In selecting mares to research for Reine-de-Course status there are always a number of factors foremost in our minds.  Immediacy is important – is there a current runner from the family that excites the senses?  Does the family have a long history of doing well for more than one farm?  Does the family have a dominant trait such as classic ability or sire success?  The answer to all of those things is “yes” for our current subject, Legendra.

The current champion is Zenyatta, as thrilling a runner as we’ve seen in 2008 and that includes Curlin.  The family has done well not only in the U. S. but in Europe, South America and even South Africa.  And while there are about an equal number of good males to females as runners, with the boys perhaps a touch more classic, this is not really a very strong sire source family, though before all is said and done Mizzen Mast may change all that.

The *Challenger II Connection

Legendra was foaled in 1944 at the Branncastle Farm of William Leavitt Brann near Frederick, Md.  Brann had imported her sire, *Challenger II, in 1930.  *Challenger II, who got such good ones as Challedon and Gallorette, sired nearly all of Brann’s major horses.

In addition to Legendra, *Challenger II sired two other important Reines-de-Course which raced in the Branncastle colors, Savage Beauty (family of Habitat, Northfields, Dancer’s Image, etc.) and The Schemer (family of Conniver, Very Subtle, etc.).

A Change of Course

The Branncastle name was a combination of Brann’s own and that of his partner, Robert S. Castle.  When the two parted ways, Brann changed the name of his farm to Glade Valley.

If one thing that Brann did for racing could be singled out, it is his racing champion Challedon at Keeneland for a small purse when he could have gone elsewhere and made more money.  His reason for racing the horse, as detailed in Who’s Who And Where In Horsedom, reflects the true nature of sportsmanship.

“I think Keeneland represents everything that is fine in racing and it is my duty, as the owner of a champion, to give the horse lovers of this section a chance to see him run.  I realize that not all of them could come to where Challedon might be racing, so I figured I should take Challedon to them.”

Does such a man exist today?

In April of 1951, Brann died suddenly and in November of 1953, thirty of his horses were dispersed by Fasig-Tipton.  They had been set to sell earlier at Belmont but were purchased as a group by A. B. “Bull” Hancock, Jr. and then consigned to the Keeneland sale.

By today’s standards, the 30 horses brought the small sum of just $99,000.  The highest priced mare was Chalalette by Devil Diver and out of Challedon’s full sister Challadette which sold for $16,000 to E. P. Taylor.  Farther down the list was a minor stakes placed *Challenger II mare named Legendra, then nine years of age, who sold to Taylor Hardin of Virginia for a mere $8,000.  She would prove to be worth her weight in gold.

A New Home

Hardin’s Newstead Farm near Upperville Virginia was a commercial enterprise and Hardin liked the products of his mares to run.  Thus, he was looking for soundness in his new purchase.

While *Challenger II’s suspect soundness was not yet recognized, the bottom half of Legendra’s family was tough enough. Dam Lady Legend ran 10 times but saved her talent for the breeding shed.  Her sire Dark Legend, a son of Dark Ronald, had raced in India, winning the Calcutta Cup.

Her dam (the second dam of Legendra) was *Sweepless by *Sweeper and she was a half sister to The Minx, who founded a tail-female line which includes Reine-de-Course Golden Trail and Ack Ack’s paternal grandsire, Armageddon.  All traced to Artless, a full sister to the great filly Artful, who inflicted the only defeat of his career on the immortal Sysonby in the 1904 Futurity.

Lady Legend, in turn, was a monogamous mare, foaling 11 offspring, all by *Challenger II.  Some of them ran an amazing amount of times:  Steepletop (79 starts); Pictor (62 starts); Yarn Spinner (209 starts); Picotee (246 starts); Pickpocket (127 starts); and Pictoric (103 starts).  Only one of her foals, Allusive, was unraced.  Amazing!

