When we first named Sweet Lavender and her outstanding daughter Lavendula Reines-de-Course in July of 1994, we promised to return to the family to write about Sweet Lavender’s full sister Rose Red. Goodness knows we’ve taken our time about it, but we now intend to keep our word.
To refresh the memory of those who have read Sweet Lavender’s story and to introduce those who have not to the history of this family, we’ll begin at the beginning. But before we are finished, we hope you will see that this is something of a cautionary tale, for we have allowed much of this precious blood to slip through our fingers.
The Sweet Lavender/Rose Red family traces its ancestry to 1863 Epsom Oaks winner Queen Bertha, bred by Lord Falmouth. Just as her family began taking a firm root in pedigrees via Queens Messenger and classic winners Spinaway and Wheel of Fortune, Lord Falmouth decided to disperse his stock.
As so often happens with dispersals, not all the prize broodmares went to the best of homes and while the sale of the Falmouth horses no doubt accounts for the family’s international look today, it was very nearly the death of it at the time. It took twenty years for the family to fall into a state of disrepair, and it was on the verge of slipping into obscurity when a filly named Hettie Sorrel was born in 1891.
Had Hettie Sorrel gone through a sale, her pedigree page might have looked like so many one sees today at small, regional sales around the nation. Queen Bertha was her fourth dam and that was as much as could be said for her, as her first three dams had nothing of note to recommend them so far as racing prowess is concerned. However, her dam Venus Looking Glass may actually have been the source of the revitalization owing to her close inbreeding. This daughter of Speculum was 2 x 3 to full siblings Vedette and Qui Vive. This type pattern of intense inbreeding is often responsible for our best broodmares.
Since Hettie Sorrel had shown more racing talent than her first three dams, having won five races, she was sent to the court of the fine Barcaldine stallion Marco, to whose cover she foaled a filly named Marchetta in 1907. Marchetta then became one of the lucky young mares acquired by Lord Derby for the purpose of infusing new female lines into his stud. And it was the Derby stud that Marchetta would meet Lord Derby’s top sires Swynford, Chaucer and Stedfast.
To the cover of Swynford, Marchetta got both Rose Red and Sweet Lavender. Sweet Lavender, of course, is ancestress of such major horses as *My Babu, *Ambiorix, *Turn-to, and Irish River. Rose Red’s family is even more international, but its impact has been felt strongly in the United States and using this family is an excellent way to linebreed to these potent full sisters.
However long this family works its magic on the stud book, it will probably best be remembered for one truly great horse, and that is Alycidon. Not only was the son of Donatello II a great runner and sire, he was the last great horse to race for Lord Derby himself.
Alycidon was somewhat more, however. A truly great stayer, Alycidon met and defeated many invading horses from France who had long been raiding top English turf events. He was bred to get the job done.
His sire Donatello II was bred by Federico Tesio from the family of Reine-de-Course Pretty Polly and his dam, Aurora by Hyperion-Rose Red, had run second in the Richmond and Cheveley Park Stakes. In addition to Alycidon, Aurora foaled Coronation Cup winner Borealis and was second dam of Derby winner Larkspur as well as Derby third Acropolis.
Alycidon might seen an anachronism by today’s standards of speed on speed, but in his day, a fine stayer was genuinely beloved, and prior to his retirement, Alycidon was exactly that and more. He staged some titanic duels with his St. Leger conqueror Black Tarquin but after that American-bred defeated him in the classic, he did not lose again and he finished his career with victories in the three races comprising the “stayer’s Triple Crown” – the Ascot Gold Cup and the Goodwood and Doncaster Cups at distances of, respectively, 2 1/2; 2 5/8 and 2 1/4 miles.
