Trained by: Aidan O'Brien
Owners: Mrs John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith
Jockeys: Kieren Fallon, Michael Kinane, Seamie Heffernan
Did you know: George Washington was one of the most talented and certainly the most charismatic colt of his generation. A leading two-year-old that won both the Phoenix Stakes and the National Stakes, he also generated much discussion with his pre-race antics of refusing to enter a saddling box and a notable reluctance to walk under the arch out of the pre-parade ring at the Curragh. As a three-year-old, he blew both hot and cold, looking like a star in the making when winning the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, but also disappointing on three other occasions. Retired to stud at the conclusion of that campaign, he was dramatically returned to training as a four-year-old having proved to be sub-fertile. He produced some excellent efforts in defeat in Group 1 company, but failed to win in that campaign and his career and indeed life ended tragically as he broke down fatally in the Breeders' Cup Classic. That wasn't the end of the story though, as he did succeed in siring just one horse during his short career at stud, a filly that would be called Date With Destiny. Trained by Richard Hannon, she won a maiden as well as being Listed-placed and has now gone to stud as a broodmare in her bid to continue her father's genetic legacy.
He was never as good when returning to the track after a brief and failed career as a stallion before breaking down at the Breeders' Cup on October 27 2007 and having to be put down. He made his debut at Newmarket in May 2005 when finishing a close up third over five furlongs but finished the remainder of his two year old campaign unbeaten on his next four outings. A comfortable victory in a maiden at The Curragh was his initial victory before he defeated stable companion Amigoni in the Railway Stakes (Group 2) on Budweiser Irish Derby Day. It was after this victory that he began to show signs of temperament as he refused to leave the winners' enclosure until led out by his stable companion but any doubts about the high opinion trainer Aidan O'Brien had of his ability were dispelled on his very next outing. Lining up for the Group 1 Waterford Wedgwood Phoenix Stakes rragh in early August over six furlongs, 'Gorgeous George' was faced by the Barry Hills-trained Red Clubs, an impressive winner of the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot in mid-June but despite the obvious claims of the English raider, O'Brien's charge started a strongly supported 8/13 favourite in a field of seven. Travelling supremely throughout, he struck the front early in the last quarter of a mile and with Kieren Fallon just using hands and heels, drew clear of his rivals to win by a hugely impressive eight lengths. That run launched him to favouritism for the English 2000 Guineas the following May and the impression that Aidan O'Brien had another Classic winner on his hands wasn't dispensed with after another Group 1 victory in the Laing O'Rourke National Stakes, again at The Curragh, in mid-September. Although he was not as visually impressive on this occasion, he still won decisively by two lengths at his first attempt over seven furlongs and went into winter quarters as the Champion Two Year Old in Europe on a rating of 124. It was no real surprise when O'Brien announced that his charge would not have a prep race for the 2000 Guineas as a three-year-old as the Master of Ballydoyle had already captured the first Classic of the season on three occasions with King Of Kings (1998), Rock Of Gibraltar (2002) and Footstepsinthesands (2005) all making winning seasonal debuts in the big race itself. On the day, George Washington started a heavily backed 6/4 favourite despite the fact that the stable did not appear to be firing on all cyclinders at the time but once again, this top class colt put up a supremely impressive performance. Travelling strongly under Fallon in midfield, George surged to the front with a devastating turn of foot inside the two furlong marker and settled the issue in a matter of strides. At the post, he had two and a half lengths to spare over subsequent Epsom Derby winner and the previously unbeaten Sir Percy with Olympian Odyssey back in third. This was a brilliant performance although once again, the horse's quirky temperament came to the surface after the race as he steadfastly refused to enter the winner's enclosure. Eventually, he relented after his trainer had taken him on a virtual tour of the enclosures.
Taking His Chance
George Washington had raced mainly on good or faster ground up to this point of his career and there were many who were surprised when it was announced that he would take his chance in the Boylesports Irish 2000 Guineas at The Curragh three weeks later despite the fact that the ground was officially heavy after a particularly wet spring. Starting the 4/7 favourite to complete the Guineas double, he was thwarted by the Jeremy Noseda-trained Araafa and went down by two lengths. Araafa had only finished fourth to George Washington in the English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on his previous outing and this high class performer went on to land the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot the following month. While the heavy ground was clearly against O'Brien's charge, it was also revealed that he had suffered a shoulder injury and plans for a summer campaign were quickly aborted. Indeed, we did not see him in action again until he lined up in the Celebration Mile at Goodwood in late August and with Michael Kinane in the saddle. Despite Aidan O'Brien's warning that he would need the race, the horse started favourite to defeat his five rivals but after a tardy start, was always struggling to justify. The race was run at a tremendous pace and while George Washington made good late headway, he had to settle for third, 1¼l behind Caradak.
The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot was the horse's next assignment four weeks later where O'Brien promised we would see a different horse and once again he was proved correct. George Washington was simply awesome as he gained revenge on Araafa by a cosy length and a quarter having raced towards the rear of the field for much of the journey. While it was generally expected he would round off his career by confirming his status as the best miler in the world in the Breeders Cup Mile event at Churchill Downs in early November, connections decided to go for the Breeders Cup Classic race over 10 furlongs on dirt. While he had never raced on a dirt surface before, it was probably the trip that found him out as he had to settle for sixth, seven lengths behind Invasor. George Washington was retired to stand at Coolmore Stud but due to fertility problems, that plan was shelved and he returned to the stable, with Holy Roman Emperor filling his place in the breeding shed. Just one George Washington horse made it to the racetrack and that was the Richard Hannon trained Date With Destiny, a bay filly that was the product of a liaison with Rainbow Quest filly, Flawlessly. She won her maiden at Newbury last July but was 4¼l off the winners when sixth and fifth at Group 3 and Group 2 level subsequently. While there will continue to be interest in her during her three-year-old career, it's safe to suggest that Date With Destiny will never mirror her sire's achievements. George Washington's comeback did not produce the hoped for dividends and ended tragically. O'Brien's charge did not make his seasonal debut until taking his chance in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in June and in a desperate finish, he finished a close up fourth beaten two short heads and a head with victory going to Saeed Bin Suroor's Ramonti. This was an encouraging first run and connections felt that a step up to 10 furlongs would be the next logical progression.
A Great Loss to Racing
In early July, George Washington lined up for the Coral Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. The race produced another memorable finish with Notnowcato defeating Epsom Derby winner Authorized by a length and a half with George Washington a further head back in third. Dropped back to a mile for the Prix Du Moulin at Longchamp in early September, George Washington started favourite to regain the winning thread but never looked likely to score at any stage and was nearest at the finish in third place behind the top French filly, Darjini. While it was another good effort by the Danehill colt, it was clear that the mile trip had become too sharp for him. Sadly, George Washington was fatally injured in the Breeders Cup Classic over 10 furlongs at Monmouth Park in America in October 2007. Heavy rain turned the track into a quagmire and after tracking the leaders until beyond half way, George began to drop back through the field. However, at the top of the home stretch, he was quickly dismounted by Kinane and unfortunately the vets could do nothing to save him. His loss was felt all around the world of racing and tributes from some of the world's leading trainers quickly poured in. His trainer was understandably devastated by the death of one of his favourite horses and was quick to praise his charge for giving him some memorable moments during the course of his relatively short career. Certainly, his scintillating victories in the 2006 English 2000 Guineas and the 2006 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes will live long in the memory of those who had the pleasure to witness it.