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ENABLE as a foal. A Juddmonte homebred, she is the product of 30 years of careful and skillful breeding decisions made by Prince Khalid Abdullah and his advisors.

 

She was not the first Arc winner to show up at the Breeders Cup, but she was the first dual Arc winner.

Others had come before her, most recently Golden Horn. But none could quite pull off annexing the Arc and a Breeders Cup in the same year. One Arc winner, Dylan Thomas, was entered but never ran.

 

Year – Arc Win Arc Winner Breeders’ Cup Result
1986 Dancing Brave 4th in Turf
1987 Trempolino 2nd in Turf
1990 Saumarez 5th in Turf
1992 Subotica 5th in Turf
2001 Sakhee 2nd in Classic
2007 Dylan Thomas 5th in Turf
2015 Golden Horn 2nd in Turf
2016 Found 3rd in Turf

 

Prince Khalid Abdullah had tried to accomplish this double feat with the legendary Dancing Brave in 1986:

Prince Khalid has always been an enthusiastic supporter of the Breeders Cup, sending his horses to America year after year to compete against some of the best in the world. But the decision to send Enable to the 2018 BC was one that surprised and delighted North Americans from Montreal, Canada to the smallest towns on the American-Mexico border. Many knew that the filly’s arrival was the first act in the drama of a precious gift that was being shared with the world.

Many were moved, even before they caught their first glimpse of Enable at Churchill Downs, by her courageous performance in the 2017 and 2018 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. The most prestigious race in Europe, the Arc is the ultimate test of champions.

In her 2017 win, the 3 year-old Enable had led the field home under champion jockey, Frankie Dettori:

But the Enable who arrived at Longchamps in 2018 was not the same individual, or, if she indeed was, the filly had yet to show it. She had sustained a worrisome setback — fluid in a knee — at trainer John Gosden’s facility, Clarehaven, in May and this meant she was effectively out of commission until her first start in the G3 September Stakes in the UK. (Please excuse the unfortunate reference to “Indian style” by the announcer.)

The 2018 Arc was only the second start of the filly’s 4 year-old season. In striking contrast to her fitness level in the 2017 Arc, where Enable rolled to victory in what was her seventh start of the season, the 2018 Arc would be a huge ask and everyone knew it. John Gosden acknowledged repeatedly that it had been a “long, difficult and emotional year” with his champion filly, but what he did not tell eager throngs of journalists was that the filly had spiked a fever going into the race and was about 85% herself. In the end, Enable showed her bravery by holding on to get up by a short head over a brilliant run by the 3 year-old, Sea of Class:

But North America, like the rest of the racing world, cared not that Enable had won her second Arc by a slim margin: she had prevailed. And all waited with sweet anticipation for the arrival of a thoroughbred queen.

ENABLE heads out on to the turf at Churchill Downs. In the saddle is a man who has been with her every step of the way, Imran Shawani.

They love her at her home of Clarehaven, they love her in the UK and France. Predictably, North America fell in love with her too. There was no other BC entry who got anything close to the attention Enable got in the days leading up to Saturday, November 3 and the BC Turf.

Among those watching the champion filly was photographer and racing journalist, Michele MacDonald, of Full Stride Communications, who wrote: “There is a certain essence about a great horse that is unmistakable. You can see something of an aura around them even from a distance — something in the way they carry themselves, some kind of projection of their very heart and soul. This essence never fails to ignite me, and I find my blood pumping, hands shaking, eyes watering — it’s often difficult to take the photos I want to produce while in this state, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything. This visceral recognition of a higher force that powers champions is part of why we are inspired by the best in Thoroughbred racing. Today the two-time Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe heroine Enable revealed her spark of greatness as she took a tour of Churchill Downs’ turf course. Juddmonte’s 4yo daughter of Nathaniel, Europe’s Horse of the Year for 2017, is the heavy favorite to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf…”

“…a certain essence about a great horse that is unmistakable…” pronounced Michele MacDonald of Full Stride Communications. ENABLE beautifully captured by the brilliant British photographer, Michael J. Harris. Photo and copyright, Michael J. Harris. Quote and photo used with permission.

Accompanied by Clarehaven’s Head travelling lad, Tony Proctor, and the man who cares for her every need, Imran Shawani, Enable took some gentle gallops over the BC turf course as her team awaited the arrival of trainer Gosden and the jockey that has partnered her throughout most of her career, Frankie Dettori. In the unknown world of Churchill Downs, Imran and Tony provided security and comfort as they have always done — playing out an essential role flawlessly. You could see their influence in Enable’s curious eyes, gleaming coat and unruffled composure.

Tony Proctor and ENABLE. Photo and copyright, Michael J. Harris. Used with permission.

With the arrival of Gosden and Dettori, excitement went up by several notches around the track and, through social media, around the racing world.

Michele MacDonald: “Today’s Enable moment: crouching under the rail [to take a photograph] allowed a different sensation, that of feeling (as well as hearing) the ground tremble as the champion and Frankie Dettori galloped past. When they were stepping off the turf course, Enable paused for a moment to take in the view. Walking near her, trainer John Gosden said gently, “Come on, pet.” She dutifully moved on, heading toward her attempt to make history Saturday…”

 

John Gosden makes no secret that he loves ENABLE. Shown here, with his wife, greeting the filly after her second Arc win.

Day Two of the Breeders Cup dawned sunny and dry, allowing the turf and dirt courses some relief from the rain that had fallen liberally during the week. The day before the BC Turf, Frankie Dettori had talked about Enable’s chances in a refreshingly down-to-earth manner, “Look…the stats tell you that it’s not easy …so we’re going to give it a try.” When asked if Enable would be “better” than she was in the Arc, he responded, “Well I hope she’s just the same — she doesn’t have to be better.”

Before the Turf — the Classic for turf runners — there were more thrills, as there had been on Day One when the juveniles were the stars. But despite the Post Parades of champion thoroughbreds, many awaited Enable and her run towards BC history with even greater excitement. The filly would be facing turf giants from either side of the Atlantic — Talismanic, Waldgeist, Channel Maker, Robert Bruce, Sadler’s Joy and two from the O’Brien stable in Hunting Horn and Magical.

The German champion Waldgeist was the second favourite in the betting. But Aidan O’Brien had saved the best for last in the brilliant filly, Magical, who even Frankie Dettori admitted, “…sails like a rubber duck over these conditions” and John Gosden added, “…the filly [Magical] was brilliant recently at Ascot [on Champions Day].”

Here’s Magical winning the Fillies and Mare Stakes on 2018 Champions Day. (Note: Sound quality improves after about 4 seconds):

Then, as the saying goes, “The hour was upon us.” And as Enable and Frankie passed her, Michele Mac Donald remarked, When a horse looks at you like this when they are walking past in the post parade, your knees go a bit weak and you know they have shown you greatness.”

“When a horse looks at you like this…you know they have shown you greatness,” said Michele MacDonald of ENABLE in the BC Turf post parade. Photo and copyright, Michael Harris. Quote and photo used with permission.

And then time stopped, as it’s wont to do at moments like this:

In well less than a short few minutes, Enable had taken history and given it a good shake to become the first thoroughbred to capture both the Arc and a Breeders Cup in the same year, a year where she’d spent more time recuperating than running. Her BC Turf victory was only her third (and last) race of her four year-old season.

John Gosden’s elegant remarks provided a perfect summation, as well as occassion for a really good chuckle in “Mr. Dettori has three children going to college…”

ENABLE in the saddling area prior to her run in the BC 2018 Turf, surrounded by her team.

ENABLE sails across the finish line.

Emotions as ENABLE comes back to the Winner’s Circle.

ENABLE, the queen of the 2018 BC Turf.

The battle between Enable and Magical was titanic but it was the ground that played against Enable, making her decisive win even more remarkable, if that’s possible. (NOTE: Frankie’s analysis of the race comes up early in the video):

In conclusion — a daunting task when Enable is the subject — we would like to express our gratitude and thanks to Prince Khalid Abdullah for sharing a most precious gift with the North American racing community.

It was an experience that will stay with us forever.

 

A very special thank you to the gifted Michael Harris who allowed us the use of his photographs of Enable, and to Michele MacDonald of Full Stride Communications for her moving observations of Enable and her team at the 2018 Breeders Cup. Your images and words made this article into a richly-textured experience for VAULT readers.

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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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The first eight to cross the finish line in the 2018 Arc carried Urban Sea in their second and third generations. It was just another day in the legacy of the arguably most important matriarch in modern thoroughbred history.

Eric Saint-Martin and URBAN SEA after their win in the 1993 Prix de l”Arc de Triomphe.

When Enable came charging home in the 2018 Arc with Sea of Class nipping at her throatlatch, history was made and turf records danced all around it. The 4 year-old became the first British-trained thoroughbred to win the Arc twice, joining a very select group before her that includes Treve, Alleged and Ribot. For trainer John Gosden it was a third Arc win in four years, beginning with Golden Horn in 2015. For jockey Frankie Dettorri, it was an incredible sixth Arc win, his first coming when aboard Lammtarra in 1995.

 

A joyous team — Imran Shawani, Frankie D., and Tony Proctor — after ENABLE’S win in the 2018 Arc. Photo and copyright, Michael Harris. Used with permission.

But there was more in Enable’s victory to set the heart singing. There was the fact that the filly was making only her second start of the season and wasn’t “battle-ready” for the exigencies of the Arc, making her win even more extraordinary. Post-race, Dettorri said that when he first asked her she gave him the same feeling she had when she led the Arc field home in 2017. But it didn’t last — and Dettorri knew he was under fire and that Sea of Class was coming. Trainer Gosden acknowledged the season with Enable had been a “nightmare” because of the injury to her knee that took her out of contention until the September Stakes, followed by a fever she had sparked between that win and the Arc, which forced him to tone her training down substantially. Of her second Arc win, Gosden reflected that it was “…Enable…who got herself back today” adding that she was a determined individual, always bringing her very best to whatever is asked of her. And to ask an Arc victory after a year like she’d had was a huge ask. Gosden summed it all up by in stating that Enable had won on “…grit, determination and brilliance.”

Nor can the brilliant run by Sea of Class, who came from last to within a hair’s breadth of defeating Enable, be overlooked. The 3 year-old, a daughter of Arc winner Sea The Stars, is undefeated in 4 of 6 starts in 2018 including wins in both the Irish and Yorkshire Oaks. According to trainer William Haggas, the filly will be put away now until 2019 where the ultimate goal will be another Arc run. And if she gets it, Sea of Class will be the third in a family of Arc winners begins with Urban Sea.

The brilliant runner-up to ENABLE is this year’s Arc, the 3 year-old filly, SEA OF CLASS. It was compelling for us to note that she carries the blazing red coat of URBAN SEA.

 

URBAN SEA with the tiny SEA OF STARS, the sire of SEA OF CLASS.

So overwhelming was her presence in the 2018 Arc that the Racing Post published an article with the lead, “Urban Sea in Overdrive…”  For the Tsui family, Urban Sea has been the centre piece in their contribution to the making of a powerful bloodline. Few are the thoroughbreds who take their racing brilliance into the breeding shed. But Urban Sea not only did that, she did it so thoroughly as to be hailed as arguably the most important matriarch in modern thoroughbred history.

URBAN SEA during the first chapter of her remarkable life.