Legendra looked soft by comparison with just 32 starts and while her own produce record did not rival that of her dam for toughness, she did get some awfully sound runners:  Life Jacket made 60 starts; Coalport 43 starts, and Pasha Saied 117 starts.  Hasty Doll lasted 26 starts, Rich Tradition 32 and Mrs. Peterkin 37.

 The Hardin Philosophy and Legacy

Two things are often written of Taylor Hardin.  One is that he was well-educated and extremely intelligent, thus translating his formal education (which included Yale, the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. from Harvard) into true business acumen.

Using instincts as well as his higher education, Hardin built his small farm into a respected nursery with the help of his wife Katherine.  In addition to Legendra and her numerous major offspring, Newstead also bred horses like Lord Gayle, Gulls Cry, True North, White Star Line, Sisterhood, and Hoist the Silver.

In a 1984 Thoroughbred Record article, Farm Manager Junior Little said of him, “Taylor was just a tremendous horseman.  He knew the business from one end to the other.  I think the key to his success was that when he had something he really believed in, money couldn’t buy it.  For instance, when Mrs. Peterkin was a yearling, I saw him turn down some fantastic offers for her.  And I saw him turn down $500,000 for White Star Line when she was a yearling, and that was a lot of money at the time.”

When Hardin died in 1976 at the age of 72, he left the farm to his wife, but she died just nine months later.  Since the couple had no children, the farm then was willed to a trust comprised of three people:  Mark Hardin, Taylor Hardin’s son by his first marriage; Katherine Hardin’s nephew, Herman C. ‘Gus’ Schwab and George A. Horken, Jr. a noted Virginia lawyer whose farm abutted Newstead.

It was a strange arrangement at first blush for only Mark Hardin had spent much time at the farm, but when he was forced to sell his interest in his company in the mid 1970’s, he decided to try his hand at running Newstead.  With the help of his advisers and fellow trust members, Mark Hardin bred such notable horses as Miss Oceana, a multiple G1 winner.

Top Sellers, Top Runners

Because Taylor Hardin sold many of Legendra’s offspring at Saratoga, he became known for selling top-of-the-line animals.  His first consignment to Saratoga was offered in 1948.  Newstead was the leading consigner at that noted sale in 1956, 1960, 1977, 1979, 1980 and 1984, the last four years after Taylor Hardin’s death.

Hardin sold three of Legendra’s foals in a row in the 1950’s and all three became stakes winners:  Hasty Doll by Roman; Rich Tradition by Rosemont and Sky Clipper by Citation.  The latter was a colt, the first two fillies.

Hasty Doll won stakes at two and placed in the Kentucky Oaks.  Her family is still alive today through such recent stakes winners as Travel Plans and Toll Taker.  Rich Tradition won stakes at two and placed third in the Alabama at three, but she died at the age of five without leaving any offspring.  As might be imagined Sky Clipper, as a colt by Citation, left no lasting legacy.  But he won the Sapling at two.

Prior to the advent of this trio, Legendra had foaled the Grand Admiral gelding Life Jacket, which placed in the Pimlico Futurity.  Legendra had just one other stakes winner, Mrs. Peterkin, the filly Taylor Hardin refused to sell.  She is one of Legendra’s greatest gifts to the breed, but by no means her only productive daughter.

Major Branches and Contributions

Hasty Doll’s branch of Legendra has several major producing lines.  One of the most productive is that of Hasty Hitter, who won the La Centinela and placed in the Santa Susana in the late 1960’s when racing for her breeder, Mereworth Farm.

Once retired, Hasty Hitter got the good Bold Reason filly Chancy Dance and she is the main agent through which this sub-branch continues to thrive, having produced Vain Gold (G1 placed) and her G1 placed son Phantom Jet, and the previously-named Toll Taker, a G3 winner by Bernstein.

Her 1958 filly by Battlefield, Lyford Cottage got Prince of Wales S. Battling by Nearctic, but no major daughter to carry on.

