamond.

By now the match had caught the interest of the Nation and the date to be run March 25, Easter Monday, encouraging many thousands to travel down from the North. Sporting Magazine reported it “drew together the greatest concourse of people that ever was seen at Newmarket”, from where every bed was booked for 15 miles and beyond.

On the morning of the race betting on the match was estimated at around 25,000 guineas worth more than £2½ million today and although many private wagers were made at Evens, large professional bets were taken at 4-5 Hambletonian.

From the Off, Frank Buckle allowed Diamond to lead for a mile and a quarter, then slowly moved up to take about a half-length lead. Five furlongs from the finish Hambletonian’s lead had grown to two lengths, but Diamond showed his stamina to close, and the two ran neck and neck to the finish. Hambletonian, however, looking the most exhausted managed to make one last effort and got up in the very last stride to win by a head,


To show the toughness of Diamond, he came out again the next day and won a class of the Oatlands Stakes. Sadly, not so, Hambletonian, who having suffered much whipping and spurring, took six months rest before returning to win the Doncaster Stakes.

Soon after Hambletonian’s  gruelling victory over Diamond, Vane-Tempest commissioned Stubbs to paint a picture of Hambletonian winning the race, hoping to profit from the sale of many engravings, with his colours in the forefront. However, when the Stubbs painting finally emerged, it was described as, “the image of a creature enduring the aftermath of a terrible, almost sacrificial triumph of which he was the hero”.

In consequence, Vane-Tempest refused to pay the 300 guineas demanded. Then after a high profile spirited debate in the Sheriffs court on 9 April 1801, Stubbs was given the full verdict.

On 28 August 1800, Hambletonian, aged eight, won the four-mile Great Subscription race at York, concluding a 19-race career with 18 victories. From there he retired to stud, firstly at Seacroft Hall near Leeds, at 10 guineas, then to the Hornsey stables in Middlethorpe and with further movements, finally to Catterick.

His notable produce included: Camillus gr.c. 1803, won Doncaster Cup and successful sire.

Goosander b.f. 1805, won 6 races. Dam of Shoveler b.f.1816 by Scud, won Oaks Stakes and Sailor ch. c. 1817 by Scud, won his only two races incl. Derby Stakes.

Camerton b.c. 1808, won Goodwood Cup. Sent to France in 1818.

Anticipation ch.c. 1812, won 16 races incl. Ascot Gold Cup (twice).


Finally, after siring nearly 150 winners, Hambletonian ended his days at Sir Harry Vane-Tempest’s former home Wynyard Park, in County Durham, where after his death on 28 March 1818, aged 26, he was buried under a huge oak tree.  


Acknowledgement: The result of the Newmarket match and the Doncaster Stakes extracts are from Edward and Charles Weatherby’s Racing Calendar of 1799.


For more racing history see Michael’s Books for Sale

George Stubbs – Painter 1724-1806

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         George Stubbs

          1724 – 1806

Eclipse by Stubbs, outside the Rubbing House on Newmarket Heath, c1770.

George Stubbs was born in Liverpool on the 25 August 1724, the son of John Stubbs, a leather currier and his wife Mary. After working for his father until 15 or 16, during which time he developed a love of drawing, he expressed a wish to become a painter and with his father’s eventual consent he became a pupil of the Lancashire painter, Hamlet Winstanley.  Soon after, having shown signs of ability, he was for a few weeks, allowed to study and copy Lord Derby’s Paintings at Knowsley Hall, near Liverpool. Thereafter, he taught himself at home, supported by his mother for four years.

From 1745 to 1753 he worked as a portrait painter and following his passion for anatomy, studied at the York County Hospital under Surgeon, Charles Atkinson. Within this period, he illustrated with 18 plates, John Burton’s Essay towards a Complete New System of Midwifery, published in 1751 and recognised as his earliest known work.

In 1754 he made the trip to Rome, contemplating and convincing himself that nature was superior to either Greek or Roman art. Then on returning to Liverpool he turned to portraiture of animals sometimes based on dissecting.

In 1756, convinced dissecting horses was the way to accurate portraiture, he rented a farmhouse in Hawkstow, Lincolnshire, where for 16 months, assisted by his common-law wife Mary Spencer, he set about dissecting horses; this a gruesome process which has to be described to appreciate the magnitude of the task. First he would sever the jugular vein, so quickly bleeding the horse to death, then to keep the shape of the veins and arteries he would inject them with a wax-like substance.

Stubbs then, fulfilling the plan of his drawings, fixed iron hooks into the farmhouse ceiling and assembled pulley’s that could draw and suspend a horse in a natural position, leaving its hooves resting upon a plank. He then proceeded to dissect the horse for about six weeks until the work was no longer useful.

Taking his drawings to London in 1758, he was unable to find a professional engraver willing to do the work. And it is probable that at this point he left Mary and their four children in Liverpool, while he established himself in London.

His paintings of horses and wild animals quickly enhanced his reputation with sales to the Dukes of Richmond and Grafton and the Earls Grosvenor and Spencer.

