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Posts Tagged ‘legendary sire’

Like so many, I was an unapologetic A.P. Indy “groupie” and this is my recount of meeting him in June of 2015.

This post is dedicated to the Farish family, Asa Haley and to the staff of Lane’s End, who knew and loved him.

 

It was early summer and my very first visit to Kentucky. Liz Read and I were privileged to be welcomed at Lane’s End (LE) and given a private tour by Louise Hatfield, the Executive Assistant to Farm Manager, Mike Cline. When asked if we wanted to see the stallions, our response was an enthusiastic “Yes, please!” And when Louise asked who I most wanted to see, I said something like, “Everyone. But especially A.P. Indy.”

"PONY!" I exclaimed, trying to hold back my tears. "Here you are. I've loved you forever."

“PONY!” I exclaimed, trying to hold back my tears. “Here you are. I’ve loved you forever.” Copyright protected. Used by permission of Liz Read.

As VAULT readers know, I love thoroughbreds and that includes several that are long-gone, like Man O’ War and Equipoise. So I thought I’d be prepared to see “A.P.” as the folks at Lane’s End call him.

Into the stable we went, pausing briefly to visit with Kingmambo and fellow Canadian, Langfuhr, both legendary in my personal lexicon. Their stalls, in glowing red woods with brass fittings, were luxuriant, with straw bedding as deep as a valley.

But when we approached A.P.’s stall, it was empty. My heart sank a tad, even though I knew he was “in the house” somewhere.

The stable where A.P. had his stall was breathtaking in its elegance. Copyright protected. Used with permission from Liz Read.

Louise touched my sleeve, motioning towards the other end of the stable, where a horse and groom were on their way out into the sunshine: “There’s A.P. — he goes out to his paddock around now.”

I noted the white hind leg and swallowed hard. Waves of feeling started to gather inside me.

“There’s A.P.” Copyright protected. Used with permission from Liz Read.

It’s one thing to follow a thoroughbred you care about from afar, but quite another to find them waltzing into the sunlight, right in front of you. Before this moment, I’d never seen a thoroughbred I adored before. As I’ve written about in previous posts, it was largely a case of turning away from a passion — when I was a young woman in my twenties, I believed for some reason that I needed to put away “the loves of my girlhood.”

But as I approached middle life, the passion returned and I was open to receive it. So this moment when I first stood within a few feet of A.P. Indy was overwhelming.

I assumed that we were going to follow him to his paddock and visit with him there. But instead, his groom attendant, Antonio Villalobo, stopped, waiting for us to arrive. In a flash, I understood that I was actually going to meet my idol, face-to-face.

Predictably, as I walked toward A.P., I had what my friend, photographer and artist, Liz Read, has since described as ” a complete meltdown.” Translated, Liz noted that my eyes were filled with tears and that I was completely overcome with feeling.

Lane’s End (LE) is staffed by people who truly love what they do. And that was evident from the expression of Louise, Stallion Manager Billy Sellers and Antonio: Liz observed that they greeted my short “walk to fame” with an exchange of delighted smiles. The kind of smile that people share when they see that you feel the same way as they do about a treasure.

"PONY!" I exclaimed, trying to hold back my tears. "Here you are. I've loved you forever."

“PONY!” I exclaimed, trying to hold back my tears. “Here you are. I’ve loved you forever.” Copyright protected. Used with permission from Liz Read.

 

Louise, Antonio and "my boy" share in my delight of A.P. INDY. Copyright protected. Used by permission of Liz Read.

Louise and Antonio share in my delight at finding myself a few feet away from the great A.P. INDY. Copyright protected. Used with permission from Liz Read.

As I drew closer, A.P. watched me out of the corner of one eye. It was a kind, relaxed eye. Gleaming in the light, he waited patiently for me to come closer while I struggled to fully comprehend what was actually happening. Of course, I was equipped with LE peppermints, and Louise had assured me that “A.P. does love his mints.”

"A.P. does love his mints" Copyright protected. Used by permission of Liz Read.

“A.P. does love his mints” Copyright protected. Used with permission from Liz Read.

Having been around horses as a youngster, I had learned that you don’t just rush up to them when they don’t know you and pat their noses. Horses tolerate that, but they don’t like it. So, with Louise close by and Antonio at his head, I chatted with A.P. and then proffered the much-adored peppermints. As he crunched away — slowly, savouring the taste — he would pause and raise his head to ponder me.

I don’t know how long we stood there before I actually placed my hand on his proud head.

And then A.P. started to express himself. This doesn’t always happen when a horse meets a stranger. Some horses, sweet as they may be, keep a kind of distance. But when a horse does talk to you, it’s an utterance that awakens that part of your senses that go down deep, to a place where you intuit and receive meaning and feeling without making a sound.  With A.P., communication was punctuated by his making eye contact for long moments with ears pricked, and drawing his head ever closer to me.

A.P., Louise, Antonio and I were wrapped in a palpable, living silence — a place where A.P.’s voice could be heard. Within that silence, I understood when to touch, when to kiss — and when to provide an additional mint — always following A.P.’s lead.

First touches. Copyright protected. Used by permission of Liz Read.

First touches shared with Louise, who A.P. knows very well. Copyright protected. Used with permission from Liz Read.

 

THE KISS. The making of a lifetime memory. Photo protected by copyright. Used by permission of Liz Read.

“…He smelled of sunshine and honey.” Photo protected by copyright. Used with permission from Liz Read.

I could feel his warmth right down in my solar plexus and I knew I wanted to kiss him. And so I did. He smelled of sunshine and honey.

The trust with which A.P. greeted a total stranger’s lingering kiss spoke volumes about his relationships with those at LE who knew him best, as well as what he had come to understand from them about deep, abiding and respectful love.

A.P. surrounded by love. Photo is copyright protected. Used by permission of Liz Read.

A.P. surrounded by love. Photo is copyright protected. Used with permission from Liz Read.

Finally, it was time for A.P. to enjoy a romp in his paddock and off he went with Antonio, Liz Read and her camera in hot pursuit. I remained outside the barn with Louise. Together we watched him prance at the gate. Once released, he was off.

Louise turned to Billy Sellers, “Just look at him. He looks like a colt.”

Turned loose in his paddock, A.P. was gone in a flash. Copyright protected. Used by permission of Liz Read.

Turned loose in his paddock, A.P. was gone in a flash. Copyright protected. Used with permission from Liz Read.

 

A coltish A.P. INDY turned out in his paddock. Copyrighted photo. Used by permission of Liz Read.

Photo protected by copyright. Used with permission from Liz Read

 

Copyrighted photo. Used by permission of Liz Read.

Photo protected by copyright. Used with permission from Liz Read.

 

This photo was such a hit with Lane's End that it appeared on FB and in the TDN. Photo protected by copyright. Used by permission of Liz Read.

This photo was such a hit with Lane’s End that it appeared on their FB page and in the TDN (below). Photo protected by copyright. Used with permission from Liz Read.

AP by LIZ in TDN_unnamed

 

Even though our time together was over, I never felt that it was gone. What I did feel was the absolute privilege of spending some time with A.P. in a manner that felt natural and unhurried.

Today, five years later, and forty-eight hours after I received the news of his passing, these rememories are framed by the scent of sunshine and honey, in a quiet that affirms a love that has no end.

 

A.P.’s stall at Lane’s End. Photo protected by copyright. Used with permission from Liz Read.

 

 

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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When the death of Empire Maker was announced, the response on social media was immediate. It was partly shock. But as the hours passed, shock turned to grief.

This post is dedicated to the connections of Empire Maker at Juddmonte, the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders Association, Gainesway Farm and Don Alberto.

EMPIRE MAKER at Gainesway Farm in Kentucky,. Copyright Gainesway Farm. Used with permission.

Writing on Twitter, photographer Courtney Snow wrote, “Oh Empire Maker.” Simple as were her words, they captured perfectly what I was feeling: dismay that this could happen, loss, an unbearable sadness. Empire Maker’s death seemed particularly cruel coming, as it did, on the heels of the death of his son, Pioneerof The Nile (the sire of America’s Triple Crown champion, American Pharoah) and the death due to foaling complications in 2017 of much-loved champion, Royal Delta.

As a thoroughbred fan and researcher for over half a century, I’ve admired and respected countless individuals. A precious few have reached out to “speak” to me — and Empire Maker was one of them.

I never saw Empire Maker in person.

In my province of Quebec there is no longer any horse racing and gaining access to live horse racing continues to be a challenge. Most networks in the USA won’t take Canadian subscriptions, so I end up doing odd things out of necessity — like following American racing on a channel in Dubai. Despite all that, social media allowed me to witness Empire Maker’s career from the track to the breeding shed.

He was always special to me. Different, the way Man O’ War and a few precious others are “different.” In his eye, creating the impression that he was looking to a place beyond human perception, the “look of eagles.” Only the truly great ones — Man O’ War, Phar Lap, Equipoise, Bernborough, Sunday Silence, Nijinsky and his sire, Northern Dancer, Secretariat, Frankel — have that look. Who knows what it signifies, distinctive as is its expression.

A Juddmonte owned and bred, as a colt Empire Maker appeared to treat the career he’d been handed with disdain; you saw it in his tendency to linger on the lead, as though he’d done enough. As a runner, Empire Maker never did more than he had to do, except perhaps in the Florida Derby, where he showed a gritty determination that was rare.

 

After that brilliant performance, and out of my untiring respect for HOF trainer Robert “Bobby” Frankel, Empire Maker became my Derby horse, the colt who would carry my flag into America’s most prestigious race. His performance in the Wood Memorial made him the favourite going into the Kentucky Derby, even though, near the finish, Empire Maker’s tendency to wind down once he was ahead is apparent.

 

However, coming up to the Derby, it wasn’t his ambivalence on the lead but a foot bruise that proved Empire Maker’s undoing, since it got in the way of his training.

The Derby pace early on was sizzling. HOF jockey, Jerry Bailey, was quoted post-race as saying that when he asked him, Empire Maker didn’t go after Funny Cide with his usual “authority.” Years later, Bobby Frankel would say the missed training was too much for his star colt to overcome.

Empire Maker didn’t run in the second leg of the Triple Crown (The Preakness), but he was ready to fire in June in the third leg, the Belmont Stakes. And fire he did — even though the track was muddy and slick — denying New York’s hero, Funny Cide, the Triple Crown.

He would make only one more start, in the 2003 Jim Dandy at Saratoga, where he got going too late to catch the winner, Strong Hope. A foot problem ended his career.

That expressive face: EMPIRE MAKER at Gainesway Farm after his return from Japan in 2017. Copyright Gainesway Farm. Used with permission.

