Dec 02

Concussion Reverberation-Aswith by Wenlock

Nothing is more satisfying to a pedigree researcher then when one finds a horse in possession of what could only be described as an obscure pedigree and then has the mystery revealed.

racehorses-legs-2Concussion is such a horse. I would make a pecuniary estimate that not one horseman in a thousand has even heard the name of Concussion mentioned,­ let alone her immediate ancestors. However, Concussion is one of those Cluster mares who within 6 generations had 2 or more winners of 5 or more of the most important races on the calendar tracing to her. In fact, Concussion has 9 winners tracing to her within 6 generations which have won 12 of these important races.


They are:

Horse Races Won Generations Back
Dabchick Irish Oaks 1 generation
Llangibby Eclipse Stakes 1 generation
Spion Kop Epsom Derby 2 generations
Electra 1,000 Guineas 2 generations
Snow Marten Oaks 3 generations
Comrade Arc, Grand Prix de Paris 3 generations
Salmon-Trout St. Leger 4 generations
Nimba Coaching Club American OaksMet. Mile, Alabama Stakes 5 generations
Quetzalcoatl Argentine 2,000 Guineas 6 generations


Take a look at her pedigree before I tell you how to unravel the mystery.

As strange as it may seem the key horse in Concussion’s pedigree leading to her achieving Cluster Mare status is the Skirmisher Mare

To begin, Concussion is from the Number 19 female family that of the Old Woodcock Mare. This particular family is noted for producing five very important stallions among which can be counted Vedette (sire of leading sires Galopin and Speculum), Isonomy (sire of two triple crown winners), Monarque (most successful sire in France in mid-nineteenth century), Gallinule, and Tracery. The most important of these five stallions where Concussion is concerned is Gallinule.

Of the five important stallions from the number 19 family Gallinule was the least likely to succeed. Although some consider him to have had perfect conformation he was a bleeder and a roarer and never won a stakes race past 5 furlongs. Although sired by the great Isonomy he could have been exported as in the case of Triple Crown winner Ormonde. The Duke of Westminster sold Ormonde for $60,000 and said that Ormonde was a proven roarer, and he was afraid the disease might be spread all over England. This did not prove to be the case and fortunately, one of Ormonde’s seven foals left behind in England was Orme later to be the sire of Triple Crown winner, Flying Fox.

Gallinule had nowhere near the credentials of the unbeaten Ormonde yet someone saw something in him (probably his perfect conformation) and gave him a chance at stud. When his trainer was asked who bought him his response was ‘some mad Irishman”. The mad Irishman was none other than Sir Harry Greer later to manage the National Stud and the Aga Khan’s Stud.



In later years Sir Harry Greer would explain that he purchased Gallinule at the end of his racing career because of his great admiration for his sire Isonomy and the fact that he was from the female family of Cast Steel. Why he thought so highly of the Cast Steel tribe remains a mystery leading one to believe that Sir Harry was probable seeking a useful stallion rather than a breed changing one. Nevertheless, Gallinule had a major impact on the Thoroughbred both in the early 1900’s and even more so in the modern thoroughbred of today. When you consider that his daughter Pretty Polly is the 5th dam of Northern Dancer’s sire Nearctic, and that Gallinule is the sire of Palotta the 3rd dam of the speedy Mumtaz Mahal and you need look no further. Mumtaz Mahal is the ancestress of Nasrullah, Mahmoud, Royal Charger, and Tudor Minstrel. From these illustrious stallions come the lines of Bold Ruler, Secretariat, Seattle Slew Turn-to, Hail to Reason, Roberto, Sir Gaylord, Nashua, Never Bend and Blushing Groom, and all of their tribes. So we can be thankful to that ‘Mad Irishman”, Sir Harry Greer who gave Gallinule a chance at stud.

Among those who patronized Gallinule during his early years at stud was Major Eustace Loder. It was probably his early success with the offspring of Gallinule that would lead to his breeding the great Pretty Polly. Eustace Loder had great success purchasing mares very reasonably and breeding some very fine runners from them. He purchased Astrology for 450 guineas and from her bred Star Shoot the 5 time leading sire in North America. He purchased Pretty Polly’s dam Admiration for only 550 guineas and from her got one of the great racemares of all time. Pretty Polly was so fast that she won her first start by 40 lengths or about 100 years and included in the beaten field was John O’Gaunt, 2nd in the following years 2,000 Guineas and Derby. It is believed that if Pretty Polly had been nominated for the 2,000 Guineas and Derby she would have won all five classics. St. Amant who won the 2,000 Guineas and Derby the year Pretty Polly was a three-year-old was never her match although they met three times at distances of 6 furlongs to a mile and a half. Another of the astute purchases by Eustace Loder was Derby and Grand Prix de Paris winner Spearmint who was purchased for 300 guineas. One of his better purchases was Concussion for which he paid 500 guineas.

hammerkop-findon-stakesEustace Loder bred Concussion to Gallinule 4 times and bred her once to Wildfowler a son of Gallinule. All of these matings would, over a period of time, result in runners which would win races considered to be amongst the most important on the calendar.

What made this cross work so well?
Concussion’s 2nd dam is the Skirmisher mare while Gallinule’s 2nd dam is the same mare. This is the classic case of using a stallion to reinforce his own female line.

The first horse with this cross was a foal of 1894 named Dabchick. She would become a classic winner of the Irish Oaks. In 1895 a full sister to Dabchick was foaled and she was named Sirenia. Although not a classic winner herself Sirenia won stakes from 6 furlongs to 1 ¼ miles and then produced 1,000 Guineas winner Electra. Electra went on to produce another classic winner in Salmon-Trout who won the St. Leger Stakes. Another daughter of Sirenia, Siberia won 4 stakes at 12 to14 furlongs and then produced Oaks winner Snow Marten. Snow Marten is the 2nd dam of Nimba a mare of great ability who among her victories can be counted the Coaching Club American Oaks, the Alabama Stakes, and the Metropolitan Handicap. To this point Sirenia had produced a classic winner that became a classic producer and another daughter that produced an Oaks winner. She then capped off her career as a broodmare when another daughter named Sourabaya produced Comrade the first winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Comrade also won the Grand Prix de Paris when it was one of Europe’s most important races.

The 3rd mare resulting from the crossing of Gallinule to Concussion was Hammerkop. Again, although she herself was not a classic winner this mare was well up to classic standard. She was 2nd in the Oaks to Our Lassie the ancestress of Mill Reef, Khaled, Blushing Groom and Red Anchor, and was 2nd in the Park Hill Stakes to the unbeaten Quintessence. She was able to win the July Stakes at 5 ½ furlongs and the Criterion Stakes at 6 furlongs and later go on and win such distance races as the Queen Alexandra Stakes twice, over a distance of 22 furlongs. She won the Alexandra Plate twice, over three miles as well as the Cesarewich Handicap at 2 ¼ miles and the Yorkshire Oaks at 12 furlongs. As a broodmare Hammerkop produced Epsom Derby winner Spion Kop. Her female line quickly died out as she only had one daughter who in turn produced only one daughter. That granddaughter produced no offspring and was sold as a polo pony.In 1902 Concussion produced a colt named Llangibby to the cover of Gallinule’s St. Leger winning son Wildfowler. This crossing of a son of Gallinule to Concussion is the same sire line reinforcement of a female family except that the 2nd cross of the Skirmisher Mare is one generation further back in the pedigree. For all practical purposes the result is the same as Llangibby won the Eclipse Stakes and won stakes from 5/8 of a mile to 10 furlongs

The final foal produced with the Gallinule-Concussion cross is a foal of 1903 named Ishallah. It took awhile but eventually Ishallah’s female line produced a classic winner when Quetzalcoatl won the Argentine 2,000 Guineas in 1945. What is interesting in Quetzalcoatl’s pedigree is 2 crosses of Tracery (from the number 19 family) and an addition cross of Gallinule.



Every time Gallinule was crossed with Concussion the end result would be a classic winner. Sometimes it was immediate as in the case of Dabchick, or in might take five generations as in Quetzalcoatl. The Number 19 family of which Gallinule was a member had an affinity for its own female line. When Gallinule was crossed to his close female relative (Concussion), numerous classic winners were the result. Even when stallions which were relative failures were bred into the line, classic winners would result. Spion Kop was a Derby winner but only sired one classic winner, Felstead. However, when Spion Kop was bred to Wings of Love by Gay Crusader in 1929, a filly was foaled which would win the Irish 1,000 Guineas. This filly named Spy-Ann was later to become the dam of a colt named Skoiter who would annex the Irish St. Leger. When you look at the pedigree of Spy-Ann you will see that she is a direct descendant of Sirenia in tail female and since Spion Kop is by Hammerkop we have duplicated the cross that originally produced these full sisters, and the result is the same, classic winners!

If you wish to see more evidence of male line reinforcement in this number 19 family look up the pedigree of Monarque. His sire The Emperor, a dual winner of the Ascot Gold Cup is a perfect example. Look at the pedigree of Tracery’s 2nd dam Plaisanterie. She was the Champion three-year-old filly in France in 1885. Both her sire Wellingtonia and her dam Poetess are the result of this pattern.


bbd-bookIf you’re interested in learning more about male line reinforcement I suggest you read my newly published book Breeding by Design, or contact me for a Consultation.


Until out paths cross again dear readers here is wishing you the best of racing luck.


Dec 02

Marcel Boussac + The Aga Khan + Queen Elizabeth II = Estimate

When Estimate won the 2013 renewal of the Ascot Gold Cup she became the first runner owned by the reigning monarch to win this prestigious race.

The royal family had won all of the other classics but this would be their 1st victory in the Ascot Gold Cup.


The Queen pats Estimate’s nose after the horse won Gold Cup at Ascot

Before we take up Queen Elizabeth II’s Ascot Gold Cup winner, Estimate, let’s look back in time to another classic winner racing in the colors of another reigning monarch King Edward VII. The horse is Minoru and there is an interesting story associated with him. Minoru’s breeder was Col. William Hall Walker an eccentric brewer from Liverpool. Hall Walker insisted on knowing the exact time of a foal’s birth so that he could cast their horoscope to determine their fortune. Hall Walker was convinced that Minoru’s horoscope made him a sure thing for the Derby. With this bit of information in mind he convinced Lord Marcus Beresford (racing manager to King Edward VII) that a win in the Derby by the reigning monarch would enhance popular support for the Monarchy.


The late Abram S. Hewitt describes the race in Great Breeders and Their Methods.

 “Minoru’s Derby victory was achieved after the favorite, the American colt Sir Martin, apparently crossed his legs in the stretch and fell with nothing very near him. At the time, Danny Maher on the great Bayardo was tracking Sir Martin and was forced to snatch up his colt to avoid a nasty accident. According to Maher’s own statement, this incident cost Bayardo about 16 lengths. Through the space between the fallen Sir Martin and the rails dove Minoru without losing a stride, while the other jockeys were doing their best to avoid colliding with the fallen Sir Martin and his jockey. In this melee Minoru just lasted to win by a very short head. The horoscope was vindicated.”  

The question is, was it the horoscope of Minoru that convinced Col. Hall Walker that he was a sure thing to win the Derby or was it his pedigree? When we look at Minoru’s pedigree it is evident that his pedigree contains the same pattern found in the Queen’s latest classic winner Estimate. The pattern is male line reinforcement of the tail female line. If you look at the pedigree of Mother Siegel the dam of Minoru, her 4th dam is Chanoinesse, a full sister to Hermit, while her sire Friar’s Balsam is a son of Hermit. This pattern when found in the female line is a harbinger to emerging classic ability.