In 1762, Charles Watson-Wentworth, the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham (later Prime Minister in 1765 and 1782), commissioned the large painting of Whistlejacket, now in the National Gallery,

This I have complemented below with pedigree and racing record.

Whistlejacket ch.c. 1749 by Mogul (a son of the Godolphin Arabian), ex 1736 daughter of Bolton’s Sweepstakes.

Bred & owned by Sir William Middleton, later owned by the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham.

Won 13 races (from 17 starts) incl. a £2,000 Match over 4 miles at York, beating Mr Turner’s Brutus.

Soon after the acclaim of his Whistlejacket painting, Stubbs moved into 24 Somerset Street (later Selfridge’s), and began a series of ten variations of his Brood Mares and Foals, a subject popular with breeders of racehorses. His commissions now multiplying, forced his work on the 18 Anatomy engravings back to either early morning or late at night. Nevertheless, he would develop a masterly talent as an engraver by the time The Anatomy of the Horse was published in 1766.

In 1770, Stubbs painted Captain O’Kelly’s famous horse Eclipse, who having recently retired to stud after an unbeaten career of 18 races he set with groom and jockey, before the Rubbing House on Newmarket Heath.

At this time Stubbs took up painting portraits of dogs, which led to many commissions. In fact, when making his début at the Royal Academy in 1775, two of his four exhibits were of dogs. Stubbs sense of design would maximise the build of the dog to occupy the major part of the painting. The finest examples of these being the two portraits of Foxhounds, painted in 1792: Ringwood, a Brocklesby Foxhound (Earl of Yarborough) and see below, A Couple of Foxhounds (Tate Gallery).

In 1795 Stubbs commenced his work, A comparative anatomical exposition of the structure of the human body with that of a tiger and a common fowl. The common fowl was easily bought and a nearby menagerie was able to supply the body of a tiger. Here one must credit Stubbs with the researching the problem of a dead body before he planned the work, which was likely made possible by a contact at St Thomas’s Hospital, where it was legal to receive the bodies of executed criminals for dissection.

Stubbs’ progress with drawings and engravings once again had to be fitted between his other commissions and sadly this time the work was not completed before his death.

What he did find time for in 1800 was his magnificent large painting of Hambletonian, but more of that when I will tell of the painting, the court case and, the match with Diamond in my next posting.

On the day of his death, 10 July 1806, at his home in Somerset Street, he made a new will, leaving everything to Mary Spencer (his common-law wife of more than 50 years), and appointed Mary Spencer and Isabella Saltonstall as joint executors. However, while suffering ‘violent spasms’, he was unable to sign it. Fortunately, after attestations by witnesses, it was accepted for probate.

To conclude, I would like to leave a final observation from Judy Egerton, the late Australian-born British art historian and curator.

Stubbs is perhaps a deceptive artist: some of his subjects seem so ‘ordinary’ that their extraordinary ability to move the spectator takes a second glance to manifest itself. In this his reticence is characteristically English, akin to that style which Jane Austen describes as ‘burying under a calmness that seems all but indifference, the real attachment’.


On a personal level, I first discovered The Anatomy of the Horse just after the war, when aged nine. Family reunions at Auntie Mary’s in Church Street, Woking, were a frequent occurrence and while the adults discussed food rationing, politics and horseracing, I was kept quiet with Stubbs’ very large book of illustrations on horse anatomy.  Recently, I found the same 1938 edition for sale at a good price and so after reliving my childhood memories I set about writing this essay.

2022 Cazoo Derby – DESERT CROWN

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2022 Cazoo Derby

 Run on Saturday, 4 June, 2022 as the Cazoo Derby (In Memory Of Lester Piggott) over the Derby Course of one mile and a half and 6 yards, Epsom Downs. For three-year-olds; entire colts 9st 2lb, fillies 8st 13lb.  94 entries. Value to winner £909,628.40

1st     DESERT CROWN   Richard Kingscote  5-2 Fav

2nd    HOO YA MAL       David Probert      150-1     2½ lengths

3rd     WESTOVER           Rob Hornby         25-1      Head

 Also ran: 4th Maskela (Andrea Atzeni) 66-1; Changingoftheguard (Wayne Lordan) 9-1; Stone Age (Ryan Moore) 7-2; Nahanni (Adam Kirby) 25-1; Nations Pride (William Buick) 15-2; West Wind Blows (Jack Mitchell) 40-1; El Habeeb (J. F. Egan) 250-1; Grand Alliance (Daniel Tudhope) 40-1; Piz Badile (Frankie Dettori) 9-1; Star Of India (Seamie Heffernan) 16-1; Glory Daze (Ronan Whelan) 66-1; Sony Liston (Tom Marquand) 100-1; Royal Patronage (Jason Hart) 28-1 (tailed off); Walk Of Stars (James Doyle) 11-1 (tailed off, last).

This year the weights for the Derby were raised 2lb to 9st 2lb, the first change since 1884.

*** For an easier read Mobiles view Landscape.

In the absence of Her Majesty, the Princess Royal headed the Royal Party and was greeted by the 40 jockeys who had previously ridden for the Queen.

