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‘Spot the Winner’ Again: Another Horse in Ulysses

From: Dublin James Joyce Journal
Number 5, 2012
pp. 112-118 | 10.1353/djj.2012.0010

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Of the many sporting activities cited in Ulysses, horse racing is certainly featured most often. Fourteen racehorses are mentioned by name and referred to in ten of the episodes of the novel. These include Ceylon, Fair Rebel, John O’Gaunt, Maximum II, Nevertell, Prophesy (Prophecy), Repulse, Saint Amant, Saint Frusquin, Sceptre, Shotover, Sir Hugo, Throwaway, and Zinfandel. The names of some of the jockeys are also part of Ulysses, such as O. Madden (1872–1942; see Plate 5), Sceptre’s jockey in the Ascot Gold Cup; Morny Cannon (1873–1962) who rode Zinfandel, the horse favoured to win the 1904 Gold Cup, and whose great nephew is the racing legend Lester Piggott, and William Lane (1883–1920), who rode Throwaway in the Gold Cup, ‘A whacking fine whip, said Lenehan, is W. Lane. Four winners yesterday and three today’ (U 14.1136–7; see Plate 1). An account of thirteen of the racehorses was given in the last issue of the Dublin James Joyce Journal in ‘Spot the Winner’: Some of the Horses in Ulysses’. John O’Gaunt (1901–24; see Plates 2 and 3) is included here to complete the list.

‘Bad luck to big Ben Dollard and his John O’Gaunt. He put me off it’ (U 8.839). Sir Tatton Sykes bred John O’Gaunt, who was named after John of Gaunt, the son of King Edward III. A bay horse by Isinglass out of St Simon’s brilliant daughter, La Flèche, he was foaled in 1901. Both his dam and sire were classic winners. He was a well-proportioned and fine looking animal.

Sir John Thursby bought the colt for 3,000 guineas as a yearling. He was the favourite in his first race, the Maiden Plate at Newmarket when beaten by a head. He was second favourite in the Coventry Stakes at Ascot, which St Amant won (see U 8.832). He was also the favourite in his third race, the British Dominion Plate at Sandown Park where Pretty Polly beat him. John O’Gaunt won the fourth race he ever ran, the Hurstbourne Stakes.

As a three-year-old, John O’Gaunt made his first appearance in the Two Thousand Guineas. He made a slow start, which hindered him and he came in second to St Amant. Two weeks later he was beaten by a head in the Newmarket Stakes by Henry I. Apparently he would have won comfortably in this race had it not been for the careless riding of his jockey. This time St Amant came in third.

John O’Gaunt ran in what was known as the notorious ‘thunderstorm’ Derby on 2 June 1904 ridden by Sir John Thursby. The race was won by Leopold de Rothschild’s colt Saint Amant. In ‘Lestrygonians’, Davy Byrne is told: ‘That was a rare bit of horseflesh. She won in a thunderstorm, Rothschild’s filly, with wadding in her ears. Saint Frusquin was her sire. Blue jacket and yellow cap’ (U 8.837–8; see Plate 4). As far as Nosey Flynn is concerned, St Amant is a filly, but actually he was a colt. St Amant led from the start and won by three lengths from John O’Gaunt. Many people including Thursby were convinced that John O’Gaunt would have won the race had it not been for the awful thunderstorm on the day.

This was to be John O’Gaunt’s last race. When he was preparing for the St Leger he injured his leg by treading on an old horseshoe. It was hoped to get him sound enough to race as a four-year-old in 1905 but this was not to be. He was put to stud and was considered to be among the more prominent stallions siring many successful progeny. To quote from his obituary, he was ‘executed’ prematurely at the Meddler Stud at Newmarket on 7 January 1924, aged twenty-three, still extraordinarily vigorous and in perfect health. This was due to the fact that breeders were now using other stallions and John O’Gaunt was no longer making sufficient money to satisfy his owner. But it would have been nice if he had been put...

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