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On two continents, over three weeks in June, STORM CAT continues to exercise his influence over the development of the thoroughbred and horse racing history.

This tapestry of STORM CAT and owner-breeder William T. Young, The Master of Overbrook Farm, hangs in

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

Breeding a champion takes a long time. And it’s inconvenient in the 21st century, when our concept of time is so different, thanks to things like the social media. In a world where Twitter pumps out race results one second (literally) after the horses cross the finish line, the prospect of waiting thirty years to get another Frankel or thirty-seven years to get the next American Triple Crown winner isn’t all that appealing.

But another way of looking at this is to realize that any thoroughbred is a work much like the tapestry of Storm Cat and owner-breeder William T. Young that hangs in the University of Kentucky library in Lexington, Kentucky. A thoroughbred is textured of many threads — and many life stories — coming down to us through time.

If we appreciated this, we could reform how we manage the Earth and all of her creatures. And, as though to encourage us, Storm Cat’s “thread” hovered over the 2015 Triple Crown and, across the Atlantic in England, over the pomp of Royal Ascot 2015.

William T. Young’s great stallion died in 2013, at the age of 30, leaving in his slipstream a gallery of champion colts and fillies, and stallions whose progeny continue to contribute to Storm Cat’s legacy — and to the survival of the Bold Ruler line. During his active years as a stallion, Storm Cat sired a bevy of runners who excelled as two year-olds and favoured a distance of 7f. Among his best were Kentucky Oaks winner Sardula, Harlan (sire of the excellent stallion Harlan’s Holiday), Hennessy (sire of the brilliant Johannesburg), the champion After Market (now standing in Turkey), 2005 Sovereign Award Winner Ambitious Cat, the leading miler and Coolmore champion, Black Minnaloushe and millionaire Bluegrass Cat, the dam of champion Sky Mesa, himself a successful sire.

Other excellent prodigy include Caress, BC Classic winner Cat Thief, champions Catinca and Sweet Catomine, Desert Stormer, Courageous Cat, Good Reward, Coolmore’s Hold That Tiger, BC Distaff winner, Mountain Cat, Juddmonte’s Nebraska Tornado, Newfoundland, One Cool Cat, millionaire Raging Fever, Japanese multimillionaire, Seeking The Dia, the fabulous filly, Sharp Cat, BC Juvenile Fillies & Eclipse award winner, Stormflagflying, Vision and Verse, champion Tabasco Cat and the 2009 BC Distaff winner, Life Is Sweet (below,winning the BC Distaff in 2009 for owner M. Wygood and trainer, John Shirreffs).

Storm Cat’s record of great thoroughbreds of both sexes was absolutely stunning during his lifetime. Arguably the best of all his progeny was Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway, “The Iron Horse,” who gave Storm Cat a classic runner, one of the few he produced during his stud career. As a sire, Giant’s Causeway is well on his way to becoming a sire of sires, notably through sons like Shamardal and Footstepsinthesand. Other European runners of classic lines include the aforementioned filly, November Snow, and Black Minnaloushe.

A delighted George Duffield rides in the Coral-Eclipse winner, GIANT'S CAUSEWAY, after the colt's gutsy win over KALANISI. The only other horse to have won the St. James's Palace and Coral-Eclipse in the same year was CORONACH, in 1926.

A delighted George Duffield rides in the Coral-Eclipse winner, GIANT’S CAUSEWAY, after the colt’s gutsy win over KALANISI. The only other horse to have won the St. James’s Palace and Coral-Eclipse in the same year was CORONACH, in 1926.

 

As a BM sire, Storm Cat was equally successful. In 2012, a year before his death, Storm Cat was responsible for, among others: Japan’s King Kanaloa (King Kamehameha ex. Lady Blossom) and Shonan Mighty (Manhattan Cafe ex. Luxury); Arkansas Derby winner and millionaire, Bodemeister (Empire Maker ex. Untouched Talent); champion Love And Pride (A.P. Indy ex. Ile de France); champion In Lingerie (Empire Maker ex. Cat Chat); Grade 2 winner City To City (City Zip ex. Stormbow) and Noble Tune, winner of $321,000 USD (Unbridled’s Song ex. Serena’s Cat). Of course, Storm Cat’s contribution to thoroughbred bloodlines as a BM sire was not confined to his 2014 record. His appearance in the first 5 generations of some exceptional individuals in their tail female bespeaks a lasting influence on the breed, both in North America and the United Kingdom, with a smattering (for the moment) in the Southern Hemisphere.

IN LINGERIE with her 2014 FRANKEL filly. The mare's BM sire is STORM CAT.

IN LINGERIE with her 2014 FRANKEL filly. The champion mare’s BM sire is STORM CAT.

A dark bay, Storm Cat was bred in the purple: his sire was Storm Bird, a champion juvenile and son of Northern Dancer and the New Providence (Bull Page) mare, South Ocean. His dam was Terlingua, a champion filly and daughter of the 1973 American Triple Crown winner, Secretariat. In the minds of those who knew Storm Cat’s female family best, like trainer D. Wayne Lukas, he was his mother’s son through and through, as were many of his offspring. According to Lukas, an American Hall of Fame trainer, the Storm Cats “… walk like her, they look like her and they have her attitude…the influence of the {dam} there was very strong.”

TERLINGUA (SECRETARIAT ex CRIMSON SAINT) during her racing career.

TERLINGUA (SECRETARIAT ex CRIMSON SAINT) during her racing career.

Storm Cat and jockey Chris McCarron win the 1985 Young America Stakes (Grade I) at Meadowlands on October 10, 1985. Photo by: Jim Raftery / Turfoto (Track Photographer)

Storm Cat and jockey Chris McCarron win the 1985 Young America Stakes (Grade I) at Meadowlands on October 10, 1985. Photo and copyright: Jim Raftery / Turfoto (Track Photographer)

 

 

And this led, in turn, to analysts making the connection between Terlingua’s precocity as a two year-old, together with her sprinter-type profile (Crimson Saint, Terlingua’s dam, was a champion speedster) and Storm Cat progeny, many of whom fell into this performance category. The time was ripe for thoroughbreds with a speed bias — and the market loved it.

