Jump to: navigation, search


For other meanings see Diomede (disambiguation) and Diomedes (disambiguation).

Diomed, foaled in 1777, was an English-bred Thoroughbred race horse who won the inaugural running of the Epsom Derby and was subsequently a successful sire in the United States of America.

Diomed "the Marvel"
Sire Florizel
Dam Mare (1763) by Spectator
Grandsire Herod
Damsire Spectator
Gender Stallion
Foaled 1777
Country Great Britain
Color Chestnut
Breeder Honorable Richard Vernon of Newmarket
Owner Sir Charles Bunbury, 6th Baronet
Record 20: 11-5-3
Diomed is a thoroughbred racehorse out of Mare (1763) by Spectator by Florizel. He was born around 1777 in Great Britain, and was bred by Honorable Richard Vernon of Newmarket.
Diomed Stakes Epsom Downs Racecourse
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)
Last updated on August 24, 2007


Bright Beginnings

A bright chestnut standing 15 hands 3 inches[1] he was named after the Ancient Greek hero Diomedes, he was by the unraced Florizel out of the unraced Pastorella's Dam, aka Sister to Juno (both going back to the Godolphin Arabian, and Sister to Juno going back as well to Darley Arabian), Diomed was bred by the Hon. Richard Vernon and owned by Sir Charles Bunbury.[1] He was started 19 times, winning 11, placing in 4, and showing in 3. This means he was out of the money only once if things then were as they are now.

Of these eleven wins, ten were consecutive, which included the inaugural running of the Epsom Derby in 1780. During these early bright years of Diomed's life, he was considered by many to be the best colt seen in Britain since the great English Eclipse, known as the Thoroughbred Eclipse.

He was allowed to rest for a while, but when he was brought back to the races, he wasn't the same horse. Sometimes he would win, and sometimes he wouldn't win, and more often the latter than the former. His last win was a King's Plate in four mile heats carrying 168 pounds.

Long dull years

Sir Charles retired Diomed to stud. His fee was five guineas, or about $25. (In England Diomed sired Grey Diomed who went to Russia where he was a great success, and also Young Giantess, who foaled Sorcerer and Eleanor.[1]) There were few takers, and for the next decade or so, Diomed's fee went down and down until, by the age of 21, it was two guineas. By then, there were virtually no takers, so the old stallion did nothing but graze alone.[2]

The New World

At what seemed an advanced age, an age when stallions usually retire, Sir Charles offered to sell the 21 year old Diomed. An American called Colonel John Hoomes of Bowling Green, Virginia bought him for $250, and then shipped him to Virginia where he was returned to stud in 1798. Aside from importing bloodstock into the US, Hoomes also maintained his own racing stable and sizeable stud service in which his good friend, another influential horseman of the time, John Tayloe III, was a partner. Although Hoomes and Tayloe's English agent wrote Hoomes a letter stating very clearly that Diomed was "...a tried and true bad foal-getter," and strongly recommending he not be put to stud, they were unswayed. Besides being personally impressed with the horse, a stallion of Tayloe's had also recently hurt himself, and Tayloe was in immediate need of a stud to replace him. Diomed went to work.[2]

In those days, stallions did not stand in one place, but moved from stud farm to stud farm. Diomed lived like this until he was thirty-one years old and was active to his very last days. His fee increased with his fame and his fame increased so quickly that Hoomes was able to sell a share in him for six times his purchase price soon after he set all four hooves on American soil.[2]

Brilliant endings

Diomed, along with Medley, Shark, and Messenger, were the four most important stallions introduced into early American bloodstock. Diomed threw many of the greatest horses in American turf history: Haynie's Maria, who beat every horse she met until she was nine, and about whom Andrew Jackson said, "...Haynie's Maria can beat anything in God's whole creation,"[2] the undefeated Ball's Florizel famous for his bad temper), Potomac, Duroc (sire of American Eclipse), and surely his greatest son of all, Sir Archy. Sir Archy had a huge influence on Thoroughbred history, siring the line which led to Timoleon, Boston, and Lexington.

Diomed's get included saddlehorses for Thomas Jefferson and statesman and jurist John Marshall.

At Diomed's passing at the age of 31, it was reported, "...there was as much mourning over his demise as there was at the death of George Washington."[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ahnert, Rainer L. (editor in chief), “Thoroughbred Breeding of the World”, Pozdun Publishing, Germany, 1970
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 “The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America,” by William H.P. Robertson, Bonanza Books, New York


Premier Equine Classifieds


Subscribe to our newsletter and keep abreast of the latest news, articles and information delivered directly to your inbox.

Did You Know?

Modern horse breeds developed in response to a need for "form to function", the necessity to develop certain physical characteristics in order to perform a certain type of work... More...

The Gypsy Cob was originally bred to be a wagon horse and pulled wagons or caravans known as Vardos; a type of covered wagon that people lived in... More...

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Arabian horse bloodline dates back 4,500 years. Throughout history, Arabian horses spread around the world by both war and trade.... More...

That the term "Sporthorse" is a term used to describe a type of horse rather than any particular breed... More...