How a horse with an unusual name shaped horse racing for decades

Herring I, John Frederick; 'Filho da puta'; Doncaster Museum Service; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/filho-da-puta-69165

Horse racing is a sport that goes back hundreds of years, but perhaps one of the most famous horses that few have heard of was called Filho da Puta. The thoroughbred was successful on nine of its 12 runs; including the lucrative Doncaster Gold Cup and St. Leger Stakes. Along with being a brilliant racehorse in its own right, it also sired multiple winner Birmingham.

Filho da Puta was active throughout the 1800s and was owned by Sir William Waxwell, before being sold to T. Houldsworth in 1815. According to numerous historical reports the name of the horse was given by Sir William Barnett, owner of the farm where the stallion was born.

The name came about after Barnett had discovered about his unfaithful wives exploits when he was away from home. Directly translated from Portuguese, the name of the horse is ‘son of a whore’, as a retaliation of his wife’s actions.

After being bred by T. Honby, he was sired by Haphazard. Haphazard produced 2000 Guineas winners such as Reginald and Antar, as well as 1000 Guineas winner Rowena.

Racing Career

Filho da Puta began racing as a two-year-old, and its first race came in June 1814 in Newcastle. The potential of the horse was clear to see from the beginning, and he got his first win in September when it beat Clinker and Agapanthus at Pontefract race course.

The stallion’s next run would be as a three-year-old in March 1815. Here he won a pot of 100 guineas at Catterick Bridge, at a race for young horses, like the current Kentucky Derby. He outlasted Shuttle and Restoration; with the latter of the two coming second in the mile and a half race.

The autumn would present his most challenging task to date, in the form of the St. Leger Stakes at Doncaster. It didn’t disappoint and beat Orville Colt and Fulford; who finished second and third respectively in the fourteen-horse race.

Fans’ of the horse didn’t have to wait long to see him again, as he raced three days later. This time he was victorious still, in the Doncaster Club Stakes. This caught the attention of T. Houldsworth who brought Filho da Puta for 3,000 guineas. His final run of the year came in the Richmond Cup; where his owner would have been thrilled as it won again as the 1/3 favourite in the odds of horse betting.

In April 1816, he was finally beaten for the first time as he came second to Sir Joshua at Newmarket. He lost again in the summer when Doctor Syntax won the Preston Gold Cup. However, he bounced back from these disappointments to win the Gold Cup as the odds-on favourite. Filho da Puta continued his excellent form to win the Dundas Stakes over Clinkerina and Rasping. However, later in the day, he could only finish third in the Gold Cup behind The Duchess and Leopold.

This form was a clear indicator that he was struggling to maintain the high standards, and he missed the whole of the racing calendar in 1817 as he suffered with a leg injury. His final race though, in 1818, saw Filho da Puta begin as the heavy favourite. However, he was beaten by Cerberus and was retired to stud.

Legacy

His son continued his legacy; as Birmingham won the 1830 St. Leger. It could be argued that his son was actually a better horse. However, it nearly didn’t happen for him as he almost died before even appearing on a race course. Between July 1829 and June 1833, he won a total of 24 races out of 39. The most famous of which was his St. Leger win over Priam. Birmingham went off at a massive 14/1 and wasn’t expected to be near the front runners.

Birmingham continued to race and won eleven more times up until his retirement, when he was sold and exported to Eastern Europe. Filho da Puta’s daughter also had a successful career, but in the USA and not England.

Filho da Puta died on the 25th August 1835 at Rock Hill Paddocks aged 23. However, his legacy as a world-class horse will remain, as a historical figure in the sport.

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