 Desert Crown, an impressive winner of the Dante Stakes, headed the Derby betting at 5-2. Stone Age was a strong alternative at 7-2, as the pick of Aiden O’Brien’s three, having won the Leopardstown Derby Trial Stakes. While Godolphin’s Nations Pride, supplemented for £75,000 after winning the Newmarket Stakes by 7 lengths from Hoo Ya Mal drifted from 6’s to 15-2.

With Desert Crown the last to be loaded, the 17 runners got underway on good going. After 2 furlongs, West Wind Blows and Changingoftheguard took them along from Glory Daze, Star of India and Stone Age. At the top of the hill the front two maintained their lead while Desert Crown was nicely placed on the outside of the pack.  There was little change rounding Tattenham Corner until passing the 3-pole where Changingoftheguard gave way to HooYa Mal, while Desert Crown cruised up on the outside, Richard Kingscote sending him clear two furlongs out. Meantime, Rob Hornby on Westover, suddenly blocked by a closing wall of horses, had to pull out and round to make his challenge. Desert Crown by now 3 to 4 lengths clear and easing down with plenty in the locker, went on to win by 2½ lengths. Hoo Ya Mal, a 150-1 shot, held on to second by a head from the fast finishing Westover.

17 ran. Time 2m 36.38 sec

  • The winner was bred by Strawberry Fields Stud, owned by Saeed Suhail and trained by Sir Michael Stoute, his sixth Derby winner from Newmarket, Suffolk.


  The winner, DESERT CROWN, had won 3 races from 3 starts: EBF Maiden Stakes, Nottingham, Dubai Dante Stakes, York, Cazoo Derby, Epsom.

The sire, NATHANIEL b.c. 2008 by GALILEO ex MAGNIFICENT STYLE, won 4 races (from 11 starts): St Helens Maiden Stakes, Haydock, King Edward VII Stakes, Ascot, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, beating WORKFORCE, (2011), Coral-Eclipse Stakes, Sandown. Sire of ENABLE, winner Investec Oaks, Darley Irish Oaks, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (twice), Longines Breeders’Cup Turf , Churchill Downs.

The dam, DESERT BERRY b.f. 2009 by GREEN DESERT, won 1 race (from 3 starts): Forest Row Maiden Stakes, Lingfield (AW). She has bred 5 winners from 5 runners incl. FLYING THUNDER b.g. 2015 by ARCHIPENKO, won Premier Cup, Sha Tin.


Desert Crown and Richard Kingscote return in Triumph


For more Racing History see Michael’s Books for Sale.






2022 Cazoo Oaks – TUESDAY

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2022 Cazoo Oaks

RUN on Friday, 3 June 2022, 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 2lb. Value to winner £245,080.


1st   TUESDAY      Ryan Moore    13-2

2nd  EMILY UPJOHN     Frankie Dettori   6-4 Fav    Short head

3rd  NASHWA    Hollie Doyle        4-1        3¼ lengths

Also ran: 4th Concert Hall (Seamie Heffernan) 15-2; Kawida (Jim Crowley) 40-1; Tranquil Lady (Tom Marquand) 16-1; Rogue Millennium (Jack Mitchell) 22-1; Moon De Vaga (Rossa Ryan) 50-1; Thoughts Of June (Wayne Lordan) 14-1;  The Algarve (Colin Keane) 66-1; With The Moonlight (William Buick) 11-1, (last).

***For an easier read Mobiles view  Landscape

Commentary: This year the weights for the Oaks were raised 2lb to 9st 2lb, the first change since 1884. The race, run on the second of the four day bank holiday to celebrate Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee attracted a sold out attendance. Favourite at 6-4 was Emily Upjohn, a 5½ length winner of the Musidora Stakes at York, while her stable companion Nashwa at 4-1 had been an impressive winner of a 10 furlong Listed race at Newbury. Tuesday the pick of Aidan O’Brien’s four entries was well supported at 13-2.

All 11 fillies left the stalls on good ground, however, Emily Upjohn, stumbling, took time to make headway. The early pace was with Thoughts of June, who lead by 1½ lengths to descend the hill and round Tattenham Corner, while With The Moonlight and Tranquil Lady stayed in close attendance. Three furlongs out, Tuesday moved wide of the pack to join Thoughts Of June, while Emily Upjohn chose the Stand side rails, and Hollie Doyle on Naswa made ground through the middle. Yards later the final battle ensued between Frankie Dettori on Emily Upjohn and Ryan Moore on Tuesday, who coming again close home, won by a short head. Nashwa was 3¼ lengths away third, with Concert Hall fourth. Tuesday, who on her birthday recorded Aidan O’Brien’s 41st British Classic victory, surpassing John Scott’s tally (1827-1863) who’s 40 Classics included eight Oaks and 16 St Leger’s.

11 ran. Time: 2 min. 37.83 sec.

BRED by Coolmore Stud.  OWNED by Mrs John Magnier, Mr Michael Tabor, Mr Derrick Smith & Westerberg  TRAINED by Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle, Co. Tipperary.

Tuesday (right) fights out the finish With Emily Upjohn.

As close as close can be.

