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” To be great is to go on,

To go on is to be far,

To be far is to return.” (Tao Te Ching)

 

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary: abandoned movie set. Photo and copyright, THE VAULT.

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary: abandoned movie set and a herd of American mustangs. Photo and copyright, THE VAULT.

 

My earliest memories were punctuated by the belief that the essence of the horse — any horse — was their ability to sense the human heart.

The first horse I ever loved was the television star, Fury. In the series, Fury was a coal-black, wild mustang whose freedom was never up for grabs (except by the bad guys who wanted to capture him) and he had chosen to love an orphaned boy named Joey, who was adopted by rancher Jim Newton in the first episode. The stallion’s choice to love the boy set them on a hero’s journey, repeating the structure of the most ancient hero myths and sacred texts, in which the hero is always an orphan whose parents are either dead or irrevocably estranged. This necessitates the hero facing the challenges that he must resolve alone. It is through his/her solitary journey that the hero enters into a state of “oneness” with the world.

During my fierce love affair with Fury, the adults in my life looked on benignly, since to them Fury was undoubtedly a romantic version of what they understood a horse to be in the real world. But I think my grandparents understood why I loved the wild spirit in Fury, and perhaps especially my grandfather, who had loved an unruly black mare who allowed him to train her because she chose to love him right back. The Fury narrative was indeed a romantic one and that likely gave it some of its massive appeal to the young in the first decade of television. But it was the fact that a wild horse had chosen to form an abiding relationship with a child that drew me irresistibly to Fury. My grandmother’s favourite expression hinged on the word “imagine,” that featured in expressions like “Just imagine…” or “Imagine that…” And I duly spent my girlhood imagining that, one day, a mustang would find me and love me the way Fury loved his Joey.

In the real world, my relationships with horses and ponies were largely based on being in control. The mantra was: to be safe, you need to be in charge. Through it all, I couldn’t quite shake the belief that somewhere in the world there were horses as I imagined them to be, even if I couldn’t seem to find them.

Along came MAYA...

Then I saw you and your eyes spoke to me. Identified as # 9579, photographed at the BLM in Canon City, for placement in their online auction.

I don’t remember how I stumbled across her photo online at the BLM in Canon City, Colorado, but when I looked into her eyes I felt something so honest, so true, that I couldn’t look away. She was # 9579, a “plain” brown and copper American mustang: not a showy grulla or paint, the kind that get adopted in a heartbeat. But she was my horse, even though I discovered that Canadians weren’t permitted to bid in BLM online auctions.

Even if I owned a generous pasture to turn her loose, which I didn’t, this was not her destiny: wild horses need to be free. Or, as Susan Watt of Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary (BHWHS) in South Dakota — who came to the aid of #9579 — puts it, ” Wild horses need three things: freedom, friendship and food.” In a series of phone calls, Susan and I planned our strategy and I wired her the funds to buy the mare, having assured her that I would sponsor #9579 for life if we got her. Commitment turned the key: Susan gets literally hundreds of calls a week from do-gooders who might be willing to pay for a wild horse, but have no intention of doing much more than that.

Enter Jim of Portland, Oregon, an online friend who, hearing that not only had we gotten #9579 but also her BFF, another bay mare of the same age, pledged to sponsor the second mare forever.

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#9579’s BFF in her pen at the BLM.

 

She could see the hills that were forbidden....

MAYA LITTLEBEAR (#9579) could see the hills from behind the bars of her pen, but couldn’t return to them. Shown here slightly before she and her BFF shipped to the BHWHS.

 

Both mares had been captured by the BLM as yearlings in separate herd culls and had lived behind fences since 2011, a span of four years that must have been interminable to them. Deprived of their herd and their freedom, they were essentially in solitary confinement. But with their rescue, their story was changing: three people from two countries (who had never met in real time) had banded together to set them free. And although they arrived at the Sanctuary with their numbers hanging around their necks, the two mares now had names that we had given them — #9579 was christened Maya Littlebear, and her best friend was named Felicitas Witness, aka Tassy.

(A more detailed account of the rescue of Maya and Tassy and their connection to Secretariat’s grandson, Bear Witness, is found in an earlier VAULT article here: https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2016/03/11/eagle-feathers-for-bear-witness/)

Despite her long and busy days, Susan sent us photos of MAYA and TASSY throughout their transition. Here they are on March 19, just a week after their arrival at BHWHS.

Despite her long and busy days, Susan sent Jim and I photos of MAYA and TASSY throughout their transition from captivity to freedom. Here they are on March 19, 2016, just a week after their arrival at BHWHS. They started out in a small paddock, where they clearly were protecting each other from unknown dangers. Photo and copyright: Susan Watt/BHWHS.

 

April 2016: Some of the wild horses in Maya and Tassy's herd.

April 2016: At the BHWHS, new arrivals who have no herd of their own are invited to choose the herd they want to join. These are some of the members of Maya and Tassy’s chosen herd. Photo and copyright: Susan Watt/BHWHS.

 

April 7, 2016: First day of freedom.

April 7, 2016: First day of freedom. Jim and I wept for joy. Photo and copyright: Susan Watt/BHWHS.

 

From paddock to freedom: MAYA and TASSY in May 2016. They still stayed close to one another, although part of a band of mares and younger geldings. Photo and copyright: Susan Watt/BHWHS

MAYA and TASSY in May 2016. They still stayed close to one another, not yet confident enough to mingle with their new herd. Photo and copyright: Susan Watt/BHWHS.

 

So it was that my friend Joan and I turned off the highway in South Dakota onto the gravel road that led to the BHWHS to see Maya and Tassy in their forever home. It would be a first meeting with “my girls” and with Susan Watt, who was going to take us out to find them. It was an immense and unexpected privilege to have Susan herself take us on a tour of part of the 11,000 acres of the Sanctuary. As the Executive Director of the BHWHS, Susan works 24-7 for the horses, doing everything from answering the phone, to taking hay out to the herds in the middle of winter, to the endless task of fundraising for the Sanctuary, which is a charity/non-profit organization.

Susan Watt releasing wild horses to freedom at the BHWHS. Photo and copyright: BHWHS

Susan Watt releasing wild horses to freedom at the BHWHS. There is no such thing as regular office hours: Susan works tirelessly for the Sanctuary and the horses, as do her small band of volunteers. Photo and copyright: BHWHS.

Both Joan and I understood that wild horses are just that. Even with “The Guide of Guides” in Susan, you still need to find the herds in the rolling hills and valleys of the Sanctuary. If they want to be found. Freedom is like that: it has agency and mustangs, like any wild creature, exercise it.

 

Standing on a bluff overlooking part of the Sanctuary. In the valley below is the Visitor Centre, the homes of volunteers and founder Dayton Hyde, as well as numbers of wild horses. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

A bluff overlooking part of the Sanctuary. In the valley below is the Visitor Centre, the homes of volunteers and the BHWHS founder, Dayton Hyde, as well as numbers of wild horses. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

Another shot from the bluff overlooking the valley of the Sanctuary. The mountains in the background are also part of the Sanctuary and wild horse herds run free there. Photo and copyright:THE VAULT.

Another shot from the bluff overlooking the valley of the Sanctuary. The mountains in the background are also part of the BHWHS and wild herds run free there, far from visitors and tour vehicles. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

Before Susan joined us, we were set loose around the Visitor’s Centre, where there were several corrals of wild horses, beginning with the Choctaws.

 

Visitor information about the Choctaw herd. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT

Visitor information about the Choctaw herd. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

Choctaw fillies. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

Choctaw fillies. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

Choctaw fillies: I just feel in love with the white & beige filly here, in the middle. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT

Choctaw fillies: I just fell in love with the white & beige filly here, in the middle. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

The Choctaws carry the blood of the Spanish horses first introduced to North America in 1540 by Hernando de Soto. They were the first horses the First Nations of America had ever seen, and were to become an integral part of the culture and life of the Seminole, Chickasaw, Creek, Cherokee and Choctaw nations. But their breed’s survival came close to ending in tragedy.

From the BHWHS website:

“Gentle by nature the Spanish ponies quickly became important family members to the eastern Native Americans, who practiced plantation-based agriculture and advanced systems of government. Great companion animals, the ponies were known as ‘Squaw Ponies’ … provid [ing] transportation for the squaws to bring the wild game from the men’s hunting expeditions back to the village. The high quality of the livestock developed by the Choctaw nation, especially the horses, allowed for the development of western trade routes all the way into the Texas and Oklahoma areas.

“The colorful ponies also played a part in the tragic American history known as ‘The Trail of Tears.’ The beloved little horses were forced to carry their Native American families into forced exile from their southeastern homes to the Oklahoma Territory following the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Later these ponies were ordered to be destroyed by the US Government. The motivation was simple: remove the Indian from his horse and they’d be easier to force onto the reservations. The military knew that Native warriors on their small horses comprised the finest light cavalry in the world. But this equicide wasn’t simply designed to clip the warrior’s wings: military men like Custer knew that the horse was as much a spiritual part of Native culture as the land itself. Taking away the horses was an attempt to break the people’s spirit. All across the West, Native American horses were rounded up and slaughtered –as Custer had orchestrated on the Washita River-or else their herd stallions exterminated and replaced by studs from larger breeds. The military men were blind to the fact that the ‘squaw ponies’  used by the Native American people carried some of the bloodlines of Spain’s most regal bloodlines.”

Due to the efforts of a few First Nations people, small numbers of Choctaw were hidden away during the slaughter and a trickle of the breed managed to flow into the twentieth century. The Choctaws are one of two special projects ongoing at the BHWHS in collaboration with the Institute of Range and American Mustangs (IRAM), aimed at the conservation of this very rare bloodline in order to save it from extinction. In an act of faith in the BHWHS’ mission to provide sanctuary to America’s wild horses, “…3 Choctaw Mares and their 2012 foals were donated to the BHWHS by the Sheaffer Family of Windrider Farm Choctaw Horse Conservation Program in Pennsylvania. These exquisite mares and foals were greeted in South Dakota by their new herd sire. Lakna (Sky Horse), who was donated by Neda De Mayo’s Return to Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc, California. His sire is the renowned Choctaw stud, Beechkeld Icktinicky, owned by Dr. D. Phillip Sponenberg.” (BHWHS website). The Choctaw fillies pictured here descend from these individuals. (Further information about the BHWHS Choctaw Program can be found at: http://www.wildmustangs.com/sponsor-a-choctaw)

We had brought a bag of carrots with us, in the hope that we would get close enough to a wild horse to offer him/her a treat. At first, the Choctaw fillies eyed us from a distance, giving me time to take in their different coat colours, reminiscent of the hues of the stone of South Dakota: copper, cream-white, battleship grey, black and sandstone. Then, in unison, they came to us. Eyes as soft as velvet looked us over. Carrots were offered and received. Noses were stroked and faces rubbed.

Lunchtime for the Choctaws. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT

Lunchtime for the Choctaws. Just look at that textured mane and forelock! Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

A little further along was Lakna (“Sky Horse”), the Choctaw stallion, taking a “time out” from his herd. This is one effective birth control method used by the BHWHS to assure that the total number of wild horses don’t exceed and exhaust the available grazing land. In spite of the vastness of the Sanctuary, five hundred plus mustangs can wreak devastation if left to their own devices.

Having been around stallions, I was prepared to carefully offer Lakna a carrot or two. Spying me from the far side of his corral, over he strolled.

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Beautiful LAKNA, thinking about that carrot and letting me know it looks pretty darn yummy. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

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Can you tell how gently he’s taking the carrot from me? And make no mistake: LAKNA is 100% wild, even though he is accustomed to tourists.

The photos tell the story.

As I talked to Lakna and fed him carrots, a volunteer came over to chat with us. We talked about the Choctaw breed and about Lakna’s character, in response to my confessing that I had never met such a gentle stallion. The volunteer laughed, “Yeah, he’s pretty good. But he’ll still give you a nip.”

There was a sharp nudge on the back of my leg. “Lakna wants another carrot,” I countered. “Nah,” responded the volunteer. “He’s just asking to be part of the talk. We should turn around so he’s included.” And, of course, we did.

