Archive for the ‘Racing Blog Posts’ Category

The diminishing Sire Lines of the Byerley Turk and the Godolphin Arabian

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The diminishing Sire Lines of the Byerley Turk and the Godolphin Arabian

Over the past 30 years I have heard many horselovers express their concern over the diminishing Sire Lines of the Byerley Turk and the Godolphin Arabian.

To put their concern in context: the last Champion Sire to descend in male lineage from the Byerley Turk (br.c. 1684), was when Tetratema headed the list in 1929; while the last Classic winner was Julio Mariner, when winning the 1978 St Leger.

The Byerley Turk (br.c. 1684)

Julio Mariner was 23 generations from the Byerley Turk, so his influence, if any would be minute.

Similarly, the last Champion Sire to descend from the Godolphin Arabian (b.c. 1724), was when Chamossaire headed the list in 1964; while the last Classic winner was when Mon Fils  won the 1973, 2,000 Guineas; Mon Fils being 16 generations from the Godolphin Arabian.

Incidentally, 50 years after the death of the Godolphin Arabian, everyone of the first 76 British Classic winners had a least one strain of him in their pedigree.

The Godolphin Arabian (b.c. 1724)

From this you can see the now near extinction of both Founding Fathers male lines. But, it is just in the male lines and although Herod showed great prepotency with the Highflyer and Woodpecker lines, like St Simon’s line (with 10 Classic winners) from the Darley Arabian, they eventually died out.

So what’s to be done?

No doubt some of the best horses of today have strains of both Founding Fathers if you go back far enough, but their influence at some stage was completely overtaken.

Through all this, it is ironic, that Eclipse was never a Champion Sire, yet near 97% of all Thoroughbreds racing today trace back  to him.

I think it fair to say that Sire Lines only continue due to the prepotency of the stallion – Cyllene (1909) to Mill Reef (1978) and Cyllene to Pitcairn (1980), both eight consecutive generations. And more recently the four generations of Northern Dancer (1970) to Frankel (2021).

Ultimately, the aim in breeding is to produce the best. At present we have the on going battle between Dubawi and the Galileo/Frankel offspring in healthy competition, plus a resurgence in breeding for longer distances.

The improvement in the Thoroughbred can be gauged by checking the record times on British racecourses in the annual Horses in Training, here it becomes obvious of the progression of record times.

I can understand people lamenting the diminishing number of sires going directly back in male line to both the Byerley Turk and the Godolphin Arabian, however,

I feel those tenuous lines have probably now played their part in the wonderful creation of the Thoroughbred.


Please note: The above layout was designed for mobile phones.

Epsom’s Derby winning jockeys – Charlie Elliott, Harry Wragg and Charlie Smirke

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            Epsom’s Derby winning jockeys – Charlie Elliott, Harry Wragg and Charlie Smirke


Charlie Elliott


After sharing the Jockeys’ Championship with Steve Donoghue in 1923, when still apprenticed to Jack Jarvis, he won the title outright the following year with 106 winners. Riding for Marcel Boussac in France for most of his career, he won the Prix du Jockey-Club four times. He also bagged 14 Classic races in England, including two Oaks winners – Brulette (1931) and Why Hurry (1943) and three Derbys, riding Call Boy, pictured above (1927), Bois Roussel (1938) and Nimbus (1949).

At Ascot in 1951, he rode Supreme Court to win the inaugural running of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (known that year as the Festival of Britain Stakes).

Elliott gave up race-riding in 1953 to train for Boussac in France, but in 1958, with Boussac’s empire in decline, he returned to Newmarket to train from Machell House until retiring in 1963.



Harry Wragg


Known as ‘the head waiter’ because of his late run riding tactics, he was born in Sheffield and apprenticed to Bob Colling at Bedford Lodge, Newmarket.

