Memory Lane: Fleet: 1967 1000 Guineas winner

by GRAHAM OLIVER Noel Murless saddled six winners of the 1000 Guineas: Fleet was number three, winning in 1967. She was a bay filly by the unraced Never Say Die stallion Immortality. Her dam, Review, was by Panorama, who had won the Coventry and Champagne Stakes during a seven-race unbeaten two-year-old career. Besides Fleet, Review also bred the 1000 Guineas winner Pourparler, by Hugh Lupus, who had additionally won the National and Lowther Stakes as a two-year-old.

Earlier there had been Display, by Rustam, who also won the National and Cheveley Park Stakes. As a three year old, she won the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and split Abermaid and West Side Story in the 1000 Guineas. Later, there would be Democratie, full sister to Fleet, who won five races in France, including what is now the Group One Prix de la Foret.

Fleet was sold for 11,000 guineas as a yearling and was purchased by Mr Robert Boucher. She went into training with Noel Murless at Warren Place, Newmarket. Sandown was selected for Fleet’s racing debut and she finished runner up to Social Bee over five furlongs in June. The following month, starting an odds-on favourite, and ridden by Lester Piggott, Fleet won the Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot over six furlongs.

She was then rested until October when she contested the top race for two-year-old fillies, the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket. Fleet was held up during the early stages of the race by Piggott, coming smoothly through to take up the running inside the final furlong and win going away by one and a half lengths from Pia, winner previously of the Cherry Hinton and Lowther Stakes, Meander was third. She was then put away for the winter.

Fleet was given 8st 10lb in the Free Handicap and named Champion Two Year Old Filly, 11lb below the top weighted colt Bold Lad. Starting stalls were used to start Classic races in Britain for the first time in 1967. Noel Murless selected the Thirsk Classic Trial over a mile for Fleet’s warm-up race. There were no stalls for the race, and Fleet refused to line up at the start. She cantered down the course after the other runners so she officially took part in the race.

At Newmarket Fleet started second favourite behind the French-trained filly Fix The Date, who had easily won the traditional French Guineas trial, the Prix Imprudence at Maisons-Laffitte. There were also two unbeaten fillies in the line-up, the Irish Jadeite, and Fleet’s stable companion Royal Saint, ridden by Lester Piggott. Fleet was ridden by Murless’s new stable jockey, George Moore.

The 1967 1000 Guineas was run in near gale force winds. Piggott on Royal Saint made the running with Fleet tucked in comfortably behind. At the Bushes, Edward Hide pushed Pia on but Fleet closed with her and took up the running in the Dip. Running on strongly, she held off the late challenge of St Pauli Girl by half a length, with Lacquer third, just in front of Pia.

In their excellent tome, “A Century of Champions” John Randall and Tony Morris rated Fleet an “average” Guineas winner. I would take issue with that. The Guineas fourth, Pia, went on to win the Oaks, and the Guineas runner-up, St Pauli Girl, occupied that same position behind Pia at Epsom. Lacquer, third home, won the Irish 1000 Guineas next time out by four lengths from Hannah Darling.  Later in the season, Lacquer won the Cambridgeshire by two lengths from future Eclipse Stakes winner Wolver Hollow. To my way of thinking, the 1967 1000 Guineas was a good quality field, and the winner better than average.

Timeform’s “Racehorses of 1967” said of Fleet: “A fine, well made filly, well up to the standard of most post-war 1000 Guineas winners”. For what it’s worth, I readily concur with those words!

At Epsom, in the Oaks, Fleet travelled easily into the straight and looked to justify favouritism. However her pedigree was that of a miler and, in the end, she faded to finish fourth behind the aforesaid Pia, St Pauli Girl and the northern trained Ludham.

A fortnight later Fleet reappeared in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. Last coming into the straight, she unleashed her run with less than two furlongs left to run, yet easily went past the pacemaking Royal Saint to win very comfortably by three quarters of a length with Whirled best of the rest in third. Lacquer was further back.

It was then decided to run Fleet in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. There was a stellar field for that year’s renewal. Among the participants were Sodium, winner of the previous year’s Irish Sweeps Derby and St Leger, Appiani 11, winner of the Derby Italiano, Great Nephew, winner of the Prix Dollar and second, splitting Behistoun and Arc winner Bon Mot, in the Prix Ganay. Also in the field was Fleet’s at that time under-rated stable companion Busted, ridden by Bill Rickaby. A contemporary report that I read said that George Moore was so shocked to see Busted cruise past him that he stopped riding for a fraction. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know, but in the straight Busted accelerated past the field and won very comfortably by two and a half lengths from the longtime leader Great Nephew, Appiani, and Fleet in a very fast time.

Seven days later, Busted proved himself the best middle distance horse in Europe when winning the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot by three easy lengths and a neck from Salvo and Ribocco. Amongst the unplaced horses were Sodium, Appiani 11, Bon Mot 111, and Nelcius (1966 Prix du Jockey- Club).

It was a shame that he was injured, after an easy prep in the Prix Foy, prior to his intended target, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, that autumn. Salvo and Ribocco both finished fast to lose the Arc in a triple photograph with Topyo. The King George form was reproduced to the pound. A case of “what might have been.”

Fleet had her last race at Ascot on National Cancer Day in the Michael Sobell Stakes over a mile that autumn. She had to be hard ridden to go past the leader Hannah Darling, coming into the final furlong and then just held the persistent challenge of Resilience to hold on, all out, by a neck. Murless had a double on the day, winning with Sucaryl in the featured David Robinson Stakes.

Fleet retired as the winner of five of her nine races, including the fiasco at Thirsk. Her only defeats were on her debut, and twice when tried over distances too far, in the Oaks and Eclipse. She won what are now known as three Group One races, and was the champion in her field at both two and three.

Not long after her retirement she was sold to the USA. Mated with the outstanding racehorse Dr Fager, her best offspring was Heloise, winner of the Diana Handicap in 1975.

Fleet was repatriated in 1973 and died in 1979. Although Fleet is still relatively fresh in my memory, I must thank “The Gun’nor” by Tim Fitzgeorge-Parker, and Timeform’s “Racehorses of 1967”, for jolting it occasionally.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *