During the time we have been writing the Reine-de-Course series (from 1991 to the present), we have found ourselves with several different kinds of Reines: The historic Reines (Pretty Polly, Sceptre, Canterbury Pilgrim, etc.); the immediate Reines (Ibidem, Glaneuse, Pretty Jo, etc.); the neglected Reines (Charming Alibi, *Papila, Canfli, etc.) and of course the classic Reines (Aloe, Plucky Liege, *La Troienne, etc.) We now come to the out-and-out ignored category of Spinaway.
We have visited the Spinaway branch of our current subject, Jayjean, before, having touched on her in our story on Giant’s Causeway in Pedlines #58, (October 2000). Another branch of the family, Alabama Gal, was highlighted in Pedlines #70, January 2002. When discussing the former we noted that “the main branch of Family 11 from which Giant’s Causeway descends has produced good California sire Gummo, King’s Bishop, German Chef-de-Race Gundomar and Rose Prince, who was responsible for the rebirth of St. Simon via *Princequillo, Prince Bio and Prince Chevalier.”
As befits its legendary recent descendents, this story starts with a man of legendary proportions named Pierre Lorillard. If that name sounds familiar, it should. Lorillard was the tobacco heir and was famous for everything from inventing tuxedos to owning Iroquois, the first American-bred winner of the Epsom Derby.
But the story we like best about him centers on his being forward-looking enough to want to put lighter- weight racing plates on his horses. (Most horses ran with steel horse shoes in the 1800’s). It was hard to find such shoes, so Lorillard simply ordered a set from Tiffany’s.
Nevertheless, it was not Pierre Lorillard who owned the taproot dam of this group of mares (though he did own Betty Derr’s taproot dam, Wanda and was later co-owner of Sibola, dam of Catnip), but rather his brother George. When the brothers bought yearlings at Erdenheim Farm, they split the lot and George got Spinaway while Pierre made off with the famous Iroquois.
Spinaway was the champion of her age and sex and won seven-of-nine starts. But George Lorillard was not a hardy man and died at age 43 before which he had dispersed the majority of his stock, so he did not live long enough to see how Spinaway fared as a producer. In the beginning, he did not miss much.
Spinaway’s first major claim to fame was becoming the second dam of Tanya, the second filly to win the Belmont Stakes (1905). A race named in Spinaway’s honor was inaugurated at Saratoga in 1881 and has been run ever since with just a few gaps (1891-1901, 1911-1913). The winners are a veritable who’s who of the great juvenile fillies, many of them later Reines-de-Course: Court Dress, Top Flight, Mark-Kell, Bee Mac, Myrtle Charm, Alanesian Cicada, Moccasin, Numbered Account, La Prevoyante, Ruffian.
Twice it would be won by Spinaway’s descendents, first by Tanya and many years later by Dearly Precious. It was never anything but a Grade 1 race, even before such designations were given. Thus, while Spinaway’s actual legacy lay sleeping in the dust of history, the tiny sub-branches of Alabama Gal and Jayjean – both of whom had Spinaway as their sixth dam – were about to stage a comeback that would make this grand filly far more than just the name of a race, remembered but once a year and then quickly forgotten.
Today Spinaway’s influence trickles down to us via unraced Jayjean and her stakes winning daughter Itsabet, a daughter of *Heliopolis bred by Lewis J. Tutt. From there, Itsabet’s two daughters Iaround (a winner by Round Table) and Ironically (a winner by Intent) produced two major branches: Hasili and Imsodear. The former is a French stakes winner by Kahyasi bred by Juddmonte Farms in Ireland, the latter a minor stakes winner bred in American by Henry Z. Isaccs.
There is yet another branch with some hope attached. Iaway, a full sister to Ironically, has a small group of quality runners that give one a ray of hope for their sub-branch. From these roots have come minor stakes winner Outoftheblueball, by Mr. Prospector’s full brother Red Ryder, she dam of G1 winner Rings A Chime, by Seattle Slew’s son Metfield. If Rings A Chime can duplicate her success at the races with a successful career at stud, then Iaway’s branch will be well on its way to joining its sister branches as saviors of the Spinaway family.
At present, however, Hasili and Imsodear are the top guns. Hasili is a granddaughter of Sookera (by Roberto), a champion at two in Ireland. This sub-group of Jayjean/Itsabet has done its best work in Europe and Hasili, though only a minor stakes winner, has produced four very special individuals: Banks Hill, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Fillies’ And Mares and also a Group 1 winner in Europe where she was champion at three and four; champion Dansili, a full brother to Banks Hill who earned his title at four and who like his full sister is classic placed; Heat Haze, a G3 winner in the U. S. and classic placed Intercontinental who was third in this year’s One Thousand Guineas.
This branch of the family is also responsible for the good American stakes winner Hawksley Hill, by Rahy, and even a good Brazilian branch via Hasili’s half sister Dissemble. Given the number of South American imports one sees in California these days, it is not impossible to consider one of these horses may pay us a visit to raid the local turf stakes before their careers are over.
