“The writer knows of no other mare in the history of the Thoroughbred that can match the record of Plucky Liege. What other mare can boast of a record of six stakes winning sons, of which three were classic winners and four became leading sires?”…..Abram S. Hewitt, SIRE LINES.
When Lt. Col. J. J. Vuillier’s first work on dosage, Les Croisement Rationnels dans la Race Pure, first appeared in 1902 he named 28 influential Chefs-de-Race and one mare, Pocahontas. Pocahontas, a daughter of *Glencoe, foaled the stallions King Tom (sire of such classic winners as Tormentor, Hippia and Kingcraft and broodmare sire of St. Simon); Rataplan, whose sire line is best known for producing 1918 Kentucky Derby winner Exterminator; and most importantly Stockwell, “the Emperor of Stallions” whose immortal male line includes such modern branches as Phalaris and Teddy.
Keeping in mind Pocahontas’ bias as a sire producer, fast forward to 1912 when Lord Michelham’s Plucky Liege was foaled. By Spearmint out of Concertina by St. Simon, Plucky Liege carried four crosses of Pocahontas 6 x 6 x 6 x 5 through two sons of Stockwell and a son and daughter of King Tom. This remarkable inbreeding to a mare ranked with leading stallions as an influence may be a partial explanation for the production record of Plucky Liege herself who foaled four Chef-de-Race sires, the full brothers *Bull Dog and *Sir Gallahad III plus Admiral Drake and Bois Roussel.
Often referred to as the greatest sire-producing mare of the twentieth century due to her incredible Chef sons, Plucky Liege’s stallion offspring led sire or broodmare sire lists no less than 26 times, an incredible record. In Sire Lines, Abram S. Hewitt wrote, “Plucky Liege presents an intriguing case of apparent ‘sex bias’ in her direct offspring – both in their racing abilities and in their breeding qualities.” Yet today, Plucky Liege’s female line is also alive and well thanks largely to a group of her descendents nurtured and developed by Tartan Farms in Florida.
This branch, which descends from Plucky Liege’s daughter Marguerite de Valois, has produced such top class runners as Fappiano, Ogygian, Dr. Patches, Clabber Girl and Quiet American,a horse whose pedigree is a story in itself. Quiet American, who won the 1990 NYRA Mile, has no less than seven crosses of Plucky Liege expressed 7 x 7 x 8 x 8 x 6 x 7 x 7. Further, both his sire, Fappiano, and his dam, Demure, descend from Plucky Liege in direct female line!
Quiet American’s pedigree resembles the pattern along which Australisian super-sire Sir Tristam is bred – inbreeding to a great mare (Selene in his case) with direct female descent to her. Quiet American’s first foals raced in 1995 and their performance verified his genetic excellence. Since siring Grade 1 winner Cara Rafaela in his first crop, he has gotten champion Hidden Lake and near Triple Crown winner Real Quiet.
Plucky Liege was described as a quick filly of plodding pedigree during her racing career. Her breeder Lord Michelham, a wealthy London-Paris banker, bought her dam Concertina carrying Plucky Liege for 2800 guineas in 1911. Originally named Lucky Liege after the Belgian city, the filly’s name was changed to Plucky Liege after the brave Belgian defense of Liege in 1914.
At two, Plucky Liege won four of six starts, all at five furlongs, but was unable to find the winner’s circle at all in seven tries at three. Subsequently she was sent to France to Haras de Chamant near Senlis to begin her career as a broodmare.
Barren on her first three covers, Plucky Liege produced her first foal, Marguerite de Valois by *Teddy, in 1919. Lord Michelham died before the filly’s birth and the mare became the property of Mr. Jefferson Cohn who owned Haras de Chamant.
Half of Plucky Liege’s dozen foals were by *Teddy and they included *Sir Gallahad III, winner of the French Two Thousand Guineas and sire of American Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox, who was imported to the U.S. to stand at Claiborne Farm in 1925. He was the first stallion syndicated by the late A. B. Hancock and was purchased for the sum of $125,000 and syndicated among the top breeders of the day including William Woodward and Marshall Field. *Sir Gallahad III, who was leading sire four times and leading broodmare sire 12 more, is generally credited as the first major step to the prominence that Claiborne Farm enjoys to this day.
