Blackwell achieved great success at Lagrange where he trained Rock Sand to win Triple Crown
In common with so many of Newmarket’s historic stable yards, Lagrange stables in Snailwell Road has changed little in appearance in more than 100 years.
Now occupied by trainer Ed Dunlop, at the turn of the 20th century it was home to George Blackwell, who achieved the rare feat of training both a Derby and Grand National winner.
Blackwell had been head lad to the all-conquering Matt Dawson at Heath House before he began training in his own right in 1892. It was at Lagrange in 1903 that he achieved his greatest success when he trained Rock Sand, to win the Triple Crown.
The colt was bred and owned by Sir James Miller great, great, great uncle of current town trainer Hugo Palmer, whose Kremlin Cottage yard is next door to Lagrange.
Rock Sand was a notoriously bad mover in his slower paces but after winning the 2000 Guineas was made 6/4 favourite for the Derby.
A punter who watched him move badly to the start was said to have remarked to his trainer: “I suppose you know your horse is lame?”
“Oh you’ve noticed that have you?” replied Blackwell. “I think he has a chance all the same.”
Rock Sand, ridden by the American jockey Danny Maher, won by two lengths and went on to win the St Leger at Doncaster easily. His victories saw Blackwell crowned champion trainer in 1903.
The following year, Rock Sand’s victories included the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket, his final race which he won with ease receiving a tremendous reception from his home crowd. He was retired to stud but when his owner died in 1906 he was sold to Mr August Belmont, president of the New York Jockey Club for £25,000.
There, among others, he sired Mahubah, the dam of the great American champion Man O’War and Tracery, sire of the 1923 Derby winner Papyrus.
In 1920, Blackwell sold Lagrange to Lord Glanely and moved to Beverley House, in Exeter Road, where three years later he trained Sergeant Murphy to win the Grand National and spent the remainder of his training career before he retired in 1929 and lived out his life at Sunnyside in Newmarket’s Park Lane where he died in September 1942.
His daughter Angela married the former classic winning jockey Henri Jellis, who had retired from riding in 1936 .
The following year he started training and took over Beverley House from his father-in-law. In his first full season after the war he sent out Happy Knight to win the 1946 2000 Guineas, giving jockey Tommy Weston his first classic success in a decade.
In the late 1920s and 1930s Weston had forged a hugely successful partnership with the 17th Earl of Derby and was associated with some of his greatest horses, including Derby winners Hyperion and Sansovino and Colorado winner of the 1926 2000 Guineas.
See the all of the photographs in the Newmarket Journal. Page 87.