Charming Alibi

Once in a while, a great injustice is done in Thoroughbred racing.  Perhaps it is in the form of a *Gallant Man or Alydar never earning year-end honors.  More often, however, injustice seems to be done to great producers who are never honored with Broodmare of the Year titles.  Such a mare is Charming Alibi.

As we mentioned in our story on Myrtlewood (PEDLINES, December 1996), there are many branches of the great Frizette family.  Myrtlewood’s branch, for example, went on to provide the foundation for Seattle Slew and Mr. Prospector.

Myrtlewood’s dam, *Frizeur, was bred by Herman Duryea and was sired by his Two Thousand Guineas winner Sweeper.  When Frizette was returned to Sweeper four years later, she produced another filly named *Ondulation.

*Ondulation, like *Frizeur before her, was imported to the United States, but there the similarity ends.  While *Frizeur gained immortality through her daughters Myrtlewood, Black Curl and Janet Blair, Ondulation’s branch nearly died out altogether.

For starters, its history reads like a road map with an uncertain destination and no travel plans.  Branches pop up in Mexico, New York, Arizona, Northern and Southern California, Florida and Puerto Rico.  Any of those branches might have made *Ondulation into a Myrtlewood, but they did not, due in large part to the poor quality sires to which her descendents were bred.  But in 1937 fortune finally smiled on this Frizette offshoot when *Ondulation was bred to Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox to produce a filly named Gilded Wave.

Gilded Wave was sent to England to race but was unable to win. She later was exported yet again – this time to Argentina – where she left several branches which sprouted the occasional stakes horse.  Then in 1946, Gilded Wave was bred to double Prix d’Ispahan winner Hierocles (by Teddy-line Abjer), a half brother to champion Djebel.

That mating resulted in a filly named *Adorada II.  Although *Adorada II did not race, she was imported to California where she became the link that saved the Ondulation branch of the Frizette line.  A less likely path to fame and fortune could hardly have been forged.  In summary, it read: *Ondulation – unraced; Gilded Wave – unraced; *Adorada II – unraced.  Few breeders would take a chance on what seemed to be a dying branch of a great family.

However, if we look back at the history of Milan Mill, dam of Mill Reef, we find a similar pattern.  His first three dams had but one start between them but, as if the great gene pool had been resting for the proper moment, they then gave the racing world the wonderful legacy of Mill Reef.  And so it was that *Adorada II was about to do the same for *Ondulation’s branch of Frizette.

*Adorada II’s first stakes produce resulted from her 1952 mating to Chef-de-Race *Khaled.  The foal was a colt named Tecolotito, who won the Golden Gate Boys Stakes and placed in the Debonair, Will Rogers and Cabrillo Stakes.  No one mistook him for Man o’ War, but he gave *Adorada II some credibility.

It took *Adorada II ten years to foal a better horse than Tecolotito, but the wait was well worthwhile.  In 1962 she was bred to Honey’s Alibi and the following Spring produced a chestnut filly with a lovely Arabian-like head. This kind, feminine filly would race as Charming Alibi and would later earn her place in breeding history as the dam of a bona fide superstar.

Charming Alibi’s sire, Honey’s Alibi, undoubtedly needs some introduction to non-Californians.  A son of unraced Chef-de-race *Alibhai and California’s beloved Honeymoon, Honey’s Alibi made 50 starts over a four-year period in the mid-’50’s, earning over $250,000 – a considerable sum at the time.  Among his more important victories were the Malibu Sequet Stakes (now the Malibu); the San Diego and Santa Catalina Handicaps.  His placings were more impressive still: the Sunset, Manhattan, Del Mar, Santa Anita, San Juan Capistrano, San Fernando and San Pasqual Handicaps and the Santa Anita Maturity (now the Strub Stakes).

Since Honey’s Alibi’s sire had no racing credentials, it is only natural to look to his dam, Honeymoon, to see where his toughness came from and she is certainly no disappointment in that department.  During the six years Honeymoon raced she made 78 starts and won $387,760.  All fell before her, from the Hollywood Derby to the Vanity Handicap.  She also placed in the Santa Anita Derby and Hollywood Gold Cup.  And perhaps most important of all, as tough as she was, it did not prevent her from becoming a good producer.

Honeymoon passed this durability on to her son by *Alibhai who in turn passed it on to his daughter out of *Adorada II.  Charming Alibi started out poorly, running for claiming tags as low as $8,000 in the name of her breeder Rancho Tecolote (nom de course for Thomas M. Parks).  She then was sold for $7,500 to Charles F. Parker of New Orleans, in whose colors she showed a marked improvement.

