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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label TB heritage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TB heritage. Show all posts

April 30, 2020

A Different Kind Of Derby

In an effort to give us all something to think about that is not tragic or terrifying, I present to you the following:

This weekend is the first Saturday in May, but due to COVID-19, for the first time since 1945, there will be no horses lining up at the post for the Kentucky Derby.  There WILL however be a Derby...

...of turtles! 

You can read the details here about the Kentucky Turtle Derby, which will even include an official race call by the Triple Crown announcer.  It doesn't sound like he has ever called a race this long before.  This isn't the first time racing reptiles have stepped in to give us something to cheer for:  the Turtle Derby emerged the same year, 1945, of the last equine Derby cancellation.

I will definitely be tuning to see the athletic prowess of delightfully named animals including Seattle Slow & Sir Hides A Bunch.  Thank you to whoever is organizing this, I, for one, sorely need a little levity.

It'd be even funnier if they actually ran like this...

June 6, 2015

Belmont Day: It’s Still A Small World!

In less than four hours (post parade at 6:40 pm Eastern Time, live stream from NBC here), Bob Baffert-trained colt, American Pharaoh will make his bid for the Triple Crown & Belmont Park’s last quarter-mile of track will once again ask if anyone can meet the challenge last conquered 37 years ago in Affirmed’s triumph (click for video).

Did I hear my name??
I don’t think I can NOT watch.

Fun Triple Crown History & Graphics:
Fab Infographics    |    Past Belmont Winners

Despite my ever-present worry for these young athletes, there is an uncanny series of connections between this afternoon’s grueling 1.5-mile thunder of hearts & hooves & the dappled liver chestnut I just hosed off after a short hill session.

American Pharaoh was sired by another Baffert-trained stallion, Pioneerof the Nile.  The latter made his own attempt at much-coveted garlands when he ran in the 2009 Kentucky Derby.  If it doesn’t immediately pop to mind, that was the year of 50-1 longshot, Mine That Bird’s incredible upset.

Under the guidance of legendary jockey, Calvin Borel (who also steals the show starring as himself in the film portrayal I JUST saw), that determined little gelding started dead last & ended up leaving the entire field of prestigious hopefuls in his wake on the way to collect his roses.

So why can’t I look away?

Some recent perusing of Equibase, made my eyes bug out (ok, it’s not that hard, but still…).  Encore’s own sire, Crowd Pleaser, was a 1995 PA-bred turf champion by AP Indy, winning his owners over $600,000 on the track.

And his last jockey in his final stakes wins (including the 2000 Sycamore Stakes, covering just over 1.5 miles on the beautiful grass of Keeneland Park, where he beat an Irish TB named Royal Strand who had set the track record just the year before)…was none other than Calvin Borel (who was finally inducted into the Hall of  Fame in 2013...I think winning over $125M earns him a spot!).

Click to embiggen
However, even if Pharaoh doesn't carry our historic connection across the wire first, breaking from #7 atop Curlin' son, Keen Ice, is Hall of Fame jockey, Kent Desormeaux, who rode Crowd Pleaser's dam, British mare Creaking Board in her last race in 1993, for yet another household racing name, trainer Bobby Frankel.

Regardless, just as I say in eventing:  may everyone keep the steel side down & run home safely!!

Will we see one?  Seattle Slew's 1977 Triple Crown trophy

March 22, 2015

Blogger Meets, Vol. II: I Add My Approval To The Owls’

Savannah sidewalk to hotel
Because I met royalty in Savannah at the end of January.   (Click here for Vol. I)

*pauses to accept shaming for being so many stories behind*

I had been emailing Beka (yes, THE Beka, unerringly witty author of “The Owls Approve) at the beginning of the year when she worried that Archie may need surgery for his irritatingly persistent leg wound (not that I would know aaaanything about those, ahem, orange money-eaters…).  Perfect chance to use one of the top perks of being a member of your USEA Adult Riders program:  hidden opt-in membership to what I have named Eventer Mafia, aka whatever help you need, wherever you are.

My view while writing, hence distraction!
Uh, Mafia?

The credit for the name goes to BFF, who applied it to another organization her husband was heavily involved in.  Both groups follow the classic model, though:  participate, volunteer for jobs, you meet people, they know people, people know people…and before long, everyone in EventLand becomes Kevin Bacon.  Although it’s usually far fewer than six degrees in this microcosm of HorseWorld (why do I like to name things like theme parks?).

Bet you didn’t think a horse blog post could connect owls, Kevin Bacon, & the Mafia.  Hey, a motto of mine is that we all have to be good at something.

Back To Beka

As she was concerned about Archie having to stand in a trailer post-op, should that occasion arise, I immediately whipped out one of my other skills of questionable merit:  attempting to solve everyone else’s problems.

Although in HorseWorld (“Tiger Trap” would be a great roller coaster name), it’s what we do, asking is not a pre-requisite!  I consider it paying it forward; there aren’t enough fingers in the noses of the world’s toddlers to count the number of people who have helped & taught me over the years decades.

I did at least email Beka with the offer before I threw resources at her, to slightly reduce creep-factor.  As I sent a quick text to find the contact information for several great vets & farm owners in GA, my brain had a rare moment of remembering something useful.

“Hey Beka – don’t you live in Savannah??”

Yes, yes she does.

“OMG, I will be there in two weeks for a work conference, wanna meet up?”  I mean, because, we both write about our horses & use dripping sarcasm on the interwebz.  Obviously we are both weird & crazy (in the best way), how could we not be besties??