The bright red filly by Miswaki X Allegretta was purchased at the Keeneland November sale in 1984 and once weaned, she was promptly shipped overseas to Haras d’Etraham in Normandy, France, a farm located near the famed Omaha Beach, where allied forces had swept into war-torn Europe on June 6, 1944. In France at the Deauville yearling sales, the filly was initially purchased by trained Jean Lesbordes for a wealthy Japanese client. When he first saw her, Lesbordes reportedly loved her “at first sight” and she was shipped back to his stables near Chantilly. The trainer was thrilled to have the athletic filly, who was named Urban Sea.

URBAN SEA with trainer Jean Lesbordes after her 1993 triumph in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

However, Lebordes’ Japanese client encountered financial difficulties and his entire stock., including Urban Sea, were consigned to the sales. Not wanting to part with her, Lesbordes began looking around for a new owner himself.

Enter the Tsui family.

Mrs. Ling Tsui, a brilliant entrepeneur in China, re-located in Paris in 1986 to assume the position of CEO for China Cheers, a commercial arm of China Aerospace. As fate would have it, Mrs. Tsui met Jean Lesbordes and the former agreed to purchase Urban Sea and keep her in training with Lesbordes.

 

Learning to dance: a horse and its trainer. Tang Dynasty, AD 618-907, China.

Mrs. Tsui didn’t know much about horse racing when she acquired Urban Sea, but as she made weekend visits to see her filly, she not only fell in love with her but began a personal study of horse racing in Western culture. In China, horses have been revered since well before the birth of Christ. They were not only instrumental to the tea trade, but the bearers of power, carrying armies to victory in the many wars waged by different regions in China for power. The horse was associated with elemental powers, principally with the Yang, or vitality, and it was believed that horses not only carried the dead into heaven but resurrected humans from death. Closely associated with divine and heavenly attributes, beloved horses were buried with Emperors of China over the centuries.

One of the most famous of all sacred horses was Night-Shining White (depicted below). The painting of the stallion is the most famous work of Chinese master Han Gan, famous for his ability to convey the power and the personality of his equine subjects. Unlike Western art, in Chinese traditional painting the brush is viewed as the extension of the soul and the subjects of brush work — be they mountains or horses — are captured with the intent of portraying their divine energy.

 

NIGHT-SHINING WHITE, the beloved of Emperor Xuanzong (712-756 A.D.) Painted by one of the most acclaimed masters of the brush, HAN GAN, the stallion is shown here in all of his power. The writing all around the painting is that of those who owned the manuscript over the centuries and added their own words of appreciation. Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). Now in the collection of THE MET, NYC, USA.

 

The video below (despite the commentary) illustrates the principle of traditional Chinese brush work to show how the depiction of a horse begins with its divine energy and spirit:

 

 

No wonder Mrs. Tsui was quick to fall in love with her burnished red filly.

Urban Sea trained only lightly into her second year, bothered in part by a problem with a fetlock, but more because she wasn’t yet ready, according to Lesbordes. But she did carry the Tsui silks into two races, winning one easily at Maisons Lafitte and finishing third at Evry.

But as a three year-old, Urban Sea would notch a victory for which she will always be famous, even though some saw it as rather ho-hum given a weak field and slow pace. After two starts, Urban Sea returned to Longchamp to win followed by the third place finish in the Prix de Diane at Chantilly. Following a narrow defeat at Evry, the filly won the Piaget d’Or at Deauville and came in third in the Prix Vermeille. After this, Urban Sea became a globetrotter. At Woodbine in Canada she finished she came second in the E.P. Taylor, returned to France to win the Prix Exbury at Saint Cloud, then was off to Royal Ascot, where she finished second in the Prince of Wales.

Then came two victories in France, culminating in a victory in the 1993 Ciga Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe:

Mrs. Tsui and her young son Christopher had managed to learn enough about their gutsy filly and the European racing scene to understand that Urban Sea’s triumph was one for the ages. In 1993 and arguably still to this day, winning the Arc was the mark of an outstanding thoroughbred and a dazzling accomplishment for a 3 year-old filly. Indeed, Urban Sea was only the 10th filly to ever win the Arc since 1920, its debut.

 

URBAN SEA wears the Arc blanket, while her young jockey Eric Saint-Martin is understandably overjoyed. She would be his only Arc winner. After riding in Hong Kong for almost a decade, Saint-Martin retired to become a thoroughbred trainer.

Despite her lithe frame, Urban Sea was a tough individual and she actually raced into her 5th year, winning the prestigious Prix d’Harcourt and coming in third in the Prix Ganay and the Coronation Cup, her final start. She retired with a race record of 22-8-4-3 and earnings of slightly over $1.7 million USD.

Hopeful as the Tsui family may have been that their champion mare would produce a winner, they could hardly have imagined that she would become the matriarch of dynasties. But that’s exactly what she did. After two foals, Urban Ocean (Bering)and Melikah (Lammtarra) proved promising, the mare visited Sadler’s Wells and from that union came Galileo. Two more visits to Galileo produced the champion Black Sam Bellamy and All Too Beautiful, a filly.

URBAN SEA and her LAMMTARRA filly, MELIKAH. A beaming Mrs. Tsui poses beside her beloved mare.

A mating with Giant’s Causeway produced still another champion, the filly My Typhoon. In 2004, Urban Sea foaled Cherry Hinton (Green Desert), who was also very useful as a runner but, like her dam, would turn out to be an even better broodmare.

URBAN SEA grazes with MY TYPHOON, her filly by GIANT’S CAUSEWAY at her side.

URBAN SEA with CHERRY HINTON, a daughter of GREEN DESERT.

Then, based on the exploits of his incomparable daughter, Ouija Board, the Tsui family bred their mighty mare to Cape Cross in 2006. The result of this union was Sea The Stars.

Introducing SEA THE STARS, the son of CAPE CROSS and URBAN SEA

By the time her bay son was staking his claim to immortality, Urban Sea was gone. In 2009, she died of foaling complications giving birth to a colt foal by Invincible Spirit who was named Born To Sea. Yet, when her son stormed home in the Arc a short seven months later, it was impossible not to believe that Urban Sea was there. The field was brilliant and included the champions Stacelita, Dar Re Mi, Youmzain, Conduit, Fame And Glory and Cavalryman. But none of that mattered.

The brilliant Mick Kinane, who had partnered so many great thoroughbreds declared, “This one is something special.”

And in the hearts of the Tsui family and Jean Lesbordes, who was also there, Sea The Stars and Urban Sea were united in victory:

 

Each one of Urban Sea’s produce have gone to the breeding shed in a virtual red wave of success, excepting her last foal Born To Sea who is only beginning his stud career.

It’s hardly worth saying the Galileo’s influence has been epic, except to add that with the recent win of his daughter, Magical, on Champions Day in England, Galileo surpassed his sire, Sadler’s Wells, in numbers of individual elite Grade One winners to now stand at 74.

Nor did Sea The Stars have anything but a great Champions Day, with his brilliant son Stradivarius coming home to take the G1 Long Distance Cup, completing the season undefeated and in brilliant fashion, with wins in the Lonsdale Cup, Gold Cup and the Goodwood and Yorkshire Cups:

STRADIVARIUS and Frankie Dettori after their win in the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day, Oct. 20, 2018.

Too, on the same day (Oct. 20) Sea The Stars posted a 1-2 in a maiden race at Leopardstown. But this is just another day in the life of this brilliant young sire, who counts among his best the winner of the 2014 Investec Oaks as well as the King George VI and QE2 Stakes,Taghrooda; Sea The Moon, winner of the 2014 German Derby; multiple stakes winner, Cloth of Stars; Zelzal who won the G1 Prix Jean Prat; Tanino Urban Sea (a filly out of champion Vodka) winner of the Seibu Suponichi Sho and Suma Tokobetsu in Japan; and Harzand, winner of the 2016 Investec and Irish Derbies.

A lesser-known full brother to Galileo was the late Black Sam Bellamy. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, his mosty impressive wins came in the Gran Premio del Jockey Club at 3 and a win in which he demolished the field in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at4. Retired to the German stud Gestut Fahrhof until 2008, he was subsequently leased by Shade Oak Stud Shorpshire, where he died of congestive heart failure at the age of 19 in July 2018.

His best flat produce were Earl Of Tinsdal, a triple Group 1 winner in Germany and Italy, Daveron, successful in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa Handicap, and German Group 3 winners Goathemala, Saphir and Valdino. Black Sam Bellamy was hugely successful as a jumps sire, producing The Giant Bolster, twice placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Sam Spinner, winner of the 2017 Long Walk Hurdle, as well as the handy runners Flute Bowl, Hollies Pearl and Sam’s Gunner.

BLACK SAM BELLAMY (Sadler’s Wells ex. Urban Sea)

Urban Sea’s daughters have had their share of successes too, both on and off the track. Fan favourite My Typhoon has yet to produce a really good individual, but has a 2016 daughter by Tapit named Tappity Tappity who might well change all that. Certainly My Typhoon had a brilliant racing career. Trained by the eminent Bill Mott, one of her best performances came at Saratoga in 2007:

 

Urban Sea’s daughter by the brilliant Lammtarra, Melikah, has success with sons, Masterstroke (by Monsun), Mr. Moonlight Magic (by Cape Cross) and Royal Line (by Dubawi), who is now in training with John Gosden. Masterstroke, who won the Lucien Barrier Grand Prix de Deauville and finished third in the Arc on the heels of the Japanese superstar Orfevre, stands at Darley’s European facility. Mr. Moonlight Magic was in training with Jim Bolger before moving to the stable of Jim Cummins in Australia in 2018.

MELIKAH with her 2013 colt, MR. MOONLIGHT MAGIC. Thus far, the colt has won or placed in 8 of his 15 starts.

Masterstroke winning the Grand Prix de Deauville in 2012. (Bright blue cap wearing #10):

 

 

ROYAL LINE coming home to win the Great Metropolitan Handicap this year. He’s another who carries the distinctive red coat of his Bm sire, dam and granddam.

Cherry Hinton is well on her way to becoming a Blue Hen, black-type producer like Urban Sea, her dam. Leading the way are her daughters Bracelet (2011 by Montjeu), Athena (2015 by Camelot) and the very promising Goddess (2016 by Camelot). In 2018, the mare birthed a filly foal by American Pharoah who is unnamed at present. Daughter Bracelet is now retired and has produced two foals to date: Magic Fountains (2016 by War Front) and Urban Aunt (2018 by Uncle Mo).

Athena has been making a lot of noise on both sides of the Atlantic. Most recently, in July of this year, the 3 year-old captured the Belmont Oaks in what was her 8th start in a mere 12 weeks and her first G1. She won it impressively, crossing the line with ears pricked:

 

 

The best illustration of the mighty current that flows from Urban Sea into generation after generation of thoroughbred champions is arguably this: in over 200 years of British breeding, only 10 brood mares have produced siblings to win the Epsom Derby, the last being Windmill Girl whose sons Blakeney and Morston won in 1969 and 1973 respectively. Through her sons Galileo and Sea The Stars, Urban Sea has joined Windmill Girl; too, when Harzand (Sea The Stars) and Minding (Galileo) won the Derby and Oaks in the same year, Urban Sea joined Pocahontas, another key broodmare in British racing annals, who accomplished the same in 1866 through her sons Stockwell and King Tom. They are the only two broodmares who can make this claim.

