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

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

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

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

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

I never saw Empire Maker in person.

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

BONUS FEATURES

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

An Empire That Will Survive Its Maker’s Loss

 

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

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

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

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

 

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What a decade it has been! All over the horse racing world, champions emerged to dazzle us and lift our spirits. 

There were so many great thoroughbreds in the second decade of the twenty-first century, from Australia to Japan to the UK, Europe and North America, that I gave up on the idea of attempting to acknowledge each one here. Or to make a list of the “Top Ten” horses or moments of the decade.

When I look back, I’ll remember many, but the individuals that punctuate the passing decade for me are the ones who were more than figures on a screen. They touched me deeply in one way or other, inspiring imaginings as they took up residence somewhere close to my heart. Like a besotted paramour, I awaited each of their exploits with an anticipation so intense it hurt. They made my spirit dance.

So these are my stars of a kingdom filled with stars. I have made no attempt to compare them, because I know that comparisons are pointless; for that reason, they appear in chronological, not hierarchical, order.

To the connections of each of these great thoroughbreds, who so graciously gave of their time so that we could really get to know them, I give thanks. I also note that, the connections of all the thoroughbreds on my list save for one allowed their horses to race into their adult years, when their bodies and minds had matured, rather than pulling them off the public stage as 3 year olds.

In North America we have been conditioned to think that keeping older horses in competition is a risk but, in fact, campaigning babies before they have physically developed is far more dangerous. It was wonderful to be reminded what thoroughbreds at the height of their powers could do.

1) ZENYATTA

(2004, Street Cry X Vertigineux by Kris S.)

Some Powerful Ancestors: Native Dancer, Tom Fool, Nashua, Never Bend, Cosmah, Prince Rose, Hyperion, Mumtaz Mahal, The Tetrarch, Bimelech, Teddy.

It was the final year of the great Zenyatta’s racing career and as 2010 opened, she stood a Titan — undefeated in 12 starts, 2008 BC Ladies Classic and 2009 BC Classic winner, and about to garner her second Eclipse Award, as older female. In the latter case, fans were deeply disappointed by her loss of Horse of the Year for 2009, given that she was the first filly/mare to ever win the 2009 BC Classic and to ever win two different BC races. Instead, the title went to another remarkable filly, Rachel Alexandra, who was also winding down an incredible career. Rachel had won the Preakness, together with the Kentucky Oaks, Haskell and the Woodward against older males in 2009, and was as beloved by racing fans as Zenyatta.

By 2010, we all knew Zenyatta, our “Dancing Queen,” intimately. They were family.  We knew her owners, Jerry and Ann Moss and the other members of “Team Z” — trainer John Shirreffs, grooms Mario Espinoza and Carmen Zamona, exercise rider Steve Willard, jockey Mike Smith. We knew that Zenny loved her Guinness. A darling of the press, a star of 60 Minutes and the centre piece of her own website and “Zenyatta’s Diary,” written by the Moss’ racing manager, Dottie Ingordo Shirreffs, Zenyatta was the flagship of racing for millions of fans worldwide.

She contued her winning ways, chalking up 19 wins before the 2010 BC Classic, where she would bid to win it for a second time, a feat only accomplished once before, by the incomparable Tiznow.

Zenyatta arrived in Kentucky on Nov 2, 2010 for her BC run and the world was there to greet her:

I wanted her to do it. She was one of the most exceptional mares in North American racing history and putting colts to the sword felt like a fitting way to close out a brilliant career.

But when it came, in the night at Churchill Downs, victory was not to be. Lagging behind the field for too long, then caught wide on the turn coming home, Zenyatta still ran what was arguably the most impressive race of her career, even though she crossed the finish line a head short.

The 2010 BC Classic was the only loss of a 20-race career in which 13 of her wins came in G1’s.

To say the loss was a heartbreaker to all, from Team Z to fans a continent or more away, is an understatement. But I will always recall the words of an Australian turf writer a few days later, who wrote “…While it stands as her only loss, you know nothing about thoroughbred racing if that’s all you take away from her defeat. Zenyatta did things most thoroughbreds can’t do — coming from over 20 lengths from the leaders and travelling at over 60 mph in her drive to the wire, to lose by a diminishing head. Most of us will never see anything that even comes close to that ever again. This is one absolutely incredible thoroughbred — and that’s what I hope you will remember about her final race.”

Zenyatta was retired in December of 2010. Arriving at Keeneland from California with her whole team, she was greeted by hundreds of people who stood out in the freezing cold to welcome her to Kentucky.

In January 2011, Zenyatta was awarded the 2010 Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.

 

2) FRANKEL

(2008, Galileo X Kind by Danehill)

Some Powerful Ancestors: Danzig, Northern Dancer, Nearco, Native Dancer, Buckpasser, Ribot, War Admiral, Man O’ War, Blue Larkspur, La Troienne, Bend Or, Commando, Domino.

Frankel started his career with a win that marked him as a “promising” juvenile, on a wet afternoon at Newmarket, crossing the finish line with Nathaniel, another Galileo colt, at his throat latch.

Named after the incomparable American trainer, Bobby Frankel, who had trained for Prince Khgalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte in the United States, Frankel was by Galileo out of the Prince’s Danehill mare, Kind. And even though his maiden win was in no way remarkable, we had all learned to “watch the Galileos.” I was intrigued by both Nathaniel and Frankel and resolved to keep an eye on both.

The British racing community is less inclined to “go over the top” about a horse than many other racing communities around the world, but by the end of 2011, it was pretty much impossible NOT to keep your eye on Frankel and his jockey, young Tom Queally. And even seasoned racing commentators struggled to find words to represent the history they knew they were living.

As for Frankel — he just kept going on and on.

 

After watching thoroughbreds for over 50 years, I knew I was a witness to an extraordinary individual, one who had been the product of 35 years of breeding by the Prince — as well as quite literally centuries in the making. Whereas the mysteries of breeding the ultimate thoroughbred have managed to elude even the most exacting scientific inquiry, what remains clear is that the evolution of the breed is not the work of any one person, but rather the combined efforts of breeders down through the centuries, together with the genetic contribution of many fine sires and dams. In Frankel, history and lineage had found its truest expression.

I often find myself wondering what it must have been like to experience Eclipse, or The Tetrarch, or Pretty Polly, or Man O’ War in their time, to have been one of the spectators, to have acxtually seen them in the flesh.

Frankel felt exactly like that kind of experience to me. I would be one who could say, “I was there.”

But running alongside Frankel’s unequivocal reign on the turf was another story, one that made each victory bittersweet: his trainer, Sir Henry Cecil, was dying. The irony was cruel, that one of Great Britain’s greatest trainers should come upon his crowning achievement in his last years. However, as Sir Henry would acknowledge shortly before his death, “I had to be there for Frankel” and there he was, in every sense of the word, right up to Frankel’s very last race.

The story that was Sir Henry and his brilliant colt, together with all the emotion, came together on the Knavesmire at York in the 2012 Juddmonte International:

The lovely thing about a horse race is that it shows us how to live in the moment.

When you are watching the career of one of the most remarkable thoroughbreds of all time, it is indeed a blessing to live each and every moment fully.

