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Trainer Willie Mullins arrives at Cheltenham 2015 with a stable of National Hunt royalty. But there can be little doubt that 11 year-old Hurricane Fly crowns the lot — and all Irish eyes will be on him in the Champion Hurdle.

Hurricane Fly, as champion trainer Willie Mullins admits, has never lost his coltish streak, his “buzziness” — (translation) a quiet Hurricane Fly is a sick Hurricane Fly.

The little bay gelding, now entering the dusk of a brilliant career, stands as one of Montjeu’s very best progeny, even though “The Fly,” as he is affectionately known by all, made his career over hurdles. And what a stunning career it is — 22 Grade One wins and counting.

In his most recent victory at Leopardstown in January of this year, he bested the record of the mighty Istabraq by one, to win his fifth straight Irish Champion Hurdle.

And was greeted by an adoring public:

So it is that The Fly is THE horse to watch — and to beat — at Cheltenham this year, despite Mullins’ fearsome contingent of Faugheen (also entered in the Champion Hurdle), Annie Power (Mares Hurdle), Douvan (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle), Un de Sceaux (Arkle Trophy) and Don Poli (Toby Balding National Hunt Chase). In fact, Mullins comes to Cheltenham this year with arguably the best stable of any of the big-time National Hunt trainers. Which, if you’re Irish, is exactly what it should be, since Ireland has long dominated the winners enclosure at Cheltenham. For the Irish, Cheltenham is better than Christmas Eve and excitement builds from well before Christmas into a national crescendo by opening day at the premiere National Hunt festival of the season.

In his lovely book, “A Fine Place To Dream,” transplanted American writer Bill Barich enthrals readers with his passion for the horses, trainers and jockeys of the Irish National Hunt. It is the year of Best Mate’s third Gold Cup, the year of Moscow Flyer, Beef Or Salmon and Barracouda, and Barich, in love and living in Dublin, delights with his behind-the-scenes account of the run-up to Cheltenham 2004. One of his visits is to the yard of trainer Willie Mullins. Mullins, himself a former jockey, is a rather conservative type, “meticulous by nature,” who has won more National Hunt races than any trainer before him. Mullins keeps up to 100 horses in his yard in any given year, including some flat runners. Most recently, he won the 2005 Grand National with Hedgehunter and trained the fabulous Quevega, winner of the Mares Hurdle event at Cheltenham for six consecutive years, beginning in 2009.

Here’s a look at the Mullins’ yard produced by the Racing Post. Hurdlers going to Cheltenham, featuring Hurricane Fly, together with Faugheen, Annie Power and Douvan are featured in Part One (below). (NOTE: For those interested, Part Two, that looks at the Mullins’ chasers going to Cheltenham, please see the Bonus Features at the end of this article.)

As his trainer points out, The Fly is down in the Cheltenham betting pools at the moment largely due to his age, as well as an unfounded conviction that he is predisposed to do poorly over the Cheltenham course. Although the gelding prefers ground with some moisture in it, he is quite capable of giving any course under any conditions his best effort. And although The Fly is now 11 years old, he’s coming off the best season in his National Hunt career, a career that began when he was sold to George Creighton and shipped to Willie Mullins late in 2007. The then-3 year-old was coming off a disappointing career on the flat where he had only managed to win twice. But The Fly’s bloodlines were just too promising to give up on him entirely and, once gelded, he began to learn a new career under Mullins’ practiced and patient guidance.

Trainer Willie Mullins and The Fly.

Trainer Willie Mullins and The Fly.

HURRICANE FLY leads out the Mullins' horses on a morning work.

HURRICANE FLY leads out the Mullins’ horses on a morning work.

Conditioning the young son of Montjeu meant developing stamina through long gallops and teaching agility over minor obstacles at first.  But by 2008, the little bay was ready to try his hand at Novice Hurdle racing. He won a race at Punchestown Racecourse in May and then returned to France to win the Grade Three Gras Savoye Prix de Longchamp Hurdle at Auteuil. Racing over the same course and distance at Auteuil in June, The Fly finished second to Grivette in the Grade One Prix Alain de Breil, and just ahead of his stable companion, Quevega, who would go on to prove a champion of stunning merit in her own right. Returning to Ireland later in the year, the Mullins’ trainee recorded his first Grade One win when beating Donnas Palm by a neck in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November 2008, followed by another win in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown a month later. Bypassing Cheltenham that year, The Fly returned to Punchestown where he scored two wins, in April and again in November of 2009:

What was becoming evident was that the little bay had talent, not the least of which was an explosive show of speed as he raced to the finish. However, his 2009-2010 campaign was short: The Fly started only twice, with a win and a third place finish before injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.

Hurrican Fly clears a hurdle in a manner reminiscent of the great Irish National Hunt champion, Istabraq.

Hurrican Fly clears a hurdle in a manner reminiscent of the great Irish National Hunt champion, Istabraq.

This shot captures the power of The Fly, Ruby Walsh up.

This shot captures the power of The Fly, Ruby Walsh up.

Charging across the finish line.

Charging across the finish line.

 

By the 2010/2011 season, The Fly was considered a senior hurdler and he put his skill to work, winning all five of his starts, including the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on what was his first visit to the meeting at Prestbury Park. Started as the 11/4 favourite in a field of eleven runners, Hurricane Fly took the lead at the last flight of hurdles and won by one and a quarter lengths from Peddlers Cross. National Hunt legend Ruby Walsh, who was now his regular rider, was unable to suppress his delight as the pair returned to the winner’s enclosure.

Following a win in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle in May 2011, the gelding was given eight months off and returned to business in January 2012 to contest the Irish Champion Hurdle, which he won for the first time. However, things didn’t go his way at Cheltenham in 2012, where The Fly finished third to Rock On Ruby.

It was at about this time that “Fly doubters” emerged. The 2011/2012 season had been a short one for the eight year-old and even though Cheltenham was his only loss, the nay-sayers abounded. And it was also precisely here that the idea that The Fly couldn’t cope with Cheltenham was born.

Hurricane Fly began the 2012/2013 season in brilliant fashion, taking the Morgiana Hurdle in November by twelve lengths from Captain Cee Bee. A month later, The Fly annexed his thirteenth Grade One race winning by seven lengths. He then won his third consecutive Irish Champion Hurdle in January 2013, beating Thousand Stars by five lengths with the very good Binocular in third place. After the race, a pleased Willie Mullins confided that his champion had returned to his best form. But as Cheltenham loomed, it became clear that the pundits and bookies still doubted that the 2011 Champion Hurdle winner could regain the title. By now, The Fly and his hugely-talented team had gained the status of superstars, and thousands of “Fly fans” travelled over from Ireland to see their little hero take on the doubters.

