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Diomed "the Marvel"
Sire Florizel
Grandsire Herod
Dam Mare (1763) by Spectator
Damsire Spectator
Sex Stallion
Foaled 1777
Country Kingdom of Great Britain
Colour Chestnut
Breeder Honorable Richard Vernon of Newmarket
Owner Sir Charles Bunbury, 6th Baronet
Record 20: 11-5-3
Major wins
Epsom Derby (1780)
Diomed Stakes at Epsom Downs Racecourse
Last updated on August 24, 2007

Diomed, foaled in 1777, was an English Thoroughbred race horse who won the inaugural running of The Derby in 1780. He was subsequently a successful sire in the United States.

Racing years[edit]

A bright chestnut standing 15 hands 3 inches[1] he was named after the Ancient Greek hero Diomedes. By the unraced Florizel out of the unraced Pastorella's Dam, aka Sister to Juno (both going back to the Godolphin Arabian, and Sister to Juno going back as well to the Darley Arabian), Diomed was bred by the Hon. Richard Vernon and owned by Sir Charles Bunbury[1], then trained by him at Hilton Hall. He was started 19 times, winning 11 races, finishing second in 4, and third in 3.

Of these eleven wins, ten were consecutive, which included the inaugural running of The Derby in 1780.[2] During these early bright years of Diomed's life, he was considered by many to be the best colt seen in the Britain since Eclipse.

He was allowed to rest for a while, but when he was brought back to the races, he wasn't the same horse. Sometimes he would win, and sometimes he wouldn't win, and more often the latter than the former. His last win was a King's Plate in four mile heats carrying 168 pounds.


Sir Charles retired Diomed to stud. His fee was five guineas, or about $25. (In England Diomed sired Grey Diomed who went to Russia where he was a great success, and also Young Giantess, who foaled Sorcerer and Eleanor.[1]) There were few takers, and for the next decade or so, Diomed's fee went down and down until, by the age of 21, it was two guineas. By then, there were virtually no takers, so the old stallion did nothing but graze alone.[3]

In the United States[edit]


Sir Charles offered Diomed for sale when the stallion was 21 years old. Colonel John Hoomes of Bowling Green, Virginia bought him for $250, and then shipped him to Virginia where he was returned to stud in 1798. Aside from importing bloodstock into the US, Hoomes also maintained his own racing stable and sizeable stud service in which his good friend, another influential horseman of the time, John Tayloe III, was a partner. Although Hoomes and Tayloe's English agent wrote Hoomes a letter stating very clearly that Diomed was "...a tried and true bad foal-getter," and strongly recommending he not be put to stud, they were unswayed. Besides being personally impressed with the horse, a stallion of Tayloe's had also recently hurt himself, and Tayloe was in immediate need of a stud to replace him. Diomed went to work.[3]

In those days, stallions did not stand in one place, but moved from stud farm to stud farm. Diomed lived like this until he was thirty-one years old and was active to his very last days. His fee increased with his fame and his fame increased so quickly that Hoomes was able to sell a share in him for six times his purchase price soon after he landed on American soil.[3]

Final years[edit]

Diomed, along with Medley, Shark, and Messenger, were the four most important stallions introduced into early American bloodstock. Diomed threw many of the greatest horses in American turf history: Haynie's Maria, who beat every horse she met until she was nine, and about whom Andrew Jackson said, "...Haynie's Maria can beat anything in God's whole creation,"[3] the undefeated Ball's Florizel (famous for his bad temper), Potomac, Duroc (sire of American Eclipse), and surely his greatest son of all, Sir Archy. Sir Archy had a huge influence on Thoroughbred history, siring the line which led to Timoleon, Boston, and Lexington. His descendants include Black Caviar, Phar Lap, Secretariat and American Pharoah.

Diomed's get included saddlehorses for Thomas Jefferson and statesman and jurist John Marshall.

At Diomed's death at the age of 31, it was reported, "...there was as much mourning over his demise as there was at the death of George Washington."[3]


  1. ^ a b c Ahnert, Rainer L. (editor in chief), “Thoroughbred Breeding of the World”, Pozdun Publishing, Germany, 1970
  2. ^ "Hunting. Dunedin Hounds". 20 July 1893. p. 31. Retrieved 16 April 2018 – via Papers Past. 
  3. ^ a b c d e “The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America,” by William H.P. Robertson, Bonanza Books, New York