Nearly approaching Honeymoon’s record for sheer durability, Charming Alibi ran 71 times, earning just $110,483.  Her stakes wins were not of the variety which later earned the coveted Grade 1 designation but rather had names like the Milette and Old Hat Handicaps and Parker never had a chance to race any of her foals.  Tax problems finally forced him to sell his fine race mare and she was subsequently consigned to the 1969 Keeneland January sale.

Despite her lack of first-class wins or glossy pedigree Charming Alibi caught the eye of a Texan named Nelson Bunker Hunt, who liked black type of any kind for his broodmare band – and for his Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe-winning stallion, Vaguely Noble.  Hunt paid $80,000 for Charming Alibi and bred her to Vaguely Noble for the first time in 1969.  Although he could hardly have known it, he had just engineered a Thoroughbred racing legend.

Prior to her death in late November of 1993 at the grand old age of 31, Charming Alibi produced 12 foals, six of whom won and two of whom won stakes. More importantly, she became the conduit through which the *Ondulation branch of the Frizette family rose to international prominence. Yet never again would she produce anything like her first foal, a liver chestnut filly with a dished face like her dam’s who would race under the fanciful name of Dahlia.

Dahlia’s history as a racehorse is so exemplary that no single history or article could do her justice, but just for the record she won Grade 1 stakes in five countries (England, Ireland, France, the United States and Canada), was Champion of her generation and Horse of the Year in England in 1973 and 1974, Champion three year in Ireland in 1973 and Champion Grass Horse in the United States in 1974.  She was also second highweighted filly at both two (1972) and three (1973) in France, with only nemesis Allez France preventing her from adding that country to her championship list as well.

Her Grade 1 wins: the Prix Saint-Alary; Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud; King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes; Benson and Hedges Gold Cup (twice); Irish Guinness Oaks; Hollywood Invitational, Washington D. C. International, Man o’ War Stakes, and Canadian International Championship Stakes.

But Dahlia’s statistics are dry indeed compared to her living presence.  Even in advanced old age (she lived to 31 like her dam), she possessed the “look of eagles” which caused males of all nationalities to shrink before the breathtaking onslaught of her final closing furlong.  It was this elegant carriage and feminine demeanor which inspired such poets of the turf as Frank Deford to write of her, “Down the front of her face is a tapering slash of white, shaped not unlike a dagger, that she tends to brandish. Whether in the middle of a race or merely out for a gallop, Dahlia will suddenly, impetuously, throw her head back, exactly as Paulette Goddard or Rhonda Fleming used to, obliging the handsome villain to muter: ‘You spitfire, you’re even more beautiful when you’re mad.’ ”

Dahlia was as tough as her dam, and as tough as her relative Honeymoon.  In all she made 48 starts and earned over $1.5 million.  She was in fact the first of her sex to earn $1 million.

Was she too tough to be a good broodmare, some naysayers wondered?  After all, her immediate family was rather weak.  Perhaps.  But it was surely gaining ground with her appearance!  And what most observers were forgetting about Dahlia was that for all her toughness and soundness, she was as feminine as the flower for which she was named.

As it turned out Dahlia, like her dam before her, was denied Broodmare of the Year in favor of more popular matrons.  Yet only champion Moccasin (another never so honored) came close to the talent she has displayed both on the course and in the breeding shed.

Dahlia has produced no less than six stakes winners, four of whom won Grade 1 fixtures:  Dahar; Rivlia, Delegant, and Dahlia’s Dreamer.  Of her two other stakes winners, Llandaff is a Grade 2 winner and Wajd is a Group 2 winner who was three times Group 1 placed.  Dahlia also has two stakes placed horses to her credit.  Decadrachm is Grade 1 placed, Dahlia’s Dreamer placed in listed events in France.  Further, her daughters Begonia, Wajd and Dahlia’s Image are stakes producers.  Dahar and Rivlia made her the first mare in history to produce two earners of $1 million.

If there is tragedy in Dahlia’s story, it is the utter shunning by American breeders of her stallion sons.  Dahar (by Lyphard) started out in the U.S., then became a dual-hemisphere stallion, standing half the year in New Zealand.  He now stands in Japan.  Further, Dahar was not exactly chopped liver.  Among his stakes winners are D. C. International (G1) winner Buckhar; Corby (G2); Dahlia’s Legacy (G2 SAf); Stony Bay (G1 AUS); Solo Show (G2 AUS); and Veterano (G1 VEN).  Freely translated, Dahar got Grade II or better horses in all environments!

