Like the Reine-de-Course Aloe, whose branch experienced a long period of near-obscurity, so too did the Queen Bertha female line almost lapse into nothingness. Fortunately this did not occur, else we would have been robbed of the great gifts of *My Babu, *Turn-To, *Ambiorix, Irish River and Mill Native.
Winner of the 1863 Epsom Oaks, Queen Bertha, by Kingston-Flax by Surplice was bred in Kent by Lord Falmouth. Several of her offspring, namely Prince of Wales Stakes winner Queen’s Messenger and Oaks and One Thousand Guineas winners Spinaway and Wheel of Fortune, had made enormously promising beginnings at stud when the Lord inexplicably decided to disperse his stock.
Twenty years after the horses were sold, the family which Queen Bertha had so nobly advanced was scattered to all corners of the globe and its influence was waning. As is sometimes the case in sire lines, however, it was for one of the lesser members of the line, Blanchefleur, to save the day.
Through this one-race winner and her unremarkable daughter Syringa and granddaughter Venus’s Looking Glass came a light of hope, the Peter filly Hettie Sorrel. A better racehorse than any of her immediate family, Hettie Sorrel won five races and foaled six winners, one of whom was Marchetta.
Acquired by Lord Derby for his stud in an attempt to add new female lines to his already thriving broodmare band, Marchetta produced eight foals by the Derby-owned sires Swynford, Chaucer and Stedfast. These were marriages meant to breathe new life into the line and to breed on for generations as yet unborn. Instead, they would enliven and enrich the entire breed.
Chief among Marchetta’s offspring was Rose Red by Swynford who produced One Thousand Guineas winner Aurora by Hyperion. Later Aurora herself produced Ascot Gold Cup winner Alycidon, a Chef-de-race. This branch would also eventually be responsible for 1954 One Thousand Guineas winner Festoon; 1984 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Royal Heroine; 1974 St. Leger winner Bustino; 1971 Epsom Oaks heroine Altesse Royale; 1975 One Thousand Guineas winner Nocturnal Spree; 1960 Belmont Stakes winner Celtic Ash; and 1962 Epsom Derby winner Larkspur. Obviously the subject of another story, Rose Red herself will one day become a Reine-de-Course.
Rose Red’s full sister, Sweet Lavender, in turn produced Lavendula by Pharos and the family then made a fateful journey to France to the stud of Marcel Boussac. Lavendula produced 10 foals and three stakes winners for Boussac; Wild Lavender, Babiste and *Ambiorix from 1936-1946, being barren only in 1943. A vast influence on American pedigrees, Lavendula also left a considerable legacy in Europe which included German Derby winner
Singlspieler, Irish Derby winner English Prince and King George VI Stakes winner *Cagire II. In addition, Marchetta herself produced Lavendula’s half sister Kalmia by Kantar who foaled French Two Thousand Guineas winner and major sire Klairon.
From Lavendula, Boussac bred *Ambiorix by Tourbillon, winner of the Grand Criterium and champion French two year old of 1948; Perfume II (dam of Two Thousand Guineas winner and Chef-de-race *My Babu); Sayani, a major winner and leading French sire; and *Source Sucree, a winner in France who later produced *Turn-To for co-breeders E. R. Miville and Mrs. G. L. Hastings.
*Source Sucree was subsequently acquired by Captain Harry F. Guggenheim for his Cain Hoy Stables in whose colors *Turn-To raced. *Turn-To himself was originally purchased by Claud C. Tanner, who discovered the colt as a yearling on a visit to Ireland in the fall of 1951. In April of 1952 Tanner died of a heart attack and his widow asked Arthur B. Hancock, Jr., at whose Claiborne Farm the colt was housed, to arrange for his sale.
When *Turn-To went through the sales ring at Keeneland in July, Guggenheim acquired him for $20,000. By this time, both his sire, *Royal Charger, and his dam, *Source Sucree, had been imported to America.
Although the intensely inbred (3 x 3 to Pharos) *Turn-To bowed a tendon before he could compete in the Kentucky Derby for which he was so highly favored, he compiled a sterling record of six wins in eight starts, including the Garden State Stakes, the richest race of its time in America, and the Flamingo Stakes.
But *Turn-To’s racing career was merely a hint of what was to come at stud. His best offspring include champion First Landing, sire of double classic winner and champion Riva Ridge; champion racehorse and Chef-de-race Hail To Reason, sire of Roberto among others and Chef-de-race Sir Gaylord, whose sons Epsom Derby winner and Chef-de-race Sir Ivor and Chef-de-race Habitat have helped to internationalize the line. Daughters of *Turn-To were also good broodmares, producing among others Horse of the Year Ack Ack.
A major influence by any standard, *Turn-To’s blood was never more dominant than in the 1993 Breeders’ Cup when his male-line descendents Cardmania, Hollywood Wildcat and Brocco all won their respective races. To further glorify the family from which *Turn-To descends, Arcangues, the upset Classic winner, is inbred to Marchetta 6x 8 x 7 x 9 through her (full sister) granddaughters Aurora and Sweet Lavender.
The other champions from Lavendula’s immediate family also were excellent sires, though neither bred on as well as *Turn-To. *Ambiorix, born in 1946, was Lavendula’s last foal. He stood at Claiborne Farm, led the sire list in 1961 and sired 51 stakes winners in all. *Ambiorix’s best get include Coaching Club American Oaks winner High Voltage, Jersey Derby winner Ambiopoise and Withers winner Hitting Away as well as the good runners and producers Levelix and Sarcastic. Among his daughters’ best offspring are Ragusa, a European champion; Bold Commander, sire of 1970 Kentucky Derby winner Dust Commander, and champion sprinter Impressive. Today his sire line is still alive, but just barely, through a handful of minor stallions.
