Going, Going, Gone…The Wonderful Blood of *Gallant Man
Once in a while a horse who would be a champion in any other year winds up in a crop so good that he is the lone member which never earns a championship of his own. Such was the case with Ralph Lowe’s little Belmont winner *Gallant Man, whose ill-fortune it was to be born in the same year as two other giants of the turf, Bold Ruler and Round Table, Horses of the Year, respectively, in 1957 and 1958.
Though all could win with their weight up, each of the great ones had a specialty – Bold Ruler was the speedster who could stay under the right conditions, Round Table the versatile one who could run on dirt or turf and *Gallant Man was the ‘cup horse’ of his generation – the true stayer. Among his long distance victories were the 12 furlong Belmont, the then two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup, the 1 5/8 mile Sunset Handicap and the 10 furlong Travers and Hollywood Gold Cup. So when *Gallant Man went to stud folks expected him to sire classic horses, which he assuredly did not.
*Gallant Man’s pedigree, of course, was the key. He hailed from the classic roots of Reine-de-Course Qurrat-Al-Ain, winner of the Coronation and Queen Mary Stakes and one of the Aga Khan’s prize broodmares. *Gallant Man’s dam, Majideh by Epsom Derby winner *Mahmoud, carried on the classic tradition, winning the Irish Oaks and One Thousand Guineas, so his was a truly classic family and his half sister *Masaka won the Irish and English Oaks to prove the point, then became the foundation dam for the Aga Khan’s Epsom Derby winner Kahyasi.
However, the devil is in the details and *Gallant Man’s pedigree is nothing if not detailed, for his inbreeding is the key to his sire record. This little fellow was, in fact, intensely inbreed to the fastest filly or mare the English racing scene had ever seen – the “Flying Filly” Mumtaz Mahal. His sire, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Migoli was out of Mah Iran (Bahram-Mah Mahal) and his dam was by *Mahmoud (like Bahram a son of Blandford and also out of Mah Mahal). This inbreeding pattern was not the only inbreeding in *Gallant Man’s pedigree by a long shot, but it was the most important thing in his pedigree for it sealed his fate.
The truth of the matter is that *Gallant Man confused breeders. Here was a classic winner by an Arc winner out of a classic mare from a classic family who sired speed. How could that be? So when they bred to him hoping for a classic horse and found that the resultant foals fell short of the mark, they considered him a freak when nothing could have been farther from the truth.
As a result, breeders approached *Gallant Man cautiously, and seldom did he get as good a book as some of his barnmates at Spendthrift like Nashua or Raise a Native. Nonetheless, he was good enough to become a Chef-de-Race (a Brilliant/Intermediate Chef-de-Race) and all things considered his record was an admirable one, for it was achieved despite the competition not only from more popular Spendthrift sires but against his two old racetrack rivals, Bold Ruler and Round Table, who also became Chefs-de-Race.
Before his death at the age of 34 in 1988, *Gallant Man sired 52 stakes winners including champions Gallant Bloom and Spicy Living; War Censor (his lone true ‘cup horse’ son); Pattee Canyon; Coraggioso; Road Princess; Ring Twice; My Gallant and the agent through which his sire line would breed on, Gallant Romeo.
His daughters also were excellent broodmares, and produced almost 80 stakes winners including Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk and champions Lord Avie; Guilty Conscience and Babette.
Trainer Johnny Nerud probably paid him the ultimate compliment when he said, upon *Gallant Man’s death, that, “When he was sound and good, a horse never lived who could beat him…he had it all – speed and endurance.” In other words, what the little horse (he stood just a bit over 15 hands) lacked in size, he more than made up for in talent.
But perhaps most of all, he carried bloodlines which are as precious today as they were when he ran, indeed when Mumtaz Mahal ran. After all, how many horses are so intensely inbred to the taproot mare from whence *Royal Charger, *Nasrullah and *Mahmoud all descended? Yet despite the early maturing indicated by his inbreeding, he was able to use the other part of his pedigree – the stout male line of Bois Roussel (one of Plucky Liege’s Chef-de-Race sons) and his classic female family to win at distances that horsemen today only think about in passing.
*Gallant Man’s small size may have had something to do with his remarkable longevity. As he outlasted them in competition, so too did *Gallant Man outlive his two major rivals. Bold Ruler, of course, died young – of cancer – at the age of 17 and Round Table made it nearly as long as *Gallant Man himself, living to the grand old age of 33.
Today, Bold Ruler’s line lives on long and strong in the blood of Seattle Slew and his tail-male line great-grandson Tapit; Round Table’s sire line is almost gone though K One King has been given a second chance thanks to Tom Keithly’s courage. *Gallant Man’s sire line is in like difficulty, and pretty much boiled down to Demons Begone, who was relocated from Claiborne Farm to El Dorado Farms in Washington state in 1997, and where he died of a ruptured aorta in 2001.
“Demon” was a good sire despite limited opportunities and during his racing days, he was a favorite at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas where he won the Rebel and Southwest Stakes and the Arkansas Derby in preparation for the Run for the Roses. Few who saw his Kentucky Derby will forget the frightening sight of the colt pulling up on the backstretch, his nose dripping blood, as he suffered a severe internal hemorrhage and could not finish the race.
The gallant bay was better appreciated in Washington than he was in Kentucky. At the time of his death, in 2001, he had sired 14 stakes winners and the earners of almost $10 million. “This is a huge loss not only to the state of Washington, but to our family,” said Nina Hagen, owner of El Dorado Farms.
Doing a sire search today or perusing the “grey pages” in the back of The Blood Horse stallion register, we can see how far from grace some of our major sire lines have fallen and Bois Roussel’s line through *Gallant Man is no exception. In fact, there is nothing to be found under the direct *Gallant Man line.
There are a handful of sires who have his bloodline, most notably horses with Lord Avie, Stephen Got Even or Dixieland Brass lines, but this is a sad, sad commentary on how little breeders have valued this priceless heritage.
For a time, we had hope for Demons Begone’s Washington-based son Demon Warlock. But he has been relocated to Oregon where he is barely advertised. Now 16 years of age, he has sired only 43 foals, the majority of which are geldings and fillies. So we will wipe away a tear as we write that this is likely the end of the line.
Nonetheless, it should be remembered that *Gallant Man had great stamina, and it is hoped that this story might help remind breeders with a smidgen of his blood of what we are about to lose. Or perhaps the next time you see *Gallant Man’s name in a horse’s pedigree you will look twice and consider that which you have an opportunity to own and develop.
But it’s getting very late in the game. Every year that passes pushes *Gallant Man’s beautiful pedigree farther and farther from prominence and deeper and deeper into pedigrees. We had hoped it would not be lost it altogether, for this is the priceless birthright of the Aga Khan’s brightest and best. To have tossed it away might not be a sacrilege, but it is very close to it.
Instead, those of you who are old enough to remember the epic crop of 1954, honor this crop by cherishing its ancestry, its tradition. The little horse with the big heart, who defeated Bold Ruler and Round Table both on the racetrack and who outlived them all is about to vanish from American pedigrees. Stop and consider that for just a moment, remember the 1957 that gave us these horses at their very best, and think again. What a shame it would be to lose all this forever!
Ellen Parker’s *Gallant Man story originally appeared in Pedlines #26, January 1998, and has been updated for the website