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Posts Tagged ‘Dancethruthedawn’

Twitter and Facebook are already in a flutter at the prospect of these famous babies making their first start. And, because we’re human, we’re inclined to think that this anticipation — which feels like a chronic twitch deep in the equine lover’s soul — is absolutely unique.

COZMIC ONE, the first born out of champion Zenyatta, shown working out at Santa Anita under his regular exercise rider, Kevlyn            . Photo and copyright, Jane Wade.

COZMIC ONE, the first born out of champion Zenyatta, shown working out at Santa Anita under his regular exercise rider, veteran Kevlan Henry. Photo and copyright, Jane Wade.

Except that it isn’t.

Down through the years, the arrival of the first progeny of great thoroughbreds has been greeted with the same kind of feeling. Today, however, the Frankels and Rachels and Nellys and Zenyattas are public figures — and that means we can witness every detail of the development of their sons and daughters as though we were actually right there. Now that really is unique.

Even though televised coverage made Native Dancer a public hero, social media today allows fans, punters and journalists worldwide a degree of involvement with thoroughbreds that is immediate and unprecedented. In the case of two of America’s great mares, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, a devoted community have followed Jess’s Dream (2011) aka Taco and Cozmic One (2011) aka Coz from their first steps right up to their training towards a first start. In the UK, many are following the progress of baby Frankels, born in 2014 to mares like Danedream and More Joyous, while in Australia, Black Caviar’s first born is now six months old and already has her own “Nelly groupies.”.

RACHEL ALEXANDRA'S first born, JESS'S DREAM (on outside) is also working towards a first start which is likely to come in Florida.

RACHEL ALEXANDRA’S first born, JESS’S DREAM (on outside) is also working towards a first start which is likely to come in Florida.

Seventy or more years ago, even though the expectations for the offspring of champions like Man O’ War was probably as great, the general public didn’t have the kind of access to them that we have today. And the down-side of our real-time relationship to these royally-bred babies may well be that our expectations for them are weighty enough to crush an elephant.

Happily, horses are oblivious to tidal waves that arise in virtual space.

The magnificent EBLOUISSANTE, half-sister to champion ZENYATTA is very much her own person, as trainer John Shirreffs understands. Photo and copyright, Jane Wade.

The magnificent EBLOUISSANTE, a 17h half-sister to champion ZENYATTA is very much her own person, as trainer John Shirreffs understands. Thank goodness for that, because it leaves her fans lots of room to appreciate her for exactly who she is. Photo and copyright, Jane Wade.

When Great Britain’s lavishly-spotted The Tetrarch (1911) — arguably the best two year-old ever produced in that part of the world — retired, there can be little doubt that his progeny were eagerly anticipated. As a sire, The Tetrarch was able to pass some of his special qualities on, notably to a son, Tetratema (1917), but he principally inscribed himself in breeding history through his Blue Hen daughter, Mumtaz Mahal, the “Flying Filly.” She was “The One” of all of the Tetrarch’s comparatively small number of progeny who most ignited memories of her sire when she appeared on the turf, and the sprightly grey filly had her own fan club because of it. In the breeding shed, Mumtaz Mahal became the ancestress of the sire lines of Nasrullah, Royal Charger, Tudor Minstrel and Mahmoud, making her influence on the breed in the last century one of the most important. The narrative of The Tetrarch and his brilliant daughter is one of those rare cases when a direct offspring caught the genes of a brilliant parent in spades.

THE TETRARCH.

THE TETRARCH

TETRATEMA, pictured here by W.A. Roach, a champion son of THE TETRARCH

TETRATEMA, pictured here by W.A. Roach, a champion son of THE TETRARCH, was best over short distances but he won 5 races in 1919 and the King’s Stand, King George and 2000 Guineas the following year. As a sire he was very good, producing excellent fillies and colts like ROYAL MINSTREL(1925) and FORAY (1934). In their book A Century of Champions, Randall and Morris rated TETRATEMA as the third best 2 year-old of the century, just behind THE TETRARCH and TUDOR MINSTREL.

MUMTAZ MAHAL, his daughter, is one of the most important of all thoroughbred broodmares.

MUMTAZ MAHAL is one of the most important of all thoroughbred broodmares.

On the other hand, it was anything but “in the cards” that one of the world’s greatest thoroughbred sires, Hyperion, as well as his descendant, Canada’s Northern Dancer, would amount to much at stud. For one thing, both were tiny; for another, Hyperion was almost as famous for his laziness as he was for winning the Epsom Derby and Northern Dancer was not only temperamental, but raced his whole career on a split hoof. So they were both, in a sense, “wild cards” from a breeder’s perspective. And while Canada waited to see their “Dancer’s” sons and daughters rekindle the excitement of his Triple Crown campaign, it is unlikely that Hyperion’s get were welcomed with anything near the same enthusiasm. But, as we know today, both stallions had an astounding impact on the breed, passing their “bloodedness” on to generation after generation. Which reminds us that it can take several generations before an individual comes along whose bloodlines scream his/her ancestry: in the case of Northern Dancer, thirty years intervened.

Rare and fascinating footage of Hyperion’s Derby (no sound). Lord Derby’s “pony” wears #9:

NIJINSKY and Lester Piggot just following their win in the 1970 Epsom Derby.

NIJINSKY and Lester Piggot just following their win in the 1970 Epsom Derby. England’s last Triple Crown winner, NIJINSKY made a name for himself overseas and was significant to the rise of his sire, NORTHERN DANCER. Standing at Claiborne Farm, NIJINSKY proved to be an excellent sire and sire-of-sires, through sons like Caerleon. He also distinguished himself as a broodmare sire.

Frankel's BM sire, Sadler's Wells, and his millionaire sons out for a walk at Coolmore Ireland. The grand old man is followed by Galileo, Montjeu and High Chaparral.

SADLER’S WELLS, another son of NORTHERN DANCER, single-handedly changed the face of thoroughbred racing worldwide. The stallion is shown here, followed by his millionaire sons GALILEO, MONTJEU and HIGH CHAPARRAL on a walk at Coolmore, Ireland. Photo and copyright, The Racing Post.

 

Sometimes, it is thoroughbreds who fly “under the radar” that have a huge impact on the sport of racing. A case in point is Bold Venture (1933), one of any number of colts and fillies whose racing career –through no fault of their own — did precious little to recommend them to the racing public and, subsequently, to breeders. The 1936 Kentucky Derby winner, Bold Venture was the son of the British import, St. Germans (1921), the leading sire of 1931 and sire of the great Twenty Grand (1928). Bold Venture’s dam was a granddaughter of Commando (1898). Despite his pedigree, the colt entered the Kentucky Derby without a single stakes win, going off at 20-1 odds and ridden by an apprentice jockey, Ira “Babe” Hanford.

Jockey IRA "BABE" HANFORD with HOF trainer, Max Hirsch and daughter, Mary Hirsch.

Jockey Ira “Babe” Hanford (on the fence) with HOF trainer, Max Hirsch, and his daughter, Mary Hirsch, who became America’s first registered female trainer.

Underdogs certainly win important races, but the 1936 Kentucky Derby was such a debacle that few were convinced that Bold Venture deserved the honours. When the gates flew open, the favourite, Joseph E. Widener’s Brevity (1933), was knocked to his knees. Another excellent three year-old, Granville (1933), threw his jockey when slammed in a chain reaction involving Bold Venture and another horse. In the end, with Brevity giving full chase, Bold Venture flew under the wire to win.

Trained by the brilliant Max Hirsch, Bold Venture was back to run in the Preakness with HOF George Woolf in the irons, nosing out Granville at the wire to win. The colt was retired at the end of an undefeated 3 year-old season and sent to stud in Kentucky, having been sold to Robert J Kleberg for $40,000 USD. He had little success there and was subsequently moved to Kleberg’s King Ranch, in Texas — where he sired the Triple Crown winner, Assault (1943), and Kentucky Derby winner, Middleground (1947). Bold Venture remains the only Kentucky Derby winner to sire two other Kentucky Derby winners.