The "Youngster Band" -- mares with foals, yearlings and some older mares -- heading our way. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT

The “Youngster Band” — mares with foals, yearlings, geldings and some older mares — heading our way. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

I call these three "The White Tribe." Photo and copyright: THE VAULT

I call these three “The White Tribe,” part of the Youngster Band. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

This close. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT

“The White Tribe” gets close and personal. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

Off to meet up with Susan, we drove into another part of the valley where a herd of wild horses ran unfettered. These were the “Youngster Band” — mares with foals, together with young mustangs who were turned out with older mares and geldings to learn “herd manners” before they joined one of the many herds roaming the Sanctuary. As we stepped out of our vehicle, some of the horses lifted their heads. We stood quietly as they advanced, wondering how close they would actually come. But they kept coming, until they were as close to us as the last photo you see here (above).

Horses talk to you in their own language if you are able to hear them. And to do that, you need to be on the same wavelength. The mustangs were standing so close to us that their hooves were inches from the tips of our toes. In fact, they had closed the  social distance that communicates intimacy among lovers, family and friends in our culture. (Called the study of “proxemics,” the distance for different degrees of human intimacy ranges from less than 6 in. to 4 ft., approximately. The closer you are to another person indicates the level of intimacy you share, so that one might expect lovers to stand closer together than friends. This is well-documented in human behaviour and explains why strangers on a crowded bus don’t like to be touched, and why babies are delighted when you hold them face-to-face. The acceptable distances for different kinds of human interaction differs from culture to culture.)

Mustang herds practice remarkably human principles of acceptable closeness. In closing the space between us, the mustangs were accepting Joan and I into their family (herd) and offering us their friendship in a language they appeared to have learned humans would understand.

Joan in the herd. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT

Joan returns a greeting of friendship to one of the “Youngster Band.” Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

If you have ever wondered why war veterans weep when working with therapy horses, it is the breaking down of boundaries of isolation by the horse that does it. As these mustangs extended overtures of friendship and trust to us, Joan and I experienced comparable emotions that will likely resonate forever.

 

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This yearling took her time, ending up just a few feet away from us. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

Part of the herd. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT

In the family and friendship zone, ears forward. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

A cynical part of me whispered, “They’re just used to tourists. That’s why they’re coming over.”

Except that it kept happening…..

The next meet and greet was with the magnificent Don Juan, a Spanish mustang stallion. The Spanish/Sorraia Herd is another group of wild horses found at the Sanctuary, and Don Juan is the band stallion. As with the Choctaws, the BHWHS is working in unison with the Institute of Range and American Mustangs (IRAM) to preserve the ancient Spanish and Portugese bloodlines of the breed.

From the BHWHS website: “… Nearly fifty of our over five hundred mustangs at the sanctuary, in our special Spanish herds, represent primitive remnants from rare bloodlines of the Golden Age of Spain and the Old World Iberian Peninsula …The purpose of this project is to preserve, promote, and educate the public about rare Spanish and Portuguese equine bloodlines still found in today’s American mustangs.” (Further information about this preservation initiative can be found here: http://www.wildmustangs.com/sponsor-spanish)

In the photo and short video that follow, you are invited to study the sharp contrast between Don Juan out on the range, and Don Juan choosing to interact with a total stranger.  This by way of demonstrating that the wild horses we had met at this point in our tour of the Sanctuary were choosing to offer their friendship in conscious, deliberate ways.

The aptly named DON JUAN was an absolute knock-out. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT

The aptly named DON JUAN is an absolute knock-out. One macho boy, as his crest suggests, he spent much time smelling me and making eye contact. (At this point, there were no more carrots, so his interaction with me was wholly based on his own right to choose.) Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

 

There were repeated hugs and warm smiles when we met up with Susan, and shortly thereafter we set out to locate Maya and Tassy. Rounding a corner, we came upon the girls’ herd grazing in clusters around and under some Ponderosa pines. Given the uncharacteristically dry, hot weather, Sanctuary volunteers had started to feed hay to the herds at the beginning of August and they’d made a trip to Maya and Tassy’s herd just prior to our arrival. The air was redolent with the scent of horses, hay and pine. Even before Susan brought the jeep to a stop, the horses were close enough that we could have reached out and touched them. Only a few lifted their heads: everyone else was focused on lunch.

We located Tassy first. Picking up her head, it only took a moment for my girl to sense that we were focused on her for some unknown reason. But she stood her ground courageously without the slightest show of fear.

Tassy’s eyes expressed a sweet nature, and we noted that she was also beginning to sprout a winter coat. Getting close to her landed us right in the middle of part of the herd. The horses moved around us quietly, taking the greatest care not to bump into us or step on us or frighten us. The only soundtrack was the susurration of horses’  breath in a lazy, mellow quiet. 

 

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TASSY and her new BFF. She clearly understood that we were there to meet her. Everything in her body language said so. Having the opportunity to stand this close to her was an absolute — and totally unexpected — gift. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

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TASSY’S soft, kind eye. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

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TASSY looking straight into the camera. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

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TASSY shows her curiosity at our interest in her. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

We continued to move through the herd, looking for Maya. I was surprised that the girls weren’t side-by-side, but Susan explained that they had each chosen new BFF’s, while adding that this showed their confidence and comfort in their new lives. She explained that the Sanctuary had accepted mustangs that people had adopted but then found they couldn’t handle, and that these horses often took much longer to return to their freedom. Some couldn’t manage it at all.

Finally we came upon Maya, who was busy eating. Although she refused to pick up her head, she nevertheless permitted us to get very close to her. Grazing next to her new best friend, a white American mustang mare, I could see into Maya’s deep, dark eyes. The look of desperation when I had first seen her was gone. She was happy within herself.

Unlike Tassy, the feeling from Maya towards our presence was reserved, as though she was saying, “That’s close enough.” When I mentioned this to Susan, she smiled and squeezed my arm, ” But she has come a very long way since she got here. Some of them never get over losing their original herd families or what happened to them when they were caught. But Maya is coming along nicely.”

 

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MAYA and her best friend attend to the hay, freshly delivered earlier. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

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MAYA and her BFF clearly share a close bond. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

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MAYA’S beautiful long mane is pretty much gone, a normal occurrence when a wild horse is returned to freedom. (It gets snagged in bushes, mostly.) But MAYA still has her beautiful, coppery fringe and I was glad to see that. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

As we got back into the jeep to continue on our way, I felt no regret that neither Maya nor Tassy had come close enough to invite a human touch. It was enough to stand near them and to know that they were safe, happy and in the process of returning to themselves.

And even now, as I write this, I remain deeply moved by the gift of being accepted into my girls’ herd as though we were one of them.

 

Being welcomed into MAYA and TASSY'S herd looked like this but felt like being set down in a state of grace. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

Being welcomed into MAYA and TASSY’S herd looked like this, but felt like being in a state of grace. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

This huge stone structure was just magnificent, streaked with copper and covered by petroglphs.

The Petroglyph Stone seemed to arise out of nowhere, instantly grabbing our attention. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

The Sanctuary area is punctuated by popular tourist attractions other than the horses themselves, together with the sacred ritual grounds of First Nations tribes. In the course of looking for other herds, we stopped at several of these sites.

The coppery red Petroglyph Rock came upon us suddenly, as rock formations tend to do in South Dakota. We spent time there marvelling at its prehistoric face: truly a “Rock of Ages,” evoking that which is eternal, that which endures.

This single slab of stone at the BHWHS is not only beautifully variegated, but bears petroglyphs left by our ancestors. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT

This single slab of stone at the BHWHS is not only beautifully variegated, but bears petroglyphs left by our ancestors. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

Petroglyphs dot the massive stone slab. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT

Petroglyphs dot the face of the stone. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

The wood fencing in the foreground was built by pioneers as part of a corral. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT

The wood fencing in the foreground was built by pioneers as part of a corral. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

Leaving Petroglyph Rock, we arrived at the site of the 2016 Sundance ceremony.

 

Chief Joe American Horse and Loretta Afraid of Bear honor ally Dayton Hyde with a naming ceremony. Wearing a blue dress in the background is Beatrice Long Visitor Afraid of Bear. Photo by Marisol Villanueva, courtesy of the Grandmothers Wisdom project.

Chief Joe American Horse and Loretta Afraid of Bear bless Dayton Hyde, founder of the BHWHS,  with a naming ceremony that honoured him as The Protector of Sacred Land a few short years ago. This event perfectly captures the close ties between First Nations and the BHWHS. Photo and copyright: Marisol Villanueva.

 

Annual celebration site, complete with sweat lodge adorned with skulls. Photo and copyright:THEVAULT.

At the BHWHS: Annual Sundance ceremonial site, complete with a sweat lodge adorned with skulls. Photo and copyright:THE VAULT.

 

Remnants of 2016's Tree of Life from the Sundance held at the BHWHS. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT

Remnants of 2016’s Tree of Life from the Sundance ceremony held at the BHWHS. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

When Susan located the Spanish/Sorraia/Sulphur herd, they were far up on a hill. Susan leaned on the horn, a signal the horses clearly recognized, as she turned off the road and into the field towards them.

Hearing the sound of our horn, the Spanish mustangs head towards us. Photo and copyright:THE VAULT

Hearing the sound of our horn, the Spanish/Sorraia mustangs come to say hello. Note the number of grulla coats, native to the breed. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

A few members of the herd and their distinctive coats. The Spanish mustang is slimmer than the American mustang, with a confirmation it has inherited from its Spanish and Portugese ancestors. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT

More members of the herd. The Spanish mustang is not as stocky as the American, a confirmation it has inherited from its Spanish and Portugese (Sorraia) ancestors. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

A crown of burrs adorns the forelock of one of the Spanish herd. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT

A crown of burrs adorns the forelock of one of the Spanish/Sorraia herd. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

It was their love for Susan that brought the mustangs down to us and they greeted her as a member of the herd, forming an arc around the jeep. Faces thrust through the windows, notably that of the irresistible Josephina. Susan knows the stories of most of the horses in the different herds, and Josephina’s was no exception: the stunning bay is often found slightly removed from the herd. She has taken it upon herself to care for her dam, Martita, as well as the other Spanish/Sorraia mare pictured below. As you can see, the bond between Susan and horses like Josephina runs deep.

 

Susan with Josephina and one of the elderly mares that she protects. The other is her dam, Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

Susan with Josephina and another member of the Spanish/Sorraia herd. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

Another shot of Susan and the beautiful Josephina. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT

Another shot of Susan and the beautiful Josephina. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

Here is footage of Josephina. Her dam, Martita, can be seen in most of it, together with some shots of the Spanish/Sorraia Mustang herd to which they belong.

 

 

As dusk began to hover over the Black Hills we made our return, but not before stopping to visit another herd of American mustangs as well as the Curly Mustangs. The American herd yielded up a sweet surprise.

This American mustang herd boasted some exceptional coat patterns. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT

This particular American mustang herd boasted some exceptional coat patterns. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

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Sweet surprise: a new foal had been born in the American herd that Susan hadn’t spotted before. Out came our cameras. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

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A member of the Curly Mustang herd at the BHWHS. It is said that Curly horses appear in Asian artwork as early as 161 AD. Charles Darwin documented curly horses in South America in the early 19th century and the early Sioux Indians regarded curly horses as sacred mounts for chiefs and medicine men. Native American artwork shows Curlies carrying warriors in the Battle of Little Bighorn. Photo and copyright: THE VAULT.

 

Curly mustang winter coat.

Curly mustang winter coat.

 

In the comfortable quiet of old friends, we wound our way back to the Visitor Centre, passed the heavy limbs of pine and multi-coloured stone, a gathering of mule deer camouflaged in the tall grasses and the silhouettes of wild horses, like sentinels, on the ridges overlooking the road. Maya and Tassy were now real, breathing presences to me. My hands and clothing were redolent with the warm scent of wild horses. And my soul was dancing with the spirit of the Sanctuary.

It is unnatural to bring a narrative to a close when its conclusion is, in fact, a beginning.