As it turns out, regaining lost titles at Cheltenham takes some doing. Only Comedy of Errors had managed it, regaining Champion Hurdle honours in 1975. On March 12, 2013, Hurricane Fly stepped onto the course and into racing history:

The Fly ended his season by winning his 16th grade one race and his fourth consecutive Punchestown Hurdle, to equal the records of the legendary Kauto Star and America’s brilliant John Henry in consecutive wins.

HURRICANE FLY (outside) and stablemate, the brilliant mare, QUEVEGA, at Cheltenham.

HURRICANE FLY (outside) and stablemate, the brilliant mare, QUEVEGA, at Cheltenham.

what a team! The great Ruby Walsh, HURRICANE FLY and Gail Carlisle, the gelding's caretaker and frequent exercise rider.

What a team! Ruby Walsh, HURRICANE FLY and Gail Carlisle, the gelding’s caretaker and best friend.

 

Last year did not find Hurricane Fly in the winner’s circle at Cheltenham, but the 10 year-old showed that he could be impressive even against much younger talent. In eight starts, he only lost twice although, to “Fly fans,” the horse didn’t seem quite on his game.

As we heard from trainer Mullins (video above), Hurricane Fly acquitted himself with honour last season but was not, indeed, quite himself.

The Fly goes into Cheltenham 2015 vulnerable to young guns like the promising Faugheen. But as his 22nd Group One win (shown above) suggests, this champion hurdler is still more than capable of brilliance. Other than his age, it remains to be seen whether his constant partner, Ruby Walsh, will decide to ride him or will, rather, choose Faugheen. Walsh has said that he’ll use his head and not his heart to make a final decision.

Who loves you, baby? Oh, the whole of Ireland, for starters. The Champ with Gail Carlisle.

Who loves you, baby? Oh, the whole of Ireland, for starters. The Champ with Gail Carlisle.

But one thing is clear: whether he is blessed with the talent of a legendary jockey or not, Hurricane Fly will be carried every step of the way in the hearts of his legions of fans. And if, as was true of the noble champion Istabraq on his final appearance at Cheltenham, it proves too much for him, two things remain certain.

The greatest care will be taken to see that he comes home safe.

Hurricane Fly stands as one of Ireland’s greatest National Hunt horses and nothing, not even Cheltenham 2015, can change that.

(Video by Michael Greaney)

 

BONUS FEATURES

Faugheen, shown here winning the 2014 Christmas Hurdle, will go up against Hurricane Fly at Cheltenham this year:

Recent article on Willie Mullins’ Un de Sceaux (Arkle Trophy) with video :

http://www.cheltenhamfestival.net/category/tuesdays-race-card–day-one/2015-arkle-trophy-tips-is-hot-favourite-un-de-sceaux-a-banker-or-blowout-201502280006/

Douvan, another from the Mullins’ yard, winning a month ago:

Annie Power in a 2014 win. Trainer Mullins says she’s “doing everything right” for her return in the Champion Mares Hurdle:

Finally, for those interested in the great Sprinter Sacre, who will also vie for honours at Cheltenham this year:

https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/hes-better-than-frankel-sprinter-sacre/

NOTE: THE VAULT is a non-profit website. (Any advertising that appears on THE VAULT is placed there by WordPress and the profit, if any, goes to WordPress.) We make every effort to honour copyright for the photographs used in our articles. It is not our policy to use the property of any photographer without his/her permission, although the task of sourcing photographs is hugely compromised by the social media, where many photographs prove impossible to trace. Please do not hesitate to contact THE VAULT regarding any copyright concerns. Thank you.

 

As the National Hunt season overseas builds to its apex, the Cheltenham Festival, we thought it might be fun to tell readers everywhere about Blockade (1927), a chestnut son of the great Man O’ War who participated in America’s most prestigious National Hunt races and was, from 1938-1940, an absolute superstar.

BLOCKADE shown well in the clear in his first

1938: BLOCKADE shown well in the clear in his first of three consecutive wins in the gruelling 4 mile/ 22 jump Maryland Hunt Cup. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

This is the story of a little horse with a heart as huge as that of his far more famous relative, Battleship.

But because his National Hunt career in the USA overlapped that of Battleship, who won the Grand National at Aintree in 1938, Blockade — whose career took place exclusively in North America — had to settle for second-best. In addition, as famously protested by John Hervey, aka “Salvator” in American Race Horses 1937 and again in the 1938 publication of the same name, National Hunt racing was in serious decline in the USA, with seemingly no will to save it on the part of those who patronized the sport.

But in 1938, when Blockade took the Maryland Hunt Cup in record-shattering time, he still had a lot to do to get himself noticed. That year his sire, the beloved Man O’ War, celebrated his twenty-first birthday — complete with cake and a live radio telecast of the event, moderated by the legendary Clem McCarthy.

The year before, another son of Man O’ War, War Admiral, had won the American Triple Crown; and Battleship famously took the 1938 Grand National at Aintree for owner Marion DuPont. But THE event of the year was unquestionably the Seabiscuit-War Admiral Match Race — a son and grandson of Big Red battling it out in a race for the ages. Here’s Clem McCarthy’s call:

It was no wonder, then, that Blockade was hardly in the forefront of public attention in 1938 despite an accomplishment that would have wowed National Hunt devotees throughout the United Kingdom. In fact, even though Battleship’s Grand National was a romantic tale of the grandest proportion, it could be argued that Blockade’s Maryland Hunt Cup victory was by far the more impressive…..

Blockade was born at Faraway Farm in 1927. His dam, Rock Emerald (1915), was a daughter of Trap Rock (1908), son of the great British champion, Rock Sand (1900). Rock Emerald’s colt was a chestnut with a small white blaze in the centre of his forehead. Like other famous Man O’ War progeny, Blockade was small, standing just over 15 hands at maturity. There is precious little on the colt’s early years, but he was sold by Sam Riddle as a yearling or two year-old, started running on the flat, showed little promise and was described as “unruly,” was gelded and then changed hands several times, as well as careers. An attempt was made to train him for show jumping and he was also tried as a hunter, but both of these initiatives fell flat.

It was at this point that Blockade was purchased by Mrs. E Read Beard and sent to the stable of Maryland horseman, Janon Fisher Jr., with the idea of training him for National Hunt racing.

"He jumps big," trainer Janon Fisher said of BLOCKADE.

“He jumps big,” trainer Janon Fisher Jr. said of BLOCKADE — and this is what he meant.