 

3) BLACK CAVIAR

(2006, by Bel Esprit X Helsinge by Desert Sun)

Some Powerful Ancestors: Nijinsky, Northern Dancer, Vain, Nasrullah, Hyperion, Hurry On, Scapa Flow, Gainsborough, Ajax, Isonomy, Doncaster.

I stayed up deep into the early morning to watch her run and paid for it. But there was simply no better place to be: she was my “whirlwind from down under” and I adored her.

In 2012 in the UK it was all about Frankel — and so a (usually) good-natured, if hard-nosed, rivalry rose up between the devoted on two sides of the world:

I’m never tempted to enter into such rivalries, but I will say that neither Frankel nor Nelly took a backseat as far as power and turn-of-foot were concerned.

“Hear The Angels” …..”The Pride of Australia” ……. “Regal Power Wrapped in an Elegant Machine” …. “And the Legend Lives On,” such were just a few of the calls that greeted the big, dark mare as she crossed the finish in her native land, her polka dot silks rippling on jockey Hugh Bowman, the field toiling behind her. She was the fullest expression her ancestors’ majesty, courage and heart.

If it was the signature shake of the reins and the immense surge of chest and forelegs in answer that I waited for when Frankel ran, in Nelly’s case it was the relentless, driving force of her sweep to victory that made my heart leap up.

Travelling to England in her much-publicized rubber suit to run in the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, Nelly delivered, though not in the style we were accustomed to see.

It was race #17 and never before had the great mare finished in a photo. Looking back, I still see it as a blip on the screen. After all, Nelly had journeyed from halfway around the world to appear at Royal Ascot.

Nelly went on to secure 25 straight victories in as many starts, 15 of which were G1s. It was an absolutely astounding record, by any standard.

So astounding, that as I look back on it, I still find Black Caviar’s brilliance difficult to fully register.

Sometimes it’s like that with the great ones.

 

4) TREVE

(2010, Motivator X Trevise by Anabaa)

Some Powerful Ancestors: Sharpen Up, Secretariat, Northern Dancer, Vaguely Noble, Bahram, Spearmint, Hyperion, Isinglass, Persimmon, St. Simon.

I can’t deny it. By the time Treve came into my life, I was pretty much convinced that I’d already witnessed the best it could get.

Then along came Treve.

I always paid attention to what the Head family was up to; this had been true since Freddy Head’s victories on Miesque grabbed my attention in the late 1980’s. After his retirement from riding, Freddy and his sister, Criquette Head Maarek, embarked on careers in training in France, with Freddy closing out 2009 with his brilliant mare, Goldikova. For her part, Criquette Head Maarek enjoyed popular successes with the likes of Three Troikas, Bering and Anabaa, who would go on to become an important sire and the BM sire of Treve.

Recording her first win (above), Treve looked a juvenile with possibilities. But her victory hardly left the world breathless — the tall, lithe filly was still a work in progress.

The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is the premier grass race for thoroughbreds in the world and France is its home. There is nothing better, as far as the French racing public is concerned, than to have a French-bred and trained Arc winner.

Champions appear when hearts dream them, and are ready to receive them. And by 2013, Treve, bred by the Head family and trained by Criquette Head-Maarek, was ready to answer those French dreaming hearts.

Coming up to the 2013 Arc, Treve had won the Prix de Diane and the Prix Vermeille, both distinguished races in their own right. The undefeated 3 year-old entered the Arc partnered by Thierry Jarnet, Frankie Dettori having broken his ankle in a fall in England. Among the “big horses” were Japan’s brilliant Orfevre, Coolmore’s Ruler of the World, Intello, and Juddmonte’s Flintshire.

It was a scintillating victory for a youngster, and especially since the Arc traditionally favours more mature thoroughbreds.

Youngster or otherwise, to win the Arc once is considered the pinnacle of any turf horse’s career. But to win it twice? In 2014, when Treve took her second shot at the Arc, only six had won it twice, of which Corrida (1936, 1937) was the only filly.

At first, it didn’t look as though Treve would be ready. Plagued by less-than-perfect feet, it was late in the racing calendar before she was declared a starter. Partnered again by Thierry Jarnet, this time she would face Japan’s quirky but talented Gold Ship, England’s Kingston Hill, second to Australia in the Derby, and Sea The Stars’ champion daughter, Taghrooda, winner of the 2014 Oaks.

Not only did Treve rise to the occassion, but she did it in style. The daughter of Motivator had secured her place in history.

The decision was made to campaign Treve in 2015, with the goal a third tilt at the Arc. Her thousands of fans stepped up as well, even composing a song for her. And as the video portrays, hopes were high for a mare beloved by connections and racing public alike.

In the end, Treve was unplaced behind the winner, England’s magnificent Golden Horn, ridden by Frankie Dettori and trained by John Gosden.

While hopes were dashed, it did little to diminish Treve. The Arc is a gruelling affair, one that asks all from those who run it. And Treve flew home a decisive winner twice in consecutive years.

The filly with the beautiful face and kind eye, who roused the hearts of a nation, accomplished the rarest of a feats — one that legends like Sea Bird, Ribot, Dancing Brave and Nijinsky couldn’t attain.

5) AMERICAN PHAROAH

(2012, Pioneerof The Nile X Littleprincessemma by Yankee Gentleman by Storm Cat)

Some Powerful Ancestors: Secretariat, Fappiano, Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector, Brigadier Gerard, tracery, Pretty Polly, Fair Trial, Menow, Mata Hari, Man O’ War.

I can close my eyes and still see myself as a girl, watching Secretariat’s Belmont in complete and utter awe. Then came the finesse of Seattle Slew, followed by the heart-thumping charge of Affirmed to the wire, with the courageous Alydar glued to his throat-latch.

But then came a seemingly endless drought.

I don’t know that I’d given up on seeing another Triple Crown winner during my lifetime, but I sure was discouraged. Year after year, I was glued to Churchill Downs and then Pimlico, wishing for a Triple Crown. But defeats like that of California Chrome and Smarty Jones, and losses like that of the incomparable Barbaro, made dreams of another Triple Crown champion seem unlikely.

It had been 37 years — almost 4 decades — since Affirmed defeated Alydar at Belmont when a bay colt from California called American Pharoah hit the Triple Crown trail, mispelled name and all, for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

As a two year-old, Pharoah had them buzzing in California. Even though an injury kept him out of the Breeders Cup in 2014, the juvenile still took the Eclipse Award for outstanding two year-old.

At your own risk do you ever ignore a Baffert runner: the man has the magic and the skill of a great horseman. He can spot a champion-in-the-raw and knows how to condition them properly for the crucible that is the American Triple Crown, a run of three races beginning with the most prestigious, the Kentucky Derby, followed by the Preakness and wrapping up with the Belmont Stakes in New York, over “Big Sandy,” the kind of track so deep and immense that it would dwarf a brontosaurus. There’s barely time for a young horse to catch its breath between the three of them, and each one is run over a different distance, the Belmont being the longest at 1.5 miles (2.4 km) with a long final stretch where many TC hopefuls have been caught — 37 by 2015, to be exact.

Pharoah had a beautiful pedigree — a son of Pioneerof The Nile, himself a son of the mighty Empire Maker (Unbridled X Toussaud by El Gran Senor). His dam, Littleprincessemma (Yankee Gentleman by Storm Cat, a grandson of Secretariat) similarly carried the potential of daughters and grandaughters of Storm Cat, who continues to influence the pedigrees of champions. But pedigree had been no guarantee of Triple Crown success over the decades since 1978.