So I will let you imagine for yourself what is left unsaid, and give the last word to the wild horses of Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary:

 

 

CREDIT:

Imagine A Place photo images by Karla R. LaRive
“Winde Ya Ho” (Wind Spirit Drum / D.R.U.M. 2012)
Vocals by Windwalker

Shot on-location at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, Hot Springs South Dakota USA.

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A SPECIAL MESSAGE FROM ABIGAIL:

As readers of THE VAULT know, this is a non-profit project of mine. Any advertising you see here benefits WORDPRESS. If you would like to show your appreciation for my work over the last 5 years, since THE VAULT first appeared, please consider a donation to the horses of The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary and to the work of the remarkable Susan Watt and her volunteers, who are preserving a part of American history for you and your children. Or, explore the shop to find a unique gift for someone in your life who loves the spirit of horses. If you’re a teacher, consider having your class sponsor a mustang. If you choose to donate, please know that no donation is too small. And please remember to mention THE VAULT when you make your donation. Thank you.

http://www.wildmustangs.com

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It is the oldest classic race in England and, arguably, the most prestigious.

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The English St Leger Stakes is the classic that marks the end of the British flat racing season and its prestige is such that a “St. Leger copy” has been woven into racing calendars in Ireland, Jamaica, Australia and the United States. This classic takes place in Doncaster, Yorkshire, a large town that was initially settled on the site of a Roman fort, Danum, in the first century B.C., maturing into a busy town by the 13th century. Near enough to larger cities to make travel there feasible by horse, Doncaster was (and remains) a market, or “mercat” town, with a thriving commerce designated, like all such towns in England, by its market cross. From about the 15th century, Doncaster was known as a prosperous area, populated by the wealthy who lived in estates like Cantley Hall and Brodsworth Hall.

The market cross, designating Doncaster as a market town where goods of all kinds and livestock were sold for centuries, stands to this day on the site of the original market.

The market cross, designating Doncaster as a market town where goods of all kinds and livestock were sold for centuries, stands to this day on the site of the original market.

 

Doncaster market in 1906.

Doncaster market in 1906.

 

Doncaster market today.

Doncaster market today.

Doncaster is one of the oldest centres for horse racing in Britain, with records of regular race meetings going back to the 16th century. In 1600 there was an attempt to put an end to the races because of the number of ruffians they attracted, but by 1614 failure to do so was acknowledged and a proper racecourse was duly marked out. The Doncaster Cup, the city’s oldest classic race, was first run on Cantley Common in 1766; by 1776, the Doncaster racecourse as we know it today was set up in its permanent home, the Town Moor.

Doncaster racecourse as it looked in the 18th century.

Doncaster racecourse as it looked in the 18th century.

 

Doncaster racecourse circa 1900...

Doncaster racecourse circa 1900…

 

...and today.

…and today.

The original St. Leger kicked off in 1776 and, with only one exception, has run annually in September ever since.

This year, the field for the 2016 St. Leger is dominated by Coolmore-Ballydoyle’s colt, Idaho, although it won’t be any cake-walk for the promising son of Galileo. Open to 3 year-old fillies and colts (and barred to geldings) the St. Leger remains a gruelling test of stamina in a sport that more and more bows to the “speed gene.” It is the third and last leg of the British Triple Crown, the first two being the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby. Unlike the practice in North America, the British Triple Crown races are spaced further apart, taking place over a period of roughly 3 months. Interestingly, to sweep the British Triple for fillies, contenders must also win the St. Leger.

But there is at least one powerful reason that the incomparable Nijinsky stands as the UK’s last Triple Crown winner: the crucible of the St. Leger. Run originally at 2 miles, it is slightly shorter today at 1 mile, 6f, 132 yds, making it about 2f longer than the Belmont Stakes. It is a race for “stayers” not speedballs and, as you might well expect, has long been an indicator of prime bloodstock in the form of great sires and mares whose influence on the breed would be a lasting one.

Some rare footage of Nijinsky’s St. Leger win, showing owner Charles Englehardt and the colt’s trainer, the legendary Vincent O’Brien. O’Brien would later say that illness prior to the race, coupled with the toll on Nijinsky of the St. Leger, would cost the champion a win in the Arc a month later. (Apologies for the buzz on the tape.)

 

The brilliance of Northern Dancer’s most celebrated son, “…cruising up on the outside as smooth as silk…” provided by BCS TV and Steve Mellish, together with a look at why it took another 42 years for a thoroughbred to come along who would try to clinch the Triple again. That colt was Camelot:

But Camelot would go down to defeat, leaving Nijinsky’s 1970 triumph to stand as the outstanding achievement it quite rightly was then, and now. The rarity of any colt or filly today who is up to the Triple Crown challenge is not only a matter of breeding for speed. Many British trainers prefer to bypass the St. Leger, in favour of running in the “sexier,” because more glamorous, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe or the Breeders’ Cup Turf Classic.

Although the first St. Leger was run as a nameless race — won by a nameless filly who was later christened Allabaculia, owned by the 2nd Marquis of Rockingham  — it would become the crowning achievement for many great blood horses whose names we still recognize today and whose bloodlines shaped the modern thoroughbred: Touchstone, The Flying Dutchman, Voltigeur, Newminster, Stockwell, West Australian (first winner of the British Triple Crown), Ormonde, Rock Sand (10th Triple Crown winner and BM sire of Man O’ War)), La Flèche, Isinglass, Persimmon, Swinford, Tracery, Hyperion, Bahram, Tulyar and the smashing fillies Sceptre, Pretty Polly and Oh So Sharp, trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil for Sheikh Mohammed and ridden by legendary Steve Cauthen. With her win in the St. Leger, Oh So Sharp swept the British Triple Crown for fillies, having already annexed the 1000 Guineas and the Epsom Oaks.

 

The mighty OH SO SHARP was a daughter of KRIS. As Steve Cauthen would say on retirement, she was the best filly he ever rode.

The mighty OH SO SHARP was a daughter of KRIS. As Steve Cauthen would say on retirement, she was the best filly he ever rode. Pictured with Cauthen aboard going down to the start of the St. Leger, which she won.

 

In 1778 the St. Leger was given its name and a change of venue. According to British historian Michael Church, “…At a dinner party held at the Red Lion Inn, Doncaster that year, the Marquis of Rockingham proposed the race be called the St Leger’s Stakes as a compliment to the popular local sportsman Lt-Gen. Anthony St Leger of Park Hill. The venue was then changed to Town Moor, Doncaster and the race run on Tuesday, 22 September 1778.”

The term St. Leger Stakes was originally understood to refer to a multiple of races, including the prestigious Doncaster Gold Cup that brought champions like Kincsem to England. Preceding the St. Leger by a decade, it was still to see the (Doncaster) Gold Cup that brought racegoers out when St. Leger Stakes day came into being.  Run over a distance of 2 miles, 2f, the (Doncaster) Gold Cup is another massive test of endurance. In 2014 when HM The Queen’s mare, Estimate, won it as a 5 year-old, there could be little doubt of her stamina. In this, we hearken back to a time when stamina was the true test of a great thoroughbred and both colts and fillies were really pushed to show it, and to show it consistently. Keep in mind that up until the late 19th century, most flat races in the British Isles were run in heats and a thoroughbred with no serious staying power wouldn’t have managed well at all. Those that did were retired to the breeding shed, thus assuring results that we see today in individuals like Galileo, Frankel, Goldikova, St. Nicholas Abbey, Ouija Board, Midday and their exceptional peers.

Since 1778, the first year it was run under this name, the St. Leger has frequently taken place in different locales. From 1915 to 1918, it was held at Newmarket, where it was known as the September Stakes. The St. Leger was cancelled only once in 230 years, in 1939, with the outbreak of World War II, and this cost the brilliant Blue Peter his chance to snare the Triple Crown. It resumed the following year, but changed courses annually throughout the war years. In 1940, the race was held at Thirsk, moving to Manchester in 1941. It was then held at Newmarket for three years (1942 to 1944) before moving to York in 1945. Most recently, in 2006, the race was again held at York, since the Doncaster racecourse was undergoing renovations.

But regardless of where it was held, papers like The Tatler, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, Bailey’s News and The Illustrated London News considered the winners of the St. Leger and the (Doncaster) Gold Cup a lead story. In the pre-photography days, this meant deploying at least one “on the scene” artist who could render the atmosphere at Doncaster, as well as the winners. And notable artists like John Frederick Herring Jr., as well as prominent photographers like W.A. Roach lined up to record images of the day’s winners.

PRETTY POLLY shown winning the St. Leger.

PRETTY POLLY shown winning the St. Leger.

PETRARCH, another St. Leger winner.

PETRARCH, another St. Leger winner.

The dramatic clash between LADAS and the filly makes the cover of The London Illustrated News.

The dramatic clash between LADAS and the filly THROSTLE in the 1894 St. Leger makes the cover of The London Illustrated News.The filly, a daughter of PETRARCH (shown above) won.

 

Just imagine what it must have been like on the day: ladies in their finery, horses and carriages lined up row-on-row, gentlemen gathering in the walking ring and huddling in the stands, baskets laden with food and drink, punters before their chalkboards and boys swooping through the bettors to gather money and give out chits, hundreds of pairs of binoculars raised in one deft stroke at the start, the roaring of thousands gathered on the ground as the field turned for home. St. Leger Stakes Day had to be quite the spectacle.

Today, the dowager races of the British flat season may have lost some of their glitter, but to top trainers and thoroughbred people they remain steeped in an undeniable history and tradition of greatness.

HARZAND digs deep to repel IDAHO (outside) in the Irish Derby.

HARZAND digs deep to repel IDAHO (outside) in the Irish Derby.

Saturday, September 10, Aidan O’Brien’s Idaho (Galileo) will enter the fray to vie for his chance to join the exclusive ranks of St. Leger winners. The colt won The Great Voltigeur (at York) last time out, considered the favoured prep race for the St. Leger and will likely have a rabbit in the form of the very good Housesofparliament (Galileo), whom he just beat out in the Voltigeur. (Below, article with short video of Idaho winning the Great Voltigeur from Housesofparliament.)

http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/45123/idaho-leads-home-aidan-obrien-one-two-in-great-voltigeur-stakes-at-york

The other Ballydoyle entry is Sword Fighter, completing a treble of Galileo’s for trainer Aidan O’Brien. Good as Idaho’s credentials are, it is worth noting that O’Brien’s previous 4 St. Leger winners have come from the deceased Montjeu and Sadler’s Wells. However, Camelot came very close in 2012, and Bondi Beach, another Galileo, was held to second place after an inquiry resulting from the bumping of winner Simple Verse last year. So it would appear that there’s nothing to stop a good Galileo from getting the distance — whether it be Idaho, Sword Fighter or Housesofparliament — especially in what looks like a rather ho-hum field.

Should IDAHO, HOUSESOFPARLIAMENT or SWORD FIGHTER bring home the St. Leger, it will be a first for mega-sire GALILEO

Should either IDAHO, HOUSESOFPARLIAMENT or SWORD FIGHTER bring it home, they will be the first St. Leger winner for their mega-sire GALILEO.

Handicapping a race for stayers can be tough in today’s racing world. Such an individual may well handle the distance by laying off the pace most of the way and an entry whose done poorly over a shorter distance might come up roses in a contest like the St. Leger. So Paul Hanagan’s Muntahaa (Dansili out of a Linamix mare), a big colt who will love the distance if he’s going to get into gear, should be taken seriously. Another aspect in Muntahaa’s favour is that he’s handy on good-to-soft turf: rain is currently in the forecast for Saturday. Flying under the radar at the moment is Richard Hannon’s Ventura Storm (Zoffany out of a Haafhd mare/Northern Dancer through Unfuwain), another who will cope with rain and has a very good record of 5 wins in 10 starts. Harrison is still another colt no-one is paying much attention to, but it must be said that his sire, Sixties Icon, won the St. Leger and his dam is by Invincible Spirit. In addition, Harrison ran 4th to Idaho last time out and although he hasn’t seen the winners’ circle yet this season, the St. Leger might be a much better distance for him.

