“We were not thinking of the Greeks or the Romans either when we named Alcibiades. She was named for a nickname my daughter Alice was called as a baby, and it would have made no difference to me that the long-departed warrior was a male”……Hal Price Headley, breeder of Alcibiades.
The forging of a great female family is a tenuous thing. Since our foundation families are already in place, considering how various branches of them have been developed is a noteworthy pursuit. For in looking back, we have the perspective of history to guide us in analyzing the mistakes as well as the suitable steps which breeders took to keep these families alive.
In this regard, Alcibiades is a wonderful subject for study. She was bred using a marvelous mixture of the old American and European. In crossing the Domino-line Ultimus to the Roi Herod mare *Regal Roman which resulted in Alcibiades, breeder Headley also created a pedigree full of balance – the speed of Domino and Bend Or to the great classic ability of Vedette and Isonomy.
The result was a filly who was not only a good racehorse, winning the Kentucky Oaks, but a great producer whose offspring range in time span from Menow’s 1937 two-year-old title to the recent runner Free House and whose daughters and their daughters have graced the racing scene with top-class runners like Sir Ivor and Halo America and many excellent hard-knockers like American History, Patchy Groundfog, Pleasure Seeker, Navajo, Sing Sing, Raise A Man, Secret Hello, Gentle King and Exclusive Enough.
Although there is no discernable sex bias among the runners, it is clear that the majority of good sires from the family tend to get better fillies, and thus become good broodmare sires, while their sire sons are less stellar. (The most notable exception to this is Sir Ivor’s great son Sir Tristram, a legend in his own time in New Zealand.) Equally important is that a rather dormant branch, like the one which produced Free House, can still have life in it when exposed to the right sire, though we never recommend this approach.
Alcibiades was a precocious sort, making seven starts with four wins at two. She won the Clipsetta and Debutante Stakes; ran second in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, and was named champion of her age and sex.
At three, she made 16 starts, winning three. In addition to the Kentucky Oaks, she won the Arlington Oaks, and ran third in the Hawthorne Gold Cup, the Illinois and Latonia Oaks, and the Arlington Matron Handicap. Her career ended when she tore a tendon badly in the Latonia Championship, but she had done enough to earn another title.
Prior to her death at the grand old age of 30 in 1957, Alcibiades produced seven foals. She had her share of barren years (eight) and dead foals (two fillies by *Pharmond II in 1939 and 1941). But her offspring that lived and propagated were of the absolute highest quality.
Three of Alcibiades’ best producing offspring were by the imported *Pharamond II, a full brother to Sickle and a half brother to Hyperion out of Reine-de-Course Selene purchased by Headley from Lord Derby circa 1939. In Sire Lines, turf historian Abram S. Hewitt relates the story of *Pharamond II’s purchase.
“Headley told the writer (Hewitt) that it was practically dark when he arrived on a gloomy evening in the late autumn or early winter and that *Pharamond II was barely discernible where he stood in straw nearly up to his knees and in a barn covered with black tar paint. Headley did not ask to have *Pharamond II brought out, because as he put it, ‘I did not want Lord Derby’s men to learn how interested I was’.”
The asking price for *Pharamond, who had not been a particularly good racehorse, was $50,000. Upon his return to Lexington, Headley wrote, “If Lord Derby would not be insulted, I would like to offer $20,000.” Lord Derby accepted the offer and *Pharamond II was imported to the U. S. where, in addition to Menow, he sired such good ones as Cosmic Bomb, By Jimminy, King Cole, Pelisse, Apogee, Creole Maid and Alcibiades’ granddaughter Athenia.
Alcibiades second foal and first to race was the St. Germans filly Sparta, who won the Latonia Oaks and placed second in the important Ashland Stakes. It is from Sparta’s branch that Free House, Mari’s Book and Halo America descend.
Her next foal to race was champion Menow by *Pharamond II. While he will probably always be best known for siring champion Tom Fool, who in turn sired the immortal Buckpasser, Menow’s story bears some re-telling, for he was a fine runner.
In the summer of 1937, the most highly touted two year old in training was the Milky Way Stable’s brilliant Sky Larking. Unfortunately, it was in a race in which this colt lost his life that Menow first bloomed.