Sadder still is the story of her Grade 1 winning millionaire Rivlia by Riverman.  Unlike Dahar, Rivlia was sold to Japan while still a racehorse and ran his last U.S. season in this country under Japanese colors.  Off to a sensational start at stud, with 2000 Guineas winner and Japanese Derby third Narita Taishin; Grade 2 winner Wako Chikako; Grade 2 placed Biko Alpha and Maillot Jaune and Grade 3 winner Pegasus representing him, Rivlia suffered complications from a twisted small intestine and died on Sept. 9, 1993.

To add insult to injury, Delegant (by *Grey Dawn II), who began his stud career in California and whose first get showed promise, was exported to Spain; Decadrachm (by What A Pleasure) went to Japan; and Balcones (by Bold Forbes) was sold to Chile.

The blood is not quite all gone.  Dahar’s son Buckhar is standing in the U.S. (though he has recently been moved to South Carolina).  One still sees his name in important pedigrees, however.  This spring we find him as the broodmare sire of G1 winner Trust N Luck, a son of Montbrook (see elsewhere in this issue) who is on the Triple Crown trail.

Wharf, who suffered fertility problems, is still listed in the stallion register, but he has not accomplished much to date either because of his lack of opportunity or lack of potency.  This is most unfortunate.  By Storm Bird, Wharf is out of Prix d’Automne winner Dockage, a daughter of Dahlia’s three-quarter sister Golden Alibi.  Thus Charming Alibi was more than the dam of Dahlia, though to read anything of her history one would hardly believe it.

Dahlia and her dam were both sold at Hunt’s own dispersal in January of 1988.  Dahlia went to Allen Paulson for $1.1 million and Charming Alibi, who was 25 at the time, sold for only $17,000 to Albert Coppola of Upperville, Va.  It was at Coppola’s Drumlanrig Farm that Charming Alibi lived out her life.

In addition to Dahlia, she produced a record Keeneland yearling named Canadian Bound by Secretariat who sold for $1.5 million in 1976.  Unfortunately, Canadian Bound was a bust at the race track and died without ever contributing anything to the stud book either.

However, Charming Alibi’s Noholme II daughter Wedding is the granddam of a champion in Hungary; her daughter Very Charming (a full sister to Dahlia) is the dam of a blossoming European branch, son Captain General (a full brother to Dahlia) is a sire in Mexico; and Excellent Alibi (a three quarter sister to Dahlia) is a stakes producer in England.  Naturally, Very Charming and Golden Alibi pale in comparison to Dahlia – most mares would!

Charming Alibi’s own pedigree is an anomoly in today’s Thoroughbred world – she has no Phalaris blood.  However, she is inbred to Teddy and Bay Ronald, two of the stoutest stallions imaginable as well as to the great St. Simon himself, American-line founder Ben Brush and the great broodmare Fairy Gold, dam of Fair Play.

Vaguely Noble, to whom Charming Alibi was most notably bred, has no Teddy blood and adds a double of Bahram, Spearmint, Friar Marcus, Gondolette and Phalaris (which is not all of his inbreeding)  then picks up on Charming Alibi’s Hyperion through his own double of that stallion to give Dahlia a very distinctive pedigree.

Dahlia’s pedigree is an outcross within the first three generations, showing only a 4 x 4 cross of Hyperion through the fourth.  Past that generation we find she has a 4 x 5 x 4 sex-balanced Hyperion cross; four Chaucer crosses (and six St. Simon crosses in all); an unusual but welcome 6 x 4 of Teresina, a 7 x 7 x 6 cross of half sisters Garron Lass x2/Plucky Liege and a 7 x 6 x 6 Polymelus cross.  Bayardo appears not only as the grandsire of Hyperion but through a Gay Crusader cross as well.  Note that Vaguely Noble has a double of a notable mare (Gondolette); Charming Alibi has a double of a notable mare (Fairy Gold) and when mated their offspring Dahlia ends up with a doouble of two notable mares (Teresina and Concertina).

While Charming Alibi herself showed a marked affinity for Vaguely Noble, her daughters (most of whom were by that sire or one of his sons) have themselves done exceptionally well with the Northern Dancer line.  Thus if a breeder happens to come across a mare from this branch of the Frizette family which lacks either of those strains, he should add them both at once if at all possible to obtain the best possible results.

When we first named Charming Alibi and Dahlia as Reines-de-Course, we expected their inclusion on the list to be controversial.  But we have never been sorry. Both were denied honors they deserved and Dahlia became such a superb producer – and remember she still has daughters in production – that the family may even yet produce another superstar.

And if somewhere down the road, a horse from one of Dahlia’s daughter branches meets a horse with a Dahar cross, the family will have come full circle.  Of the many great horses we have seen in our lifetime, there are few we would like to see doubled in a pedigree any more than the one and only Dahlia.

New Reines-de-Course:  Charming Alibi and Dahlia.

Family 13-C