Airborne (horse)

Airborne (1943 – 11 September 1962) was an Irish-bred British-trained Thoroughbred racehorse and sire. After showing little worthwhile form as a two-year-old, Airborne improved to become one of the leading three-year-olds in Britain in 1946. He won five successive races including two Classics: the Derby at Epsom and the St Leger at Doncaster. He was the most recent of four greys to have won the Epsom Classic.[2] Airborne went on to have a stud career of limited success.

Airborne horse 1947 circa.jpg
circa 1947
GrandsireHurry On
CountryUnited Kingdom
BreederHarold Boyd-Rochfort
OwnerJohn Ferguson
TrainerRichard Perryman
Record11: 4½-0-2[1]
Major wins
Epsom Derby (1946)
Princess of Wales's Stakes (1946)
St Leger (1946)
Last updated on 13 November 2011


Airborne was a tall, rangy grey horse bred at Castletown Geoghegan, County Westmeath,[3] in Ireland by Harold Boyd-Rochfort, the brother of the successful trainer Cecil Boyd-Rochfort. As a yearling he was sent to the sales where he was bought for 3,900 guineas [4] by the British plastics manufacturer and racehorse-breeder John Ferguson. Ferguson sent the colt to be trained by the former jockey Richard “Dick” Perryman[5] at his Beaufort House stables at Newmarket, Suffolk.

Airborne’s sire Precipitation was a top-class racehorse, best known for winning the Ascot Gold Cup in 1937. He went on to become a successful stallion, siring three other Classic winners in Why Hurry (Epsom Oaks), Premonition (St Leger) and Chamossaire (St Leger). Precipitation himself was sired by the unbeaten champion, Hurry On, making him a representative of the Godolphin Arabian sire line.[6] Airborne’s dam, Bouquet, from whom he inherited his grey colour, never ran in a race, but produced nine winners, the best of them, apart from Airborne, being a sprinter named Fragrant View.[4]

Racing careerEdit

1945: two-year-old seasonEdit

As a two-year-old, Airborne was extremely immature and failed to win in four starts, giving little indication of Classic potential,[4] although he did finish fourth to the future 1000 Guineas winner Hypericum in the Dewhurst Stakes.[7]

1946: three-year-old seasonEdit

In Airborne’s three-year-old debut, he finished third in a moderate race at Newmarket in April. Two weeks later, he returned to Newmarket and won a maiden race over one and a half miles.

The Derby of 1946 was the first to be run at Epsom since 1939, the course having been used as an anti-aircraft battery position during the war,[8] and the race attracted a huge crowd, estimated at up to 500,000, including the King and Queen.[9] Airborne, ridden by Tommy Lowrey, was an unconsidered outsider, starting at odds of 50/1 in a field of seventeen in a race run on soft ground.[10] In the early stages, Airborne was held up and was still well back turning into the straight. Gulf Stream took the lead in the last quarter mile as Lowrey pulled Airborne wide to produce a sustained run down the centre of the course. He caught Gulf Stream inside the final furlong and won by a length.[11]

Airborne reappeared in the Princess of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket in July where he took on older horses. He won his third successive race by beating the five-year-old Hardwicke Stakes winner Priam II. The following month, he ran at Newmarket for the fourth time that season and dead-heated with Fast and Fair in the Stuntney Stakes.[12] At Doncaster in September, he started 3/1 favourite for the St Leger, which was run before another huge crowd. He tracked the leaders before being sent to the front in the straight and winning "in magnificent style"[13] by one and a half lengths from Murren, with Fast and Fair third. It was a second win in the race for Perryman and Lowrey, who had been successful with Chamoissaire the previous year. On his final start of the season, Airborne was matched against the Grand Prix de Paris winner Souverain in the King George VI Stakes over two miles at Newmarket in October. Airborne started 4/5 favourite for a race which was publicised as an "international championship" for three-year-olds but finished third to the French colt, with the Irish Derby winner Bright News taking second.[14]

Attempts to train Airborne as a four-year-old, with the Ascot Gold Cup as his target,[15] ended in failure, and he was retired to stud without racing again.


In their book A Century of Champions, John Randall and Tony Morris rated Airborne an “inferior” Derby winner.[16]

Stud careerEdit

Airborne was not a success as a stallion. The best of his runners on the flat was the filly Silken Glider, who finished second in the Oaks and won the Irish Oaks in 1957. The best horse he sired was the Irish-trained jumper Flyingbolt. Airborne's progeny had won approximately £25,000 in stakes up until the end of 1955.[17] His last recorded foals were conceived in 1961.[18] He died on 11 September 1962 of heart failure.[19]


Pedigree of Airborne (IRE), grey stallion, 1943[20]
Ch. 1933
Hurry On
Marcovil Marco
Lady Villikins
Toute Suite Sainfoin
Double Life
Bachelor's Double Tredennis
Lady Bawn
Saint Joan Willbrook
Flo Desmond
Bouquet (GB)
Gr. 1932
B. 1916 
Sunstar Sundridge
Hamoaze Torpoint
Maid of the Mist
Gr. 1921 
Gay Crusader Bayardo
Gay Laura
Barrier Grey Leg
Bar the Way (Family: 10c)


  1. ^ a b Birch, Franklin E., Pedigrees of Leading Winners 1912-1959, The Thoroughbred Breeders Assoc., London, 1960
  2. ^ "Derby History". Archived from the original on 2011-11-14. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  3. ^ "Oscar Time primed for his chance in the Grand National spotlight". Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  4. ^ a b c Mortimer, Roger; Onslow, Richard; Willett, Peter (1978). Biographical Encyclopedia of British Flat Racing. Macdonald and Jane’s. ISBN 0-354-08536-0.
  5. ^ "Horseracing History Online - Person Profile : Richard Perryman". Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  6. ^ "Godolphin Arabian Line". Retrieved 2011-11-02.
  7. ^ "by Nigel Pullen". 2001-11-04. Archived from the original on 2011-11-27. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  8. ^ "Epsom Derby on Wednesday". The Age. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  9. ^ "Airborne is Derby winner". Lewiston Daily Sun. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  10. ^ "50/1 shot Airborne wins Derby". St. Joseph News-Press. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  11. ^ "Airborne wins the Derby". Indian Express. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  12. ^ "Charles Howard buys English 3 year old". Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  13. ^ "Airborne wins turf double". Indian Express. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  14. ^ "French horse is victorious". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  15. ^ "Scorns racing tradition". Windsor Daily Star. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  16. ^ Morris, Tony; Randall, John (1999). A Century of Champions. Portway Press. ISBN 1-901570-15-0.
  17. ^ Leicester, Sir Charles (1974). Bloodstock Breeding. London: J.A. Allen & Co. p. 365. ISBN 0-85131-129-6.
  18. ^ "Airborne Offspring". Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  19. ^ Weatherby (1965). "Obituary of stallions". The General Stud Book. 35: 1089–1092.
  20. ^ "English Derby Winner: Airborne". Retrieved 2011-11-12.

External linksEdit