Posts Tagged ‘Coolmore’

What more can we say about this wonderful mare? Well, let’s have a look in “7 clicks” — just for fun.


CLICK #1: “…I think I remember saying to Chris (Waller), ‘Do you really like her?’ ” (one of the triad of Winx owners, Peter Tighe)

So it was that the daughter of Street Cry-Vegas Showgirl came to the stables of one of Australia’s outstanding trainers, Chris Waller. Owners Peter and Patty Tighe, Debbie Kepitis and Richard Treweeke were overjoyed at their purchase.

But had they asked Coolmore Australia’s stud manager, Peter O’Brien, who had attended the filly’s birth, he would have told them that from the outset Winx showed signs that she was going to be a late developer, even though she looked a really good individual in other ways.

During her days at Coolmore, Winx was easy to notice: she stood within 10 minutes of her birth, showed a great deal of independance very early on, and was blessed with a kind nature.

WINX at two days old. Photo and copyright: Coolmore.


Peter O’Brien’s understanding that it would take Winx some time to mature and show what she really was all about proved timely: Winx’s cavalry charge to the top of the world’s standings only started in earnest in 2015, when she was a four year-old.

It is likely that, had she gone to anyone other than Chris Waller, Winx would never have been given the time she needed to become the mighty mare we know today. And Winx’s owners were also prepared to wait, trusting in their trainer’s knowledge and experience.


CLICK #2: A surprise in Winx’s tail female


Winx’s dam, Vegas Showgirl, started thirty-five times, winning seven and retiring with earnings of $59,700 AUD. It is fair to say that she was not a household name, but she did win twice as a three year-old making her a solid, if not assured, broodmare prospect. Examining Vegas Showgirl’s tail female, what leaps out is Obeah in the third generation.

OBEAH, shown here with her trainer, Henry Clarke. Source: Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred.

A grandaughter of 1943 Triple Crown winner, Count Fleet, Obeah raced for Harry and Jane Lunger out of Henry Clarke’s Delaware Park stable. Notable wins came in the Blue Hen Stakes and the Delaware and Firenze Handicaps.

But North American racing fans know Obeah best for one reason and one reason alone: she was the dam of the brilliant, ill-fated Go For Wand:

Pedigree influences up to the fifth generation carry some influence — although how much, exactly, is almost impossible to determine. But it’s a safe bet that North American fans of Winx will be delighted to learn that a small part of her DNA comes through Count Fleet and that she is a cousin, albeit a very distant one, of the beloved Go For Wand.


CLICK #3: How did Winx get her name?

According to owner Richard Treweeke, Winx’s name owes much to Vegas Showgirl. In an interview done by 60 Minutes Australia (below in Bonus Features), Treweeke recounted how, when one sees a stage show in Las Vegas, the showgirls give you a “…wink, wink, wink.”

So, with a slight adjustment, Vegas Showgirl’s filly became Winx.



CLICK #4: What individual attributes help Winx to win — and keep on winning?

It has been speculated that Winx’s heart and lungs hold greater capacity than most thoroughbreds.

But one thing — other than her steely determination to win — that gives Winx a decided advantage has to do with her racing form, or style.

Granted, Winx’s running style isn’t the most fluid. Rather, she can look at times as though she has egg-beaters for legs.

But this is where what we think we see can be deceiving.

For one thing, the length of Winx’s stride has been measured at almost 6.8m. The stride of most thoroughbreds is about 6.1m. Exceptions are Phar Lap and Secretariat at 8.2m and the mighty Bernborough was said to have a massive stride of 8.6m.

But it’s not only Winx’s stride that helps her get the job done: whereas most thoroughbreds have a stride frequency of 130-140 strides per minute, Winx checks in at nearly 170 strides per minute. And she can maintain this frequency for much longer periods, notably as she kicks for home, a point in any race where most runners are tiring.

