*La Flambee

Nearly all of our Reine-de-Course families have strong characteristics.  But few are as out-and-out classic as *La Flambee.  We have resisted classifying our Reines lest they be too closely compared to Chefs-de-Race.  We do, however, believe that “the family is stronger than the individual”, and when one is talking about *La Flambee, he is talking pure classicity.

French Roots

Bred in France by Edmond Blanc, *La Flambee was one of the most influential products of his large and successful Thoroughbred empire, built with the fortune made by his family’s catering business.  Also among his best were the great stallion Ajax and his son *Teddy and the 1908 French Oaks winner Medeah.

When Medeah was covered by Ajax, she produced *La Flambee.  The filly was purchased by William Woodward and bred to Durbar II in order to produce *Flambette, who was foaled in France.  Woodward then brought both mother and daughter to the U. S. along with the rest of the mares he purchased from Blanc’s estate.

Foundation Mare

*Flambette was all Woodward could have hoped for as a runner.  She won the Coaching Club American Oaks and Latonia Oaks, thus establishing herself as one of the best fillies of her generation.  With a classic background and a classic racing record, she seemed to possess everything an owner could want in a foundation mare.

*Flambette more than fulfilled her promise.  Few matrons can boast so many classic horses in direct descent.  From American Triple Crown winner Omaha to Belmont Stakes winner Danzig Connection to French One Thousand Guineas winner Bold Fascinator to Kentucky Derby winner Decidedly to Irish St. Leger victor Mashaallah – all these and more are ‘hers’.

Further, her influence when inbred to produced one of the best and brightest of American classic winners of recent years in Sunday Silence.  Not to mention this year’s classic hopeful Greater Good, who is not only inbred to her, but is a tail-female relation.

*Flambette’s Lesser Sister

There is one other daughter under *La Flambee that should be mentioned.  Named La Rablee, she is responsible for the good California sire Hillary, whose blood is present in a multitude of fine horses from Hill Rise to Hooplah to J. O. Tobin to the aforementioned Sunday Silence.

Bred by George Pope in California, Hillary’s blood was sometimes kept via questionable lines, for example, the stallion Beekeeper.  However, when Beekeeper became the broodmare sire of Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Great Communicator, sharp pedigree students acknowledged that Pope knew what he was doing – for this was not the first time a horse with an obscure-looking pedigree came from Pope’s program into the national spotlight.

 The One And Only

Omaha may well stand out as the best member of this family.  Not only was he a Triple Crown winner, but he was the only son of a Triple Crown winner (Gallant Fox) to duplicate his sire’s feat.

In addition, he did not merely win in the U. S., but also traveled to Europe, where he lost the grueling 2 ½ mile Ascot Gold Cup by a mere nose over the heaviest kind of going.  Since one can often tell more about a horse by how he loses than by how he wins, this race alone might well make a case for Omaha as the best – or at least the most accomplished – Triple Crown winner of all time.

Sadly, Omaha was not a major success at stud.  He began at Claiborne, was sold to a farm in upstate New York and ended his life in the city for which he was named, Omaha, Nebraska.  It was there he died and was buried under a memorial commissioned to mark his grave.

Today, there is some controversy as to whether or not Omaha’s bones are where they belong.  During a renovation of Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack which took place in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, a clubhouse addition was built over his tomb.

There has been a great deal of hemming and hawing regarding the actual disposition of Omaha’s bones during that renovation.  Probably the most truthful thing ever said is that nobody is sure where they are.

Now that Ak-Sar-Ben racecourse is no more, it seems that whatever remains of this truly great horse is actually sleeping under a credit card company and a portion of the University of Nebraska campus.  Short of a farm cemetery like the ones at Claiborne and other major farms, there really never is any respect for horses’ bones, is there?

Living On

Given how shabbily Omaha’s remains were treated, it is good to know that his blood is not all gone.  Two relatively easy places to find it, in fact, are in the pedigrees of Nijinsky II and Summer Tan.  Omaha is the broodmare sire of Nijinsky II’s third dam, Flaming Top.  He is the sire of Summer Tan’s dam, Miss Zibby.

Interestingly enough, Omaha’s full brother Flares is also still around.  E. P. Taylor must have admired the bloodlines greatly.  In addition to Nijinsky II’s Omaha cross, one most frequently finds Flares in the pedigree of Chop Chop, which in turn is found in Victoria Park, Ciboulette and many other Taylor stalwarts.

