Of all the characters in the history of the turf Col. E. R. Bradley of Idle Hour Farm may be the most interesting and enigmatic. According to various stories, Bradley was everything from a cowboy to a philantropist to an inventor. But most of all, Bradley was known as a gambler. The most frequently repeated story regarding this aspect of his character concerns a time when Bradley was called before a Senate sub-committee by his political enemy Huey Long, something of a character himself. When asked by the dignified assembly what his profession was, Bradley frankly said, “gambler” and when asked what it was that he gambled on, Bradley replied, “anything.” Bradley proudly announced his biggest gamble of all to the racing world by giving all his horses names that began with the letter “B” and wherever the “Bradley B” as it became known, is found in a pedigree it is likely to bring quality along with it. Just a few of his better known horses are Kentucky Derby winners Behave Yourself, Bubbling Over, Brokers Tip and Burgoo King and champions Blue Larkspur, Black Helen, Busher and Be Faithful.
In terms of the Reine-de-Course series, Col. Bradley’s marvelous “B’s” have accounted for many exceptional runners via the Be Faithful branch of the Bloodroot family as well as many of *La Troienne’s wonderful descendents. The Reine-de-Course series visits Col. Bradley many times, but for the moment our subject is the mare Beaming Beauty, dam of 1926 Kentucky Derby winner Bubbling Over and also ancestress of such good runners and progenitors as Native Charger; Nashmeel; Damascus; Tiffany Ice; Banshee Breeze; Echo Lass (NZ); Miss Gris; Gray Slewpy; Hometown News; Bordeaux Bob and Irish Actor.
Bellisario, dam of Beaming Beauty, was a half sister to champion Maskette and was bred by James R. Keene’s Castleton Farm. Bellisario was sired by a horse named Hippodrome who was by Commando (a son of Domino) out of Domino’s daughter Dominoes. But even more interesting was the presence of the mare Lady Reel, dam of Hamburg, broodmare sire of Bellisario. Lady Reel was a half sister to Domino, so Bellisario was actually inbred 3 x 3 x 3 to Domino and his half sister Mannie Gray. Keene sold his entire yearling crop in 1912 and Col. Bradley acquired several good ones, including Black Toney.
Bellisario was also a Castleton acquisition of Bradley’s and she subsequently was bred to Sweep in 1916 to produce Beaming Beauty. This mating exposed her to yet a third strain of Domino so that Beaming Beauty was, in fact, inbred to Domino and his half sister Mannie Gray 3 x 4 x 4 x 4.
Beaming Beauty was unraced, was out of a mare who was intensely inbred and tended to produced unraced offspring and yet was bred to the most unsound stallion on the farm, North Star III. The result was the best runner Beaming Beauty ever got, Bubbling Over, a horse that farm manager Olin Gentry believed was the fastest ever bred by Col. Bradley.
Bubbling Over was also the object of one of Col. Bradley’s great betting coups. When the colt was two, his greatest rival was W. R. Coe’s Pompey. Col Bradley made several wagering propositiions to Coe, from a match race with the owner’s winner getting the other horse to $125,000 for the horse crossing the finish line first in the following year’s Derby. Bubbling Over won the Derby easily, but he never ran again.
Owing to his various physical problems, including bad eyesight, Bubbling Over never became a very popular stallion. Yet he was good enough to sire a Kentucky Derby winner of his own, Burgoo King. More importantly, he became an excellent broodmare sire. One of his daughters, Hildene, was the taproot matron for Meadow Stud, breeder of Secretariat, and is a Reine-de-Course; another Reine is Liz F., dam of Intent, yet another is Baby League, a Reine-de-Course out of *La Troienne, and dam of Striking and Busher, the full sisters who appear in the pedigree of the great Seattle Slew. Finally Cutlass Reality, that fine millionaire who defeated Horses of the Year Alysheba and Ferdinand in the 1988 Hollywood Gold Cup, is inbred to Beaming Beauty 7 x 6 x 5. So the blood is still “running”.
Beaming Beauty’s best producing daughter and the mare responsible for the strongest branch of the family is Bar Nothing, a winning daughter of champion Blue Larkspur, yet another Bradley bred and a great broodmare sire. Since Blue Larkspur was by Domino-line Black Servant, Bar Nothing ended up with five crosses of Domino/Mannie Gray along with Blue Larkspur’s own unique inbreeding to the mare Padua.
Bar Nothing was a marvelous producer who might have become even more influential but for a stroke of fate. She produced only two foals, British Flyer, a gelding by Equipoise who won two of 43 starts, and unraced Blade of Time, a filly by *Sickle, before dying of a twisted intenstine.
What Bar Nothing did not have time to do, Blade of Time fulfilled beyond all expectations. Her stakes winners include Futurity winner Guillotine; Santa Anita Derby winner Bymeabond; Hopeful winner Blue Border; Monmouth Oaks winner Ruddy and Broodmare of the Year Kerala, dam of Damascus. Blade of Time also produced the unraced Bimelech filly Glaive whose descendents include Bordeaux Bob and Irish Actor.
While not overlooking Glaive’s contribution, nor the occasional contribution of other members of the family, it is pretty much Kerala who kept this family alive.
Although she did not race, Kerala was by the excellent sire and Chef-de-Race My Babu, considered a source of speed, which was already in abundant supply through her family’s linebreeding to Domino.
Despite Kerala’s roots, Damascus was something of a surprise. By 1959 Horse of the Year Sword Dancer, who in all fairness sired only one other good runner in Lady Pitt, Damascus’ small stature, plain bay coat and unpopular sire line did not turn many heads. That his two major racing rivals were the dashing Dr. Fager and the elegant Buckpasser did nothing to up his stock initially, so Damascus simply did it the hard way and beat both horses in the 1967 Woodward to earn Horse of the Year honors. That he did so after winning the Preakness, Belmont, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup, only added to the still-ongoing argument of which of those three horses was best.
