lecomte stakes winner instant coffee runs to his heritage


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The victory of Instant Coffee (by Bolt d’Oro) in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds brings more than hopes of classic glory to the talented colt. It also reminds us of the fast and furious rivalry between Lecomte and Lexington, both sons of the great 19th-century American racehorse and sire Boston (Timoleon).

Lecomte and Lexington were foaled in 1850, the year that California entered the Union, and each was a racehorse of very high quality. Lecomte was unbeaten until his defeat by Lexington, and Lexington met his first and only defeat from Lecomte.

Lexington won the Great State Post Stakes from Lecomte, then the latter turned the tables in the 1854 Jockey Club Purse. At these races, the interstate rivalry was so intense that tens of thousands of dollars, probably hundreds of thousands, changed hands on the results. The deciding race was the 1855 Jockey Club Purse, when Lexington won the first four-mile heat and Lecomte was withdrawn from the second.

After Lexington had defeated Lecomte the second time, the bay son of Boston was retired due to failing eyesight and went to stud that year in Kentucky at W.F. Harper’s stud near Midway, Ky., for a covering fee of $100, $1 to the groom. Robert A. Alexander of Woodburn Farm had gone to England to purchase bloodstock, there met Lexington’s owner Richard Ten Broeck, and purchased the horse for $15,000, an American record price for a horse at that time.

As talented a racer as Lexington was, he proved even more important as a sire. He was the leading sire in the country 14 times in a row, with an additional two more sire titles for 16 total. The great blind stallion died at Woodburn in July 1875 at the age of 25, and his skeleton was preserved and is at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Lexington was lionized in print and illustration, as in this lithograph of the horse in racing trim on his retirement to stud in Kentucky.

An interesting facet of Instant Coffee’s pedigree is that both these great rivals figure in the pedigree of the Lecomte Stakes winner.

The role of Lexington is not a surprise. He is present in essentially all pedigrees. Among other notable connections, Lexington is the sire of 1865 Travers winner Maiden, the sixth dam of Nearco (Pharis), and Mumtaz Mahal (The Tetrarch) has Lexington twice in her sixth generation because her second dam, Americus Girl, is by Americus, who was inbred 3×3 to Lexington through Norfolk and his full sister The Nun.

So Lexington is pervasive in pedigrees the world over, but the same cannot be said for Lecomte.

After Lexington ambled off to stud, the chestnut Lecomte raced on, although he, like his sire Boston, covered mares while still remaining an active racer. Lecomte was bred in 1855 and 1856, then after defeats from a horse named Pryor (Glencoe), was sold to Lexington’s former owner Richard Ten Broeck toward the end of 1856.

From breeder-owner Thomas Jefferson Wells, Ten Broeck purchased not only Lecomte for $10,000 but also his younger half-sister Prioress (Sovereign). Together with Pryor, the two offspring of the great producer Reel shipped to England as Ten Broeck’s troika to take on the best of English racing.

For Pryor and Lecomte, the trip was a disaster. Lecomte had a sore ankle and could not stand a proper training regimen; Pryor fell ill on the trip overseas and never recovered his form. Lecomte suffered colic and died on Oct. 7, 1857, and Pryor died 15 days later, per their obituaries in the Spirit of the Times.

The sole bright spot for this tragic expedition was that Prioress raced into a triple dead heat for the 1857 Cambridgeshire Handicap and won the run-off.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the final foals by Lecomte had been born in 1857. The best racer among these was bred in Kentucky by Ten Broeck. He was a bay colt out of Alice Carneal (Sarpedon) and a half-brother to Lexington by his great rival.

Named Umpire, this colt was taken to England by Ten Broeck, and he was notably successful, at one time the actual favorite for the Derby at Epsom. On the day, Umpire started as third choice 6-1 behind The Wizard, who had won the 1860 2,000 Guineas, and Thormanby. The bettors had the first two tagged but in the wrong order, as Thormanby won by 1 ½ lengths, and Umpire was seventh in a field of 30.

Later in 1860, Umpire raced for the St. Leger at Doncaster, with Thormanby favored, but after taking the lead, Umpire could not hold on and finished seventh behind the winner, St. Albans, as the fifth choice in a field of 15. Thormanby finished 11th.

Sound and athletic, Umpire raced on, winning the Queen’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in 1863, by which time he was owned by Lord Coventry.

Wild Man from Borneo was a great-grandson of Lexington’s great rival Lecomte and won the Grand National of 1895.

Sent to stud, Umpire had some foals, and his son Decider earned a place in history as the sire of one of the best-named winners of the Grand National at Aintree: Wild Man From Borneo, the victor in the great steeplechase in 1895.

In the present day, however, pride of place goes to one of Lecomte’s daughters. This is the Lecomte Mare 1857 out of Edith, otherwise unnamed. She was bred by Wells and is the 15th dam of this year’s Lecomte Stakes winner Instant Coffee.

As with Instant Coffee, nearly all of the contemporary connections to Lecomte come through the Lecomte Mare’s granddaughter Mannie Gray, the dam of Correction and her full brother Domino. Together, they exerted an extraordinary influence on American breeding, especially in the first half of the 20th century, but are still present in pedigrees today.


young sire mendelssohn hitting the right notes

As a son of leading sire Scat Daddy (by Johannesburg) and a half-brother to multiple leading sire Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday), great things were expected of Mendelssohn when he retired to stud at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud outside of Versailles, Ky., and covered his first book of mares in 2019.

As a half-brother to champion Beholder (Hennessy) and a grand-looking yearling, Coolmore had paid $3 million for Mendelssohn as a yearling when presented at the 2016 September sale by breeder Clarkland Farm.

Then the handsome bay won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in 2017, as well as placing second in the G1 Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. The following season, Mendelssohn won the G2 UAE Derby, then placed second in the G1 Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup.

