Did Sea Pigeon run in the Derby?
Sea Pigeon is probably best remembered for winning the Champion Hurdle twice, under Jonjo O’Neill in 1980 and John Francom in 1981. Indeed, O’Neill described the son of Sea Bird as ‘the fastest horse I ever rode’, while Francome said, ‘he was easily the best I ever sat on’. Those sentiments were reflected, at least to some extent by Timeform; the best part of four decades after his retirement in 1982, Sea Pigeon remains one of just sixteen hurdlers to be awarded a rating of 175 or more since the early Sixties.
However, it should not be forgotten that Sea Pigeon was arguably the finest dual-purpose racehorse of all time. In the latter part of his career on the Flat, he recorded back-to-back victories in the Chester Cup in 1977 and 1978 and won the Ebor Handicap, under a record 10 stone, in 1979. All told, Sea Pigeon was 37 races – 21 over hurdles and 16 on the Flat – and early in his career, before being gelded, was considered a Classic prospect by his trainer at the time, Jeremy Tree. Sea Pigeon did, indeed, run in the Derby, starting at 50/1 and finishing seventh of the twenty-five runners under Tony Murray.