A Classic Mare
It is not often that we present a new Reine-de-Course with the classic credentials of Pearl Cap. After a quite remarkable career as a runner, she retired to become one of the greatest producers of all time. Further, while she is unique in her consistency for producing classic quality, she also is responsible for a rather precocious American sire, Cyane.
Bred in and raced in France, Pearl Cap was out of the English-bred mare Pearl Maiden, a blue hen producer bred by Mr. Hugh Sidebottom. Purchased for M. E. Esmond at the 1925 Newmarket December sales for 1,000 guineas, a number which would be reflected in her daughters’ classic race styles, Pearl Maiden also produced French Derby winner Pearlweed and French One Thousand Guineas winner Bipearl. In addition, she founded a good branch of the family via Silver Fox which includes Bellypha, who was responsible in tail-male for Linamix. Pearl Cap, however, remains her masterpiece.
Though perhaps best known in France, Pearl Cap’s influence reaches throughout Europe and beyond to the U. S. and Argentina. A classic winner in her own right (the Prix de Diane and Poule d’Essai des Pouliches – French Oaks and One Thousand Guineas), she was also good enough to become the first female winner of the Prix de’Arc de Triomphe, defeating in the process Belgian champion Prince Rose, sire of *Princequillo, Prince Chevalier and Prince Bio.
Many such good runners never produce as well as they ran, yet Pearl Cap foaled an Epsom Derby winner in Pearl Diver (FR); a daughter, Seed Pearl, who was responsible for two more Prix de Diane winners in Fine Pearl (FR) and Lypharita (FR) and another daughter, Cora Pearl, who founded the branch from whence Cyane, Irish St. Leger winner Niniski, Group 1 Argentine winner Grand Vitesse (ARG) and Criterium de Saint-Cloud (G1) winner Shaka (GB) descended. Our only regret is that we have not included this rare ‘jewel’ as a Reine-de-Course much sooner.
Pearl Cap The Racehorse
In addition to being a double classic winner who beat colts in Europe’s most important race, Pearl Cap was also an excellent two-year-old. Racing for M. E. Esmond’s daughter, Diana, she won her first five races including the inaugural running of the Prix Herod. She also won the Prix Robert Papin and the Prix Morny and ran third in the Grand Criterium.
So well did she train on at three that The Bloodstock Breeders’ Review called her “the best filly seen on the French Turf this century”. Pearl Cap began her sophomore season with a win in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches. On or near the lead from the start of the one-mile classic, she “had only to be touched with the whip” according to the BBR in order to win by three-quarters of a length from Celerina and Fiere Parade.
On the day of the Prix de Diane, it was pouring rain, but the heavy course proved no obstacle for our heroine who won by a length from future Reine-de-Course Confidence and Guineas rival Celerina despite being hit in the eye by a flying clod of dirt. Her trainer, Frank Carter and rider C. Elliott, had also won the Epsom Oaks with future Reine-de-Course Brulette. The pair would meet in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe where Pearl Cap would be ridden by her One Thousand Guineas partner C. H. Semblat.
According to the BBR’s account of the Arc, “At the turn into the straight Lovelace was leading and kept his place two furlongs from home, but at the pavilion could not resist the challenge of Amfortas. Prince Rose, who had made up a lot of ground, was striving for an opening. However, at the critical moment, Semblat called on Pearl Cap for an effort, and the filly responded with a tremendous burst of speed, to beat Amfortas in a most impressive style by a length and a half with Prince Rose a further length away.” (Brulette finished fourth).
This was Pearl Cap’s final start. After all, what more could she possibly have to prove?
The Pedigree of a Queen
Pearl Cap was sired by the Herod-line sire Le Capucin, a French Derby winner by Prix Ganay winner Nimbus, he by Ascot Gold Cup winner Elf II, he by French Derby winner Upas who was by Goodwood Cup and Prix Lupin winner Dollar. This line goes on back in tail-male to Herod via The Flying Dutchman-Bay Middleton-Sultan-Selim-Buzzard-Woodpecker and is also responsible via Dollar for the male line of Tourbillon.
