When I first began the Reine-de-Course series in November of 1991, I could hardly have imagined that a) I would still be doing it 16 ½ years later or that b) I would finally name a Reine for what I feel is a negative impact. In other words, she is a dominant for unsoundness and sometimes just plain old-fashioned bad luck.
From Notable Roots
This particular mare’s family had a good enough beginning. She traced to Family No. 5 (the Massey Mare), via branch 5-C (Chanoinesse). She was inbred to this line x3 via Reticence/Hermit/Chanoinesse. Hermit was an Epsom Derby winner and Chanoinesse was a full sister to him, Reticence a three-quarter sister.
Family 5-C is not the biggest family in the stud book, nor is it the most important. But it’s done a lot of damage, and it’s schizophrenic to boot, undoubtedly owing to the fact that *La Mome was by the soundest of horses in Son-In-Law, whose sire Dark Ronald is responsible for most of the stout German lines and whose own son, Bosworth, was the tail-male relative of the wondrous, sound *Herbager, he sire of *Grey Dawn II, also a sound horse.
The sad part about this family is that the line via *La Mome was imported by Colonel Bradley. So Bird Flower is one of the “Bradley B’s”. Had the Colonel lived long enough, one can only hope that Olin Gentry would have alerted him to her problems, much as he had years before with the male line of *North Star III, which he tabbed as a source of unsoundness. Perhaps then we would have had more of the Flying Lark toughness and less of the Broadway/Con Game problems.
To America – and the Bradley Stud
As previously stated, *La Mome was a stoutly-bred mare (Dark Ronald-Son-in-Law/Galopin-St. Simon) which ran like a sprinter, winning a six furlong ($3500) claiming race as a sophomore. At the time, in the early 1920’s, this was a substantial amount of money, so it’s impossible to label her as “cheap”.
The mare was claimed out of that race by E. E. Coussel on behalf of Colonel Bradley, and she was sent to the U. S. A. to race in his colors. She made only two starts here, however, placing in one of the races. The die had been cast and perhaps a glimmer of the future had been seen.
Nearly a “Monogomous” Mare
Naturally, as a Bradley mare,*La Mome was bred to his own stallions. Her first foal was the winner Breezing Thru by *North Star III. He earned no black type. Her next was born a year later and was stakes placed Black Tyrone, by Black Toney, third in the Flash and Union Hotel Stakes.
There were then three barren years for her, at least according to the Jockey Club. From that point on, except in 1936 when she produced the unplaced Black Servant gelding Back Page, she saw only one stallion, Blue Larkspur. These matings accounted for mixed results:
Bird Flower, an Adirondack Handicap winner (and the source of much of the family trouble); stakes placed Birdlea, who got a handful of stake horses; unraced Behest whose branch produced some decent horses in Washington and California; and unraced Blantry (1940), her last foal, who has some regional black type under her but nothing major.
The “Why” of Blue Larkspur
Because *La Mome was linebred x3 to Seclusion (and one of those lines was her tail-female line), Bradley and/or Gentry may well have been thinking of reinforcing that line with Blue Larkspur, who was himself inbred to Hermit x2 via Cinderella and Moorhen. Given that this was done, it is well to reiterate here what we have written before about Hermit and that is that he may well have been the first major bleeder to win an Epsom Derby.
His stud groom John Griffiths, was quoted by Joe Palmer in Sire Lines as describing him thusly: “Hermit was a lovely horse, though he always gave me the impression that there was a little softness about him. Hermit had the best of tempers; you could do anything with him. His action was simply wonderful. As a mover, Hermit would have taken a prize in any show ring.”
If this description is true and the Seclusion linebreeding in *La Mome intensified the good points, it also intensified the “little softness”. Given that fact and the toughness of American racing, this could be one factor in the problems of the Bidflower line that resulted in such tragedies as Ruffian.
Flitabout/Con Game the Source
Given that it is almost impossible to find any of the other lines tracing to *La Mome (other than an occasional mare with Flying Lark blood) in major American pedigrees, Flitabout/Con Game is the main mare carrying this family line at present.
With Reviewer blood (unfortunately) being still carried by the Mr. Greeley and Time for a Change lines, we will not be rid of that any time soon. And Seeking the Gold, who is out of Reviewer’s half sister, Con Game, is still active at stud.