Something similar happened with Legendra’s 1960 filly Turn the Page by *Turn-to.  A non-winner, Turn the Page’s major contribution to the breed was the Hasty Road mare Audobahn Leaf who foaled G1 Swaps winner Radar Ahead to the cover of *Repicado II.  Not only did Radar Ahead make a name for himself in the Swaps, but a footnote in both Thoroughbred and Quarter horse history.  He ran third behind Affirmed in the Hollywood Derby to make the first list and his sire was owned by Sidney Vail, who stood Three Bars, the “Lexington/St. Simon/Mr. Prospector” of Quarter horse breeding.

Moll Flanders, named for the famous Defoe courtesan in turn produced the aptly named Easy Virtue, who elevated the family (though not the naming process) by getting major winner Mrs. Warren, named for the prostitute in Mrs. Warren’s Profession, a Broadway play.

Trained by Woody Stephens, Mrs. Warren won the G1 Matron and Spinaway Stakes, the G2 Firenze H., and the G3 Schuylerville.  She placed in the G1 Mother Goose, Acorn, and Frizette Stakes and in the G2 Kentucky Oaks, as well as the G3 Ashland Stakes.  All things considered, Mrs. Warren’s branch of the family has been quite disappointing.  The most recent notable member of this sub-branch is G3 placed What a Tale by Tale of the Cat.

Slapton Sands was the 1964 filly out of Legendra by Meadow Stud’s First Landing. She won but did not earn black type.  A better producer than Mrs. Warren, her branch of the family includes horses like Future Storm, G1 winner Royal Chariot, G2 winner Smooth Jazz, Group 2 French stakes winner Ganges (also third in England’s 2000 Guineas) and the good producer Danka, dam of three stakes horses including the 2005 Kingmambo filly Much Obliged, winner of the American One Thousand Guineas and second in the G3 Boiling Springs Stakes.

Also under Slapton Sands are 2000 Guineas second Lucky Lindy, champion Mantovani (IRE), Irish 2000 Guineas third He’s a Decoy (IRE) and July Cup (Group 1) third Danetime (IRE).

Scrimshaw, a young son of Gulch standing in Kentucky at Millennium Farm, won the G2 Coolmore Lexington Stakes and placed third in the G3 Preakness behind Funny Cide.  He, too, aims to carry on the Slapton Sands line.

Mrs. Peterkin, the Crown Jewel

As luck would have it, the filly Taylor Hardin refused to sell was everything he thought she would be.  A 1965 daughter of handicap champion Tom Fool, Mrs. Peterkin won the Chrysanthemum Handicap.  But her race record is not what makes her so important to Legendra’s legacy.

Her daughter Sweet Alliance by Epsom Derby winner Sir Ivor won the 1977 Kentucky Oaks.  Since that was Seattle Slew’s Triple Crown year she may not have gotten all the publicity she deserved, but she was an exquisite runner.  She fared just as well in the breeding shed, getting Irish Derby winner Shareef Dancer by Northern Dancer, champion of his age in England and Ireland in 1983.

The first sale-topper purchased by Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Shareef Dancer was a $3.3 million purchase in 1981 and was a decent, if not great stallion.  From 16 crops of 580 foals, Shareef Dancer got 31 stakes winners (5%) and 33 more stakes placed offspring (6%).  His two champions were Tahasun (IRE), who had the dubious honor of being the top runner in Hungary and Slovakia in 1995-96 and Al Shareef, a filly who was an equally minor champion, earning her honors in Spain, hardly a world-class racing jurisdiction.

Far better representatives of Shareef Dancer are Rock Hopper (GB) who was highweighted older horse at 5 on the English Free Handicap for stayers in 1992; Group 2 winner Glory of Dancer, highweighted in Italy at two and Nediym (IRE), who won minor stakes in the U. S. and placed in the G1 Sword Dancer.  Shareef Dancer was among the leading sires in Italy in 1990, but it is clear that he was something of a plodder.