This short video of her win in the Sunshine Coast Guineas in 2015 highlights the impact of Winx’s stride and its frequency. The 2015 Guineas win also marks the beginning of Winx’s winning streak that now stands at 23 straight wins, 17 of which have been Group 1’s:


CLICK #5 : Winx and Hugh Bowman

Hugh Bowman is a jockey at the pinnacle of his career. But his promise showed even during his apprentice days, receiving the crown for champion apprentice NSW jockey in his very first year of riding, and champion Sydney apprentice followed in 1999/2000. The 37 year-old was awarded Longines’ 2017 Best World’s Jockey at the end of last season, having won 10 of the world’s Top 100 Group/Grade 1 races, six of which were on Winx. It was Bowman’s masterful win in the 2017 Japan Cup aboard Cheval Grand at Tokyo Racecourse that sealed the Longines’ title. Among the champions they beat in the Japan Cup were HOTY Kitasan Black and champions Makahiki, Soul Stirring and Satono Crown.

So strong is trainer Waller’s faith in Bowman, that Winx was withdrawn from what would have been her first start of the season (in the 2018 Apollo Stakesin Sydney) when a suspension made it impossible for Bowman to ride her. Unlikely that few were surprised by Waller’s decision, since Bowman and Winx are an established partnership at this point in time and no-one other than her inner circle knows the mare as well as Bowman. Famous racing pairs dot the history of thoroughbred racing worldwide and these powerful relationships underscore the importance of finding just the right fit between a jockey and a thoroughbred.

Here, in footage collected in February 2018 at a trail at Randwick,we catch a glimpse of some of the relationship between Winx and Bowman, as well as that between Bowman and Waller. The video also illustrates the complexities of conditioning a thoroughbred and, in this aspect, sheds a light on the profession that is universal.

(Note: Footage from the cam recorder picked up during Bowman’s ride comes at the end of the video.)


CLICK #6: Umet Odemisioglu  wanted to be an actor…

After her most recent win, in the 2018 Chipping Norton, an emotional Chris Waller noted that professional as she is, Winx loves to go home where “…she can just be a horse.”

And there’s no question that Umet Odemisioglu and Candice are the two of the humans that make Winx feel that she’s home.


WINX with Umet Odem.

Born in Turkey, Umet is Chris Waller’s foreman and one of Winx’s strappers. The champion mare is one of some twenty thoroughbreds in his care.

But his path to Winx’s side was an unlikely one: Umet’s first love was film. He studied acting for two years in Turkey before attending what he describes as a “horse university” in Istanbul. Once he’d graduated, Umet left for Ireland, where he worked on a stud farm until his arrival in Australia in 2006. He has worked for trainer Chris Waller since 2011.

Umet has looked after Winx since she first arrived in Waller’s barn as a youngster. If she were an actress, he figures Winx would be Angelina Jolie because, “…they’re both sweethearts, especially Angelina with the charities. They’re both box office superstars who bring in the crowds.” (quoted in “Strapper Recalls Winx Journey” by Matt Kelly in G1X)

Back at home after a trial or a race, Winx doesn’t like to be bothered — she likes lots of time to herself. And it is Umet who assures that the mare’s down time is just that. On big days, it’s Umet who brings her into the spotlight, equipped with hood that blocks out some of the sounds of the track.

Winx is no lover of the starting gate and Umet, together with Candice, as well as her trainer and jockey, each play their part in keeping her off her toes as much as they can before the gates fly open. He walks close to her, letting her know that he’s there and focusing on keeping the mare as calm and relaxed as possible. And this is no easy job when you’re assailed by cameras, together with the noise and movement of a huge, jostling crowd.

Winx may be used to the attention, but Umet needs to be able to anticipate what she’s not used to seeing. It’s a big part of keeping her safe.

(Note: To learn more about Winx’s second strapper, Candice, please see BONUS FEATURES, below.)


CLICK #7: The “Paradox of Champions”

The excitement that characterizes each time a champion like Winx races is fuelled by the risk of her losing. This is what we have coined as the “paradox of champions.”

