Archive for February, 2012

Havre de Grace, the 2011 Horse of the Year, descends from a superb sire line whose story resonates with the whims of thoroughbred genetics. This article is enriched beyond words by the superb photography of Matt and Wendy Wooley of EquiSport Photos, who so graciously allowed THE VAULT permission to publish a selection of their photographs. 

Portrait of a champion. Havre de Grace captured through the lens of master equine photographer, Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos.

Even though only 4 years old, Havre de Grace’s story is punctuated by echoes of tragedy and promise. Her trainer, Larry Jones, last found himself in the spotlight as the trainer of the courageous and ill-fated Eight Belles. And Havre de Grace’s sire, Saint Liam, who had garnered HOTY honours in 2005, came to a tragic end in 2006.

Trainer Larry Jones on his first impression of Havre de Grace at the Keeneland September yearling sale, " She was gorgeous...she was a 'must have' after watching her for 10 minutes and going back several times to make sure it wasn't make believe."

Any thoroughbred’s pedigree gives a writer pause: the stories embedded in the names that appear in a bloodline are always rich in possibility. Havre de Grace’s ancestry is no different, resounding as it does with legends like Mr. Prospector, Northern Dancer, Buckpasser, Dr. Fager, Gallorette, Native Dancer, Polynesian, Challenger II, Teddy and Ajax. But it is what she owes to her great grandsire, a curmudgeon named Halo, who was once thought to have secured a place in breeding history as illustrious as that of Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector, that caught our attention.

Today, the Hail to Reason sire line through Halo is only marginally represented in the North American thoroughbred pedigrees of champions. And when Halo is cited in books and articles, it is for one of two reasons: either his foul temper, or the fact that he sired the great Sunday Silence, who went on to attain revered status as “The Star” of Japan’s modern breeding history.

Halo, a great and memorable sire.

Halo could not really help being such a bad-tempered colt. His sire, Hail to Reason, had needed a good deal of convincing to bloom into the well-mannered horse he became and his grandsire, Turn-To (1951), a son of Royal Charger (1942) and grandson of the incomparable Nearco (1936), got mixed reviews in the breeding shed. This was because his offspring were either spectacular or unsound. Among Turn-To’s best sons were First Landing (sire of Meadow Stables’ Riva Ridge), Best Turn, (sire of Davona Dale and Cox’s Ridge), Sir Gaylord (sire of Sir Ivor) and Halo’s daddy, Hail to Reason.

Turn-To, the sire of Hail to Reason, appears in Havre de Grace's 5th generation sire line.

The magnificent Hail To Reason was an outstanding sire and broodmare sire.

Hail to Reason was arguably Turn-To’s most accomplished son, most particularly as a sire of sires, through his sons Halo, Sunday Silence, Bold Reason, Stop the Music and Mr. Leader. Many of his daughters also became major producers, notably Admiring, the dam of Roar, Wild Applause and Sea Hero, and Priceless Gem, the dam of Arc winner and champion, Allez France.

And all this from a sire whose life had once hung in the balance.

Hail to Reason on the track.

Hail to Reason was born in Kentucky in 1958 to a big, strapping daughter of Blue Swords called Nothirdchance. By the time he was turned out with the other foals, the youngster was already showing leadership potential of the scrappy kind, taking a mere two days to bring all the other foals to heel. Owned by the Bieber-Jacobs Stable, the two year-old Hail to Reason was the kind of horse you never turned your back on. Not grumpy, exactly, or truly mean — more the kind of colt who just didn’t trust people. Young Patrice Jacobs, daughter of owner-trainer Hirsch Jacobs, took a shine to Hail to Reason and spent enough “quality time” with the youngster to build the kind of trust that provided a foundation for the calm, intelligent and willing horse he was to become.

In a very real sense, it was Patrice’s love for Hail to Reason that saved his life.

