Sun Chariot

Bred by the National Stud, then located in Ireland, Sun Chariot was by Hyperion out of an unraced mare named Clarence. She was leased for her racing career to King George VI, for whom she won the fillies’ Triple Crown in 1942.

Trained by Fred Darling at Beckhampton, she initially showed so little promise on the gallops that it was decided to send her back to Ireland. Luckily for all concerned, there was a delay in obtaining the necessary export licence. A few days before the licence arrived, she at last began to show her true ability.

Sun Chariot made her debut at Newmarket’s July Course on 6th June 1941, winning easily. She then won the Queen Mary Stakes, where she first showed signs of temperament, misbehaving at the start and just scraping home by a head. However, she won her next start at Salisbury by 10 lengths and went on to beat the colts in the Middle Park Stakes, heading the two-year-old Free Handicap with 9st 7lb.

Her temper became ever more erratic with age. On her three-year-old debut at Salisbury, she declined to exert herself and finished third. It was the only defeat of her career. Despite her unreliable temperament, she started a hot favourite for the 1,000 Guineas, which she won by four easy lengths, ridden by Gordon Richards.

Next stop was the Oaks, held at Newmarket, for which she was an even hotter favourite at 4-1 on. However, she was on her worst behaviour and when the tapes went up she darted away to the left and lost the best part of a furlong. Her cause looked hopeless but by halfway she had caught up with the rest of the field. She hit the front inside the final furlong and won eased down by a length. Due to wartime security restrictions, the photograph of the King leading in Sun Chariot after her Oaks victory had to pass through official bureaucratic channels before approval was given to publish it a few days later.

Her final race was the war substitute St Leger, in which she comfortably beat the Derby winner Watling Street by three lengths.

When in the mood, Sun Chariot was brilliant. Richards acknowledged she was probably the greatest horse he ever rode, even if she did give him a few grey hairs.

At stud she bred seven winners including the talented but unsound Blue Train, who later did well as a stallion in New Zealand; Landau, who sired winners in Australia; and Pindari, winner of Ascot’s King Edward VII Stakes and York’s Great Voltigeur.