"Brigadier Gerard, foaled in 1968 by Queen's Hussar out of La Paiva, Harsh Thakor"
Purely on the basis of the racing record this great horse is possibly the best British racehorse of the 20th Century. The Brigadier won 17 races from 18 starts, including winning 15 consecutive races between 1971 and 1972. Even the Mill Reef's and Nijinsky's have not equaled this!.
Brigadier Gerard was owned and bred by John Hislop, former champion amateur jockey, journalist, breeding expert and adviser, and company director, succeeded in many branches of the Sort but had yet not become rich.
Brigadier Gerard was hardly well-bred. John had sent his breeding mare of average class pedigree to Queen's Hussar,a mediocre stallion whose nomination fee had dropped to 200 Guineas. No one could imagine that the result of this mating would result in a superstar!. The colt was sent to be schooled at Dick Hern's stable in West Ilsey. He had an almost perfect confirmation.
As a 2 year old, Brigadier Gerard was unbeaten in all his 4 starts, including the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket. In that race, the colt staged a sparkling performance.
Mummy's Pet, the Hyperion Stakes and Norfolk Stakes winner, started as 6 to 5 on favourite followed by Swing Easy, the New Stakes, July Stakes and Richmond Stakes winner at 9 to 4 on, with the Brigadier at odds of 9 to 2. The Brigadier snatched the lead in the dip, travelling marginally ahead of Swing Easy and Mummys's Pet. On reaching the two furlong pole it appeared that Mummy's Pet would cruise into the lead Brigadier Gerard quickened like a truly good horse and coasted away to win by 3 lengths.
At the end of his two-year-old career, he was rated marginally below Mill Reef and My Swallow. Never in the history of flat racing have three such champion class 2 year olds raced together.
The following year, the Brigadier's main target was the 2,000 Guineas. The field for that year was one of the strongest in the history of the classic. Mill Reef started as favourite at odds of 6 to 4, followed by My Swallow at 2 to 1, with Brigadier Gerard opening at 11 to 2.
My Swallow, the leading 3 year old of the previous season, set the pace in the center of the course, with Mill Reef close on his quarters. Brigadier Gerard tracked the pair followed by Minsky. On entering the dip, Minsky had faded out and only the three fancied horses were left in the race.Just as it seemed that Mill Reef would take the lead the Brigadier simply cruised like a missile past the two leaders to win by a long-looking 3 lengths.
It was one of the best performances ever seen in the Guineas and in conquering Mill Reef the Brigadier had effortlessly beaten one of the superstars of the 20th Century!. After the race a lot of Mill Reef's fans felt that Minsky had contributed greatly to hisdownfall, by intimidating him in the pre-parade ring. There is no doubt in my mind that even if that were true the margin might have been less, but the Brigadier had truly wonthe race on merit.
John Hislop truly believed that his colt was not a true stayer and thus did not enter Brigadier Gerard in the Derby. The Brigadier was now made to skip all the plum middle dislance events like the King George and Eclipse and entered in the top mile events. This denied racing spectators a clash between two of the greatest horses ever seen in racing as Mill Reef's subsequent performances were worthy of comparison with any of the great horses of the Century (In the Derby, Eclipse, King George and Arc).
The Brigadier simply devoured his rivals in the Sussex Stakes, winning by 5 lengths from Faraway Son, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the Goodwood Mile (thrashing Gold Rod by 10 lengths!) and the St.James Palace Stakes. He simply slaughtered his rivals like a tiger crushing his prey. However, at the end of the season, the great horse snatched victory from the near jaws of defeat with a short-head victory in the Champion Stakes, beating the Irish colt Rarity by a short head in very heavy going. At the end of the season, he was outvoted by Mill Reef for the title of the horse of the year.
As a 4 year old, the colt's exploits will never be forgotten in the annals of racing. He made his seasonal debut in the Lockinge Stakes. Here he did not unduly impress his fans who expected him to cruise to victory. The colt went into the lead halfway in the race but two furlongs from home had to be hard ridden to hold of Grey Mirage, who he spared 2anda half lengths at the winning post.
