Open main menu

Santa Claus (1961–1970) was a British-bred, Irish-trained Thoroughbred racehorse and sire. He is most notable for his achievements as a three-year-old in 1964 when he won the Irish 2,000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby, and the Irish Derby. His performances earned him the title of British Horse of the Year.

Santa Claus
Owner Mr J Ismay.svg
Racing silks of John Ismay
DamAunt Clara
DamsireArctic Prince
CountryUnited Kingdom
BreederDr F Smorfitt
OwnerJohn Ismay
TrainerMick Rogers
Record7: 4-2-0[1]
Major wins
National Stakes (1963)
Irish 2,000 Guineas (1964)
Epsom Derby (1964)
Irish Derby (1964)
Last updated on January 24, 2007


Santa Claus was a dark-coated bay stallion standing a little over 16.1 hands high, bred in Warwickshire by Dr F Smorfitt. He was sired by the St Leger winner Chamoissaire out of Aunt Clara, a mare who failed to win in her three racecourse appearances.

Santa Claus was first sent to the sales as a weanling in December 1961 at Newmarket, where he was sold for 800 guineas. A year later he was returned to the sales and was bought for 1,200 guineas by the Irish division of the British Bloodstock Agency acting on behalf of John Ismay and Mrs Darby Rogers. The colt was sent into training with Mrs Rogers' son, Mick Rogers, at the Curragh.[2]

Racing careerEdit

1963: two-year-old seasonEdit

Santa Claus made little impression on his debut, finishing unplaced in the six furlong Anglesey Stakes at the Curragh in August. A month later however, he ran in Ireland's most prestigious two-year-old race, the National Stakes, also at the Curragh. He won by eight lengths, establishing himself as a leading contender for the following year's Irish and British Classics.

1964: three-year-old seasonEdit

In 1964, Santa Claus won the Irish 2,000 Guineas. He started as even-money favourite and won by three lengths. At Epsom, he started favourite at odds of 15/8 for the Derby, in which he was ridden by the fifty-year-old Australian jockey Scobie Breasley. Santa Claus was reported to have arrived at the course under tight security as there were fears of a plot to interfere with the heavily backed colt to prevent him from winning.[3] A crowd estimated at over 200,000, including the Queen and other members of the British royal family, was in attendance to view the most valuable race ever run in Britain.[4] Breasley held the colt up in the early stages before producing him with a run down the centre of the course in the straight. Santa Claus took the lead inside the final furlong and won by a length from the future St Leger winner Indiana. After the race, Breasley called the colt "a dream to ride, a beaut."[5]

A month later, Santa Claus started 4/7 favourite for the Irish Derby at the Curragh and won by four lengths from Lionhearted.[6] At Ascot, he was the shortest-priced favourite in the history[7] of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, starting at odds of 2/13 against three opponents. In one of British racing's biggest upsets[8] he failed to catch the front-running French colt Nasram and was beaten two lengths,[9] having been unsuited by the unusually firm ground.[2]

More firm ground in the autumn led to Santa Claus missing the St Leger and going straight for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October. He finished second of the twenty-two runners, beaten three quarters of a length by the outsider Prince Royal.[10]

Assessment and achievementsEdit

Santa Claus was named British Horse of the Year by the Bloodstock Breeders' Review, gaining 10 of the 20 votes. His highest Timeform rating was 133+[11] Santa Claus's second place in the Arc took his total earnings to £153,646, enabling him to overtake Ballymoss as the biggest prize-money winner in the history of British and Irish racing. He held the record until his total was surpassed by Ribocco in 1967.[11]

In their book A Century of Champions, John Randall and Tony Morris rated Santa Claus as an “average” Derby winner and the fifteenth-best Irish racehorse of the 20th century.[12]

Stud careerEdit

Santa Claus was retired in 1965 to stand at stud[13] in Ireland after being sold at the end of his racing career for £400,000.[14] He had some success as a stallion but had little opportunity to distinguish himself as he died of thrombosis in 1970.[2] His best offspring included the Irish Classic winners Reindeer (Irish St. Leger) and Santa Tina (Irish Oaks).


Santa Claus can trace his descent to the Godolphin Arabian and became his last descendant to win the Derby (as of 2013).[15]

Pedigree of Santa Claus (GB), bay stallion, 1961[16]
Chamossaire (GB)
Precipitation (GB)
Hurry On Marcovil
Toute Suite
Double Life Bachelors Double
Saint Joan
Cameronian Pharos
Una Cameron
Myrobella Tetratema
Aunt Clara (GB)
Arctic Prince
Prince Chevalier Prince Rose
Arctic Sun Nearco
Solar Flower
Sister Clara
Scarlet Tiger Colorado
Clarence Diligence
Nuns Veil (Family: 3-o)


  1. ^ "Santa Claus Horse Pedigree". Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Derby Favorite Heavily Guarded". Star-News. Jun 2, 1964. pp. 11 of 27. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  4. ^ "Santa Claus wins Epsom Derby". The Telegraph-Herald. Jun 3, 1964. Retrieved 2011-12-30.
  5. ^ "Favored Santa Claus Wins Richest Epsom Derby Race". Lodi News-Sentinel. Jun 4, 1964. pp. 9 of 10. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  6. ^ "Aptly Named Santa Claus Wins Derby". Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. Jun 27, 1964. pp. 1 of 43. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  7. ^ "Ribot – very best of an elite; A CENTURY OF RACING. – Free Online Library". Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  8. ^ "A Roundup Of The Sports Information Of The Week – 07.27.64 – SI Vault". 1964-07-27. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  9. ^ "American Colt Wins". Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. Jul 18, 1964. pp. 1 of 37. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  10. ^ "France: Italian Horse Wins Prix Of L'Arc De Triomphe Europe'S Richest Classic". 1964-10-04. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  11. ^ a b Morris, Tony; Randall, John (1990). Horse Racing: Records, Facts, Champions(Third Edition). Guinness Publishing. ISBN 0-85112-902-1.
  12. ^ Morris, Tony; Randall, John (1999). A Century of Champions. Portway Press. ISBN 1-901570-15-0.
  13. ^ "Santa Claus Dies". Evening Times. February 14, 1970. p. 11. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  14. ^ New Scientist – Google Books. 1985-06-06. Retrieved 2012-01-10.
  15. ^ History of Thoroughbreds on (version of February 1, 2014, retrieved from on January 4, 2015).
  16. ^ "English Derby Winner: Santa Claus". Retrieved 2011-12-29.

External linksEdit