Bred by John Hislop, trained by Major Dick Hern and ridden only by “Smokin’” Joe Mercer, Brigadier Gerard was arguably the best British-trained horse of the twentieth century. His Timeform rating of 144 has been bettered only by Sea Bird and, more recently, by Frankel.
Brigadier Gerard, named after the character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, won seventeen of his eighteen races between 1970 and 1972 and was unbeaten at two and three. His most important win as a juvenile came in the Middle Park Stakes, over 6 furlongs, on the Rowley Mile course at Newmarket, where he beat Mummy’s Pet and Swing Easy by 3 lengths and half a length.
The following season, he returned to Newmarket for the 2,000 Guineas, which he won by 3 lengths from Mill Reef. Geoff Lewis, who rode the runner-up, said afterwards, “The winner was always going too well for me. As soon as Joe [Mercer] produced Brigadier Gerard I knew we were beaten.”
Brigadier Gerard subsequently won the St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, also at Ascot, and the Champion Stakes at Newmarket as a three-year-old. His winning streak continued into his four-year-old campaign with victories in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes again, the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown and the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.
‘The Brigadier’ finally met his Waterloo in the inaugural running of the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup, now the Juddmote International Stakes, at York in August, 1972. Facing just four rivals, including Roberto and Rheingold, first and second in the Derby, Brigadier Gerard started 1/3 favourite but, as commentator John Penney observed, saw his unbeaten record “absolutely smashed to smithereens”. He was eventually beaten 3 lengths by 12/1 chance Roberto, who made most of the running, with Gold Rod 10 lengths further away in third. Jean Hislop, co-owner of Brigadier Gerard said, ungraciously, afterwards that Roberto “must have been stung by a bee.”