But in recent memory, a more dramatic illustration is this: within a space of two weeks, descendants of Urban Sea dominated in both the 2018 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the 2018 Champion Stakes. As noted above, the first eight across the finish line in the Arc are direct descendants of Urban Sea:

While in the 2018 edition of the Champion Stakes, the first five are also direct descendants of this great mare:

It is an amazing accomplishment for a good – to – brilliant thoroughbred to hand down winning blood as consistently as did Urban Sea, staking her claim to the title of one of the most important broodmares in thoroughbred history.

And isn’t it lovely to feel the current in her blood racing ahead, into the future?

 

Bibliography

Cox, Michael. HK Racing. “Famous bloodlines go from generation to generation for the Tsui family”

Sea The Stars website: http://www.seathestars.com/en/#home

Stevens, Martin. Racing Post. “Only six Epsom Classic Entrants Not Descended From Urban Sea”

Sexton, Nancy. Thoroughbred Racing Community. “Why Urban Sea may be the mnost influential matriarch in Thoroughbred history”

 

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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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The images that mean the most to us hold memories in place, keeping them vivid and alive.

 

New Bond Street, Mayfair, London England.

 

THE GIRL

The year was 1975.

It was a little before lunch when the young couple entered the gallery. The young man strode in with confidence, but his partner seemed to hesitate, stopping a few feet from the door. As she took in the walls, crowded with paintings and prints of ships, people, hunting dogs and landscapes, he quickly engaged a smartly-dressed clerk with a handshake, explaining that they were from Canada and he was a longtime customer of the gallery.

The gallery was in Mayfair, on New Bond Street, a street of decidedly upscale shops where price tags were considered vulgar — as was asking the price. It was the kind of place where the rich and famous shopped.

The young couple hardly fell into that category, the second of the two clerks surmised. He was an older gentleman, with a sculpted face framed by greying hair and kind, hazel eyes. It was rare to see young people in the gallery these days. They were more inclined to be on Carnaby Street. But the young woman, who was still standing near the door, was charming in her reticence. It seemed that the gallery more fascinated than overpowered her.

He approached her quietly and asked if he could “…be of any assistance.”.

“I’m interested in thoroughbreds…in horse racing,” she said. She smiled at him and he noticed the deep blue of her eyes.

“I’m interested in thoroughbreds…in horse racing.”

Beckoning with his hand, he ushered her over to a section nestled amongst a long row of prints.

“These,” he said, “are the smaller prints. The larger ones would be in this drawer,” he added, indicating a dark mahogany drawer with spotless brass handles. “I would be pleased to show you these when madam is ready.”

The thoroughbred BELLARIO. Steel point etching/print.

She thanked him in a muted tone, thinking the “madam” rather stuffy, and began to sort through the bank of images.

He was pleased to see that she understood how to handle old prints. He moved off, as he normally did with clients who preferred to peruse on their own. She was one of those, and so fell neatly into the sensibility of New Bond Street, where there was never any question of pressuring a client. Those who came to New Bond Street only called upon clerks when they were good and ready.

The young couple were on their honeymoon and so far it had been filled with explorations of antiquarian London — bookstores and galleries like this one. This was a London she barely knew and she was dumbfounded by the antiquities on offer, from leather-bound books with marbled frontespieces to prints dating back to the days when Canada was still a colony.

The small prints were either hand-coloured or steel points in black and white. Most had been extracted from books of the period, hence their size, although some had actually been produced as prints. The style was that common before George Stubbs, who had revolutionized the representation of horses forever. She studied some with more interest than others, plucking them out and holding them in front of her as though she were reading them. Noteworthy subjects, although their tiny heads, bulging eyes and disproportionate bodies weren’t particularly compelling. She let out the softest of sighs.

CHILDERS, “the fleetest horse there ever was” in a print from 1856.

 

George Stubbs’ “Horse in the Shade of a Wood” produced in 1780 (just 24 years after the print pictured above) epitomizes the degree to which Stubbs revolutionized the art of the horse.

The grey-haired clerk reappeared at her elbow. “Would madam care to look at some of the larger prints, I wonder? There aren’t as many of them, but you may possibly find something of interest.”

“Yes, please,” came the whisper of a reply. In the background she could hear the voices of her husband and the other clerk. They seemed so comfortable with one another. But, then again, when it came to antique prints and books,her husband had an expertise that she was suddenly very conscious she lacked.

She watched as the clerk neatly slid open the drawer and then, between open palms, lifted a sheaf of prints and moved with them over to a large counter, where he laid them down with a care that was almost tender. She joined him, watching as he turned them like pages of a giant book, lifting the tissue-thin paper that protected each one to reveal the print.

“Now this one is a lithograph. Hand-painted,” he continued, as they looked together at a scene depicting a race at Newmarket.

She was enjoying his explanations of the different prints and how they were made, but she couldn’t really say that any had caught her eye.

He turned another print over and as he lifted the tissue, he heard her catch her breath in the way people do when pleasantly surprised or caught completely off guard.

She couldn’t take her eyes off it. Then she said, “Oh, my. Oh. This is so lovely.”

“It is actually an aquatint from a series called ‘Moore’s Celebrated Winners.’ Aquatints are somewhat rare. Possibly because some find them too….too indistinct. Colour not as vibrant,” and he scrunched his lips to suggest his doubt that such a criticism was merited. “Aquatints are intaglios, basically. An arduous process in the nineteenth century.”

The young woman barely heard him.

She had been spirited away by the image of a grey thoroughbred caught in the comfort of his box stall. His name — “Chanticleer” — was inscribed beneath in a flourish of script close to the calligraphic, followed by line upon line of his achievements. He didn’t look particularly pleased at finding himself immortalised with such elegance. The quality of light that illuminated horse and stable bathed the scene in a warm glow that made her feel as though she had entered the image.

CHANTICLEER, from the series “Moore’s  Celebrated Winners.” Aquatint by J.W. Hillyard,engraved by C. Hunt and published December 6, 1848 by J. Moore, London, England.

 

Neither he nor she moved or spoke for several minutes.

Finally she asked, “And what would the price be, please?”

He hesitated. “Ninety pounds sterling, madam, I believe.”

She swallowed, although her eyes never left the print. They were both first year teachers, making slightly more than four thousand dollars a year between them. They had saved the whole year for this trip and were only at the very start of a three-week stay that would include Scotland, Wales and Dublin, where she had tickets to the Dublin Horse Show. Each had their own spending budget — and ninety BPS would take a tidy bite out of hers.

“Perhaps madam would like some time to consider it further?”

She nodded dumbly, feeling suddenly terribly small within herself. He lifted up Chanticleer and moved briskly to the back of the gallery, where stood an easel draped in black velvet. And against the dark gloss of the fabric, he placed the print.

The atmosphere in the gallery shifted. Although subtle, it was enough for her husband and the other clerk to raise their heads and look. Standing a few feet away, the girl and the grey thoroughbred seemed connected as though by an electric current. Even the air around them seemed to crackle.

“Your wife is deciding on whether or not to acquire it, sir,” the grey-haired clerk offerred helpfully.

“Can you afford it?” the young man asked.

But he got no answer.

 

THE GREY

Chanticleer was, in fact, a thoroughbred of renown in nineteenth century Great Britain. Born in 1843, he was the son of Birdcatcher (sometimes reffered to as “Irish Birdcatcher) out of Whim, by Drone, and was a direct descendant of the great Eclipse through a son, Pot8os.

 

ECLIPSE as depicted by Francis Sartorius.

POT8OS, Eclipse’s son, occurs in CHANTICLEER’s 5th generation on both the top and the bottom.

BIRDCATCHER, the sire of CHANTICLEER, was a very able stayer and a useful stallion who was Champion Sire in 1852 and again in 1856.

Bred in Ireland by Christopher St. George, the grey colt was subsequently purchased by Mr. James Merry in 1847, after he had already won three Queen’s Plates at the Curragh (IRE). Merry was a Scot whose profession was ironcasting and he also sat in the British House of Commons from 1859-1874. He was an outstanding breeder of thoroughbreds and throughout his lifetime owned two famous Epsom Derby winners in Thormanby(ch. c.1857) and Doncaster (ch. c. 1870).

MR. JAMES MERRY, as portrayed in a magazine of the day. CHANTICLEER would be the first of several very good thoroughbreds who established him as a member of the British racing elite.

But it was Chanticleer who first gave him a reputation as a fine horseman, for Merry “…was little known on the turf until he startled the world with the ‘gallant grey’ when he achieved a series of brilliant triumphs in 1948, including the Goodwood Stakes and the Doncaster Cup.” (B.M. Fitzpatrick in The Irish Sport and Sportsmen)

THORMANBY won the Epsom Derby in 1860, the Gimcrack and Criterion Stakes as a 2 year-old and the Ascot Gold Cup in 1861.

 

DONCASTER, who was originally called ALL HEART AND NO PEEL, won the Epsom Derby for Merry in 1873, the Goodwood Cup in 1874 and the Ascot Gold Cup in 1875.

After his purchase by Merry, the 4 year-old Chanticleer was shipped to stables in Scotland to be trained by William l’Anson. The colt’s 5 year-old campaign was the best of his career, one that saw him winning the aforementioned Goodwood Stakes and the Doncaster Cup, as well as the Northumberland Plate, together with a number of less-distinguished races. In Taunton’s “Celebrated Race Horses of the Past and Present” (vol.4) descriptions like “won the Welter Cup … at a canter,” and “…won the Castle Irwell Stakes …easily” indicate that Chanticleer’s 5 year-old campaign was noteworthy.

This is the familar image of CHANTICLEER that appears in most books and online. Paintings of him are very rare, despite the fact that he was well-known to the racing community in the 19th century.

By the time he retired in 1855, the grey had started 32 times and won 19, worth a combined £4,485, and that was a very respectable sum at the time. However, once Mr. Merry’s betting history was included, Chanticleer actually made in excess of £50, 000 for his owner.

But what was this hardy grey colt really like? Taunton describes Chanticleer as almost 16h with a ” coarse, sour head”, powerful shoulders and a girth of about 67 3/4 inches. Taunton adds, ” He was a very free goer, a capital stayer, possessed fine speed and unbounded courage.”

Arguably as noteworthy as his abilities on the turf was Chanticleer’s foul temper:

“…he was a horse of strong constitution, but very bad temper, in fact a perfectly mad horse, when l’Anson first got hold of him…at all times very savage; and so furious was he, on one occassion, that they were obliged to get the stable lad out of his box through the window.” (The “Druid,” quoted in Taunton, “Portraits of Celebrated Racehorses Past and Present,” vol.4)

At stud, the daughters of Chanticleer made a lasting impact on thoroughbred bloodlines worldwide. Through one daughter, Singstress (1860), came the stallion Macaroon(1871), while through another, Souvenir, came Strathconan (1884) the damsire of Le Sancy (1884). It was also through Strathconan that Chanticleer’s grey coat was passed on to The Tetrarch, a name that appears even today in the bloodlines of some of the world’s most accomplished thoroughbreds.

THE TETRARCH, whose short life did nothing to impede his impact on the breed, inherited his grey coat from a daughter of CHANTICLEER.

