Spy Song



Ellen Parker


We don’t have too much time these days to simply sit and reflect.   But when we do, we find our thoughts wandering more and more toward the death of sire lines we wish were still available to the American Thoroughbred.   One line we miss very much is that of Spy Song.

True, Spy Song’s blood will never die altogether so long as the Storm Cat line is around, which is probably going to be forever.   But the Crimson Satan line he carries via Crimson Saint is no help to the tail-male line of Spy Song.

Spy Song was bred by Dixiana Farm from the double champion Mata Hari.   It was said of Mata Hari that she would have liked assistant starters for breakfast but had them for lunch and dinner anyway.   She never entirely reproduced herself at stud, but her best son, Spy Song, had so much promise that he sent chills down the spine of those who saw him run.

The handsome fellow began his career at 4 1/2 furlongs, won by 12 lengths and set a track record.   He won his next two starts almost as easily, but suffered an unfortunate injury in his fourth outing.

The problem occurred at the start of the Washington Park Futurity.   The colt took a backward step and as he sprang forward he was bumped on either side.   In the next few awkward steps, he regained his feet but cut a knee and rapped a tendon in his right fore.   Accounts of the race note that he made it up to third on his courage alone, but he could not sustain his move and finished fifth.

Spy Song did not run again at two.   But his will to win, even in his lone defeat, was lost on no one and he was ranked equal with Star Pilot and Revoked at 126 pounds on the Experimental Handicap.

We will never know just how much that early injury affected Spy Song, but we do know he lasted 36 starts in spite of it and that even though he ran into Triple Crown winner Assault the following year, he managed to run second in his Kentucky Derby.   But Spy Song was, first and best, a sprinter.

He continued to race through his five-year-old season and won all the good Chicago sprints of his day – the Chicago and Myrtlewood and Clang Handicaps.   At five, he ran second in the now G1 Vosburg.

So here was a horse who could set a track record at four and a half furlongs, run second at 1 1/4 miles in the toughest company at three, and hold his own in the best sprints of his day.   His dam was a double champion, his sire a Domino-line standard bearer.

Plus, like many wonderful racers, he had a most unusual pedigree.   He was linebred to half siblings Peter Pan x2/Fairy Slipper (his sixth dam) on a 3 x 3 x 6 cross – a bit awkward, but quite workable when one considers that the Peter Pan was 3 x 3. Spy Song also carried a 6 x 6 cross of full siblings Sierra and Sainfoin.   Mata Hari’s hot blood can, of course, be explained by her Hastings double.  (Hastings was the *Ribot of early American pedigrees.)

It is of note that this is also the tail-female line of Questionnaire and crossing Questionnaire and his Rough’n Tumble tail-male kin like Holy Bull has worked very well, especially via Green Dancer.   We liked the Green Dancer/Grey Dawn II cross created by this mixture (doubling Ampola), but the linebreeding to this family (Cinderella branch of Mabille, family 2-O) is also due a tip of the hat.

All of which simply strengthens the argument that Spy Song was worth saving.   Today, of course, we find him most often in the Storm Cat children and grandchildren, but there are many more gifts that this courageous speedster has imparted over the years.   He is sire of Sly Pola, the second dam of the beautiful Green Dancer and of Royal Note, who appears in the pedigree of Relaunch and Tapit.  Spy Song’s full brother, Mr. Music is another to look for and appears most significantly in the pedigree of Slewpy’s offspring.

Other of his offspring include Wild Music, second dam of Lord Gaylord, sire of the wonderful Lord Avie, and Dark Duet, fourth dam of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Concern.   And let us not forget Honey Lake, a Spy Song daughter who is the third dam of Marquetry, sire of two Breeders’ Cup winners, and the fourth dam of of multiple G1 winner You.

Capturing the female line of Spy Song is distinctly more difficult, though the advent of First Class Gal (she descends from Fairy Slipper via Tripping, Spy Song via Nethersole) gives one hope. The main problem is that Mata Hari had only one daughter, Sub Rosa.   And as one can discern from the included printout, her branch was not treated with much respect.   Minor stakes winners from the most obscure locations populate this wonderful blood and it makes one cringe to think of mares from this grand old family so squandered.   If you find a daughter of this family and want to use her with Spy Song, be sure you are using a branch that at least has decent sires in it, not some of the peculiar souls who have been used here.

For now, however, we continue to hope that a Spy Song tail-male sire is out there somewhere.   But alas the ‘grey pages’ of the Blood Horse stallion book and other sources tell us that the tail-male line of this wonderful speed horse is gone.   So years after we first wrote this story, we are still appealing to you, our readers, to let us know if you happen to see a horse from this line – some obscure fellow who might be standing to a Quarter book or who is siring only a foal or two for a small breeder in an out of-the-way locale.

