The Greatest Racehorses - Ever

Monday, January 29, 2007

Gainsborough - Selene
Foaled 18 April 1930 Chestnut Stallion Deceased 1960
Runs: 13 Wins: 9 Places: 3 Earned: £29,509
Form: 41131 - 1111 - 1132
Rated: 142

Races Won
Prince of Wales' Stakes 6f Goodwood 1932
Boscawen Post Stakes 5f Newmarket 1932
Dewhurst Stakes 7f Newmarket 1932
Chester Vase 1m 4f Chester 1933
Derby (English) 1m 4f Epsom 1933
Prince of Wales' Stakes 1m 5f Royal Ascot 1933
St Leger 1m 5f Doncaster 1933
March Stakes 1m 2f Newmarket 1934
Burwell Stakes 1m 4f Newmarket 1934

Hyperion is one of the most important Thoroughbreds of the 20th century; siring numerous Classic winners, leading sires across the world and top broodmares. Bred by Lord Derby he was nothing short of a miracle as his dam Selene had been barren (unable to be put in foal) since 1928 and this mating was her last chance before being retired for good.

The Ugly Duckling That Became A Swan

Hyperion was named after a Greek sun god but there was nothing god-like about his appearence, being described as small and weak. Many advised Lord Derby to geld him or even have him destroyed. When all the other foals left Side Hill Stud to begin their training, Hyperion was left behind because he was so weak. Left alone to mature at his leisure he blossomed into a small; he barely topped 15 hands - the average racehorse is at least 15.4h - but perfectly formed speciman. He may have had the short legs typical of his female line but he was now a lengthy, powerfully built individual.

Hyperion also had an unusual coat for it changed colour in the different seasons & wuality of light. When he sweated he was dark although his mane and tail always remained significantly lighter than his body. He had four white feet which is traditionally a bad omen when owning a chestnut horse.

Hyperion proved to be very lazy in nature and had to be worked hard to maintain his optimum fitness level. His trainer George Lambton had fallen in love with the colt the moment he had set eyes on the little horse as a weak but intelligent looking yearling, so allowed the horse to get away with anything he pleased on the gallops (IE stopping in the middle of a workout or refusing to move for up to half an hour at a time) & in the yard.

At The Races

As was custom in the bygone days of racing, horses were campaigned on all types of going and over a wide variety of distances. As a 2yo Hyperion dead heated in the Prince of Wales Stakes (Goodwood) on heavy, sluggish ground with the filly Nancy Stair. He was then beaten into 3rd in his next race by the mighty Manitoba but bounced back to form with a 2 length victory in heavy gound in the Dewhurst.

Below is Hyperion in training at Stanley House with his trainer George Lambton (holding the lead rein) with jockey Tommy Weston on board.

At three he matured somewhat mentally but physically he remained small & compact. He continued disappoing on the gallops, regularly being beaten by stablemate Scarlet Tiger. Because of his size he wasn't entered in the 2000 Guineas but made his 3yo debut in the Chester Vase. A slow & sluggish start meant he had to be vigorously shaken up to win by 2 lengths. This performance impressed the bookies & he statred favourite for the Derby. His easy 4 length win over King Salmon and Statesman made him a public hero. It also gave his owner a second win in the race named for his family. Hyperions time of 2 mins 34 sec was a new Derby record.

He won his next start by 2 lengths carrying 131 lbs compared to the 2nd placed horse, Shamsuddin, 115 lbs. However things went wrong when Hyperion dislocated his patella (knee cap) for the 3rd time in his life, which forced him to mis a prep run for the up coming St Leger. Nobody told the horse it was a hard task to win a Classic after a 3 month lay off and just as well they didnt, for he romped home by a easy 3 lengths having ran keenly up front for most of the race.

All Good Things Come To An End

Colledge Leader took over as trainer for Lord Derby in 1933 when Lambton left over an argument with his Lordship regarding his old age and failing health. Lambton continued to train until his death eleven years later.

