“And thus the story of the Childwick Bury Stud under the Joels was indissolubly linked with the rise and fall and resuscitation of the Absurdity family.”
……Peter Willits in Makers of the Modern Thoroughbred
A Return To the Joels (Three of a Kind)
The last time we wrote of the Joels and their Thoroughbred empire was when we discussed the great old family of Epsom Oaks winner Our Lassie. She is the matron responsible for such wonders of the turf as Mill Reef, Blushing Groom and Swaps’ sire *Khaled. Our Lassie was a daughter of the Joel’s great mare, Yours, who also foaled St. Leger winner Your Majesty.
During the same general period Doris, dam of the excellent sire Sunstar as well as 2000 Guineas and Derby winner White Star and One Thousand Guineas and Oaks winner Princess Dorrie, was acquired. Also purchased for 310 guineas as a yearling of 1904 was Absurdity. The sales ticket was signed by Jack Joel’s uncle, Harry Barnato.
When she did not set the world on fire as a racehorse, Absurdity became Joel’s property as a broodmare and when her son Black Jester won the St. Ledger, she joined Yours and Doris as the dam of two classic winners for the stud. Her daughter, Jest, had previously won the One Thousand Guineas and Oaks. Absurdity also produced the good two year old Absurd, a full brother to Jest by Sundridge.
Though it was obviously an impressive thing for Absurdity to produce back-to-back classic winners, the pair were both difficult animals. Jest was so hot-tempered and difficult to train that she was sent back to the farm to be bred in hopes that pregnancy might calm her down, but she failed to conceive. Black Jester was described as moody and stubborn and a horse who “threw away” a chance to win the Derby by quite simply running 10 furlongs and no farther.
Extending the Family
Black Jester was a failure at stud and is found most often in pedigrees today via Black Ray, Our Lassie’s wonderful Reine-de-Course daughter who gave us Mill Reef, Gold River, Lady’s Secret and all the others.
Jest had a son named Humorist which was the stuff of legends. A game and generous horse who ran all his life with a tubercular lung condition, Humorist found enough within his considerable heart to steel his way up the hill at Epsom and win a Derby for the family. A few weeks later, he was dead of a lung hemorrhage, brought on by the strain of the racing which he so clearly loved. The story calls to mind another classic winner lost in his prime after a 12 furlong victory, Swale.
Jest had had trouble conceiving and Humorist was her first foal. She never produced another winner and her story ends on that tragic note, leaving unanswered what she might have done had fate smiled more kindly upon her.
Jest’s branch of the family, therefore, was not the one that was destined to carry on. There are a handful of good ones under her name, including Signal Light. And her full sister, Folly, is the agent through which the family lives on “down under” having established a wonderful branch in Australia and New Zealand that contains a large number of Group 1 winners.
But when it comes to the real strength of Absurdity today, it is the mare Amuse, a rather inconsequential runner, who carried the day.
A Family Revival
In 1940, the year that Jack Joel died, Jim Joel sent Absurdity’s granddaughter Amuse to the stallion Donatello II, a son of Blenheim II from the family of Pretty Polly. Donatello II was a classic winner in his native land, Italy, having won the Derby there and was a product of the Tesio stud. Amuse was out of Absurdity’s daughter Gesture, a three-quarter sister to Jest by Sunstar.
The result of this mating was the classic winner Picture Play, the first and only winner for Amuse (she was 14 when she produced the classic winner). Peter Willet opined that the problem was not entirely Amuse’s but was rather a product of her having been bred to inferior stallions.
The Great Daughter
Picture Play herself was less than lucky. She won the One Thousand Guineas but broke down in the Oaks. Saved for the breeding shed, it did not take her long to establish her worth as a producer, getting the brilliant filly Queen of Light and the good stakes winner Red Shoes, who would turn out to be her best producing daughters, as well as the stakes winning colt Promulgation, who ended up a stallion in California.
Red Shoes, the lesser of the two daughters, in no way is a match for her sister, Queen of Light. Yet among her descendents is one of the best fillies ever to run in Europe, User Friendly, who won the English, Irish and Yorkshire Oaks as well as the St. Leger and Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.
Queen of Light on the other hand, has many recognizable names under her family from Welsh Pageant to Moonshell and from Main Reef to Crystal Palace. Crystal Palace went on to get Light Cavalry and Royal Palace, among others. Chandelier, another daughter of Queen of Light, gave us Greinton and Paris House, to mention just a pair.
Incidentally, Royal Palace was considered a failure at stud, but he did get the excellent filly Dunfermline, who won the Oaks for Queen Elizabeth II. Intriguingly, Dunfermline is 6 x 6 to the mares Gesture and Ensoleillee, who are both tail-female to Absurdity and also share a Sunstar cross. This is not the first cleverly-bred horse we have found from the Queen’s stud, but it is interesting that the only superior foal of Royal Palace should be boosted by another dose of Absurdity’s own female line.
The Close Relation
We knew that when the time came to cover Absurdity’s family that its close relationship to *La Troienne’s dam would have to come up. The bottom line is as follows: Absudity is a full sister to Doxa, the third dam of *La Troienne.
If you want to take it a step farther, Helene de Troie, the dam of *La Troienne, is even more closely related to Amuse, sharing a Cyllene/St.Simon/Absurdity-Doxa nexus. There is, however, a considerable difference: Amuse is also inbred 3 x 4 to full siblings Sainfoin and Sierra.
Finally, the pedigree of Picture Play, the agent through which Absurdity achieved her revival: She is 5 x 5 to half siblings Canterbury Pilgrim/Loved One (or x2 Pilgrimage), and carries her dam’s Sainfoin/Sierra mix. She also has an ample amount of St. Simon and Bend Or—classic and speed sires of their day—and a background of Quiver via La Fleche and Maid Marian.
Not Strong In The U. S.
Despite all the strength of the Absurdity family, it has never established a strong branch in the U. S. Which certainly does not mean one never sees it here, or that we should ignore it.
As previously mentioned, every mare who carries Blushing Groom, Jacopo, *Khaled or Mill Reef has an Absurdity line via Black Jester. Welsh Pageant is hardly rare and appears in the pedigree of champion Northern Spur (IRE), who stands in Kentucky and Sahm, the only son of Salsabil at stud in the U. S. Greinton is getting harder to find, but we see him occasionally in mares, and the stallion, Etbauer, who stands in Arkansas, is out of a Greinton mare.
Light Cavalry stood in the U. S. and we still see his name in the odd mare here and there. We still come across Crockett and Signal Light as well.
Using Our Branch
We may not often have opportunities to create another Dunfermline, the Queen’s filly who is inbred to Absurdity. However, when the name pops up in pedigrees, there is no reason not to cross it back on our own *La Troienne. There can never be enough *La Troienne in a pedigree, and we think highly enough of the classic Absurdity to say the same.
New Reines-de-Course from this grand line of classic mares are Absurdity herself, Picture Play, Queen of Light, Chandelier, and Crystal Palace. As always, we’ll be looking at young mares from the family like Moonshell in the hopes of adding more names to the list in the future.