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Mother Nature has out when great thoroughbreds go to the breeding shed, often with disheartening results. But Take Charge Lady is one case where what Mother Nature had to say is absolutely fitting.

TAKE CHARGE LADY routs them all at Keeneland to win the Spinster. Photo and copyright, AP.

TAKE CHARGE LADY routs them all at Keeneland to win the Ashland Stakes. Photo and copyright, AP.

For those of us who remember her on the track, Take Charge Lady (1999) was a valiant and relentless campaigner, taking on the much-adored Azeri (1998), as well as You (1999), Bobby Frankel’s champion, Sightseek (1999), Canadian HOF Dancethruthedawn (1998) and the talented Farda Amiga (1999) in a career that spanned three seasons.

The determination Take Charge Lady showed here in 2002 was characteristic of her. She was what the industry calls an “honest” thoroughbred, meaning that she always did her absolute best, no matter who was at her throat latch. By Dehere (1991) whose BM sire was Secretariat (1970), out of the Rubiano (1987) mare, Felicita (1994), the lean, dark bay filly was destined to be one of her sire’s most outstanding offspring. Trained by Kenny McPeek, who had purchased her for the modest sum of $175,000 USD for Jerry and Faye Bach’s Select Stable, Take Charge Lady took the Alcibiades Stakes as a 2 year-old and then, at 3, won the Silverbulletday, Ashland, Dogwood and Spinster Stakes (which she would win again in 2003), as well as the Fairground Oaks.

Take Charge Lady took the Silverbulletday by 8 1/2 lengths, setting a track record; three weeks later, over the slop, she won again by a comfortable 5 lengths. In April, she met up again with Beltera, a very good filly who’d beaten her the year before, to annex the Ashland Stakes (G1):

After the Ashland, McPeek seriously considered running Take Charge Lady against the colts in the Kentucky Derby, opting instead for the Kentucky Oaks. But her front-running ways got the better of her and Farda Amiga (1999) took full advantage of it. Take Charge Lady finished in second place. The loss likely cost her the Eclipse that year in the 3 year-old filly division, which went to the Oaks winner. But horses don’t know about Eclipse Awards — they only exist for us two-legged folk.

Illness beset Take Charge Lady throughout her 3 year-old season. First it was a lung infection and then she started to lose weight. So she was given a longish break, returning in the G1 Gazelle, where she ran a game second. Then, under the great hands of Edgar Prado, she took on older fillies and mares in the 2002 Spinster. It was a dazzling performance — the kind that gives you goosebumps:

Then came the BC Distaff at Arlington Park, where the brilliant daughter of Dehere was beaten by thirteen lengths. But Take Charge Lady had a good reason for the loss: shortly after the race, she was diagnosed with still another lung infection.

TAKE CHARGE LADY ran her heart out as a 3 year-old and racing fans would never forget her for it.

TAKE CHARGE LADY ran her heart out as a 3 year-old and racing fans would never forget her for it. She is shown here in the first of two consecutive wins in the Spinster — only the fourth thoroughbred to accomplish this feat.

 

McPeek’s most gallant of ladies was back as a 4 year-old and again, she delighted her connections. The filly began her autumn campaign in the Grade III Arlington Matron Handicap on September 1. Ridden by Shane Sellers, the champion conceded at least six pounds to her opponents. After tracking the leader, Sellers moved her into the lead a quarter of a mile from the finish and Take Charge Lady drew away to win by eleven lengths. Sellers commented “She’s something else. She’s a joy to ride. She’s been the highlight of my comeback.” (Sellers had been sidelined in 2003 with injuries.)

On October 5 at Keeneland — arguably her favourite track — Take Charge Lady attempted to become only the fourth horse to ever win the Spinster Stakes for a second time. She was made the 1/2 favorite ahead of You. Edgar Prado was in the irons again and he sent Take Charge Lady into the lead on the final turn, opening up a clear advantage in the homestretch and enabling his filly to hold off a late charge from You. After the race Prado explained, “She got a little tired the last seventy yards but these kind of horses give you everything to the wire.”

By the time she retired, late in her 4 year-old season, Take Charge Lady was a millionaire twice over. And even though she had been one of those greats that racing fans never forget, her second career has been equally brilliant.

TAKE CHARGE LADY brought the best of herself to her new career -- with stunning results!

TAKE CHARGE LADY brought the best of herself to her new career — with stunning results!

The young mare began her broodmare days at Three Chimneys, but in November 2004 she was consigned by Eaton Sales and sold, in foal to Seeking The Gold, for 4.2 million to a consortium of Kentucky breeders. That 2004 foal was Take Charge Lady’s first, a filly named Charming. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Charming raced three times before suffering a career-ending injury. Usually, a thoroughbred who appears on the track this briefly is easy to forget. But Charming had a little something up her sleeve: Take Charge Brandi, the juvenile filly superstar of 2014 and Charming’s second foal. Trained by the iconic G. Wayne Lukas, here’s Take Charge Brandi winning the 2014 BC Juvenile Fillies in the same style as her grandam:

With a final win in the Starlet Stakes, Take Charge Brandi closed out her juvenile season a millionaire.

Nor is Brandi Lukas’ first experience with Take Charge Lady’s family: just as Take Charge Brandi was making her presence felt in 2014, Will Take Charge (2010), his dam’s fifth foal, was retiring. And, like so many great racing stories, Will Take Charge had one of his very own:

Well, the big colt with the white face didn’t win the Derby, but by the summer at Saratoga, having had the chance to grow into that body and without blinkers, he began to turn into a force to be reckoned with:

The colt went on from the Travers to win the Pennsylvania Derby and the Clark and Oaklawn Handicaps. But it was in the BC Classic that Will Take Charge ran his best race of 2013, showing that he was, indeed, his mama’s son:

Take Charge Lady’s other notable son to race to date was the regally-bred Take Charge Indy (2009), sired by A.P. Indy. As a runner, the colt clearly had potential but not a whole lot of luck: after the Kentucky Derby he underwent surgery for a chipped bone in his left front ankle and then, racing as a 4 year-old in the Monmouth Cup, he sustained a condylar fracture. Once healed, Take Charge Indy was retired to stud at Winstar. Here he is, under the seasoned guidance of the great Calvin Borel, winning the Florida Derby as a 3 year-old:

Take Charge Lady has two other offspring waiting in the wings, an indian Charlie  filly named I’ll Take Charge (2012) and Conquering, her 2013 War Front filly. I’ll Take Charge was purchased by Mandy Pope and Whisper Hill Farm in 2013 and has yet to race.

Voted the 2013 Broodmare of the Year, Take Charge Lady is now fifteen and awaiting the arrival of a second War Front foal in 2015. She is dappled and fit and seems to enjoy her second career enormously.

Take Charge Lady is remarkable for her stamina, courage and heart, qualities she has passed on to her young. But a Great One — a lady who only knows how to do her very best and does it with class every time — has a way of bringing language to heel.

 

TAKE CHARGE LADY in April 2014 looking dappled and gorgeous. Photo and copyright, Anne Eberhardt for The Blood-Horse.

TAKE CHARGE LADY in April 2014 looking dappled and gorgeous. Photo and copyright, Anne Eberhardt for The Blood-Horse.

 

A SPECIAL NOTE:

It seems hard to believe, but THE VAULT will enter its fourth year in 2015 and its success is the result of readers like you. From Hong Kong to South Africa, from Romania and the Arab Emirates to Australia, and from Alaska to Argentina, you have come here to learn and be entertained. Often, you take the time to share stories from your own lives, as well as ideas, great books and so much more with myself and other VAULT readers. Every message is a treasure, and your support is the energy that powers THE VAULT. I thank each one of you from the bottom of my heart. I wish each of you all the joy of this holiday season and a New Year filled with laughter, the love of family and friends and more great horses like Take Charge Lady to fill your heart with magic. Abigail Anderson, Montreal, Canada

patience-brewster-maisy-horse-christmas-ornament-8

 

On a recent visit to London, England, I picked up copies of the Racing Post near our hotel daily — a rare treat. I’m a committed online reader but to actually hold a copy of the RP in my hands and dissolve into it over coffee each morning was rapturous. On Saturday, September 27, 2014 the usually studious RP was overcome with emotion about the exploits of a 2 year-old filly with the memorable name of Tiggy Wiggy…..

THE VAULT thanks the generosity of Michael Harris of Harris Equine Photography for the images of Tiggy Wiggy and reminds readers that these images are the copyright of Harris Equine Photography and may NOT be copied or reproduced in ANY form (including TUMBLR & PINTEREST) without the written permission of Michael Harris. Mr. Harris’ website is here: http://harris-equine-photography.comon. 

Two year-old TIGGY WIGGY is a tiny filly but size does nothing to diminish her courage on the turf. Photo and copyright, Harris Equine Photography, UK

Two year-old TIGGY WIGGY is a tiny filly but size does nothing to diminish her courage on the turf. Photo and copyright, Harris Equine Photography (UK)

Institutions like the Racing Post aren’t given to soppy sentiment, but the feature on Tiggy Wiggy came as close as a respected daily is going to get to it. Her white blazed face exploded from a kaleidoscope of colour on the Post’s cover, under the headline “CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.” No question about it: the Brits had fallen in love again.