Blockade was what is called “washy” — very highly strung and inclined to sweat up, “leaving his race in the paddock.” The gelding was also bothered by a weak ankle, a problem that had plagued Blockade from the start of his flat racing career and was not uncommon among Man O’ War progeny. Scapa Flow (1924), one of the best runners ever produced by Man O’ War, was similarly troubled and after breaking down in his three year-old season, was destroyed; Battleship was another who had issues with his legs, ankles and feet.

Another great American horse who competed in the Grand National in 1928, BILLY BARTON was also inclined to be "washy." This, however, never dampened his brilliance: despite falling at the last fence, BILLY came home second to TIPPERARY TIM at Aintree. They were the only two horses to finish the course that year.

Another great American horse who competed in the Grand National in 1928, BILLY BARTON was also inclined to be “washy.” This, however, never dampened his brilliance: despite falling at the last fence, BILLY came home second to TIPPERARY TIM at Aintree. They were the only two horses to finish the course that year.

Blockade couldn’t have done any better than falling into the hands of Janon Fisher Jr.

A graduate of Princeton, Fisher founded the Maryland Horse Breeders Association and served as VP, Treasurer and Director of the Maryland Jockey Club. He was also Master of the Green Spring Valley Hunt Club for five years and Secretary of the American Trainers Association for thirty, working closely alongside the legendary Preston Burch to improve track conditions for horses and the people of the backstretch. A veteran of WW1, Fisher had started breeding horses in 1929 and by the time Blockade came along, he was also training them.

Fisher determined to build up Blockade’s fitness with regular hunting over the hills and dales of Maryland’s National Hunt country. The first winter the gelding spent with Fisher he was routinely taken out and over hunt jumps and by the spring, Blockade was still highly strung but less so than he had been when he’d first come to Fisher. In 1937 the gelding began to learn his new job, starting in five timber races, none of which he won. But Fisher had to have been pleased with the little gelding’s effort, because Blockade’s training continued into 1938 where the hours and hours of practice would all come together in a dramatic fashion.

In training method, C. W. Anderson compared Fisher to the equally unorthodox Hirsch Jacobs. Writing about Blockade in his book, Twenty Gallant Horses, Anderson says:

“Fischer never bothered to school Blockade over fences. ‘He’s a natural jumper and he knows his business. All he needs is a lot of galloping to get fit. It’s no use to school him over small fences. He has no respect for them and gets careless.Give him big, solid fences and a real pace. Then try to catch him.’ “

"Then try to catch him" BLOCKADE leaves the field far, far behind in the Maryland Hunt Cup.

“Then try to catch him” BLOCKADE leaves the field far, far behind in the Maryland Hunt Cup.

In April of 1938, with the lush scent of spring in the air, Blockade went down to the start of the Maryland Hunt Cup, run over a distance of 4 miles with 22 jumps along the way. His jockey, J. Fred Colwill, came from a family of seven and was about to graduate from the ranks of amateur to celebrated jockey, thanks to the little chestnut prancing under his 150-lb. frame.

The Maryland Hunt Cup is a steeplechase. In America, there are two types of steeplechase: hurdle and timber. Whereas the hurdle steeplechase is jumped over plastic and steel fences, as well as brush jumps of up to 52 inches in height, timber racing is conducted over solid and immovable wooden rail fences that, in the most extreme case, may reach five feet. The distance of a timber steeplechase is also longer than that of a hurdle, ranging from three to four miles (6 km). Timber jumps require horses to jump in an arc, in deference to the unyielding nature of the rail fences. An important factor in success at timber racing is for the horse to land in stride, so that it can carry its speed forward on the flat part of the race course.

Tight shot of BLOCKADE clearing a rail fence.

Tight shot of BLOCKADE clearing the last rail fence in the American Grand National in 1939, which he won. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

Here’s C. W. Anderson’s account of Blockade’s win:

“…He went off in front and stayed there. The pace was terrific for such difficult fences, but it suited him. Blockade jumped big, much bigger than most horses. Those who took off head and head with him usually went down. He was cut on the pattern of his great sire: he did things in a grand way. His only mistake in this race was at the seventeenth fence…Blockade failed [to judge its breadth] by a foot and took out the top rail completely…[after which] Blockade drove on to a brilliant victory.”

And “brilliant” it was. Blockade and his jockey covered the 4 miles in a record 8:44 — a time that stood for 22 years. It was the little gelding’s first win for Janon Fisher Jr.

BLOCKADE and jockey J. Fred Colvill clearing one of the rail fences.

BLOCKADE and jockey J. Fred Colwill clearing one of the rail fences. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

Coming home, BLOCKADE and Colvill are all alone.

Coming home, BLOCKADE and Colwill are all alone. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

Close-up of BLOCKADE and Colvill just after crossing the finish.

Close-up of BLOCKADE and Colwill just after crossing the finish.

BLOCKADE meets his appreciative fans.

BLOCKADE meets appreciative fans.

 Finally, a horse who had failed at everything he had tried came up a winner. It may well have been Man o’ War’s best birthday present of all.

MAN O' WAR celebrates his twenty-first birthday with a cake. He is flanked by his beloved Will Harbut and radio sportscaster, the legendary Clem McCarthy.

MAN O’ WAR celebrates his twenty-first birthday with a cake. He is flanked by his beloved Will Harbut and radio sportscaster, the legendary Clem McCarthy.

Blockade’s stupendous career continued. In 1939 and 1940, he won the Maryland Hunt Cup again. To win it once was outstanding. To win it three times was unprecedented. (Ironically, the next horse to do it, Mountain Dew, was out of a mare who was a daughter of War Admiral, bred by Janon Fisher Jr. and ridden by Fisher’s son. Mountain Dew and the great Jay Trump ran against one another in the Cup, placing first and second in alternate years. However, the year after Mountain Dew’s retirement, Jay Trump also completed “the triple.”)

Blockade’s 1939 win — in which the gutsy gelding edged out a superstar in Coq Bruyere — went down as the most exciting horse race of the season. As the Miami News of April 29, 1939 reported it:

“…Four miles over the toughest timber course in the country and the chestnut beat the gray by a bob or two of his silken head. It was by far the most thrilling race in this country in many years and the oldest Maryland inhabitant had to go back a long time to find something to parallel this 46th running…But there never has been one to match this throat-catching struggle of Coq Bruyere, John Strawbridge’s pet, which won everything else last year, to catch the front-running 1938 winner, on top from drop of flag to judges’ eye.”

BLOCKADE leads the field in a dramatic win in 1939.

