“A good bull is half the herd; a bad bull is the whole herd,”
—A. B. “Bull” Hancock
An Historic Contribution in Great Company
As Pocahontas (1837) is to Stockwell and Natalma is to Northern Dancer so, too, is Rose Leaves to Bull Lea. But just as Pocahontas did not stop with Stockwell, and as Natalma did not cease to contribute with Northern Dancer, neither did Rose Leaves give us only the king of Calumet Farm.
To underscore this comparison, consider that Pocahontas also got King Tom, broodmare sire of St. Simon and that Natalma also got Spring Adieu, second dam of Danehill. And Rose Leaves? Well, she would be the eighth dam of a horse named Distorted Humor and the dam of a stallion named Espino. Espino just so happened to sire a horse named Wait A Bit, who in turn sired a mare named Sailing Home who became the second dam of Bold Reasoning, he sire of Seattle Slew.
Since Rose Leave’s son Bull Lea sired a Triple Crown winner in Citation, this association with Seattle Slew, tenuous though it may be, serves well to illustrate how small a world is the Thoroughbred bloodline. And adding Distorted Humor into the mix, whose son Funny Cide won two-thirds of a Triple Crown, we find that Rose Leaves’ contribution is very classic indeed.
Further, she is the perfect example that great mares just keep on giving. They do not stop with one historic contribution. That is really the true definition of a Reine-de-Course.
In The Beginning
Rose Leaves was bred in Kentucky by W. O. Parmer. She was sired by the great handicap horse Ballot who won the Suburban Handicap in America and the Select Stakes in England before becoming a leading sire in the U. S. circa 1917-1924.
Rose Leaves was out of the Trenton mare Colonial who had been imported by James Ben Ali Haggin. Colonial was owned briefly by Rose Leave’s breeder, and then was later sold to Hal Price Headley and William Baldwin Miller.
Saving Her Best For Her Children
Like many good producers, Rose Leaves was not a good racehorse. She had been unplaced in her only season of racing at age two when carrying the colors of J. W. McClelland.
Her first foal, the stakes winning McGee gelding Ruddy, was bred by Xalapa Farm. She was then sold to Coldstream Stud for whom she produced Espino, Bull Lea and Nectarine, the taproot dam for Distorted Humor.
Espino was sired by the St. Simon-line Negofol, who had gotten a classic winner in Belmont Stakes winner Vito. Espino very nearly joined his paternal half brother in taking that classic, but he ran into a formidable rival in Man o’ War’s son Crusader. A confirmed stayer, he got just 10 stakes winners as a sire, but one of them was Bounding Home winner of – what else? – the Belmont Stakes, and a three-quarter sibling to Sailing Home, the above-mentioned link to Seattle Slew.
Continuing the Belmont Stakes theme of her offspring, Rose Leave’s next foal Bois De Rose (a full brother to Espino), also placed in the Belmont, running second to Chance Shot in 1927.
The Great Daughter
Before there was a Bull Lea, there was his stakes-winning full sister, Nectarine. She is the agent through which we find quite a diverse family, from a California branch that included such excellent performers as Modus Vivendi and Flow Line to the good producer Gay Rig, the fourth dam of Distorted Humor. This group of mares is also responsible for the good German runner Happy Change and the important half brothers Sir Harry Lewis and Sir Richard Lewis.
Distorted Humor has, of course, become almost a household name with 61 stakes winners as of this writing, 21 this year alone. He is represented by such good horses as champion Funny Cide, Flower Alley and in 2007 Any Given Saturday, Hystericalady, Mrs. Revere and Cowtown Cat. Due to his continued success and huge year, his fee has been increased by $75,000 for 2008 to $300,000.
Rose Leaves had her share of obstetrical woes. She was barren in 1925, slipped in 1929, produced a dead foal in 1930 and her 1931 foal by Pot Au Feu died as a yearling. So it was no surprise that she skipped a year after Nectarine and an unplaced Lord Swift filly named Swift Rose, before producing Nectarine’s full brother, Bull Lea.
Bull Lea’s statistics were remarkable: Five time leading sire, and a leading broodmare sire an additional four seasons. At his best, he was Calumet Farm, siring Triple Crown winner Citation, Coaltown, Kentucky Derby winner Hill Gail, and Twilight Tear to but scratch the surface.