The Irish-born daughter of Kodiac (2001), a son of the incomparable Danehill (1987) out of Khelef’s Silver (2006), a granddaughter of another great sire, Green Desert (1983), carries Danzig(1977) on the top and bottom of her pedigree, as well as two other champions — Kris (1971) and the great Sharpen Up (1968), both of whom were also impressive sires. Other names found within Tiggy Wiggy’s first five generations are Nijinsky (1967), Razyana (1981), His Majesty (1968) and his sire, Ribot (1952) and dam, Flower Bowl (1952), also the dam of Graustark (1963) and the champion filly, Bowl of Flowers (1958). As if this weren’t enough, Round Table (1954), Damascus (1964), Sir Ivor (1965) and Buckpasser (1963) appear in Tiggy Wiggy’s fifth generation.

TIGGY WIGGY with Kelly Turner and S Hussein, the two who take loving care of her on a daily basis. Photo and copyright, Harris Equine Photography, UK

TIGGY WIGGY with Kelly Turner and Shanavaz Hussein, the two people who take loving care of her on a daily basis. Photo and copyright, Harris Equine Photography (UK)

 

“Bloodedness” seemed to pour into Tiggy Wiggy which may, or may not, explain the talent she has shown in her juvenile season on the turf, running against her own sex as well as the boys. For her trainer, Richard Hannon Jr., learning what makes “The Tig” tick has certainly been interesting. The filly is “hot” in temperament with a tendency to boil over before she even hits the course. Hannon, in his first year at the helm of the stable run by his father, Richard Hannon Sr., has had many years to learn about thoroughbreds and his mastery is evident in turf stars like Toronado, Night of Thunder, Toormore, Olympic Glory and the fabulous Sky Lantern.

Like Tiggy Wiggy, Hannon has a black-type pedigree: not only his father, but also his grandfather, Harry, were both trainers. Hannon Jr. spent time in Australia learning the basics of his trade before returning to England to serve as assistant to Hannon Sr. in what can only be described as a “finishing school” for anyone aspiring to greatness in the sport of flat racing. There’s a kind of special pride in his demeanour when the younger Hannon talks about Tiggy Wiggy because she has truly been his work, unlike other stars of the 160-capacity Herridge And Everlea Racing Stables who were conditioned, at least in part, by his eminent father.

TIGGY leaves the paddock on her way to meet her jockey with

TIGGY and Shanavaz leave the paddock on their way to the saddling ring at Newmarket, pre-race. Photo and copyright, Harris Equine Photography (UK)

Another ace in The Tig’s camp is jockey, Richard Hughes, or “Hughsie” to his legion of fans. Trainer and jockey are also brothers-in-law. Hughsie has been Britain’s Champion Flat Racing Jockey for the last three years in a row, beginning in 2011, but his life story contains its fair share of ups & downs, most recently a battle with alcoholism that very nearly cost him everything — from losing his family to severely compromising his career. It’s easy to forget that being a jockey is a stressful, demanding and dangerous job, since the great ones like Hughes make it seem so simple. This real-time footage of Hughes aboard Night of Thunder winning the Scott Dobson Memorial Doncaster Stakes in October of 2013 gives viewers a sense of what a jockey’s job is all about — and Night of Thunder is easy to pilot:

Tiggy Wiggy was purchased for the modest sum of 41,000 GBP ( or just over $64,000 USD) before her owners, Potensis Ltd. and their various partners sent her on to Hannon. Interviewed early in January 2014, in what would be his first year of taking on the mantle of Hannon Sr., his “wish list” for the coming year included no mention of Tiggy Wiggy which seems to indicate that, at least initially, the filly did little to impress him. What The Tig did do, however, was show just how spirited she could be, with the eventual result that she was turned over to former jockey and trainer, Maurice Ahern, for her works. Ahern, as a beaming Hannon pointed out after The Tig’s win at Lowther, knew how to handle her, working her away from the other horses and riding her “long-legged” rather than high in the stirrups, since anything resembling a race day gets the filly so excited that working her proves to be a battle of wills. And on race day, as all have learned, if the tiny whirlwind does not act up in the paddock there’s probably something not quite right with her. All we can do is observe that her fiery temperament, together with the blaze that runs over one nostril, conjures up memories of Canada’s Northern Dancer, who figures profusely in her pedigree.

NORTHERN DANCER'S blaze -- and temperament -- are very close to that of TIGGY WIGGY, a direct descendant of Canada's King of the Turf.

NORTHERN DANCER’S blaze — and temperament — seem a close match to that of TIGGY WIGGY, a direct descendant of Canada’s King of the Turf.

 

TIGGY WIGGY certainly has "The Dancer Look." Photo and copyright, Harris Equine Photography, UK

TIGGY WIGGY certainly has “The Dancer Look.” Photo and copyright, Harris Equine Photography (UK)

However, by the time her juvenile season was half-way through, everything about Tiggy Wiggy met with the adoration of her public, from trying to toss her jockey in the paddock to charging for the finish line. And what made her even more delightful was just how courageous she showed herself to be. Not once or twice, but in all of her eight starts in 2013-2014 — a hugely respectable campaign for a diminutive baby still learning the ropes.

She won her maiden at first asking over polytrack by seven lengths and returned five weeks later to win again on the turf at Salisbury, beating Excentricity by 1.5 lengths, having led the whole way. Moved up in class for the Listed Marygate Stakes at York, Tiggy Wiggy went down to defeat at the hands of a Welsh-trained filly, Patience Alexander. It was at this point that Richard Hughes took over from jockey Sean Levey, piloting The Tig to a win at Sandown Park in May against colts in the Listed National Stakes, run at a distance of just over 5 f, her longest race to date. Then it was off to Royal Ascot:

For both Hannon and Hughes, Day Two at Ascot proved a success but their little filly went down to Anthem Alexander in the Queen Mary Stakes, although she battled from start to finish, losing by a short neck at the wire. In July at Newbury, Tiggy Wiggy flew out of the gate so quickly that Hughsie confided “…she nearly gave me a facelift.” After the win, by some six lengths in mixed company carrying the prohibitive weight of 127 lbs., Hughsie added, “.. she covers so much ground for a small filly and quickened really well… she nearly lies down when she quickens. She’s very talented and very fast.”(Daily Mail)

TIGGY WIGGY (red silks) narrowly beaten by ANTHEM ALEXANDER (nearest) in a shot where you can see that the Tig nearly flattens out when she's going at top speed.

“…she nearly lies down when she quickens.” TIGGY WIGGY (red silks) is narrowly beaten by ANTHEM ALEXANDER (nearest) at Royal Ascot 2014.

In August, however, the shoe was on the other foot for Anthem Alexander in the Lowther Stakes, where the game Tiggy led the whole way and set a new track record.

Please follow the link to see the race (top of the page after a short ad), as well as an interview with trainer Richard Hannon. Superior footage showing The Tig beating old foes Anthem Alexander and Patience Alexander, as well as another very good filly in Cursory Glance:

http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/29850/tiggy-takes-lowther-by-storm

Which takes us back to where we began, settled over the Racing Post at breakfast in London, reading Richard Birch’s piece about a gallant filly who was about to run in her first Group 1, the Connolly’s Red Mills Cheveley Park Stakes. Birch predicted that The Tig would “…raise the Newmarket roof this afternoon if she manages to clinch a sixth win from eight starts.” Other memorable phrases included: “Racegoers have taken this pocket rocket to their hearts…” or “It is no exaggeration to say that at Newbury and York you simply knew that she had won two furlongs out…” or ” The manner in which she finishes her races — head bowed low in splendidly determined fashion — is a sight to savour…”

Words of love to be sure. But then how could you not love a little filly who always tries her hardest? Who always shows up and battles to the finish as though her very life depended on it? But Tiggy Wiggy would need to be at her very best that afternoon in September, even though she was coming to the end of a long campaign:

And not only did she win her first Group One, but arguably as satisfying for Hannon and Hughes was the fact that The Tig settled beautifully after getting herself quite worked up when forced to wait for Explosive Lady, who refused to load into the gate. This latter augurs well for her three year-old season since it seems to suggest that THE dynamo of 2014 may be starting to mature.

TIGGY WIGGY takes the Rowley Mile in fine fashion, having led from gate to wire. Photo and copyright, Harris Equine Photography, UK

TIGGY WIGGY takes the Rowley Mile in fine fashion, having led from gate to wire. Photo and copyright, Harris Equine Photography (UK)

 

 A fairy tale story had come to a close.

Almost.

In November, Tiggy Wiggy claimed the Cartier Award for Champion Two Year-Old Filly. 

TIGGY WIGGY knows she's somebody special. Just look at her eyeing the camera! Pictured here with

TIGGY WIGGY knows she’s somebody special. Just look at her eyeing the camera! Pictured here with Kelly Turner. Photo and copyright, Harris Equine Photography (UK)

 

Sources

The Racing Post, September 27, 2014: “It’s Time To Toast Tiggy and Toby” by Richard Birch

The Guardian

The Newmarket Journal

Racing UK “Tiggy Takes Lowther By Storm”

More photography from Harris Equine Photography can also be found on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HarrisEquinePhotography

When America’s racing royalty met up with its Australian equivalent at Claiborne Farm in 1985, it was reasonable to hope that something great lay in the cards. But, of course, had it been that straightforward, there would be no point in telling the story……

Australia's super filly, ROSE OF KINGSTON, pictured here with her owners.

Australia’s super filly, ROSE OF KINGSTON, pictured here with her owners, David and Helen Hains, after her juvenile win in the AJC Champagne Stakes.

