top of page

"Sysonby"-Equestrian Painting
Edward Herbert Miner (American, 1882-1941)
Depicting the champion thoroughbred horse Sysonby (1902-1906)
Oil on canvas, signed "E H Miner 1905"
24 x 32 inches  (31-1/4 x 39 w/frame)
Purchased 10/28/04 from The Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Walter M Jeffords, a prominent Philadelphia lawyer and racehorse owner, at Sotheby's NY, 2004

Sysonby (1902–1906) was an American Thoroughbred racehorse. He won every start easily, except one, at distances from one mile to two and a quarter miles. His superiority as a two and three-year-old was unchallenged during his short career of 15 race starts. Sysonby was regarded by many experts as the best horse to have raced in the United States between the Civil War and World War I. His sole loss in 15 starts came after he was doped by his groom as a bribe; even then, it took another member of the Hall of Fame, Artful, to beat him

Foaled in Kentucky, Sysonby was a bay son of the 1885 Epsom Derby winner, Melton, out of the English mare Optime by Orme (by the undefeated Ormonde). The mating of Melton and Optime was arranged by Marcus Daly, who was involved with the Anaconda Copper Mine. Daly died before Optime, stabled in England, foaled. His stock, including the still pregnant Optime, was brought to New York to be auctioned. James R. Keene purchased Optime for $6,600, sending her to his Castleton Stud in Kentucky, which he rarely visited.

Apparently Optime's foal, observed in his paddock, was anything but inspiring. Considered unattractive and small, as well as slow, young Sysonby was to be sent back to England for sale. But Keene's trainer, the well-regarded James G. Rowe, Sr., had seen Sysonby in action during some early trials. When it was time for the yearlings to be sent away, Rowe, a leading trainer who had once been a leading jockey (guiding Harry Bassett to his Saratoga Cup win amongst many other successes), covered Sysonby in blankets, convincing Keene he was too ill to make the long ocean journey.

In the care of Rowe, Sysonby won everything Rowe entered him in by sizable margins, with the exception of the Futurity Stakes (USA), where he came in an unaccountable third, beaten by the filly Tradition and the filly Artful. Artful ranked 94th in the top 100 U.S. Thoroughbred champions of the 20th century by Blood-Horse magazine). Rowe saw Sysonby's groom exhibiting a large sum of money, and the groom admitted he'd been bribed to drug Sysonby before the race.

If not drugged, nothing beat Sysonby. The turf writer Neil Newman ranked Sysonby as one of the three best colts he'd ever seen. The other two were Colin (also trained by Rowe) and Man o' War.

Sysonby was the top money earner of 1905. Average winning margin was 4 ¼ lengths. Was ahead at every point of every race, except at the quarter call in the Brighton Junior Stakes, and in the stretch of the Futurity.

Sysonby was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 1956. In the list of the top 100 U.S. Thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century by Blood-Horse magazine, he ranks 30th.

Eighteen years after Sysonby's death, a December 11, 1924 Daily Racing Form article looking back on his racing career, called Sysonby "One of Greatest Race Horses in History of the American Turf". James Rowe, Sr. was also inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame as a trainer.

Provenance: Walter Morrison Jeffords Sr. (August 8, 1883 – September 28, 1960) was a successful Investment banker and owner/breeder of Thoroughbred racehorses who, in partnership with his wife's uncle, Samuel Riddle, purchased and operated Faraway Farm near Lexington Kentucky where they stood Man o' War. Jeffords is one of only five people to be named an Exemplar of Racing by the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

His former estate is now Ridley Creek State Park.

Horse Portrait- "Sysonby," Edward Herbert Herbert Miner. ex Sotheby's 2004

    bottom of page