Advent blog: Reindeer

14th December 2013

Certainly not as famous at Father Christmas’ flying steeds, Reindeer was one of a multitude of Classic winners from the yard of Vincent O’Brien, although he was greatly outshone by a plethora of talented stablemates.

Reindeer was foaled in 1966, a son of the equally appropriately named Derby winner Santa Claus, out of a daughter of the outstanding sire Bois Roussel. He was a plain brown horse, considered backwards and a little slow to mature by his trainer, the legendary Vincent O’Brien.

Reindeer did not race at two, but made rapid progression in his three year old season to improve from an unplaced run in his debut, to a Classic win by the Autumn. Two wins in minor company preceded an ambitious crack at the Irish Derby, which O’Brien was trying to win for the first time. Reindeer was a part of a team of five horses from Ballydoyle, and was clearly relatively unfancied as stable jockey Liam Ward rejected him for a ride on Onandaga, a son of Ribot.

In the race itself, Reindeer showed that he had definite talent by finishing a six length third to Prince Regent and the classy Ribofilio, in an unprecedented American owned 1-2-3. The Derby winner Blakeney was a neck behind Reindeer in fourth, although he reported to be jarred up from his final gallop before the race.

Reindeer was then aimed at the St Leger at Doncaster, for which he was fairly well fancied despite having never won over further than ten furlongs. Curiously, the other fancied horses for the race were in the same position of never having won over twelve furlongs, let along fourteen. Ribofilio was well fancied to atone for his loses in the Derby and Irish Derby but, after being slightly hampered by Reindeer, he finished second to Intermozzo. Reindeer came sixth after briefly striking the front before fading.

Unexpectedly, Reindeer was supplemented for the Irish St Leger where he finally lived up to his potential in an authoritative six length win over Deep Run and Hymn. However, any further targets for the season were scuppered by the occurrence of a splint problem. Reindeer was expected to progress to be a nice four year old, and so was put away for the year.reindeer

Reindeer’s problems lingered on into 1970, but he still travelled to England with Nijinsky for a crack at the Jockey Club Stakes, while his younger stablemate targeted the 2000 Guineas. The Jockey Club Stakes pitted Reindeer in a rematch with Derby winner Blakeney, while Oaks winner Sleeping Partner was also a dangerous challenger. Although Reindeer was well fancied at 5/2 to win the match-up, all three Classic winners were beaten by 20/1 outsiders Queen Of Twilight and Baggala, with Reindeer managing to take third place after being hard ridden by Lester Piggott.


He bounced back in the Royal Whip at the Curragh, the oldest continually run horse race in Ireland, before another defeat in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, this time by Washington International winner Karabas.


Reindeer’s finest moment of 1970 came when defeating Gold Cup winner Precipice Wood in the Prix Kergorlay at Deauville. He was entered for the Arc, but connections relied instead on Triple Crown winner Nijinsky, and Reindeer was retired to Ballygoran Stud as the winner of seven races, £37,756, and with a rating of 124.


Despite his fine pedigree and Classic win, Reindeer’s stud fee was never much higher than £1,000, and in 1973 he was sold to stand at Okawa Stud in Germany. His offspring never achieved much, and it’s fair to say that Reindeer was no Cupid.