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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

________________________________________________________________

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

 

 

Selected Bibliography

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

MATA HARI at work, circa 1933-1934.

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

Here’s a punter’s look at Flameaway:

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

Selected Bibiliography

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

The Blood Horse.

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

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

 

 

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

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

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The influence of Holy Bull in Caravaggio’s bloodlines presents an exciting prospect. Coolmore’s gifted three year-old has already flashed brilliance on the turf. But this is just the beginning. 

Caravaggio_BETTS_2210517.JPG.opt870x1305o0,0s870x1305

The magnificent CARAVAGGIO and Davey Leigh, his lad. Photo and copyright, David Betts. Used with the permission of David Betts.

 

HOLY BULL, CARAVAGGIO’S BM SIRE

Bred by Pelican Farm, Holy Bull was a son of Tartan Farms’ Great Above, and the mare, Sharon Brown. Great Above was a useful stallion with a 71.2% strike rate from a total crop of 617 named foals. The stallion’s best progeny was Holy Bull; he was also the BM sire of the great Housebuster. Great Above’s dam, Ta Wee, was a two-time champion American sprinter and arguably one of the greatest distaffers of all time:

It was from his dam, Sharon Brown, that Holy Bull got his grey coat. The mare’s sire, Al Hattab, was a homozygous grey. Al Hattab was campaigned by Rachel Carpenter, Holy Bull’s first owner, and he won the Hutcheson and the Fountain of Youth in 1969. A direct descendant of The Tetrarch, Al Hattab (pictured below) carried Mumtaz Mahal 4X4 in his pedigree and held a distinct resemblance to Mahmoud.

ROAD TO ROSES_$_57

The first time I saw Holy Bull race — in the Florida Derby — was enough to make him my (Kentucky) Derby favourite. It was a moving race to watch and that courageous heart seemed to jump out at you, even when it was mediated by a television screen.

Here he is winning the Florida Derby (#5), under a hand ride by Mike Smith. Dave Johnson calls the race:

“The Bull,” as he was affectionately dubbed, just rose above every other colt that season on the Derby Trail. And he didn’t appear to have a track preference — the Bull won short or long, on tracks from fast to sloppy. And, unlike many famous American thoroughbreds, his reputation had little to do with his performance in the prestigious Kentucky Derby:

Much to the perplexity of Hall of Fame trainer, Warren A. “Jimmy” Croll and Smith, their brilliant colt was a complete flop on the most important day of his young life. For those watching, Holy Bull’s loss was the kind of upset that the mind refuses to process.

Post-race, both Croll and Smith indicated that The Bull seemed not quite himself: he was sluggish and never really fired. According to multiple-award winning journalist, Steve Haskin, Croll would say until the day he died that someone had “gotten” to his colt, i.e. tampered with him in some way, likely with drugs.

Although this was never proven, the remainder of The Bull’s 1994 campaign was nothing if not brilliant. He took eight of ten Grade 1 races that year, to be awarded Eclipses for Champion Three Year-Old (Colt) and Horse of the Year. The legendary Daily Racing Form blazed the headline “Bullmania Sweeps The Nation” as Holy Bull’s 3 year-old campaign came to a close.

The Bull’s owner and trainer had inherited the colt from one of his longtime clients, Rachel Carpenter. Upon her death, the 73 year-old Croll became Holy Bull’s new owner.  Jimmy Croll had an eye for promising thoroughbreds: twenty years before The Bull came into his life, he had picked out two bay colts, Royal and Regal, a colt he took to the Kentucky Derby the year that Secretariat ran — and Mr. Prospector. As North American readers will know, Mr. Prospector turned out to be arguably the most important stallion in the history of American breeding.¹

Below, Jimmy Croll holding his two three year-olds, Royal And Regal and, in the foreground, Mr. Prospector.

MR. PROSPECTOR, ROYAL AND REGAL_Jimmy Croll_

ROYAL AND REGAL, Jimmy Croll, and in the foreground, MR. PROSPECTOR. In THE VAULT’S private collection. Photo and copyright: Associated Press/AP

In the 1994 Donn Handicap where he was pitted against another champion, Cigar, Holy Bull was pulled up suddenly by jockey Mike Smith. Here is how Kathleen Jones, writing in “Thoroughbred Champions: For the Fans of the Horse in Racing” described the scene:

“…Like man walking on the moon, we remember precisely where we were and what we were doing at the time. I recall the lump in my throat watching the iron horse coasting to a halt on the backstretch. The audible collective gasp of those packing the grandstand, the terror in the jockey’s eyes, the trembling voice of his trainer, and the tears of his groom are part of most people’s last image of this noble athlete. Agonizing hours passed as we waited for positive news and finally it came. Holy Bull would survive.”²

The positive news was that The Bull had strained ligaments and a bowed tendon, but even though ligaments and tendons heal, Croll made the painful decision to retire him. Mike Smith cancelled his other riding commitments, calling the moment “devastating” and adding, “I feel the life has come out of me.” And then his eyes filled with tears. Jimmy Croll was no less affected: “It’s over, it’s over. I said the day he retired would be the saddest day in my life. It happened a lot sooner than I expected.”³–¹

WITH JIMMY_NYT_.650

“It’s over, it’s over…” HOLY BULL and his owner, HOF trainer Jimmy Croll. Photo and copyright: NYT

Days later, leading his bandaged colt out of his stall on the backstretch for the last time, Croll added, “If he wasn’t Holy Bull, I’d bring him back to the races next year…I’m sorry we couldn’t finish the year with him. He would have gone out in a blaze of glory. He has courage and class. I’m going to miss him. Everybody’s going to miss him.”³–²

Retired to Jonabell Farm in Kentucky (later to become Darley) where he lived until the age of twenty-six, Holy Bull was never forgotten by his connections and his legions of fans, who proudly posted photos of him from their visits to Darley right up until this year, when the beloved HOF Champion died. The sire of BC winner, Macho Uno, and Giacomo, the winner of the 2005 Kentucky Derby, as well as Flashy Bull, the winner of the Stephen Foster Handicap, it is to his daughters that The Bull has passed his legacy. Grade/Group One winners Judy The Beauty (out of Holy Blitz), Caravaggio (out of Mekko Hokte), Munnings (out of La Comete), Cairo Prince (out of Holy Bubbette) and most recently Holy Helena (out of Holy Grace), are so far the best. As of this writing, Holy Bull’s BM count stands at 50 winners and rising.

On his death on June 7, 2017, tributes sprung up all over social media. Here’s one that highlights Holy Bull’s greatest moments and features people who knew and loved him best, including Jimmy Croll, Mike Smith and legendary race commentator, Tom Durkin:

 

CARAVAGGIO

MEKKO HOKTE with her Pharoah foal_5d65dcbd7d53aff1d41291005a970ae1

CARAVAGGIO’S dam, MEKKO HOKTE (Holy Bull), with her 2017 American Pharoah colt foal. The mare also had a filly, a full sibling to CARAVAGGIO, in 2016.

The flat racing season is in full bloom in the UK and part of what makes it an exciting year is the Aidan O’Brien-trained Caravaggio. Like his BM sire at the same age, the handsome grey is charismatic, courageous and has earned himself no shortage of admirers.

Here is the two year-old Caravaggio winning the G1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes:

From the 2014 crop of the late Scat Daddy (Johannesburg), Caravaggio was a superstar in 2016 and has continued to develop into a powerful and talented sprinter in his three year-old campaign. Ballydoyle’s champion three year-old may indeed be his father’s son in some ways, but in others he is without question the work of his champion BM sire. For starters, the overall resemblance in the conformation of Caravaggio and Holy Bull is striking:

HOLY BULL_EBAY postcard_$_57

HOLY BULL, the BM sire of CARAVAGGIO.

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CARAVAGGIO pictured winning the G1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes in 2016.

There is no question that Caravaggio’s pedigree is a gift to the Coolmore broodmares, providing a potential outcross to the Danehill/Sadler’s Wells sire line. But with 3 X 5 to Mr. Prospector and a generous dose of both Intentionally and The Axe in his female family in the fifth generation, there are also other tantalizing influences in his bloodline. Intentionally, aka the “Black Bullet,” sired Ta Wee and In Reality, both important names in American thoroughbred history. The former was one of the greatest American sprinters of all time, herself a daughter of Aspidistra, one of Florida’s most influential broodmares, who is also the dam of the incomparable Dr. Fager. Too, the European champions Known Fact and son, Warning, descend from Intentionality’s sire line.

TA WEE_2650643_origIn Reality was an excellent sire who would have rated as an above-average runner had he been born in another year: Damascus and Dr., Fager, his contemporaries, rather bumped him off centre stage. Through In Reality, the sire line of the legendary Man O’ War continues through his progeny and their descendants. Sons Relaunch, With Anticipation and the only horse to have ever won the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice in a row, Tiznow, are the best progeny of In Reality.

IN REALITY_6fefb45e7a33e6d2cea3fda391032cce

The handsome IN REALITY carried on the sire line of MAN O’ WAR. He appears in CARAVAGGIO’S female family in the 4th generation. Of note is the conformation, especially the head, passed on to HOLY BULL and to CARAVAGGIO.

by David Betts_13886484_10206464806931037_7882653896451692570_n

Through his female family, CARAVAGGIO carries some distinctive features of IN REALITY. Photo and copyright, David Betts. Used with the permission of David Betts.

