Dante (horse)

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DamRosy Legend
DamsireDark Legend
CountryGreat Britain
BreederSir Eric Ohlson
OwnerSir Eric Ohlson
TrainerMatthew Peacock
Record9: 8-1-0
Major wins
Coventry Stakes (1944)
Middle Park Stakes (1944)
Derby Stakes (1945)
Dante Stakes at York Racecourse

Dante (1942–1956) was a British Thoroughbred racehorse who was the last horse trained in northern England to win the English Derby. In a racing career which lasted from the spring of 1944 until June 1945 he ran nine times and won eight races. He was the top-rated British two-year-old of 1944 when he was unbeaten in six races including the Coventry Stakes and the Middle Park Stakes. In 1945 he was beaten when favourite for the 2000 Guineas but won the Derby, despite being afflicted by an eye condition which eventually left him completely blind. He was retired to a successful stud career before dying in 1956.


Dante was a brown horse with a small white star and one white foot,[2] bred and owned by Sir Eric Ohlson at Manor House Stud in Middleham in North Yorkshire. His dam, Rosy Legend won four races in her native France before being sent to England as a four-year-old. In 1941 she was covered by the stallion Nearco and conceived the foal who would become Dante. In Autumn she was offered for sale following the death of her owner, Lord Furness and was bought for 3,500 guineas by Ohlson.[3] She later went on to produce Dante's full brother Sayajirao, who won the St. Leger Stakes in 1947.[4] Nearco went on to be the Champion sire in 1947 and 1949,[5] and one of the most important sires of the 20th century.

Dante was sent into training with Matthew Peacock at Middleham.

Racing career[edit]

1944: two-year-old season[edit]

At age two, the colt went undefeated in six starts, and became "the idol of the North". In June he won the Coventry Stakes by four lengths. The race was run at Newmarket Racecourse instead of its customary venue of Royal Ascot because of wartime restrictions. In Autumn, he returned to Newmarket and won the Middle Park Stakes by two lengths. In the Free Handicap, a ranking of the year's best two-year-olds, Dante was rated the best British juvenile of 1944, one pound ahead of Court Martial.[6]

1945: three-year-old season[edit]

At age three, Dante attracted a large crowd for his reappearance in the Roseberry Stakes at Stockton Racecourse in April and won impressively by four lengths at odds of 1/10. After the race, his jockey, the Chorlton-cum-Hardy-born Billy Nevett called him "the finest horse I have ever ridden".[7] He was then sent to Newmarket for the 2,000 Guineas and started even money favourite in a field of twenty runners, despite reports that he had suffered an eye problem two days before the race. It was initially thought that he had been injured by a piece of grit: in fact he was suffering the early stages of a degenerative disease which eventually blinded him.[3] In an upset, he was beaten a neck by Court Martial with another son of Nearco, Royal Charger, two lengths away in third.[8]

In June, Dante started favourite at odds of 100/30 for the Derby Stakes, which was run at Newmarket despite the recent end of the war. The race attracted a crowd of 30,000, the largest for a "wartime" Derby and was attended by the King and Queen.[9] Court Martial, regarded as a doubtful stayer on pedigree grounds,[10] was sent off at odds of 100/9 with twenty-five other colts in opposition. Ridden by Nevett, Dante was towards the rear of the field in the early stages but accelerated past the opposition in the final quarter mile[11] and won by two lengths from Midas, who beat Court Martial by a head for second place. Dante was the first Northern horse to win the Derby since Pretender in 1869, and his victory was received with "great rejoicing" in Yorkshire.[3]

Following his Derby win, Dante was made odds-on favourite for the St Leger. In August, rumours about Dante's condition began to circulate, and on 25 August Peacock withdrew the horse as he said that the colt could not be "made good" in time for the race. It was reported that the colt was suffering from "leg stiffness" which did not respond to treatment.[12] Dante never ran again and was retired to stud.

Assessment and honours[edit]

In their book A Century of Champions, John Randall and Tony Morris rated Dante a "superior" Derby winner, and the thirty-ninth best horse trained in Britain or Ireland in the 20th century.[13]

Phil Bull, the founder of Timeform, called Dante "one of the best horses of the century".[13]

Stud record[edit]

Retired to Theakston Stud[14] in Theakston, North Yorkshire, Dante proved a successful sire whose offspring included:

Dante died in 1956 and was buried at the Theakston Stud.[14][15] The Dante Stakes at York Racecourse is named in his honour.


Pedigree of Dante, brown stallion, 1942[16]
Nearco (ITY)
Pharos Phalaris Polymelus
Scapa Flow Chaucer
Nogara Havresac Rabelais
Hors Concours
Catnip Spearmint
Rosy Legend (FR)
Dark Legend Dark Ronald Bay Ronald
Golden Legend Amphion
St Lucre
Rosy Cheeks Saint Just St Frusquin
Purity Gallinule
Sanctimony (Family 3-n[4])

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ahnert, Rainer L. (editor in chief), Thoroughbred Breeding of the World, Pozdun Publishing, Germany, 1970
  2. ^ Hugh McMahon. "Dante images". Sporthorse-data.com. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ a b "Pocahontas - Family 3-n". Bloodlines.net. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  5. ^ "Leading Sires of Great Britain and Ireland".
  6. ^ Morris, Tony; Randall, John (1990). Horse Racing: Records, Facts, Champions (Third ed.). Guinness Publishing. ISBN 0-85112-902-1.
  7. ^ "English Derby favourite still unbeaten". Sydney Morning Herald. 10 April 1945. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  8. ^ "Court Martial wins VE Day 2000 Guineas". Montreal Gazette. 10 May 1945. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  9. ^ "Dante is winner in English Derby". Milwaukee Journal. 9 June 1945. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  10. ^ "Dante's defeat may lower Derby stocks". Sydney Morning Herald. 12 May 1945. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  11. ^ "Favored Dante winner in English Derby". Montreal Gazette. 11 June 1945. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  12. ^ "Dante scratched, bookies worried". Sunday Morning Star. 26 August 1945. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  13. ^ a b Morris, Tony; Randall, John (1999). A Century of Champions. Portway Press. ISBN 1-901570-15-0.
  14. ^ a b "Dante at Theakston Stud". Yorkshire-racing.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  15. ^ "Grave Matters Thoroughbreds". Tbheritage.com. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  16. ^ Hugh McMahon. "Dante pedigree". Sporthorse-data.com. Retrieved 2012-06-18.