All those feelings — “Can she do it again?” “Will X defeat her?” “Can she win no matter the odds?” “Is she ready for today’s race?” — are underpinned by the anxiety that Winx may, indeed, be beaten. Even the speculation that her owners might consider Ascot or Hong Kong or Japan or the 2018 Breeders’ Cup is underpinned, to some extent, by the lure of the risk.

It is this paradox that accounts for analogy between the careers of great thoroughbreds and the archetypal hero/heroine’s mythical journey. Like the heroine of myth, Winx needs to keep overcoming obstacles, be they foreign courses or other talented thoroughbreds to guard her title of one of the very best worldwide.

At this point, no-one knows what the 2018 plans are for Winx, in what may well be the last season of a brilliant career.

But, thankfully, it seems clear that Winx herself will be foremost in making that decision.













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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. 


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



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.


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.


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


“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:



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



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:



“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:



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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By the end of 2017 Royal Ascot, Scat Daddy was back in the news. With four winners over five days, he was the top sire at Ascot. Some of us weren’t surprised. 

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


As in education, the thoroughbred sport and industry owes its sensibility to the metaphor of the machine, that which produces and reproduces a perfect product. But this mechanistic process and the lexicon that frames it take little account of what real development looks like.

In “machine dreams,” an individual with genuine ability is expected to develop along an established continuum, reaching their apex at an appropriate, pre-established moment. In thirty-six years in education, I had few students that arrived at their very best exactly before their final evaluation was issued, and I doubt that thoroughbreds are any different. Development does not proceed along a linear path; rather, it is iterative, moving forward and circling back, only to move forward again.


So it is that neither Johannesburg nor his son, Scat Daddy conform to expectations that accrue to a smooth, linear and machine-like development. The former was a brilliant two year-old who never rose to the same heights as a three year-old. Scat Daddy was a promising colt whose career was cut short in his second season and who then, as a consequence, joined the ranks of young sires who need much support to make any mark at all in the sales ring. Thanks largely to the positive reception both got in South America, their careers as stallions were able to flourish.


The daughter of HYPERION is the grandam of NORTHERN DANCER. Source: France Galop

The science of breeding itself is fraught with imponderables in which success often takes decades. Prince Khalid Abdullah cultivated his stock for thirty-five years before the arrival of Frankel. Galileo’s story began when a pregnant mare, Lady Angela, a daughter of Hyperion, stepped off a steamer in Toronto, Canada. Her foal, Nearctic, would sire Northern Dancer. Tapit took three generations to arrive on the scene and even then, having only managed two stakes wins before his retirement and an “up and down” three year-old campaign, could well have been ignored by breeders.

Scan any pedigree and it emerges with startling clarity: how the genes of their ancestors cross and inter-lace like the most exquisite of tapestries in the making of a thoroughbred. It would appear that the breed owes far more to the process of iterative development than it does to the mathematics of Euclid.



In the 2001 Breeders Cup, the juvenile that sparked the most interest was Coolmore’s Johannesburg, a son of Hennessy (Storm Cat) out of Myth (Ogygian).

Johannesburg came to North America a champion two year-old, undefeated in six starts, with wins in the UK and Europe:

In 2001, what the Storm Cats shared on either side of the Atlantic was blazing speed, suggesting a strong sprinter profile. Johannesburg’s sire, Hennessy, had only raced at two and therefore had no three year-old form, even though he was considered the best of Storm Cat’s sons at stud at the time.

The colt’s dam, Island Kitty, a daughter of Hawaii, certainly came from a stamina background.

Hawaii, bred in South Africa, was purchased by Charles Engelhardt of Nijinsky fame after a championship season in South Africa and raced to stardom in the USA, winning the United Nations H., Man O’ War S. (NTR), Stars And Stripes H., Sunrise H., and the Bernard Baruch H. as a five year-old. He stood at Claiborne Farm upon his retirement.

