The family of a great producer is defined in large part by its ability to diversify. And there are few families in the stud book more diverse than that of *Macaroon, another of those diamonds in the rough imported by Colonel E. R. Bradley.
When Bradley imported the stakes placed mare in 1915, he also imported her daughter *Biscuit Tortoni by Mauvezin. *Macaroon had produced only one other foal, a colt named Crown Imperial II by Martagon. Neither contributed anything of note to the breed. It was for Bradley’s stallions to help them accomplish that.
Horses from this family have truly established themselves as building blocks within the breed, but there have also been some pretty marvelous racehorses and one truly great horse. And the above-referenced diversity is amply demonstrated by some of *Macaroon’s more notable descendents: By Jimminy, broodmare sire of 1959 Horse of the Year Sword Dancer (sire of Damascus); Volcanic (sire of 1978 Horse of the Year Affirmed’s second dam); multiple Horse of the Year and all-time great Kelso; useful sires Native Prospector and Bel Bolide; excellent broodmare sire Better Self; Horse of the Year Alysheba; excellent turf performer and sire Lear Fan; good racehorse and useful sire High Tribute; the fine handicap horse and good sire Farma Way (who is inbred to *Macaroon); and Hoist the Silver, sire of Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Very Subtle.
Colonel Bradley could hardly have predicted such success when he imported *Macaroon. But the family didn’t just produce good horses for him, it trickled on down to other farms like Hamburg Place (Alysheba), Elmendorf (High Tribute) and Bohemia Stables (Kelso). So while Bradley started the ball rolling, the family did not suffer over the years, but blossomed as time went on, much as *La Troienne’s did.
Though fans of Alysheba may argue otherwise, there is really little doubt that the best racehorse to emanate from this family was five-time Horse of the Year Kelso. At the time of his retirement, “Kelly” as he was known to his adoring public, won every major handicap the nation offered, often under staggering weight assignments. When he suffered a hairline fracture of the inside sesamoid in his right front ankle in 1966, his career came to a close with 39 wins in 63 starts and almost $2 million in earnings, an amazing sum for a horse racing in the 1960’s.
Although many historians consider his five straight victories in the then two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup his greatest accomplishments, those who knew him best, trainer Carl Hanford and jockey “Milo” Valenzuela, disagreed. Hanford would consistently note that Kelso’s 1961 Metropolitan Mile was his finest hour.
Kelso was blocked consistently throughout the running of that race, then finally bulled his way through near the eighth pole to win by a neck over All Hands, who carried 117 pounds to Kelso’s 130. It was a remarkable effort, but not his rider’s favorite.
Valenzuela instead cited Kelso’s second in the 1962 Washington D. C. International to French invader *Match II as his finest moment. In an emotional post-race interview, Valenzuela told The Daily Racing Form’s Joe Hirsch of the horse’s great effort, “No horse ever tried like he tried today. Ever! Beau Purple grabbed us by the throat for the first mile and it was a bitter thing, believe me. Then, no sooner had we put him away when Carry Back came up, and it was another gut-puller to the three-sixteenths pole, but we beat him off. Kelso was very tired, though, when *Match came to him, so tired I had to move him off the rail to get him to change leads. Now I asked him for a third try, and he gave it to me! I don’t know where he got it from, but he came up with it. The ground was very soft and very tiring, and he was reeling, but he tried and tried and tried, right down to the wire. He didn’t have an ounce of anything left in him when *Match drew away in the last couple of jumps. Just think how much I asked of him and how much he gave of himself! He ran his heart out!”
As compelling as Kelso’s story is – and it is indeed the heart and soul of *Macaroon’s contribution to American racing – nothing could alter the fact that Kelso was a gelding. So as great as he was, he is not a part of her breeding legacy.
That, instead, is left to horses like Better Self, Prophets Thumb, Beau Max, Native Prospector, By Jimminy and more recently, of course, Alysheba and Lear Fan. All have made an impact, some to a larger degree than others.
There is one unique and interesting aspect of *Macaroon’s story which puts a colorful spin on the telling of her legacy. Bee Mac, who won the Hopeful and Spinaway Stakes, was the first foal sired by War Admiral. Her half sister Blinking Owl by Pharamond II, later produced the War Admiral filly Belthazar, the very last filly by War Admiral. From such tidbits, legends emerge.
After *Macaroon was imported to the U. S., she was bred to Black Toney (the Black Betty branch which later produced Kelso); North Star III (Betty Beall, the most influential branch and responsible for Better Self, Alysheba and Lear Fan) and Buckwheat (the branch which gave us By Jimminy). None of these mares were very good racing animals. It was only after the introduction of War Admiral into the family, and later various faster strains that the family began to really blossom.
It was a thoughtful blending of bloodlines that began with largely European strains, but which was later injected with some of the best known American blood ever to graze the Bluegrass. *Macaroon came equipped with two crosses of Pocahontas (1837), the large heart gene mare. When she was bred to North Star III, he added six more crosses of Pocahontas. But he also added two crosses of Macaroni, a three-quarter brother to Touchstone, who was doubled in Macaroon’s pedigree.