When Mendelssohn went to stud at four, breeders responded like he’d won the Derby and the Arc. They smothered him with mares.

Mendelssohn is a strikingly handsome son of leading sire Scat Daddy, as well as a half-brother of leading sire Into Mischief and of champion racer Beholder. (Photo courtesy of Ashford Stud / Coolmore)

As a result, the horse has a first crop of 175 foals, per Equineline. Of those, 138 went to yearling sales, 109 sold for an average price of $145,456 and a median of $100,000. From the second crop of 172 foals, 130 were offered for sale as yearlings, 105 sold for an average of $91,968 and a median price of $75,000.

Nearly everyone thought the gold mine was open for business.

Then, the 2-year-olds were a little slower to come to hand than expected in 2022, and the rumbling started. And in truth, Mendelssohn didn’t have a black-type horse until Sept. 23, when the filly Miracle was second in the restricted Joseph A. Gemma. A second followed a week later, with the colt Congo River in the Legacy Stakes at Dundalk.

All those holding their breath for the young stallion’s success, as well as those holding foals of 2022 and mares in foal for 2023, were waiting for something serious to happen.

And in the last 100 days, it certainly has. Mendelssohn has accrued numerous more winners, three more stakes-placed horses for a total of five, and three stakes winners. The first of those came on Oct. 7 at Keeneland, when Delight won the G2 Jessamine Stakes.

The latter pair came in the last two weeks. Classical Cat won the Eddie Logan Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 30, and Opus Forty Two won the Gasparilla Stakes at Tampa Bay on Jan. 14. By the end of the year, the sire’s year-ending flurry of good results had moved him up the list of first-crop sires to seventh place.

Bred in Kentucky by Rose Hill Farm and John Trumbulovic, Opus Forty Two sold at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale for $185,000 to Ben Gowans, agent, and is owned by Mark Grier. This filly is the second foal from the winning Lemon Drop Kid mare Laquesta and was winning for the second time in four starts with her victory in the Gasparilla.

Opus Forty Two had debuted going five furlongs on turf, finished second; came back at 5 ½ furlongs on turf, was second; was sent six furlongs on dirt at Tampa Bay and won; and then made her stakes success going seven furlongs on dirt.

This brings up an interesting point about Mendelssohn. Among the top 12 freshmen sires of 2022, only one, Oscar Performance (Kitten’s Joy), has a longer average winning distance among his offspring. This may explain why the racers by Mendelssohn have taken a bit longer to get under way. The longer distance a racer needs to show its proper form, the longer it typically needs to be in training, and the longer the juveniles have to wait for those races to be written and to fill.

The results appear to have been worth the wait, as more of Mendelssohn’s racers win and earn black type. This is a joyous sound for breeders and buyers who have supported the horse, and the sounds of beauty are not just in the eyes and ears of the stallion’s supporters.

Opus Forty Two is named after the musical composition of Felix Mendelssohn that he labeled number 42. In it, the composer set Martin Luther’s German translation of Psalm 42 to music and voice. Mendelssohn premiered the work in January 1838 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, of which he was the conductor until his death in 1847.

Mendelssohn’s works are generally ranked among the very best classical compositions of the 19th century, and now his equine namesake is making a joyous noise as well.

classic stars of 1959 take a bow in 2023



The Grade 3 Sham Stakes on Jan. 8 told us several things, most prominently that Bob Baffert’s talented cadre of classic prospects includes some of the most expensive purchases in the crop and that they are very well chosen and prepared.

Three of the Baffert brigade filled the first three places in the Sham and cost $775,000 (Reincarnate [Good Magic] at the Keeneland September yearling sale of 2021), $850,000 (Newgate [Into Mischief] at the same sale), and $500,000 (National Treasure [Quality Road] the 2021 Saratoga select yearling sale).

The results of the Sham are also one more brick in the road toward proving that the sires in the 2022 freshman crop are among the best in the breed.

Such an accomplishment is not only difficult to achieve, but it is challenging to quantify, as well.

By one measure, we are seeing the racers by these new sires, such as former juvenile champion Good Magic (Curlin), win important races against the stock by other top-end sires like multiple leading sire Into Mischief and sire of champions Quality Road.

By another measure, the number of stakes winners by more than one or two of these young stallions is mounting up. At this point, Good Magic has the lead by number of stakes winners (seven). Until the Sham, he had been in a three-way tie for first in that regard with the two other sires atop the freshman sires list: first-place Bolt d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro) and third-place Justify (Scat Daddy) with six each.

Fourth-place Army Mule (Friesan Fire) and fifth-place Girvin (Tale of Ekati) have five stakes winners each. The top 10 is rounded out with Sharp Azteca (Freud), Mendelssohn (Scat Daddy), Oscar Performance (Kitten’s Joy), Mo Town (Uncle Mo), and City of Light (Quality Road). Each of those have two or three stakes winners, and the top 10 freshmen account for 41 stakes winners, so far.

All other freshmen sires account for 18 more stakes winners, but it is becoming clearer by the day that the top 10 this year is a pack of salty dogs.

Among the stakes winners by Good Magic, for instance, are four other graded stakes winners, including the colts Blazing Sevens (G1 Champagne Stakes), Dubyuhnell (G2 Remsen Stakes), and Curly Jack (G3 Iroquois Stakes). Reincarnate makes five graded stakes winners for Good Magic, and he will be standing for a 2023 fee of $50,000 live foal at Hill ‘n’ Dale at Xalapa in Bourbon County, northeast of Lexington.