Another daughter, Queen of the Gypies (1860), is the ancestress of Theatrical, winner of the Breeders Cup Turf. Remaining daughters produced or were granddams to winners of the Prix Morny, Doncaster Cup, the Grand Criterium, the Derby Italiano, the Epsom Oaks, One Thousand Guineas, Two Thousand Guineas, St. Leger, the Ascot Gold Vase, Ascot Stakes, Chester Cup and the Great Yorkshire Stakes.

But arguably the most influential of all was Sunbeam, herself a champion and winner of the St. Leger, who went on to become the sixth dam of Phalaris (1913), among whose many important offspring was Pharos, the sire of Frederico Tesio’s brilliant Nearco. From Nearco descends Nasrullah, Royal Charger and Nearctic, sires who shaped the 20th century thoroughbred and left an enduring mark on the history of the sport worldwide.

NEARCO by the late Richard Stone Reeves

 

 

THE GIRL AND THE GREY

 

 

Another work by HILLYARD, the artist who did the CHANTICLEER in our narrative. HILLYARD specialised in sporting subjects, usually thoroughbred racing. This is an oil painting by the artist, featuring a pair of saddle horses. As in the CHANTICLEER above, the use of light is notable in this painting.

 

She seemed to stand there for an eternity, but the clerks at the gallery didn’t mind, having sensed that this was a large transaction for her.

In her mind, thought and feeling were engaged in a duel. Was she being too emotional? The cost was more than a day’s pay. But didn’t he belong to her — look at the connection they had ! Opportunities like this are meant to be seized.

Her young husband, having made his selection of military prints, was becoming impatient. He walked over to her, “You need to make up your mind.”

“I know,” she replied. But her voice was dreamy. Not the voice of someone about to make a decision.

After a few minutes more, she drew closer to the print. Then she turned, spinning around as though she were dancing a reel, and met the gaze of the grey-haired clerk, “Yes,” she said. “I must have it.”

“Congratulations, madam,” he responded, moving to take Chanticleer from his perch. “You have made a most excellent choice.”

Carrying the print to the back counter, he placed it with her husband’s purchases and, after each had paid, arrangements were made to ship the prints to Canada. When this was done, there were handshakes all around and the grey-haired clerk escorted them to the door.

As they entered the flow of pedestrians on New Bond Street, he heard her say, “I don’t care if I can’t afford anything else on this trip. I just felt that he was meant to be mine.”

“Okay…” her young husband parried, “but I sure hope you don’t see something else you think you must have.”

“Not ‘think’ … ‘feel,’ ” came the reply. “It’s about the way that grey made me feel.

 

Footnote

The series, Moore’s Celebrated Winners, were a series of aquatints produced in the 19th c. by John Moore in London, England. Various artists and print makers were called upon to do each of the “celebrated” subjects. Prints from this series are very rare and seldom come up at public auction anymore.

The aquatint is an intaglio print. In intaglio printmaking, the artist makes marks on a plate (in the case of aquatint, a copper or zinc plate) that are capable of holding ink. The inked plate is passed through a printing press together with a sheet of paper, resulting in a transfer of the ink to the paper. This can be repeated a number of times, depending on the particular technique.

Like etching, aquatint uses the application of a mordant, or dye fixative, to etch into the metal plate. Where the engraving technique uses a needle to make lines that print in black (or whatever colour ink is used), aquatint uses powdered rosin, a resin obtained from pine trees or conifers to create a tonal effect. The rosin is acid resistant and typically adhered to the plate by controlled heating. The tonal variation is controlled by the level of mordant exposure over large areas, and thus the image is shaped by large sections at a time.

An advertisement for MOORE’S CELEBRATED WINNERS that appeared in a 19th century London sports magazine.

 

NANCY (born 1848, by Pompey X Hawise). Winner of the Chester and Goodwood Cups, among others. One in the series MOORE’S CELEBRATED WINNERS. Aquatint, 19th c., London, UK

WEST AUSTRALIAN (born 1850, Melbourne X Mowerina by Touchstone). Great Britain’s first Triple Crown winner. Moore’s Celebrated Winners. Aquatint, 19th c., London, UK

THE FLYING DUTCHMAN (born 1846, by Bay Middleton X Barbelle). Winner of the 1849 Epsom Derby, St. Leger and Ascot Gold Cup, among others. Moore’s Celebrated Winners. Aquatint, 19th c.,London, UK

RABY(born 1846, by The Doctor X Modesty). Winner of the Cambridgeshire Cup. Moore’s Celebrated Winners. Aquatint, 19th c., London, UK

 

Bibliography

The British Museum online. Print of Newminster and descriptive details.

Taunton, Thomas Henry. Portraits of celebrated racehorses of the past and present centuries: in strictly chronological order, commencing in 1702 and ending in 1870, together with their respective pedigrees and performance recorded in full. Volume IV. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1883

B.M. Fitzpatrick. Irish Sport and Sportsmen. Waxkeep Publishing, 2015

Thoroughbred Heritage. http://www.tbheritage.com

The New Sporting Magazine. London: Rogerson & Tuxford, December 1858

 

 

 

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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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Dating back to well before the 16th century, it’s one of the oldest horse races in the world. Steeped in medieval tradition and filled with colour, controversy and drama, The Palio lies at the very heart of the identity of the city of Siena.

(Dear Reader: This post is neither a promotion of the Palio nor a condemnation of it. Rather, it was inspired by a treasured memory and a recent visit to Italy. Video footage included here shows no horse or rider being fatally injured, although some may be seen falling during the actual running of the race. AA)

 

MEETING GAUDENZIA

It wasn’t that Rome or Venice or Verona weren’t breathtaking, but my connection to Siena was personal, rooted deep into my childhood.

In 1961, when I was 12 years old, my grandmother had given me a book by Marguerite Henry entitled, “Gaudenzia, Pride of the Palio.”

Some fifty-seven years later, here I was in the Piazza del Campo in Siena, where the climax of Gaudenzia’s story had taken place.

Entering the Piazza del Campo in Siena. Lined with restaurants and lying in the heart of city, it’s a place where tourist and the Sienese congregate over drinks and food.

 

Under the clock tower in the Piazza, noticeable in grey stone, lie the stables where the horses will be kept on the day of the Palio. Within these cool, dry walls, horses await the start of a race that has gained international status.

 

Over a gin-tonic and pizza, I contemplated the giant oval of the Piazza, imagining how it must transform in July and again in August, when The Palio is run. Like a palimpsest veiled only by the sights and sounds of lunch on an ordinary day in June, medieval buildings festooned with flags, cobblestones covered over with sand and an infield packed where hundreds stood, packed tighter than sardines in a tin, drifted like ghosts across my inner eye.

Winding through the narrow streets that extend like spokes on a wheel from the Piazza, there were many signs that the Palio of July was, indeed, on its way: street lights adorned with the colours of the different contradas, or districts of Siena; a winding street in the contrada of Leocorno (The Unicorn) festooned with orange and white Leocorno flags; a deserted cafe that opted for diplomacy by displaying the flags not only of Leocorno, but also della Pantera (The Panther, in red and blue) and della Tartuca (The Tortoise, in blue & yellow); and a bodega (small grocery store) where the entire back wall was a riot of Palio memorabilia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE PALIO

Different as the regions of Italy may be, one of many things they share in common is a strong commitment to local customs and traditions. Located in Tuscany, Siena is famous for its centuries-old rivalry with Firenze (Florence), as well as being the home of the world’s oldest horse race, The Palio of Siena. Although historians estimate that the Palio is about 800 years old, the first written records about it don’t appear until the sixteenth century. Sometimes a third Palio, called the Palio of Peace or the Extraordinary Palio, is run between May-September. But when this happens, it is because there is a special event that is being commemorated.

The Palio is, ultimately, about the courage of a horse and rider, and the centuries-old, fierce competitiveness of the seventeen contradas of Siena. There is, of course, intrigue as these rivalries play out in July and August. But the intrigue only adds to the drama of horses and men reliving a beloved tradition. However, to fully understand The Palio and the sensibility of Siena, it helps to know a little of Italy’s history.

Until 1861, when Italy became a unified country under the Sardinian king, Victor Immanuel II, the whole of what we know today as one country was in fact ruled by a number of powerful city states. These city states controlled their own territories and were regularly at war with one another. Italy was a celebration of a richly diversified regionalism up until 1861, when all these regional customs and traditions had to learn to live together. And live together they do, but it is a kind of begrudging unity and it is those regional qualities that keep that going. Even in 2018, the citizens of Firenze/Florence consider themselves the chief rival to Siena, just as it was in ancient times. And our tour guide, who came from neither city, confided, ” You know, I find Siena the most beautiful city in the North. But any Florentine will tell you that the Sienese people are really not that nice, not very friendly. The Florentines are much nicer, much warmer.”

To a large extent, the magnificence of the different cities and regions of Italy today is due to their ancient roots as powerful jurisdictions. This is arguably most evident in Venice, a city that presents itself to you as though it was the only important city in Italy.

In the Piazza San Marco, the city of Venice presents herself in all her power and glory. The lion of the city flag hangs proudly next to that of Italy.

 

Proclaiming its power to the world: The Piazza San Marco in Venice.

 

The drama of the first Palio is re-enacted yearly by Siena’s seventeen contradas. Each one has its own flag, its own museum and it own Church. Each Sienese is christened in his/her contrada and it is to the contrada that they return when they die. In Siena on July 2 (Palio di Provenzano) and again on August 17 (Palio dell’Assunta), when the Palios are run, whole families split up, each joining his/her contrada for the day. To refuse to do so would be considered a social aberration, unless you were a babe in arms.

 

 

The colours of the contradas of Siena.

Long before the races of summer, the hunt by each contrada is on for a horse and rider. Whereas jockeys can be contracted by a contrada early in a given year, in the last 60 or so years it is more common after the horse chosen to represent their district is assigned. Each contrada contributes to the pool of horses available, even though not every horse is chosen and there is no certainty that they will be represented by the horse they have put forward. The horses themselves are always mixed breeds, pure breeds being forbidden largely because horses need to be fast and strong enough to withstand the rigors of the Palio. They can come from any walk of life, from working horses to pleasure horses, or from any region of Italy. The most important criteria is their speed. The horses selected are often trained by each contrada’s jockey, but then a twist comes in the form of a lottery.

A few days before the Palio a process takes place to choose horses. On the morning of the third day before the Palio the lottery takes place, but not before each horse is given a thorough check by a veterinary team, followed by a trial run around the Palio course. After this, the ten most suitable horses are chosen and then assigned to each contrada in a draw. The draws for horses being random, it is rare that a horse and its trainer, now turned jockey, end up together.

Only ten contradas participate in each Palio; in the July 2 Palio, the seven contradas who didn’t participate in July of the previous year are included, as well as three additional contradas, who are selected at random in another draw.

Below: The “Drawing of the Horses.”

 

The moment a horse is assigned, the contrada takes it away to their district stables, in a procession of contrada members. It will only return to the Piazza del Campo on the day of the race.

From the time he is contracted, the jockey is given security guards, whose job it is to see that he isn’t tempted by other contradas to throw the race. From the time they are chosen, the best jockeys are habitually assailed by offers in the form of bribes. The only way to assure their loyalty is for the contrada to offer them a handsome sum of money, the payment of which takes place before the Palio. But don’t feel sorry for the contradas: they frequently enpower their jockeys to bribe other jockeys right up to the start of the race. As well, each contrada has up to the morning of the Palio to change its jockey if he is suspected of being compromised in a way that will endanger their winning.

