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When America’s racing royalty met up with its Australian equivalent at Claiborne Farm in 1985, it was reasonable to hope that something great lay in the cards. But, of course, had it been that straightforward, there would be no point in telling the story……

Australia's super filly, ROSE OF KINGSTON, pictured here with her owners.

Australia’s super filly, ROSE OF KINGSTON, pictured here with her owners, David and Helen Hains, after her juvenile win in the AJC Champagne Stakes.

SECRETARIAT goes to the post for the last time at Woodbine in Toronto, Canada, with EDDIE SWEAT by his side.

SECRETARIAT goes to the post for the last time at Woodbine in Toronto, Canada, with his best friend, EDDIE SWEAT, by his side.

 

The sire-to-be was none other than the incomparable Secretariat.

The mare in question was the Australian champion filly, Rose of Kingston (1978). She herself had come into the world as the result of the connection between Australian golfer and racing enthusiast, Norman Von Nida, and “The Master of Dormello,” the brilliant Frederico Tesio.

Although his name is less bandied about today, Tesio was the one man who likely came closest to breeding the “perfect” thoroughbred, at his Dormello Stud in Italy, in the first half of the twentieth century. Putting his breeding acumen into practice, Tesio bred many champions, the most influential of which were Donatello II (1934), Nearco (1935) and Ribot (1952). Happily for the breed worldwide and North America in particular, Tesio was not inclined to jealously hold on to either his breeding theories or the champions he produced. And a good thing, too. Without Nearco’s sons — Nasrullah (1940), Nearctic (1954) and Royal Charger (1942) — it is impossible to imagine the modern thoroughbred as we know it today. And although his influence was less pervasive than that of Nearco, Ribot also played an important role in the development of the breed, through progeny like Tom Rolfe (1962), Graustark (1963) and His Majesty (1968).

 

NEARCO, shown here after his win in the Grand Prix de Paris

NEARCO, shown here after his win in the Grand Prix de Paris, with a delighted Frederico Tesio at his side.

 

In the case of Rose of Kingston, it was a Tesio homebred and winner of the Italian Derby, with the inauspicious name of Claude (1964), who takes at least 50% of the credit. However, like most narratives, there are twists and turns, as well as a dash of fate, before the sire of Rose of Kingston makes his entrance into the story.

CLAUDE, the sire of ROSE OF KINGSTON, was a homebred of Frederico Tesio who won the Italian Derby. He began his stud career at Dormello in Italy, before moving to Kingston Park farm in Australia.

CLAUDE, the sire of ROSE OF KINGSTON, was a homebred of Frederico Tesio who won the Italian Derby. He began his stud career at Dormello in Italy, before moving to Kingston Park farm in Australia.

It all began over a game of golf, where Norman Von Nida became acquainted with the Australian businessman, David Hains. Hains had been looking for something to occupy him in his leisure time and Von Nida quickly convinced him that that “something” must be thoroughbred horses. In 1959, Hains purchased Kingston Park Farm and, under Von Nida’s continuing tutelage, began to breed and race thoroughbreds. Charged with procuring promising broodmares for Kingston Park, Von Nida attended auctions in the Southern Hemisphere looking for Nearco and/or Ribot bloodstock, convinced that these bloodlines would be a perfect match with the right Southern Hemisphere stallion. Von Nida’s faith in the Tesio breeding method turned Kingston Park Farm into an almost overnight success.

By the 1970’s, Von Nida’s allegiance to Tesio bloodstock was given its fullest expression: travelling to Italy, he bought six Dormello broodmares for Kingston Park. One of these, Ada Hunter (1970), a granddaughter of Ribot, became the dam of one of the greatest Australian horses of the last century — and of all time — the Hains’ mighty Kingston Town (1976). Then, in 1977-78, Dormello sold one of its stallions, Claude (1964), to David Hains and the stallion took up duties at Kingston Park. There he was bred to Kingston Rose (1971), a granddaughter of My Babu (1945), acquired as a 2 year-old by Hains in 1973. Racing in the Kingston Park silks, Kingston Rose won six races at distances from 5f to 8f before her retirement.