Bred in Kentucky by Woods Edge Farm LLC, Reincarnate is the fourth foal out of the Scat Daddy mare Allanah, who won the Cincinnati Trophy during her racing career. This is a family of good racers and producers and traces back to an interesting fourth dam, Corner Table. Although she was unplaced in six starts, the chestnut mare was remarkable for a couple of other reasons. A foal of 1969, she was one of the earlier horses bred by John Gaines, and she possessed one of the typical Gaines pedigrees. He loved a big, active pedigree that was highly commercial.

Corner Table was by 1959 Horse of the Year Sword Dancer (Sunglow), who had sired 1966 champion 3-year-old filly Lady Pitt in his second crop and 1967 champion 3-year-colt and Horse of the Year Damascus in his third.

A winner in 15 of his 39 starts for owner Brookmeade Stable, Sword Dancer peaked at three and ran a very good second in the Kentucky Derby to winner Tomy Lee (Tudor Minstrel) and was second in the 1959 Preakness to Royal Orbit (Royal Charger). Trainer Elliott Burch then sent the small chestnut to challenge his elders in the Metropolitan Handicap, and Sword Dancer won the race.

Burch wheeled his colt back in the Belmont, and Sword Dancer won the 12-furlong test of the champion, with Royal Orbit third, and continued his 3-year-old season with victories in the Travers, Woodward Stakes, and Jockey Club Gold Cup. High class and a hardy campaign earned Sword Dancer the 1959 Horse of the Year title. At four, Sword Dancer won the Suburban and a second Woodward, as well as the title as champion older horse, but 1960 was the first year of mighty Kelso’s reign as Horse of the Year.

Sent to stud in 1961, Sword Dancer stood at Darby Dan Farm and sired Lady Pitt in his second crop, foals of 1963. She and Damascus were leagues better than the 13 other stakes winners sired by Sword Dancer, but their fame and ability was such that Sword Dancer enjoyed a significant, if temporary, vogue in the mid- to late 1960s, and John Gaines sent the dam of 1959 Preakness Stakes winner Royal Orbit to his competitor, Sword Dancer, and the mare’s 1969 foal was Corner Table.

Nothing as good as either of those 1959 classic winners has come out of this branch of the family since, but Reincarnate is doing his part to correct that situation.

the good, the great, and the tough

The winner of the listed Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct on Dec. 30, Drafted (by Field Commission) has had the best season of his lengthy career that began with a debut victory as a 2-year-old at Keeneland in 2016 and now counts 10 victories from 33 starts for earnings of $1,157,443.

Bred in Florida by John Foster, Barbara Hooker, and the Field Commission Partnership, Drafted sold as a 2-year-old in training at the OBS March sale of 2018, bringing $35,000 from trainer Eoin Harty. The gray won his debut, then sold privately to Godolphin, which exported the quick youngster to England, where Drafted finished 17th in the Windsor Castle Stakes, then returned to the U.S. and was sixth in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes.

Subsequently, a condylar fracture sidelined Drafted, and after a lengthy recuperation, he was sold to Brian Gleeson at an auction in Dubai for slightly less than $11,000, then returned with a victory at Meydan at the end of 2018. Drafted continued to improve, added a pair of G3 victories in 2019, and then returned toward the end of 2020 to race in the States, where he has campaigned since.

The Gravesend was the fourth stakes victory of 2022 for Drafted, added to the G3 Toboggan and Runhappy, plus the Mr. Prospector at Monmouth Park, and the gelding’s speed and lengthy career are typical of his ancestors, many of whom are not the most common of household names.

Drafted’s sire Field Commission was the 2009 champion sprinter in Canada, winning eight races from 30 starts and earning slightly more than $1 million. Field Commission was probably the best racer by the Deputy Minister stallion Service Stripe, a stakes winner and sire in Kentucky, Michigan, and elsewhere.

Drafted is the only stakes winner from his dam, the Darn That Alarm mare Keep the Profit, who was unraced but produced seven winners from 10 foals. Broodmare sire Darn That Alarm was another talented, consistent, and durable racer. The gray horse won nine of 42 starts, including the 1984 Fountain of Youth. The horse was also second in the G1 Dwyer at three and the Widener at five, as well as third in the G1 Florida Derby.

The handsome gray hit the high point of his racing career with that victory in the Fountain of Youth, defeating subsequent Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner and champion 3-year-old colt Swale (Seattle Slew) with a very steadily run race that Darn That Alarm dictated from the lead. Later efforts proved that Darn That Alarm wasn’t able to handle the best of his generation, but his consistency and good efforts earned him a place at stud with Meadowbrook Farm in Ocala.

At stud, Darn That Alarm struck a note that made him one of the most popular sires in the Sunshine State: he sired two Grade 1 winners in his first crop.

His son Pistols and Roses won the Hialeah spring prep series – Bahamas, Everglades, and Flamingo, then finished second in the Fountain of Youth before winning the G2 Blue Grass. A disastrous 16th in the Kentucky Derby was a prelude to other disappointing efforts, but Pistols and Roses returned to his home state and won the G1 Donn Handicap in 1993 and 1994. A winner in 10 of 44 starts with earnings of more than $1.6 million, Pistols and Roses entered stud in 1995 in Kentucky at Mare Haven Farm, where he met with minimal success.

From the same 1989 crop, Turnback the Alarm became her sire’s first graded winner with victory in the G2 Schuylerville at Saratoga and was second in the G1 Spinaway at two in 1991. The next year, she advanced on that form to win both the G1 Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks; at four, Turnback the Alarm won three more G1s (Shuvee, Hempstead, and Go for Wand). The first-class filly was sold, in foal to leading sire Gone West, as a 7-year-old in 2006 for $700,000 to Haruya Yoshida.

With these two stars in his first crop, Darn That Alarm was the leading freshman sire in Florida in 1991 and was a popular sire for a time.