Nevertheless, his blood is far from gone. It is found in the pedigrees of such good horses as Big Spruce, Lord Avie and Majestic Light.
*My Babu was also imported and stood at Spendthrift Farm. His most important get include Santa Anita Handicap winner Crozier; Selima Stakes winner My Card; Pimlico Futurity winner Garwol; and Arlington Lassie winner Colfax Maid. For a time, Crozier appeared to have the ability to carry on *My Babu’s male line, but the sterility of Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Precisionist cost the sire a major son who seemed capable of the job. *My Babu’s blood is also still very much alive deeper in pedigrees. Among the important horses who carry crosses of *My Babu are Crusader Sword, Private Account, Time For A Change and Well Decorated.
A more recent but equally important sire from this family is Irish River, winner of the Grand Criterium at two and the Two Thousand Guineas at three in 1979. Standing at Gainesway Farm, Irish River is out of a Klairon mare and is inbred to Sweet Lavender through his dam, Irish Star. Among Irish River’s best get to date are Italian champion Orban; French champion and One Thousand Guineas winner Hatoof; Hollywood Derby winner Paradise Creek and Oak Tree Invitational winner Navarone.
One of the younger sires from this family is Mill Native, winner of the 1988 Arlington Million. By Exclusive Native, he is out of the Mill Reef mare Stresa, dam also of Group 3 winner American Stress and French Stress, second in the French Two Thousand Guineas (by Sham) as well as Sporades by Vaguely Noble. Mill Native is now standing in Canada after a slow beginning in California, where his grass-oriented pedigree failed to capture breeders’ imaginations.
In Lavendula’s pedigree we find once again some key elements which seem to appear over and over again in the lineage of the best broodmares, namely St. Simon, Hermit and Canterbury Pilgrim. Canterbury Pilgrim appears 4 x 3 through her two great sons Chaucer and Swynford while St. Simon is found 5 x 4 x 5 through his daughters La Fleche and Cheery, and his son Chaucer. There are five crosses of Hermit 6 x 6 x 5 x 5 x 5. Hermit, a foal of 1864, was a Derby winner who led the sire list six times and the broodmare list another 10. He was a bleeder but was known as the most perfectly balanced horse of his time, and a lovely mover.
Yet another historic name which appears in the pedigree of Lavendula is that of Quiver, dam of La Fleche and Memoir and granddam of Polymelus. Memoir won the Oaks and St. Leger, La Fleche the “filly Triple Crown” of the One Thousand Guineas, Oaks and St. Leger. This is an aspect Lavendula shares in common with Reine-de-Course Cinna, a tail-female descendent of Quiver. Cinna, too, is inbred to Quiver through Maid Marian and La Fleche.
Nowhere is the potency of Lavendula’s blood and her potential for affecting a pedigree better illustrated than in the great New Zealand sire Sir Tristram, who is inbred to Lavendula through half sisters Source Sucree and Perfume II. Keeping in mind that Lavendula herself is inbred to Canterbury Pilgrim via Chaucer and Swynford, note that Sir Tristram then picks up this thread with two more Chaucer strains via inbreeding to Reine-de-Course Selene, plus another Swynford cross via Badruddin, sire of Perfume II. Overall, this translates to seven Canterbury Pilgrim crosses through just two sterling broodmares.
There are other great names like Isonomy, Springfield and Wenlock all of whom are doubled in Lavendula’s pedigree. With her “layers” of inbreeding, it is little wonder that she turned out to be one of the greatest broodmares of hers or any time.
Another advantage Lavendula has is that, as a daughter of Pharos, she provides a valuable inbreeding tool to balance the plethora of male-line Pharos relatives like Nearco present in modern pedigrees. She worked in just this fashion in the pedigree of *Turn-To where she sex-balanced Nearco.
Also of importance is the very close relationship between *My Babu and *Ambiorix. *Ambiorix is by Tourbillon out of Lavendula while *My Babu is by a son of Tourbillon, Djebel, out of Lavendula’s daughter Perfume II, making the pair three quarter brothers. If *My Babu was the better sire of the two, as seems to be the opinion of many researchers, it is probably due to his sex-balanced strain of Swynford. Through Perfume II, *My Babu has Swynford son Blandford to Swynford daughter Sweet Lavender (Lavendula’s dam). This total pattern gives three crosses of Canterbury Pilgrim. *Ambiorix has just two Canterbury Pilgrim crosses, lacking the Swynford son which *My Babu picks up through his broodmare sire Badruddin. Obviously, *My Babu’s in-balance inbreeding is the pattern of choice.
Irish River, whose dam is inbred to Sweet Lavender, is an interesting horse as a potential ‘balancing act’. His two Sweet Lavender crosses seem to be laying in wait for more of the same, and they received exactly that in the form of Sagace to make up the mating of Arcangues. With this Breeders’ Cup Classic winner now at stud, he becomes one of the richest sources of inbred blood capable of being outcrossed on more fashionable bloodlines teeming with the blood of Polynesian and Northern Dancer and overloaded with *Nasrullah (of whom he has just one cross) and *Royal Charger and he will also work as an outcross to the newly fashionable blood of *Ribot.
As in the case of Mumtaz Mahal, we would here like to honor the dam of this Reine-de-Course by adding her at the same time. Thus, welcome to the Reine-de-Course list Sweet Lavender, Lavendula, Perfume II and *Source Sucree. They represent as fine a list of sire-source mares as any found in modern pedigrees.