So gentle was Storm Bird, that even the very young were allowed to visit him. He endeared himself to the whole O'Brien family. Then, in early in 1981, the colt sufferred an ugly assault at Ballydoyle. A disgruntled employee got into his stall and slashed off his mane and tale. Although Storm Bird appeared to recover, everything went wrong in his 3 year-old season. A brilliant career had ended.

So gentle was Storm Bird, that even the very young were allowed to visit him. He endeared himself to the whole (Vincent) O’Brien family. Then, early in 1981, the colt sufferred an ugly assault at Ballydoyle. A disgruntled employee got into his stall and slashed off his mane and tail. Although Storm Bird appeared to recover, everything went wrong in his 3 year-old season. A brilliant career had ended. (Photo and copyright, Jacqueline O’Brien)

TERLINGUA at Ashford in the Lockridge-      years with her very first foal, a filly by LYPHARD, who

TERLINGUA at Ashford in the Lockridge- Hefner years with her very first foal, a 1982 filly by LYPHARD, who was named LYPHARD’S DANCER. (Credit: Thoroughbred Times)

But Storm Cat’s sire, Storm Bird, had been a stellar two year-old himself and would likely have continued into his three year-old season had it not been for a series of unfortunate events, one of which had an absolutely devastating effect on the colt’s state-of-mind. In the late winter months of 1981 a disgruntled (Vincent) O’Brien employee broke into the gentle Storm Bird’s stall and hacked off his mane and tail before being apprehended. Ballydoyle, who had Storm Bird insured for 15 million (USD) was understandably quiet about the attack, saying only that there were no career-ending injuries. But Storm Bird, known for his sweetness and his kind eye around the stable, was never quite the same again. Hampered by physical injuries, he was retired to stand at Ashford Stud, then owned by Dr. William Lockridge and Robert Hefner. Ironically, it was Lockridge who bred Crimson Saint, the dam of Terlingua and grandam of Storm Cat, and it was Lockridge’s relationship with William T. Young, Sr., with whom he owned Terlingua in partnership, that led to her being sent to Storm Bird. (When bankruptcy plagued Lockride, Young bought a group of mares from him, including Terlingua and another Secretariat mare, Cinegita, who was bred to Storm Bird to produce Starlet Storm, the dam of champion Flanders. Shortly thereafter, Ashford was acquired by John Magnier and company as part of a settlement Lockridge and Hefner made to cover their outstanding debt on the purchase of Storm Bird.)

The Storm Bird influence is one that had the potential to mitigate against Storm Cat producing only short distance runners. And that potential might well be exerting itself from two or three generations back, in the pedigree of contemporary thoroughbred champions who happily get at least a mile over the dirt or turf.

Below is footage of the two year-old Storm Bird winning the Dewhurst Stakes from To-Agori-Mou and Miswaki, two colts who were champions of the turf.. His performance set the press buzzing, and Storm Bird was a prohibitive Epsom Derby favourite well before his anticipated debut as a three year-old:

 

STORM CAT runs in his paddock at Overbrook Farm.

STORM CAT runs in his paddock at Overbrook Farm.

So it comes as little surprise that, through sons and daughters and their progeny, the lasting influence of Storm Cat was profoundly felt over three weeks in June of this year, when America received her much-anticipated Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah, and Royal Ascot saw brilliant performances by a number of outstanding colts and fillies. And even though Storm Cat represents only a thread in the pedigree weave of these champions, none would have come into being without him. Their collective performances further attest to this amazing stallion’s resiliency and to his rightful place in thoroughbred racing history.

American Pharoah, a son of Pioneerof the Nile by Empire Maker out of the mare Littleprincessemma, a daughter of Yankee Gentleman by Storm Cat, gave North America the racing highlight of the year when he swept to the finish line in the Belmont Stakes to become America’s twelfth Triple Crown winner — after a wait of 37 years.

As though this wasn’t enough, Storm Cat’s name was as prominent as Galileo’s in the pedigrees of several of the most stunning winners at Royal Ascot this year. In addition, Storm Cat mares have proved a very good match with Galileo, as seen in two of the colts below, Gleneagles and Aloft, as well as the filly Ballydoyle, who ran a blinder against Suits For You in the Chesam Stakes. Too, previous good performers like Misty For Me have Storm Cat as their BM sire. The Galileo-Storm Cat nick has been particularly lucrative for Coolmore, attesting to the fact that Storm Cat can get excellent turf runners too.

Storm Cats at Royal Ascot 2015 put in some sterling performances:

TUESDAY, June 16

Gleneagles, the stunning winner of the St. James Palace Stakes who broke the mighty Frankel’s existing track record, is by Galileo out of You’resothrilling, a Storm Cat daughter, and full sister to Giant’s Causeway:

WEDNESDAY, June 17

Coolmore’s Acapulco, a 2 year-old filly brilliantly trained by Wesley Ward, won the G2 Queen Mary Stakes. She is a daughter of Scat Daddy (Johannesburg), placing Storm Cat in her 4th generation:

In the next race that day, Amazing Maria, ridden by James Doyle and taking on champions Integral and Rizeena, won the Duke of Cambridge Stakes convincingly. The pedigree of the 4 year-old daughter of Mastercraftsman features Tale of the Cat, a son of Storm Cat, as her BM sire:

THURSDAY, June 18

On Thursday, it was 3 year-old War Envoy, whose dam is a granddaughter of Storm Cat, who took the Britannia Stakes.

The 3 year-old WAR ENVOY scoots home for Coolmore under Ryan Moore to win the Britannia Stakes on Thursday, June 18 at Royal Ascot.

The 3 year-old WAR ENVOY scoots home for Coolmore under Ryan Moore to win the Britannia Stakes on Thursday, June 18 at Royal Ascot.

FRIDAY, June 19

Storm Cat kicked off more trips to the winner’s circle with Balios in the King Edward VII (G2). Balios is a son of Shamardal by Giant’s Causeway and Storm Cat appears in his sire line in the 3rd generation.

