Caligula in 1920.
|Breeder||James J Maher|
|Owner||Seymour Edward Frederick Egerton, 6th Earl of Wilton|
|Ascot Derby (1920)|
St Leger (1920)
Caligula (1917 – after 1936) was an Irish-bred British-trained Thoroughbred racehorse and sire. He was unraced as a two-year-old in 1919 before emerging as a top-class stayer in the following year. In his first eight races as a three-year-old he won a minor race at Newmarket and the Ascot Derby but looked outpaced when tried over shorter distances. He recorded his biggest win on his final appearance when he recorded an upset victory over a strong field in the St Leger. After being briefly exported to India he stood as a breeding stallion at various European locations but had little success as a sire of winners.
Caligula was a "striking" grey horse bred in County Kildare Ireland by James J. Maher. As a yearling he was put up for auction and bought for 3,100 guineas by Seymour Edward Frederick Egerton, 6th Earl of Wilton. Lord Wilton sent the colt into training with Harvey Leader at Newmarket, Suffolk.
He was sired by The Tetrarch an unbeaten horse who was regarded as one of the fastest two-year-old ever seen in Britain and Ireland, but whose career was ended by injury before he could race at three. The Tetrarch showed very little interest in his stud duties: his attitude towards sex was described as being "monastic in the extreme". Although he sired few foals his progeny included several major winners. Caligula's dam Snoot was an influential broodmare whose other descendants include Nashua, La Sorellina (Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe), King of Kings, American Flag, Blue Swords, Noverre, and Dance Partner.
1920: three-year-old season
Caligula, who was unraced as a two-year-old, made his racecourse debut in the Severals Stakes at Newmarket Racecourse in April and finished second to Cicerole. At the next Newmarket meeting he finished down the field behind Tetratema in the 2000 Guineas and then recorded his first success in a minor race under a light weight of 100 pounds. Later that month he ran disappointingly when 1/3 favourite for a race at York Racecourse in May. In June, it became apparent that Lord Wilton, who was well known for his heavy betting, was experiencing financial difficulties: he withdrew Caligula from the Derby and was forced to cancel a "large private luncheon party". At Royal Ascot in June Caligula, ridden by Joe Childs started at odds of 10/1 for the Ascot Derby and won "easily" from Paladin and Novello, while the leading fancies Abbot's Trace and Hugo Cunliffe-Owen's Orpheus were unplaced. On the following day the colt was dropped in distance and was beaten into third behind Allenby and Edward Hulton's Silvern in the St James's Palace Stakes over one mile. At Goodwood Racecourse in July he ran unplaced behind Braishfield in the Sussex Stakes. On his last run before the St Leger Caligula ran in the £1,000 Richemount Plate at Hurst Park in August and finished a close fourth behind Bracket, Bideford and Most Beautiful.
In the late summer of 1920 Lord Wilton financial problems worsened and his creditors refused to let his horses race. With Caligula scheduled to run in the St Leger but unable to do so under Wilton's ownership, Harvey Leader embarked on a search for a new owner for the colt and a week before the race arranged his sale to the Indian industrialist and businessman Mathradas Goculdas. The sale was private but the price was reported to be approximately 8,000 guineas.
On 8 September, in front of an exceptionally large crowd at Doncaster Racecourse, Caligula stated at odds of 100/6 (approximately 16.7/1) for the 145th running of the St Leger over fourteen and a half furlongs. Shortly before the race the colt had performed very impressively in a training gallop at Newmarket leading the London Sportsman's correspondent to describe him as a likely winner but this was a minority view. The Derby winner Spion Kop started favourite at 3/1 in a field of fourteen despite having had injury problems in the build up to the race, while the other fancied runners included Allenby, Silvern, Abbot's Trace and Orpheus. The race was run in a fog, and for most of the race the runners were not visible from the stands. When the leaders emerged from the murk in the straight Black Gauntlet was in front but Caligula, ridden by Arthur Smith, took the lead approaching the final furlong and held off a challenge from Silvern to win by half a length, with three lengths back to Lady James Douglas's Manton (a 33/1 outsider) in third place. Caligula's victory was surprising from a pedigree viewpoint as The Tetrarch's stock had previously been regarded as deficient in stamina.
It was reported that Goculdas had imported Caligula in late September to India with the intention of racing him at least once (in the Viceroy's Cup) before standing him at stud. Later reports suggested that Goculdas had brought the colt to India simply to look at him before returning Caligula to England to begin his career as a breeding stallion.
Assessment and honours
In their book, A Century of Champions, based on the Timeform rating system, John Randall and Tony Morris rated Caligula an "inferior" winner of the St Leger.
Caligula stood as a breeding stallion in Britain, Germany and France, with his last foals being born in 1938. He had fertility problems throughout his stud career and sired few foals, but did get some good winners including The Consul (Yorkshire Cup).
The Tetrarch (IRE)
|Roi Herode (FR)
|Le Samaritain||Le Sancy|
|Rose of York (GB)|
|Bona Vista||Bend Or|
|Deuce of Clubs||Robert the Devil|
|Rose Maylie (Family 7)|
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- "Racing and Trotting". The Star (Christchurch). 27 December 1920. p. 3 – via Papers Past.
- "Sport in the Old Country". The Press. 21 February 2018. p. 5 – via Papers Past.
- "Sporting". New Zealand Herald. 11 September 1920. p. 9 – via Papers Past.
- Mortimer, Roger; Onslow, Richard; Willett, Peter (1978). Biographical Encyclopedia of British Flat Racing. Macdonald and Jane’s. ISBN 0-354-08536-0.
- "Blacklegs Royal Mare - Family 7". Thoroughbred Bloodlines.
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- "The Melbourne Cup". Wanganui Herald. 3 November 1920. p. 7 – via Papers Past.
- "Turf Notes". Auckland Star. 20 November 1920. p. 18 – via Papers Past.
- "Caligula's St Leger". The Referee. 27 October 1920. p. 3 – via trove.nla.gov.au.
- "Racing and Trotting". The Star (Christchurch). 18 November 1920. p. 3 – via Papers Past.
- "News and Notes". NZ Truth. 18 September 1920. p. 7 – via Papers Past.
- "Sporting". Southland Times. 23 November 1920. p. 3 – via Papers Past.
- "Sporting Notes". Otago Daily Times. 22 December 1921. p. 5 – via Papers Past.
- Morris, Tony; Randall, John (1999). A Century of Champions. Portway Press. ISBN 1-901570-15-0.