story of Eaton Stud
Champion thoroughbreds sired in Cheshire
Few horse-racing enthusiasts may realise it, but one of the great
stud establishments in the country was just a mile or two from Chester’s
Roodee in the 19th century. This was the famous Eaton Stud, established
at Eaton Hall by the first Earl Grosvenor, shortly after he had
registered his famous racing orange colours in 1762.
Sir Richard’s first major purchase was -Pot-8-0s, a -son of
Eclipse whom he bought from Lord Abingdon. The price was 1,500 guineas
and -Pot-8-os went on to sire 165 winners and become the tap root
of fourteen famous descendants on the male line, including Waxy
and two of the a greatest racehorses of all time, Ormonde and Flying
The Earl spent lavishly on his racing with huge investment in horses,
and unbelievable heavy gambling. He was reputed to have lost in
excess of £250,000 during his lifetime and when he was raised
to the peerage in 1861, Horace Walpole was moved to write: “Sir
Richard Grosvenor is made a Lord Viscount, or baron - I do not know
which, nor does he, for yesterday when he should have kissed hands
he was gone to Newmarket to see the trial of a racehorse.”
Following the Earl's death in l802 (he had won three Derbys and
six Oaks classics in his lifetime) Eaton Stud went through some
lean years although Touchstone was winner of the St Leger, two Ascot
and two Doncaster Gold.
Another member of the family, General Grosvenor ran both Briseis
and Wings to land the Oaks and he was also the breeder of Copenhagen,
ridden by Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo.It was the first
Duke of Westminster who revived the family’s racing fortunes
and with them, Eaton Stud.
In 1875 he purchased Doncaster, winner of the Derby (at 45-1), Ascot
and Goodwood Cups, from a Scottish ironmaster, James Murray, The
price for Doncaster £14,000, a record at the time for a racehorse
and he went to stud at Eaton in 1876. The following year he sired
Bend 'Or (named after the Grosvenor coat of arms, 'azure a bend
or') and in 1880 the Duke won the Derby with the great Fred Archer
up, Bend Or was trained by Robert Peck, at Newmarket, and got up
in the last stride to beat Robert the Devil. Peck later described
Bend Or as the "best horse in the world".
The same year, the Duke bought a yearling filly called Shotover,
a great-granddaughter incidentally of Touchstone which had been
bred at Eaton Hall.
The most remarkable story of all concerns Ormonde which was sired
at Eaton by Bend Or out of Lily Agnes. The mare Lily Agnes was said
to have been a light-fleshed, lop-eared and miserable individual,
but she had won twenty-one races and the Duke was persuaded to buy
her for £2,500. She carried Bend Or’s foal for twelve
months and when it was born it was described as “an extraordinary
looking creature.” Indeed, there were doubts that it would
ever grow up properly, let alone race.
As it turned out, the foal, Ormonde, was sent to John Porter, at
Kingsclere, and after a troublesome period he won three races as
a two-year-old. At three, he swept the board by winning the St James
Palace Stakes, the Hardwicke Stakes, and the Triple Crown. He ran
fifteen races in his career and won them all.
Back at Eton he sired Orme, but because of wind problems (and the
Duke's fears that he might introduce a line of "roarers"
into British bloodstock) Ormonde was sold to Argentina. Later he
went to the USA but was not a success at stud and when found to
be impotent he was chloroformed and destroyed in 1904... an unfitting
end for what many believed was the "Racehorse of the Century”.
His son Orme had a truly sensational career. An attempted poisoning
prevented him contesting the Two Thousand Guineas and the Derby,
but he went on to win the Eclipse twice, the Rouse Memorial Stakes
and the Goodwood Stakes In total Orme collected prize money of £32,526
from fourteen winning races.
The line continued with Orme siring Flying Fox out of Vampire and
more honour was to come the way of the ageing Duke who had been
made Master of the Queen’s Horse in 1880.
In 1897 Flying Fox emulated his grandfather, Ormonde, by winning
the Triple Crown, making the Duke the only man to have twice bred
and owned two winners of the coveted title.
The Duke died in 1899 as one of the most remarkable and successful
patrons of the British turf..
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