Diomed (GB)

Courtesy of Fores Gallery

Above, Hervey says Diomed is "represented in racing form." He adds that this George Stubbs painting "passed out of note or memory at least a century ago, disappeared from sight until within the past twenty years and its recovery and acquirement by Mr Woodward form one of the romances of horse portraiture. Not the least important feature being that until it came to light once more, we had no likeness of Diomed except a crude and stilted print, little better than a caricature."

This portrait by Frances Sartorius, said to be of Diomed (the handler is wearing the Bunbury colours and Diomed's name is painted along the bottom edge), is often seen in publications, however, this horse's markings do not match those of the imported Diomed.

This portrait, appearing in Thomas Henry Taunton's book, is clearly marked along its bottom edge "Diomed, The property of Sr Charles Bunbury, Bart." [Portraits of Celebrated Racehorses 1:facing p 150]































Sire Line


King Herod




Diomed* ch c 1777 (Florizel - Sister to Juno, Spectator). Sire Line Herod. Family 6-b.

Bred by the Honorable Richard Vernon, he was sold to Sir Charles Bunbury prior to the start of his turf career. J C Goode, the son of Thomas Goode, who later owned Diomed for four years, described him as "a fine clear chestnut, 15.3 hands high, without white, except for a touch on one of his hind heels, barely noticed."

In his first season in 1780 he was unbeaten in 7 starts, including the Derby Stakes. He has the distinction of being the first Derby winner. From 1780 through 1783, he started 19 times, winning 11 races, placing second in 4 races, placing third in 3 races, receiving and paying one forfeit. He carried 168 pounds to beat Lottery in three 4-mile heats. He defeated such horses as Boudrow, Drone, the Oaks winner Tetotum, and Lottery.

He went to stud in 1785 at Uppart (or Up Park), near Chichester in Sussex, and moved back and forth between there and Barton Hall, near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. Among his get in England were Grey Diomed (gr c 1785), a sturdy and popular racer who was eventually exported to Russia, and Young Giantess (b f 1790) and Young Noisette (br f 1789) both of whom foaled offspring who left an indelible mark on the turf and in the stud book.

Young Giantess produced Sorcerer, Eleanor, Julia, Cressida and Walton Mare. Sorcerer (bl c 1796 Trumpator) became a Champion Sire and the link between Trumpator and Comus in the Matchem sire line. Eleanor (b f 1798) was the first filly to win both the Derby and Oaks Stakes, and in turn produced Muley (b c 1810). Julia (br f 1799) foaled the Derby winner and Champion Sire Phantom (b c 1808). Cressida (b f 1807) produced the Two Thousand Guineas winner Antar (b c 1816) and the Derby winner and Champion Sire Priam* (b c 1827). Walton Mare (ch f 1808) foaled Langar (ch c 1817) and the Two Thousand Guineas winner Nicolo (ch c 1820). Young Noisette produced Marmion (b c 1806) who sired Clare (b f 1825), the second dam of Pocahontas (b f 1837), which combined with Muley who sired Marpessa (b f 1830), the dam of Pocahontas, gave Pocahontas two crosses to Diomed.

Although he made much of his limited opportunities he was never popular in England. His get amounted to only sixty-five foals over fourteen seasons, and his stud fee declined to 2 guineas, from a high of 10 guineas. His offspring were rumoured to be obstinate. Sir Charles Bunbury was ready to sell. At the age of twenty-one, Diomed was purchased by Colonel John Hoomes for 50 guineas and shipped to Virginia.

The certificate which came with him is found in Hervey: "I hereby certify that the chestnut horse Diomed, purchased of me by Messrs. Lamb & Younger, won the Derby Stakes at Epsom, the Claret Stakes at Newmarket, and many other prizes, as may be seen in the Racing Calendar. He is the sire of Grey Diomed, Quitlavaca, Lais (the dam of Lord Clermont's Spoliator), Greyhound, Monkey, Anthony, Glaucus, Wrangler, Cedar, Poplar and several other good racers. Grey Diomed, when three years old, was sold by me to Mr Fox [the celebrated Charles James] for 700 gns.; Mr Fox afterward sold him, with his engagements, to the Duke of Bedford for 1700 gns. Several other of Diomed's get have been sold at large prices." Signed by Thomas Charles Bunbury.

He was imported into Virginia in 1798 at the age of twenty-one. He changed owners several times, and stood at a number of studs. His first short season was spent with Colonel Hoomes, the next four in Chesterfield County as the property of Thomas Goode and Colonel Miles Selden, then a year at Walker's Mills in Sussex County, and then back to Miles Selden at Tree-Hill near Richmond. He then went to Nathaniel Rives in Greensville County for two years, then came back to Goode again in Chesterfield County.

His success in America was overwhelming. Admired for his looks and presence, mare owners sent him their best. He gave them a dynasty. Among his outstanding offspring were Lavinia (b f 1800) who won the largest sweepstakes run up until that time, and Vingt-Un (ch c 1801) who won the Gold Cup at Washington. Diomed sired the undefeated Ball's Florizel (ch c 1801); Duroc (ch c 1806) who in turn sired American Eclipse (ch c 1814); Old Potomac (b c 1805); and Wilkes' Wonder (ch c 1800) who sired Tennessee Oscar (b c 1814). His daughters became the dams of Henry (ch c 1819) and Sir Alfred (b c 1806). Bred to the imported mare Castianira he got the esteemed Sir Archy (b c 1805), who would become the great-grandsire of Lexington (b c 1850).

