Conjure

 

 

“Men are the sport of circumstances, when the

circumstances seem the sport of men.”….Lord Byron

As we have traveled through the rich history of the great mares whom we have named Reines-de-Course, we have many times had cause to ponder the “what ifs” that surround them.  Our current subject, Conjure, is perhaps as good an example of the irony of breeding as any that have gone before her.  Likewise, she is as good an example of a classic producer as any of her predecessors.

A Most Fortuitous Purchase

In Abram S. Hewitt’s The Great Breeders and Their Methods, he tells us that when Lord Astor purchased Conjure, he had a far different purpose in mind for her than that which she eventually achieved:

“Lord Astor got into breeding horses for flat races almost by accident,” wrote Hewitt.  “As a young man at Oxford in 1900, he bought the five-year-old mare Conjure by the sprinter Juggler, who had won only one race worth a hundred pounds.  She was the only winner out of her dam, Connie, who had also won only once.

“The idea was to use Conjure for breeding hunters and point-to-point horses.  She defeated Astor’s purpose by foaling a fair racemare, Third Trick (by St. Simon’s son William The Third) in 1906 and then in 1907 she foaled Winkipop, her full sister, who won the One Thousand Guineas and Coronation Stakes at Ascot.  Astor then had some good broodmare prospects on his hands for flat-racing purposes.”

A Contemporary of Other Reines

About the same time that Lord Astor purchased Conjure, he also acquired Reines-de-Course Maid of the Mist (Buchan, St. Germans, Craig An Eran) and Popinjay (ancestress of Book Law and thus of Swale and Forty Niner).  There were at least 10 other mares which were contemporaries of these three giants, but they soon faded into the background against such an onslaught of excellence as this trio presented.

The Pedigree of Conjure

Conjure was tail-male to Birdcatcher via Stockwell, the “Emperor of Stallions”.  Her paternal great-grandsire was Stockwell’s Triple Crown winner Lord Lyon and her sire, Juggler, was by his son Touchet.

The broodmare sire of Conjure was the hugely versatile Beadsman son Pero Gomez who won the Middle Park Stakes at six furlongs, the King Edward VII Stakes at 12 furlongs and the St. Leger at 14.6 furlongs.  One of the most fascinating aspects of Pero Gomez’s pedigree was his inbreeding to the great foundation mare Lady Moore Carew, the seventh dam of Frizette.

The linebreeding in her pedigree becomes very complex, but suffice it to say that her dam, Connie, carries eight lines of Penelope, including one of Wire, her sixth dam.  There is but one line of Penelope in Juggler’s pedigree via Whalebone.

Family 24 via “The Selim Mare” is also a source of linebreeding here – there are six lines of her, five via Camel alone.  Beyond this, we get into such intricate territory that we feel it is simply best to end the inbreeding commentary with Conjure having three lines of Pocahontas (1837) via Stockwell x2/King Tom.  Other than that, we find a mare rather typical of her time (1895) when there was far more close inbreeding due to the fact that the breed was in its infancy and stock was less plentiful.

A Sample of the Best

Any mare good enough to be named a Reine-de-Course is going to have a fair number of major ancestors that we can discuss.  Thus, we have to pick and choose or we’d be doing books on all these special ladies rather than articles.

For Conjure, we selected a variety of descendents that give an overview of her versatility and prepotency:  Broodmare of the Year Alpenstock III, champion and classic winner Pensive; Oaks winner Pennycomequick and classic winner and Chef-de-Race Court Martial.

*Court Martial

Our dear friend and colleague, Leon Rasmussen, loved The British Bloodstock Review so much that he compiled an entire book of ‘goodies’ extracted from it.  The following description of *Court Martial’s win in the 1945 Two Thousand Guineas is from that same source and is a delightful example of why Leon so enjoyed this material:

“Court Martial looked a picture.  J. Lawson, the Manton trainer, had excelled himself in preparing the colt for the race.  Court Martial’s polish and fit appearance must have struck even the most unobservant.

“Going up the hill, Lord Astor’s colours on Court Martial became more and more prominent, and it soon became clear that the colt had initiated a brilliant run which had only to be maintained to put him within reach of victory.

“The finale was fought out between Dante, now racing near the stand rails, and Court Martial, on his left.  Court Martial must have had about a length advantage.  Dante here made a very gallant effort to overtake his rival, but failed to do so, and for the first time in his career had to submit to defeat by a neck.