Pedigree Query Mother & Siegel 


Marcel Boussac

The story of her majesty’s wonderful mare Estimate is an interesting one which like the story of Diadem contains a road map to classic success. The story begins in 1920 when Marcel Boussac began to establish what was to become the dominant stable in French racing. The key event which would lead to the eventual breeding of Estimate was the death in 1919 of the American breeder Herman Duryea. Marcel Boussac bought from Duryea’s widow all of the yearlings in the Duryea crop and with the exception of 1920; he continued this practice for as long as Mrs. Duryea bred thoroughbreds. Among the 1919 crop of yearlings was a daughter of Durbar II to be named Durban. Then from the crop of yearlings purchased from Mrs. Duryea in 1922 he obtained Durban’s full sister Heldifann. The difference between the two was that Durban was to become a first class race mare winning the Grand Criterium and Prix Vermielle while Heldifann won only the minor Prix de Petit Couvert. The 2nd dam of Durban and Heldifann is Frizette whose female line would later produce the great sires Mr. Prospector and Seattle Slew.

What separated the Boussac breeding program both before and since was his practice of breeding to only his home stallions. In effect the Boussac Stud was a closed breeding program. This was further complicated by the fact that of the 4 stallions which became the mainstay of the Boussac Stud he bred 3. The stallions were Asterus, Tourbillion, Pharis, and Djebel. Of the 4 only Asterus was not a home bred. Because Boussac bred three of these four stallions and because he didn’t breed to outside stallions it was inevitable that sooner or later these stallions would be crossed back to mares from their own female lines. This is a pattern that recurs though out the history of the breed with outstanding results. In effect it is the key way to concentrate classic speed.

If we look at the 4th dam of Estimate we see how the Boussac breeding program progressed. Heldifann was bred to Asterus to produce Djezima. Then Tourbillion (a son of Durban) was bred into the female line to produce Tourzima. This mare is a typical example of how to concentrate classic speed and to produce what Dennis Craig calls a cluster mare. Tourzima is the result of using a stallion to reinforce the female line. Finally Tourzima is bred to the 3rd of the Boussac stallions, Pharis to get Albanilla.

Pedigree Query Tourizma

At this point it would be wise to look at what I call the Ken McLean Axiom. It states

Genetic influence from superior ancestors becomes diluted after one or two out crossed generations, yet when the same superior ancestors are reinforced in a single pedigree it allows for the recapture of the original source of classic speed. You must first duplicate the source, then go away from it, and then make sure it is reinforced again.”


Estimate led on the home straight and held off the competition to secure the win

In the pedigree of the Queen’s mare Estimate we find a perfect example of the Axiom at work. When Tourzima produced Corejada it served as proof that the concentration of classic speed had taken place. In England’s championship two-year-old filly race the Cheverly Park Stakes at Newmarket Corejada faced the undefeated Diableretta. Owned by the Aga Khan and Prince Aly Khan, Diableretta was compared favorably with her 3rd dam the flying filly Mumtaz Mahal. In the race Diableretta led for half a mile but was confronted by Corejada going into the dip who achieved a short lead. But, Diableretta came back to draw level with 100 yards to go. In a desperate finish Corejada fought off Diableretta to win by a head. Corejada went to on to win the Irish Oaks, and Poule d’essai des Pouliches (French 1,000 Guineas)

As a broodmare Corejada might be considered even better than she was on the racecourse. She is the dam of Macip who won the Ascot Gold Cup at 2 ½ miles and the Prix Royal Oak run over 3,000 meters. When she was finally mated with Djebel (the fourth of the Boussac home stallions) she produced the wonderful Apollonia. As a two-year-old Apollonia won the Prix Morny, Prix Yacowlef and the Grand Criterium. At three she annexed the Prix De Diane (French Oaks), French 1,000 Guineas, and Prix De La Grotte. Look at her pedigree and you will see that she encompasses all four of the major Boussac stallions.

Pedigree Query Apollonia

Apollonia’s sire is Djebel, her dam is by Pharis, her granddam is by Tourbillion and her great granddam is by Asterus. When Marcel Boussac looked for an outcross for Apollonia he unfortunately chose Iron Liege a beautifully bred Kentucky Derby winner by North America’s leading sire Bull Lea. He had no way of knowing that all of the Bull Lea’s would fail as stallions.

Corejada had a full sister named Albanilla who would become the 4th dam of Estimate. There followed two more generations of out crossing in as the stallions Dan Cupid and Ela-Mana-Mou  were bred into the female line, these are the out crossed generations from the Ken McLean axiom, then reconcentration must take place. It comes in the form of Darshaan as the sire of Estimate’s dam Ebaziya.

Pedigree Query Darshaan

First and foremost is using Darshaan as a reinforcing stallion is the fact that he traces to Albanilla as does Ebaziya. Since Albanilla’s dam Tourzima has a double cross of Banshee through the full sisters Durban and Heldifann this would give Ebaziya 4 crosses of her own direct female family.

In addition to the direct female line tracing to Albanilla there is a further reinforcing influence from the presence of Abdos as the sire of Darshaan’s dam Delsy. Although in might seem implausible that Abdos would have a major impact on this pedigree it can be shown by confirmation

Abdos is a great grandson of Tourbillion whose dam is Durban. Abdos won the Grand Criterium from only two starts as a two-year-old and he wasn’t a great stallion in the declining era of the Marcel Boussac Stud. However, he made a very significant impact on later pedigrees and that came about whenever she was used as a reinforcing stallion for mares descending from the inbred Tourzima.

Three mares benefited from the reinforcing influence of Abdos. The first is Delsy, she being by Abdos with her 4th dam being Tourzima. She is the dam of Darshaan, and Darara. Darshaan won the Prix du Jockey Club defeating Sadlers Wells and Rainbow Quest. Darara won the important Prix Vermeille G1 and then produced 4 champions and 5 G1 winners from 12 foals. The total earning of her 12 offspring is a combined 7,250,000 pounds. The second mare from the Tourzima family to benefit from the reinforcing influence of Abdos is Licata. She is by Abdos with her 3rd dam being Tourzima. Licata is the dam of Acamas, winner of the Prix du Jockey Club, Akiyda victor in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and Akarad who annexed the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, and was 2nd in the Prix du Jockey Club. Finally, there is Stoyana who is by Abdos with her 2nd dam being Tourzima. Stoyana is the 3rd dam of Sinndar who is the only horse ever to win the Epsom Derby, the Irish Derby and The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in the same year.

Pedigree Query Delsy

Pedigree Query Licata

Pedigree Query Stoyana


The story of Estimate follows the Ken Mclean axiom of first concentrating classic speed then breeding away from it before re-concentration. Although Ebaziya, the dam of Estimate is the result of reinforcing the Tourzima female line, her daughter is by a Stallion (Monsun) that is a total outcross to the this blood.

The question remains is it possible for her majesty Queen Elizabeth II to keep this process going? When one considers that this process started 75 years ago it becomes ever more difficult to find a sire from this female line to use as a reinforcing vehicle. However, there is one possibility. The logical stallion with whom to cross Estimate is Sinndar. He was an exceptionally good racehorse although not as good in the breeding shed as a stallion as he was a runner, He is the only horse to win the Epsom Derby, Irish Derby, and Arc in the same year. He has sired Youmzain winner of the Preis Von Europa G1, Grand Prix De Saint-Cloud G1 and 2nd 3 times in the Prix d’Larc de Triomphe G1. She has also sired Shawanda who won the Irish Oaks, and Prix Vermeille. Shareta another daughter of Sinndar ran 2nd in the Arc, after victories in the Yorkshire Oaks G1, and Prix Vermeille G1.

What makes Sinndar such a good cross to Estimate is that he is a direct descendant of Tourzima and has the reinforcing presence of Abdos as well. It should be brought to your attention that Estimate has a half-sister by Sinndar named Ebaza. While Estimate is a G1 winner of the Ascot Gold Cup her sister Ebaza was unplaced in 3 starts. However, Ebaza is off to a good start as a broodmare having produced a filly by Maria’s Mon named Emiyna who won the Athasi Stakes G3 and ran 2nd in the Desmond stakes G3.

A filly foal by a mating of Sinndar to Estimate would have three direct crosses of her own female line, the 1st from Sinndar, the 2nd from Darshaan and a 3rd from Estimate’s tail female line which leads directly to Tourzima. When you consider that Tourzima herself is inbred to her own female line it results in a Sinndar-Estimare foal having 6 direct crosses of her own family with several more collateral crosses thrown in for good measure.

Now the sixty four thousand dollar question remains, what does all this mean? For the answer we have to go back 50 years to a book by the unheralded researcher Dennis Craig and his book Breeding Racehorses From Cluster Mares. Dennis Craig found that 66% of the 861 winners of the eight most important races in England up to the end of 1960 trace, within six generations, to only 130 broodmares. Out of these, 80 broodmares produced winners of 5 or more of these races and he called them cluster mares-while the remaining 50 broodmares produced winners of 3 or 4 of these races and he called them star mares.


My own research which is complimentary to Dennis Craig’s shows that when you concentrate the blood of one female line into one individual using the stallions as reinforcing mechanisms you concentrate classic speed. That is what a Cluster Mare represents; A concentrated form of classic speed. If you were aware of this concept it would be easy to see that Ebaziya who has already achieved star mare status is almost surely going to become a cluster mare in the not to distant future. What makes me so sure this will occur? She is inbred to her own foundation female family (that of Banshee), but more importantly she has 10 very well bred daughters. Ebaziya has already produced three individual winners of four of the required races. Estimate (Ascot Gold Cup), Enzeli (Ascot Gold Cup), Ebadiyla (Irish Oaks, Prix Royal Oak) but she did it in one generation. She has another 5 generations of 50 or 60 more years to produce one more classic horse from her family to earn cluster mare status. The sires of her daughters are; Sadlers Wells (2), Rainbow Quest (2), Machiavellian, Sinndar, Refuse to Bend, Indian Ridge, Monsun, Dubai Destination. With some of these females being in the hands of such luminaries of the turf as H.H. Queen Elizabeth II, H.H. the Aga Khan and Will Ferish, expect this family to continue to produce at the highest level.


If you’re interested in learning more about the impact of cluster mares on the breed and how to breed, order my book Breeding by Design available now from Horsebooks


Until then dear readers I wish you all the best of racing luck.


Dec 02

5 Diadem

Whenever I get the opportunity I try to find books written by,
or about, past luminaries of the turf.

Unfortunately they are few and far between, but I recently found one entitled Men and Horses I have Known by The Hon. George Lambton. For those of you unfamiliar with George Lambton he was the 5th son of the Earl of Durham, and later in life became the trainer for Lord Derby and an advisor to His Highness the Aga Khan.

George LambtonThe book is very insightful and near the end Mr. Lambton takes up a horse that he showed great affection for, and was obviously his favorite. That horse was a mare bred by Lord D’Abernon by Orby-Donnetta by Donovan. The following is a quote from George Lambton expressing his first impressions of Diadem.

“When Diadem was a yearling Lord D’Abernon told me that she was the best he had ever bred, but I am bound to say that when she first came to me I was rather disappointed. She was a small dark chestnut filly, rather light of bone, with a light neck and apparently without much energy, but she had a beautiful intelligent head and did everything that was asked of her without any fuss or bother. Still I could not see where her great excellence was to come from. However, Lord D’Abernon was such a fine judge of a racehorse that I took more than an ordinary interest in her.”