It took the big colt 6 races before he broke his maiden, but he was soon on his way to the winner’s circle, chalking up 9 wins in 18 starts. Then disaster struck. Shortly after a poor showing in the Saratoga Special, Hail to Reason took a bad step while training at Aqueduct. The accident happened too early in the morning for any of the track vets to be on the scene. It was Hirsch Jacobs who instructed his son, John, to hold the colt’s injured left foreleg while they led him back to the barn. There, the elder Jacobs fashioned a plaster cast and waited for a vet to arrive. Hail to Reason stood as still as a statue in his stall, just as though he knew he’d been badly hurt and that his trainer was trying to help him. It was over a month, and several cracked leg casts later, before the colt was out of danger. Through the whole process, Hail to Reason remained calm and cooperative. It was that attitude and composure, according to John Jacobs, that saved his life.

One thing is clear: had it not been for trainer Hirsch Jacob's quick thinking, there would have been no Havre de Grace to celebrate! Photo of Grace in motion by the gifted Wendy Wooley /EquiSport Photos.

The injury ended Hail to Reason’s racing days. During the first few years at stud he was still not 100% but despite a limited book of mares, Hail to Reason’s very first crop yielded five major winners, including Straight Deal (champion handicap mare of 1967), Hail to All (winner of the Belmont Stakes) and Admiring (winner of the Arlington-Lassie who eventually sold for a then-world record). In 1964, Hail to Reason got the Kentucky Derby winner, Proud Clarion, and three years later in 1970, the Preakness winner, Personality. Then, in 1972, after completing a sire’s Triple Crown, the stallion got Epsom Derby winner, Roberto. As the breeder of both Proud Clarion and Roberto, John W. Galbreath of Darby Dan Farm became the only individual at that time to have bred and owned both a Kentucky and Epsom Derby winner. And in 1974, there was the filly Cum Laude Laurie, winner of the Delaware Oaks, the Ruffian H., the Spinster and the Beldame.

Proud Clarion and jockey, Bobby Usery.

Roberto and the great Lester Piggott come home to win the Epsom Derby.

In 1969, along came Halo. He was bred by John R. Gaines and sold as a yearling to Charles Engelhard, the owner of the great Nijinsky and a dominant international owner before his death a year later. Halo’s dam, the lovely Cosmah, was a foundation mare for Gaines having already produced Hall of Fame inductee, Tosmah, in 1961. Halo would be her second most outstanding offspring.

For a year following Engelhard’s death, Halo raced in his colours and won the Lawrence Realization. Sold to Hollywood producer Irving Allen, Halo was then shipped to Allen’s stable in England where it was discovered that he was cribber. At the time, cribbing was viewed very disadvantageously by the British, for reasons that are lost in time. But the habit overturned Halo’s sale, and back the dark, dark brown three year-old came, this time to E.P. Taylor and Windfields Farm, the home of Northern Dancer and Nearctic. Racing under trainer Mack Miller, who had been his trainer as a 2 year-old, Halo raced until 5 with his biggest win coming that year, in the United Nations Handicap. He retired with a record of 31 starts of which he won 9, placed in 8 and rolled in third 5 times. Kind of an average race horse.

Halo was an average contender on the track.

But Halo was certainly no average sire.

His stud career began at the Maryland division of Windfield’s Farm, followed by a move to Arthur Hancock’s Stone Farm in 1984, where he lived until his death in 2000, at the age of 31. There was something about his new career that turned the always nervous Halo into a genuinely nasty stallion, so mean that he went out to his paddock wearing a specially designed muzzle. But the job he did in the breeding shed was nothing short of spectacular, siring not only the incomparable — and similarly temperamental — Sunday Silence, but also another Kentucky Derby winner, Sunny’s Halo (sire of more than 24 stakes winners), as well as Devil’s Bag (sire of Devil His Due, Twilight Agenda and Japan’s Taiki Shuttle), Southern Halo (repatriated South American sire of More Than Ready), Lively One (sire of champion Answer Lively), Jolie’s Halo (sire of Hal’s Hope) and Strodes Creek. His daughters also distinguished themselves on the track, notably the Kentucky Oaks winner, Goodbye Halo, and the Canadian and North American champion, Glorious Song, who was also a Blue Hen in the breeding shed, producing both Rahy and Singspiel.

