July's races

Filed on 22 Jun 2006 @ 16:33

Sponsors come and sponsors go, and in recent years a number of historic race titles have been lost to commercial pressures. However, the racing calendar continues to be filled with names commemorating people and horses who have made outstanding contributions to our sport. Some are well known, others less so. Here, Gavin D Smith traces the origins of the names behind famous races in July.

Fred Archer Stakes, Newmarket

This 1m 4f Listed Race for four-year-olds and upwards, which takes place on 1 July, was won last year by Sir Michael Stoute's useful four-year-old Imperial Stride.

The Fred Archer Stakes commemorates one of Britain's greatest jockeys who died a tragic death. Frederick James Archer was born in 1857 and apprenticed to Matthew Dawson at Heath House in Newmarket at the age of 11. It was soon apparent that he was a naturally gifted horseman, blessed with both intelligence and a degree of ruthlessness.

In 1874 he won his first Classic for Dawson, and his principal patron Lord Falmouth, on Atlantic in the 2000 Guineas. Aged 17, Archer became champion jockey that year, and went on to repeat the feat 12 more times during his 17-year riding career. In total he won 21 Classics, despite waging a constant battle against the scales.

But in 1884 he suffered the loss first of his infant son and then his wife, Helen, who died giving birth to their daughter. Putting his personal grief aside, Archer rode 246 winners the following season, a tally that remained a record until Gordon Richard scored 259 in 1933.

However in November 1886, he committed suicide by shooting himself, apparently in a fit of delirium brought on by a bout of ill-health that was probably linked to under-nourishment. He was just 29 years old.

Old Newton Cup, Haydock Park

This 1m 3f Heritage Handicap for three-year-olds and upwards is Haydock's oldest race. Won last season by Luca Cumani's Zeitgeist, it takes place on 8 July.

The origins of the Old Newton Cup can be traced back to 1752, when racing was taking place on Golborne Heath, not far from the present course. On 16 June that year a £50 Cup was competed for at Golborne, sponsored by the Newton Hunt.

By 1807, races were being held a couple of miles from today's venue at Newton-le-Willows, and in that year the inaugural Newton Gold Cup, worth 100 guineas, was staged over four miles.

By the time racing ended on Newton Common in July 1898, prior to the construction of Haydock Park, the Newton Cup was a 1m 2f handicap. It had been run over a number of different distances, including 3m in 1825 and 1m at Newton Common. It subsequently became a 1m 4f contest at the new venue, and it remains one of the Lancashire track's feature Flat races, along with the Lancashire Oaks, also staged on 8 July, the Rose of Lancaster Stakes, and the Sprint Cup.

Eclipse Stakes, Sandown Park

This historic 1m 2f Group One contest sees the season's best three-year-olds take on their elders. Aidan O'Brien's Oratorio beat Derby winner Motivator into second place 12 months ago. This season's renewal takes place on 8 July.

The Eclipse Stakes was first staged in 1886, 11 years after Sandown Park opened, and the inaugural running carried prize money of £10,000. By comparison, that year's Derby was worth £4,600, and the Eclipse was then the richest race ever staged in Britain. Despite being framed to attract the very best horses, the first running of the race fell to a handicapper, in the shape of Bendigo, who was smart enough to also win that season's Champion Stakes.

The race commemorates one of racing's all-time greats. Bred by the Duke of Cumberland and foaled in 1764, the pedigree of Eclipse was unexceptional, but on the course he proved unbeatable, landing all 18 of his races. Notable for his sheer speed and spirit, Eclipse walked over seven of the 11 King's Plates in which he competed, as few owners were prepared to take him on with their horses.

Retired to stud in 1771, Eclipse proved a very significant sire, with his progeny winning a total of 862 races between them. His influence was immense, with most modern thoroughbreds tracing their descent from him in the male line through his sons King Fergus and Pot-8-os.

Bunbury Cup, Newmarket

Run on 14 July, the final day of Newmarket's July Festival, this 7f Heritage Handicap for three-year-olds and upwards fell last season to the Yorkshire raider Mine.

The race is named in commemoration of Sir Charles Bunbury (1740-1820), who was born at Great Barton, near Newmarket. Elected MP for Suffolk at the age of just 21, Bunbury represented the constituency for 43 years, and by the age of 28 he was also Steward of the Jockey Club, there being only one at that time.

Bunbury played a major role in extending the influence of the Jockey Club from Newmarket to encompass the whole of Britain, and was instrumental in improving the speed of racehorses by introducing shorter races for younger horses carrying lighter weights. During his time at the Jockey Club all five Classic races were introduced.

The story goes that Lord Derby and Sir Charles Bunbury either rolled dice or drew cards during an evening's carousing at Derby's Epsom house, The Oaks, in order to decide whose name should be bestowed on the principal colts' Classic. Derby emerged victorious but Bunbury’s horse Diomed won the first running of the race in 1780.

Further Classic success came for Bunbury when Eleanor became the first filly to win the Derby and Oaks in 1801. His charge Smolensko landed the 2000 Guineas and Derby in 1813 and he also bred the outstanding colt, Highflyer.

Beeswing Handicap, Newcastle

Buckingham Palace Stakes winner Uhoomagoo triumphed last year in this 7f event, which takes place on 29 July.

Uhoomagoo might boast a fine winning record, but it pales into insignificance when compared to the exploits of the mare after whom this race is named.

Foaled in 1833, Beeswing was a bay Dr Syntax mare, bred and owned by William Orde, whose family estate was at Nunnykirk, near the Northumberland town of Morpeth. During her eight seasons of racing, Beeswing became an idol with northern racegoers, landing no fewer than 51 of her 64 races, including four Doncaster Cups, the Ascot Gold Cup and six Newcastle Cups.

Her first race was as a two-year-old at Newcastle, and the following year she landed both the Newcastle Cup and the Newcastle St Leger. In her final season, aged nine, Beeswing proved that she was as good as ever when winning the Ascot Gold Cup.

Remarkably, once her racing career was over, Beeswing was used as a hack for a year before being sent to stud, and when she returned to Nunnykirk the whole town of Morpeth turned out to cheer her home. A pub was also renamed in her honour.

At stud Beeswing was covered by Touchstone, and produced both the 2000 Guineas winner Nunnykirk and his brother Newminster, twice champion sire. She is rightly regarded as one of the most influential mares of all time.

Filed on 22 Jun 2006 @ 16:33