Of Course We Did!

World tiny-ness:  Beka’s office was two block from our conference hotel by the Port.  Archie was a 45 minute ride from downtown, did I still want to meet him?  ABSOLUTELY!  One cannot meet a Beka without an Archie, it would just be wrong.

She walked over to my hotel & after a dinner date, we headed out to Archie’s home.  Beka herself was even more awesome in person than I suspected.  Not only hilarious, but compassionate, saavy, & unfazed by my habit of talking without pausing for breath.  I loved her immediately.

Beautiful portrait by Beka
Teh Archie

There was little moonlight when we parked under the Spanish moss at the farm.  My kind of place, casual, practical, organized, with nice, airy facilities for our southern summers.  I’d of course seen pictures of Beka’s incredibly sexy beast online, but I was in no way expecting what she brought back from the paddock.

You may have noticed I’ve become a teeeeensy bit of a TB nerd.  I’m moderately competent at guessing major bloodlines based on build & type.  However, when Archie stepped into the light, all I could say was, “Wow.”

Bold, intelligent eyes sized me up from a gorgeous, classic head, the kind I haven’t seen in a long time.  Archie looked like he was chiseled from a perfect model of the old British Thoroughbreds & he moved with a gliding confidence & precision that was simply stunning.  I believe my response was something tasteful & eloquent, along the lines of, “Holy shit, Beka, you have an incredible horse!”  Yeah, I’m much better in writing, LOL.

Photo shamelessly lifted from Beka's lovely work; pics in the dark suck.  :-(
 Archie stood patiently (perhaps swayed by my eagerly stuffing a carrot in his face) while Beka changed his bandages (his wound looked great!) & we proceeded to blind him about 47 times with camera & iThingy attempts at selfies.  Note:  we both kinda suck at selfies, heh.

No drugs were involved in the making of this picture
I remained stumped though; I told Beka, “Don’t tell me his breeding, I’m going to test myself!

Don’t worry,” she answered, “I don’t even remember it anyway, LOL!”  Sweet, no accidental clues!

Did You Win In The Game With Yourself?

Nope.  The closest I could get was “some ooold, high-end European blood.”  Then I made her requested she look it up before I exploded.

The Prince
No wonder – I’m not sure I’ve ever knowingly met a horse in the last decade who had Princequillo on the first page.  That exquisite British stud who nearly died on the ship carrying he & his dam to the US, away from the war where his sire died in artillery fire.  He was so sickly when the ship landed, he sold cheap...and became the greatest distance runner in US history alongside Kelso & was grandsire to Secretariat.
Not only that, but he was bred to the phenomenal mare, Baby League – I would have loved to have met La Dauphine, the filly that resulted!  Add in the strong lines of Nashua through Archie’s damsire, Seattle Slew on top (along with the obviously epic stallion, Chop Chop, nooo, I’m not biased at alllll…. ;P), & the fact that he’s a Storm Bird grandson, who are known for their athleticism & grit…no wonder I stopped breathing for a second!!

Wrap It Up, Rambling (Wo)Man

Classy woman.  Classy horse.  I am now part of yet another fandom (although sorry, Beka, Cumberbatch might outrank you on the fangirl list, but not on the awesome People Who Live In Normal World list!).  Does this mean I have to start a G+ group or something?

Beka, it was an honour, a pleasure, & a relief from fish conference stress (oh, it starts wayyyy before the conference itself) that I needed even more than I knew. 

By the way, you now need to move to NC so we can hang out & compile unbeatable sarcastic comebacks while galloping walking (like they are sound when you want them to be) horses though the woods.  I’ll get you in the Mafia…

March 17, 2015

Touching The Triple Crown

Post sponsored by,,

In Kentucky's bluegrass & limestone, where I spent 10 years of my youth, there is one day that has been sacred, every single year, since 1875 : the first Saturday in May.  Derby Day.

One amazing filly; from
In fact, the year we moved east from southern California, 1988, I was eight years old, & while we'd breathlessly watched Alysheba's gritty victory in '87, I'll never forget Winning Colors pushing her white bridle across the wire to become only the 3rd filly in what is now 140 years to wear the roses.  She not only led, untouchable save for Forty-Niner's late surge, start to finish, & went on to pocket over $1.5 million in her 19 starts, there hasn't been another since.

Those of us who don't normally follow racing, even those who don't know a thing about horses, still can't help but stop for "The Greatest Two Minutes In Sports."  Both legends & tragedies have unfolded over that mile-and-a-quarter, driven by the breathtaking power of pounding hooves & the stories that run beside them.

Aristides, 1st Ky Derby winner
Even The Race Has A Story

Just like the athletes, the Ky Derby sprung from English roots:  the Epsom Derby is the second race in the English Triple Crown (between the 2,000 Guineas & the St. Leger) & remains Britain's richest race.  Also run every year, beginning in 1780, this 1.5-mile contest was watched by a Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., the grandson of William Clark (yes, as in THE Lewis & Clark!).  Upon arriving home (all the cool kids live in KY, naturally), Clark promptly founded the Louisville Jockey Club as a fund-raiser to build a great American racetrack.

Even more illustrious history, along with guides to whose names we might hear on this year's irresistable call are all at your fingertips at sites like &, where you can peruse your favourite Derby legends as well,  and, which additionally lets you follow the Triple Crown, the Breeders Cup, & other top stakes races around the world.

Alysheba with Chris McCarron, stunning in blue & white
It's Only The First Race...