Upon his retirement, Bobby Frankel said of Juddmonte’s homebred, “We weren’t within 10 lengths of seeing this horse’s best race. With his prospects as a sire, considering his exceptional talent, extraordinary pedigree, and incredibly good looks, I want to be remembered as the trainer of Empire Maker in the same way that Horatio Luro’s name is attached to Northern Dancer or Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons’ name is with Bold Ruler.” (Kellie Reilly, Brisnet.com in “Empire Maker lived up to his name as a classic winner, patriarch” published January 20, 2020)

Frankel wouldn’t have made this declaration lightly. He was a man of discriminating judgment who had trained some outstanding thoroughbreds. Frankel had also trained Empire Maker’s dam, Toussaud, who was so difficult that the trainer admitted that near the end of her racing career he didn’t want to train her at all. But Frankel clearly respected the filly, snapping at an interviewer who asked if he had expected the performance Empire Maker gave in the Belmont, “… he’s by Unbridled out of Toussaud, right?”

Empire Maker’s sire, Unbridled, was a much-loved champion who had sewn up the 1990 Kentucky Derby, beating another champion in Summer Squall. Unbridled also won the 1990 Breeders Cup Classic, soundly defeating the Canadian Triple Crown winner, Izvestia. (Note: The 1990 Breeders Cup also marked the deaths of the champion Go For Wand and another horse, Mr. Nickerson. The NY Times referred to it as “Racing’s Darkest Day” — and it was, despite Unbridled’s courageous victory in the BC Classic.)

But Empire Maker’s pedigree was spectacular beyond his sire and dam. He was 4s X 3d to In Reality (a champion on the track and sire of sires), 5s X 4d to Buckpasser (another champion who was also a powerful BM sire), and 5s X 5d to Native Dancer (an American legend), Rough N’ Tumble (sire of champion Dr. Fager) and Aspidistra (dam of champions Dr. Fager and Ta Wee).

Empire Maker had, quite simply, blue-blood-to-burn. Below is vintage footage of some of Empire Maker’s ancestors, all of whom appear within the first five generations of his pedigree:

 

 

 

But it didn’t stop there: Empire Maker’s BM sire was the turf champion El Gran Senor, a son of Northern Dancer who was named after the Dancer’s trainer, the Argentinian-born and Spanish-speaking, Horatio Luro. El Gran Senor raced in England and Ireland, and was trained by the legendary Vincent O’Brien, the first Master of Ballydoyle.

In temperament, El Gran Senor was so sweet that O’Brien regularly brought him out when his grandchildren visited. Irascible as his daughter, Toussaud, may have been, I like to think that the kindness of Empire Maker’s son, Pioneerof The Nile, and grandson, American Pharoah, came to them on a Y chromosome courtesy of El Gran Senor.

Vincent O’Brien introducing EL GRAN SENOR to some of his grandchildren.

Even though he was the only colt of his generation to score in three classic races in 2003, Empire Maker didn’t seem to appeal to American breeders as much as he should have done, given his pedigree, race record and conformation. In 2011 he was relocated to Japan, standing at the JBBA’s Shizunai Stallion Station in Hokkaido.

From 5 crops sired in Japan, Empire Maker had 10 stakes winners, headed by Eterna Minoru(2013) and Power Gal(2016). This wouldn’t be considered a brilliant track record by the JBBA, despite the fact that the young stallion wasn’t getting the very best mares. (It should be noted that in Japan the desire for immediate results is no less tempered than it is worldwide.)

But in America, Emnpire Maker colts and fillies from his few American crops were shaking things up, resulting in the stallion rocketing up the sire lists. Among his outstanding fillies there were the millionaires Acoma(2005), Mushka (2005), Emollient(2010), Grace Hall (2009) and his best daughter, the beloved Royal Delta (2008). In addition, there were other excellent fillies: In Lingerie(2009) and Icon Project(2005), as well as at least a half-dozen others who earned over $200k.

Royal Delta was a strong-willed, competitive filly who had the attitude of a colt, according to her trainer Bill Mott. But she was a huge presence on the track during her racing career and had thousands of fans in North America. Retired in 2013, Royal Delta was saent to Ireland to be bred to Galileo but didn’t get in foal; a second attempt was made but the mare aborted.

In 2017, she delivered a filly foal by Galileo but it would be her last: Royal Delta died of foaling complications. A much-loved champion was suddenly gone. The filly foal survived and was named Delta’s Royalty. She won her first start at Kempton Park in the UK (below) in December 2019. Thousands from the USA and Canada tuned in to watch.

Sons of Empire Maker who made a splash were headed by the millionaires Pioneerof The Nile (2006) and Bodemeister(2009), both trained by HOF Bob Baffert. Pioneerof The Nile’s loss in the 2009 Kentucky Derby to Mine That Bird was an upset that few, if any, had foreseen. But “Nile” also won the Santa Anita Derby, Robert B. Lewis and San Felipe Stakes that same year.

He was retired to stud at the Vinery in 2010 and finally, to Winstar in 2013. Nile’s first crop produced the champions Cairo Prince, Midnight Storm and Jojo’s Warrior, as well as several others who earned in excess of $200k. In his second crop in 2012, Nile sired a bay colt who was named American Pharoah; in 2015, “Pharoah” became America’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Pharoah’s Triple Crown and BC Classic victoiry was the last push that was needed to repatriate his grandsire and home Empire Maker came home in 2016 to take up duties at the historic Gainesway Farm, from where he could appreciate his son Bodemeister’s son, Always Dreaming, winning the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Always Dreaming is from Bodemeister’s first crop, hinting that the young sire might well have had more to come. If he does, Bodemeister won’t be here to witness it: he was sold to Turkey in 2019.

The hopes invested in Empire Maker were great and I joined those rejoicing on his return, anticipating more greatness to come. Not another American Pharoah, since such monumental talent is rare, but certainly more deeply talented progeny. But those hopes, that promise, was cut short when the stallion died on January 20 of a rare immune deficiency disease called CVID. This disease annihilates the immune system and is so rare in North America that one top immune deficiency expert, vet Dr. Nathan Slovis, stated that he had only ever seen it twice. It is hoped that Empire Maker may be of some help in coming up with a cure.

Of those Empire Makers bred in America since his return, Eight Rings(2017) who won twice in 4 starts at two, appears to have potential. After a hugely disappointing run in the 2019 BC Juvenile, the colt was given a training break. Bob Baffert is pointing him towards the Rebel Stakes in March and if he does well, Eight Rings may get the green light to embark on the 2020 Triple Crown trail.

In the meantime, Empire Maker’s grandson, American Pharoah, is looking to be a stellar sire, and it will largely fall to him to keep Empire Maker’s influence on the breed alive.

 

From 70 starters to date, Pharoah has sired 26 winners, 4 stakes winners and 3 graded stakes winners. Eleven of his foals have placed in stakes races. Through December 20, American Pharoah’s foals have earned more than $2.6 million (Bloodhorse.com) landing the young stallion the title of leading first-crop sire of 2019 by a wide margin. Pharoah’s progeny are winning over any surface and he’s had a total — as of January 20, 2020 — of 30 winners to date in America, Canada, England, Ireland, France and Japan. True, Coolmore is ensuring that he gets the best mares whether at Ashford Stud in Kentucky or at Coolmore Australia, but that does nothing to diminish the fact that Pharoah’s early progeny record is an absolute standout.

The young stallion is getting foals of a quality that is impressively consistent.

FOUR WHEEL DRIVE, from the first crop of AMERICAN PHAROAH, sporting his BC Juvenile Turf victor’s blanket.

 

Coolmore’s HONG KONG, also from PHAROAH’S first crop.

 

2018 filly, born in Australia, out of Deer Valley.

 

Another Australian-bred from 2018, a colt out of AZUMI.

American Pharoah is an American treasure. Like his grandsire, he’s different. Everything about him says it — the soft eye that looks right through you to some forever place, the balanced and powerful conformation, the elegance of his ancestry. And I see Empire Maker in him just as clearly as I see the influence of Pioneerof The Nile and Littleprincessemma, Pharoah’s dam.

Through the pain of his loss, his legacy goes on, running like the current that powers a mighty river. And I’m happy for that.

 

 

 

BONUS FEATURES

 

1) Rare footage of the great Toussaud, Empire Maker’s dam:

 

 

2) A Visit To Gainesway Farm, Empire Maker’s home:

3) PIONEEROF THE NILE Schooling At Santa Anita. Video by Mary Forney:

4) An Empire That Will Survive It’s Maker’s Loss by Chris McGrath, TDN

An Empire That Will Survive Its Maker’s Loss

 

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hunter, Avalyn. American Classic Pedigrees: Empire Maker. Online: http://www.americanclassicpedigrees.com/empire-maker.html

Mitchell, Frank. Bloodstock In The Bluegrass — writings on Empire Maker. Online: https://fmitchell07.wordpress.com/tag/empire-maker/

Voss, Natalie in Paulick Report, “He May Be Able To Save Horses’ Lives: The Mysterious Disease That Killed Empire Maker. Online: https://www.paulickreport.com/horse-care-category/he-may-be-able-to-save-horses-lives-the-mysterious-disease-that-claimed-empire-maker/?fbclid=IwAR3ejgUL2IvAl-XLlL6-IMpE0rcTpyNL8BQQGcpWobHRBPkztqqRTBXXHBQ#.XisLUBSJmxA.facebook

 

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

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As the world awaits Enable’s attempt to win the Arc for an unprecedented third time, it’s worth noting that she already belongs to a very select group. Since the first Arc (1920) only seven other individuals have won it twice.

 

In 1920, the British-bred COMRADE (Bachelor’s Double X Sourabaya) became the first Arc winner. The colt was trained by Peter Purcell Gilpin of Clarehaven Stables, who also famously trained the champion, PRETTY POLLY.

 

1) KSAR (1921, 1922)

KSAR became the first dual Arc winner.

The Arc was designed to complement the prestigious Grand Prix de Paris, as well as promote the French thoroughbred breeding industry. It must have smarted when the British-bred Comrade won the very first Arc. However, only a year after its first running, along came the first of the dual Arc winners who was, happily, also a French-bred. Ksar was the product of a pair of champions. His sire, Bruleur, won the Prix de Paris and Prix Royal-Oak; a descendant of The Flying Dutchman, Bruleur was a top stayer.

KIZIL KOURGAN, dam of ZSAR, painted by Allen Culpepper Sealy.

Ksar’s dam, Kizil Kourgan (Omnium II X Kasbah), was also a blueblood and won the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, the Prix Lupin over colts, the Prix de Diane, the Grand Prix de Paris, and the Prix Royal-Oak as a three year-old.

In 1921, after winning the Prix Royal-Oak in a manner that saw him return to his stable as fresh as a rose, Ksar was produced three weeks later to win the 1921 Arc. The following year, Ksar continued in his brilliant ways, losing only twice and once when his regular jockey, George Stern, was replaced by another rider. In the 1922 Arc, Ksar and Stern were reunited, and the result gave history its first dual Arc winner.

