Mistress Ford

I will never forget the moment.  Sitting in a Lexington restaurant with out-of-town clients, I was asked to name my pick for the 2005 Kentucky Derby.  With no more than a moment’s hesitation, I boldly stated, “Giacomo is the only horse I like.”  “Who?” they asked.  Several well-placed bets and a good story to take home to Washington later, they darn well knew who Giacomo was.

Of course our initial interest in Giacomo was that he was a son of our great love Holy Bull.  We wanted nothing more than to see America’s most famous race reclaimed by an all-American bloodline (Plaudit).  Giacomo made that dream come true.  However, he did not do it alone and I was well aware even as I chose him that it was his dam rather than his sire that would probably get him the 10-furlong trip.

A Perfect Reine-de-Course

If I was asked to “build” the perfect Reine-de-Course, I would probably say, “Oh, a champion two-year-old who trains on at three to repeat and win a classic.”  =Mistress Ford (FR), the fifth dam of Giacomo, has just such a resume.

=Mistress Ford was bred by Edward Esmond and ran both in his colors and in those of his wife, Diana, after his death.  The champion mare began her stud career in France in 1937.  Three years later she was sent to England, which had always been in the back of her owner’s mind.

=Mistress Ford’s championship season at two earned her nominations to the English classics.  However, a cough kept her from both the One Thousand Guineas and the Epsom Oaks (also thought to be too close to the French Oaks, which was only nine days later).

=Mistress Ford was beaten just a half length in the French One Thousand Guineas by Blue Bear, an Aga Khan bred who was sold as a yearling to M. A. Schwob at Deauville.  Blue Bear was by *Blenheim II and was from the family of Tetratema.

In the Oaks, =Mistress Ford won by three-quarters of a length over stablemate Dorinda, who had been third in the Guineas.  Behind them both in the beaten field was Blue Bear and before her retirement, =Mistress Ford would again defeat her Guineas conqueror in the Prix Vermille.

Off To A Slow Start

=Mistress Ford’s first foal was the Pharos filly Lightfoot.  She did nothing at the races and produced only one foal, a colt by Admiral Drake named Lightship, who did not race.

She improved to the cover of Round Table’s kin Foxhunter when, in 1939 she produced the filly =Dame de Beaute (FR), who placed in the Prix de Minerve and Prix de Malleret.  From =Dame de Beaute’s branch of the family come such good horses as classic placed *Damelot (3rd in the French Two Thousand Guineas), and champions *Hurry Harriet II and Riboletta (BRZ).

=Mistress Ford then produced two more Foxhunter foals:  In 1940 she got Wood Ditton Stakes winner Winter’s Tale, who has no listed offspring, and in 1942 she got her full brother =Fordham who won the Fitzwilliam Stakes and placed in the Coventry Stakes.  She was barren in 1941, 1943, 1944 and 1946 but her 1945 foal, the Fairway colt =Trespass, won on both the flat and over fences and was a good sire in Peru.

“The” Daughter

In 1947, =Mistress Ford foaled what is probably her most notable contribution, the winning Fair Trial filly =Barbara (GB).  The British Bloodstock Review reported that Barbara was a twin, but that “this fact was never recorded in the stud book”.  (Note here that another outstanding horse from the No. 2-D family, Spectacular Bid, also descended from a twin (Stop On Red).  A coincidence?)

In any event, from the remarkable Barbara’s line came not only Giacomo and his G1 winning half brother Tiago but also the gallant *Boitron (FR), who lived for a time on just three legs; the great producer River Rose, dam of French champion and classic winner Baiser Vole, she in turn dam of three stakes winners; Italian champion Squill, quick juvenile Too Much Bling and classic placed Bourbonnais (IRE).


The first good foal of Barbara was Barbaresque, a 1957 daughter of Ocarina (a Newminister-line horse via Chef-de-Race La Farina) who was notable for the company she kept.  At two she traded victories with Sly Pola, a half sister to Polamia, dam of *Grey Dawn II.  Later, Sly Pola herself would be the second dam of the lovely Green Dancer.  Overall, Barbaresque won the Prix d’Arenberg and placed in three other important races:  the Prix Robert Papin, Prix Morny and Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp.

At three, she was fourth in the French One Thousand Guineas before traveling to England and winning the Coronation Stakes by six lengths over Running Blue and Lady in Trouble both of whom had placed in the One Thousand Guineas behind Never Too Late II.  Barbaresque was described as a “big filly who made a good impression on observers in the paddock.”

This branch of the family changed hands several times.  Barbara was sold for 630 guineas to M. Pierre Champion who later sold her to the Comtesse de Chambure.  It was Comtesse de Chambure who bred and later raced Barbaresque before selling her to Winston Guest, brother of Tom Rolfe’s owner, Raymond Guest.