As a broodmare sire, Shareef Dancer is undoubtedly best known as the dam sire of Dubai Millennium.  Overall, his daughter have gotten 52 stakes winners (5%) and 40 more stakes placed (4%).  Shareef Dancer died in 1999.

Shareef Dancer had several siblings who won stakes including War Deputy, Zaffaran and Whydidju.  Whydidju, a daughter of Tom Rolfe who won the California Oaks, established a rather nice branch of the family in Argentina which included champion Slew of Reality (ARG).

Mrs. Peterkin’s first stakes winner was the 1972 Nijinsky II horse Dancing Champ, who won the Massachusetts Handicap (G2).  Sad to say, this was the Mass Cap in which Round Table’s G1-winning son Royal Glint bled so badly that he collapsed on the racetrack.  (In a racing oddity, the obituaries of both Legendra and Royal Glint’s dam, Regal Gleam, would later appeared on the same page in the same issue of The Thoroughbred Record  (April 17,1976).

Bred by Newstead, Dancing Champ was sold to E. P. Taylor as a yearling for $60,000.  Racing in Windfields’ colors, Dancing Champ also won a division of the G3 Woodlawn Stakes and a division of the City of Baltimore H.  He additionally placed in the Gettysburg H.  At the time of his retirement, after seven wins in 13 starts, his trainer called him “the best horse I ever trained.”  A few years later that same trainer, Grover G. “Buddy” Delp. would get something a touch better called Spectacular Bid.

Dancing Champ went to stud at Windfields in Maryland and later was sent to South Africa. Before the world went mad, he sired 16 sensibly-sized crop averaging a little over 23 foals for a total of 382 offspring.  Twenty-nine of them (8%) won stakes, 28 more (7%) placed in black type events.  Among his best get were champion South African filly Olympic Duel (SAf); plus South African champions Dancing Duel; Space WalkGolden Taipan, Son of a Champ and Prairie Oyster.

In the U. S., his best offspring include If Winter Comes, winner of the G2 Diana H. and over $400,000, minor stakes winner Ring Dancer (dam of Pennsylvania Derby [G2] winner Cefis and his stakes winning full brother Ringerman as well as $213,894 stakes winner Run Smartly) and B. C. Oaks winner Au Printemps (dam of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Success Express, Canadian champion Charlie Barley and G1 Champagne Stakes winner Greenwood Lake).

Clearly, Dancing Champ did better as a broodmare sire.  His daughters produced 1014 foals and 6% (56) stakes winners, with 48 more (5%) earning black type.  In addition to Au Printemps and Ring Dancer they include Dancing Flower (SAf), dam of champions Kelly(SAf) and Victory Moon (SAf), the latter the chief earner out of a Dancing Champ mare, as well as Meretricious (SAf), dam of champion Irridescence (SAf) and her classic-winning full sister Perfect Promise (SAf).  Clearly, as an influence in South Africa, Dancing Champ is quite an important horse.

Current Leading Branches

Today, Legendra’s family is best represented by the winning Graustark filly Kinema, dam of G1 winner and good young sire Mizzen Mast and the winning Hoist the Flag mare In The Offing, the third dam of G1 winners Balance and Zenyatta.

The beautiful grey Mizzen Mast has sired 10 stakes winners to date and 10 more stakes placed runners from 254 foals of racing age.  His best runners include Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) winner Mast Track; Del Mar Derby (G2) victor Madeo and Lexus Raven Run S. (G2) victress Jibboom.  His graded stakes placed youngsters include Armonk (second in the G2 Matron); Golden Rod S. (G2) second CJ’s Leelee; and Prix de Cabourg (G3) placed Stern Opinion.  Another G2 stakes placed runner, King’s Silver Sun, died this year.

We would love to see Mizzen Mast crossed over Shareef Dancer mares, or mares carrying Dancing Champ or – later of course – one of his daughters crossed back to Scrimshaw.  As usual, Mizzen Mast, considered a “grass horse” (*Nasrullah and Blushing Groom weren’t?), is being punished for this perceived ‘weakness’ and not getting huge books.  The breed suffers, not Mizzen Mast.

