Archive for August, 2011

The names and stories of the men and women who were primary caregivers to thoroughbreds, whether great champions or hard-working horses who ran on local racetracks, are largely unknown. Since many of these people were perceived as menial workers employed in the stables of the wealthy, they were overlooked by turf writers and the general public. However, even though fragmentary, a few stories of thoroughbreds and the men who loved them have come down to us from the past.

One such narrative fragment concerns Will Harbut and the legendary Man O’ War. 

The Latin “texere” from which the word “text” derives means texture and was first used to describe the process of weaving textiles. There is a kind of lovely rapport between the concept of storytelling and weaving. Both involve the choice of a pattern, colour and intricate stitchery that produces a design. And both are human endeavours that seek to warm, beautify and inspire.

It is in that spirit that we offer you another narrative of Will and his big, copper-red stallion. 

Will Harbut and Man O’ War. Photo by J.C. “Skeets” Meadors. Keeneland Library.

As frequent readers of THE VAULT know, I have long been a collector of old thoroughbred photographs. Many years ago now, I found this image of Will and Man O’ War. Unlike the version of the Meadors photo above, the one I purchased has a ‘whited out” background, so that only man, horse and a portion of the ground they walk upon are depicted. What transfixed me about the “revised” rendering of the famous Meadors photo is that Man O’ War and the man he loved have been pulled out of time. There is no car or other visual cue to bind them to a specific time or place. Will and Man O’ War appear deep in communion and their intimacy fills the eye.

Will Harbut was born in 1885 and as a young man, moved to Maddoxtown, where he built one of its first houses on the land he purchased. Maddoxtown was one of many “free towns” that sprung up in Kentucky after the Civil War where freed men and women could settle, farm and raise their families. The South of the pre-Civil War was a place where landowners and slaves contributed to a thriving economy. As we understand today, the master-slave relationship was a very complex one and, with the emancipation, was forced into a state of social upheaval that saw newly-liberated men, women and children leaving homesteads and flocking into Southern cities. And just as suddenly, these families found themselves homeless and jobless. In an attempt to restore social and economic order, the state of Kentucky opened free towns to Afro-Americans as a means of attracting them to rural areas where they would find some measure of security and employment.

One side of the plaque honouring Maddoxtown that was erected in 2007 by a group called “Women Who Write.”

The other side of the plaque makes reference to Will Harbut, one of Maddoxtown’s founding fathers.

The residents of Maddoxtown farmed their land, while also working on the horse farms of the Bluegrass. As such, they were simply continuing a tradition of long-standing, since Afro-American men had cared for and ridden Kentucky thoroughbreds in the pre-Civil War era. Their contribution to thoroughbred history had been vital and important: 12 of the 15 jockeys who rode in the very first Kentucky Derby were Afro-Americans and thoroughbreds carrying Afro-American riders would wear the roses 15 times over the next 28 years. Men from the free towns around Lexington also served as trainers, as well as grooms, passing on their thoroughbred expertise from father-to-son.

Will Harbut’s Maddoxtown home, where he and his wife, Mary, raised their 12 children, faces out onto the rolling pastures of the world’s thoroughbred heartland. On any given morning, Will could stand on his porch and watch bands of thoroughbreds grazing and rollicking in the lush bluegrass. By the time he was hired by farm manager Harry/Harrie B. Scott, Will Harbut had already gotten the reputation for being a fine horseman and, some said, a horse whisperer. And when Scott was asked to run the operations at Faraway Farm in 1930, he took Will with him.

Photographer C.C. Cook’s shot of Man O’ War during his racing career.

Man O’ War had been at stud for over a decade when Will Harbut walked into his life. His stud career had started off at Elizabeth Daingerfield’s Hinata Farm, outside Lexington. Daingerfield was a consummate horsewoman and an expert breeder. She went on to purchase and set up Faraway Farm for Riddle and served as its manager until 1930, when Scott took over. So it was that Will became Man O’ War’s new stud groom and the two would be together, each and every day, for more than 15 years.

Will had never seen Man O’ War race, but at the time he became the stallion’s handler he certainly knew he was rubbing a living legend. Did Will also know that he had just met his soul mate, a thoroughbred who would make Will his (equine) family? Perhaps not in that first meeting, but I would wager that it wasn’t long before both horse and man knew that they had found the truest expression of themselves in the light of the other’s eye.

Man O’ War was the kind of thoroughbred that brought you closer to divinity than most people had ever been before.

