Memory Lane: Tudor Minstrel

Tudor Minstrel

by GRAHAM OLIVER WHO was the greatest 2000 Guineas winner ever? Was it Tudor Minstrel, was it Brigadier Gerard, or was it Frankel? Of course, we will never know, but we can surmise. This short piece is about making the case for Tudor Minstrel…

Foaled in 1944, Tudor Minstrel was a brown colt by the 1941 Derby and 1942 Gold Cup winner Owen Tudor (by Hyperion) out of the Sansovino mare Sansonnet. Owen Tudor was very much an in and out performer, but on his day he was very good. As well as Tudor Minstrel, he also sired Abernant, possibly the best sprinter ever, and Prix du Jockey Club winner Right Royal V, who defeated St Paddy by three lengths in the King George at Ascot.

Tudor Minstrel had four outings as a two year old, all over five furlongs, and he won them in a canter. He won his first two races by five lengths and eight lengths. In his third, the Coventry Stakes (also over five furlongs) at Royal Ascot, he was clear by half-way, and continued in front to the line winning by an official four lengths. In ‘Best Horses of 1946’ the founder of Timeform, Phil Bull, stated that the winning distance was ‘nearer six lengths’.

In his final outing at two, Tudor Minstrel cantered home in the National Breeders Produce Stakes at Sandown, defeating Kingsclere, who was in receipt of nine pounds, by four lengths. The fourth home, Migoli, later won the Dewhurst Stakes and at three won the Eclipse and Champion, and at four the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. In the Free Handicap Tudor Minstrel was the top rated two year old, being assessed as two pounds superior than Petition.

At three Tudor Minstrel prepared for the 1947 Two Thousand Guineas in a small race at Bath, again winning with ease. In the Two Thousand Guineas itself, Tudor Minstrel started as the  11-8 favourite, and won by eight lengths from Saravan (Middle Park) and Sayajirao (St Leger). His jockey, Gordon Richards (later Sir) let him run right away at the Bushes. Observers commented that he could have won by up to twenty lengths.

He next ran in the Derby, but it was a disaster. Pulling hard all the way, and running out continuously to his right, he still managed fourth behind Pearl Diver. You can relive the race here. He then won the St James’s Palace in a canter before running second to Migoli in the Eclipse. The course had been watered beforehand, and Sir Gordon gave that as the reason for his defeat. His final race was the one mile Knight’s Garter Stakes (now QE2) in which he hacked up from Petition.

Tudor Minstrel had a talented stablemate

Although not often mentioned, Tudor Minstrel had a very talented stable companion of the same age called Combat (by Big Game (Guineas) x Commotion (Oaks)). Combat was also a brilliant miler and retired undefeated in nine races. He missed the Guineas but beat Petition easily in a two horse affair for the Sussex Stakes. On all known form, he would have won the Two Thousand Guineas in the absence of Tudor Minstrel.

Sir Gordon described Tudor Minstrel as the best miler that he ever rode. Phil Bull described him in 1946 ‘as one of the fastest two-year-olds ever seen’. He thought that he should have been allocated another seven pounds on the Free Handicap, bringing his weight up to ten stone. He wrote that he also hoped that Tudor Minstrel would ‘prove that he has the necessary stamina to emulate Bahram and annex the Triple Crown’ in 1947. Sadly that was not to be.

Tudor Minstrel was a very successful stallion. He sired Kentucky Derby winner Tomy Lee, Irish Oaks winner Agars Plough, and King George winner Aggressor. He was also the sire of those very fast horses, Sing Sing (sire of champion sprinter Song), and Tudor Melody. Tudor Melody in turn sired Tudor Music and Welsh Pageant. Another son was Will Somers, who sired many top class sprinters.

Finally, he was also the sire of possibly the best named horse ever, Popham Down, who caused all the carnage at the Grand National in 1967, when he ran along the 23rd fence, careering into Rutherfords, and causing the whole field to either fall or unseat their riders. All except Foinavon that is, the 100-1 winner.

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