Not a stretch to see why the decision was made to campaign Caravaggio as a sprinter, market preferences apart. His pedigree abounds with them, top and bottom. But Holy Bull won dominantly at distances over a mile, making it exciting to see whether or not Caravaggio carries this trait and expresses it to at least some of his offspring once he retires.

In the meantime, Caravaggio launched his three year-old season in May at Naas, after a layoff of ten months to heal an injured muscle in his ribcage. Colts coming off such a lengthly break often need a race just to get themselves back into the game:

Aidan O’Brien was well pleased with Caravaggio’s win, letting it be known that the colt would train on as a sprinter,“He’s showed nothing to say he wouldn’t get a mile. We worked him seven furlongs and the petrol gauge never shifted, but I was afraid that he was so quick that it would be the wrong thing to do. We could train him for a mile and go back, but we didn’t want to lose the brilliance.” (QIPCO British Champions Series website)

Appearing at Royal Ascot in June in the Commonwealth Cup, Caravaggio reared up in the stalls just before the start, making his win from mid-pack even more remarkable. It made for a thrilling race, what with Ryan Moore’s tactics as he brilliantly managed Caravaggio and Harry Angel vying for the lead:

But in the Darley July Cup, Caravaggio appeared not to really fire, breaking decidedly flat-footed from the stalls after again rearing up. For a sprinter, a clean break is all and without it, Caravaggio’s chances were compromised right from the start. The colt made an effort to catch the eventual winner Harry Angel near the line, but it was too little too late.

It was his first defeat of his career.

READIES for 3 YO campaign_C777qY8XUAA-D0g.jpg-large

CARAVAGGIO at work at Ballydoyle in 2017. NAAS Racecourse photo.

Prior to the July Cup, the plan was to ship Caravaggio to Australia for the the 10 million (AUS) Everest at Randwick in October, the world’s richest turf race. The Maurice de Gheest on August 6 at Deauville — in which Caravaggio has been entered with a string of other Ballydoyle colts — may be a real possibility, but at this writing has yet to be confirmed. Depending on how the colt fares in the Maurice de Gheest, a decision will be made about shipping him to Australia and, possibly, to California for the BC Mile.

It only adds to the drama of the sport that Caravaggio lost the July Cup. For trainer O’Brien and Coolmore, losing is as much a part of racing as winning; it’s the mental strength and ability of their champion colts and fillies that count most.

“It was one of those days, they are only flesh and blood and we’ll look forward to him the next day,” O’Brien reflected, following Caravaggio’s loss.

Newmarket_July 2017_20374219_10155493105214242_5940887425068674360_n

CARAVAGGIO being cooled down after the Darley July Cup.

There is nothing to indicate that Caravaggio hasn’t trained on into his three year-old season: if anything, he’s a stronger and more confident colt. The acting up in the stalls will be addressed at Ballydoyle and once that’s corrected, he should be back to his best form in a sport that abounds with talented sprinters worldwide. To take the crown, Caravaggio will need to be the best of them and, as his connections know, that is no small feat.

If Caravaggio has indeed been kissed by an American legend, he won’t disappoint. In fact, he should fly over any turf under any conditions, powered by a grandsire whose heart never quit:

 

BONUS FEATURES

“Here he is … the immortal Holy Bull” Retired from stallion duties, Holy Bull parades at Darley in July 2012 for his many fans:

Darley’s stallion promo for Holy Bull:

 

SOURCES

¹ Haskin, Steve. The Blood Horse (online): Farewell To A Friend: RIP Holy Bull. June 8, 2017.

² Jones, Kathleen. “At Home With Holy Bull” in Thoroughbred Champions: For the Fans of the Horse in Racing, March 1996, Vol.3, No.2

³–¹ Durst, Joseph. Horse Racing: “Holy Bull Is Retired After Injury To Leg.” The New York Times, February 12, 1995.

³–² Durso, Joseph. Thoroughbred Racing: “Well Wishes For A Retiree In Barn 3.” The New York Times, February 13, 1995.

Aidan O’Brien Fan Site: http://www.aidanobrienfansite.com

Betts, David. Photography: https://www.facebook.com/davidbettsphotos/?fref=ts

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

A special thank you to Tom Durkin, for giving me a title for this article; to David Betts, for permission to feature a few of his fabulous photos; to Paul Rhodes of the Aidan O’Brien Fan Site for his support. 

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

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Using history as a guide, if I was shopping for a potential champion, I’d be looking for an “ugly duckling.”

NORTHERN DANCER by Brewer, Jr.

NORTHERN DANCER by Brewer, Jr. The colt was royally bred, but so tiny that E.P. Taylor failed to sell him as a yearling. In fact, potential buyers laughed when he was paraded out with the other yearlings!

Of course, none of the thoroughbreds discussed in this article were ugly. Not literally. But metaphorically, there was something about each one of them that hearkens back to Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale: they seemed to be ugly ducklings but what no-one saw at the time was that they were not ducklings at all. Some weren’t good-looking enough. Others took too much time to come into their own. And still others were waiting for a special someone to come along, someone who looked into their eyes and saw who they really were.

The individuals whose stories appear here are only the proverbial “tip of the iceberg” — VAULT readers will certainly be able to name many others who fall into this category.

And it all adds up to this: If there’s any “secret” to finding yourself another Frankel or American Pharoah or Black Caviar or Treve, it has to do with looking “under the feathers.”

“UGLY DUCKLINGS” #1: TOO UGLY TO EVER BE A CHAMPION

Perhaps we can’t help it. Horses are beautiful animals and thoroughbreds can be exquisite. And no matter how often horse folk remind us that beauty and talent don’t necessarily go hand in hand, it’s all too easy to ignore when you’ve got a plain bay standing next to a magnificent chestnut…….

 

KINCSEM (filly, 1874-1887)

This lovely print of KINCSEM shows off her lustrous liver-chestnut coat, massive chest and powerful hindquarters.

This lovely print of KINCSEM shows off her lustrous liver-chestnut coat, massive chest and powerful hindquarters. But it was painted in hindsight, when the world already had learned that she was incomparable, making one doubt its absolute accuracy.

She may well have been the greatest thoroughbred of them all, winning 54 times in as many starts on two different continents. Kincsem took on all comers and was so devastatingly good that she also ran in 6 walkovers when no-one would run against her.

But at her birth, she was declared by her owner-breeder, Ernest Von Blaskovich, to be the ugliest foal that he had ever seen — and most agreed with him. When Von Blaskovich offered the majority of that year’s crop of foals to Baron Orczy, the latter purchased all but two — and one of the rejects was Kincsem.

Here is one fairly accurate description of a thoroughbred that was so brilliant she actually paused to graze before taking off after the others, only to win going away:

She was as long as a boat and as lean as a hungry leopard … she had a U-neck and mule ears and enough daylight under her sixteen hands to flood a sunset … she had a tail like a badly-used mop … she was lazy, gangly, shiftless … she was a daisy-eating, scenery-loving, sleepy-eyed and slightly pot-bellied hussy …” (Beckwith in “Step And Go Together”)

As a broodmare, Kincsem was pretty decent, although she never duplicated herself. But through one of her daughters, she comes down to us today in the bloodlines of Coolmore’s fine colt, Camelot. In her native Hungary, Kincsem is a national hero and a film based on her life (although it appears that the mare isn’t its central protagonist) is due for release in 2016.

For more on this remarkable thoroughbred:

https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/kincsem-the-mystery-and-majesty-of-an-immortal/

And on the film:

http://www.euronews.com/2015/10/06/multi-million-dollar-hungarian-movie-hopes-to-compete-with-hollywood/

 

IMP (filly, 1894-1909)

IMP in 1898, going to post at Hawthorne Race Track.

IMP in 1898, going to post at Hawthorne Race Track.

 

She was the 1899 HOTY and twice won the honours for Champion Handicap Mare (1899 & 1900). She had her own theme song (below): “My Coal Black Lady.” And she was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1965.

But when she came into the world, the tiny daughter of Fondling (1886) by the stallion, Wagner (1882) was looked upon poorly by her owner-breeder because she wasn’t pretty and her conformation showed not the slightest hint of promise. But her owner-breeder, D.R. Harness of Chillicothe, Ohio kept her anyway, perhaps because the fact she was bred in the purple overrode his misgivings. Her ancestry included direct descent from the Darley Arabian, Eclipse and Lexington.

Imp raced an unthinkable number of times: 171. But she won 62 times, with 35 seconds and 29 thirds and raced more against the boys than those of her own sex. She set track records from 1 3/4 to 1 1/16.

By the time she was retired, at the age of eight, she was a national figure.

For more about Imp:

https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/my-coal-black-lady/

 

PHAR LAP (gelding, 1926 – 1932)

“Bobby” as he was called by those closest to him, arrived in the stable of trainer Harry Telford looking like a very, very sorry excuse for a racehorse. Which, in turn, precipitated the first crisis in Phar Lap’s biography, unbeknownst to the scrawny, dishevelled colt who had been born in New Zealand and was a son of the promising sire, Night Raid. Trainer Telford had bought Bobby for owner, David J. Davis, who rushed over excitedly to see his latest acquisition. After a moment of silence, Davis went ballistic. The compromise was that Bobby would be leased to Telford for a period of three years, the trainer covering all costs and the owner getting one third of the colt’s earnings. Assuming he could run.