Ksar would go on to be a leading sire in France, producing the likes of Diademe and the influential sire, Tourbillion. He was also the damsire of 1941 Arc winner and champion 3 year-old La Pecha.

2) MOTRICO (1930, 1932)

MOTRICO was the second ARC winner.

Eight years later, a bay colt named Motrico (Radames X Martigues) also completed an Arc duo. Owned by Vicomte Max de Rivaud and trained by Maurice d’Okhuysen, the colt took his name from a Spanish coastal town. A descendant of the Triple Crown winner, Flying Fox, through his sire line, Motrico also carried St. Simon in his upper and lower family tree.

Following his first Arc win in 1930, Motrico was retired to stud, where he proved unpopular. So the stallion was returned to the turf two years later, winning the 1932 Arc to become the oldest individual to do so, at the age of seven.

3) CORRIDA (1936, 1937)

CORRIDA, the first filly to win dual Arcs, was owned by the legendary Marcel Boussac.

Another dual winner in the form of the filly, Corrida, came in 1936 and 1937. Corrida’s 1936 Arc signalled the first of six Arc winners for the race’s most successful owner, Marcel Boussac, who went on to win the Arc so many times — with Djebel (1942), Ardan (1944), Caracalla (1946) and Coronation (1949) — that Boussac became a household word in his native France.

Corrida was, like so many thoroughbred champions, bred in the purple. Her sire, Coronach, was by the prepotent sire Hurry-On, and proved to be a champion. Coronach won the 1926 Epsom Derby, as well as the prestigious St. Leger, St. James Palace and the Coronation Cup for owner-breeder, Lord Woolavington.

Derby day in 1926 was wet and dreary, but the handsome Coronach led all the way and won as he pleased. The following video shows the world of horse racing in 1926 in some detail, while featuring Coronach’s Derby win. Coronach can be seen starting in the post parade: look for the colt with the long, white blaze and jockey in white silks with a bold stripe across chest and sleeves. (NOTE: There is no sound.)

 

 

Corrida’s dam, Zariba, was a daughter of Maurice de Rothchild’s champion, Sardanapale. Winner of the Prix Morny and the Prix de la Foret, Zariba was no slouch herself on the turf. As a broodmare, Zariba was a success and Corrida was her best offspring.

Not only did the brilliant Corrida win her second Arc in 1937, but that same year she also took the Grosser Preis der Reichshaupstadt in Germany, dismissing a field that included two Deutsches Derby winners, and an Italian Oaks and 1000 Guineas winner.

Corrida’s story ended abruptly in the midst of the German invasion of France in WWII. By then, the filly was retired and had produced a colt foal, Coaraze, to a cover by champion Tourbillon. Many thoroughbreds disappeared during the invasion and the Germans frequently exported thoroughbreds seized as they marched through Europe to their German National Stud. Other thoroughbreds died in bombings.

Among those who disappeared from the Boussac stud were sire Pharis — and Corrida.

 

COARAZE, the only progeny of CORRIDA, was brilliant on the turf. His stud career was in Brazil and was supreme in his influence on the Brazilian thoroughbred.

4) TANTIEME (1950, 1951)

Francois Dupre’s Tantieme had the dubious record of being the last French-bred thoroughbred of the 20th century to realize dual Arc victories.

TANTIEME, owned by Francois Dupre, was as brilliant on the turf as he was in the breeding shed.

A bay colt with a fine intelligent head, Tantieme was the son of Deux Pour Cent of the Teddy sire line and the mare, Terka. On the turf, Tantieme proved himself outstanding: he was out of the money only once in 15 starts and also won the Grand Criterium, Poule d’Essai des Poulains, Prix Lupin, Prix Ganay and the British Coronation Cup. Retired to stud, he sired champions Tanerko, Reliance, Match II and the filly La Senga.

TANERKO, winner of the Grand Prix St. Cloud, Prix Ganay and Prix Lupin, among others. At stud, he sired the Classic winner, RELKO.

 

RELIANCE, winner of the Prix du Jockey Club, Grand Prix de Paris, Prix Royal-Oak, Prix Hocquart and the Prix de Morronniers. a champion, RELIANCE was only beaten once — by the incomparable Sea-Bird in the 1965 Arc.

 

MATCH (MATCH2 in USA) winner of the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, Prix Noailles and Prix Royal-Oak in France. In the USA he famously won the Washington D.C. International Stakes.

5) RIBOT (1955, 1956)

Of course, the narrator of Ribot’s first Arc win (above) might not have been aware that he was looking at a racing giant. In any case, the title of this British Pathe video makes us smile today, because Ribot wasn’t just any “Italian horse.” In fact, Frederico Tesio’s colt would take the racing world by storm. By the time he retired in 1956, immediately after his second Arc win, Ribot had shown himself able to win at any distance, against some of the best of his day and over any type of turf, marching to victory in Italy, France and England.

 

Ribot went off to the breeding shed undefeated and was exceptionally successful as a sire. He began his stud career at Lord Derby’s stud in England before being syndicated under the terms of a 5-year lease and relocated at Darby Dan farm in the USA. As a stallion, Ribot developed a nasty temperament, one that only surfaced after his retirement from racing — and this made insuring him for travel almost impossible. The result was that he couldn’t be returned to Lord Derby or anywhere else and remained in the USA until his death in 1972.

Ribot progeny who distinguished themselves include the great Tom Rolfe, His Majesty, Arts and Letters, Molvedo, Ribocco, Prince Royal and the champion Ragusa.

6) ALLEGED (1977, 1978)

Lester Piggott and ALLEGED after their win in the 1977 Arc.

Britain’s Alleged had not initially been pegged as destined for greatness when first arriving at the Master of Ballydoyle’s stables. Originally destined for the dirt and having started his training in California, it was the view of the trainer there that Alleged’s weak knees would never hold up on the dirt. Subsequently purchased by Robert Sangster, Alleged was sent to Ireland, where the incomparable Vincent O’Brien determined that the colt needed some time to develop to his full potential. The son of Hoist The Flag (and grandson of Tom Rolfe, a son of Ribot) began to show his promise as a 3 year-old when he won the Great Volitigeur Stakes impressively.

With Lester Piggott in the irons, Alleged walked on to the course at Longchamp in 1977 and ran into history.

Lester and Alleged would repeat in 1978.

The video below is in French. Here are a few helpful details pre-viewing: Alleged is number 6 in the-then Coolmore silks of bright green and blue. Note that American jockey legend, Willie Shoemaker, rides Nelson Bunker Hunt’s fine mare, Trillion (number eight). Trillion raced in France where the daughter of Hail To Reason was hugely successful. Also of note is Freddy Head, riding Dancing Maid (Lyphard), who was a jockey of brilliant accomplishment, perhaps best noted for his wins on the fabulous Miesque. Head would go on to train the superb Goldikova, among others.

The four year-old Alleged started as “le grand favori” — the overwhelming favourite. Not surprisingly, both Shoemaker and Head are right there at the end.

Lester Piggott, described by the announcer as a “Buster Keaton figure” actually managed a smile as he and Alleged were led past the stands and Alleged was acknowledged as one of the very best of his generation. Freddy Head was reported to be “downfallen” by his filly’s performance, while Willie Shoemaker was saluted for the fine performance of his filly Trillion and onlookers were reminded that in his native USA, Shoemaker was a superstar.

Retired to stud — where he became still another bad-tempered sire like his great grandsire, Ribot — Alleged was nevertheless an overwhelming success, ranked among the top ten sires in England in 1985 and sixth among sires of winners in France in 1988. As a BM sire, Alleged led the list in France in 1998 and came second in 2002. Among his best known progeny as a stallion and BM sire are Miss Alleged, Shantou and Flemensfirth.

7) TREVE ( 2013, 2014)

It’s almost impossible to forget the mighty Treve, who had devoted fans all over the world and, at one point, even had her own website. Trained by Criquette Head-Marek, the sister of Freddy Head, Treve’s first Arc dazzled and her second left fans breathless, coming as it did after a difficult campaign where the filly battled health issues.

In 2013, Treve gave France its first French-bred Arc winner of the 21st century and with her 2014 Arc victory, the first French dual Arc winner as well. The daughter of Motivator (Montjeu) out of Trevise (Anabaa) was still another Arc champion bred in the purple.

In 2013, undefeated as a 3 year-old, Treve beat some greats to lead the field home under Thierry Jarnet, who filled in for the injured Frankie Dettori:

2014 had been a tough year for Treve, making her 2014 Arc victory all that much sweeter. Flintshire and Al Kazeem were back, to be joined by the talented Taghrooda, Kingston Hill, Ruler of the World and Gold Ship. But there is only one Treve — and she showed it emphatically on the day:

Treve’s connections entered their mare for a third tilt at the Arc, but it was not to be:

Treve did her best but was no match for the John Gosden-trained and Frankie Dettori-ridden champion, Golden Horn, who had also won the 2015 Epsom Derby. The mare finished fourth, under a drive by Thierry Jarnet.

Treve was subsequently retired and has since produced three foals: Paris, born in 2017 and sired by Dubawi, and fillies by Shalaa (2018) and Siyouni (2019) who remain unnamed. She is in foal to Sea The Stars to a 2019 cover.

8) ENABLE (2017, 2018)

Now it’s Enable’s turn to greet the racing gods at Longchamp on October 6, 2019. Running as a 5 year-old, as Treve did in her final Arc run, the mare’s most-touted rivals are thought to be Coolmore’s Japan, White Birch Farms’ Sottsass, Gestut Ammerland & Newsells Park’s Waldgeist and Godolphin’s Ghaiyyath.

Japan (Galileo X Shastye by Danehill) is a 3 year-old colt whose last start was in August where he narrowly defeated Crystal Ocean to win the Juddmonte International. The colt has also scored in the King Edward (June) and at Longchamps in the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris in July:

So Japan will head into the Arc very fresh, having had the longest break of all of Enable’s more prominent foes.

Sottsass (Siyouni X Starlet’s Sister by Galileo) most recently won the Qatar Prix Neill at Longchamps on September 19, 2019. The 3 year-old enters the Arc with a record of 6-4-0-0 and continues to improve, according to trainer Jean-Claude Rouget:

Waldgeist  (Galileo X Waldlerche by Monsun) is the same age as Enable and is a gutsy, determined competitor who is coming into his own. His last start was on September 15 over the Longchamps turf in the Qatar Prix Foy, winning handily in what looked very much like a good, easy blow before the Arc. Here’s Waldgeist beating Ghaiyyath in the Prix Ganay at Longchamps in April:

It is true that Enable has already taken on Waldgeist and beaten him, but this chestnut is so honest and he can be counted on to bring his best to Longchamp in October.