BALIOS with Jamie Spencer in the irons, sweeps home a winner in the King Edward VII at Ascot on June 19.

BALIOS with Jamie Spencer in the irons, sweeps home a winner in the King Edward VII at Ascot on June 19.

Aloft, a Galileo colt out of Dietrich, by Storm Cat, wins the Queen’s Vase and gives Ryan Moore, aka “Magic Moore,” a 9th win that confirms him as the winningest jockey ever at a Royal Ascot meet.

ALOFT surges to the wire to win the Queen's Vase and give his jockey, Ryan Moore, the record for most wins in any Royal Ascot meeting, ahead of the likes of the great Lester Piggott.

ALOFT surges to the wire to win the Queen’s Vase and give his jockey, Ryan Moore, the modern record for most wins in any Royal Ascot meeting, ahead of the likes of the great Lester Piggott and Pat Eddery. In 1878, the legendary Fred Archer got a dozen wins at that year’s Royal Ascot.

SATURDAY, June 20

Crack 2 year-old filly Ballydoyle didn’t win the Chesham Stakes but she came close enough that the stewards’ needed to take a long, hard look at the footage of the race. A daughter of Galileo, the young Ballydoyle’s BM sire is Storm Cat. Bumped badly near the finish and running against colts, she still got up to make all, narrowly missing the win by a short nose.

Coming to the wire, BALLYDOYLE chases home SUITS YOU.

Coming to the wire, BALLYDOYLE (#8) chases home SUITS YOU.

How close was it? SUITS YOU (outside) and BALLYDOYLE (Inside near stands) at the wire.

How close was it? SUITS YOU (outside) and BALLYDOYLE (inside, near the stands) at the wire.

 

This is one article that doesn’t require an epilogue, because Storm Cat’s story isn’t done.

We can look forward to more threads in more pedigrees as time goes on.

Because that’s how great thoroughbreds are made.

This beautiful 2014 Frankel colt is out of India, a winning granddaughter of Storm Cat. With descendants like these, the future looks to be bright for Storm Cat.

This beautiful 2014 Frankel colt is out of India, a winning granddaughter of Storm Cat. With descendants like these, the future is filled with hopes and dreams that honour the memory of Storm Cat, and the Bold Ruler sire line in his safe-keeping.

 

BONUS FEATURES

1) Two year-old Storm Cat goes up against some other very good colts to win the 1985 Young America Stakes:

2) Storm Cat’s son, the incomparable Giant’s Causeway (running on dirt for the first time under Mick Kinane/#14), makes a courageous run at Tiznow in the BC Classic — and just misses by a nose:

3) Short documentary on Terlingua, with cameos of Storm Cat:

4) TOO CUTE! Trainer John Shirreffs tries to wake up Storm Cat’s daughter, Life Is Sweet, to “go to work”:

5) Multimillionaire Seeking the Dia (Japan):

 

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.

 

We’ve been here many, many times before and this year it’s all about American Pharoah, whose misspelled name has only made his wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness more distinctive.

The delight and the doubts have dominated the press in North America since Zayat Stables’ American Pharoah began his Triple Crown bid, first by winning the Kentucky Derby and then by romping to a Preakness victory in the slop, winning by a margin only equalled by Smarty Jones 11 1/4 victory in the 2004 Preakness (above).

But then came the Belmont…..and the undefeated Smarty, who had won every heart along the way, suffered his first — and only — career defeat. To say that it was a heartbreaker would be an understatement.

It’s 2015, and here we go again.

And what can be studied to ascertain whether or not American Pharoah’s (AP) chances in a dwindling field are better than that of a champion like the great Smarty Jones? Truthfully, no analysis can be foolproof which is one of the reasons that horse racing worldwide still brims with anticipation, hope and dreams of glory.

There are a number of complex factors that will determine the outcome on June 6th and how they interrelate is where the mystery lies.

First, there is the colt himself — how tired is AP? After all, as E. P. Taylor who owned and bred Northern Dancer observed, ” If you run them enough times, they get beaten…A horse can’t tell you how he’s feeling…” And the “fatigue factor” would arguably be less relevant if the Derby and Preakness winner was going up against colts who had run in the first two legs of the Triple Crown. But he isn’t. In the Belmont, he’ll meet up with colts who are fresher, who’ve had time to rest and work up to the Belmont. AP’s had three weeks.

AMERICAN PHAROAH shown after his Preakness win.

AMERICAN PHAROAH shown after his Preakness win.

 

Then there are the bloodlines and what these might cough up in terms of indicators. AP’s bloodlines are superb on his sire line. In fact his grandsire, Empire Maker, trained by the legendary Bobby Frankel, was himself the spoiler when he won the 2003 Belmont to quash Funny Cide’s Triple Crown bid:

Empire Maker had been beaten by Funny Cide in the Derby that year, but skipped the Preakness before running in the Belmont. He was a fresher colt going in, but it’s impossible to overlook his bloodlines: Unbridled (Mr. Prospector sire line) out of the fabulous mare, Toussaud, by El Gran Señor (Northern Dancer). And Empire Maker, who stands in Japan now, has thrown a hailstorm of champions from his American foal crops, including AP’s sire, Pioneerof the Nile, Eclipse champion (2011-2013) Royal Delta and champions Sky Kingdom, In Lingerie, Grace Hall, Emollient, Bodemeister and Acomas. Pioneerof the Nile looks to be on his way to following in Empire Maker’s steps, but it’s still too early to be certain. Often, though, it takes a generation for a sire or a dam to produce a superstar like AP, win or lose on June 6. And Empire Maker has the goods to do it.

The handsome and prepotent EMPIRE MAKER.

The handsome and prepotent EMPIRE MAKER.

