Breeders and pedigree students often disagree on the relative worth or lack thereof, of American (A) families vs. English (1, 2, 3, etc.) families. Personally, we feel that certain branches of each are well worth owning, but it is sometimes more difficult to inbreed or linebreed to better American clans than it is to the others.
The Whitney Stud
Frilette was bred by C. V. Whitney and descended from one of two full sisters that William Collins Whitney acquired in the nascent days of his stud. Today, comparing the pedigrees of Frilette and her more famous relative Regret, a year her junior, is quite a history lesson, not only in pedigrees but in knowledge of the Whitney Stud.
Both mares are by Whitney’s fine stallion Broomstick and both are out of mares by another of his stallions, Hamburg. They then share full sisters, Vega and Modesty, for third dams, the former being the third dam of Frilette.
As we know, Regret was never able to reproduce herself at stud. However, she is but one of six Kentucky Derby winners: Azra, Riley, BenBrush, Exterminator and Gato del Sol, who descend from this line. It is also worth noting that Kentucky Derby and Preakness stakes winner Silver Charm’s sire, Silver Buck, descends from this family.
Note, too, that Broomstick, sire of Frillery and Regret, was a son of Ben Brush, so both Frillery and Regret were inbred to the A-1 family via full siblings Elastic and Balloon. It is therefore rather difficult to argue that this family is anything but a true American homebred clan.
The Great Descendents
Although the classic winners tracing to Frilette are surely the best known, they may not be the most beloved. It was often written that Counterpoint was the best horse that Whitney ever bred. Whether or not he was is open to debate. But Whitney bred few who were gamer.
Counterpoint had a rocky start in life, suffering a fractured sesamoid as a yearling. He did not break his maiden until his sophomore year on April 14. He ran twice more at Keeneland, in the Ben Ali Handicap and Blue Grass Stakes, placing both times before running eleventh in Count Turf’s Kentucky Derby.
The son of Count Fleet improved to finish second to the streaking Bold in the Preakness, and then ran unplaced in the Withers. His bad luck then reared its head again and he injured a foot in the Dwyer. Eight weeks later, he returned to run fourth in the Jerome.
From that point on, Counterpoint did little wrong. His major triumphs included the Belmont, Jockey Club Gold Cup and Lawrence Realization. He twice defeated Hill Prince when that former Horse of the Year was at his peak and caused Triple Crown winner Assault’s regular rider Dave Gorman to call him the best horse he had ever ridden.
The handsome colt ran only four times at four, winning the Whitney and San Fernando Handicaps before retiring to stud. Sadly, he proved to be a shy breeder, but he did get a handful of stakes winners, including Hollywood Gold Cup winner Dotted Swiss and Mother Witt, dam of Jockey Club Gold Cup and San Juan Capistrano Handicap winner Quicken Tree.
Today his name lives on in the pedigrees of such horses as Air Forbes Won, Easy Goer, and of course Dear Birdie, dam of champion Bird Town and G1 winner Birdstone, now owned by Mary Lou Whitney. One cannot help but wonder how Dear Birdie’s blood would blend with that of Silver Charm, thus crossing Jabot’s branch of Frilette with Silver Fog’s.
Like Counterpoint, Citation’s daughter Silver Spoon had something to overcome. Possessed of an offset hip and a decidedly nervous disposition, Whitney originally elected to rid himself of her in a $8,000 claiming race. It did not take long for him to be very glad indeed that no one took her.
From her maiden score until April of 1959, Silver Spoon was unbeaten in six starts and capped her winning streak with a three length victory over eventual Preakness winner Royal Orbit in the Santa Anita Derby. Suddenly, the world was in love.
Sports Illustrated reported of her Santa Anita Derby win, “At the finish, a 75-year-old codger from the butter-and-eggs country of Cotati, Calif., pressed a package on the Spoon’s jockey, Ray York, and wrung his hand with tears in his eyes. It was a 100-year-old silver spoon the old gentleman had brought the 600 miles from his home, and it was wrapped in a green ribbon and gold box for the occasion. A letter enclosed, ‘from one who loves horses’ said, ‘I hope you and Silver Spoon will go on to Kentucky to win that big one and perhaps I might be there for the first time before I pass on.’” (Yes, readers, fans really did behave like that in 1959 and not only was there no Pick Six carryover, there was not even a Pick Six).
As luck would have it, Silver Spoon could only finish fifth in *Tomy Lee’s Kentucky Derby, but she came back and beat him in the Cinema Handicap. And she was tough, too. As jockey Ray York said of her after the Santa Anita Derby win, “There are damn few fillies who can look a colt in the eye, but this one can.”
Silver Spoon’s toughness did not prevent her from becoming a good broodmare. Her daughter Inca Queen by Hail to Reason won the Demoiselle and ran third in the Coaching Club American Oaks and is the main agent through which Silver Spoon lives on. Inca Queen produced Inca Legacy, dam of G2 winner Catinca, Hail Bold King and Metfield (sire of G1 winning fillies Tipically Irish and Rings a Chime) among others.
Finally, there is the lovely Silver Buck, sire of Silver Charm. Though not in the same league as either Counterpoint or Silver Spoon, Silver Buck was an excellent runner, capturing the G1 Suburban and Whitney Handicaps.
Because of the prejudice against Buckpassser’s sons at stud, Silver Buck never received large or superior books of mares, yet he managed to get a number of top-quality runners including Forever Silver, Silver Maiden, Silver Survivor, Silver Of Silver and The Silver Move.
His daughters are unlikely to set the world on fire simply because of the quality of their tail-female lines. And sad to say, Silver Charm is not off to a very fast start at stud either, but he suffers from the same problem. Silver Charm’s mares, however, have a CI of 2.43, so there is a chance that some of his daughters will do better than his sire’s.
Still, it is well to remember that the Equilette family is not a sire-source clan. Counterpoint would likely have done the best had he been more fertile. But Gato del Sol, Hail Bold King, Wayne’s Crane, Banquet Table and others suggest that it is female members of the family that one should seek out if he desires to build on this line.
The Frilette Pedigree
In addition to Frilette’s dam, Frillery, being inbred to the A-1 family via her tail-female line (Balloon) and Ben Brush (Elastic), the most notable inbreeding is a 4 x 5 cross of full siblings Spendthrift and Fellowcraft (Australian-Aerolite by Lexington). This is family number A-3 and reinforces all the more the idea that this family is of colonial origins.
It is interesting to note that over the year, Whitney used only the best racehorses as sires for this family – Man o’ War, Citation, Hail to Reason, Count Fleet, *Mahmoud, Equipoise and the like populate the pedigrees of Frilette’s descendents. So long did Whitney tend to hang on to his favorite families that very few descendents of the best mares were allowed to fall into regional hands and therefore be bred to lesser, local sires.
There is no better way to maintain the overall strength of a female line than to consistently breed it to the best sires. Even when the line trickles down to the eighth generation and beyond, the consistent excellence of the bloodlines will hold it together. Thus even a weaker branch that is waiting to come upon its perfect match may suddenly reawaken for just this reason.
New Reines-de-Course from the family include Frilette herself, Peplum, and Silver Fog. It has often been said that if one wants to get into the (Thoroughbred) business, he would do well to start out with one of the Whitney mares. We can see no reason to argue.