branncastle farm, bull hancock, challedon, challenger, champions pedigrees, gallorette, hasty doll, legendra, mrs peterkin, newstead farm, rich tradition, sky clipper, taylor hardin, wl brann, zenyatta
Greatness in the Thoroughbred typically has its genesis in other racehorses of outstanding merit: hence our fascination with and near worship of highly distinguished families of athletes that produce their merit generation after generation.
In the case of Zenyatta, several hands were involved in the grand genetic mix that produced the current equine legend of our turf, and among those of note were Newstead and Branncastle farms, neither of which was located in Kentucky.
In fact, WL Brann is the breeder who essentially got Newstead started because one of the mares he bred and raced, Legendra, became the cornerstone of the Newstead operation.
The Challenger mare Legendra is the fifth dam of Zenyatta. Legendra was bred and raced by Brann, a man of great wealth and international interests who once told Daily Racing Form writer Charlie Hatton that “I breed for the classics and try to emulate the best racehorses in England with my own bloodstock.”
To that end, Brann imported the Swynford horse Challenger to the US and stood him at stud. There Challenger sired Horse of the Year Challedon (Preakness Stakes winner) and champion older mare Gallorette. Among Challenger’s lesser but still quite good offspring was Legendra, who won six races and ran third in a minor stakes.
After Brann’s death, Legendra was one of 15 mares that AB “Bull” Hancock Jr. purchased from the Brann estate and then resold at the 1953 Keeneland fall sale. (Hancock really wanted only one mare from the estate, the Challenger mare Gallita — a full sister to Gallorette — but had to purchase the lot to get the one and ran them all through the ring.)
At the sale, Taylor Hardin bought Legendra, barren at the time, for $8,000 and bred three stakes winners in succession from her.
As a broodmare for Newstead, Legendra produced Spinaway Stakes winner Rich Tradition, Sapling winner Sky Clipper, Princess Pat winner (and Kentucky Oaks third) Hasty Doll, and stakes winner Mrs. Peterkin. With that produce record, Legendra became the foundation mare for the Hardin family’s Newstead Farm in Virginia and helped to fuel decades of success for Newstead as a premier small breeder.
Each of the breeders and sportsmen who have had a hand in the history of Zenyatta shared a passion for excellence that contributed to the creation of a great racehorse who has marked her own unique place in the breed.