The Triple Crown:  does it even need an introduction?  There have only been 11 horses to win the title, although the official name did not exist until the 2nd winner in 1930, Gallant Fox (poor Sir Barton, but we still count him!).

We held our collective breath in 2014 as the brilliant chestnut, California Chrome, came so close.  Winning the Derby & the Preakness Stakes handily, he still finished 4th in the grueling 1.5-mile Belmont Stakes after suffering in-race injuries.  Nonetheless, he joined a prestigious list of 22 horses since 1932, including my own Alysheba, the son of Alydar, Affirmed's career rival (like Chrome, he came in 4th in the Belmont), who have "almost were."

Fun fact:  If you look at Chrome's pedigree, you will see a great-great-grandsire on top is the Irish stallion, Caro...who sired Winning Colors. 

It's A Thoroughbred Thing So I Had To!

Yes, after the sponsors contacted me about a Derby post, I immediately had to find out how many Triple Crown legends stood proudly in Encore's family tree (the pictorial version is still a work in progress, but a fun one).  I have been fully assimilated into TB-geek-land!  And the results are in:

2 legends: Eddie Arcaro soothes a chiseled Citation
A quick glance at his pedigree immediately shows the common, but no less phenomenal Seattle Slew (1977), Secretariat (1973), & War Admiral (1937).  Their stories, along with the spectacular Citation (1948), one of only three major North American Thoroughbreds (along with Cigar & Zenyatta) to win at least 16 consecutive major stakes races, I shared here

Digging a little deeper, I discovered that he directly carries the blood of SIX of these champions.  Putting my hand on Encore's shoulder, I can almost hear the rush of the Winner's Circle at Belmont Park...

The Additional Three:

Gallant Fox:  (1930)  Ridden to victory by jockey Earl Sande, he was the 1930 Champion 3-Year-Old Colt & Horse of the Year 1957 Hall of Fame Inductee.  Earning $328,165 in an era of hard luck, his sire line produced a Canadian mare, Ciboulette, who foaled a Northern Dancer colt named Night Shift, Crowd Pleaser's (Encore's sire) damsire.  Gallant Fox was the only TC winner whose son equaled his feat:  he sired 1935 Triple Crown winner, Omaha.

Gallant Fox with his dam, the "Matriarch" herself
Interestingly, his dam was a British mare named St. Margeurite, considered one of the "Matriarchs of the Turf."  A stakes winner in her own right, she was also the grand-dam of the English Triple Crown winner & damsire to Man O'War, Rock Sand.

Count Fleet...apparently worthy of your furs
Count Fleet:  (1943)  Sired by the 1928 Derby winner, Reigh Count, this Ky-bred colt was undefeated as a 3-yr-old, even though he was injured while winning the 1943 Wood Memorial, a Derby prep race.  He recovered in time to win the Derby by 3 lengths & became a wartime hero by the time the Belmont rolled around.

Only two other horses dared to challenge him there -- Fairy Manhurst (there's an unfortunate name for you) & Deseronto -- but he & jockey Johnny Longden left them in 25 lengths of dust, which stood as a record until Secretariat's unforgettable 31-length lead three decades later.

"The Count" was owned by the wife of John D. Hertz, of rental car fame & he sired a mare named Sequence in 1946. Her Nashua daughter, Gold Digger, gave us Mr. Prospector, father of Encore's damsire, Allen's Prospect.  Count Fleet lived to the ripe age of 33 at his Ky stud farm; his son, Count Turf, also won the Ky Derby in 1951.

The Other Five...Strands In The Web

Allen's Prospect in MD
Sir Barton (1919) was a son of the British stud, Star Shoot, who also sired the unforutnately-named Uncle, producer of the rich damline of Allen's Prospect.  Sir Barton's damsire was Hanover, an American stallion in Tettau's (Encore's dam) damline.

Omaha (1935), as mentioned, was sired by Gallant Fox, out of a Wrack mare named Flambino.  This  made him a full brother to Flares, Ciboulette's grand-sire.

Whirlaway's (1941) sire was the unparalleled British stallion, Blenheim, contributor to innumerable great lines, out of a mare by the equally influential American stud, Sweep.  Blenheim appears many times in Encore's past, but most closely as the sire of the French stallion, Mahmoud, who fathered Silver Fog, the mare bred to Citation, as well as Almahmoud, grand-dam to Northern Dancer.  Sweep surfaces most as the sire of the great mare, Brushup, who gave birth to War Admiral himself.

Hail To Reason: easy on the eyes
Assault (1946) was out of a mare called Igual, by Equipoise, an American stallion who was Silver Fog's damsire.  Igual was also the grand-daughter of Masda, a full sister of Man O'War.  Assault's sire was a son of St. German, the British damsire of Galla Colors, grand-dam of Hail To Reason.

Affirmed (1978) was a grand-son of Raise A Native, most famous as the sire of "Mr. P," & a Native Dancer son.  Our last Triple Crown winner's damline also includes Mahmoud, War Admiral, & another French stallion named Sir Gallahad.  The latter was a son of famed show jumping foundation sire, Teddy, & sired not only Galla Colors, but the mare Double Time, in Seattle Slew's sireline, and Betty Derr, grand-dam of Iron Reward, who gave birth to Swaps

Slew shows Affirmed his heels
The 1978 Marlboro Cup even featured a rare meeting of the last 2 Triple Crown winners:  Seattle Slew's refusal to give in, though, left Affirmed 3 lengths behind at the wire.  After Slew left the track with a career racing record of 14 firsts & 2 seconds in 17 races, earning $1,208,726, he sired well over 100 Stakes-winners & was a champion Broodmare sire.  Even though Affirmed was the last to take the big trophy, it was Slew that earned the title of 'the most complete thoroughbred the industry has ever seen.'