SECRETARIAT goes to the post for the last time at Woodbine in Toronto, Canada, with EDDIE SWEAT by his side.

SECRETARIAT goes to the post for the last time at Woodbine in Toronto, Canada, with his best friend, EDDIE SWEAT, by his side.

 

The sire-to-be was none other than the incomparable Secretariat.

The mare in question was the Australian champion filly, Rose of Kingston (1978). She herself had come into the world as the result of the connection between Australian golfer and racing enthusiast, Norman Von Nida, and “The Master of Dormello,” the brilliant Frederico Tesio.

Although his name is less bandied about today, Tesio was the one man who likely came closest to breeding the “perfect” thoroughbred, at his Dormello Stud in Italy, in the first half of the twentieth century. Putting his breeding acumen into practice, Tesio bred many champions, the most influential of which were Donatello II (1934), Nearco (1935) and Ribot (1952). Happily for the breed worldwide and North America in particular, Tesio was not inclined to jealously hold on to either his breeding theories or the champions he produced. And a good thing, too. Without Nearco’s sons — Nasrullah (1940), Nearctic (1954) and Royal Charger (1942) — it is impossible to imagine the modern thoroughbred as we know it today. And although his influence was less pervasive than that of Nearco, Ribot also played an important role in the development of the breed, through progeny like Tom Rolfe (1962), Graustark (1963) and His Majesty (1968).

 

NEARCO, shown here after his win in the Grand Prix de Paris

NEARCO, shown here after his win in the Grand Prix de Paris, with a delighted Frederico Tesio at his side.

 

In the case of Rose of Kingston, it was a Tesio homebred and winner of the Italian Derby, with the inauspicious name of Claude (1964), who takes at least 50% of the credit. However, like most narratives, there are twists and turns, as well as a dash of fate, before the sire of Rose of Kingston makes his entrance into the story.

CLAUDE, the sire of ROSE OF KINGSTON, was a homebred of Frederico Tesio who won the Italian Derby. He began his stud career at Dormello in Italy, before moving to Kingston Park farm in Australia.

CLAUDE, the sire of ROSE OF KINGSTON, was a homebred of Frederico Tesio who won the Italian Derby. He began his stud career at Dormello in Italy, before moving to Kingston Park farm in Australia.

It all began over a game of golf, where Norman Von Nida became acquainted with the Australian businessman, David Hains. Hains had been looking for something to occupy him in his leisure time and Von Nida quickly convinced him that that “something” must be thoroughbred horses. In 1959, Hains purchased Kingston Park Farm and, under Von Nida’s continuing tutelage, began to breed and race thoroughbreds. Charged with procuring promising broodmares for Kingston Park, Von Nida attended auctions in the Southern Hemisphere looking for Nearco and/or Ribot bloodstock, convinced that these bloodlines would be a perfect match with the right Southern Hemisphere stallion. Von Nida’s faith in the Tesio breeding method turned Kingston Park Farm into an almost overnight success.

By the 1970’s, Von Nida’s allegiance to Tesio bloodstock was given its fullest expression: travelling to Italy, he bought six Dormello broodmares for Kingston Park. One of these, Ada Hunter (1970), a granddaughter of Ribot, became the dam of one of the greatest Australian horses of the last century — and of all time — the Hains’ mighty Kingston Town (1976). Then, in 1977-78, Dormello sold one of its stallions, Claude (1964), to David Hains and the stallion took up duties at Kingston Park. There he was bred to Kingston Rose (1971), a granddaughter of My Babu (1945), acquired as a 2 year-old by Hains in 1973. Racing in the Kingston Park silks, Kingston Rose won six races at distances from 5f to 8f before her retirement.

Rose of Kingston, her second foal, was sired by Claude and she was a filly who was nothing short of wonderful.

Nothing short of exceptional -- ROSE OF KINGSTON comes home to notch still another Grade 1 victory.

Nothing short of exceptional — ROSE OF KINGSTON comes home to notch still another Grade 1 victory.

This portrait of ROSE OF KINGSTON was commissioned by the Hains family.

This portrait of ROSE OF KINGSTON was commissioned by the Hains family.

 

Kingston Rose and Claude’s little daughter was a chestnut as bright as a copper penny, with great bone and an intelligent, decidedly feminine head.

ROSE OF KINGSTON goes to post. Photo and copyright,

ROSE OF KINGSTON shining like a bright penny as she goes to post. Photo and copyright, Brent Thomas.

As a 2 year-old, under the guidance of renowned trainer Bob Hoysted, Rose of Kingston took the AJC Champagne Stakes and the VRC Oaks.  The following year, the filly became the first 3 year-old in 38 years to win the AJC Derby against colts. Rose of Kingston rounded out her career with wins in the VRC Craiglee Stakes, the SAJC Derby and the Queen of the South Stakes, and was crowned 1982 Australian Horse of the Year. Retired at the end of the season, the filly was despatched to Lexington, Kentucky, where David Hains had set up his Kingston Park Stud. As some will know, the 1970’s was a decade of champions worldwide and the USA was no exception. By the time Rose of Kingston arrived in Kentucky, there were a number of stallions that her owner was keen to have her visit. High on the agenda was a date with the great Secretariat, which took place in 1985 at Claiborne Farm, where “The Great One” held court.

SECRETARIAT captured early after his retirement, frolicking in his paddock at Claiborne Farm.

SECRETARIAT captured early after his retirement, frolicking in his paddock at Claiborne Farm.

 

Even in the choice of Secretariat, Frederico Tesio’s influence hovered: the majestic chestnut was the great grandson of Nearco, through his grandsire Nasrullah and sire, Bold Ruler. Rose of Kingston’s future offspring would therefore boast Tesio thoroughbreds on both the top and bottom of its pedigree.

One can only guess at the excitement when the young broodmare gave birth to a coat foal in March, 1986 as coppery-red as his parents. The colt also sported two white feet and a wide blaze down the centre. The stud manager’s notes described the colt as “chestnut…magic.”

There was magic alright, although it would take still another character to conjure it: the legendary trainer, Bart Cummings, whose accomplishments include an unprecedented 12 winners of the Melbourne Cup with champions like the great Galilee (1963) and Cummings’ homebred, his beloved Saintly (1992). North Americans will know Cummings from one of his more recent superstars, So You Think.

LIGHT FINGERS was Bart Cummings very first Melbourne Cup winner. Cummings stands next to the jockey in the days when his thick mane of hair was still dark.

The filly LIGHT FINGERS (1961) was Bart Cummings very first Melbourne Cup winner in 1965. Cummings stands next to the jockey in the days when his thick mane of hair was still dark.

SAINTLY was not only beloved by his owner and trainer but by the whole nation. Upon SAINTLY'S retirement, the gelding took up residence at Saintly Place, owned by Cummings.

SAINTLY was not only beloved by Bart Cummings, but by the whole nation. Upon his retirement, the gelding took up residence at Living Legends. In 2007 he was moved to Princes Farm, owned by Cummings, where he was bred and born. Now the 87 year-old Cummings and his great champion can see each other every day.

BART CUMMINGS today, standing in the company of his twelve Melbourne Cups.

BART CUMMINGS in the company of his row of Melbourne Cups, representing an unprecedented 12 wins since 1965.

 

Rose of Kingston’s colt was christened Kingston Rule and sent off to France, to the stable of noted trainer Patrick Biancone. However, the flashy chestnut who physically so resembled Secretariat that it was uncanny, showed little promise. Unwilling to give up on the colt, David Hains had him shipped back to Australia and into the hands of the great Tommy Smith, who had trained the Hains’ fabulous gelding, Kingston Town. One can only imagine how the Secretariat colt must have seemed to Smith after the likes of Kingston Town. In his first start at Warwick Farm in 1989 over a heavy track, Kingston Rule finished 35 lengths behind the winner, prompting the trainer to advise Hains to geld the 3 year-old in the hopes of getting more out of him.

KINGSTON RULE was a stunning colt who reminded many of his sire, SECRETARIAT.

KINGSTON RULE was a stunning colt who reminded many of his sire, SECRETARIAT.

Hains, as the story goes, couldn’t bring himself to do it. Not only was Kingston Rule a beautiful individual, but those bloodlines were just too good to neutralize. And shortly thereafter, Hains moved the son of Rose of Kingston to the stable of one of Australia’s most notable trainers, James Bartholomew (“Bart”) Cummings. In a way, the arrival of the colt was a kind of homecoming for Cummings: it was he who had advised Hains to buy Kingston Rose, the colt’s grandam, in partnership with himself and it was Cummings who had trained her. In his autobiography, Bart: My Life, Cummings says he realized that Kingston Rule had no taste for heavy ground and then set about trying to understand “what was bothering him.” For all his crusty directness, with horses Bart Cummings exercises nothing but patience. Although it remains unclear what magic Cummings wrought on the youngster, we would observe that the colt may well have lacked the dominant instinct that often drives colts to conquer all before them. He certainly proved a kindly, sweet stallion in retirement. But in the hands of a horseman who by 1990 had racked up 6 Melbourne Cups and had many years under his belt of breeding his own horses, Kingston Rule found the “horse whisperer” he so desperately needed.

Under Cummings’ firm, patient conditioning, Kingston Rule stepped up, first taking a race at Sandown in 1990 before moving on to a win in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup which punched his ticket, in turn, for the 1990 Melbourne Cup. As he does with all his horses, Cummings worked Kingston Rule hard, while making certain that he ran him over firm turf, which the colt appeared to relish. In his run-up to Melbourne, Kingston Rule also finished second in a pair of stakes races.

