The 17th Lord Derby is rightfully acclaimed as one of the most important and successful breeders of thoroughbreds in the history of the turf. He developed his affinity to racing as a young man when he attended the races with his father, the 16th Lord Derby, and would also suggest certain mares to buy and some of the breeding mates to the stable mares to his father. Upon the passing of his father he developed the family racing and breeding operation into the most powerful outfit of his generation. The influence of the breeding program Lord Derby presided over has been pervasive and epoch, extending to all corners of the thoroughbred world.
Lord Derby, the seventeenth, is the breeder of record for such luminaries as Phalaris, Hyperion, Swynford, Sansovino, Steadfast, Colorado, Selene, and the full brothers Pharos and Fairway. This is only a partial list of the many great winners and/or influential horses stemming from the great breeding operation of an icon of the turf.
Fairway, bred in 1925, was by Phalaris – Scapa Flow by Chaucer. Both of Fairway’s parents were bred by Lord Derby, while the dam sire Chaucer was bred by Lord Derby’s father. Fairway was one of six offspring from the Phalaris/Scapa Flow union. The first of which was Pharos, bred in 1920, winner of fourteen stakes races including the prestigious Champion Stakes and was second to the great Papyrus in the Derby. Pharos went on to sire the great Nearco. A full sister named Fair Isle was a multi stakes winner of five races. The other three were St. Andrews, a non winner, Fara, a winner in her only start, and the gelded Pharillon who went unraced.
Fairway was the champion three year old of his generation after his victories in the St. Leger Stakes, Champion Stakes, Eclipse Stakes and Newmarket Stakes. He missed the 2000 Guineas due to an abscess in his mouth, while he compromised his Derby appearance when he became quite agitated by the huge crowd and expended too much energy before the race. He finished ninth as the race favourite. All of this came after his solid three wins from four starts as a two year old. Fairway won the Champagne Stakes, July Stakes and the Coventry Stakes, all after his début race in which he finished fourth. He would be named as champion two year old.
Back as a four year old, Fairway continued his winning ways capturing the Champion Stakes for the second time as well as the Princess Of Wales Stakes, Rous Memorial, Burwell Stakes and the eighteen furlong Jockey Club Cup, winning his third successive divisional championship. The Honourable George Lampton was his trainer at Stanley House stables. He would later reminisce on his career and considered Fairway to be the second best horse he ever trained, behind Swynford but ahead of Hyperion and Sansovino. Tommy Weston was Fairway’s regular rider.
Fairway was retired to stand at Lord Derby’s Woodlands Stud in Newmarket after what would have been his fourth season of racing. Lord Derby and Lampton had kept the rangy dark brown Fairway in training for his five year old season with the big aim to be the Ascot Gold Cup. Unfortunately, Fairway strained a tendon and never made it back to the races.
Fairway entered the breeding arena in 1931 and would become champion sire in England/Ireland four times, with three titles during Hyperion’s reign, siring such luminaries as Epsom Derby winners Blue Peter and Watling Street, 2000 Guineas winners Pay Up, Kingsway and the filly Garden Path, 1000 Guineas winner Tide-Way, and major stakes winners Fair Copy, Fair Play, Fair Stone and Portmarnock. Furthermore, Fairway sired stakes winners Fair Trial and Honeyway, each of whom went on to sire many stakes winners and continue the male line.
The influence of Fairway through his sons has endured in the face of the imported runners sired by the exported stallions, and their offspring, whose male lines originated from Europe. Fairway’s son Blue Peter was bred and owned by the 6th Earl of Roseberry. He not only won the Derby but also the 2000 Guineas and the Eclipse Stakes and then enjoyed a good career as a sire led by his son Ocean Swell (Epsom Derby, Ascot Gold Cup). Additional major stakes winners are; Apostle (Princess of Wales Stakes, Jockey Club Cup); Botticelli (Derby Italiano, Premio Parioli, Ascot Gold Cup etc); Peter Flower (Champion Stakes, Hardwicke Stakes); Unknown Quantity (Yorkshire Oaks, Newmarket Oaks); and Masthead (Newmarket St. Leger, Chesterfield Stakes) who upon importation to Australia became an influential sire down under.
Fair Trial was one of Fairway’s best and most influential sons to stand stud. Fair Trial was bred and raced by John Dewar and trained by legendary trainer Fred Darling. Fair Trial won seven races from nine starts. As a sire Fair trial became a major branch for his sire in continuing the male line. He would be a leading sire and broodmare sire in England and Ireland.