How big was PHAR LAP? Have a look at these figures! Photo and copyright, Victoria Racing Museum, Australia.

How big was PHAR LAP? Have a look at these figures! Photo and copyright, Victoria Racing Museum, Australia.

The rest, as they say, is history: Bobby aka The Red Terror aka Phar Lap (meaning “lightning/bolt of lightning/lights up the sky” in the Thai language) was a champion. His great heart, together with his victories, moved Australia and New Zealand — and the racing world– to fall in love. And, in 2016, we are still in love with him:

Bobby’s risky run @ The Melbourne Cup in 1930 should have been a movie:

https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/bribes-threats-bullets-phar-laps-melbourne-cup-1930/

 

WAR ADMIRAL ( colt, 1934-1959)

“Sons of Man O’ War ought to look different,” Mr. Riddle decided, as he looked at Brushup’s new foal. It was a bay colt with no real pizzazz to it …. and it was tiny. Riddle found it impossible to hope for much from the little fellow, who much-resembled his dam. And Brushup had been hopeless as a runner, pretty as she was. Riddle tried, in vain, to hand the colt over to his partner, Walter Jeffords Sr., but when Jeffords refused, it was decided that Brushup’s boy would stay in the Riddle stable until he showed what, if anything, he had as a runner.

War Admiral [2006 Calendar, Nov]

 

By the time he was a three year-old, Riddle had learned that even though The Admiral was the size of a pony (15.2h) he did, indeed, carry his sire’s blood.

And that blood would show in not only in War Admiral’s Triple Crown, but also in the breeding shed. As a sire, his contribution to the breed was as definitive as was the impact of sons and daughters like Busanda, Busher, Bee Mac, Searching, War Jeep and Blue Peter on the sport itself. War Admiral led the general sire list in 1945, the 2 year-old sire list in 1948 and the broodmare sire list in 1962 and again in 1964.

Although The Admiral’s sons were not influential as sires, both Busanda and Searching made a huge impact. Their descendants include the likes of Swaps, Buckpasser, Numbered Account, Iron Liege, Hoist the Flag, Gun Bow, Striking and Crafty Admiral, as well as two Triple Crown winners, Seattle Slew and Affirmed. Other descendants of note from the War Admiral line include Dr. Fager, Alysheba, Cigar and, most recently, Zenyatta.

To this day, breeders point with pride to War Admiral in the lineage of their thoroughbreds. What the name connotes is timeless, synonymous with the very essence of the thoroughbred.

For more on War Admiral:

https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/war-admiral-the-little-horse-who-could-and-did-for-john-shirreffs/

 

ZENYATTA (filly, 2004)

As the tale is now famously told, the yearling daughter of Street Cry did not look her best in the sales ring as a yearling, due largely to a case of ringworm. But David Ingordo could see beyond all that. And Ann Moss has recounted how she and the filly seemed to “just click” at first meeting at Keeneland, just as though Zenyatta had chosen her.

When the hammer fell, the filly had been acquired by the Mosses. But she was not their only purchase that year and shortly after their yearlings arrived at Mayberry Farm, they received a call from Jeanne Mayberry. Jeanne had this to say,”Either you bought yourselves some very slow yearlings or else that Street Cry filly is very, very good. Because when they’re out together running, she leaves them all behind as though they aren’t even moving.”

Prophetic words.

But fast as Zenny was, it took time and patience to “get her right,” as the Mosses’ Racing Manager, Dottie Ingordo Sherriffs, has said. But when trainer, John Sherriffs, did get her right, the result was the birth of an American racing legend:

Retired with a record of 19 wins and 1 second place in 20 starts, Zenyatta’s fans have not diminished in the slightest. At this writing, Zenyatta is the only filly/mare to have ever won two different Breeders’ Cup races and the only filly/mare to ever have won the BC Classic.

 

“UGLY DUCKLINGS” #2: STANDING IN THE SHADOWS

In any institution, whether a school or a sport like horse racing, it works out a lot better if everyone develops in the same, linear way. Couple that with our love affair with speed — intelligence being linked to quickness and, in the case of thoroughbreds, ability with running fast enough to win, preferably at two — and you have the “cracks” through which genius and greatness all-too-frequently slip ……..

 

EXTERMINATOR (gelding, 1915 -1945)

 

 

EXTERMINATOR. Copyright The Estate of Bob Dorman.

EXTERMINATOR. Copyright The Estate of Bob Dorman.

The story of “Old Bones” is famous. He’s as legendary a figure in American thoroughbred racing as Man O’ War — and some say he was the best of them all. High praise for a big, coarse gelding who was bought as a rabbity for a flashy colt named Sun Briar, the hope of  Willis Sharpe Kilmer for the 1918 Kentucky Derby.

The man who first saw under the surface of the lanky chestnut with the deep, dark eyes was trainer Henry McDaniel. It was he who studied Bones and Sun Briar as they worked, noting the intelligence of the former at dealing with his moody running mate. And when Sun Briar couldn’t run in the Derby — and after considerable lobbying by McDaniel and Colonel Matt Winn, the President of Churchill Downs — Kilmer agreed to let the ugliest of his horses run instead. And so it was that Exterminator stepped on to a muddy track and transformed, in three minutes, from an ugly duckling to a Swan King.

To read more about Exterminator: https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/a-collectors-mystery-exterminator-and-bob-dorman/

 

DISCOVERY (colt, 1931- 1958)

 

Discovery, a brilliant runner and outstanding broodmare sire, won Horse of the Year in 1935 over Omaha. Discovery appears 4X5X4 in Ruffian's pedigree.

DISCOVERY on the track. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

The son of Display had a brilliant, dazzling chestnut coat and lots of chrome. Born at Walter J. Salmon’s Mereworth Farm and owned by Adolphe Pons, the colt was impressively bred and ran head-first into the accompanying expectations. Predictably, he disappointed, winning only 2 of 13 starts as a two year-old.

At three he appeared again, looking fit enough. However, among the 3 year-olds that year was a colt named Cavalcade, who had already beaten Discovery the year before. In the Derby, Discovery chased Cavalcade home; in the Preakness, he finished third to High Quest and Cavalcade.

But Discovery was just getting going. He went on that same year to win the Brooklyn and Whitney Handicaps, and then set a world record time for 1 3/16 miles in the Rhode Island Handicap.

But his finest years were at four and five. In 1935, the colt won 11 of 19 starts, carrying an average of 131 lbs., gaining him the nickname “The Iron Horse.” Retrospectively named 1935 Horse of the Year (over Triple Crown winner, Omaha) and throughout 1936, Discovery’s winning ways continued. Of his Whitney win, the New York Times wrote that the chestnut ran “…the most decisive victory to be scored in a big American stake in many years.”

DISCOVERY was named Horse of the Year for 1935. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

DISCOVERY was named Horse of the Year for 1935. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

As a sire, it was Discovery’s daughters who gave him purchase on immortality, producing the great Native Dancer, Bold Ruler and Bed O’ Roses.

 

SEABISCUIT (colt, 1933-1947)

Rejected outright as a colt foal because of his size and conformation, the little son of Hard Tack languished as a runner until he hooked up with trainer Tom Smith, who could see right through the disguise. In Smith’s hands, “The Biscuit” blossomed into a horse with fire in his blood. It was the Depression Era: a good time for a hero to come along. Especially one who had once been “not good enough,” through no fault of his own. He battled back from defeat. He battled back from injury. And he taught America how to look a setback straight in the eye — and vanquish it.

Enjoy this rare footage of The Biscuit at work and play:

 

RED RUM (gelding, 1965- 1995)

 

 

RED RUM at work on the beach. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun

RED RUM at work on the sands of Southport, England. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun

 

“Beloved”  is probably the first response when someone speaks his name. Or “Immortal.” Something like that.

In its long, distinguished history the National Hunt has known many great horses, but none who rose to the standard of Red Rum. He was, quite simply, the greatest steeplechaser who ever lived.

By the time Donald “Ginger” McCain got his hands on the bay gelding, he had won a few one-mile races over the flat before being passed from one training yard to another. The horse who had descended from the great St. Simon, and whose name originated from the last three letters of his dam (Mared) and sire (Quorum) was never going to amount to much, running in cheap races with modest purses.

GINGER McCAIN WITH RED RUM PICTURED AT HIS STABLES BEHIND SECOND HAND CAR SHOWROOM. SOUTHPORT 1975. pic by George Selwyn,119 Torriano Ave,London NW5 2RX.T:+44 (0)207 267 6929 M: 07967 030722 email: george@georgeselwyn.co.uk Vat no:3308110 05

Ginger McCain with RED RUM, pictured at his stables behind his used car dealership in Southport, 1975. Photo and copyright, George Selwyn.

The first thing that McCain set out to do was to rehabilitate the gelding, who suffered from the incurable disease, pedal osteitis, a disease of the pedal bone. (This was discovered after the trainer paid a goodly sum for “Rummy” on behalf of owner, Noel le Mare.) The “cure” was swimming and long works on the beaches of Southport. And it worked miracles. Red Rum blossomed into a tough, rugged individual. (It should be noted that Ginger adored Rummy and the horse was never put at-risk in any of his races, unlike the situation when he was running on the flat.)

