The day Tyrnavos stormed home in the Irish Derby

28th June 2018

Bruce Hobbs trained 48 Group winners from Palace House stables but despite several near misses his first, and what proved to be his only Classic success, eluded him until Saturday 28 June 1980, the day Tyrnavos stormed home in the Irish Derby.

Tyrnavos (1977) was named after a municipality in the Thessaly region of Greece by his owner George Cambanis, the Greek shipping magnate, one of Bruce Hobbs’ major patrons at Palace House.  The attractive bay  colt was the fourth foal out of Cambanis’s highly successful dam Stilvi, whose previous sons had been Tachypous, (2nd in the 2000 Guineas) Taxiarchos (9th 2000 Guineas) and Tromos (Dewhurst Stakes).  With his mother’s speed, Stilvi had won the Duke of York Stakes, King George Stakes at Goodwood and had been 2nd in the Nunthorpe Stakes, coupled with his Derby winning sire, Blakeney’s stamina, Tyrnavos certainly had the pedigree of a potential Classic horse.

His two year old campaign began like Tromos in 1978, when he raced in the Ribero Stakes over six furlongs on St Leger day.  Timeform remarked that he had “little idea of what was required” but he managed to finish a close up third.   Following a length win at Ascot later in September over an additional furlong, Tyrnavos moved up in class and contested the Dewhurst Stakes (Group 1).

At Newmarket he ran on gamely to finish two lengths behind the unbeaten Vincent O’Brien trained Irish star Monteverdi, who was ridden by Lester Piggott in the famous emerald green and royal blue  colours of Robert Sangster.  A future interesting runner that day was the unplaced Dick Hern trained Henbit.

Given 9st 2Ib in the end of season Free Handicap ratings Bruce Hobbs’s colt stood 5 Ibs adrift of his Dewhurst conqueror but a lively prospect for staying races in 1980 with 1 mile likely to be his minimum distance.


Tyrnavos developed into a powerful specimen during the winter and the trainer soon realised he needed a lot of work. His classic term began with victory in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket (see above)  and despite sustaining a shoulder injury a week before the 2000 Guineas he ran a creditable seventh.

It was thought that the colt would benefit over longer distances as he just lacked that important turn of foot over a mile.  In his Derby prep run he finished 4th in York’s Dante Stakes (1m 2 ½ f) but stayed on well behind the winner Hello Gorgeous, Master Willie and Water Mill.

Betting for the Blue Riband suggested a very open Derby with Irish horse Nikoli, winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas, sent off as the 4/1 favourite while Tyrnavos received good support at 9/1 in the 24 runner field.  However, the Craven Stakes victor was bumped on more than one occasion and never threatened the main group coming 12th, ahead of Monterverdi in 14th but very distant from the winner Henbit (7/1).

Just over three weeks later on vastly different ground in the Irish Derby the story was very different.  The Epsom Derby had been run on good to firm whilst the ground at The Curragh on Saturday 28 June, due to heavy overnight rain was soft, which would hopefully support the theory that Tyrnavos needed a test of stamina.

Apart from the injured Henbit the field included the next four home at Epsom, Master Willie, Rankin, Pelerin and Garrido, plus Nikoli a disappointing 8th in the Derby.  Due to a prior booking at Newcastle with his principal retainer Tyrnavos’s regular partner Eddie Hide was replaced by Irish based jockey Tony Murray.   The Derby runner up Master Willie, trained by Henry Candy was backed down to 7/4 favourite while Tyrnavos received little support at 25/1.  Bearing in mind the previous three Irish Derby winners had been The Minstrel, Shirley Heights and Troy, all successful at Epsom, few thought the bay from Palace House stables stood much chance.


Perhaps it was a change of tactic but Murray immediately took the lead as the field of thirteen made a slow start.  At halfway the young Irishman was dictating affairs at the front and by the time they entered the straight he quickened the pace. Master Willie was unable to respond and it was left to Prince Bee and Derby winning jockey Willie Carson to chase Tyrnavos home, (see above) one and half lengths adrift at the line.

His sire Blakeney had failed in his double attempt eleven year’s previously finishing only 4th but his influence possibly helped clinch Bruce Hobbs’s first Classic success.

Eddie Hide was back in the saddle for Tyrnavos next race, the prestigious King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot and employing front running tactics he led after 1 mile but faded after being hampered to  finish a 8th of 10.

Palace House’s last Classic winner then retired to Gazeley Stud at Newmarket where he was syndicated for £20,000 a share.

Tyrnavos may have been short of the very top class but his performance at The Curragh on 28 June 1980 when he stormed home in the Irish Derby must rank as one of Bruce Hobbs’s finest achievements in his glittering training career.

Photos courtesy of Timeform and Ed Byrne

Blog by Stephen Wallis Visitor Services.