Champion Glorious Song. Photo and copyright, Michael Burns.

Champion Glorious Song. Photo and copyright, Michael Burns.

The lovely Sunny's Halo.

Champion Devil's Bag.

The exquisite Southern Halo.

Despite the champions Halo got, most of his sons proved unable to follow in his footsteps as sires. Other than the prepotent Sunday Silence, no other progeny came close, with the exception of Southern Halo, who was a terrific sire in South America and who’s son, More Than Ready, gave us Ready’s Image, who has just recently entered stud.

Such are the vagaries of genetics, exemplified in Halo’s son, Saint Ballado, a full brother to Devil’s Bag who was nowhere near as impressive on the track, although he did win the Arlington Classic and the Sheridan Stakes. However, the handsome stallion bested his brother in the breeding shed, siring champions Saint Liam, Ashado and Captain Bodgit before his untimely death at the age of 13.

Saint Liam raced into his 5th year, retiring with earnings in excess of 4 million USD. His gutsy win in the 2005 Breeders’ Classic earned him the respect of horse racing’s sports elite, even though saint Liam had also annexed the Donn and Stephen Foster, as well as the Woodward that same year.

The lovely Saint Ballado, great grandsire of Havre de Grace.

Fans loved the exquisite Ashado for her determination and grand heart.

Captain Bodgit: his moves in winning the Holy Bull left horse racing fans dreaming of a new Triple Crown winner!

Anne Eberhardt's beautiful portrait of Saint Liam. Photo and copyright, The Blood Horse. (This photo can be purchased through Blood Horse's photo store)

Celebration of Saint Liam's receipt of 2005 Horse of the Year honours.

Although Saint Liam broke from post 13 in the BC Classic, and although he was hounded to the finish line by a gallant Flower Alley, his stamina and class shone through:

In the meantime, pedigree experts were focusing on Saint Liam for another reason. Other sons of Saint Ballado like Captain Bodgit, Flame Thrower, Yankee Victor and Sweetsouthernsaint had failed to produce anything that demonstrated some of the potential of the Hail to Reason-Halo sire line. Would Saint Liam be any different?

Retired following his Classic win to stand at Lane’s End, Saint Liam only had one crop of foals before he was gone. Had he survived the unlucky incident that killed him, it is likely that the young stallion would have sparkled. The fact that in his only foal crop there were 12 stakes performers, 6 stakes winners and 3 graded winners, headed by our 2011 Horse of the Year, attests to his great potential. After his death, the University of Notre Dame named a health centre, St. Liam’s, in his honour. But despite such a tribute, the loss of Saint Liam remains one of the saddest events in the industry of recent times.

Havre de Grace bears an uncanny resemblance to her sire, Saint Liam, right down to the star that blazes on her broad forehead and the kind, intelligent eyes. Photo by Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos.

Bittersweet as the career of his best daughter may be, Havre de Grace does Saint Liam proud. She looks like her daddy and to quote her trainer, Larry Jones, has ” …a heart as big as America.”  Grace boasts a wonderful disposition, stamina that won’t quit and a determination to win. Too, like Saint Liam, Havre de Grace is improving with maturity — all of which augers well for her 5 year-old campaign.

The champion at the Meet And Greet Havre de Grace event, held at Fox Hill Farm on November 12, 2011. Photo by Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos.

In her Woodward and Beldame wins of 2011, Grace demonstrated with a kind of equine finality why Larry Jones thinks of her as “my Zenyatta.” Certainly, Grace is taking a page from Zenyatta’s book, insofar as her gain in maturity and experience might well make 2012 the “Jones Girl’s” best yet.

Of one thing we can be sure: Halo is guiding her, every step of the way.

Good luck in 2012, sweetheart. Run like a girl and come home safe. Photo by Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos.