When Black Servant came into the picture, to produce Baba Kenny, he again added Touchstone as well as an important line of Bend Or. Bend Or- Macaroni was one of the most powerful early “nicks” in the stud book, so Black Servant was the first step in bringing the pedigree up to date using an established formula.
By the time War Admiral was introduced into the line, there was more Bend Or added, and his Ben Brush line of Sweep balanced Black Servant’s Belgravia line of the same sire. War Admiral also added a female line of Sundridge to balance that stallion in the pedigree of Betty Beall.
This alchemy of old and new, European and American, allowed younger mares in the family to produce excellent horses by a variety of sire lines without causing so much close inbreeding that it is not prudent to inbreed to members of the immediate family. The late Farma Way, a near champion and multiple Grade 1 winner of nearly $3 million, was ample proof that inbreeding to the family not only works, but it most certainly does not affect soundness in any way. In fact, soundness and toughness have always been this family’s hallmarks.
Farma Way carried the three-quarter sisters Baba Kenny and Beanie M. (his fourth dam) on a 6 x 4 cross. His Baba Kenny cross came via Stratmat, broodmare sire of his sire Marfa. Because he was already inbred to the family, though not on a terribly close pattern, his offspring remain a marvelous source of the blood and will work with any number of other family members to increase the soundness for which this family is famous.
Farma Way is hardly the only example of toughness in the *Macaroon line. Who could forget Alysheba’s near-fatal stumble in the 1987 Kentucky Derby? That awkward mis-step gained Alysheba more fans than all his glorious victories the following year when he topped the season by winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Alysheba, however, was something of a disappointment as a sire, as are many of the Alydar sons, and he was finally exported to Saudi Arabia in 2000. Not too surprisingly, however, many of Alysheba’s offspring have done well on grass. It is well to note that his broodmare sire, Lt. Stevens, not only gives Alysheba his distinctive, scopy conformation, but also apparently is dominating his sire career. Because Alysheba’s dam, Bel Sheba, is a full sister to Wac, dam of the good turf sire Lear Fan, it can be argued that a mare as dominant as Rough Shod II is always going to overpower a family like *Macaroon’s, whose role appears to be blending well with whatever it is bred to.
We look for Alysheba to do somewhat better as a broodmare sire, however, because he was bred to good books of mares from good families and because not only the Alydar part of his pedigree but the Rough Shod II and War Admiral factors give him a good shot to do so. Don’t overlook his daughters as a way to inbreed to this family – perhaps with Farma Way’s young son Cobra King or even with one of the young Lear Fan sons like Labeeb.
Alysheba, like Lear Fan and Farma Way, are also indicative of how far this family has traveled since the days it was producing precocious two-year-old fillies like Baba Kenny and Beanie M. The family has, in recent years, shown a tendency to be responsible for many good older male runners from Bel Bolide to Port Master to Stratmat in addition to the best-known individuals.
It is therefore very likely that more recent horses from this family need a bit of time to mature in order to do their best work. Alysheba’s full sister, Alysbelle, is a good example, not winning a major race until her four-year-old season when she annexed the Grade 2 La Canada and Farma Way, of course, had his best racing year at four. So despite Alysheba’s presence in the family, this is no longer a classic family, but a solid one.
Other parts of this family, which trace to foundation mare Favourite, have taken on characteristics of their own. The Rush Box group of mares has shown a more classic bent and includes double Breeders’ Cup winner Miesque and her classic-winning children, Kingmambo (off to an excellent start at stud) and East Of The Moon. Yet another branch of the family tracing to Languish includes full brothers Proudest Roman and Bravest Roman as well as the mighty Roman himself and this is the speed group.
But thanks to Colonel Bradley’s magic, *Macaroon’s family is still probably the best known. And it is often the lesser individuals, like Hoist the Silver, who can pop up and surprise you when you least expect it.
This son of Hoist the Flag was a hard luck horse with a horrible temperament. As a racehorse, he was run almost into the ground; as a sire he was shuffled about from farm to farm. But his daughter, Very Subtle, was as game and gutty a sprinter as ever lived, and she became the tragic legacy of what might have been.
Sadly, Very Subtle was not bred with any foresight or planning and her death at the relatively young age of 14 in 1998 was a terrible waste. However, there can still be a happy ending to this story if one of her daughters preserves the family line. And there should be enough Hoist the Silver daughters out there that if they are crossed back on Alysheba, Cobra King or others from the family, yet another Very Subtle can still emerge.
Since Colonel Bradley was such an inveterate gambler, we imagine he is smiling down on this series as we detail the ongoing contributions of bloodlines he brought to America. We’d like to think he’d be happy with our Reine-de-Course choices for this family: *Macaroon; Black Betty; Betty Beall; Baba Kenny; Belthazar; and En Casserole. All but the last, of course, carry the famous “Bradley B”.