The feminine bay was inbred to her own tail-female line of Miss Agnes via half siblings Rydal and Muncaster (x2 classics-placed Windermere) plus two more crosses of Windermere’s half sister Polly Agnes for a total of x4 Miss Agnes (the sixth dam of Pearl Cap). This is but one part of her intricate inbreeding pattern.
The champion daughter of Le Capucin also had a double of St. Simon (Doncaster Cup winner Sidus/Epsom Oaks victress Mrs. Butterwick) to a double of his full sister Angelica (via x2 Orme). “Large heart” mare Pocahontas (1837) is represented via Rataplan; King Tom x4; Stockwell x2. Mme. Eglantine is doubled via half siblings Frivola and Rosicrucian. And full siblings Rosemary and “Skirmisher Mare” (Skirmisher-Vertumna) are 5 x 5.
As described above, her dam Pearl Maiden was a multiple classic producer. Second dam Seashell was bred by the Duke of Westminster, and this line tails to Rydal Fell, a three-quarter sister to St. Leger winner Troutbeck.
Such a pedigree is what one would strive for today if attempting to breed the perfect classic mare which breeds on. Pearl Cap, however, was no ‘paper horse’; she really made it happen.
Pearl Cap’s son Pearl Diver by Grand Prix de Saint Cloud and Prix Jean Prat winner Vatellor did not win just any Epsom Derby. He won the one that contained Prix de l’ Arc de Triomphe victor *Migoli (sire of Belmont winner*Gallant Man); Irish Derby and English St. Leger winner Sayajirao, a full brother to Epsom Derby winner Dante; and Two Thousand Guineas winner Tudor Minstrel, who would go on to become an excellent sire.
Pearl Diver beat them all well, winning by four lengths from *Migoli with another three-quarters length back to Sayajirao. The winner also carried on the Esmond family tradition with Pearl Cap: He won in the colors of Baron G. de Waldner, a young banker and the son-in-law of Edward Esmond, who inherited Pearl Cap’s descendents upon the death of her breeder.
Though no one knew at the time that Pearl Cap’s daughters would breed a dynasty, she was not considered a success until Pearl Diver’s win. She had foaled him at the age of 16; just one more reason not to give up on older matron, something we have always felt was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Unfortunately, Pearl Diver was not a terribly successful sire. He did get the Italian champion filly *Beatrice Adams and six other stakes winner including German classic-placed Niobe III and Park Hill (“the fillies’ St. Leger) Stakes third Astraea. Fillies were definitely his thing and in perusing his record it is obvious that he quickly became known as a sire of hurdlers, indicating soundness but not much precocity.
He did not do much better as a broodmare sire. Among the best produce of his daughters were Italian St. Leger winner Baccio Bandinelli; National Stakes and Prix De L’Abbaye de Longchamp winner and 2000 Guineas placed =Tower Walk (GB); and Japanese-bred =Noto Diver who won or placed in eight graded/group races. One occasionally runs across =Tower Walk in a pedigree, but Pearl Diver is too difficult to find in order to use him as a viable inbreeding tool.
Coral Pearl was a minor stakes winner (Coombe July Stakes) by Derby and St. Leger winner Coronach. From her taproot came Preakness placed Jampol, good handicapper Your Alibhai, champion French two-year-old Yelapa (FR) and, best known to Americans, Your Alibhai’s half brother Cyane.
Winner of the Futurity at two, Cyane was bred by Mrs. George L. Harrison and purchased for $34,000 at Saratoga by the Christiana Stable of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Lunger. Mrs. Lunger was the former Jane du Pont and the colt was named for a boat once owned by the duPont family.