It's a close call, though, when you watch the magic of Secretariat's unforgettable Belmont... 

February 13, 2014

Winter Ridiculousness

My front yard right now
I lived in the Ohio River valley (Northern KY) from age 8 - 18.  So I learned to drive on snow and ice.  Mostly ice.  It's not rocket science.   But strange things can happen, so while our usual 1/2 of snow per year leaves me unperturbed, raining ice pellets & frozen sheets of slush with more snow on top makes the decision to stay in and work remotely an easy one. 

However.  I moved to North Carolina for a very specific reason.  My most hated task as a kid was shoveling snow and I would go to any lengths to avoid it.  I tried the whole Gulf coast thing, but discovered that was merely two years living in a flat, sweaty armpit from hell (aka Texas) and we lived out west when I was younger, so I knew I wanted to stay east of the Mississippi.  So I set my sights on the Carolina piedmont.  It has seasons, but winter is about 3 months of rain and cold wind in spurts (mostly January) with a week of 60 degree days in between.  It still makes me crabby by February, but hey, that's when spring starts!

Today there is over 3" of snow on the ground, coated in a layer of ice, quickly being covered by another layer of snow.  It is not only past noon, but it has been here SINCE YESTERDAY.  I want my money back.

I'd love to go visit the horses, but after watching the ice pellets fall for over an hour and the curtain of fat flakes out the window now, the thought of the bundling and driving and hiking and then driving again and thawing and unbundling, all without having some oblivious nut run into My Precious...cost-benefit ratio = negative.  If we were all at the farm?  Absolutely, I'd march out the back door and at least take some pictures despite my deep hatred of the white devil.

So I'll just keep tying up loose ends of the statewide fisheries conference I have to run next week, I've only been working on it, oh, since last August.  And in the meantime, I will let you enjoy the wonderful video I found yesterday of Swaps, the astonishingly tough and fast 1955 Ky Derby winner who was the great-great-grandsire of Encore's dam and the darling of the recently closed Hollywood Park (I wonder what they did with his statue?).  In July of 1955, he was Sports Illustrated's cover boy and the 1956 Horse of the Year

I see the spitting image of Encore in him in the beginning as he walks off the train with his big eyes and bright star -- right down to the surfer bangs!

PS:  It's STILL SNOWING.  I hate being cold.  I hate things that get in the way of my outdoor activities.  I hate snow related sports.  I hate ice.  JUST.  GO.  AWAY.   Because I just hate winter.  In case you wondered.

December 30, 2013

Isn't Time Off Supposed To Let You Rest And Catch Up?

Citation: ranked #3 after only Man O'War and Secretariat
I must be mistaken...

So I'll post my 300th mea culpa.  But I will share with you my ongoing project which fascinates me!

I mentioned that Pinterest had caught my addiction, er, eye despite my best efforts.  I had never really had any desire to look at scrapbooks or teenagers' bulletin boards, but with some digging, I did find more to it.  Poking led to clicking, clicking led to more clicking and I began to put together a visual collection of Encore's family tree, among a few other fun boards.  And it's amazing!

Discovering new parts to old stories and new stories of new horses is like finding a key to one of the most amazing treasure chests of all time.  My childhood was filled with re-readings of my favourite stories such as "Man o' War" and "Black Gold" (who I never knew was infertile) and "Old Bones: the story of Exterminator."  My shelves were lined with Stablemate models of Swaps and Native Dancer (and many more!).  Now I feel like I am touching each one as I lay my hand on Encore's neck.

I never knew they were related!  Count Fleet, 1943 Triple Crown winner -- and Mr P's great grandsire!
The one and only...
The Thoroughbred heritage and legacy truly is magical.  Part of me wonders why Encore was gelded; while he wasn't a stakes winner, he does have excellent conformation and he carries such a diverse mixture of old and legendary, European and American, famous and quirky lines.  Maybe he was just an asshole, hahaha, but more likely, and correctly so, few of the lines are rare and while he is special to me, his is not truly spectacular, as a good stallion such as AP Indy or or Secretariat or Buckpasser should be.

I continue to dig deeper and find more information about each horse and uncover the stories of the less famous, but still incredibly influential names.  I itch to organize it better!  Where is that catchup time again???

February 19, 2013

TB Story Time!

This post sponsored by Paddy Power.

Spring is creeping in, although I can't feel it yet.  Calendars are popping up with tantalizing offerings both here and abroad.  Our UK friends have a spectacle we do not -- the rush of the steeplechase, which comes to one of its high points in March at the Cheltenham Racecourse.  Four days of powerful athletes racing towards the culmination of the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.  Even if you can't hop in your Peugeot with your best hat to view the races, you can follow the action & even bet on a Cheltenham Festival 2013 winner!

I might seem out on a limb here, talking about European horse racing, but in fact, we are more connected that it may seem...

If you take a closer look at Encore's pedigree, you will see that his sire, Crowd Pleaser, had a British dam named Creaking Board.  This fine lady was a G1 stakes winning mare, pulling down the 1992 Hollywood Starlet (part of the Breeder's Cup series at one time) & winning the Miesque Stakes on Hollywood Park's turf that November.  Following her lines, it turns out that not only can my charming boy claim American royalty as family, he can do the same on the other side of the pond.