Jockeys can be changed but the horses cannot. If they become ill or unable to race, the horse withdraws as does its contrada and, for all the brutality of the Palio, there have been numerous cases of horses being withdrawn because a contrada feared for its safety.

Three days before the first Palio, as Siena begins to explode with contrada flags and marching bands, the jockeys and horses are given a chance to have a dry run in the form of six horse trials around the course, the last of which occurs on the morning of the actual Palio. Before the trials begin, the entries are drawn and this will decide the order the horses are called to the start on Palio day. The “wild card” — the tenth contrada drawn — does not line up with the rest of the horses. Instead, this pair stand farther back and only when they decide to go is the race officially on.

 

The Tratta is the ceremony in which places are drawn for the Palio. You can see the results on the board in the background. Number ten is the “wild card” — the horse and rider that will determine the start of the race.

On the day of the Palio, horses and riders are blessed in the church of their contrada. Then the horse, wearing its brightly coloured spennacchiera and bridle, is paraded to the Piazza del Campo, where it will be stabled within the cool, stone walls of the del Campo stables to await the race, which takes place at 7:30 pm in July (and at 7 p.m. in August).

The Blessing of the Horse:

 

The running of the Palio is the final event of a day of colour, excitement and festivity, all invoking the rites and rituals of hundreds of years before, called “The Historical Walk” (Passeggiata Storica).The participants number about 600 and are drawn from all of the 17 contradas. The war cart (Carroccio), drawn by white oxen, carries the Palio — a hand-painted banner that goes to the victor of that year’s Palio and hearkens back to the original Pallium banner of the 1500’s or earlier, made of sacred, liturgical cloth and after which the race derived its name.

The arrival of the Palio, or victory flag, is the last event before the Palio itself is run.

 

 

As the horses for the Palio appear on the track, a roar goes up from the crowd. The jockeys, now wearing the silks of the contrada for which they are racing, are bareback and carry only a long riding stick, called a nerbi, make of dried cow hide and with which they can drive on their horses or impede another horse, specifically by knocking off its spennacchiara. Since it is the horse and its contrada, not the rider, who is credited with the win, even a riderless horse can race to victory in the Palio. That is — as it used to be — unless the closest jockey manages to knock of its spennacchiara. But this latter rule has been changed, even though its absence remains contrversial. Spennacchiara or no, the first horse across the finish line, riderless or not, wins.

 

GUESS, who won the July 1 2013 Palio for Oca (The Goose), wearing his spennacchiara (between his ears) in Oca colours.

The horses will race around the Piazza de Campo course three times before the finish and the winner is greeted by a three-gun salute. At the start, the horses are called by the name of the contrada and in chronological order, as per the position they have drawn. Nine line up between the two ropes that mark off the starting gate. The 10th horse and rider, the rincorsa, waits behind the ropes: when the other horses are reasonably orderly in front of him, he will kick off the race by encouraging his horse to leap forward.

As you can see, in the video below, readying for the start can take some time! Here is the July 2, 2018 Palio that took place only a few days after I had left Italy and was on my way home. Note the rincorsa, in the yellow and red colours of the Valdimontone (Valley of the Ram) contrada, behind the other nine horses. Note, too, the sharp turn horses and riders make and the white on the walls — thick mattressing put up to lessen the chances of a horse or rider falling to its death. The winner for the Drago (Dragon) contrada was the bay Rocco Nice, ridden by jockey Andrea Mari.

(Note: Riders are unseated and horses fall, but there were no casualties or serious injuries sustained.)

 

HOMAGE TO GAUDENZIA

 

The real GAUDENZIA was not only the heroine of a children’s story. She was adored by an entire nation and went on to become an international superstar, thanks to Marguerite Henry’s book.

 

I recalled little of Marguerite Henry’s story of Gaudenzia.

When I arrived home, one of the first things I did was to pull the book down from the shelf where it sat with other beloved books of my childhood and start to read it again. By the time I had read the last page, I remembered that I didn’t really like the book and I could hazard a guess as to why 12 year-old me might not have been enamored of it.

First of all, “Gaudenzia” is a harsh story of a very poor boy and a forgotten cart horse. Secondly, there’s the annoyance of Henry’s attempt to write people speaking Italian in English, as was the tradition of the time, and dialogue comes off in a way that reminds you of the imperfect speech of a toddler. I felt that Giorgio Terni would have been deeply offended reading this in the context of 2018, but in the 1950’s and long before, this was typically the way dialects and “foreign speakers” were represented. (It was lightly documented, but true, that Will Harbut was deeply hurt by the publication of the phrase he became most noted for: “Da’ mostest horse.” Harbut felt that his words should have been published in standard or, as he put it, “correct” English, i.e. “the mostest horse,” as a sign of respect.)

Last, but not least, “Gaudenzia” has its dark moments and chief among them is the fact that Giorgio’s father bought and fattened horses to be sold for their meat. In fact, it was the loss of the blind mare, Bianca to slaughter — a mare who Giorgio loved desperately — and the coincidence that Gaudenzia came into the world on the same day, that engendered the boy’s interest in the filly foal. Giorgio believed that Gaudenzia was the blind Bianca, coming back to him. As a girl who loved horses, it is quite possible that it was inside the pages of Henry’s narrative that I first learned about horse slaughter and, as a youngster, the very idea of eating a horse would have been inconceivable.

GAUDENZIA, as she is shown with Giorgio, in the book by Marguerite Henry.

It was when I read the final page of the book that explained Gaudenzia’s brilliant reign over the Palio and her retirement, that it hit me: Gaudenzia was real.

And off I went to research her further, to discover that she had, in fact, won four Palios. In her second victory, Gaudenzia had won without her rider, even as her beloved Giorgio — who had trained her but was aboard another horse — raced along beside her, trying desperately to remove her spennacchiara. (In the 1950’s the old rule was in place and it would have effectively disqualified Gaudenzia from her riderless victory had another jockey managed to knock off her spennacchiara.) Giorgio was devastated at trying to stop his mare from gaining a second consecutive victory because he knew that he was one of the few people she trusted.

 

GAUDENZIA racing to victory in the July Palio in 1954, with Giorgio Terni on her back.

Henry travelled to Tuscany three times in order to understand the phenomena of the Palio and was there, with Giorgio, when he and Gaudenzia won the first Palio. She confessed that she had to scrap her first idea for a story because the real story of the grey, part-Arab mare and the peasant boy, Giorgio Terni, was so much more dramatic. As she put it in her preface “… Their battle to outwit destiny is a drama of human and animal courage.”

 

GAUDENZIA and Giorgio: “…a drama of human and animal courage.” (Marguerite Henry, Preface, “Gaudenzia: Pride of the Palio.”)

Gaudenzia, who was born in 1942 and won her first 3 Palios at the age of 12, was barred from running for a year because she was certain to win. Returning in the August Palio in 1956, at the age of 14, she won again. It would be the last time she raced. She retired having won 3 consecutive Palios in 1954, in which there was an additional September Palio. No horse had ever done this before Gaudenzia. When she annexed a 4th win in 1956, she became the stuff of legend. The cart horse had morphed into a Queen.

Gaudenzia and Giorgio win their first Palio for the contrada Onda (The Wave) on July 2, 1954. Note that Gaudenzia is the 10th horse and so, is the one who signals the start of the race. (FYI: There is no sound on the video, but there are some wonderful close-ups of Gaudenzia that make up for it.)

And here is Gaudenzia’s last Palio, on August 16, 1956. This time she ran in the colours of Istrice (The Crested Porcupine) and was ridden by Francesco Cuttoni. Giorgio Terni was her trainer.

Gaudenzia was retired with all the glory of a queen, which she had become, and lived out the rest of her days in a medieval castle near Siena. Giorgio visited her regularly until her death, in 1972 or 1974, at the age of 30/32.

GAUDENZIA being led to the stable of her contrada after the drawing of the horses. Date unknown.

 

GAUDENZIA in the colours of Istrice (The Crested Porcupine) after her final victory in the August Palio of 1956.

 

GAUDENZIA’S beautiful face appears on this German version of Marguerite Henry’s book.

 

GAUDENZIA in the lead — where she always was — in what appears to be her first win in July of 1954.

 

 

BONUS FEATURES

The trailer from the documentary PALIO, available on Netflix. In it, those involved speak in their own voices, leaving the viewer to construct his/her own understanding and conclusions about this complex and controversial race. Some might also be interested to know that the featured jockey, Giovanni Atzeni, is the third cousin of jockey Andrea Atzeni, of thoroughbred racing fame. (NOTE: This is in no way a promotion of the documentary, to which I have no affiliation, but I did watch it and enjoyed it very much.)

 

“…The emotions of a life, the feeling of a life” : Siena Prepares For The Palio

 

Bibliography

Henry, Marguerite. Gaudenzia: Pride of the Palio. Rand McNally and Company, New York. 1960

Edizioni KINA Italia/L.E.G.O. The Palio: The Heart and Soul of Siena. ND

Sports Illustrated. Issue of August 30, 1954.

GAUDENZIA: Archivio del Palio di Siena @ https://www.ilpalio.siena.it/5/Cavalli/413?cod=C413

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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.

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

 

If — which is the longest word in any language — Mendelssohn pulls off a win in the 2018 Kentucky Derby, be sure that his maternal ancestor, Sea-Bird II, will have blessed his effort with the gift of wings.

SEA-BIRD II. Conformation shot, identified with stamp of trainer Etienne Pollet. Credit: Photo & Cine RECOUPE, Paris, France. (Photograph from the collection of THE VAULT, purchased on Ebay.)

Far back in the fifth generation of Mendelssohn’s maternal family sits the name of Sea-Bird II. Of course, he is just one of many that account genetically for the Ballydoyle superstar. But Sea-Bird II was arguably the best thoroughbred of the twentieth century, at least as far as the British and the Europeans are concerned, rating #1 in John Randall and Tony Morris’ important book, “A Century of Champions.” ( The mighty Secretariat came in at #2, followed by Ribot in #3, Brigadier Gerard in #4 and Citation in #5. Man O’ War finished in the #21 spot.)

Tony Morris is one of the most respected figures in thoroughbred geneology and pedigree, as well as being a consummate historian of the sport, in the world. The Randall-Morris tome begins by asserting that it is foolhardy to compare horses over the generations, while adding that, thanks to the system devised by Timeform in 1947, reliable handicapping figures can be drawn across the decades of the twentieth century using their formula. In 2016, Sea-Bird II’s rating of 145 ranks him second on the list of Timeform’s all-time world’s best since 1947; Frankel sits at #1 with a rating of 147.

Sea-Bird (as he was registered in France) only raced for a period of roughly eighteen months, in a career that saw him lose just once and winning both the Epsom Derby and the 1965 Arc in his three year-old season. By the time he left for the USA to join the stallion roster at John Galbreath’s Darby Dan Farm in Kentucky, Sea-Bird had become a legend in his own time.

