The Herod line from Woodpecker to Dr Devious but where next?

The Herod line

from Woodpecker to Dr Devious

But where next?

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Herod (b.c. 1758) Eight times Champion Sire

The Herod – Woodpecker sire line, although for many years secondary to the now expired Herod – Highflyer line previously shown, has up to the death of Dr Devious in March 2018, been a source of notable horses in England and France for more than two centuries. A commentary on the notable offspring and a male-lineage chart follow.

WOODPECKER (ch.c. 1773)

“A large, coarse horse with wide lop ears”, Woodpecker was bred and raced by Sir Charles Davers of Suffolk. A chestnut colt by Herod out of Miss Ramsden by Cade, Woodpecker, won 15 races, including the Craven Stakes at Newmarket, from strong opposition, three times, in 1778, 1779 & 1781. In addition, at the same Course he twice beat the local champion Pot-8-o’s.

Sent to Lord Egremonts’ Petworth Stud, he was four-times runner-up to Champion Sire, Highflyer (also by Herod), from 1789 to 1792. His progeny included Buzzard (see below) and the 1800 Oaks winner Ephemera.

BUZZARD (ch.c. 1787).

Like his sire, Woodpecker, due to the prominence of Highflyer, Buzzard was never Champion Sire. However, mated with a daughter of Alexander (b. 1790) by the all-conquering Eclipse, they produced three colts to give the lineage a powerful start, with Castrel (ch.c. 1801), Selim (ch.c. 1802) and Rubens  (ch.c. 1805), the latter two Champion Sires, with Selim siring six Classic winners and Sultan (b.c. 1816).

SULTAN (b.c. 1816)

Owned and bred by William Crockford, the founder of Crockford’s Club, Sultan won 14 races, including two Gold Cups at Newmarket and was second in the Derby. He was Champion Sire six times, from 1832 to 1837, siring eight Classic winners, including Bay Middleton (b.c. 1833).

BAY MIDDLETON (b.c. 1833)

Bay Middleton (b.c. 1833) Jem Robinson up

Bred by 5th Earl of Jersey, Bay Middleton was unbeaten in his seven races, winning the Two Thousand Guineas and Derby. Put to stud at the Turf Tavern, Doncaster at a fee of 30 guineas, he was twice Champion Sire, getting four Classic winners, including The Flying Dutchman (br.c. 1846).


After winning the Derby and St Leger, The Flying Dutchman, was beaten in the Doncaster Cup by his only rival – Voltigeur – that years  unbeaten Derby and St Leger winner.  A return match for 1,000 sovereigns  was made for the following spring over two miles at York, when  the weights allotted  by  Admiral  Rous were: The  Flying  Dutchman 8st 8 ½lb and Voltigeur 8st. An enormous crowd gathered on the  Knavesmire  to see The  Flying  Dutchman  win  by a length. He never ran again. At stud he sired the 1856 Derby winner, Ellington, then in 1858, he was sold to France for £4,000. After which his sire-line continued to flourish in France for eleven generations.

DJEBEL   (b.c. 1937)

Bred in France by Marcel Boussac and trained by Albert Swann at Chantilly, Djebel ridden by Charlie Elliott, won the  Two  Thousand  Guineas easily beating his 20 rivals. However, due to the  war he was  unable  to  come over  for  the  Derby.  He later won  the French Two Thousand Guineas equivalent, the Poule  d’Essai  des  Poulains, which was delayed until autumn. Djebel went on to win the  Prix  de l’Arc  de  Triomphe as  a  five-year-old. In all he  won 15 of his 22 races and never finished out of the first three. He was Champion Sire in France four times and sired the English Classic winners,  My Babu (1948 Two Thousand Guineas) and Galcador (1950 Epsom Derby).

AHONOORA (ch.c. 1975)

Bred by the Wyld Court Stud in G.B., Ahonoora, a bright chestnut colt by Lorenzaccio, surprisingly regenerated the Woodpecker line. A popular sprinter, he won seven races, including the Stewards’Cup and King George Stakes at Goodwood and the William Hill Sprint Championship at York. At stud he sired Dont Forget Me, winner of the 1987 English and Irish Two Thousand Guineas and Dr Devious, winner of the 1992 Epsom Derby.

DR DEVIOUS  (ch.c. 1989)

Dr Devious (ch.c. 1989) with trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam

Bred by Lyonstown Stud in Ireland, Dr Devious was sold a record four times before his Derby victory. A whole-coloured chestnut by Ahonoora out of the unraced Rose of Jericho, by Alleged, he was trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam at Manton in Wiltshire. He ran six times as a juvenile, winning four, including the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. At three, Dr Devious became a truly International horse, running nine times in five different countries – seventh in the Kentucky Derby, he later won the Epsom Derby by two lengths from St Jovite, who he beat again to win the Irish Champion Stakes.

In January 1993 Dr Devious was sold yet again, for around £3 million, and sent to stud at Zenya Yoshida’s Shadai Farm in Japan. In 1998 he returned to Ireland to stand at Coolmore Stud, until eventually relocating to Italy, where he was twice Champion Sire. Although failing to make his mark as a stallion, his offspring included, Collier Hill (ch.g. 1998), who won 10 flat races and two N.H. races, including the Stockholm Cup International and the Irish Field St Leger, and Demophilos (b.c. 1998), second in the Rothmans Royals St Leger. Dr Devious died in Sardinia in March 2018.

So, is this the end of the Byerley Turk – Herod – Woodpecker sire-line? It could well be.

However, most racehorses today have a mixture of all the founding fathers in them as the lines intermingle under the influence of 24 generations of Throughbred breeding. The fascination with sire-lines is because many famous sires have had a prepotency, influencing the offspring of their sons,  grandsons and further. A famous example of this is the Champion Sire Birdcatcher (ch.c. 1833), whose near hindleg flank was ticked with grey hairs and like his bay sire, a bunch of white hairs at the butt of his tail. His scattered grey hairs, known as Birdcatcher ticks were past on for many generations.


The key to the WOODPECKER chart below: Classic winning colts in RED, fillies in GREEN. Races won 1 1000 Gns, 2 2000 Gns, D Derby, O Oaks, L St Leger, A Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, ** Champion Sire, all dates are of race victory,

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