Ballantrae

For quite some time now, we’ve been meaning to name the grand mare Ballantrae and several of her descendents Reines-de-Course.  Given the intense popularity of the Seabiscuit book and movie, one might think that this Ballantrae descendent has spurred us on, but that is not the case.

As a matter of fact, two exceptional current runners, one of whose dams’ recently sold for $6.1 million, is the real reason for our pushing Ballantrae to the fore.  These horses would be multiple G1 winner Peace Rules and Breeders’ Cup Turf (dead heat) winner Johar and his wondrous dam, Windsharp.  These special individuals as well as Seabiscuit and many more are all descendents of the very special mare named Ballantrae.

The Boussac Contributions:

This daughter of Ayrshire’s history can be traced to the year 1919 when the great French breeder Marcel Boussac purchased Fresnay-le-Buffard from a Standardbred breeder who had leased the property to two American breeders, Clarence Mackay and Charles Carroll.  Among Boussac’s neighbors was the American breeder Herman B. Duryea, who was responsible for the development of Frizette’s family.  He, too, would figure in the baseline building of Boussac’s stud.

In the beginning, Boussac was rather ruthless about culling his stock, and when the dust had settled, the only remaining family line he had purchased from Mackay and Carroll was via Ballantrae, from which he bred the Teddy filly Coeur A Coeur, second dam of the marvelous Djebel.  Though his career was somewhat compromised by World War II, Djebel was nevertheless able to win the Two Thousand Guineas in both England and France and later to stretch his speed over a route of ground and grab the grand prize of them all, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Djebel is the most important member of Coeur A Coeur’s family, but his full brother Djask (hard to find but in the pedigree of Wolf Power) and half brother Hierocles (also hard to find but in the pedigree of Dahlia) also descend from her.

Djebel was a wonderful combination of Ballantrae and the Dureyea blood of Frizette via Tourbillon, his sire.  When that bloodline, along with Teddy, was bred back to Djebel, the result was Djeddah who was inbred to full sisters Durban and Heldifan and sex-balanced to Teddy.

Though Djeddah is not often spoken of with affection, a closer look at his contribution to the stud book is considerable:  His daughters include Lalun (dam of Never Bend and Bold Reason) and Jolie Deja (dam of Mr. Leader). In addition, Clever Trick’s second dam is by Djeddah,  Belmont winner Summing’s third dam is by Djeddah, Kentucky Derby winner Proud Clarion  is out of Djeddah’s daughter Breath O’Morn, Group 1 winner Devon Ditty  carries a Djeddah line via his broodmare sire Midsummer Night, and Horse of the Year Favorite Trick is inbred to Djeddah.  These are but a few examples of how Djebel and his best son have contributed to the pedigrees of major winners worldwide.

Coming To America

Though Ballantrae had visited America herself, producing Mediant by Meddler, a filly who returned to England and won the Stewards’ Cup, it was a full sister to Mediant named Balancoire II that would make the biggest impression on American pedigrees.

Balancoire II made her initial impression in the Whitney Stud where via the Broomstick mare Swinging she produced the great Equipoise, “the chocolate soldier” who captured the imagination of American racing fans every bit as much as did his relation Seabiscuit.  Abram Hewitt wrote of him in Sire Lines that, “More remarkable (than his color) was the Equipoise personality.  He was a quiet colt, but there was a magnetic field of courage emanating from him that was very moving.  In the end, it was his unfailing courage even more than his high physical abilities that stamped him as a great – and greatly loved – race horse.”

Equipoise won 29 of 51 starts, racing from age two to seven and was only eight times unplaced.  Among his major wins were the Pimlico Futurity and the Suburban Handicap and he won with his weight up like a true champion, carrying 130 pounds to victory, and barely failing under weights as high as 134.

We shall never know how good he might have been as a sire.  He died after siring only four crops and many of the mares at the Whitney Stud were bred exactly like he was.  Nonetheless, he got Kentucky Derby winner Shut Out, Coaching Club American Oaks winner Level Best, the great stayer Bolingbroke and the Metropolitan Mile winner Attention.

