George Barbee was born in Norfolk, England. Dates of his birth vary between 1850 and 1854. He began working with horses when he was apprenticed to Tom Jennings, Sr., as an exercise rider for 1865 English Triple Crown winner Gladiateur. Barbee came to the United States in 1872 specifically to ride for John Chamberlain. He began his stateside riding career at Monmouth Park.
In 1873, Barbee won the inaugural Preakness Stakes aboard Survivor by 10 lengths. The margin of victory in that race stood as a Preakness record until Smarty Jones won the 2004 Preakness by 11½ lengths. Barbee also won the Preakness aboard Shirley (1876) and Jacobus (1883). His three victories in the Preakness stood until Hall of Famer Eddie Arcaro broke the record in 1951.
Barbee won the 1874 Belmont Stakes aboard Saxon, and the 1874 and 1875 Travers Stakes aboard Attila and D’Artagnan, respectively.
Tom Ochiltree was one of Barbee’s most significant mounts. He took the colt to victory in the Saratoga Cup, Monmouth Cup, Centennial Cup, Westchester Cup, and Baltimore Cup. Other notable horses ridden by Barbee include Springbok, Duke of Magenta, Eole, and Uncas.
Barbee won a verified 136 races in America and many more in England. Other notable wins in the United States include the Bowie Stakes, Monmouth Oaks, Jockey Club Handicap (2), Champion Stakes, Autumn Cup, Buffalo Handicap, Champagne Stakes, United States Hotel Stakes (2), Flash Stakes, and Kenner Stakes. Barbee also won the Newmarket International Handicap in England.
George Barbee was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1996.
The Great Race at Pimlico, 1877
credit: Keeneland Library