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In writing about pedigrees, most of the time we concentrate on the major influences. Those horses like Northern Dancer, Raise a Native, or Mr. Prospector who dominate pedigrees and who repeatedly show up in the ancestry of the most famous horses week after week, year after year.

But there are other steeds, some famous and a few scarcely known, who find a home in pedigrees without becoming stars in the firmament of pedigree writing.

Among the horses of this sort in the pedigree of Grade 1 Haskell Invitational winner American Pharoah, perhaps wonderful Lord at War is the best. The Argentine-bred chestnut was a mid-size speed machine, gifted with such early pace that few had the heart to take him on, and yet he had the fluency of stride and the competitive grit to carry his speed up to 10 furlongs.

Bred and raced by Peter and Diane Perkins and then put to stud in Kentucky, Lord at War was not everyone’s cup of tea. Physically, he wasn’t a towering beast with massive muscling. He was more fluid in his motion than most horses, with a light action. And for a horse with such American attributes in speed, he certainly possessed an outcross (ahem, unrecognizable) pedigree.

Now, before Mrs. Perkins clobbers me with a stick for such a comment, Lord at War’s pedigree was only unrecognizable to those who were unfamiliar with international racing, in which the Perkinses were immersed.

In the male line, Lord at War was a grandson of the mighty Brigadier Gerard. Beaten only once, and then with a brilliant bit of riding by Braulio Baeza on English Derby winner Roberto in the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup, Brigadier Gerard did not possess a grand pedigree himself, being by Queen’s Hussar out of the Prince Chevalier mare La Paiva. Once Brigadier Gerard’s racers showed a bit, but not a great deal, breeders skipped along to the next horse, and the ‘Brigadier’ labored as a nearly forgotten sire.

Among his good ones, however, was General, the sire of Lord at War. Sent to stud in Argentina, the Perkinses bred the stallion’s best in Lord at War, who showed high form in his homeland, winning the G1 Gran Premio Internacional Joaquin S. de Anchorena. Transferred to race in the States, Lord at War was trained by Charlie Whittingham and won the G1 Santa Anita and San Antonio handicaps, along with four other stakes. He earned $776,945 from 10 wins in 17 starts, only twice out of the first three.

Sent to stud initially at Walmac from 1986 to 1991, Lord at War was not a straightforward “American” sire. He rarely sired 2-year-old stakes horses, but his stock lasted well, took their racing well, and generally improved when raced on turf. After the first bloodstock depression of the late 1980s, Lord at War moved to the Perkinses’ Wimborne Farm outside Paris, where he spent the rest of stallion career.

Moreover, Lord at War proved that he was a really good sire. He had 47 stakes winners from 382 foals (12 percent), and one of those was La Troienne Stakes winner Star of Goshen, who became the dam of Pioneerof the Nile, now known around the world as the sire of American Pharoah.

Star of Goshen is out of Castle Eight, a daughter of the beautifully pedigreed Key to the Kingdom. A son of the great sire Bold Ruler and the great broodmare Key Bridge, Key to the Kingdom was a useful racehorse. He won the G3 Stymie Handicap for breeder Paul Mellon, then was sold and went to stud at Airdrie Stud in Kentucky.

As a sire, Key to the Kingdom had some very good days, siring European highweight Ma Biche, as well as G1 winners Great Communicator, Louis le Grand, and For Once’n My Life.

His daughter Castle Eight was a winner three times, then produced two stakes winners. Before Star of Goshen had G1 winner Pioneerof the Nile, the more famous of Castle Eight’s foals was Powis Castle (by Rare Brick), who won the Malibu Stakes and more than a half-million dollars.

Star of Goshen’s second dam was Her Native, a winner five times. This daughter of the Native Dancer stallion Kanumera produced Blackened, who ran third in the G3 Falls City Handicap. But from six total foals at stud, four daughters of Her Native produced stakes winners.

Her Native was bred in Kentucky by Pin Oak Stud, like her sire Kanumera. A bay son of champion and leading sire Native Dancer out of the Alibhai mare Believe Me, Kanumera was an ‘almost’ horse for much of his career. He won his only start at 2, then ran second to major winners Dike and King of the Castle at 3, and outran Al Hattab at 4. But all those better efforts came in allowances, rather than black-type races.

So when Kanumera was a 5-year-old, he was a talented and well-bred horse with no evidence of stakes in his record. Then under the training of Johnny Longden, Kanumera won the Harvest Stakes and went to stud, where he met with little interest from breeders.

Sons of Native Dancer weren’t quite scarce in the early 1970s, and many had better qualifications. But a handful of breeders persevered, and Kanumera got a first crop of 11 foals, eight of whom went to the races. All were winners.

And one of them was Her Native.

From that tiny acorn, each generation has improved to Pioneerof the Nile, and his son is a mighty oak who carries on a legacy of greatness.


When published at Paulick Report, one of the comments to this column was from Comrade Tinky, which is reproduced below:

Brilliant article, and I’m delighted the Lord at War was featured prominently. A couple of small notes: Lord at War produced 387 foals; Giant’s Causeway has produced 1867 thus far. *sigh* Progress? Methinks not. Powis Castle was a runner, and was by Rare Brick. The latter was by Rare Performer (by Mr. Prospector), and I have a distinct memory of him. I was at Hialeah in 1981, early in my racetrack education, and Rare Performer, trained by the late Allen Jerkens, was contesting the Tallahassee Hcp. He washed out badly prior to the race, and I expected him to run below form as a result. A little more than one minute eight and three-fifths of a second later, he was heading back to the winners circle, having equalled the track record. It was one of those important learning experiences, as I hadn’t seen him previously, and therefore should not have been so confident that he wouldn’t run to his best. Finally, as I have a clear memory of horse foaled in 1977, am I no longer eligible to be considered a ‘Spring Chicken’?