Wearing roses: BOLD VENTURE and the young Ira "Babe" Hanford, the youngest jockey to ever win the Kentucky Derby.

Wearing roses: BOLD VENTURE and the young Ira “Babe” Hanford, the youngest jockey to ever win the Kentucky Derby.

Triple Crown winner, ASSAULT.

Triple Crown winner, ASSAULT.

The Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner, MIDDLEGROUND, captured by Brewer.

The 1950 Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner and 1951 Horse of the Year, MIDDLEGROUND, captured by the late Allen F. Brewer, equine artist extraordinaire.

 

There’s almost nothing to make the soul of a racing fan soar with hope than watching a horse they love bring babies into the world, fillies and colts filled with all the promise of a golden future.

Goldikova, Danedream, Havre de Grace, More Joyous — and down the road, Gentildonna, Taghrooda and The Fugue — are but a few of the well-loved thoroughbred mares who have embarked on broodmare careers. In the recent past there have been several great broodmares whose young set the flame burning anew, including Toussaud (Empire Maker, Chester House, Decarchy, Honest Lady), Kind (Frankel, Noble Mission, Bullet Train, Joyeuse), Personal Ensign (My Flag, Miner’s Mark, Our Emblem), Dance Smartly (Dancethruthedawn, Scatter the Gold, Dance With Ravens) and Urban Sea (Galileo, Sea The Stars, My Typhoon, Black Sam Bellamy, All Too Beautiful).

Miswaki's lovely and accomplished daughter, Urban Sea

URBAN SEA, Arc winner and Blue Hen, dam of GALILEO, SEA THE STARS, MY TYPHOON, BLACK SAM BELLAMY and ALL TOO BEAUTIFUL. There is absolutely no question that URBAN SEA passed on her greatness to her offspring.

 

PERSONAL ENSIGN with her colt foal, MINER'S MARK. The dam of MY FLAG and grandam of STORMFLAGFLYING and WAR EMBLEM was a champion from track to foaling barn.

PERSONAL ENSIGN with her colt foal, MINER’S MARK, her first born. The dam of MY FLAG and grandam of STORMFLAGFLYING and WAR EMBLEM was a champion from track to foaling barn.

 

Toussaud and her goat. This great mare is Bode's grandam on his tail female.

TOUSSAUD and her goat. The dam of EMPIRE MAKER, CHESTER HOUSE, DECARCHY, HONEST LADY and CHISELLING made a lasting contribution to thoroughbred bloodlines.

 

 

Dance Smartly always kept her shape, no matter how many foals she had. Here she is in Kentucky, having visited Thunder Gulch. Photo and copyright, The Blood-Horse.

DANCE SMARTLY, the only filly to ever win a Triple Crown in mixed company in North America, went on to become a Blue Hen for Sam-Son Farm. Here she is in Kentucky, having visited Thunder Gulch. Photo and copyright, The Blood-Horse.

 

So what does the future hold for royal babies like Cozmic One and Jess’s Dream? Have they inherited the brilliance of their dams? of their sires? of both?

Like human children, these colts and fillies are a one-off. Unique. They’ll train differently and run differently than their parents. They’ll meet different challenges and obstacles along the way as they build their own reputations. Some will be brilliant, others hard-working, and still others, just plain unlucky. Most will bring the heart and courage of their breed to each and every race and most will do their very best to win.

But whatever their destiny, hours and hours of skill, dedication, encouragement and love have brought them to a new beginning.

Let the magic begin!

COZMIC ONE at Santa Anita. Photo and copyright, Jane Wade.

COZMIC ONE (Bernardini ex. Zenyatta) at Santa Anita. Photo and copyright, Jane Wade.

 

THE VAULT wishes to thank photographer Jane Wade for the use of some of her outstanding photographs in this article.

BONUS FEATURE

John Shirreffs, trainer of Derby winner Giacomo and HOTY Zenyatta, among others, reflects on the early success of Zenyatta’s half-sister, Eblouissante, in this TVG Special. In so doing, Shirreffs provides insight into just what it takes to get even the most royally-bred thoroughbred to the track and to keep them feeling happy within themselves:

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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Mother Nature has out when great thoroughbreds go to the breeding shed, often with disheartening results. But Take Charge Lady is one case where what Mother Nature had to say is absolutely fitting.

TAKE CHARGE LADY routs them all at Keeneland to win the Spinster. Photo and copyright, AP.

TAKE CHARGE LADY routs them all at Keeneland to win the Ashland Stakes. Photo and copyright, AP.

For those of us who remember her on the track, Take Charge Lady (1999) was a valiant and relentless campaigner, taking on the much-adored Azeri (1998), as well as You (1999), Bobby Frankel’s champion, Sightseek (1999), Canadian HOF Dancethruthedawn (1998) and the talented Farda Amiga (1999) in a career that spanned three seasons.

The determination Take Charge Lady showed here in 2002 was characteristic of her. She was what the industry calls an “honest” thoroughbred, meaning that she always did her absolute best, no matter who was at her throat latch. By Dehere (1991) whose BM sire was Secretariat (1970), out of the Rubiano (1987) mare, Felicita (1994), the lean, dark bay filly was destined to be one of her sire’s most outstanding offspring. Trained by Kenny McPeek, who had purchased her for the modest sum of $175,000 USD for Jerry and Faye Bach’s Select Stable, Take Charge Lady took the Alcibiades Stakes as a 2 year-old and then, at 3, won the Silverbulletday, Ashland, Dogwood and Spinster Stakes (which she would win again in 2003), as well as the Fairground Oaks.

Take Charge Lady took the Silverbulletday by 8 1/2 lengths, setting a track record; three weeks later, over the slop, she won again by a comfortable 5 lengths. In April, she met up again with Beltera, a very good filly who’d beaten her the year before, to annex the Ashland Stakes (G1):

After the Ashland, McPeek seriously considered running Take Charge Lady against the colts in the Kentucky Derby, opting instead for the Kentucky Oaks. But her front-running ways got the better of her and Farda Amiga (1999) took full advantage of it. Take Charge Lady finished in second place. The loss likely cost her the Eclipse that year in the 3 year-old filly division, which went to the Oaks winner. But horses don’t know about Eclipse Awards — they only exist for us two-legged folk.

Illness beset Take Charge Lady throughout her 3 year-old season. First it was a lung infection and then she started to lose weight. So she was given a longish break, returning in the G1 Gazelle, where she ran a game second. Then, under the great hands of Edgar Prado, she took on older fillies and mares in the 2002 Spinster. It was a dazzling performance — the kind that gives you goosebumps:

Then came the BC Distaff at Arlington Park, where the brilliant daughter of Dehere was beaten by thirteen lengths. But Take Charge Lady had a good reason for the loss: shortly after the race, she was diagnosed with still another lung infection.

TAKE CHARGE LADY ran her heart out as a 3 year-old and racing fans would never forget her for it.

TAKE CHARGE LADY ran her heart out as a 3 year-old and racing fans would never forget her for it. She is shown here in the first of two consecutive wins in the Spinster — only the fourth thoroughbred to accomplish this feat.

 

McPeek’s most gallant of ladies was back as a 4 year-old and again, she delighted her connections. The filly began her autumn campaign in the Grade III Arlington Matron Handicap on September 1. Ridden by Shane Sellers, the champion conceded at least six pounds to her opponents. After tracking the leader, Sellers moved her into the lead a quarter of a mile from the finish and Take Charge Lady drew away to win by eleven lengths. Sellers commented “She’s something else. She’s a joy to ride. She’s been the highlight of my comeback.” (Sellers had been sidelined in 2003 with injuries.)

