“Among the good mares (John E.) Madden bred to *Star Shoot was Lady Sterling. To his cover, she produced Sir Barton, America’s first Triple Crown winner.
“Among the poor mares Madden bred to *Star Shoot was Miss Minnie, by *Meddler. She had started 10 times at two and three and managed one third-place finish. She produced three foals, two of which could not win, while the other, arriving in 1918 was a blaze-faced chestnut colt with three white feet; he was named after the wild goose of Northern Europe (Anser Cinerus) which northern Britons call grey lags.”
—-Kent Hollingsworth (from The Great Ones.)
Origins of Tragedy
Our Reines-de-Course have varied back stories, it is true. But few have as tragic a story as Miss Minnie’s great racing son Grey Lag. Sold by John Madden to the Rancocas Stable of oil man Harry F. Sinclair, Grey Lag won 25 of 47 starts and became champion of his age and sex at both three and four.
And while Miss Minnie left a considerable legacy, which likely reached its racing apex in the on-track exploits of Sir Ivor and Cigar and the produce of Whakilyric, she never again foaled a stakes winner.
Now Cigar and Sir Ivor are not direct descendents of Miss Minnie, but they do have her in their pedigrees. (Sir Ivor’s broodmare sire, Mr. Trouble, is tail-female to Miss Minnie as is Cigar’s sire, Palace Music).
Interestingly enough, Cigar and Grey Lag have something else in common: Grey Lag proved a shy breeder and sired only 19 foals before becoming completely sterile. Cigar did not even get that many, proving entirely sterile despite the best efforts of every vet the Paulson millions could muster to help the problem.
There were rumors about Grey Lag’s sterility, including some thought that he might have been given arsenic and/or strychnine in a compound called Fowler’s solution, common enough in those days. Either way, the poor creature ended up first a riding horse, and then a $1,000 claimer before his shamed former owner, Harry Sinclair, took steps to ensure his proper retirement.
From the Same Family as Frizette
Miss Minnie was bred by Clarence H. Mackay. Her dam, *Spectrum, a winner of half of her 20 starts in England, raced for William C. Whitney, who imported her shortly before he died in 1904.
Miss Minnie and Reine-de-Course Frizette (ancestress of Seattle Slew, Dahlia and Mr. Prospector, to merely name the big names) all traced to the D’Arcy Royal Mare heading Family No. 13. Their ancestry reads the same through Lady Moore Carew (1830 by Tramp). Her daughter Mendicant by Touchstone is the sixth dam of Frizette, while Mendicant’s half sister, Lady Sarah by Velocipede, is the seventh dam of Miss Minnie.
We would not attempt to compare Miss Minnie to Frizette; there is no comparison. However, she did play an important role in the development of the breed and her contribution to the pedigree of horses not in her direct descent but with crosses of her blood like Palace Music and Mr. Trouble is worth knowing about. (We should also mention that in all likelihood, another branch of Lady Sarah tracing to Dryad will probably one day earn Reine-de-Course status as well.)
A Classic Pedigree
We have no way of knowing why Miss Minnie did not perform well at the races, whether the problem was physical, mental or both. We do, however, know that she was bred well enough to be anything but mysterious as a producer.
Her sire, Meddler, won the Dewhurst Stakes and was by Derby and Ascot Gold Cup winner St. Gatien, a paternal grandson of Derby winner Blair Athol (by 2000 Guineas winner Stockwell). In addition to those classic connections, she was inbred to Macaroni (Derby and 2000 Guineas), to Orlando (Derby), had a cross of Derby winner Voltigeur and his full sister Volley and a line of Derby runner-up King Tom, Stockwell’s half brother best known as the broodmare sire of St. Simon.
In addition, she was linebred x4 to the Cup horse Touchstone and his half sister Jocose x2 (she the dam of Macaroni). Years later, when horses like Cat Thief and Francie’s Hat placed in the Kentucky Derby, or Whakilyric’s brood included French Derby winner Hernado, it should therefore have been no enormous surprise.
The Cigar Affair
America’s great love for its champion runners, most recently evident in the mass mourning of Barbaro, is nothing new. From the days of Black Gold to Secretariat’s sweeping run to greatness in the Belmont, these beautiful animals seem to touch in us something better than we know we own.
Thus, even though Cigar is not from this direct line, we feel that it is appropriate to address the Palace Music factor here. We are not the first, nor will we be the last to question whether Palace Music even sired Cigar. It has been suggested in pedigree circles for quite some time that his father was, instead, Theatrical. We’re not going to try to make a case for it either way, because it really doesn’t matter; Cigar is not going to breed any mares, so his parentage is moot.
If, however, he was indeed a son of Palace Music, which is how the record reads, he was like nothing else Palace Music ever got before or after. Bred by Walter J. Salmon’s Mereworth Farm, Palace Music was out of the Prince John mare Come My Prince. Quite a good racehorse, Palace Music won Grade or Group 1 races in England and the U. S. and placed in a Group 1 in France. Sold to Nelson Bunker Hunt for $130,000 as a 1982 Keeneland July yearling, he earned over $900,000 at the races.
Palace Music began his stud career in the U. S. at Bunker Hunt’s Bluegrass Farm and then began to shuttle to New Zealand. He moved to Paulson’s Brookside Farm in 1988 and shuttled to Australia. He eventually remained down under and was pensioned in 2005.
Wherever history finally places Palace Music, he is at least for the time being considered the sire of a horse who inspired these words, written by one of Bill Mott’s grooms, Gilda Libero:
“I slip the surly bonds of earth, and for fleeting moments fly,
“Above the sandy, loam race course, beholden to your eyes,
“My tail streaked blond and silver, leaves a trail of wispy smoke.
