Touching Wood

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Touching Wood
Racing silks of Maktoum Al Maktoum.png
Racing colours of Maktoum Al Maktoum
GrandsireHail To Reason
DamsireVaguely Noble
Foaled11 May 1979
BreederPin Oak Stud
OwnerMaktoum Al Maktoum
TrainerHarry Thomson Jones
Major wins
Welsh Derby (1982)
St Leger Stakes (1982)
Irish St Leger (1982)
Timeform: 91p (1981), 127 (1982)

Touching Wood (1979–2004) was an American-bred, British-trained Thoroughbred racehorse and sire best known for winning the classic St Leger Stakes in 1982. Touching Wood was still a maiden when he finished second to Golden Fleece in the 1982 Epsom Derby. In the autumn of 1982 he became the first horse in 53 years to win both the St Leger Stakes and the Irish St Leger and was the first classic winner owned by a member of the Maktoum family.[1] He was retired to stud and had some success as a sire of winners before his death in New Zealand in 2004.


Touching Wood was a small, dark brown horse bred by Pin Oak Stud in Versailles, Kentucky. He was sired by Roberto, an American-bred horse who won The Derby and the inaugural Benson and Hedges Gold Cup as a three-year-old in 1972. At stud, Roberto sired many important winners including Sunshine Forever, Real Shadai, At Talaq, Lear Fan, Kris S. and Dynaformer. Touching Wood's dam was the American mare Mandera, whose own mother Foolish One, was a half-sister of Bold Ruler. Mandera raced in Europe where she won the Princess Royal Stakes at Ascot Racecourse in 1973 before returning to the land of her birth to become a broodmare. Her other descendants include the 1000 Guineas winner Speciosa.[2]

As a yearling, Touching Wood was sent to the Keeneland July sale where he was bought for $200,000[3] by Maktoum Al Maktoum and sent to race in Europe. The colt was sent into training with Harry Thomson "Tom" Jones at his Woodland stable in Newmarket, Suffolk.[1] He was ridden in most of his races by Paul Cook and usually raced in a sheepskin noseband.

Racing career[edit]

1981: two-year-old season[edit]

Touching Wood raced only once as a two-year-old, running in the Hyperion Stakes over seven furlong at Ascot Racecourse in October.[3] He started a 33/1 outsider in a field of eleven runners and finished third behind Paradis Terrestre. Timeform described him as being "sure to improve".[4]

1982: three-year-old season[edit]

In the spring of 1982, Touching Wood established himself as a fringe classic contender with two defeats in trial races. He finished second to the Henry Cecil-trained Mr Fluorocarbon in the Heathorn Stakes and second again to Peacetime in the Predominate Stakes at Goodwood.

At Epsom Downs Racecourse on 2 June Touching Wood started at odds of 40/1 for the 203rd running of the Derby. Cook positioned Touching Wood just behind the leaders, but the colt came under pressure and lost ground on the downhill section of the course. In the straight he moved up again to overtake the leader Norwick inside the final quarter mile but was immediately overtaken by Golden Fleece. Touching Wood stayed on in the closing stages to finish second by three lengths, just ahead of Silver Hawk, Persepolis and Norwick.[5]

On his next appearance, Touching Wood recorded his first win when taking the Welsh Derby at Chepstow on 6 July from Diamond Shoal and Zilos.[6] Later that month he finished second to the Michael Stoute-trained Electric in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood and then finished third to Electric and Diamond Shoal in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York.[7]

On 11 September Touching Wood was one of a field of fifteen for the St Leger over fourteen and a half furlongs at Doncaster Racecourse. He started at odds of 7/1, with Electric starting the 7/2 favourite. Racing in blinkers,[8] Touching Wood took the lead half a mile from the finish and held off the persistent challenge of Zilos to win by one and a half lengths, with Diamond Shoal in third and Electric unplaced. Four weeks later Touching Wood raced outside England for the first time when he was sent to the Curragh to contest the Irish St Leger. He won the race from Father Rooney and Swiftfoot, becoming the first horse to win both the British and Irish St Legers since Trigo in 1929.


In 1981 the independent Timeform organisation gave Touching Wood a rating of 91p, the "p" indicating that he was likely to improve.[4] The prediction proved to be accurate as he was rated 127 in 1982.

In their book A Century of Champions, John Randall and Tony Morris rated Touching Wood an "inferior" St Leger winner.[9]

Stud career[edit]

Touching Wood was retired from racing and began his stud career at the Dalham Hall Stud at a fee of 7,000 guineas.[10] In 1988 he was exported to New Zealand where he stood at the Fayette Park Stud until his death in 2004.[3] The best of Touching Wood's were stayers and included Ashal, Great Marquess (Doncaster Cup), Linesman (Sydney Cup) and Lucky Moon (Goodwood Cup).[11]


Pedigree of Touching Wood (USA), brown horse, 1979[12]
Roberto (USA)
Hail To Reason (USA)
Turn-To Royal Charger
Source Sucree
Nothirdchance Blue Swords
Galla Colors
Bramalea (USA)
Nashua Nasrullah
Rarelea Bull Lea
Mandera (USA)
Vaguely Noble (IRE)
Vienna Aureole
Turkish Blood
Noble Lassie Nearco
Belle Sauvage
Foolish One (USA)
Tom Fool Menow
Miss Disco Discovery
Outdone (Family 8-d)[2]


  1. ^ a b "Obituary: Tom Jones". Daily Telegraph. 27 December 2007. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  2. ^ a b "Thoroughbred Bloodlines - Feronia - Family 8-d". Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  3. ^ a b c Rachel Pagones, Janet Hickman (6 April 2004). "Touching Wood, St Leger winner, is put down at 25". Racing Post. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  4. ^ a b Timeform staff (1982). Racehorses of 1981. Timeform. ISBN 0-900599-33-2.
  5. ^ "Golden Fleece moves like a Bullet". Calgary Herald. 3 June 1982. p. 21. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  6. ^ "White and Gold" (6 July 1982). "Hello Sunshine given the chance to shine". Glasgow Herald. p. 24. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  7. ^ "White and Gold" (11 September 1982). "Electric should shock St Leger opposition". Glasgow Herald. p. 15. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  8. ^ Colin Fleetwood Jones (10 September 2010). "Examining the Leger". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  9. ^ Morris, Tony; Randall, John (1999). A Century of Champions. Portway Press. ISBN 1-901570-15-0.
  10. ^ "Swannell blasts the trainers". Evening Times. 2 December 1982. p. 41. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  11. ^ "Touching Wood Stud Record". 2012-02-15. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  12. ^ "Touching Wood pedigree". 2012-05-08. Retrieved 2013-05-25.