Had that stroke of success come to the sire of Darn That Alarm, the Native Dancer sire Jig Time, the sky would have been the limit. A striking gray, Jig Time had been a well-regarded young horse who was bred in New Jersey by the estate of Frank A. Piarulli and sold as a yearling for $85,000 to the Cragwood Estates Inc. of Charles Engelhard. Trained by Mack Miller, Jig Time did not win at two but progressed notably at three to finish second in the Derby Trial, was fifth in both the 1968 Derby and Preakness, and won the Lamplighter Handicap at midyear.

It was enough to earn the handsome gray a place at stud, and he received some acclaim standing at Big C Farm near Ocala. Of course, it was nothing like the acclaim given his own sire, multiple champion Native Dancer. In contrast to the son who won a single stakes, Native Dancer lost only once.

Such are the differences between the good and the great, but the generational links in pedigrees carry both down to us through the years to our good performers today.

when the herod line was king in america

The great proliferation of gray coloring in the Thoroughbred came through The Tetrarch, bred in Ireland by Edward Kennedy, who reportedly purchased Roi Herode because of a fascination with the Byerley Turk line through Herod.

Although that color line has remained in racing and breeding at the highest level, the Herod male line is now effectively lost. Yet in the 19th century, Herod was a major force in pedigrees in Europe, and in North America, the line was much more than that. The Herod line ruled in America through the first three-quarters of the 19th century and did so because of a single horse.

The first winner of the Derby Stakes at Epsom, Diomed.

The chestnut son of Florizel (by Herod 1758) won 11 of his 20 starts and was unbeaten as a 3-year-old; so one of the peculiarities is why Diomed was so little esteemed as a sire in his homeland. Essentially, it was fashion. The horse trained off near the end of his 4-year-old season, did not start at five, and won only a single race at four-mile heats as a 6-year-old. With his great victories years before, Diomed did not prove popular among breeders in England, and in 1798, Sir Charles Bunbury, who had raced the horse, sold Diomed for 50 guineas to a pair of horse traders.

Those sharp lads then resold the old boy, at age 21, to the Virginians Col. John Hoomes and John Tayloe for about 20 times what the savvy buyers had paid and exported him to Virginia. This would be the end of the line for an older stallion, right?

Not for Diomed.

He remade the Herod line in America with one successful racehorse and sire after another, and Diomed was the most celebrated horse in the former colonies when he died 10 years later in 1808 at age 31.

Diomed, winner of the first Derby Stakes at Epsom racecourse, was imported to the former colonies at age 21, lived another decade, and became the great foundation sire of 19th century American racing and breeding.

Diomed’s most famous racers included Ball’s Florizel, Stump-the-Dealer, Duroc, Haynie’s Maria, and Sir Archy. The latter, a foal of 1805, was beginning his racing career when his famous sire died, and the bay son became the greatest four-mile heat racer of his day. This latter point may be an indication of why Diomed fared better in America than in England.

The old country had switched its racing program very substantially to “dash” racing, a single run down the course rather than the old-style heats, with the winner being determined by the best two out of three heats on the same afternoon. This was not a game for infants, and heat racers were frequently six, eight, or 10. They had to be hardy and game. And mature.

Here in the States, the fashion for dashes was still decades in the future. The great plantation owners and breeders of racehorses were willing to sift through dozens of colts to come up with the one or two who could stand the training and racing required to stand up to this old-fashioned manner of sport.

Waiting for a colt to grow up and harden off to stand the rigors of this racing was much more acceptable to the riotously wealthy planters of cotton and tobacco than to businessmen thinking of investments and potential return. And it would appear that the Diomed stock suited this program to a startling degree; Diomed himself had scored his final victory at four-mile heats. Despite possessing speed and fairly early maturity, he got stock that matured and improved well. Sir Archy, for instance, did not come to his best form until he was four and racing the long heats.

Then, what a surprise that Sir Archy’s stock could run to form in heats or dashes.

Still, most of the racing remained focused on heats, especially at three and four miles, and one of Sir Archy’s best sons, Timoleon, sired the greatest American heat racer, a bright chestnut horse named Boston.

Inbred to Diomed 3×3 through Sir Archy and broodmare sire Ball’s Florizel, Boston was named for a card game, not the city in Massachusetts, and maybe that was a good thing because Boston was a very bad boy. He was so hard to handle and train early on that one famous recommendation that has been handed down was that Boston should “be either castrated or shot, preferably the latter.”

Had either unfortunate suggestion been followed, it would have changed the course of American racing and breeding for the worse.

Cooler heads and quieter hands prevailed, Boston yielded sufficiently to careful handling, and the red colt became a racer. He lost his debut at three due to greenness, but continued unbeaten thereafter until he was six. Typically, Boston raced up and down the East Coast at courses in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia, rarely racing at the same course twice in succession.

At age eight in 1841 and again at nine, Boston began covering mares in the late spring and summer months, while racing in the early spring and fall. Returned to racing at 10 in 1843, Boston won his final start and retired with a record of 40 victories (not heats) from 45 races.

If a tougher racehorse ever lived, I wouldn’t want to eat him.

Boston sired high-class racers from the start, although we don’t see any of his sons and daughters on the lists as winners of America’s classics. None of those races existed yet.

By the late 1840s, Boston had gone blind and had declined significantly in health, quite possibly as a result of his blindness. On Jan. 31, 1850, Boston was found dead in his stall, age 17.

The old champion became the leading sire in America in 1851-53, and in his last crop, foals of 1850, were two sons of the highest merit, Lecompte and Lexington. Boston was elected to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame at its inception in 1955.

Through the accomplishments of Diomed, his immediate successors, and especially his great-grandson Lexington, the Herod line was the dominant force in American breeding for much of the 19th century.

practical joke and the elite eight: the leading second-crop sires of 2022

What difference a year makes! Or not.