For All Time:
Consider these contributions: Bull Lea sired Bull Page, sire of English Triple Crown winner and classic sire Nijinsky II; is the sire of Rarelea, second dam of Epsom Derby winner and great sire Roberto. He is also the sire of Commodore M., broodmare sire of 1976 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Bold Forbes and of Two Lea, dam of Tim Tam who broke down trying to complete a Triple Crown in 1958.
In addition he is the sire of champion Real Delight, the third dam of Alydar (whose dam, Sweet Tooth, was inbred to Bull Lea). Plus he got Good Blood, dam of champion Barbizon; Tap Day, the dam of 1964 Belmont Stakes winner Quadrangle; Airy, the second dam of 1965 Kentucky Derby winner Lucky Debonair and Sun Gate, the dam of 1984 Preakness winner Gate Dancer. We could go on and on and his percentage of stakes winners (15%) is almost unheard of today.
Sadly, his sons failed to breed on, though Bull Page was a moderate success in Canada. Why should this be so? Perhaps they were simply too classic for a breed which was spiraling more and more toward speed. Perhaps the one who could have saved the line, Gen. Duke, just so happened to die before going to stud.
We will probably never really know. But what we do know is that so many good horses have the name of Bull Lea in their pedigrees that he is very much “running” yet today. “Bull” Hancock was quite right; this bull was the whole herd at Calumet. And now Distorted Humor has come along from the same roots to try and accomplish something similar, only with a lot more speed. Thus the line adapted while remaining classic. Remarkable!
The Pedigree of Rose Leaves
Rose Leaves was a highly inbred mare, which is certainly not unusual for the time (1916). For starters she was linebred x4 to Decoy (family 3-H), via half siblings Phryne/Legerdemain x2/Flatcatcher. Next up are half siblings Solon and Bon Accord, which are supported only by paternal grandsire Voter.
Pocahontas (1837) appears via Stockwell x7/Rataplan/King Tom and Kite (family 13-A) is trebled via Vulture x2/Lancashire Witch. Foundation mare Guiccioli is also well represented by Birdcatcher x5/Faugh-A-ballagh. Moonbeam is trebled as well via Loup-Garou x2/Manganese. Full siblings Camel and Camelina are supported only by dam Colonial, as are half siblings My Dear and Weatherbit.
These old names may set the minds of less-than-dedicated pedigree types to wool-gathering, but consider the sheer intensity of the inbreeding, along with the quality – Stockwell – “the emperor of stallions”; Birdcatcher, one of Vullier’s original Chefs-de-Race; Kite, the taproot dam for Frizette.
A Rare Dominant
What is perhaps most important is the dominant classic type with which Rose Leaves is associated. From her two Belmont placed sons to her classic siring Bull Lea to her classic siring descendent Distorted Humor.
Yes, indeed, this is pure classic blood and *Bull Dog’s speed added to Colonial’s classic Maid of Masham roots are what made it so very ready to contribute to the fortunes of first Calumet and later to virtually every major farm in the world in one way or another.
Not all Reines-de-Course are dominant in type, but this one is as likely to produce classic results as Too Bald or *Papila are to produce speed. In this manner, she is very like another major Reine-de-Course, *La Troienne.
In addition to Rose Leaves herself, we also name her dam, Colonial, which is the third dam of existing Reine-de-Course Nellie Flag. Though we had hoped to wrap up The Apple’s entire family with this story, we will need yet another article to properly cover the One I Love and Cider branches.
We are also adding family members Nectarine, Bramble Bug, Gay Rig, Victorine, Sleek Dancer, Ripper-Do, and Summer Time to the Reine-de-Course list. This is a rare family. In a time when speed is all, it is holding its own as a classic entity, versatile enough to win from Germany to England to South Africa and to ply its trade in the breeding shed via horses as different as Alphabatim and Passado, Bull Lea and Distorted Humor. Associated with Triple Crown winners of all types, it is as vital in its superiority today via Any Given Saturday as it was when Citation became the first millionaire.
Welcome, Rose Leaves!