Alycidon sired only 235 foals prior to his death at age 19. But while he did not get quantity, he most assuredly got quality, as he led the sire list in 1955 and was among the top five on five other occasions. He was named a Professional Chef-de-Race and among his best offspring were St. Leger winner Alcide; Derby second Alcaeus; St. Leger runnerup Montericco; filly Triple Crown (the One Thousand Guineas, Oaks and St. Leger) winner Meld; Oaks winner Homeward Bound; Park Hill Stakes victress Almeria; and Cheveley Park Stakes victress Gloria Nicky, dam of Oaks victress Never Too Late.
Today Alycidon lives on, if not in direct male line, through the blood of his daughter’s offspring and in the pedigrees of such diverse stallions as Age Quod Agis, Lobsang, Chisos, Mtoto, Clever Allemont, Mister Wonderful and Eighty Below Zero, who is inbred to Rose Red.
This branch of the Marchetta clan has been responsible for more than just Alycidon. Stayers abound, and two of the best were St. Leger winner Bustino and Belmont Stakes winner Celtic Ash.
Bustino actually had a good bit in common with Alycidon so far as pedigree is concerned. Alycidon was by Donatello II, second dam Rose Red; Bustino was by Donatello II’s grandson Busted, fifth dam Rose Red. While nowhere near the stayer his relative had been, Bustino was born in 1971, meaning that the services of a stayer – either at the races or at stud, were not in so much demand as in Alycidon’s time. Nonetheless, Bustino got some good runners including Ribblesdale S. (G2) winner Dish Dash; Princess of Wales’s S. winner Height of Fashion (dam of Derby winner and fine sire Nashwan); Lowther S. victress Kittyhawk and Derby second Terimon.
*Celtic Ash, an Irish-bred by Sicambre, followed in the footsteps of Irish-bred *Cavan, who had upset Tim Tam’s Triple Crown hopes in 1958. (Tim Tam broke down in the Belmont, however, and never ran again).
Unlike *Cavan, *Celtic Ash was trained in the U. S., not brought over for just one race, and he ran third in the Preakness prior to his victory in the classic over Kentucky Derby winner Venetian Way and Disperse. *Celtic Ash never ran again and was not much of a success at stud, siring only a handful of stakes winners in the U. S., Great Britain and Japan, where he last stood. He died in 1978.
A horse like *Celtic Ash can be viewed in one of two ways, much as the glass may be half full or half empty. Was he a failure at stud because his pedigree was so stout or was he a failure because owners and breeders were not willing to give his stock a chance to mature? Whatever the answer, we do know the result: With the loss of his bloodline, we lose a valuable bit of Prince Rose’s line via Prince Bio and a valuable part of Rose Red’s female clan. Anyone having a mare with a cross of him owns a bit of history.
Lest anyone get the idea that none of Rose Red’s get had any speed, we offer the following two words: Royal Heroine. This nearly black champion miler was fast all right, but she was also possessed of a most uncommon courage and resiliency.
Yes, Royal Heroine won the 1984 Breeders’ Cup Mile, defeating some of the world’s best male milers in record time of 1:32 3/5. And yes, she was good enough to run second to John Henry in the Arlington Million at a distance she did not like from a disadvantageous post position. But it was in the 1984 Santa Ana Handicap that Royal Heroine began her procession to greatness, because it was in that race that she encountered a horror most horses never overcome.
Things looked smooth for “Heroine” and her regular rider Fernando Toro going into the clubhouse turn of the Grade II event at Santa Anita when suddenly, the beauty of the turf race was transformed into a bloody battlefield of fallen horses and riders. Leading High Haven broke down, causing the Big Spruce filly Sweet Diane to fall over her, breaking her neck. She died on the spot. Royal Heroine attempted to jump over the fallen fillies but a horse immediately behind her clipped her heels and she, too, fell, skidding about five yards on her knees.
