We sometimes seem to answer what constitutes a Reine-de-Course via e-mail at least six times a day. This is probably reasonable; because our main criteria are that the family must have sustained class. When a mare who has always been under consideration for Reine-de-Course status has the added plus of recency, then she’s a natural. Such is the case of Alcantara’s 1915 daughter *Alburn, whose descendents number such important current individuals as Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and top commercial sire Mr. Greeley.
Imported With A Group of Queens and Bred Like Royalty
Imported *Alburn was an acquisition by American Delbert Reiff who also brought to these shores Reine-de-Course *Agnes Sard (ancestress of Grey Dawn II, Green Dancer, Blue Prince, etc.), *La Belle Helene (ancestress of Reine-de-Course Lady Be Good) and *Bird Loose, tail female ancestress of Polynesian (her we could have done without!)
*Alburn was not a terribly good racehorse, but she had the kind of pedigree that screamed broodmare: For starters, she was linebred to Pocahontas (1837, the large-heart mare) via Stockwell x2/ Rataplan x2/King Tom. Then there are four lines of the unique St. Leger winner(s) Newminster x3 and his full sister Honeysuckle, who won the Park Hill Stakes (“the fillies’ St. Leger).
Full siblings Violet and Feronia (Thormanby-Woodbine) are 4 x 5, and full siblings Volley and Voltigeur (Voltaire-Martha Lynn) appear in her dam, Face A Main’s, pedigree while sire Alcantara II is inbred to half siblings Solon and Bon Accord. Further, full siblings Thormanby x3 and Lady Hawthorn x3 (Windhound-Alice Hawthorn) also appear. Two of Lady Hawthorn’s offspring, Poinsettia and Lady Alice Hawthorn, are then added via Alcantara II’s contribution. We haven’t even touched on the male inbreeding here, but one gets the drift – this was one intensely inbred matron!
*Alburn’s sire, Alcantara II was of course a French Derby winner. Tail-male to St. Simon’s sire Galopin via Two Thousand Guineas winner Galliard, Alcantara II was sired by the War Dance stallion Perth.
Perth was a monster at the races, winning the equivalent of the French Triple Crown – the Poule D’Essai Des Poulains (2000 Guineas); Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) and the Prix Royal Oak (French St. Leger) as well as the Grand Prix de Paris. He lives on today mostly via Alcantara II and the mare Eglantine, who foaled among others, Rose Prince the sire of Prince Rose, he in turn sire of *Princequillo, Prince Bio and Prince Chevalier.
*Alburn’s broodmare sire, Ayrshire by Hampton, was also a classic type. He won both the Epsom Derby and Two Thousand Guineas. He is the sire of such important horses as Reines-de-Course Ballantrae, Dona Sol, Our Lassie and many more upstanding matrons we have yet to name Reines, but will, like Gas – ancestress of existing Reine-de-Course Tulip II.
Second dam Tit For Tat is a daughter of Hungarian-bred Epsom Derby winner Kisber who also happens to be the sire of Sandal. That name should ring a bell: She’s the second dam of Reine-de-Course Simon’s Shoes, and of course this is also the family of *Rough Shod II.
Count Turf – Completing a Treble
In Kentucky Derby tail-male descent, there are been only two sets of three male kin to win the classic: Pensive (1944)-Ponder (1949)-Needles (1956) complete one set. Then there is Reigh Count (1928); Count Fleet (1943)-and Count Turf (1951). Thus before there was Street Sense from *Alburn’s line, there was Count Fleet’s son Count Turf.
Count Turf was a horse held in such low regard that even his own trainer, Sol Rutchick, did not think he belonged in the Kentucky Derby. To that end, he told owner Jack Amiel that Count Turf should stay out of the classic and run in sprints where he belonged.
There is some argument as to whether the colt was simply late maturing or whether he had been trained badly. At two, he was better than some, winning the Dover Stakes and placing in the Christiana and Youthful, but he had won no stakes prior to the Derby at three.
Count Turf’s owner was born poor in terms of material wealth, but rich in wit and ambition. Through those gifts, he went from selling candy bars to owning restaurants – and racehorses. And he believed that Count Turf’s Wood Memorial (in which he ran unplaced) was a good enough effort to punch his ticket to the Downs.
Faith Will Out
Amiel loved racing and he wanted to buy a horse who could win the Kentucky Derby for him. He found him for the munificent sum of $3700 at the 1949 Saratoga Yearling Sale.
Though the trainer and owner battled over how the horse should be ridden and where he should be run, they did not actually split up until Amiel stood firm in his decision to run in the Derby and, further, chose Conn McCreary to ride the colt. McCreary had not done well for some time and was considered something of a jinx.
George “Slim” Sullivan inherited the new classic hopeful and the colt started his journey to immortality by becoming the first Kentucky Derby hopeful ever to ship into Churchill Downs by air. Later, Amiel would give McCreary credit for giving the colt back his will to win by telling the new trainer that all the colt’s equipment – from blinkers to a severe bit – should be replaced with a simple racing “D” bit.
Relaxing instead of fighting all the unnecessary equipment, Count Turf worked a mile in 1:38, a fine Derby tune-up. He followed that effort with a half in :45 4/5.
