Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla’s horse Windsor Lad stumped ‘super horse’ Colombo in the Epsom Derby 1934

30-1It was hard to find one expert before the 1934 Derby who thought any other horse but Colombo would triumph. The unbeaten ‘super-horse’ was deemed well nigh unbeatable. And why not? As a two-year-old the previous year Lord Glanely’s colt had won all seven of his races, and two in 1934. Trained by Captain Thomas Hogg, he had been ridden to victory by several leading jockeys of the day. His was indeed an impressive record.

1933

20 April           Newmarket Stakes                                          Arthur Wragg

17 May            Scarborough Stakes, York                              Gordon Richards

15 June            New Stakes, Ascot                                         Gordon Richards

30 June            Fulbourne Stakes, Newmarket                        Steve Donoghue

15 July             N.B. Produce Stakes, Sandown                     Gordon Richards

25 July             Richmond Stakes, Goodwood                       Steve Donoghue

30 Sept            Imperial Produce Stakes, Kempton Park        Steve Donoghue

1934

19 April           Craven Stakes, Newmarket                            William Johnstone

2 May              2000 Guineas, Newmarket                             William Johnstone

This was certainly not a record to be scoffed at, and it was obvious to those who followed the record book and the form book that there was no other horse that would claim the Derby. Colombo was the superstar and all eyes were on him. He was not stabled at the Epsom course either but at the adjoining Durdans plantation and guarded like an emperor.

The knowledgeable handful had, however, neither reckoned with the law of averages, nor with the fact that Colombo had not won a long race. The Derby distance of 1 ½ miles or 12 furlongs was sure to test the favourite. Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla was quick to spot this chink in his armour and was not at all apprehensive of him. His own horse Windsor Lad, on the other hand, had already proved himself over this distance.

No one could, obviously, foresee the quirks of fate either. Colombo ran into a roadblock behind the pace-setter Medieval Knight, and ultimately when it mattered he failed to live up to his fabled status. His stamina was found wanting just before the finishing post. The myth was shattered as Windsor Lad sped to glory.

This was to prove a shattering blow. Colombo was thereafter beaten to second place by Flamenco in the St. James Palace Stakes at the Royal Ascot, ridden once more by Johnstone. The colt was never to race again and retired to stud in 1935.

Colombo’s reverse in the Derby drew sharp reactions on both sides of the spectrum. Some said he was unlucky, others averred that he lacked stamina. A few attributed the humiliation to both factors. Still others blamed Johnstone, a few even questioned the strategy, many were full of admiration for Windsor Lad and his splendid team. Whatever view anyone took, it was one of the most debated and thrilling Derbys in history.

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