Stonestreet Stable’s handsomely pedigreed filly Hillaby became a graded stakes winner with her victory in the Grade 2 Bessarabian Stakes at Woodbine on Sunday. By leading sire Distorted Humor (a son of top sire Forty Niner), Hillaby is out of Canadian champion Sealy Hill, one of the most distinguished racers by Point Given, winner of the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, as well as Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old colt in 2001.

Those are salty-looking antecedents, and as such they marked Hillaby as one of the premium lots when she was brought to sale in July at Fasig-Tipton as part of the Melnyk dispersal. There, the good-looking bay fetched a half-million from Stonestreet as a racing and broodmare prospect.

The racing part is going so well that her later prospects as a producer look even brighter. Winner of a maiden and an allowance in her two starts immediately preceding the sale, Hillaby has won two of her three starts since, with the Bessarabian giving her the much-desired graded stakes credit.

It confirms the promise that Stonestreet owner Barbara Banke and her advisers saw in the powerful bay, and the generations of excellence provide a pleasing echo of some of the high-quality Thoroughbreds that the filly carries in her pedigree. In addition to famous parents and grandparents, there are some fascinating stars of yesterday among Hillaby’s more remote ancestors that were combined to produce future generations.

A century ago, one of the leading racehorse owners in America was W.R. Coe. William Robertson Coe had made himself a man of great wealth with holdings in railroads, oil, and insurance, and as a sportsman, he spent some of that money on racehorses.

In 1916, Coe’s contemporary Willis Sharpe Kilmer purchased the French-bred colt Sun Briar and imported him to the States, where he became the leading 2-year-old in America with victories in four stakes at Saratoga, including the 1917 Hopeful and Saratoga Special. At three, Sun Briar won the 1918 Travers at his favorite racetrack, and at four, the Champlain Handicap.

Sun Briar, leading 2yo colt and Travers Stakes winner, racing with Willie Knapp in the saddle.

Sun Briar, leading 2yo colt and Travers Stakes winner, racing with Willie Knapp in the saddle.

This was in the midst of the First World War, when prices were depressed, uncertainty was a new addition to the American psyche, and horse racing was about to enter a golden age in the Roaring Twenties.

At the same time, Coe was purchasing yearlings abroad, including an entire crop of yearlings from Sledmere Stud for 10,000 pounds, approximately $50,000.

In 1918, Coe went to the Saratoga sales, where he purchased a pretty filly by the English stallion Corcyra out of the English mare Gallice, who had been imported carrying the filly. Bred and presented at auction by Arthur B. Hancock, the grandfather of the present Arthur Hancock of Stone Farm, this filly sold for $4,100 to Coe, who named her Cleopatra.

And at the same Saratoga sale, another draft of yearlings from Kentucky included a big chestnut colt from the Nursery Stud of August Belmont II. Man o’ War sold for $5,000 to Samuel Riddle, then went on to establish himself as the best horse of his half-century and one of the best in racing history.

Coe’s filly was also an outstanding racehorse. At 2, Cleopatra ran second to Man o’ War in the Hopeful, beaten four lengths, and fourth to Big Red in the Futurity, beaten six and a half lengths.

The next year, in the absence of Man o’ War, Cleopatra raced for the Kentucky Derby. On a wretchedly slow track, Cleopatra started slowly and went nowhere, finishing 15th, one of only two unplaced finishes in her 20 career starts.

The rest of the filly’s season was smashing, as she won the Coaching Club American Oaks, Alabama, and Pimlico Oaks. She was regarded as the top 3-year-old filly of 1920 when she also won the Latonia Championship against all comers.

Retired by Coe and bred to Kilmer’s favorite horse, Sun Briar, Cleopatra produced another leading juvenile, Pompey, who was acclaimed the best racehorse since Man o’ War after his juvenile campaign in 1925. He was not quite that good, but Pompey won the Hopeful and Futurity, then became a good sire at Coe’s Shoshone Farm.

Pompey is a good enough sire that he shows up in Hillaby’s pedigree, as well as the pedigrees of a large number of good horses.

Among Pompey’s important offspring were Ladysman, a leading juvenile who won the Hopeful at 2, the Suburban Handicap at 4, and the Santa Anita Handicap at 5; Pompoon, the first formally elected champion juvenile colt in 1936; and Outdone, winner of the Sagamore Handicap, dam of three major stakes winners, and the second dam of 1957 Horse of the Year Bold Ruler.

Cleopatra and Pompey are two of Coe’s most famous horses, and they figure in Hillaby’s background, but the filly also traces in the female line to yet another of Coe’s successes, the Disguise mare Masked Dancer.

A filly who showed high speed in top company at 2 in 1919, Masked Dancer produced three stakes winners and a pair of stakes-placed runners, including the eighth dam of Hillaby.

Speed and high-level ability through the generations are still the hallmarks of the best bloodstock, and as we saw with the purchase of Hillaby earlier this year, those are the qualities that major breeders and racing stables pay large sums to acquire.

*The preceding post was first published earlier this week at Paulick Report.

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