It has been said by such a great breeder as Tesio that families breed in ‘waves’. Which is to say that they often take some time off to rest, then experience a rebirth.
This generally happens when too much of a certain sire line (St. Simon in the past, Phalaris today) permeates the breed and a mare devoid of such blood pops up and appears as a fresh backdrop, if not a true “outcross” (which is no longer possible) for that line.
The ‘down-time’ with any of these families tends to occur when what initially appear to be lesser branches are culled and end up in regional markets where they are, in turn, bred to lesser sires. Such families also tend to show wide gaps between great racehorses – in this instance between Social Climber and Jewel Princess for example.
One of the more unusual things about *Erne is that while “Bull” Hancock loved St. Simon blood (*Princequillo and *Le Fabuleux were tail-male to him, *Nasrullah inbred to him), his father apparently was not so enamoured of the line. This mare, bred in England and imported by A. B. Hancock, Sr. in 1922 was a mare who was devoid of St. Simon blood. She did, however, have a cross of his full sister Angelica, which is nearly always found via Orme (though she is, intriguingly, also the seventh dam of Kentucky Derby winner Hill Gail).
If we trace *Erne’s matings, we find that more and more St. Simon blood was added to her pedigree, first via the Plucky Liege contribution in *Sir Gallahad III, and later via *Nasrullah, Discovery and other sources. It was this compilation of St.Simon lines on a backdrop free of such blood that was the making of this Reine-de-Course.
Best Branches – A Far-Flung Lot
*Erne’s family has Claiborne written all over it, but Claiborne almost never benefited directly from her worth. The Pansy Walker branch was found in Texas by a young Alfred Vanderbilt and he in turn bred her to his fine stallion Discovery and got stakes placed Nomadic, also a stakes producer. He also bred Pansy Walker to *Sickle, who would later be the tail-male agent through which he bred Native Dancer, and got the unraced mare Pansy. She bred for him the great champion handicapper Social Outcast, a gelding by Kentucky Derby winner Shut Out.
Another branch of *Erne’s family found its way to Calumet Farm via Lady Erne, a full sister to Pansy Walker. Lady Erne was unplaced, but when bred to *Blenheim II (who had gotten a Triple Crown winner for Calumet in Whirlaway), she produced the unraced filly Miss Rushin.
When Miss Rushin was covered by Calumet’s 1944 Kentucky Derby winner Pensive, she produced 1949 Kentucky Derby winner Ponder. Later Ponder would sire 1956 Derby winner Needles, one of only two such sire-son-grandson Derby triples. (The other is Reigh Count-Count Fleet-Count Turf in 1928, 1943 and 1951).
Pensive died shortly after Ponder won his Derby, but except for Needles, Ponder was not able to carry the line forward in tail-male. However, he became immortal as the sire of Plum Cake, second dam of the wondrous Alydar (himself sire of two Kentucky Derby winners) and as the second dam of Filly Triple Crown winner Chris Evert and the third dam of Kentucky Derby-winning filly Winning Colors.
Closer To Home
Arguably the best branch of *Erne’s family stayed quite close to Claiborne, in that while Hancock did not own it, major clients Wheatley Stable and Ogden Phipps did. This was Romanesque, yet another *Sir Gallahad III filly (and thus a full sister to Pansy Walker and Lady Erne) who ran third in the Acorn.
It is from this branch of the family that champions Queen Empress, Jewel Princess, and Silver Fling evolved. And they only scratch the surface, for Irish Jay (dam of Queen Empress and her full siblings King Emperor, What Luck and The Irish Lord and their half brother Land Of Eire) was herself a major winner and this sub-branch of *Erne’s family has virtually dozens of good stakes horses among its descendents from the French Diableneyev to California sire Globalize.
The other major branch belongs to Gallerne, a Gallant Fox filly who was a three-quarter sister to the three above-mentioned mares. Gallerne’s branch was spread around the country and some of its top horses came from Florida. Perhaps the best known horses from this particular branch include Night Invader, a good racehorse and useful sire; Alabama and Coaching Club American Oaks winner Jostle; Santa Anita Handicap winner Ruhlmann and Bay Street Star, third in the Super Derby.
A Moment In Time
There are so many good horses from this immediate family that it is probably unfair to single out one animal. But we had an intimate association with one of them in a most unique way and we think his story should be told here.
We were still covering Northern California racing for The Thoroughbred of California when Ruhlmann won the El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows. Bobby Frankel then brought him north from Santa Anita for the California Derby on the other side of the San Francisco Bay at Golden Gate Fields.
There was trouble in the air from the outset. In the outdoor saddling paddock, entrant Slewbop was behaving in a very studdish manner, rearing and bugling challenges to other horses. Flying Victor in particular seemed to be a target. That colt broke out in a kidney sweat and soon several other horses began to answer Slewbop’s battle calls.