Damascus returned at four, winning the Brooklyn Handicap, Malibu and San Fernando Stakes but bowed a tendon in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and was retired to Claiborne Farm where he spent his entire stud career until his death of natural causes on Aug. 8, 1995. He had been pensioned since 1989.
As is always true when one of the immortals dies, Damascus brought out the best in turf writers who remembered him fondly, whether they were bemoaning his missing the Triple Crown with a third-place finish to Proud Clarion in the Kentucky Derby or arguing that he was better than Dr. Fager and Buckpasser combined. One thing everyone agreed on was that Damascus represented the savoir of the Teddy male line.
In 1975, the late Bob Stokhaug and Cary Robertson Jr., penned a tribute to Damascus in The Thoroughbred Record called “A Slender Thread of Finest Steel”, tracing in part the decline, fall and rebirth via Damascus of the *Teddy line. Part of that story is worth repeating here:
“…..the tragic end of his (Damascus’) racing career symbolized the fragility of a sire line beloved in America.
“It was a sire line which had flourished during the second quarter of this century, first with *Teddy and then with his sons *Bull Dog and *Sir Gallahad. In the case of the branch which was to include Damascus, the decline began with the first generation, when Sun Teddy, a less noteworthy son of *Teddy than the others mentioned, got the prolific but unsound Sun Again, a good racehorse but several lengths removed from the stars of his crop, Alsab and Shut Out. Sun Again sired 30 stakes winners, but the most likely of these failed to breed to expectations and Sunglow, a relatively undistinguished son, carried the feeble hopes of a sire line that apparently was at its nadir.
“Sunglow was a straight-shouldered highheaded blond with an elevated croup and a rather weak hindquarter. The high-water mark of his racing campaigns came in a renewal of the Widener which he won as much through the generosity of the handicapper as on merit.
“As though he recognized his obligation to the ailing sire line, he outdid himself in his first crop with a colt named Sword Dancer. Thereafter, he settled into mediocrity.”
Damascus in turn did his part. In fact, he more than did it. At the time of his death, he had sired 71 stakes winners and his daughters had produced more than 140 more. He had sired an outstanding sire in Private Account and good stallions in Time for a Change, Timeless Moment and Crusader Sword. Today the sire line thrives through the infusion of new blood like Technology, Fly So Free, Afternoon Deelites, and Gilded Time. Nor has the *Teddy male line been hurt by the presence of Horse of the Year Skip Away, conqueror of Cigar and a great-grandson of Damascus via Skip Trial and Bailjumper.
Thus, Beaming Beauty’s family reached a unique peak in producing Damascus, but the worth of Bubbling Over, the excellent produce of mares like Aunt Tilt, Beaufix and Glaive are proof that this family is not a one-horse affair. Perhaps most interesting is the mare Arlene Francis, a winning full sister to Damascus.
Although Arlene Francis’ two best winners were colts, her daughters Nimbus Star (by *Grey Dawn II) and Sugarbart (by The Bart) are both stakes producers. Look for their young daughters at auction and cross them back to lines of Damascus, Native Charger, Tiffany Ice, Grey Slewpy, or even better to a horse like Cutlass Reality with his three Beaming Beauty crosses.
Beaming Beauty’s own pedigree is a study in nostalgia and it serves well to illustrate just how inbred American Thoroughbreds were in the first part of the century. In addition to the Mannie Gray inbreeding mentioned above, Beaming Beauty had a double of Bonnie Scotland 4 x 6 through son Bramble and daughter Bourbon Belle. Bonnie Scotland is, of course, best known for siring “American” sire Bramble, whose sire line (that of Ben Brush, etc.) has pretty much died out.
Great American sire Lexington is present four times, but his influence is beginning to “back up” as the speed of Domino advances. Although we think of today’s Thoroughbreds as fast and fragile, it does us all good to remember that Domino was the fastest horse of his generation and it was not at all unusual to find him inbred to again and again as in the pedigree of Beaming Beauty.
The great sire Australian, sire of Spendthrift, scion of the Man o’ War line, is present 5 x 6, but neither cross is via Spendthrift himself. Australian, who stood alongside Lexington until his death in 1879, was expected to breed on, but a more likely source was Fellowcraft, who appears in Beaming Beauty’s pedigree as the sire of Lady Reel, the half sister to Domino mentioned above.
The fine broodmare sire Scottish Chief was 6 x 6 and Galopin 5 x 6 via Bellisario alone, reflecting not only the age of her pedigree but its European flavor.
Finally, Leamington, who was good enough to be leading sire one year in the midst of Lexington’s dominance, appears 5 x 6 x 7 x 7 x 7.
Although Beaming Beauty’s family is not in the same league with *La Troienne’s, it is nevertheless a tribute to Col. Bradley and his indominable “B’s” that the family is still producing good horses. We feel the family has been underappreciated and therefore somewhat neglected over the years, which has caused a branch or two to “fall into disrepair”. However, by inbreeding to the very best of the horses who have survived the family’s almost 80 years in existence, there is hope that the family can be revitalized. Gray Slewpy and Cutlass Reality are just two examples of what inbreeding to the best of this family can produce.
For now, we will take a conservative approach and name only Beaming Beauty herself and Broodmare of the Year Kerala as new Reines-de-Course. Though the family suffered a dreadful blow with the untimely death of champion Banshee Breeze, she does have some sisters to carry on, so with a little luck, we’ll be back to add more names before too many seasons have passed.