Grey Sovereign – A *Nasrullah of Another Color
The Eternal Search
Today’s main bloodline search, it seems, is for an “outcross”. Of course as we have repeated so many times, no such thing actually exists in the modern Thoroughbred.
However, we do have some refreshing branches of existing bloodlines which seem to take on a life of their own. Such bloodlines act as balancing acts, outcross or not, to the incessant Native Dancer inbreeding which has so weakened the breed.
In all honesty, about the only other major sire line besides Northern Dancer and Raise a Native that remains is *Nasrullah. To say that selling off so much of our good Halo blood (generally to Japan) was an error is the kindest way we can think of to avoid the word “stupid”. If that had not happened, we might also be able to add *Royal Charger to *Nasrullah, but as usual more people were thinking of sales than of the future, so we sadly cannot.
*Nasrullah, of course, is held up largely by Bold Ruler’s great-grandson Seattle Slew and his son A.P. Indy. This all by itself has a lopsided look. A.P. Indy has been a good sire, but one would prefer to see a few sons more typical of Slew in type, like Capote and Slew City Slew represented by good sons. Yet there seems to be some prejudice against them, for what possible reason we cannot imagine.
More *Nasrullah strength remains via Red God/Blushing Groom, most recently via champion sprinter Cherokee Run. And then there is the rebirth of the wonderful Grey Sovereign line.
Odd Horse Out
Grey Sovereign, a brilliant Chef-de-Race, should have been a natural to establish a strong sire line in the U. S. However, he did run in Europe, and Americans seem to have a natural prejudice against “grass horses” (they forget that *Nasrullah, *Royal Charger, Lyphard, Nureyev and any number of others ran in Europe).
The handsome Grey Sovereign came upon the racing scene just a year after his three-quarter brother, Nimbus, won the Epsom Derby. Their dam Kong, a grey mare by the grey Baytown, inherited his stand-out coat color right down his female line from the mare Queen Herodias by the grey The Tetrarch.
Since The Tetrarch is such a source of speed, it is intriguing that Nimbus, a chestnut, did not pass on as much “lick” as Grey Sovereign. The grey descendents (such as Mumtaz Mahal) tended to beget the speed of The Tetrarch, which is worth knowing.
Kong’s pedigree is also worthy of mention. Her dam Clang by Hainult (a half brother to Phalaris) was inbred to full siblings Sainfoin and Sierra and to half siblings La Fleche and Maid Marian, and overall she had a double of Canterbury Pilgrim via Chaucer and Swynford. Like most mares of her time (Kong was a foal of 1933), she was linebred to St. Simon.
Like many *Nasrullah’s, Grey Sovereign was at times a handful. His temperament may have compromised his racing career, but he nonetheless won the important Richmond Stakes at Goodwood and also placed in the Coventry, Challenge and Nunthorpe (Sweep) Stakes.
He ran only through the end of his four-year-old season and retired at the end of 1952. From that time forward, he enjoyed full books of mares almost immediately at Derisley Wood Stud, Newmarket, where he stood as the property of Mr. J. K. Measures.
The best offspring of Grey Sovereign are most certainly worth a mention. They include English and Irish champion two-year-old *Young Emperor, a horse you may remember from our story on Reine-de-Course Jayjean. *Young Emperor is the sire of Irule, dam of champion Sookera, she dam of stakes winners Field Dancer, So Factual and Bold Fact.
Other daughters of *Young Emperor include Sovereign Lady, dam of Great Lady M., she dam of Horse of the Year Lady’s Secret and Old Goldie, dam of major winners Lot O’Gold and Golden Derby.
Then there is champion two-year-old filly *La Tendress, who produced only one foal. But that foal was Prince Tenderfoot, winner of the Coventry Stakes and a sire of stakes winners like Icing (Hoover Fillies Mile) and Lady Blackfoot (placed in the Phoenix Sprint and later dam of the excellent miler Labeeb.)
Other top runners include champion English sprinter Matatina, dam of New Chapter (Irish Sweeps Lincoln H.) and top Japanese runner Sunny Ciboulette (JPN). Also of note is second highweighted two-year-old Queensberry, dam of the top class Cranberry Sauce (winner of the Nell Gwyn, Sun Chariot, and Pretty Polly Stakes and second in the Yorkshire Oaks.) And there is French 2000 Guineas winner Don, out of Diviana by *Toulouse Lautrec, who after a good start at stud in Europe was exported to Japan.
