The history of the Darley Arabian begins in 1700 on the Syrian desert outside Aleppo where Thomas Darley, a son of Richard Darley of Yorkshire, was a merchant trader in the Eastern Mediterranean, a member of the Levant Company and the British Consul.
Seeking an authentically pure Anazah Arabian colt for his father’s stud at Aldby Hall, Darley negotiated the purchase of a very fine yearling colt from Sheikh Mirza II of the Fedan Bedouins. The bay colt that caught the British Consul’s eye was named Manak or Manica, from the famed “Muniqui” strain of Arabians noted for their swift paces, and one of the purest of Arabian strains.
Thomas Darley arranged to purchase the yearling colt for 300 golden sovereigns. He wrote of the horse to his brother Richard at the family’s seat at Aldby Hall, Buttercrambe, near Leedes. The letter is dated 21 December 1703:
Your obleeging favour of the 7 April came to my hands the 16 October per our convoy …nothing is more grateful to me than to hear the welfare of my relations and friends and more particularly your good self. I take notice what discourse you have had with my father and it is very true he has ordered my returning, which I would gladly obey would my affairs permit. Therefore, I hope he will be pleased to excuse my delay until a more proper season, for I assure you I am not in love with this place to stay an hour longer than is absolutely necessary.
Since my father expects I should send him a stallion, I esteem myself happy in a colt I bought about a year and a half ago with a design indeed to send him at the first good opportunity. He comes four at the latter end of March or the beginning of Aprill next. His colour is bay and his near foot before and both his hind feet have white upon them. He has a blaze down his face something of the largest. He is about 15 hands high, of the most esteemed race among the Arabs both by sire & dam and the name of the said race is called Mannicka.
The only fear I have about him at present is that I shall not be able to get him aboard this wartime, though I have the promise of a very good and intimate friend the Honble & Revd Henry Bridges, son of Lord Chandos, who embarks in the Ipswich. Captain Wm Waklin will not refuse taking in a horse for him since his brother is one of the Lords of the Admiralty; besides I intend to go to Scanda to assist in getting him off, which, if I can accomplish, and he arrives safe. I believe he will not be disliked for he is esteemed here where I could have sold him at a considerable price if I had not designed him for England.
I have desired Bridges to deliver him to my brother John or Cousin Charles whoever he can find first and they are to follow my father’s orders in sending him into the country. For the freight and all charges to his landing I will order payment of though am not certain what it may amount to. Am told by a friend who sent home a horse last year it cost him inclusive a £100 stg.
When you see cousin Peirson pray tender him my humble salutes and since his daughter is ready I shall endeavour with all speed to prepare myself. I have given my friend Mr. Bridges 2 chequens to drink with you (in case you are in Town) and brother John and Coz Charles which I wd call to mind is a present worth your notice.
I heartily wish you health & prosperity (and as the season invites) a Merry Xmas with many succeeding.
I respectfully remain dear brother
Your most affec. brother
The Arabian arrived safely but Thomas Darley died allegedly of poisoning on his way home to his wedding. On arrival in England in 1704, the Arabian was taken to Aldby where he stood for a fee of £5 7s 6d. The GSB notes that :
“He covered very few mares except Mr Darley’s, who had very few well bred besides Almanzor’s dam.”
Despite this disadvantage, the Darley Arabian sired a tremendous number of good runners: Childers, Almanzor, Aleppo, Cupid, Brisk, Daedalus, Dart, Skipjack, Manica, Lord Lonsdale’s Mare, and Lord Tracy’s Mare. The Darleys themselves produced the next most significant son of their famous Arabian, a colt named Almanzor, foaled in 1713. Almanzor sired Spinner, his sister, and several other useful daughters. Almanzor’s older full brother Aleppo who was unraced due to an accident, sired the famous Hobgoblin (see post dated May 22, 2010) and a better sire in Spark.
Another son, Manica, is noted as a foundation sire of the Cleveland Bay horse, a carriage breed developed in the Cleveland Hills of Yorkshire. A final son, Bulle Rocke, is said to be the first Thoroughbred stallion imported into American, although he does not appear in the General Stud Book and exerted no influence as a sire.
Whistlejacket was one of the first Darley sons to run, winning at York in 1712 and was bought by Colonel Childers for £120. Credit is due Leonard Childers for esteeming the stallion highly enough to twice send his prized mare Betty Leedes. The first result in 1714 was “Flying” Childers , thought the fastest horse the world had ever seen. He was purchased by the Duke of Devonshire, on 28 September 1719 and became Champion Sire in both 1730 and 1736.
The second product of this magical mating between the Darley Arabian and Betty Leedes was Bartlet’s Childers in 1716. Unraced for his better known name of “Bleeding Childers,” he would eventually outshine his famous full brother as a winning sire. Standing at Nutwith Coate near Masham in Yorkshire, “Bleeding Childers” begat a string of first rate runners to include Squirt, Oedipus and the Little Hartley Mare (This same mare is known in THE HIGHEST STAKES by the name Amorett.)
Through Squirt, who sired Marske, the Darley Arabian would become the grandsire of the great Eclipse whose blood still dominates the turf to this day.
The Darley Arabian is known to have covered mares as late as 1719, standing at Aldby until his death at the advanced age of 30 in 1730. A lifesized portrait of this Arabian, showing the stallion exactly as Thomas Darley described him, still dominates the hall at Aldby Park.