Sea Bird

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Owner M J Ternynck.svg
Racing silks of Jean Ternynck
SireDan Cupid
GrandsireNative Dancer
BreederJean Ternynck
OwnerJean Ternynck
TrainerEtienne Pollet
Record8: 7-1-0
Major wins
Critérium de Maisons-Laffitte (1964)
Prix Greffulhe (1965)
Prix Lupin (1965)
Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (1965)
Epsom Derby (1965)
Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (1965)
British Horse of the Year (1965)
French Horse Racing Hall of Fame
Timeform rating: 145

Sea-Bird (1962–1973) was a French Thoroughbred racehorse and sire. In a career which lasted from 1964 until October 1965 he ran eight times and won seven races. Sea Bird is most famous for his victories in two of Europe's most prestigious races: the Derby and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. His Timeform rating of 145 remains the second highest flat figure behind Frankel's rating of 147 awarded by that publication.[1]


Sea-Bird was a chestnut horse with a narrow white blaze and white socks on his hind legs bred at the stables of his owner, the Lille textile manufacturer Jean Ternynck. Sea-Bird was sired by the French Derby runner-up Dan Cupid, and trained, like his sire, in France by Etienne Pollet at Chantilly. None of his five immediate dams ever won a flat race, although his great-grandam Couleur did produce Camaree, who won the 1000 Guineas in 1950, and Sea Bird was more distantly related to the Belmont Stakes winner High Echelon.[2]


In France, the horse was known as Sea-Bird, a spelling followed by many modern writers.[1][3][4][5][6][7][8][9] When racing abroad and standing at stud he was usually referred to as "Sea Bird II".[10][11] He was referred to as "Sea-Bird II" by Timeform.[12]

Racing career[edit]

1964: two-year-old season[edit]

Sea-Bird started in three races as a two-year-old, winning his first two, the Prix de Blaison at Chantilly by a short head (started slowly) and the Critérium de Maisons-Laffitte by two lengths from Blabla (who won the Prix de Diane the following year). He met with the only defeat of his career in the Grand Critérium when second to his stablemate Grey Dawn, who was the favourite after winning the Prix Morny and the Prix de la Salamandre. Sea-Bird started slowly, as he had done in his two wins, but made up a great deal of ground in the straight to finish second, two lengths behind Grey Dawn. Maurice Larraun, Sea-Bird's jockey, appeared to have given the horse too much to do and never rode Sea-Bird again. At the end of the season, Sea-Bird was rated three pounds inferior to Grey Dawn by the official French handicapper.[6]

1965: three-year-old season[edit]

As a three-year-old, Sea-Bird won all five starts, starting with a three-length win in the Prix Greffulhe. He next appeared in the Prix Lupin, which he won by six lengths from Diatome.

In The Derby, Sea-Bird started at the 7/4 favourite in a field of twenty two. There was an incident the night before the race in which police and security staff repelled a gang which had attempted to enter the stable of the 2000 Guineas winner Niksar.[13] Before the race, Sea-Bird was described as looking "plain and high". He raced on the outside behind the leaders until the turn into the straight and then moved up to take the lead on the bridle with Glennon sitting "still as a statue".[14] Sea-Bird won effortlessly by two lengths, never coming off the bit, from Meadow Court, who went on to win the Irish Derby and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, with I Say in third.[15] In July, Sea-Bird ran in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, which he won, easing down, by two and a half lengths from Couroucou.[16] He was then rested until the autumn.

In the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Sea-Bird faced a very strong field, including Irish Derby winner Meadow Court, Preakness winner Tom Rolfe, French Derby (Prix du Jockey Club) winner Reliance, Prix de Diane winner Blabla and Russian Derby winner Anilin. Starting at odds of 6/5, Sea Bird won easily despite veering across the track, with jockey Pat Glennon patting him down the neck in the final 100 yards, by six lengths (though photographs of the finish show it to have been closer to four and a half lengths) from Reliance. Five lengths further back in third place was Diatome (though photographs show it to have been closer to four lengths), who went on to win the Washington, D.C. International. Fourth place went to Free Ride, fifth was Anilin and sixth was Tom Rolfe.[17]

Assessment and honors[edit]

Sea-Bird was given an annual rating of 145 by Timeform in 1965.[5] This remained the highest rating awarded by the organisation until Frankel's performance in the 2012 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot was rated 147.[1]