KINGSTON RULE, looking every inch the picture of SECRETARIAT, charges to take the lead in the Moonee Valley Cup in 1990.

KINGSTON RULE, looking every inch the picture of SECRETARIAT, charges to take the lead in the Moonee Valley Cup in 1990.

Melbourne Cup day dawned fair and clear, and as Bart Cummings took his place in the grandstand with the Hains’ he felt absolutely confident that Kingston Rule was ready to run the most important race of his life. Young Darren Beadman, who had never won his nation’s most prestigious race, was in the saddle.

(NOTE: The 1990 Melbourne Cup featured a typically huge field of runners. Watch for the white blaze, white forelegs, sheepskin noseband and the yellow silks/red cap on the jockey.)

Beadman gave the colt a brilliant ride, overcoming a less-than-ideal start, a bumping mid-way through the race and the loss of ground immediately thereafter. And Kingston Rule ran his heart out, stopping the clock in record time that stands to this day.

On his way to the winner's circle -- KINGSTON RULE and his young jockey.

On his way to the winner’s circle — KINGSTON RULE and his young jockey.

The celebration: Darren Beadman, Bart Cummings and David Hains (background) with KINGTON RULE

The celebration: Darren Beadman, Bart Cummings and David Hains (background) with KINGSTON RULE

KINGSTON RULE with his proud trainer and owner.

KINGSTON RULE with his proud trainer and owner.

The Champ heads for the barn, wearing the winner's blanket.

The Champ heads for the barn, wearing the winner’s blanket.

 

Most thoroughbreds will achieve something spectacular just once in their racing lives. It may come early or late in their careers. But whenever it happens, it is this achievement that defines them for all of time. So it is that we hearken back to a host of shining moments, like Secretariat’s Belmont or Personal Ensign’s final race, where she struggled through the mud to win the BC Distaff over another equally valiant filly, Winning Colours, or So You Think’s second consecutive victory in the Cox Plate.

Kingston Rule’s Melbourne Cup was such a moment.

KINGSTON RULE_!BlMU2VQCGk~$(KGrHqYOKjIEtld+u!qiBL,rdLfiSQ~~_12

 

BONUS FEATURE

Terrific footage of Nearco and Frederico Tesio, as well as shots from Dormello Stud as it looks today. The voice-over is in Italian, but you don’t really need to know the language to understand 90% of the video!

 

 

ADDITIONAL READING:

1) Kingston Rule: To read about American equine photographer Patrricia McQueen’s trip to Australia to visit Secretariat’s champion son, please click on the link:

http://www.photopm.com/index.php/photography-blog/17-memories-of-melbourne-cup-winner-kingston-rule

2) Kingston Rule: To read another summary of Kingston Rule’s career, please click here:

http://thebreed.thethoroughbred.com.au/feature/a-tribute-to-a-king

3) Bart Cummings: To learn more about this phenomenal breeder and trainer, please click here:

http://www.sahof.org.au/hall-of-fame/member-profile/?memberID=53&memberType=legends

4) Nearco: A thumbnail summary of this great thoroughbred’s impact on the breed:

 

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Z Princess. This is how I will always remember her. Photo used by permission from Team Zenyatta. Photo and copyright, Team Zenyatta.

Z PRINCESS. This is how I will always remember her. (Photo used by permission from Team Zenyatta. Photo and copyright, Tyler Matson for Zenyatta.com)

It was late in the day when I got online and saw the news. I just stared, unable to grasp the meaning of what I was reading. My heart burned for Zenyatta and her family, Ann and Jerry Moss, Dottie and John Shirreffs, Team Z support staff Kyle Acebo, Tyler Matson and Alys Emson, and the folks at Lane’s End. I wanted so much to tell them that they were not alone, to hug each one, to bring over the comfort of a meal to each household — as we do here when a loved one has gone.

But I only know Zenny and Team Z through the wonders of virtual reality and that same pixelated reality also has the scope to distance.

Grief is an intensely private process. When we respect those most bereaved, we understand their need for privacy.

This, then, seeks to bring comfort. I hope it will stand as a sentinel to keep loving watch over Zenny and her family, as thousands of her extended family are doing right now, all around the world.

……. My father was a master of the sciences, for which he had the kind of reverence that we see most often today in quantum physicists. When I was very young and we lost my beloved Grandpa Wheeler to cancer, Dad counselled, “Just remember, matter can never be created and it can never be destroyed. We’ve lost Grandpa in a way that’s so painful, but Grandpa isn’t gone. He’s going to be in the sun, in the rain that falls, in the oceans, in the moon, in the air you breathe…..in everything you know.”  At the time, I probably understood this as a statement of faith. But it came from Dad’s reverence for life as he knew it — scientifically. (I can still close my eyes today and hear his voice telling me that my Grandpa would never, ever be gone, even though Dad died over thirty years ago.)

Of course, he was absolutely right, as I was to discover through my own studies in quantum physics, and the discourse which best captures it — Buddhism. No life is ever extinguished. It just sheds one earthly appearance to take on another. And this has nothing to do with theories of reincarnation — it’s more profound.

It has to do with the miracle that sustains all of life, from our beautiful blue planet to a simple blade of grass to a thoroughbred Princess…………

And I hold close to the miracle.

Princess Z, heading towards the camera, filled with curiosity. Photo used with the permission of Team Zenyatta. Photo by Kyle Acebo. Copyright, Team Zenyatta

Z PRINCESS, overcome by curiosity, heads towards the camera. (Photo used with the permission of Team Zenyatta. Photo and copyright, Alys Emson for Zenyatta.com)

 

 

Photographer extraordinaire, LAW, together with the Maryland Thoroughbred Association, gave me the quote that opens a fan’s eulogy to a horse who captured the heart and spoke to the soul.

 

Very late last night I caught the first, eloquent note that something was terribly wrong: Barbara Livingston had posted one of her photos of Cigar and typed in Tom Durkin’s historic call at the BC Classic (as heard above on the tape):

…The Incomparable … Invincible … Unbeatable CIGAR…

And I knew that Cigar was gone.

The thought of a world without him was inconceivable, as it was for the many who voiced prayers and trepidation on social media. Others were trawling the internet frantically, looking for some kind of confirmation. After all, the web has dispatched many who turned out to be alive and healthy.

Jerry Bailey said that on one of his rides on Cigar during that wondrous, undefeated season, he urged him to go and Cigar rolled his eye around at Bailey as though to say, “I know — just sit there and shut up.” It made me laugh then and it makes me smile today because that was as much Cigar as all the rest — his explosive charge to the front in what always looked, somehow, like a giant, equine shrug, or his bows to the crowd at Kentucky Horse Park in retirement, or the power within those muscles and sinews that made Cigar tower over other thoroughbreds, even in the walking ring.

Cigar at nineteen, giving his characteristic bow to spectators.

Cigar at nineteen, giving his characteristic bow to spectators.

When a thoroughbred captures your imagination, it’s deeply personal … the way a painting communes with a viewer, coming alive on your retina to open a surge of human feeling. And Cigar was one of those flesh-and-blood masterpieces that left no heart untouched, no soul ambivalent. Burning under that dark coat and kind eye were generations of blooded horses who had conspired to bring him to us. In the eyes that looked away and through you was something delicate, divine and unspeakable.

A Blood Moon Eclipse pulsed in the heavens last night, clothed in the hues of the Heart. Let it be your banner, embracing those who knew you best and loved you from afar.

 

bloodmoon eclipse

 

Shine on, Cigar.

Shine on.

CIGAR dies on Oct 7 2014_BzbR_MOCUAEaALo.jpg-large

 

Greyhound was the King of the Trotters. And Rosalind was the Queen. In 1939, they appeared together, poised to overturn a world record…..

 

 

Greyhound is to harness racing what Man O’ War is to thoroughbred racing. He is, quite simply, the stuff of legend. His record of 1:55:1 for the mile in 1938 stood until 1969, when it was broken by Nevele Pride. Of course, records are made to be broken. And Greyhound — the first “Grey Ghost” of horse racing — had more records than most, including a record he broke trotting a mile under saddle.

GREYHOUND'S sire, GUY ABBEY, pictured at Calumet Farm after the dispersal of Henry Knight's Almahurst bloodstock.

GREYHOUND’S sire, GUY ABBEY (2:06 3/4), pictured at Calumet Farm after the dispersal of Henry Knight’s Almahurst bloodstock.

GREYHOUND stands in the foreground of George Ford Morris' print of his dam, ELIZABETH, and grandam,

GREYHOUND stands in the foreground of George Ford Morris’ print, near his dam, ELIZABETH, and grandam, ZOMBREWER (2:04 1/4)

 

The colt foal was bred at Henry Knight’s famous Almahurst Farm and came into the world in 1932. At the time, his sire, Guy Abbey, had not attained leading stallion status and his dam, Elizabeth, had no exceptional progeny to her credit. The little fellow was grey — a colour no thoroughbred or standardbred breeder was happy to see. A superstitious discomfort with grey horses of almost any breed was alive and well in the 1930’s. And there was an irony to that, as concerned the standardbred. The “founding father” of the standardbred horse was Messenger (1780), a grey thoroughbred imported into the USA just after the American Revolution. The standardbred was developed in America, as was the American Saddlebred and the Tennessee Walking Horse — and all these breeds trace back to Messenger, who was their foundation sire. Messenger may have been grey ( and was probably exported because of it) but he stands as the most important sire ever to arrive on America’s shores.

