Legends of the Turf: Bay Middleton

29th May 2013

A rare example of an undefeated Derby winner, Bay Middleton was a product of outstanding bloodlines, was greatly superior to his opposition, and was a difficult horse to manage throughout his life.

Bay Middleton was foaled in 1833, by Sultan out of Cobweb. Sultan was leading sire six times, and counted Herod, Eclipse and Highflyer in his immediate ancestry. Cobweb won both the 1000 Guineas and Oaks and produced many fine horses including 2000 Guineas winner Achmet and 100 Guineas and Oaks winner Clementina. Cobweb counted such outstanding broodmares as Web, Penelope and Prunella in her family, and her offspring’s descendants were hugely influential.


Bay Middleton was a fine, handsome bay with a “wicked style of head” and arched neck. He was extremely unruly, so much so that the no stable lad could ride him without the horse bolting. Eventually, his owner Lord Jersey begged James Robinson to travel to Newmarket to gallop him. Although a stable lad was meant to hold the horse firmly until Robinson was seated, the poor boy lost his nerve and the horse broke loose for a scorching gallop across the Heath. Although always feisty, Bay Middleton did behave himself for Robinson, and that partnership allowed the horse to show his full quality.


Bay Middleton was rather slow to develop and didn’t run at two, but he always showed plenty of promise once under control. He was backed to win the Derby at 8/1 before he even made his debut, after reports of a serious gallop reached the ears of bookmakers.


Bay Middleton debuted in the Riddlesworth Stakes at Newmarket in early April, 1836. Unnamed at the time (referred to as “Brother to Nell Gwynne”), he beat Emineh and subsequent 1000 Guineas winner Destiny in the “commonest of canters”. Stories of his bad temper were replaced with descriptions of “high courage” after this fine win.


Bay Middleton next ran in the 2000 Guineas two weeks later, where he was sent off a 4/6 favourite to win. After a thrilling duel, he just beat Elis (later to win the St Leger after famously being transported in a horsebox) by a neck with the rest of the field left far behind.


The logical step now was to race in the Derby, especially as Robinson reported that the horse took a while to get into stride, and longer distances would suit him better. There were 128 entries for the 1836 Derby, with a field of twenty eventually lining up and Bay Middleton rated the 7/4 favourite. There was a ragged start to the race and Hock set just a moderate tempo to the top of the hill before Muezzin took over and injected some pace. Heading into the straight, Bay Middleton made relentless progress from his early mid-pack position, and came through to be fourth as Venison, Muezzin and Gladiator battled for the lead. As the former two tired, Bay Middleton challenged Gladiator for a mere fifty yards before sweeping ahead to an easy two length win. For his excellent ride on the colt, Robinson was gifted £200 (a princely sum) by Lord Jersey.

Bay Middleton ran three more times that year, and was only seriously challenged in one race. After a facile victory over Muezzin (who had since won the Ascot Derby) in the Buckhurst Stakes at Ascot, he engaged Elis in the Grand Duke Michael Stakes at Newmarket in October. John Day delivered a masterful ride on Elis, using whip and spur to conjure every last ounce of effort out of “one of the best and gamest horses to run”. However his endeavour was in vain, as Robinson touched Bay Middleton once with the whip (the only time he did so) and the Derby winner asserted to triumph by a length. Onlookers reported that Elis simply could not match Bay Middleton’s speed and power down the hill.


In his final race, Bay Middleton entered in a match again Muezzin where, despite conceding 13lbs, he beat him with ridiculous ease.


Bay Middleton was sold to Lord Bentinck for 4,000 guineas, but hopes of a crack at the Ascot Gold Cup where scuppered by a leg injury that led to his retirement.


Bay Middleton stood at Turf Inn in Doncaster for an initial fee of thirty guineas, but it soon became apparent that his offspring were often unsound and difficult to train and his fee dropped to fifteen guineas. He did managed to sire Derby winner Andover, 2000 Guineas winner The Hermit, and outstanding Derby and St Leger winner The Flying Dutchman, who famously beat Voltigeur in a match race at York. The latter gave Bay Middleton’s stallion career a much needed boost, as his fee was a mere ten guineas at the time, a lowly amount compared to what some of his old rivals commanded. The Flying Dutchman was the damsire of the outstanding stallion Galopin, and ensured that Bay Middleton left a mark upon the breed.


Bay Middleton’s fine bay coat darkened and became mottled as he aged. He suffered from illness in 1856, and died the following November in 1857. He was buried next to three time Classic winner Crucifix, and John and Alfred Day planted two cedars over their graves.

Bay Middleton (1833) by Sultan out of Cobweb (Phantom)

Breeder: Lord Jersey

Owner: Lord Jersey

Trainer: James Edwards

Jockey: James Robinson

Major wins:

Riddlesworth Stakes (1836)

2000 Guineas (1836)

Derby (1836)

Grand Duke Michael Stakes (1836)

By Alice Kay