The result was not one, but three, wins in the Aintree Grand National, arguably the greatest test of any horse’s courage and stamina in the world. His first win came at a time when the Grand National was flirting with extinction. It needed a hero and it got one, in the form of a thoroughbred once-destined to run on the flat until he could run no more, and a used car salesman who “also” trained National Hunt horses — and saw something quite different in his Champion’s eye:

 

JOHN HENRY (gelding, 1975-2007)

“For the first two years of his life, John Henry had been peddled like a cheap wristwatch.” (Steve Haskin, in John Henry in the Thoroughbred Legends series)

JOHN HENRY at work.

JOHN HENRY at work.

To say he was “difficult” doesn’t even come close: for what ever reason, John had a nasty disposition, despite his workmanlike performances on the track. It would take trainers (and there were many) like Phil Amato and Ron McNally to work their way around temperament issues to gain the gelding’s trust before the John Henry we now know and admire emerged.

In his 3 year-old season, there were glimmers of ability. But from 1980 to his final win, at the ripe old age of nine, John Henry turned out to be the stuff of greatness. And not only was it his “arrival” as a turf star: John’s rags-to-riches story captivated fans who even today, almost nine years after his death, still revere his memory. Indeed, for many, John Henry is one of a pantheon of superstars, right up there with Exterminator, Man O’ War, Secretariat, Ruffian and American Pharoah.

By the time he was retired to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, John had twice won the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year (1981, 1984), with 39 wins in 83 starts and earnings of over six million dollars USD. His 1981 election as Horse of the Year was unanimous and at the time, unprecedented for a nominee to receive all votes cast. In addition, John was inducted into the American Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1990.

 

ISTABRAQ (gelding, 1992)

Unlike John Henry (above), whose bloodlines were blue collar, Istabraq came from a royal line: a son of Sadler’s Wells (Northern Dancer) whose dam, Betty’s Secret, was a daughter of Secretariat. Owned by E.P. Taylor, the Canadian thoroughbred breeder and owner of Northern Dancer, Betty’s Secret was sent to Ireland in 1987 to be bred to some of Northern Dancer’s British sons. Taylor died two years later and the mare, in foal to Sadler’s Wells was purchased by Hamdan Al Maktoum.

The foal she was carrying was Istabraq.

ISTABRAQ as a foal with his dam, Betty's Secret (Secretariat).

ISTABRAQ as a foal with his dam, Betty’s Secret (Secretariat).

The colt foal seemed to understand from the very beginning that he was “someone special.” And indeed he was destined to be — but it took time.

The colt’s name was Sindhi for “brocade” but the weave of him proved inferior on the flat, where he managed only 2 wins. His jockey, the great Willie Carson, described the youngster as a “slow learner” who “…also lacked speed and was not at home on fast ground…I came to the conclusion that the reason he was struggling was because he had no speed. In fact, he was one-paced…”

As a three year-old, he developed foot problems. He was, in fact, flat-footed, making shoeing him a problem. When Istabraq refused to quicken in his last race as a three year-old, despite Carson’s aggressive ride, Sheikh Hamdan let trainer John Gosden know that it was enough: Istabraq was to be sold.

John Durkan started his career as a jockey.

John Durkan started his career as a jockey before becoming an assistant trainer to the great John Gosden.

When John Durkan, Gosden’s assistant trainer, heard that Istabraq would be listed in the 1995 Tattersall’s sale he resolved to acquire him. He saw possibilities for Istabraq, but not on the flat — as a hurdler. Having informed Gosden that he would be leaving to go out on his own, Durkan began searching for a possible buyer for Istabraq and found one in J. P. McManus, a wealthy Irishman who had made a fortune as a gambler. Following the sale at Tattersall’s, McManus shipped Istabraq back to Ireland with the understanding that the colt would be trained by Durkan. In his young trainer, Istabraq had found someone who believed in him.

“He is no soft flat horse. He is the sort who does not get going until he’s in a battle. He has more guts than class and that’s what you need, ” Durkan told McManus, “He will win next year’s Sun Alliance Hurdle.” Prophetic words.

"No soft

“He is no soft flat horse…” Durkan counselled J. P. McManus. And you see it here, in the power as ISTABRAQ launches, even though he’s a good distance from the hurdle.

But the young Durkan would soon be beset with tragedy, although not before watching his beloved gelding take ten hurdle races in a row from 1996-1997. Durkan was battling cancer and was shipped to Sloane Kettering Hospital in New York City; Aidan O’Brien took over training duties. By 1998, John was dying and moved home to Ireland, succumbing on the night of January 21, 1998.

Charlie Swan wore a black armband in John’s memory on the day of Istabraq’s first start in 1998, the AIG Europe Champion Hurdle. The gelding, who was now 6 years old, was a national hero and thousands turned out to watch him begin his 6 year-old season in grand style at Leopardstown:

And then this gallant thoroughbred just went on and on and on, beginning with a win two months later at Cheltenham in what would be the first of three wins in the Champion Hurdle:

Retired in 2002, Istabraq is now in the fourteenth year of a happy retirement at his owner, J.P. McManus’ Martinstown Stud. There, the horse who was voted in 2009 the favourite of the last 25 years by the Irish people, hangs out with his BFF, Risk of Thunder, and continues to greet fans who visit from all over the world:

For more about Istabraq, one of Secretariat’s greatest descendants: https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/secretariats-heart-the-story-of-istabraq/

 

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

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Together,we saved over 20 horses from going to slaughter in Canada or Mexico in 2015. And every donation counted in this effort because no donation is too small. Hale, Trendy Cielo, Maya Littlebear, Felicitas Witness and 16 others, including two mares and their foals, thank you.

Please consider making a donation to a worthy cause so that we can help more rescue efforts in 2016.

Thank you.

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My idea to collect photographs of the progeny of Northern Dancer, our King of Thoroughbred Racing here in Canada, led to the discovery of just how influential this tiny thoroughbred stallion really was — and continues to be today, particularly in Great Britain, Ireland, Europe and Australia.

NORTHERN DANCER QUOTE by SANGSTER_$_57

It was the last Kentucky Derby my ailing grandfather and I watched together. He sat, wrapped in blankets, in his favourite armchair and I sat cross-legged near him on the carpet, the rest of the family ranged in chairs around the black and white television console. When the little colt hit the wire, the room erupted with gasps, followed by delight. Here he was, the very first Canadian bred and owned 3 year-old to win the Kentucky Derby and he had done it in record-breaking time.

As we watched EP Taylor leading his fractious champion into the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs, my grandfather exclaimed, “Well I never……just look at him ….he’s only a pony!”

I had been born with Grandpa’s “horse gene,” as my mother liked to say. Shortly after the Derby win, I bought a copy of Sports Illustrated magazine, carefully removed a photo of “The Dancer” winning the Florida Derby and glued it onto a sturdy sheet of blue cardboard, under which I wrote: ” ‘He’s all blood and guts and he tries hard.’ Northern Dancer: first Canadian owned-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby. Time: 2:00:00 flat.”

The photo and the memory stuck. Today, as I write this, the faded blue cardboard with The Dancer’s photo and my round printing sits in a frame just above the computer.

This SI shot of Northern Dancer winning the Florida Derby has come down through the decades with me. Once the prized possession of a 14 year-old girl, it now sits in a frame above my computer.

This SI shot of Northern Dancer winning the Florida Derby has come down through the decades with me. Once the prized possession of a 14 year-old girl, it now sits in a frame above my computer.

Punctuated as he was by the love of a grandfather who was gone only a year later, as well as that festering horse gene of mine, it was predictable that by 1990 I had decided to collect original press photos of Northern Dancer and some of his progeny. What I had in mind was a project: to collect some photos and then mount them in an album, together with a little research on The Dancer’s most prominent progeny.

Lester Piggott and NIJINSKY, the last British Triple Crown winner.

Lester Piggott and NIJINSKY, the last British Triple Crown winner.

I started out in earnest, shopping on places like the newly-opened EBAY. But little did I know what I was going to uncover. The search for original photos of Nijinsky and The Minstrel connected me to a number of UK sellers — and it was here that the proverbial “floodgates” flew open. My career and family had necessitated a lengthy sabbatical from all things thoroughbred, leaving me somewhat amazed to discover that through the aegis of the great trainer and horseman, Vincent O’Brien, Canada’s tiny Dancer had, in fact, gone viral. 

NORTHERN DANCER by Brewer, Jr.

NORTHERN DANCER by Allen F. Brewer, Jr. The artist’s exquisite portrait belies the temperament of Canada’s King of Thoroughbreds which was, to quote E.P. Taylor’s daughter, “Not very nice at all.”

 

I had bought a few albums to house the photos and had started mounting them together with text. But as the sheer number of photos mounted, I could see that I was making myself a project that would take a lifetime to complete. It wasn’t that I had no criteria for acquiring a photo…..it was that truly great thoroughbreds kept coming and coming, like an enormous tidal wave, prompting the question: Where do I draw the line?

Think about it. Out of the “Danzig connection” alone, another galaxy of superstars in England, Ireland, Europe and Australia have emerged. And this is only one of many Northern Dancer sire lines.

DANZIG pictured here at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky where he stood for the whole of his career at stud.