A portrait of MESSENGER by George Ford Morris

A portrait of MESSENGER by George Ford Morris

 

By the time he appeared as a yearling at auction, Greyhound had been gelded and given his name. He sold for $900 USD to Colonel E.J. Baker of St. Charles, Illinois. Greyhound’s sale price appears to indicate that breeder Knight hadn’t tagged him as brimming with potential. But fate can be cruel: Knight parted with the crowning achievement of his breeding career for a ridiculously low price, even by Depression standards. At the time, a pair of Hackney ponies would have cost more than did the gunmetal grey son of Guy Abbey and Elizabeth. But if Fate had dealt Henry Knight a cruel blow, it took the opposite aspect for Greyhound. He was about to join a powerful triumvirate of men who would appreciate him every step of the way.

As the young colt was being readied for his 2 year-old campaign by trainer-driver Sep Palin and handler, Jimmy Wingfield, a royally-bred bay filly had made her way into the world.

ROSALIND, shown here with her dam, became the star of one of Marguerite Henry's most beautiful books, BORN TO TROT.

ROSALIND, shown here with her dam, became the subject of one of Marguerite Henry’s most beautiful books, BORN TO TROT.

 

The filly was named Rosalind and given to her owner’s critically-ill son, Gibson White, by his soft-spoken, brilliant father, Ben. Ben had tuberculosis and was in isolation in a hospital for patients with the “White Plague.”  The disease was still a threat worldwide and Gibson aka “Gib” was in grave danger. Ben White determined to rally his son’s mind and spirit by giving him the filly and the job of overseeing her from weaning to the track. Right from the start, Rosalind was a father-son affair, since it was Ben who would train her.

Below is a short video of a hospital for tuberculosis patients in the UK in the 1930’s.

Ben White was to harness racing what Mohammed Ali is to boxing. A Canadian by birth, Benjamin Franklin White had begun his training with the master, Edward “Pop” Geers at C.J. Hamlin’s Village Farm in East Aurora, N.Y. at the age of twenty. When Geers resigned in 1903, White, who had risen to become his assistant took over training duties. As his reputation grew, he trained first for Seymour Knox and then took over training duties at Pastime Farm. When the farm dissolved circa 1918, White started training for one of the former owners, Frank Ellis. Although the height of his training career came in the 1920’s, White continued to drive into the 1940’s. The number of champions who learned their lessons under White’s calm, steady tutelage was astounding:

“World champions and exceptional colts developed by Ben White, if expounded upon at any length could easily fill a volume, and such a book would be a harness horse’s counterpart of a Who’s Who. If their effects and impact upon modern day breeding and pedigrees of present day horses were considered, it would again fill another book. Starting with the world champion trotting stallion, Lee Axworthy, and the world champion filly, Volga, which came under his wing when he started training the Pastime string, the parade of champions which bore the stamp of Ben White’s training ability was a long one. Some of the better known ones include: Rosalind, Alma Lee, Lee Axworthy, Jane Revere, Volga E. (Volga), The Abbe, Mrs. McElwyn, Aileen Guy, Sumatra, Ruth M. Chenault, Main McElwyn, Isola’s Worthy, Mary Reynolds, Kashmir, Media, Twilight Song, Long Key, His Excellency, The Ambassador, Charm, Station Belle, and Deana.” (from The Daily Reporter, September 5, 1958) Add to this list White’s fourth Hambletonian winner, Volo Song.

 

A gorgeous photo from 1933 of BEN WHITE and the trotter SPENCER McELWYN.

A gorgeous photo from 1933 of BEN WHITE and the trotter SPENCER McELWYN.

ROSALIND'S sire, SCOTLAND, at 2 years with BEN WHITE.

ROSALIND’S sire, SCOTLAND (1:59 1/4), at 2 years with BEN WHITE.

It is no small feat training a harness horse, whether trotter or pacer, let alone training four Hambletonian and seven Kentucky Futurity winners, which Ben White accomplished over forty plus years. (For those less familiar with harness racing, winning the Hambletonian is the equivalent of winning the Kentucky Derby or the BC Classic in North American thoroughbred racing.) But Ben White was a gifted trainer (and, as it turned out, no slouch as a breeder either). What makes the task of a standardbred arguably more demanding than that of a thoroughbred is the simple fact that they can never leave the trot or the pace and break into a dazzling run down the stretch. In that sense, from the horse’s point of view, s/he is always in second gear. And that also means s/he needs to constantly override the instinct to run past another standardbred in order to win. There are, however, gears within the trot or the pace itself, and it is these different gears that lead colts and fillies into the winner’s circle. Here’s a look at 2014 superstar Sebastian K. (wearing #1) smashing the world record for a mile:

The royally-bred Rosalind was a daughter of Scotland out of the champion mare, Alma Lee (2:04 3/4). As Ben began training the filly, he was conscious that he was really training a member of his own family. Ben had bred her and trained (as well as driven) her parents, her grandam (Jane Revere) and her great grandam (Volga E.). It had been thirty years from Volga E. to Rosalind — more than a third of Ben’s adult life — to arrive at the moment when Rosalind first stepped onto the track. As years pulsed through the reins, memories took Ben back — and hope took him forward.

GREYHOUND and SEP PALIN on the track at Goshen, NY, where the Hambletonian is run.

GREYHOUND and SEP PALIN on the track at Goshen, NY, where the Hambletonian is run.

As Rosalind was being conditioned to begin her 2 year-old juvenile season, Greyhound was launching his bid to win the Hambletonian. The steel-grey colt had already captured the imagination of the racing public as a 2 year-old, but in 1935 he was on a winning rampage that would continue, unabated, until a loss a in 1936. It would be the last time he was defeated in a race, although he did lose heats in races that he won. (Note: Harness races are run in one of two ways: a single dash or three heats, usually over a mile distance. In the case of a three-heat stakes race like the Hambletonian, the winner must win two — or all — of the three heats to win. For this reason, a harness horse’s race record includes wins/losses by heats, as well as by races run.)

Greyhound was a big, gangling colt at three. He stood 16.2 h and because of his size, usually got off to a slow start. Whereas the colt had been a bit ditzy at two, by his three year-old campaign Greyhound had figured it all out. Sep Palin seldom even raised his whip. All he had to do was send the message that it was time to move and off went the “Grey Ghost” with a surge of power and a beauty that was as spell-binding as it was devastating. Although Greyhound didn’t start as the favourite on Hambletonian day, before a crowd of some 40,000 the colt trotted the first mile heat in 2:02¼, setting a new record in the last half. Greyhound then ran the second heat in 2:02¾. Taken together, his time over the first two heats made the 1935 Hambletonian the fastest ever run. Greyhound was also the first gelding to win it — and the only grey.

The sheer beauty of GREYHOUND.

The sheer beauty and power of GREYHOUND made him unforgettable.

GREYHOUND gets a kiss from SEP PALIN following his victory in the 1935 Hambletonian.

GREYHOUND gets a kiss from SEP PALIN following their Hambletonian win.

 

As Greyhound was busy etching his name into the pantheon of the (harness) racing gods, Rosalind and Ben White stepped onto the track for the first time. Whether it was the love she had known or the royal bloodlines she carried or both, the stately filly proved herself brilliant. Rosalind started ten times that year, winning six. And she took two-year-old champion decisively, with a brilliant win in the Junior Kentucky Futurity in a time of 2:03. As if all this was not enough — standardbreds being as numerous as thoroughbreds at the time, making the chances of coming across one so brilliant rare — Gib’s recovery was as sure, as emphatic, as his wonderful filly’s victories on the track.

ROSALIND and BEN WHITE.

ROSALIND and BEN WHITE.

As a three year-old, Rosalind kept on, winning seven of eight starts. Goshen, NY and The Hambletonian loomed, and the Whites’ champion filly arrived with the fanfare deserving of a Queen. Gib, now out of hospital, had travelled with Ben and Rosalind to Goshen to witness his filly’s “run at history.”

Held held high, Rosalind ambled to the start as Gib and a packed grandstand held their breath.

In the end “ …it was strictly a case of Rosalind first, and the rest nowhere, as Ben White moved his son’s filly right to the top and held sway thereafter, the best mile in 2:01¾, a stake mark. Gib White smilingly joined his father in the winner’s circle with the crowd wildly cheering the popular victory.” (from The Hambletonian Society archives)

ROSALIND the 1936 Hambletonian with BEN WHITE at the reins. In the photo, you can see the crowd's reaction as the Whites' champion filly nears the wire.

ROSALIND wins the 1936 Hambletonian, BEN WHITE at the reins. In the photo, you can see the reaction of the more than 25,000 as the Whites’ champion filly nears the wire. For GIB WHITE, who was also there, the joy was indescribable.

ROSALIND with owner, GIBSON WHITE. There seemed to be no question that Gib's love for his filly was central to his recovery from tuberculosis.

ROSALIND with owner, GIBSON WHITE. There seemed to be no question that Gib’s love for his filly was central to his recovery from tuberculosis, a life-threatening disease.