Traveling back through this illustrious damline, we run into stories almost as big as the names they follow.

Warning:  this post may set a new length record.  Yet I am fascinated by the unlikely combination of luck, circumstance, almosts, rejections & accidents that has brought to life such incredible horses, each with a tale more impossible than the last!  I have summarized, but you can learn more at the amazing

Hyperion:  Weaned late in 1930 & showing little growth, he was left behind at the stud when his cohorts went off to train near Liverpool.  His diminutive size required a custom built feed box & he was nearly gelded because of his stunted body.

All he had on his side was his blood (sired by Gainsborough, a Triple Crown winner & the best sire of his time, out of a dam who was not only fast, but became a legendary broodmare) and the fact that his trainer had fallen for him, "remarking that he was the most beautifully made little horse he had ever seen & would undoubtedly win the Pony Derby."  The colt only ever reached 15.1 & a half hands, but had a huge girth & 7.5 inches of cannon bone.

Mild-mannered & lazy, Hyperion nonetheless left his challengers in the dust in races both short & long.  He retired to the Derby Stud & was Leading Sire six times & twice Leading Broodmare Sire.  At one point, Lord Derby was offered a blank check for him by Louis B. Mayer (of MGM fame), which was turned down with the response, "Even though England be reduced to ashes, Hyperion shall never leave these shores."

He later foundered & was euthanized around age 30 at the Woodlands Stud.  To this day, you can see his preserved skeleton at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket & a life-sized statue stands in front of the Jockey Club offices there.

Galopin:  In 1873, this unremarkable yearling was offered as part of a lot in an annual yearling sale at Middle Park Stud.  Purchased for all of 520 guineas by wealthy Hungarian immigrant, sports fanatic, ex-jockey, & stud owner, Prince Gustavus Batthyany, Galopin was sent to train with John Dawson, who handled many of the prince's racers.  The horse won most of his races easily, only losing once due to severe bumping during the start.

He was entered in a high stakes Derby, but the night before the race, the colt became very ill.  His trainer was afraid to tell the prince, who had severe heart trouble, for fear the news would kill him.  He spent the night with the horse, wrapped in blankets and the next day, Galopin came out & won, barely trying.

In 1883, the prince did perish of a heart attack while watching one of his horse's progeny win a race.  Rushing to help the dying man was the Duke of Portland, who ended up buying a fat brown foal by Galopin.  This unremarkable colt became St. Simon, one of Britain's greatest sires.

Galopin himself was sold to Henry Chaplin, this time for 8000 guineas, that July & stood at Blankney Stud.  He was a Leading Sire in 1888, 1889, & 1898 and a Leading Broodmare Sire in 1909 & 1910.

Phalaris:  In the early 20th century, the Earl of Derby purchased a mare named Bromus at an estate dispersal.  She was not an overwhelming champion, but her sire was a derby winner & her dam was a St. Simon daughter.  In 1913, she gave birth to Phalaris, whose blood flowed back to the almost mythical Eclipse, the Godolphin Arabian, & the Darley Arabian.  He raced for three years, winning 16 of 24 races, at which point he was offered for sale for 5000 pounds.

No one wanted the merely moderately successful horse, so he went to live at Derby Stud, an act which created the most dominant sire line in Europe & the US.  Four of his sons made lines including Nearco, Nasrullah, Royal Charger, Bold Ruler, Nashua, Raise A Native, Alydar, Mr. Prospector, Northern Dancer, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Sadler's Wells -- the list goes on.  Phalaris himself lived to be 18 years old, though his DNA is still alive today.  

Catnip:  During WWI, horse prices were low & Federico Tesio, the owner of Dormello Stud (producer of Nearco & Ribot), snapped up a filly on an estate consignment from Ireland for 75 guineas.  Her name was Catnip (how could I resist that?) and though she would try Tesio's patience, it proved worthwhile.

In 1918, she bore a filly named Nera Di Bicci who created a dynasty of her own, but Catnip was then barren from 1920-1922 & 1924-1927.  But in 1928, ten years later, she gave Tesio Nogara, a filly whom he would later describe as "small, elegant, light, magnificent hocks, magnificent action; top class from six furlongs to a mile."

He wanted to breed the filly to the stallion Fairway, but Nogara was denied admission to his book & was covered instead by his brother, Pharos.  The colt was Nearco (another of Encore's ancestors) & I think we know what became of him!

Ksar:  The French were busy producing spectacular racehorses of their own, but the Great War was exacting a heavy toll on their breeding industry.  There were few safe harbours, but one was in a quiet corner of Normandy, Haras de Saint-Pair du Mont.  With three decades of experience producing champions, the owner bred the best filly of her generation, named Kizil Kourgan, to a top French colt named Bruleur.

In 1918, Ksar was foaled, with a graceful head atop "clodhopper feet and sickle hocks," & was sold as a yearling.  This unlikely colt won 11 of 15 races & made the equivalent of $250,000, making him the world's richest horse.  He took up stud at Haras de Jardy & was French Leading Sire in 1931.

Ksar d'Espirit
When he was 17, an American breeder purchased & shipped Ksar to Montana Hill Stud in Virginia.  The ocean crossing was not smooth & the horse was very ill upon arrival.  He only sired two foal crops after that & although none excelled as racehorses, daughters produced a winner of Paris' Grand Steeple-Chase & stakes 'chase winners Quiet and Pontius Pilate.

