By BARRY SINGER
In 1949 Churchill was persuaded by his son-in-law Christopher Soames to buy a gray racing colt named Colonist II for £2,000. Churchill had a family history in thoroughbred horse racing. His maternal grandfather, Leonard Jerome, had helped to found the American Jockey Club. Lord Randolph Churchill had owned racehorses and registered his turf colors as pink with chocolate sleeves and cap.
Colonist II revived the Churchill colors on a racecourse, running in the Upavon Stakes at Salisbury on August 25, 1949 and winning. “This tough and indomitable grey horse has performed miracles,” one newspaper would soon write. “No horse in living memory has put up such a sequence of wins in good-class races in one season. Eight wins (six in succession, ending with the Jockey Club Cup), one second and one fourth in 11 races, reads like something inspired, and that in truth is just what this horse seemed to be, by the great spirit of his indefatigable owner.”
Churchill saddled seventy winners over the next fifteen years, building up a stable of thirty-six horses and twelve brood mares. With Christopher, he set up his own stud farm, first at Chartwell, later at Newchapel in Surrey. “It doesn’t fall to many people to start a racing career at the age of seventy-five,” Churchill later reflected, “and to reap from it such pleasure.”
Barry Singer is the author of Churchill Style (Abrams Image, 2012) and the proprietor of Chartwell Booksellers in New York City.