Sledmere Stud

Driffield, East Yorkshire, YO25 0XQ

Owner:Sir Tatton Sykes
Acreage:Approx.150 acres
Type: Was public, now private
Stallions:River Falls (2002:800)
Previous Stallions:
Ardkinglass, Insan, Claude Monet, Waki River, Superpower, Prince Sabo , Factual

Although the time is long gone since Sledmere (along with Burton Agnes) was Britain's most successful commercial stud, it has until recently retained its place as one of Yorkshire's most important studs, albeit more due to it's boarders and stallions than it's activities as a breeder in it's own right. However it was announced in September 2002 that the stud would be drastically scaled down.

The Sykes family have been one of the major landowners in this part of Yorkshire for over two hundred years, indeed the family were responsible for bringing much of the Wolds into productive use, the baronetcy having originally been granted by William Pitt for services to agriculture. The estate is still one of the largest of its type in the country with 9,000 tenanted acres (although somewhat reduced from the 25,000 acres it covered at the turn of the century), the stud being on the opposite side of the road to the large Georgian house and the village itself largely made up of estate cottages.

Sledmere Stud, click for larger image Sledmere Stud, click for larger image

The stud was founded in 1801 by the first Sir Tatton Sykes (1772-1863) who at one time owned over 100 mares. Known as the most popular man in Yorkshire he even had a horse named after him. Sir Tatton Sykes (the horse) won the 1864 2000 Guineas and St.Leger and finished second in the Derby, indeed he may well have won this too, had the jockey not been 'under the influence'! Sir Tatton (the person) also tasted classic success with Grey Momus, bred by him, who won the 1838 2000 Guineas. He was somewhat eccentric, refusing to put any fillies in training, which led to many homebreds being useless, due to their poor dams. Following the baronet's death there was a huge dispersal sale at Doncaster with 313 lots (of which 111 were broodmares) fetching a total of 24,171 guineas. Included in this sale was Lecturer who was later to win the Ascot Gold Cup. It was described as 'The most remarkable dispersal of bloodstock which has ever taken place in this or any other country'.

The next baronet, also Sir Tatton (1826-1913) was really responsible for establishing the stud's reputation as a top class nursery. As already decscribed he sold off a large proportion of the mares he had inherited, and restocked with fresh lines. This was to pay rich dividends as he bred four classic winners - Doncaster (1873 Derby), Spearmint (1906 Derby, who was sold by Sledmere for a mere 300gns to Edmund Loder of Pretty Polly fame), Mimi (1891 1000 Guineas and Oaks) and Disraeli (1898 2000 Guineas). The first Derby winner Doncaster (by the immortal Stockwell) was not only the grandsire (via Bend Or) of Triple Crown winner Ormonde but also the 5th sire of the dual champion sire Phalaris (by Polymelus) who's direct male line, via the brothers Pharos and Fairway, is the most influential in the world, including as it does the peerless Northern Dancer. Ormonde's dam (Lily Agnes) was actually bred by the Sledmere stud groom out of Polly Agnes, a mare given to him by the second Sir Tatton who fel that she was too small and delicate! Ormonde started out well at stud getting Orme (tale male sire line of Teddy, Gold Bridge, Panorama etc) from his first crop. However following illness he only had one foal the next year and (after one season in Argentina) finished up in America where he only sired 16 foals in 11 seasons. The second Derby winner came in 1906 with Spearmint who features in the pedigree of many of the worlds most famous horses as he was sire of the great broodmare Plucky Leige who was dam of Bois Roussel (1938 Derby), Sir Gallahad III (French 2000 Guineas) and Bull Dog - all of whom excelled as sires, especially of broodmares.

The second Sir Tatton also bred John O'Gaunt (2nd in both the 1904 2000 Guineas and Derby and sire of St.Leger winner and important sire Swynford), Hapsburg (Eclipse S) and Lemonora (Grand Prix de Paris - which in those days held comparable prestige to the Arc today). John O'Gaunt was by Triple Crown winner Isinglass out of 1000 Guineas, Oaks and St.Leger winner La Fleche. La Fleche was bought on Sir Tatton's behalf (ie. by his wife!) for a record 12,600 guineas in 1896. However he initially refused to accept her, thinking the price too much, and this great racemare endured two weeks at Sledmere train station before finally arriving at the stud!

