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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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The racing public loves them all, from the superstars to those that run their hearts out each and every time without ever mounting the steps to glory.  And then there are those very few who break through to steal your heart away.

So it is with Enable.

I felt privileged to follow Nathaniel, a son of Galileo and the sire of Enable, through the years in which the great Frankel campaigned. But Nathaniel, unlike Frankel, suffered physical setbacks and never had the chance to showcase his stamina over his three years on the turf. Trained by John Gosden (who also trains Enable), owned by Lady Rothschild and ridden by the young Will Buick, when Nathaniel was good he was very very good indeed:

Once retired, it seemed that his limited campaign might well take a toll on his stallion prospects. In 2014, out of Nathaniel’s first crop, came a homebred of Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte operation. The filly was out of the Prince’s mare, Concentric, a daughter of Sadler’s Wells. In due course, she was christened Enable.

ENABLE as a filly foal, following close on her dam’s heels.

That Enable descended from Northern Dancer was hardly unique, since his line continues to dominate thoroughbred bloodlines in the UK through sons like Galileo, and more immediate descendants like Frankel and Nathaniel. It was in the UK that our King of Canadian thoroughbreds first made a name for himself as a sire. The first “Master of Ballydoyle,” the incomparable Vincent O’Brien, single-handedly built The Dancer’s reputation as a sire of champions in those early years. So it was that I entered into the world of British flat-racing, celebrating the superb Nijinsky, as well as The Minstrel, El Gran Senor and so many other outstanding individuals campaigned by Ballydoyle.

By the 1990’s I was wholly caught up in thoroughbred racing on the other side of The Pond and with the arrival of the internet, I often had the best seat in the house.

Even though I was keen on following Nathaniel’s first crop, I missed Enable’s first start largely because it was exactly that and therefore overlooked in the media. But on Epsom Oaks day in 2017, through lightening flashes and driving rain, Enable made herself known as a filly to remember. It was only her third start.

At this point, I was impressed, but also knew too much about the vicissitudes of the sport to jump on the Enable bandwagon. Like her jockey, who, after the Oaks victory declared, “…she’s only run three times, she’s very good … I think she’ll get better,” I needed to see more.

On the 2017 British flat season went and if I’d “needed to see more,” Enable was quite happy to dish it out. The Irish Oaks, King George and Yorkshire Oaks fell before her like so many leaves from a mighty oak, leaving colts of the quality of Highland Reel, Ulysses, Benbatl, Idaho and Jack Hobbs in her slipstream. And at some point along the way (and before the 2017 Arc) Nathaniel’s daughter stole up on me and began to play my heartstrings.

ENABLE: A few basic details. Note that her best stride equals that of SECRETARIAT. Published in the Racing Post (UK).

Just like the nucleotides (molecules) in a string of DNA, each and every individual in a thoroughbred pedigree contributes to the making of a particular filly or colt. Thoroughbreds as far back as the 15th generation of Enable’s pedigree contributed to her genetic profile, even though any direct influence is typically limited to the first five generations. Still, take just one ancestor out of the mix and Enable is no longer Enable. But heredity is only part of the equation: the other 50% has to do with training and handling. And for that, accolades to John Gosden and her team for keeping Enable happy within herself for three straight years.

With John Gosden in 2018.

Frankie and ENABLE. Photo and copyright, Michael Harris. Used with permission.

With her BFF and exercise rider, Imran Shahwani. Photo and copyright, Michael Harris. Used with permission.

Kisses from Tony Proctor, Head Travelling Man for Clarehaven after her win in the 2019 Darley Yorkshire Oaks. Photo and copyright, Michael Harris. Used with permission.

To witness the campaign of a great thoroughbred in the modern era is little different than being part of the history of champions like The Tetrarch or Hyperion or Kincsem or Man O’ War in their own time. They, too, engendered the palpable appreciation of the crowd, the rumble and cheers at the finish, the crush of humanity around the winners enclosure. It’s always been a kind of ritualistic happening, the relationship between a champion thoroughbred and the racing public of the day, even without cell phones to record it all.

In Enable’s case, I found myself thinking of the darling of early 20th c. racing in Great Britain, Pretty Polly (1901-1931), whose lifetime achievement of 22 wins in 24 starts no other filly in the 20th century would match. But it was not just the number of her victories, it was the way she dismissed the competition:

PRETTY POLLY is seen here in an image that recalls words uttered when ECLIPSE ran: “…and the rest nowhere.”

Like Enable, Pretty Polly was a superstar, and her racing career was sweetened by the attentions of an adoring public. She featured regularly in periodicals of the day: one article was even devoted to spending the day with her at the stables of her trainer, Peter Gilpin.

In Family Tables of Racehorses, written by Kazamierz Bobinski and deemed one of the most important books on thoroughbred breeding, only one mare born in the 20th century qualified for special status as head of a special branch, identified in her own right as a prolific source of quality in the breed: that mare was Pretty Polly. Her first daughter, Molly Desmond, was the most potent of the four fillies Polly produced. Molly’s descendants include Spike Island (1922 EpsomDerby winner), Nearctic (the sire of Northern Dancer and Icecapade, among others), Chef-de-Race Great Nephew (sire of the ill-fated Shergar, among others), the great Japanese sire Northern Taste, Brigadier Gerard (Britain’s Horse of the 20th Century) and Classic winners Premonition, St. Paddy, Flying Water and To-Agori-Mou and Luthier. Pretty Polly’s other three daughters, Dutch Mary, Polly Flinders and Baby Polly, account for Donatello II, Supreme Court, Vienna (the sire of Vaguely Noble), Carroll House (winner of the Arc de Triomphe), Epsom Derby winner Psidium, Only For Life, Unite, Marwell, My Game by My Babu (whose daughters produced champions) and Court Harwell; recent descendants include the incomparable Invasor (2005 Triple Crown in Uruguay, 2006 Breeders Cup Classic, 2007 Dubai World Cup, 2006 American HOTY, 2013 HOF inductee) and champion Soldier of Fortune (2007 Irish Derby, 2007 Prix Niel, 2008 Coronation Cup).

When Bobinski’s text of 1953 was updated by Toru Shirai in 1990, Pretty Polly’s influence had become so enormous and her descendants so successful that the continued force of family 14-c into the 21st century is assured.

The mighty INVASOR is a descendant of PRETTY POLLY, through NEARCTIC, who traces back to MOLLY DESMOND.

There are several instances of Pretty Polly in Enable’s pedigree, both along her sire line and in her female family. This in and of itself isn’t all that surprising, given the influence of Pretty Polly’s daughters. Nevertheless, I welcomed the Enable-Pretty Polly connection: it seemed fitting that the heroine of early 20th c. British racing ought to smile down on a heroine of the early 21st century.

Like Enable, Pretty Polly was a large filly, standing over 16h. who, despite her size, was very feminine. Although she was brilliant on race day, Pretty Polly disdained her pre-race works, which were often described as “sluggish.” Frankie Dettori and John Gosden have said the same of Enable, Frankie describing her attitude as something akin to, ” Just shove off…”  Both Polly and Enable are described as “sweet-natured” until the roar of battle transforms them into determined warriors who refuse to be headed. Neither filly appears to have founthe huge crowds that gathered to see them on race days disturbing, taking it all in stride.

PRETTY POLLY was a big, albeit feminine filly, noted for her sweet temperament when at Clarehaven. On the track, however, she morphed into a warrior.

I was, however, astonished by one connection: Pretty Polly’s trainer, Peter Gilpin, actually built Clarehaven Stables at Newmarket on the betting proceeds from a winning filly named Clarehaven, who won the Cesarewitch Handicap in 1900. As is well -known, Clarehaven is home to John Gosden’s stable and to Enable. In the early part of the last century, it was also the home of Pretty Polly.

The filly CLAREHAVEN after her win in the Cesarewitch in 1900. From “Horse Racing Greats: Mr. Peter Purcell Gilpin” by Alfred E.T. Watson, n.d.