That was George Lambton’s introduction to Diadem. To say the least, he was not impressed, but that would change under unusual circumstances. George Lampton goes on to say,

          “Being late in shedding her winter coat and rather a shy feeder, her owner decided not to run her before the Coventry Stakes, which race, owing to the war was run at Newmarket that year. Ten days before the race I gave her a rough gallop, and for the first time she showed a glimpse of that wonderful dash and speed for which she was afterwards so famous. This gave me great hopes that she would win, but when she appeared in the Paddock she looked so listless and so small that I began to lose confidence, and when she cantered down to the post she appeared not to be able to move at all.  I then felt certain that she must have gone amiss and wished she were back in the stable. I don’t think I was ever more surprised in my life when, after standing as quiet as a sheep at the Post, she jumped off like a flash and settled her field in two furlongs. That was Diadem; she seemed to keep every once of energy in her little frame for the supreme moment. Her listless walk in the Paddock and her wretched action going to the Post often got us a point or two better odds against her. Martin, who rode her, said to me after the race, “If the others are worth a shilling this is the best mare I ever rode in my life.”

So, this was the mare Lambton fell in love with. The diminutive, and lightly built, yet still mighty Diadem. She won four out of five starts as a two-year-old losing only to a colt named Dansellon in the Hopeful Stakes while giving him a nine pound weight concession.

As a three-year-old, Diadem’s first race was the 1,000 Guineas which she won easily from Sunny Jane. Lambton went on to report that the same week the Two Thousand Guineas had been won by Gay Crusader.

 “He had only just scrambled home from his stable companion, Magpie, and in the Craven week had run second to Lord Derby’s Coq d’Or in the Column Produce Stakes. He was certainly giving 9 lb. but Coq d’Or was nothing more than a useful horse, although as a two-year-old he had beaten Gay Crusader in the Criterion (the only two occasions on which this great horse was beaten).

These performances did not give Lord D’Abernon and myself an exalted opinion of Gay Crusader, so it was decided that instead of waiting for the Oaks, Diadem was to run for the Derby. On the day of the race, we were rather afraid of that extra half mile, and we were more full of hope than of confidence, but when we saw Gay Crusader in the Paddock even that hope went. I have never seen such an extraordinary improvement in so short a time; he was altogether a different horse to the one we had seen in the Two Thousand. If at so late an hour it had been possible to withdraw Diadem, Lord D’Abernon would have done so, but she had been well backed by the public, so it was out of the question.  There had been a lot of rain and the July Course was holding, and not suitable to the mare. Two furlongs from home her fate was sealed, Gay Crusader winning easily.”

george-lambton-bookDespite the loss in the Derby Diadem’s connections (against Lambton’s better judgment) decided to run her back in the Oaks 4 day’s later. Remember, two one mile and a half races against classic competition in four days by a filly which could not be described as having a robust constitution.

In the Oaks Diadem and Sunny Jane separated themselves from the field coming out of the dip, but by this time all of Diadem’s speed was gone, and nothing but her great heart enabled her to hang on. After a terrific battle she was beaten by half as length. George Lambton went home a miserable man thinking to himself that she would never get over these two races, and sure that not one filly in a million would have done so, but after a good rest she came back as good as ever.

Diadem raced until she was six years old becoming a top sprinter capable of carrying 140 pounds on her small frame. She even had a home trial against the great Phalaris over ½ mile in which Lampton judged the filly to have prevailed by a nose.

One of her greatest performances was winning the Salford Borough Handicap at Manchester, and on this occasion she was ridden by Carslake. Many  great races has Carslake ridden for me, but he fairly excelled himself then, carrying 138 pounds, giving lumps of weight away to a smart field, including Irish Elegance (July Cup) to whom she was conceding 28 pounds; she won in the last few strides by a neck. The pace was so tremendous that even with her great speed she was on the stretch all the way; she was a tired mare a hundred yards from home and Carslake fairly lifted her past the post. Although he had never hit her, she had given every once that was in her. When he had taken off the saddle he looked at her as she stood every nerve and muscle quivering, and said in a quiet way, “What a wonder, but how does she do it?”

Diadem is the epitome of what we love in a racehorse. She wasn’t much to look at, but had the courage of a Lion, and the heart of a champion. Is it any wonder that a luminary of the turf such as George Lampton fell in love with her.

As great as is the story of Diadem she can serve us in another way. Her pedigree is a treasure trove of information that can lead to the production of future classic horses.

To begin let’s venture back in time to the year 1769 and the foaling of the mare Atalanta by Matchem. The important fact to keep in mind is that although she is by a leading sire in Matchem, not one horse of merit can be found in her tail female line stretching from Atalanta back 10 generations to the founding mare of the Number 2 Family the Burton Barb Mare. Then things begin to change. Atalanta is bred to another leading sire in King Fergus and gets a daughter named Flora. Flora is then bred to an obscure stallion named Hyacinthus who is a grandson of Atalanta producing the mare by Hyacinthus. When the mare by Hyacinthus is bred to another grandson of Atalanta, Camillus, the result is the Cluster mare Treasure.

Pedigree Query Treasure

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Dennis Craig’s great book Breeding Racehorses from Cluster mares let me explain to you what constitutes a cluster mare. A cluster mare is one who within 6 generations has produced two or more winners of five or more of the most important races on the calendar. The following are the horses tracing to Treasure that make her a cluster mare:


Horse Races Won Generations Back
Destiny 1,000 Guineas 2 generations to Treasure
Industry Oaks 2 generations to Treasure
Lady Evelyn Oaks 3 generations to Treasure
Butterfly Oaks 3 generations to Treasure
Voltigeur Derby, St. Leger 3 generations to Treasure
Imperieuse 1G, St. Leger 4 generations to Treasure
Camballo 2,000 Guineas 5 generations to Treasure
Lord Clifden St. Leger 6 generations to Treasure
Engurrande Oaks 6 generations to Treasure
Dutch Oven St. Leger 6 generations to Treasure
Carbine Melbourne Cup 6 generations to Treasure


     It is obvious to see after 10 generations that produced nothing of note, comes six generations that result in 11 winners of 13 classic races. What changed? What changed was using stallions to reinforce their own immediate female line.

          I’ve shown you Atalanta’s family to allow you to understand what happens when the same pattern leads up to the production of Diadem. It happens frequently and is common in the breeding of great Thoroughbred champions.

          One more important piece of information about cluster mares is that from the beginning of the breed up until 1960 when Dennis Craig wrote his book Breeding Racehorses From Cluster Mares there had been 861 winners of the eight most important races in Great Britain. Of these 861 classic winners 66% trace within 6 generations to only 130 mares. The mares that have 5 classic winners tracing to them he called Cluster mares while those with 3 or 4 classic winners he called Star mares. These mares are the building blocks of the breed, and represent a concentrated form of classic speed

          The starting point in understanding Diadem’s pedigree begins in 1837 with her 8th dam the Langar Mare. This time period stretches back 77 years from Diadem’s foaling in 1914. If you look at the Langar Mare’s pedigree you see that she is inbred to the Alexander Mare through her male and female lines.

Pedigree Query Langar & Mare 7

Ten years later the Langar Mare produced a daughter named the Ithuriel Mare who picks up a 3rd cross of the the Alexander Mare through her sire Ithuriel. The Ithuriel Mare is now bred in a similar manner to Treasure who had 3 crosses of her own female line.

Pedigree Query Ithuriel & Mare

What is the importance of the Ithuriel Mare? She is the ancestoress of Teddy, and Gainsborough. Teddy sired Bull Dog and Sir Gallahad III, while Gainsborough won the 2,000 Guineas, Derby, and St. Leger and sired Hyperion. Where Diadem is concerned the Ithuriel mare is the 2nd dam of Blanchette. Blanchette a foal of 1871 is the 5th dam of Diadem. The contribution that Blanchette makes to this female line comes from the fact hat she is inbred through both sire and dam to the Langar Mare. Since the Langar Mare is herself inbred to the Alexander Mare this gives Blanchette 4 crosses of the Alexander Mare.

Pedigree Query Blanchette

Another aspect to consider when examining Blanchette’s pedigree is her sire D’Estournel. Ever heard of him? I’m certain you have not as he is about as obscure as a stallion can be. His function in this case was to provide the pedigree with another cross of the Langar mare

Finally we get to Traviata the 3rd dam of Diadem. Her sire Cremorne might be considered obscure by most but he was a very good racehorse having won the Derby, Ascot Gold Cup, and Grand Prix de Paris. Again his significance in this pedigree is that he adds a 3rd cross of the Langar Mare.

In effect, Traviata is bred along the same pattern as Treasure

Pedigree Query Traviata

Traviata and Treasure are bred on the same pattern and both achieved Cluster mare status as according to Dennis Craig’s criteria of having 2 or more runners winning 5 or mores of the most important races on the calendar tracing to them. We’ve already listed Treasure’s descendants and the following are Traviata’s


Horse Races Won Generations Back
Diadem 1,000 Guineas 3 generations to Traviata
Diophon 2,000 Guineas 4 generations to Traviata
Dionysos Irish St. Leger 4 generations to Traviata
Rustom Pasha Eclipse Stakes 4 generations to Traviata
Feu Du Diable Prix Royal Oak 5 generations to Traviata
Armgard German Oaks 5 generations to Traviata
Alarich German Derby 6 generations to Traviata


foals loveTraviata is the 3rd dam of Diadem and is a cluster mare representing a concentrated form of classic speed. Likewise, Diadem’s 2nd dam Rinovata is also a cluster mare having all of the same runners as did Traviata within 6 generations but adds two more in Sweet Sue winner of the Argentine Oaks, and Rockavon victor in the 2,000 Guineas.

With cluster mares this close up in her female line is it any wonder that Diadem possessed an inordinate amount of blinding speed. One might then ask why she didn’t follow in the hoofprints of her illustrious female ancestors and herself become a cluster mare? The answer may lie in the fact that she only produced one daughter and that daughter in turn only produced one female to continue the line. It became a matter of opportunity.

In a way this should conclude the discussion of Diadem and what made her such a superior racemare. However, without confirmation one might come to the conclusion that this was just an anomaly in this particular female family. Before we take the next step here is another quote from Dennis Craig.

          “My final conclusion then is that bloodstock breeders should take yet another and closer look at the classic methods of mating practiced by their successful forebears, as discussed in detail in this book: inbreed, not to the same stallion, but to the same cluster or star mares within three to five generations; refrain from outcrossing to sires and dams who have few, if any, cluster or star mares in their pedigrees; utilize the services of those less fashionable non-classic winning stallions who have some of the same cluster or star mares close up in their lineage as the breedmares with whom it is proposed to mate them.”

          With the following statement in mind let’s look at the non-stakes winning brother to Diadem a colt named Diadumenos. The best he could do was a 3rd place finish in the Cambridgeshire Handicap carrying 99 pounds. Yet he was still able to have an impact on the modern racehorse through one mating. In 1923 Diadumenos was mated to Ventursome by Sir Martin to get a foal of 1924 named Risky. Her pedigree follows;

Pedigree Query Risky

Looking at her pedigree it’s easy to see that Diadumenos was bred to a mare from his own female family to get Risky. And you can almost guess the outcome. Risky is a cluster mare. She earned that status by being the dam of Alabama Stakes winner Risque and the following;


Horse Races Won Generations Back
Risque Alabama Stakes 1 generations to Risky
Fort Marcy Washington D.C. Int. twice 5 generations to Risky
Key to the Mint Travers Stakes, Withers Stakes 5 generations to Risky
Cool Mood Canadian Oaks 5 generations to Risky


Not only did Risky become a cluster mare by being the ancestress of the former top runners, but she is also the 4th dam of cluster mare Happy Mood who has the following tracing to her;


Horse Races Won Generations Back
Cool Mood Canadian Oaks 1 generations to Happy Mood
Izvestia Canadian Triple Crown 3 generations to Happy Mood
With Approval Canadian Triple Crown 3 generations to Happy Mood
Touch Gold Belmont Stakes 3 generations to Happy Mood
Bury Your Belief Kentucky Oaks 3 generations to Happy Mood
Discreet Cat         UAE Derby 5 generations to Happy Mood


In my recently published book Breeding By Design  I put forth what I call the Ken McLean Axiom which is a statement from Ken McLean’s book Quest for a Classic Winner. It states, “Genetic influence from superior ancestors becomes diluted after one or two out crossed generations, yet when the same superior ancestors are reinforced in a single pedigree it allows for the recapture of the original source of classic speed. You must first duplicate the source, the go away from it, and then make sure to reinforce it again.”