The occasion was the rich and prestigious Champagne Stakes, which Menow won by four lengths from Calumet’s Bull Lea, later that farm’s foundation sire. Fighting Fox, a full brother to Gallant Fox, was third, while Sky Larking had snapped a leg in full stride early in the race and had to be destroyed.
Menow obviously had to back up his Champagne form, and this he did a month later with a world record performance in the important Belmont Futurity. The Blood Horse wrote that Menow’s performance was so brilliant that even had Sky Larking lived and raced in the Futurity at his absolute best, Menow would probably have beaten him. This opinion was backed up by Menow’s jockey Charley Kurtsinger, who rode War Admiral and Twenty Grand, when he called Menow the fastest colt he had ever ridden after the 1:36 mile, the fastest ever run by a two-year-old at that time. His quickness earned him the two-year-old title.
At three, Menow was still a very good racehorse, but he was just short of true classic form. After a second in the Bluegrass, the colt ran fourth in the Kentucky Derby to Lawrin, Dauber and Can’t Wait. He improved to third at Pimlico behind Dauber and Cravat, but did not contest the Belmont, which was won by Pasteurized with Dauber second and Cravat third.
Menow did win the Withers and the Potomac Handicap, but his finest hour was defeating War Admiral in the Massachusetts Handicap, the only time the Triple Crown winner finished off the board. He also ran third in the Havre De Grace Handicap and retired with 13 in-the-money finishes from 17 starts and the reputation of a horse capable of true brilliance.
While Menow’s Handicap Triple Crown-winning son Tom Fool was his single best racing offspring, today his blood runs on in the pedigrees of many fine horses. There are all those good sires out of Buckpasser daughters like Woodman, El Gran Senor, Miswaki, Slew o’ Gold and With Approval, to name but a few, as well as Buckpasser’s direct male line descendents Copelan, Spend A Buck and Silver Buck.
Other notable horses with a Menow cross are Nijinsky II, whose second dam, Flaring Top, is a Menow daughter; Blushing Groom, whose sire Red God is out of a Menow mare and Storm Cat, whose fourth dam First Rose is by Menow. Then there is Known Fact (broodmare sire Tim Tam by Tom Fool by Menow); Gone West (second dam by Tim Tam); and Lord Avie (second dam by Tom Fool). It is quite a legacy.
Despite Menow’s many gifts to the breed, every female family has one truly great representative that rises above all others, and in the case of Alcibiades, this is the Epsom Derby winner Sir Ivor.
There are two very special quotes regarding that Epsom Derby we would like to share with our readers. One is from The British Bloodstock Breeders’ Annual Review of 1968: “No word will recapture the breathtaking sweep of Sir Ivor as he tore into that formidable advantage (of leading Connaught). The gap vanished as if it had never existed, and almost 100 yards from the line Connaught was caught and left standing, with jockey Barclay bewildered by the sight of (Lester) Piggot sitting up again, to take a tight hold of the rein as Sir Ivor sped home a length and a half winner……..Sir Ivor ran the most astonishing final furlong that anyone at Epsom had ever seen. Nobody who did see it will ever forget it.”
The other quote, perhaps a more meaningful one, is from Sir Ivor’s breeder, Mrs. Alice Chandler, the fine horsewoman for whom Alcibiades herself was named, “It makes my hair stand on end,” she remembered. “I can look at the tape of that race now and give you 6-5 that there is no way Sir Ivor is going to win. I have never seen a horse close like he closed.”
Of course, Sir Ivor did a good bit more than win the Epsom Derby. At two, he was champion of his age and sex in Ireland; at three he won the Two Thousand Guineas as well as the Derby and ran second in the Irish Derby. He was named champion three-year-old as well as Horse of the Year in England and prior to his retirement, he even added the Washington D. C. International on his home shores.
Quite a series of accomplishments for a horse who brought only $42,000 as a yearling. (The buyer was A. B. “Bull” Hancock, acting as agent for Raymond Guest, then U. S. Ambassador to Ireland).