Rose of Kingston, her second foal, was sired by Claude and she was a filly who was nothing short of wonderful.

Nothing short of exceptional -- ROSE OF KINGSTON comes home to notch still another Grade 1 victory.

Nothing short of exceptional — ROSE OF KINGSTON comes home to notch still another Grade 1 victory.

This portrait of ROSE OF KINGSTON was commissioned by the Hains family.

This portrait of ROSE OF KINGSTON was commissioned by the Hains family.

 

Kingston Rose and Claude’s little daughter was a chestnut as bright as a copper penny, with great bone and an intelligent, decidedly feminine head.

ROSE OF KINGSTON goes to post. Photo and copyright,

ROSE OF KINGSTON shining like a bright penny as she goes to post. Photo and copyright, Brent Thomas.

As a 2 year-old, under the guidance of renowned trainer Bob Hoysted, Rose of Kingston took the AJC Champagne Stakes and the VRC Oaks.  The following year, the filly became the first 3 year-old in 38 years to win the AJC Derby against colts. Rose of Kingston rounded out her career with wins in the VRC Craiglee Stakes, the SAJC Derby and the Queen of the South Stakes, and was crowned 1982 Australian Horse of the Year. Retired at the end of the season, the filly was despatched to Lexington, Kentucky, where David Hains had set up his Kingston Park Stud. As some will know, the 1970’s was a decade of champions worldwide and the USA was no exception. By the time Rose of Kingston arrived in Kentucky, there were a number of stallions that her owner was keen to have her visit. High on the agenda was a date with the great Secretariat, which took place in 1985 at Claiborne Farm, where “The Great One” held court.

SECRETARIAT captured early after his retirement, frolicking in his paddock at Claiborne Farm.

SECRETARIAT captured early after his retirement, frolicking in his paddock at Claiborne Farm.

 

Even in the choice of Secretariat, Frederico Tesio’s influence hovered: the majestic chestnut was the great grandson of Nearco, through his grandsire Nasrullah and sire, Bold Ruler. Rose of Kingston’s future offspring would therefore boast Tesio thoroughbreds on both the top and bottom of its pedigree.

One can only guess at the excitement when the young broodmare gave birth to a coat foal in March, 1986 as coppery-red as his parents. The colt also sported two white feet and a wide blaze down the centre. The stud manager’s notes described the colt as “chestnut…magic.”

There was magic alright, although it would take still another character to conjure it: the legendary trainer, Bart Cummings, whose accomplishments include an unprecedented 12 winners of the Melbourne Cup with champions like the great Galilee (1963) and Cummings’ homebred, his beloved Saintly (1992). North Americans will know Cummings from one of his more recent superstars, So You Think.

LIGHT FINGERS was Bart Cummings very first Melbourne Cup winner. Cummings stands next to the jockey in the days when his thick mane of hair was still dark.

The filly LIGHT FINGERS (1961) was Bart Cummings very first Melbourne Cup winner in 1965. Cummings stands next to the jockey in the days when his thick mane of hair was still dark.

SAINTLY was not only beloved by his owner and trainer but by the whole nation. Upon SAINTLY'S retirement, the gelding took up residence at Saintly Place, owned by Cummings.

SAINTLY was not only beloved by Bart Cummings, but by the whole nation. Upon his retirement, the gelding took up residence at Living Legends. In 2007 he was moved to Princes Farm, owned by Cummings, where he was bred and born. Now the 87 year-old Cummings and his great champion can see each other every day.

BART CUMMINGS today, standing in the company of his twelve Melbourne Cups.

BART CUMMINGS in the company of his row of Melbourne Cups, representing an unprecedented 12 wins since 1965.