At this time Yorkshire was still the major force in British breeding and Tattersalls' premier yearling sale was held at Doncaster. Sledmere was totally dominant at these sales, topping the list year in, year out. By now the stud and estate were owned by Sir Mark Sykes and the emphasis was totally commercial with colts and fillies both being sold. Indeed between 1920 and 1992 four fillies were sold whom went on to become top class broodmares. Lady Juror (Jockey Club S) and Straitlace (Oaks) were both by Son-in-Law and became excellent broomares with Lady Juror standing out as the dam of champion sire Fair Trial and grandam of the speedy 2000 Guineas winner Tudor Minstrel. The other two fillies Mumtaz Mahal and Teresina were amongst the Aga Khan's most important foundation mares.
Mumtaz Mahal (a half sister by The Tetrarch to Lady Juror) was sold for 9,100gns in 1922, the Aga Khan's advsior, George Lambton remarking "I thought her one of the best animals I ever saw in my life". She lived up to this reputation, capturing the public's imagination as 'The Flying Filly'. At two she won the Spring Stakes at Newmarket, followed by the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot (in a canter by 10 lengths), the National Breeders Produce Stakes, the Molecomb Stakes and the Champagne Stakes, before suffering defeat after being off-colour in the Imperial Produce Stakes at Kempton where she was narrowly defeated by a neck. At three an ill-judged attempt at making a miler of her was attempted and she was third in the 1,000 Guineas and unplaced in the Coronation Stakes. However a reversion to sprinting then saw her win her last two races, Goodwood's King George Stakes and the Nunthorpe Stakes at York. Although her offpsring were a bitter dissapointment on the track the fillies certainly made up for this at stud. The youngest, Mah Mahal produced electrifying Derby winner Mahmoud as well as Mah Iran (dam of Arc winner Migoli and grandam of Petite Etoile). Mumtaz Mahal's only other two daughters were Mumtaz Begum (dam of Nasrullah) and Rustom Mahal (dam of Abernant). She is thus responsible for one of the most important distaff lines of the century also featuring as it does Shergar, Habibti, On The House, Risen Star, Oh So Sharp and Kalamoun.
Teresina (Tracery - Blue Tit by Wildflower), unlike Mumtaz Mahal, had a stayers pedigree and, sold for 7,700gns, won the Jockey Club Cup and Goodwood Cup, was second in the Eclipse and Cesarewitch and third in the Oaks and St.Leger. At stud she produced 8 winners including Theresina (Irish Oaks, dam of St Leger winner and Derby second Turkhan and also of Gold Cup winner and Derby third Ujiji), Gino, Alishah, Alibhai (never ran, but successful sire in the US) and Shahpoor. The other outstanding foundation mare to be sold by the stud was
Lionel Holliday's great mare Lost Soul, who's line has produced Dumka, Doyoun, Derring-Do, Neasham Belle, Hethersett and Providential.

Further classic winners for the stud included St.Leger winners Scottish Union and Ridge Wood and Oaks winner Chatelaine, although she only fetched 500 guineas as a yearling, sold to the great breeding historian Matthew Prior; he leased her during her racing career after which she briefly went to his Adstock Manor Stud before being sold back to Sledmere. Another bargain was the 520gns given for the 1931 Blandford filly out of Tabaris, named Kyloe, who Sledmere sold to Sir Percy Loraine, for whom she won three races at two including the Railway Stakes and, in the following season, the Irish 1000 Guineas of 1934, at odds of 3-to-1 on. She was also third in the Irish 2000 Guineas. Her older half brother was Admirals' Walk (1936 by Hyperion) who won the St James's Palace Stakes of 1939, having earlier finished second in the 2,000 Guineas, he was later a good sire. In addition Craganour was reared at Sledmere as a foal having been bought along with his dam (Veneration II, a half sister to the great Pretty Polly). This Desmond colt was unlucky to be disqualified after finishing first in the 1913 Derby, although whether he would have finished first anyway without the fracas at Tattenham Corner brought on by suffragette Miss Emily Davison remains to be seen. Craganour went on to be an outstanding success at stud in Argentina.