On October 5 at Keeneland — arguably her favourite track — Take Charge Lady attempted to become only the fourth horse to ever win the Spinster Stakes for a second time. She was made the 1/2 favorite ahead of You. Edgar Prado was in the irons again and he sent Take Charge Lady into the lead on the final turn, opening up a clear advantage in the homestretch and enabling his filly to hold off a late charge from You. After the race Prado explained, “She got a little tired the last seventy yards but these kind of horses give you everything to the wire.”

By the time she retired, late in her 4 year-old season, Take Charge Lady was a millionaire twice over. And even though she had been one of those greats that racing fans never forget, her second career has been equally brilliant. Too, she is still another example of Secretariat’s sire power through his daughters, since her sire, Dehere, is a son of Sister Dot (Secretariat). Of course, the rest of her pedigree is also outstanding, but the intrigue of the Secretariat “big heart” trait is that it does, indeed, seem to be showing up in Take Charge Lady’s sons to date.

TAKE CHARGE LADY brought the best of herself to her new career -- with stunning results!

TAKE CHARGE LADY brought the best of herself to her new career — with stunning results!

The young mare began her broodmare days at Three Chimneys, but in November 2004 she was consigned by Eaton Sales and sold, in foal to Seeking The Gold, for 4.2 million to a consortium of Kentucky breeders. That 2004 foal was Take Charge Lady’s first, a filly named Charming. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Charming raced three times before suffering a career-ending injury. Usually, a thoroughbred who appears on the track this briefly is easy to forget. But Charming had a little something up her sleeve: Take Charge Brandi, the juvenile filly superstar of 2014 and Charming’s second foal. Trained by the iconic G. Wayne Lukas, here’s Take Charge Brandi winning the 2014 BC Juvenile Fillies in the same style as her grandam:

With a final win in the Starlet Stakes, Take Charge Brandi closed out her juvenile season a millionaire.

Nor is Brandi Lukas’ first experience with Take Charge Lady’s family: just as Take Charge Brandi was making her presence felt in 2014, Will Take Charge (2010), his dam’s fifth foal, was retiring. And, like so many great racing stories, Will Take Charge had one of his very own:

Well, the big colt with the white face didn’t win the Derby, but by the summer at Saratoga, having had the chance to grow into that body and without blinkers, he began to turn into a force to be reckoned with:

The colt went on from the Travers to win the Pennsylvania Derby and the Clark and Oaklawn Handicaps. But it was in the BC Classic that Will Take Charge ran his best race of 2013, showing that he was, indeed, his mama’s son:

Take Charge Lady’s other notable son to race to date was the regally-bred Take Charge Indy (2009), sired by A.P. Indy. As a runner, the colt clearly had potential but not a whole lot of luck: after the Kentucky Derby he underwent surgery for a chipped bone in his left front ankle and then, racing as a 4 year-old in the Monmouth Cup, he sustained a condylar fracture. Once healed, Take Charge Indy was retired to stud at Winstar. Here he is, under the seasoned guidance of the great Calvin Borel, winning the Florida Derby as a 3 year-old:

Take Charge Lady has two other offspring waiting in the wings, an Indian Charlie filly named I’ll Take Charge (2012) and Conquering, her 2013 War Front filly. I’ll Take Charge was purchased by Mandy Pope and Whisper Hill Farm in 2013 and has yet to race.

Voted the 2013 Broodmare of the Year, Take Charge Lady is now fifteen and awaiting the arrival of a second War Front foal in 2015. She is dappled and fit and seems to enjoy her second career enormously.

Take Charge Lady is remarkable for her stamina, courage and heart, qualities she has passed on to her young. But a Great One — a lady who only knows how to do her very best and does it with class every time — has a way of bringing language to heel.

 

TAKE CHARGE LADY in April 2014 looking dappled and gorgeous. Photo and copyright, Anne Eberhardt for The Blood-Horse.

TAKE CHARGE LADY in April 2014 looking dappled and gorgeous. Photo and copyright, Anne Eberhardt for The Blood-Horse.

 

A SPECIAL NOTE:

It seems hard to believe, but THE VAULT will enter its fourth year in 2015 and its success is the result of readers like you. From Hong Kong to South Africa, from Romania and the Arab Emirates to Australia, and from Alaska to Argentina, you have come here to learn and be entertained. Often, you take the time to share stories from your own lives, as well as ideas, great books and so much more with myself and other VAULT readers. Every message is a treasure, and your support is the energy that powers THE VAULT. I thank each one of you from the bottom of my heart. I wish each of you all the joy of this holiday season and a New Year filled with laughter, the love of family and friends and more great horses like Take Charge Lady to fill your heart with magic. Abigail Anderson, Montreal, Canada

patience-brewster-maisy-horse-christmas-ornament-8

 

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NEWS FLASH: Welcome to the new look of THE VAULT! Although we loved the former design, this one offers more space and scope and should make reading and viewing our articles an even more pleasurable experience. Enjoy!

The Queen’s Plate is Canada’s most storied and prestigious thoroughbred race and the first jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown. It is also the oldest continuously run stakes race in North America. Its history began in 1860, when Queen Victoria gave the race “Royal Assent” and even the most cursory glance into Plate history reveals a palimpsest of great Canadian thoroughbreds and the men and women who left an indelible signature on both the horse and the sport.

There are precious few books about the Queen’s Plate and only a miserly smidgeon of other research sources. Canadians tend to be rather myopic when it comes to their own racing narrative, preferring instead to hitch their sensibilities to the UK, USA or Australia. But the Queen’s Plate stubbornly persists and celebrated its 154th running recently, despite those who view it as a poor cousin to the Kentucky or Epsom Derbies or other prestigious races like the Melbourne Cup. The Queen’s Plate could teach us a good deal about perseverance: after all, it is older than Canada herself, who only became a nation in 1867.

Before taking a summer hiatus from writing to research and ruminate about new subjects for THE VAULT, I thought that I’d end on a note of unabashed national pride and share with our readers a glimpse into a few of Canada’s most distinguished turf characters, all of whom owe the Queen’s Plate for their distinguished place in Canadian thoroughbred history.

THE VAULT will be back again in mid-August with more stories of horse racing past and present.

Until then, my very best wishes to each of you and thank you again for your support, encouragement and fabulous correspondence. Have a lovely summer!

Queen Victoria, as depicted by Sir Edwin Landseer, with her companion, John Brown, inaugurated the Queen's Plate and the tradition of presenting the winner with a pouch from the sovereign, containing 50 guineas.

Queen Victoria, as depicted by Sir Edwin Landseer, inaugurated the Queen’s Plate and the tradition of presenting the winner with a pouch from the sovereign, containing 50 guineas, in 1860. “The Plate” has been run every year since then.

The early years

In 1902, LYDDITE won the QUEEN'S PLATE for owner Nataniel Dymant of Orkney Stud.

In 1902, LYDDITE won the QUEEN’S PLATE for owner William Hendrie, pictured on the right. LYDDITE’S trainer, Edward Whyte, holds the colt. 

Let's Go To The Races! As early as 1910, Old Woodbine was a fashionable place to see and be seen.

Let’s Go To The Races! As early as 1910, Old Woodbine was a fashionable place to see and be seen.

Queen Victoria gave her royal blessing to the inaugural running of the Queen’s Plate in 1860, offering its winner a  “a plate to the value of Fifty Guineas.” The plate itself has long since been replaced by a gold trophy, but the historical connection between the race and the British monarchy remains. The name of each winner of the Queen’s Plate is communicated directly to Britain’s reigning monarch (HRH Queen Elizabeth II in 2013) who, in turn, hand inscribes a note of congratulation that is sent to the owner of the winning horse, together with a purple velvet bag emblazoned with a royal crest and containing 50 British sovereigns.