When I watched the Baffert colt run away from the field over a sloppy track in the Rebel I was impressed….but was I ready to give my hopes and my heart away?

Then came the Arkansas Derby, Pharoah’s last prep before the first Saturday in May in Kentucky. Like the Rebel, the colt’s win seemed effortless, with jockey Victor Espinoza asking him for little and, once again, Pharoah crossed the wire with his ears pricked, as if to say, “So when do I get to really run?”

After this performance, he had me hook, line and sinker. And although it’s easy to have 20/20 vision in hindsight, the Arkansas gave me a glimpse of something unique, although what it was, I knew not. Thinking about it, it seemed to have something to do with his way of going that seemed deceptively slower than it actually was — and effortless, as though the colt could run for days.

By the time Derby day had arrived, Coolmore had already sealed the deal on Pharoah’s breeding rights. I took note of that.

Going into the race, I was most fearful of the gutsy Mubtahiij, and mindful of Carpe Diem and Dortmund, another Baffert entrant. Pharoah started from an outside post position — never ideal in a 20-horse field on a track where the first turn came upon you fast.

I wasn’t a fan of how Espinoza rode him on Derby day, but Pharoah got it done, persevering in the final strides, in spite of being so far from the rail around the turn. Meaning that he’d been asked to make a longer run than the others going in to the final turn and asked to do it early on. I could only respect the colt for his courage, getting up like that as the wire loomed, even though I’d been expecting him to lead the field home by several lengths. (As it turned out, Pharoah had “lost his A game,” according to Baffert, on the walkover to the saddling area when too many people got him riled up. Baffert also reported that Espinoza told him going into the final stretch “…he just didn’t feel the power beneath him.”)

Next up was the Preakness on a rainy day, over the slop. Having watched Pharoah’s Rebel win, I felt he had a decided advantage — rain didn’t faze him one bit. But I was mindful of the colt’s Derby because he hadn’t been quite himself, whatever the reason.

But, as it turned out, the pre-Derby Pharoah was back, taking the second leg of the Triple Crown with ease.

Now the heat was on. Did I dare to dream?

I had a modest “Belmont Party” on the day, with a friend whose dream was as hopeful as my own. By now, I knew Pharoah was special. Really special. But I’d been there before……

I almost choked on a chip, dropped my wine glass, hugged my friend and burst into tears.

It’s still impossible for me to describe all the feelings that rushed through me.

But I do know one thing: American Pharoah crossing the wire in the Belmont was most definitely My Moment of the decade.

6) WINX

(2011, Street Cry X Vegas Showgirl by Al Akbar)

Some Powerful Ancestors: Native Dancer, Cosmah, Halo, Hoist The Flag, Natalma, Hail To Reason, Man O’ War, Ajax, John O’ Gaunt, Pocahontas, Beeswing.

In 2014, Street Cry succumbed to complications of a rare neurological disorder. He was only 16 years old. The loss to Godolphin was immense, made even more tragic by the stallion’s success that seemed only to get better over time. Street Cry’s progeny included the Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, champion Carlton House, the ill-fated Delta Prince, Pride of Dubai, Australian multi-millionaire Trekkings, together with his brilliant daughter, Zenyatta, and many other very good individuals, particularly in Australia.

A short year later, in 2015, noise started coming out of Australia about another Street Cry daughter: Winx.

Owned by the partnership of Magic Bloodstock Racing, R G Treweeke & Mrs D N “Debbie” Kepitis, the four year-old had found her stride in winning fashion in the big leagues. Once again, I started to stay up deep into the Canadian night to check Winx out. But it was soon going to be a pattern for me, fueled by a big brown mare who seemed — no, who was — invincible.

This was one case where statistics actually said it all:

43 starts — 37 wins — 3 places.

4 Cox Plates in successive years.

33 successive wins and 25 Group 1’s.

Finished out of the money only 3 times in a career that spanned 5 years.

As Bob Baffert said, “…She {Winx} always gives you the Hollywood ending.”

The mechanics of her running style might not have been a thing of beauty, but they were devastatingly efficient. And there were shades of Zenyatta — Winx almost always made her run from far off.

And once again, riches fell from the horse racing gods and I adopted a new family on the other side of the world. There was the charming Peter Tighe, Debbie Keptis in her purples and her “Go Winxy,” the softspoken Chris Waller, the expressive Hugh Bowman and the mare’s “best man,” strapper, Turkish-born Umut Odemislioglu. 

I didn’t care that I spent the day after one of her races in an absolute stupor, since I knew I’d never see another one like her. As a veteran of thoroughbred racing, I’d never witnessed any thoroughbred win 33 races in a row, most of them Group 1’s. And as a North American, sadly used to brilliant colts and fillies retiring at age 3 or 4, I delighted in the statement this mare was making to the racing world — Winx had come into her own at 4 and kept right on going. Had she been a North American thoroughbred, racing over here, the chances of her becoming the mega-star she became would have been zero.

It’s impossible to conclude such an amazing story in a few well-chosen words, so I’ll leave that to those who knew her best, as they were on her very last race, the 2019 G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes:

 

7) ENABLE

(Nathaniel X Concentric by Sadler’s Wells)

Some Powerful Ancestors: Miswaki, Roberto, Icecapade, Mr. Prospector, Forli, Native Dancer, Tantieme, Minoru, Pretty Polly, Hyperion, Persimmon, St. Simon, Newminster, Beeswing.

What a decade it has been for Juddmonte! First there was Frankel, then Arrogate and, as 2019 closed, the prospect of the return of Britain’s Racing Queen, Enable. All homebreds from the stable that campaigned the likes of Dancing Brave, Zafonic, Commander In Chief, Midday and Kingman, among others.

“Have we seen the annointing of the 21st century’s Man O’ War?” called the track commentator at Meydan, as Arrogate came from far off the pace to win the 2017 Dubai World Cup. The colt had already won the 2016 Breeders Cup Classic and the first running of the Pegasus in Florida, before shipping to Dubai and was what horsemen call a “phenom.”

Love has smitten me again, this time in the form of a beautiful filly with a devastating kick and her team, the charismatic Frankie Dettori, masterful John Gosden, Tony Proctor, head travelling lad, and Imran Shahwani, Enable’s head lad and BFF.

Across an ocean she came, charging right into my heart as I watched her rise above all comers over the last 2 years, netting the Epsom, Irish and Yorkshire Oaks (the latter twice in 2017 & 2019), the King George & Queen Elizabeth (twice, in 2017 & 2019), the 2018 Breeders Cup Turf and, most amazing of all, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe twice in successive years (2017 & 2018).

Her performance in 2018, when surgery sidelined her, was particularly impressive, even though this is a filly with a strong, focused mind when it comes to racing. But that doesn’t change what Enable and her team served up in 2018, when she was only about 90% fit: a scintillating win against Magical in the BC Turf and a determined second Arc win against the fabulous, fast-closing Sea of Class. 2018 wasn’t the same as her Arc win in 2017, when Enable led the field home, but this took nothing away from the fact that courage and determination got her to the wire first in a dramatic, heart-pounding finish.