The Arc was Enable’s last start of 2017 and when she came home, leading the field, I wept. I’m fairly certain I wasn’t alone: Enable was the first British-trained filly to ever win the Arc.

ENABLE: the 2017 Prix de l”Arc de Triomphe. Photo and copyright, Michael Harris. Used with permission.

Had I not witnessed her stellar 3 year-old campaign, I might have been less astounded by Enable’s performance at 4.

2018 wasn’t a good year for Enable’s team, as far as her health was concerned. A knee injury that threatened to see her retired was overcome, but then came further minor setbacks. The cumulative result was that Enable competed only 3 times in 2018 — but what a performance she gave, narrowly taking the Arc from the flying Sea of Class, and then showing her grit in the BC Classic against her old nemesis, Magical. These two races were only slightly more than a month apart and on two different continents.

As the Arc and the BC Turf unfolded, I saw a filly whose courage, heart and fighting spirit could not be denied. But Enable was also very clearly not the Enable of the previous year, and it irked me that so many failed to understand that an athlete who could not be conditioned to the max due to injury had to be an absolute superstar to accomplish what she did. In Europe, the Arc is the pinnacle; in the USA, it’s the Breeders Cup. Enable became the first thoroughbred in history to win both the Arc and the Breeders Cup (Turf) in the same year. As the 2018 racing season closed, I was in awe of John Gosden for the monumental role he had played in Enable’s unprecedented success. And the filly? Words were inadequate to express her heart, her courage.

My emotions throughout 2018 are best represented in this footage of Enable’s return to the winner’s circle after her second Arc win:

 

Now we are a few short weeks before the 2019 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, which might well be Enable’s last appearance before she retires.

Thus far, the year has been emotionally-charged.

At Sandown, Ascot and Ebor, Enable has packed in a public anxious to see the mare they call their Queen before she leaves the turf forever. Trainer Gosden has borne the responsibility of racing a national icon with characteristic grace, while Frankie Dettori has wept. Imran Shahwani and Tony Proctor give the impression that they are Masters of Zen, living each moment to the fullest. It’s all bittersweet, knowing as we do that Enable has no idea that her career on the turf is winding down, and that very soon she will leave Clarehaven and the only life she has known since she was a 2 year-old.

ENABLE — that beautiful face. Photo and copyright, Michael Harris. Used with permission.

As an experienced and mature thoroughbred, Enable is stronger physically than she was at 3, and her form thus far closely resembles that of her three year-old season. Her performance against the superb Crystal Ocean in the 2019 King George and her gate-to-wire win in the Cheshire Oaks had me rivetted, while also prompting reflections on her 2018 campaign. The difference in Enable from a year ago is enormous this year: she is one healthy, happy, alert and determined competitor.

But she’s also older than some very fine colts who will meet her on the Longchamps turf this fall, as John Gosden cautioned when interviewed after Enable’s most recent victory. It is a critical observation from a consumate trainer that I will remember as the field goes to post on October 6, 2019, when the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe takes place. This is no apologeia for Enable: age and experience are as often blessings as not.

 

 

 

Individuals like Enable are rare in the history of our sport, and the full significance of any historical event eludes us while we live it. But I know that Enable’s campaign has been exactly that, whether or not I can fully apprehend its significance. Enable’s career dwarfs most of the other racing stories of the last decade, even as it sets the standard of excellence for future champions.

UK photographer Michael Harris says that this shot of ENABLE going back to the stable at York with Tony was inspired by the cover of the Beatles’ album, Abbey Road. Photo and copyright, Michael Harrisd. Used with permission.

Longchamps on October 6 awaits. But regardless of the outcome, all that Enable is and all that she represents can never be diminished.

Well, I don’t know what will happen … but it doesn’t really matter to me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop … and I’m not worried about anything.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, April 3, 1968)

A. Anderson. The Mountaintop. Ink on rice paper (2017).

 

NOTE: I would like to thank the gifted Michael Harris, thoroughbred photographer, for kindly giving me permission once again to use his photographs of Enable in this article.

 

BONUS FEATURES

 

1) Ebor Festival: Yorkshire Oaks. Very likely Enable’s last start in England

 

 

2) 2019 Coral-Eclipse: the first start of Enable’s 5 year-old campaign

 

 

 

3) “Two Bodies One Heart” : Enable & Frankie. Posted by a fan

 

 

4) 2019 Yorkshire Oaks highlights: Some great footage of Enable and Frankie before and after the race

 

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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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Images hold a memory in place and this image, of a champion colt who has been long-forgotten, is about to find its frame.

 

ROMAN SOLDIER pictured in 1935 at Hialeah Park, Florida. An NEA photograph. (Source: EBAY.)

 

Go looking for Roman Soldier and you’ll be greeted by blanks almost everywhere you turn. If you’re lucky, you might find a trace that invites you to find out more.

My first sighting of Roman Soldier was when I saw this beautiful photo listed on Ebay. I’m a sucker for a great photograph –one that fills the eye and stops you dead in your tracks. And this one (above) did just that. Although a solitary figure, Roman Soldier’s stride and arched neck screamed power, courage, confidence.  Something about the composition, perhaps its atmosphere, communicated that this colt was special.

Off I went to search, learning that Roman Soldier retired after making 40 starts, with earnings of in excess of 91k USD — an enormous sum in the 1930s, when he raced.

He was, indeed, special.

 

BLOODLINES

In 1919, the year that the “Great War” (WW1) ended, Roman Soldier’s grandsire, Grand Parade, won the Epsom Derby and St. James Palace Stakes, among other British races. Foaled in Ireland, it was said that his dam, Grand Geraldine, spent her days pulling a cart. The coal-black son of another Derby star, Orby, who was also the first Irish-trained horse to win the Epsom Derby, was purchased by Richard “The Boss” Croker, aka Lord Glanely, as a foal:

“…He was well bought as a foal for 470 guineas and showed himself a good early two-year-old, winning in England and Ireland, but considered some way short of the best of his generation. The colt thrived the following season but because of a trace of lameness holding him up in his work, he took his place in the Derby field very much as the owner’s second string.

Grand Parade came in at 33/1 after prevailing in the final furlong, a brave run by a colt who was having his first start as a three-year-old. After a success at Ascot in a two-horse race, Grand Parade went to Lord Glanely’s Exning Stud (near Newmarket) in 1920. He was not a spectacular sire but his Diophon won the 2000 Guineas in 1924. Most of his stock lacked the stamina he showed himself. ” (Source: The National Horseracing Museum, Newmarket, Suffolk)

The handsome GRAND PARADE (1916) after his Derby win, showing the colours of his owner, the Baron of Glanely (Richard Croker), and a portrait of his jockey, Fred Templeman.

Grand Parade’s owner had also bred and raced Orby, but his “other” story was one of corruption. In an article written by Jay Maeder in the New York Daily News, Croker was profiled under the heading “Richard (The Boss) Croker: How the Tammany Hall Leader Became ‘Master of the City.’ ” Here’s an excerpt:

“… Once upon a time, Tammany Hall had been purely a nest of thieves, for years presided over by the ravenous William Marcy Tweed, a man who plundered the city’s coffers so openly that after a while it just seemed to be the natural order of things. By 1870, indeed, Tweed had engineered a new City Charter that effectively made it legal to steal.

…County Cork-born Croker had come to New York as a child, grown up with the brawling Fourth Ave. Tunnel Gang and then, like so many ambitious Irish lads, sought to improve himself by joining Boss Tweed’s Fire Department. Fast did he find himself useful to a Tammany organization always on the lookout for such a promising young fellow as himself: Croker was very good at voting many times over for a given Tammany candidate, and he was very good at breaking the bones of citizens who seemed to want to cast their votes for anyone else.

…In short order he became an alderman, then coroner, then the personal protege of Honest John, who named him fire commissioner. When Honest John died in 1886, it was Croker who succeeded him, merely by sitting down in his chair and asking what anyone was going to do about it.