In its 154 runnings, the Plate has been both a “King’s Plate” (King Edward VII, King Edward VIII and King George VI ) and a “Queen’s Plate” (Queen Victoria and the present Queen, Elizabeth II), since it takes its name from the ruling British monarch of the day. In an annual ritual enacted since the 19th century, the Plate is attended by the Queen’s representative, Canada’s Governor-General, who arrives in a horse-drawn landau that would otherwise be occupied by a British monarch were s/he to be present. And the monarchy has, indeed, graced the Queen’s Plate; although Queen Victoria never managed it, both the present Queen and her father, King George VI have been in attendance. The Queen has been in attendance on several occasions, most recently in 2010.

The parents of Queen Elizabeth II, King George VI and his queen (later known as the Queen Mother) arrive for the 1939 Queen's Plate. (Photo and copyright, City of Toronto, Canada)

The parents of Queen Elizabeth II, King George VI and his Queen (later known as the Queen Mother) arrive for the 1939 Queen’s Plate in a horse-drawn landau reminiscent of the one they would use at Royal Ascot. (Photo and copyright, City of Toronto, Canada)

Queen Elizabeth II arrives at Woodbine on July 4, 2010 for the Queen's Plate, won that year by BIG RED MIKE. (Photo and copyright, The Toronto Star)

Queen Elizabeth II arrives at Woodbine on July 4, 2010 for the Queen’s Plate, won that year by BIG RED MIKE. (Photo and copyright, The Toronto Star)

BIG RED MIKE moves out of the pack to win the 2010 Queen's Plate. (Photo and copyright, The Toronto Star)

BIG RED MIKE moves out of the pack to win the 2010 Queen’s Plate. (Photo and copyright, The Toronto Star)

Queen Elizabeth II congratulates the winning jockey, Eurico Rosa Da Silva. (Photo & copyright, The Toronto Star)

Queen Elizabeth II congratulates the winning jockey, Eurico Rosa Da Silva. (Photo & copyright, The Toronto Star)

In the early years, the Queen’s Plate was….well….”colourful,” to say the least. Originally, the Plate was open only to owners who were British subjects living in Ontario and thoroughbreds born in Ontario. As well, entrants  had to be non-winners, although either sex and all ages were permitted. Originally raced in 3 heats, the goings on during each heat prompted any number of stories, from jockeys dumping their weights before the race, to horses having their names altered to deter scrutiny so that a “ringer” (a much better horse, probably not bred in Ontario) might win, to American owners masquerading as Ontario natives. Add that to a boisterous crowd, a race that travelled nomad-fashion all over Ontario until finally settling in Toronto (with Queen Victoria’s approval) and racing etiquette of the time, and you have a Queen’s Plate with all the thrills of a Wild West Show.

The King/Queen's Plate finally settled at Old Woodbine, in the young city of Toronto, in 1883. This photo shows Opening Day at Old Woodbine in 1926.

The King/Queen’s Plate finally settled at Old Woodbine, in the young city of Toronto, in 1883. This photo shows Opening Day at Old Woodbine in 1926.

For our money, the most colourful Queen’s Plate in those early years has to go to the Plate of 1865, won by the 4 year-old LADY NORFOLK (1862):

Run on June 7 at London, Ontario, the first heat was won by STONE PLOVER, owned by a Mr. Harry Chappel, who gave his home as Sandwich, Ontario. But the judges disqualified STONE PLOVER after his winning of the second heat, having discovered that Mr. Chappel was a native of Detroit. Accordingly, the second heat went to a horse called Beacon, who had come in second. However, it was discovered that BEACON’S jockey had pulled the weights assigned to his horse out of the saddle pads and thrown them into the infield before the start of the second heat. So BEACON was disqualified too.

The fillies LADY NORFOLK and NORA CRIENA (who had raced a year earlier under the name “SPRING”) had finished next in the first two heats to the now-disqualified STONE PLOVER and BEACON. Desperate to award the Queen’s Plate to someone, the judges determined that they would be the only two horses invited back for the third, and final, heat. 

NORA CRIENA broke sharply and, although never more than a length ahead of LADY NORFOLK, prevailed. But for reasons no longer recorded, two months after Nora Criena’s victory, the Queen’s Plate was awarded to Lady Norfolk. To this day, no-one has been able to explain why.

INFERNO (1902) a blood-red colt by HAVOC (1892) out of BON INO (1884) was a grandson of HIMYAR (1875) and the SEAGRAM family's first Plate winner.

INFERNO (1902) a blood-red colt by HAVOC (1892) out of BON INO (1884) was a grandson of HIMYAR (1875). He was without question one of the very first Canadian thoroughbred champions, winning just about every carded race in Ontario in his day. His owners, the SEAGRAM family of Seagram distillers fame, won the Plate an astounding 20 times between 1891-1935.

Joseph E. Seagram pictured in 1869 on his mare, BLACK BESS.

Joseph E. Seagram pictured in 1869 on his mare, BLACK BESS.

J.E. Seagram's King's and Queen's Plate winners depicted on the label of Seagram's whiskey.

J.E. Seagram’s King’s and Queen’s Plate winners depicted on the label of Seagram’s whiskey. Seagram’s passion for thoroughbred racing did much to make it an acceptable pastime of the establishment in Canada.

Horses at Old Woodbine gather near the starter's stand, circa

Horses at Old Woodbine gather near the starter’s stand, very early in the 1900’s. (Photo and copyright, the City of Toronto)

Let’s hear it for the girls!

Fillies and mares like NORA CRIENA and LADY OF NORFOLK figured prominently in the winner’s circle of the Plate throughout its long history, long before women were permitted to attend race meetings. In its first century, the Plate was won by fillies or mares some 28 times and, in 1925, when a filly named  FAIRBANK won, the first five finishers were all fillies.

This photo was taken at Old Woodbine in the same year, 1925, that the filly,       won the Plate.

This photo was taken at Old Woodbine in the same year, 1925 that the filly FAIRBANK won the Plate. The first 5 finishers that year were fillies. (photo and copyright, the city of Toronto)

But by the 1940’s colts became dominant in the winner’s circle, at least in part because entry requirements had broadened to include the whole of Canada and narrowed, to specify only 3 year-olds. From 1943-2013, only seven fillies have taken home the 50 sovereigns: Charles Hemstead’s PAOLITA (1940) in 1943; E.P. Taylor’s CANADIANA (1950) in 1953; E.P. Taylor’s FLAMING PAGE (1959) in 1962; Conn Smythe’s (of NHL trophy fame) JAMMED LOVELY (1964) in Canada’s centenary (1967); Ernie Samuels’ DANCE SMARTLY (1988) in 1991; DANCETHRUTHEDAWN(1998), DANCE SMARTLY’S daughter, in 2001; and Donver Stables’ INGLORIOUS (2008) in 2011. And while PAOLITA and CANADIANA won the Plate at a distance of 1 1/8 miles, in 1957 the distance was set at 1 1/4 miles, where it has remained.

Plate-winnning ladies tend to be special for other reasons as well: YOUNG KITTY (1925) , who took the Plate in 1928, won the Coronation Stakes, Clarendon Plate, King’s Plate, Breeders’ Stakes, William Hendrie Memorial Handicap and the Connaught Cup Handicap; CANADIANA retired as the greatest money-winning filly in Canadian racing history and was voted the 1952 Horse of the Year, FLAMING PAGE became the dam of NIJINSKY II and granddam through a daughter, FLEUR, of the Epsom Derby winner, THE MINSTREL. DANCE SMARTLY remains the only filly to ever win a Triple Crown in mixed company in North America and became a Blue Hen producer after her retirement.

Although many of their images have been lost over time, below is an album of those that have survived.

Joseph E. Seagram's YOUNG KITTY, the 1928 winner of the King's Plate.

Joseph E. Seagram’s YOUNG KITTY, the 1928 winner of the King’s Plate.

SALLY FULLER took the QKing's Plate in 1935 for the Seagrams.

SALLY FULLER took the King’s Plate in 1935 for the Seagrams.

PAOLITA, owned by  comes home in the 1943 King's Plate.