“…on top from drop of flag to judges’ eye” — BLOCKADE leads the field in the dramatic 1939 Maryland Hunt Cup. COQ BRUYERE is the second gray in the frame.

BLOCKADE leads COQ BRUYERE to the finish.

BLOCKADE leads COQ BRUYERE to the finish.

The third win gave the 11 year-old Blockade’s owner, Mrs. E. Read Beard, permanent possession of the Gold Challenge Cup, donated to the Maryland Hunt Club in 1913 by Rose Whistler. In 1939, Blockade also won the Maryland Grand National, a race which — like the Maryland Hunt Cup — is still run today under its new name, “The Breeders Cup Grand National Steeplechase.”

By now, Mrs. Read’s gelding had become a legend in his own time. His victories made headlines across the country, and his groom, Walter Tyndall, was fond of saying, “Blockade? He’s diseased with speed.”

The 1940 Maryland Hunt Cup. BLOCKADE is shown in the foreground.

The 1940 Maryland Hunt Cup: BLOCKADE is shown in the foreground. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

BLOCKADE and Colvill in the 1940 Maryland Hunt Cup, running behind the blinkered horse.

BLOCKADE and Colwill in the 1940 Maryland Hunt Cup, running slightly behind the blinkered horse.

 

In 1941, the 12 year-old Blockade took the year off to recover from a tendon injury. Although remaining in Fisher’s stable, Blockade had been sold again, to a Mr. Charles Ewing Tuttle, Fred Colwill’s father-in-law. The sale took place in the same year (1941) that Colwill married Tuttle’s daughter, making it possible that Blockade was a gift to a new son-in-law.

BLOCKADE leads at the 11th jump in his 1940 Maryland Hunt Cup win.

BLOCKADE (outside) leads at the 11th jump in his 1940 Maryland Hunt Cup win.

1942 got off to a sorry start when jockey Colwill made a mistake on course, forcing horse and rider to watch as Winton, owned by Stuart Janney, galloped to victory in the 1942 Maryland Hunt Cup. The decision was made to start Blockade in the prestigious Virginia Gold Cup a week later.

Blockade went down at the seventeenth fence. As described by William Myzk in his book, “The History and Origins of the Virginia Gold Cup” :

“The crowd was hushed, waiting for word that their hero had only been knocked out, but no word came. The great Blockade had jumped his last fence and run his last race. A saddened audience went slowly home, knowing that they had witnessed the passing of one of the gamest sons of the great Man O’ War.”

C.W. An derision's lithograph of BLOCKADE and the Maryland Hunt Cup.

C.W. Anderson’s lithograph of BLOCKADE and the Maryland Hunt Cup he retired, after winning it for three consecutive years. Those familiar with Anderson’s work will recognize the author-illustrator’s tribute to Blockade: he has given him an even greater likeness to Man O’ War than the gelding had in real life.

 

 

BONUS FEATURE:

Ride The Maryland Hunt Cup with a jockey and his horse, Twill Do. This is rather long (19 minutes) but even watching part of it gives a sense of what it took — and takes — to win the Maryland Hunt Cup three times in a row. And perhaps, as you watch, you will take a moment to remember a great little horse whose heart was as deep as the 4-mile course and whose courage dwarfed its 22 fences. (NOTE: I have watched the footage before posting it. One horse goes down and there are two refusals but no-one is hurt.)

Related articles on THE VAULT:

(BATTLESHIP) https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2012/09/06/battleship-the-pony-who-conquered-aintree/

REFERENCES

Anderson, C.W. Twenty Gallant Horses (ISBN-10: 0027055302; ISBN-13: 978-0027055306)

Winants, Peter. Steeplechasing: A Complete History of the Sport in North America  (ISBN – 10: 1461708222; ISBN – 13: 9781461708223)

: 100 Years of the Maryland Hunt Cup (http://www.equiery.com/archives/Steeplechase/100YearsHuntCup.html)

McCausland, Christianna. Maryland Steeplechasing (ISBN-10: 0738542008;ISBN-13: 978-0738542003)

Myzk, William. The History and Origins of the Virginia Gold Cup (Virginia: The Piedmont Press)

NY: The Sagamore Press. American Race Horses 1938

The Miami News (April 30, 1939) “Blockade Wins In Close Race Maryland Hunt” 

Chicago Tribune (April 28, 1940) “Blockade Wins Steeplechase And Hunt Cup”

NOTE: THE VAULT is a non-profit website. (Any advertising that appears on THE VAULT is placed there by WordPress and the profit, if any, goes to WordPress.) We make every effort to honour copyright for the photographs used in our articles. It is not our policy to use the property of any photographer without his/her permission, although the task of sourcing photographs is hugely compromised by the social media, where many photographs prove impossible to trace. Please do not hesitate to contact THE VAULT regarding any copyright concerns. Thank you.

 

SEABISCUIT with Marcella Howard. Photo and copyright, Chicago Tribune

SEABISCUIT shares a moment with (Mrs.) Marcella Howard. Photo and copyright, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

I have often wondered what our knowledge about horse racing would be like without the images of C.C. Cook, “Skeets” Meadors, Bert Clark Thayer, Bert Morgan, Tony Leonard, Bob and Adam Coglianese, Lydia Williams (LAW), Patricia McQueen, Barbara Livingston and L.S. Sutcliffe, or of Canada’s Michael Burns, Australia’s Bronwyn Healy and the UK’s Edward Whitaker, to name but a few of those whose lens’ are central to the construction of racing history.

Can you imagine taking this to the track? Photojournalist Jessie Tarbox and her camera, circa 1900.

Can you imagine taking this to the track? Photojournalist Jessie Tarbox and her camera, circa 1900.

Before I retired from a career in education, I spent a good deal of time researching the visual image and discovered, among other things, that photographs play the important socio-cultural role of holding memories in place. And perhaps because the visual image can be a “closed” representational system — and here I mean the photographic image in particular — it is adept at recording aspects of our social, cultural and universal histories in a way that all can understand. By “freezing” time in this way, photographs give us purchase on something as precious: the construction of a social and cultural history of just about everything.

If there were no images of the horses that we have loved and lost or the people and events that marked the progression of racing on the flat or over jumps from its rough beginnings to today, our collective memory would be rendered null and void. The role of the work of professional track photographers worldwide (from the famous to the fledgling) is that of a cultural ethnologist — people who record the workings of a culture so that others, outside of it, can come to understand what makes it tick. Track photographers take us into the culture of horses and people, evoking a world few of us will ever experience as intimately.

The great TONY LEONARD (back to camera) captures a moment for all time: GENUINE RISK being led in after her win in the Kentucky Derby.