“The net result of the race meant that Court Martial had proved himself to be a very good, if not brilliant miler, and worthy to rank with most Guineas winners of the past.  By the brilliant Fair Trial out of the good race mare Instantaneous, Court Martial was foaled on March 20, 1942 and was reared at Cliveden.  He was described in the 1944 Review as a typical Cliveden-Manton product.”

This article reminds us that *Court Martial’s third dam, Plymstock, was “as good a mare as Cliveden has produced, both on the Turf and in the (breeding) paddocks.”  (As he was just one year younger than American classic winner Pensive, it is well to note that these contemporaries shared a Gainsborough/Hurry On/Plymstock nexus, both carrying Plymstock as their third dam).

*Court Martial was a top sire in both England and the U. S.  He was a leading sire in England in 1956 and 1957 and led the juvenile sire list six times in 1951 and from 1953-1957.

Overall, he sired 14% stakes winners (71 in all) including champion American sprinter Impressive; English champions Major Portion, Star of India, and *Rosalba II plus top Australian sire Wilkes and the excellent sprinter/miler King’s Bench.  His daughters produced over 120 black type winners, including such notable champions as Lyphard, Perrault, Deep Run and Nobiliary.

Find him today largely through descendents of Lyphard and Ela-Mana-Mou as well as via horses like Groovy and Master Derby.  He is in the nether-reaches of pedigrees throughout the racing world, but sadly the male line is fairly well extinct.

Fairway always had trouble in the U. S., and *Court Martial’s best chance was Impressive.  But he ended up put to stud in California where all chance of finding suitable books was lost.  Nevertheless, he remains a vital part of the breed and we would not hesitate to inbreed to him and/or to him and Pensive.

*Alpenstock III

The title of “Broodmare of the Year” was first given in 1946 when the wonderful Bloodroot became the first mare so designated.  She is the ancestress of such horses as Never Bend, Bold Reason, No Robbery, and Beautiful Pleasure and her brother Mecke.

*Alpenstock III (named after a mountain-climbing cane), whose third dam was Conjure, was named Broodmare of the Year in 1951.  Born in England, *Alpenstock III was bred by Cliveden Stud, home of her third dam, and was by Sardanapale’s son Apelle.  She was imported by Walter J. Salmon of Mereworth Farm in 1941.

*Alpenstock III was considered a good fit for the U. S. and became an even better one.  Her half sister Pennycomequick, was the second dam of Pensive after all.  And she herself had not done badly at the races, winning the Holmsley Plate and placing in the Summer Stakes.

The year that she was named Broodmare of the Year, *Alpenstock III had out all three of her eventual stakes winners:  Sturdy One by Unbreakable; Ruhe by Menow and Alladier by Balladier.  Unfortunately, all were males and Ruhe was a gelding.

And while she produced four daughters, she did not get  successor worthy of Conjure’s line.  Two of her daughters, *Little Refugee (by the Fairway horse Pay Up) and Chantilly Lady (by Kentucky Derby winner Dark Star), were pretty well useless.

A third, Alpine Belle, got the mare Doris Hart by First Fiddle whose granddaughter Bob’s Add by Noble Jay established a decent regional branch in Illinois.  This included the good filly Lawdy Miss Clawdy, plus Friendly Bob and Sun Power.  Bob’s Add was a half sister to another Illinois-based stakes producer named River Run that got a handful of minor black type runners.  But like most major families gone regional, it never produced a national champion.

Trickling on down via Alpine Belle’s *Nordlicht’s daughter Go Tony Go is the Fortunate Prospect stakes winner Stormy Do, who ran until he was 13 years old and earned $531,896.  There was little else for him to do, given that he was a gelding.

*Alpenstock III’s 1946 daughter The Frank by *Pharamond II looked like she might get a viable branch when she produced the Jet Pilot mare Frank’s Lark.  Again gone ‘native’ (or regional if you prefer), this group of horses ended up in California where it got a surprising number of excellent runners:

California Derby winner and Santa Anita Derby second George Lewis; stakes placed My Lark, G3 winner Lady By Choice; fair circuit burner She’s A Prize, California Miss Sires Stakes E’Tatiga and Envoy’s Agent.  Sadly, there is nothing major left, though without a more extensive search, which time constraints disallow, we cannot say the line is gone altogether, though it has always seemed that it was Conjure’s role to play a supporting part rather than a leading one in modern pedigrees.

