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Monday 16 September 2019


Nijinsky, in 1970, was first horse since Bahram in 1935, and the last, to complete the so-called ‘Triple Crown’ by winning the 2,000 Guineas, Derby and St. Leger and is considered, in some quarters, to have been the greatest racehorse of the twentieth century. Lester Piggott, who rode him throughout his three-year-old campaign, said that, on his day, Nijinsky was the ‘most brilliant’ horse that he’d ever ridden. However, Timeform, the respected ratings organisation, awarded Nijinsky a rating of ‘just’ 138, 7lb inferior to the 1965 Derby winner Sea-Bird.

Owned by American industrialist Charles Engelhard, who bought him on the recommendation of the original ‘Master of Ballydoyle’, Vincent O’Brien, Nijinsky was unbeaten as a juvenile, rounding off his two-year-old campaign with an easy win, for the first time under Piggott, in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. He reappeared in the Gladness Stakes, over 7 furlongs, at the Curragh the following April, which he won as a prelude to impressive victories over his own age group in the 2,000 Guineas, Derby and Irish Derby, before taking on his elders in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. In the latter race, Nijinsky was the only three-year-old among the six runners but, sent off at 40/85, never remotely looked in danger of defeat, eventually cruising to an effortless, 2-length victory over the four-year-old Blakeney, who’d won the Derby the year before.

However, preparation for his Triple Crown attempt was interrupted by ringworm, such that, for a time, he could not be saddled, or worked properly. He did make it to Doncaster for the St. Leger but, according to Piggott, “the gleam in his eye was a little dimmed”, a fact that was reflected by his performance in the race. Nijinsky recorded his eleventh consecutive success, but was ultimately all out to hold runner-up Meadowville by half a length, and never won again. He was controversially beaten in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and again in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket, two weeks later, before being retired to stud.