 

In 2019, after taking Cartier honours as the Champion Older Horse of 2018, Enable was back and the goal was a third tilt at the Arc. It was also speculated that this would be her final year on the turf, making each victory leading up to the Arc both sweet and nostalgic. Frankie wept, declaring “…she’s taken me places emotionally I’ve never been to before.” And my eyes filled with tears too, knowing the kind of superstars Frankie has ridden over the decades and realizing that it wasn’t only my spectator emotions that Enable had engaged: she owned Frankie too.

Her 2019 battle with Crystal Ocean in the King George & Queen E. takes highest grades for sheer drama, but I like to think her most dominant performance came a short 4 weeks later, at Ebor in the Yorkshire Oaks, where she and Magical again met up:

Then it was on to the Arc. To be honest, history seemed against her, but as the date approached I was buoyed by Criquette Head-Maarek’s endorsement of Enable, her assuredness that there was no other horse in the field that could touch her for sheer ability. My chief worry was the eventual winner, Waldgeist, because Longchamps was his home turf and he, too, was training well for the legendary Andre Fabre.

Enable had beaten Waldgeist before, but when the turf at Longchamps came up as soggy, I knew “my girl” was at a disadvantage because, as trainer John Gosden would explain, her famous turn of foot would be relatively ineffective. I’m inclined to throw this race out, not because Enable didn’t do her best — she absolutely did — but because the turf conditions were so against her and that, combined with the early speed, took its toll. It’s to Enable’s enormous credit that she finished up in second place. Waldgeist was a worthy winner, although his owner expressed complete shock that anybody, let alone his gallant boy, could actually beat Enable.

I was so saddened that Enable’s final race had ended in defeat — but then came the news that, as long as she was fit and still interested in racing, Enable would return in 2020. I applaud the sportsmanship and generosity of Prince Khalid and his team, and was elated to see Enable again crowned Cartier Horse of the Year, as well as Champion Older Horse.

It will be absolutely wonderful for racing. And as for Frankie — I imagine he’s stocking up on polo mints for his girl.

 

BONUS FEATURES

1) Zenyatta: Love Thing (AnimalsRock4Love)

 

2) American Pharoah: The 2015 Breeders Cup Classic. It was his final start — and he led them home with a flourish, in a new course record.

3) Frankel’s last race

4) The Trainer & The Racehorse, Part Two

 

5) Winx: A tribute

6) WInx : 60 Minutes

7) Enable: “…she’s always been a very proud filly…”

8) ENABLE: 2017 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

 

9) Black Caviar’s Story

10) Treve Feature (At The Races)

11) Treve: 2013 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

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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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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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I owe Steve Haskin for this article because his story, “For The Love of a Horse,” got me thinking about the horse that first grabbed my heart. 

(Link to Steve Haskin’s narrative: http://cs.bloodhorse.com/blogs/horse-racing-steve-haskin/archive/2019/05/19/-For-the-Love-of-a-Horse.aspx)

The cover of Sports Illustrated featuring the 1962 Derby favourite, Meadow Stables’ Sir Gaylord.

His name was Greek Money and I laid down my very first bet on him to win the 1962 Preakness. I was 12 years old and the bet, a nickel, was lodged with Grandpa in the livingroom of my grandparents’ home, minutes before the field started to load.

It had become an annual ritual, Grandpa and me watching the Triple Crown races together. Inevitably, he would ask me for my pick and on Preakness day it was a handsome colt named Greek Money. I was feeling confident: I’d picked Roman Line to win the Kentucky Derby, and although irritated that Decidedly had robbed me of a Derby winner, I was proud that a colt no-one had much bothered with in the pre-Derby show had come in second. As importantly, I wanted to convince Grandpa that the “horse gene” we shared gave us a deep affinity.

It was tough to really connect with my grandfather, at least in part because he was the last of the Victorians — those born at the end of the nineteenth century — and his sensibility was almost a century behind mine. He believed that children “…should be seen but not heard” and he would have enforced that addage had my parents not tempered him some. But what brought us together, nurtured by my grandmother, was a passion for horses. He had watched me grow up with Breyer horses, cowboy outfits, Marx Wild West play sets and books like Misty of Chincoteague and The Black Stallion. He even tuned in on Saturdays to watch Fury, Champion the Wonder Horse, Roy Rogers and My Friend Flicka with me.

It was always so much fun — that’s how I remember watching my earliest Triple Crown races with Grandpa. Right up there with comfort food. There was no place better than to be sitting beside him in front of the black and white television console for the Derby, Preakness and Belmont. The big house grew quiet and those not interested took their leave.

Eddie Arcaro was a great favourite in the Wheeler household; Citation was one of Grandpa’s personal “Pantheon of Greats” and he loved to reminisce about “Cy” and Eddie. But Eddie was no longer riding. And for the millions who had followed his career with the kind of reverance usually reserved for places of worship, Arcaro’s retirement in 1961 signalled a sea change to the racing world as they had known it.

On Derby day in 1962 Grandpa would likely have said something like, “I sure don’t see another Citation in this bunch.” Cy was unquestionably the contemporary standard against which every promising 3 year-old was judged. (Were he alive today, Grandpa would be both annoyed and disheartened that the racing world seems to have all but forgotten his beloved Citation.)

Eddie Arcaro and CITATION wearing the roses.

His pick was the Derby favourite, Ridan. But we’d both lost out to Decidely, a son of Determine, a superstar who had won the 1954 Derby. Determine was a “little guy,” but the son of the mighty Alibhai (Hyperion) was a steel grey rocket who also won the San Gabriel, the Santa Anita Derby, the San Felipe, the San Jose and another 5 stakes in his native California that same year.

 

By Preakness Day 1962, the oval coffee table in the “sitting room” was piled high with thoroughbred magazines and race tables, attesting to my grandfather’s studious analysis of the field. As we watched the beginning of the telecast, it was his habit to tell me about some of the contenders. That year, Grandpa was still most interested in Ridan, but Jaipur was also on his lens. As a 2 year-old, Jaipur had won the Hopeful as well as the Flash and Cowdin Stakes under Eddie Arcaro. Knowing my grandfather, he likely picked Ridan over Jaipur because Arcaro wasn’t riding the latter any longer. He had followed both colts through their 2 year-old seasons, as he had Christopher Chenery’s Sir Gaylord, a prohibitive favourite to win the 1962 Derby before he was injured and retired.

2 year-old JAIPUR and Eddie Arcaro. The great jockey retired at the end of the 1961 season.

There would be no Triple Crown, but the Preakness field was still comprised of several very good colts, the best of which were arguably the aforementioned Jaipur and Ridan.

Ridan, a son of Nantallah (Nasrullah) and the excellent Rough Shod (Gold Bridge), the dam of champions Lt. Stevens, Moccassin, Gambetta and Thong, and grandam of Nureyev, certainly had an outstanding pedigree. Bred by Claiborne Farm and owned by Mrs. Moody Jolley, Ernest Woods and John L. Greer, Ridan was trained by HOF Leroy Jolley, who had primed him to victory in the Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes before finishing third in the Derby. On Preakness Day he was partnered by Manny Ycaza and it wasn’t unreasonable to expect a better performance from him.

RIDAN, held by Henry Gervais, returns to Claiborne Farm upon his retirement. Photo & copyright, Keeneland Library.