Pennycomequick and Pensive

The groundwork for Calumet Farm’s 1944 Derby and Preakness winner Pensive (and thereby for their 1949 Derby winner Ponder) began with Pensive’s second dam, Pennycomequick by Hurry On.  The following is an account of her 1929 Epsom Oaks from The British Bloodstock Review:

“Oaks day was favoured with ideal weather, for the sun was shining and the temperature moderated by a nice breeze.  Though very firm, the going was not quite so hard as on Derby day.

“After the fillies had cantered past the stands on their way to the starting post, Pennycomequick, evidently in playful mood, suddenly bucked and tumbled her unsuspecting jockey, Jelliss, out of the saddle.  Content with the success of her trick, her ladyship made no attempt to run away and was quickly re-mounted.”

The account goes on to describe Pennycomequick’s stalking trip and that, as the field came down the hill to Tattenham Corner, “it was obvious that, unless something untoward happened, Pennycomequick would win.  Once she made the lead, she seemed to think she had done all that was necessary and eased off a bit, but when Jelliss drew his whip the filly got back to business and quickly came right away from Golden Silence to win with the greatest ease.

“Even before it became known that Pennycomequick had run the twelve furlongs in time three-fifths faster than (Derby winner) Trigo, there was a disposition to assume that she could have won the Derby.  If there had been any validity in the time test in this country there would be no doubt about it, for if the daughter of Hurry On had been pressed, she would probably have beaten Trigo’s time by two or three seconds.”

After Pennycomequick’s triumph, an article on Lord Astor and his breeding of excellent fillies appeared in the Evening Standard.  The following is part of Lord Astor’s answer as to whether he had a special ‘secret formula’ for breeding good fillies:

“Frankly, I don’t know that there is any.  I have a variety of theories.  All my animals can be traced to three mares – Conjure, Maid of the Mist and Popinjay.  Every mare in my stud at present I bred myself except the twenty-four-year-old Popinjay.  That adds greatly to the interest.

“I do not believe in buying horses.  The pleasure of breeding is that you have always something in anticipation.

“Since I started racing horses I have bred eight-nine horses:  74% have been placed in races; 61% have been winners and 28% have been placed in the twelve big events of the English Racing Calendar.  That gives me the greatest pride of all.”

It was from such philosophy to another home breeder (Calumet) that this glorious bloodline came, in the form of Pennyquick’s Buchan daughter *Penicuik (pronounced “pennyquick”).  Highly regarded, though of little actual ability, *Penicuik was found wanting in the most testing company (including the One Thousand Guineas) and was sent instead to the court of Hyperion.

She foaled a colt by Hyperion and was bred back to him after she was purchased by A. B. Hancock.  Her first Hyperion son, who would run as Hyperonian, was sold as a yearling at Saratoga for $18,500 to Walter Chrysler.  He was stakes placed in the Saratoga Sales Stakes and Grand Union Hotel Stakes at two, but failed to train on.

In 1940, *Penicuick was sold to Warren Wright and the following spring, she foaled her second son by Hyperion who would run in the devil’s red and blue of Calumet as Pensive.  He might well have been their third Triple Crown winner, for he missed adding the Belmont to his Derby and Preakness by a mere half length.

Pensive was retired at the end of his three year old year with much of his luster gone, but he would go on to become founder of what is still only two sets of sire-grandsire-great grandsire Derby winners.  His son Ponder (1949) in turn sired 1956 Derby and Belmont winner Needles.  (The other line runs via Reigh Count, 1928; Count Fleet, 1943; Court Turf 1951).  But for Swale’s early demise, there would no doubt be a third set.

Finding Conjure Today

As we have stated above, it seems that Conjure’s major role is in a supporting capacity.  Yet even as we write this, we have a good three-year-old of this very season (Circular Quay) who is tail-female to her.

The descendents of recent female champions like Chilukki, Wandesta and Madelia are all tail-female to Conjure and Chilukki was inbred to the line, as is Claiborne sire Horse Chestnut (SAf).  Further, so long as Lyphard, Runaway Groom and Circular Quay’s kin continue to prosper, Conjure is far from gone.  In fact, the very reason we elected to name her is that we kept running across her over and over again.

New Reines-de-Course

Our new Reines-de-Course from Family 1-P are Conjure, Third Trick, Winkiepop, Point Duty, Picture, Pennycomequick, Golden Penny, Sunset, Suntime, Sanlinea, and Thorn Wood.  Welcome, ladies.

Family 1-P