The winner, TUESDAY (b.f . 2019), has won 2 races (from 5 starts):  Irish Stud Farms EBF Fillies Maiden, Naas, Cazoo Oaks Stakes. Second in Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas Stakes. Third in Qipco 1,000 Guineas 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 12 times: 2008, 2010-2020. At Epsom, sire of 5 Oaks winners and 5 Derby winners. Also sire of FRANKEL b.c. 2008, won 14 races (unbeaten) incl. Qipco Two Thousand Guineas Stakes.

The dam, LILLIE LANGTRY (b.f. 2007) by Danehill Dancer, won 5 races (from 11 starts) incl. Debutante Stakes (Fillies), Leopardstown, Coronation Stakes, Ascot, Matron Stakes, Leopardstown. She has bred 5 winners from 7 runners incl. MINDING b.f. 2013 by GALILEO (a full sister to TUESDAY), won Moyglare Stud Stakes, The Curragh, Dubai Fillies’ Mile, Newmarket, Qipco 1,000 Guineas Stakes, Investec Oaks, Pretty Polly Stakes, The Curragh, Nassau Stakes, Good wood, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Ascot.

 Conquering heroes return with Michael Tabor (left) and Derrick Smith (right).



For more Racing History see Michael’s Books for Sale.








AIRBORNE 1946 – The last of four grey Derby winners ?

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The last of four grey Derby winners ?

On Wednesday 5 June 1946, the Derby returned to Epsom after a gap of six years. Years, in which the Army used the Downs for military operations, turning the Prince’s Stand into the Officers Mess and, in 1943, in the midst of a national food shortage, the Surrey War Agricultural Committee finally agreed to relinquish its claim to plough up the gallops.

Inevitably, being near to London, Epsom was subject to the occasional air raid and, after one such attack received bomb damage to the enclosures and the Grandstand. Nevertheless, all were patched up in time for Derby Day, when enormous crowds braved heavy showers to see for the first time the King and Queen, Princess Elizabeth and Queen Mary drive up the course from Tattenham Corner. However, with food subject to rationing the catering was basic at best and not a top hat was seen in the Members Enclosure.

After Gordon Richards had won the first two races on Gold Sorrel (9-2) and Gold Paint (4-1), the Derby betting looked comparatively open, with Happy Knight, winner of the Two Thousand Guineas starting 5-1 favourite and the next four home – Khaled, Radiotherapy, Gulf Stream and Edward Tudor, all by Hyperion – priced between 7-1 and 100-9. Airborne, at 50-1, was a popular each-way choice for R.A.F. servicemen and their wives or sweethearts.

The field of 17 ‘off’ and running, Gulf Stream led Happy Knight, Khaled and Peterborough up to the top of the hill. Little changed until Tattenham Corner, where Khaled and Peterborough disputed the lead, but once into the straight Gordon Richards looking to land a treble, took Edward Tudor to the front, followed by Gulf Stream and Radiotherapy. At the two-furlong marker Airborne started his run on the wide outside, while Gulf Stream and Radiotherapy were racing neck and neck to below the distance. Inside the final 100 yards Airborne’s acceleration proved decisive as he caught and passed Gulf Stream (the author’s pocket money choice), close home to win by a length, with Radiotherapy two lengths away third. Not to be denied, Gordon Richards won the next race on the 2-y-o filly, Neocracy, who went on to be the dam of Tulyar (1952 Derby & St Leger).

Bred by Lt-Colonel Harold Boyd-Rochfort at the Middleton Park Stud in Ireland, Airborne, was by the Ascot Gold Cup winner Precipitation out of the unraced grey mare Bouquet and purchased by John Ferguson as a yearling for 3,300 guineas.

Airborne is the last of the four grey horses to have won the Derby. The previous three were:

Gustavus in 1821. gr.c. Election – Lady Grey

Tagalie in 1912 gr.f.  Cylene – Tagale

Mahmoud in 1936 gr.c. Blenheim – Mah Mahal

Trained by Dick Perryman at Newmarket, Airborne ran four races there as a juvenile without success. However, he did run ‘fairly well’ when fourth in the Dewhurst behind Hypericum and, the following year, he reappeared at Newmarket’s First Spring Meeting with a ‘very promising’ third in the Hastings Stakes. Two weeks later, staying on well, he won a good class maiden at the Second Spring Meeting.

After the Derby, Airborne went on to win the Princess of Wales’s Stakes, the Stuntney Stakes (dead-heated with Fast and Fair) and the St Leger. His finale, in October, came in the King George VI Stakes over two miles at Ascot, in which he finished third to the French crack Souverain.

Airborne could not be trained as a four-year-old and retired in 1948 to the Aislabie Stud at Stetchworth, Newmarket at a fee of 400 guineas. Although not a great success, he did get the Irish Oaks winner Silken Glider and the top-class chaser Frenchman’s Cove, winner of the Whitbread Gold Cup. Airborne died from heart failure on 11 September, 1962.

Tommy Lowrey (1911-1991), was born in Felling, County Durhan, the son of a coal miner. He became apprentice to F. Leader at Newmarket, later winning the 1929 Liverpool Autumn Cup, on Mohawk (5y-7st-4lb) for Malton trainer, Capt. Charles Elsey. The war over, he went to ride for Dick Perryman, winning the 1945 St Leger on Chamossaire, then adding the Derby and St Leger the following year on Airborne. Lowrey, always known as a stylish jockey had a career total of 508 winners.

