Great female families have many things in common, not the least of which is diversity. So it should come as no surprise that our current subject, *Herodias, is responsible for such different horses as two-year-old champion Prince John and the tough handicap horse Skip Away.
*Herodias was a grey daughter of The Tetrarch, that denizen of speed who also gave us “the flying filly” Mumtaz Mahal and whose coat color is responsible for many of the grey Thoroughbreds currently populating the stud book. Indeed the modern American Thoroughbred might lack today’s speed had The Tetrarch’s blood not made its way into so many American pedigrees via the descendents of his daughters.
*Herodias was bred by Sledmere Stud in Yorkshire, England, and was imported by W. R. Coe of Shoshone Stud near Lexington, Ky., as a yearling. A half sister to Grand Prix de Paris winner and Epsom Derby third Lemonora, *Herodias raced in the U. S. and won a small handicap but no stakes.
In Sire Lines, Abram Hewitt related a tale of *Herodias’ famous taproot dam, Epsom Oaks winner Geheimniss wherein the two-year-old filly was so highly regarded by her trainer John Porter that he suggested a match race with the unbeaten four-year-old sensation St. Simon. Such a match never occurred, but one cannot help but wonder what kind of two-year-old filly was considered good enough to beat an older world champion of St. Simon’s stature.
*Herodias was obviously no Geheimniss at the races, but she did an admirable job of developing an American branch of the great mare’s family. *Herodias’ most famous direct offspring was undoubtedly the Friar Rock colt Pilate. Although one ordinarily thinks of a Chef-de-Race as a horse who also accomplished something major at the races, Pilate never really won anything of import, though it probably was not his fault.
At two, the colt cracked a stifle so badly that he was almost put down; he then suffered a round of pneumonia that left him with a wind problem and finally he became a claimer since his owner was sure that after all these problems he would be better off without him. Even at that, he suffered an ankle injury in training and his debut had to be delayed.
When at long last Pilate faced the starter, it was for a $3,000 tag and the colt was claimed. He then lost a $2,500 claimer before embarking upon a streak that saw him finish out his year with seven wins in eight starts including the Maryland Handicap.
Pilate returned at four and five, still defying his physical ailments, and won 16 of 34 starts including the Paumonok Handicap, then retired to stud with the reputation of a horse who had overcome much. Even his stud career began oddly, as he stood first in New Jersey, then in Kentucky and finally was sold to B. B. Jones, who owned Audley Farms in Virginia.
Jones believed in the horse despite the obvious fact that Rock Sand-line horses did poorly at stud in the U. S. because he had the same gut feeling about the stallion he had had when happening upon what would turn out to be a very profitable oilfield in Oklahoma. The horse rewarded him richly, siring such good ones as Eight Thirty, Lovely Night, Phalanx and Miss Doreen.
Though the family had not produced a good sire up to that time, it was about to change its character. Next to augment *Herodias’ sire fortunes was Chef-de-Race Prince John, who could not have had a more different racing career than Pilate.
The handsome chestnut colt was foaled in 1953 and was by the redoubtable “cup” horse *Princequillo out of Not Afraid by Count Fleet. He was bred by Mrs. John D. Hertz, whose husband had raced his Triple Crown-winning broodmare sire.
Prince John was a precocious sort, winning three-of-nine starts at two, including the rich Garden State Stakes, and placing in the Washington Park Futurity, Remsen and Sanford Stakes. His loss in the Remsen Stakes to Nail in the fall of 1955 undoubtedly cost him the two-year-old title.
As a son of *Princequillo from a Count Fleet mare, much respect was afforded Prince John as a classics prospect, but he did not make it to Churchill Downs or beyond. While in training at Hialeah, the colt broke his lead shank and ran off. He was later found to have fractured a coffin bone and never raced again.
At stud, Prince John proved a consistent source of high-quality classic animals who were very versatile competitors. Among his best get were juvenile champions Silent Screen and Protagonist; Belmont Stakes winner Stage Door Johnny (himself a Chef-de-Race); champion juvenile filly Talking Picture; and Coaching Club American Oaks winner Magazine.
His daughters have been gems as broodmare, producing at least 170 stakes winners including champions Blushing John; Cozzene; and Alleged as well as Slewpy, Palace Music, Honor Medal and Bolshoi Boy.
The family’s most current newsmaker is double champion Skip Away, who proved that toughness has not yet gone out of style. The son of Skip Trial answered every challenge and never was he more brilliant than in winning the 1997 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Stakes placed at two, Skip Away defeated Cigar in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at three and placed in both the Preakness and Belmont. At four, he added another Jockey Club Gold Cup plus the Suburban Handicap. If he did not win every time, it was not because he did not try and there were few doubters as to his honesty and gameness.
He returned at five in pursuit of a monetary muse, and came within $383,455 of Cigar’s record before ending his career with earnings of $9,616,360 and 17 graded stakes victories. Because Pilate and Prince John were unable to consummate their potential, Skip Away figured very prominently in the family history as the embodiment of their promise fulfilled.