The success of *Sir Gallahad III later prompted the importation of his full brother *Bull Dog (seven years *Sir Gallahad III’s junior). Though far less talented as a racehorse, *Bull Dog was much more brilliant as a sire than his full brother or either of his Chef-de-Race half siblings and is logically classified brilliant as a Chef-de-Race while *Sir Gallahad III is classic; Admiral Drake professional and Bois Roussel solid. As might be suspected, Bull Dog’s sire line also was more popular with American breeders and sons like Johns Joy and Bull Lea, while they did not breed on in tail-male, have had a major impact in pedigrees and do so to this day. (One example is Reine-de-Course Too Bald whose inbreeding to Bull Dog is partially responsible for her speed influence on the pedigrees of her sire sons).
It should be noted that yet another son of Teddy out of Plucky Liege, *Quatre Bras II, was imported to the U. S. While he won stakes at two in France and at age six in America, he sired only eight stakes winners.
Of Plucky Liege’s other super sire sons, Bois Roussel’s male line today pretty well is dependent upon the descendents of *Gallant Man to keep it going. Bois Roussell, whose sire Vatout was a descendent of St. Simon and thus represented inbreeding to that great sire, was born when Plucky Liege was 23 years of age and was, in fact, her last foal. Bois Roussel ran just three times, an unlikely race record for a great sire, but he made the races count.
Bois Roussel was unraced at two and made his debut under silks the following season at Longchamps in the 10 furlong Prix Juigne, winning by a neck. He went from there immediately to Epsom for the Derby where he was given little chance and went off at 20-1.
His margin of victory that day was four lengths over Scottish Union and so quickly did he begin to pick up horses when asked to rally that his rider commented that had a half mile remained at the end, Bois Roussel would have won by a furlong. The colt ran only one more time, in the 1 7/8 mi. Grand Prix de Paris where after being blocked early, he ran third to the brilliant Nearco.
At stud, he became a leading broodmare sire and his male line, as noted, trickles down mostly to *Gallant Man through Arc de Triomphe winner *Migoli after the failure of 1952 Epsom Derby winner Tulyar to breed on.
The last of Plucky Liege’s great sire sons, Admiral Drake by the Sundridge-line stallion Craig an Eran won the Grand Prix de Paris and placed in the French Two Thousand Guineas and Derby. He became a leading sire in Europe where his best get included Phil Drake, winner of the English Derby and Amour Drake who won the French Two Thousand Guineas and ran second in the English Derby.
Because Plucky Liege died in March of 1937 it may be difficult for some to see how she can affect modern pedigrees, yet take the example of Affirmed, who has come into his own late as a sire of superior grass runners like Flawlessly, Charlie Barley and Peteski. Keeping in mind that Affirmed’s dam, Won’t Tell You, is inbred to Plucky Liege’s son *Sir Gallahad III 3 x 4 and considering only the champions of Affirmed, we discover the following: Zoman picks up another cross of *Sir Gallahad III through Bold Irishman; Medi Flash picks up another cross of *Sir Gallahad III through Roman; Charlie Barley picks up a cross of *Bull Dog through Bull Page; One From Heaven picks up a cross of *Bull Dog through Gaga; Flawlessly picks up a cross of *Bull Dog through Bull Page; Peteski picks up a cross of *Bull Dog through Next Move; and Tibullo picks up a cross of *Sir Gallahad III thrugh Bold Irish! So Affirmed’s champions all gain access to more Plucky Liege blood through their dams.
Other important stallions who feel Plucky Liege’s mighty influence include Sir Ivor (5 x 5 to her through Admiral Drake and *Sir Gallahad III) and Habitat (5 x 4 to her through Admiral Drake and Bull Dog).
Plucky Liege’s other major daughter branch is Noor Jahan, like Marguerite de Valois, *Sir Gallahad III and *Bull Dog, a daughter of *Teddy. Her branch is responsible for German champion Protektor; Epsom Oaks winner Pia; and Group I winners Chief Singer, Regal State and Seven Springs. Other descendents of Noor Jahan are the fine sire Sanctus, a French Derby winner and champions Dead Certain (England) and Le Marmot (France). Noor Jahan can be found in American pedigrees via the sons of Miesque, Kingmambo and Miesque’s Son, as Miesque’s dam is out of a Sanctus mare, as well as via the young sire Distant View.
Yes, Plucky Liege died many years ago. But she is as alive today as she ever was. Such is the legacy of true prepotence in the broodmare, a legacy as strong as any sire’s has ever been. With pleasure we add her and her descendents Satanella, Prompt Payment, Sanelta, Marguerite de Valois, Hostility and Cequillo to the Reine-de-Course list. They are long overdue for the recognition.