DANZIG pictured here at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky where he stood for the whole of his career at stud.

 

DANZIG'S best son, DANEHILL.

DANZIG’S best son, DANEHILL.

 

DANEHILL'S son, DANEHILL DANCER, a sire of sires.

DANEHILL’S son, DANEHILL DANCER, a sire of sires.

 

DANSILI, another son of DANEHILL who is making a huge impact on the breed worldwide.

Juddmonte’s DANSILI, another son of DANEHILL who is making a huge impact on the breed worldwide.

 

Among the remarkable thoroughbreds who descend from a bewildering galaxy of Northern Dancer sire lines and families, and who have recently retired are the champions: Rachel Alexandra (USA), America’s sweetheart and 2009 Horse of the Year, is a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro and granddaughter of Sadler’s Wells; Black Caviar (AUS) whose sire, Bel Esprit, is the grandson of Nijinsky and whose dam, Helsinge, is the granddaughter of the late Green Desert (by Danzig); the incomparable Frankel (GB) a son of Galileo (by Sadler’s Wells) whose dam, the Blue Hen, Kind, is a daughter of Danehill (by Danzig); America’s two-time Horse of the Year and turf star, Wise Dan (USA), who carries Storm Bird (by Northern Dancer) and Lyphard (by Northern Dancer) on both sides of his 4th generation pedigree; the 2014 and 2013 Investec Derby winners Australia (IRE) by Galileo and Camelot (IRE) by Montjeu; Arc winner Danedream (GER), whose sire Lomitas is a grandson of Nijinsky and whose dam, Danedrop, is a daughter of Danehill (by Danzig); the brilliant Nathaniel (IRE), a son of Galileo and only one of two horses to seriously challenge Frankel, the other being Zoffany (IRE) by Dansili, a son of Danehill and grandson of Danzig; the mighty Igugu (IRE), winner of the SA Triple Tiara and a daughter of Galileo; the immortal Hurricane Fly (IRE) whose sire Montjeu is a son of Sadler’s Wells; the undefeated Arc winner Zarkava (IRE) whose sire, Zamindar, is a grandson of The Minstrel and whose dam, Zarkasha, is by the superb Kahyasi, a grandson of Nijinsky; the ill-fated and brilliant St. Nicholas Abbey (IRE) a son of Montjeu; the Australian champion All Too Hard (AUS), the half-brother of Black Caviar, and a grandson of Danehill (by Danzig); the wonderful mare, The Fugue (IRE), a daughter of Dansili (by Danehill) whose dam, Twyla Tharp, is by Sadler’s Wells; Canada’s Inglorious, winner of the 2011 Queen’s Plate, who is a granddaughter of Storm Bird (by Northern Dancer); and last but hardly least, Goldikova (IRE) whose sire, Anabaa is a son of Danzig and whose dam, Born Gold, is a granddaughter of Lyphard (by Northern Dancer).

It’s impossible to think of thoroughbred racing or the National Hunt without these individuals — but even they are the tip of the proverbial iceberg in the ongoing genetic dance of The Dancer.

Below, a video of the American turf superstar, Wise Dan, winning the 2013 Breeders Cup Mile for the second straight year:

“The bird has flown” — the fabulous Nathaniel winning the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot:

The “sensational” Canadian filly,Inglorious, winning the 2011 Queen’s Plate at Woodbine, Toronto, Canada:

Stallions — so many names that one gets dizzy just trying to keep them in a kind of chronological order. Among the best-known: Giant’s Causeway, Medaglia d’Oro, Elusive Quality, Animal Kingdon, Big Brown and War Front in the USA; Galileo, Sea The Stars, Yeats, Invincible Spirit, Cape Cross (sire of Sea The Stars, Ouija Board and Golden Horn), New Approach, Oasis Dream, Kingman, Mastercraftsman, Dansili and Dubawi in Great Britain, Ireland and Europe; So You Think, Exceed and Excel, Sepoy, Redoute’s Choice, Fastnet Rock, More Than Ready, Bel Esprit and Snitzel in Australia; and in Japan, the great Empire Maker and leading sires by earnings, Deep Impact and King Kamehameha ( a son of Kingmambo who is inbred 2 X 4 to Northern Dancer through his sons, Nureyev and Lyphard, and carries Nijinsky’s son, Green Dancer, in his 4th generation).

A look back at the late Bart Cummings’ great champion, So You Think:

And in 2015?

Well, let’s see.

There’s America’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, American Pharoah (whose brilliance, I will continue to insist, owes at least as much to Empire Maker and his Blue Hen dam, Toussaud, a daughter of Northern Dancer’s El Gran Señor as to any other in his pedigree), the Investec Derby winner Golden Horn, Shadwell’s brilliant Muhaarar, Coolmore’s Gleneagles, the up-and-coming sire, Mastercraftman’s The Grey Gatsby and Amazing Maria in Great Britain. And it’s impossible to overlook the incomparable Treve, who now has her own theme song!

This year, they all look like him, carrying his bay coat and dark mane and tail into a future he never saw. But the familiar colours of my “tiny Dancer” always take me back to that last Kentucky Derby my grandfather and I watched together. And as for my collection of photographs, it’s tailed off considerably since it arrived at 500 + images. I’m well behind in recording them all, so the considerable overflow are now housed in an archival file.

But then along came 2015.

And I can see that my collecting is not yet done…….

 

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UPDATE

Since I began THE VAULT’S rescue fund, $1,542.00 CAD has been raised, allowing THE VAULT readers and yours truly to rescue Hale, as well as a Standardbred gelding and a beautiful blue roan QH mare, in foal, from slaughter. Too, donations have been made to Our Mims and RR Refuge. I continue to work to save horses, one horse at a time: this week, it was a granddaughter of Secretariat.

This blue roan mare, in foal, was rescued from slaughter by VAULT readers the week of August 31, 2015

This blue roan mare, in foal, was rescued from slaughter by VAULT readers the week of August 31, 2015

Here’s some footage of Hale, a mere month after VAULT readers, his new owner and yours truly rescued him:

If you love THE VAULT, please accept my heartfelt thanks. I write it for you.

And please consider making a donation:

http://www.gofundme.com/8d2cher4

Together we can make a difference.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Royal Ascot is about to open and in 2014 will host a veritable who’s-who of the British and European turf. An exciting twist for American racing fans is provided by the entry of Rosalind, trained by Kenny McPeek, in either the Ribblesdale Stakes on June 19 or the Coronation Stakes on Friday, June 20.  In addition, Verrazano, now in training with Aidan O’Brien, will be starting in either the Queen Anne (June 17) or the Prince of Wales (June 18) Stakes. 

ROSALIND, trained by Kenny McPeek, is set to make her UK debut in the Coronation Stakes on June 20.

ROSALIND is set to make her UK debut in either the Ribblesdale or the Coronation Stakes. Both of these races are designed for fillies.

Impossible as it is to focus on every horse entered at Royal Ascot, there are several who have become familiar names to racing fans worldwide. Keeping our readership and their needs in mind, we have focused on a few of the star-studded cast who will assemble at Royal Ascot next week. At the time of this writing, the fields were still not quite set and since several of the entries described below remain co-entered in two different races, readers are encouraged to go to the Racing Post site for Royal Ascot to check the racing cards early next week: http://royal-ascot.racingpost.com/horses/cards/

TREVE

Arc winner, Treve, is set to kick off in the Prince of Wales Stakes on Wednesday, June 18 in what will be her first start on British soil. Last seen in neck-to-neck combat with the outstanding Cirrus des Aigles in April at Longchamps in the Prix Ganay (below), which Treve lost by a whisker in her first-ever defeat, trainer Cricket Head-Maarek’s champion seems ready to add another jewel to her crown next week.

As satisfying as it will be for Head-Maarek to see her great mare return to the winner’s circle at Ascot, the Prince of Wales is thought to be a prep race for Treve who’s real objective is likely to be the 1 million purse in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot in July, where it is very possible that she will meet up with Derby winner, Australia. From there, if all goes well, Treve will defend her title in the 2015 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. If anyone can get her through this arduous campaign it is Head-Maarek, a trainer of no small merit who hails from the family of Freddie Head, trainer of the brilliant Goldikova. Here is Treve in-training prior to the Prix Ganay, with commentary from the distinguished jockey, Frankie Dettori, who has ridden some of the greatest thoroughbreds of the last twenty years.

The Prince of Wales is shaping up to be a solid race including Aidan O’Brien’s 2013 Epsom Derby winner, Ruler of the World, John Gosden’s globetrotting mare, The Fugue, the William Haggas-trained Mukhadram, second in last year’s Dubai World Cup, and Dank, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, last seen by North America in her record-setting run in the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf in November 2013 (below). (NOTE: Ruler of the World is co-entered in the Hardwicke Stakes, Saturday, June 21st. Check on Monday, June 16 to see where he is going.)

Of particular interest to American racing fans will be the entry of Verrazano, last year’s winner of the Wood Memorial, who is now being trained by Aidan O’Brien. O’Brien reports that he is pleased with Verrazano’s progress to date. The 4 year-old made his first start for O’Brien at Newberry in May, where he finished a very respectable third to champion Olympic Glory in the JLT Lockinge Stakes (below). (NOTE: Verrazano is co-entered in the Queen Anne Stakes which will run on Tuesday, June 17. Verrazano fans should check at on the weekend or Monday, June 16 when the entries should be finalized for June 17.)