 

Rose of Kingston’s colt was christened Kingston Rule and sent off to France, to the stable of noted trainer Patrick Biancone. However, the flashy chestnut who physically so resembled Secretariat that it was uncanny, showed little promise. Unwilling to give up on the colt, David Hains had him shipped back to Australia and into the hands of the great Tommy Smith, who had trained the Hains’ fabulous gelding, Kingston Town. One can only imagine how the Secretariat colt must have seemed to Smith after the likes of Kingston Town. In his first start at Warwick Farm in 1989 over a heavy track, Kingston Rule finished 35 lengths behind the winner, prompting the trainer to advise Hains to geld the 3 year-old in the hopes of getting more out of him.

KINGSTON RULE was a stunning colt who reminded many of his sire, SECRETARIAT.

KINGSTON RULE was a stunning colt who reminded many of his sire, SECRETARIAT.

Hains, as the story goes, couldn’t bring himself to do it. Not only was Kingston Rule a beautiful individual, but those bloodlines were just too good to neutralize. And shortly thereafter, Hains moved the son of Rose of Kingston to the stable of one of Australia’s most notable trainers, James Bartholomew (“Bart”) Cummings. In a way, the arrival of the colt was a kind of homecoming for Cummings: it was he who had advised Hains to buy Kingston Rose, the colt’s grandam, in partnership with himself and it was Cummings who had trained her. In his autobiography, Bart: My Life, Cummings says he realized that Kingston Rule had no taste for heavy ground and then set about trying to understand “what was bothering him.” For all his crusty directness, with horses Bart Cummings exercises nothing but patience. Although it remains unclear what magic Cummings wrought on the youngster, we would observe that the colt may well have lacked the dominant instinct that often drives colts to conquer all before them. He certainly proved a kindly, sweet stallion in retirement. But in the hands of a horseman who by 1990 had racked up 6 Melbourne Cups and had many years under his belt of breeding his own horses, Kingston Rule found the “horse whisperer” he so desperately needed.

Under Cummings’ firm, patient conditioning, Kingston Rule stepped up, first taking a race at Sandown in 1990 before moving on to a win in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup which punched his ticket, in turn, for the 1990 Melbourne Cup. As he does with all his horses, Cummings worked Kingston Rule hard, while making certain that he ran him over firm turf, which the colt appeared to relish. In his run-up to Melbourne, Kingston Rule also finished second in a pair of stakes races.

KINGSTON RULE, looking every inch the picture of SECRETARIAT, charges to take the lead in the Moonee Valley Cup in 1990.

KINGSTON RULE, looking every inch the picture of SECRETARIAT, charges to take the lead in the Moonee Valley Cup in 1990.

Melbourne Cup day dawned fair and clear, and as Bart Cummings took his place in the grandstand with the Hains’ he felt absolutely confident that Kingston Rule was ready to run the most important race of his life. Young Darren Beadman, who had never won his nation’s most prestigious race, was in the saddle.

(NOTE: The 1990 Melbourne Cup featured a typically huge field of runners. Watch for the white blaze, white forelegs, sheepskin noseband and the yellow silks/red cap on the jockey.)

Beadman gave the colt a brilliant ride, overcoming a less-than-ideal start, a bumping mid-way through the race and the loss of ground immediately thereafter. And Kingston Rule ran his heart out, stopping the clock in record time that stands to this day.

On his way to the winner's circle -- KINGSTON RULE and his young jockey.

On his way to the winner’s circle — KINGSTON RULE and his young jockey.

The celebration: Darren Beadman, Bart Cummings and David Hains (background) with KINGTON RULE

The celebration: Darren Beadman, Bart Cummings and David Hains (background) with KINGSTON RULE

KINGSTON RULE with his proud trainer and owner.

KINGSTON RULE with his proud trainer and owner.

The Champ heads for the barn, wearing the winner's blanket.

The Champ heads for the barn, wearing the winner’s blanket.

 

Most thoroughbreds will achieve something spectacular just once in their racing lives. It may come early or late in their careers. But whenever it happens, it is this achievement that defines them for all of time. So it is that we hearken back to a host of shining moments, like Secretariat’s Belmont or Personal Ensign’s final race, where she struggled through the mud to win the BC Distaff over another equally valiant filly, Winning Colours, or So You Think’s second consecutive victory in the Cox Plate.

Kingston Rule’s Melbourne Cup was such a moment.