“Its plume does cloud my rivals, on it they seem to choke.
“My days are spent quite simply, but pleasant all the same.
“Folks who come from miles around, with reverence, say my name.
“With pointed pencils poised they stand, on every word enraptured.
“Giant eyes zoom in and out, my essence they attempt to capture.
“I bask in sleepy sunlight and chuckle to myself.
For when all the talk is said and done, and judgments handed in,
I and those who love me know, what’s there has always been.
“Eye to eye, who dares to look, I capture their reflection.
“A mirrored gaze reveals their soul, now open to detection.
“With knowledge of the answer, a question I do ask:
Rise up now, so truth be known, are YOU equal to the task?”
We say, for the record, that if one of Miss Minnie’s descendents, direct or not, inspired such sentiments, then it should be repeated and not forgotten. Especially since there will be no heirs.
Thoroughbred racing is full of the stories of millionaires. But few have as much class as Stavros Niarchos and his family. Niarchos bred Whakilyric, a daughter of the Mr. Prospector sire Miswaki, in the name of his Flaxman Holdings Limited (his Kentucky division). She won the Group 3 Prix du Calvados, the minor Prix de la Heziere and placed in several other races including the Group 1 Prix de la Salamandre and Prix de la Foret. Thus, she was not found lacking in quality performance.
As good as she was as a race mare, Whakilyric was an even better producer, though she could never quite escape the long shadow of another, better Niarchos bred runner and producer, Miesque. Niarchos bred Miesque’s sire, Nureyev, as well, along with such good ones as Greinton, Hector Protector, Coup de Genie, Exit to Nowhere, Machiavellian and even Secretariat’s very first stakes winner, Dactylographer who won the Group 1 William Hill Futurity in England.
Whakilyric, however, is the subject at hand and for Niarchos she bred Prix Lupin (Group 1) winner Johann Quatz (FR); French Derby winner Hernando (FR); Prix de Lyon winner Res Judicata (GB); minor stakes winners Walter Willy and Andaan and stakes producers Aspara (FR) and Wells Whisper. She is clearly a Reine-de-Course herself.
Niarchos’ daughter Maria, who frequently represented her father at important races and continues to carry on the racing stable since his death in 1996, displayed some of the family’s legendary panache when Hernando’s regular trainer, Francois Boutin, was too ill with cancer to attend his French Derby victory. Said Ms. Niarchos of his contribution to the colt’s efforts, “We breed the horses, but Mr. Boutin trains them. It is he who has made the Niarchoses, not the Niarchoses who have made Mr. Boutin.” Only a true sportswoman would speak such words. (This was the Niarchos family’s first victory in the Chantilly classic.)
Hernando remains active as a sire today and stands in England. His daughters are one way to inbreed to the family, using our next notable member of the Miss Minnie clan, Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Cat Thief.
Miss Minnie’s Robbers
One of our favorite branches of this family belongs to the grand mare Track Robbery and one of our fondest memories of Track Robbery was watching her win the Spinster at Keeneland. We had seen her schooling in the paddock that very morning, and had long since fallen in love with this tough mare, who raced from two to six and became champion older mare in her final season of racing. Track Robbery ran a total of 59 times and won Grade 1 races in Arkansas, California and Kentucky.
Her daughter Train Robbery by Alydar was a multiple G3 winner, G1 and G2 placed. Train Robbery was acquired by W. T. Young’s Overbrook Farm as a yearling in 1988 for $600,000. Besides Cat Thief, she has produced his full sister Catcher, who earned some minor black type in Ohio before retiring to foal the Grindstone filly Cobblestone Road, who is stakes placed. Catcher has had almost all colts, but Cobblestone Road’s three-quarter sister, Sand Dollar, is also a stakes producer having gotten the stakes placed Ocean Current by Storm Cat. Several other members of the immediate family including Trail Robbery, a sister to Train Robbery and dam of G1 winner Pohave (by Holy Bull) all are keeping this part of the family line active.
Pohave is unfortunately a gelding, but he has several half sisters by sires like Boundary and Tactical Cat. We’d like to see another Holy Bull mating, though that has yet to happen.
Finding Miss Minnie
As we have already said, there are a number of ways to inbreed to this family – Cat Thief on Sir Ivor or Cat Thief on Hernando are just two of them. And while we are aware that some of these lines are hard to find, there are still some mares out there with crosses of Palace Music or our late, lamented and much beloved Labeeb (one of the finest come-from-behind sprinters we have ever seen).
Labeeb’s branch of the family via Lady Blackfoot, is still producing runners and there is even an active three-quarter sister to him named Royal Terminal, not to mention a colt named Windermere (IRE) who is listed as an entire horse, but who went over fences so he may have been gelded at some point. There is also a full sister to Windermere named Passe Passe who may help this branch of the family.
So far as regional markets, Crafty C. T. is still at stud in California and Walter Willie, another member of this family, stood there, so some of his daughters might well fit Crafty C. T., as this doubles Mumtaz. Somethinglucky, another Miss Minnie descendent, also stood in the golden state, and some of his daughters are no doubt available as well.
New Reines from the Miss Minnie family are Miss Minnie herself, of course, as well as Motto, Left At Home, Mumtaz, Come Hither Look, Whakilyric, and Lady Blackfoot (IRE). We hope Track Robbery’s immediate group comes up with a superstar before much longer, as well as a couple of others we’ll keep in mind. This, after all, is a family that appeared for quite a while to have nothing much to recommend it other than a superior racehorse (Grey Lag) which had a sad ending.
Building on that tragedy, Miss Minnie’s daughter rose like the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes and built a line of strong, solid horses who have given much. What price a Sir Ivor? A Cigar? A Track Robbery or Whakilyric? What price indeed!