In June 1957, Her Majesty the Queen won her first Classic when Carozza, ridden by Lester Piggott, snatched a dramatic victory in the Epsom Oaks. Guest blogger Amy Bennett reviews the career of Carozza, the only Royal Classic success for Lester Piggott.
Until the powerhouse operation of Coolmore/Ballydoyle, few owners ever enjoyed a Classic season quite like that of His Majesty King George VI in 1942 when Big Game and Sun Chariot swept four wartime Classics between them.
The pair were both bred by The National Stud and leased to the King, and this tried and tested formula was one maintained in the post-war era by the Royal bloodstock manager Charles Moore, the man who deserves much credit for reinvigorating the Royal Studs.
The yearling intake from The National Stud to the Royal Studs in 1955 included a bay or brown filly by the 1945 wartime Derby winner Dante out of Calash (Hyperion), a full-sister to the great Sun Chariot who had landed the late King the Fillies’ Triple Crown during the lean war years, as well as to Sister Clara, later granddam of the 1964 Derby and Irish Derby winner Santa Claus.
Noel Murless took charge of the filly, eventually given the name Carozza, at his Warren Place yard, having enjoyed success as a Royal trainer since taking over from the retiring Fred Darling in 1947 with the horses dubbed by Moore as ‘the hirelings’.
She made a winning debut in May of her two-year-old year at the now-defunct Hurst Park, winning the Rosemary Plate. However shortly after that victory, Carrozza reared over backwards and hurt herself to such an extent that she was forced to endure six weeks of box rest. In spite of this setback, she did make it back to the races at two, twice finishing fourth at Newmarket in the Prendergast Stakes and the Criterion Stakes.
Heading into her Classic season of 1957, Carrozza was one of a trio of highly-regarded fillies for the Queen who gave their Royal owner and her team the pleasurable headache of how to best manage and maximise their careers without letting them run into each other.
Along with Carrozza, the trio comprised Almeria (Alycidon) and Mulberry Harbour (Sicambre), both trained for the Queen by Captain Cecil Boyd-Rochfort at his Freemason Lodge in Newmarket.
On her seasonal debut at three, Almeria ran an unimpressive third and the decision was made to give her more time, thus ruling her out of a potential Classic clash with her owner’s other runners who, on pedigree, would have their best chance of Classic glory in the Oaks at Epsom.
Carrozza stamped herself firmly on target for the Oaks by aptly triumphing in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom. Murless next sent her to contest the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket where she finished a good fourth to Rose Royale II who had finished behind Carrozza at Epsom.
On the other side of Warren Hill, Mulberry Harbour was also training well for Boyd-Rochfort and recorded an easy victory on her seasonal debut before landing the Chester Oaks to set her up for her Classic bid.
With both fillies on target for Epsom, the decision was made that Mulberry Harbour, thus far unbeaten at three, would carry the first colours of Her Majesty, while Carrozza’s jockey Lester Piggott would don the white cap of the second colours.
That decision was reflected in the betting as Mulberry Harbour was sent off the second favourite at Epsom on Wednesday, 7th June, on firm ground that was rattlingly fast for the competitors.
As the Oaks got underway, Mulberry Harbour appeared to be travelling ominously well, tracking the leader in second place. Coming down the hill and rounding Tattenham Corner, the Queen could have been forgiven for dreaming of a Classic victory as the filly was called on for her effort.
It was not to be. In a matter of strides, the filly’s effort petered out almost instantly and she backpedalled through the field, being passed by the remaining runners, including Carrozza.
Under a determined and sustained drive by the 21-year-old Lester Piggott, who had won the Derby for Murless on Crepello two days earlier, Carrozza began to respond, as so many already had and so many would over the lengthy career of one of the greatest jockeys the world has ever seen.
Over two furlongs from home, up that long Epsom straight, Carrozza hit the front but Piggott could not let up as his mount surged home along the rails. The Irish raider Silken Glider was it hot pursuit, and the favourite, Carrozza’s old foe Rose Royale II, owned by the Aga Khan, was still with the Queen’s filly.
In a desperate scramble to the line, the two riders aboard Carrozza and Silken Glider fought out the finish, calling on their mounts for every effort.
Bill Curling, then ‘Hotspur’ for the Daily Telegraph, described the finish thus: “...in the last 20 yards, with hopes of victory fading, he [Piggott] rode like a man inspired, almost willing Carrozza to win… Carrozza and Silken Glider flashed past the post together. There was a momentary silence. I thought Carrozza had hung on to win by inches – a colleague on my right favoured Silken Glider’s chance. The majority of people hoped for the best but feared the worst.
“It seemed a long time before the loudspeaker announcement of the result of the photograph. When it came, a mighty cheer went up and out came the Queen to lead in her winner. The photo showed clearly Carrozza had won by about nine inches.”
It might not have been the winner people had expected, but a winner it was nonetheless. Carrozza became the first Royal winner of an Epsom Oaks – Sun Chariot had, of course, won her wartime substitute at Newmarket – and the first Epsom Classic winner in the Royal colours since Minoru landed the Derby for the Queen’s great-grandfather King Edward VII in 1909.
But what of the beleaguered Mulberry Harbour? The filly had finished very distressed and on accompanying her back to the racecourse stables, Boyd-Rochfort’s assistant trainer Bruce Hobbs felt certain the filly had been ‘got at’ – doped to prevent her running her best. Another explanation could have been that she swallowed her tongue in running but the chance to rule out speculation was lost when the stewards did not order a dope test. The filly ran again a fortnight later at Royal Ascot and again performed poorly after which a cardiograph showed she had strained her heart.
Carrozza was afforded a slightly longer break before she turned out again to contest the Nassau Stakes over a mile and a quarter at Goodwood. Although sent off as the odds-on favourite, the filly could manage only fourth and finished very lame.
At the end of the season, Carrozza would finish runner-up to Almeria - who had returned from her break to win the Ribblesdale Stakes, Yorkshire Oaks and Park Hill Stakes – as the season’s champion three-year-old filly. The unlucky Mulberry Harbour was the third highest-rated.
While Almeria and Mulberry Harbour both joined the broodmare band at the Royal Stud, the leased Carrozza returned to her birthplace at the National Stud. She produced three minor winners during her stud career in Britain, including Battle Waggon, (by the National Stud’s Never Say Die), who went on to be a successful sire in New Zealand.
When the decision was made to sell all of the National Stud’s mares, Carrozza was offered at Tattersalls in 1964, in foal to the 1960 Derby winner St Paddy – a son of the Queen’s great racehorse Aureole. She was purchased for 20,000gns by the British Bloodstock Agency and was sent first to America and then on to Argentina in 1975.
Blog by guest blogger, Amy Bennett.