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BONUS FEATURE

Terrific footage of Nearco and Frederico Tesio, as well as shots from Dormello Stud as it looks today. The voice-over is in Italian, but you don’t really need to know the language to understand 90% of the video!

 

 

ADDITIONAL READING:

1) Kingston Rule: To read about American equine photographer Patrricia McQueen’s trip to Australia to visit Secretariat’s champion son, please click on the link:

http://www.photopm.com/index.php/photography-blog/17-memories-of-melbourne-cup-winner-kingston-rule

2) Kingston Rule: To read another summary of Kingston Rule’s career, please click here:

http://thebreed.thethoroughbred.com.au/feature/a-tribute-to-a-king

3) Bart Cummings: To learn more about this phenomenal breeder and trainer, please click here:

http://www.sahof.org.au/hall-of-fame/member-profile/?memberID=53&memberType=legends

4) Nearco: A thumbnail summary of this great thoroughbred’s impact on the breed:

 

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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Since THE VAULT first published, it has been my goal to research and write about the development of the thoroughbred and the sport in Australia and New Zealand. While the story of Phar Lap is universal and the exploits of the incomparable Black Caviar and So You Think turned world attention to thoroughbreds from “down under,” these contemporary champions are only the most recent in a star-studded history. In fact, Australia and New Zealand have produced absolutely brilliant individuals that could hold their own in the company of great thoroughbreds anywhere and the history of how these stars came to be is rich and fascinating. As well, uncovering some of this history has only reinforced my sense of how intermingled the families of thoroughbreds are worldwide and how these connections have brought us the individuals who light up the turf from Great Britain to the USA to India to Japan today.

This, then, is the first of a series on thoroughbreds from Australia and New Zealand and begins, quite properly, with a thumbnail history of the origins of the sport. 

(NOTE: Being Canadian and having few contacts in either Australia or New Zealand, it has been very difficult trying to discern what books to buy that would give me a good history of the Australian and New Zealand thoroughbred, including significant people as well as thoroughbred champions. Any suggestions from VAULT readers would be deeply appreciated!) 

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BACKGROUND

The horse wasn’t indigenous to Australia, but with the arrival of British colonists it quickly became an essential component of settling the “new” land (i.e. “new” to the settlers, that is).

As is the case worldwide, the Australian and New Zealand (AUS + NZ) thoroughbred owes its origins to Great Britain, where the breed originated. However, AUS + NZ have a history of close collaboration in the development of their thoroughbred horse, much like that of England and Ireland. Although often lumped together for this reason, AUS + NZ are, of course, different cultures with different histories, even though Australians have embraced New Zealand-bred champions as their own. To this day, prestigious trainers like Bart Cummings (So You Think, Kingston Rule, Saintly and countless other great individuals) visit the New Zealand bloodstock sales looking for future stars — and they are seldom disappointed.

There are, of course, differences in the breed and the sport itself in AUS+ NZ that make comparison with other countries difficult, if not impossible. In the Southern Hemisphere (SH), a thoroughbred’s birthdate is August 1, not January 1 as it is in the Northern Hemisphere (NH). In other words, in any given year, a NH thoroughbred is more than half a year older than a SH thoroughbred. The best way to compare individuals has always been to race them against each other, but SH horses have historically done poorly when shifted to NH climes, and vice versa. There have been a few exceptions, of course, but they are too few and far between to aid in any serious comparison. Even Black Caviar seemed at a distinct disadvantage at Royal Ascot; the same might be said of So You Think, a great champion in his native Australia who adjusted rather poorly to his new digs at Ballydoyle.

Another unique feature of AUS + NZ racing is that geldings are invited to run in classic races. And a good thing, too, since a number of AUS+ NZ’s greatest thoroughbreds have been geldings, among them the mighty Phar Lap, who was bred and born in New Zealand and became one of Australia’s best-loved thoroughbreds during the Depression era.

SO YOU THINK, a two-time winner of the Cox Plate,  was equine royalty in Australia before he was shifted from trainer Bart Cummings to Ballydoyle in Ireland. Despite his victories in Great Britain, can we say that we really saw the true So You Think?