PAOLITA, owned by Charles Hemstead, comes home in the 1943 King’s Plate.

With EDDIE ARCARO in the irons, E.P. Taylor's CANADIANA being led in to the winner's circle at Woodbine in 1953.

With EDDIE ARCARO in the irons, E.P. Taylor’s CANADIANA being led in to the winner’s circle at Woodbine in 1953.

Mrs. E.P. Taylor leads in FLAMING PAGE. The daughter of BULL PAGE won the Queen's Plate in

Mrs. E.P. Taylor leads in FLAMING PAGE. The daughter of BULL PAGE won the Queen’s Plate in 1962.

Conn Smythe with JAMMED LOVELY tries to persuade his filly to accept the honours in

Conn Smythe with JAMMED LOVELY tries to persuade his filly to accept the honours in 1967.

the Queen of Canadian racing, DANCE SMARTLY, with Pat Day in the irons speeds home to take the Queen's Plate for owner Ernie Samuels' in

The Queen of Canadian racing, DANCE SMARTLY, with Pat Day in the irons, speeds home to take the Queen’s Plate for owner Ernie Samuels’ in 1991. The daughter of DANZIG would end her 3 year-old season undefeated, winning the Canadian Triple Crown, the Canadian Oaks, the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and the Molson Export Million Stakes among others. Canada crowned her Horse of the Year in 1991 and she would take the honours as well for Champion 3 year-old in both the USA and Canada that same year.

Champion DANCETHRUTHEDAWN, by MR. PROSPECTOR out of DANCE SMARTLY, a brilliant daughter of the Queen of Canadian racing.

Champion DANCETHRUTHEDAWN, by MR. PROSPECTOR out of DANCE SMARTLY. The brilliant daughter of the Queen of Canadian racing became the first filly of the 21st century to win the Queen’s Plate and the second of DANCE SMARTLY’S offspring to win the coveted title. A son, SCATTER THE GOLD, also by MR. PROSPECTOR, would open the 21st century of Canadian racing with his 2000 Queen’s Plate win.

INGLORIOUS becomes the first filly of the 21st century to capture the Queen's Plate in 2011.

In 2011, INGLORIOUS (HENNESSY ex. NOBLE STRIKE by SMART STRIKE) became the second filly of the 21st century to capture the Queen’s Plate for owners Vern and Donna Dubinsky.

Those fabulous colts

And what about the colts?

Well, as you might expect, many Plate winners represented the very best of Canadian thoroughbred bloodlines and training. Among the very best were horses like HOROMETER (1931), BUNTY LAWLESS (1935), KINGARVIE (1943), McGILL (1947), CANADIAN CHAMP (1953), NEW PROVIDENCE (1956), VICTORIA PARK (1957), CANEBORA (1960), KENNEDY ROAD (1968), l’ENJOLEUR (1972) and NORCLIFFE (1973). Of these, EPIC (by Bunty Lawless); McGILL (by Bunty Lawless), CANEBORA (by Canadian Champ) and KENNEDY ROAD (by Victoria Park) were sired by King/Queen’s Plate winners.

By the mid-twentieth century, Edward Plunkett Taylor — commonly known as E.P. Taylor and “Eddie” to his friends — would exercise an indelible influence on the shape of Canadian racing in just about every conceivable way. In fact, Taylor would raise the Canadian thoroughbred to worldwide acclaim when he bred the King of Canadian Racing, NORTHERN DANCER.

E.P. Taylor with his first (King's) Plate winner, EPIC, who won in 1949.

E.P. Taylor with his first (King’s) Plate winner, EPIC (1946), who won in 1949.

In 1947, as the newly appointed director of the Ontario Jockey Club (OJC), E.P. Taylor embarked on a bold plan to bring horse racing in the Toronto area up to the same standards as leading racetracks in North America. Travelling to Hollywood Park in its Golden Era, a plan began to take shape in his head. Acquiring local racetracks (Hamilton, Thorncliffe, Long Branch, Dufferin and Stamford), Taylor began by consolidating their racing charters into three major race venues: Fort Erie, Greenwood (aka “Old Woodbine”) and a to-be-built “New Woodbine.”

Old Woodbine, pictured above, took the name Greenwood when New Woodbine opened.

Old Woodbine, pictured above, took the name Greenwood when (New) Woodbine opened in 1956.

The (New) Woodbine clubhouse bespoke glory days ahead.

The (New) Woodbine clubhouse bespoke glory days ahead.

The sumptuous infield at Woodbine, viewed from the stands.

The sumptuous infield at Woodbine, viewed from the stands.

Woodbine as it looks today.

Woodbine as it looks today.

A year later on June 12, 1956, on 780-acres in the Township of Etobicoke, (New) Woodbine opened. Complete with a one-mile oval dirt track and seven-eighths turf course, Woodbine also featured an infield worthy of the greatest landscaper, complete with ponds and waterfalls. The clubhouse was a feat of modern architecture, streamlined and spacious. Right down to the starting gates, designed with the greatest attention to the safety of horse and jockey alike, Woodbine was the image of what horse racing in Canada could — and should — be. To this day, its Queen’s Plate surface is the safest in any weather of any racetrack in North America.

At the same time, Taylor was dominating the Queen’s Plate, winning it a total of 11 times for his Windfields Farm, making him the second only to J.E. Seagram in the stats of most-winning owners.

Modern Times

Increasingly, Canadian-born 3 year-olds to win the Queen’s Plate reflect the cross-fertilization of American and Canadian bloodstock.

The TEDDY line, through a son of BULL DOG who was acquired by E.P. Taylor and named BULL PAGE, was responsible for Queen’s Plate winners NEW PROVIDENCE and FLAMING PAGE. CHOP CHOP, a grandson of GALLANT FOX and another descendant of the TEDDY line, stood at E.P. Taylor’s National Stud, where he sired VICTORIA PARK  and was Canada’s leading sire seven times. The mighty BUCKPASSER was the sire of the 1975 and 1976 Queen’s Plate winners L’ENJOLEUR and NORCLIFFE, respectively. And NORCLIFFE’S best son, GROOVY (1983), would become one of America’s racing darlings. So it continues: the mighty DANZIG (1977), a son of NORTHERN DANCER, sired DANCE SMARTLY and GIANT’S CAUSEWAY (1997), a son of STORM CAT (1983), sired the 1997 Queen’s Plate winner, MIKE FOX (1994).  Since 1990, 15 winners of the Queen’s Plate have been sired by stallions bred and born in the USA.

The gorgeous NORCLIFFE

The gorgeous NORCLIFFE, a son of the champion, BUCKPASSER, shows that good looks can, indeed, be inherited.

Owned by Canada's SamSon Farm, Plate winner, EYE OF THE LEOPARD now stands at Calumet. He is a son of the incomparable A.P. INDY.

Owned by Canada’s SamSon Farm, the 2009 Plate winner, EYE OF THE LEOPARD now stands at Calumet. He is a son of the incomparable A.P. INDY.

The continuing domination of colts over fillies from the 1940’s until today reflects the growth of the Canadian thoroughbred industry in general, spear-headed by the leadership of the Seagram family, E.P. Taylor, Ernie Samuels and, more recently, Gustav Schickedanz, Frank Stronach and Eugene Melnick. And even though Woodbine, like so many other North American race tracks, has been threatened by changing times, the Queen’s Plate forges on and reminds Canadians on an annual basis that horse racing is still another sport that brings Canada pride.

The names of contemporary Queen’s Plate winners are well-known to Americans, as well as members of the thoroughbred milieu worldwide.

Below, we let another medium do the talking as a way of celebrating some of the finest Canadian colts of the last fifty years. Each of these victories dazzle and delight — while reminding the modest folk of Canada that our native-grown thoroughbreds have always been and continue to be champions of the highest calibre.

Protect your 50 GUINEAS, Canada. And protect your horses.

Each have played an enormous role in the development of a country and its culture.