Havre de Grace takes the Woodward in “Saint Liam style”

Walking away from the field in the Beldame:

Riding with Grace:

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 Just received a note from Australia’s most noted thoroughbred photographer, Bronwen Healy, about the time she spent with one of her great equine loves, Nelly, aka Black Caviar. Bronwen’s note prompted an immediate response here on THE VAULT to let all Nelly fans worldwide know that there are brand new photo essays (4, in fact) of this wonderful “pony” (as Bronwen calls her) posted on The Image Is Everything. 

I first discovered Bronwen Healy’s photography many years ago now, through the auspices of the worldwide web. Of course, in those days, yours truly was too shy to even contemplate writing Ms. Healy to say how much I thought of her photography. But I have been an ardent fan for at least a decade. 

What you learn from a photographer with an artist’s eye, like Bronwen Healy or Lydia A. Williams or Barbara Livingston or Michael Burns, is difficult to describe in words. But let me try. The first thing I learned is that, just like a painter or a sculptor or anyone involved in The Arts, photographers have what we call today “a signature” that identifies their work. 

In Bronwen’s case, that signature — at least for me — has to do with her understanding of the uses of light, coupled with a desire to get “under the surface” of the thoroughbreds she represents through the lens.  In the latter case, Bronwen’s work situates her viewer in a visual landscape that creates an intimate association with the image: we become Peter Moody or Nelly’s beloved caretaker, Zach Ianson. We become people who know Black Caviar in a way that even the most skilled sports commentator would be at a loss to replicate. Such is the language of the image — and the art of Bronwen Healy. 

As I said, it was her use of light that brought me back to Bronwen’s website again and again. I would sit for as long as 20 minutes looking at a single photograph and marvelling over the light that not only backgrounded her subjects but permeated them, so that every detail — whether on a horse’s brow or through the slope of a muscled shoulder — played a distinct and distinctive role in the whole of the composition. These are photographs that go beyond simply capturing a memory. They are tapestries of colour, texture, light and perspective.

Just to tantalize you, below are thumbnails of each of Bronwen’s journal entries, together with one of an outstanding series of photos. Just follow the link provided by copying and pasting into your browser, or go to http://bronwenhealyphotography.blogspot.com and use the menu. 

So please join THE VAULT as we celebrate the artistry of Bronwen Healy by entering her world, a magical place where a lens becomes the voice of Black Caviar and the many other thoroughbreds that Bronwen has photographed throughout her career. 



Black Caviar and her fans -- there to celebrate her 17th victory!



Bronwen Healy shooting Nelly at sunrise.



...and I love it!!!!



Black Caviar winning her unofficial trial at Caulfield, January 17, 2012

To see more of Bronwen Healy’s photography, you are invited to check out her website at: http://www.bronwenhealy.com.au/

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…And humbled indeed he was. Mike de Kock, the trainer of great thoroughbreds like Horse Chestnut and Ipi Tombe, as well as a spate of others who ran mostly in South Africa and Dubai, had just been overwhelmed by the performance of his 4 year-old mare, Igugu.

Igugu means “jewel” or “treasure” in Zulu and that she most certainly is — and more. Just how much more remains to be seen.

South Africa’s 2010 Horse of the Year had come into the Southern Cape’s flagship race, the J & B Met, not quite herself. The daughter of Galileo had first been ill, then had to endure an 18-hour road trip to Cape Town, followed by almost complete isolation in quarantine in the days before the race. She had had little gusto to train up to the race. She appeared lacklustre at the start.

But then, the heart of a champion kicked into gear as the field turned for home…..

Igugu is to South African racing what fillies and mares like Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Rags To Riches and Dance Smartly are to North America, what Black Caviar is to Australia and Zarkava to France: a Superstar. That one thoroughbred in a million who brings passion, excitement and heart-stopping thrills to fan and punter alike each and every time they step onto the turf. Igugu joins the ranks of great female thoroughbreds worldwide who have so impressively stepped up over the better part of this decade to compete against all comers.

Igugu, the Queen of South African racing.

Her sire, Galileo (1998).

Her dam, the unraced Zarinia (2001) is a daughter of Intikhab (1994).