The paddock judge, sensing trouble in the over-crowded walking ring, got the riders up and on their way out to the track before something happened. Still, one horse unseated his rider in the post parade, another ran off from his pony and a third twisted and turned all the way to the gate until he was lathered and dripping sweat.
When the horses broke from the gate, there was a collective sigh of relief, but not for long. At the 5/16th pole , Flying Victor became the first of four horses to fall victim to injury or accident. What we would later learn was a fractured sesamoid in his left fore stopped Flying Victor. Fortunately, he was saved for stud and despite seldom seeing a truly good mare, has been a useful regional sire.
Ruhlmann was the next to go and while he eventually recovered fully from the incident, his was the most dramatic situation. I was standing by the rail when the almost black son of Mr. Leader, who was just about to take the lead from Slewbop, clipped heels with Bel Air Dancer who had swerved from the whip of jockey Ray Sibille.
If you have ever seen a horse in full flight go down, we’ll lay odds you have never forgotten it. In what seemed a slow motion, end-over-end tumble, Ruhlmann sprawled on the track and lay prone upon the course. I thought he was dead, I really did. No horse’s neck should ever bend like that. Later, jockey Ron Hansen would say Ruhlmann was tiring, but blame seems inconsequential considering what he later accomplished.
In the distance, All Thee Power was pulling away to an eight length win. He pulled up so badly he could not return to the winner’s circle and was later found to have a broken knee. He never ran again and flopped at stud. We also learned later that seventh place finisher Prints Charming came up lame the following morning.
In the meantime, just when I thought they would surely send the “meat wagon” for Ruhlmann, the great black horse shook himself all over and rose unsteadily to his feet. He was later found to have only a few bruises and cuts. But he had survived what came to be known as “the Demolition Derby” in Northern California – survived it and then some.
Ruhlmann not only returned to fight another day, he returned in glory. At four he won the G2 Mervin Leroy and G2 San Bernardino Handicap, at five he won the G1 Santa Anita Handicap, repeated in the San Bernardino and ran second in the G1 Pimlico Special. He won $1.8 million despite a persistent bleeding problem.
Ruhlmann didn’t make it as a sire despite standing in several states. But he made it into the record book as a survivor who possessed incredible courage. He now makes his home in Kentucky at Old Friends for anyone out there who wants to see a real man’s man of a racehorse. (And we still wouldn’t mind breeding one of his daughters if she had a good bottom line!)
*Erne’s family pops up in unexpected places, like Ponder’s placement in Alydar’s pedigree. Globalize, a good Summer Squall runner who stands in northern California, is also from this family and is out of the Fit to Fight mare Sugar Hill Chick, a half sister to Jewel Princess’ dam Jewell Ridge.
Jewel Princess herself has had a couple of colts, one of which, One Nice Cat, stands in Florida. Then there is Marco Bay, sire of Santa Anita Derby winner Buzzard’s Bay, who also stands in Florida.
King Emperor appears in the pedigree of champion sprinter and sire Smoke Glacken and Canadian champion Mobil, both at stud. Then there is the Vosburg (G1) winner Taste of Paradise who is out of a What Luck mare.
The bottom line is that this is a relatively easy family to inbreed to. We are not of the opinion that it is a sire-source family, but neither would we dismiss it as an unhappy mating choice if all else in the pedigree worked. What Luck and Night Invader surprised a lot of people, so with the right mare, *Erne’s male kin can get a runner.
However, while we think that male members of this family can be very good racehorses, we find them better runners than sires. We would prefer a female from this line if we were looking to buy into it – or a horse with a cross of it, like the King Emperor in Smoke Glacken. Real sire-source families are few and far between.
The Pedigree of *Erne
*Erne owns one of the most fascinating pedigrees we have come across in a very long time. She is of course, tail-female to Family 23’s taproot mare, Piping Peg’s Dam. This family has been very good as a Reine-de-Course producer, also getting Two Bob and Lou Lanier and of course we will eventually get around to doing Mannie Grey as well.
Like many mares of her time (1921), she is linebred to Pocahontas (1837) via her most important sons – Stockwell x6/King Tomx2 – or x8 Pocahontas. She also carries a double of the good mare Emma via Cotherstone and Mowerina (full siblings by Touchstone). And Birdcatcher x5 and his full brother Faugh-A-Ballagh x1 are also present.
There is then a double of Lacerta (fourth dam of St. Simon) via The Little Known and Little Fairy, a double of Diversion via Madame Eglantine and Miami and Touchstone x4/Jocose x2 gave her six lines of their dam, Banter. Finally, *Erne’s dam, Orris, is inbred to half siblings Bonnie Scotland and Bonny Bell (x2 Queen Mary).
As the old horseman’s saying goes, she was “carrying quite a load”. She figured to fit most everything and brought inbreeding to a wide variety of major family lines. It is no surprise that she continues to prosper today, 13 years short of a century since her importation.
New Reines-de-Course from the family are *Erne herself, plus Irish Jay, Queen Empress, and Double Sun. As always, we will be watching for improving branches of the family for possible extensions to the line as time passes.