In the story of Diadem you see the Ken McLean axiom in action. His idea is very important. You must first concentrate classic speed. When you do that you end up with Dennis Craig’s contribution, a cluster mare. Then, how you place these cluster mares in a pedigree becomes the art of breeding. Finally, my book Breeding By Design shows you how to concentrate classic speed or in effect how to breed a cluster mare.


Until our paths cross again dear readers I wish you all the best of racing fortune.


Sep 16

4 Chelandry

ChelandryThis addition of Broodmares Inc will focus on the great cluster mare Chelandry. Although there are those who are familiar with her name few understand just how far reaching is her influence on the breed. We’ll get to Chelandry shortly. Before taking up the influence of Chelandry I’d once more like to take up the concept of cluster mares.

I’m using the term cluster mare rather then Matriarch or Foundation mare or any other term that describes the best producing mares in the history of the breed. Dennis Craig the author of Breeding Racehorses from Cluster Mares died unheralded and never achieved the status he deserved. It is only because I came upon his work 37 years ago that you are reading this now. The idea that certain mares are the source of classic speed in the Thoroughbred is paramount. That is the contribution that Mr. Craig made in the evaluation of pedigrees.  He wasn’t just interested in speed he was interested in classic speed. That is why the races he uses to determine a cluster mare are all classics of a mile or more. I believe the following is the reason he uses only classic distance races.

A thoroughbred can run ¼ of a mile splits at 24 seconds to a quarter for almost 2 miles as follows.





1 mile

1 ¼

1 ½

1 ¾

2 miles










Here is my explanation of Mr. Craig’s work. Most thoroughbreds can run ¾ of a mile in 1:12, with 24 second splits, but when they reach a mile in 1:36 only good horses can accomplish this. When a horse runs 1 ¼ miles in 2:00 minutes flat it ranks among the elite. Only three horses in the history of the Kentucky Derby have won the race with times of two minutes or under they are Northern Dancer, 2:00, Monarchos, 1:59 4/5, and Secretariat 1:59 2/5.

When you reach the true classic 1 ½ mile distance of the Belmont Stakes only Secretariat was able to maintain the 24 second per ¼ split for that distance when he covered it in 2:24. Noor holds the 1 3/4 mile record of 2:54 4/5. If secretariat had been able to keep up his 24 second splits for a ¼ mile for another ¼ mile after winning the Belmont in 2:24 he would have completed a 1 ¾ miles in 2:48.

From this we can see that after a mile horses begin to slow down and after 1 ½ miles they slow down dramatically. Virtually no Thoroughbred can run 1 ¾ miles in 2:48 thus reeling off 24 second splits for that distance. It is my supposition that Dennis Craig chose the races he did to determine cluster mare status because he wasn’t just interested in mares that passed on speed, he was interested in mares that passed on Classic speed.



That being said, let’s turn our attention back to the great cluster mare Chelandry. She was a foal of 1894 which was almost 120 years ago. The last top horse to appear in the United States from her direct female line was the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes runner up Bodemeister, and there is no denying his quality. Again, since Chelandry was living over a century ago many of you may not be familiar with her. Since so much can be learned from a study of her let me begin by giving you an example of what a breed changing mare she was. To begin, within 12 generations 60 individual winners of 74 of the most important races in almost every major racing country trace in tail female to Chelandry. A further example of her importance can be found in Heroic who led the sires list in Australia for 7 consecutive years between 1932 to1938. The remarkable thing about Heroic is that he is bred along the same pattern as his great granddam Chelandry.



Compare the two pedigrees;



Chelandry Pedigree

Chelandry Pedigree


Heroic Pedigree

Heroic Pedigree


In the case of Chelandry we see that her great grandsire Bend Or traces to Ellen Horse as does Chelandry’s dam Illuminata. In effect the sire line is used to reinforce the direct female line. Heroic is bred on the same pattern where his grandsire Cicero traces to Illuminata while his tail female line traces to the same mare.

To show the pervasive influence of Chelandry on the Thoroughbred I’m going to show all of the major winners tracing to her in tail female from each major racing country. I’ll show the horse, foaling date, major races won, and number of generations to Chelandry.



Great Britain
Horse Foaling Date Major races won # of generations to Chelandry
Neil Gow 1907 2,000 Guineas


Pogrom 1919 Oaks


Saucy Sue 1922 1,000 Guineas, Oaks


Book Law 1924 St. Leger


Galatea 1936 1,000 Guineas, Oaks


Ocean Swell 1941 Derby, Ascot Gold Cup


Never Say Die 1951 Derby,
St. Leger


Provoke 1962 St. Leger


Zino 1979 2,000 Guineas


Shadeed 1982 2,000 Guineas


Ravinella 1985 1,000 Guineas


High Chaparral 1999 Derby


Arctic Cosmos 2007 St. Leger




Horse Foaling Date Major races won # of generations to Chelandry
Koblenza 1966 French 1,000 Guineas


Ravinella 1985 French 1,000 Guineas


Raintrap 1990 French St. Leger


Sunshack 1991 French St. Leger


Always Loyal 1994 French 1,000 Guineas




United States
Horse Foaling Date Major races won # of generations to Chelandry
Tomy Lee 1956 Kentucky Derby


Genuine Risk 1977 Kentucky Derby


Swale 1981 Kentucky Derby


Fran’s Valentine 1982 Kentucky Oaks


Forty Niner 1985 Travers Stakes


High Chaparral 1999 Breeder’s Cup Turf (twice)


Flat Out 2006 Jockey Club Gold Cup (twice)




Horse Foaling Date Major races won # of generations to Chelandry
Waygood 1920 Irish Derby


Garden State 1953 Irish Oaks


Ardent Dancer 1962 Irish 1,000 Guineas


Transworld 1974 Irish St. Leger


Melodist 1985 Irish Oaks


Duncan 2005 Irish St. Leger




Horse Foaling Date Major races won # of generations to Chelandry
Dalmazia 1941 ITY. 1,000 Guineas


Traghetto 1942 Derby Italiano


Barba Toni 1953 Derby Italiano


Timur Lang 1978 ITY. 2,000 Guineas


Southern Arrow 1981 ITY. 2,000 Guineas


Melodist 1985 Oaks d’Italia


Spirit of  Desert 2001 ITY. 2,000 Guineas




Horse Foaling Date Major races won # of generations to Chelandry
Non Partisan 1989 German St. Leger




Horse Foaling Date Major races won # of generations to Chelandry
Alaton 1974 Gran Primo Nacional




Horse Foaling Date Major races won # of generations to Chelandry
Magpie 1914 Cauldfield Cup, Leading Sire


Heroic 1921 AJC Derby, Cauldfield Guineas


The Trump 1932 Melbourne Cup


Aeolus 1935 Rosehill Guineas


Session 1937 AJC Oaks, VRC Oaks


Flight 1937 WS Cox Plate


Baystone 1952 Melbourne Cup


Innesfell 1953 VRC Oaks


Chicola 1955 VRC Oaks, AJC Oaks


Skyline 1955 AJC Derby


Sky High 1957 VRC Derby


Just A Dash 1977 Melbourne Cup


Innocent King 1989 AJC Derby,
Rosehill Guineas


Rose Archway 1997 AJC Oaks


Americain 2005 Melbourne Cup


Once Were Wild 2006 AJC Oaks




New Zealand
Horse Foaling Date Major races won # of generations to Chelandry
Gold Light 1919 New Zealand Oaks


Razzle Dazzle 1920 New Zealand Oaks


Brazil 1965 CJC
New Zealand Oaks


Wahid 2002 New Zealand Derby


Princess Coup 2003 New Zealand Oaks




Horse Foaling Date Major races won # of generations to Chelandry
Sol Lady 1936 Japanese 1,000 Guineas


1955 Miss Marusa Japanese Oaks



Obviously, Chelandry is a broodmare of profound importance historically. Previously we have shown that she is the result of male line reinforcement as her sire Goldfinch brings in the same strain of Ellen Horne her tail female line traces to. We’ve also show that Goldfinch after siring one crop in Great Britain (which included Chelandry) was exported to the United States to stand at James Ben Ali Haggin’s ranch in California where he was afforded little opportunity. Despite this lack of opportunity Goldfinch was able to sire another classic winner when his son Old England captured the 1902 renewal of the Preakness Stakes. Old England confirms that the breeding of Chelandry was no fluke as he has the exact same type of reinforcement found in her pedigree. Old England’s 4th dam is Rouge Rose while his sire Goldfinch is a grandson of Bend Or whose dam is Rouge Rose.


Old England Pedigree

So we find two classic winners descending from Ellen Horne (dam of Rouge Rose) on two different continents. Wouldn’t it be unusual if we spread our investigation a little bit farther and found another horse bred like Chelandry and Old England on a third continent. We only have to look at Westcourt, the winner of the 1917 Melbourne Cup to find such a horse.

Westcourt Pedigree

Westcourt Pedigree

In the case of Westcourt his dam Trinket’s 4th dam is Ellen Horne while his sire’s 5th dam is the same mare. The classic winners Chelandry, Old England and Westcourt are all bred along the same lines, that being male line reinforcement of the female family.

By now you probably think you are in possession of enough information to breed your own version of Chelandry. Take a cluster mare and breed her to a stallion whose dam is also a cluster mare?  Well, that is almost right. 
But, (and it is a very big but) at the time of her foaling in 1894 neither Chelandry’s dam Illuminata nor her sire’s dam, Thistle had achieved cluster mare status. In the case of Illuminata she didn’t actually become a cluster mare until 1910 sixteen years after Chelandry’s foaling. Thistle didn’t become a cluster mare until 1907 which was thirteen years after Chelandry was foaled. So what appears to be a very simple procedure (breeding a cluster mare to a stallion whose dam is also a cluster mare) is not as easy as it would first appear.

For one thing very few horsemen know which mares were designated as Cluster Mares by Dennis Craig in his book Breeding Racehorses From Cluster mares. Since I’m resurrecting his book both through this website and my book Breeding by Design it is likely that the few remaining copies of Dennis Craig’s book will quickly disappear or become enormously expensive. Since this is likely to occur I will be listing on this site all of the mares that Dennis Craig designated as cluster mares.

An important fact to keep in mind is that Dennis Craig’s book was published In 1964, almost 50 years ago. At that time the last mares to achieve cluster mare status had occurred in the following years


Great Britain 1917
France 1932
Italy 1936
Germany 1924
United States 1926
Argentina 1927


It is easy to see that the last cluster mares designated by Dennis Craig achieved that status about 80 years ago. Since that time many mares in all of the major racing countries have become cluster mares. The problem lies in the fact that Dennis Craig is no longer around to document this. As I researched my book Breeding by Design I inadvertently discovered how to concentrate classic speed and therefore how to breed a cluster mare. With this information in hand I know who are the cluster mares in the modern era stretching from the 1930’s to the present. I also know which mares are in the process of achieving cluster mare status. By reading my book, Breeding by Design, and this website you will garner much information about these cluster mares.

