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Monday, 15 October, 2018

From Humble beginnings to Grundy's race of the century

Steve Dennis recalls the trainer's greatest performers

Grundy and Pat Eddery (right) win the 1975 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes from Bustino and Joe Mercer (left)
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Grundy

The flashy chestnut was by some distance Walwyn’s greatest horse, a champion at two and three who gained enduring renown for his thrilling victory in the 1975 King George, generally described as the ‘Race of the Century’. The son of Great Nephew – ridden throughout his career by Pat Eddery – won the Dewhurst Stakes, the Irish 2,000 Guineas, the Derby (by three lengths from the filly Nobiliary) and the Irish Derby, was runner-up in the 2,000 Guineas, and set the seal on a most glorious career when outlasting the equally brave Bustino in that epic duel at Ascot. 

Humble Duty

Walwyn’s first top-class horse. The grey was the champion two-year-old filly of 1969 for her wins in the Lowther Stakes and Cheveley Park Stakes, and justified that accolade when – after a tenderly ridden defeat in a trial – thrashing her rivals in the 1,000 Guineas, strolling home seven lengths clear under Lester Piggott. She never raced beyond a mile but excelled at that distance, winning the Coronation Stakes before beating older horses and colts in the Sussex Stakes and Wills Mile.

Rock Roi

Denied the rewards of his labour by unfortunate circumstances, this big, stout stayer has a footnote in Royal Ascot history rather than his own chapter. In 1971 he was an easy winner of the Gold Cup but was later stripped of the race after testing positive for bute; the following year his system was clean but his tactics were not - he beat Erimo Hawk by a head but was demoted behind that rival for causing interference. His ‘permanent’ victories included the Goodwood Cup, Doncaster Cup and Prix du Cadran.

Buckskin

The brilliant, sore-footed and much-travelled stayer did not spend long with Walwyn but during his time in Lambourn he won the 1978 Prix du Cadran (then run in May) and finished fourth in the Gold Cup. As far as quality goes he merits inclusion in this list, although his significance to his trainer rests just as much on his departure after an argument with owner Daniel Wildenstein over riding arrangements. Wildenstein took all his horses away, something he did regularly; Walwyn’s success continued apace without them.

Orange Bay

The Derby Italiano winner moved to Walwyn’s yard as a four-year-old – he was owned by Dr Carlo Vittadini, owner of Grundy – and developed into a high-class middle-distance horse, winning the Jockey Club Stakes and Hardwicke Stakes in 1976 and finishing third in the King George that year. At Ascot 12 months later he almost sprang one of the shocks of the season when beaten a short head by The Minstrel, the dual Derby winner prevailing in a finish almost as gripping as that of Grundy and Bustino two years earlier.

As far as quality goes he merits inclusion in this list, although his significance to his trainer rests just as much on his departure
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