William Joseph Shayer
William Joseph Shayer (British, 1811-1891)
LORD LYON WINNING THE DERBY AT EPSOM, 1866
Oil on canvas, 30” x 40”
Signed, inscribed, and dated.
$25,000. – 35,000.
Mr. and Mrs. J. F. Byers, Jr.
Vicars Brothers London // Exhibited: “Hunting and Racing Exhibition,”
The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1939
The names of the horses are inscribed in the foreground: Redan, Blue Riband, Vespasian, Strathconan, Janitor, Knight of the Crescent, Rustic, Savernake, and Lord Lyon.
Hunting and Racing Exhibition, Baltimore Museum of Art April 21-May 10 1939 No. 84 lent by Mr. and Mrs. J. F. Byers Jr.
In 1866, Lord Lyon won the 2,000 Guineas Stakes, the Derby Stakes, and the St. Leger Stakes and became the third horse ever to win the English Triple Crown. With Harry Custance at the reins, wearing the infamous black and scarlet colors of Sir Richard Sutton, both horse and rider completed the most elusive trio of wins in all of racing. Only 15 horses have claimed the English Triple Crown since 1809, the first year all three races were held. The concept of a Triple Crown was born only after the great West Australian swept all three races in 1853, giving owners a new high mark for which many would aim but very few would ever achieve. Some other horses that have won the crown include such greats as Ormonde, Flying Fox, Bahram, and Diamond Jubilee, and the jockeys who have piloted their mounts to such a rarefied achievement include the likes of Steve Donoghue (twice), Fred Archer, Herbert Jones, and Morny Cannon. Forty-five years and many great horses have come and gone since Lester Piggott rode Nijinsky to capture the Crown.
The present work depicts Lord Lyon, winning the Derby Stakes at Epsom, the most coveted leg of the English Triple Crown as it offers the largest purse and the most prestige. Lord Lyon is at full stretch as he crosses finish line to win by a head. Lyon’s jockey Harry Custance seems very calm and confident despite such a tight finish. His whip is put away and there seems to be no urgency on his part; he knows that he is sitting on the winner. The following description appeared the day after the race and helps one to truly experience the greatness of both Lord Lyon’s win and Shayer’s ability to capture that incredible moment.
The Daily News, May 17, 1866
“Lord Lyon was not taken into the paddock, and did not make his appearance in public until the other horses were about to leave it. He was then walked quietly down the course to a point opposite the grandstand, and back to near Tattenham Corner. The preliminary canters having been got over, with the usual result that every man must admire the going of the animal which be had previously made up his mind was the best, the horses were taken to the post. There were about half a dozen false starts, but at last all the competitors got away upon pretty equal terms, and rushed together up the hill. The pace both here and round the back of the course was pretty fast, but though there was some tailing, a fair number of horses were together as they rounded Tattenham corner, and a cry of admiration burst from the spectators as the varied colours of the riders flashed upon the eye. As they descended the hill, and came towards the straight, the Bribery colt was well in advance. The cry was raised, “Lord Ailesbury wins,” and more than one of Lord Lyon’s supporters asked, with evident anxiety, “Where’s the favourite?” The inquiry was not answered till the leading horses were within a short distance of the stand enclosure, when Custance brought up Lord Lyon, easily passed Rustic, who even then seemed clearly beaten, and ran alongside of the Bribery colt. For a moment it seemed as though the colt would getaway from this new competitor, but the superiority of Lord Lyon told at every stride, and he finished a winner by a head. Rustic was a bad third, and the others were nowhere. When the number of the winning horse was hoisted upon the telegraph, it was received with a deafening shout; and as Custance rode to the stand to weigh out, Lord Lyon was surrounded by a large crowd of admirers, who enthusiastically cheered both horse and jockey.”