In a riding career spanning 27 years he rode the winners of 13 Classic races, including four winners of the Oaks – Rockfel (1938), Commotion (1941), Sun Stream (1945) and Steady Aim (1946). He also rode three Derby winners Felstead (1928), Blenheim (1930) and Watling Street (1942). In 1946, on his final day as a jockey at Manchester, he landed a 200-1 treble with Tiffin Bell, Aprolon and Las Vegas (November Handicap). He was Champion Jockey in 1941, the year Gordon Richards broke his leg, so dividing the latter’s run of 22 Championships. Training from Abington Place, Newmarket, Wragg was an innovator of timing gallops and racing horses abroad. He sent out five Classic winners, including Psidium to win the 1961 Derby at odds of 66-1. In 1983, his son Geoffrey, who had previously assisted him, trained Teenoso to win the Derby.



Charlie Smirke



One of the all-time great jockeys. Self assured to the point of cockiness, he was invariably at odds with his employers. Born in Lambeth, the son of a fishmonger, Smirke was apprenticed to Stanley Wootton at Epsom and, after showing great promise, was retained by the Aga Khan.

In 1928, he was warned off when appearing not to start the odds-on favourite in a 2-y-o Plate at Gatwick. However, he got his licence back in 1933, when the ‘culprit’, Welcome Gift, having been shipped to India, had acquired a reputation for refusing to start.

Classic victories followed on Windsor Lad (1934 Derby), Bahram (1935 St Leger) and Mahmoud, pictured above (1936 Derby), before he was called to Army service from 1941-1945. First serving as a bombardier in an anti-aircraft regiment, he transferred to become a driver and later took part in the invasion of Sicily.

After the war, his home destroyed by bombs, Smirke resumed riding in Ireland, first over hurdles and then, courtesy of a phenomenal sprinter – The Bug – he re-established himself as a top-flight jockey, adding to his Classic haul the Guineas winners My Babu (1948) and Palestine (1950), and the Derby winners Tulyar (1952) and Hard Ridden (1958).

Sir Gordon Richards, Fred Darling and John Arthur Dewar

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Sir Gordon Richards, Fred Darling and John Arthur Dewar

Above: Gordon, Fred Darling and Lord Dewar

Sir Gordon Richards (1904-1986)

Gordon was born at Donnington Wood, near Oakengates in Shropshire, as one of a family of 12 children, where his father was a coal miner. Gordon served his apprenticeship with Martin Hartigan at Foxhill and rode his first winner on Jimmy White’s Gay Lord at Leicester on 16 October, 1920. He was Champion Jockey for the first time in 1925 and, in 1933, made the front pages of every Daily newspaper when beating Fred Archer’s record of 146 winners in a season.

A modest, dedicated man of great integrity, Gordon Richards was the undisputed hero of those who followed racing for the first half of the 20th century, and his Derby victory on Pinza the most popular of that period. Lord Rosebery said of him, “The greatness of Gordon Richards lay not in his having won so many races but in his having lost so few that he ought to have won.”

In 1954, when leaving the paddock at Sandown, the filly Abergeldie reared up and fell over backwards on top of Richards, breaking his pelvis and dislocating four ribs. The following year, fully recovered, he trained from Beckhampton, later moving first to Ogbourne-Maizey and then to Whitsbury in Hampshire, with Scobie Breasley as stable jockey.

Gordon Richards was Champion Jockey 26 times and from 21,834 mounts rode 4,870 winners. His 14 Classic winners included, Rose of England (1930 Oaks), Sun Chariot (1942 Fillies’ Triple Crown), the brilliant Tudor Minstrel (1947 Two Thousand Guineas) and Pinza (1953 Derby).


Fred Darling               (1884-1953)

The son of the Beckhampton trainer, Samuel Darling, who trained Galtee More to win the Triple Crown in 1897. Fred, not having made the grade as a jockey, took to training a few horses for the actress Lilie Langtry at Kentford, near Newmarket, and won the 1908 Cesarewitch for her with the 4-y-o Yentoi. In 1909, he went to Germany to train for the Weinberg brothers, until, on the retirement of his father in 1913, he returned to take over the Beckhampton stable in Wiltshire. From there, with an instinctive understanding of his horses, he was Champion Trainer six times, sending out 19 Classic winners, including two war-time winners of the Oaks and seven Derby winners: Captain Cuttle (1922), Manna (1925), Coronach (1926), Cameronian (1931), Bois Roussel (1938), Pont l’Eveque (1940) and Owen Tudor (1941).