The great TONY LEONARD (back to camera) captures a moment for all time: GENUINE RISK being led in after her win in the Kentucky Derby. Photograph and copyright The Chicago Tribune.

This image (below) brought me up sharply when I first saw it. C.C. Cook has captured an entire narrative in what seems, at first glance, a straightforward depiction of a thoroughbred coming on to the track. From the deserted and vast contours of the track that frame man and beast we are given to understand that both are about to confront the very essence of the game. But there is more — Cook has embodied the moment with a suggestion of anticipation, of infinite possibility, since the race itself lies ahead, in the future.

GOSHAWK walks onto the track. Taken in 1923 by the incomparable C.C.Cook.

GOSHAWK walks onto the track, with a young jockey whose last name is Keogh in the irons. Taken in 1923 by the incomparable C.C.Cook.

Goshawk (1920) is beautifully turned out, perhaps by the man walking beside him. His bandages are neat, his tail and mane braided, and his coat gleams. The son of Whisk Broom (1907) was bred by Harry Payne Whitney and sold, before this photograph was taken, to Gifford A. Cochran for the tidy sum of $50,000 USD. In the privately published “The Thoroughbred Stud of H.P. Whitney Esq.” (1928), Whitney describes the colt thus: “Goshawk was a colt of extreme speed and of stakes class.” As a two year-old, the Carol Shilling-trained Goshawk won the Saratoga Special and the Great American Stakes; at three, he won the Quickstep Handicap and ran second to the 1923 Kentucky Derby winner and Horse of the Year, Zev, in the Pimlico Fall Serial #1. Other than these few facts, little else is known of him.

But though Goshawk’s story remains obscure, Cook has given the colt immortality by setting his image in the landscape of his time.

Who knew? MAN O' WAR and Will Harbut in what seems to be an ad campaign for Dodge! Photo and copyright, the digital library of the University of Kentucky.

Who knew? MAN O’ WAR and WILL HARBUT in what seems to be an ad campaign for Dodge. Date unknown. Photo and copyright, the Digital Library of the University of Kentucky.

They were children, their bones and hand-eye coordination still developing.  Why weren’t they in school, or within the safety of their families? What brought them to the track? It seems almost unbelievable that children were competing in one of the most dangerous sports of the day — in the Twenties and Thirties, boys of twelve and thirteen were professional jockeys.

Jockey BASIL JAMES.

Jockey BASIL JAMES. In 1936, at the age of 16, James led all American jockeys in winnings. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

BOBBY JONES (centre) and two other unidentified jockeys at trackside in 1926.

BOBBY JONES (centre) and two other unidentified jockeys at trackside in 1926. The son of a thoroughbred owner, Jones led all jockeys in earnings in 1933. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

Jockey EARL PORTER with an unidentified woman.

Jockey EARL PORTER with an unidentified woman. Porter was a champion jockey in the 1930’s in the USA. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

Jockey IRA HANFORD (rode Bold Venture to win the Kentucky Derby) with Max Hirsch and daughter, Mary Hirsch.

Jockey IRA “Babe” HANFORD, who rode Bold Venture to win the 1935 Kentucky Derby, with Max Hirsch and daughter, Mary Hirsch. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

Innumerable track images convey aspects of racing history that are iconic, even though they were often taken before anyone had a sense of why they might matter in the future …..

MAN O' WAR'S sire, FAIR PLAY, is shown here receiving a visit from ELIZABETH KANE.

MAN O’ WAR’S sire, FAIR PLAY, is shown here receiving a visit from Riddle farm manager, ELIZABETH KANE. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

The champion filly, MRS. RUSTOM, shown here in 1934. Bred by the Aga Khan, MRS. RUSTOM was brilliant at two, winning the Gimcrack, Dewhurst and the Ham Stakes.

The champion filly, MRS. RUSTOM, shown here in 1934. Bred by the Aga Khan, MRS. RUSTOM was brilliant at two, winning the Gimcrack, Dewhurst and the Ham Stakes.

EXTERMINATOR and his best buddy, PEANUTS, lead horses to the post at Pimlico for the Exterminator Handicap.

EXTERMINATOR and his best buddy, PEANUTS, lead horses to the post at Pimlico for the Exterminator Handicap.

Few remember that NORTHERN DANCER ran most of his life with a debilitating hoof problem. Here, the arrow indicates the troublesome hoof as the colt grazes, circa 1964.

Few remember that NORTHERN DANCER ran most of his life with a debilitating hoof problem. Here, the arrow indicates the troublesome hoof as the colt grazes, circa 1964.

These white thoroughbreds are the first to be caught in a photographer's lens. They are WHITE BEAUTY and her brother,

These white thoroughbreds are among the first to be caught in a photographer’s lens, circa 1966. They are WHITE BEAUTY and her half-brother, WAR COLORS (outside), who was also categorized as a roan.

FERDINAND with WILLIE SHOEMAKER, pre-Derby. Several informal photos of the pair make it clear they loved each other.

FERDINAND with WILLIE SHOEMAKER, pre-Derby. Several informal photos of the pair make it clear they loved each other.

1973: GUNSYND, the "GOONIWINDI GREY" was only ever defeated once in starts of over one mile. He was then -- and remains -- beloved.

1973: GUNSYND, aka the “GOONDIWINDI GREY” was only ever defeated once in starts over one mile. He was then — and remains — beloved by Australian racing fans.

Lord Derby's stud, showing four outstanding stallions out for their daily walk with their lads: ALCYDION,

Lord Derby’s stud, showing four outstanding stallions out for their daily walk with their lads: ALYCIDON, NEVER SAY DIE, HYPERION and RIBOT.

1966: The injured ARKLE visits with his owner, Anne Grosvenor, the Duchess of Westminster. Three years later, succumbing to severe arthritis, ARKLE was gone.

1966: The injured ARKLE visits with his owner, Anne Grosvenor, the Duchess of Westminster. Three years later, succumbing to severe arthritis, ARKLE was gone.

BATTLESHIP and another son of MAN O'WAR, WAR VESSEL, depart for England aboard ship where the former would win the Grand National at Aintree.

BATTLESHIP and another son of MAN O’WAR, WAR VESSEL, depart for England aboard ship. BATTLESHIP was on a journey that saw him win the Grand National at Aintree,inscribing his name into a pantheon of champions.

Australia's legend, PETER PAN, shown here reading the morning paper.

Australia’s racing legend, PETER PAN, shown here reading the morning paper.

RUFFIAN being led in by owner Stuart Janney after her win in the last of American racing's Triple Crown For Fillies.