The others: The Tartan Unit is lightly raced, loves soft ground and comes from the Storm Cat line through Catienus; Ormito, trained by Andrew Balding, has the benefit of a great pedigree in his BM sire Acatenango (the BM sire of Animal Kingdom); and Harbour Law doesn’t look to have the pedigree to be a strong contender.

There will be some serious competition on St. Leger Saturday from the Irish Champions’ series which is also on that day, so much so that Ballydoyle’s Ryan Moore will stay in Ireland with Seamie Heffernan getting the call to pilot Idaho at Doncaster. It’s not the first time that the St. Leger has been pinched for viewers’ attention.

But it’s impossible to imagine that this venerable race, taking place over the ground where Romans marched and where thoroughbred legends like The Tetrarch raced to victory in the 1913 Champagne Stakes, has any serious equal on September 10.

THE TETRARCH.

THE TETRARCH, a racing immortal, danced across the Doncaster turf in 1913. Through his daughters, he lives on and has brought us the likes of MAHMOUD, NEARCO, NASRULLAH, BOLD RULER, NORTHERN DANCER, FRANKEL and AMERICAN PHAROAH.

 

 

Sources

Church, Michael. The Origins of the St. Leger and the one running missed! Published on his blog, Michael Church Racing Books.

The National Racing Museum, Newmarket, UK

Racing Post: Race card for the St. Leger (Sept 10, 2016)

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As any parent, grandparent, teacher or librarian will tell you, helping a child to become a reader for life starts when they are young. But it’s not just about introducing books an adult thinks a child might like. It’s about following the child’s interests, because when a child discovers a book that speaks to them in the most intimate way, there will be no turning back. This article is dedicated to my friend, librarian J.D.

The very first Pointe Claire library, built in the late 19th century.

The very first Pointe Claire library, built in the late 19th century.

Shortly before I retired from education, my team and I travelled around the province of Quebec to offer seminars to practising teachers on a number of topics. Arguably one of our absolute favourite sessions was the one we animated on early literacy. The reason it was our favourite had a good deal to do with what happened as we began laying out our ideas for the session.

After a good deal of talking — always the beginning stage of any production process for us — we fell into a conversation about the books we had loved as children. As each of us shared our memories, we began to see that literacy is deeply embedded in an individual’s “reading landscape,” beginning with their earliest experiences with books. Anything, in fact, that an individual associates with discovering the pleasures of reading is part of an individual’s reading landscape, from best-loved books to bookmarks to places or events where books were borrowed, bought or received as gifts.

We each set out to uncover, and write about, our own reading landscapes. (The idea was to mount our stories on a blog that teachers we were meeting could access prior to the literacy seminar, which we actually did and the teachers just loved this. In fact, it sent many of them off in search of their own reading landscapes.)

Retrieving my own reading landscape was not unlike an archeological dig — there were layers and layers, going back through my life to some of my earliest memories. Which, in turn, led to the little library in Pointe Claire where I discovered C.W. Anderson for the very first time. I knew about Marguerite Henry and had read many of her books, beginning with Misty of Chincoteague. But these books had been gifts to a younger me, the one too small to ride her bicycle to our local library and choose books for herself.

Christmas was filled with horse books....

The librarian at our teeny-tiny Pointe Claire library sat me down in front of a shelf of books by C.W. Anderson.

I will always love Marguerite Henry and I own those books by her that I loved best. (Ditto for the work of Walter Farley, of Black Stallion fame, who also wrote a lovely book about Man O’ War.) But the author who set my heart on fire was C.W. Anderson. “CWA” met me where I lived — right at the corner of Horses + Art.

Cover of the CW ANDERSON portfolio of lithographs of the same name.

Cover of the CW ANDERSON portfolio of the same name.

 

FAIR PLAY, sire of MAN O' WAR by C.W. Anderson

FAIR PLAY, sire of MAN O’ WAR by C.W. Anderson.

 

In his novel, States of Emergency, author Andre Brink writes “…love forces us to go down into our own archeology.”  As I revisited the moment I had first discovered the books of Anderson, I just knew that I had to do what that little girl didn’t really have the skill to do: research everything there was to know about C.W. Anderson and get busy collecting a number of his books and portfolios of prints, using my child-memory as a guide.

An early discovery was that CWA wasn’t only an author-illustrator of books about horses and ponies. In fact, his earliest works were a bawdy set of cartoons, produced on a regular basis for the New Yorker and Ballyhoo magazines in the 1920’s and 30’s. In addition, his art appeared on the covers of the Saturday Evening Post and Youth’s Companion. This period culminated in 1935 in the publication of a distinctly adult book entitled, “And So To Bed.”

 

Anderson's cover for The Saturday Evening Post (October 4, 1924)

Anderson’s cover for The Saturday Evening Post (October 4, 1924)

 

"And So To Bed' preceded Anderson's arrival on the scene as arguably one of the best equine artists of the last century.

“And So To Bed’ preceded Anderson’s arrival on the scene as one of the supreme equine artists of the last century.

 

A graduate of the prestigious Chicago School of Art, CWA lived in Greenwich Village after the close of WW1. For a few years prior to his move to New York City, Anderson taught school in Chicago. But teaching was not his primary ambition. It was from Greenwich Village that he broke into publishing with his cartoons and art, both of which showed an artist with a sharp, spicy sense of humour. Other interests included music: CWA was a very good violinist but not good enough to make it a career.

Probably late in the 1930’s, CWA moved to Mason, New Hampshire, where he lived until his death in 1970. The permanent move to Mason from New York City happened very gradually, precipitated by CWA meeting Madeleine Paltenghi in the late 1920’s during his New York days. Madeleine was a poet and an aspiring author of children’s books, and it was with her that Anderson developed the Billy and Blaze series, she doing at least some of the writing or editing, and he concerning himself with the illustrations. The books themselves make no mention of Madeleine Paltenghi, which is rather curious. But it may also have been deliberate: CWA was an established name in publishing by this time whereas Madeleine was not. The first Billy and Blaze was published in 1936, gaining instant appeal. It was CWA’s first venture into the world of horses.

BILLY AND BLAZE, 1936.

BILLY AND BLAZE, 1936.

Shortly before or after the publication of the first Billy and Blaze book, CWA was living full-time in Mason, NH, first alone in a studio he had had built just down the road from the house where Madeleine lived with her young son, Charles Emil. The two married in 1944 and their collaboration as artist and writer continued until Madeleine’s death from mitral stenosis, a condition caused by the narrowing of the mitral valve of the heart. During the last days of her life, CWA wrote her a poem each morning that he would take up to Madeleine with her breakfast. These became known as the “Orange Juice poems,” according to his stepson, Charles Emil Ruckstuhl. There are forty-one of them, the last being written on the day Madeleine died.

Another early collaboration between CWA and Madeleine Paltenghi was Honey On A Raft.

Another early collaboration between CWA and Madeleine Paltenghi was Honey On A Raft.

 

Silverpoint featured poems by Madeleine and silverpoint drawings by CWA.

Silverpoint featured poems by Madeleine and silverpoint drawings by CWA.

Madeleine was not only CWA’s partner and best friend, she also shared with her husband a love of horses. During their marriage, the couple owned a number of horses: Peter, Wise Bug, Suzie, Howdy and Bobcat. The latter, a beautiful chestnut, became the subject of one of CWA’s books, published in 1965. Two later books, A Pony For Linda and Linda and The Indians were created for his granddaughter, Linda Ruckstahl.

 

Bobcat, published in 1965, was about one of CWA's horses.

Bobcat, published in 1965, was about one of CWA’s horses. It seems clear that he and the chestnut shared a deep bond.

 

Illustration from A Pony For Linda, written for CWA's granddaughter

Illustration from A Pony For Linda, written for CWA’s granddaughter and published in 1951.

 

Although it is unclear how CWA made his transition to equine art — and it may have been as simple as the huge success of Billy and Blaze –— one thing that is clear is that he followed the stories of great thoroughbreds through the press and was particularly passionate about Man O’ War and his progeny. His accounts re-fashion news-worthy prose from any number of sources into highly readable, entertaining narratives. The accuracy in CWA’s books about thoroughbreds is an absolute boon for a researcher today, since the “inside stories” of so many great thoroughbreds are all but lost. CWA may have thought he was giving his equine subjects the kind of immortality that print endows, but he was also writing himself into an invaluable source of thoroughbred racing history and culture. Too, there were clearly no severe copyright restrictions during the time that CWA was creating his beautiful and expressive illustrations: many can be traced right back to press photographs that appeared in newspapers and magazines of the day.

An original press photo of COUNT FLEET at work. Photo and copyright The Chicago Tribune.

An original press photo of COUNT FLEET at work. Photo and copyright The Chicago Tribune.

 

CWA's lithograph of COUNT FLEET.

CWA’s lithograph of COUNT FLEET.

 

L.S. Sutcliffe's magnificent photo of EQUIPOISE

L.S. Sutcliffe’s magnificent photo of EQUIPOISE

 

The beautiful EQUIPOISE in a study by C.W. Anderson, who captures both his kind eye and steely head.

EQUIPOISE in a head study by CWA.

 

Battleship, in his menacing black hood, is in the lead and goes on to win the 1938 Grand National. An original photograph from my collection that inspired the article on Battleship published in September 2012 on THE VAULT.

Battleship, in his menacing black hood (furthest from front) is in the lead as the son of Man O’ War goes on to win the 1938 Grand National at Aintree. An original photograph that inspired the article on Battleship published in September 2012 here on THE VAULT.

 

CWA's illustration of BATTLESHIP.

CWA’s illustration of BATTLESHIP on his way to becoming the first American owned and bred horse to win the Grand National at Aintree.

 

CWA’s stories of great thoroughbreds of the past were supplemented by illustrations as magnificent as any photograph. The book illustrations were actually produced using a traditional lithograph process and it was a slow, painstaking process. The word lithograph comes from the Ancient Greek, litho meaning “stone” and graphein meaning “to write.”  The traditional process uses an image drawn with oil, fat, or wax onto the surface of a smooth, level lithographic limestone plate. The stone was treated with a mixture of acid and gum arabic, etching the portions of the stone that were not protected by the grease-based image. When the stone was subsequently moistened, these etched areas retained water; an oil-based ink could then be applied and would be repelled by the water, sticking only to the original drawing. The ink would finally be transferred to a blank paper sheet, producing a printed page.

This traditional technique is still used in some fine art printmaking applications today, but the more popular process is to capture the original in a photograph and then use the photo-image to print. Many of the prints of the late Richard Stone Reeves were produced from photographs of his original oil paintings, as is the case with the work of the majority of contemporary equine artists. In the case of CWA, his illustrations began life as original drawings, often done in pen and ink, that were then copied by hand to become lithographs. In his portfolios of lithographs, the process is laid out in detail. The portfolios were published beginning in 1952 and the last one appeared in 1968. Each portfolio contained about 8-12 single lithographs. Today, C.W. Anderson single lithographs can be found on sites like Ebay or Etsy, but, sadly, whole portfolios are becoming increasingly scarce.

 

Portfolios by CWA look like this. Each portfolio has an illustrated booklet, as well as an identification sheet and the lithographs themselves.

Portfolios by CWA look like this. Each portfolio has an illustrated portfolio cover and contains an illustrated booklet, an identification chart and the lithographs themselves.

 

Elements of a CWA portfolio of lithographs.

Elements of a CWA portfolio of lithographs. The identification chart is in the foreground.

 

The cover of one of CWA's portfolios, All Thoroughbreds.

The cover of one of CWA’s portfolios, All Thoroughbreds depicting the head of the legendary Man O’ War.

 

CWA actually studied the anatomy of the horse (as did the great George Stubbs before him) and some of his anatomical sketches can be found in a few of his books, notably “Sketchbook” and “Thoroughbred.” The illustrations pre- and post these anatomy lessons are very different: specifically, they show a smooth transition from cartoonist to representational equine artist. During his career, CWA published over thirty-five books about horses, six or seven portfolios of equine art and also accepted an unrecorded number of private commissions. He taught school in Mason off and on and was a judge, certified by the American Horse Show Association, of hunters and jumpers. And, in at least one source consulted in the writing of this article for THE VAULT, CWA is depicted as “a beloved citizen of Mason.”