Court Martial by Fair Trial won the 2000 Guineas (beating Dante and Royal Charger) and the Champion Stakes in a successful six stakes wins from eight starts racing career for his owner/breeder Lord Astor. At stud Court Martial was a two time leading sire in England/Ireland and would become a prime source of speed.
Court Martial’s get include; King’s Bench (Middle Park Stakes, Coventry Stakes, St. James Palace Stakes etc); Ratification (Coventry Stakes, Richmond Stakes etc); Above Suspicion (St. James Palace Stakes); Major Portion (Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, St. James Palace Stakes, Sussex Stakes etc); Rosalba (Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Coronation Stakes etc); Timandra (Poules d’Essai des Pouliches, Prix de Diane); and Court Sentence (St. James Palace Stakes). Above Suspicion, Court Sentence and lightly raced stakes winner Wilkes were exported to Australia and become successful sires there while another son of Court Martial, Impressive became a top notch sprinter in the U.S. Impressive won the Sport Page Handicap, Bay Shore Stakes and the Saratoga Special among his six stakes victories. Impressive would also have a solid stud career.
Court Martial also sired many top quality broodmares such as Ladies Handicap winner Goofed, the dam of leading sire Lyphard by Northern Dancer, and Washington D.C. International winner Nobiliary by Vaguely Noble. Face The Facts is the dam of Florida Derby winner Judger by Damascus. Another successful stakes winner from a Court Martial mare was Welsh Pageant by Tudor Melody.
Fair Trial sired Petition, winner of four stakes as a two year old including the Gimcrack Stakes and the Champagne Stakes, and then added the important Champion Stakes and the Eclipse Stakes to his résumé as a three year old. Frank Butters trained Petition to seven wins, two seconds and two thirds from twelve races. Petition was a very fast horse over a mile and a mile and a quarter. He was bred the same year as two other very fast colts in Tudor Minstrel, a horse considered as the best miler in Europe for many generations, and another very fast miler in Migoli who stretched his speed to win the Arc.
Petition stood at Brook Stud, owned by his breeder and owner Sir Alfred Butt. Here he would sire one of the best fillies to grace the turf in Europe, she being the dapple grey Petite Etoile. Petite Etoile raced nineteen times over four years, winning fourteen and placing second in the other five. She is a direct female line descendant of the great Mumtaz Mahal (fourth generation) and was bred by Aga Khan III and his son Prince Aly Khan. The third Aga passed away in 1957 so his son Prince Aly would inherit full ownership. Upon the Prince’s passing in 1960, his son the Aga Khan IV would then become the owner of this great race mare. Petite Etoile was trained by legendary trainer Sir Noel Murless and ridden for most of her races by Lester Piggott.
Petite Etoile won one of three starts at two and then as a three year old she began her ascent as one of the elite thoroughbreds in history when she won the 1000 Guineas, the Epsom Oaks, the Yorkshire Oaks, the Sussex Stakes and the Champion Stakes, taking British Horse of the Year honours. At four she would claim the first of her two Coronation Cup victories along with the Victor Wild Stakes. As a five year old, Petite Etoile won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, the Rous Memorial, the Coronation Stakes and her second Coronation Cup.
Petition also sired March Past who won three minor stakes but later sired Queen’s Hussar the 1963 Sussex Stakes winner who in turn sired Highclere (1000 Guineas, Prix de Diane) and the fabulous Brigadier Gerard (2000 Guineas, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes twice, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes etc), winner of seventeen races from eighteen starts.
Petingo by Petition (Middle Park Stakes, Sussex Stakes etc) sired Troy (Epsom Derby, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Irish Derby etc), winner of eight races from eleven starts, never finishing off the board. Troy sired Helen Street (Irish Oaks), the dam of recently deceased leading sire Street Cry. Petingo would also sire Pitcairn (sire of Ela-Mana-Mou) and Irish Derby winner English Prince.
A third good race horse and sire by Fair Trial was Palestine. Palestine was a grey out of Una by Tetratema, a son of The Tetrarch, and was bred by Aga Khan III. A top sprinter/miler, Palestine won eleven races from thirteen starts. His important victories were the 2000 Guineas, the Sussex Stakes and as a two year old the Champagne Stakes and the Middle Park Stakes. His filly Palariva was a direct female line great granddaughter of Mumtaz Mahal and so therefore was in bred to The Tetrarch 4 x 4. Palariva won the King’s Stand Stakes among her eight lifetime stakes victories. As a broodmare she would produce Khairunissa, the dam of group one winner and top sire Kalamoun.
