By Edward Snow
If you’re planning to vacation in Ireland in the not-so-distant future here’s a travel tip you may want to consider: jog on over to County Kildare to take a look at the Irish National Stud Farm, a.k.a. the horse racing dynasty astrology built.
When Queen Elizabeth visited the National Stud a few years ago she unveiled a sculpture that was commissioned to mark the occasion and honor a 112-year royal connection with the horse farm. For the event, sculptor Anthony Scott created a large, hollowed-out spherical dome, upon which zodiac signs and constellations were affixed. Looking inside the sphere the background visitors see is a starry, night-darkened sky. At the center of the exhibit in bold relief a sculpted foal has his head crazily titled skyward, drinking in starlight.
For sure, the sculpture on display at the farm has little to do with royalty and everything to do with the character and originality of the stud farm’s colorful founder, Colonel William Hall Walker. As an unidentified travel writer put it: “In a place where an animal can be worth the price of an island, the legacy of the Colonel still stands as the most interesting thread in a story of stallions and stars.”
Colonel William (Willie) Walker was the son of a Scottish brewer who developed the scotch whiskey product that is marketed today around the globe under the Johnnie Walker labels. While stationed in India with the British Army he developed a fascination with Eastern philosophies, including Buddhism and astrology.
In 1900, at the turn of the century, the colonel returned to Europe and bought land at Tully in Kildare. Almost immediately he began breeding horses and putting his astrological theories to the test.
The colonel believed that horses should be bred and raced based on information revealed in their birth charts (horoscopes). Quirky to most observers was his practice of building stalls for the horses with skylights so the Sun, Moon, planets and stars could be seem and more favorably influence his nursery of prospective winners.
When a thoroughbred foal was born, Walker would meticulously record the time of birth and draw up a birth chart (horoscope) for the event himself. Regardless of bloodlines, if he didn’t like what the chart revealed the foal would be sold immediately.
If this seems severe consider this: within 10 years the Colonel’s horses had won all of Europe’s top races. And the electional chart he chose for his horse nursery and equine breeding center continues to work marvelously well, producing champions in its current incarnation.
In 1915 Colonel Walker gave his horse farm to the British crown. At the time the government was desperately in need of cavalry horses as World War I progressed. The government, in turn, purchased Walker’s horse farm in Ireland and a training stable he owned at Russley Park in Wiltshire, England.
Walker was given the title of Lord Wavertree in recognition of his gesture, and the property and horses became the first National Stud for Great Britain. In 1943 the National Stud was moved from Ireland to England and, two years later, the Tully property in County Kildare became the Irish National Stud.
In an article for Arizona Horse Connection magazine astrologer Jeff Harman makes the point that astrology and horse racing have a symbiotic relationship in the modern era. Astrologers help bettors pick winning ponies based on an analysis of how transiting planets line up with planetary placements in the birth charts (horoscopes) of horses and riders on race day.
Today, computer programs make it possible to swiftly make the needed astrological calculations. It was a bit more tedious and time consuming in Colonel Walker’s day.
Keep this in mind: the planet Saturn deals with restriction and delays and the fifth house is where solar energies are most creatively expressed. In the Irish National Stud’s horse museum, a horoscope book in a glass display cabinet lies open on the chart of a bay colt named Lord of the Sea.
The verdict is not good.
“Saturn in his 5th house …makes him very little good for racing or stud purposes. No good at all except for selling,” the horse breeder explained.
Lord of the Sea may have failed to distinguish himself but, back in the day, Walker- bred classic winners included Minoru, Cherry Lass, Prince Palatine, Night Hawk, White Eagle, Let Fly and Challenger II.
About the author