Of course, AP is not the only colt going into the Belmont with a great pedigree. There is the sensational Mubtaahij, who appears to like the Belmont surface and is by the hot sire, Dubawi, out of Pennegal by Pennekamp, himself a sire who showed brilliance on the turf — winning the 2000 Guineas, Prix de la Salamandre, Dewhurst and Prix Djebel, among 6 of 7 lifetime victories. If our “might skip a generation” breeding axiom kicks in here, then Mubtaahij is doubly-blessed. His dam is a Blue Hen in her own right — and let’s keep in mind that it’s the dam that hands on the powerful X in Mubtaahij’s genetic profile.

MUBTAAHIJ working at Belmont. Photograph and copyright, Emily Gricco.

MUBTAAHIJ working at Belmont. Photograph and copyright, Emily Gricco.

 

Another serious contender in the Belmont is Frosted. He’s by America’s arguably best sire, Tapit (AP Indy) out of a Deputy Minister mare, Fast Cookie. What’s interesting about Frosted is that he carries Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew on both sides of his fourth generation. And that can’t be bad. Other strong pedigrees are found in Materiality (his sire is Preakness & Belmont Stakes winner, Afleet Alex/BM sire, Langfuhr) and Keen Ice, a son of the mighty Curlin, who certainly will get the distance.

The gorgeous FROSTED has the pedigree to match. Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

The gorgeous FROSTED has the pedigree to match. Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

KEEN ICE at work over the Belmont track. Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

KEEN ICE at work over the Belmont track. A son of the mighty CURLIN, he has what it takes to get the distance. Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

 

A factor that looms large is that of the jockeys.

AP keeps his regular rider, Victor Espinoza, who is no stranger to pressure. He rode the last Triple Crown hopeful, California Chrome, in the 2014 Belmont where the colt finished out of the money, overtaken by much fresher horses. In 2002, Espinoza was astride the Baffert-trained War Emblem, but the colt stumbled coming out of the gate and never really recovered. So Espinoza knows the hype and knows the track; hopefully, he’ll ride at least one race on June 6th prior to the Belmont to get the feel of the track.

Mubtaahij will be missing his regular rider, Christophe Soumillon, and some are speculating that Soumillon’s decision to drop the ride (because of a previous commitment) speaks loud about the colt’s Belmont chances. However, the talented son of Dubawi gets the services of talented Irad Ortiz Jr. Ortiz has won a Breeders’ Cup and knows the Belmont track. Kent Desormeaux and Joel Rosario ride Keen Ice and Frosted, respectively, and both can be counted on to come up with sound performances. The great Mike Smith rides the Nick Zito-trained Frammento and these two are a formidable combination: over the years, American racing fans have learned to never count Zito out.

One of the very best: trainer Nick Zito brings FRAMMENTO into the Belmont.

One of the very best: trainer Nick Zito brings FRAMMENTO into the Belmont.

 

Then there’s the matter of the track itself. Although Saratoga has the reputation of being “the graveyard of champions,” in North America every true racing fan knows that the real graveyard is the Belmont, aka “Big Sandy.” To quote the pre-eminent correspondent of American racing, Steve Haskin, writing in Blood-Horse on June 1:

“…the fact is, many jockeys who don’t have experience at Belmont Park, especially going 1 1/2 miles, get lost on those sweeping turns, with the far turn being what I call the turn of no return. Once you make a mistake on that turn, especially going that far, there is no recovering from it.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but you do not want to get caught wide on the first turn and you certainly don’t want to go into the second turn wide. At Belmont, the ideal trip is to remain closer to the rail (if it is playing fair), then ease out nearing the quarter pole or waiting for an opening on the inside. Going wide at the five-sixteenths pole or quarter pole is not a big deal. It is going into the turn wide that leaves horses rubber-legged after turning for home, as they are forced to lose ground for a very long time while negotiating that seemingly endless turn.

…As far as staying on the rail, that is going to be up to Bob Baffert. The great John Nerud has always said the key to Belmont is knowing the track on that day and watch how the track is maintained the days leading up to the race. And he’ll be able to tell by watching all the races run on that Friday and of course on Saturday. According to Nerud, it all depends on what the crew does with the cushion. If they remove a good part of the cushion on the inside and dump it 20-25 feet out from the rail, you want to get on that rail and stay there, especially from the five-sixteenths pole to the eighth pole.. If they leave the cushion alone, because of the pitch of the track, it likely will be slower down on the inside.”

(See more at: http://cs.bloodhorse.com/blogs/horse-racing-steve-haskin/archive/2015/06/01/memo-to-victor-don-t-let-belmont-park-beat-you.aspx#sthash.q752Ur2V.dpuf)

belmont park_tc

 

Last, but not least, is the matter of statistics, those supposedly factual indicators of what a colt has got, pedigree-wise, and therefore, what he should do in a classic, 1.5 mile/12f race like the Belmont Stakes.

To help those new to the business of handicapping, we need to stress that both the Dosage Index (DI) and Centre of Distribution (CD) of any thoroughbred are, in actuality, trends used by breeders more than “facts” per se. What we mean by this is that both DI and CD are attempts to consolidate pedigree information along the lines of stamina and speed influences. The CD and DI of a thoroughbred are tied to the influences of chef-de-race stallions found in a horse’s pedigree over the first 4 generations.

But influences are just that and no more than that — even the great Secretariat’s speed-stamina profile (20-14-7-9-0) did not quite capture what he showed us on the track!

A thoroughbred’s Dosage Profile (DP), from which its DI and CD derive, is calculated based on the number of stamina-speed sire influences in a pedigree. There are five categories: Brilliant, Intermediate, Classic, Solid and Professional, with “Brilliant” denoting a preference for shorter distances (speed influence) and “Professional,” longer distances (stamina influence). Horses classified as “Classic” have an almost-equal speed-stamina ratio. The numbers assigned in all 5 categories (even if 1 or more are 0) constitute the DP. Then, through a numerical ponderation formula, the DI and CD are calculated and they indicate a trend represented by a ratio of stamina-to-speed influences that may (or may not) indicate the conditions under which a horse does best. The higher the DI or CD, the greater the speed influence.

