By now, everyone is pretty well acquainted with the “Six Degrees Of” game whereby any Hollywood celebrity can be connected to any other in one way or another. It’s not quite the same with horses, though many are connected in oblique fashions not immediately apparent.
Such is the case with little Alabama Gal. How many folks out there, for example, thought of Determine, the first grey Kentucky Derby winner; the grand old gelding King’s Swan; a leading California sire and an Irish One Thousand Guineas winner when Pilsudski won the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Turf?
Yet Pilsudski is connected to each of these horses though ways which are far from oblique and each plays an important part in the heritage that made him the racehorse he became.
The story starts in 1957 when a tiny filly from the first crop of Kentucky Derby winner Determine was born. Her dam, Trojan Lass, was a poor runner from a poor family who had foaled nothing of note, so not much was expected of the filly and not much, it turned out, was forthcoming.
Named Alabama Gal, the filly became famous around the barn because she was so small she could crawl out from under her stall webbing. Which was about the only entertainment she provided. In the afternoon, she found her level in $2500 claiming races at Caliente. When she was claimed, Bill O’Leary who had trained her for Aztec Stable said, “She had some cheap speed, but was life and death to win at Caliente. When one of the owners said he was sorry she was claimed, I told him he should buy the guy a new hat.” But the owner proved right.
Alabama Gal was retired after her brief but unsuccessful racing career and was covered by the Hyperion stallion Oceanus II. The result was an unplaced filly named Jeannies Gypsy who did little better as a producer than as a runner. California’s leading sire Fleet Nasrullah was her next mate and in the spring of 1962, she produced a handsome bay colt who would race as Gummo, being named after one of the Marx brothers.
Gummo was a decent enough racehorse, winning the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes, but it was as a sire that he proved his real worth. A handsome, well-made horse with a majestic air about him, Gummo seemed to know just what he was.
And although he was among the leading U.S. sires in 1979, he was more frequently found atop California sire lists. Among his best get were Flying Paster, a fine stallion himself; Golden Act, also a successful sire; Princess Karenda, dam of useful California sire Incinderator; millionaire and multiple California champion Ancient Title, a gelding; and the good runners Barberstown and The Carpenter.
The year after Gummo was foaled, Alabama Gal sealed her immortality by producing his full sister Spearfish. Breeder Frank Sale consigned the filly to the Pomona winter mixed sale in January of 1965 and her full brother helped up her price to $27,000. She was purchased by Michael Silver, owner of Gummo.
Spearfish outdid her older brother as a racehorse, winning the Hollywood Oaks, the Santa Susana, the Santa Ynez, and La Centinela Stakes. Alabama Gal’s family had come a long way, and owner Silver seemed to sense that the mare deserved better than her dam, subsequently selling her to Warner L. Jones of Kentucky.
In the lush acres of Jones’ Hermitage Farm, Spearfish blossomed. Her first foal, King’s Bishop, was a top-class sprinter by Round Table who counted the Carter and Fall Highweight Handicaps among his victories. Although he died at age 12, he was one of Round Table’s most successful sons at stud, siring such good runners as Matchmaker S. winner Queen Lib; Bed o’ Roses H. winner Lady Lonsdale; Boiling Springs H. and Nijana S. winner Possible Mate; Yellow Ribbon Invitational winner Queen To Conquer and the good sprinter Cabrini Green.
King’s Bishop was ultimately named a Chef-de-Race. Yet despite his fine record, it was a gelding who made King’s Bishop really famous.
Named King’s Swan, this grand old fellow literally owned New York winter racing. Claimed for $85,000, King’s Swan ran until he was 10 years old, won Grade I stakes like the Vosburg, carried 130 pounds around two turns in a graded stakes (the Grey Lag Handicap) and generally raced his way into the hearts of all New York racegoers. In all, he won 31 of 107 starts and earned nearly $2 million. But what he really earned was the respect of everyone who ever watched him run.
After King’s Bishop, Spearfish foaled the stakes winners Crown The Prince (by Damascus) who won the La Habra Stakes. Then in 1971 Spearfish produced her best daughter, Gaily, by Sir Gaylord. Described as “an individual of much quality with a deep and well-ribbed body”, Gaily was purchased for European racing by Sir Gordon Richards for $120,000 at the 1970 Keeneland July sale.
