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Highflyer (horse)

Highflyer (1774-18 October 1793) was an undefeated Thoroughbred racehorse and a very successful and influential sire of the 18th century.[1]

Sire Herod
Dam Rachel
Grandsire Tartar
Damsire Blank
Gender Stallion
Foaled 1774
Country Great Britain
Color Bay
Breeder Sir Charles Bunbury, 5th Baronet
Owner Frederick St John, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke ("Mr. Compton"), Richard Tattersall
Record 14: 14-0-0
Highflyer is a thoroughbred racehorse out of Rachel by Herod. He was born around 1774 in Great Britain, and was bred by Sir Charles Bunbury, 5th Baronet.
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)
Last updated on August 24, 2007



Highflyer was bay with a sock on his left, hind pastern. The Arabian influence could still be seen in him, having a light overall build, with a small, refined, slightly dished head, an arched neck, short back, relatively flat croup, and high-set tail. His abilities on the track could have been foreseen in his very muscular hindquarters, sloping shoulder, and deep barrel.


Bred by Sir Charles Bunbury, the fifth Baronet, the colt was foaled at Great Barton, in 1774. His dam, Rachel (1763) was by Blank, and out of a mare by Regulus, both stallions by the Godolphin Arabian, making Rachel inbred 2x3 to the great stallion.[1] Blank also sired Pacolet (1763). Highflyer was a half-brother to Mark Anthony (b c 1767 Spectator) who sired the Epsom Derby winner Aimwell.[2]

Highflyer's sire was the important Herod, one of the foundation stallions for the classic Thoroughbred, and himself an excellent racehorse and stud, producing Florizel (b.c. 1768) and Woodpecker (ch.c. 1773).

Race career

Highflyer began his racing career at a time when the trend was shifting from starting Thoroughbreds at the track at age five, to instead begin racing them at a younger age. His maiden race was in October, in a two mile event for three-year-olds at Newmarket, which he won. He returned to Newmarket the following year, beating out the four-year-olds in both the July and October meet, before winning an open stakes, as well as a match against the Matchem son, Dictator.

In 1779, he won an additional two races before Lord Bolingbroke accepted an offer from Richard Tattersall, who bought the colt for 2,500 pounds.[1] Highflyer continued to race, winning with a walk over at Nottingham and in York at the Great Subscription Stakes. He then won the Great Subscription Stakes for a second time, before winning the King's Purse at Lichfield. He finished his racing career undefeated in 14 races.

Breeding career

Tattersall's grand plan for Highflyer was built to make him rich, and it certainly accomplished its task. It rested on two main points. First, Tattersall would breed Highflyer to as many mares as possible, bringing in income from the stud fee (a practice for which he was criticised, as many thought he was over-breeding the animal and later pointed to Highflyer's death at 19 to be proof of that fact). To help accomplish this, he stood his stallion at his Red Barns farm for the initial fee of 15 guineas, eventually raising the fee to 50 guineas. His second tactic was to buy up as many daughters of Eclipse as he could, breed them to breed Highflyer, and sell them on in-foal. This combined the blood of Herod and Eclipse to produce some excellent racehorses who would form the basis of the modern Thoroughbred. Estimates have found that Tattersall made at least 15,000 pounds each year off of Highflyer breedings, from which he build a mansion at aptly named it Highflyer Hall.

However, Tattersall was quick to credit the stallion with his financial success. When Highflyer died on 18 October 1793, he was buried in his paddock, and his owner gave the great horse the epitaph: "Here lieth the perfect and beautiful symmetry of the much lamented Highflyer, by whom and his wonderful offspring the celebrated Tattersall acquired a noble fortune, but was not ashamed to acknowledge it."

Highflyer was the Leading Sire for 15 years (1785–1796, 1798), during which time he produced 469 winners, including three Derby winners, three St. Leger winners, and an Epsom Oaks winner.