Jaipur was owned by the eminent owner-breeder George Widener and trained by future HOF Bert Mulholland. The son of Nasrullah (Nearco) and Rare Perfume (Eight Thirty) had an equally outstanding pedigree and 1962 was another great year for the colt, who had already won the Hopeful, the Cowdin and the Flash Stakes in 1961. Jaipur came into the Preakness with big wins in the Withers and the Gotham already under his belt. He headed to the post in the Preakness with his regular rider, Bill Shoemaker, in the irons.

Jaipur and Ridan were poised to enter into a rivalry that, if not legendary, was certainly noteworthy and destined to become the central narrative of the 1962 racing season. It hit a pitch in the 1962 Travers, as they battled for victory and 3 year-old Champion honours.

Buddy Raines (white hat) pulls post position 1 for GREEK MONEY. He’s flanked by Eddie Arcaro and Horatio Luro, who trained DECIDEDLY, the 1962 Derby winner.

As for the rest of the Preakness Field, aside from the Derby winner, Decidedly, there was also the very game Admiral’s Voyage (whose future daughter, Pas de Nom, produced the great sire Danzig), as well as a colt named Crimson Satan, the future sire of the swift Crimson Saint, dam of Terlingua (the dam of Storm Cat), Pancho Villa (Secretariat) and Royal Academy (Nijinsky). Crimson Satan was a speedball and best at shorter distances, but not the equal of the other runners in my grandfather’s view. Pedigree aside, Grandpa also quietly dismissed Decidedly’s chances, viewing his Derby win as a fluke. Roman Line was running as well, but for some reason I chose Greek Money, very likely because he was the one who most impressed me physically on the day.

But who was Greek Money — other than the strking chestnut on whom I had invested a nickel’s worth of hope?

GREEK MONEY on his way out to the track.

To begin with, Greek Money’s bloodlines were anything but shabby. By Greek Song, the winner of the Dwyer and Arlington Classic as a three year-old, Greek Money was a great grandson of Hyperion. The colt’s dam, Lucy Lufton, was by the Epsom Derby and Two Thousand Guineas winner, Nimbus, a son of Nearco.

Nimbus’ win in the 1949 Epsom Derby was witnessed by HM Queen Mary, HM Princess Elizabeth, Sir Winston Churchill, Lord Derby and the newly-weds Rita Hayworth and Ali Khan, among others:

 

 

GREEK SONG (above) ridden by John Oxley. Donald P. Ross, the owner-breeder of GREEK MONEY, also owned his sire, GREEK SONG.

Greek Money’s owner-breeder, Donald Peabody Ross, purchased his dam sight unseen at Newmarket and shipped her to the USA, where she was breed to Greek Song, who was also owned by Ross. A businessman who had co-founded Delaware Park, Ross’ Brandywine Stable might not have been a household name, but his enthusiam for breeding and racing thoroughbreds was clear.  He served as President of the Thoroughbred Racing Association, as steward of The Jockey Club and was a founding member of the Board of Trustees of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Donald P. Ross bred and owned GREEK MONEY.

In 1962, Virgil W. “Buddy” Raines was the trainer for Brandywine Stable. As a child, Raines was handed over first by his parents to serve as an endentured servant to an itinerant trainer in what was the beginning of an 80-year long career in the industry. He was subsequently passed on to one “Whistling” Bob Smith, trainer for the prestigious Brookmeade Stable and its owner, Isabel Dodge Sloane. Raines did all the usual menial jobs around the stable, but as he grew into adolescence, Smith began to mentor him and trusted him to work the great Cavalcade, a Brookmeade star. Under Smith’s guidance, Raines rose to become his assistant trainer.

During his time with Brandywine Stable, Raines not only trained Greek Money but had also trained his sire, as well as other Brandywine stars, notably the champions Cochise (Boswell X New Pin by Royal Minstrel) and his daughter, Open Fire (Cochise X Lucy Lufton), both greys and descendants of The Tetrarch sire line, a precursor of speed and stamina. In addition, from 1989-1991, the now senior Raines trained three consecutive winners of the Maryland Million Classic for Andrew Fowler, Master Speaker and dual winner, Timely Warning. The latter was ridden to victory by Raines’ grandson, Mike Luzzi.

Throughout his career, Buddy Raines was a popular personality, noted for his storytelling ways. Nominated to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2006, Raines lost out to Carl Hanford, trainer of the incomparable Kelso.

A young Buddy Raines aboard CAVALCADE, the star of Isabel Dodge Sloane’s Brookmeade Stable.

Greek Money was ridden on Preakness day by John Rotz, a HOF who won most of America’s important races at least once during his 20-year career. Although Rotz was never the household name that contemporaries like Arcaro or Shoemaker became, he did receive the George Woolf Jockey Award in 1973, given to a jockey who demonstrates high standards of personal and professional conduct, on and off the racetrack.

“Gentleman John” Rotz, as he was known, the jockey for GREEK MONEY.

So it was that on that third Saturday in May, I watched with intense interest as my Preakness choice was loaded and locked into the starting gate:

I jumped to my feet, yelling “He won! He won!” but Grandpa put a cautionary hand on my arm.

“Maybe not. The stewards need to look at it again.”

“Why?” I countered, incredulous.

“We’ll see what happens. Sit still now.”

Joseph di Paola’s image of GREEK MONEY and RIDAN just before they hit the wire is arguably one of the most dramatic ever — note Ycaza’s elbow, overlapping Rotz’s arm. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun.

As we waited, along with all those gathered at Pimlico that day, photographer Joseph di Paola’s lens had indeed seen what happened. di Paola had decided to move down from the finish some 30-40 feet, and aimed his camera at the finish line. He was a crack photographer, who worked for the Baltimore Sun for some 50 years, and he wanted something a little different than the usual finish photo. Well, he sure got it. The image is one of the most iconic in the history of racing photography, and shows Manny Ycaza reaching over to apparently interfere with Rotz as Greek Money and Ridan neared the finish.

Oddly, it was neither the stewards nor Rotz who lodged the claim of foul: it was Ycaza, who stated that Greek Money had interefered with Ridan in the stretch. In his senior years, John Rotz told an interviewer that he didn’t believe that Ycaza had actually made contact with him. Rotz added that if Ycaza had concentrated on aiming Ridan at the finish line, instead of leaning over and stretching out his arm, Ridan would likely have won.

After an agonizing delay, the stewards ruled in favour of the winner and Greek Money was led into the winner’s circle to accept his wreath of black-eyed Susans. However, when di Paola’s photograph hit the front pages of every North American newspaper, a hearing was conducted into the matter and it was di Paola’s photo that became a primary source, since it captured something that the film of the finish didn’t allow the stewards to see. Manny Ycaza was handed a suspension.

GREEK MONEY’S win, as it was reported in the Winnipeg Free Press, featuring Joseph di Paola’s photograph.

My pride was visceral: Greek Money was “my” colt and his victory belonged to me.

Actress Joan Crawford presents the Preakness trophy to jockey John L. Rotz, rider of GREEK MONEY.(Clarence B. Garrett/ Baltimore Sun)

I won back my nickel plus Grandpa’s, and shortly thereafter used my winnings to purchase a Drumstick ice cream cone.

That it tasted like no Drumstick before it, I’m certain.

