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West Australian: the first English Triple Crown winner

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Pedigree researcher Sally Wright takes a look at the first winner of the English Triple Crown.

With classic season upon us and after Saxon Warrior's May victory in the 2000 Guineas, attention turns to the possibility of whether he can go on to win this weekend's Derby and then the St Leger Stakes at Doncaster in September, the three races that constitute the English Triple Crown.

There have been only fifteen winners of the English Triple Crown in its long history. Here I concentrate on the gallant West Australian, who is recognised as the first to complete the treble in 1853.

Foaled in 1850, West Australian was bred and owned by an illegitimate son of wealth named John Bowes. By the classic sire Melbourne and out of Mowerina (by Touchstone), a sister and half-sister to Epsom Derby winners Cotherstone and Mundig, he was described as being of a yellowish-bay hue, quite long in the body and with a "low stealing action", "peculiar ears", slight weight issues and a tendency for lameness. Trained by John Scott at Malton in Yorkshire, the colt was a highly tried two-year-old on the Malton gallops but didn't see a racecourse until the back end of the season. Once fit, he easily won a six furlong trial race in August then ran twice in the same week in October, beaten a length by Speed-the-Plough in the Criterion Stakes at Newmarket before winning a more strongly-run £700 Glasgow Stakes over six furlongs by two lengths.  

Returning the following year with no prep race, West Australian went straight for the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May. Sent off favourite (as he was for all his three premier races), he won the heavily rained-upon event comfortably by half a length from Sittingbourne.

In a field of twenty-eight Derby contestants, West Australian won by a neck over the same rival, before returning to tackle the St Leger in the autumn. Winning in a canter by three lengths, the Yorkshire-trained winner was called home loudly by local supporters in a "perfect hurricane of cheers" as he tied up the first (yet to be coined) English Triple Crown series. His next race, a sweepstake at Doncaster saw him ‘walk over’ after the withdrawal of some dozen opponents and he finished a glorious season as the only runner to contend the Grand Duke Michael Stakes at Newmarket, in the process becoming the leading English money winner, with earnings of £10,950.

Only seen out three times in a short four-year-old season, he once more proved his durability by winning all of his races. Free money again rolled in as John Bowes collected on a forfeit on a match race scheduled at Newmarket with Barbatus. He then contested the Triennial Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, beating Lord Eglington's Vanderdecken (a full brother to the legendary Flying Dutchman) and later at the same meeting he took the Ascot Gold Cup by a head from the older Kingston, in front of a crowd that included Queen Victoria and the Duke of Wellington. 'The West' topped off his racing career by winning a Goodwood sweepstake by a staggering twenty lengths. He was then sold to Lord Londesborough for five thousand guineas to stand as a stallion, for a breeding fee of thirty guineas.

At stud he produced some good horses; Summerside won the Oaks in 1859 and The Wizard (1857) won the 2000 Guineas, was runner-up in the Derby and finished third in the St Leger, before being sold for stallion duties in Prussia. Another son, Michael Scott (1861), won four and three races, on separate occasions, in the space of just two days before being sent to Russia. Although at the time considered unsuccessful as a stallion, West Australian's lasting influence is much more notable, as he ensured the survival of the male bloodline for the Godolphin Arabian sire through his sons Australian and Solon. The former became the tail-male ancestor of the top-class six/seven furlong winner Dream Ahead (2008), a successful dual-hemisphere sire, and also the two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow (1997) and his stallion sons in the US and South Korea. Solon's male line has practically died out in the modern-day commercial Thoroughbred but its presence is felt strongly in the European Sporting Horse world.

After West Australian's efforts, it would be a further twelve years before the English Triple Crown was won again, by the mighty Gladiateur in 1865, with a total of eight colts having achieved the feat by the end of the nineteenth century and another seven doing in the twentieth. Bahram won the Triple Crown in 1935, a feat not repeated until Nijinsky saw off his rivals in 1970. He remains the last winner of this elusive English series to date.

In 1989 and 2009 Nashwan and Sea The Stars both won the 2000 Guineas and Derby without contesting the St Leger but Camelot in 2012 went closer than any since Nijinsky, winning the first two colts' classics before finishing second at Doncaster. St Leger winners aren't fashionable as Flat stallions nowadays, but things were very different for the likes of West Australian, who thrived at a time when stamina was a prized asset for a potential stallion.

