Brigadier Gerard was one of the best and most popular British Thoroughbred race horses of the 20th century, and won 17 of his 18 races.
Bred by John Hislop in England and foaled March 5, 1968, Brigadier Gerard was a son of the modest stallion Queen's Hussar and the non-winning mare La Paiva, a daughter of Le Chevalier. The beautifully balanced bay colt was named for Arthur Conan Doyle's swashbuckling hero.
Debuting on the racecourse in late June 1970, Brigadier Gerard finished his first season unbeaten in four races, including the prestigious Middle Park Stakes. Even so, he was rated below the more experienced Mill Reef and My Swallow on the year-end handicap.
He entered the season's first classic, the Two Thousand Guineas Stakes without a preparatory race and won convincingly from Mill Reef and My Swallow. Brigadier Gerard followed that victory with wins in the St. James's Palace Stakes, Sussex Stakes, Goodwood Mile, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, and Champion Stakes. He was kept out of the Epsom Derby, partly to protect him from a difficult race early in the season and partly because they were unsure how far he would stay, as his pedigree was more that of a miler than a true classic-distance horse. (Mill Reef won the race.) At the end of his three-year-old season, he was unbeaten in 10 races, at distances between 5 furlongs (1006 m) and a mile and a quarter.
At four, Brigadier Gerard ran his unbeaten streak to 15 with wins in the Lockinge Stakes, Westbury Stakes, Prince of Wales's Stakes, Eclipse Stakes, and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Then came the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup. Brigadier Gerard faced off against the 1972 Epsom Derby winner Roberto and runner-up, Rheingold. The 3-year-old Roberto had run poorly in his previous start and was not considered the main threat. Ridden by the American jockey Braulio Baeza, Roberto ran the race of his life to win, beating Brigadier Gerard by three lengths while lowering the York Racecourse record in the process.
Brigadier Gerard closed out his career with two more wins in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Champion Stakes. He retired at the end of his four-year-old season, a winner of 17 races from 18 starts, with total earnings of 253,024.70 pounds.
He stood at stud first at Egerton Stud and later at his owner's East Woodhay Stud. Brigadier Gerard was not a success as a sire. Brigadier Gerard died in 1989.
I was lucky enough to meet the Brigadier in 1986.