However, the colt foal who came into the world in March 1962 set his tiny hoofs to the ground unaware that his owner-breeder, Jean Ternynck, a textile manufacturer in Lille, France, considered his pedigree rather medoicre. His sire, Dan Cupid, a son of the incomparable Native Dancer, had been a runner-up in the 1959 Prix du Jockey Club to the brilliant Herbager, arguably his best race although he did take the Prix Mornay as a two year-old. His dam was a daughter of Sickle by Phalaris and a grandaughter of the superb Gallant Fox — a pedigree that appeared to promise some potential. However, as of 1962 Dan Cupid had yet to produce anything of merit as a sire. Sea-Bird’s dam, Sicalade, from the sire line of Prince Rose, was in a similar predicament and while Dan Cupid was maintained by Ternynck, Sicalade was gone by 1963.

 

The handsome DAN CUPID (by Native Dancer ex. Vixenette) raced in France for Jean Ternynck and stood at stud there. But he never produced anything that even came close to SEA-BIRD II.

 

SICKLE, the BM sire odf SEA-BIRD II. Hailing from the PHALARIS sire line, with SELENE as his dam, SICKLE’S influence as a sire was outstanding. Imported to the USA by Joseph Widener, SICKLE produced individuals like STAGEHAND and is the grandsire of POLYNESIAN, who sired NATIVE DANCER. SICKLE was one of two leading sires produced by SELENE.

Ah, the mystery of breeding! The numbers of great sires and mares who produce nothing much are astronomical in number, but by the time Sea-Bird made his third appearance as a juvenile, his owner was likely considering the corollary. Namely, that two mediocre thoroughbreds had got themselves one very promising colt.

 

In France, DAN CUPID, the sire of SEA-BIRD, has an audience with HM The Queen.

Sea-Bird was sent to the Chantilly stables of trainer Etienne Pollet, a cousin of his owner, Ternynck. The colt raced three times as a two year-old, winning the Prix de Blaison (7f.) despite being green and getting off to a poor start. A short two weeks later, he won again, but this time it was the prestigious Criterium de Maisons Lafitte. Like his first win, Sea-Bird crossed the wire a short neck ahead of the excellent filly, BlaBla, who would go on to win the Prix Diane/French Oaks as a three year-old. For the final start of his juvenile season, the colt was entered in the prestigious Grand Criterium against some of the best of his generation.

GREY DAWN as portrayed by Richard Stone Reeves. The son of HERBAGER was the undisputed star of the 1964 juvenile season in France.

The colt Grey Dawn was also entered and he had already won the two most important juvenile contests in France that year, namely the Prix Morny and the Prix de la Salamandre. Run at Longchamps over a mile, the Grand Criterium was thought to be Grey Dawn’s to lose. The son of Herbager — who had, ironically, been the nemesis of Dan Cupid in the Prix de Jockey Club — was a superstar.

During the race, Grey Dawn was always in striking position. Sea-Bird, on the other hand, had been left a lot to do by his jockey, Maurice Larraun, as the field turned for home. Finally given his head, the colt rushed forward in a mighty charge to take second place to Grey Dawn. But it was too little too late. Despite that, many felt the Sea-Bird was the true star of the race, even though Grey Dawn had won without ever truly being extended. Trainer Etienne Pollet was delighted, knowing full well that Sea-Bird’s late charge had been something quite spectacular. (Note: Footage of this race appears in the SEA-BIRD feature video, below.)

SEA-BIRD at work, probably as a three year-old in 1965. Credit: Paris Match, Marie Claire. (Photograph in the collection of THE VAULT, purchased on Ebay.)

The three year-old Sea-Bird was a force to be reckoned with. His first two starts, the Prix Greffulhe at Longchamps (10.5f) and the Prix Lupin, had him pegged for Epsom given his winnings margins of 3 and 6 lengths, respectively. And in the Prix Lupin, he had left Diatome, the winner of the important Prix Noailles, and Cambremont, who had defeated Grey Dawn in the Poule d’Essai des Poulins, in his slipstream.

On Derby day, Sea-Bird started as favourite. In the field were Meadow Court, who would go on to win the Irish Derby and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in authoritative fashion, as well as the filly, Blabla, the winner of the French Oaks.

Sea-Bird is wearing number 22, with Australian jockey Pat Glennon wearing dark green silks and a black cap:

 

“…The Derby performance had to be seen to be believed. In a field of 22 he came to the front, still cantering, 1 1/2 furlongs from home, then was just pushed out for 100 yards before being eased again so that runner-up Meadow Court was flattered by the 2 lengths deficit. ”  (In Randall and Morris, “A Century of Champions,” pp 65)

Apparently, Glennon had been told by trainer Pollet to watch Sea-Bird after the finish line, since there was a road that crossed the track and Pollet was worried the colt would run right into it. Glennon told the press that it was all he could think about near the finish, which was the reason he pulled up the colt. Otherwise, the winning margin could have been well over 5 lengths.

SEA-BIRD moves away from the pack, on his way to victory at Epsom. MEADOW COURT and I SAY are just behind him. Photo credit: Keystone, UK. (From the collection of THE VAULT)

 

Epsom 1965: At the finish, ears pricked. Photo credit: Sport & General, London, UK (From the collection of THE VAULT.)

 

Sea-Bird only raced twice after his victory at the Epsom Derby, winning the Grand Prix Sant-Cloud at a canter.

Then came the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the three year-old’s greatest challenge.

The field was stellar, including the American champion, Tom Rolfe, who had won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, the undefeated Russian superstar, Anilin, the British champion, Meadow Court, and the French champions Reliance and Diatome. But despite the undisputed quality of the field, Sea-Bird produced one of the most devastating performances in the history of the Arc:

Just prior to the running of the Arc, the American John W. Galbreath had reputedly paid owner Ternynck $1,350,000 to lease Sea-Bird for five years to stand him at stud at his legendary Darby Dan Farm. Galbreath was no stranger to European racing, having already acquired the stellar Ribot in 1959 under another 5-year lease. One of America’s greatest breeders, in 1965 Galbreath stood the stallions Swaps, Errard, Helioscope and Decathlon at Darby Dan, while holding breeding rights to other champion thoroughbreds, notably Tudor Minstrel, Royal Charger, Gallant Man, Arctic Prince and Polynesian.

Retired in 1965, Sea-Bird was crowned the Champion 3 year-old in both England and France, as well as Champion Handicap colt in France.

 

SEA-BIRD pictured at Orly all kitted out to fly off to the USA and John W. Galbreath’s Darby Dan Farm. Credit: Keystone. (From the collection of THE VAULT.)

 

SEA-BIRD appears reluctant to board. Credit: Keystone (From the collection of THE VAULT)

The young stallion stood his 5 years at Darby Dan, during which time he bred two excellent progeny. He returned to France amid expectations of still more outstanding progeny.

Sadly, Sea-Bird’s life was cut short upon his return to France, where he died of colitis at the age of eleven. But he is remembered for siring an Arc winner of his own, in the incomparable Allez France; as well as the brilliant Arctic Tern, Gyr, who had the misfortune to run in the same years as the brilliant Nijinsky, the millionaire hurdler, Sea Pigeon, Mr. Long, who was a 5-time Champion sire in Chile from 1982-1986, and America’s beloved Little Current, the winner of the 1974 Preakness and Belmont Stakes, who like his sire, stood at Darby Dan Farm.

It is a great and tragic irony that his short life never allowed Sea-Bird a chance to produce European and British grass champions of the quality of his American crops.

 

In the Belmont Stakes, Little Current was every inch Sea-Bird’s son:

 

 

Even though Sea-Bird can’t be credited for the brilliance that is Mendelssohn, he played his part in the genetic landscape of the colt’s pedigree.

I, for one, will be watching on May 7 to see if there’s a mighty bird sitting just between Mendelssohn’s ears.

 

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Below, a lovely SEA-BIRD feature, including very rare racing footage together with the insights of his trainer, Etienne Pollet.

 

 

Selected Bibliography

Hunter, Avalyn online @ American Classic Pedigrees: Sea-Bird (France)

Randall, John and Tony Morris. A Century of Champions. London: Portway Press Limited, 1999

Timeform online @ https://www.timeform.com/horse-racing/features/top-horses/Timeforms

Tower, Whitney. The Man, The Horse and The Deal That Made History in Sports Illustrated, June 1, 1959

 

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Named after an infamous spy for the Germans in WW1, this mighty filly leaves her imprint on the 2018 Kentucky Derby, as well as on international thoroughbred racing.

 

MATA HARI was a brilliant grandaughter of MAN O’ WAR. Photo: DRF, May 23, 1934.

 

A solid bay filly with a feminine head, Mata Hari came into the world in 1931, sired by Peter Hastings out of War Woman, by Man O’ War. It is difficult to wager what her owner-breeder, automotive pioneer Charles T. Fisher, who had purchased the fabled Dixiana Farm in 1928, might have expected from a filly born to a pair of unraced thoroughbreds. What was certain, however, was that her sire descended from the Domino sire line. James R. Keene’s Domino had come into the world at Dixiana Farm, bred by the farm’s founder, Major Barack G. Thomas, from his brilliant thoroughbred sire Himyar.

Perhaps there was a little fairy dust falling from Dixiana’s rafters onto the newborn filly’s head. Too, her BM sire was a national treasure, quite capable — at least potentially — of getting good colts and fillies through his daughters.

 

George Conway, pictured with Man O’ War at Saratoga.

Named Mata Hari after an infamous Dutch spy who worked for Germany in WW1, the filly was sent to the training stables of Clyde Van Dusen. Van Dusen had been a jockey before getting his trainer’s licence. His claim to fame was to train the first Kentucky Derby winner for Man O’ War, a gelding named after himself: Clyde Van Dusen. When the 1929 Derby winner was retired, Clyde continued their relationship by taking him on as his personal pony.

 

Greta Garbo portrayed MATA HARI in the 1931 film of the same name.

 

CLYDE and Clyde: Trainer Clyde Van Dusen rode his Derby winner as a stable pony when the gelding was retired.

 

Van Dusen’s connection to Mata Hari’s owner came through work: shortly after winning the 1929 Derby with his namesake, he went to work for Charles T. Fisher at his automotive plant in Detroit. In 1930/-31, he took over training duties for Fisher and his first success came with Sweep All, who ran second in the 1933 Kentucky Derby to the great Twenty Grand.

Sweep All and Mata Hari would have been stablemates in 1933, and both were escorted to the track by “the Clydes” for their works.

 

MATA HARI at work, circa 1933-1934.

The daughter of War Woman’s two year-old campaign was sensational, earning her Co-Champion Two Year-Old Filly honours in 1933 with Edward R. Bradley’s filly, Bazaar. The title handed Man O’ War second place among BM sires in 1933. It was his first appearance in the top ten of BM sires nationwide. Mata Hari began her juvenile season by winning three in a row, culminating in the Arlington Lassie Stakes. In the Matron and Arlington Futurity, the filly was hampered by weight and this caused her to swerve badly, resulting in third place finishes in both cases.

 

Two year-old MATA HARI in the winner’s enclosure at Arlington after winning The Arlington Lassie Stakes.

In October, Mata Hari won the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes at Latonia, beating HOF Discovery, setting a new 6f. track record in the process. One week later, she became only the second filly to win the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, where she once again dismissed Discovery who came in second, one better than his third place the week before in the Jockey Club.

That Mata Hari beat a colt of this calibre not once but twice within a period of seven days speaks volumes about her stamina and speed. And she seemed to scorch her rivals so easily. Her two year-old campaign had made her a sensation in the West.  Nicknames like “A Juvenile Princess” (Toledo News Bee, 1933) were used to celebrate her winning ways in the local press. Further afield, The Vancouver Sun in Canada added to the accolades.