Another good son of Grey Sovereign who would become a fine sire is Sovereign Path (second leading sire in England in 1970). Sovereign Path was basically a miler and won four stakes including the Lockinge and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and placed in eight others.
Sovereign Path’s major winners include Wolver Hollow, winner of the Eclipse Stakes and placed in four other important events, and sire himself of champion and classic winner (Two Thousand Guineas) Wollow.
Our all-time favorite of Grey Sovereign sons is the late Zeddaan. A French 2000 Guineas winner, Zeddaan gave us such luminaries as Kalamoun, also a French 2000 winner, and sire of Kalaglow (Brigadier Gerard, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth [Diamond] Stakes, etc. and the wonderful Kenmare, winner of the Prix Thomas Bryon and sire of fine sire Highest Honor, French 2000 Guineas winner Kendor and Vert Amande, winner of the Prix Maurice De Nieuil and third in the Arc (to Subotica and the great mare User Friendly).
So basically, we were talking about a sire of wonderful milers, at least in Europe. And a male line that seemed to excel in the French 2000 Guineas.
But what about American runners by Grey Sovereign? Well, there is *Merry Ruler, winner of the Swift and Bayshore Stakes and the Toboggan, Gravesend and Carter Handicaps and second in the Metropolitan Mile (to champion Carry Back). *Merry Ruler, a gelding, ran 64 times and won 20 of his starts and placed in 22 others.
Then there is American runner *Grey Monarch who won the Saratoga Special, and Jockey Club Handicap and who won or placed in 30 other stakes including the Florida Derby and Travers Stakes. Also a tough fellow, *Grey Monarch made 83 starts, won 13 and placed in 32 others. Moving right along, we have the U. S. raced Willowick, a colt out of *Teresa Negro by *Ribot who won the San Fernando Stakes at Santa Anita and placed in several other stakes including the San Felipe Handicap. He lasted 32 starts.
There are more examples, but these few will serve to illustrate that the Grey Sovereigns ran just as well in the U. S. as they did abroad and that they were productive once at stud, also.
Besides, the cold, hard totals speak for themselves: 20 crops with only 418 foals. But of those 418, 48 won stakes and 40 others placed in them. That’s a 10% and 11% strike rate. Grey Sovereign was pure quality.
And Excellent Daughters
One of our all-time favorite quotes from the late Hall-of-Fame trainer P. G. Johnson concerned his claiming a Grey Sovereign mare sight unseen. When someone questioned the wisdom of his not seeing the horse in the flesh before laying his money down, P. G. said, “I don’t care if she looks like a giraffe, she’s a Grey Sovereign. How often do I get a chance to own one of those?”
Of course, P. G. had a good reason for his high opinion of Grey Sovereign daughters. One of them, Grey Table, had produced his $472,837 stakes winner Quiet Little Table, a multiple graded stakes winner who upset Forego in the 1977 Suburban Handicap.
In our opinion, all truly great sires have not only good runners, but good sire sons and good broodmare daughters. Grey Sovereign’s daughters most certainly did not let him down.
Again, the numbers are compelling: His daughters produced 75 stakes winners and 73 stakes placed runners. A lower percentage (6% on both counts) than his numbers as a sire, but then his is a sire line which is more powerful from the top line than the bottom.
Among the top produce of his daughers are the above-mentioned Quiet Little Table, Aunt May (Yorkshire Oaks, second in the Epsom Oaks), Stintino (Criterium De Saint-Cloud, Prix Lupin, etc.), *Tudor Grey (Great Surrey S., 2nd July S.), Piamem (Fall Highweight H.), Hail the Grey (Santa Barbara H., etc.), Gems and Roses (Sheepshead Bay H., G2, etc.), Mummy’s Pet (Hyperion, Norfolk S., etc.), Parsimony (July Cup, Cork And Orrery S.), Recupre (Prix Du Cadran, G1, Seneca H. etc.), King of Macedon (champion sprinter in France), and Smeralda, second dam of the brilliant filly miler Royal Heroine (G1).
From a recent printout, it is clear that the daughters of Grey Sovereign were not always in the best hands. Some were sent to foreign countries with lesser sires, others to regional breeding programs in the U. S. where their owners had no idea what to do with them. In spite of that, they gave more than most might have under such conditions, and they are a credit to him.
