Sea Pigeon

Last updated
Sea Pigeon
Sire Sea-Bird
GrandsireDan Cupid
DamAround the Roses
Damsire Round Table
Sex Gelding
Country Ireland
Colour Brown
BreederGreentree Stud
Owner Jock Whitney
Pat Muldoon
Trainer Jeremy Tree
Gordon W. Richards
Peter Easterby
Record85: 37-?-?
Earnings£227,000 [1]
Major wins
Chester Cup (1977, 1978)
Ebor Handicap (1979)
Champion Hurdle (1980, 1981)
Scottish Champion Hurdle (1977, 1978)
Fighting Fifth Hurdle (1978, 1980)
Welsh Champion Hurdle (1980)
Timeforn rating 175

Sea Pigeon (19702000) was an American-bred, British-trained racehorse who excelled in both National Hunt and flat racing. In a racing career which lasted from 1972 until 1981 he competed in eighty-five races, and won thirty-seven times. He was best known for his performances in hurdle races when he won the Champion Hurdle on two occasions. He was also one of the best flat stayers of his era winning major handicap races under weights of up to 140 pounds. As a gelding, he was ineligible to compete in the most prestigious flat staying races, such as the Ascot Gold Cup. On his retirement he was described as Britain's "best known horse after Arkle and Red Rum. [1]



Sea Pigeon was a dark-brown horse bred by his owner, Jock Whitney at the Greentree Stud in the United States. [2] He was sired by the great Derby winner Sea Bird. Sea Pigeon's dam, Around the Roses, ran second in the Acorn Stakes and went on to produce the American turf champion Bowl Game. [3] As a yearling Sea Pigeon was sent into training with Jeremy Tree in England. [4]

Racing career

Sea Pigeon won once as a two-year-old in October 1972, when he was ridden to victory by Lester Piggott in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at Ascot. [5] In early 1973, he was considered a serious contender for the Classics. [6] He ran in the 1973 Epsom Derby and finished seventh behind Morston. [4] By the end of 1973, Sea Pigeon's indifferent form led to him being thought "ungenuine, highly-strung and difficult to handle." [5] He was subsequently gelded and was sold for £8,000 to Pat Muldoon, who sent the horse to National Hunt trainer Gordon W. Richards. [2]

After showing modest form on the flat in 1974, Sea Pigeon was switched to hurdles. In his first two seasons as a hurdler, he showed steadily improving form, winning several races and finishing placed behind notable hurdlers including Lanzarote and Birds Nest. In late 1976, after a defeat at Kempton, Sea Pigeon joined Peter (M.H.) Easterby's stable at Habton Grange near Malton, North Yorkshire. In the second half of the 1976–77 National Hunt season, he became a top-class performer in hurdle races, finishing fourth to his stable companion Night Nurse in the Champion Hurdle and winning the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr.

His flat career also started to blossom with a succession of wins in top handicaps - he won the Chester Cup in 1977 and 1978, and the Ebor Handicap carrying 10 stone, which is still a record, in 1979. Sea Pigeon was ridden to his Ebor win by his regular hurdles partner Jonjo O'Neill – due to the long ITV strike of that year, only those who were present at York that day saw it.

He missed the early part of the 1977–78 jumps season after being injured in the Colonial Cup but returned in spring to finish runner-up to Monksfield in the Champion Hurdle. He won a second Scottish Champion Hurdle, taking advantage of the fatal fall of Golden Cygnet at the final flight. In the following season, his best performances came when beating Birds Nest in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and finishing second again to Monksfield in the Champion Hurdle. Sea Pigeon suffered from injury problems in the autumn of 1979 but returned to form in spring 1980. He won the Champion Hurdle at his fourth attempt, beating Monksfield by seven lengths. [7] Before the end of the season, he added a victory in the Welsh Champion Hurdle. A year later, he won a second Fighting Fifth Hurdle and a second Champion Hurdle in March, becoming the oldest-ever winner of the race. In the Champion Hurdle, the performance of his jockey, John Francome, who replaced the injured O'Neill, has been described as one of the best in Cheltenham history. [7]

Having contracted a virus, shortly before the 1981 Aintree Festival, Sea Pigeon never recovered fully and ran poorly in two races in the autumn of 1981. He was retired just before the 1982 Cheltenham Festival. He had won 21 races from 40 starts over jumps and 16 races from 45 starts on the flat. [1]


During his retirement Sea Pigeon was housed with trainer Pat Rohan for some time and could often be seen having a stroll round the streets of Norton much to the joy of the locals. Later he spent twelve years under the care of Polly Teirney/Perkins at her yard in Sherriff Hutton, near Malton.