His next race was in the Westbury Stakes at Sandown. Here, he was to concede weight to Pembroke (10lb.), Castle and Ballyhot (14lb). Ballyhot set the pace leading the Brigadier into the straight. With a furlong to go Brigadier Gerard bolted into the lead but struggled to save his position sparing only half a length to runner-up Ballyhot.
The great colt however gained a most impressive victory in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Ascot defeating Irish Derby winner Steel Pulse by 5 lengths at the line. Brigadier Gerard was well settled in second place from the start and after receiving a backhander cruised into the lead. Within two furlongs, he stretched a lead of 5 lengths. Pembroke Casle finished sixth and a half lengths behind him, while Prominent, who subsequently won the Magnet Cup at York carrying top-weight, finished 12 lengths behind in fouth place.
Now, the stage was set for a return clash in the Eclipse Stakes between the two giants, Mill Reef and Brigadier Gerard. Many termed this 'the race of the Century.'It was reminescent of seeing a Chist and a Buddha together !Alas!. This was not to occur as Mill Reef was not at his best in his morning gallops after an attack of Virus. In the paddock, the Brigadier seemed uneasy and often had to be cooled down.The going was heavy and this looked against the Champion. Two furlongs from home, the colt accelerated into the lead and Joe Mercer had to whip his ward to enable it to beat the runner-up Gold Rod by a length. The Brigadier had run well below his best.A lot of critics, blamed the going but it must be stated that Brigadier Gerard had slaughtered Faraway Son in the Sussex Stakes in 1971 in equaly adverse conditions.
The Brigadier was now entered in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Royal Ascot. This was the first time the Brigadier was entered in a mile and a half race, that too in the most prestigiousrace with the Arc, in the European race-horse calendar.
Brigadier Gerard faced worthy opponents in Riverman, winner of the French 2,000 Guineas, Steel Pulse, winner of the Irish Derby,Gay Lusaac, the Italian Derby winner and Parnell, the Irish St.Leger winner. Parnell set the pace with the Hardwicke Stakes winner Selhurst but after halway Parnell drew clear. Mercer kept his colt in check for the first half of the race.However on approaching the turn he pushed his mount into second place, two lengths behind Parnell. Two furlongs from home, Brigadier Gerard drew alongside Parnell having moved into top gear. However the Brigadier began to veer towards his right. Mercer now, cracked the whip to prevent him from bumping into Parnell. Now, the Brigadier shot past Parnell but again began to veer sharply across the rails.
Fortunately for Brigadier Gerard's supporters, he had a length and a half to spare over Parnell at the post. However to their great anxiety a stewards enquiry was lodged into whether Brigadier Gerard had seriously interfered with Parnell. However the patrol film confirmed that though Brigadier Gerard had hung towards the rails, Parnell had also hung to the left. Thus the enquiry was overruled and to the great relief of The Brigadier's supporters the result stood.
For a horse bred for a mile, it was an absolutely top-class performance. Riverman finished 5 1/2 lenghts behind Parnell, while Steel Pulse finished fourth, two lengths behind Riverman. This showed the greatness of the Brigadier's performance.
The world of racing expected the last possible time they may have witnessed Mill Reef and Brigadier Gerard race together, in the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup. History repeated itself!.Due to a setback, Mill Reef had to be withdrawn.It seemed a one-horse race. However in the race spectators witnessed one of the greatest upsets in the history of sport!. This defeat was reminiscent of Napoleon losing the battle of Waterloo or Hitler losing the Battle of Stalingrad.
The Brigadier had been beaten for the first time in 16 starts and thus was prevented from equaling Citation and Ribot's victories of 11 straight wins. Roberto set a scorching post and was ridden with absolute mastery by the American Braulio Baeza. Mercer kept his colt within close distance of Roberto, but in the straight, when he asked Brigadier Gerard to respond, he simply failed to. A furlong from home, Mercer had given up hope.Racing's Muhammad Ali had been defeated and the reaction of spectators resembled the time when that legend lost his boxing crown.