As a broodmare, Island Kitty not only produced Hennessy, but got Shy Tom (Blushing Groom) an earner of over 800,000 USD who became a very successful sire in Argentina, plus two very good fillies in Pearl City (Carson City) and Wild Kitty (Bold Bidder).

ISLAND KITTY with her BFF TERLINGUA in the background. Photo and copyright (I believe) Audrey Crosby McLellan.


HAWAII, beautifully depicted by the late Richard Stone Reeves.


HENNESSY_Lynn Kryston_

HENNESSY during his racing career. Photo and copyright Lisa Kryston.

Bringing their undefeated juvenile to a Breeders Cup was a smart strategic move on the part of the Coolmore “lads” and a means of enhancing Johannesburg’s future as a stallion prospect. But the gamble was huge: the colt had only ever raced at 6f on the turf and would now be asked to take on 8.5f on the dirt at Belmont. It was the test of a champion.

In brilliant style, Johannesburg handed O’Brien and Coolmore their first Breeders Cup Juvenile win, showing that he could stay the distance — and win under conditions that were brand new to him.

Even though Tiznow would come back to win an unprecedented second Breeders Cup Classic in 2001 and in so doing, help to heal the hearts of America in the year of 9-11, for many it was Johannesburg’s win that stood out as the race of BC 2001.

JOHANNESBURG the stallion. Conformation shot, JBIS.

Breathtaking as his juvenile campaign had been, resulting in both the Cartier and Eclipse 2001 Two Year-Old Championships, 2002 was not a good year for Johannesburg. Trainer O’Brien would later admit that he may well have pushed the colt too far too fast in 2001: Johannesburg’s three year-old season ended with a second in the Gladness Stakes as his best performance. In the 2002 Kentucky Derby he was unplaced, finishing eighth. It was better than half the rest of the field, but it made a poor impression on those who remembered his brilliance at two and half-expected him to blaze to victory again.

Retired to Ashford Stud in Kentucky, Johannesburg joined Giant’s Causeway as the “British contingent,” the idea being that despite a poor three year-old season, the colt would appeal to American breeders. During this time, he also shuttled to Coolmore Australia, as well as to Argentina.

JOHANNESBURG at Ashford Stud, Kentucky.

However, despite producing Scat Daddy (USA), Teuflesburg (USA), Baroness Thatcher (USA), Sageburg (IRE) and Turffontein (AUS) from his very first crop in 2004, and earning Leading Freshman Sire of 2006 in the USA, the decision was made in 2009 to sell Johannesburg to the Japanese Bloodhorse Breeders Association.

Off he went to Shizunai Stallion Station on the island of Hokkaido where he stands with notables like Cape Blanco, Came Home, Aldebaran, Squirtle Squirt and the more recent acquisitions, Creator and Eskendereya.


HELENA BAY (2006) and one of her foals. Source: Pedigree Query

Red Jazz (USA), Horai Akiko (JPN), Juhaya (ARG) and Once Were Wild (AUS) top the list of Johannesburg’s best later progeny and in 2013 Johannesburg was crowned Japanese Champion Freshman Sire. As a BM sire, he is represented by two very good offspring out of Baroness Thatcher (who now is part of Katsumi Yoshida’s broodmare band) in Hilda (JPN) and Night Baron (JPN). Another daughter, Helena Bay, who raced in Canada, produced Collected (2013), who just ran to a stunning win in the Precisionist Stakes (June 24, 2017):

Still active at the age of eighteen, Johannesburg has become a sire of sires, principally through sons Sageburg (Peace Burg and Si Sage), Turffontein (Fontein Ruby, Lyuba, Fontiton) Teuflesburg (Trinniberg, Nofinancingneeded, ), Marcavelly (Killin Me Smalls, Quidi Vidi) and Scat Daddy.



SCAT DADDY at stud. Photo: Ashford/Coolmore

Based on earnings and stud record, it is Scat Daddy who stands out as his sire’s best son.

