Copyright: Courtesy of Colin Bul

Although now relatively unknown in Australia, Merman is arguably the most successful Australian horse to have ever competed abroad


TRAINER: C.L Macdonald; In Australia and William Robinson; In England

OWNERS: W.R. Wilson; In Australia and Lady de Bathe; In England

RACE RECORD/STAKE MONEY: 45 starts: 15 wins, 3 seconds, 4 thirds

Major Wins 

  • Yan Yean Stakes (1896)
  • Williamstown Cup (1896)
  • Lewes Handicap (1897)
  • Cesarewitch Handicap (1897)
  • Goodwood Plate (1899)
  • Goodwood Cup (1899)
  • Ascot Gold Cuyp (1900)


Bred at the Hobartville Stud, Merman was the son of Melbourne Cup winner Grand Flaneur. Early in his career when owned by W.R. Wilson, he won some minor races in Melbourne and Adelaide. In 1896 he showed ability by running fourth in the Caulfield Cup, and winning the Yan Yean Stakes and the Williamstown Cup. This latter win attracted the attention of Lady de Bathe (the former English actress, Lily Langtry) who had been visiting Australia and who had earlier purchased the 1896 Newmarket Handicap winner, Maluma. Merman was her next purchase and he too was sent to race in England.

Merman was an immediate success in England, winning three races in the 1897 season including the Cesarewitch Stakes, the famous distance race at Newmarket. In 1899 he won the Goodwood Cup and the Goodwood Plate, and ran second in the Grand Prix de Deauville under 66 kg. Merman was then set for the 1900 Ascot Gold Cup, which he won at the handsome odds of 25/1. Lily Langtry and her racing partner, the former leviathan bookmaker of Australia, Joe Thompson, reputedly won more than £100,000 on Merman during his three years racing in England.

"An Australian horse had ventured to England and taken Ascot by storm. It might be 100 years before that happened again" (Tony Morris).

Image Source: New York Public Library