With Paul Nicholls campaigning a 4-year-old, Frodon, over fences Tony Lake was reminded of another precocious steeplechaser.
Red Prince II
Red Prince II won more money in Britain than any other horse in 1893 but he could have achieved so much more. He competed in the richest races run in England, Ireland and France and arguably should have won all three. He did not though and greatness eluded him.
Owned and trained in Ireland by Harry Linde the chesnut colt by Kendal out of his trainer’s 1880 Grand National winner Empress showed promise as a juvenile. Partnered by William Hoystead, who rode him in most of his races, on his debut he won the National Produce Stakes by half a length. The 5/1 third favourite caught the eye of Special Correspondent of The Belfast News-Letter who noticed that “besides being uncommonly good looking he is endowed with rare gameness”.
Twelve months later he returned to the Curragh and easily won two races on consecutive days, Her Majesty’s Plate over three miles under Whelan and the four mile Royal Whip with Tommy Beasley.
At the turn of the year, he was sent jumping. His campaign started in a maiden hurdle at Manchester and, after going down by a head from Mock Orange, the following day he made amends. Again starting at odds-on, he won the Maiden Chase Plate by eight lengths, helping Linde score a four-timer on the day.
Returning to Ireland he was never troubled in the Tally Ho Plate at Baldoyle and became a leading fancy for the Lancashire Chase, a race that year worth £3000 and more than the Grand National. The handicap snip of the season, carrying 10st 4lb and receiving weight from his 15 rivals, he turned the three and a quarter mile race into a procession. Run at a great pace, fully seven furlongs from home it was all over bar the shouting. Once the result was telegraphed to Fairyhouse, the shouting continued amongst the Irish Grand National crowd, who had supported their “good thing”.
Among those toiling in 3/1 favourite’s wake were Greek Girl, winner of a string of races including the Irish Grand National (1890); Roman Oak, winner of Irish International Handicap Chase (1891) and Lancashire Handicap (1892); two Grand National victors, past and future, Father O’Flynn (1892) and Why Not (1894).
Despite a 14lb penalty, he was expected to consolidate his winnings by taking Ireland’s premier steeplechasing prize (£750), the International Chase at Leopardstown. Although starting at 4/6, he looked lighter than at Manchester and never got into the race run on hard going. Blundering at the last, he finished tailed off.
Within a month he put that poor performance behind him and returned to winning ways at Cork, securing the £500 Grandstand Plate. Appearing back to his best he was then asked to emulate his owner/trainer’s Too Good and win the £5000 Grand Steeplechase de Paris.
The most valuable chase in the world was billed as a two horse race, matching France’s best, Surcouf, against the rising star from Ireland. With most possible rivals frightened off only seven went to post with local support making Surcouf evens favourite with Red Prince II at 5/4. Going ominously well and looking the likely winner the Irish horse fell. In a driving finish, the favourite was turned over by the English challenger and rank outsider Skedaddle, who had not been sighted in the Lancashire Chase.
Five days later, Linde sent his charge out to gain some compensation in the valuable Prix des Drags. Again he was out of luck and failed to make the frame behind the Arthur Nightingall partnered Cadix.
In October, in a Liverpool chase confined to 4-year-olds, he parted company with Hoysted at the fence before Valentines, and The Times correspondent concluded that he "is clearly not the horse he was believed to be". Said to be "difficult to train" due to his conformation, described as heavy-shouldered and top-heavy, Red Prince II’s racing career came to an end.
Linde sold him to his Curragh neighbour, William Pallin of the Athgarvan Stud. Recognized, in the Freeman's Journal (24 Aug 1898), as: "A beautiful horse in every way, with power, quality, shapes, and breeding it would be hard to match him … a finer type of thoroughbred sire was never exhibited in the show yard." He won numerous prizes at shows, taking the Croker Challenge Cup, for the best weight carrying thoroughbred stallion at the Dublin Horse Show, on many occasions.
Red Prince II was Britain’s leading sire of jumpers between 1904 and 1909. His winners included the 1905 Irish Grand National winner, Red Lad, who came second in the 1906 Grand National; Conyngham Cup winners, Famous (1906) and Ruddygore (1914); Galway Hurdle winner Red Damsel (1913). Whilst the precocious steeplechaser may have fallen short the stallion surely compensated.