What was the chief cause of his defeat? Was the Brigadier not at his best? Both Roberto and Brigadier Gerard broke the course record. The pace Braulio Baeze astride Roberto was so blistering that the Brigadier simply couldn't cope with it. American jockeys like Baeza are masters at riding front-running races using such tactics. That day Baeza gave a supreme exhibition of how to use front-running tactics.Even the maestro Lester Piggot could have learned a lesson or two from that! However most racing analysts concluded that the Brigadier was simply not himself that day.
The Brigadier made ample amends for his defeat with a truly spectacular performance in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. He conceded 7 lb to Sparkler.In the race a scorching pace had been set and the Brigadier had lost 3 or 4 lengths, taking a long time to get into his stride.
However, Mercer pushed him and the colt improved his position close behind leaders Redundant and Sparkler. Two furlongs from home, Mercer made a thrust. Brigadier Gerard simply bolted ahead in twenty strides and thundered past Sparkler to win by 6 lengths.Redundant finished 5 lengths behind. Brigadier Gerard's timing was 1 second within the record timing. Brigadier Gerard simply treated the field like starters hacks. He had turned in one of his most memorable performances. It was one of the best performances of a racehorse witnessed over a mile.
In his final race, which was, the Champion Stakes at Newmarket, Brigadier Gerard faced the class French colt Riverman. Mercer tucked him behind the leaders and in the straight.Three furlongs from home, he drew into the lead. Riverman came from behind to give a late challenge but at the line the Brigadier had a length and a half to spare. Racing fans were delighted to see the Brigadier triumph in his farewell appearance in racing and he received a tremendous ovation in the unsaddling enclosure, reminiscent of what horses like Ribot, Sea Bird and Nijinsky, received on their final appearances. It was a truly emotional moment for racing fans who were seeing the colt for the last time at the racecourse.
Brigadier Gerard was retired at the Egerton Stud.
He had earned 243,924 pounds, more than any horse had earned in Britain. Twentyfour shares in him were sold to selected breeders at 25,000 pounds each. It was a great relief to English supporters that he was kept in Britain and not exported to the United States. Sadly the Brigadier hardly made a great impact at Stud. His best progeny were the 1980 St Leger winner Light Cavalry and Vayraan, the Champion Stakes winner.
Where does Brigadier Gerard rank when compared to the great horses of the Century?
The great horse statistically has the best record for a British trained horse of 15 consecutive wins, better than Mill Reef, Sea Bird and Nijinsky.
Brigadier Gerard was one of the greatest horse of the Century upto a mile. Few performances by milers in the last century could live upto the Brigadier's demolishing of Sparkler in the 1972 Queen Elizabeth Stakes or his 1971 Guineas victory over My Swallow and Mill Reef.
In the last century, only Tudor Minstrel could compare with him. At a mile a half, I would personally even rate horses like Troy or Crepello, at least equal. Over ten furlongs, I am almost certain that Mill Reef and Ribot would have crushed him, while Nijinsky, Vaguely Noble or Shergar would have if not thrashed at least convincingly beaten him.
Though the Brigadier won a good King George, that mile and a half performance nor his Champion Stakes performance can compare with MillReef's 6 length King George and 4 length Eclipse win, Nijinsky's effortless 1970 King George win, Sea Bird'd 1965 Arc victory, Ribot's 1956 Arc win, Dancing Brave's Eclipse and Arc victories in 1986 or Shergar's 10n length Derby win.
However, I am sure that, he could have convincingly beaten all these horses over a mile. In the final analysis, as a result of his remarkable consistency over two seasons, he should be placed only behind Sea Bird, given equal rating to Mill Reef and Ribot and be marginally placed above other greats such as Dancing Brave, Nijinsky, Vaguely Noble and Shergar.
Taking all factors into account, I came to this conclusion (I disagree with timeform rating him a better horse at 144 than Ribot rated at 142 and Mill Reef rated at 141). Normally the ability of a horse to perform at a mile and a half is always given preference but it must not be overlooked that the Brigadier won a good King George,despite being a phenomenal miler!
We may never see the likes of such a miler again!
Brigadier Gerard's Pedigree