 

Selected Bibliography

Knauf, Leslie. “1962 Preakness: The Stretch Duel In Which ‘All Heck Broke Loose’ ” The Rail, May 16, 2012.  https://therail.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/16/1962-preakness-the-stretch-duel-in-which-all-heck-broke-loose/

Campbell, Cot. Stories From Cot Campbell: Virgil W. “Buddy” Raines. The Blood-Horse, February 27, 2013. http://cs.bloodhorse.com/blogs/cot-campbell/archive/2013/02/27/buddy-raines.aspx

Aiken Thoroughbred Racing and Hall of Champions: Open Fire. https://www.aikenracinghalloffame.com/Open_Fire.html

 

Bonus Features

Jaipur Documentary:

The 1962 Travers: Jaipur vs. Ridan

 

Jockey Mike Luzzi (Buddy Raines’ grandson) and Timely Warning (two-time winner, the Maryland Million Classic)

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

MATA HARI at work, circa 1933-1934.

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

Here’s a punter’s look at Flameaway:

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

Selected Bibiliography

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

The Blood Horse.

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

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

 

 

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Imagine, if you will, the world of thoroughbred racing without sires like Northern Dancer, Sunday Silence, Halo, Mr. Prospector, Seattle Slew or their descendants: Sadler’s Wells, A.P. Indy, Galileo, Tapit, Sebring, Deep Impact, Medaglia d’Oro, Snitzel, Dubawi, King Kamehameha,  or the late Street Cry…………. 

Named the top two year-old of the last century (John Randall and Tony Morris in ” A Century of Champions”) The Tetrarch ran only as a juvenile and proved a shy, disinterested stud, siring only 130 foals before retiring to become a pleasure horse.

Remarkably, his influence is such that The Tetrarch appears in the pedigrees of most modern thoroughbreds worldwide, making him a huge influence on the breed. Each entry in the 2017 Kentucky Derby carried The Tetrarch in his pedigree. And you can bet that the winners at Royal Ascot 2017 have a 95% or better chance of carrying The Tetrarch in their pedigrees too.

The Tetrarch might well have been the very best there ever was. 

 

THE TETRARCH_BblDvz0CAAILoEn.jpg-large

THE TETRARCH displays his famous chubari, or Tetrarch, spots. In the early decades of the last century, these markings were so strange that they sometimes inspired fear among the superstitious. Shown here as a two year-old.

 

Of course, The Tetrarch did not rise to legendary status on his own. He was an unruly individual and it took three other equally tough, Irish characters — the renowned trainer Henry “Atty” Persse, stable lad Dick McCormick and the legendary jockey, Steve Donaghue — to get him right.

But before Atty, Dick or Steve laid eyes on him, The Tetrarch began life as the offspring of a stallion described as a “plodder,” who had been purchased by one Edward Kennedy of Straffon Stud in County Kildare, Ireland. Kennedy was a rich cattle owner who developed a taste for thoroughbreds and was determined to revive the Herod male line in Great Britain. This determination may well have stemmed from the fact that Herod was a direct descendant of the Byerly Turk, who, with his owner, Captain Robert Byerly of the Sixth Dragoon Guards, had spent time in Ireland in the late seventeenth century. In 1690, records show that the “Byerly charger” won a flat race, the Silver Bell,  on Down Royal in Northern Ireland.

The BYERLY TURK, one of three sire lines to which all thoroughbreds can be traced.

 

Herod_(horse)

HEROD, together with MATCHEM and ECLIPSE, is a foundation sire of the thoroughbred breed. HEROD was a direct descendant of the BYERLY TURK.

Herod (originally King Herod, 1758-1780) is one of three foundation stallions from which the thoroughbred descends. Like the better-known Eclipse, Herod was also bred by Prince William, The Duke of Cumberland, the youngest son of King George II.

Herod is the foundation sire who represents the Byerly Turk sire line and he was a fine racehorse who began his career as a five year-old, the usual age that thoroughbreds started their racing careers in the eighteenth century. He raced until he was eight, winning at a preferred distance of four miles in several races at Newmarket. But it was really as a sire that Herod would make his lasting contribution to the sport. Although he sits very far back in The Tetrarch’s pedigree, Rouge Rose, a direct descendant of Herod appears in the colt’s pedigree on both top and bottom.

ROI HEROD_550b3b2b552ff5d634dae6e3122bc21f

ROI HERODE, sire of THE TETRARCH.

Always on the lookout for a Herod descendant, Edward Kennedy finally found a horse that caught his eye at Doncaster in 1909, where the French-bred Roi Herode finished in second place in the Doncaster Cup. This race was arguably Roi Herode’s absolutely best lifetime performance and Kennedy bought him, intending to race the five year-old for at least another year before sending him to the breeding shed. But, as luck would have it, Roi Herode broke down shortly thereafter.

The breeding season was almost over, so Kennedy bred him to one of his own mares, Vahren, a granddaughter of the great Bend Or, another Herod descendant. But Kennedy’s expectations regarding the union were likely moderate. Vahren had produced two decent fillies before The Tetrarch, but neither could have been considered brilliant.

VAHREN_8919d93345857b9c4ad4a924cbdef954

VAHREN, by the 2000 Guineas winner BONA VISTA (BEND OR) was lightly raced, winning only three minor races before retirement.

The Tetrarch came into the world on April 22, 1911 as a chestnut with dark spots. It is an irony in the narrative of so many great thoroughbreds that they are often dismissed at birth by their breeders for any number of reasons, including their lack of beauty. And The Tetrarch was no different: not particularly appealing as a youngster, his “coarse looks” were only exacerbated by the changes in his coat. Already huge for his age at six months, the emergence of a peculiar grey coat made him look distinctly odd, so much so that this was all anyone really seemed to notice about him. The youngster’s coat featured huge Chubari (later renamed “Tetrarch”) spots that gave an overall appearance described best by Steve Donaghue:  “…he was a sort of elephant grey with big splotches of lime colour, looking as though someone had splashed him all over with handfuls of wet lime…” (in Just My Story by Steve Donoghue, pp. 138)

Little surprise, then, when a fellow horseman advised Kennedy to geld the yearling and train him for the chase, rather than send him to the sales at Doncaster.

THE TETRARCH_hqdefault

THE TETRARCH as he may have looked during his racing career.

But Edward Kennedy had his mind made up and off the colt went to auction, where he was promptly purchased by Henry Seymour aka “Atty” Persse. Of course, Kennedy had a pretty good idea that the hammer would fall to the trainer. Atty had conditioned both Roi Herode for Kennedy, as well as the colt’s half-sister, Nicola, and the trainer liked the family. The colt was, as Atty saw, well-made with a broad, intelligent head and looked like a 3 year-old. However, Atty wasn’t the only bidder impressed by the Roi Herode-Vahren colt and he had to go to 1300 guineas to secure him. But, as was usual for the trainer, Atty planned to sell The Tetrarch on at a higher price, thus making a profit, albeit a small one, given the handsome sum he had originally paid. Before the year was out, Atty had sold The Tetrarch to his cousin, Major Dermot McAlmont. He made no profit on the transaction.

Atty was forty-three years old when he first laid eyes on The Tetrarch. The Persse family of County Galway were large in number and wealthy. They had interests in everything from real estate to local governance to high culture. The fifth of ten children, Atty was brought up like an aristocrat, graduating from Oxford with an M.A. before turning his heel on England and heading off to America to ride steeplechasers with the Meadowbrook Hounds. Returning to his homeland, Atty continued to build a reputation over courses in Great Britain and Europe until debilitating injuries put an end to his riding career.