The Gun Runner Express keeps blazing along, and here at the tag end of 2022, the champion son of Candy Ride is the leading second-crop sire by a massive margin over his contemporaries: $14 million to $7 million , nearly double the earnings of the next-closest pair of Practical Joke (by Into Mischief) and Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song).

But Gun Runner is in a sphere of his own, and some of his competitors seem to be doing quite well on their own behalf.

Interestingly, the top six first-crop leaders at the end of 2021 (Gun Runner, Three Chimneys; Practical Joke, Ashford; Connect (Curlin) Lane’s End; Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) Ashford; Cupid (Tapit) Ashford; and Gormley (Malibu Moon) Spendthrift) are in the same position relative to one another a year later, but into this group a little change has come in the form of Arrogate and Keen Ice (Curlin) Calumet, whose 3-year-olds and second-crop juveniles really pushed them into competition. For instance, Keen Ice would still be in this Elite Eight, even if we subtracted the earnings of 2022 Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike ($2.4 million).

Not bad, comrade.

Likewise, Practical Joke has put in a sterling second season with his racers and is well on his way to being the “next Scat Daddy” among sires shuttling to South America. Practical Joke’s initial crop of racers in the Southern Hemisphere are now three, but from the sire’s first crop in Chile, he has sired four Group 1 winners, so far.

Ashford Stud’s Adrian Mansergh-Wallace noted that “it’s very interesting to see what has happened to Practical Joke down in South America. It is very encouraging. It’s an indicator that something serious is happening, much like we saw it with Scat Daddy. From his first crop in Chile, just turned three, Practical Joke has equaled Scat Daddy’s record of four G1 winners in his first crop, is consistently getting group horses, and it makes you want to pinch yourself that this could be something out of the ordinary. There are big crops coming behind these also.”

For quantity, Practical Joke is the leading sire among this cadre of stallions with their second set of juveniles racing. The son of Into Mischief has the most foals (252), the most runners (176) and winners (89). Gun Runner, on the other hand, leads by the measures of quality, with the most stakes winners (12) and stakes performers (27), as well as the most graded stakes winners (9).

The only glitch for Practical Joke was that he went until October of this year before getting his first G1 winner here in the States. Then, Chocolate Gelato won the G1 Frizette Stakes, the sire has logged the four G1 winners in Chile, and on Dec. 17, Practical Move won the G2 Los Alamitos Futurity, defeating a highly lauded trio of racers trained by Bob Baffert including second-place finisher Carmel Road (Quality Road) and third-place Fort Bragg (Tapit). Practical Move is trained by Tim Yakteen.

Bred in Kentucky by Chad Brown and Head of Plains Partners, Practical Move is out of the stakes-placed Ack Naughty (Afleet Alex) and is the dam’s first stakes winner. Ack Naughty is one of three black-type racers from the stakes-placed Dash for Money (General Meeting); the two others won stakes: So Lonesome (Awesome Again), winner of a pair of New York-bred restricted stakes, and No Spin (Johannesburg), a talented athlete who had a huge stride at the 2011 Keeneland April sale of juveniles in training and won open black-type events such as the Royal Glint Stakes at Hawthorne.

As a yearling, Practical Move was marked an RNA for $90,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September yearling sale and then reappeared earlier this year at the OBS April sale of 2-year-olds in training. Working a furlong in :10 1/5, with a stride length of 25.5 feet and a massive BreezeFig of 77 from the consignment of Eisaman Equine, Practical Move sold for $230,000 to Pierre Jean Amestoy Jr., Leslie A. Amestoy, and Roger K. Beasley. The colt has won two of his five starts, with a second and two thirds, for earnings of $194,200. Ack Naughty produced a colt by Complexity (Maclean’s Music) in 2022 and was bred back to Upstart (Flatter).

why do we have gray thoroughbreds?

One inquiring mind asked, “Why do we have gray Thoroughbreds, and where do they come from?” Who can resist such a question?

The first part is fairly easy. Gray Thoroughbreds are part of the breed because they have been here from the beginning, and the coat color is with us today because a gray parent will give its graying color factor to approximately half of his offspring, and those gray offspring will pass it on through time.

Surprisingly enough, at least to me, is the fact that gray nearly died out. Went very quiet, both here and overseas. Through much of the 19th century, it was not common to see a gray, nor especially a top-quality horse of that color.

Today, much of the color comes from multiple leading sire Tapit, as well as from Unbridled’s Song. The latter gets his gray from his broodmare sire Caro, and more on that in a minute. Tapit’s gray comes through his fourth dam and three subsequent gray mares, but fourth dam Foggy Note (by The Axe) presents us with the first part of a significant question.

The problem with Foggy Note is that both her parents are gray!

Since we can’t know specifically which graying factor came forward to Tapit, The Axe (by the gray English Derby winner Mahmoud) and Silver Song (by the bay Royal Note) present the first quandary in tracing the gray lineage that we see from Tapit today. Or so it appears.

The gray factor through The Axe and Mahmoud comes from the latter’s dam, Mah Mahal, a daughter of Gainsborough and the great gray racer Mumtaz Mahal. An even better race filly than anything she produced, Mumtaz Mahal was quite a good broodmare and a great producer of producers. Her daughters are responsible not only for leading sire Mahmoud but also Nasrullah, and Mumtaz Mahal is the third dam of leading sire Royal Charger, as well as Arc de Triomphe winner Migoli (Bois Roussel), who is the sire of Belmont Stakes winner Gallant Man.

Mumtaz Mahal got the gray from her sire The Tetrarch (Roi Herode).

Where then does the gray come from on the other side of Foggy Note’s pedigree? It goes back through a line of gray mares to Tapit’s ninth dam Silver Beauty, who is a daughter of the gray Stefan the Great, a son of The Tetrarch who won the Middle Park Stakes at two in 1918 and was imported to the States. All nine of the gray dams leading to Tapit are bred in the States and represent the longest sequence of same-sex graying that I have encountered.