She proved well worth the price, winning the Irish One Thousand Guineas, and became a very successful producer in Europe. Four of her daughters are stakes producers, and daughter Gay Milly, by Mill Reef, is the second dam of Pilsudski.
Spearfish was far from finished, however. In June of 1978, Warner Jones and his partner Will Farish sold Spearfish to partners Myron Rosenthal and Mortin Levy and it was in their name that Spearfish’s 1981 Nijinsky II colt, Empire Glory, was bred. A $4.25 million yearling, Empire Glory raced in Europe before retiring to California where he became a moderately successful sire.
He would have been a very successful one if breeders had noted his resemblance to Spearfish and the great strength of his female family instead of ‘punishing’ him for having run on grass in Europe. Sadly they did not do so, and the handsome old soul passed away this year with few noteworthy accomplishments to mention in his eulogy – and that is a tragedy.
Sainte Croix, Empire Glory’s full sister, was Spearfish’s last important foal. Only placed at the races, she foaled stakes winners Saintry and Royal Crusade and stakes placed Spaulding (FR).
Alabama Gal’s last named foal, Imbrama by Imbros, was born in 1965 and she was unplaced in eight starts. Imported to Ireland, the major portion of her family has found its place to India, where one major stakes winner and one stakes placed runner have represented her.
There are any number of beautifully bred young fillies from this family by stallions such as Shirley Heights, Rainbow Quest, In The Wings, Irish River and Arctic Tern. But the family’s hope of survival lies in Europe via Gaily’s branch and nowhere else for the present.
One way to increase the strength of this family which has not been tried nearly enough is one which is uniquely easy to accomplish. In California alone, Gummo blood is still easy to find, and Empire Glory daughters, though not plentiful, are available. And, although King’s Bishop died young, his blood can still be found here and there. Mixing and matching any of these lines or mixing them with one of the horses from Gaily’s branch is a quite simple way to double the bloodlines and make certain that it remains strong.
Alabama Gal’s own pedigree is a lineage which arrived on the scene at exactly the right time to be altered by the presence of *Nasrullah. Her own pedigree had not a drop of Nearco blood, though her sire Determine was out of a mare by *Mahmoud, a three-quarter brother to Mumtaz Begum, the dam of *Nasrullah.
Rather Alabama Gal’s pedigree is filled with St. Simon blood and she is inbred to him 7 x 6 x 7 x 7 x 7 x 6 x 7 through such various relatives as St. Frusquin, Chaucer, St. Serf, Concertina and Rabelais. There is also ample Teddy blood 6 x 5 x 4, all sons, and two of them are the full brothers Sir Gallahad III and Bull Dog, sons of the mighty Plucky Liege.
Rock Sand also makes an appearance 5 x 6 via two of his best offspring, Tracery and Mahuba while Gainsborough, sire of Hyperion, appears 4 x 5 supported only by sire Determine. This bloodline continues on out to Bay Ronald, grandsire of Gainsborough, who ultimately appears 6 x 7 x 6. Finally half brothers Chaucer and Swynford appear 5 x 6 x 6.
When Alabama Gal encountered Fleet Nasrullah, it totally altered the complexion of the pedigree of her daughter Spearfish. The St. Simon blood moved farther back in the pedigree and inbreeding to faster strains like Mumtaz Begum/*Mahmoud, Pharos and *Bull Dog take center stage. *Bull Dog is joined by his full brother Sir Gallahad III to make up three Plucky Liege crosses 4 x 6 x 4.
More Chaucer and Swynford is added to give five crosses in all, and the Spearmint blood which Alabama Gal had inherited through Plucky Liege’s sons, now appears four times in all 6 x 6 x 8 x 6. A double of Sundridge, 6 x 6, is supported only by Fleet Nasrullah, while a double of Gainsborough is supported only by Alabama Gal.
What has happened, then, is that Spearfish improved the speed of her dam without lessening the quality. She was ready to advance the family into the next generation in a major way and she has been afforded the opportunity to do so by virtue of having been bred to some of the world’s most important stallions.
Alabama Gal’s family is one of those delightful mixtures of good racehorses, fine sires and good producers. Such versatility has long been noted, but is finally here being given its just due.
For the present, we are naming only Alabama Gal and her daughter Spearfish as Reines-de-Course. We feel certain, however, that Gaily’s daughters will eventually produce enough group winners to include her as well.