They called him The Master of the City, and this he indisputably was. His Tammany Hall was the very model of administrative efficiency: ‘I go down to the City Hall every day and go through the departments and see what is going on,’ Croker explained once, ‘and if I find anyone at fault I take them to task.’ Recalcitrant district leaders were summoned to his office, slammed into the walls for a while and then sent away more agreeable to his wishes.”

A political cartoon depicted Richard Croker, his tentacles deep into one of New York City’s “Ice Trust” office.

 

Richard Croker aka Lord Glanely leads in GRAND PARADE after his 1919 Derby win.

Grand Parade’s Derby win includes a portrait of England just at the end of WW1. (Note that, unfortunately, the footage has no sound.)

How Croker purloined his Irish title is unknown, but he did retire to his native Ireland where his stud at Exning gained a fine reputation, counting six classic winners to its name. It was as though Croker took on a completely new identity in his native land, becoming a portly owner-breeder who was known by his turf friends as “Old Guts And Gaiters.” But his return to the Emerald Isle did not go without comment — and the criticism was harsh and came from established Irish breeders.

As it turned out, Croker also had a stud in America and when he retired to Ireland, he brought some of his American bloodstock with him. At the time (the early 20th century) the Irish — in fact, most of the UK — felt that the American thoroughbred was a “stain” on the legacy of the British thoroughbred. But in a supreme irony, one of Croker’s  “inferior” American horses was to establish a breeding legacy.

Her name was Rhoda B. (1895), a daughter of Hanover (1884) out of the mare, Margerine (1886), a descendant of Australian (1858) and Stockwell (1849). Once arrived, Rhoda B. was bred to the great British sire, Orme (1889), of the Bend Or line, producing Orby (1904) and, bred the following year to St. Frusquin (1893), she produced the champion filly, Rhodora (1905).

RHODA B., dam of ORBY and RHODORA. She is pictured here with an unidentified foal.

 

ORBY (Orme X Rhoda B). Bred by Croker and from the Bend Or sire line, Orby became the first to complete the Epsom-Irish Derby double. Following his exploits on the turf, Croker was offerred 50 thousand guineas for both ORBY and his dam, but refused to sell them. ORBY proved to be a reasonably successful sire. Among his best were the Classic winners GRAND PARADE and DIADEM (1000 Guineas). He also sired the winners of about 30,000 (BPS). His reputation was sterling enough that the prominent Irish firm, Goff’s, named one of their sales events after him.

 

RHODORA (St. Frusquin X Rhoda B.). She was one of the best in 1907, winning the Dewhurst and the 1000 Guineas. As a broodmare, she had a hard time and none of her foals survived. Owned by Donald Fraser, Rhodora was slaughtered and fed to his hunting dogs when she failed to give him a live foal.

 

Cohort (1925), the sire of Roman Soldier, was a Croker homebred. The son of Grand Parade was imported to the USA from Ireland at the age of 4, where he proved a very useful stallion. Roman Soldier’s dam, Miamba (1921), was a daughter of Lord Derby’s Light Brigade (1910), also of the Bend Or sire line. Light Brigade arrived in the United States in 1916, where he stood at Hartland stud in Versailles, KY until 1931. Top American winners sired by Light Brigade include Rose of Sharron (1926) and Dr. Freeland (1926), although he is arguably best known today as the BM sire of champion, Discovery (1931).

A winner of the Scarborough and Easter Plates in the UK, Cohort’s best progeny, other than Roman Soldier, and winners of 50k USD or more were the colts  Bobanet (1942) and Brownie (1939), and the filly Ciencia (1939), who won the Santa Anita Derby and was trained by HOF William James “Buddy” Hirsch for King Ranch. The ride that jockey Carroll Bierman gave Ciencia in the Santa Anita Derby is considered one of the finest in all of racing and made the filly the first of her sex to win the classic. Ciencia would go on to become the granddam of champion filly, Miss Cavendish (1961).

Despite Ciencia’s remarkable achievement at Santa Anita, Roman Soldier was easily Cohort’s best progeny based on earnings.

SEABISCUIT, KAYAK II and CIENCIA (left with white nose) going down to the start of the Santa Anita Derby.

Cohort’s dam was Tetrabazzia (1918), a daughter of the incomparable The Tetrarch, out of the mare, Abazzia, a daughter of the champion Isinglass (1890). As we have often asserted here on The Vault, whenever The Tetrarch appears in the first 5 generations of a pedigree, even in the form of a lesser-known daughter like Tetrabbazia, it is always worth noting. Although his brilliance on the turf in the UK was short, The Terarch’s influence on generations of champions right up to the present day is extraordinary.

Tetrabazzia’s best progeny was not Cohort, but the colt Singapore (GB b. 1927). The latter was sired by Gainsborough (GB b.1915) and rated co-champion 3 year-old after his wins in the St. Leger and the Doncaster.

 

The Tetrarch winning the Woodcote Stakes, Steve Donoghue u

 

ROMAN SOLDIER’S RACING CAREER

His name a nod to his sire, Roman Soldier (1932) was purchased for $1,000 USD as a yearling by HOF Max Hirsch at a fall sale in Lexington KY and at 2 was introduced to the track. As proof that Hirsch didn’t think much of him, the colt ran strictly for purse money, capping his juvenile season with 12-5-4-0 and earnings of $4,690, paying back his purchase price in style. The little black colt moved with the Hirsch stable to Florida for the winter and was sold, shortly thereafter, to the wealthy Indiana merchant, William Sachsenmaier and trainer, Phil Reuter, for $7500 and 25% of his earnings, if he won the Florida Derby. However, Roman Soldier would also race under the ownership of Phil Reuter and Elwood Sachsenmaier, the son of William, as the latter died shortly after the colt’s 3 year-old campaign. Phil Reuter trained him throughout a career that may well have put paid to Max Hirsch’s initial impressions about the Cohort colt’s ability.

Trainer Phil Reuter visiting a few of his horses. Date unknown.

Among Roman Soldier’s 3 year-old peers were the likes of Triple Crown winner, Omaha, and the splendid filly, Black Helen. But even such stiff competition did not dim his reputation for the esteemed thoroughbred sports writer, John Hervey, aka “Salvator,” who devoted no less than a fulsome four pages to him in “American Race Horses, 1936” when the “Black Soldier” (Hervey’s moniker for Roman Soldier) campaigned as a 4 year-old. And it was to this source that I turned to find out more about Roman Soldier’s racing career. In fact, without Hervey’s copious research, this article would have been very thin indeed, despite numerous headlines about the colt that appear with regularity in local and national newspapers during his career.

The legendary John Hervey, aka “Salvator,” a consummate racing historian.

 

ROMAN SOLDIER (top corner) as he appeared in American Race Horses 1936, where he was featured in the chapter “Handicap Stars.”

 

There is no question that Roman Soldier was one of the stars of the 1935 -1936 racing seasons, a reputation he earned based on heart, courage and determination. In 1935, between January 17 until July 20, the colt started 12 times, finishing up with a record of 6-2-1 and earnings of $45,100 USD, making Roman Soldier the third highest-earning 3 year-old that year, after Colonel Bradley’s Black Helen and Triple Crown winner, Omaha. After his score in the Detroit Derby, which came in June of that year, his owners were offerred $60,000 USD for him. The offer was refused.

BLACK HELEN and jockey Don Meade after the filly’s win in the 1935 American Derby. She was the undisputed best of her sex that year, also winning the Florida Derby, CC Oaks and Maryland Handicap.

Although the small black colt won impressively in Detroit, Texas and Florida that year, putting up figures like 1:53 over 9f, Roman Soldier is arguably best known for chasing home Omaha in the May 4, 1935 Kentucky Derby.

1935 Kentucky Derby program.

The colt went into the Derby as second favourite; in the post parade John Hervey observed that he looked “…small and frail beside the first choice, the towering Omaha.” But none of that kind of talk bothered Roman Soldier. He did himself proud on the day.