DISCOVERY at work. As a BM sire, his daughters produced the champions NATIVE DANCER, BOLD RULER and BED O’ ROSES. Copyright The Baltimore Sun.

 

MATA HARI was the darling of the West. Article + cartoon from the archives of the Toledo News Bee.

 

Expectations were high for Mata Hari in her three-year old season and she did not disappoint. Arguably the most publicized of her performances came in the 1934 Kentucky Derby:

 

She didn’t win it — finishing just off the board in fourth place — but she sure made a race of it.

Following the Derby, Mata Hari ran in the May 23 Illinois Derby against males at Aurora Downs, where she once again broke an existing track record by more than three seconds with a time of 1:49 3/5 for a mile and an eighth on dirt. Then, on June 23, the filly took the Illinois Oaks at Washington Park. Her victory in the Oaks was superb, gaining the praises of The New York Times, who hailed her as the “…queen of the 3 year-old fillies.”

So impressive was she that Mata Hari was named Champion Filly for the second straight year, once again sharing three year-old honours with Colonel Bradley’s Bazaar.

 

MATA HARI again was awarded Champion Filly, this time in the 3 year-old division, in 1934. Once again, she shared the honours with Colonel Bradley’s BAZAAR. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun.

Retired to the breeding shade, Mata Hari was courted by the likes of Eight Thirty, Sickle and Bull Lea. But her best two progeny came through matings with Balladier and Roman. The former mating produced the champion colt, Spy Song (1943), and the latter another very good colt in Roman Spy (1951).

SPY SONG was MATA HARI’s best son. Sired by BALLADIER, the colt would run up an impressive race record, running against the likes of Triple Crown winner, ASSAULT.

The handsome Spy Song had the misfortune of being born in the same year as Triply Crown champion Assault. But despite that, he carved out his own place in the sun, winning the Arlington Futurity in his two year-old season, followed by a campaign at three that saw him running second to Assault in the Kentucky derby and winning the Hawthorne Sprint Handicap. At four, he again won at Hawthorne in the Speed Handicap, as well as annexing the Chicago and Clang Handicaps and the Myrtlewood Stakes. He raced into his five year-old season and retired after thirty-six starts, of which he won fifteen, and earnings of $206,325 USD.

Here is Spy Song’s run in the 1946 Kentucky Derby:

 

At stud, Spy Song proved a solid sire. His most successful progeny was Crimson Satan, a speedster who undoubtedly benefitted from the influence of Commando through Peter Pan in his fourth generation sire line.

Crimson Satan, like his sire, met up with two mighty peers in his three year-old season: Ridan and Jaipur. These two dominated the Triple Crown races in 1962. But Crimson Satan was a hardy colt who had been named Champion Two-Year Old in 1961 and by the time he retired, he’d chalked up victories in the Laurance Armour, Clark, Washington Park and Massachussetts Handicaps, as well as the San Fernando Stakes and the Michigan Mile And One Sixteenth Handicap.

 

CRIMSON SATAN (hood) eyes fellow Preakness contender ROMAN LINE in the Pimlico shedrow. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun.

It is as a sire that Crimson Satan arguably made his most notable mark, through his graded stakes-winning daughter, Crimson Saint. Retired to the breeding shed, Crimson Saint’s meetings with two Triple Crown winners, Secretariat and Nijinsky, produced Terlingua and Royal Academy, respectively. Another colt by Secretariat, Pancho Villa, was also a stakes winner.

Terlingua, an accomplished miler, is arguably most famous for being the dam of Storm Cat. Royal Academy’s son, Bel Esprit, is equally renowned for siring the brilliant Black Caviar.

 

CRIMSON SAINT, the dam of TERLINGUA, PANCHO VILLA and ROYAL ACADEMY, was a brilliant sprinter as well as a Blue Hen producer.

 

Crowds stood 3-deep to see Secretariat’s daughter, TERLINGUA. Photo reprinted with the permission of Lydia A. Williams (LAW).

 

Mata Hari’s grandson, Crimson Satan, established the bridge from this mighty mare to Storm Cat. “Stormy,” as he was affectionately known, pretty much made the now defunct Overbrook Farm and although he died in 2013, his influence as a sire through sons like the late Giant’s Causeway and Hennessey, together with the late Harlan and 2 year-old champion, Johannesburg, the sire of the prepotent Scat Daddy, remains noteworthy.

GIANT’S CAUSEWAY gets a bath as his young trainer, Aidan O’Brien (back to camera) helps out. The gorgeous colt stands out as one of the greatest that O’Brien ever trained.

 

The great Mick Kinane gives JOHANNESBURG a well-deserved pat after the 2 year-old’s win the the 2001 BC Juvenile.

Storm Cat daughters also continue to make a splash of their own, represented by Caress and November Snow, as well as the dams of Japan’s King Kanaloa and Shonan Mighty, while in America, Bodemeister and In Lingerie number among his best as BM sire. The stallion is also the grandsire of Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah through his dam, Littleprincessemma.

With trainer Bob Baffert at Saratoga, AMERICAN PHAROAH won the Triple Crown in 2015.

In addition, Storm Cat mares have proved a very good match with super sire Galileo. The Galileo-Storm Cat nick has been particularly lucrative for Coolmore, attesting to the fact that Storm Cat can get excellent turf runners too.

 

This tapestry of STORM CAT and owner-breeder William T. Young, The Master of Overbrook Farm, hangs in the library, named after Mr. Young, of the University of Kentucky.

 

At Royal Ascot in 2015, Storm Cat lineage accounted for the winners Acapulco, Amazing Maria, War Envoy, Balios, Ballydoyle and Gleneagles. More recently, Mozu Ascot, a son of Frankel ex. India, whose grandsire is Storm Cat, is proving to be a serious contender on the turf in Japan.

2018 Kentucky Derby contender, FLAMEAWAY. The son of SCAT DADDY was bred in Ontario by owner, John Oxley. He is trained by Mark E. Casse.

So it comes as no surprise that Storm Cat also brings the imprint of Mata Hari straight into the field of the 2018 Kentucky Derby, principally through his son, Scat Daddy. However, “Stormy” also appears in the third generation of the female family of Noble Indy, another contender in the Derby field.

The three Scat Daddy’s that have made the Derby roster are Justify, Mendelssohn and Flameaway and all three have a chance at winning.

Arguably the most impressive is Aidan O’ Brien’s Mendelssohn, who is a half-brother to the American champion Beholder, and the excellent sire, Into Mischief. That alone would have peaked interest in this rising 3 year-old star, who the North American public got to know in his 2 year-old performance on turf in the 2017 Breeder’s Cup, where he beat 2018 Derby hopefuls Flameaway and My Boy Jack:

 

 

“On a dizzying ascent to greatness…” is the lightly-raced and undefeated Justify, shown here in his last pre-Derby race, the million dollar Santa Anita Derby:

 

 

Flameaway may not carry the enigma of either Mendelssohn or Justify, but he’s got the experience and determination to be a serious threat if he can cope with the deep track at Churchill Downs. But, then again, the same could be said of the superstar Mendelssohn.

Here’s a punter’s look at Flameaway:

 

 

We’ve ventured a fair distance in time and place from the heroine of this piece, Mata Hari. And it’s easy to forget the ancestors of today’s future champions, who have left their imprint, if not a direct influence, on exceptional colts and fillies.

But a pedigree is like a living puzzle, where every piece needs to fit into place to produce a champion.

And as the first Saturday in May draws nigh, will Mata Hari have a say on who wears the roses?

 

MATA HARI: this superb mare rides once again in the 2018 Kentucky Derby.

 

Selected Bibiliography

Hunter, Avalyn. American Classic Pedigrees. http://www.americanclassicpedigrees.com

The Blood Horse.

— Article on the death of Crimson Saint. https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/193186/prominent-broodmare-crimson-saint-dead-at-32

— A Quarter Century of American Racing and Breeding: 1916 Through 1940. Silver Anniversary Edition.

 

 

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There were some great races (San Felipe, the fabulous Tough Sunday, Justify, etc.) the weekend of March 10, 2018 in the USA. But for me, THE story of that weekend had nothing to do with horse races.

(NOTE: No graphic images or footage of horse slaughter in this article.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

On March 9, shortly after she posted this video (above), I picked up a tweet from Dina Alborano of http://www.icareihelp.com that 15 thoroughbreds had arrived at the Thompson kill lot in Louisiana, shipping in from Delta Downs with the order to “direct ship” to Mexico, according to the individual you hear speaking in the second video, below. (“Direct ship” means that they would not go to auction but ship straight to slaughter. I would add that in the information given by the Thompson spokesman, there was absolutely no information to suggest that these horses had been bought at auction or privately, or even that they might not all have come from Delta Downs.) At least seven were “fresh off the track,” according to the Thompson spokesperson, who wanted to sell them as a lot at $875 USD a head, or roughly $20k USD before expenses like shipping and quarantine are added.

That they all allegedly came from Delta Downs was no shock to me. Shipments from this track are all too frequent, arriving with a horrible punctuality throughout their racing season. This “herd” of thoroughbreds had shown up on the final days of the flat racing season at Delta Downs. Seemingly no coincidence there.

By March 10, the true number dispatched to Thompson was revealed to be 24 thoroughbreds, aka “The 24.”

 

 

 

 

 

I am not naïve: I know that horse slaughter didn’t begin in the last decade. I have rescued horses, written to the Prime Minister of Canada and the Canadian Minister of Agriculture about the slaughter of horses in Canada, protested at one of Quebec’s three horse slaughter plants, and publicized the fact that, since 2015, any horses destined for slaughter whose meat is exported to the European Union (EU) must be resident in the country where they are to be slaughtered for a minimum of 6 months before they die.

This has resulted in a 38% drop in the production of horse meat in Canada since this EU directive came into effect.

The argument used with great success, first by organizations like the Canadian Horse Defense Coalitiom (a nonprofit that has battled the issue on the frontlines for many years) was to inform horse meat consumers worldwide that the thoroughbreds and standardbreds they were eating were rife with chemicals harmful to human beings. Humane arguments didn’t get the job done. Threatening the health of human beings did. The response from the EU was so emphatic that one of Quebec’s slaughter houses hasn’t rendered a horse for consumption since April 2017, principally because they have no interest in feeding and caring for horses for 6 months before they render them into meat.

But despite the efforts of huge numbers of rescues and individuals, horses — from the wild mustang to the child’s pony — remain under attack. However, the presence of social media also means that the flagrant abuse and practice of sending horses to slaughter has gone public for all to see:

BEAR WITNESS (Skip Away ex. Lady’s Secret by Secretariat) at auction in 2015. I would have thought that any horse with these bloodlines would have been safe. But I was wrong: “BEAR” was purchased by a young couple and, despite their valiant efforts, died of the abuses he had sustained.

 

Before I read Dina’s post, I had had a few weeks of optimism about the plight of thoroughbreds who end up in the slaughter chain.

Rick Porter, owner of superstars like Songbird, Havre de Grace, Hard Spun and Eight Belles, had announced the formation of the National Thoroughbred Welfare Organization (NTWO), an organization he initiated to resolve the issue of thoroughbred slaughter by working proactively with racetracks, trainers and owners. As well, the NTWO intended to set up a national information and help hotline. A central goal was to work cooperatively with rescue groups and individuals to plug the flow of thoroughbreds that end up in kill pens on their way to Mexico or Canada.