Notably, his three best horses were the unbeaten Hurry On (1916 St Leger), Sun Chariot (1942 fillies’ Triple Crown) and Tudor Minstrel, heralded in the Press as “the horse of the century”, after his eight-length victory in the 1947 Two Thousand Guineas.

His training method was to conserve the greater part of the horses energy for the racecourse. As a result, his horses always looked robust and carried a condition known as the ‘Beckhampton bloom.’ A martinet with his staff, both in the yard and on the gallops, he was described as a dapper little man with a tight thin-lipped mouth. Sadly, he made no friends and would regularly thwart his owner’s wishes and requests to see their horses in training – a situation they grew to accept.

He did, however, have a great admiration for Gordon Richards, his stable jockey for 16 years. Gordon said in his autobiography, “I don’t think Mr Darling ever understood friendship at all,” and admitted he could be “absolutely ruthless,” nevertheless, he said, “I unhesitatingly describe him as a genius. There has been no trainer like him, and there never will be another.”

In 1953, Darling, having bred Pinza, and now in failing health, was happy for him to go to his former head lad, Norman Birtie. Too weak to go to the Derby, he listened to the race on the radio, finally letting go, he died three days later.

Sir Gordon congratulated by the Queen after winning the Derby on PINZA in 1953


John Arthur Dewar (1891-1954)

On the death of his uncle, the 1st Baron Dewar in 1930, John Arthur Dewar inherited a large part of his great fortune made from the Dewar whisky distillery. John also inherited the Baron’s string of racehorses and his famous colours: ‘white, tartan cross back and front’. Following victories with Cameronian in the 1931 Two Thousand Guineas and Derby, he became known as ‘Lucky’ Dewar. Classic success continued with Commotion (1941 Oaks), Tudor Minstrel (1947 Two Thousand Guineas by eight lengths and top of the Timeform ratings until Sea-Bird in 1965), then finally with Festoon (1954 One Thousand Guineas).

Having served with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during the First World War, he later turned his attention to racing and breeding. Elected to the Jockey Club in 1941, he carried on from his uncle with Fred Darling as trainer until the latter’s retirement in 1947, whereupon he purchased the Beckhampton stables and brought in Noel Murless (later Sir Noel) as his trainer. After Murless moved to Newmarket in 1952, Dewar sent his string to Noel Cannon at Druids Lodge on Salisbury Plain. From there, Cannon trained Festoon to win her Guineas shortly before Dewar’s death. The dispersal sale of his bloodstock totalled a record 398,595 guineas, exceeding the previous 1925 record for Sir Edward Hulton’s bloodstock by more than 100,000 guineas.

John Arthur Dewar’s Tudor Minstrel (Sir Gordon up) return in triumph, after winning the Two Thousand Guineas



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





Significant Champion Sires of G.B. & ireland

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Imported as a four-year-old (near 15 hands). Owned by John Brewster-Darley of Buttercrambe, now called Alby Park, near York. Brewster-Darley’s brother, the agent of an English mercantile company in Aleppo and a local hunting club member, was able to purchase the colt for a very moderate sum before sending it to England as a present to John.

Both the sire and dam of the Darley Arabian belonged to the perfect Arabian strain of Managhi. The Champion Sire of 1722, the Darley Arabian’s progeny included the famous Flying Childers and his full brother Bartlet’s Childers.


MARSKE (br.c. 1750)

When Marske was a foal he was exchanged by his breeder John Hutton for a chestnut Arabian owned by William, Duke of Cumberland. The Duke later gave him the name Marske after a village in Yorkshire where the horse was bred. Marske won three races including the Jockey Club Plate, before standing at the Duke’s stud in Windsor Forest. The Champion Sire in 1775 and 1776, Marske also sired the famous Eclipse, who despite never being a Champion Sire 97% of all Thoroughbreds today trace back to him.


TOUCHSTONE (br.c. 1831)

A great stayer; won the St Leger, Ascot Gold Cup (twice) and the Doncaster Cup (twice).