“…He was so beautiful it made you want to cry and so full of fire…”

The magnificent chestnut had an indomitable will and an almost uncanny sense of his own power. The starter of the Travers Stakes the year Man O’ War ran, said this of him,” …[he was] so beautiful it made you want to cry, and so full of fire you thanked your God you could come close to him.” Joe H. Palmer, the celebrated turf writer, said, ” He was as near to a living flame as horses ever get, and horses get closer to this than anything else…It was that even when he was standing motionless in his stall, with his ears pricked forward, and his eyes focused on something above the horizon which mere people never see, energy still poured from him. He could get in no position which suggested actual repose, and his very stillness was that of a coiled spring, of the crouched tiger…”

Here is live footage of Man O’ War that allows us a glimpse of him in all of his glory:

Man O’ War probably found his life as a breeding stallion far more satisfactory than he did the highly structured and controlled life of a race horse. Intelligent and high strung by nature, life on the farm offered Big Red great distractions, as well as time to churn up his paddock on a regular basis, kicking up sod as though he were being chased by a predator. For his part, Will Harbut provided a firm and loving hand and a routine that made Big Red feel secure and happy within himself. The man who had broken more thoroughbreds than he could count and who owned not one, but two teams of draft horses understood the equine soul. And, as a father of 12, there was probably little Man O’ War could do that would surprise him.

Will Harbut had a rich, melodic voice and wide, smooth hands. According to Will’s son, Tom Harbut, it wasn’t long before his father and Man O’ War became as one. Of his father, Tom had this to say when interviewed by D. Cameron Lawrence for an article published in the October 2006 issue of Kentucky Humanities, ” He was well respected and I admired him for his accomplishments because for one thing, he was closer to the slave era. At that time, he wasn’t allowed to read or write. And to get where he did was amazing.”

Will was Man O’ War’s everything, the first face he saw in the morning and the last he saw at night. Will fed him, bathed him, mucked out his stall, groomed him, hand-walked him, brought him water and turned him out into his paddock. It was Will who brought him to the breeding shed or led him out to meet the steady stream of admirers who came to visit. And it was Will who reminded him to be gentle with the children that brought him a carrot or a lump of sugar and Will who admonished him to behave himself, which he did by snapping the shank and demanding, “Stand still, Red” or “Stop fidgeting, Red” or “Stop messin’ around, Red.”

Having a best friend like Will Harbut also assured the champion some privacy and respect. Samuel Riddle was most generous in allowing fans access to Man O’ War, for Faraway Farm was open to visitors every day from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Although he greeted over a million visitors, Will refused to wake the stallion up if visitors arrived when the horse was napping, telling them rather curtly, ” When Man O’ War wants to get up, he get up. And when he wants to lie down, he lie down.” If it was time for Man O’ War to be fed, Will would shoo people away and ask them to wait. If the stallion was out in his paddock and if Red appeared to be inviting company, Will might take one or two people right up to him. Although dignitaries from all walks of life, including film star Jeanette MacDonald, Henry M. Leland (founder of Cadillac Co.), Lord Halifax and government officials visited on a regular basis, Will never distinguished between famous and average folks. Everyone was treated with the same respect and everyone was made to understand that the only dignitary at Faraway was Man O’ War himself and, as time went on, his sons.

A typical day for Will and Man O’ War involved visits with fans. These three tiny photos were taken by a fan, name unknown. They were discovered on eBay under the heading “Man, horse & barn” !!!!

A lovely shot of Man O’ War accepting a treat from an unidentified woman. Will stands next to his big red horse, his hand resting, reassuringly, on Man O’ War’s neck.

It was during these public visits that Will became famous for giving Man O’ War a voice. When visitors arrived, they first received a tour of Faraway Farm and some of its other equine superstars and, when anticipation had mounted enough to make even the hardiest mouth go dry, Will would disappear into the small barn to emerge with Red. As men and women gaped, Man O’ War struck what was to become an archetypal pose — head held high, muscles rippling under his copper coat, feet firmly planted and eyes that looked away, towards the horizon.

Even when posing in his paddock, Man O’ War had the stance of a thoroughbred legend. Photographer unknown.

