Prior to the late 1980’s, Americans tended to look at Canadian racing with somewhat jaded eyes. True, Canada had given America Northern Dancer and his host of illustrious sons led by English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky II. But beyond that, aside from a handful of top horses, Canadians could generally be disregarded.
Then a phenomenon began to occur. Taking the form of Triple Crown champions, the Canadians marched forth: With Approval, Izvestia, Dance Smartly, and Peteski. Intermixed were such good horses as Queens Plate winner Alydeed, major winner Wilderness Song and the tragic Play The King.
Americans began to notice. But before Canadians of recent memory made an impession in America, before the rash of Triple Crown winners, there was one name that stood out above all others – E. P. Taylor, breeder of Northern Dancer et.al.
Like any other breeder, E. P. Taylor had to start somewhere and his first good racing filly was Mona Bella, a daughter of *Osiris II-Belmona by King James. For Taylor, Mona Bella won the Maple Leaf and Breeders’ Stakes and was good enough to finish second to Bunty Lawless in the King’s Plate (now the Queen’s Plate). Unfortunately, however, she broke a leg when racing in the mud and had to be destroyed.
Undaunted, Taylor then purchased Mona Bella’s full sister, a filly named Iribelle from Dr. T. H. Callahan of Toronto. Although she won only $2,190 and was just stakes placed, Iribelle made a lasting impression on Taylor’s fortunes. In an abbreviated career, Iribelle produced only four foals, three of them fillies. Yet she is responsible, in direct descent, for champions Victoria Park, Viceregal, Canadiana, Northern Queen, Northern Blossom, Ben Fab, Jape and Tan Bonita plus leading sire Vice Regent, sire of champions Deputy Minister, Regal Classic, Bessarabian, and Ruling Angel.
Of Iribelle’s four named foals, three were stakes winners – the gelding Bennington by *Boswell; the Bunty Lawless filly Britannia who won the Coronation and Princess Elizabeth Stakes and placed in the King’s Plate; and Canadian champion Canadiana, a daughter of Chop Chop. The odds against a mare who produced only four foals being responsible for such a legacy must be astronomical, but Iribelle beat those odds and foaled a dynasty.
One reason for her dominance might be found in her male line. In Joe Palmer’s Names In Pedigrees, he wrote, “Only a few years ago an Australian pedigree student wrote, ‘The Americans who do not appreciate the value of the male line of *Rock Sand must surely judge these things from a most original angle.’ *Rock Sand spent the major portion of his life in the United States, yet it is only in the United States that his male line is held in scant esteem. The male line of *Rock Sand has in recent years turned out powerful performers in England, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. That it has no such representatives here is America’s loss, not *Rock Sand’s failure.”
Palmer’s comments were written in 1939, but they are as true today. Of course, *Rock Sand’s name appears in the names of such giants as Man o’ War, *Alibhai, Dahlia, and *Princequillo and such good sires as Cornish Prince and Hold Your Peace, but in general this 1903 English Triple Crown winner is largely ignored by pedigree students.In recent years, however, inbreeding to Rock Sand in the far removes of pedigrees has accounted for any number of good horses, among them Generous, Affirmed and Alleged. All the more reason why Iribelle, who descends from Rock Sand in tail male, and who has so many relatives to whom inbreeding is possible, is a natural choice for Reine-de-Course status.
In addition to her strong male line, *Iribelle was linebred to St. Simon (x3) and his full sister Angelica (x2). The latter cross accounts for a 5 x 5 cross of half siblings Orme and Blue Rose. She also is linebred to Pocahontas, largely via King Tom and Stockwell, and has an amazing 13 crosses of the great mare in all. Finally, dam Belmona is 5 x 4 to half sisters Braxey and Bonnie Doon and to Himyar 3 x 4 x 5. Last but not least, third dam Bellamia was a half sister to the great Beldame. *Iribelle was bred to be a good one – and she passed it along.