Hervey eloquently summarises the influence of Diomed, "The Colonial thoroughbred, close to his Oriental ancestors, had been small like them. Of the earliest post-Revolutionary importations that were most influential, Medley was a little horse, Shark not a big one; while Messenger, larger and more massive, made his career outside the Race Horse Region. Diomed, a horse of strong 15.3, of high quality but rugged and well-thewed, bred often larger than himself. Sir Archy stood almost 16.1, Potomac, Florizel and Truxton were 16, Duroc 15 3/4, most of the others whose heights are recorded were of fine size; only one, Wilkes' Wonder, is mentioned as being small - 15 1/4. With their size they had rangy frames, heavy bone and sound, strong constitutions. As might be expected of the sons of a horse that could get a Truxton at twenty-two, a Florizel at twenty-three, a Potomac at twenty-five, a Sir Archy at twenty-seven and a Maria at thirty, they lived long and begot progeny innumerable. In modern phrase we may say that they had everything...in superlative degree."

Diomed died the property of Colonel Hoomes in April of 1808, aged 31 years, and was buried beside Maria Slamerkin in a spot overlooking the Appomattox River.

Diomed Florizel King Herod Tartar
Sister to Gog Cygnet
Young Cartouch Mare
Sister to Juno Spectstor Crab
Partner Mare
Horatia Blank
Sister to Steady
Race Record

In 1780, he won a 500gs each sweepstakes at Newmarket Second Spring, beating Sir T Gascoigne's Herod colt, Lord Grosvenor's Diadem (b c 1777 Sweetbriar) and Mr Stapleton's Brother to Mopsqueezer (ch c 1777 Matchem). Won the 50gs each Derby Stakes at Epsom, beating Major O'Kelly's Boudrow (b c 1777 Eclipse), Mr Walker's Spitfire (br c 1777 Eclipse), Sir F Evelyn's Wotton (br c 1777 Vauxhall Snap), Mr Panton's Herod colt and 4 others. Walked over for a 100gs each sweepstakes (7 subscribers) at Newmarket in July. Collected a 100gs each forfeit (5 subscribers) at Newmarket First October. Won the Perram Plate at the same meeting, beating the Duke of Grafton's Rover (b c 1777 Herod), Mr Pulteney's Marygold (b f 1777 Herod), Mr Bertie's John a' Nokes (br c 1777 Marske) and 7 others. Collected a 100gs forfeit from Lord Milsintown's Turf colt at the same meeting. Won a 20gs each Subscription at Newmarket Second October, beating Mr Douglas's Oaks winner Tetotum (b f 1777 Matchem), Mr Vernon's Duchess (gr f 1777 Herod), Lord Clermont's Florus (b c 1777 Florizel) and Lord Derby's Aladdin (b c 1777 Herod).

In 1781 he collected a half forfeit at Newmarket Craven for a 500gs match with Brother to Mopsqueezer. Won the 30gs each Fortescue Stakes at Newmarket First Spring, beating Sir J Lade's Spitfire (br c 1777 Eclipse), Lord Grosvenor's King William (b c 1777 Herod), Lord Clermont's Occulator (br c 1777 Conductor), Mr Bertie's Urtica and the Duke of Bolton's Commis (ch c 1777 Herod). Won the 200gs each Claret Stakes at Newmarket Second Spring, beating Sir T Gascoigne's Antagonist (ch c 1777 Herod), Sir L Dundas's Chatsworth colt, Sir J Lade's Bishop Blaze, Mr Vernon's Rodney (ch c 1777 Metaphysician), Lord Grosvenor's Diadem and Lord Clermont's Occulator. Finished 2nd for the 25gs each Nottingham Stakes at Nottingham, won by Lord Grosvenor's Fortitude (b c 1777 Herod), beating Mr Vernon's Bay Bolton (b c 1777 Matchem) and 1 other. Lost a 300gs match at Newmarket First October to Mr O'Kelly's Boudrow (b c 1777 Eclipse).

In 1782 he paid a half forfeit to Sir J Lade's Crop (gr c 1778 Turf) for a 200gs each sweep at Newmarket in October.

In 1783 he was among the field for the 10gs each Craven Stakes at Newmarket in April, won by Lord Ossory's Alaric (br c Paymaster), with Lord Derby's Admiral (b c 1779 Florizel) placing 2nd (the latter Diomed's full brother) and the Duke of Queensberry's Quicksand (b c 1774 Herod) 3rd; 10 others started. Was also among a field of 9 for a Fifty at Newmarket First Spring, won by Mr Parker's Laburnum (br c 1774 Herod), with Mr Vernon's Drone (b c 1777 Herod) placing 2nd. Finished 2nd for the King's Plate at the same meeting, won by Mr Vernon's Drone, beating Mr Twycross's Grasshopper (br c 1776 Marske), Mr Wyndham's Buccaneer (b c 1776 Herod) and Sir J Lade's Nottingham (br c 1776 Tantrum), the latter losing his rider. Won the King's Plate at Guildford, beating Mr Blank's Lottery (b c 1777 Goldfinder). Finished 3rd for a 25gs each Subscription at Ascot Heath, won by Mr O'Kelly's Soldier (ch c 1779 Eclipse), with Lord Derby's Oliver Cromwell (b c 1779 Protector) placing 2nd, beating Lord Clermont's Truth (b c 1776 Chymist). Finished 2nd for the King's Plate at Winchester, won by Mr Parker's Anvil (br c 1777 Herod), beating Lord Egremont's Mercury (ch c 1778 Eclipse). Finished 3rd (broke down) for the King's Plate at Lewes, won by Lord Egremont's Mercury, with Sir F Poole's Diadem placing 2nd.

Sir Archy (GB) b c 1805 (Diomed - Castianira, by Rockingham). Sire Line King Herod. Family 13.