At Churchill Downs in 1991, in the shadow of the twin spires where so many champions have been born, a new phenomenon arrived. Hungry for a superstar and mis-reading a smashing juvenile performer for a future Triple Crown winner, fans cheered the second coming of Secretariat as a crooked-legged colt with an even more crooked blaze humbled a field of American-raced runners in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
His name was Arazi, a name that is now synonomous with judging two-year-olds too quickly lest one look like a fool the following spring. In Arazi’s defense, none of the human foibles around him were his fault; his best effort was simply his downfall. In winning a race in which he should never have participated, he gave his racing future.
What Arazi did serve to do, however, was to remind breeders of a fabulous old family. A family which contained winners of such diverse races as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Remsen Stakes, the July Cup and the Japanese Oaks. In recent years it was represented by the mare Link River, who won the 1994 John A. Morris Handicap (GR I) at Saratoga; Dance Partner, winner of the 1995 Japanese Oaks; and Caesour, who annexed the 1995 Bay Meadows Handicap (GR II). This is the clan of the mighty *Lady Comfey.
*Lady Comfey, a foal of 1913, was by the marvelous Roi Herode, sire of The Tetrarch, Mumtaz Mahal’s sire and savior for so many years of the Herod line, out of Snoot by Perigord (by St. Simon). Snoot herself was a J. J. Maher mare. Breeder also of Reine-de-Course Qurrat-al-Ain, Maher was a small breeder who was known for accomplishing remarkable results with a handful of mares who he would improve by mating them to the best sires of their time. He believed in using outside stallions as well as ‘home’ sires and in 1912 he sent Snoot to Roi Herode.
Roi Herode was described by Joe H. Palmer in Names in Pedigrees as “a remarkable type of powerful, big-boned Thoroughbred. Immense substance, color, size and bone have been frequent characteristics of his descendents.”
*Lady Comfey was not a grey like her sire, but she was by all accounts of good substance, size and bone. (Abram S. Hewitt remarked in Sire Lines that Maher’s yearlings were the strongest and best developed he had ever seen.) Without a doubt, *Lady Comfey was exactly the type of mare one would have expected to be bred to Man o’ War.
The stud book tells us that *Lady Comfey was imported for just this purpose by Walter M. Jeffords, but that she was owned by Samuel D. Riddle, who also owned Man o’ War. Jeffords’ relationship with Riddle was a complicated one, which often took on the complexion of a family feud.
Jeffords, the first President of the National Racing Museum Hall of Fame, was married to Sam Riddle’s niece, and the two families shared Faraway Farm until it was split into divisions. Perhaps the most telling story of their stormy relationship involved War Admiral, Man o’ War’s 1937 Triple Crown-winning son.
As with *Lady Comfey, Jeffords had imported the mare Bathing Girl by Spearmint in foal to Harry of Hereford (a full brother to Swynford). The foal Bathing Girl produced was named Annette K. and she was purchased from Jeffords by Riddle and bred to Sweep, which resulted in Brushup, the dam of War Admiral.
From the beginning, Jeffords loved the foal that Brushup produced, while Riddle disliked him and even offered to sell him to Jeffords, who declined. When later asked why he did not buy the colt he liked so much, Jeffords replied, “Don’t you see, if this colt turns out as well as I think, it would lead to an almighty family row and I probably couldn’t even breed to Man o’ War anymore.”
Prior to her importation, *Lady Comfey had already produced Amourette by *Prince Palatine, paternal grandsire of Prince Rose. Amourette did not race, although her branch of the family is responsible for French champion and classic winner La Sorelllina and the fine French runner *Silnet. This part of the family has failed to live up to other of *Lady Comfey’s descendents, however.
Once imported, *Lady Comfey was bred to Man o’ War six times. Her first mating to “de mostest horse” resulted in champion American Flag, and since the match had worked so well, *Lady Comfey was bred to either Man o’ War or one of his sons for the rest of her life with one notable exception.
The year after American Flag was born she was barren, then she foaled the unraced Red White and Blue whose branch has only 1952 Pimlico Breeders’ Stakes winner Devils Verse to brag of. In 1925, *Lady Comfey was sent to High Time and produced Exalted, who never won a race and earned only $200.
Although Exalted was a failure at the track, hers is ironically the branch of *Lady Comfey which is the strongest today. Her daughter Flaming Swords (by Man o’ War, of course) foaled not only Count Fleet’s persistent shadow Blue Swords but his winning full sister Bluehaze ( both by Blue Larkspur). Bluehaze in turn produced the stakes winning Tom Fool mare Dinner Partner and among her descendents, we find such major winners as Arazi, Flying Partner, Hero’s Love, Ajdal, Connecting Link, Key Dancer, Dance Partner and Jim French.
After Exalted, *Lady Comfey was barren for two years then in 1928 produced Fleet Flag by Man o’ War who won the Amsterdam Claiming Stakes. Her next foal, Argosie, did not win stakes but was second in the Coaching Club American Oaks. Unfortunately, only Indian Crossing, who won minor stakes in Canada, added black type to this branch of the family.