GALLANT FOX (1939) as he appears in Black, Bay and Chestnut betrays some of the cartoonist's hand....

GALLANT FOX (1939) as he appears in Black, Bay and Chestnut betrays some of the cartoonist’s hand….

 

...whereas SHUVEE with her first foal bespeaks a more experienced representational hand.

…whereas SHUVEE with her first foal bespeaks a full transition to representational art.

 

A youth theatre in Wilton, NH called “Andy’s Summer Playhouse” was founded in 1971, a year after the death of Mason’s beloved “Andy” as family and friends called him. First located in the Mason Town Hall, “Andy’s” relocated to Wilton about a decade later.

From their website (http://www.andyssummerplayhouse.org/history/) :

...Named for CW Anderson, our namesake, and the inspiration his artwork gave to our original 10 seasons at Mason Town Hall. Anderson’s framed artwork surrounded the room where kids fostered 
the initial legacy of Andy’s, which continues in 2016.

...Andy’s Summer Playhouse grew out of the dream of two teachers in the Mascenic Regional School, Margaret Sawyer and William Williams, to keep alive, during the summer of 1971, a theater 
experience that had occurred at their high school that spring. The Playhouse found its first home in Mason, New Hampshire. Here the enthusiasm of its founders drew the support of several arearesidents who offered not only financial assistance, but the generous gift of their talent. Most notable among these is Elizabeth Orton Jones, illustrator, author and playwright, whose 
contribution through the years has been of vital importance to the artistic growth of the playhouse.

“Andy” was a beloved summer resident of Mason, internationally known as C.W. Anderson., a jovial outreaching man who loved young people. He wrote and illustrated stories about horses and 
children, many of which have a Mason background with pictures of local boys and girls. In the world of art, he was known for his meticulously beautiful renderings of animals and people, and 
in the world of youth, for his untiring interest and faith in new generations.

“I know well that only the rarest kind of best in anything can be good enough for the young,” said the poet Walter del a Mare. Andy believed that implicitly, and lived it too. Thus it was 
only fitting that the new venture should strive to honor his memory.

And so it does today.

CWA_ANDY'S SUMMER PLAYHOUSE_andys

 

When I want to revisit the day that I first discovered him at our local library, I take one of CWA’s books down from the bookcase in my bedroom, settle into a comfy spot, and slowly open the cover. Sometimes I read the narratives, other times I lose myself in the illustrations. A Filly For Joan, the book I received for Christmas when I was about ten and still have, as well as books I have collected that I remember bringing home from the library all those years ago, cast a kind of spell over me. It’s rather hard to explain, but it feels as though the younger me is completely present and actively reading the book to me. Things like finding a favourite illustration almost unconsciously and then being flooded with liquid sunshine all over, or hearing myself recite a sentence or a phrase before I’ve even read it, happen regularly. It’s a “back-in-time” experience unlike any other I’ve known. Perhaps, I often think, this is what Albert Einstein’s curve of time-space feels like. (Members of my team who, like me, were also digging into their reading landscapes and went on to hunt down the books of their childhood reported similar phenomena when they held a book they had cherished in their hands and opened its pages.)

A Filly For Joan was a Christmas present about the same time that I first discovered CWA. It remains a beloved text in my reading landscape.

A Filly For Joan was a Christmas present from my parents at roughly the same period as my first discovery of CWA. It holds pride of place in my own library today.

If I go to my CWA library for research, none of younger me tags along. She probably finds it too tedious. Researching isn’t really about imagining, or the delicious discovery that a book can really speak to you, even though it sparks ideas and draws connections between apparently disparate information. Research is more like a treasure hunt, in that sense. Ridiculously exciting but not the same genre of discovery as a little girl lying in bed at night and imagining herself right in a story.

However, younger me and adult me treasure this: we both know the way to the corner of Horses + Art.

 

After my mother died about 2 years ago, we needed to clear out her house. I found that she had kept many of my early drawings. This one, of a girl riding her horse, was done when I was about 10-12 years old.

My mother kept many of my early drawings, something I only discovered after her death. This one, of a girl riding her horse, was done when I was about 10-12 years old. Looking at it for the first time, I knew its “archeology” : it was most definitely inspired by “A Filly For Joan.”

 

Thank you, Mr. Anderson, for opening a world to me.

Thank you, Mr. Anderson, for opening a world to me.

 

 Sources

Ruckstuhl, Charles Emil. Andy As I Knew Him. Published by AuthorHouse: 2004. (ISBN 1-4184-2670-9)

Some Mason Biographies. http://home.earthlink.net/~georgeo/mason_biographies.htm

Andy’s Summer Playhouse website: http://www.andyssummerplayhouse.org/info

Smith Center For The Arts website: http://thesmith.org/support-us/lights-camera-auction/fair-play/

L.S. has been a faithful reader of THE VAULT since we started up, five years ago, in 2011. 

So it was that when she contacted me to say that she was planning to make her first visit to OLD FRIENDS in Kentucky, I was quick to send back my enthusiastic response. And I made a request, “If you can, please give ‘my boy’ Tinner’s Way a carrot and tell him that his friend Abigail loves him.” (I had made my first visit to OLD FRIENDS just last September, where Tinner and I established one of those connections that is impossible to forget. He actually called out to me as we were leaving and, honestly, if I could have done it, I would have stayed there with him forever.)

A few weeks back, I heard from L.S. who wanted me to know that she was back and had some photos from her visit that she wanted to share with myself and all of you.

So it is with the greatest pleasure that I ask you to welcome THE VAULT’S first Guest Editor and her beautiful narrative of a first visit to a very, very special place. 

OLD FRIENDS_45512D77C8D029CE900C2FD7F787F9EE

I’ve had an interest in horse racing dating back probably to 1972, when my aunt suggested we watch the Kentucky Derby and bet on the results with nickels. I saw Riva Ridge win, and I was hooked on horse racing from that point on. I rooted for Sham in 1973, disappointed at his inability to overcome Secretariat’s greatness, and hoped one day I could visit my favourite thoroughbred, wherever he was. I continued to follow horse racing through my teens, less later on as I raised my children and was involved in other family-related activities, but I still tried to at least watch the Triple Crown races each year.

In the spring of 2016 we were blessed with our first grandchild, a girl. I was planning a road trip to Chicago to visit with her, and while doing research for interesting attractions along the way and back I came across the Old Friends website. After reading about Old Friends, I realized that, aside from seeing my sweet baby girl in Chicago, I wanted most to visit this rescue and retirement home for thoroughbred horses in Georgetown, Kentucky. Visitors to Old Friends must register for a tour, so I emailed the organization, and was informed that there were two tours a day, at ten and three. I knew the morning tour was not possible due to our traveling schedule, so on the day of our departure, I pushed to get us on the road out of Chicago by 6:00am, so that we could make it to Georgetown in time for the 3:00pm tour!

We arrived in Georgetown, checked in at the hotel, and off I went to see the horses at Old Friends, especially Silver Charm. I made it to the farm by the time the tour was about to start, loaded down with only two cameras, one bottle of water, and sporting a large-brimmed floppy hat. A small group was gathered to the side of the main office building, waiting for the tour to start. I checked with the desk personnel and yes: my name was still on the tour list! I hurried over to join the group, which consisted of a nice mix of younger and older visitors.

Our tour guide was Tom, a soft-spoken older gentleman toting a bucket of chopped up carrots. Before we started down the slope towards the horses, he outlined some rules, including not getting too close to the horses. One young visitor asked if the horses would bite, and Tom said “all horses will bite”. Tom encouraged questions, even those from the younger children, and spoke fondly of the horses that were residents at Old Friends. I asked Tom about Abigail’s friend, Michael, and was told he was around, we might see him. My follow-up question was about seeing Tinners Way, so I could give him an extra carrot for Abigail. Tom informed me that Tinners Way was not on that day’s tour, he was in a paddock farther than we were going to go. Oh well.

And then, away we started, walking down a graveled driveway toward the barns and paddocks situated on the rolling hills behind Old Friends’ main entrance.

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“…walking down a graveled driveway towards the barns and paddocks…” Photo and copyright, L.S.

Our first stop was next to a paddock that held a beautiful golden chestnut, identified by a sign as Genuine Reward. His name was familiar, and just as I thought, he was the offspring of the incomparable Genuine Risk, the winner of the 1980 Kentucky Derby, and only the second filly to win in the history of the race. She had difficulties bringing any of her pregnancies to full term, and Tom informed us that this son of hers, Genuine Reward, was one of the only two offspring who survived to adulthood. I did ask who his sire was, and Tom took out his phone to look it up: the well-known Rahy. Genuine Reward never raced, but even at his age, twenty-three, he is a beautiful horse, and looks very similar to his mother. I was enchanted, and one of the first visitors to offer him a carrot, provided from Tom’s bucket.

GENUINE REWARD. Photo and copyright L.S.

GENUINE REWARD “… one of only two offspring who survived to adulthood.” Photo and copyright L.S.

Across the lane from Genuine Reward was Sarava, a Belmont Stakes winner, and spoiler for War Emblem’s Triple Crown bid in 2002. He is a very nice looking dark horse, in more ways than one!

SARAVA

SARAVA “…spoiler for War Emblem’s Triple Crown.” Photo and copyright, L.S.

We continued down the road, visiting with Game on Dude, who would not allow his paddock-mate, Cat launch, to eat any carrots! We had to walk down the path a little further in order to feed Catlaunch, as he kept back from the fence while Game on Dude was monopolizing our attention. Both were also very good-looking thoroughbreds, and I noticed that Game on Dude appeared to have more of an Arabian “dish” look to his face.

GAME ON DUDE

GAME ON DUDE “…who would not allow his paddock-mate, CATLAUNCH, to eat any carrots!” Photo and copyright, L.S.

Across the pathway we met and fed Amazombie, and his paddock-mate, Rapid Redux. Most of the horses we saw at Old Friends had halters with engraved name plates; some halters also included career highlights of the horse included on the plates.

AMAZOMBIE

“Across the pathway we met and fed AMAZOMBIE…” Photo and copyright, L.S.

 

RAPID REDUX

“…and his paddock-mate RAPID REDUX.” Photo and copyright, L.S.

We were not allowed to get close to another Kentucky Derby winner, War Emblem, as he was in a “time out” paddock, with a double fence between the visitors and this retiree. Tom explained that, after years of racing and being used in breeding, War Emblem did not have the best disposition, and was separated for his own good, and the safety of others.

"We were not allowed to get close to WAR EMBLEM

“We were not allowed to get close to WAR EMBLEM… (because he) did not have the best disposition.” Photo and copyright, L.S.

At this point of the tour we were joined by a gentleman who had ridden down to our location using a golf cart. I’d been asked by Abigail to say hi to “Michael” for her, and when I discovered this gentleman was Michael, I passed on her greeting, and he replied favorably of Abigail. I also mentioned that she had asked me to feed Tinners Way an extra carrot “for her”, and I was disappointed that that particular thoroughbred was not on that day’s tour. At this point, Michael offered to take me in the cart up the road to where Tinners Way was housed, and I readily, and eagerly accepted his offer! I did grab a couple carrots from Tom’s bucket before getting in Michael’s cart.

Michael

” At this point, Michael offered to take me in the cart up the road to where Tinners Way was housed…” Photo of Michael Blowen and “Tinner” and copyright, L.S.

We rode up the hill, past a barn, and to a paddock in which a chestnut horse was standing, with a mesh covering over his eyes, and so I met Tinners Way, son of the great Secretariat! It was obvious that this horse was special to Michael, and he talked at some length about the horse, and how Old Friends was started. I was able to give Tinners Way two carrots, and I seem to recall being bold enough to touch his velvety nose. After a few minutes spent with the elderly racehorse, we climbed back into Michael’s golf cart, and talked about Forego and Forli and some other famous horses before I was dropped off with the tour group.