(Note: This video has no sound. However, it stands as a record of May 4, 1935, giving the viewr a sense of the day. Of interest, too, are the shots of police battling gate crashers: apparently gate-crashing was a common affair on Derby day in the 1930’s. As the field turns for home on that wet, rainy day, it becomes a two-horse race. Roman Soldier can be seen clearly at the finish, closing on Omaha.)

A courageous and gritty performance by ROMAN SOLDIER demonstrated that, however “frail” he might have appeared in the post parade, his heart was as big as the winner’s.

The colt came out of the Derby with a sore and swollen ankle on a foreleg, but once mended, he would go on to race in at least three other highly-rated contests. In the Illinois Derby (May 24), where he gave away 6-11 lbs to his challengers, Roman Soldier got up for second. The view of racegoers and sportsmen alike was that he deserved to win. His performances following the Illinois were lacklustre and by the end of his 3 year-old campaign, Roman Soldier was worn out.

Sent off to Kentucky to refresh for his 4 year-old season, John Hervey notes his comeback as follows:

“…Our Soldier, unlike many that come home maimed from the field of battle, was right back on it when robins nested again and hostilities resumed in the Atlantic sector, which he had not invaded the previous campaign. With a strange disregard of critical opinion, he declined to be either a withered leaf or a pensioner idling in the sunshine before the temple of Mars…As a patrician of the equestrian order, the fighting urge proved irresistable and on May 6 he came forth in his war gear at Pimlico…the active combatant ready for any kind of scrimmage…”

The comeback was in a Grade A handicap and Roman Soldier, assuming top weight of 126 lbs., won over 6f in 1:12 1/5. He won his second start at Belmont Park with ease before moving on to “the New England entrenchments” (Hervey). Starting at Rockingham Park, the colt romped home and this earned him, in turn, weight of 132 lbs in the Granite State Handicap, also run at Rockingham, where he faced off against Vanderbilt’s son of Man O War, Identify, who carried 116 lbs.

Rockingham Park’s clubhouse in 1933

 

The handsome IDENTIFY (Man O War X Foot Print by Grand Parade) shared some of ROMAN SOLDIER’S bloodlines through his BM sire, Grand Parade. The colt was picked up in a claiming race by Alfred G. Vanderbilt Jr for $3500 USD. He would easily repay Vanderbilt: he retired with earnings of over 36k, having made 51 starts with 12 wins and another 15 place and shows. (Source: American Race Horses 1936; photographer Bert Clark Thayer. Copyright: The Sagamore Press.)

It was a rousing battle in which Roman Soldier and Identify fought tooth-and-nail to the wire, with the former prevailing by a head. The New York Times blared out the headline:

“Roman Soldier Beats Identify By Head at Rockingham Park; Heavily Weighted Favorite Passes Vanderbilt Racer in Stretch to Win Granite State Handicap as 30,000 Look On — Black Gift Third, Three Lengths Back.” (June 7 1936)

Dramatic as his contest was with Identify, it was not the apex of Roman Soldier’s 4 year-old season. Nor was it his defeat of the champion Discovery in the Havre de Grace Handicap in September, where Roman Soldier only carried 118 lbs. to Discovery’s 128. In fact, Discovery limped off the track, and few witnessing the race would have disagreed that Roman Soldier did much more than claim the spoils. But this is all speculation: no question that Discovery was in a league apart, but upsets do happen.

The crown of Roman Soldier’s year was his very own “Triple.” In sweeping the Havre de Grace, Washington and Riggs Handicaps, the colt did something that had never been done before. No thoroughbred had won the richest triad of Maryland handicaps in the same season. His feat was “…the only one in our turf history comparable to that of Whisk Broom when in 1913 he achieved his historic ‘triple’ in the three great spring handicaps of the Long Island courses,  the Metropolitan, Brooklyn and Suburban.” ( John Hervey in American Race Horses 1936)

Much of the credit for Roman Soldier’s performance in the Washington and Riggs Handicaps must go to jockey, Jack Westrope. According to John Hervey, when HOF Jack Westrope got on board, the colt seemed energized in a way Hervey had never seen before. It’s a shame that he only rode Roman Soldier twice, as Westrope was an absolutely brilliant pilot. He began riding at just eleven years of age, but four years later when he was still an apprentice, he was the leading rider of 1933 in the USA, with 301 victories out of over 1200 rides. He was 15 years old. Although he never achieved the notoriety of a Charlie Kurtsinger or Earl Sande, Westrope won many prestigious races across America; his most famous mounts were Stagehand and Cravat. Jack Westrope died in 1958, when his horse threw him. He was only 40 years old. Inducted into the HOF in 2002, at least one of his peers commented that he should have been honoured the day he died and not almost a half-decade later.

1934: Jack Westrope aboard BIEN FAIT after a win at Hawthorne. For more on Jack, please see Bonus Features below.

IN CONCLUSION

 

A fuzzy image of ROMAN SOLDIER when he won the 1935 Hialeah Inaugural Handicap as a 3 year-old. Photo: NEA.

Roman Soldier was retired at the end of his 4 year-old season and his first progeny arrived in 1938. Perhaps it was that ankle the finally got to him. At any rate, his progeny, although few in number, appear until 1950 and none were really remarkable although he did get six good runners, the best of which were the fillies Roman Sox (1940; BM sire Donnacona, a grandson of Persimmon) and Lady Romery (1936; BM sire Mad Hatter, by Fair Play). Through a daughter, Anthony’s Girl (1939), the French filly Right Bank (1980) descends, a winner of the Premio Lydia Tesio (It-Gr1), Oaks d’Italia (Italian Oaks) (It-Gr1).

The final tribute to Roman Soldier goes to John Hervey:

” Our mental picture of a War-Horse is of a tremendously big, tremendously bulky, tremendously stout charger, looking able to carry a ton of weight and go either over or through a stone-wall as may seem most urgent.

But they are not all of that kind. As we apply that term on the turf, Roman Soldier deserves it as much as any colt of recent seasons, Discovery excepted. He has sniffed the smoke of battle, heard the thunders of the captains and the shoutings, exulted in his prowess and ‘brought home the bacon’ many a time when the carnage has been fiercest. Yet to see him, you would not suspect it. He is not a horse of great size or strength. On the contrary, he is overtopped by many he has lined up with, while instead of being Herculean, he is slim and almost slight of build…

…In reality he is all steel-and-whipcord, with astonishing vitality, constitutional vigor, courage and endurance…” (In American Race Horses 1936, “Handicap Stars,” p. 161.)

 

BONUS FEATURES

1) “News In A Nutshell,” including Roman Soldier and Omaha in the 1935 Kentucky Derby:

2) Old Derby footage, beginning with Omaha’s win in 1935:

 

 

3) Article about Jack Westrope, published by The Blood Horse in 2002, the year he was inducted into the HOF:  https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/186824/jack-westrope-quiet-little-man

4) 1938 Opening Day At Santa Anita:

 

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Church, Michael. Online: https://www.michaelchurchracingbooks.com/the-1919-victory-derby

Harzmann, Craig. Jack Westrope: Quiet Little Man. August 5, 2002. Blood-Horse online: https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/186824/jack-westrope-quiet-little-man

Hervey, John. American Race Horses 1936. USA: Sagamore Press.

Thoroughbred Horse Pedigree. Online: https://www.pedigreequery.com

 

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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 incomparable WINX marches on, in a campaign that has us all witnessing history-in-the-making, what is it that keeps us coming back to watch her race again?

The psychology of sport is arguably as fascinating as the sport itself. And while those of us who follow horse racing think we do it out of a passion for thoroughbreds or standardbreds, what gets our cranial pleasure centre pumped is the risk that our champion of the day might lose. It could be convincingly argued that without the potential for loss, sport might not exist at all. Because winning — especially winning all the time, despite the odds — is boring.

As much as metaphors of horse racing extol its capacity to inspire hope, the possibility that our four-legged hero or heroine might be conquered is as intoxicating. In a sense, we repeatedly tune in for a Winx or a Rachel Alexandra or a Frankel race because the possibility that they’ll be defeated is irresistable. Which is not to say that we think about this consciously: we don’t think “Will Zenyatta lose?” rather, what we tend to write, speak and ask ourselves is more like “Can Zenyatta do it again?”