West Australian’s first English Triple Crown would in time inspire foreign imitations as well as the fillies' version (consisting of the 1000 Guineas, Oaks and St Leger, last won by Oh So Sharp in 1985) and perhaps most famously, the US Triple Crown, made up of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. The weekend after Saxon Warrior’s Epsom Derby tilt, the unbeaten Justify aims to complete the US sweep after taking the first two races, and in doing so will try to emulate American Pharoah’s victories in 2015. 

 

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Free Daily Race Pass (Result)

LEOPARDSTOWN 18:50

Thursday 18 July
5. DIEGO VELAZQUEZ (IRE) 1st
Ryan Moore silk Ryan Moore
Aidan O'Brien, Ireland
4. TARAWA (IRE) 2nd
C. D. Hayes silk C. D. Hayes
D. K. Weld, Ireland
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LATEST HORSE RACING RESULTS

20:55 WORCESTER

1st Sean Bowen silk 1. IRON HEART 4/15jf
2nd Harry Bannister silk ½ 9. INDIAN SUNBIRD (IRE) 9/25.5
3rd Beau Morgan silk 4. NO WAY PEDRO (IRE) 4/15jf
J: Sean Bowen  
13 ran. NRs: 3 
QUICK RESULT

20:40 EPSOM DOWNS

1st Rhys Clutterbuck silk 8. LAND OF MAGIC 5/16
2nd Alec Voikhansky silk 6. CROCUS TIME (IRE) 25/126
3rd Darragh Keenan silk nk 10. HAVANA MOJITO 9/25.5
All 12 ran.
FULL RESULT

20:30 LEOPARDSTOWN

1st Andrew Joseph Slattery silk 10. CLOUD SEEKER 7/24.5
2nd Siobhan Rutledge silk nk 9. HASTEN SLOWLY (IRE) 16/117
3rd M. W. Hassett silk nk 1. VALLEYOFTHEEAGLES (IRE) 9/43.25f
11 ran. NRs: 12  13 
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20:25 WORCESTER

1st Tabitha Worsley silk 6. RED HUGH (IRE) 16/117
2nd Sean Bowen silk 5. PIKE ROAD 7/18
3rd Bruce Lynn silk 4. HAPPY COUNTY (FR) 80/181
J: Tabitha Worsley (3)  
All 12 ran.
FULL RESULT

20:15 KILLARNEY

1st Miss S. M. Doyle silk 9. THE GRAY GHOST (IRE) 4/15
2nd Miss Georgie Benson silk ½ 1. BALLYSAX HANK (IRE) 11/43.75
3rd Miss J. Walton silk 8 13. PHILDANTE (IRE) 33/134
J: Miss S. M. Doyle (7)  
12 ran. NRs: 14  5  8 
FULL RESULT

20:05 EPSOM DOWNS

1st Oisin Murphy silk 7. MISS INFORMATION (IRE) 6/52.2f
2nd Rhys Clutterbuck silk 8. GUITEAU (IRE) 7/24.5
3rd Jim Crowley silk ¾ 6. DREAM OF MISCHIEF 12/113
J: Oisin Murphy  
All 10 ran.
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19:55 LEOPARDSTOWN

1st Ryan Moore silk 9. VICE PRESIDENT (IRE) 1/51.2f
2nd C. T. Keane silk 7. MICK COLLINS (IRE) 13/27.5
3rd Ben Martin Coen silk ½ 11. DECLAREE (IRE) 10/111
J: Ryan Moore  
All 11 ran.
FULL RESULT

19:50 WORCESTER

1st Sean Quinlan silk 10. CALDWELL 11/26.5
2nd Ben Jones silk 4. GREATNESS AWAITS (IRE) 7/18
3rd Richie McLernon silk 13. MARTALITE (FR) 20/121
J: Sean Quinlan  
10 ran. NRs: 14  5  6  7 
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19:42 KILLARNEY

1st Mr A. P. Ryan silk 11. NOT NOW DARLING (IRE) 5/16
2nd Mr J. H. Williamson silk 13. TIME IN A BOTTLE 11/112
3rd Mr J. L. Gleeson silk 1. ARDERA GUN (IRE) 12/113
J: Mr A. P. Ryan (7)  
11 ran. NRs: 12  7 
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