  • Sir Peter Teazle: 1784 brown colt, out of a Snap mare, was his best son. He won 16 races during his life, including the Derby in 1787. He then followed the way of Highflyer, becoming Leading Sire for several years (1799–1802, 1804–1809), and siring five Derby winners, four St. Leger winners, and 2 Oaks winners, as well as many other very important colts and fillies who had a lasting impact on the breed.
  • Noble: 1783 bay colt, won the 1786 Epsom Derby
  • Skyscraper: 1786 bay colt, won the 1789 Epsom Derby
  • Delpini: 1781 grey colt, out of a Blank mare (he was 3x2 inbred to Blank). His best get included two Oaks winners (Scotia and Theophania), a St. Leger winner (Symmetry), the stallions Evander, Seymour, and Timothy, and the daughter Zara.
  • Diamond: 1792 brown colt, out of a Matchem daughter, his many wins included the 1796 Jockey Club Stakes, Newcastle's King's Plate, the King's Plate at Newmarket First October and King's Plate at Newmarket First Spring, the four-mile Oxford Cup, the King's Plate at Nottingham, a 1,000 guineas match against Shuttle, and the Jockey Club Plate at Newmarket. He also finished second in the two-mile Great Produce Stakes at York, forth in the Derby.
  • Traveller: 1785 bay colt, a good racehorse winning the four-mile Stand Plate, the Great Subscription Purse at York, and matches against Grey Diomed and Meteor (by Eclipse).
  • Omphale: won the 1781 St. Leger
  • Spadille: won the 1787 St. Leger
  • Young Flora: won the 1788 St. Leger
  • Volante: won the 1792 Oaks
  • Rockingham: 1781 bay colt, out of a Matchem daughter, produced Castianira (dam of the American sire Sir Archy (by Diomed)
  • Prunella: 1788 bay filly, out of a Snap mare, dam of Derby-winner Waxy Pope (by Waxy), Oaks winner Pelisse (by Whiskey), and Penelope (by Trumpator)
  • Eliza: 1791 bay filly, out of an Eclipse mare, won the Town Plate (Newmarket), a Produce Stakes (York), the four-mile Richmond Cup, 2nd in the Oaks and in the Craven Stakes (Newmarket), third in the four-mile Doncaster Cup and Doncaster Stakes. Produced Scud (Doncaster winner, sired two Derby and one Oaks winners) and the dam to Consul (winner of the Doncaster Cup).
  • Grey Highflyer: 1782 grey filly, out of a Matchem mare, was dam to Hambletonian.
  • Unknown "Eagle's Dam": 1785 bay filly, produced Spread Eagle and Didelot (both won the Derby), and the sire Eagle who was imported to the US.
  • Huncamunca: 1787 brown filly, produced Champion (won the Derby and St. Leger), grand-dam to Oaks winners Maid of Orleans and Charllote, and third-dam to Mameluke (Derby winner)
  • Maria: 1791 bay filly, dam to Champignon (winner of the Ascot Gold Cup)

Other sons of Highflyer include Pharamond, Slope, Walnut, Sour-Crout, and St. George. His daughters also became the dams of Meteora, Coelia, N.M.B.O., Dick Andrews, Orville, Paulowitz, Cervantes, Sancho, Oscar, and Bedford. The Highflyer-Eclipse combination produced Skyscraper, Lambinos, St. George, Volante, and Oberon.

Pedigree of Highflyer (13) (B.h. 1774)
b. 1758
ch. 1743
ch. 1718
Mare by Curwen Barb
ch. 1729
br. 1750
Flying Childers
Mare by Confederate
blk. 1733
Bethell's Arabian
(Graham's) Champion mare
b. 1763
Godolphin Arabian
Mare by Little Hartley
ch. 1727
Bartlett's Childers
Flying Whigg
Mare by Regulus
ch. 1739
Godolphin Arabian
Grey Robinson
Mare by Soreheels
Mare by Makeless

See also

  • List of Undefeated horses


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ahnert, Rainer L. (editor in chief), “Thoroughbred Breeding of the World”, Pozdun Publishing, Germany, 1970
  2. Thoroughbred Bloodlines - Highflyer Retrieved on 2009-8-17

Thoroughbred Heritage: Highflyer


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