In March of each year since 1946 the Kentucky Owners and Breeders’ Association has announced a Broodmare of the Year. With that thought in mind, we thought it might be interesting to examine the past, present and future of the very first Broodmare of the Year, Colonel E. R. Bradley’s Bloodroot.
A daughter of Bradley’s first champion, Blue Larkspur, out of Irish-bred *Knockaney Bridge by Bridge of Earn, Bloodroot was an outstanding racemare. It was her misfortune, however, to be born in the same crop as champion Black Helen (a daughter of *La Troienne), a rival with whom she traded victories at the racetrack. Not everyone who saw the two race felt that Black Helen should have gotten all the honors. Olin Gentry, Manager of Colonel Bradley’s farm when both fillies were in training, was one of them.
“Bloodroot was a heck of a lot better race mare than Black Helen.” Gentry recalled, “Everybody who saw them run said so.” Sad to say, however, the record book holds only facts – facts which show that Bloodroot was just stakes placed, albeit in races like the Coaching Club American Oaks.
Black Helen and Bloodroot were not given the opportunity to renew their rivalry at age four, but went right to the breeding shed. Like her dam before her, Bloodroot looked as if she might become a problem mare, skipping her first two years. (*Knockaney Bridge was barren on her first three covers).
After that stutter-start, however, Bloodroot never missed a trick, producing 13 foals in a row, four of them stakes winners. When Colonel Bradley died in August of 1946, his stock was dispersed and Bloodroot was sold with the rest. At that time, she had already produced stakes winners Bric A Back, Be Faithful and Bimlette and so had the good fortune to be purchased by Ogden Phipps who also acquired her old nemesis Black Helen along with Businesslike and Baby League.
At the time of her purchase, Bloodroot was carrying Bullroot, a Bull Lea colt who never started. Phipps bred her back to Bull Lea and was rewarded with the winning filly Puccoon who went on to produce several good stakes horses for him.
Returned to Bimelech, sire of Be Faithful and Bimlette, Bloodroot produced for Phipps the winner Turmeric, another stakes producer, and in 1949 she foaled the last of her stakes winners, the Challendon gelding Ancestor. A stakes winner on the flat and over fences, Ancestor was named champion hurdler of 1959. He amassed $237,956, quite a total for the time, and still a respectable sum for a steeplechaser.
Currently, Bloodroot’s family boils down pretty much to the produce of Bimlette and Be Faithful. Not that some of her other daughters are not good producers, they are simply not in the league as the big two.
Betty Johnson, for example, has 13 stakes horses tracing to her branch, none of them major. Bim’s Best, ancestress of just four stakes horses, has no graded winners to boast of either. Turmeric has eight stakes horses under her branch, the best of which is probably Queen Breeze who ran third in the 1984 Astoria Stakes. Bloodroot’s last foal, the Shut Out filly Errorless, is responsible in direct descent for only one stakes horse, Centerville, who died in 1971 without producing anything of note. Finally, Puccoon’s branch accounts for a few major winners; Mako, a champion steeplechaser and the good producer Punctilious, dam of American Derby winner The Pruner, Irish Two Thousand Guineas third Dapper and Dictates, dam of Grade II winner Rivalero.
BIMLETTE, the first of the major daughters, has at least 38 stakes horses tracing to her in direct female descent. The best of these are Wood Memorial winner No Robbery, a son of Swaps who went on to sire such good runners as Sanford Stakes winner Fuzzbuster; English champion Wind And Wuthering; champion handicap mare Track Robbery; multiple Grade I winner Mecke; and multiple graded stakes winner Replant. No Robbery is also a good broodmare sire, his daughters having produced at least 55 stakes winners including the dams of champions Criminal Type and Estrapade.
Other excellent horses to descend from Bimlette are Remsen Stakes winner Googplex; Kentucky Derby second Woodchopper and the heart and soul of her branch of the Bloodroot family, Moulette. Moulette, a winner by *Mahmoud, was a stakes producer but it was her unraced daughter, Regal Seal, who saved the day by producing Queen’s Paradise. That daughter of Summer Tan was only a winner, but she in turn produced champion Tempest Queen; $612,630 stakes winner Love You By Heart; and graded stakes winner Steal A Kiss.
BE FAITHFUL, Bloodroot’s best producing daughter (36 stakes horses descend from her), was also her best racing daughter. Be Faithful won the now Grade I Vanity and Beverly Handicaps, ran second in the Alabama and also placed in such races as the Top Flight Handicap. According to Olin Gentry, Be Faithful had been raced “terribly hard”, but went against the conventional wisdom which says such mares are poor producers by foaling two exceptional influences: Lalun, dam of Never Bend and Bold Reason, and the great producer Be Ambitious.
Lalun, by the Champion and Eclipse Stakes winner Djeddah, was herself a fine racehorse, winning the Beldame Handicap and Kentucky Oaks. Her son Never Bend, champion two year old of 1962 was a great sire and broodmare sire, but perhaps his finest gift to the breed is the unquenchable greatness that was Mill Reef.
Be Ambitious, by *Ambiorix, was no Lalun at the racetrack but she more than made up for it in the breeding shed. It is largely due to her influence that Bloodroot’s name lives on – and races on – to this day. Be Ambitious, in turn, owes her prominence to two very special daughters, the *Ribot mare Artists Proof and the Nantallah mare Nanticious., third dam of 1997 Kentucky Oaks winner Blushing K.D.
Artists Proof, herself a stakes winner, is the dam of stakes winners Nugget Point, Dactylographer and Minimal – all Grade I horses. Nanticious, also a stakes winner, foaled such good horses as Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Group Plan and Oak Leaf Stakes winner Cut Class as well as Belmont Stakes second McKenzie Bridge.
A few words about Bloodroot’s pedigree are in order. Bloodroot’s dam, *Knockaney Bridge, was a mare of considerable credentials. Her dam, Sunshot by the outstanding Australian runner Carbine, also produced Sunbridge, a full sister to *Knockaney Bridge who would found her own branch of the family in England and Ireland. Sunbridge, in fact, might have been an even better foundation mare than her sister. Tracing in direct descent to her are the following English or Irish classic winners: Sol Speranza; Soldumeno; Solferino; Resplendent; Windsor Lad; and *Our Babu.
Bloodroot was not so intensely inbred as some other Reines-de-Course. She has a 4 x 5 cross of St. Angelo, a St. James Palace Stakes winner but a horse of undetermined parentage being by either Clairvaux or Galopin. If St. Angelo was indeed by Galopin, then Bloodroot would also be inbred to Galopin three times, since she picks up a cross of St. Simon in her fourth generation. In addition, she is inbred 5 x 5 to Bend Or, he of the infamous spots and tail-male ancestor of Phalaris. She is also inbred 4 x 5 to Padua, ancestress of Black Servent and Relic, and dam of Padula, one of Bradley’s foundation matrons.
And the daughters? Bimlette and Be Faithful show much more close-up inbreeding. They are 2 x 4 to Black Toney; 3 x 5 to Peter Pan/Belgravia; and 5 x 4 to Cyllene. Were they better than their dam? We do know they were never Broodmares of the Year. And rather than wait fifty years to assess their impact, let them rather be Reines-de-Course, along with their dam, and other relatives Punctilious, Lalun and Queen’s Paradise.
All things considered, not a bad overall contribution for the first Broodmare of the Year. She is still running on. After all this time, it is good to know that Bloodroot is just as worthy – if not moreso – than the day she was chosen.