Injured at two (trainer Henry S. Clark called him the best two-year-old he had ever trained) and unable to compete in the Triple Crown, Cyane nevertheless returned to win the Dwyer at three for the Lungers. That major victory was the last of his stakes wins, but he had done enough to go to stud where he became a good if not great stallion.
Among his best remembered get are Obeah, a great racemare and dam of the equally great but ill-fated Go For Wand; stakes winner Unity Hall, dam of Linkage and Croquis (she dam of Gold Alert); stakes winner Garden Verse (a three-quarter sister to Obeah), dam of Metropolitan Mile winner Garthorn, and multiple Derby winner and top regional sire Smarten.
Niniski, a son of English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky II, was out of Virginia Hills, whose second dam, Easy Eight, was a half sister to Cyane. A handsome, powerfully built colt, Niniski won the Irish St. Leger of 1979 by 10 open lengths over Ribero’s son Torus and Nelson Bunker Hunt’s Vaguely Noble colt Hypermetric.
Niniski was bred by Caper Hill Farm and was purchased by Lady Beaverbrook in whose colors he ran, for $80,000 at Saratoga. Niniski went on to be a successful sire. Among his best runners were French Derby winner and Arc and Irish Derby second Hernando and Preis von Europa and German Derby second Lomitas.
Seed Pearl, an unplaced daughter of French 2000 Guineas and Prix Royal Oak winner Tourment, established the other top branch of Pearl Cap’s family. And while she did not have a race record to brag about, she most certainly had a pedigree of which to be proud. Her sire, Tourment, was from another branch of Pearl Maiden’s family and Seed Pearl was thus inbred to that matriarch 4 x 2 via Pearl Drop/Pearl Cap.
Seed Pearl’s most important racing contribution was *Fine Pearl, a daughter of Prix Eugene Adam winner Fine Top, which was champion of her age and sex at three when she won the Prix de Diane. Of her win in the French Oaks, the Bloodstock Breeders Annual Review wrote, “Fine Pearl ran on stoutly for Baron G. de Waldner, winning by a length and a half from Bergame.”
Though *Fine Pearl did not run quite so well in the subsequent Prix Vermeille (won by Oaks fourth Haltilala), the loss did not cost her a year-end title.
Today, *Fine Pearl’s line lives on largely via her stakes placed Val de Loir filly Pink Pearl. Under her is the good Sir Gaylord mare Mother of Pearl (Group 3 stakes placed in France) who has a couple of black type daughters in Made of Pearl and Mount of Light as well as stakes producer Malaise by Bering.
A better branch of Seed Pearl’s line actually descends from the winning Fast Fox mare Pearly Queen whose line is responsible for Prix de Diane winner Lypharita, plus King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond S. (G1) winner Belmez as well as American sire Jumron (GB) third in the G1 Santa Anita Derby). Others of note include Palace Panther (IRE), winner of the G3 Seneca Handicap and second in the G1 Bowling Green; winning Group 1 (Prix du Cadran) placed Proud Panther and Any Song (IRE), third in the Group 1 Matriarch.
Lypharita was probably the best known of the lot and she set a course record in her Prix de Diane while battling Fitnah all the way to the wire. Said trainer Andre Fabre of his charge, “She adores good ground and has a lot of courage.”
The daughter of Prix d’Isphahan winner Lightning (by Tudor Minstrel’s son Kashmir) did get a handful of winners, but sadly her line has not prospered to date. It is not too late for one of her daughters or granddaughters to produce something of note, however. The most promising is Sweet Afton (IRE), a 2003 daughter of Mujadil who is stakes placed in Ireland.
It would be a disservice to Pearl Cap’s family tree if we did not include her dam and sisters. Therefore, new Reines-de-Course from this family are Pearl Maiden (GB), Bipearl (FR), Pearl Drop (FR), Silver Fox (FR), Pearl Cap (FR), Cora Pearl (GB), Seed Pearl (FR) and Your Game. Seed Pearl is of special interest, remember, as she is already inbred to the family tree.