(In fact, when we look at the CD’s of the 11 Triple Crown winners, we see just how misleading this kind of information can be if used as the sole criteria for picking a Triple Crown winner: Sir Barton @ 1.00, Gallant Fox @ 0.57, Omaha @ 0.75, War Admiral @ 0.52, Count Fleet @ 0.25, Whirlaway @ 0.10, Assault @ 0.46, Citation @ 0.04, Secretariat @ 0.90, Seattle Slew @ 0.68 and Affirmed @ 0.55. Then add, for good measure, Man O’ War @ 1.17, Alydar @ 1.10, Little Current @ 0.22 or the fabulous Smarty Jones @ 1.00 and one sees that while the CD is a useful indicator of the ratio of speed-to-stamina in an individual’s pedigree, it can also prove very dodgy for punters!)

AP comes in with a CD of 0.88, meaning that his speed influence is presumably more dominant than stamina; Mubtaahij has a CD of 0.00, showing a distinct speed-stamina imbalance that should favour stamina over speed. At 0.64, Keen Ice shows a relatively balanced speed-stamina influence; and Frosted shows a CD of 0.67. The average CD for 12 furlongs (the distance of the Belmont Stakes) is 0.43. And this is where the worm-hole that can be statistics opens up: none of the colts mentioned here compare favourably with the ideal of 0.43. But why is that? Probably because they’re babies with limited races under their belts, making it hard to assess them against a statistic that takes no account of the number of races those individuals used to reach this statistic had run.

Too, we would note that in comparing the respective DP’s of Frosted, Keen Ice, Mubtaahij and AP, the two with the most speed-stamina balance and therefore, using this theory, the most inherited Classic potential are Frosted and Keen Ice. But, again, what’s missing is the time it might take any of these youngsters to reach their Classic potential.

American Pharoah shown working at Churchill Downs pre-Belmont Stakes.

American Pharoah shown working at Churchill Downs shortly before he shipped to Belmont.

So….can American Pharoah, a brilliant colt at both two and three, give America its first Triple Crown winner since 1978? Having watched him through this year and last, we know that one thing is certain: he will do his best on June 6th. That’s the kind of honest, hard-working colt he is and it’s doubtful he knows any other way of being.

But the result on June 6th? There are no absolutes.

If the factors align for colt and jockey — from how the track plays to fatigue vs. freshness to what’s bred in the bone — then, when the gates spread and Big Sandy opens its arms, welcome all of these equine athletes….and the possibility of a Triple Crown champion.

AMERICAN PHAROAH with HOF trainer, Bob Baffert who says of his champion, "He is just the sweetest horse." Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

AMERICAN PHAROAH with HOF trainer, Bob Baffert who says of his champion, “He is just the sweetest horse.” Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

 

SPECIAL THANKS

…to gifted photographer, Emily Gricco, who generously gave THE VAULT permission for the use of her images of the Belmont contenders. If you love great photography, catch Emily on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

 

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.

The dams of this year’s top Derby contenders have had a 50% influence on the makeup of each of these colts. So what does the tail female of the top 5 contenders bring to the table?

2015_derby_poster_800

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is the way nature tracks “Who Is Your Mama?” in every species, including humans and racehorses, since it is passed down from mothers to daughters intact. mtDNA is like a kind of spice, scattered throughout the gene pool, that makes up a horse’s pedigree. One of the interesting things about mtDNA is that it is thought to play a large role as a speed influence in a thoroughbred’s pedigree.

 INTERNATIONAL STAR

Out of the mare Parlez, this colt’s BM sire is French Deputy (Deputy Minister). Parlez hails from a good female family and International Star (IS) is her third really good offspring. The other two are both by Not For Love, the filly Fools In Love and the gelding D C Dancer, winner of the Maryland Million Sprint. So Parlez has proven herself to be a good producer.

IS’s second and third dams also proved to be sound producers. Speak Halory (Verbatim) the colt’s second dam, has 7 winners out of 10 foals, including Lovely Sage, and is the grandam of New Edition (Stormy Atlantic) and Venezuela’s champion, Karun (Arch). IS’s third dam is the better known Halory (Halo), the dam of the great Halory Hunter (Jade Hunter), Key Lory (Key To The Mint), Van Nistelrooy (Storm Cat), the gelding, Prory (Procidal), Brushed Halory (Broad Brush) and grandam of the Storm Cat filly, Sly Storm.

What becomes apparent is that Parlez’s female family produce strong fillies and a few good colts, the best of which (other than IS) are Karun (VEN), Halory Hunter and Key Lory. However, the number of really good colts produced by Halory has not been duplicated by Speak Halory, leaving us with the question of whether or not Parlez is a strong influence in IS’s pedigree or not.

As for French Deputy, who stands at Japan’s Shadai Stallion Station, he seems best at siring 8f runners who are especially good as two year-olds. But, in 1995, French Deputy did post the highest 3 year-old Beyer figure (119) and his own sire, Deputy Minister, was one of the great progenitors of the breed.

 DORTMUND

The undefeated Dortmund’s dam, Our Josephina, wasn’t an impressive runner herself, but being a daughter of Tale of the Cat helps hugely.

“Coolmore’s Cat” is chalking up a very impressive record at stud, including champions like Stopchargingmaria, She’s A Tiger, Lion Heart, Gio Ponti, Cat Moves, My Trusty Cat and Tale of Ekati. Nor is the success of the 21 year-old confined to the Northern Hemisphere: his latest star in the Southern Hemisphere is The Diamond One, a very smart filly racing in Australia. The overwhelming influence of Terlingua (Secretariat) — Tale of the Cat’s grandam — is a signature of the most successful of Storm Cat’s progeny; you see it in their conformation, temperament —and lust for speed:

Another aspect of Dortmund’s tail female is the influence of Danzig in his third generation, repeating the lucrative Northern Dancer-Secretariat nick (responsible for Summer Squall, Secreto, Storm Bird, among others) while adding still another juicy element: the Danzig line in Europe has produced champion runners and sires in the form of Oasis Dream and Dansili.