Dick Perryman (1903-1976), having served his apprenticeship with G. F. Leader at Newmarket, he later succeeded Tommy Weston as first jockey to the 17th Earl of Derby at the close of 1934. Perryman rode three Classic winners – all in the One Thousand Guineas – Pillion for Anthony de Rothschild in 1926, Tideway for Lord Derby in 1936 and Dancing Time for 1st Baron Glanely in 1941. After seriously injuring his arm in a motor accident later in 1941, Perryman took to training from Beaufort House, Newmarket, from where he made a good start with Chamossaire (1945 St Leger) and Airborne. But although training until 1967, he never had another major winner. In the years after, he was greatly involved with the running of his Aislabie Stud at Stetchworth.


For more Racing History see Michael’s Books for Sale.


NIJINSKY – The last Triple Crown winner ?

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NIJINSKY – The last Triple Crown winner ?


WHEN Nijinsky landed the Triple Crown in 1970, many judges suspected he might be the last horse to achieve this magnificent treble. Poignantly, his brilliant racecourse career mingled triumphs with moments of great sorrow for his thousands of fans.

Nijinsky, born on 21 February, 1967, was bred by Edward P.Taylor in Ontario, Canada. Sired by the great Northern Dancer out of Flaming Page, a Canadian Classic winner of nervous temperament, Nijinsky was bought by Charles Engelhard at the Woodbine Sale in Toronto for Can$84,000 (a Canadian yearling record) and sent to be trained by Vincent O’Brien in Ireland.

A powerful, bright bay colt with three white feet and a large heart-shaped star on his forehead, Nijinsky stood 15.3½   hands high as a yearling and grew to 16.3 hands as a two-year-old.

After a winning debut in the Erne Stakes at The Curragh, Nijinsky returned there to take the Railway Stakes, the Anglesey Stakes and the Beresford Stakes. He was partnered each time by Liam Ward, who rode him in all his races in Ireland, while Lester Piggott had the mount in England and France. Nijinsky’s final race of the season was the Dewhurst Stakes, and his convincing three lengths victory ensured him top spot in the English and Irish Free Handicaps.

The following April, Nijinsky reappeared in the Gladness Stakes at The Curragh, beating the Irish St Leger second Deep Run by four lengths. He followed up in the Two Thousand Guineas, effortlessly accounting for Yellow God.

Doubts about Nijinsky’s stamina for the Derby allowed him to start 11-8 favourite, the only time he went off at odds against in his 13-race career. The pick of Nijinsky’s rivals were Gyr, winner of the Prix Daru and Prix Hocquart; Stintino, winner of the Prix Lupin; and Approval, winner of the Observer Gold Cup and Dante Stakes.

In the descent to Tattenham Corner,Meadowville and Long Till led Gyr and Great Wall with Nijinsky going easily behind the leaders.With a furlong and a half to go, Gyr took up the running, pressed by Great Wall, Stintino and Nijinsky. A furlong out Nijinsky burst through between the leaders and came away to win by two and a half lengths from Gyr, with Stintino a further three lengths away third. It was an emphatic victory and one that answered every question. Nijinsky’s time for the race was 2 min 34.68 sec, the fastest since Mahmoud in 1936.

Nijinsky went on to win the Irish Sweeps Derby by three lengths from Meadowville and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes by two lengths, from the plucky Blakeney. He then won the St Leger from Meadowville (see below), with consummate ease, so completing a historic Triple Crown.

Sadly, he never won again. The attack of ringworm he suffered before the St Leger may have taken its toll, but at the time his head defeat by Sassafras in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe was put down to his extreme nervousness and fretting throughout the preliminaries, while his loss to Lorenzaccio in the Champion Stakes was clearly a case of going to the well once too often.

At stud Nijinsky did superbly, getting three Derby winners – Golden Fleece (1982), Shahrastani (1986) and Lammtarra (1995) – plus the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand. He was Champion Sire in 1986 and sired the Champion Sire of 1988 and 1991 in Caerleon. After a long struggle against laminitis, Nijinsky was put down on 15 April, 1992 and buried at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky.

Charles W. Engelhard, Jnr. (1917-1971) was a multimillionaire minerals industrialist from New Jersey. His colours of ‘green, yellow sleeves, scarlet sash, green cap’ made famous by Nijinsky, were also carried by Indiana (1964 St Leger) and the brothers Ribocco and Ribero, who in 1967 and 1968 respectively, won both the Irish Sweeps Derby and the St Leger.

When asked how he wished to be remembered, Engelhard, one of the richest men in the world, said simply, “As the man who owned Nijinsky”.

He died at his home in Boca Grande, Florida on 2 March, 1971 after a heart attack.


For more Racing History see Michael’s Books for Sale.

Priam – the peer of Flying Childers and Eclipse

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 Priam – the peer of Flying Childers and Eclipse

 In 1830, Priam’s Derby victory not only surpassed all previous winners, but he became the yardstick to measure future champions.