Another daughter gave birth to Ksar d'Espirit...none other than Bill Steinkraus' silver medal show jumping partner on the 1960 US Olympic Team.  In 1937, the stallion died of internal hemorrhage & was buried under a monument to his great legacy.

Blandford:  Since we're immersed in WWI, let's talk about Col. William Hall-Walker & his Tully Stud in Kildare, Ireland.  The Colonel used astrology to determine if the horses he bred would amount to anything worth keeping, reading their horoscope at birth & selling those who did not appear promising.  While not always correct, "even a blind hog finds an acorn every once in a while."

This particular hog felt an essential need to improve his nation's cavalry & gave the British government $370,000 worth of thoroughbred breeding stock.  In return, the country purchased Tully Stud & his Wiltshire training farm for $325,000 & named the man Lord Wavertree.  Thus began the National Stud for Great Britain.  In 1943, the Stud moved to England & in 1945, the Tully property became the Irish National Stud.  But I digress...

In the spring of 1919, this new Stud witnessed the birth of a classy brown colt with a white star & big body perched on short pasterns.  When Blandford was a yearling, carthorses broke into his paddock, knocked him down, & trampled him.  He escaped intact, but was severely bruised and developed pneumonia.

The Stud director found him so sorry-looking that he offered the colt for free to their vet to remove the horse from the premesis.  The vet declined the dubious offer, even though Blandford recovered enough to sell at the 1920 Newmarket December Sale to Sam & Richard Dawson.  The young horse returned to Ireland & was standing well at stud until a new Irish government rose in 1932 & began an economic war with England which included a cripplingly high travel tax on broodmares visiting Ireland.

His owners decided to move him to their training farm in Berkshire, a decision which proved lucrative indeed.  Blandford became the truest source for stamina for classic races, siring four Epsom Derby winners, winning three sire championships & making his mark as one of the most elite sires in history, placed alongside Danzig & Mr. Prospector.

Blenheim:  Richard  Dawson already knew what he had in Blandford.  It's no surprise then, when his son, Blenheim, came up for 4,100 guineas at a yearling sale, Dawson purchased him for the Aga Khan & took him in to training in Berkshire.

Blenheim matured to 15.3 & strongly resembled his father, bringing both speed & stamina to the table, although he tended to be high strung.  He was retired from racing after a tendon injury while training for the Eclipse Stakes & moved to stud in France at the Aga Khan's Haras de Marly la Ville.

In 1936, he was purchased for $225,000 & exported to the US (where he was known as Blenheim II) by a high-powered syndicate made up of Calumet Farm, Claiborne Farm, J.H. Whitney's Greentree Stud, Stoner Creek Stud, Fairholme Farm, Mrs. Thomas Somerville, & William DuPont.  Already proven in Europe (his son Mahmoud won the English Derby), he was an immediate success standing here at Claiborne as his first year produced the Triple Crown winner Whirlaway.

He later also sired Jet Pilot, another Derby champion, & 58 other stakes winners & was Leading Sire in 1941.  His powerful hindquarters were passed down as a trademark of his male line through his grandson, Nasrullah, percolating through Bold Ruler & Secretariat.

His daughters became part of the foundation of Calumet's wild success, as the Farm owned 25% of his syndicate.  He died at the ripe age of 31 & is buried in Claiborne's stallion cemetery.

Mahmoud at the Epsom Derby.
Mahmoud:  From father to son to son.  Mahmoud was born in France, trained in Britain & in 1935 was named the second best colt of his generation.  Surprising, considering he was labeled "surplus" as a yearling, put up for auction, & failing to sell, was raced by the Aga Khan.

He set an Epsom Derby record in 1936 that stood for 59 years.  He too was exported for 20,000 guineas in 1940 to Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney's stud in Kentucky.  He was Leading Sire in 1946, having produced 70 stakes winners, & Leading Broodmare Sire in 1957.  He died on the stud farm at 29 & is buried on the property, which is now part of Gainesway Farm.

Mumtaz Mahal
Mumtaz Mahal:  This filly was only born because the owner of her sire, The Tetrarch, saw him outrun a deer in his pasture & decided against gelding him.  She was purchased for the Aga Khan in 1922 for 9,100 guineas.  The grey filly set a course record for five furlongs & earned her "Flying Filly" nickname over her year and a half career.

She gave birth to nine foals, the most famous of which is by Blenheim himself, & the resulting filly's 3/4 brother sired the dam of the famed My Babu.  She has three crosses in the pedigree of the famous sire, Pleasant Colony & stands out in the lines of many other elite Thoroughbreds.

When the German army commandeered the Aga Khan's horses during their invasion of France, she was the only mare left behind, perhaps due to her age.  She lived out her 24 years at the Haras de Marly la Ville & died in February of 1945.

 Mumtaz Begum:  That Blenheim filly above, foaled in 1932 in France, turned out to have something of her own to offer.  Although she only raced as a two year old, she made her mark on the racing world when, of her ten foals, one was sired by the already famous Catnip son, Nearco, a match made in Ireland by the Aga Khan III.

In 1940, Mumtaz Begum gave us Nasrullah.  Due to his unpredictable & rather lazy temperament, after standing for seven years in the UK, owned by Brownstone Stud in County Kildare, he was then sold to Claiborne Farm in the US in 1951.  This opinionated son was Leading Sire five times in the US & sired Never Say Die, Nashua, Bold Ruler, Never Bend, Red God & many other premier stallions, stamping the legacy of his grandmother on the Thoroughbred breed.

