1871 – 1880

Yet another three-runner Irish Derby in 1871 fell to an odds-on favourite, Maid of Athens. Owned and bred by ‘W Williams’ otherwise Joseph Lyons of Moyanna, Queen’s County, this daughter of Solan was trained in nearby Mountjoy Lodge by Patrick Doucie and ridden by stable jockey Tom Broderick. Sold subsequently to Monasterevan distiller James Cassidy, for whom she went on to further success both on the racecourse and at stud, Maid of Athens was considered the best Irish Derby winner since Selim.

1872 saw the Irish Derby reduced to the mile and a half of its Epsom model, though without any increase in participants. Once again only three lined out, at the Peel Post. ‘Bank of Ireland’ Keary and his trainer Tom Connolly supplied two, but it was AR Bourne who supplied the favourite – Trickstress. Once again the market proved an accurate guide. Ridden by William ‘Billy’ Miller, Trickstress gave her rider a second Irish Derby success when running out a facile winner from Speculation. By all accounts a somewhat unsavoury character, whose runners only ever won when it suited their owner’s book, Richard Bourne forsook the Sport of Kings at the close of the 1872 season.

Joseph Lyons, otherwise ‘Mr W Williams’, trainer Patrick Doucie and rider Tom Broderick struck again in 1873 when their Kyrle Daly overturned the Newmarket hotpot Angela, to the tune of six lengths. Named after the hero in Gerald Griffin’s The Collegians, Kyrle Daly was by Artillery out of Colleen Rhue and thus a half-brother to their 1981 winner Maid of Athens.

Amended conditions for the 1874 Irish Derby gave the race a badly-needed boost, even if a weight range of 35lb prompted some to dismiss it as a glorified handicap. Despite having to give lumps of weight all to his four rivals, Ben Battle was fancied by his trainer Tom Connolly to make amends for his Baldoyle Derby defeat. He was duly proved correct, Ben Battle coming home five lengths to the good in the hands of Edwin Martin. Ben Battle was to go through the remainder of that season and the following campaign unbeaten in six Queen’s Plates and two Lord Lieutenants’ Plates. He went on to head the Irish sires’ list in 1883 and 1884, outstanding among his progeny being Bendigo, winner of the inaugural Eclipse Stakes in 1886, in addition to the Lincolnshire Handicap, Jubilee Handicap, Cambridgeshire, Hardwicke Stakes and Champion Stakes.

Far and away the best Irish Derby winner to date, Ben Battle was bred by his owner John D Wardell, prosperous Dublin tea importer and founder of tea merchants Baker Wardell. His preference for the nom de course ‘JW Denison’ is explained in Peter Pearson’s The Heart of Dublin. ‘John Wardell, the founder of the firm, had a fondness for horse racing, but as a Quaker could not be seen to indulge his passion. It was claimed that he won two Irish Derbys under the pseudonym of John Dennison [sic], but that he was photographed in a newspaper leading his winner out of the Curragh and was subsequently censured by the Society of Friends. John Wardell became extremely wealthy and as a patron of the arts acquired a very large collection of paintings, which he housed in a special gallery in his own home.’

Now private trainer to Captain Stamer Gubbins in Mountjoy Lodge, Daniel Broderick fielded the favourite Maid of Erin. By Solon out of Colleen Rhue, she was thus a full sister to Maid of Athens, successful in 1871 and a half-sister to Kyrle Daly, similarly successful in 1873. As Tom Broderick had ridden both, he scarcely needed instructions on this occasion. However, the script was spoiled by James Cockin, back in search of his third Irish with Innishowen, recent surprise winner of the Manchester Cup. Innishowen duly carried the day under George Ashworth, Maid of Erin back in third. Bred by his owner, Innishowen was trained in Hednesford by Job Toon, who had succeeded to the post on Tom Cliff’s retirement. Unfortunately for both trainer and jockey, James Cockin’s death in 1876 saw their racing profiles diminished.

The appearance of Umpire among the final declarations for the 1876 Irish Derby drew them to the Curragh in their thousands. Unbeaten in six races, among those the Paget Stakes, three Queen’s Plates and the Baldoyle Derby, Umpire inevitably went off long odds-on to see off four opponents, which he duly did. Bred in nearby Ballymany by William Ryan and running in the colours of his son Charles, this strapping son of Tom King – second to Selim in the inaugural Irish Derby – was trained in Strawhall by Joe French and ridden by Michael Lynch.

Put by for the Cambridgeshire, Umpire lost his unbeaten record when finishing fourth. However, two further successes at the Curragh October meeting brought his record to nine from ten. 1877 saw Umpire win all four starts, notably the Dublin Plate at Baldoyle and the Manchester Cup at Castle Irwell. Beaten by Master Kildare on his five-year-old debut, Umpire gained his revenge the very next day, conceding Master Kildare 37lb over three miles. The merit of that performance became apparent when Master Kildare went on to win both the City and Suburban Handicap at Epsom and the Liverpool Autumn Cup.