Fast Play, a Seattle Slew half brother to Seeking the Gold, never lived up to his melding of Bradley lines (Seattle Slew’s Striking/Busher and his Buckpasser blood). It was rumored early on that he was a shy breeder and he has been shuffled around from farm to farm. At present, he is standing in New York and while he has had nowhere near the opportunity of Seeking the Gold, some of his numbers are comparable and/or better: He gets 81% of his foals to the races, Seeking the Gold gets 79%. He gets 60% winners, Seeking the Gold 54%. The main difference – and this has to do with quality of mares – is that Seeking the Gold gets 10% stakes winners, and Fast Play gets half that many.
The sad thing about this horse is that he is a terrific looking individual. What a terrible waste he has been! Because we are tabbing this family as a “problem” line, we are not advocating inbreeding to it (yes, we know it’s been done successfully in Australia, so please don’t write and inform us of same). However, if you are hell-bent on doing this, try this horse over something with a Flying Lark line that is tough and sound like most of Flying Lark’s get were. That just might actually bring out the best.
Other Major Lines
There is a slightly sounder bunch under Medici, a Black Eyed Susans placed daughter of Bold Ruler. One of her daughters we always liked was the Bagdad filly Unknown Heiress. There is a nice Europen under her in Known Heights who won the Carleton F. Burke in the U. S. and then there is the Peruvian champion Batuka, but she’s out of a Mr. Prospector mare, so that creates a problem.
Star Choice was another shy breeder from this line. A son of In Reality, we once saw him in the breeding shed ignore a mare for over an hour before making a half-hearted attempt to cover her. A recent printout revealed that his problems likely continued, as in 15 crops, he got only 162 foals. The best of them was the grand runner Gala Spinaway (out of Spinnaker Sal), so he might just have made a sire if his libido had cooperated.
A Personal Tragedy
Anyone who reads Pedlines knows that we make every effort to pat on the back those small breeders who are our clients and friends. Ellen Jackson of Victory Rose Ranch in Vacaville, Calif. is one of those breeders and from this family (on our recommendation), she bred the ill-fated O. K. Mikie, who won the Golden Gate Mile and placed in the G3 Golden Gate Derby before fracturing a shoulder and having to be destroyed.
Ellen could never get the mare owners to sell Bates Queen, his dam, back to her and she suspected that the mare had met a similar fate. However, this spring she welcomed a three-quarter brother to “Mikie”, but not without incident.
As if the family bad luck had the staying power of a locomotive, his dam tried to jump out of the palpation stocks and eviscerated herself. She was destroyed on the spot. Her orphan foal (the three-quarter to O. K. Mikie) couldn’t find a nurse mare willing to adopted him at first. As of this writing, however, he is alive and thriving. We enclose a photo of the little man along with a prayer for his survival. This family can use a little good luck, and so too can Ellen Jackson, whose spring has not been a great one so far.
By the way, this little man is inbred to full siblings Gummo and Spearfish (Fleet Nasrullah-Alabama Gal). Alabama Gal is a Reine-de-Course, so we hope she trumps *La Mome here and this little man gets some of the toughness and good luck of that family line.
Scattered to the Winds
When Colonel Bradley died in 1946, *La Mome’s family was sold off. As John Sparkman wrote in his Thoroughbred Times story of Sept. 23, 2000 on this family, everyone who comprised the King Ranch-Greentree-Phipps syndicate that bought most of Bradley’s stock turned a profit.
Phipps, however, probably did best owing to his access to the Claiborne sires of the era. And the yearling filly from the Bradley group out of *La Mome’s best daughter, Birdflower, was a Phipps acquisition. She would race as Flitabout and run second in the Coaching Club American Oaks.
It is under her that we find Reviewer and his Buckpasser half sister Con Game, dam of Seeking the Gold and Fast Play. Con Game also has a good producer in the Mr. Prospector mare Miner’s Game, dam of stakes winner Survivalist (by Danzig), stakes placed Polish Miner (Danzig) and Looking Afar (Broad Brush) as well as the stakes producer Trading by A. P. Indy, dam of Awesome Chic.
So how do we name Reines and say “don’t touch them”? It’s not easy, believe us. But these mares have made a notable contribution and all we can do is name them and add a “handle with care” label.
If you get a mare who descends from this line, for heaven’s sake breed her carefully and to something with good bone. Also, think twice before inbreeding to the Birdflower group. It’s a loaded gun waiting to fire – and the bullets will find their mark one way or another. Remember, you have been warned.
That said, new Reines-de-Course are *La Mome, Bird Flower, Flitabout, Con Game, Medici, Funloving, Broadway, and Flying Ship (for her gift of the soundest sire from the line, Flying Lark).