If there is a tragedy in Iribelle’s family it is that her champion daughter, Canadiana, foaled only a handful of offspring. A Horse of the Year in her native land, Canadiana resulted from a last-minute mating to Chop Chop when Boswell, to whom Iribelle had been booked, died the day before she came in season. This spur-of-the-moment shuffling resulted in a filly good enough to venture to America where she won the 1950 Test Stakes and the 1951 Vagrancy Handicap at Aqueduct. In Canada she defeated colts in the Queen’s Plate and in her time she was considered the best racehorse ever to run in Canada.
At stud, Canadiana’s first foal was the stakes winning Windfields gelding All Canadian. Her next foal, Canadienne, was unraced and died at four, after which she had four barren years before producing stakes placed Champlain, a colt by Nearctic, who lived only to the age of 10.
Canadiana had six more years in which she was either barren or produced dead foals and today her branch of Iribelle’s family is hanging on due to the stakes placed Right Combination filly Cailey Jane whose branch contains such good horses as Glenorum, a Group 2 winner in France, and the stakes placed Torrie Ann, also a stakes producer. Although the line is a tenuous one, there are still a number of young mares in this branch of the family and where there are young mares tracing to Iribelle, there is always hope.
Despite her spotty produce record, Canadiana’s racing career was never forgotten. Today she is one of two mares (the other is South Ocean) buried at either side of Northern Dancer. No other honor could better illustrate where Canadiana fits into the hearts and memories of those closest to her.
Perhaps the most famous of Iribelle’s relatives is Victoriana. An unraced daughter of Windfields, Victoriana foaled champion and Queen’s Plate winner Victoria Park, himself sire of Canadian champions Victorian Era, Victorian Queen, Almoner and Kennedy Road, a Queen’s Plate and Hollywood Gold Cup winner. Victoria Park is also the broodmare sire of Fleur, dam of Epsom Derby winner The Minstrel.
Another of Victoriana’s foals, Princess Elizabeth Stakes winner Victoria Regina, is the dam of Viceregal, Champion and Horse of the Year in Canada and a good broodmare sire in France where one example of his daughter’s produce is Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Trempolino. Viceregal’s full brother, Vice Regent, did not win stakes but has sired more than 80 stakes winners and appears to be breeding on in tail-male through the highly successful Deputy Minister.
Victoriana’s branch also includes Canadian Champions Northern Queen (by Nearctic) and Northern Blossom (by *Snow Knight). Both are also multiple stakes producers.
Brittania’s branch should not be ignored, either. It has accounted for Grade I winner Firery Ensign, Venezuelan Champion Tan Bonita and double Canadian Champion Ben Fab who, though considered a distance performer, once ran a mile on turf in 1:33 1/5. Largely due to his male line (he was a son of *Le Fabuleux), Ben Fab did not find favor with Kentucky breeders and was moved to Quebec to stand stud. Ben Fab died in 1991, but his daughters are still a valuable source of Iribelle’s bloodline and should not be overlooked as one way to inbreed to her.
Iribelle’s death came as a surprise to just about everyone. In foal to Windfields and carrying a filly who would never be born, Iribelle was found dead in a field on the morning of August 25, 1952, at the age of 10.
A subsequent necropsy revealed a ruptured intestine and Mr. Bernard McCormack, farm manager for Windfields Farms, advised that several of Iribelle’s ancestors had evidenced a tendency toward colic.
As was her due, Iribelle was buried at Windfields. She rests today in the woods by the stallion barn next to the great mare Lady Angela, dam of Nearctic. In a career made up of late covers and late foals with just three daughters to advance her bloodline, she had earned the right to be buried next to the dam of Northern Dancer’s sire. This honor, as with Canadiana’s resting place next to Northern Dancer himself, places Iribelle in perspective.
Due to her ability to overcome a brief career with only three daughters to represent her, to scale the heights as a producer despite the odds, we proudly add Windfields Farms’ great broodmare Iribelle and her daughter Victoriana to the Reine-de-Course list.
These mares are the foundation upon which E. P. Taylor built and expanded his dynasty. And like more famous Windfields-breds after them, they are everything good that is Canadian and as we have seen in recent years, that is very good indeed.