Irish Elegance

Irish Elegance (7 March 1915 – February 1940) was a British racehorse and sire. A non-Thoroughbred horse who excelled at sprint distances and carried big weights to victory in major handicap races, he has been described as Britain's "greatest handicapper and second best sprinter" of the 20th century.[1]

Irish Elegance
Irish Elegance.jpg
Irish Elegance photographed by W A Rouch in 1919
SireSir Archibald
DamSweet Clorane
Foaled7 March 1915
CountryUnited Kingdom
BreederA Frogley
OwnerJames White
TrainerHarry Cottrill
Record16: 8-3-3
Major wins
Cambridgeshire Hunt Cup (1918)
Royal Hunt Cup (1919)
July Cup (1918)
Salford Borough Handicap (1919)
Portland Handicap (1919)


Irish Elegance was large,[2] powerful, exceptionally good-looking[3] chestnut with white socks on his hind legs bred by A Frogley and foaled on 7 March 1915.[4] He was not a Thoroughbred: his damsire Clorane was descended from a "half-bred" mare whose ancestry was not recorded in the General Stud Book.[5] His sire, Sir Archibald, won the New Stakes and finished second in the 2000 Guineas. His dam Sweet Clorane also produced Cloringo, a steeplechaser who won the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup at Cheltenham in 1926. The colt was sent into training with Harry Cottrill who trained at Tarporley in Cheshire before moving south to Foxhill, Wiltshire in 1919. Irish Elegance was named after a variety of tea rose.[1]

As a two-year-old, Irish Elegance did not race but showed considerable promise in training. He was bought for £2000 by Mr Thorburn, who later sold him for £9000 to the financier James White.[6]

Racing careerEdit

1918: three-year-old seasonEdit

In June 1918, Irish Elegance ran at Newmarket in the Cambridgeshire Hunt Cup, a wartime substitute race for Royal Ascot's Royal Hunt Cup, and won "in a canter"[7] by two lengths in a time of 1:24.8.[8] He then won the July Cup over six furlongs at Newmarket. In October he finished third of the twenty-two runners behind Zinovia and Dansellon in the Cambridgeshire Handicap,[9] apparently failing to stay the nine furlong distance.[10]

1919: four-year-old seasonEdit

On 14 June 1919, Irish Elegance won the Salford Borough Handicap by six lengths under a weight of 135 pounds. Four days later he carried 137 pounds in the Royal Hunt Cup against 25 opponents.[11] The Royal Ascot meeting on 1919 was said to mark a "revival of pre-war splendour", with a record crowd which included King George V and Queen Mary.[12] Irish Elegance started joint-favourite with the King's horse Jutland and won easily after leading from the start,[13] setting a record for the highest weight ever carried to victory in the race.[14] At Goodwood Racecourse on 29 July he was assigned a weight of 142 pounds in the Stewards' Cup and finished second to King Sol.[15] Irish Elegance was beaten three-quarters of a length by the winner, to whom he was conceding forty-four pounds and appeared to be a rather unlucky loser, having lost ground at the start.[2] By this time he was acknowledged as the best horse in England at distances up to a mile[16] and "the most famous horse of the era".[17]

On 12 September he carried 142 pounds in the Portland Handicap at Doncaster Racecourse. He took the lead a furlong from the finish[18] and drew clear of the field in the closing stages to win very easily by three lengths. After this performance, he was described as "not only the fastest horse of the present generation, but probably the fastest there has been".[19] His rider, the Australian Brownie Carslake said "I have never ridden a horse like Irish Elegance. He gives his rider a grand feel. His action is of the smoothest, as he swings along in a stride that is almost effortless."[3]


In their book A Century of Champions, based on a modified version of the Timeform system, John Randall and Tony Morris retrospectively rated Irish Elegance the best horse foaled anywhere in the world in 1915, ahead of The Derby winner Gainsborough. He was also rated the second-best British or Irish-trained sprinter of the 20th century behind Abernant.[1]