RUFFIAN being led in by owner Stuart Janney after she completes American racing’s Triple Crown For Fillies. Photo and copyright, NYRA.

 

Other images capture thoroughbreds, trainers and handlers interacting at work and play.

Canadian Michael Burns' fine shot of SECRETARIAT and Ronnie Turcotte working at Woodbine, in Toronto, before the colt's final race.

Canadian Michael Burns’ fine shot of SECRETARIAT and Ronnie Turcotte working at Woodbine, in Toronto, before the colt’s final race. Moments later, Turcotte would be set down, denying him one last ride on the colt he loved. Photo and copyright, MICHAEL BURNS.

The great ALYDAR with trainer, John Veitch.

The great ALYDAR with trainer, John Veitch, who makes no secret of his high regard for a colt who never gave up.

SUNDAY SILENCE and Charlie Whittingham.

SUNDAY SILENCE and HOF trainer Charlie Whittingham share a secret. Photo and copyright, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

GREYHOUND with his Dalmatian dog.

GREYHOUND with his Dalmatian dog.

SYSONBY at Saratoga in 1904 takes a time-out to graze and watch the action on the backstretch.

SYSONBY at Saratoga in 1904 takes a time-out to graze and watch the action on the backstretch.

"SUNNY JIM" FITZSIMMONS trains youngsters at the starting gate before it went high-tech.

“SUNNY JIM” FITZSIMMONS trains youngsters at the starting gate before it went high-tech. Photo and copyright, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

The gallant SWAPS meeting fans after a work out.

The gallant SWAPS meeting fans after a work out. Could this be a young Art Sherman in the saddle, trainer of 2015 HOTY CALIFORNIA CHROME? Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

IMPERATRICE (centre), grandam of SECRETARIAT,

IMPERATRICE (centre), grandam of SECRETARIAT, wins the Fall High Weight Handicap at Belmont in 1942. Note her uncanny resemblance to Secretariat’s daughter, TERLINGUA, born over thirty years later. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

Minutes after his birth, baby IRON LEIGE and his dam,

Minutes after his birth, baby IRON LIEGE and his dam, IRON MAIDEN (daughter of WAR ADMIRAL). IRON LIEGE grew up to win the 1957 Kentucky Derby.

 

The romance of the turf gives these old photographs a patina all their own…..

Celebrated photographer and author, BERT CLARK THAYER, appears to be studying his subject's interest in his camera.

1940’s: Celebrated photographer and author, BERT CLARK THAYER, appears to be studying his subject’s interest in his camera.

COLONEL MATT WINN pictured in 1937.

COLONEL MATT WINN pictured in 1937. In 1902, when Churchill Downs in Kentucky was in serious financial difficulty, Winn formed a syndicate of investors to save it. A brilliant marketing manager, it was Winn who convinced Harry Payne Whitney to bring REGRET to Churchill for the Kentucky Derby, which she won.

1927: Lord Durham leads in his Epsom Oaks winner, BEAM, who broke the existing track record.

1927: Lord Durham leads in his Epsom Oaks winner, BEAM, who also broke the existing track record.

Two members of an American racing dynasty, FOXHALL AND JAMES KEENE at the races. KEENELAND is named after this distinguished American family.

Two members of an American racing dynasty, FOXHALL AND JAMES KEENE at the races.

OGDEN PHIPPS leads in Withers winner, WHITE COCKADE. The Phipps family remains prominent in American racing today.

OGDEN PHIPPS leads in Withers winner, WHITE COCKADE. The Phipps family remains prominent in American racing today.

Trainer GINGER McCAIN walking his champion, RED RUM. Ginger faithfully visited "Rummy" until the end of his days.

Trainer GINGER McCAIN walking his champion, RED RUM. Ginger faithfully visited “Rummy” until the end of his days.

WILLIAM WOODWARD at the track. The Woodward is named after him.

WILLIAM WOODWARD at the track. The Woodward is named after him.

1950: A dramatic shot of fillies rounding Tottenham Corner in the Epsom Oaks that same year. ASMENA was the winner.

1950: A dramatic shot of fillies rounding Tottenham Corner in the Epsom Oaks that same year. ASMENA was the winner. Photo and copyright, REUTERS.

1930: Horses go to the post in the Massachusetts Handicap, won by MENOW. Triple Crown winner WAR ADMIRAL is also in here somewhere.

1930: Horses go to the post in the Massachusetts Handicap, won by MENOW. Triple Crown winner WAR ADMIRAL is also in here somewhere.

Although women were either forbidden or else given restricted access to the track in 1925, Laura Walters found an innovative way to show her enthusiasm.

Although women were either forbidden or else given restricted access to the track in 1925, Laura Walters found an innovative way to show her enthusiasm.

1927: Mrs. John D. Hertz, who would later race Triple Crown winner COUNT FLEET, is shown here congratulating Chick Lang who guided her champion filly, ANITA PEABODY, to another win.

1927: Mrs. John D. Hertz, who would later race Triple Crown winner COUNT FLEET, is shown here congratulating Chick Lang who guided her champion filly, ANITA PEABODY, to another win.

Australian superstar TULLOCH, trained by TJ Smith, coming right at you.

HOF and Australian superstar, TULLOCH, trained by the great Tommy J. Smith, Gai Waterhouse’s father. TULLOCH is rated with the likes of champions PHAR LAP, CARBINE and BERNBOROUGH.

 

As newspapers and magazines worldwide go digital, their press photographs are turning up at auction, where some go for as much as $400 – $500 USD. And it’s not public libraries that are buying them but private collectors, thereby making them basically inaccessible to the rest of us.

We wonder if this dispersal might have sad consequences for those studying the thoroughbred and its history in the future. Perhaps it’s a generational “thing” to wonder if every photograph is being digitalized — as opposed to someone guessing what ought to be saved. Or to question the logic behind dispersals of this nature, as in: Why is there nothing to compel newspapers to turn their photo archives over to an institution like the Keeneland Library, that already holds the work of several important track photographers?

But perhaps that’s not state-of-the-art thinking in 2015.

The champion BILLY BARTON arrives from America to run in the Grand National. Only he and the winner, TIPPERARY TIM, would finish the race that year.

The champion BILLY BARTON arrives from America to run in the 1928 Grand National at Aintree. Never an easy horse to handle, brilliant BILLY is looking like he’ll kick up a fuss. On race day, only BILLY and the winner, TIPPERARY TIM, would cross the finish line. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

This may look like a typical shot, but it isn't. It shows the three gaits used by trotters and pacers all in the same frame.

This may look like a typical shot, but it isn’t. It shows the three gaits used by trotters and pacers — all in the same frame. Now imagine capturing this image in the 1940’s.