If he judged his audience worthy, Will would tell them a story or two. To be thus acknowledged, Will needed to feel that his visitors were in awe of the champion. Otherwise, he led the stallion out, waited a bit and then led him back to his stall. But whether or not Will so acknowledged you, a visit with Man O’ War always began with, “Folks, this is Man O’ War. He’s the greatest horse that ever lived. He’s the most and he’s going to go on being the most as long as you and I can tell about it.” Although he was famous for his declaration that Man O’ War was “… just the mostest horse,” Will spun a whole anthology of tales for his rapt listeners, holding the mighty stallion on a loose shank with one hand. His stories were never exactly the same and when he was storying, Will talked as much to Red as he did to his admirers. And Red always listened, punctuating the anecdotes with nods, nickers or snorts.

In most of the popular photos of Will and Man O’ War, the two are posing. But what was lovely about the shots taken in 1941 by Ivan Dmitri for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post (below) was the way they articulated Will and his horse ….. or, Man O’ War with his Will.

The photo that didn’t make the cover of the Saturday Evening Post…

….and the one that did!

The famous cover shot would also inspire equine artist, Fred Stone, whose collectors’ plate, “Forever Friends” remains one of his most popular. Had they seen Stone’s plate, neither Will nor Man O’ War would have been surprised. The most famous photographers, artists and sculptors of the day immortalized the champion, who stood for sittings patiently because Will was almost always at his side.

Although dated 1947, this photograph was taken some time before May 1, 1946 when Will suffered the stroke that would leave him blind and frail. It may well be one of the last photos ever taken of Man O’ War and his best friend in all the world, Will Harbut.

Even though Man O’ War, unlike most thoroughbreds, found the love of his life after retirement, there came a day when Will did not come to Faraway Farm. In 1946, Red’s best friend was the victim of a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and blind. Joe Palmer, writing of Big Red’s upcoming birthday that year, began this way, “When Man O’ War celebrates his next birthday here the party will have already been spoiled. Will Harbut, the groom who tended the big red stallion for nearly 20 years, was stricken with an attack which has at least temporarily deprived him of his sight as well as his powers of motion.” He went on to say, talking about Will’s legendary stories of Man O’ War’s exploits, “…It was, indeed, a full-blown and well-flavored narrative, now apparently never to be told again, for Will’s chances of complete recovery seem slight…It has for years been a half-jesting comment in Lexington that neither Man O’ War nor Will Harbut would be able to live without the other, and the jest is now getting a little bitter…”

Palmer’s observations proved prophetic.

Will Harbut died on October 3, 1947. His obituary in The Blood Horse listed among his survivors his wife, six sons, three daughters and Man O’ War.

Less than a month later, as photographer James W. Sames recounted to The Blood-Horse, he visited Faraway Farm at the request of farm manager, Patrick O’Neill, to take some pictures of Man O’ War. Little did he know that the last photo he took, in colour, would be the final image of a legend. When his new groom, Cunningham Graves, affectionately known as Bub, took Man O’ War back to his stall, the stallion balked. His head held high, he looked out and down the driveway, perhaps searching for a familiar figure. Finally, Man O’ War entered his stall at Faraway Farm and lay down.

He never got up again.

Postscript: Man O’ War died on November 1, 1947. Given the thousands who wished to pay their final respects, he was laid out in his coffin before being buried at Faraway Farm. When Man O’ War’s remains were disinterred and re-settled at the Kentucky Horse Park, the Harbut family declined a request to move Will Harbut from his burial spot, in the Maddoxtown cemetery, to a grave near the Man O’ War memorial. Instead, a plaque was erected beside the statue that tells the story of their long and loving relationship. 

TO SEE SOME WONDERFUL, RARE PHOTOS OF MAN O’ WAR, READERS SHOULD VISIT THE KENTUCKIANA ONLINE DIGITAL LIBRARY. Here are a few links to some of the photos of Man O’ War and Will (below). To SEARCH the collection, go to this address http://kdl.kyvl.org/  AND type Man O’ War into the BOX above SEARCH ALL COLLECTIONS.






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In the second of our series about some of the great fillies and mares who ran largely overseas, we are looking at the accomplishments to date of two great Euro mares who also share a couple of important connections, even though separated in time by over 20 years. Goldikova’s story is still “in progress” but Miesque’s narrative, while over with her death earlier this year, shone just as brightly during her racing career and later in the breeding shed. Both mares boast a huge fan following overseas, having established themselves as individuals who embody the highest possible breed standards in a modern thoroughbred. As we think about our own equine heroes and heroines, it is equally important to appreciate the greats of the past on a global stage, as well as those thoroughbreds of today who, like Goldikova, Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, Frankel and Black Caviar are writing themselves into legend. 

