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Thursday 12 May 2022

Prince Monolulu

The history of horse racing has seen its fair share of 'colourful' characters, but perhaps none more so than Ras Prince Monolulu, the original maverick, showman tipster. Instantly recognisable by his resplendent garb, topped with a headdress of ostrich feathers, Monolulu held court at racecourses throughout Britain in the first half of the twentieth century. His catchphrase, 'I gotta horse, I gotta horse to beat the favourite', proved to be true, or so legend has it, when he backed Spion Kop, winner of the 1920 Derby at 100/6, to win £8,000, or £365,000 by modern standards.

Born Peter McKay in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands in 1881, Monolulu arrived in England, via New York, at the turn of the twentieth century. He claimed to be, and styled himself as, a chief of the Falasha tribe of the old Abyssinia, or Ethiopia, as it is now. According to researcher John Pearson, that claim was 'a load of rubbish, but it gave him the chance to dress up as someone who would be recognised.'

An engaging, humourous character, Monolulu rose to become a national, even international, celebrity. He was a fixture of Derby Day at Epsom for decades and, while his tips, which he offered at ten shillings apiece, were largely unsuccessful, he was the most famous black man in Britain for most of his life. Monolulu died in a London hospital on Valentine's Day, 1965, at the age of 84, reputedly choking to death on a strawberry cream chocolate given to him by journalist Jeffrey Bernard.


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