ATTY_JH-Persse-1940

Young ATTY PERSSE.

In 1902, he began training horses in a yard near Dublin and by 1906 he had set himself up on the downs at Chattis Hill near Stockbridge in Hampshire, England. Atty already had a reputation for excellence well before The Tetrarch came along, but his relationship with his employees has been variously described as cruel, bloody-minded, mean and dictatorial.

Some speculate that the chronic pain of his jumping injuries may have been largely responsible for this; others, that he was an aristocrat dealing with a dime-a-dozen work force of boys — and treated them accordingly.

His stable lads, most of whom were under fifteen years of age, signed contracts to work for Atty that stipulated what they could and could not do. Working hours were of indeterminate length; sleeping quarters were above the stable, where the boys were locked in overnight; and they entitled to one day off a year. However, there were meals and wages provided, and for boys with neither prospects nor training, this seemed to be enough, even though few lasted for more than a year.

Secrecy was as paramount in Atty’s yard as hard work, mainly because the trainer made a small fortune at betting. A favourite strategy was to place a very good horse that no-one knew anything about in a race where his odds were say, 60-1, and then bet on him/her to win. The resulting income may not have been essential, but Atty really got a kick out of taking the bookmakers to the cleaners.

However, when it came to training thoroughbreds, Atty Persse was arguably a genius. Trainers like Cecil Boyd-Rochfort, the stepfather of the late Sir Henry Cecil, apprenticed under him and considered him comparable to none. (Boyd-Rochfort was Champion British flat racing trainer five times and perhaps most famously, was trainer to George VI, the father of HM Queen Elizabeth II.)

Dick McCormack, one of the lads in Atty’s yard who would rise to the position of head lad and apprentice trainer, attempted to welcome the colt with the funny spots on his arrival, but that proved almost impossible. Given his imposing size, The Tetrarch was so unruly as to be dangerous.

But Dick was one of Atty’s most trusted apprentices and the trainer let him get on with gentling the colt and giving him his early training, begin with lungeing. As The Tetrarch and the boy got to know one another, trust grew. Throughout his brief racing career, Dick was the only other person who could ride The Tetrarch other than jockey and fellow Irishman, Steve Donoghue. According to McCormick’s son, Richard, “My father was one of only two people to ever to ride The Tetrarch…The other one was his racecourse jockey Steve Donoghue who later wrote Dick was the only man able sit on him long enough to stay there. If he hadn’t been around, the horse may well have been cut (gelded) and that would have changed things a lot.” (Excerpt from Colin Greaves’ article in the Irish Examiner, March 2017)

dick_mccormick_on_the_tetrarchs

Dick McCormick riding THE TETRARCH. Dick was the only other person to ever ride the colt and knew him best of all.

 

Even in Dick’s able hands, The Tetrarch had shown something of himself that was rather unique: he essentially trained himself. Jockey Steve Donoghue, who likely heard a recount from Dick McCormick, tells it like this:

“…Even when first in the side-reins, he seemed to know all about it beforehand and to require no teaching, and as for going through the starting-gate, he only saw the tapes once before he ran and won at Newmarket…I always said from the first day I rode him that this was ‘his second time on earth’! He had in my opinion experienced it all before, in everything connected with racing…” (in Just My Story by Steve Donoghue, pp. 139)

Atty brought each individual along at their own pace. The Tetrarch was still growing and even when Dick had the colt well in hand, he wasn’t really put into a training regimen, with the result that he was far behind the other two year-olds in the Chattis Hill stable.

As the story is famously told, a day came when Atty asked Dick to saddle up The Tetrarch for a run across the downs with some of the trainer’s other two year-olds.

It was not easy to surprise Atty, but the day of The Tetrarch’s first run sure did.

The colt jumped out with the others and in less than two furlongs, he left them behind in the dust. Atty couldn’t decide if this was a fluke.

tetrarch with ATTY PERSSE and DONOGHUE_

THE TETRARCH, Steve Donoghue up.

So he sent him out again with a very good, seven year-old called Captain Symons whom Atty relied upon to help him cull out really promising youngsters. To make it a fair contest, Atty applied weight-for-age, meaning that The Tetrarch was weighted down with an additional twenty-one lbs. in lead weights. Added to the mix were two other very good horses. In addition, Atty asked jockey Steve Donoghue to ride The Tetrarch for the first time. Off they went and the same thing happened, Steve reporting that the colt almost pulled his arms out of their sockets as he galloped along.

Below, a taste of “the gallops” today. The Tetrarch did his gallops over the grass on the downs near Atty’s stable where there was likely little fencing, as you see here:

The third time out, racing against a very good and speedy four year-old mare, Noramac, Steve thought he heard Atty shouting at him half-way through the trial. As The Tetrarch sailed along, Noramac was nowhere in sight. When jockey and colt returned to the trainer, Donoghue inquired whether or not something was wrong.

To which Atty responded, “Oh, no. I was only shouting to the lad on the mare to tie her onto the grey’s tail!” (in Just My Story by Steve Donoghue, pp. 141)

The Tetarch

At two, THE TETRARCH was as big as a four year-old. For this reason, trainer Atty Persse was slow to start his training regime. But it didn’t seem to matter. The colt seemed to know how to do everything without anybody teaching him how to do it.

A rare and lovely silent video of the 1923 Derby at Epsom, won by the great Steve Donoghue and Papyrus. The two would later travel to the USA to race against Zev:

The Tetrarch’s first start came at Newmarket, on April 17, 1913. As might have been expected, Donoghue and the big grey were teased before the race, some asking if The Tetrarch wasn’t actually a much older horse, others referring to him as a “Rocking Horse” because of his unique markings. The pair took it all in good fun.

But when the tape went up, The Tetrarch jumped out, blazing along to take his maiden race by a good four lengths. But it could have been by twenty  — and everyone knew it. Even the other jockeys, riding out after the finish, pronounced The Tetrarch a “wonder-horse.” (Below: The Tetrarch shares a page in The Illustrated London News [1913] with the higly-rated Prince Palatine.)

s-l1600

And so it went all through The Tetrarch’s two year-old season, and the public fell in love with him. One distinguished stakes race after another fell to the “dynamic duo” of British racing: the Coventry, the Champagne, the Woodcote, the Rous Memorial and the National Breeders Produce Stakes.

The last of these saw The Tetrarch’s closest finish — he won it by a neck.

But the reason for that was simple enough to explain and Donoghue did so publicly, in an effort to dispel some of the opinions in the press: The Tetrarch had misjudged the start. The colt was always speedy at the jump out, quick to anticipate when the tape was about to drop. But in the National Breeders Produce Stakes, he moved forward too quickly, forcing Donoghue to pull him back and as he did, the tape went up and the race was on. Leaping forward, The Tetrarch was caught on the shoulder by another horse and nearly toppled forward.

It was a cloudy day and no-one in the stands really saw the start. It was also a holiday, so Sandown Park was packed with people, many of whom had come there to see The Phenom of 1913. Too, it was a valuable race and as the field rushed away from them, Donoghue knew he had to get his colt balanced and then coax him to run.