GOLDIKOVA (2005) Bred in Ireland by owners, Wertheimer et Frère

Goldikova gives her lad a hug after her historic win in the Prix de Rothschild. Olivier Peslier, her regular jockey, and trainer, Freddie Head, smile their delight.

Goldikova walked into history last week when she won the Prix de Rothschild for the fourth consecutive time. The 6 year-old daughter of Anabaa (1992) out of Born Gold (1991) by Blushing Groom (1974) has been nothing less than extraordinary in her racing career. That trend is likely to continue right through until her retirement is announced, likely some time after the 2011 Breeders’ Cup.

Her owners, Wertheimer et Frère, are the descendants of a distinguished French family whose history in the sport goes back to the early 1900’s. Proprietors of the House of Chanel, which they acquired through a partnership with Coco Chanel formed in 1924, the first of their thoroughbreds to make an international name for himself was the champion Epinard (1920). Owned by the canny Pierre Wertheimer, Epinard was the grandson of the British Triple Crown winner Rock Sand and in his native France, Epinard is still considered a racing legend to this day. In spite of his iconic status in the hearts and minds of the French, the great horse was commandeered by the German occupying forces during WWII and was reportedly seen as a cart horse before his death in 1942. A tragic end to the life of a champion who had so dominated his peers on the turf in the 1920’s. Other Wertheimer greats since the 1920’s include the spectacular filly, Midget (1953), the accomplished Riverman (1969) and the influential sire, Lyphard (1969), all of whom raced in France and England. Riverman and Lyphard were both retired to stud in the USA.

Goldikova’s trainer is the talented Freddie Head, who was a winning jockey overseas before he retired and began training for the Wertheimer family. In fact, the Head family has a long-standing tradition with the Wertheimers, beginning with the appointment of Freddie’s father, Alec Head, to train Pierre Wertheimer’s horses in 1949. Alec Head turned out to be a superb trainer and businessman, purchasing the famous French stud, Haras du Quesnay after WWII. The stud farm had been founded originally by William Kissam Vanderbilt in 1907. Haras du Quesnay is still owned and operated by the Head family today and is known for its distinguished roster of thoroughbred stallions, most recently standing Mr. Sidney (2004), Sevres Rose (1993) a grandson of Nijinsky II, Kentucky Dynamite (2003), a son of Kingmambo and the recently retired Youmzain (2003), a son of champion Sinndar.

Haras du Quesnay is essentially a non-commercial thoroughbred farm. Its horses are bred and owned by the Head family, with only a very few ever going to auction. However, given their excellent reputation in the industry, they have established the kinds of connections with the thoroughbred community worldwide that have resulted in some exceptional thoroughbreds, of which Goldikova is one. Although she was bred by the Wertheimers, Goldikova’s pedigree resounds with the influence of the Head family. A daughter of the Heads’ great stallion, Anabaa, Goldikova is inbred 3X4 to Northern Dancer through Lyphard on the bottom and 4X4 to Riverman, both horses bought by Alec Head for the Wertheimers.

During his career as a jockey, Freddie won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe three times, twice in partnership with a Head family member: the wonderful filly Ivanjica (1972), was trained by his father, Alec, and another outstanding filly, Three Troikas (1976) was trained by his sister, Criquette Head -Maarek. While Criquette Head-Maarek is the world’s most famous female thoroughbred trainer, still another sister, Martine Head, is the current manager of Haras du Quesnay. Criquette Head-Maarek’s daughter, Christiane, is currently training for Haras du Quesnay.

Safe to say that Goldikova’s connections are as distinguished as the mare herself. Goldikova is a champion, but she is also a harbinger of the rich thoroughbred racing and breeding history of two historic families, the Heads and the Wertheimers. They are to Europe what denizens like the Belmonts, Whitneys and Hancocks are to American thoroughbred history.

Goldikova shown in a workout at the Breeders Cup.

It is fair to say that Goldikova is a precious gift to the Head family and in particular, for reasons far beyond her winning form. Her sire, Anabaa, was given to Alec Head by Sheikh Maktoum Al Maktoum as a gift. When training under Criquette Head as a 2 year-old, it appeared that Anabaa was a wobbler, for which there is no cure. But rather than euthanising the colt, Alec Head determined to rest him. Six months later, it was discovered that Anabaa had actually sustained a pinched nerve — the cause of his “wobbler-like” symptoms. At this point, Sheikh Maktoum gave his colt to Head, because it was the gifted trainer who had been responsible for saving Anabaa’s life. It was a great gesture from a great horseman, whose love of the thoroughbred was legion.