Guest brought *Barbaresque  to America where she produced just four foals (her dam had also been a problem mare for a time).  Her only two daughters, Byzance and Ribald were both by *Ribot and both produced stakes horses, though nothing as impressive as *Barbaresque herself.

 The Next Major Link

Barbaresque was the better racehorse, but her winning half sister by Cambremont, Barbarossa (FR), turned out to be the agent by which this family established its strongest branch.  Barbarossa is the dam of major winner River Rose, dam of five stakes winners, one stakes placed winner and several stakes producers.  One of her best offspring, Squill, was bred on the same cross as Set Them Free, dam of Giacomo.

Squill is by Stop the Music out of River Rose.  Set Them Free is by Stop the Music out of River Rose’s half sister Valeuse.  When writing about Giacomo’s Kentucky Derby winner, renowned pedigree expert John Sparkman referred to Holy Bull crossing on this tail-female line as a “Keene Pattern”, a tip of the hat to the old days when James R. Keene bought British mares to cross on existing American lines like *Bonnie Scotland.

Lines don’t get much more American than Plaudit, and GIacomo was the first American classic winner from his tail-male line since Plaudit himself (the 1898 Kentucky Derby).  Crossing his sire, Holy Bull, on this classic French family was not only a Keene pattern, but with a wink to A. B. “Bull” Hancock, it was also an ‘international outcross’.  Now if Giacomo can carry it a line further, then we’ll have something to shout about in the way of ‘outcrossed’ runners.

=Mystery, Who Was Indeed!

St. Leger winner Tehran was the sire of Mistress Ford’s 1948 colt =Mystery IX, winner of the important Eclipse Stakes over the children of two Reines-de-Course: Lord Derby’s Mossborough, out of All Moonshine, and Reine-de-Course Life Hill’s son Daneshill by Dante.

Though he was obviously quite a good 10-furlong horse, Mystery IX is nowhere to be found in pedigrees today.  Our report on him simply says “sent to South Africa, sire”.

Mystery IX is important to this story because he personifies the only real hole in the clan:  It has yet to produce a truly great stallion.  Boitron stood in California and lost a leg during his stud career; he literally covered mares on three legs before dying what was a predictably early death.  Barbare may well be found more often than most males from this family, but even that is not terribly often.  Squill sired some winners, as did Ministerial, but their deeds have not covered the family in glory.

It will probably, therefore, be left to Giacomo and his half brother Tiago to try to make sense out of nonsense.  Or to make a sire family out of what appears to be, at least at present, a female-biased clan.  We hope they can do it, because both typify the kind of horse we need in American pedigrees today, which is to say something other than Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer.

Continuing Troubles

=Mistress Ford continued her obstetrical problems after Mystery IX.  She was barren in 1949, 1951 and 1953.  In 1950 she produced the unraced Vatellor colt Astre d’Or II, in 1952 the unraced Donatello II colt Master Don.

In 1954 she produced her next-to-last foal, =Miss Dip by Pearl Diver.  This branch accounted for Prix Dollar winner =Fast Dip and stakes winners Dictansa, Lugny and River Bank.  Mistress Ford’s last foal, Miss Fortune III by Tourment. was born in 1956 and got mostly jumpers.

The Pedigree of =Mistress Ford (FR)

Like most foundation mares, =Mistress Ford’s pedigree is filled with classic inbreeding.  Within her first six generations, she is 3 x 4 to half siblings Black Cherry/Bay Ronald (or x2 to Reine-de-Course Black Duchess).  She also carries a 4 x 4 cross of La Fleche and Maid Marian (x2 Reine-de-Course Quiver) and her sire, Blandford, is inbred to full siblings St. Simon and Angelica.

Where the males are concerned, Galopin, Macaroni, and Isonomy are all repeated.  And in the further removes of her pedigree, =Mistress Ford is inbred to Pocahontas (1837) x9 (via Stockwell x6/King Tom/Rataplan/Araucaria), to Queen Mary x3 (Braxy/Haricot x2); to Alice Hawthorn x3 (Thormanby x2/Sweet Hawthorn) and to Banter x3 (x2 Jocose/Touchstone).

She hails from Family No. 2, the Burton Barb Mare and is from the family right next door to our beloved Round Table (who is from 2-f), while =Mistress Ford is from 2-d via Emma (GB).  It should be lost on no one at this point that family 2-d is also the family of Almahmoud, and both of these matrons are, indeed, tail-female to Emma.

She is the 14th dam of Almahmoud and the 12th of =Mistress Ford.  So while they are not really very closely related, it is intriguing to know that they share the same taproot.

New Reines-de-Course

New Reines-de-Course from the family of =Mistress Ford (FR) are Mistress Ford herself, Fast Beauty; Emmy; River Rose; and Valseuse (FR).  Let’s hope that Set Them Free gets a daughter that produces as well as Giacomo and Tiago have and can run.  That would add her to the list as well.

Family 2-D