Seldom does a day pass that someone doesn’t either suggest a mare for Reine-de-Course status or ask us why on earth we picked a certain mare. Time usually answers the latter and we do what we can to handle the mares suggested. But only rarely do we pick a mare for Reine inclusion whose best son was a horse against which we harbored a grudge for ages – Hillsdale.
The root of the grudge was, of course, his having beaten Round Table – or finished ahead of him – a couple of times. We never forgave him. However, Round Table took care of the revenge thing for us – today one almost never sees Hillsdale’s name in a pedigree whereas every time you see a Seattle Slew, you are looking at part of Round Table.
Johann, a half sister to Fighting Step by Fighting Fox, winner of the American Derby, was sired by Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Johnstown. She broke her maiden and placed in a handful of other races but it was not as a racehorse that she would prove her worth.
Her unique pedigree was crafted by the Evansville, Indiana based Murlogg Farm of Mrs. R. J. Murphy and her daughter, Susan Kellogg who had also bred Kentucky Derby third (behind Needles in 1956) Come On Red.
The 4-R family from whence Johann descends traces to the Cub Mare. Other major branches include Zenyatta’s family (Legendra); the great Golden Trail line of Darby Dan (Dynaformer, Memories of Silver, Sunshine Forever, etc.); Catnip (Nearco’s family); and Khara (Habitat, Northfields, Dancer’s Image).
Khara is most closely related to Johann: Her dam, Decree (Wrack-Royal Message) is a full sister to Anna Horton, second dam of Johann. This gives breeders four very fine sires to consider for back linebreeding including Habitat, etc. above as well as Western Playboy, a horse we never thought got his fair share of respect.
The Pedigree of Johann
Johann’s pedigree was a study. She was inbred to Reine-de-Course Chelandry via half siblings Bobolink II and Samphire. Her sire carried a double of Ajax (Teddy/La Flambee), her dam a double of Isinglass (Star Shoot/Samphire).
Her broodmare sire, Misstep by Man o’ War’s conqueror Upset, had a decided American flavor, being inbred to Broomstick in sex-balanced fashion via Whisk Broom II/St. Kentigerna as well as Hindoo and Hanover.
Other inbreeding includes multiples of Bend Or (x4) to his full sister Rose of Lancaster; a treble of half siblings Sylva Belle x2/St. Gatien and of course linebreeding to all the kings and queens of the era like St. Simon, Doncaster, Maggie B. B. etc.
Being Dark Ronald line gave her substance, the Bend Or linebreeding gave her speed, and the close relationship to Khara gave her name recognition beyond Hillsdale. It was a legacy she put to good use.
Where To Find Her
Apart from The Daddy who now stands in Arkansas and is inbred to Johann, many of her lines are found via a single horse, but they are still quite active. (The Daddy ran only four times, but won the G1 Super Derby as well as running fourth behind champion Lost in the Fog in the G1 King’s Bishop Stakes. In his G1 win, he injured a splint bone that failed to heal properly and since he had a G1 in hand, he was retired to stud. Thus his record of just four starts speaks more to expediency and the desire to breed him than any real soundness problem he may have had.)
Other members of the family were sounder but not as potentially prepotent. Hillsdale for example was a flop at stud but still got Acroterian, sire of Procne, she dam of Flying Paster. Since Hillsdale was a Sweep-line horse, he really couldn’t have been expected to carry on as that line was on the wane even during his day. Flying Paster certainly did his part to keep the blood alive and is found in such horses as Sweet Catomine and her full sister Life is Sweet, both Breeders’ Cup winners as well as millionaire Concerto and his best son Bellamy Road.
Then there is Elegant Air, winner of the Tattersalls Gold Cup, kept alive almost exclusively by his son Dashing Blade. Find that bloodline in the U. S. via Proudinsky but more frequently in Europe.
Iron Constitution is found in the pedigree of such good horses as current star Don’t Tell Sophia, Splendid Blended, Valid Expectations and the above-mentioned The Daddy. Classic placed (second in the Preakness) he was undoubtedly underappreciated like many Iron Ruler offspring.
Summertime Promise is one of the finest mares under Johann. A Nijinsky II daughter who won the G3 Gallorette and was G1 placed, she heads the family line that produced the excellent stallion Carson City, who seems to pop up virtually everywhere these days via City Zip.
General Meeting, who was a dominant sire in California failed to breed on in tail-male despite being a son of Seattle Slew. Since he did not resemble either Slew or his grandsire Alydar, we have always wondered if he was ‘got by the mailman’ as it were. Some of his daughters will no doubt redeem him but he’s really difficult to find for a horse who started out with such promise.
The Daddy is proof that inbreeding to this line gets a good horse. We have no idea why he was banished to Arkansas, but we would not hesitate to send a mare to him, even to get a third line of this family, as there is little to indicate any real soundness problems. This is probably due to its Dark Ronald/Broomstick background. That’s not a combination one finds every day.
There is just enough of this blood left, we feel, that it is time to honor it. While Carson City may be the easiest way to find the blood, Flying Paster is down but not out and of course The Daddy could be a key horse if only he is patronized enough to get him the right kind of mares.
New Reines-de-Course from this family are Johann, Prides Profile, Elegant Tern, Water Cress, Summertime Promise, and Regal Princess. Inbreeding to this line is tantamount to inbreeding to an ‘outcross’. Very few of them are Northern Dancer/Mr. Prospector crosses, though those bloodlines of course appear. Still, these horses are different enough to give their produce an interesting background, adding history as well as strength to the fragile lines currently in fashion.
We may have a grudge against Hillsdale, but like Round Table against whom he competed, he was sound, making 41 starts. How many horses today can make that claim?