The beautiful Anabaa, with Freddie Head in the saddle, comes to win the Darley July Cup at Newmarket in 1996. Photo and copyright, Tony Harris and PA News.

Predictably, Head and the lovely bay colt formed a bond that lasted until Anabaa’s untimely death, of peritonitis, in 2009. Retired to stud at Haras du Quesnay after a brilliant career on the turf, Anabaa sired classic winners Goldikova, Anabaa Blue and Martillo, as well as the Australian champion sprinter Yell and 2003 Hong Kong champion, Anabar. When Anabaa was finally moved to Castleton Lyons in Kentucky, Martine Head accompanied him on the trip and stayed with him until it was clear that the stallion had settled in. In an article in the Thoroughbred Times, she acknowledged that moving Anabaa to the USA had been a heartbreaker for her family, because they were all so committed to him. The Head family loved Anabaa, considering him “part of the family.” And so he was. Anabaa was owned by Alec Head, trained by Criquette Head -Maarek and ridden to victory by Freddie Head. The young colt who appeared to have no future at all, turned out to be a champion on both the turf and in the breeding shed. His offspring ran at all distances, over the dirt and grass, in two different hemispheres. He was clearly one of Danzig’s best sons — if not the best of them all. And just how great was Danzig? An amazing sire to be sure, but he had been a brilliant race horse too, whose career was cut short by repeated health issues. In this short clip (below), entitled “Danzig….What Might Have Been” we can re-live his brilliance on the track:

The mighty Danzig, a son of Northern Dancer and grandsire of Goldikova, who would go on to sire his own dynasty is shown romping in his paddock at Claiborne Farm. Photo and copyright, Dell Hancock.

Anabaa’s death came as a blow to the Head family. It was noted that, despite all the champion horses that he had trained and bred, Anabaa was “The One” in Alec Head’s life, making the subsequent triumphs of his brilliant daughter both bittersweet and exhilarating. Like her sire, Goldikova is a thoroughbred with a kind disposition who loves to run, loves people and is always keen to answer any questions asked of her on the turf.

To date, Goldikova has won 17 of 24 starts from ages 2-6, earning slightly under 7 million USD. She has raced to victory on three continents. She has won the Eclipse Champion Turf Mare twice (2009, 2010), the Cartier Champion Older Horse twice (2009, 2010) and has twice made history, winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile for the last three consecutive years (the only horse in history to win a World Championship race three times) and the Prix Rothschild for four years running. In 2010, she was voted the Cartier Horse of the Year. With her win in the Rothschild, the sensational filly who seems to do everything just right, notched her 14th Group One/Grade One win.

Join us as we watch the stuff that makes a thoroughbred fan’s heart sing and eyes cloud with emotion. Here is a video of Goldikova’s three consecutive wins under her jockey, Olivier Peslier, at the Breeders’ Cup in the Turf Mile against the boys:

After her Rothschild win, Freddie Head reflected, “I would say she is better than Miesque, as she is better in her head and Miesque used to pull very hard. Marchand d’Or is very good and is a champion, but she has to be the very best I have trained, she is something else.”

Which hints at one facet of the Goldikova-Miesque connection….

Below, 6 year-old Goldikova pictured in her last race to date — the Prix Rothschild, which she won for the fourth consecutive time. Olivier Peslier would say later that he never needed to touch her once with his whip — she just accelerated when asked, all on her own:

MIESQUE (1984) Bred in Kentucky by owners Flaxman Holdings Ltd. (Niarchos family)

Let us introduce you to Miesque. She was one of the very first “fabulous fillies” to invade the boys’ turf when she ran in the Breeders Cup Mile in 1987. Watching her here, it is easy to understand what it means to witness a thoroughbred’s great heart:

Miesque was owned and bred by the flamboyant Stavros Niarchos out of his very fine stallion, the great Nureyev. During his lifetime, Niarchos was an enthusiastic and successful competitor in France, England and the USA. Other than the champion Nureyev, his first big winner was Dactylographer (1975), a son of Secretariat. Miesque was, without question, the best horse he ever raced — and her jockey was the young Freddie Head. The dark bay filly with the white star and Freddie Head were as indissociable as Ronnie Turcotte and Secretariat. They were a team that chalked up 12 victories in 16 starts in England, France and the USA, earning over 2 million dollars USD in the process.