However, if you understand the importance of the abstract concepts of thoroughbred horse breeding and are not the sort of person who has the time or inclination to deal with this concept, then I can help you realize your racing dreams and ambitions through my consulting service.

Consulting Services


For the rest of you that just love the study of thoroughbred genealogy I think you’re going to find the website very informative. I’m going to show how the breeding patterns highlighted in Breeding by Design show up continually in the pedigrees of classic horses. The next horse we’ll feature is the classic winning mare Diadem who annexed the 1917 running of the 1,000 Guineas. She is a treasure trove of valuable insight.


Aug 29

3 Concentrating Classic Speed

HermitNow that you’ve had some time to look at the pedigrees of the 9 great horses from my last edition, Solving the Puzzle let me explain what they all have in common. Just keep in mind one important idea as you read this edition; A cluster mare represents concentrated classic speed!


The Salient trait possessed by all of these great horses is that their dams are cluster mares, and if this were not enough, their sires are the sons of cluster mares. In effect, these horses have cluster mares as close up in their pedigrees as it is possible to find them. On the female side of the pedigree you can’t have a cluster mare closer than being the dam of the runner. On the male side the closest a mare can be is the dam of the sire. All of these great horses are bred on exactly this pattern.


At this point I’d like to point out what makes a cluster mare according to Dennis Craig’s definition. According to Dennis Craig, “A cluster mare is a broodmare who, within six generations, has produced two or more winners of five or more of the eight most important races in the calendar.” Taking this one step further Dennis Craig determined that a Star mare is “a broodmare who, within six generations, has produced two or more winners of three or four of the eight most important races in the calendar.” Why Dennis Craig chose to use these exact definitions to determine Cluster and Star mare status remains a mystery. I’ve searched through his written work but nowhere is this mentioned. However, the only important factor is that it works. I’d be interested to know why he chose 6 generations rather then 5 or 7. As breeders we can all make our own determinations for it is not the exact measuring of the number of classic winners tracing to a certain mare within a proscribed number of generations that is of primary importance. What is of primary importance is the idea of a Cluster Mare. As we proceed with this odyssey through the history of the Thoroughbred (because that is what this web site will prove to be) you will become aware that it is the Cluster and Star mares which are the building blocks of the breed.


Painting of Hermit


In the coming weeks I’ll be showing you horses that although not technically cluster mares should be considered such because of certain anomalies. For now let’s get back to an examination of the 9 great horses put forth last week as examples. We begin with Hermit who was a foal of 1864. If you are not aware of him or of the stature he attained back during the Victorian Era let me explain. Hermit won the Epsom Derby in 1867 but more importantly he was the leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland for 7 consecutive years from 1880 through 1886. He had a sire record not unlike the more modern Bold Ruler. If Hermit had lived today and had stood most of his life with a $250,000 stud fee, (which would be reasonable since he was 7 consecutive times leading sire), he would generate in excess of 250 million dollars in stud fees. It is in our interest to see if we can determine from where this horse derived his great ability both in racing and breeding. We begin with his dam Seclusion who we have already mentioned is a cluster mare. These are the horses that allowed her to achieve that status.


Horse Races Won Number of generations from Seclusion
Hermit Derby one
Elizabeth 1,000 Guineas two
Minoru 2,000 Guineas, Derby five
Grand Parade Derby six


Seclusion achieved cluster mare status by having the horses listed above win five of the most important races on the calendar within 6 generations.

When we look at Hermit’s sire Newminster we find that his dam Beeswing achieved cluster mare status by producing the following horses.


Newminster St. Leger One
Nunnykirk 2,000 Guineas One
Melton Derby, St. Leger Five
Ayrshire Derby, Eclipse, 2G Five
Mrs. Butterwick Oaks Five


One last observation concerning Hermit’s pedigree should be noted. His grandsire Touchstone, the sire of Newminster is also the son of another cluster mare, Banter. Is it any wonder that with this concentration of classic speed close up in his pedigree that Hermit was a Classic winner and a leading sire.


Man O' War

Man O’ War


Of course, when one makes such a discovery it then becomes logical to look for confirmation in the form of another great horse bred on exactly the same pattern. For that confirmation we’ll next look at the pedigree of the immortal Man O’ War. His dam is Mahubah, is a cluster mare. His sire is Fair Play whose dam Fairy gold is another cluster mare. And just as in the case of Hermit where his sire Newminster was sired by a stallion (Touchstone) whose dam was also a cluster mare, so is Man O’ War’s grandfather, Hastings the son of a cluster mare. Let’s take a look at the cluster mares in Man O’ War’s pedigree to see how they achieved cluster mare status. First, we’ll look at his dam Mahubah


Horse          Races won Generations back
Man O’ War Preakness, Withers, Belmont, Travers 1
My Play Jockey Club Gold Cup 1
Assault Derby, Preakness, Belmont 4


At this point I’d like to advise you that the most important races designated by Dennis Craig back in 1964 that determined which mares would become cluster mares have changed. The powers that be in American Racing have allowed some of our most prestigious races to decline to the point where they have become irrelevant. One of the races won by Man O’ War was the Withers Stakes. Back in his day it was our equivalent of the 2,000 Guineas or the Poule d’ Essai des Poulains, now it is irrelevant. The same is true of the American Derby and the Arlington Classic. In a moment I’ll show you the horses that made Plucky Liege a cluster mare. One of them is Roman Brother who won the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the American Derby back in 1964. From 1964 through 1967 the winners of the American Derby were Roman Brother, Tom Rolfe, Buckpasser, and Damascus all of which were Horse of the Year except Tom Rolfe who was Champion three-year-old colt. From 2009 through 2012 the winners of the same race were Reb, Workin for Hops, Willcox Inn, and Cozzetti. Need I say more? Other major American Races that were downgraded to obscurity or removed are the Saratoga Cup, and the Arlington Classic. This year saw the demise of another great race, the filly Belmont Stakes, otherwise known as The Coaching Club American Oaks. At a later date I’ll write an essay about the decline of American racing and the “fools” that are behind it.

Getting back to Man O’ War’s pedigree we have shown that his dam Mahubah is a cluster mare. We’ll now look at the dam of his sire which is Fairy Gold. Fairy Gold achieved cluster mare status by being the ancestress of the following:


Horse Races won Generations back
Friar Rock Belmont, Saratoga Cup 1
Rock View Withers, Travers 2
Corrida Arc, twice 3
Coaraze French Derby 4
Galcador Epsom Derby 6
Galgala French 1,000 Guineas.“Inbred to Fairy Gold” 6


As in the case of Hermit, Man O’ War’s grandsire Hastings is also the son of a cluster mare in this case Cinderella. One difference between Hermit and Man O’ War is that in the case of Man O’ War’s dam Muhubah, her sire Rock Sand was also the son of a cluster mare. That mare named Roquebrune was not only a cluster mare but so was her dam St. Marguerite. You should be aware that Dennis Craig showed St. Marguerite to be a cluster mare in his book but did not show her daughter Roquebrune as having achieved the same status. Likewise, he shows Ellen Horne as being a cluster mare but not her daughter Rouge Rose when in fact all are cluster mares.


To get an idea of the effect of cluster mares on Man O’ War’s pedigree consider this. In the first three generations of Man O’ War’s pedigree there are 7 mares, and four are cluster mares. If what I postulate about cluster mares is correct (that they represent concentrated classic speed) then doesn’t Man O’ War’s pedigree make complete sense? It might be a good idea to print the pedigrees of these nine great horses and highlight the cluster mares. In the case of Man O’ War you will find 8 cluster mares within the first 5 generations. They are Mahubah, Fairy Gold, Cinderella, Roquebrune, Rouge Rose, St. Marguerite, Ellen Horne, and St. Angela.




Even those who are not experts on Thoroughbred history or genealogy know the name of Sceptre. She was an extraordinary racemare having captured the 1,000 Guineas, 2,000 Guineas, Oaks, and St. Leger. When you consider that her owner one Robert Standish Siever was a notorious gambler, frequently pressed for cash, and that he also served as her trainer you begin to realize how great Sceptre was. It wasn’t as if she had a great trainer like John Porter planning her campaigns, she was trained by a novice.


Sceptre was produced by Ornament a full sister to unbeaten Triple Crown winner Ormonde. Ornament achieved cluster mare status with these horses.


Horse Races won Generations back
Sceptre 1,000 Guineas,
2,000 Guineas
2,000 Guineas
Craig An Eran 2,000 Guineas 3
Buchan Eclipse (twice) 4
Sunny Jane Oaks 3
Tiberius Ascot Gold Cup 5


It’s easy to see that Ornament gave her daughter Sceptre a powerful dose of classic speed. From her sire’s side of the family Sceptre inherited an equal amount if not even more classic speed. Sceptre’s sire Persimmon was produced by Perdita II. Aside from his accomplishments on the turf Persimmon was leading sire on four occasions in England and Ireland, and leading broodmare sire four times as well. Below are the horses that made Perdita II a cluster mare.


Horse Races won Generations back
Persimmon Derby, St. Leger, Eclipse, Ascot Gold Cup(twice) 1
Diamond Jubilee 2,000 Guineas, DerbySt. Leger, Eclipse 1


Peridta II established quite a record, two runners that won nine of the most important races on the calendar. Sceptre was a great racehorse, one of the best of all time, but without the prism of cluster mares you would not realize how well bred she really is. If you did not have knowledge of the concept of a cluster mare you would not know that of the 7 mares present in Sceptre’s first 3 generations, all 7 were cluster mares.


Gallant Fox

Gallant Fox

The next horse we will examine is Gallant Fox who won the Triple Crown in 1930. Keep in mind that the races that determined cluster mare status for his dam were different then ones we would use today. The important races Gallant Fox won in 1930 were the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, Arlington Classic, Saratoga Cup, and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Since Gallant Fox won six of the required races the only requirement for his dam Marguerite to reach cluster mare status was to produce one more winner of another important race. This was accomplished when Petee-Wrack a half-brother to Gallant Fox annexed the Travers Stakes and the Metropolitan Handicap. Marguerite only needed 2 winners of five of the most important races to become a cluster mare and she had two that won eight of those races. Like Hermit and Man O’ War, Gallant Fox had a dam which was a cluster mare and a sire that was produced by another cluster mare. In the case of Gallant Fox his sire Sir Gallahad III was a son of the great Plucky Liege who achieved cluster mare status by producing the following.


Horse Races won Generations back
Admiral Drake Grand Prix De Paris 1
Bois Roussel Epsom Derby 1
Sir Gallahad 3rd French 2,000 Guineas 1
Roman Brother Jockey Club Gold Cup & American Derby 5


Gallant Fox was the only Triple Crown winner to sire another Triple Crown winner when in 1932 he sired Omaha. Omaha won the Triple Crown in 1932 and also won the Arlington Classic when it was one of the races used as cluster mare criteria. Since Omaha himself won four of the important races on the calendar his dam only needed one more runner to win one of the important races to achieve cluster mare status. She did this when Omaha’s full brother Flares won the Ascot Gold Cup. Since Omaha’s dam Flambino was now a cluster mare his pedigree then mirrored that of Hermit and Man O’ War in that his dam was a cluster mare, his sire was produced by a cluster mare and so was his grandsire. Keep in mind if you were not aware of cluster mares you could not see any connection between these great horses.