Along with these three major horses, there are two others who certainly have improved the family fortunes. One is California champion Crystal Water. Although he made his name in his home state, winning such major Golden State fixtures as the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup and Santa Anita Handicap, he also performed well in New York, running third in the Marlboro Cup to Proud Birdie and Private Thoughts while burdened with 129 pounds.
Crystal Water returned home to stand at stud and has been a moderate sire at best. Despite his stellar performance at the races, he was never given the same kind of opportunity at stud that a Kentucky farm could have afforded him. Nonetheless, he has not done badly, getting a handful of good horses including Glacial Stream (G2); and T. V. of Crystal (G3). His daughters have produced eight stakes winners to date including California champion Ex Marks the Cop.
Another *Herodias descendent who was a good racehorse was Brooklyn Handicap victor Little Missouri. A good sire, who also has not had the best of opportunities, he proved entirely capable of getting a classic winner in ill-fated Prairie Bayou when matched with the right kind of mare. He is currently standing in Illinois.
*Herodias’ family has also been responsible for a lot of good horses who have not become major champions. Sham’s first stakes winner, Irish 2000 Guineas victor Jaazeiro, hails from this family as does Alabama Stakes winner Up The Apalachee and Pegasus winner Norquestor as well as Grade I winners Delta Flag, Woodstream and Noble Fighter.
Though *Herodias is inbred 6 x 4 to Epsom Derby winner Hermit, her own pedigree is really a study in inbreeding to the 1837 Pocahontas, she of the large heart gene, and it is interesting to note that Skip Away also has multiple lines of the great mare. In the case of *Herodias, there are five crosses of Stockwell; two of King Tom and one of Rataplan for a total of eight lines of Pocahontas, all via sons.
It is of special interest that The Tetrarch contributes a cross of speed influence Bend Or and his half sister Rose of York. Another cross of Bend Or was picked up when Friar Rock was crossed with *Herodias, the result of which was Pilate.
By the time Prince John’s dam, Not Afraid, came along, something else intriguing had occurred, as she was inbred to The Tetrarch himself on a 5 x 4 sex-balanced cross of Stefan The Great/*Herodias. However, Rock Sand also was doubled via both *Princequillo’s Papyrus-Tracery contribution and Count Fleet’s line of Malachite. Also of note in his pedigree is a double of Sundridge to go with the Rock Sand. Rock Sand is by Sainfoin (Springfield-Sanda) while Sundridge’s dam is Sierra, a full sister to Sainfoin.
Now we come to Skip Away. He is 12 x 11 x 12 x 11 x 11 x 12 to Pocahontas’ daughters Indiana (trebled), Auracaria (doubled) and Ayacanora. Considering seventh dam *Herodias’ Pocahontas contribution, it is little wonder he could run all day!
One other *Herodias ancestor should be mentioned for his most important contribution and that is Cosmic Bomb. Winner of the Arlington-Washington Futurity at two, Cosmic Bomb was never a major progenitor, but he nonetheless is unlikely to disappear from important pedigrees any time in the foreseeable future due in large part to a daughter named Cosmah, she dam of Halo, Maribeau and Queen Sucree. Cosmah is often used in conjunction with her half sister Natalma (dam of Northern Dancer) to effect inbreeding to Almahmoud, so she is relatively easy to find.
Today there are a number of good sources of *Herodias’ blood apart from the obvious Prince John, Little Missouri, Cosmic Bomb, and Pilate crosses. The young daughters of West By West (since exported to Turkey) and Fountain of Youth winner Shot Gun Scott are just two of them and of course we still have Skip Away’s stud career to look forward to.
Horses from this family have never lacked for speed, but the majority of them are able to carry that speed over a distance of ground. If this were a Chef-de-Race we were discussing, *Herodias might be classified a ‘classic’ mare. There is also no true sex-bias in the family, with an equal number of good fillies and colts with a slight nod to the colts. Losing fillies like champion Lamb Chop, who broke down fatally in the Strub Stakes and having Up The Apalachee exported to Japan did not help the fillies in their quest to become major producers.
However, Skip Away’s dam is still in production and there are several promising young mares from the family including Without Feathers and Lindas Song, so it is quite likely that the female descendents of *Herodias will continue to thrive.
*Herodias has always been a favorite female family of ours, and it is to her credit that she descends from the No. 14 family (The Oldfield Mare). The 1997 Broodmare of the Year, Slightly Dangerous, also hails from this clan. In fact, her seventh dam, Silver Queen, and *Herodias are very closely related.
Both are by The Tetrarch and both their dams share a Sterling/Hermit cross combined with the full sisters Nameless (fourth dam of Herodias) and Yessel (eleventh dam of Slightly Dangerous). *Herodias has been around a lot longer than Slightly Dangerous and for her contributions over the generations, we are pleased to add her to the Reine-de-Course list along with her descendents Banish Fear; Not Afraid; Perception; and Boat.