Sir Ivor stood two seasons in Ireland in 1969 and 1970. Upon his repatriation to Claiborne Farm, Sir Ivor became a one-horse public relations firm. He loved visitors and loved having his tongue pulled. When not enjoying company, he found time to sire 94 stakes winners, including champions Bates Motel, Cloonlara, Godetia, Ivanjica, Ivor’s Image, La Visir, Malinowski and St. Hilarion, and his daughters had produced another 142 added-money winners through the end of 2001, including Goodbye Halo, Blue Buckaroo, Danzig Connection, Triple Wow, Snake Eyes, Crypto Star, Virginia Rapids and Auntie Mame.
Sir Ivor was leading broodmare sire in England in 1983; fourth leading sire in France in 1975 and fifth leading sire in England in 1974. He died Nov. 10, 1995 at the grand old age of 30.
But Sir Ivor’s greatest contribution to the stud book came in the unlikely form of non-stakes winner Sir Tristram who, standing in New Zealand, became one of the all-time great international sires of our day, getting more than 121 stakes winners, 43 of which were Group 1 winners. Today, his sire line is in full bloom down under, with representatives like Marauding, Zabeel, Military Plume, Grosvenor, Kaapstad and many others.
Sir Ivor’s second dam, Athenia, was a three-quarter sister to Menow, and from studying Menow’s pedigree and then Sir Ivor’s, it is possible to trace the gradual introduction of quality international speed into this family. When *Pharamond II was bred to Alcibiades, thus getting Menow and his full sisters Hipparate and Lithe, two more lines of Cyllene (via Polymelus and Minoru) were added. In addition, another cross of Quiver was introduced via Maid Marian, meeting her half sister La Fleche in the pedigree of Alcibiades’ sire Supremus. A son line of St. Simon via Chaucer then balanced the three daughter lines via Cheery; La Fleche and Santa Brigida.
By the time Sir Ivor came along, Man o’ War had been introduced into the female line, as well as Mr. Trouble, a son of *Mahmoud. When Sir Gaylord was selected for Attica’s mate, the overall effect was a 4 x 4 cross of half brothers Admiral Drake and *Sir Gallahad III; a 5 x 3 cross of three-quarter siblings Mumtaz Begum and *Mahmoud; two more lines of Cyllene via Pharos in *Turn-to’s contribution and multiples of half siblings Chaucer and Swynford. The original Roi Herode line which had been imported via *Regal Roman also had help. Roi Herod acquired two son crosses of The Tetrarch, sire of Mumtaz Mahal, second dam of *Mahmoud and Mumtaz Begum.
As in all classic pedigrees, balance existed to a strong extent. When speed was added, so, too, was a modicum of stamina, always with an eye toward the classic horse rather than extremes of either precocity or stoutness. The result of Sir Ivor cannot be argued.
For those breeders fortunate enough to have a mare with Sir Ivor blood, it should be mentioned that his half sister Lady Attica has two grandsons, Mugatea and Patchy Groundfog, whose bloodlines should not be terribly difficult to locate.
Other good ways to inbreed to the family include crossing mares with lines of Raise A Man or Gentle King on sires with Sir Ivor or vice versa. Raise A Man’s second dam, Salvia, is a three-quarter sister to Sir Ivor’s dam Attica; Gentle King’s second dam Lithe is a three-quarter sister to Sir Ivor’s second dam Athenia and he adds *Nasrullah to Sir Ivor’s *Royal Charger.
Then there is young sire Secret Hello, whose third dam Pillow Talk is a three-quarter sister to Attica and those breeders in California lucky enough to have a mare with a line of the Hollywood Gold Cup winner Pleasure Seeker, should look into breeding to a horse with Sir Ivor blood as well. Pleasure Seeker’s sire is *Ambiorix, who is a half brother to *Source Sucree, dam of *Turn-to (grandsire of Sir Ivor). The dam of Pleasure Seeker, Troublepeg, and Sir Ivor’s dam, Attica, are three-quarter sisters, so this is an excellent way to inbreed to the family with two sound, classic horses.
For their contribution to the stud book, we therefore add Alcibiades and her relations Sparta; Salaminia; Attica; Hipparete; and Lithe. Without them, two of the best horses of this century, Buckpasser and Sir Ivor, would never have come into being.