SOFT FALLING RAIN & OLYMPIC GLORY

Mike de Kock’s Soft Falling Rain is getting set to take on Olympic Glory in the Queen Anne Stakes, on the first day of racing (June 17th) at Royal Ascot. The last time he tried this on Ascot turf, Soft Falling Rain ran the worst race of his distinguished career, coming in 11th behind the winner (Olympic Glory). But don’t be fooled: Mike de Kock’s champion has only ever finished out of the money twice in his 12 starts, winning 8. A son of Canada’s National Assembly, a champion sire in South Africa who was trained by Vincent O’Brien but never raced due to injury, Soft Falling Rain is a grandson of the prepotent Danzig and Giant’s Causeway is his BM sire. So this 5 year-old is “bred in the purple” and always gives his best. His last start was in March in the Godolphin Mile, where he narrowly lost out to stablemate Variety Club:

Olympic Glory (shown in video above in connection with Verrazano) is another champion who has won very consistently over 13 career starts for trainer, Richard Hannon. A son of Choisir, the first Australian-trained horse to win at Royal Ascot (2003) who became almost as famous for his weird headgear, Olympic Glory carries “the Danehill gene” that never seems to disappoint. Accordingly, the colt has won seven times in France and England, and was seen last year at Royal Ascot winning the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (below).  Despite coming in 4th at Longchamps to the mighty Cirrus des Aigles, expect Olympic Glory to be well in the mix on opening day.

CHOISIR, the sire of OLYMPIC GLORY, shown here winning the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2003. A handsome devil, CHOISIR was as memorable for his headgear as he was for his immense talent.

CHOISIR, the sire of OLYMPIC GLORY, shown here winning the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2003. CHOISIR was as famous for his headgear as he was for his immense talent.

ESTIMATE

Perhaps the most heartwarming moment of last year’s Royal Ascot was the delight of HM The Queen as she greeted her filly, Estimate, in the winner’s enclosure after the Gold Cup.

Estimate was the product of an arrangement involving her dam, Ebaziya, owned by the Aga Khan Studs and HM’s Royal Stud. The latter sent Ebaziya to the super German stallion, Monsun (sire of Novellist, Shirocco and Stacelita, among others) and the result was a beautiful mare who has done her 88 year-old owner-breeder proud. Although lightly raced, the 5 year-old has won 4 of her 8 starts. Given HM’s passion for thoroughbred racing, it would be a thrill to see Estimate defend her title with another win in the 2m 4f Gold Cup on June 19. But she will have to be at her absolute best to vanquish her competition.

It’s a fair guess that Aidan O’Brien’s Leading Light will push Estimate to the limit if he can get the distance. Successful at Navan in May, the son of Montjeu has only lost twice in 8 starts. Out of the Gone West mare, Dance Parade, Leading Light was the brilliant winner of the St. Leger last year as a 3 year-old, and at Royal Ascot 2013 showed true grit in winning the Queen’s Vase.

A sentimental favourite is the hardy Simenon, whose problem won’t be the distance. Rather, it will be his age. At seven, with 38 starts under his belt, Simenon may be getting past his best but he’s one of the most honest horses in the race. Too, there is Richard Baldwin’s Whiplash Willie, who ran a very decent third at Sandown last time out to the favourite, Brown Panther.

CERTIFY

Certify was brilliant as a juvenile at 2 and as a 3 year-old, but her career was cut in half by the drug scandal that beset Godolphin’s trainer, Mahmood Al Zarooni in 2013. Certify returned in 2014 where she won her first race, followed by a fourth at Meydan in what was her first ever defeat. Her story is a heart-breaker because the daughter of Elusive Quality is Frankel-esque in her abilities and bringing her back to form after an enforced break of 469 days is a challenge of epic proportions. Switched to trainer Charlie Appleby, Certify is listed to run against fillies and mares in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes on Wednesday, June 18. One can only hope to see her regain the brilliance of her 2012 season. Either way, she is a superstar gracing the turf of champions. Here is Certify winning the Shadwell Fillies Mile in 2012, followed by her win in the Cape Verdi at Meydan in January 2014:

 

BROWN PANTHER

Another serious contender for the Gold Cup will be Ted Dascombe’s Brown Panther, a son of Shirocco and grandson of Monsun. As of this writing, Brown Panther has won his last two races decisively and with 20 starts and 9 wins under his belt, appears to be peaking at just the right moment. The Dascombe-trained 6 year-old is currently listed as the favourite going in to Royal Ascot week, given that his last win came at the Gold Cup distance over a soggy track at Sandown. Although it has taken him some time to get there, Brown Panther deserves the attention he’s getting.

Bred by his owner, Michael Owen, a British and international soccer (football in the UK) star who now does football commentary for the British media, Brown Panther represents the zenith of his owner’s career in horse racing. And he’s come along very nicely under Ted Dascombe’s patient tutelage, since his male family have a tendency to come into their own rather slowly by today’s standards and Dascombe understands this.

As footage of his most recent win at Sandown was not available, here is Brown Panther (turquoise shirt) winning the Artemis Goodwood Cup at Glorious Goodwood a year ago, where he beat the likes of Colour Vision soundly.  By all accounts, he’s an even better distance runner this year.

ROSALIND

America’s Rosalind will have her work cut out for her, making her first start on grass at Royal Ascot in either the Ribblesdale (June 19) or the Coronation Stakes (June 20). Either way, she will be in heady company, including a contingent from Ballydoyle that includes Wonderfully, John Gosden’s Criteria, Roger Varian’s excellent Sea The Stars filly, Anipa, Godolphin’s Ihtimal, John Oxx’s talented filly My Titania (another by Sea The Stars), Andre Fabre’s Miss France, together with lightly-raced fillies like Wonderstruck, Dermot Weld’s Edelmira or William Haggas’ Cape Cross filly, Token of Love.

Still, Rosalind will have a huge fan following from America, where she is a favourite and they will be rooting for her all the way. The daughter of Broken Vow whose BM sire is Theatrical has several excellent grass runners in her pedigree, including Britain’s last Triple Crown winner, Nijinsky II, as well as Sassafras and Nureyev, who was born and raced in France where he got Champion 3 year-old honours. Her owners, Landaluce Educe Stables and trainer, Kenny McPeek have little reason to doubt either her quality or her determination. Having only finished out of the money twice in 8 starts, Rosalind is shown here in a gutsy win over Room Service in April at Keeneland:

WAR COMMAND, KINGMAN & NIGHT OF THUNDER

It would be fair to say that next to the emotion of HM’s Estimate taking the Gold Cup, last year’s Royal Ascot was punctuated by the thrill of 2 year-old War Command’s victory. As his white-blazed faced streaked across the finish line his sire’s (War Front) reputation grew even more in the minds of British and European thoroughbred owners and breeders. They had to be asking themselves, “Have we got another Northern Dancer on the rise?” since The Dancer really made his legacy through the loyalty of Coolmore-Ballydoyle, specifically Vincent O’Brien, to his progeny. Most of whom proved to be brilliant. Cross-entered in both the prestigious St. James Palace Stakes (June 17) and the Diamond Jubilee (June 21), Coolmore-Ballydoyle will be dreaming of a performance that repeats War Command’s brilliance of almost a year ago:

However, a little-publicized truth (according to Ballydoyle) is that the “War Fronts can be quite lazy” and War Command pulled that card in his most recent outing in May at Newmarket, where he finished a dismal 9th in the 2000 Guineas, failing to pick up the pace when it counted most. If he does this again at Royal Ascot, he’ll likely be pummelled by either the brilliant Night of Thunder or Kingman.

Night of Thunder, a 3 year-old son of Dubawi, is trained by the eminent Richard Hannon. Having won 3 of his 4 lifetime starts, the colt has never been out of the money. More importantly, Night of Thunder is this year’s winner of the Quipco 2000 Guineas, taking it despite hanging out very far as he and jockey Keiron Fallon came to the finish. But he beat War Command, the subsequent Derby winner, Australia, as well as a very good colt in Kingman despite what could have been a disastrous error:

Kingman and Night of Thunder have been challenging each other throughout the season. While Juddmonte’s Kingman lost to his rival in the Quipco 2000 Guineas, he went on to subsequently take the Irish 2000 Guineas in devastating fashion. The son of Invincible Spirit has only ever lost once in his 5 lifetime starts. Accordingly, Prince Khalid Abdullah and trainer John Gosden’s champion has been accorded the status of favourite to take the St. James Palace next week:

SOME PROMINENT AMERICAN SIRES REPRESENTED AT ASCOT 2014 

The War Fronts make up a small army, with newcomers War Envoy and The Great War running in the prestigious Coventry Stakes for 2 year-olds on June 17; Guerre and Due Diligence running on the same day in the King’s Stand; Giovanni Boldini joining War Command in the St. James Palace Stakes; and a filly, Peace and War is running for  Sheikh Suhaim Al Thani/QRL/M Al Kubaisi in the Queen Mary Stakes  (June 18).

Elusive Quality is represented in the St. James Palace Stakes (June 17) by Michaelmas who runs for Ballydoyle; Great White Eagle in the Jersey Stakes for Ballydoyle (June 18); Elusive Guest for John Guest Racing runs in the Jersey Stakes (June 18); and the fabulous mare Certify is due to run in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes (June 18) for Godolphin.