Despite having run only once in the United Kingdom, Sea-Bird was voted British Horse of the Year by the Racegoers' club in 1965, taking 228 of the 240 votes.[5]

In their book A Century of Champions, John Randall and Tony Morris rated Sea-Bird the greatest racehorse of the 20th century, one pound ahead of Secretariat and two pounds ahead of Ribot and Brigadier Gerard.[6]

Stud career[edit]

Prior to the running of his final race, the American breeder John W. Galbreath paid owner Jean Ternynck a reported $1,350,000 to lease Sea-Bird for five years' stud duty at his Darby Dan Farm in Kentucky. Among Sea Bird II's progeny were the dual French classic and 1974 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winning mare Allez France (who had a Timeform rating of 136, making her still, according to that publication, the highest ever rated middle distance racemare); the 1974 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Little Current; the Champion Hurdle winner Sea Pigeon; and Gyr, second in the 1970 Epsom Derby behind the English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky II. Sea-Bird sired Reine Enchanteur, who sold for a then-world-record $405,000 at the 1968 Keeneland Sales,[18] as well as the dams of King's Swan, who was known as the "King of Aqueduct", Miss Oceana, a millionaire in racing who sold as a broodmare for a world record US$7 million, and the half brothers Assert, the French Derby and Irish Derby winner, and Bikala, who won the French Derby. Sea Bird was also the grandsire (through his son Arctic Tern) of the French Derby winner Bering.


Pedigree of Sea Bird[19]
Dan Cupid
Native Dancer Polynesian Unbreakable
Black Polly
Geisha Discovery
Vixenette Sickle Phalaris
Lady Reynard Gallant Fox
Sicambre Prince Bio Prince Rose
Sif Rialto
Marmelade Maurepas Aethelstan
Couleur Biribi
Colour Bar (Family 2-n[2])


  1. ^ a b c Greg Wood at Ascot (2012-06-19). "Frankel hailed as greatest ever after Royal Ascot Queen Anne Stakes win | Sport". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  2. ^ a b "Alexander Mare - Family 2-n". Retrieved 2012-06-14.
  3. ^ Chris McGrath (2012-04-30). "Frankel the best now – perhaps ever - Racing - Sport". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  4. ^ "Sea-bird Horse Pedigree". Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  5. ^ a b c Morris, Tony; Randall, John (1990). Horse Racing: Records, Facts, Champions(Third Edition). Guinness Publishing. ISBN 0-85112-902-1.
  6. ^ a b c Morris, Tony; Randall, John (1999). A Century of Champions. Portway Press. ISBN 1-901570-15-0.
  7. ^ "Chefs-de-Race". Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  8. ^ "Sea-Bird was a high flyer - - Mirror Online". 2008-08-09. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  9. ^ "Widow of Thoroughbred owner Guest dies". Retrieved 2012-06-20.. Thoroughbred Times (2012-06-14). Retrieved on 2012-06-20.
  10. ^ Mortimer, Roger; Onslow, Richard; Willett, Peter (1978). Biographical Encyclopedia of British Flat Racing. Macdonald and Jane's. ISBN 0-354-08536-0.
  11. ^ Hugh McMahon. "Sea-Bird pedigree". Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  12. ^ Timeform (1984). Racehorses of 1983. Timeform. ISBN 0-900599-40-5.
  13. ^ "Sea Bird whips Canadian-owned horse in Derby". Montreal Gazette. 3 June 1965. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  14. ^ "Easy Victory for Sea Bird II". Glasgow Herald. 3 June 1965. Retrieved 2012-06-14.
  15. ^ Lee McKenzie Six of the Epsom best, BBC, 30 May 2002
  16. ^ "Sea Bird wins". Spokesman-Review. 5 July 1965. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  17. ^ "FIVE GREAT PRIX DE L'ARC DE TRIOMPHE WINNERS". Retrieved 2012-06-20.. Sporting Life (2010-03-12). Retrieved on 2012-06-20.
  18. ^ "High-Priced Filly Finishes Third". The Post-Standard. August 5, 1970. p. 18. Retrieved August 24, 2016 – via open access.
  19. ^ "English Derby Winner: Sea-Bird". Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  • Great Racehorses of the World, Roger Mortimer and Peter Willett, Michael Joseph 1969, p. 221–225

External links[edit]