Captain Heath wrote in News Chronicle:“Just before ten minutes past three yesterday afternoon I stood atop Epsom’s grandstand and saw Windsor Lad win the Derby for the Maharaja of Rajpipla. After the horse had won the Chester Vase I made no bones about nominating him as the likely winner of the Derby; after he had triumphed over difficulties to win again at Newmarket last month, I was even more emphatic in suggesting that he would score.”
It was on the afternoon of 6th June 1934 that Windsor Lad, owned by Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla, won the blue riband of the turf, the Epsom Derby of England.
Ferdinand Kuhn jr. observed in The New York Times, “The combination of a stout heart and sound training had most to do with Windsor Lad’s triumph, together with that stroke of luck at Tattenham Corner. The third choice at 15-2 when the race started, the horse had an excellent record, with three victories at Newmarket. The Maharajah bought the horse as a yearling for £1,300. Now he is worth £40,000, with the added glory of having been the Derby winner.”
The Times of India recounted, “Windsor Lad scored a smashing victory at Epsom and won for Rajpipla and India the blue riband of the turf. He was a length ahead of Easton, who beat Colombo into the third place by a head. The favourite (Colombo), who had never lost a race before and who was guarded like a rare treasure from early in the day, failed to stay. The colt swung wide while entering the straight, and Windsor Lad took the lead which he convincingly established at the post. The winner won the race in two minutes and thirty-four seconds, thereby equalling Hyperion’s 1933 record. By winning the Newmarket Stakes and the Derby, Windsor Lad has performed a feat which very few have done before – only eight others have done it since 1899. Call Boy was the last to complete the double.”
A couple of months after the Derby win, Maharaja Vijaysinhji sold Windsor Lad to Martin Benson for £50,000, above the value Ferdinand Kuhn jr. had estimated. Martin Benson was owner of Beechhouse Stud, near Newmarket, and founder of Douglas Stuart Ltd., the biggest firm of racetrack bookmakers in the world. Maharaja Vijaysinhji’s condition was that Windsor Lad would continue to be trained by Marcus Marsh.
Michael Seth-Smith paid tribute to the champion horse in the January 19, 1984 edition of Country Life, calling him “…..one of the greatest thoroughbreds of the past sixty years,” elaborating, “He had beaten two very good colts, Easton and Colombo, at Epsom, much to the undisguised delight of his owner, The Maharajah of Rajpipla, who was affectionately known as ‘Mr. Pip’. In the Eclipse Stakes a month later Charlie Smirke rode an ill-judged race, Windsor Lad was defeated, but he was never beaten again. He scored at York before taking the St. Leger in record time, with Smirke wearing the cerise, dark blue quartered cap of Mr. Martin Benson, who had bought him from ‘Mr. Pip’ after the Eclipse.”
Windsor Lad took the 1.75 miles (14 furlongs or 2800 metres) St. Leger Stakes by equalling Coronach’s 1926 record time of 3 minutes 1.6 seconds, which still stands to this day. Tiberius was placed second and Lo Zingaro third.
Such was Marsh’s confidence in Windsor Lad that he felt certain that, braving the odds, the great horse would be a winner even the next year. Seth-Smith elaborated: “Benson agreed to Marcus Marsh’s proposal that Windsor Lad should be kept in training as a four-year-old. By the spring of 1935 he was the epitome of a champion thoroughbred, and ‘looked fully capable of carrying 15st. to hounds across Leicestershire’. During the summer he proved his courage, brilliance and versatility by winning the 12-furlong Coronation Cup and the 10-furlong Eclipse Stakes.” Windsor Lad, with Smirke still in the saddle, thus rounded off a brilliant career by claiming the race that had brought so much disappointment the previous year after his exhilarating Derby triumph.
Then Windsor Lad left a permanent, stamp of class. Seth-Smith described the glorious moment: “Windsor Lad confounded them (critics), for on soft ground, which he disliked, he won impressively from a three-year-old to whom he was giving 25lb and whom Gordon Richards thought to be unbeatable. It was an outstanding performance and which poses the question: ‘What contemporary colt is capable of such achievements?’ ”.
Windsor Lad’s final record was awesome:
Born 1931, Colour: Bay
Breeder: Dan Sullivan (Ireland)
Trainer: Marcus Maskell Marsh
Owners: HH Maharaja Shri Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla and Martin Henry Benson
13 Starts: 10 Wins and 1 Third Place
Career Earnings $174,038
1st Criterion Stakes
1st Chester Vase
1st Newmarket Stakes
1st Derby, Epsom
3rd Eclipse Stakes
1st Great Yorkshire Stakes
1st St. Leger, Doncaster
1st Burwell Stakes
1st Coronation Cup
1st Rous Memorial Stakes
1st Eclipse Stakes
Read the story of the Epsom Derby 1934 in Indra Vikram Singh’s book:
A Maharaja’s Turf
Published in India by Sporting Links
Hardcover with jacket 8.75 x 11.5 x 0.6 inches
Available on Amazon at an attractive price https://www.amazon.in/Maharajas-Turf-Indra-Vikram-Singh/dp/8190166832/