 

Ben White took the honours for the second time in his career. His first win had come with another filly, Mary Reynolds, in 1933. But in winning with Rosalind, he became the first person to breed, train and pilot a Hambletonian winner. Below is a silent film of Ben winning with Mary Reynolds after her chief rival, Brown Berry, stumbled in the stretch to finish eleventh in the third heat. (Mary Reynolds’ had already taken the first heat; Brown Berry won the second heat.)

Greyhound and Rosalind continued to ratchet up victory after victory. It was evident to all that there was another throne in the court of harness racing and it belonged to Queen Rosalind. The filly’s career best of 1:56 3/4 was only a hare short of Greyhound’s 1:55:1 for the mile — unheard of at a time when fillies under harness typically posted career bests of two minutes.

The "gift filly" -- ROSALIND and BEN WHITE.

The “gift filly” — ROSALIND and BEN WHITE.

 

In 1939, at the Indianapolis State Fair, the two were harnessed in tandem to try to lower the existing team record — their own. Earlier, the pair had trotted to a time of 1:59 in Syracuse, NY. Before Syracuse, neither Greyhound nor Rosalind had ever been driven in tandem before, making it doubly complex to handle them under the pressure of breaking the existing record, held by the great Uhlan and Leurs Forrest, who had trotted a mile in 2:03 1/4 in 1912. Neither the White nor the Baker camps doubted that they could do it. The question was: By how much? The other matter was to decide who would drive them; in the end, it was Sep Palin. Why Palin and not White is unclear, although it must be said that both teams were comfortable with the decision and accolades came their way for the classy manner in which this aspect was handled.

The King and Queen of harness racing.

The King and Queen of harness racing.

GREYHOUND with ROSALIND

 

ROSALIND and GREYHOUND trot to a world record for a team at the Indiana State Fair. Photo and copyright, Indiana Library.

Spectators throng the stands and photographers line the track as ROSALIND and GREYHOUND trot to a world record at the 1939 Indianapolis State Fair. Photo and copyright, Indiana Library.

At Indianapolis, Rosalind and Greyhound were looking to take down their Syracuse record — they were racing against themselves. But those who saw the King and Queen that day were deeply moved. Horseman generally are a crusty bunch, but even they were enchanted by the appearance of the Grey Ghost in harness with the best standardbred mare in the world. They were almost the same height, one blood-bay and one almost white, and they moved together seamlessly, passed the crowded stands, down to the start. It was August and the light was heavily flecked with gold. Their was restrained quiet as the “exhibition” began; two champions, matching one another stride for stride, floated passed the crowd for the first time. It was equine ballet on fast-forward, but so easy did the pair make it look that only the man holding the stopwatch really knew how fast they were moving. Racing against the wind, Rosalind and her handsome King trotted the mile in 1:58 1/4. As Sep Palin pulled them up and turned them back towards the jubilant throng, Rosalind nodded her head before reaching over to gently nibble Greyhound’s neck.

Gib White, watching with his dad, took the footage below. Poor as it is — through no fault of Gib’s — it records an epic moment in the annals of harness racing history.

In her book, The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt writes: ” …And isn’t the whole point of things — beautiful things — that they connect you to some larger beauty? Those first images that crack your heart wide open and you spend the rest of your life chasing, or trying to recapture in one way or another?”  

Rosalind and Greyhound certainly weren’t “things,” either to those who knew them best or those who grew to love them. But on that day in 1939 when the narratives of the grey, gelded colt who rose to become an icon and the blood bay filly whose brilliance on the track was only exceeded by her capacity to heal interwove, hearts cracked wide open to a beauty larger than many had ever known before.

 

POSTSCRIPT:

Greyhound’s complete career record is catalogued below, in the Bonus Feature.

Rosalind retired holding the world’s record for three heats by a trotting mare, giving her a tie in average time with Greyhound at 1:56 for the fastest three heats to the credit of a trotter regardless of sex. As well, Rosalind held the:

World’s record for a third heat (1:59¼) by a trotter

World’s record for a four-year-old trotting mare, with a time of 1:59¼

World’s record for one and one-half miles by a trotter in a race, with a time of 3:12¼

Greyhound and Rosalind led happy lives in retirement. However, Rosalind died suddenly at the age of seventeen and an autopsy showed that she had succumbed to cancer. She left her human family too suddenly, even though she had given Ben and Gib White six foals, all fillies, three of which set champion times as three-year-olds. Although film footage of both Greyhound and Rosalind is scarce, the White’s super filly is commemorated in Marguerite Henry’s terrific book, Born To Trot. 

Although she takes some "artistic license" in the telling, Marguerite Henry's BORN TO TROT is ROSALIND and the White family's story, told with much love and drama.

Although she takes some “artistic license” in the telling, Marguerite Henry’s BORN TO TROT is ROSALIND and the White family’s story, told with much love and drama.

Ben White went on to win the Hambletonian another two times, in 1942 and 1943, with The Ambassador and Volo Song, respectively. Gibson White made a complete recovery and became his dad’s assistant trainer.

Both Greyhound and Rosalind were inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame (in 1958 and 1973, respectively). Ben White was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 1958 and the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1977.

On April 23, 2014, the Harness Racing Hall of Fame announced that the stall Greyhound called home for the last 25 years of his life was donated to them: http://www.harnessmuseum.com/images/Grey%20Ghost%94%20Coming%20to%20Goshen.pdf

 

BONUS FEATURE: Greyhound. (This is a lovely piece for its passion. It’s a little repetitive, but stay with it until the end to see some amazing footage of Greyhound in slow motion.)

SOURCES

The Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame (http://www.harnessmuseum.com/images/Grey%20Ghost%94%20Coming%20to%20Goshen.pdf)

Step and Go Together by B.K. Beckwith

Greyhound 1:55 1/4 by P.W. Moser

The Hambletonian Society (http://www.hambletonian.org/about.html)

Harness Racing – Standardbred Community (http://www.mi-harness.net/publct/hh/rosalind.html)

Various newspaper articles of the day

 

 

 

 

Every nation has its pantheon of thoroughbred champions. In Australia, Bernborough’s name is one that still carries the power of greatness, even though he raced there over half a century ago. Adding to his legendary performance on the turf was the fact that, through no fault of his own, Bernborough was also an enigma…..

Bernborough: as the Daily Telegraph put it, in a 33-page circular they produced about the champion shortly after his retirement: ” … He is one of those extraordinary horses which turn up every now and then and are remembered for a lifetime.” Praise like this is reserved for only the greatest thoroughbreds, making it remarkable that Bernborough (1939) received this kind of accolade from the Australian press. It wasn’t that he lacked the “extraordinary.” It was more that he only got to the big Australian racecourses when he was  six  — and was retired less than 18 months later. But in that short time, Bernborough started 18 times, chalking up 15 consecutive wins against “all comers.” And it wasn’t just that he won – it was the way he did it. 

EMBOROUGH, the sire of BERNBOROUGH descended from the powerful GALOPIN sire line.

EMBOROUGH (1932), the sire of BERNBOROUGH, descended from the powerful NEWMINSTER (1848) sire line. More importantly, he was a son of GAINSBOROUGH (1915), the sire of HYPERION (1930).

The Sun News tribute to BERNBOROUGH on his retirement ran for 33 pages.

The Daily Telegraph’s tribute to BERNBOROUGH on his retirement ran for 33 pages.

Bernborough was bred in Queensland by Harry Winten at his Rosalie Plains Stud, although Winten died shortly thereafter. Bernborough was by the imported British stallion, Emborough, out of an Australian-bred mare called Bern Maid (1921) who, like the colt’s sire, also hailed from the Newminster sire line. Bern Maid was a very old lady when she and Bernborough were offered at the dispersal of Winten’s bloodstock, where they were bought by one John (“Jack”) Bach, who reputedly described the youngster as “the lousiest thing” he’d ever seen. The year was 1940 and World War Two was in full swing. A month later, Albert Hadwen paid Jack Bach 140 APS for Bernborough and in April 1941, he was shipped to the stables of trainer Bob Mitchell, in Toowoomba, Queensland to learn how to become a racehorse.

Young BERNBOROUGH beginning to learn his job.

Young BERNBOROUGH beginning to learn his job, Billy Nielsen up. He was still no beauty as a juvenile, but in the huge chest and powerful neck there seemed a promise of greatness.

It is impossible to say how tall the “trainee” was at the time of his arrival to Mitchell, although a rare early shot of Bernborough at around the age of two (above) shows an imposing frame. At maturity he stood a full 17.1 h with a girth that measured 72 inches and a galloping stride of 25 feet. (Phar Lap’s girth was 74 inches; his stride also 25 feet.)  In other words, Bernborough was a monster of a horse. But like other “gentle giants” of horse racing history, he was sweet-tempered and so docile that a toddler was safe on his back. He was also bomb-proof. Other distinguishing features were a white diamond in the centre of his brow and a mane that fell naturally on the left, rather than on the right, as would be the case in at least 85% of all horses.

The only marking on his otherwise bay coat was the star right in the centre of BERNBOROUGH'S brow.

The only marking on his otherwise bay coat was the star right in the centre of BERNBOROUGH’S brow.

Bernborough made his first start on February 7, 1942 as a 2 year-old at Toowoomba racecourse. He won when the winner was disqualified for cutting him off as the colt launched what would become a signature late charge. Unimpressed by the victory, Hadwen leased Bernborough to a Mr. J. Roberts. Losing his next start, the colt went on to win his next three handily. Owner Hadwen and trainer Mitchell were delighted, perhaps even more so given Bernborough’s size. Colts as large as 17.1 h will never be able to boast the manoeuvrability of smaller thoroughbreds and for the same reason, may also take longer to develop. But Bernborough not only showed signs of settling into his big frame, he was also able to win at the comparatively short distances of 5-5 1/2 furlongs. Quite a feat for such a big juvenile.