 CARPE DIEM

The presence of Giant’s Causeway in Carpe Diem’s pedigree makes us less unsettled by Unbridled’s Song in his tail female, at least in terms of soundness issues. And his dam, Rebridled Dreams, also has two other very good progeny: Doncaster Rover (War Chant) and J B’s Thunder (Thunder Gulch), even though the best she did in Grade 2 company herself was a place and a show. In general, Carpe Diem’s maternal family in his tail female lacks depth, with the exception of Unbridled’s dam, Gana Facil, also the dam of Cahill Road (Fappiano).

However, the stallion influences are interesting: Fappiano, Caro, Danzig and Aloma’s Ruler appear in his 4th generation but that may be too far back to exert any real influence.

Still, in the mysterious muddle of thoroughbred genetics, this handsome son of Giant’s Causeway may have more than enough on top to carry him to victory. After all, his daddy’s nickname during his racing career was The Iron Horse!

 

AMERICAN PHAROAH

Not unlike Carpe Diem (above), American Pharoah’s bottom line is not particularly impressive.

Out of Littleprincessemma (Yankee Gentleman), the colt carries Storm Cat in his female family and, therefore, the promise of Terlingua’s speed. Of two foals, American Pharaoh is by far his dam’s best. A prohibitive Kentucky Derby favourite as of this writing, the colt’s second and thirds dams are useful, producing some winners with modest earnings. The most impressive female influence comes from his BM sire’s dam, Key Phrase, but her influence on his pedigree would be negligible at best. The stallions Flying Paster and Exclusive Native come up in the fourth generation of his tail female but, again, don’t expect a strong influence here.

The prohibitive Derby favourite (at this writing) owes far more to his sire, Pioneerof the Nile, a son of the mighty Empire Maker, and this comes through in his conformation and precocity.

FROSTED

There’s no denying that the brilliance of his sire, Tapit, shines in the coat and talent of Frosted. He is his dam Fast Cookie’s third and most successful foal, although the other two were winners, albeit in modest company. Fast Cookie is a daughter of the great sire, Deputy Minister, and her dam Fleet Lady (Avenue of Flags by Seattle Slew) is also the dam of Darley’s BC Juvenile and 2 YO Eclipse Champion colt, Midshipman (Unbridled’s Song). Frosted’s third dam, Dear Mimi (Roberto), is the maternal grandam of Pantomima (JPN) by Seattle Dancer and Mars Princess (JPN) by Danehill, both modest producers in Japan. Frosted is also inbred 2 X 4 to the immortal Seattle Slew.

So although Frosted’s female family is nothing to be sneered at, it is undoubtedly his sire’s influence that dominates.

 

PERSONAL ENSIGN appears in OCHO OCHO OCHO'S tail female. An omen perhaps?

PERSONAL ENSIGN appears in OCHO OCHO OCHO’S tail female. An omen perhaps?

 

OTHER FUN FACTS

MATERIALITY’S dam is also the dam of MY MISS SOPHIA and his second dam, DIAL A TRICK, is the dam of EYE OF THE TIGER. A daughter of DIAL A TRICK, WILDWOOD FLOWER, is the dam of AFLEET EXPRESS. The colt’s 3rd dam, ICE FANTASY, is the grandam of champions SNOW RIDGE & SWEETNORTHERNSAINT.

EL KABEIR’S 2nd dam, ROSE COLORED LADY, is the dam of TOO MUCH BLING.

PASSING MOOD, the dam of UPSTART‘s BM sire, TOUCH GOLD, was also the dam of champion WITH APPROVAL, winner of the Canadian Triple Crown.

FAR RIGHT’S tail female includes VINDICATION, SHADEED & AFFIRMED and his 4th dam is the fabulous CASCAPEDIA.

DANZIG MOON’S 3rd dam, PURE PROFIT, was the dam of the incomparable INSIDE INFORMATION and the great EDUCATED RISK. Below: INSIDE INFORMATION wins the 1995 BC DISTAFF:

WAR STORY’S 2nd dam, POLLY ADLER, is the dam of YOURSMINEOURS and his 3rd dam, HONEST AND TRUE is the dam of champion EPITOME and grandam of ESSENCE OF DUBAI.

STANFORD has a hugely impressive tail female through his 3rd dam, MYTH, the dam of champion JOHANNESBURG, and 4th dam, YARN, who is the dam of champions MINARDI and TALE OF THE CAT and the grandam of FED BIZ. Below, JOHANNESBURG’S 2001 BC JUVENILE win:

MR Z’S 2nd dam, AMELIA BEARHART, is the dam of champions CHIEF BEARHEART & EXPLOSIVE RED. Another daughter, RUBY RANSOM, is the dam of STRUT THE STAGE & SACRED SONG. MR Z’s 4th dam is none other than the great GOLD DIGGER, who is the dam of MR PROSPECTOR.

OCHO OCHO OCHO’S 3rd dam is none other than the incomparable PERSONAL ENSIGN.

BOLO’S 2nd dam, ASPENELLE, is the dam of MINING MY OWN, dam of Kentucky Derby winner MINE THAT BIRD and the champion DULLAHAN. Below, Churchill Downs welcomes MINE THAT BIRD in 2013:

KEEN ICE’S 4th dam, CHIC SHRINE, is the grandam of HUNGRY ISLAND, SOARING EMPIRE, VERRAZANO, EL PADRINO & SOMALI LEMONADE.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By all accounts, the brilliant William (Willie) “Smokey” Saunders led a somewhat “mysterious” life — both before and after guiding Omaha to win the Triple Crown.

Willie "Smokey" Saunders and Omaha's owner, William Woodward, celebrate the colt's Derby win.

Willie “Smokey” Saunders and Omaha’s owner, William Woodward, celebrate the colt’s Derby win. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE TIMES.