Strong, a foal of 1930, was unplaced but she foaled the amazing gelding Mightily, who made 258 starts and actually placed in a minor stake.
Ship Executive, a gelding, came next and he became a good steeplechaser. He was followed by Three Cheers, a filly by Man o’ War’s son Crusader. Three Cheers was unraced but she foaled a stakes placed runner in Fourth of July. This is another branch of the family which is all but dead. Three Cheers, who was foaled when her dam was 20 years old, turned out to be *Lady Comfey’s last foal. There is no record of her death, so it was pretty much up to her descendents to write her name in history.
We now turn to the pedigree of *Lady Comfey as well as to that of her major descendents. Much has been written over the years criticizing the type mares which were sent to Man o’ War. Keeping in mind that *Lady Comfey produced a champion, American Flag, to Man o’ War’s cover and now has a thriving female branch, one wonders why she might have been considered ill-suited.
We certainly find no answers in her pedigree. *Lady Comfey was inbred to Galopin, sire of St. Simon, 5 x 4. She was also inbred to Stockwell and his half brother King Tom 5 x 6 x 5, giving three crosses of the great mare Pocahontas. Windhound appears 6 x 6 x 5 through two crosses of his son Thormanby and one of daughter Rouge Rose. Thormanby was a Derby winner whose name appears frequently in older pedigrees but whose true worth in measured in having sired Atlantic, sire of Le Sancy, sire of Le Samaritain, sire of Roi Herode. In addition to the Thormanby double, Windhound appears through a daughter, Lufra.
Finally Newminster, sire of Hermit, appears four times 6 x 5 x 6 x 5, twice through his son Strathconan, winner of the Great Yorkshire Stakes.
So what happened when *Lady Comfey was bred to High Time to produce Exalted? Just this: onto this old classic background was grafted the great American speed of Domino. Yet rather than just “slap” the speed onto the classic, some unique blending also appears.
High Time, sire of Exalted, had three Domino crosses 4 x 4 x 2. He also had a cross of Doncaster, which blended nicely with *Lady Comfey’s own cross to give Exalted a 6 x 5 cross of this Stockwell son. Further, St. Albans, another Stockwell son, appeared in the fourth generation of High Time. So in total, Exalted had five Stockwell/King Tom crosses. High Time also added a Thormanby cross through the mare Sunshine, bringing the total to three.
Now Exalted was ready to be bred to Man o’ War as her dam had so often been. And she proved an even better mate for him, producing Flaming Swords.
The most striking feature of this mating is a cross of the Thormanby mare Rouge Rose, dam of Bend Or, who appears in the fourth generation of Man o’ War’s pedigree. Rouge Rose is also the third dam of Roi Herode, sire of *Lady Comfey, tying the pedigrees together with a 4 x 5 cross of half siblings Bend Or and Rose Of York.
Remember all the Newminster blood? Newminster’s son Hermit appears twice in Man o’ War’s pedigree, tying up that bloodline connection neatly. Galopin was doubled in *Lady Comfey and also in Man o’ War, through the same two relatives, St. Simon and Galliard.
Successive generations pretty much repeated the patterns above, adding to existing strengths. Bluehaze, Flaming Swords’ daughter by Blue Larkspur, picked up another Domino cross and a double of Padua (which later was added to through Raise A Native in Native Partner’s pedigree). More Bend Or and Galopin also appear.
By the time Native Partner was foaled, inbreeding to three-quarter siblings American Flag and Flaming Swords was implemented, enriching the pedigree tenfold. Could a mare so cleverly bred have been other than the ancestress of so many good horses?
Thus what we have seen happen to this family is several generations of inbreeding and outcrossing all blending together with such success than they ultimately could be repeated – the classic pattern for success. Because Native Partner is herself generally regarded a foundation matron, it makes sense that she have a 5 x 5 cross of *Lady Comfey, the subject of this article.
One final word about a horse from this family whose name is not mentioned nearly as often as it should be, and that is Blue Swords, second to Count Fleet in the 1943 Kentucky Derby and Preakness and a full brother to Bluehaze. He is the sire of a mare named Nothirdchance and if that name is familiar to you, it should be, for she is the dam of Hail To Reason.
Hail To Reason’s own female family will one day be discussed in this forum, but all are familiar with his role as a great sire and broodmare sire. His broodmare sire, Blue Swords, descendent of *Lady Comfey, is greatly prized in a pedigree as a rare male-line descendent of the fine broodmare sire Blue Larkspur. Blue Swords’ blood is valuable wherever it is found, but nowhere is it more prized than through Hail To Reason.
*Lady Comfey’s clan is a versatile one, having produced both good colts and good fillies. The horse who might have given it a great sire, Ajdal, died prematurely when he shattered a hind leg in a paddock accident after siring only one crop. So Arazi was once more left with something to prove, and to date he has failed in his attempts to become the great sire that this family needs to add to its laurels, though Congaree might at least keep the sire line alive.
We will no doubt revisit *Lady Comfey just as we have other Reine-de-Course families as branches fill out and become stronger, but for the present, new Reines are *Lady Comfey, Bluehaze, Dinner Partner and Native Partner. And to think most people believe Man o’ War was bred to bad mares!