I'M CHARISMATIC

I’M CHARISMATIC and ARSON SQUAD. Photo and copyright, L.S.

 

DANTHEBLUEGRASSMAN

DANTHEBLUEGRASSMAN “…seemed to be more interested in cribbing the railing than eating carrots!” Photo and copyright, L.S.

I was glad to see I’d not missed much of the tour, as they were just finishing up visiting with I’m Charismatic, Arson Squad, and across from them, Danthebluegrassman, who seemed to be more interested in cribbing the railing than eating carrots! I took a couple quick pictures, then hastened to catch up to the tour, which was making its way around and down the final turn, toward a very special horse.

That special horse was Silver Charm, the champion that I really wanted to see, and even at his advanced age, he still looked great, though much more white than in his racing days. Tom had imparted a little biography with each of the horses we’d visited, but I don’t recall much about this horse, as I was soaking in just seeing this champion in the flesh. I do recall feeding him at least one carrot, and I might have stroked his nose lightly, I can’t recall for sure. I guess I was rather star-struck!

SILVER CHARM

SILVER CHARM: “I guess I was rather star-struck!” Photo and copyright, L.S.

Across from Silver Charm’s area was the horse graveyard, with markers for all the horses that had been residents of Old Friends at the time of their death. While many of the horses had names I was not familiar with, I knew by the markers whose progeny they were. I was very sorry to have missed being able to visit Gulch, Fraise, and Kiri’s Clown, the last who was the son of Foolish Pleasure, one of my favorite Derby winners.

The final thoroughbred on the tour was Alphabet Soup. I am not totally sure, but I think this guy is one of Tom’s favorites, just by how he talked about him. For an elderly, sway-backed horse, Alphabet Soup had a lot of charisma. The kids gravitated to him, and he was fed several carrots. One of my pictures shows “the look of eagles” in this old-timer.

ALPHABET SOUP

ALPHABET SOUP and Tom. Photo and copyright, L.S.

 

ALPHABET SOUP

ALPHABET SOUP “…had a lot of charisma.” Shown here with Tom, one of Old Friends’ tour guides. Photo and copyright, L.S.

But Alphabet Soup was not the last of our equine tour, as Little Silver Charm awaited us and our attentions. A tiny pony, he had been saved from slaughter many years ago by Michael, the Old Friends founder, and named after Michael’s favorite race horse, Silver Charm. How could Michael know then that eventually Little Silver Charm would be pastured close to his namesake, the original Silver Charm?

"Two Charms" -- LITTLESILVERCHARM and SILVER CHARM with Michael Blowen, the founder of Old Friends. Photo and copyright, Liz Read for THE VAULT

“Two Charms” — LITTLE SILVER CHARM and (BIG) SILVER CHARM with Michael Blowen, the founder of Old Friends. Photo and copyright, Liz Read for THE VAULT

With this last stop, our tour was over, and we headed up the slope toward the main office. However, I noticed a gravestone, all by itself in a small paddock, with the infamous name “Noor” engraved across its front. I caught up with Tom, and asked him about this particular stone. The story of Noor’s stone was then related to those of us remaining from the tour: many of the farms where famous racehorses were buried were being bought for development. Apparently, one of the original employees of the farm where Noor was buried recalled the location of the burial plot, and after getting permission, the remains of Noor were exhumed, and reburied at Old Friends. For those of you not familiar with Noor, he was the son of Nashrulla, and was owned and raced by the same man who raced Seabiscuit, Charles S. Howard.

NOOR'S GRAVE_a27821b25dc6e687af31113b8eb00abf

It was a very gratifying, satisfying visit, and I plan to visit again as time allows. Since I have a grandbaby in Chicago, it might not be too long before I walk the fields and roads of Old Friends again.

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View of part of Old Friends. Photo and copyright, L.S.

 

ALPHABET SOUP. Photo and copyright, L.S.

ALPHABET SOUP. Photo and copyright, L.S.

 

Inspired by a pair of exceedingly rare photographs and the opening of Saratoga — a place of magic, history and imagining — comes this tale of two great fillies.

MOTHER GOOSE wind-up toy by Marx from the 1920's.

MOTHER GOOSE wind-up toy by Marx from the 1920’s.

 

Most American readers know the association between the nursery rhymes of Mother Goose and the thoroughbred of the same name, after whom The Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park is named. Once part of the triad of races that formed the American Triple Crown for fillies, The Mother Goose Stakes were removed from the Triple in 2010, but carries on as an important Grade 1 stakes for 3 year-old fillies. That part of the Mother Goose story is easy. Trying to get a look at H.P. Whitney’s champion filly or even a true sense of her racing career is quite another matter, even though she did everything right on the track and in the breeding shed. In fact, in the latter case, she made a very direct contribution to a thoroughbred dynasty.

The daughter of French import Chicle (1913), Spearmint’s (1903) best son who was also notoriously bad-tempered, Mother Goose was born in 1922, a Whitney homebred. Her dam, Flying Witch, from the Ben Brush sire line, was also the producer of a very fine full brother to Mother Goose, Whichone (1927). He raced against Gallant Fox, whom he managed to beat as a 2 year-old in the 1929 Belmont Futurity, while annexing a number of prestigious races, notably the Champagne, the Withers and the Whitney before breaking down after a dual in the stretch with Jim Dandy and Gallant Fox in the Travers. {If Whichone’s name sounds familiar it might be because of his two best sons: the gelding Whichee (1934), who had the misfortune to race against Seabiscuit and Kayak II, but who was a good runner in his own right, and Bourbon King(1935) a tough campaigner who won the Remsen Stakes.}

CHICLE, the sire of MOTHER GOOSE.

CHICLE, the sire of MOTHER GOOSE.

 

MOTHER GOOSE the broodmare shows a very kind eye, despite her bad-tempered sire.

MOTHER GOOSE the broodmare shows a very kind eye, despite her bad-tempered sire. This is one of the very few images of her.

 

The fact that Mother Goose had a Grade 1 stakes named after her can be taken as proof that she was a filly who sparked the hopes, dreams and imagination of racegoers in the 1920’s, when the sport in North America was relatively new. Her most impressive victory came at two, when she beat the boys in the 1924 Belmont Futurity, most notably Marshall Field III’s sabino chestnut Stimulus(1922), a great grandson of Domino (1891) and winner of the 1925 Pimlico Futurity. In retirement, Stimulus proved a useful sire, producing the champions Beaugay (1943) and Stir Up (1941), as well as a small army of other good runners. {Summer Tan (1952), Nantallah (1953), Decidedly (1959), Sword Dancer (1956), Dust Commander (1967) and Slew O’ Gold (1980) are all direct descendants of Stimulus.}

STIMULUS after his win in the 1925 Belmont Futurity.

STIMULUS after his win in the 1925 Belmont Futurity.

I knew that Mother Goose’s rout of the boys in 1924 was her biggest moment on the track, enough to award her champion 2 year-old filly honours that year. But like any good researcher, I wanted to know more.

And then it happened.

A few weeks back, on a day (to quote Thornton Wilder) “when the dogs were sticking to the sidewalk” in the heat, I was cruising around on the internet and spied an old racing photo at auction that had a peculiar heading: “1924 Press Photo Harry Payne on Mother Goose at Belmont Futurity race in NY.”  Could it be…….?

And there she was:

MOTHER GOOSE (on the rail) shown winning the 1924 Belmont Futurity.

MOTHER GOOSE (on the rail) shown winning the 1924 Belmont Futurity. STIMULUS is in blinkers nearest to the camera. Photo and copyright, Wide World Photo.

 

And as if that weren’t enough, the press photo included the press release on the back, clear as a bell. Like a message in a bottle, I learned more about Mother Goose the runner than I had been able to uncover in decades of searching.

 

The press release was as clear as a bell, describing the courage of the juvenile MOTHER GOOSE in battling on right to the wire. Photo and copyright, Wide World Photo.

The press release was as clear as a bell, describing the courage of the juvenile MOTHER GOOSE in battling on right to the wire. Photo and copyright, Wide World Photo.

Of course, I bought the photo — for the unbelievable price of $14.99 USD. (I do feel badly for the merchant but, like people who run bookstores knowing little about authors, the company is one of several who have bought up the newspaper archives of papers like The Chicago Tribune, knowing little about famous thoroughbreds.)

Mother Goose didn’t stop at the Futurity. She also won the Fashion Stakes and came second and third respectively in the Astoria and Rosedale Stakes that same year. After her debut, the filly seems to disappear from the record books. But as a broodmare, she left a lasting mark as the grandam of Almamoud (1947), one of the greatest ancestresses in American thoroughbred history who was the grandam of Natalma (1957), who produced Northern Dancer (1961).

And isn’t it lovely to know that each time you look at a descendant of Northern Dancer (Natalma) or Halo (whose dam, Cosmah, is a daughter of Almamoud) or Sunday Silence (son of Halo) you are beckoning the spirit of Mother Goose?

SUNDAY SILENCE with the great Charlie Whittingham.

SUNDAY SILENCE shares a silence with the wonderful Charlie Whittingham.

 

Since the explosion of online auction centres like EBAY, these kinds of finds have become rare for me. But there was another purchase I made some time ago that is as precious to me as this photo of Mother Goose. It was of another champion filly and matriarch: Alcibiades. And the circumstances that led me to her were remarkably similar.

Alcibiades’ career on the track and in the breeding shed are perhaps better known than the exploits of Mother Goose. Like her predecessor, Alcibiades has a Grade 1 stakes for 3 year-old fillies named after her and now sponsored by Darley as part of the Breeders Cup Challenge series.

Hal Prince Headley’s great filly was a homebred, born in 1927. Named after a soldier and statesman of Ancient Greece (for which Headley took more than a little abuse because the filly’s dam was called Regal Roman), Alcibiades was a descendant of the incomparable Domino (1891) through her sire, Supremus (1922). Her dam, Regal Roman (1921), a daughter of Roi Herode (1904), arrived in the USA from Great Britain in 1923. Alcibiades was her best progeny.

Her major win at two was in the 1929 Debutante; in 1930, Alcibiades captured the Kentucky Oaks and the Arlington Oaks. One lesser known incident in her three year-old season was that she also ran against Gallant Fox in the 1930 Kentucky Derby, setting blazing fractions on the lead before fading to finish tenth. It was easy to forgive her: the Oaks and Derby were only two weeks apart and the Oaks, which Alcibiades won, was the second of the two. So after this effort in the Derby, one must conclude that the daughter of Supremus was one courageous filly, with a heart as big as her ability, to come back to take the Oaks:

 

After winning the highest award in the land at two and again at three, Alcibiades was retired with a bowed a tendon to take up breeding duties at the Headleys Beaumont Farm. Her last race pitched her against older horses in the Hawthorne Gold Cup, where she ran beautifully to finish third to Wallace Kilmer’s champion, Sun Beau (1925). As serious a competitor as Alcibiades had been on the track, it was as a broodmare that she endowed the American thoroughbred with her most enduring gift. From her brilliant son, Menow (1935), in a direct line of descent, came two jewels of American racing: Tom Fool (1949) and his son, Buckpasser (1963). From her daughter by Man O’ War, Salaminia (1937), descended the Epsom Derby winner, Sir Ivor (1965), the first American-bred to win it since 1954. And Sir Ivor, as many will know, went on to become the ancestor of some very important thoroughbreds, among them Shareef Dancer (1980), Green Desert (1983), Zabeel (1986) and his son, Octagonal (1992), as well as the recently retired Encosta de Lago (1993).

 

Alcibiades' son, MENOW, the sire of TOM FOOL and grandsire of BUCKPASSER.

Alcibiades’ son, MENOW, the sire of TOM FOOL and grandsire of BUCKPASSER. Photo and copyright Acme.

 

SIR IVOR ridden by Lester Piggott goes down to the start.

SIR IVOR, ridden by Lester Piggott and trained by Vincent O’Brien, goes down to the start.