Out of the unraced Love Style (Mr. Prospector), Scat Daddy was bred by the Swiss publisher and racing enthusiast Alex Ward. The bay colt came into the world in 2004. He took his name not from the scat of the jazz world, but from his owner, James T. Scatuorchio, a Wall Street banker, for whom he was purchased by trainer Todd Pletcher as a yearling for $250,000 USD.

Inbred 4X2 to Mr. Prospector and 5X4 to Northern Dancer, Scat Daddy was a product of two powerful influences stemming from both his sire line and female family. The incomparable Mr. Prospector was an American sire who knew no equal. American Pharoah, the 2015 Triple Crown winner, is a direct line descendant and the 32nd American classic winner who descends from Mr. Prospector. And the Northern Dancer influence is well documented.

MR PROSPECTOR_5d7d941eb6f38414c07e5e4c9518c7cb--race-horses-horse-racing

The best of the best: MR. PROSPECTOR.

In his two year-old campaign, Scat Daddy broke his maiden at first asking and then went on to win the prestigious Sanford Stakes at Saratoga, where he beat another son of Johannesburg in Teuflesburg. It was an impressive rally for a colt making only his second start, and it caught the attention of Coolmore’s Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, who immediately purchased a share in him.

After running second to Coolmore’s Circular Quay in the Hopeful, Scat Daddy returned to Belmont to take the Champagne Stakes from another very promising two year-old, Nobiz Like Shobiz:

Winning the Sanford and the Champagne are major steps to becoming a serious prospect on the “Triple Crown Trail” that begins with the Kentucky Derby. Scat Daddy wrapped up his juvenile season by finishing second overall on the Experimental Free Handicap to another brilliant two year-old, Street Sense.

Scat Daddy on track

SCAT DADDY during his racing career. Source: internet. No other information available.

With the rest of the Pletcher stable, Scat Daddy went off to winter in Florida. Two races run there that are considered key indicators for three year-old colts on the Triple Crown Trail are the G2 Fountain of Youth and the G1 Florida Derby.

After a third place finish to Nobiz Like Shobiz and Stormello in the Holy Bull Stakes (his first start as a three year-old) Scat Daddy reappeared in the Fountain of Youth:

In the mean time, the Carl Nafzger-trained Street Sense (Street Cry X Bedazzle by Dixieland Band), also wintering in Florida, took the Tampa Bay Derby, defeating another very good colt in Any Given Saturday (Distorted Humor X Weekend in Indy by A.P. Indy). Street Sense had won the Breeders Cup Juvenile at two and the win was also a new track record for the distance.

March also brought another promising three year-old into the limelight. Curlin (Smart Strike X Sherriff’s Deputy by Deputy Minister) was unraced at two, due largely to court battles involving his owners and trainer Ken McPeek. By March 2007, the colt’s new owners were a racing partnership headed by Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke of Stonestreet Farm. His debut in February as a maiden was an absolute stunner for his connections and his trainer, Steve Asmussen:

Back Curlin came in March to win the Rebel Stakes in Arkansas, before going on to win the Arkansas Derby by 8 lengths a few short weeks later. In the first three races of his career, Curlin had vanquished the field by a combined 28 1/2 lengths.

Back at the Pletcher barn, Scat Daddy was being readied for a start in the G1 Florida Derby, run five weeks before the Kentucky Derby. The son of Johannesburg came through to win decisively, stamping his ticket to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May:

On Kentucky Derby day, Curlin and Street Sense were installed as favourites.. And, besides Scat Daddy, there were other challengers who could well upset the favourites: Hard Spun (Danzig), Nobiz Like Shobiz (Albert The Great), Stormello (Stormy Atlantic), Any Given Saturday, Teuflesburg (Johannesburg), Circular Quay (Thunder Gulch) and Tiago (Pleasant Tap).

