Emperor of Norfolk

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Emperor of Norfolk
CountryUnited States
BreederTheodore Winters
Owner"Lucky" Baldwin
TrainerJohn W. McClelland
Robert W. Thomas
Record29: 21-2–4
Major wins
Kentucky Stakes (1887)
American Derby (1888)
Brooklyn Derby (1888)
Swift Stakes (1888)
United States Racing Hall of Fame (1988)
Last updated on January 4, 2008

Emperor of Norfolk (1885–1907) was a champion American Thoroughbred racehorse. Because he was big, with huge hindquarters, and had a strong racing record, he was called the "California Wonder."


In the 1870s, when Joseph Cairn Simpson (founder of California's first all-sports newspaper, Breeder and Sportsman) migrated west, he brought horses with him. One was the filly Marian. To finance his newspaper, he sold Marian to Theodore Winters, who owned California's best stallion, Norfolk, by America's greatest sire, Lexington. Norfolk retired undefeated. Winters bought him for $15,001, one dollar more than the amount paid for Lexington himself.

With the purchase of Marian, Winters now owned a top stallion and a top broodmare. Marian, mated to Norfolk, both living at either Winters' second stud farm, the Rancho Del Rio near Sacramento on the banks of the Sacramento River or on his Yolo County, California, spread, produced numerous outstanding runners: Duchess of Norfolk, Prince of Norfolk, The Czar, El Rio Rey, Rey Del Rey, and Emperor of Norfolk. (After Norfolk retired, Marian produced another star: Yo Tambien, by turf champion Joe Hooker.)

It is generally agreed that Emperor of Norfolk was the most important horse born in California until Swaps came along 67 years later.

Racing career[edit]

Winters sold Marian's yearling foal to "Lucky" Baldwin for $2,525. Baldwin raced the colt 18 times at the age of two, which was a normal schedule for the time. During one eight-day span, Emperor of Norfolk won three races in Chicago, Illinois. At Saratoga, New York, in August, he won four more races. Then he went to Jerome Park Racetrack, where he took two races in four days. He also placed in the Prospect Cap and came third in the Quickstep Stakes.

At three, Emperor of Norfolk started eleven times, winning 9 races, 8 of them consecutively. He placed in one race and showed in another. Of the nine starts he won, two were the prestigious Brooklyn Stakes (now called the Dwyer Stakes) and the American Derby under the great African American jockey Isaac Burns Murphy.

Emperor of Norfolk won at distances of between five and nine furlongs, and earned, for the time, a huge sum of money.

He retired lame after his last win in the Sheridan Stakes (the injury occurring during an exercise run), and Baldwin shipped him back to Rancho Santa Anita to begin his stud career.

At stud[edit]

Emperor of Norfolk was great a sire as his own sire, Norfolk, producing stake winner after stake winner, but his best son (who possessed a confusion of names until sent to England) was Americus. Americus won many stakes races, but it was as a sire that he made his name, primarily through his daughter Americus Girl. Out of Americus Girl came the "flying filly," Mumtaz Mahal, and through her Mahmoud, Nasrullah, Royal Charger, and Tudor Minstrel.

Many of today's horse racing greats go back to Emperor of Norfolk through Mumtaz Mahal via Americus.


Emperor of Norfolk died at age 22 on December 15, 1907, the day after Baldwin opened his Santa Anita race track. When word spread that he was dying, many horsemen came to the Baldwin stable to mourn his passing.

Emperor of Norfolk was buried at the stable under a large Maltese cross, Baldwin's racing symbol. Later, Baldwin's three other American Derby winners, Volante, Silver Cloud, and Rey El Santa Anita, joined him. All four horses were later transferred to the paddock garden of the modern Santa Anita Park.

Emperor of Norfolk was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988.