Ghaiyyath (Dubawi X Nightime by Galileo) is a 4 year-old whose racing career was stalled in 2017. Returning in 2018, the 3 year-old sparkled at Longchamps, but did little else that year.

This year, Ghaiyyath has looked very good in the Prix d’Harcourt and breathtaking in the Grosser Preis von Baden, where he not only ran 14 lengths clear but also beat the 2019 winner of the German Derby. Ghaiyyath races in the Godolphin blue, under jockey William Buick :

This last win was on September 1 and was jaw-dropping, even though the pace was modest. Given his up-and-down career to date, it’s worth wondering which Ghaiyyath will show up on October 6 at Longchamps.

Enable goes into this year’s Arc in top form, undefeated in her 2019 campaign and with some impressive running under her belt, notably the sensational battle between Enable and Crystal Ocean in the King George:

Enable showed of what she is made in the King George, as did the magnificent Crystal Ocean, but the 5 year-old mare came out of this contest in fine form to defeat another great in Magical in the Yorkshire Oaks in August.

According to trainer John Gosden, Enable is as of this writing in excellent health and, as a mature thoroughbred, at the “…height of her powers.”

On October 6 she will face another challenge in what has already been a superlative career. Should she win, Enable will be the first and only thoroughbred to achieve three Arc wins.

To Enable and Frankie we say, “May the winds of Heaven guide and keep you. Just do your best — and come home to us safe.”

 

Bonus Features

  1. John Gosden talks Enable (September 26, 2019)

2. Enable gallops the Rowley Mile (September 25, 2019)

3. Frankie Dettori (September 25, 2019)

 

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

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In recognition of Man O’ War’s birth over a century ago, it’s been a time of celebration in the USA and Canada. So many fabulous articles, exhibits and online postings about America’s “favourite son” made for great reading and learning. THE VAULT is joining in the fun, with the assistance of B.K. Beckwith, Frank Gray Griswold and the Director of the Keeneland Library, Becky Ryder, to whom a special thank you is extended. 

I. Recollections of Louis Feustel, who trained Man O’ War

 

MAN O’ WAR exercising at Faraway Farm. Keeneland Library Collection. Used here with permission.

In B.K. Beckwith’s magical book, “Step And Go Together,” there is a chapter entitled “The Old Man and the Horse.” It’s a touching interview with Man O War’s trainer, Louis Feustel. We thought it would be fun to share some of Feustel’s recollections with our readers. (NOTE: B= Beckwith; F= Feustel; non-italic = notes on the chapter.)

MAN O’ WAR as a 2 year-old with trainer Louis Feustel (right front, in the light suit), owner Samuel Riddle (in round top hat) and jockey Johnny Loftus. The identity of the other gentleman unknown. Source: Pinterest

B: What was he like? What made him great?

F: I don’t really know…Maybe this will explain it — there was not a thing in the world that you wanted him to do that he would not try to do it better. If you asked him to walk, he’d fight to jog; if you asked him to jog, he’d grab the bit and gallop; if you wanted him to gallop he’d say “to hell with you” — and run.

B: They raced on steel then; you had no aluminum plates.It wouldn’t have made any difference…I think he’d have “tied ’em in knots” … yesterday, today or tomorrow… any weight, any distance.

F: Naturally, I’d agree with you…But I want to say here and now, I’ve never bragged too much about this horse. I’ve always felt the facts could speak for themselves. I loved him, big and mean and bull-headed as he was. He had a heart the size of all outdoors, and he had the physical power to go with it. I knew he was good from the beginning, and I wasn’t fool enough not to know that he was making me look good. Mr. Belmont and Mr. Riddle and the rest of them used to have long talks about what we would do with him, but they all came back to me to see what the horse wanted to do himself.

MAN O’ WAR working out. The drill was to “blow him out” roughly three-eigths of a mile the day before a race, followed by another eighth the day of a race. Keeneland Library: Cook Collection. Used here with permission.

 

F {continuing}: I guess…like every other trainer in the world, I had sense enough to know I had hold of the tail of a tiger and, while I could steer him some, I had to do a lot of swinging with him, I had to grow with him and try to out-guess him…figure things out with him and let him believe he’d done it for himself. You can’t handle a temperamental horse or human being any other way.

B: …Too many people are inclined to think that anybody could have handled “Big Red” …Nothing could be further from the truth. His massive frame housed as much destructive power and deviltry as the average hurricane. Maybe you could get to the “eye” of it with luck, but it took a very good man to navigate from there.

F: You see…I had a bit of an edge with him. I not only knew him from the day he was weaned, but I knew his sire and dam and his grandsire. I broke and trained and won with Mahubah — she started only twice with one first and one second — I handled Fair Play as a yearling and I used to gallop Hastings when I was exercise boy for August Belmont. They were all of them over-anxious and rough. I knew what to expect when I got Man O’ War.

Feustel’s experience with Hastings was short-lived.

F: I was assigned to gallop him an easy half-mile one morning…Two miles later, with him going like a runaway locomotive, somebody picked us up. I was never allowed to get on him again. And that …was alright with me. He scared me almost as much as the first horse I rode for Belmont.

HASTINGS was another tough customer in MAN O’ WAR’S pedigree. When Louis Feustel rode him as a boy for August Belmont, HASTINGS “scared me as much as the first horse I rode for Belmont.”

Feustel had been “bound out” to August Belmont when he was only 10 years old.

F: I got a dollar a month, plus board and room and clothes. I sent the dollar home to my folks. They kept us kids working on the ground for a long time in those days…

By 11, Feustel was riding for Belmont and he remained with racing stock all of his life. At 72, Feustel retired from the farm of Harry M. Warner, where he was farm manager, and with his wife, took over the operation of Mickey’s Tavern in Altadena. During his racing career, Feustel famously trained for Belmont and Sam Riddle, as well as for Elizabeth Arden, Averell Harriman, J.W.Y. Martin, Harry Brown and Edward Harkness.

F: I’ll still say, though, that the best man I ever knew was August Belmont, and Man O’ War was the best horse. It was a sad day for me when I took him back to Kentucky for retirement. It was cold and miserable when I unloaded him from the railway car. There were a lot of people around wanting to strip the blanket off him and take pictures. I guess I wasn’t very polite to ’em. I told ’em to get the hell outta there. When I took him to the van it was so old and rickety that I said to Miss Dangerfield, ” If you don’t get him something better than this to ride in, he’ll knock the sides out of it and end up in the road pulling it himself.” She didn’t like it but I was mad. I hated to see him go.

 

MAN O’ WAR in retirement and one of the vechicles that transported him. Was it the same one Feustel cautioned Miss Dangerfield about? Keeneland Library Collection. Used here with permission.

B: Why was he retired at the end of his three year-old season?

F: We figured that we’d get the grandstand on his back if we went on with him at four…He’d won the Potomac Handicap in his next to last start down at Le Havre, packing 138 pounds…he just galloped to them {the rest of the field}…{Sam Riddle} asked me to go ask Walter Vosburgh (then handicapper for all of New York tracks) what weight he’d put on the horse if we ran him as a four year-old. You know what that man’s answer was? “Lou…I can’t tell you exactly what weight I’d put on him next year, but I’ll say this much –I wouldn’t start him in his first out a pound less than 140” … What could we do? He wins at 140 and then there’s no ceiling. Vosburgh was right of course. He deserved it. But Riddle says, “Retire him. He’ll never run  again” …I wonder what he would have done if we’d gone on with him. We’d never really set him down, you know. Neither I nor anyone else knew just how fast he could run. I’ve always had a hunch on the tracks of those days he could have turned a mile in 1:32 flat…

B: Man O’ War was really Louie’s horse. Riddle bought him and paid the $5,000 at auction at Saratoga which made him his. But he didn’t want him and he never would have got him had it not been for Lou and Mrs. Riddle.

F: … Finally, in desperation, I turned my sales talk on Mrs. Riddle. We all went up to Saratoga and she says to him {Sam Riddle} “You’ve got to buy him. The big red one. Lou thinks he might be good. Just buy him for Lou’s sake if nothing else.” Man O’ War was really more Mrs. Riddle’s horse than Sam’s.

About Man O’ War’s management: it wasn’t as simple as just maintaining a perfect running machine.

F: I had no problems with soundness…But I had mental problems with him from the very beginning.The violent, competitive spirit which burned in him kept you continually on your guard. He never actually hurt anyone…but all of us working with him knew he might try it at any time. He’d peel the shirt off you if you weren’t looking, and he began to savage other horses even before we retired him…Sometimes sweets or a pet, or something of that sort, will help you. But not with him…

Man O’ War was a horse that needed a strong body on his back, hence Clarence Kummer, who Feustel described as “a husky type,” adding that Kummer was “the only one who could really rate him.”

F: I remember once when Kummer was sick up at Saratoga, I put Earl Sande up on him. It was in the Miller Stakes…He was carrying 131 pounds and he won off by six lengths in 1:56 3/5, a new track record {for 1 mile 3/16}. After the race Sande came up to me and he says, “You’ll never get me on his back again. He damned near pulled my arms out of their sockets!”

The Miller Stakes at Saratoga: MAN O’ WAR with Earl Sande up. After the race, Sande told Feustel, “You’ll never get me on his back again.” Keeneland Library: Cook Collection. Used here with permission.

Feustel also pointed out that horses were handled differently in those days.

F: It was a much longer process both before and after a workout. When I first began exercising stock for August Belmont, there were only two sets went to the track every morning. An individual horse would be out for an hour. He would be walked and then given long gallops, and usually brought back to a paddock two or three times, unsaddled and cooled out, and finally sent out for his serious drill. When we got back to the stable we didn’t just wash ’em off in a hurry and throw a cooler on ’em…Sometimes I used to think that all that working on ’em with the brush and curry, and the saddling and unsaddling, made ’em restless and mean.

C.C. Cook’s exquisite portrait of MAN O’ WAR. Keeneland Library: Cook Collection. Used here with permission.

Beckworth’s interview with Louis Feustel ends with the author noting how much alike, in their youth, trainer and colt seemed to be. However, age had made both Feustel and Big Red more mellow, even gentle.

In the case of Man O’War, Beckwith had visited him one last time at Faraway Farm before the death of the stallion, taking his dog with him. Having been assured that it was safe by Will Harbut, Beckwith and dog drew closer to the great horse.

Big Red lowered his head to sniff and then touch noses with the dog.