Case in point was Zenyatta’s bid for a second consecutive win in the 2010 BC Classic. Even though the loss was painful for fans and her team, broadcaster Trevor Denman spoke a text rich in the nuanced possibility that defeat might, indeed, happen.

Since 2010, it has been the thinking of most racing experts that the great mare ran the best race of her career in defeat. But what most of us remember about that day is the anticipation — and the foreboding — as Blame and Zenyatta near the wire. And Denman’s words, “…Zenyatta ran her heart out…”

The part of the brain that controls pleasure is the amygdala and when we are in contexts that excite us or move us to a level of “brain happy”, as in intense physical workouts or deep meditation, the amygdala releases dopamine into our system. Dopamine is a natural “high” that gives us feelings of intense, emotional well-being, relieving stress and anxiety in a matter of nano-seconds. Arguably, our excitement watching a big race like the 2010 BC Classic is as much about the thrill of the loss as it is about the thrill of the win — and the amygdala cooperates by responding to our heightened senses as we watch to see what will happen.

And the “what” in “will happen” is written in the tension between win and loss, victory and defeat. In the great Frankel’s last race, the ground was less than ideal, and the colt was caught “sleeping” at the start:

Granted, the “nail-biter” of Frankel’s last appearance on the track resolved itself fairly quickly when the colt made his big move in the stretch against a valiant Cirrus des Aigles.

But many of the greatest, most beloved thoroughbreds have come perilously close to sufferring defeat at least once in otherwise brilliant careers.

One instance of this would be Personal Ensign’s victory in what would be her final race, the 1988 BC Distaff, where with heart-thumping courage she struggled in the slop against the winner of the 1988 Kentucky Derby. This race stands as arguably the best performance ever seen in a Breeders Cup Distaff/Ladies Classic. The stakes were high: Could the undefeated Personal Ensign finish off her career with a win against the Kentucky Derby heroine?

The 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup was still another battle to the wire. It featured two Triple Crown winners, Seattle Slew and Affirmed, as well as Nelson Bunker Hunt’s Exceller. Although, sadly, many know Exceller because of his end in a slaughterhouse in Sweden, the colt was a champion who had won races in Europe as well as America.

As you will see in this (rather poor quality) footage of the 1978 Jockey Gold Cup, Seattle Slew ominously rushes out of the gate before the start, although this didn’t appear to dampen his ability in the slightest as the race gets underway. But as viewers in the moment we, of course, don’t know this. And the “Can Slew do it?” is in the forefront as the race gets underway. The track conditions are sloppy but racing fans were firmly entrenched in either the Seattle Slew or Affirmed court:

 

Champion EXCELLER portrayed by Richard Stone Reeves.

The rare defeats of champion thoroughbreds only seem to make racing enthusiasts respect them more. This might be because a champion has proved his/her vulnerability, making them appear a little more like the rest of their human following. The poet Sylvia Plath wrote, “Perfection is terrible … Cold as snow breath..” and, in a sense, our passion for a particular thoroughbred champion is also based on their overcoming the stasis of perfection, which they do by bravely facing the music again and again and risking everything.

The corollary of hope is despair, and loss is one of the experiences that triggers feelings of despondency. Perhaps no other event in the last century of racing in England was as keenly felt as Nijinsky’s narrow loss to Sassafras in the 1970 Arc.

The British people had easily fallen for the brilliance of their Triple Crown winner and so much hope was placed on a triumph in the Arc. But what most had no way of knowing was that Nijinsky had fallen ill to an extreme case of ringworm during the season and that his run in the St. Leger, the last leg of the British Triple Crown, was against the advice of his trainer, Vincent O’Brien. But as owner Charles Engelhardt wanted Nijinsky to run in the Arc — another request frowned upon by O’Brien — the St. Leger was the only decent prep moving forward.

Had O’Brien’s sage advice been heeded, there would have been no Triple Crown winner of 1970. And, as it turned out, the trainer’s judgment about the champion’s fitness for the Arc was also correct.

Still another lacune was Lester Piggott’s ride on Nijinsky in the Arc: he held the colt back too long and whipped him near the finish, causing Nijinsky to shy and lose any chance he may have had to beat Sassafras:

 

The 1970 Arc. It was this close — NIJINSKY on the outside in a photo finish.

Still, it was a photo finish. But when Sassafras was declared the winner, the despair of Nijinsky’s handlers was visceral. They were not alone. Just across the English Channel, England and Ireland felt the loss every bit as keenly.

Had he won under circumstances that would stop most horses cold — from a poor post position to the distance he was asked to travel to reach Sassafras – Nijinsky would have gone down in history as THE thoroughbred of the century. But such was not to be. However, Nijinsky’s courage and raw ability could not be denied: in defeat, he was glorious.

The Hero’s Journey is played out in myth,religions, literature, film and popular tv series around the world.

Since the beginning of time, myths of the hero’s journey have been written. It’s a formula that we all know very well, however we might have learned it: the hero/heroine is born but orphaned early in life — to realize his/her true heroism, s/he must accept and overcome a series of challenges — triumphing over all, the apprentice becomes a true hero/heroine.

In modern times, we recognize the pattern of the ancient hero myths in Shakespeare, in George Lukas’ original Star Wars trilogy, in book series such as Harry Potter and author Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials,” in Marvel characters (Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman et al.) and in television series like Game of Thrones.

But it was theatre and sport that first popularized the hero myth for enthusiastic spectators in the ancient world, pitting individuals against challenges both psychological (as in the Greek tragedy, Oedipus Rex) and physical (marathon runs, chariot races, etc.) That tradition has continued to the present.

GOSHAWK walks onto the track. The image evokes the hero entering the fray, and few capture it better than the incomparable C.C.Cook. Date: 1923. (Source: The Vault, private collection)

The pageantry of a horse race echoes, in microcosm, the journey of the hero. Out the horses come, one by one, in the pre-race parade. Each is a warrior going into a battle where the outcome is far from assured. And as we watch them, we can’t help but imbue each one with the courage they so rightly deserve. Once the race is on, we are presented with a micro-battle scene, as horse and jockey overcome all that is thrown in their way to cross the finish line first. If they come home leagues ahead of the field, or fight it out to get their nose down first, they triumph as only a hero or heroine can.

BATEAU (Man O’ War) seems dwarfed by the enormity of the track, reminding us of the challenge she faces — and will be asked to overcome. Another of C.C. Cook’s “racing portraits.” (Source: The Vault private collection.)

 

The Dwyer, July 1920. MAN O’ WAR, with Clarence Kummer up, on his way to the post. Cook frames the colt’s readiness for battle in an image that depicts his taut body and pricked ears, underlying the determination that was so much a part of Man O’ War’s character. Keeneland Library: Cook Collection. Used here with permission.

The drama of a race in which we have invested our hopes and fears is cathartic because we, too, have run races in our own lives. We have funded courage against the odds and struggled to overcome them, and we have succeeded or failed in the process.

Win or lose, the thoroughbreds we have grown up with and come to love, go on. And as we participate in their campaigns, we are also subconsciously reliving places in our own lives. How else to explain our unerring understanding of the grammar of loss and our enthusiastic reception of the crucible through which thoroughbred champions come to be?

 

 

 

BONUS FEATURES

Out of the past: A few of the many other breathtaking performances that are personal favourites (below), listed at random.

We’re certain that our readers have their own favourites. Many of these are available on YouTube if you’d like to relive them.