Scat Daddy would have his work cut out for him. He broke from post position fourteen in the twenty horse field:

Scat Daddy finished up fourteenth. The fact that the brilliant Curlin only managed to get up for third didn’t help ease the disappointment. Shortly thereafter came the news that, having been bumped and jostled back, Scat Daddy had sustained a tendon injury to his right foreleg during the race.

Tendon injuries can heal, but as it would take at least ninety days, the colt would miss most of the key races that remained in 2007. Scat Daddy was retired to Ashford Stud in Kentucky with a record of 9-5-1-1 and earnings of over one million USD.

SCAT DADDY_23253-large

SCAT DADDY at Ashford Stud in Kentucky. Photo: Ashford/Coolmore

Could Ashford have predicted that Scat Daddy’s explosive turn of foot would rate as a footnote to his qualities as a sire?

The young sire didn’t come out blazing with his first crop, as have young stallions like Coolmore’s Uncle Mo, and perhaps because of the parallels to his sire’s career on the track, American breeders were wary. By 2011, when Scat Daddy sat atop the American freshman sire list, his stud fee had plummeted from $30,000 to just $11,000 USD.

Looking to give the son of Johannesburg a decent chance at stud, Coolmore cast its eye around the globe. Australia didn’t seem an option, since Johannesburg’s record there had been dismal, although he had gotten two stakes winners in Turffontein and Once Were Wild.

The decision was made to shuttle Scat Daddy to Chile, to Haras Paso Nevado. It turned out to be fortuitous: so influential did he prove when teamed up with Chilean bloodstock that Scat Daddy topped the Chilean Champion sire list for two consecutive years, from 2013-2015. The “Galileo of Chile” — as he was dubbed by Chilean breeders — made such a splash that in 2012 his full brother, Grand Daddy, was acquired (on loan) to stand at another Chilean breeder, Haras Mocito Guapo. And although Grand Daddy hardly tore up the tracks in the USA, in Chile he is well on his way to becoming a smashing sire, just like his big brother.

GRAND DADDY_ped-haras-mocito-guapo

Notable Scat Daddy progeny in Chile include the millionaire Dacita, as well as Cimalta, Southern Cat, Wapi, Solaria, Il Campione and The Dream. In the same week as Royal Ascot 2017, Ruby Love (#17 in white noseband below) gave her sire another Grade One winner when capturing the Clasico Arturo Lyon Pena in Santiago (Chile). Ruby Love remains undefeated in three starts and looks to be another exciting Scat Daddy filly:

In America and Great Britain, Scat Daddy made his first big splash in 2012 with sons Handsome Mike, Daddy Long Legs and Daddy Nose Best and daughter, Lady of Shamrock.

SILENT WAR (SCAT DADDY BM SIRE)_War Front X Lady of Shamrock_-scoopdyga

LADY OF SHAMROCK’S first foal, the filly SILENT WAR (War Front) was a maiden winner in France in June 2017. SILENT WAR is owned by Wertheimer & Frere and trained by the great Freddy Head.

Handsome Mike winning the 2012 Pennsylvania Derby for owner Paul Reddam. Retired with winnings in excess of a million USD, he now stands at stud in Florida:

In 2013, Scat Daddy’s stars of 2012 were joined by No Nay Never, Dice Flavor, Frac Daddy and Solaria.

2014 brought El Kabeir to the table in the USA, while American-bred Acapulco shone at Royal Ascot. A brilliant juvenile, Zayat Stables El Kabeir was a 2015 Kentucky Derby favourite but was withdrawn due to injury. Below, two year-old El Kabeir makes a stunning debut at Saratoga:

As 2014 drew to a close, breeders, owners and racing fans around the globe were beginning to sit up and take notice of Scat Daddy progeny.

Then, on December 14, 2015, tragedy struck: as he was led out of his paddock at Ashford, Scat Daddy dropped dead of an apparent heart attack. He was only eleven years old.


SCAT DADDY at Ashford in Kentucky. His premature death at the age of eleven shocked and saddened his owners together with breeders and thoroughbred enthusiasts around the world.

