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Posts Tagged ‘C.W. Anderson’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas was filled with horse books....

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

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

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

Cover of the CW ANDERSON portfolio of the same name.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

BILLY AND BLAZE, 1936.

BILLY AND BLAZE, 1936.

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

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

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

 

Silverpoint featured poems by Madeleine and silverpoint drawings by CWA.

Silverpoint featured poems by Madeleine and silverpoint drawings by CWA.

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

CWA's lithograph of COUNT FLEET.

CWA’s lithograph of COUNT FLEET.

 

L.S. Sutcliffe's magnificent photo of EQUIPOISE

L.S. Sutcliffe’s magnificent photo of EQUIPOISE

 

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

EQUIPOISE in a head study by CWA.

 

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

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

 

CWA's illustration of BATTLESHIP.

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Elements of a CWA portfolio of lithographs.

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so it does today.

CWA_ANDY'S SUMMER PLAYHOUSE_andys

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 Sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fairy_Gold-big

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BATEAU with Frank Coltiletti up in 1928,

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

DAUGHTER OP MAN O’ WAR WINS FAME IN DIG RACE

New York, November 23, 1929

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

EXTRAORDINARY RACE

 

Two Noses and a Head Separate Four Horses in Suburban.

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

 

NEW YORK, N. Y., June 1.




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TORO MOVES UP.

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

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

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




 


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

 

BATEAU by CW ANDERSON_

 

 

Sources

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

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

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

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

BLOCKADE shown well in the clear in his first

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tight shot of BLOCKADE clearing a rail fence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming home, BLOCKADE and Colvill are all alone.

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

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

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

BLOCKADE meets his appreciative fans.

BLOCKADE meets appreciative fans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLOCKADE leads the field in a dramatic win in 1939.

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

BLOCKADE leads COQ BRUYERE to the finish.

BLOCKADE leads COQ BRUYERE to the finish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

BONUS FEATURE:

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

Related articles on THE VAULT:

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

REFERENCES

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

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

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

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

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

NY: The Sagamore Press. American Race Horses 1938

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

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

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

 

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