Igugu was born in Australia in 2007, the product of one of sire Galileo’s Southern Hemisphere visits. What can we say about Galileo? Even in countries where he has yet to set foot, he is known as a sire who likely carries the prepotency of Sadler’s Wells, together with the rich genetic material of his outstanding dam, Urban Sea. During her lifetime, Urban Sea not only won the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe for the Tsui family, but went on to become a Blue Hen, producing My Typhoon as well as still another equine giant, in the form of the incomparable Sea The Stars.

To return to Galileo — clearly the high hopes Coolmore invested in him has borne golden fruit.

Not only that, but this wonderful stallion has the knack of producing “golden” fillies as well as colts. To date, Galileo has sired talented fillies like Allegretto, Golden Lilac, Maybe, Lush Lashes, Together, Misty For Me and a half-sister to the great Goldikova, Galikova, who is well on her way to following in her big sister’s footsteps. As for colts, Galileo’s champion progeny include Frankel, Nathaniel, Treasure Beach, Cape Blanco, Soldier of Fortune, Rip Van Winkle, Red Rocks, Sixties Icon and the lightly raced, Teofilo.  If even one of these boys becomes a solid sire, then Galileo, at the ripe old age of 15, enters the high society of sire of sires. As for his daughters: who wouldn’t dream of a broodmare band with this quality and depth?

Igugu’s dam, Zarinia, never raced. And the filly’s broodmare sire, Intikhab, descends from the Roberto line. However, he has thus far proved only a moderate success, with arguably his biggest splash being the outstanding Snow Fairy (2007). Rounding out her pedigree is the fact that Igugu is inbred to Mr. Prospector (4 X 5) and Hail To Reason (5 X5).

Igugu in a conformation shot.

In 2009-2010, the 2 year-old Igugu started 5 times, winning 3 and coming in second twice. The two she lost in her maiden year are the only 2 races in what is now a total of 12 starts. Since February 2011, Igugu has done nothing but win. Here she is breaking her maiden under jockey Randall Simons, who rode her throughout her 2 year-old season:

Like many of the Galileo’s, Igugu at 2 was high-strung, inclined to sweat up before a race and got so wound up that her favourite running style involved charging out of the gate as though her tail were on fire, grabbing the lead and then running away from the field. She’s stayed pretty much the same throughout her career. But at the beginning, given her sweats and slightly wild-eyed temperament, Mike de Kock was not prepared to label her brilliant, although he knew that she had some potential. Any experienced trainer will tell you that even great ability can be swamped by a nervous sensibility. So the jury was out on Igugu for most of her 2 year-old season.

The love of Mike de Kock’s career will always be the masterful Horse Chestnut (1995), a winner of the South African Triple Crown. The handsome chestnut also came from the Northern Dancer – Sadler’s Wells sire lines, as does Igugu. If truth were to be told, de Kock’s very private view was that Horse Chestnut had been THE horse of his lifetime.

The magnificent Horse Chestnut.

While it is true that for every trainer there is typically one thoroughbred who sweeps him/her off their feet in a love story that lasts forever, when Igugu embarked on her own Triple Crown campaign — South Africa’s Triple Tiara, first instituted in 1999 — she gave her trainer’s loyalty to his Triple Crown champion colt a run for its money.

Follow each victory from your own seat in THE VAULT’S GRANDSTAND, beginning with the 2011 Gauteng Fillies Guineas:

Second leg: the Grade One SA Fillies Classic:

And then, the race that brought them to their feet, the SA Oaks:

And there you are. In the speed of a heartbeat, Galileo’s little girl became the very first winner of SA’s Triple Tiara, giving Mike de Kock an unprecedented two such champions in his career.

Igugu after her courageous win against the colts in her first start of 2012.

At this point in 2012, Igugu’s story begins where this article started. Future plans include the possibility of running her in Dubai.

But we think that it’s fair to say that after her victory in the J & B Met in January, Igugu left the track to take up residence right next to Horse Chestnut, in the chambers of her trainer’s heart.

South Africa's sweetheart and her regular jockey, Anthony Delpech. Delpech took over from Simons when Igugu started her Triple Tiara campaign.

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