A Top Stallion
So Grey Sovereign had every right to succeed and he has every right to still be around. His sire line filters down to most American runners via Caro-Cozzene and via Caro-Siberian Summer.
In other parts of the world, the Kalamoun blood is still around via Tony Bin (Japan), via Sovereign Path – Wolver Hollow (England) and Don (Italy and Japan). We certainly wish there was more of it, but what remains is generally of the highest quality.
For example, the Grey Sovereign blood – though there is less of it than most – has had a profound impact on the Breeders’ Cup. Cozzene, of course, won the Breeders’ Cup Mile and he has sired two Breeders’ Cup winners, Classic victor Alphabet Soup, now a successful sire and Turf winner Tikkanen.
Then there is Caro’s other fine sire son, With Approval, who was recently exported to Great Britain. With Approval was a Canadian Triple Crown winner who was never really appreciated in this country, nor was his son Talkin Man, who sired Better Talk Now, upset winner of the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf. Talkin Man is now at stud in Ireland, so the With Approval branch of Caro is now at risk in the U. S.
The other major branch of Grey Sovereign that appears to be very strong indeed is that of California sire In Excess (IRE) by Caro’s son Siberian Express. Though he was possessed of an unfamiliar pedigree, In Excess has the type lineage that fits almost every line and cross imaginable and in spite of passing on a great deal of unsoundness to his offspring – none of them last long – they all can run.
In Excess’ best-known sire son, Indian Charlie, is typical of his get. He lasted only five starts but during that brief time on the track he won a G1 (the Santa Anita Derby) and managed to run third in the Kentucky Derby behind double classic winner Real Quiet and eventual Belmont winner Victory Gallop). If you only have a few starts in you, might as well make ’em count.
Indian Charlie is off to an excellent start at stud and he nearly got a Santa Anita Derby winner himself, when Indian Express just missed in the 2003 renewal. He does have a son due to go to stud, Bwana Charlie, a G2 winner who, like Indian Express, is out of a Halo mare. Indian Express is also retired and is now at stud in Florida.
A Wondrous Mixture
When Caro, the source of all this class, first came to the U. S., there were many skeptics. Despite the speed of the Grey Sovereign line and despite Caro’s sire, Fortino II, being a very fast sprinter, breeders looked at his overall pedigree and said, “Grass.” And of course Caro himself ran on the grass, winning the French 2000 Guineas like so many of his tribe. But Caro was something more.
He was less precocious than some Grey Sovereigns, and was only stakes placed at two, and while he won his classic at three, he ran on at four. In fact, he had his best year as a four-year-old and was crowned the champion of his age and sex when he won the Prix Ganay, Prix d’Harcourt, and Prix Dollar and placed in the Eclipse Stakes and Prix Foy.
The majority of his stamina, of course, came to him via his tail-female line (he traces to Black Duchess) and with names like Precipitation, Hurry On, Bachelor’s Double and Solario in the mix, he could hardly have been a mere sprinter. Yet perhaps his most intriguing cross was a double of Nogara via Nearco and Nervesa that occurred in the pedigree of his sire. In fact, *Fortino II is tail-female to Nogara, something well worth noting.
As a matter of fact, *Fortino II was one of the strangest mixes we’ve discussed for a long time. There is *Nasrullah/Grey Sovereign on top, then Man o’ War and Padua come in via Relic, his broodmare sire, to give him some American flavor. Add the German inbreeding to the broodmare Hollebeck via half siblings Olba and Oretello and the Tesio flavor via Nogara, which is Italian, and one has a true international horse.
Grey Sovereign, of course, brings in that Hainault line, so Phalaris x2/Hainault appears overall and Fortino II carries a treble of Havresac II, two from Nogara and one via the German sire Orsenigo. Given the type horse most Germans favor (and the presence of solid Chef Oleander) as Orsenigo’s sire, there was a bit of stamina in Fortino II, too.
So there you have it – a unique *Nasrullah line and one that appears to be hanging on. Cozzene left us Mizzen Mast but In Excess via Uncle Mo rules the day in America, and looks to become the Domino of Grey Sovereign *Nasrullahs, and with more than one to keep the line alive. Further, there is Highest Honor in France, as well as Dunkerque and Silver Frost.
Long live the “good grey blood.”