When Sceptre went to Epsom searching for more Classic Glory

27th May 2019

As we enter the week of the Investec Derby Festival this week’s Palace House blog returns to the story of Sceptre, who in 1902 travelled to Epsom already a dual Classic winner. Guest blogger Grenville Davies reviews the summer of 1902 when Sceptre went to Epsom searching for more Classic Glory.

With Sceptre having proved far superior to any other three-year-old around, whether it be colt or filly, racing eyes looked upon her to complete the same double at Epsom that she had achieved at Newmarket – by winning both classics.

Come the Derby, Sceptre was backed both by Mr and Mrs Joe Public as well the buffs, while a certain Sceptre’s owner Robert Sievier had backed her to win over £30,000 – over £3.5 million in today’s money;

One horse though that did catch the eye of some, and you had to be both at Newmarket and quick, as there were no constant replays that we get now, was Ard Patrick’s outing in the 2,000 Guineas behind Sceptre. Ard Patrick had many a thing in common with Sceptre, he was like her a second-generation descendant of St. Simon. His dam was a full-sister to an Oaks winner, whilst his sire’s half-sister had also won the Oaks and like Sceptre, he was closely related to a Triple-Crown winner (1897) in Galtee More who was his half-brother. So like Sceptre, Ard Patrick was very much in bred in the purple but unfortunately their owners were not.


Whereas Robert Sievier’s wealth was gained through his wits, Ard Patrick’s owner - John Gubbins, was gained through inheriting a large fortune from a late uncle. Both though were more than willing to take on the establishment, even if Sievier deep-down wanted to be accepted into racing society.

Derby Day was cold and rainy, conditions that cannot have helped Sceptre as she had missed some work due to a bruised foot and was short of a gallop or two but the public put their faith in the filly as she started even money favourite, with Ard Patrick third favourite at 100-14.

Sceptre dwelt a little at the start, which cannot have helped her cause, especially as her jockey rushed her up, to make up the lost ground. By the time Tattenham Corner was reached, cheers were being heard from the stands but they were not to last long, for a furlong later she was seen to be floundering. By the time the post was reached Ard Patrick was an easy three length winner from Rising Glass, with Sceptre well beaten in fourth. The result just added to the crowd’s feeling of dismay, as they were already depressed enough due to the inclement weather.

Two days later in the Oaks, the only amazing thing was that Sceptre was allowed to go off favourite at 5-2 and Herbert Randall made no mistake this time, as she ran out a three-length winner from Glass Jug, Randall’s time though was definitely in short supply.


Less than ten days after her Epsom triumph, she made a visit to Paris, which was then a rare sojourn for English trained raiders. The reputation of French jockeys’ attitude towards their English compatriots just added extra spice to the race and this would have a major bearing on the result. It was to be Longchamp’s Grand Prix de Paris, run over one mile seven furlongs, a virtual marathon for a young horse in the middle of their three-year-old season. In the race itself, Randall gave the outside to no one and observers reckon that she must have covered 50 yards more than any of her rivals, only to be beaten less than three lengths at the line by Kizil Kourgan.

Royal Ascot beckoned next and yet again she did not have an easy time of it, even showing a rare sign of recalcitrance; this came about in the Coronation Stakes, where she threw her jockey Herbert Randall at the start. Favourite that day at 7-4 was Glass Jug, who had been easily beaten by Sceptre at Epsom. Sceptre started second favourite at 9-4 but both were well beaten by Doctrine, a 100-7 chance, Sceptre though did have to carry at least 14Ibs more than the rest of the field.  She lost ground very soon after the start and was tailed off before her jockey rushed her up on the home turn and as far as Sievier was concerned, this was more than enough and Randall was duly sacked, many would say that it had not come soon enough.

Redemption for Sceptre came a day later, in the St James's Palace Stakes, in which she had little trouble in winning by a length and a half at 9-4. What should be noted is, that only two days earlier both Rock Sand and Ard Patrick won their respective races at Royal Ascot. These two horses would meet Sceptre a year later in what would be deemed the “Race of the Century”, even though the century was only three years old – it would not disappoint.

Before that though there would be the St. Leger in September and yes, you’ve guessed it more races before that…

Blog by guest blogger Grenville Davies