Gallant Fox

Gallant Fox


Up to this point we’ve examined three great horses and all are bred exactly alike when considering the implication of cluster mares. Moving on, the next two horses we’ll look at are the masterpieces of the “Wizard of Dormello”, Federico Tesio. The horses are Nearco and Ribot both of which were undefeated and had a breed altering impact as stallions.




Nearco is the result of breeding Pharos to Nogara by Havresac. In this case Nogara is a cluster mare while Pharos’ dam Scapa Flow is a star mare. If you remember a star mare is one that has two or more offspring tracing to her within six generations that have won three or four of the most important races on the calendar. In addition to Pharos, who ran 2nd in the Epsom Derby, Scapa Flow produced Fairway (Eclipse & St. Leger), and Fair Isle (1,000 Guineas). One of the reasons she never achieved cluster mare status is she only produced two daughters. However, when you consider that Fairway and Pharos became leading sires you can understand the genetic power of this mare. Nogara achieved cluster mare status by producing the following:


Horse          Races Won Generations back
Nearco Grand Prix De Paris 1
Ity. Derby, 2,000 Guineas 1
Niccolo Dell ‘Arca Ity. Derby, St. Leger
2,000 Guineas
Nervesa Italian Oaks 1


The other great horse bred by Federico Tesio was Ribot and he was by Tenerani-Romanella by El Greco. Ribot’s dam was a cluster mare and achieved that status by producing the following;


Horse          Races Won Generations back
Ribot Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, (twice)
Gran Premio del Jockey Club
Gran Premio di Milano
King George VI & Queen
Elizabeth Stakes
Raeburn Italian 2,000 Guineas 1
Ruysdael Derby Italiano
Gran Premio d’Italia
Gran Premio del Jockey Club


Ribot’s sire Tenerani received a powerful dose of classic speed from his dam Tofanella who is also a cluster mare. The horses that made her a cluster mare are:


Horse          Races Won Generations back
Tenerani Italian Derby & St. Leger        ,
Gran Premio d’Italia
Gran Premio Del Jockey Club
Gran Premio di Milano
Trevisana St. Leger Italiano
Gran Premio d’Italia
Tadolina Oaks d’Italia
Italian 1,000 Guineas
Tavernier St. Leger Italiano 2
Tiepolo St. Leger Italiano 2
Tiziano St. Leger Italiano 2
Tokamura Italian 1,000 Guineas
St. Leger Italiano
Toulouse Lautrec Gran Premio d’Italia
Gran Premio di Milano


When you concentrate all of this classic winning genetics into one individual is it any wonder that you come up with a Ribot?




Nasrullah is a horse everyone reading this web page should be thoroughly familiar with. We already know that his sire Nearco was loaded with classic speed from the close up presence of the cluster mares Nogara and Scapa Flow. If Nasrullah’s dam Mumtaz Begum is a cluster mare then he has the same pedigree pattern as the previously listed horses whereas cluster mares are concerned. Of course she is a cluster mare and the horses leading to achieving this are:


Horse          Races Won Generations back
Kalamoun French 2,000 Guineas 4
Risen Star Preakness Stakes
Belmont Stakes
Shergar Derby, Irish Derby 6
Ginetta French 1,000 Guineas 3
Octagonal WS Cox Plate
AJC Derby
On The House 1,000 Guineas 6



Nasrulla impersonating a mule





Nasrullah wasn’t a classic winner probably due to his temperament (I once saw a picture of Nasrullah captioned “Nasrullah impersonating a mule”.) but with a great concentration of classic speed he would become leading sire on both sides of the Atlantic. In fact, like Sceptre, all of the mares in Nasrullah”s first 3 generations are Cluster or Star mares.









Moving on, I think I’ve saved the best for last. Then next two horses we’ll examine are Chelandry and Buchan. The reason I find them fascinating is they are both somewhat obscurely bred. Now if I was sitting across the kitchen table from you discussing pedigree I would ask you this question. Have you heard of Chelandry and Buchan? If you said yes I would ask you what you knew about them. In all likelihood unless you are really into Thoroughbred pedigrees you wouldn’t know who they are at all, or you might have very limited knowledge of their importance, In other words they are not as readily known as the first 7 great horses I’ve already presented to you. But, that doesn’t mean that they are not very important. In fact, Chelandry is one of the most important broodmares in the history of the breed. She is so important that I will devote the next addition of Broodmares Inc. just to her. I have to admit that I am intrigued by this obscurely bred mare. When I say obscurely bred what do I mean? Well to begin, her sire is Goldfinch, ever heard of him? Well not unlike Glencoe, Goldfinch was exported to the United States in 1894 after siring one crop in England. Just as Glencoe left behind the great broodmare Pocahontas from his one Great Britain sired crop Goldfinch left behind the great broodmare Chelandry. Unfortunately for Goldfinch he was purchased by James Ben Ali Haggin and stood at his Rancho del Paso in California. You must consider how awful the prospects were for a Thoroughbred stallion standing in California in the late 1890’s far from the breeding center in Kentucky and with no means of transportation to move mares. By now you should have a suspicion of what Goldfinch had to offer genetically to a super broodmare like Chelandry. If you were to guess that his dam was a cluster mare you would be absolutely right. In fact, his dam Thistle produced the English Triple Crown winner, Common. The horses that brought her this status are:


Horse          Races Won Generations back
Common Derby, St. Leger
2,000 Guineas
Thistle St. Leger 1
Witch Elm 1,000 Guineas 4
Love in Idleness Oaks 4


Of course Thistle didn’t provide Chelandry with all of her classic ability because if you remember all of the horses highlighted in this addition of Broodmares Inc. are bred exactly alike meaning Chelandry’s dam must be a cluster mare also. And so she is, for Illuminata by Rosicrucian is a cluster mare. The following are the horses that made Illuminata a cluster mare;


Horse          Races Won Generations back
Ladas Derby, 2,000 Guineas 1
Chelandry 1,000 Guineas 1
Cicero Derby 2
Neil Gow 2,000 Guineas, Eclipse 2
Vaucluse 1,000 Guineas 3
Pogrom Oaks 4
Saucy Sue Oaks, 1,000 Guineas 4
Book Law St. Leger 4
Rhodes Scholar Eclipse Stakes 5
Pay Up 2,000 Guineas 5
Galatea II Oaks, 1,000 Guineas 6
Ocean Swell Ascot Gold Cup 5
Aquino II Ascot Gold Cup 6


So when you take into consideration cluster mares, Chelandry isn’t obscurely bred at all. In Fact, she is bred exactly like the previously mentioned 7 great horses.


Finally, we’ll close this edition of Broodmares Inc. with one of my favorite obscure cluster mares. Actually, the mare in question is one of those Star mares that I designate a cluster mare for my own use even though she technically isn’t one. The final horse we’ll examine is Buchan and his dam is the unusual and obscurely bred Hamoaze. Again, if we were sitting across from each other I’d ask you, “What do you know about Hamoaze?” Unless you are a pedigree aficionado the answer is going to be “nothing”. However, there is a lot that can be learned from her and that is why I included her son Buchan as one of the 9 great horses bred exactly alike when considering the influence of cluster mares. She also ties into Chelandry in that both are by obscure stallions which did not get much opportunity at stud. Chelandry is by Goldfinch while Hamoaze is by Torpoint.


In the overleaf of his book Breeding Racehorses From Cluster Mares, Dennis Craig suggests the following: “He argues persuasively that Classic winners often are not worth the inflated prices paid for their stud services, and recommends the use of less fashionable non-classic winning stallions who have some of the same Star-Cluster mares close up in their pedigrees as the brood mares with whom it is proposed to mare them.


Breeding by Deign by Floyd Oliver

Breeding by Deign by Floyd Oliver

         When I wrote my book Breeding by Design, both Chelandry and Hamoaze were featured. My book essentially is about how to breed a cluster mare although when I was writing it I wasn’t thinking in the term cluster mare. It was more like I wanted to find out how to breed a matriarch or a foundation mare. I wasn’t thinking in the terms outlined by the quote listed above from Dennis Craig. As it turns out both Chelandry and Hamoaze fit Mr. Craig’s quote exactly. Let me explain. Chelandry’s great grandsire is Bend Or. The progression is from Goldfinch to Ormonde to Bend Or. Bend Or’s granddam is the cluster mare Ellen Horne. Chelandry’s forth dam is also Ellen Horne. In effect Chelandry is the result of taking a non-classic winning stallion which carries the stain of Ellen Horne in the male line and crossing it to a broodmare that carries the same Ellen Horne strain in the direct female line.


The same holds true in the case of Hamoaze. Her sire is the non-classic winning Torpoint (best he could do was 3rd in the Ascot Gold Cup) who traces down his female line to cluster mare Miss Agnes. Torpoint also possesses a collateral strain of Miss Agnes through the stallion Tibthorpe. The 6th dam of Hamoaze is Miss Agnes. In the case of both Chelandry and Hamoaze obscure non-classic winning stallions were used to reinforce the blood of a cluster mare resulting in the breeding of another cluster mare.


Getting back to Hamoaze, I should explain why I consider her to be a full fledged cluster mare even though she is only a star mare according to Dennis Craig’s criteria. Remember in horse breeding there are always exceptions and that the idea is not to adhere to a rigid set of rules but to follow the conception. No one can tell you what makes up a cluster or Matriarch mare; that will always be up to you. Whatever helps you breed classic winners is fine, as long as it works. I consider Hamoaze a cluster mare for the following reasons although on paper she only had two winners of three of the most important races. To begin, she never produced a daughter. Since she had no daughters she needed to produce 2 winners of 5 of the most important races from her sons, and she almost did it. Hamoaze produced four sons named Buchan, St. Germans, Tamar, and Saltash all of which were stakes winners. Buchan, St. Germans and Tamar all ran 2nd in the Epsom Derby. Buchan finished 2nd in the 2,000 Guineas and 3rd in the St. Leger as well. Hamoaze became a star mare because Buchan won the Eclipse Stakes twice and Saltash won it once.


I still would not have put aside Dennis Craig’s criteria and pronounced Hamoaze a cluster mare (at least in my own mind) except for one other factor. Remember, cluster mares represent a concentration of classic speed and you would expect that to be passed on. It couldn’t be passed on by her daughters since she didn’t have any, but her sons made up for it. Buchan was leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland and St. Germans was leading sire in the United States. In view of this I have no doubt that had Hamoaze produced a daughter or two they would have produced the requisite number of classic winners to have officially made her a cluster mare according to the criteria set out by Dennis Craig.


To conclude, the horse in question is really Buchan, and not his dam Hamoaze. When we look at his sire Sunstar we find that his dam Doris is also a cluster mare. She achieved this with the following horses:


Horse          Races Won Generations back
Sunstar Derby, 2,000 Guineas 1
Princess Dorrie Oaks, 1,000 Guineas 1
Thirteen of Diamonds Irish Derby 5


Now you have had the opportunity to look at the pedigrees of 9 great horses through the prism of cluster mares. I could show you many others but that would be redundant. In each addition of Broodmares Inc I’ll be showing you how to breed cluster mares (Matriarch’s or Foundation mares or whatever you may like to call them) and how they fit into the pedigree of great horses.

Aug 13

2 Solving the Puzzle

Man O' War

Man O’ War

In the preface to Broodmares Inc I let you know that in the next addition I was going to present to you the pedigrees of nine great horses all of which are bred exactly alike in one particular way. Just in case you don’t have a program to display pedigrees I’m providing a hot link which will display the pedigree. I would suggest that you print the pedigrees so that you can lay them out and compare one to another. All of these great horses are bred exactly alike in one important aspect but I would venture to guess that no matter how advanced you are in pedigree analysis you will see the implications until I point it out to you in the next update.