 

II. How great was Man O’ War? The reservations of Frank Gray Griswold (1854-1937)

Frank Gray Griswold was an American financier, sportsman and writer who was also the darling of New York society. Griswold was an enthusiastic “rider to hounds” and wrote several books about fox hunting, salmon fishing and one about the bloodlines and performance of notable thoroughbred horses. The book excerpted here is “Race Horses and Racing,” privately published by the Plimpton Press in 1925 and dedicated to the champion thoroughbred, Iroquois. It is a compendium featuring great thoroughbreds, including St. Simon, Lexington, The Tetrarch, Durbar II  — and Man O’ War. While Griswold clearly knows the biography and pedigree of each of his subjects, the larger purpose of this book is to persuade the reader of his expertise on the subject.

 

GRISWOLD pictured here (furthest right, white shoes) on one of his sports fishing jaunts. The photo featured in his book, “Sport on Land and Water.”

 

The champion IROQUOIS, depicted here by Currier & Ives, to whom Griswold’s book is dedicated. IROQUOIS was the first American-bred to win the Epsom Derby in 1881. He then went on to win the St. Leger and the St. James Palace Stakes, among others. Returned to the USA in 1883, he won several races before being retired to stud duty. He was the Leading Sire of 1892.

For Griswold, the standard of excellence is set by champions like Iroquois, to which “Race Horses and Racing” is dedicated.  Iroquois was, without question, a brilliant racehorse who won on both sides of the Atlantic in dramatic fashion, only missing the British Triple Crown by a second place finish in the Two Thousand Guineas. Too, Griswold was a friend of Iroquois’ owner, Pierre Lorillard IV, a millionaire aristocrat who owned Iroquois and raced thoroughbreds out of his Rancocas Stable in the UK and the USA. The introductory chapter of Griswold’s book is devoted to a history of Rancocas Stable.

What makes Griswold’s reservations about Man O’ War being “…hailed as the champion race horse of all times…” is interesting primarily because it disrupts the popular narrative of the day about Sam Riddle’s great horse. Griswold was a mover and shaker in New York society and this fact also makes it intriguing to wonder if his views about Man O’ War were popular among the elites — including horsemen — of the 1920’s. The answer is tough to ascertain. The press largely exhalted Man O’ War — but did their accolades fully convince everyone in the racing community that they were witnessing something they had never seen before?

The Dwyer, July 10, 1920. It was the only race where Feustel held his breath and prepared for defeat — until Kummer tapped him with the whip (one of only two times the colt evcer felt it). Photo shows MAN O’ WAR with Kummer up ,on his way to the post. Keeneland Library: Cook Collection. Used here with permission.

Griswold is happy to extol Man O’ War’s physical attributes: ” …Man O’ War is a chestnut with a star and slight stripe on his forehead. He is a level-built beautiful horse to look at, and as a three year-old was a giant in strength and full of quality. Some good judges thought he was a trifle too long in the back and too wide across the chest, but my personal opinion is that it would be difficult to improve his looks.”

In pedigree, Griswold declares Man O’ War “…hardly fashionably-bred,” noting that despite the good individuals in his bloodline (specifically, Galopin, Macgregor, Underhand, Rock Sand and Spendthrift), “…Man O’ War cannot be registered in the English stud book owing to the mare Aerolite…the dam of three great American race horses Spendthrift, Fellowcraft, and Rutherford; and she was also the sister to that good horse Idlewild” because “…there are several mares in the remote crosses of Aerolite’s pedigree that cannot be traced in the {English stud} book, for they end in the ‘woods.’ ” 

Griswold implies that while this glitch might be “…quite good enough for America,” it is less than desirable in a so-called champion’s pedigree. There were, of course, other champions in Man O’ War’s pedigree that Griswold ignored, notably St. Simon, Hampton, Australian and Doncaster. But Griswold is accurate about Aerolite; in her tenth generation there are indeed a number of individuals whose pedigrees remain incomplete even today. (It should be said that when Griswold is writing, America held true to the English bloodlines and pedigree standards in the development of American-bred thoroughbreds.)

 

James R. Keene’s SPENDTHRIFT (Australian X Aerolite)

But Griswold’s chief reservation lies in the time standard used to evaluate Man O’ War’s greatness, to which he responds, albeit between-the-lines, “But who did he really beat?” To quote Griswold directly: “…He was hailed the champion race horse of all times, yet he had not met a really good horse in his two years racing career, for John P. Grier, though a fast horse, could not stay and when he met Sir Barton the latter was no longer the champion he had been in 1920…”

Following a meticulous review of Man O’ War’s victories and new track records, Griswold writes, ” It was a pity that he did not meet the reliable Exterminator in the Saratoga Cup, and that he was not raced in America as a four year-old or sent to England to win the Ascot Cup, for turf history can now never explain how great a horse he was. He had proved that he was a game horse and that he could carry weight, but competition alone decides the worth and stamina of the racehorse, and he really was never asked the question. He goes down in history as a ‘riddle horse’ in more than one sense.” 

MAN O’ WAR and Will Harbut checking out the Hazeltine sculpture that would become the monument now housed in the Kentucky Horse Park. Keeneland Library Collection. Used here with permission.

The final argument in Griswold’s chapter on Man O’ War states his case firmly: ” Those sportsmen who believe in the time test will always contend that Man O’ War was the best horse that ever ran. Those who do not believe in the watch will always consider Luke Blackburne, Hindoo, Hanover, Salvator and Sysonby greater race horses than Man O’ War.”

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

1920: MAN O’ WAR winning the Lawrence Realization. Feustel and Griswold agree on one point: During his racing career, the colt was never asked the question. Keeneland Library: Cook Collection. Used here with permission.

Frank Gray Griswold’s reservations about the status of Man O’ War in the pantheon of American-bred thoroughbreds are unlikely to change anyone’s mind. But his argument is salient nevertheless. Conferring greatness on a thoroughbred of any year, decade or century has always been a complex business and remains hotly contested.

Not to mention the fact that Griswold’s central argument, centred as it is on the question of speed vs. stamina, is as current today as it was a century ago.

 

III. Recollections of Man O’ War by others (Keeneland magazine and The Blood-Horse)

 

 

SOURCES

Beckwith, B.K. Step And Go Together. 1967: A.S. Barnes and Co., Cranbury, New Jersey.

Griswold, Frank Gray. Race Horses and Racing. 1925: Privately printed by The Plimpton Press, USA. Limited to 500 copies.

The Keeneland Library, Lexington, KY, USA

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

MATA HARI at work, circa 1933-1934.

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

Here’s a punter’s look at Flameaway:

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

Selected Bibiliography

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

The Blood Horse.

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

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

 

 

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Special thanks to Charlotte Farmer, who introduced this great filly to me, and John Engelhardt, Executive Director, Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners. Without their help, this article would never have been written and I would have missed out on the story of an exceptional thoroughbred. Thank you.

This article is dedicated to Ryan Brady, whose journey with a filly he had never met speaks of a love great enough to overcome adversity, and an enduring respect for those who weave our history. 

GLACIAL PRINCESS with her dam, GAY NORTH, a daughter of the mighty NEARCTIC, who sired NORTHERN DANCER.

GLACIAL PRINCESS with her dam, GAY NORTH, a daughter of the mighty NEARCTIC, who sired NORTHERN DANCER. Photo courtesy of the Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners.

When you study thoroughbred history you quickly come to see that the stories of hundreds of great thoroughbreds have been forgotten. The reasons are as many as the individuals themselves, but at particular risk are those thoroughbreds who raced locally, often in the states where they were born, never venturing to prestigious venues or those races, like the Kentucky Derby, that almost guarantees an enduring legacy. That they are forgotten is especially harsh, considering that these horses are in many ways the true heroes and heroines of racing in North America and in the world at large. Without them and the many racetracks where they ran, there would be no sport at all.

The dark filly pictured above with her dam could have run with the best of her year, colt or filly, but she made her stand principally at Beulah Park in Ohio. Glacial Princess, as she would be named by owners William Fouss and Dr. John Graver, crowns the pantheon of thoroughbred champions in her state. A legend and beloved, she brought people to the track just to see her, to breathe in a little of the same air that Glacial Princess inhaled and to go home saying that they had seen a mighty filly run.

Despite a proud 91-year history, Beulah Park, its people and their stories were about to disappear forever.

During a walk through Beulah Park with his fiancee shortly before it closed, Ryan Brady and his intended came upon Glacial Princess’ headstone. Brady’s fiancee wondered aloud if the champion filly’s memorial would be paved over, once the track was sold and developers started to dig up the infield. The thought made Brady feel ill.

“…’It was really important to find a dignified resting place for Glacial Princess,’ Brady told thisweeknews.com. ‘I couldn’t stand the thought of her grave being paved over by a parking lot or a new building.

‘I never got to see her race, but growing up in Ohio, I knew her history,’ added Brady, ‘and I thought this is just the right thing to do.’ ” (excerpted from The Blood-Horse, January 19, 2017)

And so it was that Ryan Brady began a two-year campaign to honour a Princess he had never actually seen. And he was lucky enough to enjoy the full support of many key people, among them Beulah Park’s new ownership.

Dr. John Graver, who owned Glacial Princess in partnership with William Fouss, was stoutly behind Brady’s efforts and agreed to donate his filly’s headstone, should a suitable burial site be found for her. Brady also consulted with Charlotte Farmer, who had located, exhumed and transported the champion Noor’s remains from California to Old Friends in Georgetown, Kentucky for re-burial. And when he heard about the efforts to find an eternal place of rest for Glacial Princess, Michael Blowen of Old Friends stepped forward once again, just as he had for Noor and Barbara D. Livingston’s beloved champion, Springsteel, who found himself in similar straits when Rockingham Park closed, to offer “…a place for her {Glacial Princess’} fans to come and honour her.” Upon hearing the news, Charlotte Farmer expressed her joy, saying, “…Now my Prince {Noor} will have a Princess beside him to complete his royal court.”

noors-grave_a27821b25dc6e687af31113b8eb00abf

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BRENT'S PRINCE was Ohio's Horse of the Year in

BRENT’S PRINCE was Ohio’s Horse of the Year in 1975. The son of the 1967 winner of the Kentucky Derby, Proud Clarion (Hail To Reason), BRENT’S PRINCE proved a very good sire. Photo and copyright, the Estate of Tony Leonard.

Glacial Princess was bred by Cider Mill Farm in Ohio and came into the world in 1981. Other than a white star, the youngster bore a distinctive white spot on her right flank. The spot was like a kiss from Mahmoud, who appeared in her female family in the 5th generation. But that was just the beginning. The dark-coated newborn was racing royalty: a daughter of the 1975 Ohio Horse of the Year and 3 year-old Champion, Brent’s Prince (a son of the 1967 Kentucky Derby winner Proud Clarion by Hail To Reason) and Gay North, a daughter of Nearctic, the sire of Northern Dancer. And within the bloodlines of the filly foal’s pedigree were other legendary names: Nearco, Bull Page and his sire, Bull Lea, Hyperion, Turn-To, Blue Larkspur, Scapa Flow (GB) and Gainsborough (GB).