“Coax” was the operative word: The Tetrarch needed to always be on the lead. He had won every race before this one on the lead because he tended to “sulk” if asked to rate off the pace. By the time that Donoghue had the colt ready to go, the rest of the field was 20 lengths away. By mid-field, the colt had managed to pass two stragglers. With only 100 yards to the finish, The Tetrarch had two lengths to make up. He began a furious charge, with Donoghue urging him on with his hands, to win by a neck.

Many felt it was the best performance of The Tetrarch’s brief career.

horse-racing-the-tetrarch-g8xxx4

Steve Donoghue and “The Spotted Wonder.”

Having ridden many champion thoroughbreds, among them Papyrus, Brown Jack and Captain Cuttle, Steve would always say that The Tetrarch was one of the greatest he ever rode. No small bow from the man who had won six Epsom Derbies, two Epsom Oaks and St. Legers, as well as three 2000 Guineas:

“…He was a magnificent creature — a super-horse. I have never during the whole of my career ridden another horse that gave me the feeling of immense power behind the saddle that The Tetrarch did. The leverage of his hind quarters was so great that as he galloped one was fairly lifted from the saddle. The terrific speed he displayed seem to be all impelled from behind. To be on him was like riding a creature that combined the power of an elephant with the speed of a greyhound. He was, indeed, a ‘wonder-horse.'” (in Just My Story by Steve Donoghue, pp 139)

THE TETRARCH_woodcote-stakes-at-epsom-G8XXWX

THE TETRARCH winning the Woodcote Stakes, Steve Donoghue up.

The “Spotted Wonder” as he was fondly dubbed enjoyed the popularity of a Zenyatta or a Treve or a Caravaggio. The colt was already in the betting to win most of the three year-old classics, including the Epsom Derby. None expected that the final race of his two year-old season would be his last.

Then, suddenly, it all went terribly wrong.

THE TETRARCH_fromDONAGHUE book

THE TETRARCH’S two year-old season, captured in photo and drawing.

The Tetrarch had a bad habit of crossing his forelegs — or “plaiting” — when he walked or slowed up after a work or a race. Unable to correct this, Atty Persse had special shoes put on the colt’s forelegs that were shaved back, so that, should he catch himself, The Tetrarch would escape injury. The trainer was quoted as saying that you could “actually hear it” when the colt plaited and that it had been a serious concern since he had first arrived in Persse’s yard.

And it was, indeed, the plaiting that would end The Tetrarch’s career. It first happened shortly after the end of his two year-old campaign. Even pin-firing the foreleg didn’t help, as the colt struck himself again and this time, the injury was career-ending.

In Atty’s view, it was best to retire him and so, with his public jolted from worry to despair about first the silence surrounding their hero’s preparation for his three year-old season and then the announcement of his retirement, the colt was sent back to Ireland, to Thomastown Stud in Kilkenny where he stood his first season in 1915. The following year, The Tetrarch moved to Ballylinch Stud, where he lived until his death in 1935.

The Tetrarch proved an indifferent stud, or a “shy” breeder, siring only 130 foals during his breeding career. Although he never reproduced himself, he got some very good colts and was the leading sire in 1919. One son, Stefan the Great, is a great grandsire in the female family of Triple Crown winner Count Fleet, himself a superb sire and the BM sire of Kelso.

But his most brilliant offspring was “The Flying Filly,” Mumtaz Mahal, who was purchased by the Aga Khan, to whom is owed the founding of a thoroughbred dynasty through the Mumtaz Mahal’s daughters: Mumtaz Begum (Blenheim) dam of Nasrullah (Nearco); Mah Mahal (Gainsborough) dam of Mahmoud (Blenheim); Mah Iran (Bois Roussel) dam of Migoli who sired Gallant Man and also the dam of Star of Iran and grandam of champion Petite Etoile; and Rustom Mahal (Rustom Pasha) dam of Abernant (Owen Tudor), from whom a number of champions of the British turf descend. In the USA, two other daughters of The Tetrarch, La Dauphine who got champion Anita Peabody(Luke McLuke) and Herodias from whom Prince John and Lamb Chop descend, also made their mark.

MUMTAZ MAHAL_Flying Filly

The brilliant MUMTAZ MAHAL was dubbed “The Flying Filly” by British racegoers. Painting by Lionel Edwards.

But when we say that thoroughbreds worldwide carry The Tetrarch in their pedigrees, including those running in 2017, we refer principally to the overwhelming influence of Nasrullah and Mahmoud on the breed.

From the Nasrullah sire line comes Grey Sovereign, Bold Ruler (sire of Secretariat, grandsire of Spectacular Bid, great grandsire of Seattle Slew, great great grandsire of A.P. Indy), Nashua (BM sire of Mr. Prospector and Roberto), Nantallah (dam of Moccasin, Thong and Ridan, grandam of Nureyev and great grandam of Sadler’s Wells), Red God (sire of Blushing Groom) and Never Bend (sire of Mill Reef, grandsire of Shirley Heights). From this Tetrarch descendant alone comes any thoroughbred who descends from any of Nasrullah’s sons and their individual sire lines.

From the Mahmoud sire line comes most importantly Northern Dancer, through his dam Natalma, a granddaughter of Mahmoud. Any thoroughbred who descends from Northern Dancer — including names like Nijinsky, Sadler’s Wells, Istabraq, Danehill, Galileo, Yeats, and, of course, the mighty Frankel — would never have come to be without some help from The Tetrarch.

In addition, Cosmah (whose sire Cosmic Bomb was also a Tetrarch descendant) out of Almahmoud, Mahmoud’s daughter, was the dam of Queen Sucree (Ribot), herself the dam of Cannonade. The brilliant HOF Tosmah (Tim Tam) was also a daughter of Cosmah. But Cosmah’s most influential progeny was undoubtedly Halo (Hail To Reason) who is, most importantly for this discussion, the sire of Sunday Silence. In other words, the Japanese thoroughbred champions that descend from Sunday Silence, including the prepotent Deep Impact, owe their existence — at least in part — to The Tetrarch as well.

Simply put, the world of contemporary thoroughbred racing would be impossible to imagine without these champions, all descendants of The Tetrarch.

And, for those who only focus on the first five generations of a champion’s pedigree, consider this: without The Tetrarch’s influence, all of the individuals featured here would never have come into being.

And the list goes on and on and on…………

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

The Tetrarch. The Spotted Wonder. AuthorHouseuK, 2014

(Note: Yes, The Tetrarch is the narrator of his own biography and that fact led me to debate on reading the book. But when I decided to buy it, I was pleasantly surprised. Beautifully researched and the “horse’s voice” is never soppy or humanized — it’s simply the vehicle for telling The Tetrarch’s astounding story. Available also on Kindle.)

Mortimer, Roger. Twenty Great Horses of the British Turf. New York: A.S. Barnes & Company, Inc., 1967.

Donoghue, Steve. Just My Story. London: Hutchison & Co. No publication date.

Karen, Frances J. The Tetrarch: The Story Behind The Spotted Wonder. In Trainer Magazine, Issue 50, July-September 2015.

Greaves, Colin. Charles Haughey’s Balidaress. In the Irish Examiner, March 30, 2017 edition. (Note: Provided some insight into the story of Dick McCormick, The Tetrarch’s best friend and the person who knew him best.)

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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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