Another thing to keep in mind is that I am not a writer. I am a dedicated lover of the Thoroughbred horse who has spent a lifetime examining the lineage of the thoroughbred in hopes to make a significant contribution to the advancement of the breed. As I write these essays think of me as a friend who I talking to you from across the kitchen table because that is how I write. I believe that after I reveal to you what goes into the make-up of the nine great horses that follow, you will never look at pedigrees in the same way, and in effect your knowledge of what makes a great Thoroughbred horse will have been advanced appreciably. I’ll show you the horse, their foaling date and accomplishments and provide hot links to their pedigree.


These are the horses in question:

Hermit                  1864           Epsom Derby, Leading sire 1880-1886


Chelandry            1894           One of breeds greatest broodmares


Sceptre                 1899           One of greatest racemares


Buchan                1916           Obscurely bred, Leading Sire 1927


Man O’ War       1917           One of the all time greats


Gallant Fox          1927           Triple Crown


Nearco                 1935           Undefeated, Leading Sire


Ribot                    1952           Undefeated, Leading Sire


Nasrullah             1940           Leading Sire


There is an explanation as to why I put this exercise in the form of a question. Ever since I came upon his writing back in 1975 when I began reading his book Sire Lines I’ve been a disciple of Abram S. Hewitt. He was the first person writing on Thoroughbreds who advanced my knowledge to a great degree. In the course of his writing Mr. Hewitt would ask interesting questions. The first that I can remember was, “how did Colonel Hall Walker, later known as Lord Wavertree, breed the 2nd dams of 6 leading sires. The following is a quote from The Great Breeders and Their Methods.

          “A much more interesting thing about Hall Walker was his ability to select mares with apparently the poorest of credentials, or very nearly so, both in terms of racing performance and pedigree, and from these mares “breed up” so that as second dams with such credentials they became the ancestresses  of the following group of Stallions:”


Blandford (1919) by Swynford

Challenger II (1927) by Swynford

Sickle (1924) by Phalaris

Hyperion (1930) by Gainsborough

Big Game (1939)

Princequillo (1940) by Prince Rose


          “Consider the odds against such an achievement. Lord Derby did not breed the second dams of Chaucer, Swynford, Phalaris, Pharos, or Fairway, and was only technically the breeder (Col. Hall Waker made the mating) of the second dam of Sickle and Hyperion. Tesio did not breed the 2nd dams of Nearco or Ribot. Calumet did not breed the 2nd dam of Bull Lea. Wheatley Stable did not breed the 2nd dam of Bold Ruler. Nor did the Aga Khan breed the 2nd dam of Nasrullah, Mahmoud, or Blenheim II. Boussac did not breed the 2nd dam of Tourbillon. Belmont did not breed the 2nd dams of Fair Play or Man o” War. James R. Keene did not breed the 2nd dams of Domino, Commando, Sweep, Broomstick, or Ben Brush. Nor did A. B. Hancock Jr. breed the 2nd dam of Round Table.

          “So far as the author knows, Hall Walker’s achievement in breeding the 2nd dams of the “blue ribbon” list of sires set out above was unique, and is all the more remarkable when we consider the background of the mares in question.

 When I first came across this information I researched the pedigrees of the 2nd dams of the above listed stallions in the attempt to figure out what Col. Hall Walker was doing. Remember, this was before the advent of the desk top computer so I couldn’t just type the name into Tesio Power and come up with the pedigree. As it turned out I spent years trying to decipher the riddle and I still haven’t come up with a reasonable explanation.

In 1980 Mr. Hewitt wrote an article in the Thoroughbred Record entitled The Duke of Portland and St. Simon. As strange as it may seem this article led to my meeting my hero. It’s also the primary reason that I will often pose questions to you. In his Article Mr. Hewitt explained that the Duke of Portland was considered very lucky when it came to racing. In the case of St. Simon he only became his owner when Prince Batthyany died at the foot of the stairs leading to the Jockey Club dinning room on Two Thousand Guineas day in 1883. Prince Batthyany was the owner of St. Simon and his horses were put up for sale at the July sale at Newmarket. At the sale some shenanigans were in play as St. Simon had his hock painted with a white substance trying to give the impression that he was developing a curb. Mathew Dawson the trainer for the Duke of Portland ran his hand over St. Simon’s hock and said he didn’t think there was anything that mattered and further more the white stuff smelled more like paint than blister. The result was that the Duke of Portland came into the ownership of one of the Turf’s greatest horses on a bid of 1,600 guineas.

At this point the only problem with St. Simon was that his classic nominations had been voided with the death of Prince Batthyany. A little research shows that St.Simon had only been nominated to the 2,000 Guineas and that was probably because he was foaled when his dam was 16 and she had never produced anything of note up until then. Despite never running in a classic race St. Simon retired undefeated and his quality was never in question. In 1884 he won the Ascot Gold Cup by 20 lengths defeating the previous year’s winner the great distance runner Tristan. St. Simon was so full of run after finishing the Ascot Gold Cup that it took his rider another mile to pull him up. Considering that the Ascot gold Cup is run over 2 ½ miles that is quite an accomplishment. The great jockey Fred Archer once referred to St. Simon as “a blooming steam engine”. A final tribute was added by his trainer Mathew Dawson, the trainer of 28 English Classic winners who stated, “I have only trained one great horse, and that is St. Simon”.

St. Simon

St. Simon

Abram S. Hewitt described St. Simon’s success at stud to be so meteoric that it could hardly be comprehended.

With his first crop only two-year-olds he ranked 2nd on the general sire list. From there he led the list of sires 9 times and sired 10 classic winners of 17 classic races. Even Bold Ruler’s dominance in the United States can’t be compared to St. Simon’s record. Although Bold Ruler led the sires list 8 times he only sired one classic winner that being Secretariat. But, Mr. Hewitt had a question regarding St. Simon’s breeding record. At the time he wrote the article The Duke of Portland and St. Simon Mr. Hewitt was the bloodstock advisor to Nelson Bunker Hunt. Mr. Hewitt related that although Mr. Hunt’s stud was in possession of many Grade 1 or Group 1 winning mares they were not breeding up to expectations. It was with this in mind that Mr. Hewitt related that when St. Simon first went to stud he was not bred to the mares of the highest racing class, and when he was bred to high class race mares he did not sire individuals one would expect. Mr. Hewitt went on to say, “St. Simon sired a good many of his best racers from mares that by modern standards, where racing performance ranks very high, would not be considered good mares.

          As an example he showed that when mated with Quiver the winner of only 490 pounds over three seasons, St. Simon sired Memoir, winner of the Oaks and St. Leger, and her full sister La Fleche, winner of the 1,000 Guineas, Oaks, St. Leger, and Ascot Gold Cup. Quiver’s dam never ran and as a broodmare produced only one other winner of 50 pounds.



From Perdita II who ran in selling races he sired Persimmon (Derby, St. Leger, and Ascot God Cup), Diamond Jubilee (2,000 Guineas, Derby, St. Leger). From unraced Miss Middlewick he sired Oaks winner Mrs. Butterwick (Oaks), and out of non-winning Tact he sired Amiable (1,000 Guineas). From winless Miss Mildred, St. Simon sired La Roche (Oaks). From another non-winner he sired William the Third winner of the Ascot Gold Cup and Doncaster Cup who was considered by his trainer John Porter to have been unlucky when 2nd in the Derby.

For the last 12 years of his life when he was known to be the best stallion in the world and was bred to many mares of the highest racing class, he never sired another classic winner. The question Mr. Hewitt asked was, “Why Not”.

It just so happened at that time my area of expertise lay in the study of “Class in the Dam”. I had a reasonably good explanation of why St. Simon failed with the top class racemares and succeeded with those of mediocre racing class. At the time I was writing my newsletter Golden Hoofprints so I condensed Mr. Hewitt’s article to give my subscribers the gist of what it was about ( in case that hadn’t read it) and then gave my answer to why St. Simon failed to live up to expectations when bred to classic winning mares such as Canterbury Pilgrim (Oaks), L’Abbesse De Jouarre (Oaks), St. Marguerite (1,000 Guineas), Dutch Oven (St. leger), Wheel of Fortune (1,000 Guineas, Oaks), Shotover (2,000 Guineas, Derby), and Briar Root (1,000 Guineas). The facts show that classic winning mares are not the best producers of high indexed runners and the mediocre mares to which St. Simon was originally mated are. I knew this because I had done a racing index on all of the champions for the past 40 years and an index on their dams. That list now Encompasses 60 years. I also do a racing index on the winner of every current graded stakes race and an index on the winner’s dam. So you could say that I don’t wonder about what kind of racemare produces the best runner I statistically know. I also keep a list by broodmare sire as to which broodmare sires are most prolific in siring the dams of high indexed runners. I would never purchase a mare sired by a broodmare sire unable to make the list, and usually only if they are amongst the best on the list. One thought I brought forth in my book Breeding by Design is that whom ever maintains the list becomes the real expert. It is one thing to look at the list occasionally and another to be intimately involved in its creation. At any rate I sent out the newsletter giving my answer to the question Mr. Hewitt asked concerning St. Simon.

About 3 weeks later I received a letter which I will never forget. It was in a light blue envelope and the return address from a farm in Lexington, Kentucky with which I was unfamiliar. In my book Breeding by Design I relate stories that I call the romance of the turf. These are stories where something unexpected and unusual occurs which leads to a life changing event. Although I didn’t know it as I stood by the mailbox on my front porch but the letter in the blue envelope would be my experience with the romance of the turf. In fact if I had not received that letter it is very unlikely that you would be reading any of this now.

At first I didn’t realize who the author of the letter was although it turned out to be very flattering. When I got to the 3rd sentence it said, “I recently wrote an article called “The Duke of Portland and St. Simon” at this point I realized the letter was from Abram S. Hewitt. To make a long story short Mr. Hewitt suggested that we meet and spend some time together the next time I was in Kentucky for a horse sale. That fall I met Mr. Hewitt and spend three days at his farm. To me at that point in my career it was the best of times. Mr. Hewitt related to me pretty much all that he had learned about breeding the racehorse. One interesting story Mr. Hewitt told me was that when the Aga Khan first entered racing he was given some very specific advice by Colonel Hall Walker, later know as Lord Wavertree. In later years the Aga Khan intimated that had he followed that advice given him by Lord Wavertree as great as his success had been it would have been much greater. Unfortunately, no one seems to know what advice Lord Wavertree had given the Aga Khan. I believe I now know and that is the one piece of information I will not be sharing with anyone except my clients.

In our discussion Mr. Hewitt asked me how I had become so advanced in the analysis of Thoroughbred pedigrees at such an early age. My answer was simple, “it was from your work Mr. Hewitt. You allowed my knowledge to advance 50 years in a few months by writing Sire Lines. If I had to do all of the research that allowed you to write such a book it would have taken me a lifetime. In effect you handed me a lifetime of research on a silver platter”. Mr. Hewitt was very pleased with my answer and then made me promise to write a very creative book to follow Sire Lines. The information in my book Breeding by Design and that which you will read on this web site is the fulfillment of that promise. What this is about is one person with a passion for Thoroughbreds passing on information one person to another.

With that last thought I hope to see you again next week where I will reveal what the pedigrees of the nine great horses in this addition have in common.

Aug 02

1 What are Cluster Mares?



If I have seen further it has been by standing upon the shoulders of Giants.

