Did you know that Palace House Stables has been the home of four Derby winners? Stephen Wallis of The Paddock and The Pavilion provides a brief review of the four thoroughbreds who mastered Epsom Downs.

It’s hard to believe but in the 1860’s Newmarket had gone out of fashion as a training centre for Derby winners, even though between 1788 and 1832 all bar three winners of the race had been trained in Newmarket.

It was felt that the Heath was too firm, and the Downs of Sussex, Berkshire and Wiltshire were more attractive. Newmarket’s last Derby winner was Orlando in 1844 and that was a result of the Running Rein affair. It was discovered that the ‘winner’, Running Rein, was four-year-old and was, therefore, disqualified from running in a three-years-old only race.

Furthermore, Newmarket’s share of the national racing programme had fallen dramatically since the end of the 18th century whilst many races saw only two runners and fields of three or four were frequent. With fewer good horses trained in the town the appeal of owners to have their horses trained elsewhere accentuated the malaise and led to more unemployment and tough times for the local tradesmen.

James ‘Jem’ Godding, contrary to popular belief, firmly believed that if he couldn’t train a Derby winner on the Limekilns, he could not train one anywhere. The Master of Palace House Stables, in 1862, had trained former Liverpool banker Richard Naylor’s Feu de Joie to win the Oaks and the owner was so confident about his Macaroni in the 1863 Derby that he backed him at long odds.

Macaroni was a well bred bay. His sire Sweetmeat’s progeny included two Oaks winners in Mincemeat (1854) and Mincepie (1856). As a three year old standing 15.2 hands he made a dramatic improvement winning at the Craven meeting before success in the 2,000 Guineas by three quarters of a length.  Despite victory in the first colt’s classic of 1863, Lord Clifden, the previous year’s leading two year old was sent off as the 4/1 favourite while Godding’s horse was 10/1.

Believed to be the first Derby the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) attended the race was marred by incessant rain since early morning, and a cold wind which The Times stated meant the crowd was smaller than usual. In addition, thirty four false starts delayed the 31 runners by over an hour. Lord Clifden made most of the running and as they came into the straight the Derby became a duel between George Fordham on the favourite and Tom Chaloner on Macaroni. A fierce battle inside the final furlong saw Macaroni snatch the lead with 50 yards to go to win by a head. Naylor had scooped £100,000 from his bets – a vast sum when the winning prize was approximately £7,000 – and gave a gift of £3,000 to Godding and £1,000 to Chaloner.

A peal of bells rang out at All Saints Church Newmarket to celebrate Macaroni’s triumph. It is understood that Godding who lived on the doorstep of the Church disliked the sound of the bells and had agreed the vicar should be allowed to ring out the bells whilst he was away at Epsom.

Godding’s faith in the Heath had been vindicated and the events of 20 May 1863 changed the perception that Derby winners could not be trained at Newmarket forever. Furthermore, the town was rejuvenated with the victory starting the re-establishment of Newmarket as the major racing centre in the British Isles. This had a major effect on the local economy with more jobs becoming available for lads, farriers, saddlers, and all of those people connected with racing.

Two years later the mighty French horse Gladiateur (Triple Crown winner) was trained in Newmarket followed by Hermit in 1867, Kingcraft 1870, Favonius 1871, Cremorne 1872 and Galopin 1875. The run continued the following year when Kisber became the second colt to win the race to have been trained at Palace House Stables. The site was now owned by Baron Meyer de Rothschild who installed his private trainer, Joseph Hayhoe, following Godding’s death in 1873.

Kisber was bred in Hungary but had an English pedigree. His sire Buccaneer had won the 1861 Royal Hunt Cup. Buccaneer also sired the filly Formosa who won four British Classics in 1868 (one a dead heat). His dam Mineral was a daughter of a 1,000 Guineas winner. He was purchased as a yearling by the Baltazzi’s brothers but ran in the name and colours of Mr Alexander Baltazzi.  The two brothers born in Turkey were sons of an oriental merchant and were educated at Rugby School where their love of the turf evolved. They also had commercial connections with the Rothschild’s family. Palace House Stables was now owned by Leopold (nephew of Baron Mayer de Rothschild who died in 1874) who agreed the Baltazzi brothers could send a few horses to Hayhoe.

As a two year old the colt won only one of this four races but impressed in the final race when he won the inaugural Dewhurst Plate at Newmarket over 7 furlongs. By the time of the Derby on 31 May 1876 Kisber was second favourite at 4/1 behind Petrarch (a son of Lord Clifden) at 2/1 who had won the 2,000 Guineas. In a field of fifteen the race proved an easy victory for Hayhoe’s colt who with former champion jockey Charlie Maidment onboard took the lead at the distance from Petrarch to eventually win by an emphatic five lengths.

The centenary Derby in 1879 was the scene of the next Palace House winner when Sir Bevys took the crown. Trained by Joseph Hayhoe the winner was owned by the Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (the brother of Baron Meyer de Rothschild) though his horses raced under the name of Mr Acton (he owned a stud in Acton).

Sir Bevys arrived at Epsom the winner of only one race, a modest race at Newmarket, from four two year old starts. Starting at an unfancied 20/1 Sir Bevys was well behind at the start but in heavy going jockey George Fordham made good use of the better ground on the stand side and the horse’s stamina to catch the 100/1 outsider Palmbearer. The time of 3 minutes 2 seconds was the slowest since 1856 and no Derby victor since has recorded a slower time. It was Joseph Hayhoe’s third Derby success. His first was Favonius (sire of Sir Bevys during the Baron’s Year of 1871 2016). For the fourteen times champion jockey it was Fordham’s only Derby victory.

The last member of the Palace House quartet to win the Derby was St Amant in 1904.  A son of Leopold De Rothschild’s best horse St Frusquin (1896 2,000 Guineas and neck 2nd in the Derby) St Amant was an immensely popular winner as he provided Leopold, a staunch supporter of the turf since 1870 and well known for his charitable work with his only Derby success.

St Amant was trained by Alfred Hayhoe, who succeeded his father Joseph at Palace House in 1881. As a two year old he had won the Coventry Stakes on his debut but was twice comfortably beaten by the legendary filly Pretty Polly.  With the latter selecting the fillies classics in 1904 St Amant won the 2,000 Guineas with John O’Gaunt in second place. At Epsom the Blue Riband was run in a terrific thunderstorm with flashes of lightning prevalent but this did not deter St Amant, the fourth favourite in a field of only eight. With Kempton Cannon in the saddle the colt led from start to finish winning by three lengths ahead of John O’Gaunt. Despite the awful weather Leopold proudly led the winner in, a lifelong ambition achieved.

The famous stables became the home of the National Heritage Centre for Horse Racing and Sporting Art in 2016 and is now called the National Horse Racing Museum. St Amant had added its final chapter to the roll of Derby winners.  However, few would disagree that by far the most important of the four was Macaroni, one of the saviours of Newmarket.

Stephen Wallis

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