The Godolphin Arabian

The famous Godolphin Arabian, so central to modern thoroughbred bloodstock, was foaled in Yemen around 1724. Also known as the Godolphin Barb, he was a bay colt, with a little white on his off-hind heel and stood 14.3 hands high. He was exported, via Syria to Tunis, as one of four horses presented by the Bey of Tunis to the King of France.

Bought in Paris by Englishman Edward Coke, the horse was taken to Coke’s estate at Longford Hall in Derbyshire. When Coke died in August 1733 the Arabian was sold to Francis, 2nd Earl of Godolphin; whence he gets his name. While, according to the records, the horse never raced, he was an outstanding success at stud. Although he only sired about 80 foals in a career lasting 22 years, he was leading sire three times, in 1738, 1745 and 1747.

The Godolphin Arabian died in 1753, aged 29 and is buried at Wandlebury Hall in Cambridgeshire. His lasting influence on succeeding generations of thoroughbreds can be gauged from the fact that 50 years after his death, the first 76 British Classic winners had at least one strain of him in their pedigree. Many great modern champions such as Seabiscuit and Man O’ War have been descendants of the Godolphin Arabian.

The Godolphin Arabian
The Godolphin Arabian with Grimalkin the stable cat (pictured by the door) (British Horseracing Museum)