Lady James Douglas – Trailblazer
This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of Lady James Douglas’s achievement of being the first woman to own and bred an Oaks winner – Bayuda in 1919; this, a year after she became the first woman to own and bred a Derby winner – Gainsborough – a Triple Crown winner to boot.
Born in France in 1854, Martha Lucy Hennessey was the daughter of Frederick Hennessey, a member of the Irish Hennessey’s who had made their fortune from producing Cognac.
The mother of five children she was twice widowed before buying the Harwood Estate, near Newbury, in 1910. Seeking advice from her neighbour, the celebrated trainer, John Porter of Kingsclere, she set about founding Harwood Stud with the purpose of producing high quality yearlings for the sales.
After a slow start due to the Great War, the success of Gainsborough was followed by the filly, Bayuda. Sired by the St Leger winner, Bayardo, out of Jessica, a mare that bred nine winners, much was expected from Bayuda. She did not disappoint. In the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket, she ran a close second to the season’s top juvenile, The Panther, and followed up by winning the Cheveley Park Stakes in a canter.
However, after two moderate performances against the colts and a disappointing three-year-old debut in the One Thousand Guineas, behind Roseway, she was allowed to start at 100-7 for the Oaks. Two furlongs out Roseway took up the running, but the diminutive Bayuda, showing her breeding to stay on strongly and win by one and a half lengths.
Sadly, at stud, she proved difficult to get in foal and produced only one winner from two live foals. However, Lady James was not done with yet and bred the 1930 Oaks winner, Rose of England, for Lord Glanely.
In 1940, due to ill-health, Lady James Douglas sold her mares. Her Harwood Stud was bought by Mr Herbert Blagrave on condition Gainsborough ended his days there.
Lady James died in 1941.