‘The Brigadier’ stood tall in list of Mercer titans
Joe Mercer was one of the most popular and successful Flat jockeys of the 20th century, associated with some of the most famous thoroughbreds of the time. Here we look at five of his best:
‘The Brigadier’ won 17 of his 18 starts, with Mercer in the saddle every time. Despite being unbeaten at two, he only really burst on to the scene when beating Mill Reef in the 2000 Guineas in 1971. He was invincible that year taking other top mile races as well as the 10-furlong Champion Stakes. His only defeat came in the 1982 Benson And Hedges Gold Cup at York to Roberto, when he was found to have an infection. He bounced back with repeat wins in the QEII and Champion Stakes.
A late-maturing colt, Bustino won Sandown’s Classic Trial and the Lingfield Derby Trial, but was only fourth in the Derby before easily winning the 1974 St Leger. He returned the following season to take the Coronation Cup at Epsom and then took on the 1975 Derby hero Grundy in the King George at Ascot. Bustino went down by half a length after an epic duel, but never raced again after sustaining an injury when being trained for the Arc.
Owned and bred by the Queen, Highclere may not have rated very high as a two-year-old but was a different proposition in her Classic year. Making her seasonal debut in the 1000 Guineas and wearing blinkers for the first time, Highclere knuckled down to beat Polygamy by a short head. She bypassed the Oaks at Epsom for the French equivalent, the Prix de Diane at Chantilly, and won cosily by two lengths to complete a rare double.
A specialist miler, Kris was just the type of horse Mercer excelled on and they enjoyed many important victories together. The best came after finishing second in the 1979 2000 Guineas with the St James’s Palace Stakes, the Sussex Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes among the finest moments that season. The 1980 campaign was marred by niggling injuries, but he did win the Lockinge and was narrowly beaten by Known Fact in his bid to retain the QEII on his final start.
Gunner B got better with age and proved a willing partner for Mercer. Originally trained by Geoff Toft in Yorkshire, he did not join the Henry Cecil stable until he was a five-year-old but had been partnered regularly by Mercer to several decent victories. He had just the one season at Warren Place, but it was a prolific one with five wins, including the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the Eclipse.