Successful on Umpire twelve months previously, Michael Lynch was the public’s choice to follow up on Newmarket raider Philammon. In this role Michael Lynch wore the ‘Black, silver lace’ of the Marquess of Drogheda, Moore Abbey, Monasterevan, the ‘Admiral Rous’ of the Irish Turf. In the event Philammon had to give best to Redskin, the only gelding ever to succeed in an Irish Derby, from which that category was to be excluded from 1881.Owned and bred at his Knockaney Stud in County Limerick by Crimean War veteran Captain Stamer Gubbins, Redskin was trained in nearby Mountjoy Lodge, Curragh, by Dan Broderick and ridden by Frank Wynne, younger son of ‘Red Denny’ Wynne. The latter had headed the Irish jockeys’ table five times in the 1840s, as Frank was to do between 1880 and 1882. Six-foot-six Stamer Gubbins thus completed an unusual ownership double, having won that year’s Irish Grand National with Sailor. That double contributed to Stamer Gubbins’ second Irish owners’ title, his first achieved in 1874. Following his death out hunting in 1879, Knockaney passed to his brother John Gubbins. By virtue of his gelded status Redskin was destined to soldier on for many years, yielding at least sixteen further successes under all codes in England and Wales.

Philammon made ample amends for that Irish Derby defeat, becoming virtually unbeatable in Queen’s Plates, irrespective of weight or distance. As an aged horse he reached his peak, winning both the Liverpool Spring Cup and Esher Stakes in 1882. A stud career, initially frustrated by a Land League boycott, ultimately rewarded Lord Drogheda’s patience and perseverance. Philammon headed the Irish sires’ table in 1887, when his son Pet Fox went one better in winning the Irish Derby.

Successful with Ben Battle in 1874, John Wardell – still racing as ‘JW Denison’ – was widely known to be mortally ill when he essayed to win a second Irish Derby with Madame du Barry, homebred at his Dunboyne stud outside Dublin. Richelieu, her older half-brother, had carried Wardell’s ‘Green, black cap’ into second behind Umpire in the 1876 Irish Derby. Both were trained by F Martin, Wardell’s private trainer in Brownstown Lodge, Curragh. Ridden by Frank Wynne, Madame du Barry came late to beat faltering favourite Venice by three lengths, in the process beating the previous record time for the Irish Derby, set by Ben Battle. John Wardell led in his filly to enthusiastic applause, directed at a popular, sporting owner, doomed to succumb to cancer three months later.

Madame du Barry was purchased by hot-tempered Kilkenny sportsman and MP, George Leopold Bryan for 570 guineas. Transferred to Michael Dennehy at French House, Curragh, Madame du Barry won the Curragh Cesarewitch as a four-year-old and two Queen’s Plates the following season. By morbid coincidence George Bryan then died. Madame du Barry passed into the hands of north of England owner Charles Perkins. Before 1880 was out this indomitable mare had won a further seven races from ten starts, culminating with a runaway success in the Manchester November Handicap, then in the care of William I’Anson junior, Highfield, Malton. Madame du Barry excelled all previous performances when coming home twenty lengths clear of her field in the 1881 Goodwood Cup. Having broken down on her 1882 debut, she was put to stud, where she bred a useful two-year-old in Rose du Barry for Charles Perkins. Having spent four years in the royal paddocks at Hampton Court Stud, Madame du Barry was exported to Austria in 1894.

So wet was the ‘summer’ of 1879 Ireland faced the threat of famine to rival that of ‘Black ’47.’ Meanwhile, eight faced the starter for the Irish Derby, widely regarded as a match between Soulouque and Shinglass, the leading juveniles of their vintage. Sent off joint favourites by the rain-sodden crowd, they duly fought it out a country mile ahead of their pursuers. At the line Soulouque had a length to spare from Shinglass, the others distanced in their wake. The bottomless going ensured that this remains the slowest Irish Derby on record, clocked at 3min 10sec. Bred and raced by William Dunne JP of Ballymanus, Queen’s County, Soulouque was trained by Thomas Connolly in Curragh View and ridden by John Conolly, considered the outstanding flat jockey of his era in Ireland. Whereas Shinglass recovered from his ordeal to win fifteen races, Soulouque finished unplaced on his only subsequent appearance in the Liverpool Autumn Cup, unseen again until an unsuccessful comeback at Sandown Park in 1882.

The richest Irish Derby to date attracted a record field of eleven, the market somewhat surprisingly headed by the unraced English-trained filly Helen Mar. In the event Helen Mar gave best in a three-way finish to King of the Bees and Baron Farney. King of the Bees was bred and owned by William Brophy of Herbertstown, who had earlier won the 1880 Irish Grand National with Controller, King of the Bees’ half-brother. Surprise winner over six furlongs the previous day, King of the Bees was described by his rider Frank Wynne as “moderate, a whistler and delicate.” King of the Bees never won another race. William Brophy, whose family fortunes were amassed through a contract to supply coal to the Curragh Camp, married Catherine, only daughter of bookmaker Paddy ‘Bank of Ireland’ Keary, whose fortune he also inherited. Margaret, their daughter, married Maddenstown trainer JJ ‘Jim’ Parkinson, who would send out Royal Mantle to win the 1901 Irish Oaks for his brother-in-law Patrick J Brophy.