Herd Girl

It has been a very long time since we named the mare Firetop as a Reine-de-Course.  As a matter of fact, she appeared in the February 1997 issue of  The Homestretch magazine.  Now we are finally getting around to naming Herd Girl, a half sister to Summit, dam of Firetop and their common relation Torpenhow (Torpoint-Papola).

Torpenhow was a British mare who was bred by Mr. W. M. G. Singer and imported by James W. Corrigan, who bred her to unbeaten Colin to get Herd Girl.  And he was lucky to get her at that, since Colin’s fertility problems were famous.  However, Corrigan had a good reason to use him – he was part owner of the horse along with E. B. McLean.  The partners bought the stallion out of the Keene dispersal for $30,000 upon his return to America.  (He had been tried as a stallion in England and was widely ignored by British breeders).

At that, however, Colin got only 81 foals.  That his influence is still felt today is a tribute to his rare ability to be able to pass along something of his unbeatable character.

Herd Girl won at two, three and four, but never annexed a stake, and it took her a while to do her best work at stud.  But her fifth foal, Late Date, was a real corker.  The daughter of *Hourless ran an amazing 112 times and became the champion handicap mare of 1935.

In addition to being incredibly hardy, Late Date is the real reason we are writing about her dam.  Her only other daughter of note, Hour by Hour a full sister to Late Date, was no match for her in either the racing (three wins in 18 starts) or producing (several minor stakes horses, but nothing earth-shaking) departments.

Late Date, however, has some amazing descendents, most of them coming to us via the great mare Best In Show, a Broodmare of the Year and a grand-daughter of Late Date.  Best in Show’s descendents could fill a racing encyclopedia.

The daughter of Traffic Judge was bred by Philip Connors and was sold by him to Norman S. Woolworth at the 1966 Keeneland summer sale.  The price was $25,000 and never has a taproot mare been purchased so cheaply.

The chestnut filly was the fourth living foal out of Molly Pitcher Stakes second Stolen Hour, by Mr. Busher.  Preceding her were Reckless Driver, her full sister who placed in the Mermaid Stakes, and the stakes-winning colt Journalist by Nashua.

Best In Show won the Comely Stakes and retired with five wins in 27 starts and earnings of $53,880.  Little did anyone know that when she left the racetrack, she was just getting started.

After her retirement, Best In Show was sold twice, first to Mrs. Anne Forsythe who bred her first seven foals and later to Mr. and Mrs. Darrell Brown’s Stonereath Farm.  When she was named Broodmare of the Year, Brown was quoted as saying that owning such a mare was any breeder’s lifetime dream.

Just a few of the major horses Best In Show is responsible for are champion full brothers El Gran Senor and Try My Best, Irish highweight Solar, Irish Derby second Dr. Johnson, Kentucky Oaks winner Blush With Pride, and French champions Xaar and Spinning World.  There are countless G1 winners and placers not even mentioned.

It was written of El Gran Senor in Racehorses of 1984 that, “There is no such animal as the ideal racehorse.  There are simply horses; horses of different capabilities and different chracters, horses with different requirements.  But the present racing programme, which places emphasis on racing merit at two and three years, is made for a horse of El Gran Senor’s type and he was able to shine in some of the richly-endowed major two-year-old races; and he trained on to win classic races at both a mile and a mile and a half.

“He was very genuine, he possessed a superb temperament and a brilliant turn of foot and furthermore he had the looks and pedigree to match his racing record.  Little wonder the Americans were falling all over themselves to secure his services as a stallion even before the Derby.  He looks an outstanding stallion prospect.”

El Gran Senor did not disappoint at stud.  Years later (1993 to be exact), an article about his stud career in The Thoroughbred Times was titled “Close To Greatness”.  Making mention of his fertility problems, something several major Northern Dancer sons and grandsons would come to experience in recent years, it was still pointed out that the fine runner had passed on not only his ability, but his quality as well.  Yet the fertility woes continued and he was finally pensioned at the age of 19 in 2000.

But El Gran Senor had left his mark.  Even if he had given us only Reine-de-Course Toussaud, his future in the stud book would be secure.  But she was but one gift.  And she is the signal light of this family coming through, as well.

El Gran Senor got champions in several countries including Rodrigo De Triano (England); Green Senor (Italy), Winter Quarters (Germany), George Augustus (Ireland and Germany) and Flowing (champion filly in Ireland.)  He never really got a sire son that is his equal, and recent moves to California by two of his best sons, Lit de Justice and Helmsman, will not help their cause.  Further, G2 winner El Angelo has been banished to Indiana.

His failure in this area was actually predictable.  And while he was clearly the best stallion produced by the Herd Girl family, the family itself is not a ‘sire source’ clan.  Even Nijinsky II, who was from another branch of the family was never considered a real sire of sires.  His best three sons, Green Dancer, Baldski and Caerleon were given tremendous help by their respective female lines: Judy O’Grady, Hidden Talent and *La Troienne.

However, some of El Gran Senor’s broodmare daughters are gems.  Not only Toussaud but Bright Candles, a G1 winner who produced Grand Slam, Leestown and two stakes placed individuals and stakes placed Escrow Agent, dam of Vicar and Sheepscot, are among his best.

Since Best In Show is the best producer from the family, a look at her pedigree is worthwhile.  And it does not take long to see that she is all “broodmare blood”.  Consider the sires in her pedigree:  *Albhai, Discovery, Rock Sand (x4); Fair Play (x2); War Admiral, and Ben Brush (x3).  None of them have strong male lines out there – Fair Play being the strongest via War Relic/In Realty.  This is broodmare blood.

Best In Show has a fascinating inbreeding cross we have never seen before, though we don’t doubt it is out there somewhere.  She is 5 x 6 x 5 to half siblings Topiary x2 (dam of Tracery)/Childwick – or x3 Plaisanterie.  Tracery alone is worthy of mention, even though both those crosses come via her sire, Traffic Judge.

A horse of tremendous pedigree strength, Tracery was 3 x 3  to full siblings St. Simon and Angelica, and his second dam, Plaisanterie, gave us the fascinating presence of her sire, Wellingtonia.  Wellingtonia was inbred 2 x 1 to half sisters Ayacanora and Araucaria – both daughters of Pocahontas (1837).

Since St. Simon and Angelica are out of a mare by King Tom, a son of Pocahontas, this makes for one very neat and very powerful package.  No wonder Tracery was coveted by such pedigree masters as Federico Tesio.  And Best in Show has not only two crosses of him but one of his half brother Negofol as well.  In other words, she was not accidentally named Broodmare of the Year, she was bred for it.

Inbreeding to this family is not as easy as it used to be.  Obviously, one can find El Gran Senor easily enough, but from there on out you have to really “dig”.  It will be of great help when the gifted Aldebaran retires to stud at the end of this year – he is tail-female to Herd Girl via Best In Show’s daughter Minnie Hauk.  Spinning World is at stud in Ireland but some of his daughters should sell at auction in the U. S. and should be kept in mind.  Other sires like Malinowski (found as broodmare sire of Deputy Commander) can be found if you are willing to take the time.

To complete the Torpenhow family, then, we name Torpenhow, Herd Girl, Late Date, Best In Show, Sex Appeal, and Aviance.  More mares may be added at a later date if some branches now prone to throwing stakes placed horses rather than stakes winners improve in the future.

Family 8-F