 

Secretariat — The Belmont

 

Ruffian — The Mother Goose

 

Rachel Alexandra — The Kentucky Oaks

 

Barbaro — 2006 Kentucky Derby

 

 

Tiznow & Giant’s Causeway — 2000 BC Classic

 

Dance Smartly — 1991 BC Distaff (following her winning the Canadian Triple Crown)

Invasor & Bernadini — 2006 BC Classic (also features Lava Man, Flower Alley, George Washington, Giacomo, Lawyer Ron & Brother Derek):

 

Zenyatta — 2009 BC Classic

 

American Pharoah — 2015 Belmont Stakes, winning the Triple Crown

 

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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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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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ENABLE as a foal. A Juddmonte homebred, she is the product of 30 years of careful and skillful breeding decisions made by Prince Khalid Abdullah and his advisors.

 

She was not the first Arc winner to show up at the Breeders Cup, but she was the first dual Arc winner.

Others had come before her, most recently Golden Horn. But none could quite pull off annexing the Arc and a Breeders Cup in the same year. One Arc winner, Dylan Thomas, was entered but never ran.

 

Year – Arc Win Arc Winner Breeders’ Cup Result
1986 Dancing Brave 4th in Turf
1987 Trempolino 2nd in Turf
1990 Saumarez 5th in Turf
1992 Subotica 5th in Turf
2001 Sakhee 2nd in Classic
2007 Dylan Thomas 5th in Turf
2015 Golden Horn 2nd in Turf
2016 Found 3rd in Turf

 

Prince Khalid Abdullah had tried to accomplish this double feat with the legendary Dancing Brave in 1986:

Prince Khalid has always been an enthusiastic supporter of the Breeders Cup, sending his horses to America year after year to compete against some of the best in the world. But the decision to send Enable to the 2018 BC was one that surprised and delighted North Americans from Montreal, Canada to the smallest towns on the American-Mexico border. Many knew that the filly’s arrival was the first act in the drama of a precious gift that was being shared with the world.

Many were moved, even before they caught their first glimpse of Enable at Churchill Downs, by her courageous performance in the 2017 and 2018 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. The most prestigious race in Europe, the Arc is the ultimate test of champions.

In her 2017 win, the 3 year-old Enable had led the field home under champion jockey, Frankie Dettori:

But the Enable who arrived at Longchamps in 2018 was not the same individual, or, if she indeed was, the filly had yet to show it. She had sustained a worrisome setback — fluid in a knee — at trainer John Gosden’s facility, Clarehaven, in May and this meant she was effectively out of commission until her first start in the G3 September Stakes in the UK. (Please excuse the unfortunate reference to “Indian style” by the announcer.)

The 2018 Arc was only the second start of the filly’s 4 year-old season. In striking contrast to her fitness level in the 2017 Arc, where Enable rolled to victory in what was her seventh start of the season, the 2018 Arc would be a huge ask and everyone knew it. John Gosden acknowledged repeatedly that it had been a “long, difficult and emotional year” with his champion filly, but what he did not tell eager throngs of journalists was that the filly had spiked a fever going into the race and was about 85% herself. In the end, Enable showed her bravery by holding on to get up by a short head over a brilliant run by the 3 year-old, Sea of Class:

But North America, like the rest of the racing world, cared not that Enable had won her second Arc by a slim margin: she had prevailed. And all waited with sweet anticipation for the arrival of a thoroughbred queen.

ENABLE heads out on to the turf at Churchill Downs. In the saddle is a man who has been with her every step of the way, Imran Shawani.

They love her at her home of Clarehaven, they love her in the UK and France. Predictably, North America fell in love with her too. There was no other BC entry who got anything close to the attention Enable got in the days leading up to Saturday, November 3 and the BC Turf.

Among those watching the champion filly was photographer and racing journalist, Michele MacDonald, of Full Stride Communications, who wrote: “There is a certain essence about a great horse that is unmistakable. You can see something of an aura around them even from a distance — something in the way they carry themselves, some kind of projection of their very heart and soul. This essence never fails to ignite me, and I find my blood pumping, hands shaking, eyes watering — it’s often difficult to take the photos I want to produce while in this state, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything. This visceral recognition of a higher force that powers champions is part of why we are inspired by the best in Thoroughbred racing. Today the two-time Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe heroine Enable revealed her spark of greatness as she took a tour of Churchill Downs’ turf course. Juddmonte’s 4yo daughter of Nathaniel, Europe’s Horse of the Year for 2017, is the heavy favorite to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf…”

“…a certain essence about a great horse that is unmistakable…” pronounced Michele MacDonald of Full Stride Communications. ENABLE beautifully captured by the brilliant British photographer, Michael J. Harris. Photo and copyright, Michael J. Harris. Quote and photo used with permission.

Accompanied by Clarehaven’s Head travelling lad, Tony Proctor, and the man who cares for her every need, Imran Shawani, Enable took some gentle gallops over the BC turf course as her team awaited the arrival of trainer Gosden and the jockey that has partnered her throughout most of her career, Frankie Dettori. In the unknown world of Churchill Downs, Imran and Tony provided security and comfort as they have always done — playing out an essential role flawlessly. You could see their influence in Enable’s curious eyes, gleaming coat and unruffled composure.

Tony Proctor and ENABLE. Photo and copyright, Michael J. Harris. Used with permission.

With the arrival of Gosden and Dettori, excitement went up by several notches around the track and, through social media, around the racing world.

Michele MacDonald: “Today’s Enable moment: crouching under the rail [to take a photograph] allowed a different sensation, that of feeling (as well as hearing) the ground tremble as the champion and Frankie Dettori galloped past. When they were stepping off the turf course, Enable paused for a moment to take in the view. Walking near her, trainer John Gosden said gently, “Come on, pet.” She dutifully moved on, heading toward her attempt to make history Saturday…”

 

John Gosden makes no secret that he loves ENABLE. Shown here, with his wife, greeting the filly after her second Arc win.

Day Two of the Breeders Cup dawned sunny and dry, allowing the turf and dirt courses some relief from the rain that had fallen liberally during the week. The day before the BC Turf, Frankie Dettori had talked about Enable’s chances in a refreshingly down-to-earth manner, “Look…the stats tell you that it’s not easy …so we’re going to give it a try.” When asked if Enable would be “better” than she was in the Arc, he responded, “Well I hope she’s just the same — she doesn’t have to be better.”

Before the Turf — the Classic for turf runners — there were more thrills, as there had been on Day One when the juveniles were the stars. But despite the Post Parades of champion thoroughbreds, many awaited Enable and her run towards BC history with even greater excitement. The filly would be facing turf giants from either side of the Atlantic — Talismanic, Waldgeist, Channel Maker, Robert Bruce, Sadler’s Joy and two from the O’Brien stable in Hunting Horn and Magical.

The German champion Waldgeist was the second favourite in the betting. But Aidan O’Brien had saved the best for last in the brilliant filly, Magical, who even Frankie Dettori admitted, “…sails like a rubber duck over these conditions” and John Gosden added, “…the filly [Magical] was brilliant recently at Ascot [on Champions Day].”

Here’s Magical winning the Fillies and Mare Stakes on 2018 Champions Day. (Note: Sound quality improves after about 4 seconds):

Then, as the saying goes, “The hour was upon us.” And as Enable and Frankie passed her, Michele Mac Donald remarked, When a horse looks at you like this when they are walking past in the post parade, your knees go a bit weak and you know they have shown you greatness.”

“When a horse looks at you like this…you know they have shown you greatness,” said Michele MacDonald of ENABLE in the BC Turf post parade. Photo and copyright, Michael Harris. Quote and photo used with permission.

And then time stopped, as it’s wont to do at moments like this:

In well less than a short few minutes, Enable had taken history and given it a good shake to become the first thoroughbred to capture both the Arc and a Breeders Cup in the same year, a year where she’d spent more time recuperating than running. Her BC Turf victory was only her third (and last) race of her four year-old season.

John Gosden’s elegant remarks provided a perfect summation, as well as occassion for a really good chuckle in “Mr. Dettori has three children going to college…”

ENABLE in the saddling area prior to her run in the BC 2018 Turf, surrounded by her team.

ENABLE sails across the finish line.

Emotions as ENABLE comes back to the Winner’s Circle.

ENABLE, the queen of the 2018 BC Turf.