NORTHERN DANCER (1961): CANADA’S MUCH-LOVED PONY WINS HIS FINAL RACE, THE 1964 QUEEN’S PLATE, UNDER JOCKEY BILL HARTACK. (NOTE: Audio comes on only in the final 50 seconds.)

IZVESTIA (1987): CANADA’S TRIPLE CROWN WINNER COMES HOME TO TAKE THE 1990 QUEEN’S PLATE IN A BRILLIANT, BREATHTAKING PERFORMANCE

WITH APPROVAL (1986): ANOTHER CANADIAN TRIPLE CROWN WINNER BEGINS HIS JOURNEY WITH A WIN IN THE 1989 QUEEN’S PLATE

ALYDEED (1989): ALYDAR’S LITTLE BOY “IN A CLASS OF HIS OWN” AS HE WINS THE 1992 QUEEN’S PLATE FOR ROGER ATFIELD AND JOCKEY CRAIG PERRET

PETESKI (1990): AFFIRMED’S LITTLE BOY — “A DECISIVE WINNER” OF THE 1993 QUEEN’S PLATE. THE WIN GAVE TRAINER ROGER ATFIELD HIS 6th QUEEN’S PLATE WINNER. PETESKI WENT ON TO WIN THE CANADIAN TRIPLE CROWN.

AWESOME AGAIN (1994): WINNER OF THE 1997 QUEEN’S PLATE, THIS WONDERFUL COLT WENT ON TO SHOW JUST HOW GOOD HE WAS IN THE 1998 BREEDERS CUP CLASSIC:

SCATTER THE GOLD (1997): THE SON OF DANCE SMARTLY GIVES HER THE FIRST OF TWO QUEEN’S PLATE WINNERS IN 2000. HE BROKE HIS MAIDEN ON PLATE DAY!

WANDO (2000): THIS FEISTY CHESTNUT, A SON OF LANGFHUR, WOULD GO ON TO WIN THE 2003 CANADIAN TRIPLE CROWN. AND THIS IS HOW IT ALL STARTED — “PATRICK HUSBANDS ASKS HIM FOR HIS HEART AND WANDO OPENS UP” :

NIIGON (2001): A FABULOUS COLT STAKES HIS CLAIM TO GREATNESS, WINNING THE 2004 QUEEN’S PLATE FOR HIS SIRE, UNBRIDLED:

MIKE FOX (2004): THE SON OF GIANT’S CAUSEWAY MAKES JOCKEY EMMA-JANE WILSON THE FIRST WOMAN TO WIN THE PLATE IN A THRILLER:

SOURCES USED IN THIS ARTICLE

THE QUEEN’S PLATE: The First Hundred Years by Trent Frayne. 1959: The Jockey Club Limited, Canada (Printed and bound in Canada by HUNTER ROSE LTD.)

THE CANADIAN HORSE RACING HALL OF FAME:  http://www.canadianhorseracinghalloffame.com

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NOTE: Computer woes have temporarily halted the publication of new articles. We hope to be up-and-running very soon! Thank you for your understanding. 

 

” I don’t think about her without believing she was one of those magical, lightning strike things.” (the late Tammy Samuel-Balaz, daughter of SamSon Farm founder, Ernest “Ernie” Samuel.)

“… I really don’t even know where to start. I suppose you would have to understand that I fell in love with Dance Smartly back when she was kicking butt against the boys in ’91 and I was a nine-year-old girl who took up riding because I wanted to be her jockey (never mind the fact that I was already bigger than most jockeys at that age). I’ve loved her pretty much all my life, and those years I got to spend with her were amazing. ” (RV, October 2012.)

RV, this one is for you.

It was only her second foal, but the folks at Sam-Son Farm in Ontario, Canada were right to expect big things from Classy N’ Smart. The mare, a daughter of Sam-Son’s No Class (Nodouble ex. Classy Quillo) and the sire, Smarten (Cyane ex. Smartaire), was already a Canadian Hall-of-Fame inductee, having chalked up 5 wins in 9 starts, including the prestigious Canadian Oaks, before she retired.

The year was 1988. And Classy N’ Smart’s filly foal, standing on shaky legs and lurching crab-like towards her dam’s milk, was equine royalty.

No_Class with foal

No Class was most certainly misnamed. She stands as one of the great Blue Hen mares of the last century, producing Sky Classic, Regal Classic, Grey Classic, Always A Classic and Classic Reign, as well as Classy N’ Smart. Shown here with Sky Classic (by Nijinsky II), No Class was one of Ernie Samuel’s foundation mares.

Smarten, pictured here winning the 1979 American Derby at Arlington was the sire of Classy N' Smart and the broodmare sire of Dance Smartly.

Smarten, pictured here winning the 1979 American Derby at Arlington was the sire of Classy N’ Smart and the broodmare sire of Dance Smartly.

Classy N' Smart (Smarten ex. No Class) was very good on the track but brilliant in the breeding shed.

Classy N’ Smart (Smarten ex. No Class) was very good on the track but brilliant in the breeding shed. She produced sire extraordinaire, Smart Strike , as well as champions Strike Smartly and Full of Wonder. But Dance Smartly remains her crowning achievement.

Special as she was, Classy N’ Smart only accounted for half of the newborn’s royal lineage. The other half came to her via Claiborne Farm’s brilliant Danzig. A son of Northern Dancer, Danzig’s racing career was short-circuited by injury. But as a stallion he was pure gold. His sons and daughters were infamous for their talent and, other than Dance Smartly, he gave the world a goodly number of international superstars. Among the most distinguished of his millionaire progeny were Chief’s Crown, Versailles Treaty, Agnes World, Lure, Hard Spun, Polish Navy, Dispute and Danzig Connection. Danzig also sired the much-loved Dayjur, as well as Brahms, Belong To Me and Anabaa, sire of Goldikova. But it was his pre-potent son, Danehill, who would become one of the most influential sires of the late twentieth century.

Below is rare footage of Danzig’s brief racing career. The tape’s a bit worn, but a treat to watch nevertheless.

Classy N’ Smart’s bay filly would join a roster of SamSon champions. The farm took its name from its founder, Ernest “Ernie” Samuel, whose history with thoroughbreds had begun initially with show jumpers. His proudest moment came in 1968, when Canadian Club won Canada’a very first equestrian Gold Medal at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. Canadian Club’s rider, the gifted Jim Day, would continue to ride Samuel-owned jumpers as part of Canada’s Olympic Team until 1976, when he retired. Shortly thereafter, Samuel hired him to be SamSon’s private racing trainer.

1968-equestrian-team-7800

Jim Day at the 1968 Mexico Olympics aboard the white-faced Canadian Club. A champion thoroughbred jumper, Canadian Club was retired to Sam-Son Farm in 1972, where he lived out his life surrounded by those who truly appreciated him.

Well before it became fashionable, Ernie Samuel focused his own breeding program on building an impressive broodmare band, believing that the mare played a key role in the breeding equation . His first purchase was No Class, together with another broodmare prospect, Loudrangle (Quadrangle ex. Lady Known As Lou {Nearctic}). Together, these two established the foundation of Sam-Son’s breeding program. Nor did Samuel stint on stallions, sending his broodmares to only the very best, among them Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Mr. Prospector, Northern Dancer and Danzig.

Classy N’ Smart’s filly was named Dance Smartly, a nod to her grandsire and her broodmare sire, although her distinctive white facial mark quickly earned her the nickname “Daisy” around the farm. Associated with spring and renewal, it was fitting that the leggy filly be re-named after the promise of the daisy.

Other than an outstanding pedigree, Dance Smartly didn’t particularly distinguish herself to trainer Day until she was nearing her first start. Then, as he recalls, jockey Brian Swatuk returned from working the youngster to declare, “This might be the best horse I’ve ever sat on in my entire life.”

Day took note.

