Son ofak ing whose heir rewrote the recordb ooks.
SOME kings of England felt no obligation toward the offspring of their mistresses, but that was not the case with Charles II, the Merry Monarch who liked to rule his realm from Newmarket. He conferred dukedoms on his illegitimate sons.
One particularly well-provided-for beneficiary was Henry FitzRoy, Charles's second son by Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland. A month short of his ninth birthday Henry was married to a five-year-old heiress, Isabella Bennet, the match bringing him Euston Hall and Park in Norfolk and providing the excuse to grant him the titles of Baron Sudbury, Viscount Ipswich and Earl of Euston. A few weeks short of his 12th birthday the lad was created Duke of Grafton.
The third duke (pictured below), whose private life was attended by much scandal and whose public life featured a brief unsuccessful stint as Prime Minister, enjoyed considerable success on the Turf as owner-breeder of three winners of the Derby and two of the Oaks. When he died in 1811, his heir came into possession of the finest stud in Britain, so it was to be expected that Euston would continue to thrive. In fact, George Henry FitzRoy, the fourth Duke, surpassed his father's achievements, winning 20 Classics as owner and 19 as breeder, tallies that have since been equalled, but never bettered.
There were two key factors that helped to enable a smooth transition of ownership and Euston's prolonged success. Along with a superior broodmare band, the fourth duke inherited a champion sire in Waxy and an outstanding trainer in Robert Robson, who had prepared Waxy for his 1793 Derby triumph when based in Lewes and was now established as the foremost trainer in Newmarket.
Robson, less severe on his horses than his contemporaries in the profession, was familiar with the characteristics of the Euston stock, most of whom descended from Julia, a daughter of Blank purchased by the third duke from Tommy Panton as a seven-year-old in 1763. Julia's foal of 1768 - t he year in which her owner became Prime Minister - w as a Snap filly called Promise, and she in turn, at the age of 20, became the dam of the celebrated Highflyer mare Prunella, whose exceptional brood included the 1804 Oaks winner Pelisse (by Whiskey) and the 1809 Derby winner Pope (by Waxy). The third duke's last Derby winner in the following year was Waxy's son Whalebone, produced by Prunella's most influential daughter Penelope (by Trumpator).
The first Classic winner to race for the fourth duke was Music, a filly bred by his father. A daughter of Waxy out of Woodbine, who descended from Julia in the third generation, Music won the 1813 Oaks, a feat emulated by her sister Minuet two years later, when a remarkable double double was recorded, as Whalebone's brother Whisker also carried the scarlet Grafton colours to victory in the Derby.
The third duke never won a Guineas but had only two chances, his contenders for the 2,000 in 1809 and 1810 both finishing unplaced; he had been in his grave for three years before the 1,000 was first staged in 1814. The fourth duke relished the new arrivals on the schedule, making a happy habit of winning them in a period when small fields were the norm, and on one occasion his entry literally had nothing to beat.
Only the fifth Earl of Jersey was ever able to match his record of five winners of the 2,000 Guineas, and ironically two of those successes were gained by third-generation descendants of a mare culled from Euston. The Grafton score of eight victories in the 1,000 Guineas - approached only by the 17th Earl of Derby's seven - c ame in the space of nine years, the sequence being broken by the second place of Rebecca in 1824 behind Cobweb, granddaughter of that same Euston reject Web, a sister to Whalebone and Whisker.
Newmarket was Grafton's local course and he was generally well represented there, often with more than one runner in the major stakes. Before he won his first Guineas he twice had a runner-up and once a third-placed colt in the 2,000, and in the 1,000 he had the second in 1814, the third in 1817, and both the minor placegetters in 1815 and 1818. When the breakthrough came, in the 1,000 of 1819, it was an unconsidered longshot Catgut, ridden by an unidentified lad, who earned the honours.
In each of the next three seasons Grafton's contenders won both Guineas, and all six started favourite. The 1820 double was secured by Pindarrie and Rowena, respectively grandson and granddaughter of Prunella, and the 1821 pair were Reginald, a brother to Rowena, and Zeal, whose sire Partisan was a grandson of Prunella. Reginald went on to Epsom and finished second to Gustavus, the first grey Derby winner.
UNIQUELY, the 1822 double featured two fillies, both daughters of that season's champion sire Rubens, and both granddaughters of Prunella. Pastille defeated her two male rivals in the 2,000 Guineas and two days later Whizgig proved best of four in the 1,000. Which was better? Pastille won the Oaks, with Whizgig unplaced, but the former was inconsistent and the latter had only that one defeat in her record. It is possible that Grafton had a better threeyear-old filly than either of them racing for him that season, as Posthuma - not one of his breeding - won all six of her starts that season, including the Newmarket St Leger, with colts and older rivals among her victims.
Grafton narrowly failed to complete the double in 1823, when his Talisman was beaten by Nicolo - the only twin ever to win a Classic - in the 2,000 Guineas. Zinc, as expected, took the fillies' event and went on to land the Oaks. Probably the best filly ever bred at Euston, she was a half-sister to Zeal and, like her, had a sire - W oful - w ho was a grandson of Prunella.