Big Brown is represented by the very good colt, Darwin, who runs in the King’s Stand (June 17) for Ballydoyle.

Bluegrass Cat is represented by Biting Bullets who runs for Mrs. Joanna Hughes in another 2 year-old race, the Windsor Castle Stakes (June 17).

Quality Road has a 2 year-old colt, Hootenanny, running in the Windsor Castle Stakes in the colours of Tabor, Magnier and Smith (June 17).

Street Cry has Street Force running in the Jersey Stakes (June 18) for Saeed Mañana.

Dynaformer is represented by Somewhat who runs in the colours of  Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum in the King Edward VII Stakes (June 20).

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The tiny chestnut foal could hardly have known that he was born into a story, would be named after a national treasure and would grow into a legend. But that is exactly the story of Giant’s Causeway.

MARIAH'S STORM (1991), the dam of GIANT'S CAUSEWAY had already gained notoriety for her recovery from a fracture to her front left cannon bone in 1993 that should have ended her career.

MARIAH’S STORM (1991), the dam of GIANT’S CAUSEWAY had already gained notoriety for her recovery from a fracture to her front left cannon bone in 1993 that should have ended her career. But the daughter of RAHY healed to race again and did not disappoint, winning the Arlington Heights Oaks and the Arlington Matron Handicap. She then went on to defeat champion SERENA’S SONG in the 1995 Turfway Park Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Stakes.

GIANT'S CAUSEWAY'S sire was the prepotent STORM CAT, who counted in his pedigree the grandsires NORTHERN DANCER and SECRETARIAT.

GIANT’S CAUSEWAY’S sire is the prepotent STORM CAT (1983), who counted in his pedigree the grandsires NORTHERN DANCER(1961) and SECRETARIAT (1970).

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

GIANT’S CAUSEWAY gets a bath as his young trainer, Aidan O’Brien (back to camera) helps out. The gorgeous colt would go on to become a stunningly handsome stallion, but in O’Brien’s mind and in the hearts of his devoted following he is less remembered for his beauty and more for his racing heart. He remains one of the best horses to ever grace the UK turf. Photo & copyright: HorsePhotos.

Bred by Bill Peters and campaigned in the name of his Thunderhead Farms, Mariah’s Storm wove herself a story of guts, courage and heart. Breaking down in the Alcibiades with a fracture to her left front cannon bone in 1993, the filly’s racing career would have ended had it not been for the faith of owner Peters and her trainer, Don Von Hemel. It was decided that she would be rehabilitated, but even after the fracture healed, the question remained: Would the filly ever race again? Starting back in 1994, Mariah’s Storm showed the racing public what she was made of, winning the Arlington Heights Oaks, the Arlington Matron and defeating the great mare Serena’s Song in the Turfway Park Budweiser Breeders Cup Stakes in 1995.

Although she faded to finish ninth in the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (won by over a dozen lengths by the impressive Inside Information with jockey Mike Smith in the irons), Mariah’s Storm retired with a career record of 16-10-2-1 and earnings of $724,895 USD. She had done enough to inspire a movie (“Dreamer”) and to get the attention of savvy horsemen beyond the shores of North America. So it was that in 1996, at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, Mariah’s Storm was sold, in foal to Storm Cat, to Coolmore’s John Magnier for 2.6 million USD.

The foal she was carrying was imprinted with the genetic data of Northern Dancer (1961), Secretariat (1970), Blushing Groom (1974) and Roberto (1969), as well as Halo (1969), Hail To Reason (1958), Nasrullah (1940), Nashua (1942), Bold Ruler (1954) and an important son of Man O’ War, War Relic (1958). Further, the Storm Cat-Mariah’s Storm mating called upon the known affinity between the Northern Dancer and Blushing Groom sire lines.

It was fair to expect great things from this yet unborn descendant of some of the greatest thoroughbreds of the last century. But, as history has shown, great genes don’t always beget great horses.

WAR RELIC (inside) shown beating FOXBROUGH in the The chestnut son of MAN O' WAR was thought to be his best son at stud.

WAR RELIC (inside) shown beating FOXBROUGH in the 1941 Massachusetts Handicap. The chestnut son of MAN O’ WAR, whose temper was so fierce he killed a groom, also carries the distinction of being the most influential sire of all of BIG RED’S sons. His remains lie next to those of WAR ADMIRAL and MAN O’ WAR in the Kentucky Horse Park. WAR RELIC appears on the bottom of MARIAH’S STORM’S pedigree in the fifth generation.

NORTHERN DANCER, depicted here in a stamp released in 2012 by Canada Post.

NORTHERN DANCER, depicted here in a stamp released in 2012 by Canada Post.

BLUSHING GROOM, whose sire lines work well with NORTHERN DANCER.

BLUSHING GROOM, whose sire lines work well with NORTHERN DANCER.

As Aidan O’Brien tells it (in Pacemaker, July 2001), the Storm Cat-Mariah’s Storm colt was already the talk of Ashford Stud (Coolmore America) long before he arrived at Ballydoyle.

” ‘…Before he set foot in the yard, a lot of people were talking about him,’ O’Brien related. ‘Anyone who saw him as a yearling said he had great presence from the start. He had a lovely physique, and when we started to get to know him it was obvious that he had a temperament to match. He looked well, he walked well, and we were fairly sure he was going to be a real racehorse.’ ”

"A very special horse," said Aidan O'Brien of GIANT'S CAUSEWAY after he broke his maiden at first asking in 1999. Above, shown winning the Prix Salamandre at Longchamps with Mick Kinane riding that same year.

“A very special horse,” said Aidan O’Brien of GIANT’S CAUSEWAY after he broke his maiden at first asking in 1999. Above, shown winning the Prix de la Salamandre (G1) at Longchamps that same year in what would be the final race of his 2 year-old season.

The handsome colt with the crooked blaze needed a name and the one chosen for him was Giant’s Causeway. So it was that before he had even set foot on the turf, the youngster had the distinction of carrying on his solid shoulders another story, this one pertaining to one of Ireland’s greatest legends. The site of Finn McCool’s great feat remains a place of mystery and magic, warmed by the ghosts of a well-remembered past. While it continues to fascinate all who see it, on the global stage The Giant’s Causeway has also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

As he would throughout his racing career, Giant’s Causeway did honour to his bloodlines, his dam’s grit and the country that had embraced him. In his juvenile season, the colt raced three times, capping off the year with an easy win in the 1999 Prix de la Salamandre (G1) at Longchamps, France. The ground was soft that day, but Ballydoyle’s colt made all the running under the skilled guidance of master jockey, Mick Kinane.

The colt ended the year a Group One winner and, if the Master of Ballydoyle was concerned about him at all, it was that his juvenile season had been perhaps a bit too easy. “… I felt that if he was going to be ready for the Guineas he was going to have to learn things in a hurry at the start of the season. In the spring he worked regularly with the Gimcrack winner Mull of Kintyre and they were both so good that we could hardly believe it. ” As the colt had had no experience being among horses having done all the running in his three starts as a 2 year-old, O’Brien started him at three in the Gladness Stakes, where he would meet horses of all ages for the first time. Said O’Brien, ” The Gladness can be a tough race for three year-olds…Physically, he had always been very mature but mentally he hadn’t really been tested. I told Michael Kinane to drop him in, educate him and hope that he would be good enough.”

Giant’s Causeway was indeed “good enough,” beating an experienced Tarry Flynn (1994) as well as John Oxx’s Namid (1996), who would go on to take the Prix  l’Abbaye later in the season.

GIANT'S CAUSEWAY as a three year-old, with Mick Kinane up.

GIANT’S CAUSEWAY as a three year-old, with Mick Kinane up. Photo & copyright The Racing Post.

In his next two starts, the 2000 Guineas and the Irish 2000 Guineas, Giant’s Causeway battled all the way but ended up second to King’s Best (1997) and Bachir (1997), respectively. The losses took nothing away from him in O’Brien’s eyes. The colt had shown courage and talent even in defeat. As well, the trainer had learned that Giant’s Causeway was determined and fiercely competitive, if inclined to ease up once he had passed all of the other horses in the field, a factor that had played against him in his two defeats. Next up was the St. James’s Palace Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot 2000. A new millennium had dawned and the chestnut-red colt was going to make it his own. He had matured and learned a good deal from three tough races when he and Kinane stepped into the starting gate at Royal Ascot:

He may have won it by a nose, but Giant’s Causeway stamped himself as Mariah’s Storm’s son, showing a tenacity that became a signature. In winning the St. James’s Palace he had beaten some excellent colts in Bachir and Medicean (1997). And he had won off a slower pace than he liked. Although it was tempting to give the colt the summer off, O’Brien felt that he could step up the pace of Giant’s Causeway’s campaign by entering him in the Coral-Eclipse (G1) a mere eleven days later. The changes in the three year-old from just before and after the St. James’s Palace made it an interesting risk to take. Giant’s Causeway had come into his own just before his appearance at Royal Ascot and came out of it well into himself and in great form.

With veteran jockey George Duffield in the saddle, he went to the post in the Coral-Eclipse. Also entered were champions Sakhee (1997), Fantastic Light (1996), Shiva (1995) and Kalanisi (1996).