Through 2016 and 2017, the deep significance of Scat Daddy’s loss has become painfully apparent. His progeny were making their mark around the world, but it was on the big stage of Royal Ascot 2016 that two of his offspring dazzled.

Looking for all the world like his sire, Coolmore’s Caravaggio showed a speedy turn of foot to win the Coventry Stakes. But the race that sparked the most chatter was Lady Aurelia’s Queen Mary win  — and not only because she was an American-bred. Since Frankel, there had not been such a dominant performance by any two year-old at Royal Ascot:

If Royal Ascot 2016 was a credit to Scat Daddy, 2017 was an absolute triumph.

He ended the Ascot meet with more winners than any other stallion: Caravaggio in the Commonwealth Cup, Lady Aurelia in the  King’s Stand, Con Te Partiro in the  Sandringham and Sioux Nation in the Norfolk.

Trained by Wesley Ward and under the brilliant American jockey, John Velazquez, Lady Aurelia returned to the site of her juvenile victory to take the King’s Stand in breathtaking style. (Lady Aurelia #18 in the black & green silks):

Coolmore’s undefeated Caravaggio was a brilliant winner of the Commonwealth Cup. For those mourning the recent loss of his American BM sire, Holy Bull, who had died on June 8, Caravaggio’s victory was particularly poignant:

In Japan, on the last day of Ascot 2017, Scat Daddy landed his 9th winner from 12 starters in that country when two year-old Derma Kaseki (ex Tashawak by Night Shift) won at Hakodate in a thriller of a finish. About the same time, Inflexibility placed in both the Oaks and the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine in Canada for trainer Chad Brown. And early in July, Seahenge broke his maiden at Naas (IRE) for Aidan O’Brien and Coolmore.

DALI(2) by David Betts_.JPG.opt898x598o0,0s898x598

Coolmore has a number of Scat Daddy colts and two year-old DALI is one of them. His BM sire is CAPE CROSS, sire of SEA THE STARS. DALI has made three starts, winning once. There will be more to come from this beautifully bred Scat Daddy. Photo and copyright, David Betts. Used with the permission of David Betts.


There is only one more crop of Scat Daddy foals to come and you can bet that the ones that come up at the sales will be the subject of fierce bidding, with big names like Coolmore and high-profile Japanese breeders leading the charge.There will be no replacing him, but with fine to brilliant progeny around the globe, Scat Daddy will undoubtedly remain an influence on the breed.

And this is how I choose to remember the dark bay colt I so loved: in his wake, echoes take on colour, heart, bone and sinew.

SCAT DADDY_Ck_3yp0VAAAPcmo.jpg-large


Bonus Feature:

With jockey Victor Espinoza at Ashford in Kentucky where he visits Scat Daddy:


France Sire visits Giant’s Causeway and Scat Daddy at Ashford (in French voiceover but English is still discernible):



A special thank you to photographer David Betts for permission to use his photos (https://www.facebook.com/davidbettsphotos/) and to Paul Rhodes of http://www.aidanobrienfansite.com for his kindness in contacting David on my behalf.

Hunter,Avalyn.Scat Daddy.American Classic Pedigrees


Vlcek, Miloslav. Hennessey And His Line.On Black Type Pedigree


The Racing Post for stud records of Johannesburg and Scat Daddy.


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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. 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.”


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:


And on the film:



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:



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:



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:



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.



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/



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.


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.


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 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.





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…….




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:


Together we can make a difference.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


STORM CAT runs in his paddock at Overbrook Farm.

STORM CAT runs in his paddock at Overbrook Farm.

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

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

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

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

TUESDAY, June 16

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


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

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


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

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

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

FRIDAY, June 19

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Coming to the wire, BALLYDOYLE chases home SUITS YOU.

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

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

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


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

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

Because that’s how great thoroughbreds are made.

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

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



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

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

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

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

5) Multimillionaire Seeking the Dia (Japan):


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


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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/


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.)


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.


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 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:



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.


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:


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:


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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