Scattered Greatness

Since we know where Omaha’s blood – if not his bones – can be found, how about some of the other major sires tracing to *La Flambee?  Actually, it turns out that’s not quite so easy.

Success Express, who won the 1987 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, stands at stud in Australia.  His three-quarter brother, Greenwood Lake, remains in the U. S., but he was not very sound.

Silver Ghost is still around as well, and at present is the leader of the line.  Standing at Lane’s End in Kentucky, Silver Ghost has no race record to speak of and did not win a stake.

However, he has sired 44 stakes winners, including G1 winners like Dreams Galore, Love Lock and Lunar Spook.  Obviously, his fillies are better than his colts.

The Gal I Love group of mares has yielded a couple of interesting sires including Northern Baby.  A highly versatile stallion, Northern Baby got good two-year-olds like Deposit Ticket (still at stud), sturdy steeplechasers like champions Highland Bud and Warm Spell, top turf fillies like Possibly Perfect and classic hopefuls like Rampage.

Nadir, a favorite of ours at the races, won the all-important (at the time) Garden State Stakes at two and the American Derby at three.  He stuck around at four long enough to place in several important stakes including the Widener and Carter Handicaps.  Almost impossible to find in pedigrees these days, he was sent to Japan in 1967 at the age of 12.

(If you really want to look for Nadir, try for Native Prospector blood –he is broodmare sire of second dam Nalo.  We’re sure there is more of the bloodline out there, but the majority of it is probably found in mares, rather than top stallions.)

The Banished Classic Winner

Then of course there is Danzig Connection, winner of the 1986 Belmont Stakes and his full brother, Roi Danzig.  In a particular show of classic might, *La Flambee in 1986 brought us not only Danzig Connection, but Preakness winner Snow Chief (whose sire Reflected Glory was tail-female to the family) and Arkansas Derby winner Rampage (also tail-female to *La Flambee), who was favored to defeat Danzig Connection in the Belmont but could not get the job done.

Danzig Connection and his sibling came to us via *La Flambee’s daughter La France, a close relation to Omaha.  La France’s branch ultimately bred not only Danzig Connection but also champion sprinter What A Summer, Belmont winner Phalanx and Derby and Belmont winner Johnstown, broodmare sire of Nashua.

There is no telling what Gdynia, dam of Danzig Connection, might have done had she had a solid produce career.  After producing three foals in four years, she went barren from 1988-1994 and then had two geldings.  You don’t build families like that.

At present, the last information we could find on Danzig Connection was that he was sent to Chile in 1990 (after an earlier stint in Ireland).  Roi Danzig was sent to Ireland in 1989.

There is but one branch of the family, via Robust by Conquistador Cielo, that lives on.  Robust has had three foals in a row, by Swain (2003), Touch Gold and Johannesburg.  None have been named so one or more may be dead.  For the sake of the family, let’s hope not.

Kissed With History

Families like *La Flambee’s don’t just happen – they are built.  Looking at the pedigree of this great mare, we not only visit the origins of the breed, but we think back to Vullier and his balance of blood.

From the Birdcatcher line we find three lines of Stockwell via his son Blair Athol x2 and daughter Isola Bella.  We also find Stockwell’s siblings King Tom, Ayacanora, Auracaria and Auricula – all out of the great mare Pocahontas.  Keep in mind that Vullier wanted to make Pocahontas the only female Chef-de-Race.

King Tom, like Vedette, sire of Galopin, is Eclipse line, but both have touches of Herod and Birdcatcher blood as well.  Sterling and Macaroni are doubled, the former a Birdcatcher-line sire, the latter a Herod kin.

La Flambee is light in Bend Or (speed) blood and this is what she loved about *Sir Gallahad III and his son Gallant Fox, the lines to which she and her descendents were bred with regularity once they were firmly transplanted in the U. S.  This was the first injection of speed that helped make the transition of a French classic family to an American classic family possible.

Today the family has had so much speed injected into its  roots that the stamina of its 2005 classic contender, Greater Good, is being questioned.  Speed was necessary, of course, but when even the best horses from the family – like Greenwood Lake – become brittle, it is time to stop and regroup.  Such a family as this should never go soft!

New Reines

What a pleasure it is to choose the Reines-de-Course from a family like this one.  Our new “Queens” are *La Flambee, *Flambette, Flambino, Jaconda, Gallorette, Gallita and Homespun.  This family just keeps on going and if Greater Good happens to add to its classic wins this year, it would not be a major surprise to anyone who appreciates this classy group of mares.

Family 17-B