The battle between Enable and Magical was titanic but it was the ground that played against Enable, making her decisive win even more remarkable, if that’s possible. (NOTE: Frankie’s analysis of the race comes up early in the video):

In conclusion — a daunting task when Enable is the subject — we would like to express our gratitude and thanks to Prince Khalid Abdullah for sharing a most precious gift with the North American racing community.

It was an experience that will stay with us forever.

 

A very special thank you to the gifted Michael Harris who allowed us the use of his photographs of Enable, and to Michele MacDonald of Full Stride Communications for her moving observations of Enable and her team at the 2018 Breeders Cup. Your images and words made this article into a richly-textured experience for VAULT readers.

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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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The images that mean the most to us hold memories in place, keeping them vivid and alive.

 

New Bond Street, Mayfair, London England.

 

THE GIRL

The year was 1975.

It was a little before lunch when the young couple entered the gallery. The young man strode in with confidence, but his partner seemed to hesitate, stopping a few feet from the door. As she took in the walls, crowded with paintings and prints of ships, people, hunting dogs and landscapes, he quickly engaged a smartly-dressed clerk with a handshake, explaining that they were from Canada and he was a longtime customer of the gallery.

The gallery was in Mayfair, on New Bond Street, a street of decidedly upscale shops where price tags were considered vulgar — as was asking the price. It was the kind of place where the rich and famous shopped.

The young couple hardly fell into that category, the second of the two clerks surmised. He was an older gentleman, with a sculpted face framed by greying hair and kind, hazel eyes. It was rare to see young people in the gallery these days. They were more inclined to be on Carnaby Street. But the young woman, who was still standing near the door, was charming in her reticence. It seemed that the gallery more fascinated than overpowered her.

He approached her quietly and asked if he could “…be of any assistance.”.

“I’m interested in thoroughbreds…in horse racing,” she said. She smiled at him and he noticed the deep blue of her eyes.

“I’m interested in thoroughbreds…in horse racing.”

Beckoning with his hand, he ushered her over to a section nestled amongst a long row of prints.

“These,” he said, “are the smaller prints. The larger ones would be in this drawer,” he added, indicating a dark mahogany drawer with spotless brass handles. “I would be pleased to show you these when madam is ready.”

The thoroughbred BELLARIO. Steel point etching/print.

She thanked him in a muted tone, thinking the “madam” rather stuffy, and began to sort through the bank of images.

He was pleased to see that she understood how to handle old prints. He moved off, as he normally did with clients who preferred to peruse on their own. She was one of those, and so fell neatly into the sensibility of New Bond Street, where there was never any question of pressuring a client. Those who came to New Bond Street only called upon clerks when they were good and ready.

The young couple were on their honeymoon and so far it had been filled with explorations of antiquarian London — bookstores and galleries like this one. This was a London she barely knew and she was dumbfounded by the antiquities on offer, from leather-bound books with marbled frontespieces to prints dating back to the days when Canada was still a colony.

The small prints were either hand-coloured or steel points in black and white. Most had been extracted from books of the period, hence their size, although some had actually been produced as prints. The style was that common before George Stubbs, who had revolutionized the representation of horses forever. She studied some with more interest than others, plucking them out and holding them in front of her as though she were reading them. Noteworthy subjects, although their tiny heads, bulging eyes and disproportionate bodies weren’t particularly compelling. She let out the softest of sighs.

CHILDERS, “the fleetest horse there ever was” in a print from 1856.

 

George Stubbs’ “Horse in the Shade of a Wood” produced in 1780 (just 24 years after the print pictured above) epitomizes the degree to which Stubbs revolutionized the art of the horse.

The grey-haired clerk reappeared at her elbow. “Would madam care to look at some of the larger prints, I wonder? There aren’t as many of them, but you may possibly find something of interest.”

“Yes, please,” came the whisper of a reply. In the background she could hear the voices of her husband and the other clerk. They seemed so comfortable with one another. But, then again, when it came to antique prints and books,her husband had an expertise that she was suddenly very conscious she lacked.

She watched as the clerk neatly slid open the drawer and then, between open palms, lifted a sheaf of prints and moved with them over to a large counter, where he laid them down with a care that was almost tender. She joined him, watching as he turned them like pages of a giant book, lifting the tissue-thin paper that protected each one to reveal the print.

“Now this one is a lithograph. Hand-painted,” he continued, as they looked together at a scene depicting a race at Newmarket.

She was enjoying his explanations of the different prints and how they were made, but she couldn’t really say that any had caught her eye.

He turned another print over and as he lifted the tissue, he heard her catch her breath in the way people do when pleasantly surprised or caught completely off guard.

She couldn’t take her eyes off it. Then she said, “Oh, my. Oh. This is so lovely.”

“It is actually an aquatint from a series called ‘Moore’s Celebrated Winners.’ Aquatints are somewhat rare. Possibly because some find them too….too indistinct. Colour not as vibrant,” and he scrunched his lips to suggest his doubt that such a criticism was merited. “Aquatints are intaglios, basically. An arduous process in the nineteenth century.”

The young woman barely heard him.

She had been spirited away by the image of a grey thoroughbred caught in the comfort of his box stall. His name — “Chanticleer” — was inscribed beneath in a flourish of script close to the calligraphic, followed by line upon line of his achievements. He didn’t look particularly pleased at finding himself immortalised with such elegance. The quality of light that illuminated horse and stable bathed the scene in a warm glow that made her feel as though she had entered the image.

CHANTICLEER, from the series “Moore’s  Celebrated Winners.” Aquatint by J.W. Hillyard,engraved by C. Hunt and published December 6, 1848 by J. Moore, London, England.

 

Neither he nor she moved or spoke for several minutes.

Finally she asked, “And what would the price be, please?”

He hesitated. “Ninety pounds sterling, madam, I believe.”

She swallowed, although her eyes never left the print. They were both first year teachers, making slightly more than four thousand dollars a year between them. They had saved the whole year for this trip and were only at the very start of a three-week stay that would include Scotland, Wales and Dublin, where she had tickets to the Dublin Horse Show. Each had their own spending budget — and ninety BPS would take a tidy bite out of hers.

“Perhaps madam would like some time to consider it further?”

She nodded dumbly, feeling suddenly terribly small within herself. He lifted up Chanticleer and moved briskly to the back of the gallery, where stood an easel draped in black velvet. And against the dark gloss of the fabric, he placed the print.

The atmosphere in the gallery shifted. Although subtle, it was enough for her husband and the other clerk to raise their heads and look. Standing a few feet away, the girl and the grey thoroughbred seemed connected as though by an electric current. Even the air around them seemed to crackle.

“Your wife is deciding on whether or not to acquire it, sir,” the grey-haired clerk offerred helpfully.

“Can you afford it?” the young man asked.

But he got no answer.

 

THE GREY

Chanticleer was, in fact, a thoroughbred of renown in nineteenth century Great Britain. Born in 1843, he was the son of Birdcatcher (sometimes reffered to as “Irish Birdcatcher) out of Whim, by Drone, and was a direct descendant of the great Eclipse through a son, Pot8os.

 

ECLIPSE as depicted by Francis Sartorius.

POT8OS, Eclipse’s son, occurs in CHANTICLEER’s 5th generation on both the top and the bottom.

BIRDCATCHER, the sire of CHANTICLEER, was a very able stayer and a useful stallion who was Champion Sire in 1852 and again in 1856.

Bred in Ireland by Christopher St. George, the grey colt was subsequently purchased by Mr. James Merry in 1847, after he had already won three Queen’s Plates at the Curragh (IRE). Merry was a Scot whose profession was ironcasting and he also sat in the British House of Commons from 1859-1874. He was an outstanding breeder of thoroughbreds and throughout his lifetime owned two famous Epsom Derby winners in Thormanby(ch. c.1857) and Doncaster (ch. c. 1870).

MR. JAMES MERRY, as portrayed in a magazine of the day. CHANTICLEER would be the first of several very good thoroughbreds who established him as a member of the British racing elite.