SO YOU THINK, a two-time winner of the Cox Plate, was equine royalty in Australia before he was shifted from trainer Bart Cummings to Ballydoyle in Ireland. Despite his victories in Great Britain, can we say that we really saw the true So You Think?

From the beginning, the primary goal in breeding thoroughbreds in AUS + NZ was to get individuals who combined strength and endurance. If they also had speed, that was a bonus. None of this was made easy in the 1800’s by a steady influx of British governors who either countenanced or reviled horse racing, banning it when the latter was true. Despite the interruptions caused by racing bans, classic races were set up in AUS over distances of 1.5 -3+ M as a means of culling out horses who didn’t meet the breeding criteria. In 2014, with the advent of a market demanding speed and precocity, many races have been pruned down to shorter distances, although the greatest of the classic races, notably the Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Caulfield Cups, the AJC and VJC Derbies and AJC Oaks, are still contested at distances from 1.5-2+ M. (And just as there are those who despair at the change in thoroughbred tastes in North America, Great Britain and elsewhere, so the trend has been decried in AUS + NZ.)

SKYLINE typifies the "look" of the AUS + NZ thoroughbred which focuses on solid and sensible.

Champion SKYLINE (1955) typified the “look” of the AUS + NZ thoroughbred which focuses on “solid and sensible.” However, with the recent appetite for speed, we are inclined to wonder if that “look” with its emphasis on stamina is undergoing a qualitative shift.

 

BEGINNINGS: AUSTRALIA

The first recorded instance of a thoroughbred to land in Australia (AUS), Rockingham (1790), arrived on a ship from the Cape of Good Hope in 1799.  His sire is not known for certain, but he is believed to be a son of another Rockingham (1781), a talented thoroughbred who raced in England. Precise details about the earliest thoroughbred imports are skewed by the fact that the earliest individuals in AUS linked to the development of the thoroughbred were either Arabians or mixed with Arabian blood, and this may well have been the case with Rockingham (1790). However, in 1802 the thoroughbred stallion Northumberland (nd) was imported directly from England, arriving in the company of Hector, an Arabian stallion. This would appear to indicate that the mix of different breeds — particularly that of the Arabian or “Persian” horse — was still popular amongst AUS breeders at this time and did, in fact, play a pivotal role in establishing the AUS + NZ thoroughbred breed. The first Thoroughbred mare of proven origin, Manto (1822), arrived in Sydney, AUS in 1825. The Godolphin Arabian appears in Manto’s fifth generation and her pedigree is spotted with the names of prominent early thoroughbreds, such as Woodpecker (1773), Diomed (1777), Herod (1758), Matchem (1748) and Marske (1760).

This painting of HECTOR is an indication of the accuracy of the record of his arrival to AUS in 1830. The travel companions were also known as OLD HECTOR and OLD NORTHUMBERLAND.

This painting of HECTOR is an indication of the significance  of his arrival to AUS in 1830. The travel companions were also known as OLD HECTOR and OLD NORTHUMBERLAND respectively, making the tracing of their influence even more complex.

 

By 1840 the Australian Racing Committee was formed, re-named the Australian Jockey Club (AJC) in 1842. In keeping with their mission to nurture the development of a unique AUS thoroughbred, one known for strength and stamina, the AJC inaugurated and organized a program of Classic races, the chief among them the VJC Derby (AUS oldest derby), the AJC Derby and the Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Caulfield Cups. All of the races accepted into the Classic program were at distances of 1.5 miles or better.  Other states and jurisdictions in Australia developed their own racing clubs in the 19th century, including Victoria, which inaugurated its own Victoria Jockey Club in 1864, as well as Queensland, Southern and Western Australia and the island of Tasmania. By 1883, 192 racing clubs were registered with the AJC.