Until the end of his 5 year-old season, Bernborough was confined to Toowoomba racecourses despite his brilliance. From August 1, 1942-July 28, 1945, the big bay would come home 9 times a winner in 14 starts, winning at distances from 6-9 furlongs for owner Hadwen. And Bernborough won carrying top weight even though he was often condemned to race against inferior horses. His running style was electric. Bernborough was a closer — but he showed that he could shut down the field from as far back as twenty-third going into the final stretch. As his reputation grew, spectators would wait for the inevitable charge and roar their approval as the champ cruised home. Below is a link to a Southern Queensland (AUS) page; please scroll half-way down to the screen that shows a horse race, subtitled ” Australian Diary: Australia’s Richest Horse Race” to view remarkable footage of Bernborough’s typical closing style:

http://www.nfsa.gov.au/blog/2013/05/02/southern-queensland-time-capsule/

This was the sight that electrified race goers in Toowoomba: "BERNBOROUGH first and the rest nowhere" is the phrase that comes to mind.

This was the sight that electrified race goers in Toowoomba. “BERNBOROUGH first and the rest nowhere” is the phrase that comes to mind.

As his reputation grew over his 3, 4 and 5 year-old campaigns, attempts were made to start Bernborough outside Toowoomba, but all failed.

The reason had to do with his original owner, Frank Bach, who was accused by the powers-that-be of swapping two different thoroughbreds, years before Bernborough raced. In January of 1941, Bach was disqualified for life by the Queensland Turf Club (QTC), which meant that any horse he owned would, in turn, be barred from racing outside of Toowoomba. Even when it was shown that Bach no longer owned Bernborough, the vendetta of the QTC continued against the horse, possibly as a way of getting back at him for managing to overturn his disqualification in a subsequent court battle. There seems little doubt that he was guilty, but the evidence was flimsy, leaving the QTC at a decided disadvantage in making their original ruling stick. Going after Bach horses, especially a champion like Bernborough, likely struck them as a perfect way to get revenge. The QTC had the power to bar any horse they wanted from running in Brisbane and the same horse was barred from running on interstate racecourses anywhere in Australia unless sanctioned by them.

So, as Bernborough’s brilliance grew, so did the frustration of being denied the opportunity to run the him against the best horses in places like Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. He was even transported at least twice to Brisbane and Sydney, only to be denied the right to race in the eleventh hour by the QTC and the Australian Jockey Club, respectively.

BERNBOROUGH disembarks from a "float" as these conveyances were called. Outfitted accordingly, floats were used to transport race horses at this time.

BERNBOROUGH disembarks from a “float” as these conveyances were called. Outfitted accordingly, floats were used to transport race horses all over Australia at this time.

Whether Bernborough’s owner Hadwen was moved by financial gain or principle or both, Bernborough appeared in the stables of trainer H.T. Plant of Sydney in 1945, where he was offered for sale. News of the horse’s brilliance had filtered through to the big racing centres and shortly thereafter he was purchased by the flamboyant restauranteur, Azzalin Romano, for a reported 2600 guineas.

Romano, a native of Padua, Italy, arrived in Sydney in 1923 where, four years later, he opened Romano’s restaurant. By the 1940’s, Romano’s was the “place to be seen” in Sydney, catering to the rich and famous. Stars like Maurice Chevalier and Vivien Leigh dined there; during WWII, the future Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, as well as Edgar Rice Burroughs (then a war correspondent), Bob Hope, Gracie Fields and Frank Sinatra frequented Romano’s. Passing into the hands of an influential character like Romano resolved the dilemma of getting Bernborough entered in races beyond Toowoomba for once and for all.

As events in the Pacific theatre of WWII shook the people of Australia and New Zealand, entertainment that distracted became vital. So the arrival of Bernborough at the big racecourses fuelled a surcharge of enthusiasm that rivalled that of Phar Lap. Of course, other great thoroughbreds were racing in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne too.

There was the fabulous mare and Australian HOF, Flight (1940), twice winner of the Cox and Craven Plates, as well as the Mackinnon, Orr, Knox and Colin Stephens Stakes. Flight stood a diminutive 15.2 hands but her girth, a staggering 73.5 inches, was bigger than that of Bernborough’s. Racing fans were dazzled by the talented mare, who would defeat Bernborough as well as the mighty Shannon, another hero of the turf at this time. In fact, one of THE VAULT’S readers has written to say that his grandfather considered Flight the greatest Australian race mare to ever run. Flight might not have gained international attention but she was, without question, one of the greatest Australian thoroughbreds ever.

FLIGHT was one of the greatest mares ever to race in Australia. Although she would succumb to birthing complications in 1953, a daughter produced the champion SKYLINE.

FLIGHT was one of the greatest mares ever to race in Australia. She made 65 starts, with a race record of 24-19-9 and retired at the age of six. Although she would succumb to birthing complications in 1953, her only daughter, FLIGHT’S DAUGHTER (1949), produced the champions SKYLINE (1955) and SKY HIGH (1957).

SHANNON arrives in Brisbane, where he won the 1946 Doomben Cup.

SHANNON in full “travel gear,” circa 1946.

Another champion, albeit one who never met up with Bernborough, was Shannon (1941). A remarkable thoroughbred described by author Jessica Owers as “peerless,” he was also the fastest horse that Johnny Longden — who had ridden Count Fleet — had ever sat astride. Racing to brilliance in Australia, Shannon was imported to the USA  after being bought by Harry Curland. Unlike Ajax, who had also been acquired by American interests, Shannon was bought to race in America, where he became Shannon II. For a summary of this great thoroughbred’s career (who is the subject of Jessica Owers’ latest book) please click on this link: https://www.thoroughbredracing.com/articles/shannon-horse-time-forgot

Now in training at Randwick with H.T. “Harry” Plant, Bernborough’s racing debut was hotly anticipated: could the “TOOWOOMBA TORNADO” really be as good as his record showed racing against Australia’s finest?

BERNBOROUGH shown winning the Spring Handicap at Toowoomba in 1944, shortly before he began to develop foot problems and before his sale to Romano in 1945.

BERNBOROUGH shown winning the Spring Handicap at Toowoomba in 1944, shortly before he began to develop foot problems, and before his sale to Romano in 1945.

In 1945, before shipping to Harry Plant’s stables where he was purchased by Azzalin Romano, Bernborough had been upset when another horse heading to the Toowoomba track behind him had kicked a tin barrier. The champion bolted and fell, injuring a fetlock and sustaining some lameness in one shoulder. Accordingly, he was put away for a bit until his injuries had healed, but when Bernborough returned to competition, carrying crushing weights of between 132-148 lbs., he didn’t seem to have the same sparkle. After a third loss, the 5 year-old came up lame again. Bernborough’s hooves were checked; it was decided that he had soft corns and he was re-shod. However, after only one win and one place in seven starts, Hadwen (who still owned him at this time) switched the big bay to the stables of Ernie Peck. There it was discovered that Bernborough have two in-growing corns in both hooves. Once his hooves were trimmed back and he had time to heal, Bernborough was quick to return to form. On June 30, 1945, he carried 148 lbs, raced twice and won both. These wins were his last appearance in Toowoomba.

H.T. "HARRY" PLANT

H.T. “HARRY” PLANT

In the hands of Harry Plant, the consummate horseman-turned-trainer, Bernborough was readied for the campaign that would transform him into a thoroughbred legend. Like all the greatest of trainers, Plant could “read” his horses and he was intent on doing the best by them and for them. During his time with Bernborough, Plant — who had planned to buy him from Hadwen himself but was outbid by Romano — was instrumental in keeping Romano from over-extending Bernborough … most of the time. A chief concern of the trainer’s was the amount of weight that the champion was assigned; Bernborough was the kind of individual who always tried his best, and a thoroughbred burdened with crushing, “dead” weight, who would perform to his maximum regardless, courted the real possibility of a heart attack or a fatal breakdown. At a time when the sport was harsh on thoroughbreds, Plant was a rare example of a man who understood and respected them.

The “bush champ” ran fourth in his first race for owner Romano and then kicked off a succession of 15 consecutive victories on racecourses in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane against top thoroughbreds like the aforementioned Flight (who was beaten a head by Bernborough in the 1946 Chipping Norton Stakes and lost to him another three times), the Sydney and AJC Plate winner, Craigie (1940) and the AJC Derby and Sires Produce Stakes winner, Magnificent (1942). Accolades rained down from horsemen and journalists alike, while fans made the big, dark horse, whose finishing style left them speechless and whose courage lifted their hearts, a turf hero.

BERNBOROUGH (outside) roars passed MAGNIFICENT

BERNBOROUGH (outside) roars passed MAGNIFICENT to win the Warwick Stakes at Randwick. Photo and copyright, Sun News, Australia

 

In fact, Australian race goers in the big race centres took to the “Toowoomb Tornado” from his very first victory for the Plant-Romano connections, where he unleashed a withering drive in the 1 mile 19 yds. Villiers at Randwick to finish just slightly off the track record. Jockey Mulley had trouble pulling him up and decided to let Bernborough run on before putting on the brakes. As though he knew the roar from the grandstand was for him, on his way back to the winner’s circle Bernborough stopped in front of the grandstand and acknowledged the cheers with a bow.