Second places for Tiara and Rebecca meant Grafton drew a blank in the 1824 Guineas, but he was handed one on a plate in the following year, when seven of the eight entries for the 1,000 defected, leaving his Tontine - yet another whose granddam was Prunella - t o become the only Classic winner by a walkover. If the connections of her prospective rivals had formed a high opinion of Tontine, they ought not have done; she finished only third in the Oaks and dead-heated for first in a pounds 50 handicap for her best effort later that year.
Grafton notched his last Guineas double in 1826, scoring with Dervise and Problem. They were both by Merlin, who stood at Riddlesworth, not far from Euston, and they both descended from Prunella, who featured in the third generation of the colt and the second of the filly. Both were ridden by John Day, their wins raising the profile of a man who would come to figure significantly as jockey and trainer - a nd as an ancestor of many who became prominent in racing, including Lester Piggott.
Day now became a regular rider of the Grafton horses and he was aboard when Turquoise, a half-sister to Tontine, and Oxygen - a daughter of Whizgig - notched the last two Classic triumphs for the scarlet livery in the Oaks of 1828 and 1831 respectively. He had also had his chances in the 1827 Guineas, but those races provided the last hurrah for 60-yearold Frank Buckle, who steered the Grafton contenders Turcoman and Arab to victory. Turcoman was a brother to Turquoise, and Arab, who thwarted Day by a head on the owner's favourite Monody, was a daughter of Zeal. That pair completed a tally of 27 Classic winners for Buckle, whose record in that regard lasted until it was surpassed by Piggott's win on Commanche Run in the 1984 St Leger.
The fourth Duke of Grafton was the dominant owner and breeder in England for around two decades, but there have to be reservations about his success. His horses raced where he wanted them to race and could see them easily; they never ventured north and consequential events at York and Doncaster took place without them. It was also a fact that his success dried up dramatically; he remained active on the Turf until his death in 1844, but the good days were long gone by then. Why did that happen? Robson, a key player for the team over a long period, retired after the 1827 season. Robert Stephenson, who succeeded Robson as trainer, was never held in such high repute. And it was often asserted that Grafton profited significantly from the wise advice of his half-brother, the Rev Lord Henry Fitzroy, who died in 1828. So much went right for so long; everything seemed to go wrong abruptly.
The fourth duke would have been regarded as particularly inept if he had not built on what his father had achieved; the Prunella family in particular seemed so potent. He kept that going famously for a long time. But we know now that families lose their potency over time, especially if they are not exposed to superior sires. In the 1830s, the best Grafton mares were going chiefly to second- and third-rate sires. For whatever reason, he was no longer giving them the chances that they had always been afforded before.
A month after the duke's death his bloodstock went under the hammer at Tattersalls. Oxygen made the creditable sum of 340gns, but his older Classic-winning mares fared less well, Turquoise fetching 73gns, Tontine 32gns and Problem only 18gns.
But the name of Prunella resonates still. She appears in the tail-female line of both Frankel and Black Caviar - in the 19th generation of the colt and the 22nd generation of the mare.
GRAFTON'S JEWELS NOTABLE HORSES HE BRED vvb f Minuet (1812, Waxy - Woodbine, by Woodpecker). Oaks S. vvb c Whisker (1812, Waxy - Penelope, by Trumpator). Derby S. vvbr f Catgut (1816, Juniper - Vanity, by Buzzard). 1,0 Guineas. vvb c Pindarrie (1817, Phantom - Parasol, by Potoooooooo). 2,0 Guineas.
vvch f Rowena (1817, Haphazard - Prudence, by Waxy). 1,000 Guineas. vvb c Reginald (1818, Haphazard - Prudence, by Waxy). 2,000 Guineas.
vvb f Zeal (1818, Partisan - Zaida, by Sir Peter Teazle). 1,0 Guineas. vvb f Pastille (1819, Rubens - Parasol, by Potoooooooo). 2,0 Guineas, Oaks S. vvch f Whiz gig (1819, Rubens - Penelope, by Trumpator). 1,0 Guineas.
vvbr f Zinc (1820, Woful - Zaida, by Sir Peter Teazle). 1,000 Guineas, Oaks S. vvch f Tontine (1822, Election - Pope Joan, by Waxy). 1,000 Guineas.
vvb c Dervise (1823, Merlin - Pawn Junior, by Waxy). 2,000 Guineas. vvch f Problem (1823, Merlin - Pawn, by Trumpator). 1,000 Guineas.
vvbr c Turcoman (1824, Selim - Pope Joan, by Waxy). 2,000 Guineas. vvbr f Arab (1824, Woful - Zeal, by Partisan). 1,000 Guineas.
vvbr f Turquoise (1825, Selim - Pope Joan, by Waxy). Oaks S. vvb f Oxygen (1828, Emilius - Whizgig, by Rubens). Oaks S.