Even when Jonjo O'Neill turned his hand to training across the Pennines in Skelton, his bond with Sea Pigeon was far from over. The former jockey would often turn up unannounced just to spend some time with his old friend. This bond continued until Sea Pigeon was found to have irreparable damage to one of his pedal bones and was put to sleep on Tuesday 20 October 2000. He was buried at Easterby's Habton Grange stable, next to his stable companion and racecourse rival Night Nurse. [8]


Sea Pigeon was rated at 175 by Timeform for five consecutive seasons from 1976–77 to 1980–81. He was the highest rated hurdler in both his championship seasons and at the time of his retirement was the fifth-highest rated hurdler in the organisation's history. [9] Sea Pigeon now ranks in the top-16 all-time list. [10]

In their book A Century of Champions, John Randal and Tony Morris ranked Sea Pigeon the tenth best British or Irish hurdler of the 20th century. [11]


Pedigree of Sea Pigeon, brown gelding 1970
Sea-Bird (FR)
Dan Cupid (USA)
Native Dancer Polynesian
Vixenette Sickle
Lady Reynard
Sicalade (FR)
Sicambre Prince Bio
Around The Roses (USA)
Round Table (USA)
Princequillo Prince Rose
Knights DaughterSir Cosmo
Rose Coral (IRE)
Rockefella Hyperion
Lady Mary Rose Nearco
Rosemain (Family 26)

Related Research Articles

In horse racing in the United Kingdom, France and Republic of Ireland, National Hunt racing requires horses to jump fences and ditches. National Hunt racing in the UK is informally known as "jumps" and is divided into two major distinct branches: hurdles and steeplechases. Alongside these there are "bumpers", which are National Hunt flat races. In a hurdles race, the horses jump over obstacles called hurdles; in a steeplechase the horses jump over a variety of obstacles that can include plain fences, water jump or an open ditch. In the UK the biggest National Hunt events of the year are generally considered to be the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Sea Bird French-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Sea-Bird (1962–1973) was a French Thoroughbred racehorse and sire. In a career which lasted from 1964 until October 1965 he ran eight times and won seven races. Sea Bird is most famous for his victories in two of Europe's most prestigious races: the Derby and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. His Timeform rating of 145 remains the second highest flat figure behind Frankel's rating of 147 awarded by that publication.

Tony McCoy Northern Irish jockey

Sir Anthony Peter McCoy, commonly known as AP McCoy or Tony McCoy, is a Northern Irish former National Hunt horse racing jockey. Based in Ireland and the UK, McCoy rode a record 4,358 winners, and was Champion Jockey a record 20 consecutive times, every year that he was a professional. He stands 1.78 m (5'10"), taller than most jockeys.

The Champion Hurdle is a Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race in Great Britain which is open to horses aged four years or older. It is run on the Old Course at Cheltenham over a distance of about 2 miles and ½ furlong, and during its running there are eight hurdles to be jumped. The race is the last leg of the Triple Crown of Hurdling and is scheduled to take place each year on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival in March.

John Joseph "Jonjo" O'Neill is an Irish National Hunt racehorse trainer and former jockey. He is a native of Castletownroche, County Cork in Ireland. Based at the Jackdaws Castle training establishment in England. O'Neill twice won the British Champion Jockey title and won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the mare, Dawn Run who became the only horse to complete the double of winning the Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival. He won 900 races as a jockey.

Miles Henry 'Peter' Easterby is a retired British racehorse trainer. He was British jump racing Champion Trainer three times.

Tim Easterby is a British racehorse trainer based in North Yorkshire.

Gordon W. Richards

Gordon W. Richards was a British racehorse trainer specialising mainly in National Hunt racing. He trained two winners of the Grand National with Lucius in 1978 and Hallo Dandy in 1984.

Monksfield (1972–1989) was an entire horse Irish-trained National Hunt racehorse who won the Champion Hurdle in 1978 and 1979. He also won the Aintree Hurdle at Aintree Racecourse three times - including a dead-heat with Night Nurse, one of his two greatest rivals.

Golden Cygnet Irish-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Golden Cygnet was a racehorse who was described in the 1979 Irish Racing Annual by legendary Irish trainer Vincent O'Brien as "the best hurdler I've ever seen." His hurdling career lasted less than 5 months, as a result of the fatal injury he sustained in the 1978 Scottish Champion Hurdle.

Rhinestone Cowboy is an Irish bred racehorse. He was trained in England by Jonjo O'Neill. In a career which lasted from 2002 until 2007 he ran seventeen times and won ten races including two Grade I hurdle races.

Night Nurse was an Irish-bred English-trained National Hunt racehorse. Night Nurse garnered 35 wins, winning a total of £174,507 viz. He won 3 races on the flat at 3 and 4-years old and placed 3 times; he also won 32 National Hunt races, 19 wins over hurdles and 13 wins in steeplechases from 64 starts. He was awarded the highest Timeform rating ever given to a hurdler and has been acclaimed amongst the greatest ever hurdlers.