Touchstone was bred by the 1st Marques of Westminster and was Champion Sire four times within the period 1842-1855. Such had been the vogue for inbreeding that Touchstone was the first Champion Sire with an outcrossed pedigree since Waxy in 1810.


ST SIMON (b.c. 1881)

At the turn of the century St Simon’s influence on Thoroughbred breeding was probably as great as any stallion’s before him, and by siring the winners of 17 Classic races between 1890 and 1900 he equalled a record that Stockwell had taken 13 years to complete.

St Simon was not entered in the Derby or St Leger as his dam, St Angela, was 16 when foaling him and had not produced anything of note up till then. However, St Simon won both the Ascot Gold Cup and the Goodwood Cup by 20 lengths and, was equally good over shorter distances. Matthew Dawson, trainer of the winners of 28 Classic races, stated: “I have trained only one good horse in my life – St Simon.”


 NEARCO (br.c. 1935)

Unbeaten in 14 starts, Nearco won from five furlongs to the 15-furlong Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp, where he beat Canot and the Epsom Derby winner Bois Roussel. After which Nearco, bred, owed and trained by Federico Tesio in Italy, was purchased by Martin Benson for the then the huge amount of £60,000, to stand at Beech House Stud, Newmarket, from where he was Champion Sire in 1947 and 1948. Nearco sired two Derby winners Dante (1945) and Nimbus (1949) and two Champion Sires, Nasrullah and Mossborough.


 NORTHERN DANCER (b.c. 1961)

Northern Dancer was the first foal of Natalma and from the first crop of his sire Nearctic. Being a small late foal (27 May) from unproven parents, he was lead out unsold at a yearling auction ay $25,000. However, after winning seven out of nine races as a two-year-old, he was thought the best of his age in Canada, and the following year won a further seven races from nine starts including the Kentucky Derby in record time and the Preakness Stakes.

He initially stood in Canada at a fee of $10,000, but the success of his progeny on both sides of the Atlantic caused one nomination in 1985 to change hands at $1 million. Champion Sire in North America in 1971 and four times Champion Sire in Great Britain and Ireland in the period 1970-1984, Northern Dancer was the biggest single influence on Thoroughbred breeding in the 20th century.


 NIJINSKY (b.c. 1967)

Like his sire Northern Dancer, Nijinsky was bred in Ontario, Canada, by Edward P. Taylor.

On the advice of Vincent O’Brien, Charles Engelhard purchased Nijinsky at the Woodbine sale in Toronto for CAN$84,000 (a Canadian yearling record) in September 1968. Trained by O’Brien, Nijinsky won 11 races including the Triple Crown, Irish Sweeps Derby and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. He was Champion Sire in 1986 and sired three Derby winners – Golden Fleece (1982), Shahrastani (1986) and Lammtarra (1995).


 SADLER’S WELLS (b.c. 1981)

Bred by Swettenham Stud and Partners in U.S.A. Sadler’s Wells was a good looking, good moving, lengthy colt by Northern Dancer. Trained by Vincent O’Brien he won the Irish Two Thousand Guineas, the Coral-Eclipse Stakes and the Phoenix Champion Stakes. He was Champion Sire a record 14 times within 1990-2004, siring two Derby winners Galileo (2001) and High Chaparral (2002) and the Arc winner and Champion Sire, Montjeu.


 GALILEO (b.c. 1998)

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. Bred by Mr David Tsui & Orpendale in Ireland, Galileo was by Sadler’s Wells out of the ‘Arc’ winner Urban Sea. He won six of his eight races including the Derby, the Irish Derby and the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. The Champion Sire 12 times – 2008, 2010-2020 – he sired at Epsom five Derby winners and five Oaks winners.

His star pupil, however, was Frankel, unbeaten in 14 races and the Champion Sire in 2021.

Galileo died on 10 July 2021, after an injury to his near foreleg failed to heal after surgery.