So, although Foggy Note presents us with a problem of her two gray parents, we can resolve it because both graying factors came from the same stallion The Tetrarch.

In the case of Unbridled’s Song, whose gray comes through his broodmare sire Caro, the gray factor goes back another seven generations to its source, The Tetrarch.

The unbeaten gray son of Roi Herode is thus the source of nearly all the gray in the breed.

The Tetrarch’s sire was bred in France by Maurice Caillaut and was a high-class racehorse whose best form came as a front-running stayer, but in the best races, there was always one who could catch him in the stretch, and Roi Herode was second in his most important French races, the Prix du President de la Republique and Prix Royal Oak, as well as in the Doncaster Cup. The horse was purchased by Edward Kennedy for 2,000 pounds after finishing second at Doncaster but bowed a tendon the following season when in training and went to stud at Kennedy’s Straffan Stud in County Kildare, where he sired The Tetrarch in his first crop.

Roi Herode’s sire Le Samaritain and grandsire Le Sancy were both bred in France by Arthur de Schickler, who raced them successfully. Le Samaritain was a good racehorse, but Le Sancy was somewhat better, both on the racecourse and at stud. An immensely tough racehorse, Le Sancy won 27 of his 43 starts, had speed, and stayed well.

Good as he was on the racecourse, Le Sancy became a sire out of all proportion to his racing class, siring top juveniles like Le Sagittaire (Prix Morny, Grand Criterium), 3-year-olds who won classics at 3 like Ex Voto (Prix du Jockey Club), and others that trained on to excel as older horses like Le Justicier (Eclipse Stakes). The best of Le Sancy’s many good horses was Semendria, a gray filly who won the 1900 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, Prix Vermeille, and Grand Prix de Paris, when the latter was the most important all-age contest in Europe.

Le Sancy and his successors at stud also breathed life back into the floundering male line of the Byerley Turk through Herod, and Kennedy, who was a fancier of this male line, was partly attracted to Roi Herode because his name is the French for King Herod.

From Le Sancy, the graying factor goes back through his dam Gem of Gems, through her sire Strathconan, his dam Souvenir, and then to Chanticleer. An appropriately named son of Birdcatcher, Chanticleer got his gray coat from his dam Whim, and the gray factor then goes through her sire Drone and grandsire Master Robert to the latter’s dam Spinster, a foal of 1803.

Spinster begins a series of seven gray mares, the second-longest same-sex series in the line, to a daughter of the gray stallion Crab (Alcock Arabian). But, as might happen, there is a second puzzle in this line of grays. Spinster’s second dam is Bab, and both her parents are gray.

Bab’s sire is the gray horse Bourdeaux (Herod 1758), and her dam is the gray mare Speranza (Eclipse 1764). Yes, that Herod and that Eclipse, neither of whom was a gray. But the mares they were bred to were grays and passed on the coat color to the next generation.

In the fifth generation of Bab’s pedigree, Crab is the sire of her fourth dam, a gray mare of 1750. In the top half of Bab’s pedigree, Crab occupies the same generation but is the broodmare sire of the broodmare sire of Bourdeaux. So it appears that all grays lead back to Crab and the Alcock Arabian.

But this is a relatively old piece of Thoroughbred pedigree recording, and things are never as simple as we might hope.

Before we quite get back to Crab, Bourdeaux’s broodmare sire is Cygnet, a gray son of the Godolphin Arabian (1724-ish), and out of Godolphin Blossom, both of whose parents are gray. Her sire Crab is a known quantity for the gray team, but her dam is a gray Flying Childers mare whose gray factor may have come from the Brownlow Turk, a more mysterious horse born around 1695.

So there is a possibility that the gray coat found in racehorses comes from a horse about whom we know almost nothing, but that’s only a 50-50 chance, and after all, it’s not the coat that counts, it’s what’s inside.

statistics tell the tale of an inevitable but glorious noon for the line of eclipse

The historical record on different lines of descent in the Thoroughbred shows that the winnowing out of male lines has gone on from the beginnings of the breed. And the great majority of male lines disappeared in the first 75 to 100 years of the formation of the Thoroughbred. By the late 1700s, there were only three principal male-line ancestors, each coming through only a handful of sires, even at that point.

By the late 1800s, the three main male lines were swelling out of equal proportion to signal that the Darley Arabian through Eclipse was becoming overwhelming in its domination, and that situation has compounded through the 20th century.

In 1957, to take a year, there were 24 stakes winners in the U.S. from stallions of the Herod line. That seems like a decent number until you consider that stakes winners descending from the Godolphin Arabian-line sire Fair Play alone numbered 31 that year.

The 1950s pointed out some interesting things about the two lesser male lines of Byerley Turk/Herod and Godolphin Arabian/Mathem. Most importantly at mid-century, the statistics showed a continuation for Herod through two sources. First was The Tetrarch (by Roi Herode). A foal of 1911, The Tetrarch was the best of Roi Herode’s quite numerous good horses. The Tetrarch was notably special among the lot, however, and he was little less amazing at stud. The generously proportioned gray sired racers of exceptional speed, as well as unexpected stamina, including three winners of the St. Leger at Doncaster among his offspring.

There would have been more and greater honors for The Tetrarch if only there had been more foals. Had he possessed even average fertility, The Tetrarch might well have resurrected the Herod line in his own image. Slim fertility, at best, doomed the great gray’s opportunities of turning the tide.

The other line of significance for Herod was that descending from Tourbillon. Marcel Boussac’s son of the great French racer Ksar sired a mighty brood of athletic racers who possessed speed and durability, plus enough class to vie for the classics and great all-age prizes.