Miesque during her racing days, with jockey Freddie Head in the irons. She is seen here after her second consecutive BC Turf Mile victory.

The finish of the 1980 British 2000 Guineas with Nureyev (outside with white blaze) coming to win. However after a lengthy steward's inquiry, he was disqualified and the victory was handed to Known Fact (rail). Nureyev, another son of Northern Dancer and the sire of Miesque, would go on to sire many excellent thoroughbreds. Photo and copyright UPI.

Like “Goldie,” Miesque hailed from the family of the incomparable Northern Dancer. But unlike the Head-trained Goldikova, Miesque was “hot” in character. Like so many great thoroughbreds, the filly had a mind of her own and it was through Freddie Head’s deep understanding of the thoroughbred, together with trainer Francois Boutin’s patience, that her disposition was channeled into a hardy, competitive spirit on the race course. Temperamental or otherwise, Miesque was adored by her fans and enjoyed international fame. When she appeared at the 1987 Breeders’ Cup for the first time as a 3 year-old, her French campaign preceded her. But when she took the BC Turf Mile for the second straight time at 4, she became a legend — no other horse had ever done this before. She retired having been named Champion at 2, 3 and 4 in France, England and the USA.

Miesque as a broodmare, pictured here at Lane's End in 1994.

Here she is winning the Breeders Cup Turf Mile for the second consecutive year (1988). With this win, the noble Miesque walked into horse racing history:

Miesque is known today in North America through her brilliant progeny, the best of whom was unquestionably Kingmambo (1990), a son of Mr. Prospector (1970). But Miesque had 13 other foals, including a full sister to Kingmambo called Monevassia(1994) who has already produced the champion Rumplestiltskin2 (2003) by Danehill. In turn “Rumple” is the dam of the promising filly, Why (2008), by the great Galileo. Miesque’s other winning offspring are the French champion filly, East of the Moon (1991), Mingun (2000) and Miesque’s Son (1992). The latter is the sire of Miesque’s Approval (1999) who retired with earnings well over 2 million USD and earned the titles of Eclipse Award for Outstanding Male Turf Horse and Florida-bred Horse of the Year in 2006.

Champion French filly, East Of The Moon

Champion Miesque's Son, who stands in France.

Miesque's grandson, champion Miesque's Approval, owned by Charlotte Weber. He is by Miesque's Son out of a With Approval mare (1986), Win Approval (1992).

The handsome stallion, Mingun

Rumplestiltskin, by Danehill Dancer out of a daughter of Miesque, Monevassia, pictured with Kieran Fallon aboard during her racing career.

Kingmambo is an American legend and a sire of sires. And it is he who assured that the great heart of Miesque would go on. Prior to his retirement, Kingmambo had sired 13 millionaires and a goodly number of winners of over 200K USD. Among his millionaires are the champions Lemon Drop Kid (1996), American Boss (1995), El Condor Pasa (1995) who stands in Japan, Student Council (2002), Rule of Law (2001), Henrythenavigator (2005) and Tawqeet (2002). Progeny who earned 500K USD or more include the likes of Archipenko (2004), Parade Ground (1995), Light Shift (2004), Detroit City (2002) and Master of Hounds (2008). When pensioned by Lane’s End, Kingmambo’s champion offspring had raced worldwide, on dirt and turf and at a range of distances. All were as consistent in the winner’s enclosure as they were sound. Today, Kingmambo’s progeny and their progeny comprise an almost dizzying array of champion bloodstock.

Kingmambo shown in full flight, looking very much like his dam, Miesque.

Kingmambo the sire of sires, pictured by photographer Tony Leonard at Lane's End, Kentucky. Photo and copyright, Tony Leonard.

In 1999, Miesque was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame. She died on January 20, 2011 and is buried at the Oak Tree Division of Lane’s End Farm where she lived as a broodmare following her retirement from racing.

Miesque stands 82nd on the Blood-Horse’s list of the 100 Greatest Thoroughbreds of the 20th century and 14th on Tony Morris’ international list of the greatest fillies of the last century. She certainly deserves to be remembered in this way.

Yet neither honours nor her impressive legacy to the breed can ever quite compete with our memories of her, coming home with a young Freddie Head in the saddle, her body streamlined in flight as she reached toward the wire. It is in the wake of thoroughbreds like Miesque that we learn to appreciate the art and grace of a thoroughbred.

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