Abernant (horse)

Abernant (1946–1970) was British Thoroughbred racehorse who is "considered by many as the greatest British sprinter of the 20th century," according to Godolphin Racing. In a racing career which lasted from May 1948 until 1950 he ran seventeen times and won fourteen races. He was the best British two-year-old of 1948 and returned from a narrow defeat in the 2000 Guineas to become the dominant sprinter in England in 1949 and 1950.

SireOwen Tudor
DamRustom Mahal (FR)
DamsireRustom Pasha
CountryGreat Britain
BreederCatherine Macdonald-Buchanan
OwnerReginald Macdonald-Buchanan
TrainerNoel Murless
Record17: 14-2-0
Major wins
Chesham Stakes (1948)
Middle Park Stakes (1948)
Champagne Stakes (1948)
National Breeders' Produce Stakes (1948)
King's Stand Stakes (1949)
July Cup (1949 & 1950)
Nunthorpe Stakes (1949 & 1950)
King George Stakes (1949 & 1950)
Timeform rating: 142
Timeform top-rated two-year-old colt (1948)
Timeform top-rated three-year-old colt (1949)
Timeform top-rated older male (1950)
Timeform top-rated horse (1949, 1950)[2]
Abernant Stakes at Newmarket Racecourse
Last updated on 6 November 2009


Abernant was a grey horse who was bred by Catherine Macdonald-Buchanan and raced in the colours of her husband Reginald Macdonald-Buchanan. He was sired by The Derby winner Owen Tudor, by Hyperion, a son of the English Triple Crown winner, Gainsborough. Abernant's dam, Rustam Mahal, was a non-winning daughter of Rustom Pasha and the very important broodmare Mumtaz Mahal who in turn was sired by The Tetrarch.[1] Abernant was a half brother to Kurdistan (by Tehran) who was a successful sire in New Zealand, siring among others, Baghdad Note, a winner of the Melbourne Cup.[3] Abernant was a dark-grey[4] horse during his racing career although like many grey horses, his coat lightened as he aged. Abernant was sent into training with Noel Murless at Beckhampton in Wiltshire.

Racing recordEdit

1948:two-year-old seasonEdit

Abernant was beaten on his debut in a race at Lingfield, but won his remaining five races in 1948. He won the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot, the National Breeders' Produce Stakes at Sandown, the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster (beating Nimbus by six lengths)[5] and the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket. His only serious challenge came in the National Stakes in which he had to be ridden out by Richards to beat Star King.

At the end of the year, he was rated the best British two-year-old in the Free Handicap.[2]

1949:three-year-old seasonEdit

On his first appearance as a three-year-old, Abernant won over seven furlongs at Bath and was then moved up to one mile to contest the one mile 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. He started favourite[6] at odds of 5/9 and led from the start under Gordon Richards. In the closing stages his stamina failed and he was caught and beaten a short head by Nimbus in the closest finish in the race's history.[7] Following his defeat at Newmarket, Abernant reverted to sprint distances and went through the rest of the season unbeaten.[8] His wins included the King's Stand Stakes, the July Cup, the King George Stakes and the Nunthorpe Stakes. In the Nunthorpe he won by five lengths despite only taking the lead inside the final furlong.[9]

1950:four-year-old seasonEdit

At age four in 1950, he was beaten in the King's Stand Stakes, when he failed to concede twenty-three pounds to the three-year-old Tangle. He won the Lubbock Sprint Stakes at Sandown Park Racecourse, to give Richards his 4000th winner.[3] He repeated as the easy winner of the July Cup, the Nunthorpe Stakes and the King George Stakes. He ended his career that year with fourteen wins from the seventeen races he entered.[8] On Abernant's retirement, Murless said that "there is nothing left for him to win".[10]


Abernant's Timeform rating of 142 equals that of Ribot as the fourth best ever awarded. In the years that followed his retirement, among the many accolades, The Independent newspaper wrote that Abernant "was the best sprinter ever to grace a racecourse."[11] Timeform rated Abernant the best horse of his generation in Europe at ages two, three and four years of age. He was the joint-highest rated horse of 1949 (with the stayer Alycidon) and the highest-rated horse of 1950.[2]

In their book A Century of Champions, John Randall and Tony Morris rated Abernant the best British sprinter of the century and the No. 20 horse in their global ranking, one place ahead of Man o' War.[12]

Gordon Richards described Abernant as the fastest horse he ever rode.[10]

Stud recordEdit

Abernant sired the winners of over 1,000 races including Abermaid (1962 1,000 Guineas Stakes), Even Star (Irish 1,000 Guineas), Welsh Rake (1963 Queen Anne Stakes) Zahedan (1965 National Stakes) and Thin Ice (Sanford Stakes).[13]

He died in 1970 at age twenty-four and is buried at Egerton Stud in Newmarket. In a recent interview with trainer Mark Tompkins, Julie Murless, the daughter of Abernant's trainer, recalled that the gentle horse loved children and as a child of five she would sit on his back.[14]


Pedigree of Abernant, grey stallion, 1946
Owen Tudor
Ch. 1930 
Gainsborough Bayardo
Selene Chaucer
Mary Tudor
Pharos Phalaris
Scapa Flow
Anna Bolena Teddy
Queen Elizabeth
Rustom Mahal
Rustom Pasha
Son-in-Law Dark Ronald
Mother in Law
Cos Flying Orb
Mumtaz Mahal
Gr. 1921 
The Tetrarch Roi Herode
Lady Josephine Sundridge
Americus Girl (Family: 9-c)[15]


  1. ^ a b Birch, Franklin E., Pedigrees of Leading Winners 1912–1959, The Thoroughbred Breeders Assoc., London, 1960
  2. ^ a b c Morris, Tony; Randall, John (1990). Horse Racing: Records, Facts, Champions (Third Edition). Guinness Publishing. p. 46. ISBN 0-85112-902-1.
  3. ^ a b "Champion's 4000th". The West Australian. 2 June 1950. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  4. ^ "HIS 4000 th WINNER". Central Queensland Herald. 15 June 1950. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  5. ^ "Champagne Stakes". Sydney Morning Herald. 9 September 1948. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  6. ^ "FAVORITE FOR U.K. CLASSIC". Barrier Miner. 22 April 1949. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  7. ^ "Nimbus wins 2000 Guineas". 28 April 1949 Indian Express. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
  8. ^ a b Mortimer, Roger; Onslow, Richard; Willett, Peter (1978). Biographical Encyclopedia of British Flat Racing. Macdonald and Jane's. ISBN 0-354-08536-0.
  9. ^ "Nunthorpe Stakes: Top 10 Nunthorpe-winning performances". Thefreelibrary.com. 18 August 2005. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
  10. ^ a b "Champion Horse Retires". Western Mail. 9 November 1950. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Morris, Tony; Randall, John (1999). A Century of Champions. Portway Press. ISBN 1-901570-15-0.
  13. ^ Abernant (GB) Retrieved on 11 June 2009
  14. ^ "Archive June 2007". Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 15 February 2007.
  15. ^ "Crab Mare – Family 9-c". Bloodlines.net. Retrieved 2 June 2012.