In a 2014 article about William Saunders in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle — Bozeman, Montana being the place of Saunders’ birth — journalist Kyle Sample begins:

“As best as anyone can tell, Willie Saunders was a time traveler.
He would sporadically pop up in the time’s newspaper headlines, and then just as easily drift away, leaving family members unable to tell what became of Saunders’ marriage to Pauline Waterbury, or even if the couple had children.
Not even Lou Ocauz,  {driving force behind the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame –AA} who wrote the biography of Saunders for the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame when the hall made Saunders one of its first inductees, could tell how Saunders came to fame, or what happened to him after it.
‘He’s a mystery,” Ocauz said. “Don’t try to interpret the mystery.’ ”

Mind you, evading publicity might have been what Saunders learned from the headlines that pursued him after the mutilated body of Evelyn Sliwinski was found on River Road in October 1935, just months after Saunders had swept to fame as the youngest jockey to win the American Triple Crown. It was an honour that would stick, until snatched away by Steve Cauthen and Affirmed in 1978.

The horse that had carried Saunders to glory was Omaha, a son of Gallant Fox, himself  the 1930 Triple Crown winner. And although Willie “Smokey” Saunders’ life may remain shrouded in mystery forever, one thing is certain: the 20 year-old loved Omaha.

OMAHA with 20 year-old Willie "Smokey" Saunders share a moment before the camera.

OMAHA with 20 year-old Willie “Smokey” Saunders share a moment for the photographers. Photo and copyright, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

Born in Bozeman, MO in 1915, the Saunders family moved to Calgary, Alberta when Willie was eight and it was there that the boy’s connection to thoroughbreds began. He was a hot-walker and exercise boy until returning to Montana to attend high school. But after growing up on the back field, high school must have seemed a very strange world and, predictably, Saunders shows up in the winner’s circle at Tanforan on April 14, 1932. It was his first recorded win.

Jockeys had contracts that were transferred to different trainers/owners and, shortly thereafter, the boy began working for the great “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons and riding horses from the Phipps Stable and Belair Stud. So, as the “dirty Thirties” began to unleash their force on America, young Willie found himself in privileged circumstances. It isn’t a stretch to assume that the boy worked and worked hard to gain Fitzsimmons’ confidence. Fitzsimmons was kindly, but a hard task-master; and having come up through the ranks himself, Sunny Jim knew all about the vices of the track and tolerated none of it. He was tough to deceive and exacted high standards from all who worked with him, including indentured jockeys. In a race and occasionally when he was training, Omaha had the habit of trying to lash out at any colt that got near to him. Willie was able to work with the big chestnut to avoid these kind of attacks. Clearly, “Mr. Fitz” saw something special in the Saunders – Omaha connection and so it was that the young man from Bozeman got the call to ride the Belair colt on the Triple Crown trail.

It was the ride of Willie’s life.

"Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons aka "Mr. Fitz" as portrayed by PAP

“Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons aka “Mr. Fitz” as portrayed by PAP

OMAHA WORKS OUT_$_57

March 7, 1935: The 3 year-old OMAHA works between two other colts. Although his 2 year-old season was less than stellar, OMAHA was still a Kentucky Derby favourite by March.

 

OMAHA in shed row_$_57

OMAHA walks the shed row. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

 

Two short takes of Omaha’s Derby and Preakness wins, followed by a 3-minute segment that summarizes his Triple Crown campaign from the ESPN series “Jewels of the Triple Crown,” moderated by the legendary Jim McKay:

 

OMAHA _THE BELMONT_2PpytBSY)!cB!C!~~60_57

OMAHA and Willie Saunders shown winning the Belmont Stakes to sweep the 1935 Triple Crown. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

 

OMAHA_1935_7703750_405141343_o

The kid aboard his champion colt.

Willie and OMAHA coming in following a work. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun.

OMAHA coming in following a work. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

One can only imagine the fame and fortune that landed in young Willie’s lap.

Racing in the early part of the last century was a popular sport, one that was patronized by the wealthy and working person alike. In the Thirties it also provided a grand escape from the woes of the Depression. William Woodward and Fitzsimmons were no strangers to all that accompanied great horses, but for their jockey it was all new — and undoubtedly overwhelming. There would have been scores of unsavoury types waiting to prey on him, as well as a mass of groupies only too willing to stand in his albeit diminutive shadow. Suddenly, he was a “Sir” at Kentucky restaurants and a notable to the press. And Saunders was, by all accounts, on his own — as were most youth who rode at the time — without the security of either his family or a real mentor, although some reports of his jockey days assert that he was mentored by the great George Woolf in the early years.

It was one thing for the great "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons to cope with the fame of OMAHA'S Triple Crown. After all, it was Fitzsimmons second Triple in a mere 5 years! But for Willie Saunders, it must have been overwhelming. Here, admirers visit with Mr. Fitz and OMAHA. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

It was one thing for the great “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons to cope with the fame of OMAHA’S Triple Crown. After all, it was Fitzsimmons second Triple in a mere 5 years! But for Willie Saunders, it must have been overwhelming. Here, the press visits Mr. Fitz and OMAHA. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

So it was that early one night in October 1935, Saunders and a friend, exercise boy Walter Schaeffer,25, showed up at a Lexington bar and dance hall called Howard’s looking for a good time. The policy at Howard’s was that men needed to be accompanied by a woman to get in, but the bouncer called upon one of the establishment’s regulars, Agnes Mackison, 28, to partner up with Schaeffer. Once inside, Saunders spied a woman sitting at another table with a couple and asked Mackison to invite her over. The woman was Mrs. Evelyn Sliwinski, 25, the wife of a Louisville tailor who may/may not have been another Howard’s regular, depending on whose story one chooses to believe.

Therein lies the problem: there were two different stories of what happened next, the Mackison version reported in the Louisville Courrier-Journal in detail, and the Saunders-Schaeffer account, that appeared in several national newspapers of the day, including the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times. (Most papers reporting the story were at pains to draw a sharp contrast between the two versions of what happened that night, with a distinct preference for the Saunders-Schaeffer version.)

The foursome left Howard’s and climbing into Saunders’ car, stopped in at two other nightspots, The Venexia Club and the Cotton Club. The men had introduced themselves to their dates as “Jimmie” (Saunders) and “Tommy” or “Paul”(Schaeffer), according to Mackison. Both were great dancers and the money and drink flowed freely.

