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The Byerley Turk and Sprinter Sacre

All Thoroughbreds trace their ancestry to three stallions: the Godolphin Barb, the Darley Arabian and the Byerley Turk. The name of the Byerley Turk (1680-1706) was Azarax. He served as a charger in many battles, was captured as spoils of war and came into the ownership of Captain Robert Byerley, who brought him to Ireland. The horse won a race at Downpatrick on his way to the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, where he fought with distinction on the Williamite side under Captain Byerley.

Most Thoroughbreds come from the Darley Arabian, only 5% from the Byerley Turk. One of his 21st-generation descendants is the 2013 wonder horse Sprinter Sacre, who won his tenth chase in a row – 14 of 16 races in all – yesterday at Punchestown on his first visit to Ireland.

Curiously, I happened to be writing a chapter yesterday, World Book Day, in my forthcoming (now published https://richardmarshauthor.wordpress.com/meath-folk-tales) Meath Folk Tales that includes a mention of the Byerley Turk, and while watching the Champion Chase I noticed a startling resemblance between the two horses.

Compare the contemporary painting of the Byerley Turk by John Wooton (ca. 1682–1764) with a side-on photograph of Sprinter Sacre standing unsaddled: dark brown, large body, relatively small head. Pity he’s a gelding.

Sprinter Sacre

Sprinter Sacre

The Byerley Turk by Wooton

The Byerley Turk by Wooton

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