Ten of those 24 stakes winners for Herod in 1957 descended from Tourbillon, including three from the Claiborne stallion Ambiorix and four from the Almahurst Farm sire Nirgal.

For the Godolphin line, 31 of its 32 total 1957 stakes winners came through Fair Play, and 16 of those were through Man o’ War. Those numbers sound pretty good, at least at first glance.

Even 65 years ago, however, the writing was on the wall. The two male lines of more scarce representation were represented by too few individuals, and the opportunities to breed to these was too narrowly focused on a handful of superb sires like Tourbillon and Man o’ War. Some of their stock has continued in the male line at the highest level through the ensuing decades, resulting in champions like Precisionist (Crozier back to Tourbillon) and Desert Vixen (In Reality back to Man o’ War), as well as Tiznow (Cee’s Tizzy back to In Reality and Man o’ War).

The stats for the Eclipse line, however, tell the tale of inevitability.

In 1957, some 65 years ago, there were 410 stakes winners tracing to Eclipse. Primarily these came through Bend Or (Doncaster), with 165, but the vast spread of them virtually guaranteed that some of these would breed on to become the overwhelming lines of today.

Among the lines of Eclipse operating with high success at the time were the branches of Swynford and his classic-siring sons St Germans (Kentucky Derby winners Twenty Grand and Bold Venture, the latter the sire of Triple Crown winner Assault) and Challenger, the sire of Horse of the Year Challedon and champion Gallorette; of Vedette and his successors, including St. Simon, to such international champions as Ribot; of Bay Ronald and his descendants, especially Hyperion, who had sons as leading sires in North and South America, as well as in Australia; and then there were also the “American” lines of Domino, Ben Brush, and Broomstick, whose point of importation in the male line came back in the 19th century.

All these are Eclipse, and there are more.

The irresistible push from Bend Or’s typhoon of genetic success was first seen to great effect in the States through Bend Or’s greatest son: Ormonde through Flying Fox to Teddy and his early- to mid-century sons Sir Gallahand III and Bull Dog, as well as grandson Bull Lea; additional importations came through Phalaris, with his sons Sickle (Preakness winner Polynesian and multiple classic winner Native Dancer) and Pharamond (Horse of the Year Tom Fool, classic winner Tim Tam, and Horse of the Year Buckpasser), then Pharos’s son Nearco provided the next wave with his sons Nasrullah and Royal Charger.

Now, several of those lines in male descent are no longer with us, or they are very rare at the higher levels of competition, including all the old American lines and such familiar stalwarts of mid-century breeding as Teddy and Hyperion.

The Bend Or line possessed and enlarged upon the volume required for a stallion or a sire line to have a realistic chance to continue, despite the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that horses inevitably encounter, and today their percentage of the male-line representation continues to grow.

instant coffee perking memories as the last runner and stakes winner bred by sagamore farm

Although there is still quite a bit of purse money to race for in the coming 30-odd days of 2022, the freshman sire list has firmed up considerably. Atop the rankings is the juvenile Grade 1 winner Bolt d’Oro (by Medaglia d’Oro). If the bay colt retains his position, he will become the first son of Medaglia d’Oro to lead a sire list and the first descendant of the Sadler’s Wells branch of Northern Dancer to lead a sire list in the States since Kitten’s Joy in 2018.

On Nov. 26, Bolt d’Oro’s son Instant Coffee became the stallion’s fifth stakes victor with a 1 1/4-length success in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. Instant Coffee is his sire’s third graded winner, and the sire has nine racers who are stakes-placed.

Unhurried early behind slow fractions, Instant Coffee came strongly through the final three-sixteenths to win as the 1.54-to-1 favorite over Curly Jack (Good Magic), who was the second choice, had won the previous G3 Iroquois Stakes, and is one of five stakes winners by freshman sire and Eclipse champion juvenile Good Magic (Curlin), who is second to Bolt d’Oro on the freshman sire list.

If $100,000 in earnings represents a length, Bolt d’Oro is currently about three-quarters of a length ahead of Good Magic, and Justify (Scat Daddy) is about 1 ¾ lengths back in third. Then, Army Mule (Friesan Fire) is 3 ¼ lengths back in fourth, with a length on Sharp Azteca (Freud) in fifth.

Clearly, this is no 2021, when Gun Runner won the freshman sire contest by a pole, because even now there is significant room for competition among the leading cadre, and less than two lengths covers the next quartet: Mendelssohn (Scat Daddy), Girvin (Tale of Ekati), Oscar Performance (Kitten’s Joy), and Mo Town (Uncle Mo).

Other points of importance to consider among the freshmen sires is that numbers matter. Of the 73 stallions with first-year starters, only 10 had more than 100 foals. Five of those fill the top six positions, and all 10 rank among the top 18. Only Army Mule (93) broke through the barrier of the most popular stallions, and he’s not far from 100 first-crop foals.

Oscar Performance has the smallest number of foals (72) among the stallions in the top 10, and three in the top set have more than double that number: Mendelssohn (152), Bolt d’Oro (146), and Good Magic (145). In contrast, the stallion with the fewest foals among the top 20 is 12th-place Awesome Slew (Awesome Again), with 36. Yes, some of the stallions have crops exceeding his by more than 100.

Awesome Slew stands at the O’Farrell family’s Ocala Stud in Florida, and Girvin also stood there until the exploits of his first crop racers, notably four stakes winners, including G2 Saratoga Special winner Damon’s Mound, propelled a transfer to Airdrie Stud in Kentucky.

Two of the stakes winners by Girvin won restricted races in Florida, parts of the Florida Stallion Stakes Series, and the chief winner by Awesome Slew, Awesome Strong, won the In Reality and the Affirmed divisions of the stallion stakes.

Although both of those young sires benefited somewhat from standing in a regional market, that fact also circumscribed their opportunities to a degree because there are not as many mares elsewhere as in Kentucky, nor all of an equal quality.