A month later, on July 7, 1990, Dance Smartly won her maiden at Woodbine by 3 1/2 lengths. Following a win on the grass in the Natalma Stakes, Dance Smartly and Wilderness Song, another exceptional Sam-Son filly, were sent to Belmont to run in the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Racing in blinkers in her first year, Dance Smartly showed great potential and she was honest -- the filly gave her best each and every time.

Racing in blinkers in her first year, Dance Smartly showed that she had royal blood. She never gave up, even when the odds were stacked against her.

But disaster struck when Dance Smartly (outfitted in blinkers) and Wilderness Song were allowed to get into a speed dual that gutted both of them.  Day’s instructions were to allow Wilderness Song to get to the front first, with Dance Smartly rating just off the pace until the final stretch run. Coming down to the wire, her head tilted towards the grandstand, Dance Smartly marshalled every ounce of strength she had left.

Watching from the owners’ box as their filly battled on, the Samuels and Jim Day knew what they were seeing: the birth of a champion.

The BC effort was more than enough to earn Dance Smartly the Canadian Sovereign Award that year for Champion 2 year-old filly.

In 1991, as a three-year old, SamSon’s royally-bred filly started 8 times, on 2 different surfaces and in two different countries and emerged victorious every time.

Within a period of eight months, Dance Smartly won the Canadian Oaks, the Canadian Triple Crown (as in the USA, open to both sexes), the Molson Millions and the Breeders Cup Distaff (now the BC Ladies Classic). In so doing, she would vanquish fillies and colts alike, including her solid stablemate, Wilderness Song. Others who fell victim included the American and Canadian champion colts, Fly So Free and Rainbows For Life, Versailles Treaty and Queena, winner of the Maskette, Spinster and Ruffian Stakes (and the future dam of Brahms), as well as Brought To Mind and General Meeting, a son of the great Seattle Slew who would prove to be one of California’s top sires.

Wilderness Song was a brilliant filly who had the misfortune of being born in the same year as her stable companion, Dance Smartly. Nevertheless, she retired a millionaire and was inducted into the Canadian Racing Hall of Fame in 2008.

Wilderness Song was a brilliant filly who had the misfortune of being born in the same year as her stable companion, Dance Smartly. Nevertheless, she retired a millionaire and was inducted into the Canadian Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame in 2008.

SamSon's champion colt, Rainbows For Life, shown here as a stallion. "Rainbows" was champion 2 year-old of 1990, and champion older male as well as grass horse in 1992. Sold to the Czech Republic, he was a champion sire in 1999, 2004-2006. Wilderness Song died this year (2012).

SamSon’s champion colt, Rainbows For Life, shown here as a stallion. “Rainbows” was champion 2 year-old of 1990, and champion older male as well as grass horse in 1992. Sold to the Czech Republic, he was a champion sire in 1999, 2004-2006. He died this year (2012).

By the end of the year, Dance Smartly had become a legend in her own time: the first (and only) filly to ever win the Canadian Triple Crown, the first Canadian-bred to ever win a Breeders Cup race, recipient of both the Sovereign and Eclipse Awards for Champion 3 year-old filly in 1991, as well as a second Sovereign Award for 1991 Horse of the Year and the all-time leading money-winner (filly or mare) worldwide. Largely because of her performance, supplemented by those of Wilderness Song and Rainbows For Life, Sam-Son Farm took home both an Eclipse and Sovereign Award for Outstanding Owner (1991).

The familiar gold and red of Sam-Son was to become a hallmark of the 1991 racing season. The now unblinkered Dance Smartly, Pat Day in the irons, was easily the racing partnership of the year.

The familiar yellow and red of Sam-Son Farm was to become a hallmark of the 1991 North American racing season. The now unblinkered Dance Smartly with Pat Day in the irons were the racing partnership of 1991.

Daisy’s win in the Canadian Oaks marked the arrival of Pat Day. The American jockey, famous for piloting champions like Easy Goer, Summer Squall, Unbridled,  Lady’s Secret and Sam-Son’s Sky Classic, handled Dance Smartly with patience and poise. Horse and jockey seemed to communicate seamlessly.

The “Day boys” (although not related) got along famously. And the connection that Pat Day established between himself and Dance Smartly was fundamental, since, unlike some horses, Daisy wasn’t particularly interactive with her human handlers. Those who knew her best insisted that, right from the beginning, the filly “knew who she was,” pointing out that special horses are frequently aloof. They seem to come from somewhere between the horizon and the heavens, where they frequently fix their gaze in what has been dubbed “the look of eagles.” They listen to the music of the spheres.

Dance Smartly had "the look of eagles," just like Man O' War and Hyperion who occur in her pedigree. Photo and copyright The Blood-Horse.

Dance Smartly strikes”the look of eagles”pose, just like two of her most illustrious ancestors, Man O’ War and Hyperion. Photo and copyright The Blood-Horse.

The big filly with the resplendent, dappled coat was easy to handle and gentle by nature. Only on the track did she transform from SamSon’s sweetheart into a fire-breathing, equine monster. Despite her habit of leaping out of the gate as though she was a sprinter, Day could do anything with her. The filly relaxed beautifully, allowing her to channel that strength and determination into a burst of lightening speed when asked. Pat Day could feel her readiness through the reins, ears pricked, waiting for him to push the button. And when he did, the champion eased away from the rest of the field in long, fluid strides.

Looks can be deceiving. Daisy seemed to do it all so easily that only the fractions told the real story. That, and the devastation she left in her wake: Dance Smartly’s  Triple Crown triumph comprised a combined winning margin of 18 lengths.

Before being entered in the first leg of the Triple, the Queen’s Plate, Dance Smartly had never taken on the boys before. She was joined by SamSon’s Wilderness Song and Rainbows For Life. Watch as the SamSon fillies come home first and second:

Unlike its American counterpart, the Canadian Triple Crown was run over two different surfaces — dirt and grass — until 2006, when Woodbine’s main dirt track was converted to polytrack. The Canadian Triple is comprised of three races: the 1 1/4 mile Queen’s Plate (dirt), the 1 3/16 Prince of Wales Stakes (on the dirt at Fort Erie) and, finally, on the grass at Woodbine for the 1 1/2 mile Breeders’ Stakes.  Inaugurated in 1959, there have been 7 horses to win the Canadian Triple to date, among them New Providence (1959), Canebora (1963), With Approval (1989) and the ill-fated Izvestia (1990).

The flow of Dance Smartly and Pat Day coming to the wire was a combination of fire (hers) and ice (his).

The flow of Dance Smartly and Pat Day coming to the wire was a combination of fire (hers) and ice (his).

Here she is on tape, accompanied by delighted Canadian voices, winning the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, The Prince of Wales Stakes:

The last leg, the Breeders’ Stakes, is run in August on the grass track at Woodbine. The day dawned warm and slightly humid. The turf was labelled good.

Next up was the Molson Millions. a short few weeks after her Triple Crown sweep. Despite the fact that it came only a few short weeks after her Triple Crown campaign, Dance Smartly’s win was breathtaking.  (The race is highlighted at the very beginning of the article, above).

Wearing the Molson's Millions victory wreath, Dance Smartly and Pat Day are led into the winner's circle at Woodbine.

Wearing the Molson’s Millions victory wreath, Dance Smartly and Pat Day are led into the winner’s circle at Woodbine by a proud Ernie Samuel.

The Breeders’ Cup Distaff was now a little over six weeks away. Shortly after their arrival in Kentucky, Daisy’s exercise rider returned from a work to say that something didn’t feel right: the filly was favouring a front foot. It would take almost three weeks to treat it, during which time Wilderness Song, under Pat Day, gave Sam-Son its first international victory when she took the Spinster.