 

NEARCTIC, who famously sired Canada's NORTHERN DANCER, was the BM sire of GLACIAL PRINCESS.

NEARCTIC, the BM sire of GLACIAL PRINCESS, also sired Canada’s NORTHERN DANCER.

There was not much question who had dominated the Princess’ blood. She had Nearctic’s determination to never be headed in a race, and his (at times) thoroughly unloveable personality. In fact, as far as her character went, Glacial Princess was a carbon copy of Northern Dancer, who reserved his affection for only one person — Winnie Taylor, the wife of E.P. Taylor, who bred and owned him. Otherwise, he was a mean-spirited little bully. In the case of the daughter of Brent’s Prince, the object of her affection was trainer John Rutherford. By the time she arrived at Rutherford’s barn, Glacial Princess had matured into a tall, iron-grey filly and she quickly let everyone know that she just wasn’t cut out to be a cuddle bug.

Lynn Boggs, herself a thoroughbred owner, got to know Glacial Princess when Rutherford asked her to braid roses into the filly’s mane for an upcoming race.

“With John, she was an angel. He loved that horse and she loved him,” she {Boggs} said. “Other people — she didn’t much like dealing with them.

“She had a little bit of a mean streak in her, it’s true,” she said. “But when you have a horse like that, so regal and proud on the track, you can’t help but fall in love with them.” (excerpted from This Week Community News, January 11, 2017)

 

GLACIAL PRINCESS on track, wearing the colours of Fouss and Graver's Equinall Stable.

GLACIAL PRINCESS on track, wearing the colours of Fouss and Graver’s Equinall Stable. Photo courtesy of the Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners.

 

It didn’t matter that she wasn’t one of the “sweet” ones. Glacial Princess was as rare as flamingos in an Ohio winter: a superstar filly who would triple her sale price in earnings by the end of her juvenile season. Ironically, her nickname was the “Iron Lady,” the same as that of another racing champion born a year after Glacial Princess, Lady’s Secret.

Ohio’s Iron Lady not only earned the title for her steel grey coat, but also for her fierce competitive spirit. Running against fillies and colts, under all conditions and carrying as much as 128 lbs. on her back, Glacial Princess always gave it her best shot. She was one of those thoroughbred’s who answers the question with 150% effort in race after race after race. The jockeys who guided her through to a remarkable career included Heriberto Rivera Jr., Danny Weiler and Sebastian Madrid.

In 1985, Glacial Princess ran 17 times, winning 11, 9 of which were stakes and earning Ohio Horse of the Year honours.

GLACIAL PRINCESS out of the gate.

GLACIAL PRINCESS out of the gate. Photo courtesy of the Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners.

The following year, Glacial Princess ran 19 times, closing out the year with a record of 8-2-2. The filly made Ohio thoroughbred racing history, when she became the first Ohio-bred to ever record $200,00 plus earnings in back-to-back years and she went on to win a second consecutive Horse of the Year title in a tie with the colt, Rhinflo.

1986 also saw Glacial Princess run her finest race, cruising to victory in the Miss Southern Ohio Stakes at River Downs by 5 lengths. The performance is emphatic enough to spark memories of Ruffian and of Rachel Alexandra’s Oaks. But 1986 also brought disappointment: defeat at Aqueduct in The G.III Vagrancy — although Glacial Princess was later found to have had a virus — and in Hawthorne’s Yo Tambien Handicap (The Chicago Tribune, October 2, 1986.).

And somewhere along the way, the filly had lost trainer John Rutherford, first going to Marvin Moncrief and finally to Gary M. King. In fact, on the Pedigree Query website, two other trainers’ names appear next to the filly’s list of graded stakes wins: Linda Lysher (Evergreen Stakes, 1986) and Patrick J. Kerins (George Lewis Memorial Stakes, 1986, Diana and Lady Liberty Stakes, 1987).

Still, her year had been a winning one. As co-owner Graver told the press, ” …All of her losses this season have been justifiable…She will continue racing as long as she remains healthy and sound.” (The Cincinnati Enquirer, May 24, 1986.)

GLACIAL PRINCESS was racing royalty and Ohio's greatest pride.

GLACIAL PRINCESS was Ohio’s greatest pride. Photo courtesy of the Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners.

 

On April 25, 1987 it all came to an end when Glacial Princess broke down. The injuries she sustained made it impossible to save her and she was buried in the infield at Beulah Park, near the finish line.

When a loved one is taken, the bereft mourn forever. So it was with the Ohio racing community: a filly who raised hopes and hearts was gone.

Old Beulah Park cradled her in its arms, an embrace that bespoke memory and loss.

GLACIAL PRINCESS' headstone, in the infield at Beulah Park. Photo courtesy of the Ohio Thoroughbred

GLACIAL PRINCESS’ headstone, in the infield at Beulah Park. Photo courtesy of the Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners.

 

The film below chronicles Glacial Princess’ career, offering rare footage of her as a filly foal and on the track. It was written and produced in a collaboration between Carroll and Marlane Nibert, John Engelhardt and the filly’s owners.

It is an absolute treasure:

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In January 2017, having the approval of Beulah Park’s Pat Kelley and the Grove City administration, the search for Glacial Princess’ mortal remains began, with the assistance of members of the anthropology department at Ohio State University. John Queen of Richwood, a friend of Brady’s, supplied the back-hoe and the team went to work with Brady in attendance. They knew where the filly had been buried, but other important details were sketchy.

“…after hours of digging Saturday, the group found no trace of her. It’s possible the remains deteriorated, they said.

“They found a railroad spike, the remains of a small dog wrapped in a blanket, and a race ticket believed to be from the 1930s. Ultimately, after excavating a good portion of the infield, they decided that Glacial Princess will remain permanently at rest at the track where her impressive career began and ended.” (excerpted from an article in the Columbus Dispatch, January 22, 2017.)

The video below includes footage from the original short film about Glacial Princess (above) but also includes coverage of the search for the champion filly’s remains:

 

With mixed emotions, Ryan Brady carefully collected pieces of the winner’s circle, some dirt from the finish line and the burial site, together with an old betting ticket that they had found. Then he deposited it all into a tote that would be sent on to Old Friends, followed by Glacial Princess’ headstone. Of very real comfort was the fact that the plan for the development of Beulah Park will include a sizeable park to commemorate Grove City’s racing history — and preliminary renderings {of said plan} show it encompassing Glacial Princess’ grave, meaning that what remains of her won’t be disturbed.

When the Memorial Service in her honour takes place at Old Friends, Ryan plans to bring red carnations — the state flower of Ohio — for his Princess.

ohio-state-bird-and-flower-magnet-438-xl

 

 

 

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

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Thanks to your support, messages and enthusiasm, THE VAULT goes into its 7th year in 2017. I can hardly believe it! This article, over two years in the making, is my special Christmas gift to each and every one of you. With it comes my warmest wishes for a joyous and safe holiday season, filled with laughter, surprises and special moments to cherish. Love, Abigail

 

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HOF jockey and trainer Johnny Longden rode winners with a capital “W” — champions like Swaps, Noor, Busher, Whirlaway, Round Table, Your Host and George Royal. But no matter how great the others were, Longden would say that “The Count” — Count Fleet — was the best of them all.

COUNT FLEET shown here with his trainer

COUNT FLEET shown here with his trainer Don Cameron and The Count’s regular exercise lad, Frank Kiniry. Photographer unknown.

Horsemen like my grandfather tend to say, “The reason so few horses ever get to the Triple Crown is because it’s a road fraught with everything but good luck.” And the story of Count Fleet and Johnny Longden is exactly that: so filled with the fickleness of Fate — good and bad — that it is absolutely remarkable they ended up together in the starting gate of the 1943 Kentucky Derby.

As regular readers of THE VAULT know, it was my grandfather who set me on the path that led to writing about thoroughbreds and standardbreds. No question I got the “horse gene,” as my late mother called it, from my Grandpa. It was his passion –a bright fire that illuminated the stories of the great thoroughbreds and standardbreds of his day — that kindled my imagination. In Grandpa’s pantheon, few were more admired than the incomparable John Longden, who had roots in Canada, and his “horse of a lifetime,”Count Fleet. I risk to say that The Count crowned my grandfather’s pantheon. He never said so, but he also never talked about any other thoroughbred, including Man O War, with the same fire in his eye. The Count had moved him in a way that none of the others he so admired, before or after him, would.

Count Fleet came into the world on March 24, 1940 at his owner, John D. Hertz’s, Stoner Creek Stud near Paris, Kentucky. The tiny son of champion and 1928 Kentucky Derby winner, Reigh Count, and the mare, Quickly — a great great granddaughter of the British wonder horse, The Tetrarch — did not impress. Hertz, the rental car magnate, was a canny businessman in all things and Quickly’s little colt foal likely went onto his “for sale” inventory within months of his birth.

 

 

REIGH COUNT

REIGH COUNT, the sire of COUNT FLEET. An outstanding looking individual who was bred in the purple, Hertz bought him from Willis Sharpe Kilmer after seeing the colt savage another horse during a race. Photo and copyright, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

 

QUICKLY, the dam of COUNT FLEET. Photographer unknown.

QUICKLY, the dam of COUNT FLEET, carried the blood of one of the greatest thoroughbreds of all time, THE TETRARCH, in her 4th generation. A sprinter, QUICKLY made 85 starts with a record of 32-14-13 before she was acquired by Hertz from Joseph D. Widener. Photographer unknown.

 

In 1912, almost three decades before the birth of Count Fleet, Mary Longden and her four youngest children — Lillian, Doris, five year-old John and baby Elsie — closed up their home in Wakefield, England and boarded a train for Liverpool. From there, they would board a ship that would take them to Canada, where they were to meet up with Johnny Longden’s father, Herb, and two older siblings. The family’s eventual destination would be Tabor, Alberta, where Herb had found work in the coal mines.

But the train was running behind schedule. Mary feared for the worst: that their ship would sail before they arrived at the port. And, as it turned out, she was right.

The ship they were booked on was none other than the Titanic.

As Johnny would tell it to B. K. Beckwith, author of The Longden Legend, ” …I was five years old and it didn’t mean too much to me then. I guess kids of that age aren’t overly impressed with the workings of fate or whatever you want to call it…I’ve heard since the iceberg ripped most of the bottom out of the boat. It probably would have been curtains for us. The Longden pocketbook wasn’t in any shape to afford upper deck cabins. Most likely we’d have been among the fifteen hundred that went down with her…”  

 

titanic-sinking-newspaper

The NEW YORK AMERICAN front page following the sinking of the TITANIC.