Under the influence of horseman like Captain Henry John Rous, Australian breeders became increasingly convinced that it was through importing British bloodstock that they would achieve a fine thoroughbred of their own and interest in Arabian bloodstock fell sharply. Rous was a British Naval Officer who came from a horse racing family that had great influence in British racing circles and was destined to become, according to Peter Willett, “the third great dictator of the British turf.” In fact, it was Rous who came up with the “weight for age” handicapping. During his visits to Western Australia in 1827-1828, Rous made connections with thoroughbred breeders and was responsible for importing the stallion, Rous’ Emigrant (1822). Another leader in the field, Charles Smith, established Bungarribee Stud at Doonside, New South Wales in 1830. The stud boasted only English-bred horses and it was Smith who gave Australia its first important homebred, Sir Hercules, who was foaled in 1843. Sir Hercules’ sons Cossack (1847), Yattendon (1861) and The Barb (1863) won the St. Leger and AJC Derby, respectively, as well as other classic races. Today many Australian thoroughbreds can still be traced back to Sir Hercules.

Another important early influence was Fisherman (1853), a British stallion imported by Hurtle Fisher in 1860 to stand at his stud in Victoria, Maribyrnong .

FISHERMAN (1853) was one of the Foundation Sires of the AUS+ NZ thoroughbred. He is depicted here by the great equine artist, Herring.

FISHERMAN (1853) was one of the Foundation Sires of the AUS+ NZ thoroughbred. He is depicted here by the great equine artist, John Frederick Herring, Sr.

If ever a horse was the incarnation of stamina and strength, it had to be Fisherman who, during his racing career, won 70 races, including 21 wins from 35 starts in a single racing season. Winner of 26 Queen’s Plate trophies and two Ascot Gold Cups, Fisherman on the occasion of his win of the first Gold Cup, was rewarded by being saddled up the very next day to run in the 3+ M Queen’s Plate — which he won stylishly, ears pricked. Fisherman was one of the best British stayers of the nineteenth century and it was little wonder he exercised such a potent influence on the AUS + NZ thoroughbred: in a short 5 seasons before his death, the champion sired 10 stakes winners and his progeny boasted a total of 25 stakes wins.

BEGINNINGS: NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand began to import its earliest thoroughbreds from New South Wales (AUS) in the 1840’s- 1850’s, having been infected by the “racing bug” through the commerce and exchange with its larger Australasian neighbour. What New Zealand brought to the table was a lush, fertile environment for raising horses, in contrast to the markedly small territory that Australia could offer, given its vast reaches of dry, arable land. By 1890, NZ racing had been organized under a central authority when all of its racing clubs were affiliated with the NZ Racing Conference. What began as the influence of one neighbour upon another continues between AUS + NZ to this day, a recent example being M.J. Moran and Piper Farm’s (NZ) superstar, So You Think, who quickly earned the love and respect of Australian racegoers. So You Think is just one of many champions to travel from NZ to AUS, where they earned the love and loyalty of a racing public who would never forget them.

The mare Lucy Banks (1839) is the first British-bred thoroughbred to be imported to New Zealand, although another mare, Moonshine(1853), together with three sons of the excellent British stallion Melbourne (1834) — Incledon(nd), The Peer(1855) and Towtown(1850) — arrived at nearly the same time, between 1857 – 1865 (approx.). What NZ breeders were after was a tough individual with middle distance ability and stamina. Like their AUS neighbours, NZ horsemen subscribed to the theory that thoroughbreds should be run “hard and often” since this seemed the best way to select out those horses that should be bred. In turn, this explained their great interest in the progeny of a British stallion like Melbourne, who sired the British Triple Crown winner West Australian (1850), the St. Leger winner Sir Tatton Sykes (1843) and the peerless winner of both the Epsom Derby and Oaks, the filly Blink Bonny (1854). So, although Melbourne never set foot in NZ, he is one of the important early sires of the AUS + NZ thoroughbred.

Still another sire of great importance to the flourishing of the breed in New Zealand was Traducer (1857), a son of The Libel (1842) who was imported in 1862. Despite his reputedly savage temperament, Traducer got 9 winners of the NZ Derby and another 8 winners of the Canterbury Cup, a weight-for-age race run over a 2.5 M course.

