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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.


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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.


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Priam – the peer of Flying Childers and Eclipse

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 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.

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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 details of Michael’s three histories of the Derby – 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

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.


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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.