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The following post was published earlier this week at Paulick Report.


With victory in the last Grade 1 stakes of 2011, Teddy’s Promise added another crown of laurel to one of the oldest families in the American Stud Book that traces back through the centuries to the Cub Mare, who was bred in England in 1762. Her daughter Maria Slamerkin, by the English-bred stallion Wildair, was born when her dam was 7 and is the next ancestor of Teddy’s Promise.

If it seems a bit obscure to step back 250 years to discuss the pedigree of a contemporary stakes winner, there is a lot to learn along the way.

Not the least thing is the value of enthusiastic sportsmanship, which the owners and breeders of Teddy’s Promise displayed when Ted and Judy Nichols chose to test the G1 waters in the La Brea rather than the listed Kalookan Queen Stakes the following day.

An earlier sportsman of great enthusiasm and good fortune was George Lorillard. He raced some of the best offspring of the great 19th-century sire Lexington, and in 1879, he won the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga with Ferida. She is one of the outstanding female-line descendants of Maria Slamerkin, and Ferida is the 13th dam of Teddy’s Promise.

In 1879, Ferida was first or second in 13 of her 14 starts, with her successes also including the Monmouth Oaks and Ladies Stakes, as well as other all-age and all-sex events of the time. The following year, Ferida won the Great Long Island Stakes and had the peculiar distinction of running in two races on the same card.

That takes a tough racer, but Thoroughbreds a century ago were trained differently than they are today. And in the 19th century, it was commonplace for them to race in heats (best two out of three) to claim a prize, rather than the single dash, which was becoming more customary when Ferida was racing toward the end of the century.

And when the bay daughter of leading sire Glenelg and the Lexington mare La Henderson retired, she was considered an outstanding representative of one of the best Thoroughbred families.

Yet 30 years later, that was no longer the case. In 1913, the English Jockey Club created the Jersey Act, which declared any horse a “half-bred” unless it could show direct ancestry in all lines to stock registered in the earliest volumes of the General Stud Book of England. This made horses descending from some of the best American lines ineligible for the GSB unless already in the book.

Primary among those “tainted” horses was Lexington, whose stock had been a cornerstone of the breeding programs of the Lorillards, Whitneys, Vanderbilts, and others up to this point.

As expected, these horses descending from Ferida and other Lexington stock became less desirable, less valuable, and less productive of top-class performers.

But in 1958, another high-class member of this female line showed up in Hillsdale (by Take Away out of the Johnstown mare Johann), and Hillsdale finished his 3-year-old season at Santa Anita with a victory in the Malibu Stakes. Hillsdale was better yet at 4, winning 10 of 13 starts, including the Hollywood Gold Cup, and more than a half-million dollars.

Sent to stud at Claiborne Farm, Hillsdale placed his family on a much higher level of contemporary recognition, and his two-years younger half-sister Hillbrook is the fifth dam of Teddy’s Promise.

And while Hillsdale was central in asserting that this family was still top quality for racing, his sister proved a broodmare of excellence for Paul Mellon’s Rokeby Stables. Hillbrook produced seven foals, all fillies, and one major winner, Prides Profile (Free America). The latter won the Schuylerville, Gazelle, and Diana, as well as finishing second in the CCA Oaks and Ashland, third in the Mother Goose and Alabama.

What makes Hillbrook exceptional is that six of her daughters produced stakes winners, and several of them were high-class animals. The daughter of importance to our story is Prides Promise (Crozier), who was second twice in three starts.

But as a broodmare Prides Promise produced Summertime Promise (Nijinsky) for Rokeby, and when she was deemed redundant in the racing stable, she was sold and became a more successful racemare with victories in the 1976 Apple Blossom Handicap, as well as a second in the G1 Santa Margarita.

At stud, Summertime Promise looked like a bust, with no black-type winners from only five foals. But four of those were fillies, and each produced at least one stakes winner. The most important were Blushing Promise (Blushing Groom), whose only foal was the important racehorse and sire Carson City for W.T. Young’s Overbrook Farm, which bred most of this generation, and Alydar’s Promise (Alydar), who was acquired by John Mabee’s Golden Eagle Farm and produced the important sire General Meeting (Seattle Slew) for him.

Alydar’s Promise is the second dam of Teddy’s Promise, and the mare produced her second-to-last foal in 1998. This was the Capote mare Braids and Beads. After being acquired by the Nichols, Braids and Beads produced Teddy’s Promise, and the result is now part of history.