Red God
Red God:  Bred by Cain Hoy Stables, sired by Nasrullah & foaled in Kentucky, Red God was born the same year as Bold Ruler, Gallant Man & Round Table at Claiborne.  He was sent to run in England, but was then brought back to the US to run the Triple Crown in 1957.

Unfortunately, he was injured & in 1960 he was shipped back to County Kildare in Ireland to stand at Loughton Stud.  He sired ten stakes winners who earned over one million pounds.  Perhaps best known for his son, Blushing Groom (named one of the great international sires of the 20th century), Red God also sired Crafty Admiral, who was the broodmare sire to Affirmed, & his grand-daughter gave birth to a horse called Danzig.

Red God's portion of the Nasrullah line is one of the few to remain strong among the swamping of Thoroughbred genetic diversity by Northern Dancer/Raise A Native blood.

September 10, 2011

Thoroughbred Heritage

Warning:  longest blog post in history commences.

One of the exciting things about bringing home a gen-yew-wine (that's how we say it in NC) racehorse is that he comes with a paper trail.  His every move has been watched and logged since he set foot on a track and his family tree has been carefully charted.  So, as you can imagine given my irrepressible curiosity, I set out on a google quest and discovered that I had stumbled upon a pot of gold.

Watch Encore (running as "Joyous Jester") break his maiden with a bang at Pimlico in 2008. Well, now I know he can gallop.

Encore was bred for speed, stamina, and heart; his pedigree reads like a review of the TB leading sires list.  Great names that have almost been forgotten in modern racing spring off the page, as well as a few horses who were founders of the modern jumping sporthorse.  Settle in for a tour of the kings of racing and of the unstoppable heart of the Thoroughbred horse.

AP Indy
As I mentioned in my previous post, Encore is an AP Indy grandson.  AP Indy was purchased as a yearling in 1990 for a whopping $2.9 million, which turned out to not be such a bad investment.  In racing alone, he won almost $3 million and was crowned Horse of the Year in 1992.  He went on to even greater heights in the breeding shed, where he stood for $150,000 per cover until 2011, when he became infertile.  In 2003 and 2006, he was the leading TB sire in the country.  He sired many fantastic horses, one of which was Bernardini, the 2006 Preakness winner who was the first stallion chosen to breed the champion racemare, Zenyatta.

Encore's damsire is Allen's Prospect, a Kentucky-bred stallion, purchased at Keeneland's famous yearling sale for $560,000 (that was a heck of a lot of money in 1983).  A son of Mr. Prospector, he ended up siring a greater percentage of winners than the famed Storm Cat (who has a $500,000 stud fee) and topped both Seattle Slew and Unbridled in national stallion rankings.  He is also known for siring a number of VERY good jumpers and eventers, particularly through his broodmare line.   

It only gets better from here.  His papers include, from the USA:

Secretariat:  Does he even need an introduction?  Just in case you live under a rock, I wrote about him here.

Seattle Slew
Seattle Slew:  The only undefeated Triple Crown winner (1977),  the renowned tough guy Slew won the Eclipse Award in 1976 AND 1978, was awarded Horse of the Year in 1978, was the Leading Sire of 1984, and the Leading Broodmare Sire of 1995 and 1996.  Before he died, Slew sired an amazing 7 North American champions and 1 European champion.  Encore inherits his toughness and speed from both his sire and dam's lines.

Mr. Prospector:  Descended from the Darley Arabian through Eclipse, Mr. P earned the affection of many.  He had the misfortune of racing in the same year as Secretariat AND Forego and it is a testament to his courage and speed that he came second to both.  A Leading Sire 6 times, Mr. P sired a winner of each Triple Crown race, as did his grandson, Unbridled.  He is buried at Clairborne Farms between his old rival, Secretariat and the Canadian legend, Nijinsky.

Swaps:  This 1955 KY Derby winner broke records left and right.  Named Horse of the Year in 1956, reporters wrote that Swaps would "go to the front of the race and say goodbye."  Also in '56, he fractured his leg in three places and most parties agreed he would have to be destroyed.  Swaps would have none of it -- he hung in a custom-built sling in his stall for four weeks and trotted out at the end of it to live a long life.

Nashua:  In 1955, he beat Swaps in a match race when the latter had an infected foot.  The two were hearty rivals and Nashua won out as Horse of the Year in 1955, when he won both the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.  He won over $1 million and was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1965.  He stood at Claiborne with his sire, the Irish champion Nasrullah.

Citation:  In 1948, Citation won the Triple Crown and went on racing until he was 6 to become the first horse in history to win over $1 million.  Inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1959, he held the American record on a dirt track for 30 years until Spectacular Bid blew it wide open.  Citation is listed as #3 on the list of Greatest Horses of the 20th Century (he trails only Man O' War and Secretariat) but he won far more races than either legend.

War Admiral:  Contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe, this son of Man O' War was only 15.3 but he won both the Triple Crown and Horse of the Year in 1937.  He was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame and was a Leading Sire in 1945.

Bold Ruler
Bold Ruler:  As a colt, Bold Ruler was so accident-prone that Bull Hancock (owner of Claiborne Farm) would hide him behind the barn in his own paddock so visitors wouldn't see him.  He was forever cutting his legs to pieces and once nearly bit off half of his own tongue.  Nevertheless, he grew to win the Preakness in 1957, even though there was a 2 inch splinter from his fetlock imbedded in his leg tendons for some time.  As a result he won the Eclipse Award and Horse of the Year in 1957 and was inducted posthumously into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1973.  He sired Secretariat and was the grandsire of Foolish Pleasure, Bold Forbes, Ruffian, and Spectacular Bid.