BLINK BONNY: the peerless daughter of MELBOURNE, won both the Epsom Derby and Oaks in 1857.

BLINK BONNY: the peerless daughter of MELBOURNE, won both the Epsom Derby and Oaks in 1857.

The greatest influence among the early imported mares was that of Flora McIvor (1828), an AUS-born daughter of Rous’ Emigrant out of Cornelia (AUS, b. 1825), a daughter of Manto. Brought to New Zealand by Henry Redwood, the “father of the NZ Turf”, the 25 year-old Flora McIvor produced two daughters by Sir Hercules: Io (1855), the ancestress of the important stallion Trenton (1881) and Waimea (1857), the ancestress of Phar Lap’s contemporary, Nightmarch (1925), and the superb filly, Silver Scorn (1929), acknowledged to be one of the best of her sex to ever race in NZ. The following short video celebrates the contribution of Redwood to the NZ thoroughbred industry, while giving viewers a glimpse into the early history of the sport:

The next major event in the development of the breed is the arrival of Musket (1867) in 1878, for it fell to this sire to produce the kind of brilliance that would put New Zealand “on the map” as a place where fine thoroughbreds could be found. Bred by Lord Glascow, Musket was a sturdy bay with a winning heart and he put both to good use, winning at distances up to 3 miles in Great Britain, including the Flying Dutchman H. (10F at York), the Ascot Stakes (2 1/2M at Ascot), Her Majestys Plate at Lincoln (2M), Her Majestys Plate at Shrewsbury (3M), the Seven Cup (2M) and the Alexandra Plate (3M) in which he carried 132lbs.

The amazing MUSKET, who had won at distances up to 3M, would give the NZ thoroughbred a world-class status.

The amazing MUSKET, who had won at distances up to 3M, would give the NZ thoroughbred a world-class status.

As great as were Musket’s gifts on the turf, in the breeding shed he lent his superb genes to sons Trenton (1881) and Martini-Henry (1880). From the latter would descend the 1946 Epsom Derby winner, Nimbus (1943), and the superb Grey Sovereign (1948), twice leading sire in France. The brilliant Trenton excelled at stud, producing 404 winners over 9 seasons; a daughter, Rosaline (1901), became the grandam of the great British sire, Gainsborough (1915).

But Musket’s most superb gift of all came in 1885, when Carbine was foaled.

CARBINE, captured in oil by artist Percy Brinkworth.

CARBINE, captured in oil by artist Percy Brinkworth.

Carbine, aka “Old Jack,” was as loved as Phar Lap (who is a direct descendant) by all who saw him race. He is considered one of the best thoroughbreds ever produced in AUS + NZ to this day. Carbine proved himself a consummate runner, embodying the strength and endurance that AUS + NZ breeders were aiming for in the horses they bred. In 1890 at the Randwick Carnival, the colt proved his mettle, taking five top-class races in eight days over distances ranging from 1 mile to 3 miles. That same year Carbine won the Melbourne Cup, where he faced a field of 39 other horses (today the field is limited to 24). Not only did Carbine win: he set a new race record, even though he was carrying 66 kg (146 lbs.), the most weight ever carried by a Cup winner. It seems unbelievable, does it not, that a 16h horse could carry that much weight over 2 miles and set a track record? That alone speaks loud about who Carbine was. Racing in Australia until he was retired at five, the best son of Musket won 33 times in 43 starts and was unplaced once throughout his career on the turf. He was the first AUS+ NZ champion to win 15 successive races, which he did in his remarkable season as a four/five year-old.

CARBINE depicted on a postcard of the day.

CARBINE depicted on a postcard of the day.

