Sir Bevys

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Sir Bevys
Sir Bevys.jpg
Sir Bevys: Engraving by D George Thompson after a picture by James E Doyle
DamLady Langden
CountryUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
BreederLord Norreys
OwnerLionel de Rothschild
TrainerJoseph Hayhoe
Record6: 2-1-0
Major wins
Epsom Derby (1879)

Sir Bevys (1876–1896) was a British Thoroughbred racehorse and sire. In a career that lasted from 1878 to 1879 he ran six times and won two races. His most important success came in the 1879 Epsom Derby: his only other win was in a selling race. At the end of the 1879 season he was retired to stud where he had little success.


Sir Bevys was a dark brown "almost black" colt standing 15.2 hands high[1] bred at Wytham, Oxfordshire by Lord Norreys. He was sold to Lionel de Rothschild, who used the name “Mr Acton” for his racing interests. Sir Bevys was sent into training with Rothschild’s private trainer Joseph Hayhoe at the Palace House stable at Newmarket, Suffolk.[2]

Sir Bevys’s sire, Favonius, a male-line descendant of the Byerley Turk, had won the Derby for Meyer de Rothschild in 1871, but sired few other notable horses. His dam, Lady Langden, was an unraced half sister to the St Leger winner Caller Ou. Apart from Sir Bevys, she was notable for producing Hampton, an outstanding stayer who became a successful and influential sire.[3]

Racing career[edit]

1878: two-year-old season[edit]

Sir Bevys won one race from four starts as a two-year-old. He began his career by running unplaced in the Fernhill Stakes at Ascot and a minor race Newmarket in summer. In autumn, he returned to Newmarket and ran twice in two days. On 1 October he won a £187 selling race and on the following day he finished second to Out of Bounds in the Ditch Mile Nursery Handicap.[4]

1879: three-year-old season[edit]

George Fordham, who came back from retirement to win his first Derby on Sir Bevys

Sir Bevys appeared in the betting lists for the Derby in April, when he was offered at odds of 50/1.[5] He was backed down to 25/1, but drifted out again after appearing to lack the "dash" of a Derby winner, although in May Bell's Life reported that his performances in training had improved.[6]

Sir Bevys made his 1879 debut on 28 May in the 100th[7] Derby at Epsom, where the large crowd included the Prince and Princess of Wales and other members of the Royal Family. The day was sunny and warm, but the ground was very soft after previous heavy rain.[8] He started at odds of 20/1 in a field of twenty-three, with Cadogan being made the 9/2 favourite. Ridden by George Fordham, Sir Bevys broke badly and was left many lengths behind the other runners, who were led in the early stages by Protectionaist and Caxtonian. Fordham made up the lost ground gradually and was just behind the leading group at the turn into the straight. In the last quarter mile Visconti went to the front and looked the likely winner, but Sir Bevys appeared "from goodness knows where"[1] to take the lead and then hold off the challenge of the 100/1 outsider Palmbearer to win by three-quarters of a length.[8] Despite the defeat of the more fancied runners, the result was a popular one, mainly on account of the winning jockey:[9] Fordham was a veteran who had returned from illness, alcoholism and near bankruptcy[2] to win his first Derby at the age of 41. The best contemporary explanation offered for the upset, apart from the generally low quality of the race, was that Sir Bevys was the only horse to cope successfully with the very heavy conditions.[1] A much later report credits Fordham with having identified a stretch of better ground on which to make his decisive move.[10] The winning time was the slowest for more than twenty years and remains the second slowest ever recorded.

The identity of "Mr Acton", the winning owner, was not entirely clear: it was known that he was a member of the Rothschild family, but many seemed to believe "Mr Acton" was in fact Lionel's son, Leopold de Rothschild, who was known to have won several very large bets on the race.[11] Subsequent events made the issue less clear: the death of Lionel de Rothschild on 3 June 1879, was reported to have made all of Sir Bevys's entries void, preventing him from running in the Grand Prix de Paris on 8 June,[6] but the colt's entry for the St Leger was apparently unaffected.

In the St Leger at Doncaster on 10 September Sir Bevys started 3/1 joint favourite with Rayon d'Or. Ridden by Tom Cannon, he settled towards the middle of the seventeen horse field but made no progress in the later stages and finished a remote eighth behind Rayon d'Or.[12] The fact that both Palmbearer and Visconti were also unplaced convinced some observers that the Derby form was virtually worthless.[13] By late autumn Sir Bevys had developed respiratory problems (a "roaring ailment") and was retired from racing.[14]


Sir Bevys has been described as “very moderate”,[2] and as possibly “the worst ever” winner of the Derby.[10]

Stud career[edit]

Sir Bevys retired to stud at a modest fee of 10 guineas. The best of his offspring was probably the black colt Morglay, who won the Ascot Derby and the Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot in 1889, although his biggest winner was the filly Primrose Day who won the Cesarewitch Handicap in the same year. Sir Bevys died in March 1896 following a "general break-up of his system."[15]


Pedigree of Sir Bevys (GB), brown stallion, 1876
Favonius (GB)
Sweetmeat Gladiator
Gruyere Verulam
King Tom Harkaway
Mentmore Lass Melbourne
Lady Langden (GB)
Rataplan The Baron
Hybla The Provost
Lanercost Liverpool
Queen Mary Gladiator
Plenipotentiary mare (Family: 10-a)


  1. ^ a b c "ENGLISH". Otago Witness. 2 August 1879. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  2. ^ a b c Mortimer, Roger; Onslow, Richard; Willett, Peter (1978). Biographical Encyclopedia of British Flat Racing. Macdonald and Jane’s. ISBN 0-354-08536-0.
  3. ^ "Hampton". Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  4. ^ "SATURDAY, JUNE 7, 1879". West Coast Times. 7 June 1879. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  5. ^ "ENGLISH". Otago Witness. 3 May 1879. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  6. ^ a b "ENGLISH". Otago Witness. 12 July 1879. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  7. ^ "Sporting Notes". Auckland Star. 27 September 1879. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  8. ^ a b "RACING IN ENGLAND". Otago Witness. 26 July 1879. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  9. ^ "THE DERBY CENTENARY". Southland Times. 4 August 1879. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  10. ^ a b "ARCHER AND HIS " GRANDMOTHER."". Tuapeka Times. 4 March 1893. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  11. ^ "THE ROTHSCHILDS". Poverty Bay Herald. 22 September 1879. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  12. ^ "RACING IN ENGLAND". Otago Witness. 1 November 1879. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  13. ^ "NOTES BY VIGILANT". Evening Post. 15 November 1879. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  14. ^ "AUSTRALIAN". Otago Witness. 20 December 1879. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  15. ^ "TALK OF THE DAY". Otago Witness. 7 May 1896. Retrieved 2011-11-27.