Round Table:  Foaled on the same night at Claiborne Farm as Bold Ruler, this stallion was the greatest turf horse in US history.  He dominated the world of racing in 1958, winning every award there was, including Horse of the Year.  In 43 of 66 starts, he won $1.7 million and set or equaled 14 records, including 2 US records and 1 world record.  He was the Leading Sire of 1972 and when Queen Elizabeth visited KY in 1984, she requested her own audience with the great horse when he was 30 years old.  He is noted for contributing jumping talent and good temperaments through his genes.

Buckpasser:  Often called "the most perfectly conformed Thoroughbred ever seen," this stallion was an international record-winning two-year-old.  A quarter crack kept him out of the Triple Crown, but he still was Horse of the Year in 1966 and was the first horse to win over $1 million before the age of four.  He was syndicated for $4.8 million and was the Leading Broodmare Sire of 1983, 1984, and 1989 and is noted for passing on soundness.  His sons include Spend A Buck, Lil E Tee, and Silver Charm.

John P Grier.  I had to note this guy; he was the only horse who would race Man O' War in the 1920 Dwyer Handicap.  Although he did not win, he remains the only horse who ever ran neck and neck with Man O' War for a mile.  That, my friends, is guts.

There is a lot of very impressive international blood there too:

JJ Babu
My Babu:  I admit, I squealed when I found this one.  This French Thoroughbred is one of the most influential jumper and eventer sires of all time.  He set a stakes record in England in 1948 and in 1955 was imported to America for $600,000, the highest price ever paid to import a Thoroughbred to the US.  Syndicated for $1.2 million along with Nashua, he stood at Spendthrift Farm, where he was the Leading Juvenile Sire in 1960 and sired 47 stakes winners.  Even more notably to me, his blood produced Bruce Davidson's 1984 gold-medal-winning mount, JJ Babu, Anky van Greunsven's Bonfire, and the Grand Prix jumper, Sympatico, who set the world record for puissance (high jump) in 1973.

Princequillo:  Bred in France, his dam was shipped to Ireland, where he was foaled, to protect her from World War II.  His sire was less lucky and was killed by German artillery fire in France.  Princequillo and his dam were then sent to the US as the war escalated.  He nearly died on the boat ride over and was sold due to his poor condition.  His owner no doubt regretted the decision, as Princequillo went on to become the greatest distance runner in US history besides Kelso.  He was retired at 4 to the breeding shed of Claiborne where he was the Leading Sire of 1957-58 and the Leading Broodmare Sire of 1966-70, 1972 and 1973.  He is the grandsire of rivals Secretariat and Sham and known for passing on soundness, good temperament, and large hearts.

Northern Dancer
Northern Dancer:  The most successful sire of the 20th century, he won 14 of 18 races and never finished lower than 3rd place.  He set the KY Derby record until Secretariat broke it (who still holds it) and in 1964 he was Canadian Horse of the Year, North American Champion Three-Year-Old, and an Eclipse Award winner.  In 1965, he was also the first horse inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame (he now shares it with Big Ben) and in 1999 he got his own Canadian postage stamp.  With a $1 million stud fee, Northern Dancer sired a mind-blowing 147 stakes winners.

Nearco:  This Italian Thoroughbred was named one of the most important sires of all time.  He had his own bomb shelter in World War II.  He produced Nasrullah and Nearctic and was the grandsire of Northern Dancer.  Over 100 of his sons have stood at stud around the world, which is a world record apart from St. Simon.

Carbine:  This incredible horse from New Zealand won 33 of 43 starts and was 1 of 5 inaugural members of both the New Zealand and Australia Racing Hall of Fame.  He won the 2 mile Sydney Cup in record-setting time as a 3-year-old and won the 1890 Melbourne Cup while carrying 53 more pounds than the 2nd place horse.  He failed to place only once because of a cracked hoof.  Imported to England in 1895, Carbine's descendents include 8 of the 9 horses to ever win more than $10 million.  From 1914-1978, half of the Melbourne Cup winners descended from Carbine and in the US, both Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra can trace back to him.

The Tetrarch
The Tetrarch:  An undefeated, white-spotted grey called "The Spotted Wonder," was named Britain's top 2-year-old of the 20th century.  An injury ended his racing career at 2, but he was Britain's Leading Sire in 1919.  His most important progeny was a mare named Mumtaz Mahal, called "The Flying Filly," who became one of the top broodmares of the 20th century. 

Gainsborough:  He won the English Triple Crown in 1918, he was the Leading Sire in Great Britain and Ireland from 1932-1933.  He left a legacy of conformation and stamina behind.

Cor de la Bryere
Dark Ronald:  Yes, that is his real name.  His sire was Bay Ronald; the owners were apparently not very inspired.  This stud stands at the roots of the modern show jumper.  He was purchased in Great Britain by the German National Stud in 1913 and his blood has produced horses such as Landgraf I, Cor de la Bryere, Furioso II, and Ladykiller xx.

Teddy:  Another founder of today's showjumpers and one of the most influential sires of the 20th century, Teddy was a French horse that raced in Spain and France in the mid-teens of the 20th century.  He won 6 of 8 races and was the Leading Sire of 1923.  Imported the US in 1931, he sired 65 stakes winners.