Humorist: The One Lung Epsom Derby Winner

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com! Today I am bringing to you a brand new post about a miraculous horse from the early 20th century and when I read about it, I knew I wanted to share his story. So without further ado, let’s get right into it.


Humorist was born in 1918 to Polymelus out of Jest. He was a chestnut colt with a broad white blaze and was described to have a ‘kind and intelligent’ temperament. He was bred by his owner Jack Barnato Joel who was a South African mining magnate and horse breeder. Humorist was sent to Jack’s private trainer Charles Morton at Letcombe Bassett in Berkshire.

When in training, Humorist confused his trainer and owner as he would switch from traveling easily to struggling in a matter of strides. Charles Morton would go on to say ‘all the time I felt there was something wrong with him… He would be perfectly well one day and listless the next’. It would only be after Humorist’s death that the reasons for this would be revealed.

In 1920, Humorist became one of the best two year olds of his generation when he won three times and finished second twice in five starts. His debut came in the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom in June where he won by a neck, however he looked to have been set for an easy victory, the closeness of the finish confusing his connections once again.

Humorist was then found to be suffering with a cough so he ended up missing his intended target at Royal Ascot. His return came in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster where he was beaten by a neck by Lemonora. Humorist then went on to win the Buckenham Stakes and Clearwell Stakes pretty impressively before heading to Newmarket for the Middle Park Stakes, where he was beaten by a neck by Monarch.

Moving into 1921 and now three years old, Humorist headed straight for the Classic 2000 Guineas without having a trial run beforehand. He started as the favourite of twenty six runners. He led the race well into the closing stages and looked like a clear winner, however he abruptly finished third behind Craig an Eran and Lemonora. The audience were less than impressed and many started to question his courage, however his jockey Steve Donoghue insisted there had to be a physical explanation. This being said, trainer Charles Morton changed Humorist’s training regime, working him very lightly in the lead up to the Derby.

Humorist went into the Epsom Derby as the second favourite at 6/1 with only Craig an Eran at a shorter price, going off as the 5/1 favourite. He tracked the leaders before being sent by Steve Donoghue through a gap on the rails and into the lead just two furlongs from the finish. He held off a sustained challenge from Craig an Eran to win by a neck.

After the race, Humorist appeared to be distressed and unsteady and had to spend the night in the racecourse stables before he was well enough to be transported back home.

The plan for Humorist was to head to Royal Ascot next, however during his preparations he was found to be bleeding from his nostrils so it was decided to rest him and miss Royal Ascot again.

In late June, Humorist was painted by artist Alfred Munnings, however just hours later he was found dead in his stable, in a pool of his own blood.

An autopsy was performed and it revealed that Humorist had been suffering from chronic tuberculosis, this would have affected him for months prior to his death. This diagnoses explains the concerns that his trainer had in regards to his sudden change when running and also the concerns of his jockey who knew something was not right. Essentially, this diagnoses means that Humorist had been running with one lung for the majority of his very short career, including his victory in the Epsom Derby. Steve Donoghue paid tribute to Humorist saying:

He gave me everything he had when it must have been agony for him. No horse ever showed greater courage.”

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1086635/2/index.htm

Humorist was buried at his owner, Jack Barnato Joel’s Childwick Bury Stud near St Albans.

To this day, many rate Humorist as one of the best horses of all time, but definitely one of the best of his generation.


What an absolute warrior of a horse. Of course in today’s day and age when there is an issue with a horse, straight away vets are in and doing everything they can to get to the bottom of it, but baring in mind this was in 1921 and it was a far less advanced time and the chances of them being able to detect this would have been a lot lower.

It breaks my heart knowing he was giving everything he had, whilst in excruciating pain and he managed to achieve everything he did.

This was a new story for me, so I hope you all took something from this post that you didn’t know before. I will see you Saturday morning at 11am for a new post!