Birds Nest (1970–1994) was a British-bred thoroughbred racehorse. In a long career as a specialist hurdler he ran six times in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham Racecourse, finishing second to Night Nurse in 1976 and third behind Sea Pigeon and Monksfield in 1980. He won 19 hurdle races including the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and the Bula Hurdle on three occasions each. He also won the Christmas Hurdle and two runnings of the Scottish Champion Hurdle, beating some of the best hurdlers of all time. He has been described as the best hurdler never to win the Champion Hurdle. Throughout his career, he was known for being a difficult and temperamental horse, with a tendency to veer left when under pressure.

Collier Bay was a British Thoroughbred racehorse. He was a moderate performer on the flat, winning one minor race from fourteen attempts. He showed considerable improvement when switched to hurdling winning several important races including the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown and the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. He later had some success as a steeplechaser, but was increasingly affected by respiratory problems and was retired from racing in 2001.

Master Oats was a British Thoroughbred racehorse. A specialist steeplechaser, he ran twenty-one time and won ten races. He campaigned mainly at distances in excess of three miles and was particularly effective on soft or heavy ground. Over a period of sixteen months between November 1993 and March 1995 Master Oats won nine of his eleven races and improved from racing in minor handicaps to become the highest-rated staying chaser in Britain. His winning run culminated in a win in the 1995 Cheltenham Gold Cup. He also ran in three editions of the Grand National, twice carrying top weight. His later career was disrupted by injury and he failed to win again after his Gold Cup success. Master Oats was retired from racing in 1998 and died in 2012.

National Spirit was a British National Hunt horse best known for winning the Champion Hurdle twice, as well as the Rank Challenge Cup at Fontwell three times. He was one of the best hurdlers in the post-war era, and was also an excellent dual-purpose horse, winning several major races on the Flat. Along with Irish hurdler Hatton's Grace, National Spirit was one of the most popular horses of his time

Dessie Hughes was an Irish racehorse trainer and jockey. He was the father of British champion jockey, Richard Hughes, and won at the Cheltenham Festival as both jockey and trainer.

Intersky Falcon British-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Intersky Falcon is a retired British Thoroughbred racehorse who competed in National Hunt racing. He won eleven hurdle races and one steeplechase in a thirty-six race career which lasted from February 2001 until July 2006. He recorded his first major win when taking the Swinton Handicap Hurdle at Haydock Park Racecourse in May 2002. He went on to win the John James McManus Memorial Hurdle in Ireland in 2002 and 2003 and the Fighting Fifth Hurdle in 2002. Intersky Falcon's most notable achievement was to record back-to-back victories in the Christmas Hurdle, decisively defeating the reigning Champion Hurdler on each occasion. He never won at Cheltenham, but ran in four consecutive renewals of the Champion Hurdle, finishing fifth, third, sixth and eleventh.

Lochnager was a British Thoroughbred racehorse and sire. A specialist sprinter, he raced mainly in the North of England winning nine of his sixteen starts and was regarded as the best horse in Europe over sprint distances in 1976. He won one minor race as a two-year-old but made relentless progress when campaigned in handicap races in 1975, winning several valuable events. He emerged as a top-class performer as a four-year-old, establishing himself as the year's best sprinter with a run of four successive wins in the Temple Stakes, King's Stand Stakes, July Cup and William Hill Sprint Championship. He made little impact at stud, but was the damsire of Lochsong.

Silver Buck (1972–1984) was an Irish-bred racehorse who became a champion steeplechaser when trained in England by the Dickinson family. He was the winner of the 1982 Cheltenham Gold Cup, and the 1979 and 1980 runnings of the King George VI Chase. He was voted National Hunt Horse of the Year in 1982.


  1. 1 2 3 "Sea Pigeon Retired". Glasgow Herald. March 10, 1982. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  2. 1 2 "Sea Pigeon". Famous racehorses. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  3. "American Champion Turf Male". Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  4. 1 2 Davies, Ian (26 October 2000). "Champion Hurdler Sea Pigeon dies". The Independent. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  5. 1 2 "Ups and downs of the Sea Pigeon story". Glasgow Herald. December 1, 1982. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  6. "Sea Pigeon can win first Classic trial". Glasgow Herald. April 10, 1973. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  7. 1 2 "Cheltenham History - Sea Pigeon, Champion Hurdle". Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  8. Horse Racing. "Sea Pigeon joins an old friend". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  9. Morris, Tony; Randall, John (1990). Horse Racing: Records, Facts, Champions (Third Edition). Guinness Publishing. ISBN   0-85112-902-1.
  10. "Timeform's Greatest Horses". 3 August 2020. Retrieved 18 September 2021.
  11. Morris, Tony; Randall, John (1999). A Century of Champions. Portway Press. ISBN   1-901570-15-0.