Now his old trainer was intrigued, but he wanted to replace Conn McCreary who he believed had lost his nerve. Amiel told him to forget it. And while the field did not contain any superstars, Count Turf and his ‘cowardly’ pilot went off at almost 15-1.
Racing in mid-pack for most of the 10 furlongs, Count Turf won by four lengths and he did it with just three shoes, having lost one at the start.
The son of Count Fleet did not win again at three. However, he returned at four to win the Questionnaire Handicap and place in the Massachusetts, Queens County and Valley Forge Handicaps. He retired with earnings of $166,375 from eight wins in 45 starts.
Count Turf pretty well had his 15 minutes of fame in the Kentucky Derby. But if one is going to pick just one race to win in order to become an immortal, he could do worse than show up the first Saturday in May. However, in this business – and in terms of where he fits into the Reine-de-Course fabric of *Alburn’s family – a horse needs to show up at stud, too.
Count Fleet didn’t pull that one off. He got only two stakes winners, one of which was a pretty handy fellow named Manassa Mauler (named for Jack Dempsey, a friend of Jack Amiel). Manassa Mauler made 66 starts and won $359,171. Among his most important wins were the Wood Memorial and the Trenton and Camden Handicaps. He also ran third in the Whitney.
By most standards, Count Turf was an unimportant sire. And yet, think of these three horses: Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and top-class sire Awesome Again, Preakness winner and champion Snow Chief and Italian Derby winner and fine broodmare sire Gay Lussac. Intriguingly enough, both Snow Chief and Gay Lussac are from the same tail-female line (Maid of Masham) as was Manassa Mauler. As a matter of fact, Snow Chief’s fourth dam, Fleet Contessa, was a full sister to Manassa Mauler!
Of course it is Awesome Again’s broodmare of the year dam, Primal Force, which is the key here. Her third dam, Chavalon, was by Count Turf and is one of the finest Reines-de-Course from the Raker (1-C) family. Since Awesome Again’s half brother, champion Macho Uno has a couple of stakes winners already from his first crop to run this year that means Count Turf’s name will appear wherever they go as well.
Perhaps Jack Amiel was not a hardboot and he might have been just plain lucky. Who knows? But of one thing we are quite certain: He most certainly had excellent instincts where Count Turf was concerned. In this unwanted, generally forgotten Derby winner, Amiel found a horse who was capable of completing a third generation in Derby lineage and then went on to become immortal via Awesome Again. Not bad, Count Turf, not bad at all!
The Great Lianga
Whether their names are Dahlia or Personal Ensign or Ruffian or Lady’s Secret, there is something about great fillies that transcends the greatest of colts. Perhaps it is the fact that something so utterly feminine – and so utterly dominant in pedigrees – can come in the same package as all that raw power.
Lianga did not run in the U. S., but she was the equivalent of any of the great mares we have seen in recent years. By the rightful 1968 Kentucky Derby winner Dancer’s Image, Lianga showed Alburn as her sixth dam, descending from *Alburn’s *Polymelian daughter Charming Note.
In Daniel Wildenstein’s colors, Lianga won the Group 1 Prix Robert Papin and Prix Jacques Le Marois. She also won the Group 2 Prix De L’Abbaye De Longchamp, and the Vernons Sprint Cup and July Cup. By any standard, she was as good a female sprinter as any seen in Europe in recent years.
Lianga got only two stakes horses, Darling Misty and Legion D’Honneur, both by Alydar. But they are not the real basis of her excellent legacy to the breed.
Rather it was for her best daughter, Long Legend by Ruffian’s sire Reviewer, to carry that title. It is from Long Legend that both Mr. Greeley and Street Sense descend as well as several other stakes placed individuals including Talltalelady and Vestrey Lady.
Three more of Lianga’s daughters produced good stakes winners: Lacune, Lady Lianga and Lettre d’Amour, the last named undoubtedly the best of the lot to date. Then of course, there is also the matter of her placed sister Classical Suite, the second dam of Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Reraise. Never let it be said that this family has no speed – classic roots or not!
Layering On Speed
We think, in fact, that Lianga’s contribution and the production of Reraise by this immediate family tell an important story. It would seem that this family’s rather stout to classic background blood is ideally suited to the kind of Native Dancer kin currently standing at stud.
However, it is also interesting to note that two major winners, Frosty The Snowman and Majestic Legend (second dam of Street Sense) are both by His Majesty and that Bold Bidder has played a role as well: Group 2 winner Diamonds Are Trump is by Bold Bidder; Miss America Stakes winner What A Gaylord is out of his daughter, Skyphos; and Pescagnani, winner of the Riggs Handicap is by his paternal grandson Caveat.
New Reines from this very timely clan include *Alburn herself, Delmarie, Olympia Dell, Lianga, and Long Legend. As we always do, we’ll be watching for other branches of the family to pop up and become worthy members of the Reine-de-Course family. Still, however, we really didn’t want to wait any longer to add *Alburn to the list. Very few families have done all she has in so short a period of time. Two Kentucky Derby winners, two Breeders’ Cup winners and a Breeders’ Cup second, a champion sprinter and a multiple Group 1 winner like Danehill Dancer have made this a family well worth writing about.