From his arrival as a little boy in Canada to his first encounter with Count Fleet, Johnny worked first as a herd boy and then as an apprentice coal miner and a clerk, all the while dreaming of becoming a jockey. He started out racing quarter horses before switching to thoroughbreds. By 1927 Johnny was working under contract for small-time thoroughbred owners in Alberta, Canada and in southwest American states just across the border. Along the way he met up with another youngster, George Woolf, and the two would remain best friends until Woolf’s tragic end in 1946, at the age of 35.

The $150,000 statue was commissioned by Cardston ranchers Jack and Ida Lowe and created by Artist Don Toney. It is being donated to the province of Alberta.

The statue of George Woolf and Seabiscuit  captured at the moment when George yelled, “So long, Charley!” to War Admiral’s jockey, pulling away to win the most famous match race in American racing history. The sculpture was commissioned by Cardston ranchers Jack and Ida Lowe and created by Artist Don Toney. Unveiled in 2010, the statue stands in Cardston, Alberta, Woolf’s birthplace.

 

In the same year that Reigh Count won the Kentucky Derby, Longden’s contract was bought up by one E.A. “Sleepy” Armstrong, a veteran horseman; when Sleepy Armstrong came into Johnny’s life, things started to change. His horizons expanded to racetracks in Cuba and Agua Caliente, where he rode a very good colt named Bahamas against the mighty Phar Lap in the Caliente Handicap of 1932.

Phar Lap won, of course. As Johnny remembered it: “I was leading the field to the three eights pole. About that point the big New Zealander went by the rest of us like we were tied to the fence…” :

 

 

By the early 1940’s, Longden was an established American jockey with a growing reputation for excellence, voted America’s leading jockey in 1938. In 1940 he was one of the founders of the (American) Jockey Guild. Now based in California, “The Pumper” — as he was nicknamed by his peers for his tendency to pump his arms as he encouraged a horse forward — had also become an American citizen. Over the testing ground of tracks from Canada to Cuba, Johnny had also learned to ride just about any horse under any conditions anywhere. Today, we would call him a “horse whisperer.” His whispers to particularly difficult mounts were communicated through voice, legs and hands. Johnny wasn’t one to hit a horse unless it really needed a reminder; instead, he relied on the language he had learned that his mounts would understand.

COUNT FLEET rendered by C.W. Anderson during a work. Based on a photograph from 1942/1943, this is a faithful representation of THE COUNT as a youngster.

COUNT FLEET during a work, beautifully rendered by C.W. Anderson and based on a photograph taken in 1942/1943.

 

By the time he was a yearling, Count Fleet already had a reputation for being tough to handle and was, accordingly, sent to auction. One of Hertz’s stable lads, Sam Ramsen, pleaded with the Stoner Creek manager on the colt’s behalf and his words were to become prophetic, “Someday he’s going to be some fine racer. When that leggy brown colt wants to run, he can just about fly.”

(This first attempt to get rid of him as a yearling remains a distinctly odd feature of The Count’s narrative, especially since Hertz had purchased his sire after seeing him savage another thoroughbred in a race, allegedly declaring, ” I love a fighter, man or horse.”)

Despite Ramsen’s plea, there were no takers at the sale. So Quickly’s baby boy was given a name, registered to owner Mrs. John D. (Fannie) Hertz and sent off to the Hertz’s trainer, Gregory Duncan “Don” Cameron.  The stage was set for one of history’s great partnerships: in 1939, Cameron had contracted Johnny Longden to ride horses owned by Fannie Hertz, as well as another owner, Vera S. Bragg.

 

The stage was set: the paths of Johnny and THE COUNT crossed in 1942. Photo and copyright: The Baltimore Sun.

The stage was set: the paths of Johnny and THE COUNT finally converged in 1942. Here they are working at Belmont. Photo and copyright: The Baltimore Sun.

 

The first time Johnny rode The Count, the colt came close to killing him. As Longden told the story, the pair were working at Belmont Park and Johnny noticed two horses coming towards them on the track. But The Count had running on his mind and Johnny couldn’t get him to either slow down or change lanes, so he somehow managed to guide him between the pair without anyone getting hurt. Telling the story to his biographer, B.K. Beckwith, Johnny still couldn’t envision how he’d pulled it off. But one thing was certain: after this incident, only Longden rode Count Fleet in race preps and actual races. Everyone else was too terrified to even contemplate it, although there are a few rare images of another young lad working the colt when he was in his 3 year-old season.

THE COUNT was a handful, but according to Longden, he was not a mean horse at all. Photographer and source unknown.

THE COUNT was a handful, but according to Longden, he was not mean — just a colt with a mind of his own. Photograph circa 1943. Photographer and source unknown.

 

Despite the Belmont episode, Johnny was adamant that there wasn’t a mean bone in Count Fleet’s body, although this fact went largely unnoticed in the press of the day. Headlines like “NASTY BUT FAST” dogged the colt throughout his brief racing career, even when he was packing fans in like sardines at Aqueduct or Churchill Downs.

In his biography, Longden explained The Count’s personality this way,” He was not, you understand, a mean horse…Just one full of the devil with a mind which was very much his own.”  As a two year-old, Johnny described Count Fleet as a somewhat sorry looking individual though, “He really didn’t have the look of a top prospect then…He was a medium size — about fifteen hands three inches — and, though he was deep in the girth and had a good shoulder, he was weedy behind…he looked more like a filly than a colt.”  In addition, Count Fleet at two weighed in at only 900 lbs., reaching 1,000 lbs. by January 1943. John Hervey (“Salvator”) was more complimentary, describing the colt as one who, though not handsome, sported a very fine head and a character both intelligent and inquisitive.

 

"...He looked more like a filly than a colt." COUNT FLEET as a two year-old. Photo from THE VAULT'S private collection.

“…he looked more like a filly than a colt.” COUNT FLEET as a two year-old. Photo and copyright: Bert Morgan, KEENELAND .

 

In 1942, before Count Fleet had made his first start as a juvenile, Johnny recalled another trainer, Sammy Smith, coming to Cameron’s barn at Belmont one morning. The Count was led out for Smith to look over and Longden understood that the colt was being offered for sale; the asking price was $4500. Now Johnny had been working for the Hertzes for almost two years at this point, and he had established a trusting relationship with John D. Hertz. When he realized The Count was up for grabs, he picked up a bicycle from the yard and pumped muscle to the nearest phone booth to call John D. Fortunately, Johnny got hold of him and begged Hertz not to sell the feisty youngster.

Hertz replied that he considered the colt dangerous and was afraid that he would kill Longden one day, to which Johnny replied, ” I’m not afraid of him.” There was a long pause. Then came the words,“All right…If you’re game enough to ride him, I’ll keep him.” 

At first, Hertz may well have regretted his decision: in his two year-old campaign, Count Fleet had a kind of seesaw year, breaking his maiden by four lengths in his third start followed by other wins as well as a few upsets. However, throughout the season the colt never finished worse than third. Said Longden of The Count’s juvenile year, ” He beat himself…He never should have lost a race, but he was a tough customer to handle, green and rough in those early starts, and you couldn’t take hold of him –you couldn’t even properly guide him. You had to let him run, and if you didn’t have racing room, he’d go to the outside or just climb over horses. If you were in close quarters with him, you were in trouble.” 

Actually, Count Fleet’s similarity to the most respected speedball of all time, The Tetrarch, was remarkable. It was just as though the “great grey” had come back in the form of a deceptively unremarkable brown colt.

 

"I'm not afraid of him." Johnny and COUNT FLEET. Photographer and source unknown.

“I’m not afraid of him.” Johnny and THE COUNT. Photographer and source unknown.

 

THE TETRARCH was selected one of the best thoroughbreds of the last century, even though he only raced for a single season. Ridiculed for his markings ("chubari spots"), THE TETRARCH would have the last laugh by becoming a prepotent sire and BM sire.

THE TETRARCH was selected one of the best thoroughbreds of the last century, even though he only raced for a single season. Ridiculed for his markings (“chubari spots”), THE TETRARCH would have the last laugh by becoming a prepotent sire and BM sire. COUNT FLEET carried his blood in the fourth generation of his pedigree.

 

But The Count wasn’t only a speed devil — he was also a lover boy.

In the Belmont Futurity, as Longden manoeuvred the two year-old toward the lead, he drew alongside the filly, Askmenow, a daughter of champion Menow. As Johnny told it, “…The Count decided he didn’t want to leave her. She was in that delicate condition that appealed to him. I couldn’t budge him. He just galloped along beside her and let Occupation steal the race.” 

It was the last race Count Fleet would ever lose.

The colt’s next start was in the historic Champagne Stakes in New York. That day, he really took a toll on Johnny’s patience, acting up behind the gate and sending the track lads scurrying. It was the only time he would feel Longden’s whip, which was applied to get his mind on the job at hand.

And The Count got the message: he led from gate to the wire, setting a world record for two year-olds in the process of 1:34 and 4/5. After this victory, Johnny felt he’d found “the key to him” — get the colt out on top and just let him run. “…It was what he loved to do more than anything else.”  In other words, Count Fleet needed to own the track from the first break. And it was exactly this that his gifted jockey would guide him to do. Not that this was always that easy to pull off: “…that horse {The Count} did horrify me on occasions,” Johnny once confided to his biographer.

COUNT FLEET wins the Champagne stakes, Longden up, and sets a new track record.

COUNT FLEET wins the Champagne Stakes, Longden up, and sets a world record for two year-olds. Photographer/source unknown.

 

In the Pimlico Futurity, The Count faced his rival, Occupation, once again. Although he broke on top, Occupation was soon overtaken by the Hertzes little whiz kid, who flew by to win by five and equal the course record. The Count’s last start of 1942 was in the Walden Stakes. If there had been any doubt as to his ability, it all ended that day: the bay who looked more like a filly than a colt won by roughly thirty lengths, carrying weight of 132 lbs. This performance, together with his other wins that season, made Count Fleet good enough to abscond with the title that, at the beginning of the racing calendar, looked to be Occupation’s — namely, U.S. Champion Two Year-Old (colt).

 

count-fleet-before-wood-memorial__57

 

The Count went into 1943 as the favourite to win the Kentucky Derby, a feat that would allow his sire, Reigh Count, entry into the elite club of Derby sires of Derby winners. Other very good three year-olds of 1943 included Blue Swords, Slide Rule and The Count’s nemesis, Occupation. Older horses who added to the spirit of the sport that year were Equipoise’s son, Shut Out, who had won the 1942 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, Belair Stud’s Apache and Marise Farms’ Market Wise, a son of Broker’s Tip who had famously defeated Whirlaway in the 1941 Jockey Gold Cup in track record time.

