This mid-19th-century aquatint engraving by British artist John Harris III (1811-1865) is after a painting by John Frederick Herring Snr (1795-1865). It depicts Teddington, winner of the Derby Stakes at Epsom, alongside his trainer and jockey.
In true British style, despite injury, a ‘clubby’ foot, and a restless attitude, this plucky underdog overcame all the odds to win the Derby Stakes of 1851. Teddington, a brutish light chestnut stallion, became an unlikely hero before hordes of excitable Victorians.
Trained by no-nonsense Yorkshireman Alec Taylor Sr, he was a tricky horse to manage. One of his front feet had a deformity, corrected with custom shoes, and he was an aggressive ride. Taylor rode him personally in his first training gallops with previous riders being thrown to the grass. But gradually, as Teddington became accustomed to life as a racehorse, his formidable spirit began to flourish, picking up his first unlikely win in 1850.
A year later, with his reputation growing, the bookmakers tipped him to win the prestigious Derby Stakes at Epsom. The scene was set for an epic contest. Job Marson primed for the race, a controversial northern jockey who despised his southern counterparts. Trainer Taylor Sr confident of victory. But, in a dramatic twist, Teddington picked up an injury, which hampered his training and affected his appetite. For a while, the situation looked desperate until a last-minute reprieve and his full recovery. With the crowds buoyed by the thrill of the Derby, he brought home the win to much acclaim.
Did you know: In the 1850s, Derby Day was quite an event with a lively array of entertainment including clowns, musicians, and conjurers.
Engravings, such as these, were popular with the aristocracy. Designed to celebrate notable winners, they were often hung in country homes across the UK. Horse racing was a popular interest for the landed gentry, not only did it provide ample opportunity to gamble away their inheritance (which many did), but it also lifted the standing of those involved in ownership.
And, of course, everyone loves an overachiever.
Held within a later frame and glazed.
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Medium: Hand coloured aquatint on paper
Overall size: 33½” x 25½” / 86cm x 65cm
Year of creation: c. 1851
Condition: Artwork presents well. Minor discolouration.
Artist’s auction maximum: £3,699