Comely Nell, Nellie L.
Calumet Farm, that fortress of the Bluegrass, is quite possibly the most recognizable symbol in all of American racing. Weathering storms that few farms have come through intact, it stands strong today nevertheless.
When a visitor lands at Bluegrass Fields in Lexington, it is among the first things he sees; when leaving, it is among the last. From the grandstand or the Press Box at Keeneland, Calumet's acres, acres sown with history and tradition, are visible in all their glory. For if such a thing can be said of what many consider mere livestock and outbuildings, Calumet is an American institution.
Calumet now belongs to Henryk de Kwiatkowski, but whoever owns Calumet also is keeper of her history. And nowhere is her history more evident than in the living, breathing reality of her great broodmares' descendents.
One such mare was Nellie Flag, a daughter of Man o' War's son American Flag and Preakness-
Nellie Flag's dam was bred by J. O. and G. H. Keene and purchased as a yearling by Alec Gordon on behalf of H. C. (Bud) Fisher for $2000. Gordon was an exceptionally sound judge of horses and was knowledgeable about bloodlines as well.
Nellie Morse's dam, La Venganza, was imported in utero and was a half sister to stakes winners Hessian, Mary Davis and Air Man. The family traced to the great producer One I Love, the dam of Affection, she dam of Heloise. The family was also the same as Calumet's great sire, Bull Lea and was therefore a natural inbreeding vehicle for him, though that idea met with limited success.
Nellie Morse raced just two years. As a juvenile in 1923 she ran 22 times, winning the Fashion Stakes and running second in the Spinaway, Rosedale, Matron and Saratoga Sales Stakes and third in the Nursery Stakes. At three, she won the Pimlico Oaks and just four days later defeated colts in the Preakness. No filly has won that classic since, though three others; Flocarline (1903); Whimsical (1906) and Rhine Maiden won the classic. Rhine Maiden is particularly interesting in that she scored her Preakness win in 1915, the same year the filly Regret won the Kentucky Derby.
After the Preakness, Nellie Morse was never the same and she was retired to Fisher's farm. Fisher dispersed his stock in the fall of 1932 after Nellie Morse had produced three foals including the winning filly Sara Burdon. At the time of her sale, Nellie Morse was in foal to American Flag, a son of Man o' War. Her owner had originally wanted a season to Man o' War himself, but the great horse's book was full, so Nellie Morse's owner was given a free season to his son.
Alec Gordon, who originally purchased Nellie Morse for Fisher, wanted to buy the mare, but was out-
So it came to pass that because Man o'War's book was full and because Alec Gordon was out-
Nellie Flag was more than just an historical blip in the Calumet heirarchy, she was a genuine top-
As a two year old, she gave some of the finest performances of her life. In the Selima Stakes, she set a record of 1:38 for a flat mile while carrying 122 pounds. In the Kentucky Jockey Club, she bettered her mile time to 1:37 2/5 while carrying 119 pounds, considered a record at the time for a filly. Those two efforts helped to earn her championship honors as a juvenile.
So highly was she regarded that it was the opinion of some observers she should be tried in the following season's Kentucky Derby and she did, in fact, train brilliantly for that classic but could finish no better than fourth behind eventual Triple Crown winner Omaha. The Derby was a fine effort, but it seemed to rob her of her spirit and she never won another race.
History, however, helped to mend that old wound. Her direct descendent, Bold Forbes, also a horse of intense speed, would revenge her defeat in the Kentucky Derby and then added the Belmont Stakes for good measure. Yet another ancestor, Bet Twice, won the 1987 Belmont Stakes, robbing arch-
Nellie Flag produced nine foals from 1939-
Nellie L., by *Blenheim II, was a very good racemare, winning the Acorn Stakes and Kentucky Oaks but she had the misfortune to hit her best stride the same season her outstanding full sister, Mark-
Nellie L.'s daughter, Comely Nell, by the obscure but well-
While Nellie L.'s branch is the strongest, others are still producing good horses. Ore-
The aforementioned Mar-
"She has fine size, plentiful substance, is strong at all points while at the same time smoothly and even elegantly turned; her head and neck, for so large a mare, are beautiful almost to the point of delicacy, her limbs of that fluted mold which so delights the eye. In the paddock, while being made ready for a race, or upon the course, she commands the almost unrestricted admiration of the connoisseur."
One of her finest performances was in the 1943 Beldame in which she carried 126 pounds, conceeding from 4 to 24 pounds to her ten opponents which included Askmenow, Vagrancy and Stefanita. Her other major wins included the Top Flight, Cinderella and Evening Handicaps and the Spinaway Stakes.
There is much to be said about the inbreeding of Nellie Flag, so much in fact that the 6 x 5 cross of St. Simon (contributed only by her sire) and the 7 x 6 x 6 cross of Sterling (contributed only by her dam) are almost inconsequential. Indeed, the most important overall pattern is a 6 x 6 x 7 "weaving" pattern of Doncaster, as he is the sire of full sisters Clementia and Sandiway (5 x 5) and his son, Bend Or, also has a half sister, Rose Of York, represented (5 x 5 and contributed only by American Flag). This intense inbreeding along with the close-
Overall, Nellie Flag's is a "split" family. From Nellie L.'s branch come two good -
Still and all, every branch had something to add. Mar-
Calumet has had many changes of fortunes, and fell as low as a farm can get at one point. But Nellie Flag was never down and it is doubtful she ever will be. Welcome her and her daughters Nellie L. and Comely Nell to the Reine-