A Royal winner of the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes

26th July 2017

A bright chestnut of 16 hands with a white blaze and three white socks, Aureole was bred by King George VI. The beautifully bred colt was sired by Hyperion out of Angelola.

After The King’s death in February 1952, ownership passed to Her Majesty The Queen.  The colt was temperamental and excitable, traits which illuminated his future racing career and were typical of some of Hyperion’s offspring, but his tenacious attitude and winning runs paid dividends when Her Majesty was crowned leading owner in 1954.

Aureole spent a formative year at the Mondellihy Stud in County Limerick where aureolehe is said to have relished being chased by stud staff in the evenings as they attempted to retrieve him from the paddocks.

In 1952 Aureole was sent into training with Capt Cecil Boyd Rochfort (1887-1983) at Freemason Lodge Stables in Newmarket, he believed the best of Hyperion’s offspring were difficult and full of fire. Not unlike his relation, Hypericum, who unseated Doug Smith before the start of her 1946 classic triumph, Aureole certainly also had a habit of decanting his work riders on Newmarket Heath!

His two year career began on the 19th August 1952 in the six furlong Acomb Stakes at York’s Ebor meeting. Seemingly relishing the firm going, though running very green he came with a late run to win easily with stable jockey, Harry Carr (1916-85) on board. His only other appearance as a juvenile came in Newmarket’s prestigious Middle Park Stakes in October where he was unplaced.

After hitting the cross bar in Classic season 1954 turned out to be a much more fruitful campaign for Aureole, winning four of his five races. He not only benefited from Derby winnier Pinza being retired to stand at stud, but there were also some signs that his temper had mellowed, perhaps Dr Brook’s healing hands had had some affect.  Furthermore he had grown into his frame to become a strapping thoroughbred.

His only defeat came in his seasonal debut at Sandown in the Coronation Stakes over ten furlongs, finishing second behind Chamier, the 1953 Irish Derby winner. Not only was the trip too short for him, but he had also been boxed in on the rails, forcing Eph Smith (who had taken over the reins) to leave his run too late.  A fortnight later he easily won the Victor Wild Stakes at Kempton Park over 1m 4f by four lengths before the colt returned to Epsom for the Coronation Cup.

By now Aureole was developing into the premier four-year-old middle distance horse in Europe and at Epsom he again beat a familiar foe in Nearula, who came third, while Chatsworth was five lengths behind in 2nd place. Then followed a Royal winner at Royal Ascot as Aureole put in a determined performance to beat the French raider, Janitor, by a short head in the Hardwicke Stakes after a photograph, despite having to give the latter 7Ib’s.  Significantly Aureole had responded courageously to his jockey Eph Smith who had needed to use the whip to fight back against his Gallic opponent.

These two victories set up Aureole for what proved to be his final challenge the aureole-2King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on 17th July 1954. (The Queen’s colt had finished 2nd beaten three lengths by Pinza in the previous year’s race). The star studded field of 17 included overseas challenges, Janitor and Vamos (6th in 1953) from France, Italian Derby winner Botticelli and Irish horse Chamier. Also in the line up were the horses that finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the previous months Derby, Arabian Night, Darius and Elopement along with Rashleigh, who had beaten Derby winner Never Say Die at Royal Ascot in the King Edward VII Stakes (The Ascot Derby).

The race was run on ground described officially as dead, but most observers didn’t expect this to hinder Aureole who was made the 9/2 favourite.  Typically, Aureole was soon up to his usual tricks and unseated Eph Smith onto the soggy turf as he made his way to the start.  Fortunately both horse and jockey were able to continue though up at the start the colt played up and not surprisingly he was slow away when the tapes went up.

After a furlong he only headed one of the 17 runners.  Smith sensed the need to be up with the leaders in such testing conditions and by halfway he had joined the leading group.  Turning into the straight the royal colt was 2nd.  With two furlongs to go Smith kicked for home leaving Darius and Vamos as the only serious threats.  A furlong out the fast finishing Vamos almost reached Aureole’s quarters before Smith administered some sharp reminders with the whip inside the last 100 yards to hold off the French raider with Roger Poincelet on board.  The final margin of victory was three quarters of a length with Darius a further two lengths back in third.

The Queen was ecstatic hurrying down from her box to the members’ enclosure.  It was clearly an emotional experience for the young Queen to win the race named after her parents with a horse bred by her father.  Furthermore, like Estimate in the 2013 Ascot Gold Cup, her spontaneous reaction confirmed her great love of the turf.

An invitation to send Aureole to the USA for the Laurel Park International in the autumn was declined as it was felt he had proved himself the best middle distance horse in Europe.  Instead after winning seven races worth £36,224 from fourteen outings with three 2nds and two 3rd place finishes he retired to stand at Wolverton Stud, an annex of the Royal Stud at Sandringham.

Like his father, Aureole proved a champion sire.  He was responsible for English classic winning colts St Paddy (1960 Derby & St Leger), Aurelius (1961 St Leger) and Provoke (1965 St Leger).  He also sired St Crespin III the 1959 Prix de L’Arc De Triomphe winner and Sir Winston Churchill’s colt, Vienna (3rd in St Paddy’s St Leger) the sire of Vaguely Noble who won the Longchamp race in 1968.  Vaguely Noble was himself the champion sire in 1973 and 1974.

Aureole retired from stud duties in 1974 and died the following year at the age of 25.