The announcement brought me to tears.

I have been a “horse nut” my whole life and come from a family that owned champion horses and ponies. My father, who was a British Commando during WWII and later trained to be a veterinarian, raised us with the understanding that when you own an animal you take responsibility for it — from the beginning to the end of your time together. It was a cardinal rule in our family, never to be broken.

Finally, here was a key figure from the sport who held the principle of responsible ownership to be paramount. A man who had the courage to step up and give thoroughbreds — and so many people like myself — a voice.

On February 28, 2018, in The Blood-Horse, Rick Porter was interviewed by eminent senior journalist and HOFer, Steve Haskin, himself a proponent of responsible ownership and thoroughbred aftercare:

“…Through the efforts of the NTWO, Porter says the solution to the “feedlot extortion” problem is to secure discarded horses before they end up in the hands of feedlot owners and slaughter buyers. In the short term, this may require watching over the small auctions where these horses are funnelled, and outbidding slaughter buyers. The long-term solution is to stop the pipeline flow at the source, which is at the track.

‘No track should knowingly allow or turn a blind eye to trainers on their grounds who are turning over horses to potential slaughter,” Porter said. “The tracks who allow this are doing a great disservice to the sport.’ ” (Steve Haskin interview with Rick Porter, The Blood-Horse, February 28, 2018)

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“Feedlot extortion” is nothing new. Kill buyers know all the tricks to appeal to rescue groups and individuals, from lies to misinformation to factual misrepresentation. And they continue to make a huge personal income from such “extortions” all over North America.

It is this sad reality that fuels the argument of the many thoroughbred and horse rescues in the USA and Canada that the place to rescue horses bound for slaughter is before they reach the kill lots. Their reasoning is that by funding kill buyers, enough capital is generated to allow these same buyers to purchase still more thoroughbreds, standardbreds and horses of all types, as well as ponies and burros, for slaughter. Too, kill buyers can often afford to outbid rescue teams and individuals at auctions when they have been handsomely paid at the other end, i.e. by those pulling horses out of their pens at places like Thompson’s.

By the time they arrive in kill lots, the prices set on their heads are far in excess of what any horse, pony or burro would bring at auction or sell for to slaughter houses. This trend makes the argument of rescues a sensible one that should, in theory at least, be effective in taking on the kill buyer conduit of the slaughter industry.

But the problem here is that some owners, race tracks and trainers don’t play by the rules, as the 24 thoroughbreds filmed in the Thompson kill lot, marked “direct ship,” attest. In their specific case, it is fair to speculate that at least one individual on the Delta Downs backstretch, with the support of owners and trainers and the collusion of Delta Downs, is prepared to get thoroughbreds off the track and out of the country without a single thought to their rehabilitation and re-homing.

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However, for “The 24” in a kill lot in Louisiana on March 9, 2018, none of these arguments mattered. Many were youngsters and most were terrified. Some just hung their heads, sensing that something new and not very good was happening to them.

For a nascent organization like NTWO, news of their arrival at the Thompson kill pens had to be as deeply disturbing, as it was for the warriors that work with rescuers like Dina Alborano. There was little that NTWO could do while in the midst of setting up an organizational structure that should, in the long run, make a difference for many thoroughbreds at-risk. And although it is tempting to believe that “saying it makes it so” this is a misconception. Important work requires that solid structures are put into place — and this takes time.

Time that “The 24” didn’t have.

 

 

 

 

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Even Dina Alborano herself was overcome by the amount it would take to get the thoroughbreds out. But, like those standing with her, she shored up her courage and marched on.

And so it began.

All weekend, people from as far away as Great Britain stepped up to help save “The 24.”

Dina sounded the charge, but the vast majority of her warriors were not made up of wealthy horse owners or breeding farms or trainers. Instead, they were people of modest means, many of whom could only afford a donation of $10 or $20 dollars. Some were unemployed, some were retirees on fixed incomes, others were working at jobs where they weren’t bringing home as much as the thoroughbreds they wanted so fervently to save were going to cost. Those with little financial means began a Twitter storm, getting the word out to more and more people.

It was an interminable weekend, with each and every one of those determined to save “The 24” watching, re-tweeting and sending out words of encouragement that lit up the darkness.

Shortly before midnight, on March 11, came the words we were all waiting for:

 

 

 

All of us watching and waiting were also “literally in tears.”  A band of modest means, with the help of those like Colorado Avalanche’s Erik Johnson and thoroughbred owner, Michael Cannon, had raised 30k in a little less than 3 days. Also contributing were  “anonymous” donors from the sport/industray.

This was arguably the most dramatic but not the first rescue by Dina’s warriors. Some in the thoroughbred community had already provided vital financial support that saw several other thoroughbreds escape slaughter, among them the Zayat family, the Graham Motion family, jockey Gary Stevens and his wife, jockey Mike Smith, XBTV host, Zoe Cadman, and members of the handicapping community.

But I can only imagine what so many gave up to save 24 horses they didn’t own –and hadn’t profited from at the track — and would never even meet face-to-face. And, for this writer, the determination, sacrifice and commitment of this community will stay with me forever, just as do memories of other rescues and individuals who have overcome huge obstacles to pull thoroughbreds, standardbreds, BLM mustangs, wild burros, draft horses and minis from slaughter lots. Not to mention those sanctuaries, havens and OTTB organizations who have provided homes and new careers for unwanted and captured horses, such as the wild mustang.

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It was bizarre experience to read Twitter posts during the campaign to save “The 24”: sports racing correspondents twittered on, seemingly oblivious, while farms posted thoroughbred foals struggling to take their first steps. All this sandwiched between news of the drive to pull “The 24” out of a certain, terrifying death.

The late John Berger observed that there is a kind of “quiet insanity” in our culture – the kind that allows us to watch 24 thoroughbreds on their way to slaughter, juxtaposed with a video of the running of the San Felipe, and not bat an eyelash. Perhaps that’s because this type of juxtaposition has become so much a part of our daily lives that we’ve adapted by snuffing out our obligation to question, numbing ourselves to a seemingly endless barrage of horrendous events.

Consigned to slaughter “…because her hooves needed trimming.” From the blog of the CANADIAN HORSE DEFENSE COALITION.

Make no mistake: events like the perilous journey from stall to kill lot of “The 24” are horrendous. For one thing, there is no connection between euthanasia and slaughter. Like thousands before them, the imminent death of “The 24” would be merciless. But even this appears to have no impact on those owners, trainers and race venues like Delta Downs which routinely engage in the practice of shipping thoroughbreds to slaughter.

A mare and her foal at a slaughter house. Shortly after this photograph was taken, they were “disposed of.”

 

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Laws make it easy to dump a horse, or a pony, or a burro into a kill lot.

In most countries around the world, not only do equines fall outside the laws that govern the slaughter of animals raised for human consumption, but they are also viewed as “property” under the law. Like a sofa, or a pair of shoes, animals are essentially characterized as objects, i.e. void of feeling, consciousness or any of the other qualities that distinguish the living from the inanimate.

And, as objects, their owners can do what they like to them with impunity.

American horses held in export pens before being sent to slaughter.

Under the conventions of the EU all animals are regarded as sentient beings rather than property: “Animals are not things. They are sentient beings and have biological needs.” There are inspectors to supervise and fines levied for the mistreatment of any animal. In Great Britain, there is a law essentially saying the same thing and plans are now underway to monitor slaughter plants with CCTV. In Canada, the province of Quebec has declared animals to be sentient beings even though three of of five Canadian horse slaughter plants are in that province. What it means for horses slaughtered in Quebec is that how this is being done is now open to supervision (together with the six months boarding demanded by the EU). But the fact that, in Quebec, being sentient does little to protect horses from slaughter points out that even this progressive step can’t singlehandedly stop the practice itself.

Horse meat coming from Mexico was banned by the EU in 2015. It also appears that the majority of Mexicans have little interest in eating horses. So why is Mexico quickly becoming the preferred destination for American horses going to slaughter?

In its 2015 ban, the EU pointed out that one deep concern was that The U.S. Department of Agriculture “does not take responsibility for the reliability of affidavits issued for horses originating in the U.S., and the FVO audit team found very many affidavits which were invalid or of questionable validity, but were nonetheless accepted.” Mexico has adapted to losing EU business — with the exception of Belgium which is, ironically, the capital of the EU — by attracting markets in Russia, Japan, Hong Kong, Egypt, Kazakhstan and Vietnam, among others. The meat is exported from Mexico as “top grade” and consumed by people in these countries looking for a “delicacy” dish.

It should be noted as well that Alberta and Manitoba, in Canada, are busily exporting large numbers of draft horses that are shipped live to Japan, where they are slaughtered. There can be little question that the Japanese have more confidence in the “high grade” of Canadian horses than that of those coming from Mexico.

(NOTE: No slaughter images in video below.) Produced by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC):

 

 

 

Since there is absolutely no evidence to support the practice of placing horses who are likely filled with drugs harmful to humans in quarantine in Mexico, it cannot be assumed that Mexican horse meat is safe for human consumption. It would be an important initiative to inform countries importing horse meat from Mexico about what they are encouraging their citizens to consume. Such communication might very well result in an EU-type ban by countries importing Mexican horse meat.

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This is the point where I’d normally be writing a conclusion, except there is no end in sight on this one.

Instead, I will conclude by thanking the many rescues, sanctuaries, havens and individuals, including donors and supporters, who have given so much of themselves in this struggle to save horses, ponies and wild burros from slaughter, captivity and abuse. And to Mr. Rick Porter and Mr. Steve Haskin, both of whom have had the courage to speak out against the kind of practice seen here at Delta Downs and elsewhere, thank you for your courage and for speaking out for thoroughbreds who have no hope of a safe future.

As Maya Angelou has said, “YOU are enough.” 

“Enough” to bring change and to make a difference, through your voices, your commitment and perseverance, and your love.

“Untitled,” by Abigail Anderson. Property of the artist.

POST SCRIPT

Of “The 24” who arrived at Hal Parker’s farm, we now only have 23.

Charlee’s Maid, an 8 year-old grandaughter of Pulpit, stepped off the van and collapsed. When Dr. Odom, who checks all the thoroughbreds Dina rescues, arrived early on the morning of the next day, it became clear that she could not be saved. Surrounded by Hal and his family — who had stayed with her all night long — Charlee’s Maid was humanely euthanized.

CHARLEE’S MAID, pictured at Hal Parker’s farm. THe grandaughter of Pulpit, who carried names like SEATTLE SLEW, CADILLACING, MR. PROSPECTOR and DANZIG in her pedigree, was humanely euthanized as a result of injuries sustained and never attended to in time.

As well, a filly who is also part of “The 24” arrived with a wound so severe that the bone was showing through. She is now in a veterinary hospital and we hope that she will make it.

Severely injured filly was sent off to slaughter with a terrible wound in her hind leg. Had she made it to Mexico, she would have been euthanized.

 

The filly’s hind leg. The white is bone.

BONUS FEATURES

Background on Japanese slaughter houses, giving addresses and URL of these facilities. (NOTE: No images of actual slaughter). Produced by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC):

 

 

 

 

Anna Sewell wrote about cruelty in a book that has become a Classic:

 

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