One such good, young, well-pedigreed mare beginning her producing career is the dam of Instant Coffee.

Bred in Kentucky by Sagamore Farm LLC, Instant Coffee may be the last horse bred by Kevin Plank’s Maryland-based operation that was dispersed in 2018. Hunter Rankin, who was president of Sagamore, said that Instant Coffee’s dam, the Uncle Mo mare Follow No One, “didn’t sell at the Keeneland November sale as a broodmare prospect, and Kevin did a deal with my parents [who own Upson Downs Farm]. That’s why Sagamore is listed as the breeder. She and the foal were both at Upson Downs all along.”

Rankin also bought the mare for Sagamore as a 2-year-old in training. He said, “Gatewood Bell had bought her as a yearling for $20,000 at the September sale, sent her to Eddie Woods as a 2-year-old, and I bought her for $100,000 at the April sale.” Still noticeably immature by the time of the sale, Follow No One showed some athleticism while working a quarter on synthetic in :21 1/5.

“Eddie thought she’d run through her conditions,” Rankin continued, “maybe get black type – which is exactly what happened [third in the Alma North Stakes at three]. She had some little things to work through, but she had some talent. It’s really exciting to have her get a really nice colt as her first foal.”

Upson Downs consigned Instant Coffee for Sagamore at last year’s September sale, and the dark brown colt brought $200,000 from Joe Hardoon, agent, and races for Gold Square LLC. “He won his maiden at Saratoga the week before the September sale,” Rankin recalled, which advertised the upside potential of his year-younger half-sister, a filly by Frosted (Tapit). Upson Downs sold their filly at the 2022 Keeneland September sale for $160,000 to HR Bloodstock.

Follow No One slipped to Speightstown (Gone West) but is in foal to Maclean’s Music (Distorted Humor) for 2023. A mate for next spring hasn’t been chosen.

effectively, there’s only one male line left in the thoroughbred


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Most of the sources of information about the Thoroughbred declare that there are three founding fathers of the breed. These are the three lines that were still active when bloodstock writing became important toward the middle and end of the 19th century. There are actually quite a few more stallions who played a part in the early formation of the breed, and many of them are still in pedigrees, far back and of little specific consequence to horses today.

As has become increasingly clear over the past century, the “three lines” is pretty much a thing of the past also. At least in the male line. That spot is nearly the private preserve of the Darley Arabian – Eclipse – Bend Or – Phalaris set of horses that make up about 90 percent of the male line in Thoroughbreds today.

Ormonde was unbeaten in 16 races. The greatest son of Bend Or might have become as significant a force in breeding, except for his small number of foals: 8 born in England, with about 18 or 20 born in each of his spells at stud in Argentina and California. The male line from Ormonde, through Orme, Flying Fox, Ajax, Teddy, Sir Gallahad III and his full brother Bull Dog, accounted for some of the grandest racehorses of the 20th century, including Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox, Omaha, and Citation. Ormonde was euthanized at Menlo Stud Farm on May 21, 1904, aged 21.

Although the Godolphin Arabian is still out there, the best lines have nearly all retreated into the inner reaches of pedigree, and Man o’ War’s branch of the line through In Reality – Relaunch – Tiznow seems destined for the history books unless something quite unexpected happens to resurrect the line. Again.

The line from the Byerly Turk has been lingering for a century, and it lost its last great chestnut hope when Precisionist, a champion sprinter who stayed 10 furlongs and was tough as hickory, proved all but sterile at stud.

Regarding sire lines, however, the “influence” of those lines is still around. These three and all those others that have died out in male line are still represented among the internal lines of pedigrees, so long as the performance of those strains continues to justify people using them. It’s all about probability and opportunity.

The hard fact is that most stallions or stallion prospects do not have the genetic consistency to sire a reasonable proportion of good, highly successful racers. That’s the probability side that allows horses like Danzig, Mr. Prospector, and Phalaris to come up trumps when they aren’t world champions. Instead, they are pretty good racehorses but are genetic champions.

Opportunity is the other side of the coin. Without a fair number of reasonably good mares, a stallion cannot have consistent, high-quality success. It wasn’t a hindrance that Phalaris became a miracle sire when based at Stanley House; nor did standing at Claiborne prove a barrier to Danzig. Mr. P started in Florida, where he was widely appreciated for speed and pedigree, and with immediate success, Mr. P went to Kentucky to stand at Claiborne for the rest of his long career at stud.

As a result of the chance association of genes and overall tendency for this to regress to the mean, most stallion prospects fail; most male lines die out. It’s not a popularity contest, at least not when the runners come to the races.

So the effect of male lines dying out is inevitable. The male line is the most competitive position in a pedigree. Only the most successful contemporaries continue in the male line. The preference of breeders for the most successful stallions means that lesser sires will not get sons, will die out in the male line. Both of the lesser male lines were tenuous more than a century ago. Then Hurry On in Europe and Fair Play in the States set the Godolphin Arabian line alight once more.

With broad representation for those three lines among horses going to stud, as well as the ones before them, the lines would not die out as easily. They would simply lie in abeyance until the next genetically gifted sire came into service. But in the practical world of breeding horses, the earliest lines died out quickly because so few stallions were actively important; nobody cared much at the time, nor should they have done. The majority of those old sires, and many more modern ones, still continue along the internal lines of descent. Probability has winnowed out the population in the male line, however.

So a perceived lack of diversity is not that, in fact.

The three lines that survived did so by chance. They sired good racers who sired good racers, whose grandsons sired a great racer, etc. The odds of chance decree that most will lose, but contrarily, they decree that some will win. Someone will win the Derby every year, no matter how little deserving compared to Ormonde, Hyperion, or Sea-Bird.