Bred by Sir John Shelley, Priam was by Emilius (1823 Derby) out of the 20-year old mare, Cressida – a full sister to Eleanor (1801 Derby and Oaks). Sent as an unbroken yearling to be sold at the Newmarket July Meeting, Priam was bought by William Chifney for 1,000 guineas, then a record price for a yearling..

The Druid wrote of Priam: “In height, he was a trifle above 15.3, rather light-limbed, and with lightish back ribs, from which his critics drew their short-course inferences. His greatest merit lay in his forehand; he had deep oblique shoulders, and one of the most expressive and blood-like of heads.”

Making his debut at the Newmarket Craven Meeting on 12 April 1830, Priam, officially a two-year old (since at this time racehorses became a year older on May Day), won the Riddlesworth Stakes from Mahmoud. He then added the Column Stakes from the future Two Thousand Guineas winner Augustus. Frank Buckle, then 64, rode Priam in both races since neither contracted jockeys could make 8st 4lb.  Days later, such was his early reputation that at Newmarket’s First Spring Meeting he received forfeit in two sweepstakes on the same afternoon.

Taking racehorses from Newmarket to Epsom during the first part of the 19th century was entirely different from today. So the details of Priam’s journey to Epsom for the Derby make interesting reading. On Friday, 14 May, Priam left Newmarket at 4 a.m. to walk the 21 miles to Newport. Next day, he walked a further 22 miles to the ‘Cock’ at Epping, and the day after, he continued through Piccadilly to Smith’s stables in Sloane Street. On the fourth day he travelled on to Mickleham in Surrey, so leaving his trainer, William Chifney, the required nine days needed to put him right for the great race. Due to previous jockey arrangements, however, Priam’s Derby mount went to the third choice of jockey, Sam Day. Nevertheless, William Chifney and his brother Sam backed Priam to win £10,000.

Priam went to Epsom as the 4-1 Derby favourite, however, after bouts of very heavy rain and at least a dozen false starts, when the flag finally fell, Priam was left rearing up at the back of the field. Nonetheless, approaching Tattenham Corner, Sam Day, having used some speed, settled Priam nicely, to move up in close attendance to the leaders. Continuing to the distance pole, Little Red Rover led Augustus and Mahmoud, but from there, Day allowed Priam his head and cruising past Little Red Rover, went on to win easily by two lengths.

At Ascot, Priam, when set to give Mahmoud and another Derby rival 7lb in a sweepstake over the Old Mile, he justified the odds of 1-3 and was then saved for the St Leger.

The 130 mile journey to Doncaster was broken after two days to put Priam through a series of searching gallops in Exton Park, Chester, before continuing the 85 miles on foot to Doncaster. This second part of the journey, however, was subjected to heavy rain, leaving parts of the course all but flooded. Then, on the day, as the field of 28 lined up for the Classic, a thunder and lightning storm broke over Town Moor.  Inevitably, the conditions affected the form, and whilst the winner, Birmingham, a strapping 17.0 hands son of the St Leger winner Filho da Puta, relished the quagmire conditions, the lighter framed Priam struggled to challenge. Heroically, he closed the gap on Birmingham, but was beaten by half-a-length.

Priam recovered remarkably well and, two days later, beat Retriever in a match over one and a half miles, before walking over for the Gascoigne Stakes. To enhance Priam’s reputation, later that afternoon Retriever won the Doncaster Cup.

The following year at the Craven Meeting, Priam won the Craven Stakes and the two-mile Port Stakes, then after a failed attempt to run him in the Ascot Gold Cup, the Chifney’s sold him to Lord Chesterfield for 3,000 guineas. Priam was then matched to carry 7st 11lb, over two miles at Newmarket against the year older mare Lucetta (8st 8lb), winner of the previous Ascot Gold Cup and a Kings Plate only three days earlier, The match generated great interest with level betting – Sam Chifney on Priam and Jem Robinson on Lucetta. The mare, thought to be the better stayer set a strong pace, Chifney, however, kept Priam directly behind Luceta, until 150 yards out, when he not only cruised past, but went on to win by four lengths. This was an outstanding performance, confirming Priam’s reputation as one of the Turf’s great horses.

Priam then went on to win the Goodwood Cup in a canter.

Rested until late October, he won a 10 furlong Match ‘Across the Flat’, against the previous year’s Two Thousand Guineas winner, Augustus, conceding 16lbs and winning by three-quarters of a length.

Now five and reappearing at odds of 1-4 in Newmarket’s Craven Stakes, he ran an unexplained shocker to finish third of five behind Chapman.

In May, Priam beat Lucetta again in a 3½ mile King’s Plate and in June at Ascot, he won the Eclipse Foot, beating Sarpendon.

Returning for the Goodwood Cup on Wednesday, 15 August, and following Lucetta’s win in the Goodwood Stakes, Priam, although even-money, was set to give 31lb to that year’s Derby winner, St Giles, 46lb to the second in the Oaks, Lady Fly and 31lb to Beiram, a winner of four races at Newmarket and the Drawing-room Stakes at Goodwood the day before. And it was Beiram who severely tested Priam, the two in furious combat up the straight, with Priam courageously denying Beiram to win by a short-head.