In The Offing’s contribution may yet prove the strongest of Legendra’s line.  She has three main branches:  stakes winner Helenska, dam of three stakes placed fillies – Private Pursuit, Battenkill and California Rush; winning For the Flag, dam of stakes winner Restrained, Blash, National Service and stakes placed on the Staff.  Then there is her winning Kris S. filly Vertigineux, dam of three stakes winner including Balance and Zenyatta.

As this story goes to press, Zenyatta is still unbeaten and seems to go from strength to strength.  She is an arresting filly, big and long-striding and nothing, even defeating colts, seems outside her grasp.

Both she and her half sister, Balance by Thunder Gulch, were bred by Eric Kronfeld’s Maverick Productions. Vertigineux’s first foal, the minor stakes winner Where’s Bailey by Aljabr won the Remington Park Oaks.  She produced a three-quarter sister to Balance in 2008.

Balance ran through her four year old year (2007) so she has not yet produced any foals and Zenyatta is of course still racing.

Vertigineux had a dead foal to Aldebaran’s cover in 2005, produced a Pulpit filly named Treasure Trail who is now a two-year-old, has an unnamed yearling colt by Giant’s Causeway and as this is being written is carrying a full brother or sister to Balance.

With three stakes winning daughters (so far) one of which is Zenyatta who, before her racing days are over, may be compared to mares like Personal Ensign, Vertigineux is all set to take on the mantle of Legendra’s colorbearer for the twenty-first century.  And while those shoes are huge ones to fill, having gotten Balance and Zenyatta is an awfully good way to start.

The Pedigree of Legendra

Like most major broodmares, Legendra’s pedigree is a complex network of lines and crosses.  She is most prominently linebred to Queen Mary via a 6 x 7 x 7 x 7 x 7 x 7 cross of half siblings Braxey/Haricot/Blink Bonnie/Bonnie Scotland x2/Blinkhoolie.

Sire Challenger II is inbred to Pilgrimage via half siblings Canterbury Pilgrim and Loved One.  He also carries three lines of Mme. Eglantine via a double of The Palmer to his full brother Rosicrucian.

There is also a double of Meteor (1867) via half siblings Meg Merrilies and Radiancy.  The Gardham Mare is doubled via Skirmisher and Rigolboche and La Favorite is doubled via Fenella and Flageolet.  And there are multiple lines of “Large Heart” mare Pocahontas (1837) via Stockwell x3/King Tom x3/Rataplan and daughter Auracaria.  St. Simon x3 and his full sister Angelica appear, and *Challenger II alone supports half siblings Jocose and Touchstone.

The Cub Mare (Family 4-R) to which Legendra ultimately traces must have been a wonder.  Her family contains such remarkable horses as 1924 Kentucky Derby winner Black Gold (“on three legs and a heart he wins it”); Royal Heroine’s fabulous but short-lived sire Lypheor; Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Hollywood Wildcat and her Breeders’ Cup Mile-winning son War Chant, the previously mentioned The Minx branch and even Nogara, dam of Nearco!  Of course these branches are widely scattered and most horses within them are not closely related, but still!  What a mare this Cub Mare must have been, what courage and character she must have owned to be the foundation of such horses.

New Reines

We thus discover that Legendra does, indeed, descend from worthy roots, roots fit for a queen.  It seem only fitting that we add The Cub mare to the Reine-de-Course list here, even if she was born in 1762!  Naturally, Legendra herself, Hasty Doll, Slapton Sands, Mrs. Peterkin, Sweet Alliance, and Helenska are all now Reines-de-Course also.  There is little doubt we’ll return in short order to add Vertigineux, just as soon as Balance and Zenyatta get their first G1 winners.

Sorry we took so long old girl, but welcome aboard.

Family 4-R