Hyperion won his 4yo debut by a neck, carrying a massive 138 lb compared to the feather weighted Angelico, 118 lb. Then he defeated King Salmon at level weights (136 lb) by 3 lengths in the Burwell Stakes. Hard ground prevented him contesting the Coronation Cup and in homework he was subsequently found to be lack the sufficent stamina for the two mile trip of the Ascot Gold Cup. He still contested the race however and finished a tired but gallant 3rd in ground approaching a quagmire after torrential rainfall the previous night.

Below:- Hyperion - the lean, mean, fighting, race fit machine.

Gone But Not Forgotten

A nice touch came prior to the Ascot Gold Cup in the parade ring, where Hyperion caught sight of George Lambton (now in a wheelchair) and stopped dead in front of him, refusing to move for quite some time.

The little horse's final start was in the Dullingham Stakes over 1m 4f. Only 2 horses went to post but Hyperion had to settle for second best under a burden weight of 142 lb to the 3yo Caithness, carrying 113 lb. He was just beaten a short head after an intense head to head battle up the straight.

At Stud

Hyperion entered Lord Derby's Woodland Stud in 1935 and remained there most of his life except for 3 years he spent at the Plantation Stud (also in Newmarket) and during WWII when he was moved to Thornton Stud in Yorkshire, safely out of the way of enemy fire. Newmarket was surrounded by airfields and was considered a target for enemy bombers.

Hyperion is one of the greatest stallions of all time, topping the Leading Sire list no less than six times in 1940, 1941, 1942, 1945, 1946 & 1955. He sired 527 foals, 118 of which won stakes races, including 7 winners of 11 English Classics. It also includes the American bred champion Pensive, a winner of the Kentucky Derby & Preakness Stakes.

Other progeny included Aureole (owned by King George Vi), Owen Tudor (wartime Derby, St Leger & Ascot Gold Cup winner), Sun Chariot the moody but brilliant winner of the English 1000 Guineas, Oaks & St Leger, Godiva (winner of wartime 1000 Guineas & Oaks), Hycilla (winner of the Oaks & Champion Stakes in 1944), Sun Stream (winner of the Queen Mary Stakes as a 2yo & 1000 Guineas), Sun Castle (winner of wartime St Leger beating Owen Tudor), Hypericum a very temperamental winner of the Dewhurst & 1000 Guineas, Heliopolis a Chester Vase, Prince of Wales' Stakes & Gratwick Stakes winner. Khaled who was unsound of wind didn't win anything of real note but proved to be a good sire in America including Oaks winner A Glitter, Champion sprinters El Drag, Correspondent & Linmold. Alibhai was unraced but became a succesful American sire of super fillies Bowl of Flowers, Flower Bowl and Bornastar.

Below is the life size statue of Hyperion which stands outside the Jockey Club offices, Newmarket.

Hyperion became a vastly important sire of sires on a international level with champion sires in Belguim (Aldis Lamp), Sweden (Hyperbode), South America (Gulf Stream), Australia (Helios), New Zealand (Ruthless), and South Africa (Deimos).

He Remains An Englishman

Lord Derby was offered a blank cheque at the peak of Hyperions stud career by the American Louis B. Mayer but Lord Derby declined, reportedly declaring: "Even though England be reduced to ashes, Hyperion shall never leave these shores." Perhaps it was a dig at the sale & subsequent export of the Aga Khan's Derby winners, Bahram, Blenheim II and Mahmoud.

Hyperion still serviced mares until he was 29, Then in failing health over the winter of that year, he was humanely destroyed in the spring of 1960 at the veteran age of 30. His skeleton is on display at The Animal Health Trust in Newmarket. A life size statue that once stood in front of Woodlands Stud home but is now in front of the Jockey Club offices also in Newmarket, stands as a permanent reminder to his influence on the modern day Thoroughbred. Not least of all because from this perch he can keep watch over his many descendants that pass by him daily on their way to the gallops of Newmarket Heath each and every morning.

Proof that good stuff comes in little bundles - and I should know!