Imsodear will no doubt always be best remembered for the very special champion juvenile filly Dearly Precious, a daughter of Dr. Fager who won 12 of 16 career starts. Sad to say, Dearly Precious has not duplicated herself at stud, though she did foal two stakes winners, the Nijinsky II horse Mister Modesty, a sire in Venezuela, and his full sister Dearly Two, who won the Violet Handicap. Dearly Too produced the stakes placed Mucho Precious.
Dearly Too is not the only daughter of Dearly Precious who is currently in production and one can only hope that one day her Dr. Fager blood is applied intelligently (say using Holy Bull to cross on Dr. Fager’s sister Ta Wee and balancing Intent.) The main reason this branch of the family has not been more successful is that everyone was trying so hard to breed Dearly Precious to top sires they forgot that her sire, Dr. Fager, was different than what was fashionable. This negates the most important rule of all – the “like to like” rule – that makes for good matings.
As a result, it is Dearly Precious’ half sister Immense, by Roberto, that has made this sub-branch work. The Roberto cross is significant here because his addition to the Iaround branch accounted for Sookera. Comparing Sookera to Immense we find they share not only Roberto and Itsabet but *Princequillo and *Nasrullah crosses as well.
Immense was a G3 winner and her daughter Mariah’s Storm by Rahy, did her one better and won a G2. Then Mariah’s Storm blew the family wide open by producing a liver-chestnut colt with a crooked blaze named Giant’s Causeway that made everyone who saw him – even those who are not all that fond of Storm Cat – stop and look. This glorious beast, actually a miler by build and pedigree type, fought on long and hard in his Breeders’ Cup Classic and fell just an agonizing neck short to Tiznow. But the loss only brought him praise.
Earlier, after all, he had won seven G1 races and placed in three others. He was a phenomenon that made his family worth that second look. Coupled with Hasili’s remarkable production record, the pair made it a Reine-de-Course family.
When naming a new Reine, it has been our custom to look back at the exploits of some of its better members. Giant’s Causeway is still fresh in our memory, but Dearly Precious has been retired for a very long time now.
One of the best stories written about her was done by Edward L. Bowen in Thoroughbreds of 1976, one of only four books in a series we always wished had continued. It is his description of the injury that caused her retirement that we call to mind now:
“ (Trainer) DiMauro rested Dearly Precious until the Dark Mirage Stakes more than a month later. Eddie Maple was on the filly that day, and he held her off the pace early, as (regular rider Michael) Hole had been able to do. She came on to win, pulling away by 2 1/2 lengths, but it was a sad occasion.
“ ‘Everyone could see that she was finishing on only three good legs,’ said (owner Richard) Bailey. And later it was discovered that the filly had bowed a tendon in the left foreleg.
“ ‘She had been just like part of the family. My wife and I saw her races and my children from my first marriage were involved, and so was my four-year-old son. Thank God he was not there that day. We could tell she was hurt, and I just choked up.’ ’’
The filly’s retirement was announced and once a special stall was built for her, she was vanned home. DiMauro mused that had it been any other filly they might well have put her back in training, but…
“That they will not do since the filly in question is Dearly Precious. Sentiment can sometimes be embarrassing, but a man can truly love a horse, and you take no chances with the one you love.”
Everyone who ever saw Dearly Precious loved her, ditto Giant’s Causeway and Banks Hill had her fair share of awestruck fans. There is something about this family that evokes superlatives, something that makes it unique.
That something can be traced to Jayjean’s own pedigree, which is filled with a rich history of old Americana. For starters, she was inbred to half siblings Pennant and Pink Domino, both offspring of the great foundation matron Belle Rose (the family of Storm Cat among others).
Star Shoot, sire of the first Triple Crown winner Sir Barton, is 4 x 6 and balanced, while the incomparable Domino is trebled and balanced two sons to a daughter. Top old-time sire Ballot was 3 x 4 and balanced and Billet (sire of Sir Dixon and Miss Woodford) was also doubled and balanced.
Billet’s story is worth a quick aside: At first the stallion was not highly regarded, as he had an indifferent race record and he began his career in Illinois. His first foals showed enough promise that he was later purchased and sent to Kentucky where he would sire Sir Dixon. That fine racehrose and sire was out of a full sister to Iroquois named Jaconet, who none other than Pierre Lorillard had given away because she had “big head” disease. It is beyond ironic that one of Sir Dixon’s most famous victories came in the 12-furlong Lorillard Stakes.
Today, Sir Dixon lives on not only via Midway in Jayjean’s pedigree but via full sister Reines-de-Course Audience and Martha Gorman, both members of the same Maggie B. B. clan that spawned Sir Dixon himself. It is just one of several “full circle” coincidences in the story of Spinaway.
This brings the Spinaway story to an end – for now. We honor Spinaway herself here, along with Jayjean, Itsabet, Sookera, Hasili, and Imsodear with inclusion on the Reine-de-Course list. Nothing would please us more than to see a future offshoot emanate from Dearly Precious or for Rings A Chime to expand the Iaway branch. Having Mariah’s Storm produce a daughter as good as Giant’s Causeway would be worth watching for as well. There are many possibilities here.