 

ENCOSTA DE LAGO, who descends from ALCIBIADES through a daughter, SALAMINIA, is a recently retired champion Australian sire. Photograph published in the Herald Sun (Australia).

ENCOSTA DE LAGO, who descends from ALCIBIADES through her daughter, SALAMINIA, is a recently retired champion Australian sire. Photograph published in the Herald Sun (Australia).

I stumbled across her photo on a popular auction site and again, the listing was curious: “Alcibiades and her jockey ready to race, 1930.” Assuming that I would be unlikely to find an actual photo of the beloved American filly, I was shocked to find that the image was, indeed, Alcibiades. Unlike the Mother Goose photo, the press release — normally tacked onto the back — was missing and the context around the filly gives little clue as to where the photo was taken. So it’s impossible to say what race this was, except that she was a 3 year-old in 1930. It’s clearly post-race, given the froth in Alcibiades’ mouth. And her jockey sure looks happy, so this is possibly after her win in either the Kentucky Oaks or the Arlington Oaks. But that’s pure guesswork.

In any case, we see her lovely face and soft, dark eye, and note the powerful shoulder and hindquarters of a champion.

 

ALCIBIADES as a three year-old.

ALCIBIADES as a three year-old.

 

Finding these two photographs is like opening a time capsule, or slipping through a wormhole to a time over eighty years ago. It’s as though two photographers in the early part of the last century chose to record two fillies in the hope not only that their images would feature in a prominent newspaper but also that they were capturing something significant, since images always signify something to the person who captures them.  Even if they are two hard-working individuals with an assignment, it was each of them who decided the angle, the lighting, the moment to press the button. They could not have known how important Mother Goose and Alcibiades would be for the breed or even what each filly would contribute to thoroughbred history. But framing each photograph is the hope that they just might be witnessing history-in-the-making. By opening the doors of a living present to those of us who stood like shadows in their futures, two people we will never know have, with two great fillies, reached out to us and in so doing, overcome the limitations of time.

Surely it is this, as much as the subjects themselves, that makes these photographs so precious.

 

Sources

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

Bowen, Edward L. Matriarchs. KY: The Blood-Horse, 1999.

Mitchell, Frank. Racehorse Breeding Theories. Wisconsin: The Russel Meerdink Company Ltd., 2004

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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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It’s early days yet. But the mighty Frankel has already bested the record of first non-stakes winners in their first crop of both his sire, Galileo, and of one of Europe’s most consistent sires, Sea The Stars.

 

 

Of the 130 mares booked to Frankel in 2013, the first eight have hit the turf running, with seven winning on debut. The eighth, Last Kingdom, finished second in his first start. Two of the eight, Cunco and Queen Kindly, earned black type based on their performances at Royal Ascot, where they both finished third in two different stakes races. And all of this has sent the British press into the same tizzy of delight as they evinced during Frankel’s racing career.

It is easy to forget that Frankel represented over 40 years of breeding by his owner, HRH Prince Khalid Abdullah, making him a “jewel in the crown” like no other. Too, as we have indicated in previous articles about Frankel, the colt demanded the skill of the incomparable Sir Henry Cecil, of work-rider Shane Fetherstonhaugh and jockey, Tom Queally, to get his exuberance under control in a manner that didn’t quench his spirit and allowed him to dominate on the turf. In the early stages it was hard work, and the colt didn’t make his two year-old debut until mid-August of 2010 where he was shadowed home by the brilliant Nathaniel who, of all the Frankel challengers in his 14 starts, remains the colt who got closest to him.

 

Like everything else in his life, Frankel’s stud career has been meticulously planned. It was anticipated that 100 mares would be accepted from outside breeders, including Japan and America, and in all cases, preference was given to Group 1 winners and/or producers of Group 1 winners. (The remaining 30 would come from Juddmonte bloodstock.)

Said general manager of Banstead Manor Stud, Philip Mitchell, shortly after the champion’s retirement:

“We’d always try and keep a restriction on the number of mares he covers … This is an exclusive horse and we want to keep him exclusive.

“If someone is spending that level of nomination fee [£125,000] to use Frankel, you don’t want to get to a situation where you find a large number of his progeny being sold. By keeping him to 130, we won’t be flooding the market. Juddmonte are owner-breeders and we’ll aim to get the right balance between owner-breeders and commercial breeders.”

“… We have certain mares that whatever we send them to, they produce the business … For instance, Clepysydra is one of those mares. The stallion could be the best in the world but I feel it’s hugely important to get the right calibre of mare.

“It’s still early days for us [Juddmonte] with the matings for next year but Frankel will be getting first pick. We want to give Frankel every opportunity at stud and we’ll be supporting him as much as possible. But it is very difficult – we’re spoiled at the moment because we’ve also got Dansili and Oasis Dream and we can’t ignore them. It’ll be a balance.” (Racing Post, November 23, 2013)

FRANKEL and OASIS DREAM at Banstead Manor.

FRANKEL and OASIS DREAM at Banstead Manor.

As trainer John Gosden said of a recent Frankel winner, Seven Heavens, “He has a positive attitude on life and he likes to get on with things. He is a strong-willed horse and is like his father in that way. I think he (Frankel) will probably pass that on to his offspring.” (Sky Sports, July 8, 2016)

Bred by Cheveley Stud, Seven Heavens was a rare Juddmonte purchase at Tattersalls October Yearling Sale last year.  “Rare” because Juddmonte is a huge breeding enterprise all on its own, making the purchase worth noting. Seven Heavens is beautifully bred: his dam, Heaven Sent (2003), a daughter of Pivotal (1993), was a dual winner of the Dahlia Stakes. And Pivotal is a world-class leading sire, with 100 stakes winners to date, including Farhh (2008) and Excellent Art (2004).

 

SEVEN HEAVENS as a yearling in 2015. Photo and copyright, Tattersalls.

SEVEN HEAVENS as a yearling in 2015. Photo and copyright, Tattersalls.

Watching Seven Heavens’ debut was the kind of thing that makes you believe time and space really is curved: the youngster looks so much like Frankel and, unlike his other winning progeny to date, Seven Heavens shows that “pumping” action in his fore that we so associate with Frankel’s distinctive running style. Add to that the parallels in performance between Seven Heavens’ maiden race and that of Frankel’s own debut (above), and the picture is complete.

Video of Seven Heavens’ win, with the beautifully-bred Lockheed (Exceed and Excel/BM sire Motivator) chasing him home. (Please advance the video to 2:46 to see the whole race without the preamble, or click on the link under the video that just offers the race itself.)

 

 

http://www.tdn.premiumtv.co.uk/streaming/watch/RacingUKFlashVOD/partnerId_166/videoFileId_15587411/clipId_2612660/index.html

Said his jockey, Robert Havlin, after the win:

“He’s a nice horse … They didn’t go very quick early on, and following Tom (Marquand on Monoshka) he was struggling after three and a half furlongs and couldn’t take me any further, so literally from the two-pole to the line he had to do it all on his own.

“He’s never been off the bridle in his life before, so it was a big ask, and he just got a little bit lonely and just started to drift to the left a little. I was impressed with him.

“I’ve ridden two Frankels now and they’ve both wanted to get on with things at home, but come raceday they are as good as gold.”

SEVEN HEAVENS strides clear of the fast-closing to win on debut.

SEVEN HEAVENS strides clear of the fast-closing LOCKHEED to win on debut.

 

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An unmistakeable likeness: FRANKEL takes a rehearsal run at Newmarket before his final start.

Seven Heavens isn’t the only first crop Frankel that makes you blink: Cunco and Majoris, to a lesser extent, both have the “Frankel look” about them. Another son, Frankuus, is a grey and his two daughters to race, Queen Kindly and Fair Eva, are both chestnuts. But the whole of this select group seem to have Frankel’s precocity, indicating that at least some of this first crop may have been similarly stamped by their famous sire. Too, as was the case with Team Frankel, will it take patience, together with skill, to harness the inclination of these first few (as well as those to come) to “get on with things” without dampening their love of the race?

Cunco (named after a city in Chile and owned by Don Alberto Corp. Ltd.), Frankel’s firstborn son was also the very first Frankel to hit the turf, winning nicely at Newbury on May 13, ridden by Richard Havlin. Needless to say, there was keen interest among Frankel followers and much praise for his debut effort. Cunco also treated spectators to some of his sire’s spunk, rearing up in the saddling enclosure on his second start at Ascot. Since his May win, Cunco has started twice, coming in third (at Ascot) and fourth, respectively.

Baby CUNCO with his dam, Chrysanthemum.

Baby CUNCO with his dam, Chrysanthemum.

Blink: CUNCO as a yearling looks the picture of his sire.

Blink: CUNCO as a yearling looks the picture of his sire.

As of this writing, Queen Kindly is the first Frankel to chalk up 2 wins (in 3 starts), bringing the stallion’s overall strike rate to 8 winners from 14 starters. The filly is also Frankel’s first-born daughter and her dam, Lady of the Desert, by the great Rahy, gives the filly’s story a distinctly American connection.

The lovely QUEEN KINDLY after her debut win.

The lovely QUEEN KINDLY after her debut win at Caterick.

Please click on the link below for a video of Queen Kindly’s second win:

http://www.tdn.premiumtv.co.uk/streaming/watch/RacingUKFlashVOD/partnerId_166/videoFileId_15595124/clipId_2613781/index.html

Nor is Frankel’s talented daughter the only offspring in his first crop with American connections. Waiting in the wings are: Brooklyn Bobby (colt by Balance), In Luxury (filly by In Lingerie/Japan), Aspirer (filly by Nebraska Tornado by Storm Cat/Juddmonte), an unnamed filly by Oatsee, the dam of Shackleford, Elphin (filly by Aspiring Diva by Distant View, dam of Emulous/Juddmonte), Finche (colt by Binche by Woodman, dam of Proviso/Juddmonte), Solo Saxophone (colt by Society Hostess by Seeking The Gold), Mirage Dancer (colt by Heat Haze by Green Desert/Juddmonte), Mi Suerte (colt by Mi Sueno by Pulpit/Japan) and Aljezeera (colt by Dynaforce by Dynaformer).

IN LINGERIE with her FRANKEL baby, IN LUXURY.

IN LINGERIE (Empire Maker) with her FRANKEL baby, IN LUXURY, in Japan where the filly was born.

However, as has been pointed out by the Racing Post’s Tony Morris, with about 100 or more runners to come, Frankel’s record won’t stay anywhere near his initial wins-starters ratio. It will, in fact, substantially decline — unless every Frankel proves a winner and that is, even for this great, great horse, an impossibility. As for the precocity of these first few, one can’t really talk about Frankel’s tendency to breed precocity into his offspring when so few of them have raced to date. Nor does he occupy the top spot for freshman sires, currently occupied by Mayson (a son of Invincible Spirit with 8 winners of 24 runners), since none of Frankel’s eight progeny to run have scored in stakes company. Frankel currently ranks ninth, but look for that to change.

MAJORIS who was very green in his first start nevertheless showed some depth in coming home first.

MAJORIS showed some depth in coming home first in his first start.

 

The grey FRANKUUS shown winning on debut.

The grey FRANKUUS shown winning on debut. He was very green but still had the turn of foot to get the job done.

 

The lovely FAIR EVA won impressively in her first and only race to date.

The lovely FAIR EVA won impressively in her first and only race to date.

Here’s the thing: these early Frankels don’t even represent the best of what he’s got coming, in terms of sons and daughters of champion and/or Blue Hen mares. Together with those listed above in “American connections,” we can add: Nothing But Dreams, the daughter of Arc winner champion, Danedream, who is training in France with Roger Varian; Erdogan, the son of triple G1 winner Dar Re Mi (dam of the impressive So Dar Mi) who is training with the brilliant John Gosden; Mori, the son of the great Midday, training with Sir Michael Stoute; La Figlia, the priciest Frankel to pass through auction, by the dual Guineas champion Finsceal Beo is with William Haggas; and in Japan, there is the daughter of the brilliant Stacelita, Soul Stirring. Consider too: Aurora Gold, the daughter of Juddmonte’s Midsummer, the dam of Midday, who is with John Gosden; Australian champion More Joyous’ unnamed daughter, in training with Gai Waterhouse; the aforementioned Clepsydra’s filly, Amser, who is training with Andre Fabre; champion Alexander Goldrun’s daughter, Gold Rush, training with Jim Bolger; and Dancing Rain’s filly, Rainswept, a Darley purchase, is in the stable of Andre Fabre.