Of course, even a great horse doesn’t win all on his own. Together with the ministrations of his trainer, Bernborough also had the services of the 101 lb. jockey, Athol George Mulley. Mulley was noted for being a great horseman, as well as for his vivid personality. Although accused by various and anon for his occasional poor judgement when riding Bernborough, he won his first of two Sydney Jockey Premierships in 1945-1946 for his important contribution to the horse’s consecutive winning streak. His behaviour prior to the Chipping Norton Stakes captured some of what made Mulley tick: for days prior to the running, he received substantial bribes, as well as a number of threatening phone calls, but refused to bend to those who wanted Bernborough to lose. (As it turned out, the horse could have lost without all this underworld action, since the brilliant Flight refused to be headed and the two horses hit the wire in a dead heat with Bernborough prevailing by a short head.)

BERNBOROUGH (in the lead) takes a turn with other thoroughbreds on the track at Randwick.

BERNBOROUGH (in the lead) takes a turn with other thoroughbreds on the track at Randwick.

Mulley and his big horse quickly became an indomitable pair. Mulley believed that Bernborough had his own game plan before a race and he may have, although the formula, with rare exceptions, followed pretty much the same formula: break slowly and relax near the back of the pack, hit second gear and move up to the leaders and then roar home. And it worked — 15 times in a row. Bernborough was clocked in one race covering the final 4 furlongs in 46 records — not since 1921 had an Australian thoroughbred run faster.

Photo and copyright,

Photo and copyright, Sun News, Australia

If you’d asked Harry Plant to name Bernborough’s best race, he would have picked the Doomben Cup, run at just under 11 furlongs on June 8, 1946, when the horse was seven years-old. The handicappers had assigned “Bernie” (as he was called by his owner, trainer and stable lads) the crushing weight of 151 lbs. but Romano, swollen with delight at his horse’s repeated victories, couldn’t think of pulling out of such a prestigious race. Romano wasn’t a cruel man, but he was a wheeler-dealer and knew little about thoroughbreds, relying on Plant to guide him. But despite advice to the contrary, Plant lost this round. The trainer was heard to say to his big, courageous horse as Bernborough was saddled, ” You wouldn’t run if I owned you, old fella.”

BERNBOROUGH with trainer Harry Plant.

BERNBOROUGH with trainer Harry Plant.

 

Trailing the field by 14 lengths, Bernborough began to pick up speed with urging from Mulley at about the 5 furlong mark. It was a large field and there was a lot of crowding, causing Bernborough to clip heels with the filly Tea Cake and almost go down in the process. Mulley righted his mount, only to have Bernie run into by another horse, who was beginning to falter, 4 furlongs from the wire. Mulley shot for the rail, mindful of the weight Bernborough was carrying and hoping to save him ground at the finish, but quickly found himself locked in by Scobie Breasley on Tea Cake. Jim Duncan swung Craigie to the outside of Tea Cake, hoping to close any gaps that Bernborough might get through. The only way out was to pull Bernie up and to get around the other horses to the extreme outside. Going five-wide, the mighty horse overtook the leaders, to win by a length going away. The time of 2:14 3/4 was a new track record — and the horse was going easy. It was, as Trevor Denman famously called when the great  Zenyatta crossed the wire to win the 2009 BC Classic, a “simply un-bee-lievable” performance.

BERNBOROUGH DOOMBEN_article22241938-3-001

 

BERNBOROUGH (white headband) shown winning the 1946 Doomben Cup.

BERNBOROUGH (in characteristic white browband) shown winning the 1946 Doomben Cup.

 

The inevitable, given the weights, Bernborough’s popularity and Romano’s largely ignorant enthusiasm, happened on November 2, 1946 in the LKS MacKinnon Stakes as Bernborough challenged for the lead. It was the only time that the superb mare, Flight, would beat him home. Under jockey Bill Briscoe (Mulley having been taken off Bernie when the horse failed to place in the 1946 Caulfield Cup) Bernborough was drawing close to Flight when his foreleg seemed to crumple under him: he had fractured the sesamoid in his right foreleg. Briscoe reported that he heard what sounded like a gun shot and quickly dismounted, fearing that the horse had actually been shot.

The injury proved non-lifethreatening, but it would be weeks before Bernborough was out of danger. In fact, many thought that their turf hero had been euthanized, until the news came that he was safe in trainer Plant’s care. During the whole time his leg was being bandaged up, Bernie laid his head on Harry Plant’s shoulder and whickered his distress. The trainer was so moved that he spent that first night with Bernie in the barn.

In the footage below, Bernborough’s breakdown is caught, as well as the reaction of his fans and some rare footage of Flight crossing the finish line. It speaks loud of the esteem in which Bernborough was held and the uncertainty as to whether or not he would survive his injuries. (Note: Unlike some coverage of breakdowns, this footage is respectful. There are no close-ups of the actual breakdown itself. No need to worry about being confronted with something distasteful, even though it seems a very sad ending for a “wonder horse,” as the reporter’s tone reflects.)

Full recovery would depend on Bernborough not doing any further damage to himself. Being a sensible and calm individual, the champion helped those caring for him by doing everything in his power to expedite a full recovery. It was reported that he would walk on three legs, as though he knew that he needed to keep his foreleg safe, stand on all-fours a bit and then carefully lie down. Plant and Bernie’s lads hovered close and owner Romano brought his champ assorted treats. A month after the accident, the veterinarians attending him declared that Bernborough had made incredible progress. He was finally out of danger, but the mighty Bernborough would never race again.

BERNBOROUGH being led into the van after his breakdown. In the photo, you can see the swelling in his foreleg.

BERNBOROUGH being led into the van after his breakdown. In the photo, you can see the swelling in the injured foreleg.

The news of Bernborough’s breakdown went viral (by standards of the day!) and in the USA, the reaction was mixed. There had been rumours that Romano was going to ship the horse to the USA to take on Citation and other American champions. After only recently sustaining the blow of having Phar Lap die on its shores, some turf writers expressed relief that Bernborough had broken down at home and not in America. However, not long after Bernborough’s recovery was assured, Azzalin Romano arrived in California, armed with film reels of Bernie’s victories, seeking to sell him to American breeders. A deal was secured with movie mogul Louis B. Mayer who then contacted Leslie Coombs II to stand Bernborough at Spendthrift in Kentucky. Mayer bought the stallion for the equivalent of $310,000 USD — an astronomical price in those days that eclipsed the record amount that had been paid for the stallion Tracery by $51,000 USD.

The news hit Australians very, very hard. When Bernborough left Melbourne in early February of 1947, two hundred well-wishers gathered. In Sydney, a police guard was needed to keep ardent fans from crowding the stallion and nicking hair from his tail as a keepsake. Bernborough travelled to America with his usual relaxed attitude, arriving at Spendthrift in the company of the stud farm manager, Louis Doherty, who had met the ship in San Francisco. There Bernborough and Harry Plant, who had accompanied him on the voyage across the Pacific, said their final goodbyes. They would never see one another again.

There was, however, another Aussie to arrive at Spendthrift — the great Shannon.

BERNBOROUGH "meets" SHANNON II at Spendthrift.

BERNBOROUGH (in barn) “greets” SHANNON II at Spendthrift.

In America, Bernborough did very well as a stallion, with progeny being sold and sent all over the world. Among his best were Hook Money (1951), winner of the 1955 Ayr Gold Cup, Berseem, who set a 6-furlong track record at Santa Anita, Brush Burn (1949), winner of 15 races, Parading Lady (1949), winner of the Acorn and the Vosburgh (against the colts), Bernburgoo (1953) who defeated Round Table (1954) in the Warren Wright Memorial Stakes and Bernwood (1948), who set a one-mile track record at Washington Park. All in all, the stallion had 21 stakes winners that are known (records from countries like Peru, the West Indies, Mexico and Panama being scarce). As well, Bernborough was the BM sire of the great Jay Trump (1957), who won the Grand National in 1965; and Getting Closer (1978), a great-great grandson, won the Doomben Ten Thousand/Rothman’s Hundred Thousand in 1984.

JAY TRUMP is led in after winning the Grand National at Aintree.

JAY TRUMP is led in after winning the 1965 Grand National at Aintree.

HOOK MONEY, champion son of BERNBOROUGH

The gorgeous HOOK MONEY, a champion son of BERNBOROUGH

 

Below is rare footage of another son of Bernborough, the champion First Aid (1950), winning the 1955 Whitney at The Spa (please note there is no sound):

Bernborough lived until 1960, when he died of a heart attack in his paddock as Clem Brooks cradled the great horse’s head in his arms.

Bernborough was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2001.

Sometime after the publication of Jessica Owers’ book about Shannon, Spendthrift Farm erected two brass plaques to honour both Bernborough and Shannon II.

BERNBOROUGH at stud at Spendthrift in Lexington, Kentucky.

BERNBOROUGH at stud at Spendthrift in Lexington, Kentucky.

 

Recommended books:

Duncan Stearn’s fabulous book, Bernborough: Australia’s Greatest Racehorse. (ISBN: 9780987090218)

Zeb Armstrong’s e-book, The Bernborough Phenomenon

Jessica Owers’ equally fabulous tale of Bernborough’s contemporary, Shannon: Before Black Caviar, So You Think Or Takeover Target, There Was Shannon (ISBN: 9781742750248)

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