Veterinarians on the scene immediately decided that High Haven must be destroyed, while ambulance personnel looked on gravely at Fernando Toro who lay motionless with a wide slash across his forehead where Royal Heroine had kicked him in her struggle to rise. With two horses dead on the track before her, and her rider lying motionless on the track, the dazed black filly stood, a deep puncture wound on her stifle oozing blood while the humans raced toward her, suddenly remembering that she, too, was hurt. Two fine fillies had been lost, but Fernando Toro was going to be all right, and soon, too, was Royal Heroine.
But before she was well, there was more to overcome. First was an infection and a ‘wicked fever’. Her white cell count went soaring. But at last the infection healed, the filly began to perk up and regain her energy. She seemed eager to prove herself when she went to the training track for the first time, bouncing and on her toes. Then, in a freakish replay of what had happened before, she fell again. Most horses would have been finished right there. But not Royal Heroine.
Just three months after the horror of the Santa Ana, the black filly with the wild white eye took on colts at Hollywood in the Inglewood Handicap. She took just 1:40 1/5 to negotiate the 1 1/16 miles that day, victress by a half length. Considering what she had gone thorough and what she was about to prove, Royal Heroine was the vibrant, courageous evidence that Rose Red could produce not only speed but that most prized of all commodities – a generous racing heart.
And as a broodmare? Well, she has done well there, too. Her Sharpen Up son Regal Sabre ran third in group stakes in England and two of her daughters, Madame Pushy by Affirmed and Castilian Queen by Diesis, are stakes producers. Madame Pushy’s Seattle Dancer colt Pushy Dancer won a small Australian stake, and Castilian Queen is dam of the Royal Academy filly Carmine Lake (IRE), winner of Europe’s top sprint, the Group I Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamps.
Royal Heroine has had her share of barren years, but most important she has also had mostly fillies, the best way for any family to carry on. With two stakes producers on the books, she also has had daughters by Caerleon, and two by Sadler’s Wells, including a yearling of 1998. If nothing happens to Carmine Lake, she alone could assure that Royal Heroine’s blood will never die.
Two more major Rose Red relations bear mention. The first is 1994 Epsom Derby winner Erhaab, now standing in Japan. His loss to the European and/or American racing community cannot be measured.
Not only is he his deceased sire, Chief’s Crown’s, best racing son, but his second dam, Helvetie, is inbred 3 x 6 to Sweet Lavender and Rose Red. Perhaps we should do a little more research on these horses before eagerly grabbing every inflated offer tendered for them.
The other horse, or group of horses, from this family that truly is worth talking about is the Nato II group of mares.
Nato II was purchased by Bwamazon Farm owner Millard Waldheim as a yearling in Ireland in 1954 and produced her last foal, the winner Outfoot, in 1967. From her six major producing daughters, Nato II forged a dynasty that included 27 graded or group stakes horses and many more non-graded stakes winners.
That is the good news. The bad news is that only bits and pieces of Nato II’s legacy remain and that is mostly through broodmares – daughters of It’s Freezing, Quack and To The Quick in particular. Where there are young daughters by major sires in a great family, however, there is always some hope and these indeed exist. It’s probably too much to hope that one of them might produce another It’s Freezing, a truly fine stallion who was always underrated. But there’s a nice little stallion in Washington state named Personable Joe, by Seattle Slew out of Personable Lady, who has shown some early promise and Gone West has a young son named Covered Wagon from the family who is just getting started. Further, we spied a Quiet American colt named On to Freedom from Exuberant’s branch of the family who is two this year. Maybe he’ll be the one. Watch for him and hope; this is blood we cannot afford to lose.
Rose Red’s pedigree is, naturally, exactly the same as her sister’s and she is sex-balance inbred to Hermit on a 4 x 4 x 4 cross, and is inbred to full siblings Vedette (x2)/Qui Vive and to Melbourne via daughter Secret/son West Australia. She also has multiple lines of Pocahontas (1837).
Reines-de-Course from the Rose Red family include her dam Marchetta (as she is also dam of Sweet Lavender); Rose Red herself; Godetia; Heavenly Wind; Rosetta; Moonstone; Nato II; and Aurora.