MIDSUMMER, the dam of MIDDAY and her FRANKEL filly join other mares with their baby FRANKELS at Banstead in 2014.

A FRANKEL troupe: MIDSUMMER, the dam of MIDDAY and her FRANKEL filly join other mares with their baby FRANKELS at Banstead in 2014.

 

DANEDREAM and her 2014 FRANKEL filly. She also has a 2015 FRANKEL colt.

DANEDREAM and her 2014 FRANKEL filly. She also has a 2015 FRANKEL colt.

DAR RE MI'S colt by FRANKEL looks a good deal like his sire.

DAR RE MI’S colt by FRANKEL looks a good deal like his sire.

STACELITA'S filly by FRANKEL as a yearling.

STACELITA’S filly by FRANKEL as a yearling.

MORE JOYOUS with her as yet unnamed FRANKEL filly.

MORE JOYOUS with her as yet unnamed FRANKEL filly.

So, yes, it’s early days.

But this is surely what it’s all about: the courage to dream, the courage to hope ……. that one great thoroughbred will slip the bonds of time to go on and on and on.

 

 

 

Sources

The Racing Post, “Frankel’s Flying Start” by Tony Morris

Juddmonte website: http://www.juddmonte.com/stallions/frankel/default.aspx

 

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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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Bateau was one of the very best of Man O’ War’s daughters when it came to racing, but she risks being forgotten because of one failure that was completely beyond her control. Hers is also a cautionary tale: the same fate often befalls great thoroughbreds today.

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

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

Bateau was referred to at least once as “…the Amazon daughter” of Man O’ War (The Barrier-Miner, November 26, 1929) suggesting that she was a large, powerful individual. Thank goodness for The Barrier-Miner paragraph! The super filly of the early part of the last century barely exists in photographs and of the ones here at THE VAULT, it is often tough to judge her height.

Bateau came into the world in 1925. The daughter of the French-import, Escuina (1919), must have been an impressive foal. Her dam had been imported from France by Walter Jeffords, who was married to a niece of Samuel Riddle and who, with Riddle, owned and operated Faraway Farm. Escuina proved a Blue Hen for the Jeffords-Riddle stable, producing the very good Jean Bart as well as Bateau. Too, her daughters were largely excellent producers themselves and this was no accident, since Escuina was bred in the purple, carrying St. Simon(1881) and the exceptional broodmare, Fairy Gold (1896), by Bend Or in her third generation.

Fairy Gold was the dam of Friar Rock (1913) by Rock Sand and Fair Play (1905) by Hastings, the sire of Man O’ War. Imported by August Belmont Jr., Fairy Gold died in 1919 together with her foal by Hourglass(1914) and is buried in an unmarked spot on the grounds of Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. But her power in the blood remains unmistakeable and it found expression in Escuina and her daughters.

Fairy_Gold-big

A very blurry image of FAIRY GOLD, from the Thoroughbred Heritage website.

At two, Bateau was put into the hands of trainer Scott P. Harlan. In 1926, just prior to the arrival of Bateau, Harlan had earned $205,681 — an extraordinary sum in those days — and a fair portion of those earnings were thanks to Man O’ War’s offspring, specifically the 2 year-old Scapa Flow, as well as Edith Cavell, whose 3 year-old campaign was nothing short of sensational.

The filly, whose name means “boat” in French — possibly another reference to her size and confirmation — was exquisite. With her deep bay coat, the white star on her face and her intelligent expression, she was undoubtedly the gift of an exquisite mingling of bloods.

Who better to picture the champion than the great C.C. Cook? Here she is in

Who better to picture the champion than the great C.C. Cook? Here she is in 1928 with jockey Kelsay in the irons. Photo and copyright, C.C. Cook/Keeneland.

Back of the photo, signed by C.C. Cook.

Back of the photo, signed by C.C. Cook.

In her first stakes start in 1927, the Schuylerville, Bateau finished second to Pennant (1925), but she beat the Hertz’s Anita Peabody (1925) who would be named Champion two year-old filly of 1927. Anita Peabody’s most famous victory came that same year, when she defeated another Hertz entry, Reigh Count, in the Belmont Futurity. Reigh Count, as our readers will know, sired Triple Crown winner Count Fleet.

ANITA PEABODY, a gift to Mrs. Hertz from her husband, was a spectacular filly in her own right.

ANITA PEABODY, a gift to Mrs. Hertz from her husband, was a spectacular filly in her own right.

Next came the 1927 Fashion Stakes which Bateau won, followed by two thirds in the Matron and Spinaway. Drama punctuated the Pimlico Futurity, where Bateau finished third, when Earl Sande who rode her in that race was accused of slamming violently into the Hertz colt, Reigh Count, costing him the race. Sande’s license was initially suspended, although he was subsequently reinstated and Bateau was DQ’d. Pimlico aside, by the end of her 2 year-old campaign, both Jeffords and Harlan knew they had a very special filly in Bateau. She had her sire’s will to win and his strong mind, and she was courageous.

1928 blossomed for the three year-old, with wins in the Coaching Club American Oaks and Gazelle. In the former, she beat another exceptional filly by Man O’ War in Valkyr (1925), the Champion Handicap Mare of 1928, and the future dam of  champion Vagrancy (1939). Bateau’s performance was sufficient to get her noticed, and she was awarded Co-Champion 3 year-old honours with Easter Stockings (1925), the best of Sir Barton’s daughters.

BATEAU with Frank Coltiletti up in 1928,

BATEAU with Frank Coltiletti up in 1928. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

 

The grey VALKYR as a broodmare was still another impressive daughter of MAN O' WAR.

The grey VALKYR as a broodmare. She was still another impressive daughter of MAN O’ WAR whose sons and daughters were invariably good on the track and in the breeding shed.

Her four year-old season saw some impressive wins for Jeffords’ champion filly. Racing against the boys, Bateau beat the older Display(1923) to win the Whitney in a thrilling finish. (Since 1928, when Black Helen became the first filly to win the Whitney, only five others, including Bateau, have ever won it to the present day. The last was the incomparable Personal Ensign, who won it in 1988.) Bateau then went on to beat the 1928 Preakness winner, Victorian (1925), in the South Maryland Handicap and battled the excellent Petee-Wrack (1925) to victory in the Suburban. This would be Bateau’s last stakes race before her retirement, but it was enough to have her honoured as the Champion Handicap Mare of 1929.

Expectations were high as Man O’ War’s champion daughter headed off to the breeding shed. But after a few tries and much frustration, Bateau was declared barren. Rather than risk losing her on the track, Bateau was given a new job, that of the Jeffords’ hack, or riding horse, and kept in the same stable as other Jeffords’ pleasure horses.

Since it is through their progeny that many great thoroughbreds live on through time, this failure of Bateau’s has seen her relegated to something close to obscurity. Biographical notes about her are thin on detail and surviving narratives almost non-existant.

 

BATEAU with jockey Ambrose up after her win in the Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park.

BATEAU, with jockey Ambrose up, after her win in the 1929 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park. When were the blinkers added? Photo and copyright, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

 

Press reports of Bateau’s exploits are similarly hard to come by, but evidence was found from New South Wales, Australia and England that suggests her reputation was international. Too, the Daily Racing Form wrote a lengthly article on her Suburban win:

 

DAUGHTER OP MAN O’ WAR WINS FAME IN DIG RACE

New York, November 23, 1929

Bateau, a daughter of Man o' War, has achieved fame on'the snow covered Bowie tracie hy winning the South Maryland Handicap of £8000. Repeating the performance of her great sire, Bateau 
finished gamely, winning by a nose. The Amazon daughter of the super-stallion galloped the mile and 110 yards in lm. 46 2-5s. (The Barrier-Miner Newspaper, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA)

EXTRAORDINARY RACE

 

Two Noses and a Head Separate Four Horses in Suburban.

Bateau Wins by a Nose, Petee-Wrack Second by a Nose, Toro Third by a Head.

 

NEW YORK, N. Y., June 1.




With four thoroughbreds fighting it out furiously in one of the greatest finishes ever seen on any race course, Walter M. Jeffords* Bateau dropped her nose down in front of J. R. Macomber's Petee-Wrack, Edward B. McLean's Toro, and Richard T. Wilson's Sunfire to win the old Suburban Handicap, over one mile and a quarter.

Then after the finish there came a claim of foul, lodged against Ambrose, who rode Bateau, and there was some delay before the stewards confirmed the order of the finish. The running had a 
new value of $14,100 to the winner and Bateau finished the distance in 2:03%, making it an excellent performance.

The Suburban renewal was the big event of a holiday card offered by the Westchester Racing Association at Belmont Park today and it attracted a crowd that approached that of Decoration Day.

The claim of foul that was lodged by O'Donnell, who rode Petee-Wrack, was that Ambrose had pushed him out of the way to come through on the inside with Bateau. The Ambrose defense was that he had pushed Petee-Wrack away to avoid being put over the inner rail. In any event, the claim was not allowed.

…Little time was lost at the post in the Suburban Handicap and with the exception of Chicatie, which left slowly, the others left in excellent alignment and Petee-Wrack was the one to show theway with Soul of Honor and Sunfire following him closely, while Bateau was also in the front division. Chance Shot began well and was not far back, while, Toro was slower to find his racing 
legs and he was well back.

It was going to the turn out of the back stretch that it became apparent that Chance Shot, the topweight, would not do. There Willie Garner shook him up in an effort to improve his position, 
but the big son of Fair Play did not respond and from that stage of the running he began to drop back well beaten.
Petee-Wrack was still forcing the pace under a slight restraint and Sunfire was close after him on the outside. Soul of Honor ran closely lapped on the Wilson colt, but it was evident he was 
doing his best.

Ambrose still had Bateau close after the leaders and the daughter of Man o' War was racing kindly.

Old Display was holding his position, while Toro was beginning to make up ground on the outside in threatening fashion.

There was a general closing up as the field turned for home and Petee-Wrack was holding resolutely to his lead, but it was a scant one. Sunfire was right with him, while Ambrose had Bateau on the inner rail and the filly had her nose at the saddle of the Macomber colt. Soul of Honor was beginning to tire, while Toro was swooping along outside of him in gallant fashion.

TORO MOVES UP.

Well inside the final sixteenth Soul of Honor was through, but Toro had moved up until he was in the fight to the finish. Bateau was holding her place on the inside, but in remarkably close quarters, with Petee-Wrack almost on top of her. Then it was that the alleged foul was committed when Ambrose, to protect himself and his mount, pushed the colt over to find room.

Right to the end the four battled along and in the last stride Bateau had squeezed through to earn the verdict by a nose, while Petee-Wrack was no further before the fast finishing Toro, and Sunfire a head further back. Then right on the heels of Sunfire came Sortie, which had been forced to race wide all the way.

It was a magnificent renewal of a great race and the first victory for a filly since the victory of Beldame in 1905. (DAILY RACING FORM, June 1, 1929)




 


Author and artist C.W. Anderson can still be counted on today as a faithful ethnographer of racing in the first part of the last century. Anderson was passionate about Man O’ War, recording aspects of his life and legacy with details he undoubtedly took from the newspapers of the day. Including her in his classic book, Big Red, Anderson’s evaluation of Bateau speaks for itself and provides a fitting conclusion to the story of an exceptional filly.

 

BATEAU by CW ANDERSON_

 

 

Sources

Anderson, C.W. Big Red. The Macmillan Company, New York: 1943

Hunter, Avelyn: American Classic Pedigrees (online: http://www.americanclassicpedigrees.com) related to Bateau and Valkyr

Daily Racing Form in University of Kentucky Archives, June 1, 1929

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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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