Embargo, the best horse owned by Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla before Windsor Lad

Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla leading Embargo after winning the Irish Derby in 1926.

Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla leading Embargo after winning the Irish Derby in 1926.

Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla wrote in the Sporting Times, “I won the first Indian Derby in 1919 (for Country breds) with Tipster, a Kunigal bred horse, ridden by ‘Bunty’ Brown. From that day I always wanted to win the English Derby. That is the ambition of every racing man in the world. I started by buying a high class yearling every year. Steve Donoghue was in India in 1924. He came and stayed with me. Being an expert on Derbys I took his advice on ‘How to win the English Derby’. He was too polite to say anything else, but gave a smile. I knew I was asking a question no one could answer. People spent millions and were racing for generations and yet hadn’t won the celebrated race. ‘Try,’ he said ‘by buying a good yearling or two every year and you may never know your luck.’ After returning to England, Donoghue bought for me Embargo. My dreams were coming nearer.”

On 1st June 1925 Embargo finished second in The Sorrel Stakes at Hurst Park. He then went on to win his first race the Fulbourne Stakes at Newmarket on 3rd July. Eleven days later, again at Newmarket, he was second in the Sollyhoff Stakes. It was a satisfying debut season for Embargo.

The colt began the 1926 season well, coming in second in the Greenham Plate at Newbury on 9th April. He achieved a major success on 19th May, winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas at The Curragh. Then at Ascot he finished second in the Royal Hunt Cup on 16th June. His biggest victory was just round the corner, in fact just a week way on 23rd June at The Curragh when he won the Irish Derby, ridden by Steve Donoghue.

The Maharaja was still not satisfied. He recounted further, “But still my ambition was not achieved. I would not give in. Fred Darling, the famous trainer, came to India in 1932 and stayed with me. I told him I wanted to win the English Derby and he smiled and said, ‘Yes, everyone wants to win the Derby. If you don’t try, you don’t gain. You start breeding with good mares (mares count 75 per cent), and a good stallion.’ I started a small stud on his advice with Embargo as sire, but it was a tedious process. It takes a long time to establish a good stud. So I continued to buy one or two high class yearlings every year”.

As so in 1932, Maharaja Vijaysinhji bought Windsor Lad. And the rest is history. He went on to win the Epsom Derby in 1934. No other Indian owner has achieved the feat till date.

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