If you know of such a horse, let us know about him.   We’d like to talk to his owner and maybe put his picture out there on the web site so that people know this sound old American blood still lives on, as it should.   After all, there wouldn’t be any Storm Cats without it.


MATA HARI, b. f. 1931

By Peter Hastings-War Woman by Man o’ War

Champion Two-Year-Old Filly, Champion Three-Year-Old Filly

Sub Rosa, 1942 f. by Balladier.  Unraced.

Wondring, 1947 f. by Pensive. Ashland S., 2nd Kentucky Oaks.

Solution, 1954 c. by *Cortil. Meadowland H.

Wonder Star, 1955 f. by *Noor. 2nd Cleopatra H.

Daytripper, 1966 f. by Swoon’s Son. Winner.

Brown Tiger, 1980 f. by Captain Cee Jay.  Molly Butler H., etc.

Tudor Wonder, 1962 f. by *King of the Tudors. Unraced.

Kentucky Beauty. Champion at 2 and 3 in Puerto Rico.

King Fulcrum, 1966 c. by Fulcrum. 3rd Hyde Park S.

Tapu, 1953 f. by Polynesian. Winner.

Apturn, 1970 c. by Turn Right. Birmingham H.

Autonesian, 1967 f. by *Sir Ribot. Miss St.Louis S.

Exerne, 1974 f. by Al Hattab. Jasmine S., 2nd Spinaway S., G1.

Hustlin’ Harriet, ‘77 f. by Rock Talk. 3rd Cameo S.

Alusian Knight, 1968 f. by Jeff’s Uh Oh. Winner.

Strike The Knight, 1985 f. by Jeff’s Uh Oh. Challenger S.

Night At Xodas, 1980 f. by Xoda. Little Lady S.

Tappy, 1965 f. by Citation. Unplaced.

Kid Calvert, 1971 c. by Exclusive Native. Centennial Derby, 2nd Ak-Sar-Ben Board of Gov’s H., G3.

Accoustical, 1979 c. by Stop The Music.  3rd Will Rogers H., G2.

Guessing, 1957 f. by *Cortil. Winner.

First Clue, 1963 c. by Fulcrum. Inaugural S.

Guess Right, 1966 f. by Golden Ruler. Unplaced.

Tinsley’s Hope, 1974 c. by Tinsley. Midwest H.

Fleet Wonder, 1958 f. by Count Fleet. Winner.

Empress Mary, 1969 f. by Golden Ruler. Winner.

Asian Emperor, 1974 c. by More Asian.

Sub Fleet, 1949 f. by Count Fleet. Kentucky Jockey Club s., 2nd Kentucky Derby, etc.

Prithee, 1950 f. by Requested. Unraced.

Tulyarlater, 1964 c. by *Tulyar. 3rd Governor’s Handicap.

Allen Adair, 1961 c. by *Cortil. 2nd Bluegrass S.

Whispered, 1951 f. by Requested. Unraced.

Honor Count, 1960 f. by Count of Honor. Winner.

Count to Fifty, 1972 f. by Fiftieth State. Placed.

Imacornishcountess, 1979 f. by Imacornishprince. 2nd Mountain Vixen H.

Soft Spoken, 1957 f. by Errard. Unraced.

Deep Spoken, 1965 f. by Deep Sun. Denver Post Colorado Lassie S.

Catechumen, 1958 f. by Roman Sandal. Unraced.

Catulyah, 1965 f. by *Tulyar.  New Mexico Thoroughbred Derby.

Secret Honor, 1957 f. by Citation. 2nd Molly Pitcher H.

Honor Point, 1964 f. by Traffic Judge. Unraced.

Mtn. Point, 1971 c. by Mito. Lafayette Futurity.

Point of Blance, 1970 f. by Fulcrum. 2nd Hendrie H.

Castlemartin King. Levmoss Glencairn S., G3.

Double Nickles, 1974 f. by *King of the Tudors.

Marion’s Madel, 1983 f. by Silent Dignity.  Miss Preakness S.

Spy Song, 1943 c. by Balladier. Arlington Futurity, Hawthorne Speed H., 2nd Kentucky Derby, etc.

Mr. Music, 1948 c. by Balladier. Unraced.

Spy Defense, 1950 c. by Bull Lea. 2nd Kentucky Jockey Club S.

Roman Spy, 1951 c. by Roman. Motor City H.

Family 2-O