Below, the great Mabel Lee who, along with the likes of Duke Ellington and Count Basie, spiced up the club scene of the Thirties:

By the time Saunders, Sliwinski, Schaeffer and Mackison left the Cotton Club, all were very drunk. Schaeffer took the wheel after an alleged row (Mackison reported) between a very woozy Sliwinski and Saunders, before the pair crawled into the back seat. Then they took off out of town and ended up on River Road. The whole time, “Jimmie” (Saunders) and Sliwinski continued to argue, according to Mackison, adding that Saunders then raped the woman several times (The Chicago Tribune).

At some point, Sliwinski threw up in the back of the car and Saunders pushed Sliwinski out of the car. According to Mackison, as Schaeffer accelerated, he ran over the staggering Sliwinski. According to Saunders and Schaeffer, they left her on the road and drove on. All agree that between 10-20 minutes later, heading back to Louisville, Saunders’ car struck “something” in the middle of the road, although Saunders testified that as he was in the back, he felt a “bump” but actually saw nothing. Both men also denied that Mrs. Mackison had been threatened when she was dropped off at her home: “You ain’t seen nothing; you ain’t heard nothing; you don’t know nothing and you’re lucky you’re alive.” (Oswald, writing The Courrier-Journal).

Evelyn Sliwinski’s mangled body was found by a high school student early the next morning. Beside the body was a man’s brown hat that carried a California label. The coroner described the murdered woman’s body as one of the worst he’d ever seen. There were strong indications that she’d been badly beaten.

The same following day, Agnes Mackison, accompanied by her brother-in-law, came in to report a crime. From photos made available to her, she identified Saunders and Schaeffer. A warrant was issued for the two men, both of whom had gone missing. Saunders turned himself in first and bail was set at $5,000 USD (a fortune at the time). Detectives arrested Schaeffer in Baltimore and charged him with murder; Saunders was indicted as an accessory.

Willie Saunders (foreground) and Schaeffer at the latter's trial for the murder of Evelyn Sliwinski.

Willie Saunders and Walter Schaeffer (foreground) at the hearing into the $100,000 civil suit launched by the Sliwinski estate. Published in The Courrier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky in 2014.

At Shaeffer’s trial, the defense argued that the teenager who had found Sliwinski’s body was the one who had initially run her over. Agnes Mackison was the only witness for the prosecution. The jury returned its verdict quickly: not guilty. The way they saw it, the two women were “experienced ladies of the night” looking to”pick up men,” whereas the two young men were innocent victims. Following Schaeffer’s acquittal, the charges against Saunders were dismissed.

Following the Schaeffer trial and Saunders acquittal, a $100,000 civil suit was launched by the estate of Evelyn Sliwinski. Following the acquittal,  a settlement of $10,000 USD was reached.

 

Post Script

Willie Saunders married Pauline Waterbury of Detroit in 1936. Among the winners he rode in a career that continued until 1950 are Fareino, a Belair Stud colt that he piloted to a win in the 1934 Rochambeau Handicap, Dunlin Lady, winner of the inaugural Santa Anita Oaks and, as first-string jockey for Hal Price Headley’s stable, Whooper (a grandson of Man O’ War). During World War II, Saunders joined the U.S. Army and fought in the South Pacific. Like so many who fought in the Pacific, he contacted malaria, which left him light enough to resume his jockey career when the war ended.

In the 1948 Preakness, Saunders rode Bovard to a third-place finish behind the mighty Citation and Eddie Arcaro. He rode the colt to a win in the Louisiana Derby the same year. Other races won by Saunders include the Chicago Derby (1936), Detroit Derby (1936), Monrovia Handicap (1936), San Juan Capistrano Handicap (1936), Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (1937), New Year Stakes (1937) and the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap (1937).

After his retirement in 1950, Saunders worked as a racing official at various American racetracks.

He was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1976.

Another shot of Willie and the great OMAHA. The two understood each other well and Saunders was able to stop the big chestnut from savaging other horses during a race. However, following the Triple Crown, Saunders never rode Omaha again. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun.

Another shot of Willie Saunders and the great OMAHA. The two understood each other well and Saunders was able to stop the big chestnut from savaging other horses during a race. However, following the Triple Crown, Saunders never rode Omaha again. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun.

 

Sources

The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame: William (Smoky) Saunders

Kentucky Derby/ Triple Crown? Murder? It was 1935 by Jessie Oswald in The Courrier-Journal, April 26, 2014

Various articles in newspapers of the day covering the Evelyn Sliwinski murder trial and acquittal of William Saunders: The Chicago Tribune, Schenectady Gazette, Lewiston Journal, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, The New York Times, The New York Post, The Herald-Journal

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

And was greeted by an adoring public:

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

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

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

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

Trainer Willie Mullins and The Fly.

Trainer Willie Mullins and The Fly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charging across the finish line.

Charging across the finish line.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Video by Michael Greaney)

 

BONUS FEATURES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

BLOCKADE shown well in the clear in his first

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tight shot of BLOCKADE clearing a rail fence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming home, BLOCKADE and Colvill are all alone.

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

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

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

BLOCKADE meets his appreciative fans.

BLOCKADE meets appreciative fans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLOCKADE leads the field in a dramatic win in 1939.

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

BLOCKADE leads COQ BRUYERE to the finish.

BLOCKADE leads COQ BRUYERE to the finish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

BONUS FEATURE:

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

Related articles on THE VAULT:

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

REFERENCES

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

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

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

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

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

NY: The Sagamore Press. American Race Horses 1938

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

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

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

 

SEABISCUIT with Marcella Howard. Photo and copyright, Chicago Tribune

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jockey BASIL JAMES.

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

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

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

Jockey EARL PORTER with an unidentified woman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

The great ALYDAR with trainer, John Veitch.

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

SUNDAY SILENCE and Charlie Whittingham.

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

GREYHOUND with his Dalmatian dog.

GREYHOUND with his Dalmatian dog.

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

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

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

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

The gallant SWAPS meeting fans after a work out.

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

IMPERATRICE (centre), grandam of SECRETARIAT,

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

COLONEL MATT WINN pictured in 1937.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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