Sent off to the breeding shed, Carbine stood four seasons in Australia before being sold in 1895 to the Duke of Portland, the owner of St. Simon (1881). Shipped to England to the Duke’s stud,Welbeck Abbey, Carbine was installed as the “second” to St. Simon. The champion might not have gotten the choicest mares, but his genes were so potent that he made an indelible mark on the thoroughbred anyway. Even before leaving Australia, Carbine had sired three very good individuals: Wallace (1892), winner of the VATC Caulfield Guineas, the Sydney Cup and Victoria Derby, among others, who would top the Australian sire list in 1915/16; the superb filly, La Carabine (1894), winner of the VRC Australian Cup, the Sydney Cup and two-time winner of the AJC Plate, who went on to be a black-type producer; and Amberite (1894) winner of the Victoria Derby, VATC Caulfield Cup, the AJC Derby, the AJC St. Leger and the AJC Plate. All in all, in his short stud career in Australia, Carbine sired winners of 203 races with combined earnings of 48,624 APS.

CARBINE at stud, probably in the UK, circa 1900.

CARBINE at stud, probably in the UK, circa 1900.

 

WALLACE was the best of Carbine's sons. Painting by Martin Stainforth

WALLACE was the best of Carbine’s sons born in Australia and an important sire there. Painting by Martin Stainforth

 

LA CARABINE, brilliant daughter of CARBINE born and bred in Australia.

LA CARABINE, brilliant daughter of CARBINE born and bred in Australia.

 

At Welbeck Abbey, Carbine continued his career as a sire of champions, the arguably most famous among these being the English Derby and Grand Prix de Paris winner, Spearmint (1902). Although of delicate constitution himself, Spearmint became a sire of classic winners. He also turned out to be a brilliant BM sire. Among other Spearmint progeny: the great sire Chicle (1913) who sired America’s Mother Goose (1922) and was the BM sire of Shut Out(1939); the 1920 Epsom Derby winner Spion Kop (1917); Johren (1915), winner of the Belmont Stakes in 1918 and an American HOTY; the 1922 St Leger Stakes winner Royal Lancer(1919); as well as Spike Island (1919), winner of the 1922 Irish Derby; the exceptional filly Fausta (1911), winner of the 1914 Italian Derby and Oaks; and Spelthorne (1922), winner of the 1925 Irish St Leger Stakes.

CARBINE'S best British son was SPEARMINT. Although a fragile runner with poor legs, SPEARMINT'S progeny were noted for their classic lines.

CARBINE’S best British son was SPEARMINT. Although a fragile runner with poor legs, SPEARMINT’S progeny were noted for their classic lines and it was he more than any other Carbine progeny who assured his sire’s place in the development of the thoroughbred.

SPEARMINT'S daughter, PLUCKY LIEGE, exerted an enormous influence on the breed through her sons BULL DOG,

SPEARMINT’S daughter, PLUCKY LIEGE, exerted an enormous influence on the breed through her sons BULL DOG and SIR GALLAHAD III.

NOGARA, granddaughter of SPEARMINT and dam of NEARCO.

NOGARA, granddaughter of SPEARMINT and dam of NEARCO.

 

However, Spearmint’s greatest success as a stallion was through his daughters, of whom the most influential was arguably Plucky Liege (1912), dam of Bull Dog (1927), Sir Gallahad III (1920), Bois Roussel (1935) and Admiral Drake (1931). Seaweed (1916), another daughter, was the dam of multiple stakes winners Hotweed(1926) and Broulette (1928). Yet another daughter, Catnip (1910), was the dam of the great blacktype producer, Nogara (1928), whose son, Nearco (1935), exerted an enormous influence on thoroughbred pedigrees worldwide through his sons, Nearctic (1940) the sire of Northern Dancer (1961), Nasrullah (1940) the founder of a dynasty and sire of Bold Ruler (1954) and Royal Charger(1942), sire of the important stallion Turn-To (1951) and of American champion, Mongo (1959). From Turn-To comes First Landing (1956), sire of Riva Ridge and Sir Gaylord (1959), sire of the British champion miler and good sire, Habitat (1966), as well as the great British champion, Sir Ivor (1965). Another son of Turn-To, Hail To Reason (1958), made the greatest impact of all, through his sons Halo (1969), the sire of Sunday Silence (1986) and Bold Reason (1968), the BM sire of Sadler’s Wells (1981).

NEXT TIME: The series continues with a look at some of the greatest AUS+NZ champion thoroughbreds in the first part of the twentieth century.

 

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