Pall Mall bred by her majesty Queen Elizabeth II and trained by Cecil Boyd-Rochfort, became the most successful son of Palestine to appear at the races. Pall Mall another successful inbreed to The Tetrarch 4 x 4, won the 2000 Guineas and the Lockinge Stake twice. His 7-4-1 record from fourteen starts was against top competition.
The male line descendants of Fairway were generally considered as speed oriented horses, some of which could carry their speed to the longer classic distances. This became spectacularly evident when two of his great grandsons, Grundy in 1975 and Shergar in 1981, won the Epsom Derby in dominating fashion. Both of these suburb thoroughbreds were sired by Great Nephew, a son of Champion Stakes winner Honeyway who in turn was sired by Fairway. Great Nephew won the Prix du Moulin de Longchamps and the Prix Dollar.
Great Nephew was a good looking 16.0 hand horse bred in 1963 by the Hon. James Perrot Phipps and stood his entire stud career at Dalham Hall. He would lead the English/Irish sire list twice, both times during the run of imported horses whose sires were in control of the leading sire charts. Great Nephew, who was from the female line family of Nearctic, would turn the tables on some of the North American sires when his daughter Carotene became a six time Sovereign Award winner racing in the colours of her breeder/owner Kinghaven Farms. Trained by Roger Attfield, Carotene won the Breeder’s Stakes, the Toronto Cup and the Wonder Where Stakes at three, the grade one Yellow Ribbon Stakes, the Matchmaker Handicap among her wins at four, and the grade one Pan American Handicap as a five year old.
Another top class female sired by Great Nephew was Mrs. Penny. Champion at two and three in England and at three in Ireland, Mrs. Penny won the group one Cheveley Park Stakes at two, the Prix Diane and the Prix Vermeille, both group one races, and finished a bang up second to Ela-Mana-Mou in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Another daughter of Great Nephew, Tolmi was the winner of the Coronation Stakes and the Princess Margaret Stakes.
Grundy won eight of eleven races with two second place finishes. His win in the Epsom Derby was in dominating fashion as he beat the good horse Green Dancer from France and Nobiliary, a top class filly. Grundy won the group one Dewhurst Stakes as a two year old, sealing his championship honours for the division, and also won the Irish Derby and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. In the latter race he defeated a fine field which included two time winner of the event Dahlia and the excellent Bustino, with whom Grundy out duelled in a stirring stretch drive considered as one for the ages.
Shergar was a magnificent animal. He was bred in 1978 by the Aga Khan IV at Ballymany Stud Farm in County Kildare, Ireland and was trained by Michael Stoute. Shergar’s ten length victory in the Epsom Derby was astonishing, even more so as his then eighteen year old jockey Walter Swinburn eased him during the final sixteenth of a mile. Shergar would win the Irish derby by four lengths in a canter and add the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes against older horses by the same margin. He would finish his racing career with a disappointing fourth in the St. Leger leaving his total wins at six from eight starts with one second place.
The Aga Khan then syndicated Shergar for approximately ten million pounds and brought him back to Ballymany for stud duty. This was very significant for Irish and all European breeders as the Aga had turned down many lucrative offers from top stud farms in the U.S., in order to have Shergar available to not only his own mares but to top mares residing in Europe as well. He was received to a hero’s welcome upon his return to Ireland, as only the Irish can do as they as a nation are some of the more passionate people when it comes to horses and thoroughbreds in particular.
As it is well known, even by people who are not followers of thoroughbred racing, Shergar was abducted during the late evening of February 8, 1983 from his stall at Ballymany, and even though there was a massive nationwide search, with many twists and turns and empty leads, Shergar has never been found. It pains me to comprehend the depravity some people will reach, inflicting a mindless injustice on an animal that is not capable of understanding whatever political or social complaint they may have, and then take out their selfish act to a horse that is in no way shape or form part of their personal vendetta. Shergar was loved by all who knew him, not only for his racing accomplishments, but also because he was a kind and engaging horse to be around.
The tail male line of Fairway is one of the many great achievements from the breeding program of the 17th Lord Derby. As a son of Phalaris, the sire considered as the foundation sire of the twentieth century, Fairway has done his part to extend the line. Fairway’s branch has been one of the more important and enduring branches from his legacy. The line has weakened in the past few years but is still in evidence today.
Fairway was a nervous horse when he was in training but became more docile and easier to handle as he aged. He died in 1946 at the age of twenty-one. He was a champion in each of the three years he raced and was a champion sire four times in a career that coincided with the one of the greatest sires in turf history. He was inbred to the great St. Simon 4×3 and had much of this ancestor’s personality traits and ability to sire classic winners and sires.
Fairway is a true Legend Of The Turf.
(Photo courtesy of Lord Derby archives)