Dance Smartly was being hand-walked until shortly before the Distaff, when she was given one strong workout. And although her connections were delighted with it, they also knew that one work offered little guarantee that their champion was back to her best form. By all accounts, Daisy was a filly recovering from an injury and nearing the end of a long, tiring campaign when she walked into the Breeders’ Cup starting gate at Churchill Downs:

She was, indeed, the undisputed Queen of North American racing. The late Tammy Samuel-Balaz was to say that the experience of accompanying Dance Smartly throughout her 1991 campaign was “A magical time.” One can only imagine what the exploits of his homebred champion meant to Ernie Samuel. Other SamSon champions would follow: Sky Classic, Chief Bearhart, Smart Strike, Ruling Angel, Quiet Resolve and  Soaring Free. Between 1984-2004, SamSon Farm would see eight of their horses crowned Canadian Horse of the Year.

But one thing was certain on that autumn day in 1991: Dance Smartly had stolen hearts as no other before her, taking her family and fans on a journey to the pinnacle of thoroughbred racing. It was hard to take it all in as it was happening, in the same way that history eludes those living it. But there were images: Dance Smartly turning her head towards the grandstand as she devoured the home stretch, as if to say, “Okay people –watch this!” ….the red and gold silks, stealing up on the outside of the competition …..the characteristic bowing of her head as she was led into the winner’s circle….the wide, intelligent forehead and the warmth in her deep, dark eyes.

Would she? Could she? Following her Triple Crown sweep, Dance Smartly's connections were aiming for the 1991 Breeders Cup. But intervening was the temptation of the Molson Millions at Woodbine....

Canada’s Queen of Hearts.

Dance Smartly returned at four, running exclusively on the grass and winning the Canadian Maturity in mixed company. However, unknown to her racing public, Daisy had been fighting a pulled suspensory ligament injury to her right foreleg. Following a third place finish in the Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington, Ernie Samuel announced her retirement.

She had done enough. In 17 starts, Dance Smartly was never worse than third, retiring with 12 wins, 2 places, 3 shows and earnings of $3,263, 835.00.

Coming home to win the 1991 BC Distaff.

Coming home to one of the world’s most famous finish lines at Churchill Downs in the 1991 BC Distaff.

Racing accolades would follow: in 1995, Dance Smartly was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame; in 2003, she was inducted into the American National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, joining a pantheon of North American champions.

In retirement: Dance Smartly and her BFF, Rainbows Classic, at SamSon Farm.

In retirement: Dance Smartly (right) and another broodmare (chestnut) at SamSon Farm.

Incredibly, as a broodmare Dance Smartly was as successful as she’d been on the track. Although Ernie Samuel died of cancer in 2000, only a short time before one of Dance Smartly’s foals took the Queen’s Plate, Daisy did him proud throughout her life.

Daisy with one of her last foals, the filly Dance To The Sea.

Daisy with her last foal — a baby she just adored — the filly, Dance To The Sea. Nicknamed “Diva” the filly was most like her dam in personality of all of Daisy’s foals. The two continued to exchange fond greetings well after Diva had been weaned.

Diva peeks out at the camera from behind her dam. Sired by Gone West, Diva has produced two foals of her own to date. Her latest is Tizgone, by Tiznow, born in 2010.

Diva (by Gone West) peeks out at the camera. To date, Diva has produced two foals of her own. The filly Tizgone (Tiznow) was born in 2010.

Of Dance Smartly’s first 5 foals, two — Scatter The Gold and Dancethruthedawn — won back-to-back Queen’s Plates in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Millionaire Dancethruthedawn’s three year-old campaign culminated with a Sovereign Award for Champion 3 year-old filly (2001). Another Sovereign was awarded to Dance Smartly for Broodmare of the Year — the third generation of Samson broodmares to win it.

Dance Brightly (Mr. Prospector) was Dance Smartly's first foal. He stands at stud in Chile.

Dance Brightly (Mr. Prospector) was Dance Smartly’s first foal. He stands at stud in Chile and has produced winners. Photo and copyright, A. C. Crosby

Scatter The Gold at the Arrow Stud Open House in Japan 2 years ago. He has since been sold to a stud farm in Russia.

Scatter The Gold (Mr. Prospector) at the Arrow Stud Open House in Japan 2 years ago. He has since been sold to a stud farm in Russia.

Dancethruthedawn is a broodmare at SamSon Farm in Ontario. Personal photo.

Millionaire champion Dancethruthedawn (Mr. Prospector) is now a member of the SamSon broodmare band.

Another daughter, Dancethruthestorm (Thunder Gulch) had her first foal, a Giant's Causeway filly in 2008.

Another daughter, Dancethruthestorm (Thunder Gulch) had her first foal, a Giant’s Causeway filly, in 2008. Named Grand Style(4), she broke her maiden at first asking and was retired. In 2012, she produced a colt, Twirlinggrandstyle (Twirling Candy).

Although her best offspring in terms of earnings was Dancethruthedawn (1998), Daisy’s sons Dance Brightly (1995), Dance To Destiny (1999) and Dance With Ravens (2002) have all proven to be very consistent sires. Another two, Dancethruthestorm and Dance To The Sea never raced and are members of SamSon’s broodmare band.

The gorgeous Dance With Ravens, who stands at Northview Stallion Station.

The gorgeous Dance With Ravens (A.P. Indy), who stands at Northview Stallion Station. UPDATE: In December 2015 Dance With Ravens was sold to “Saudi Arabian interests”He will stand his first year at stud there in 2016. (Paulick Report, DRF) Photo and copyright, Alison Janevic.

Dance To Destiny (Mr. Prospector) never finished out of the money and proved a very decent sire. He stood at SamSon, but was sold to Saudi Arabia in 2011.

Dance To Destiny (Mr. Prospector) never finished out of the money and proved a very decent sire. He stood at SamSon, but was sold to Saudi Arabia in 2011.

In her new life as a mare on the farm where she was raised, Daisy loved to play games — providing her human playmate had treats. Favourites were “find the mint” and follow-the-leader. She was attentive, patient and kind with her foals. The old stifle injury continued to bother her and became degenerative as she grew older, giving her a “gimpy” walk and forcing her to put more pressure on her one good foreleg. SamSon placed her with another handicapped mare, Rainbow Classic, who became Daisy’s BFF.

Dance Smartly always kept her shape, no matter how many foals she had. Here she is in Kentucky, having visited Thunder Gulch. Photo and copyright, The Blood-Horse.

Dance Smartly always kept her shape –and her dapples — no matter how many foals she had. Here she is in Kentucky in 2003, dancing in her paddock. Photo and copyright, The Blood-Horse.

The staff at SamSon loved Dance Smartly. Regal and aloof though she could be, Daisy had a special human friend with whom she was affectionate. RV had loved Daisy since she was a girl and now, with the mare’s velvety muzzle in her lap, a long-cherished dream had come true.

In her paddock at SamSon.

In her paddock at SamSon, Daisy sports her winter coat.

Beloved.

“She had a lot of class…She had a lot of presence. There wasn’t a mean bone in her body…Everybody loved her.” (Dave Whitford, quoted in THE GLOBE AND MAIL, August 22, 2007)

On August 18 or 19, 2007, Daisy was found laying down in her paddock. She could not get up. The SamSon personnel gathered around her, encouraging her to try. It took extraordinary effort. But once standing, it was clear why the mare had spent so long on the ground: she had broken at least one bone in her already handicapped foreleg. In the end there was only one humane avenue open. Dance Smartly was only 19 years old.

Under the Globe & Mail’s headline, “Beloved Dance Smartly Put To Rest,” farm manager Dave Whitford told readers, “We do have a nice grave for her right out in front of the office, a very special place for her…..We’ll be trying to make that area as nice as possible in the coming months.”

Between the lines of final tributes, in the spaces between paragraphs and in what those who were interviewed left unsaid, the void was  articulated. Canadian racing had lost its Queen. SamSon, its beloved Daisy.

Memory, like love, makes its home on the threshold of eternity. For those of us who loved her, that is where Dance Smartly lives.

 

Saying goodbye to our Queen was painful, but her spirit lives on through her daughters and sons.

 

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