 

Edgemere Handicap, 1943: APACHE (blinkers) edges SHUT OUT to take the win, with MARKET WISE and Johnny Longden coming in third. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

Older horses running in 1943 did much to keep the sport an exciting one: Edgemere Handicap, 1943 — APACHE (blinkers) edges SHUT OUT to take the win, with MARKET WISE and Johnny Longden coming in third. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

After claiming an easy victory in the St. James Purse, the colt and his team were off to Aqueduct to compete in the Wood Memorial, then run at a distance of 1m, 7yards. These were, of course, the War Years and there were many restrictions on travel being enforced America-wide, all of which seriously threatened the running of the Kentucky Derby, which dilemma Colonel Matt Winn, the President of Churchill Downs, was wrestling with even as the gates swung open for the Wood Memorial.

countfleetapr_1943

Rare photo of COUNT FLEET in 1943, breaking in either the Wood Memorial or The Withers. THE COUNT is the first arrow closest to “Copywritten Image.” Photo from the private collection of THE VAULT.

The anticipation of spectators at the Wood, according to John Hervey, seemed to set Aqueduct on fire and derived from The Count’s performance — and new track record — in the slop in the St. James Purse. Both Blue Swords and Slide Rule lined up at the gate, but before The Count was loaded, he was either kicked or grabbed in his hind leg: “…It was low down, near the fetlock. We went on and won easy anyway, but it filled up pretty bad afterwards, and for a times we were afraid we might not make the Kentucky Derby. I sat up and tubbed him in ice all the way to Louisville. We went down in a boxcar. It was nip and tuck, but we made it to the race…” (Longden as quoted by Beckwith, his biographer).

But however uncomfortable the colt might have been, he took the Wood in 1:43, and made two excellent colts look more like cart horses than thoroughbreds.

A look at COUNT FLEET'S hind leg following his win in the Wood Memorial. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun.

A look at COUNT FLEET’S hind leg following his win in the Wood Memorial. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun.

Matt Winn had now resolved with authorities that, although the horses would arrive by boxcar and/or on wheels for the Kentucky Derby, only local people would be in attendance at the track that day. As those who crowded Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May 1943 would remember it, the “Streetcar Derby” was worth it, even though they had to leave their cars at home.

The Count did not disappoint, rolling passed Blue Swords and Slide Rule to a victory that bespoke his class. Below, silent footage of the race:

 

 

COUNT FLEET wins the Kentucky Derby and makes his sire, REIGH COUNT, a Derby-winning sire of a Derby-winning son. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

COUNT FLEET wins the Kentucky Derby and makes his sire, REIGH COUNT, a Derby-winning sire of a Derby-winning son. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

 

Johnny and COUNT FLEET festooned with roses. Photographer/source unknown.

Johnny and COUNT FLEET festooned with roses. Photographer/source unknown.

 

And then it was on to Pimlico, where the colt scored an even more decisive victory in the Preakness, beating Blue Swords by 8 lengths. Routing Blue Swords still again brought The Count’s reputation to its next level, since the former was a beautifully-bred son of Blue Larkspur whose dam was a daughter of Man O’ War. Blue Swords was the Sham of his day, confronted with a determined athlete who tended to wear his opponents down before the race was even half over. As The Blood-Horse put it, “If Count Fleet is the spectacular comet in the racing skies of 1943, then Blue Swords is the comet’s tail.”

 

THE COUNT arrives at Pimlico with trainer,

THE COUNT arrives at Pimlico with trainer, Don Cameron. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun.

 

Leading them on a merry chase, COUNT FLEET swings into the turn at Pimlico.

Leading them on a merry chase, COUNT FLEET swings into the turn at Pimlico. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun.

 

Wearing the black-eyed Susans. Photographer and source unknown.

Wearing the black-eyed Susans. Photographer and source unknown.

 

Trainer Cameron decided to run him next in the Withers, just to “keep him sharp.”  And The Count might have been at least a tad to blame: after a race — any race, from the easiest to the Derby and Preakness — it was not unusual for the colt to tire out two hot walkers as he cooled down. He never once came back from a race worn out.

Again, in what was becoming an all-too-familiar story, Johnny and The Count came home ahead of the competition in the Withers, leaving Slide Rule — who had skipped The Preakness — six lengths behind. The press — keen to exaggerate anything peculiar or interesting in an otherwise dark time — had already elevated The Count to the status of Man O’ War following his Preakness romp. But when the three year-old took the Withers, they were dumbfounded. This was due also to the fact that only one other Triple Crown winner had pulled off the double, the great Sir Barton. It was “a feat so difficult that any turfman who has witnessed it once need not expect to see it again during his lifetime.”²

Streaking home in The Withers, the second-to-last race of his career.

Streaking home in The Withers, the second-to-last race of his career. Photographer and source unknown, but possibly The Baltimore Sun.

 

John and Fannie Hertz with their champion. Photo circa 1943.

John and Fannie Hertz with their champion. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun.

 

Count Fleet went to the post for the very last time in the 1943 Belmont Stakes, although no-one anticipated that it would be his final start. The high rolling colts like Blue Swords and Slide Rule had stayed home, leaving The Count to face a field of two who were truly only going to win if, in Johnny’s words, “… he’d have to fall down … and even then I thought he could get up and win. He was that good.”

Those who ride will tell you that horses react to resistance like dogs — in the case of horses, they just run faster. So it was that when Fate joined the dance, Count Fleet decided to fight back.

“He fractured a bone in his left front leg. I felt him bobble in the long stretch and knew he had hurt himself…I started to pull him up but he’d have none of it. He just grabbed the bit in that bull-headed way of his and took off again.” (Longden as quoted by Beckwith, his biographer).

 

 

You'd never know that there was anything wrong with him at all: COUNT FLEET comes home in the Belmont Stakes to become America's sixth Triple Crown winner.

You’d never know that there was anything wrong with him at all: COUNT FLEET comes home in the Belmont Stakes to become America’s sixth Triple Crown winner. Photo and source unknown.

 

Count Fleet’s performance was so devastatingly good that the Hertzes were, of course, delighted to welcome their Triple Crown champion into the winner’s circle. But the next morning, the Count was so badly off that neither trainer nor groom could get him out of his stall. The injury involved a tendon and the limb was fired. The colt was then kept at Belmont until October, when he was shipped to the Hertzes Stoner Creek farm in Kentucky. The racing world waited, praying that the champion would return in 1944. But the Hertzes were owners who always put their horses first and when the risk to The Count appeared too great, it was with deep regret that the decision was made to retire him. In the Hertzes’ mind, there was never any question of risking his life on the track.

 

Johnny and THE COUNT, in living colour. Source unknown, although probably a journal or magazine of the day.

Johnny and THE COUNT, in living colour. Source unknown, although probably a journal or magazine of the day.

 

Whether it was his brief career or just the realities of war time, The Count’s story has been woefully neglected over the decades since he won the Triple Crown. In fact, researching Count Fleet’s racing career — in terms of coming up with something other than the obvious — represents the second longest project THE VAULT has ever undertaken. Insight into the character of the horse came principally from two sources: Johnny Longden’s biography and the superb record of John Hervey aka “Salvator,” as provided in “American Race Horses, 1943.” The former reference I owe to the great Steve Haskin, to whom I am deeply indebted.

Another issue pointed out by Hervey that likely had some impact on Count Fleet’s reputation was that criticism of his career was often based on “But whom did he beat?” In Hervey’s view, the Belmont aside, these doubters clearly weren’t much up on their game, since individuals like Occupation, Blue Swords and Slide Rule were extremely worthy competitors. It was more, in Hervey’s view, the fact that Count Fleet made it look too easy. Referencing the wisdom of the incomparable W.S. Vosburgh when writing about America’s latest Triple Crown winner, Hervey also had this to say: “…As racing goes, the enthusiasts have short memories. They require new gods to worship, and if, a season or two hence, these deities show feet of clay, by that time still newer ones will have displaced them.”³ 

Critics of his racing career there may have been, but Count Fleet would triumph again as a sire.

In 1951, a son, Counterpoint, won the Belmont Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He was also chosen as 1951 Horse of the Year. And again in that same year, a daughter, Kiss Me Kate, was named Champion Three Year Old. But perhaps sweetest of all was Count Turf’s win in the 1951 Kentucky Derby. Then, in 1952, One Count shared Horse of the Year honors with the two year-old Native Dancer for his wins in the Belmont, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup.

 

 

COUNT TURF. Source unknown

COUNT TURF. Source unknown.

 

KISS ME KATE with Eddie Arcaro in the irons. Source unknown.

KISS ME KATE with Eddie Arcaro in the irons. Source unknown.

 

Nor would The Count’s legacy end here. Through his daughters, Count Fleet was BM sire to one of the greatest thoroughbreds of all time, Kelso, as well as to champions Lamb Chop, Quill, Prince John, and the 1965 Kentucky Derby and Santa Anita Derby winner, Lucky Debonair.

KELSO with owner, Allaire DuPont. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

KELSO with owner, Allaire DuPont. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

Count Fleet lived to be thirty-three when, after foundering for three days, he was laid to rest at Stoner Creek Stud on December 3, 1973.

…… And I learned exactly why my beloved grandfather’s eyes shone so brightly when he spoke about Count Fleet and Johnny Longden: the same year that The Count departed, I watched Secretariat and Ron Turcotte win the Belmont.

 

COUNT FLEET at thirty years of age, as captured by the genius of the late Tony Leonard. Photo and copyright, the estate of Tony Leonard.

COUNT FLEET at thirty years of age, as captured by the genius of the late Tony Leonard. Photo and copyright, the estate of Tony Leonard.

 

 

BONUS FEATURES

 

A Visual Story of Count Fleet:

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny Longden’s last ride:

 

 

 

Footnotes

¹As Titanic buffs will know, the ship set sail from Southampton, not from Liverpool. But this is how Johnny told the story to his biographer and Longden had a reputation for being an honest man, unlikely to grandstand by telling a lie. One has to wonder if the “lower deck” passengers weren’t taken on in Liverpool, where the Titanic’s crew boarded the ill-fated ocean liner. Or, was the plan to get a “connecting” ship from Liverpool to Southampton, unlikely as that would seem. Or, is it possible that Mary Longden was employed to work on the Titanic, in turn for passage for herself and her children? Or, was this simply a fanciful tale that young Johnny was told and believed to be true?

² John Hervey, in American Race Horses 1943, pp. 107

³ Ibid, pp 99

Sources

Beckwith, B.K. The Longden Legend. 1973: A.S. Barnes and Co., Inc.

Hervey, John. American Race Horses 1943. 1944: The Sagamore Press.

Archives of the Daily Racing Form in the University of Kentucky Digital Library.

Archives of the Milwaukee Journal.

Unofficial Thoroughbred Hall Of Fame: http://www.spiletta.com/UTHOF/countfleet.html

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