Aidan O’Brien’s take on the drama of the finish was that once Giant’s Causeway had gotten to the front, he idled a little, waiting for Kalanisi to get up to him. But whether by a length or a whisker, his game colt had gotten the job done. It was this race that would earn the Ballydoyle colt an enduring nickname, “The Iron Horse,” since Giant’s Causeway became only the second horse –and the first since Coronach(1923) in 1926 — to capture both the Coral-Eclipse and the St. James’s Palace Stakes in the same year.  In winning the Coral-Eclipse he had beaten a future winner of the 2001 Prix du l’Arc de Triomphe (Sakhee), the 2000 European Champion Horse and Champion Turf Male in the USA (Kalanisi), the 2000 & 2001 UK Horse of the World (Fantastic Light) and the winner of the Tattersall’s Gold Cup and 1999 European Champion Mare (Shiva).

Duking it out with KALANSI at the wire.

Duking it out with KALANSI
at the wire. Photo & copyright, The Racing Post.

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 ever have won the St. James’s Palace and Coral-Eclipse in the same year was CORONACH, in 1926. Credit: Pacemaker.

As if this weren’t enough, the Iron Horse went on — and on — annexing the Irish Champion Stakes (G1), the Sussex Stakes (G1) and the Juddmonte International (G1) in rapid succession, vanquishing older champions like the German Group 1 winner, Greek Dance (1995), Juddmonte’s champion, Dansili (1996), and the valiant Kalanisi along the way.

Giant’s Causeway ran himself into the hearts of Irish and English racing fans, showing the steely determination and heart of a champion who showed up each and every time. By the time he arrived for the Breeders Cup Classic he was a national hero who had chalked up five successive Group 1’s in a single racing season (matching the record held by UK Triple Crown winner, Nijinsky II) and completed a Group 1 double that had only been accomplished once before in the history of UK horse racing. He was a new face to most North Americans but the colt and his entourage were followed enthusiastically by the press as Ireland’s national treasure readied for his final start. The HOF American trainer D. Wayne Lukas was on hand to support the Ballydoyle team and doubtless felt proud for another reason: Giant’s Causeway was the progeny of Storm Cat, who was owned by Lukas’ friend and mentor, William T. Young of Overbrook Farm. And Storm Cat was, in turn, the best son of the filly who had launched Lukas’ career: Terlingua (1976) aka “The Secretariat Filly.”

Followed by a hoard of media, GIANT'S CAUSEWAY makes his way to the track accompanied by Aidan O'Brien and American HOF trainer, D. Wayne Lukas.

Followed by a hoard of media, GIANT’S CAUSEWAY makes his way to the track at Churchill Downs, accompanied by the Master of Ballydoyle, Aidan O’Brien and American HOF trainer, D. Wayne Lukas. The two trainers would begin an enduring friendship at the Breeders Cup.

Giant’s Causeway was coming to Churchill Downs off a long, hard and brilliant campaign: in twelve career starts (nine of them in his three year-old season), he had won nine and placed in three.

Getting to the Breeders Cup meant that the champion colt had to endure lengthly air travel followed by quarantine. And he would race on dirt for the first (and only) time in his life. The field was a strong one, featuring the Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus (1997), Lemon Drop Kid (1996), Albert The Great (1997), Captain Steve (1997) and a California invader named Tiznow (1997).  If any of this worried the Ballydoyle team they didn’t show it. And when it was all over, an elated Aidan O’Brien would say, “The Breeders Cup Classic was always the plan for him. He had nothing left to prove in Europe and we wanted to see exactly what his limits were. I was very apprehensive about how he would get on, but in the end he really covered himself in glory. ”

Retired to stud in 2001,Giant’s Causeway ended his career with a record of 13-9-4-0 and earnings of 2,031,426 BPS.

Not surprisingly, his stud career has been as successful as his career on the turf. Standing his first year at Coolmore Ireland and his second season at Coolmore Australia, The Iron Horse came to rest in the country of his birth for his third season at stud and has never left. In a dozen or so years, the flashy chestnut who never seems to take a bad photograph has sired enough winners to earn him USA Champion Sire rankings in 2009, 2010 and again in 2012. Granted, his book is large and he continues to attract very fine mares, making his chances of showing himself a superior sire greater. But the fact remains that his progeny have won on dirt, synthetic and turf in six different countries and on four continents, at distances from 5 – 14 furlongs. Giant’s Causeway may also be on his way to garnering “Sire of Sires” status, given the success of sons like Shamardal (2002) , Footstepsinthesand (2002), Frost Giant (2003) and First Samurai (2003) already, with other promising progeny like Eskendereya (2007) and Canada’s Mike Fox (2004) in the wings. As a broodmare sire, Giant’s Causeway has also been successful, much in the pattern of his sire and grandsires. Recent examples are millionaires Evening Jewel (Jewel of the Night, 2002) and Planteur (Plante Rare, 2002).

The late Tony Leonard's profile of ARAGORN.

The late Tony Leonard’s profile of ARAGORN. Photo and copyright, the estate of Tony Leonard.

The gorgeous ESKENDEREYA who many thought would be a powerful Triple Crown contender before injury abruptly ended his career.

The gorgeous ESKENDEREYA who many thought would be a powerful Triple Crown contender before injury abruptly ended his career.

Steve Roman’s data indicates that Giant’s Causeway is indeed a pre-potent sire of Classic stamina which would indicate, in turn, that he passes on little of the Storm Cat line’s tendency to produce speedy, short distance juveniles who frequently are unable to show the same form at three. The Classic influence clearly owes more to the Blushing Groom/Nasrullah sire line that was passed down to him by the plucky Mariah’s Storm. All of which would explain why, at the age of seventeen, Giant’s Causeway owns the reputation of being Storm Cat’s best producing son, even though Storm Cat may well have had little to do with it.

Does he ever take a lousy photo? GIANT'S CAUSEWAY posing at Ashford.

Does he ever take a lousy photo? GIANT’S CAUSEWAY posing at Ashford.

the Richard Hills' trained GHANAATI shown here winning the 1000 Guineas.

The Richard Hills’ trained GHANAATI shown here winning the 1000 Guineas.

MAID'S CAUSEWAY was an early champion of her then-juvenile sire.

MAID’S CAUSEWAY (inside) was an early champion of her then-juvenile sire.

Ireland’s Iron Horse has a veritable stable of champions to his credit. Other than those mentioned, the list includes millionaires Aragorn (2002), Cowboy Cal (2005), Eishin Apollon (2007), Fed Biz (2009), Creative Cause (2009), Giant Oak (2006), Irish Mission (2009), Heatseeker (2003), My Typhoon (2004) and Red Giant (2004). Sons who won at the Grade/Group 1 level with Classic designation: Intense Focus (2006), Footstepsinthesand, Rite of Passage (2004), Our Giant (2003), Heatseeker, First Samurai, Eskendereya, Red Giant, Shamardal, Frost Giant (2003) and Aragorn. Daughters who won at the Grade/Group 1 level with Classic designation: Internallyflawless (2006), Swift Temper (2004), Juste Momente (2003), Maid’s Causeway (2002), My Typhoon (2004), Ghanaati (2006) and Carriage Trail (2003). Other very good progeny include Await The Dawn (2007), Bowman’s Causeway (2008), Caroline Thomas (2010), Imagining2 (2008), Sunshine For Life (2004), Viscount Nelson (2007) and Winning Cause (2010).

Fan favourite, MY TYPHOON, a half-sister to GALILEO was out of the Blue Hen, URBAN SEA, herself a winner of the Prix du l'Arc de Triomphe

Fan favourite, MY TYPHOON, a half-sister to GALILEO was out of the champion and Blue Hen mare, URBAN SEA, who had won the Prix du l’Arc de Triomphe in 1993.

Although, in these fickle times, Giant’s Causeway is no longer considered a “hot” sire, he blasted into 2013 to top the Sire’s List with 12 GSW’s, the most spectacular of which was arguably the champion filly, Dalkala (2009), winner of the prestigious Prix de l’Opera in 2013.

The stallion has opened 2014 with a victory by the champion mare, Naples Bay, a half-sister to Medaglia d’Oro, in the Marshua’s RiverStakes (G3) at Gulfstream, in what was likely her final start.

http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/82667/naples-bay-finds-seam-in-marshuas-river

So the thrilling narrative of a great racehorse and an astoundingly good sire continues. Surely Finn McCool is rejoicing at an equine who has built a causeway that girths the world.

At Ashford Stud, 2014.

At Ashford Stud, 2012.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

The Blood-Horse magazine: Stallion Register; MarketWatch (May 27, 2011); article on Naples Bay by Myra Lewyn (January 4, 2014)

Pacemaker magazine, January 2001

Chef-de-race: Giant’s Causeway (September 18, 2010)

The Racing Post (UK): Giant’s Causeway/Record by Race Type

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NOTE TO READERSHIP: THE VAULT will be taking several weeks off. I just hate not writing new articles but have a family member who is critically ill. I’ll get back to THE VAULT as soon as I can with a bunch of new writing, but for now, it’s difficult to give you a precise date. However, once I’m back you’ll be notified on your Facebook, Twitter or other accounts. Thanks for your understanding, Abigail Anderson (February 4, 2014)

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