Inevitably, the race took its toll of Priam and soon after, Lord Chesterfield retired him to his Bretby Park Stud, near Burton-on-Trent, at a fee of £30.

In 1835, after a residency of four years and at time when his two-year-olds were winning, Lord Chesterfield, deeply in debt, sold Priam to Richard Tattersall on behalf of Dr A.T. Merritt of Virginia, for 3,500 guineas to go to America.

In the ensuing years after Priam’s fillies (Miss Letty, Industry and Crucifix), had won the Oaks three times in four years, belated offers sent to America of 4,000 guineas and 5,000 guineas were refused.

Priam was Champion Sire in Britain in 1839 & 1840. Overall his fillies were better than his colts, with Crucifix (b.f. 1837), the best, winning both the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas together with the Oaks, then going on to foal Surplice (b.c. 1845), by Touchstone, winner of the Derby and St Leger.

In North America, Priam was Champion Sire four times in five years 1942-46.  His best colt being the imported Monarch (b.c. 1834) ex Delphine by Whisker, sent from England to South Carolina.

On both sides of the Atlantic, Priam was now heralded as the peer of Flying Childers and Eclipse.

Some years before his death, Priam was transferred from Virginia to the Belle Mead Stud Farm in Tennessee, where sadly, aged 20 and by now, totally blind, he died in 1847.


Acknowledgement: The Goodwood Cup extracts are from Edward and Charles Weatherby’s Racing Calendar’s 1831 and 1832.


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Variations in the Osteology of Racehorses

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Variations in the Osteology of Racehorses

It is not readily appreciated that racehorses, being hybrids, vary in their number of ribs and lumbar vertebrae.

To further explain this I have reproduced here an essay featured in my book: ECLIPSE – The Horse – The Race – The Awards.

Mobiles preferably view landscape




Who won the Epsom Derby? – Spreading the News

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Who won the Derby ? – Spreading the News

 The most dramatic change in the history of the Derby has been in the speed and the method by which the result has been transmitted.

From when Sir Charles Bunbury’s Diomed won the first Derby in 1780, it took a few years and some notable winners for the racing fraternity to acknowledge and promote the Derby.

Certainly, the 12th Earl of Derby’s success with Sir Peter Teazle in 1787 helped and later, when Champion won both the Derby and St Leger in 1800, the race begun to be accepted as an elite prize.

The final acknowledgement, however, came in 1827, when the Derby, Oaks and St Leger were grouped together in the Racing Calendar as “The Three Great Races”.

It follows that, for the first 40 years, the majority of people who wanted to know the result of the Derby had to be at Epsom. In the meantime, the staff of the training stables left behind would have to wait for the returning parties to be told who had won. As the prestige of the race grew, so did the outside interest in the betting. Stagecoaches would bring details of the race to the Coaching Inns, although carrier pigeons were sometimes quicker and kept the result ‘confidential’ in places where betting would sometimes continue for a week after the race.

In 1830, the year the great Priam won the Derby, the railways took communications a giant step forward. Louis Henry Curzon describes an incident in his book “The Blue Ribbon of the Turf”, that not only gives the feel of the times, but, exposes the lengths that gamblers would go to in order to gain an advantage.


Priam! It’s Priam that’s won I tell you. I heard the guard say so.”

It must have been on the Saturday forenoon after the Derby of 1830 (the race run the previous Thursday) that I heard these words spoken by a stableman at one of the Hotels in the town of Haddington. I did not at the time know to what they related, being then a boy of some six years or so at school there. I soon became enlightened by a bigger boy, who told me Priam was a horse, and that it was the Derby it had won. 

Next year some of us boys took such an interest in the race that half a dozen went two miles out of town to learn the news of Spaniel’s victory. A man on horseback was before us, but we heard him get the tip, and, setting spur to his horse he galloped off to Edinburgh with the news by a cross road at full gallop. And next Derby the same man I noticed was again in waiting…”

Curzon later explains the mystery. “After leaving Haddington, by which town the mail came to Edinburgh, I discovered why a man on horseback had come there – a distance of 17 miles – to obtain from the guard the news of ‘what had won’. On some occasions there were as many as five messengers employed to bring on the news of what horse had won the Derby…. and the speed of their horses, were able on some occasions to beat the stage-coaches by as much as 25 minutes, which enabled those who had arranged the express to do a good deal of business…”.

 In conclusion, the ‘sting’ took place in the Black Bull in Edinburgh, where up to 100 people would be waiting, “most of whom had backed something for the race and betting would go on till the mail reached the post-office. Meantime, two or three in ‘the know’ had ample opportunity for laying the horse that had lost the race and backing the one that had won it.”

 Fifty years on, technology had produced the ‘ticker-tape’ and when the American owned and bred Iroquois, won the Derby in 1881, the transatlantic telegraph sent the coded message ‘IROPERTOW’ to the New York Stock Exchange, informing them the result: first IROquois, second PERegrine and third TOWn Moor. After which, bedlam broke out, quickly followed by chaos, when all Wall Street came to a halt and for a few minutes the New York Stock Exchange ceased trading entirely.