1941: SEABISCUIT leaves the track for the very last time.

1941: SEABISCUIT leaves the track for the very last time. Photo and copyright, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

 

Twitter and Facebook are already in a flutter at the prospect of these famous babies making their first start. And, because we’re human, we’re inclined to think that this anticipation — which feels like a chronic twitch deep in the equine lover’s soul — is absolutely unique.

COZMIC ONE, the first born out of champion Zenyatta, shown working out at Santa Anita under his regular exercise rider, Kevlyn            . Photo and copyright, Jane Wade.

COZMIC ONE, the first born out of champion Zenyatta, shown working out at Santa Anita under his regular exercise rider, veteran Kevlan Henry. Photo and copyright, Jane Wade.

Except that it isn’t.

Down through the years, the arrival of the first progeny of great thoroughbreds has been greeted with the same kind of feeling. Today, however, the Frankels and Rachels and Nellys and Zenyattas are public figures — and that means we can witness every detail of the development of their sons and daughters as though we were actually right there. Now that really is unique.

Even though televised coverage made Native Dancer a public hero, social media today allows fans, punters and journalists worldwide a degree of involvement with thoroughbreds that is immediate and unprecedented. In the case of two of America’s great mares, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, a devoted community have followed Jess’s Dream (2011) aka Taco and Cozmic One (2011) aka Coz from their first steps right up to their training towards a first start. In the UK, many are following the progress of baby Frankels, born in 2014 to mares like Danedream and More Joyous, while in Australia, Black Caviar’s first born is now six months old and already has her own “Nelly groupies.”.

RACHEL ALEXANDRA'S first born, JESS'S DREAM (on outside) is also working towards a first start which is likely to come in Florida.

RACHEL ALEXANDRA’S first born, JESS’S DREAM (on outside) is also working towards a first start which is likely to come in Florida.

Seventy or more years ago, even though the expectations for the offspring of champions like Man O’ War was probably as great, the general public didn’t have the kind of access to them that we have today. And the down-side of our real-time relationship to these royally-bred babies may well be that our expectations for them are weighty enough to crush an elephant.

Happily, horses are oblivious to tidal waves that arise in virtual space.

The magnificent EBLOUISSANTE, half-sister to champion ZENYATTA is very much her own person, as trainer John Shirreffs understands. Photo and copyright, Jane Wade.

The magnificent EBLOUISSANTE, a 17h half-sister to champion ZENYATTA is very much her own person, as trainer John Shirreffs understands. Thank goodness for that, because it leaves her fans lots of room to appreciate her for exactly who she is. Photo and copyright, Jane Wade.

When Great Britain’s lavishly-spotted The Tetrarch (1911) — arguably the best two year-old ever produced in that part of the world — retired, there can be little doubt that his progeny were eagerly anticipated. As a sire, The Tetrarch was able to pass some of his special qualities on, notably to a son, Tetratema (1917), but he principally inscribed himself in breeding history through his Blue Hen daughter, Mumtaz Mahal, the “Flying Filly.” She was “The One” of all of the Tetrarch’s comparatively small number of progeny who most ignited memories of her sire when she appeared on the turf, and the sprightly grey filly had her own fan club because of it. In the breeding shed, Mumtaz Mahal became the ancestress of the sire lines of Nasrullah, Royal Charger, Tudor Minstrel and Mahmoud, making her influence on the breed in the last century one of the most important. The narrative of The Tetrarch and his brilliant daughter is one of those rare cases when a direct offspring caught the genes of a brilliant parent in spades.

THE TETRARCH.

THE TETRARCH

TETRATEMA, pictured here by W.A. Roach, a champion son of THE TETRARCH

TETRATEMA, pictured here by W.A. Roach, a champion son of THE TETRARCH, was best over short distances but he won 5 races in 1919 and the King’s Stand, King George and 2000 Guineas the following year. As a sire he was very good, producing excellent fillies and colts like ROYAL MINSTREL(1925) and FORAY (1934). In their book A Century of Champions, Randall and Morris rated TETRATEMA as the third best 2 year-old of the century, just behind THE TETRARCH and TUDOR MINSTREL.

MUMTAZ MAHAL, his daughter, is one of the most important of all thoroughbred broodmares.

MUMTAZ MAHAL is one of the most important of all thoroughbred broodmares.

On the other hand, it was anything but “in the cards” that one of the world’s greatest thoroughbred sires, Hyperion, as well as his descendant, Canada’s Northern Dancer, would amount to much at stud. For one thing, both were tiny; for another, Hyperion was almost as famous for his laziness as he was for winning the Epsom Derby and Northern Dancer was not only temperamental, but raced his whole career on a split hoof. So they were both, in a sense, “wild cards” from a breeder’s perspective. And while Canada waited to see their “Dancer’s” sons and daughters rekindle the excitement of his Triple Crown campaign, it is unlikely that Hyperion’s get were welcomed with anything near the same enthusiasm. But, as we know today, both stallions had an astounding impact on the breed, passing their “bloodedness” on to generation after generation. Which reminds us that it can take several generations before an individual comes along whose bloodlines scream his/her ancestry: in the case of Northern Dancer, thirty years intervened.

Rare and fascinating footage of Hyperion’s Derby (no sound). Lord Derby’s “pony” wears #9:

NIJINSKY and Lester Piggot just following their win in the 1970 Epsom Derby.

NIJINSKY and Lester Piggot just following their win in the 1970 Epsom Derby. England’s last Triple Crown winner, NIJINSKY made a name for himself overseas and was significant to the rise of his sire, NORTHERN DANCER. Standing at Claiborne Farm, NIJINSKY proved to be an excellent sire and sire-of-sires, through sons like Caerleon. He also distinguished himself as a broodmare sire.

Frankel's BM sire, Sadler's Wells, and his millionaire sons out for a walk at Coolmore Ireland. The grand old man is followed by Galileo, Montjeu and High Chaparral.

SADLER’S WELLS, another son of NORTHERN DANCER, single-handedly changed the face of thoroughbred racing worldwide. The stallion is shown here, followed by his millionaire sons GALILEO, MONTJEU and HIGH CHAPARRAL on a walk at Coolmore, Ireland. Photo and copyright, The Racing Post.

 

Sometimes, it is thoroughbreds who fly “under the radar” that have a huge impact on the sport of racing. A case in point is Bold Venture (1933), one of any number of colts and fillies whose racing career –through no fault of their own — did precious little to recommend them to the racing public and, subsequently, to breeders. The 1936 Kentucky Derby winner, Bold Venture was the son of the British import, St. Germans (1921), the leading sire of 1931 and sire of the great Twenty Grand (1928). Bold Venture’s dam was a granddaughter of Commando (1898). Despite his pedigree, the colt entered the Kentucky Derby without a single stakes win, going off at 20-1 odds and ridden by an apprentice jockey, Ira “Babe” Hanford.