Sledmere Stud, click for larger image Sledmere Stud, click for larger image

By the 1950's the stud was having to take second place to Burton Agnes as the county's leading producer of yearlings but the stud did manage to produce two good colts with Court Harwell (Jockey Club S, 2nd.1957 St.Leger) and Pardao (Jockey Club Cup, 3rd.1961 Derby). Court Harwell was champion sire in 1965 thanks almost entirely to Meadow Court (Irish Derby, King George VI & Queen Elizabeth II S, 2nd.Derby) who was unlucky to be born in the same year as Sea Bird II. He was also later champion sire in Argentina. Pardao for his part was sire of Eric Moller's good horses Sovereign (Champion Two Year Old Filly, Coronation Stakes at three) and Moulton (Benson & Hedges Gold Cup, 2nd.Eclipse S).

Throughout the sixties Sir Richard Sykes (father of the current Sir Tatton), who died in 1978, reduced the broodmare band down to about a dozen and success was limited. At this time the retained fillies primarily raced in France. The winners continued to flow with the Sledmere bred Palatch (1964 Match III - Palazzoli by Palestine) landing the 1967 Yorkshire Oaks for Dr Carlo Vittadini (the owner of Grundy). Eventually numbers dwindled even further (in 1964 they placed an advert in Stud & Stable stating that there would be accommodation for upto 15 more boarders from December ; implying more of the Sykes stock was to be sold) until at the start of the 1989 season the stud had no broodmares of it's own. This followed the decision by new manager David Cecil (who was at school with Sir Tatton and had spent 3 months working at Sledmere in his youth) to sell off the remaining Sykes bloodstock and concentrate on boarding for other clients and also to set about converting the property to a public stud. It's first year as a public stud was 1990 when it stood Insan and Claude Monet, being joined the following year by Waki River. However success was difficult to find in this area as well and a number of stallions including Superpower, Prince Sabo and Ardkinglass have come and gone. The stud is now managed by John Day (with expert assistance from long term stud groom Ken Magee), former manager of Thornton Stud and from 1997 that good horse River Falls (Aragon - More Fizz) was in residence although he has also now departed.

Bench commemorating Sir Richard Sykes, click for a large image Typical stabling at Sledmere, click for a larger image

The stud flourished with it's boarders as well. Owners who have used the stud in the past include Charles Engelhard (of Nijinsky fame), Jack Swift (Mount Rosa Stud), Daniel Wildenstein, who boarded the brilliant Pawneese here (see Copgrove page for more information on the Wildenstein operation in Yorkshire) and the Marquesa de Moratella, who now owns Jim Joel's former property, the historic Childwick Bury Stud. Another long term patron was Mrs.Margaret Butler who owned and bred that good middle distance horse K-Battery, later to stand at Theakston Stud. Indeed not only was K-Battery reared at Sledmere, but his dam was actually bought from the stud. Sir Tatton Sykes had the occasional filly in training with Jimmy Fitzgerald.

It was announced in September 2002 however that a large part of the stud would be closed down. Basically the boarding side, which has served the stud so well in recent years, is ceasing, with some of the 40 boxes being used to improve facilities for the tourists who visit the stately home. The stud will instead concentrate on the breeding side, albeit only in a small way as they currently only have 2 broodmares. On a more positive note Sir Tatton Sykes is a part owner in Stanley Leisure Sprint Cup G1, Prix de la Foret G1, Hackwood Stakes L, St.Leger Yearling Stakes and Redcar Trophy winner Somnus (Champion Older Sprinter in 2004), who spent his formative years at the stud, and whose dam was originally based there. The intention is to re-invest some of his share of the ever-increasing prize money this money spinner is generating into improving the quality of the Sykes broodmares. Meanwhile since late 2006 trainer Declan Carroll has utilised around 50 of the boxes at Sledmere together with 2 grass gallops and an all-weather gallop.

With it's high stone walled paddocks, stately home and red bricked stable buildings Sledmere is arguably one of the most picturesque stud's in the county. There can be no debate however that it is, by far, Yorkshire's most historically important stud.

All information provided on this site is given on a 'best endeavours' basis. No guarantee as to the accuracy of the data is implied nor should it be assumed. For clarification please contact the relevant parties.
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Copyright 2002 Stephen George-Powell

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