But it was Chanticleer who first gave him a reputation as a fine horseman, for Merry “…was little known on the turf until he startled the world with the ‘gallant grey’ when he achieved a series of brilliant triumphs in 1948, including the Goodwood Stakes and the Doncaster Cup.” (B.M. Fitzpatrick in The Irish Sport and Sportsmen)

THORMANBY won the Epsom Derby in 1860, the Gimcrack and Criterion Stakes as a 2 year-old and the Ascot Gold Cup in 1861.

 

DONCASTER, who was originally called ALL HEART AND NO PEEL, won the Epsom Derby for Merry in 1873, the Goodwood Cup in 1874 and the Ascot Gold Cup in 1875.

After his purchase by Merry, the 4 year-old Chanticleer was shipped to stables in Scotland to be trained by William l’Anson. The colt’s 5 year-old campaign was the best of his career, one that saw him winning the aforementioned Goodwood Stakes and the Doncaster Cup, as well as the Northumberland Plate, together with a number of less-distinguished races. In Taunton’s “Celebrated Race Horses of the Past and Present” (vol.4) descriptions like “won the Welter Cup … at a canter,” and “…won the Castle Irwell Stakes …easily” indicate that Chanticleer’s 5 year-old campaign was noteworthy.

This is the familar image of CHANTICLEER that appears in most books and online. Paintings of him are very rare, despite the fact that he was well-known to the racing community in the 19th century.

By the time he retired in 1855, the grey had started 32 times and won 19, worth a combined £4,485, and that was a very respectable sum at the time. However, once Mr. Merry’s betting history was included, Chanticleer actually made in excess of £50, 000 for his owner.

But what was this hardy grey colt really like? Taunton describes Chanticleer as almost 16h with a ” coarse, sour head”, powerful shoulders and a girth of about 67 3/4 inches. Taunton adds, ” He was a very free goer, a capital stayer, possessed fine speed and unbounded courage.”

Arguably as noteworthy as his abilities on the turf was Chanticleer’s foul temper:

“…he was a horse of strong constitution, but very bad temper, in fact a perfectly mad horse, when l’Anson first got hold of him…at all times very savage; and so furious was he, on one occassion, that they were obliged to get the stable lad out of his box through the window.” (The “Druid,” quoted in Taunton, “Portraits of Celebrated Racehorses Past and Present,” vol.4)

At stud, the daughters of Chanticleer made a lasting impact on thoroughbred bloodlines worldwide. Through one daughter, Singstress (1860), came the stallion Macaroon(1871), while through another, Souvenir, came Strathconan (1884) the damsire of Le Sancy (1884). It was also through Strathconan that Chanticleer’s grey coat was passed on to The Tetrarch, a name that appears even today in the bloodlines of some of the world’s most accomplished thoroughbreds.

THE TETRARCH, whose short life did nothing to impede his impact on the breed, inherited his grey coat from a daughter of CHANTICLEER.

Another daughter, Queen of the Gypies (1860), is the ancestress of Theatrical, winner of the Breeders Cup Turf. Remaining daughters produced or were granddams to winners of the Prix Morny, Doncaster Cup, the Grand Criterium, the Derby Italiano, the Epsom Oaks, One Thousand Guineas, Two Thousand Guineas, St. Leger, the Ascot Gold Vase, Ascot Stakes, Chester Cup and the Great Yorkshire Stakes.

But arguably the most influential of all was Sunbeam, herself a champion and winner of the St. Leger, who went on to become the sixth dam of Phalaris (1913), among whose many important offspring was Pharos, the sire of Frederico Tesio’s brilliant Nearco. From Nearco descends Nasrullah, Royal Charger and Nearctic, sires who shaped the 20th century thoroughbred and left an enduring mark on the history of the sport worldwide.

NEARCO by the late Richard Stone Reeves

 

 

THE GIRL AND THE GREY

 

 

Another work by HILLYARD, the artist who did the CHANTICLEER in our narrative. HILLYARD specialised in sporting subjects, usually thoroughbred racing. This is an oil painting by the artist, featuring a pair of saddle horses. As in the CHANTICLEER above, the use of light is notable in this painting.

 

She seemed to stand there for an eternity, but the clerks at the gallery didn’t mind, having sensed that this was a large transaction for her.

In her mind, thought and feeling were engaged in a duel. Was she being too emotional? The cost was more than a day’s pay. But didn’t he belong to her — look at the connection they had ! Opportunities like this are meant to be seized.

Her young husband, having made his selection of military prints, was becoming impatient. He walked over to her, “You need to make up your mind.”

“I know,” she replied. But her voice was dreamy. Not the voice of someone about to make a decision.

After a few minutes more, she drew closer to the print. Then she turned, spinning around as though she were dancing a reel, and met the gaze of the grey-haired clerk, “Yes,” she said. “I must have it.”

“Congratulations, madam,” he responded, moving to take Chanticleer from his perch. “You have made a most excellent choice.”

Carrying the print to the back counter, he placed it with her husband’s purchases and, after each had paid, arrangements were made to ship the prints to Canada. When this was done, there were handshakes all around and the grey-haired clerk escorted them to the door.

As they entered the flow of pedestrians on New Bond Street, he heard her say, “I don’t care if I can’t afford anything else on this trip. I just felt that he was meant to be mine.”

“Okay…” her young husband parried, “but I sure hope you don’t see something else you think you must have.”

“Not ‘think’ … ‘feel,’ ” came the reply. “It’s about the way that grey made me feel.

 

Footnote

The series, Moore’s Celebrated Winners, were a series of aquatints produced in the 19th c. by John Moore in London, England. Various artists and print makers were called upon to do each of the “celebrated” subjects. Prints from this series are very rare and seldom come up at public auction anymore.

The aquatint is an intaglio print. In intaglio printmaking, the artist makes marks on a plate (in the case of aquatint, a copper or zinc plate) that are capable of holding ink. The inked plate is passed through a printing press together with a sheet of paper, resulting in a transfer of the ink to the paper. This can be repeated a number of times, depending on the particular technique.

Like etching, aquatint uses the application of a mordant, or dye fixative, to etch into the metal plate. Where the engraving technique uses a needle to make lines that print in black (or whatever colour ink is used), aquatint uses powdered rosin, a resin obtained from pine trees or conifers to create a tonal effect. The rosin is acid resistant and typically adhered to the plate by controlled heating. The tonal variation is controlled by the level of mordant exposure over large areas, and thus the image is shaped by large sections at a time.

An advertisement for MOORE’S CELEBRATED WINNERS that appeared in a 19th century London sports magazine.

 

NANCY (born 1848, by Pompey X Hawise). Winner of the Chester and Goodwood Cups, among others. One in the series MOORE’S CELEBRATED WINNERS. Aquatint, 19th c., London, UK

WEST AUSTRALIAN (born 1850, Melbourne X Mowerina by Touchstone). Great Britain’s first Triple Crown winner. Moore’s Celebrated Winners. Aquatint, 19th c., London, UK

THE FLYING DUTCHMAN (born 1846, by Bay Middleton X Barbelle). Winner of the 1849 Epsom Derby, St. Leger and Ascot Gold Cup, among others. Moore’s Celebrated Winners. Aquatint, 19th c.,London, UK

RABY(born 1846, by The Doctor X Modesty). Winner of the Cambridgeshire Cup. Moore’s Celebrated Winners. Aquatint, 19th c., London, UK

 

Bibliography

The British Museum online. Print of Newminster and descriptive details.

Taunton, Thomas Henry. Portraits of celebrated racehorses of the past and present centuries: in strictly chronological order, commencing in 1702 and ending in 1870, together with their respective pedigrees and performance recorded in full. Volume IV. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1883

B.M. Fitzpatrick. Irish Sport and Sportsmen. Waxkeep Publishing, 2015

Thoroughbred Heritage. http://www.tbheritage.com

The New Sporting Magazine. London: Rogerson & Tuxford, December 1858

 

 

 

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