Jockey IRA "BABE" HANFORD with HOF trainer, Max Hirsch and daughter, Mary Hirsch.

Jockey Ira “Babe” Hanford (on the fence) with HOF trainer, Max Hirsch, and his daughter, Mary Hirsch, who became America’s first registered female trainer.

Underdogs certainly win important races, but the 1936 Kentucky Derby was such a debacle that few were convinced that Bold Venture deserved the honours. When the gates flew open, the favourite, Joseph E. Widener’s Brevity (1933), was knocked to his knees. Another excellent three year-old, Granville (1933), threw his jockey when slammed in a chain reaction involving Bold Venture and another horse. In the end, with Brevity giving full chase, Bold Venture flew under the wire to win.

Trained by the brilliant Max Hirsch, Bold Venture was back to run in the Preakness with HOF George Woolf in the irons, nosing out Granville at the wire to win. The colt was retired at the end of an undefeated 3 year-old season and sent to stud in Kentucky, having been sold to Robert J Kleberg for $40,000 USD. He had little success there and was subsequently moved to Kleberg’s King Ranch, in Texas — where he sired the Triple Crown winner, Assault (1943), and Kentucky Derby winner, Middleground (1947). Bold Venture remains the only Kentucky Derby winner to sire two other Kentucky Derby winners.

Wearing roses: BOLD VENTURE and the young Ira "Babe" Hanford, the youngest jockey to ever win the Kentucky Derby.

Wearing roses: BOLD VENTURE and the young Ira “Babe” Hanford, the youngest jockey to ever win the Kentucky Derby.

Triple Crown winner, ASSAULT.

Triple Crown winner, ASSAULT.

The Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner, MIDDLEGROUND, captured by Brewer.

The 1950 Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner and 1951 Horse of the Year, MIDDLEGROUND, captured by the late Allen F. Brewer, equine artist extraordinaire.

 

There’s almost nothing to make the soul of a racing fan soar with hope than watching a horse they love bring babies into the world, fillies and colts filled with all the promise of a golden future.

Goldikova, Danedream, Havre de Grace, More Joyous — and down the road, Gentildonna, Taghrooda and The Fugue — are but a few of the well-loved thoroughbred mares who have embarked on broodmare careers. In the recent past there have been several great broodmares whose young set the flame burning anew, including Toussaud (Empire Maker, Chester House, Decarchy, Honest Lady), Kind (Frankel, Noble Mission, Bullet Train, Joyeuse), Personal Ensign (My Flag, Miner’s Mark, Our Emblem), Dance Smartly (Dancethruthedawn, Scatter the Gold, Dance With Ravens) and Urban Sea (Galileo, Sea The Stars, My Typhoon, Black Sam Bellamy, All Too Beautiful).

Miswaki's lovely and accomplished daughter, Urban Sea

URBAN SEA, Arc winner and Blue Hen, dam of GALILEO, SEA THE STARS, MY TYPHOON, BLACK SAM BELLAMY and ALL TOO BEAUTIFUL. There is absolutely no question that URBAN SEA passed on her greatness to her offspring.

 

PERSONAL ENSIGN with her colt foal, MINER'S MARK. The dam of MY FLAG and grandam of STORMFLAGFLYING and WAR EMBLEM was a champion from track to foaling barn.

PERSONAL ENSIGN with her colt foal, MINER’S MARK, her first born. The dam of MY FLAG and grandam of STORMFLAGFLYING and WAR EMBLEM was a champion from track to foaling barn.

 

Toussaud and her goat. This great mare is Bode's grandam on his tail female.

TOUSSAUD and her goat. The dam of EMPIRE MAKER, CHESTER HOUSE, DECARCHY, HONEST LADY and CHISELLING made a lasting contribution to thoroughbred bloodlines.

 

 

Dance Smartly always kept her shape, no matter how many foals she had. Here she is in Kentucky, having visited Thunder Gulch. Photo and copyright, The Blood-Horse.

DANCE SMARTLY, the only filly to ever win a Triple Crown in mixed company in North America, went on to become a Blue Hen for Sam-Son Farm. Here she is in Kentucky, having visited Thunder Gulch. Photo and copyright, The Blood-Horse.

 

So what does the future hold for royal babies like Cozmic One and Jess’s Dream? Have they inherited the brilliance of their dams? of their sires? of both?

Like human children, these colts and fillies are a one-off. Unique. They’ll train differently and run differently than their parents. They’ll meet different challenges and obstacles along the way as they build their own reputations. Some will be brilliant, others hard-working, and still others, just plain unlucky. Most will bring the heart and courage of their breed to each and every race and most will do their very best to win.

But whatever their destiny, hours and hours of skill, dedication, encouragement and love have brought them to a new beginning.

Let the magic begin!

COZMIC ONE at Santa Anita. Photo and copyright, Jane Wade.

COZMIC ONE (Bernardini ex. Zenyatta) at Santa Anita. Photo and copyright, Jane Wade.

 

THE VAULT wishes to thank photographer Jane Wade for the use of some of her outstanding photographs in this article.

BONUS FEATURE

John Shirreffs, trainer of Derby winner Giacomo and HOTY Zenyatta, among others, reflects on the early success of Zenyatta’s half-sister, Eblouissante, in this TVG Special. In so doing, Shirreffs provides insight into just what it takes to get even the most royally-bred thoroughbred to the track and to keep them feeling happy within themselves:

NOTE: THE VAULT is a non-profit website. (Any advertising that appears on THE VAULT is placed there by WordPress and the profit, if any, goes to WordPress.) We make every effort to honour copyright for the photographs used in our articles. It is not our policy to use the property of any photographer without his/her permission, although the task of sourcing photographs is hugely compromised by the social media, where many photographs prove impossible to trace. Please do not hesitate to contact THE VAULT regarding any copyright concerns. Thank you.

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:

 

NOTE: THE VAULT is a non-profit website. (Any advertising that appears on THE VAULT is placed there by WordPress and the profit, if any, goes to WordPress.) We make every effort to honour copyright for the photographs used in our articles. It is not our policy to use the property of any photographer without his/her permission, although the task of sourcing photographs is hugely compromised by the social media, where many photographs prove impossible to trace. Please do not hesitate to contact THE VAULT regarding any copyright concerns. Thank you.

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