Hyperion – 1930 to 1960
Chestnut horse by Gainsborough ex Selene, by Chaucer
Owned and bred by the 17th Earl of Derby, Hyperion was a Newmarket horse through and through.
Born at Lord Derby’s Stanley House Stud, and raised there and at Side Hill Stud, then owned by Lord Derby, he was trained on the same property between the Bury and Snailwell Roads (by the Hon George Lambton at two and three and by Colledge Leader as a four-year-old) before crossing the Snailwell Road to spend his long and distinguished stud career at his owner’s Woodland Stud.
A small horse, Hyperion was not considered a potential star by his connections at the outset. However, his dam Selene had also been very small, her lack of size meaning that she was not entered for the Classics – which proved to be a costly omission because she was England’s best filly of her year. Happily, the lesson was learned, and Hyperion, although a seemingly undersized and unremarkable foal, was duly entered for both the Derby and St Leger.
Although he showed little promise in his first few gallops and was beaten at Doncaster on his debut, Hyperion turned out to be the dominant two-year-old of 1932, winning three races including the New (now Norfolk) Stakes over five furlongs at Royal Ascot and the Dewhurst Stakes over seven furlongs at Newmarket.
He made further improvement from two to three, and went through his Classic campaign unbeaten, including winning both the Derby and St Leger easily, ridden by his regular jockey Tommy Weston. He would probably have won the Triple Crown but for not having been entered in the first leg, the 2,000 Guineas.
A great racehorse, Hyperion became even greater as a stallion. He was champion sire of Britain and Ireland six times, his stock including the British Classic winners Owen Tudor, Sun Chariot, Sun Stream, Godiva and Hypericum, as well as the Queen’s Derby runner-up Aureole, and Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Pensive. Understandably, many of the best horses in Europe were exported to America during the early years of the Second World War.
Hyperion, though, remained in Newmarket, his owner responding to the offer of a blank cheque from Hollywood film producer Louis Mayer with the words, “Though England may be in ruins, Hyperion will never leave these shores”.
Instead, several of Hyperion’s sons and grandsons made their way around the globe, helping his sire-line to dominate international breeding for decades, thanks to the likes of Alibhai, Khaled and Heliopolis in
North America; Aristophanes and Gulf Stream in South America; Helios, Star Kingdom and Smokey Eyes in Australia; Ruthless and Stunning in New Zealand; and High Veldt and Deimos in South Africa.
Hyperion remained the world’s most influential stallion until the 1980s, eventually surrendering the role to his Canadian-bred descendant Northern Dancer, whose sire Nearctic was a son of the Hyperion mare Lady Angela.
A life-size bronze statue of Hyperion, sculpted by John Skeaping and bequeathed to the Jockey Club by the 18th Earl of Derby, stands outside the Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket High Street.