Advent blog: Eve

24th December 2013

This advent blog comes from Museum friend, Tony Lake

Sir Ellice Victor Sassoon, 3rd Baronet, GB E was a businessman from the Sassoon banking family.  To his friends he was known as 'Eve'- a play on his first two names- and he enjoyed distinction on the Turf. He was twice champion owner and three times (using the name Eve Stud) champion breeder.

After inheriting £15 million from his father in 1924, at the age of 43, he bought his first racehorse. Success was not immediate but he went on to win the Derby four times – with Pinza (1953), Crepello (1957), Hard Ridden (1958) and St Paddy (1960) - as well as all the other Classics.  In 1925, he purchased Bungalow stud, on the outskirts of Newmarket, and renamed it Eve Stud Ltd.


Some of the greatest names of the Turf were closely connected to him. Steve Donoghue rode and trained for him, and it was Donoghue who gave Sir Victor his first taste of Classic glory when Exhibitionist won both the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks in 1937.It was also Sir Victor who gave Sir Gordon Richards his elusive winning Derby ride, Pinza, a horse he bought for 1500 guineas as a yearling. Noel Murless successfully trained for him. But it was perhaps with Lester Piggott he had his closest bond.


Sir Victor owned the first two really great horses Lester was associated with: Crepello and St Paddy.  Respectfully acknowledging the owner, Lester’s daughter, Maureen’s, middle name is Eve.  Furthermore, when Lester built stables in Newmarket he called them Eve Lodge.


Sir Victor spent vast sums of money in the hope of enjoying Classic success and his most inspired purchase was Mieuxce, the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) and Grand Prix winner he bought in 1936. Amongst his first crop was Commotion who won the1941 wartime Oaks (Harry Wragg up).


Mieuxce was the sire of Crepuscule, who was a successful brood mare at his Eve Stud.  She was most notably the dam of Sir Victor’s Honeylight, who won the 1956 1000 Guineas, and Crepello, who won 2000 Guineas and Derby in 1957.

It was also in 1957, on Noel Murless’s advice that Yorkshire limestone was the best environment to rear young horses, the entire Sassoon crop was despatched to Yorkshire from Newmarket.  The crop was shared between Murless family Cliff Stud, the Cartoft Stud and Thornton Stud.

Sir Victor also had interests in Ireland, which bore fruit in 1958, when he won the Derby again. This time with the Mick Rogers’ trained and Charlie Smirke ridden Hard Ridden, who had been bought for only 270 guineas as a yearling.

He had finished second to the Queen in the 1957 owners’ table with £58,522, but headed the list in 1960 - £90,069 from 15 horses winning 29 races (almost three times as much prizemoney as his nearest rival.) That was the year of St Paddy who provided Sir Victor with his fourth Derby, and third in four years, before going on to win the St Leger and to earn £71256 in one season – a record for English racing only bettered (at that time) by Tulyar.

Sassoon’s last winner was on the day of his death (12th August 1961) when in a sensational finish to the Phoenix Stakes at Phoenix Park his Prince Popp, a 20/1 chance, won by a short head from Shandon Belle and Arctic Storm, who dead heated.


His legacy lives on. His mare Soft Angels was the grandam of champion miler Kris, whose stud career was spectacular, and his Eve stud later became Woodditton stud which today is a vital part of Godolphin.