Sir Isaac Newton


          Why start with a quote from Isaac Newton?

The reason is simple so let me begin to explain. Over the past 350 years as the breed of Thoroughbred racehorses developed there have been many great thinkers involved in trying to unravel the mystery of what makes a great racehorse. To date no one has come up with a reasonable explanation. If one studies the work of those who have made the attempt you will find that although no one came up with the definitive answer some were able to come up with a piece of the puzzle. Taken by itself that piece may make little or no sense, but if you put a few of them together a greater understanding begins to emerge. To that extent the mission of this web site will try to bring together ideas of some of the great thinkers of the breed in the attempt to make a great leap forward in the understanding of Thoroughbred genealogy and pedigrees.

When a person is able to take a complex idea and boil it down to its essence where almost everyone can understand the basic concept they have made a significant contribution. One such person is Ken McLean who is the author of such books as Tesio, Master of Matings, Quest for a Classic Winner, and Genetic Heritage. I’ve never met Ken McLean but I have read all of his books and enjoyed them all. Some years ago as I was first reading Quest for a Classic Winner a single paragraph almost jumped off the pages. It was on page 60 that I found an idea that is so important that I have dubbed it the The Ken Mclean Axiom. In a simplified form it explains how Marcel Boussac’s breeding empire developed, and how one should go about breeding the Thoroughbred. The following is the Ken McLean Axiom.

          Genetic Influence from superior ancestors becomes diluted after one or two out crossed generations, yet when the same superior ancestors are reinforced in a single pedigree it allows for the recapture of the original source of classic speed. You must first duplicate the source, then go away from it, and then make sure it is reinforced again.


With that idea as a starting point let us proceed. I spent 37 years researching and 3 years writing a book called Breeding By Design. What this book will show you is how to concentrate classic speed which is the first part of the Ken McLean Axiom. He speaks of the recapturing the original source of classic speed. Before you recapture it you must first capture it originally. Another book to which mine is complementary is Inbreeding to Superior Females by Rommy Faversham and Leon Rasmussen. In effect we have different people working separately coming to similar conclusions. However, this is just the first step, not too much different from leaving Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1849 and heading down the Oregon Trail with the ultimate destination being the Promised Land. Bare with me as things are going to get very interesting.



For many years I’ve believed that success in breeding Thoroughbreds would lie in understanding female families. To me the mares are the building blocks of the breed and the stallions act as conduits to spread the mare’s genes into the general population. As you read on I believe you will come to agree with me on this point. Let me quote from another great thinker in Thoroughbred breeding, Federico Tesio. He states:

   “The character of the female is put back in circulation so to speak, through the male.”

“The dam of a popular stallion is a female who through him can produce many offspring in 11 months.”


In 1975 I moved from Upperville, Virginia to Carl M. Freeman’s farm in Unity, Maryland to run his breeding program. At a dinner party when we first met I had told Carl that he could breed champion racehorses from his cheap mares if he gave them the same opportunity as would be given a champion racemare. Everyone said I was a lunatic for making such an outrageous proposal. As it turned out, a few years later, one of Carl’s unraced $10,000 mares produced Miss Alleged who won the Breeders Cup Turf at odds of 40-1. However, that’s not why I’m telling you about Carl Freeman. The first month I was living on Carl’s estate he gave me a book to read called Breeding Racehorses from Cluster Mares by Dennis Craig. This book published in 1964 could arguably be considered the most important book ever written about Thoroughbred Horse breeding. Carl didn’t have the background to understand the book, but he thought that I might. I had the book for a couple of months and read it with great interest and although I was able to understand the basic principle put forth I couldn’t understand the pedigrees. Many of the pedigrees were from before 1900 a period of time I hadn’t begun to study at the beginning of my career as a pedigree analyst. The basic principles put forth by Mr. Craig are absolutely true to the point that they should be chiseled in stone. They are; Excellence in the racehorse is not the property of certain female lines as such, but has been derived from a select band of outstanding mares whose influence on the development of the Thoroughbred has been paramount. This select band of mares he calls Cluster mares.

          The second insight that Dennis Craig puts forth is that classic winners often are not worth the inflated prices that are paid for their services, and recommends the use of less fashionable non-classic-winning stallions who have some of the same cluster mares close up in their pedigrees as the broodmares with whom it is proposed to mate them.

       After careful consideration I’ve found both of these statements to be absolutely true. If you continue to read you will find out why.

Now let’s continue the story of how the lifetime work of several individuals may have led to a breakthrough in pedigree analysis. I was impressed with the book Breeding Racehorses From Cluster Mares, but 37 years ago I didn’t grasp all of its implications. However, I did write down the list of mares Dennis Craig designated as Cluster mares. I didn’t do anything with the list I just put it away and didn’t find it again until recently.

For some odd reason the names of two of the cluster mares stuck in my mind.



It could be that it was because they had catchy names that appealed to me or as things turned out it could have been divine providence. The two mares were Giantess and Termagent. Maybe six months later I went to the library in Bowie, Maryland, to look up pedigrees. That branch of the library had the Selima Room filled with books on thoroughbred racing. This was before the computer and you had to use the Stud Books to research pedigrees. On this particular day as I was browsing through this fascinating collection of horse books I came across an old leather bound book entitled Thoroughbred Pedigree charts by H. E. Keylock. I had never seen a book like it as it showed Thoroughbred pedigrees in the form of a family tree and not in the usual format you might find in the Blood Horse Stallion Directory. In the preface, Mr. Keylock states,

My aim has been to exhibit in an easily absorbable form a bird’s eye view of a branch of any given family including therein the most important horses and mares originating therefrom.

Again, like in the case of Dennis Craig’s book this book represents the lifetime work of Mr. Keylock

Without which you would not be reading anything that follows (one of the giants whose shoulders I have the privilege to stand on).

I had never seen a book like this one and as I was flipping through the pages I stopped on the originating mare of the number 6 family that of Old Bald Peg. As I looked down the page, low and behold who did my eyes alight on? Giantess! By some quirk of fate I as I browsed through this old book I had come upon one of the two mares I remembered from Breeding Racehorses from Cluster Mares. Since the page I was looking at didn’t have enough room to show Giantess’ descendants it said right under her name go to page 56 column 10. When I turned the page I quickly realized why Giantess was designated a Cluster Mare. Laid out like a family tree under Giantess were 8 classic winners and 3 leading sires produced by her daughters and granddaughters. The significant factor that I was observing was that all of these top horses traced to Giantess. At that moment I decided that if I could find out what gave Giantess such great genetic prepotency I would be well on the way to unraveling the mystery of thoroughbred breeding. Because the books in the Selima Room could not be checked out the next time I visited the Library I made a copy of Thoroughbred Pedigree Charts so I could study it at home. It took 35 years of study but I finally came up with an explanation of what made Giantess, Giantess. I recently completed a book about that entitled Breeding by Design.

          It was only after completing Breeding by Design that I made what I consider to be a remarkable discovery. This is how it came about. Keep in mind that this discovery brings together the work of many different people who devoted their lives to researching thoroughbred Pedigrees.

I had wondered over the years why Dennis Craig called his great broodmares Cluster mares and I’ve just realized recently why that might be. When you look at Giantess on page 56 of Thoroughbred Pedigree Charts one might compare the classic winners and leading sires appearing below her like a cluster of grapes hanging from a vine. Giantess occupied the place where the cluster joined the vine hence the expression Cluster mare. After I had copied Mr. Keylock’s book I would browse through each Thoroughbred family looking for a cluster of classic winners. Keep in mind I wasn’t thinking in terms of cluster mares at that time I just wanted to find out which mares represented the source of this great racing ability. When I found the mares that had a cluster of classic winners hanging below them in the family tree format I made an investigation of that mare.

It took 35 years to come up with a definitive answer primarily because for most of that time there were no desktop computers. When I finally purchased the pedigree program Tesio Power things began to move at a much higher rate of speed. Finally, I put the information I had garnered in studying female lines into my book Breeding By Design. It was after I had completed my book and sent it away for publication that I made what I consider an amazing discovery.


After writing Breeding By Design I thought in might be interesting to reread Dennis Craig’s book Breeding Racehorses From Cluster Mares, that is if I could find a copy. Keep in mind the book was published almost 50 years ago. Thanks to the internet I was able to locate as copy at Abe Books in England for the reasonable price of $60. I ordered the book and was excited to begin reading it when it arrived a couple of weeks later.

The rereading of that book was like a bright light illuminating the darkness! Suddenly I could see that which was invisible before. It was almost as if I could see pedigrees through a new form of prism. What I’m going to tell you and show you in future essays will change the way you perceive a Thoroughbred pedigree.

You might be asking yourself why I might be willing to share this information with you. It is certainly going to prove to be very valuable. You can be sure I’m not doing this for entirely altruistic reasons. In this credentialized society in which we live, I’m going to write my own credentials. What I’m very good at is stealing horses from the sales. Not outright theft, but I can purchase a horse that will prove to be worth 10 times what I pay for it. If you’re impressed by what you read on this site you can contact me and I’ll act as your agent and work with you to build your breeding programs. In another sense, if I don’t come out ahead in a material sense at least I won’t take this information to the grave with me.

I’d like to close this preface with a couple of ideas. Above all other things I am a fan of Thoroughbred racing. Sometimes in films you come across a scene or a statement that makes a significant impact on your consciousness. I found the end of the Shawshank Redemption particularly moving. Remember when Red (Morgan Freeman’s character) is paroled after serving most of his life in prison. He’s made a promise to his friend Andy that if he ever got out, he would go to a certain field in Buxton, Maine and look for an unusual rock next to a giant oak tree. Under the rock Red finds a metal box with a steamship on the cover. Inside he finds an envelope filled with $50 bills and a letter. The letter begins, “if you’re reading this you’ve gotten out. It then continues with the line I opened this site with, “If you’ve come this far maybe you’re willing to come a little but farther! Do you remember the name of the town? Red whispers to himself Zihuatanejo!

The letter goes on to say, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and good things never die.”


Horse Racing is about hope. That is the essence of it. We all hope the great horse is out there somewhere in our future. Hence the old saying, “No one has ever committed suicide that has an unraced two-year-old.


One last thought before I close. From another film comes another idea I think is appropriate to this discussion. This one comes from a sort of fun film not in the serious mode of the Shawshank Redemption. It’s called The Replacements and it’s about the replacement players that substituted for the NFL players when they were on strike. The team is supposed to be the Washington Redskins but they are called the Washington Sentinels in the film. At the end the Replacement players get the Sentinels into the playoffs with a sensational touchdown with 7 seconds left in the game. But, the replacement players aren’t going to play in the playoffs or the Super Bowl because the strike has ended. In the last scene the coach is walking off the field and we as the audience can read what he’s thinking. This is what we hear, “The replacement players of the Washington Sentinels left the stadium that day, there was no ticker tape parade, no endorsement deals for sneakers, or soda pop, or breakfast cereal. Just a locker to clean out and a ride home to catch. But, what they didn’t know was that their lives would be changed forever, because they had been part of something great; and greatness, no matter how brief, stays with a man.



This is another idea that epitomizes racing. Take a horse like Zenyatta, everyone involved with her was touched by greatness whether it was her breeder, those who raised her, her trainer, her jockey or her groom, you could even include her fans. If by writing what I’m about to write I can be part of something great I’ll be very happy indeed.


In the next edition I’m going to show you the pedigrees of 9 great horses which are all bred exactly alike in one particular way. I want you to look at their pedigrees and see if you can determine how they are bred exactly alike and then in the following edition I’ll give you an explanation. I think then you will be more then a little excited and interested.

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