Though it was not his, but rather Alsab’s destiny to carry on the Commando/Domino line, Equipoise appears regularly in modern pedigrees, most often via important daughters of his great son Shut Out like Exclusive (e. g. Exclusive Native) and Blackball (The Axe II).  The most important modern horse who is inbred to Equipoise is Suburban and Whitney Handicap winner Silver Buck, who carries Equipoise via Alpoise and Equilette.  Look for him also in the pedigree of horses with Cox’s Ridge (via Carrier Pigeon) or Dancing Brave (via Otra).

 The Best Modern Branches

When all is said and done, it is arguably Equipoise’s full sister Schwester (1936 by Pennant) that carries the most weight in the Ballantrae family today.  It should, however, be noted that Balance, a half sister to Swinging (dam of Equipoise and Schwester), has the most historical branch with Kentucky Derby winner Determine, Seabiscuit, hard-knocking handicapper Noureddin and Seattle Slew’s California and Del Mar Derby winning son Vernon Castle leading the way.

But Schwester has the most modern top-notchers to brag about:  Good Manners, a Nashua son who was reborn as a top Argentine sire; champion, double G1 producer and $6.1 purchase Windsharp and her two offspring Johar and Dessert; the quick Cormorant who challenged Seattle Slew and found him too much, now best known as the sire of Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin.

The Biggest Loss

And let us not forget the mare Flutter, a three-quarter sister to Schwester who is now the ninth dam of current G1 winner Peace Rules, or Chef-de-Race Pia Star.  Plus no discussion of Ballantrae is complete without some commentary on the rather sad breeding career of filly Triple Crown winner Mom’s Command, whose dam Star Mommy was inbred 2 x 3 to three-quarter siblings Inquisitive and Recce (or x4 to Schwester).

Mom’s Command won five G1 races and yet she failed to produce a single horse who could earn any kind of black type.  To make matters even worse, only one of her grand-daughters, Miss Tenenholtz by Storm Bird, has managed to add a stake horse to the family, and it’s a gelding at that – the G1 placed Extra Check (by Chequer).  It is really very sad.

But this marvelous race filly was never easy to breed.  The main problem was the tail-female line of her sire, Top Command.  It is German, which blends into American bloodlines with all the ease of oil with water.  On the other hand, her main asset (the speed of her four Mumtaz Mahal crosses) was not exploited as it should have been, nor was her “Whitney blood”.

It would have been our inclination to use other Whitney lines like Frilette (A-1) or Wendy (5-G) with Mom‘s Command.  If we happened to bump into more Equipoise (or *Mahmoud) along the way, so be it.

The other thought would have been to use another branch of Ballantrae, such as a horse inbred to Djebel (say a Sadler’s Wells/Never Bend cross with Djeddah x2.)  This would have afforded not only a new way into the family itself but would have given some marvelous second-generation options via Frizette.  Alas, this was never done. But perhaps one day it will be with a daughter.

The Pedigree of Ballantrae

Though Ballantrae’s pedigree is far too old to have any direct meaning to the modern pedigree student, its basics are as solid today as ever.  Her entire lineage is a study in the build-up of classic lines.

Her sire, Ayrshire, is particularly richly bred.  He is 3 x 4 to St. Leger winner Newminster and his Park Hill Stakes winning full sister Honeysuckle.  Then at 4 x 4 are Derby and St. Leger winner Voltigeur and his full sister Volley.  Half brothers Stockwell and Rataplan (out of Pocahontas) are 4 x 4 as well.

Her dam is x2 sex-balanced to 2000 Guineas and Derby winner Bay Middleton and adds a balancing son line of Stockwell to Woodbine in Ayrshire.  Ballantrae is then linebred x3 to Bay Middleton and x4 to Touchstone, winner of the St. Leger and Doncaster and Ascot Gold Cups.

She was the perfect classic mate for the speed of Domino her daughters encountered in the Whitney Stud.  And what is more, she appears to have brought some toughness with her.  Whether we are discussing Seabiscuit, Stalwars, Windsharp or Equipoise, these horses lasted -and Djebel too was known for his toughness, running through his five year old season, the year he won the Arc.

New Reines-de-Course

 We are proud to add to the honor list of great producers that bear this title the names of Ballantrae, Balancoire II, Loika, Schwester, Recce, and Recess.  We are tempted to add Windsharp at this time, but will give her enough time to get a producing daughter out there.  If we know Windsharp, it won’t take long.

However, if anyone out there wants to think of her as a Reine-de-Course, we wouldn’t challenge them.  She is as good as they come.

Family 5-J