Maharaja Vijaysinhji ruled the Kingdom of Rajpipla in western India from September 1915 till merger with the Indian Union in June 1948. His ancient Gohil Rajput dynasty held sway over the 4,000 square kilometres 13-gun salute first-class Rajpipla princely State for 600 years.
While he carried out massive development works and benevolent reforms, Maharaja Vijaysinhji became one of the most famous racehorse owners of his time. He won the coveted Epsom Derby of England, the blue riband of the turf, in 1934, still the only Indian owner to achieve this feat. His horse Windsor Lad defeated the hitherto unbeaten hot favourite Colombo.
Maharaja Vijaysinhji thereby clinched a unique hat-trick of Derbys, having won the first-ever Indian Derby in 1919 and the Irish Derby in 1926. His Kunigal-bred horse Tipster was ridden by the Australian jockey Perry Robert ‘Bunty’ Brown in the Indian Derby, also known as the country-bred Derby. The Irish Derby was won by the Maharaja’s horse Embargo with Steve Donoghue astride.
Windsor Lad was foaled on 24th March 1931, bred in Co. Dublin, Ireland by Daniel (Dan) Sullivan, trained by Marcus Marsh whose father Richard Marsh trained Derby-winning horses for the reigning King George V and the late King Edward VII, and ridden in the Epsom Derby by Charlie Smirke.
Some major racing triumphs of Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla are:
1919: Indian Derby – Horse Tipster, Kunigal-bred, Jockey Perry Robert ‘Bunty’ Brown (first-ever Indian Derby, also known as the country-bred Derby)
1926: Curragh 2000 Guineas – Horse Embargo, Jockey Steve Donoghue
1926: Irish Derby – Horse Embargo, Jockey Steve Donoghue
1927: Belgian Grand Prix – Horse Embargo
1933: Criterion Stakes – Horse Windsor Lad, Trainer Marcus Marsh
1934: Chester Vase – Horse Windsor Lad, Jockey Freddie Fox, Trainer Marcus Marsh
1934: Newmarket Stakes – Horse Windsor Lad, Trainer Marcus Marsh
1934: Epsom Derby – Horse Windsor Lad, Jockey Charles Smirke, Trainer Marcus Marsh
He owned the famous horses Tipperary, and Melesigenes, that won practically every big event in India.
Some other horses that Maharaja Vijaysinhji owned were:
Black Tulip assisted in the preparation of Windsor Lad, and won the Somersetshire Plate at Bath in 1934
Carioca ran in the Epsom Derby 1936
Australian jockey Cecil Rupert Selby rode for Maharaja Vijaysinhji in the late 1930s.
Fondly known as Pip in the United Kingdom, Maharaja Vijaysinhji, after his greatest triumph on the turf, the Epsom Derby in 1934, the crowd estimated to be between 250,000 to 500,000 cheered him by chanting ‘Good old Pip’. The victory was the culmination of his lifelong ambition to win this coveted race. His name will be etched alongside the greatest Indian racehorse owners.