From the end of the 19th century, ‘communications’, or later, ‘the media’, focused their attention on the Derby with the following innovations:

In 1895, the Derby, with a record attendance of 750,000, was filmed by the English pioneering cinematographer Birt Acres; this the earliest piece of moving film in existence, shows just 50 seconds of Sir Visto’s Derby victory with the crowds rushing across the course after the finish.

When at Racing Post I had the privilege of verifying details of the footage, then part of a collection owned by Ray Henville, a retired civil servant, before it featured on the TV show Schofield’s Quest.

In the early 1900’s, it was just possible, to hear a commentary on the Derby by a “cat’s whisker” radio. However, from 1931, BBC radio commentaries became an annual event. Also in 1931, the BBC made a crude attempt to televise the race, when a camera stationed at the winning post recorded the horses as they finished. This however, was the first TV recording of any sporting event in the world!

In 1913 the Gaumont Company set up cameras at Tattenham Corner, historically capturing the suffragette tragedy. Then from 1919, Pathe News recorded the race, and with very few exceptions these can still be seen on You Tube.

Following on, many TV Companies have televised the Derby including the BBC, Channel 4, ITV and more recently Racing TV, from which people can watch the race on their phones and place their bets in running.

From pigeons and stage coaches, sending the Derby result has come a very long way.

Footnote: Priam was the greatest horse of his era, winning14 of his 16 races. At stud he sired three Oaks winners in four years, including Crucifix, who also won both the One Thousand Guineas and the Two Thousand Guineas. Sent to America, Priam was their Champion Sire four times in five years from 1842-1846.

For more Racing History see Michael’s Books for Sale.

Waxy by Potoooooooo – descendants of Eclipse

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Waxy by Potoooooooo

– descendants of Eclipse


ECLIPSE (ch.c. 1764), was the stand-out horse of the century.

Bred by William, Duke of Cumberland and named after the great eclipse in the year of his birth, he won all his 18 races including 11 King’s Plates, before dying of colic at Cannons, in Middlesex, on 27 February, 1789. No racehorse has achieved greater fame or left a more lasting legacy through his progeny. Now, 234 years after his death, more than 95 per cent of all modern thoroughbreds can trace back to him in male line.

One of the best sons of Eclipse was Pot-8-o’s.

However, this was given a twist when Lord Abingdon asked the lad to chalk up the colt’s name, Potatoes, on the stable door. The lad spelt it Potoooooooo, which so surprised and delighted Lord Abingdon that he registered it as such. Later, for everyone’s convenience it was shortened to Pot-8-o’s. As it turned out, he won 30 races, including 28 at Newmarket – an all-time British record for most wins at one course. Pot-8-o’s raced and won to the age of nine, before siring three Derby winners and six of the 13 runners in Waxy’s Derby of 1793.


Waxy then continued the line as Pot-8-o’s best offspring.

Bred by Sir Ferdinando Poole and born a bay colt in 1790, Waxy was described as “a beautiful, lengthy horse, with a lot of Arab in his appearance”.

By Pot-8-o’s out of Maria by Herod, Waxy is an excellent example of the Eclipse/Herod cross, which proved so influential in early Thoroughbred breeding.

  The racing career of Waxy (above) is entwined with that of his arch rival Gohanna (b.c. 1790).

The Derby betting of 10-11 Gohanna, 8-1 bar, made it look a one-horse-race, and Gohanna tried to make it so. He led from soon after the start until rounding Tattenham Corner, where Waxy, to the surprise of the crowd, went on and kept his head in front all the way up the straight to win by half a length.

After such a battle, the principals had to meet again, but everyone had to wait until the Jockey Club Plate at Newmarket the following year. The result was the same but Sam Arnull, Gohanna’s jockey, would not accept defeat and suggested a match the following day. After much deliberation, a match was made for 100 guineas, Gohanna to receive 3 1b. This time, Gohanna won by a head, but later in the year, at Lewes, Waxy beat Gohanna again. In 1796, they both contested the King’s Plate at Guildford, run in four-mile heats. Waxy won the first heat by a short head, the second was a dead-heat and in the final heat Waxy won by half a length. What a field day the modern media would have with events like these!

Waxy’s final race record reads: won 11 races incl. the Derby Stakes, Jockey Club Plate and 4 King’s Plates.

Gohanna was bred on similar lines to Waxy, i.e. sire by Eclipse and dam by Herod. He was foaled at Petworth in Sussex and named after a hill nearby. A small horse himself, his progeny rarely exceeded 15.1 hands but he sired 151 winners, including two in the Derby, Cardinal Beaufort (1805) and Election (1807).

Waxy proved even better at stud, siring 190 winners headed by Derby heroes Pope (1809), Whalebone (1810), Blucher (1814) and Whisker (1815). Champion Sire in 1810, he died in April 1818 in his 28th year and was buried close to All Saints Church in Newmarket. Gohanna also died in April, but three years earlier, and was buried at Petworth.

For more horseracing history – see this month’s offers in MICHAEL’S BOOKS & CHARTS FOR SALE