 FRANKEL (b.c. 2008)

Foaled on 11 February 2008, Frankel is a bay colt by Galileo ex Kind by Danehill. He was owned by Khalid Abdullah, bred by Juddmonte Farms Ltd and trained by Henry Cecil at Newmarket. Unbeaten in 14 races, including the Two Thousand Guineas, Frankel was given the highest Timeform rating of 147 after his 11-length victory in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, creating a new course record. At stud he was Champion Sire in 2021 and has to date sired a Derby winner – Adayar (2021), an Oaks winner –Anapurna (2019) and two St Leger winners – Logician (2019) and Hurricane Lane (2021).


GODOLPHIN ARABIAN (br/b. c 1724)

Foaled in the Yemen in 1724 (from Jilfan blood), exported via Syria to Tunis and given by the Bey of Tunis to the King of France. Later bought by the Englishman Edward Coke of Longford Hall, Derbyshire, who on his death in 1733, bequeathed his bloodstock to Roger Williams, the proprietor of the St James’s Coffee House in London, who  acting as a bloodstock agent  sold him to 2nd Earl of Godolphin; the horse, thereafter, was known as the Godolphin Arabian.

Registered first as an Arabian in the General Stud book of 1791, there is no record of him having ever raced; neither are there any details of his pedigree. However, at stud he was an outstanding success and was Champion Sire three times (1738, 1745 and 1747). His first get was Lath (b.c. 1732), one of the best horses of his time. Two years later he sired Cade (b.c. 1734), who went on to be Champion Sire five times. Both these colts were out of Roxana by Bald Galloway. The Godolphin Arabian died at Gog Magog, near Cambridge, in December 1753, aged 29 years. He was given a wake with cakes and ale, and solemnly buried under a gateway at the stable. A stone slab marked his gravesite, which still exists today, within the Wandlebury Ring.


 MATCHEM (b.c.1748)

Blessed with longevity and virility, Matchem exercised a great influence on the development of the Thoroughbred. Bred by John Holme of Carlisle, he was sold to William Fenwick of Bywell, Northumberland, before his racing career commenced. In all, he won eight races, including a famous match against Trajan for the Whip over Newmarket’s Beacon Course. During his stud career at Bywell he was Champion Sire three times from 1772 to 1774 and sired two Classic winners in his old age. His offspring won a total of 781 races.


 HEROD (b.c. 1858)

Also known as King Herod, he was bred by William, Duke of Cumberland at his stud in Windsor Forest. Herod won six races, including two matches against the Duke of Grafton’s Antinous over the Beacon Course at Newmarket, the second match at double the stake creating great interest when Antinous receiving  9lb, again started favourite. The weight, however, made no difference and Herod again won easily. Although inclined to break blood vessels, Herod did not pass on this trait to his sons Highflyer and Woodpecker and was Champion Sire eight times from 1777 to 1784 inclusive, his progeny winning 1042 races. As proof of his influence, more Classic winners and Champion Sires were inbred to Herod than any other horse.


 BYERLEY TURK (br.c. about 1684)

Thought to be an Arabian from all available portraits. Taken from the Turkish army at Buda in 1687 and obtained by Captain Byerley of County Durham, who rode him in the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. His notable offspring included Sir R. Mostyn’s Jigg, out of a daughter of Spanker; Jigg going on to sire Partner (ch.c. 1718), a four times Champion Sire between 1737 and 1743.


To see Michael’s Champion Sires Chart 1722-2021 click on the link below

The Champion Sires Chart 1722-2021

The Racing Post’s Q & A on Michael’s Champion Sires Chart

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The Racing Post’s Q & A on Michael’s Champion Sires Chart

From the Darley Arabian to Frankel to celebrate the 300 years of Champion Sires of Great Britain and Ireland, Michael Church, the racing author and historian, has published a signed and illustrated, limited edition lineage chart, showing the male descent of the 125 Champion Sires to the founding fathers.

To see Racing Post’s Q & A on the chart click on the link below.

Viewers on Mobiles use Landscape for an easier read

For full details of the Chart and how to buy it see Michael’s Books for Sale



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.


To see Michael’s interviews go to the foot of About Michael

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.


To see Michael’s interviews go to the foot of About Michael