Stud recordEdit

Irish Elegance was retired from racing to become a breeding stallion, starting at a fee of 200 guineas, despite his non-Thoroughbred status.[20] He was an almost total failure as a sire of winners and struggled to attract top-class mares.[21] One of his daughters, Elegant Girl was the grand-dam of the Champion Hurdle winner Doorknocker. Irish Elegance was euthanised in February 1940.[22][1]


Pedigree of Irish Elegance (GB), chestnut stallion, 1915[23]
Sir Archibald (GB)
Desmond (GB)
St Simon Galopin
St Angela
L'Abbesse de Jouarre Trappist
Arc Light (GB)
Prism Uncas
Petrel Peter
Electric Light
Sweet Clorane (GB)
Clorane (GB)
Castlereagh Speculum
Lady Trespass
May Girl Victor
May Day
Little Twin (GB)
Tertius Maruis of Carabas
Little Jane
Polpetti Macaroni
Molly Carew (Family: 4-o)[25]


  1. ^ a b c d Morris, Tony; Randall, John (1999). A Century of Champions. Portway Press. ISBN 978-1-901570-15-1.
  2. ^ a b "THE TURF IN ENGLAND". Hobart Mercury. 27 September 1919. Retrieved 2013-07-07.
  3. ^ a b "TURF NOTES". Auckland Star. 22 November 1919. Retrieved 2013-07-07.
  4. ^ Staff (12 July 1919). "Swift Irish Elegance and his dam". Daily Racing Form. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
  5. ^ "RACING NEWS". Auckland Star. 28 June 1919. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  6. ^ "NOTES AND COMMENTS". Wanganui Chronicle. 2 September 1919. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  7. ^ "SPORTING INTELLIGENCE. TURF TOPICS". Brisbane Courier. 29 August 1918. Retrieved 2013-07-07.
  8. ^ "ENGLISH RACING". Evening Post. 22 June 1918. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  9. ^ "CAMBRIDGESHIRE STAKES". Evening Post. 1 November 1918. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  10. ^ "THE WORLD OF SPORT". Adelaide Advertiser. 15 Jan 1919. Retrieved 2013-07-07.
  11. ^ "RACING IN ENGLAND". Otago Daily Times. 20 June 1919. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  12. ^ "ASCOT RACES". Ashburton Guardian. 19 June 1919. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  13. ^ "ENGLISH RACING". Hawera & Normanby Star. 20 June 1919. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  14. ^ "RACING NEWS". Auckland Star. 21 June 1919. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  15. ^ "SPORTING". Press. 2 August 1919. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  16. ^ "SPORTING NOTES". Western Argus. 25 November 1919. Retrieved 2013-07-07.
  17. ^ "THE TURF IN ENGLAND. BANK HOLIDAY RACE MEETINGS". Hobart Mercury. 10 October 1919. Retrieved 2013-07-07.
  18. ^ "THE TURF". Northern Advocate. 2 December 1919. Retrieved 2013-07-07.
  19. ^ "ENGLISH. RACING". Grey River Argus. 13 November 1919. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  20. ^ "SPORTING NEWS. THE TURF. THE WEEK'S FIXTURES". The West Australian. 16 Dec 1919. Retrieved 2013-07-07.
  21. ^ Mortimer, Roger; Onslow, Richard; Willett, Peter (1978). Biographical Encyclopedia of British Flat Racing. Macdonald and Jane's. ISBN 0-354-08536-0.
  22. ^ Staff (3 September 1940). "The great deeds of Clorane". The Irish Times.
  23. ^ Staff (2 October 1919). "Irish Elegance a lifetime horse". Daily Racing Form. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
  24. ^ "Sir Archibald pedigree". Equineline. 2012-05-08. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  25. ^ "Thoroughbred Bloodlines – Partner Mare – Family 4-o". Retrieved 2013-07-06.