It was an unlikely place for the dam of a future Reine-de-Course to capture a stake race, but nevertheless there she was, Washoe Belle, dam of Ruddy Light, and future ancestress of Alydar and T. V. Lark – winning the Juvenile Stakes at Denver, Colorado. The date was June 19, 1915, and the winner’s share of the purse was a whopping $670. As might be expected for a mare whose stakes credentials were so suspect, Washoe Belle eventually became a claimer.
When Washoe Belle was retired, she was duly bred to the imported Polymelus stallion *Honeywood and the result was Ruddy Light, who later became the property of John Marsch, a Chicago businessman who also owned her daughter Chicleight. Chicleight, Ruddy Light’s best offspring, was a daughter of the Spearmint sire *Chicle.
Chicleight won the Pimlico Nursery Stakes and became the main agent through which Ruddy Light’s legacy would be bequeathed to the Thoroughbred world. As such she would eventually stand tall as testament that small breeders can and oftentimes do breed great foundation matrons.
One early account of Marsch’s ownership in American Race Horses suggests that the breeder was seeking help in deciding on the best possible mating for Chicleight and in so doing solicited the aid of THE BLOOD HORSE staff. In the midst of such discussions, he decided to send his speedy filly to the fine E. R. Bradley stallion Blue Larkspur.
The idea seemed a good one when the result of the mating, Lightspur, won stakes at two and three. Sadly, however, he broke down at Churchill Downs and had to be destroyed late in his classic season.
The second mating to Blue Larkspur proved more fortuituous. A filly named Blue Delight was the result of the union and since Marsch had given the foal to his wife, it was in the colors of Mrs. Marsch that Blue Delight won such races as the Arlington Lassie Stakes.
Described as big and strong, she apparently was also sounder than her full brother, racing well at four and wining four handicaps including the Cinderella, Arlington Matron and Cleopatra. At five, she bowed a tendon and was retired.
Blue Delight’s first offspring was the Whirlaway colt Blue World who was sold for $15,700 as a yearling. He made only one start and died suddenly. Marsch, perhaps discouraged by the quirky nature of the family, decided to divest himself of his breeding stock, selling all 20 of his mares to Henry H. Knight in 1946.
Knight, who oftentimes acted as agent, knew that a buyer was immediately available for Blue Delight and in due course she was sold to Warren Wright and took up her permanent home at Calumet Farm. It was at Calumet that the real glory of the family came to full bloom.
At Calumet, Blue Delight produced eight foals: All Blue, a son of Bull Lea who won the San Antonio Handicap; Whirling Lark, a daughter of Whirlaway who became the ancestress of multiple Grade I winner and millionaire El Senor; Bubbley, another Bull Lea filly who won the Kentucky Oaks but whose family contains only a handful of good stakes horses; Turk’s Delight by *Alibhai who ran second in the Santa Anita Handicap and was a useful California sire; Princess Turia by *Heliopolis, who won the Acorn Stakes and Kentucky Oaks and foaled champion three year old Forward Pass, who was awarded the 1968 Kentucky Derby upon the disqualification of Dancer’s Image but who won the Preakness on his own; Kentucky Pride, another Bull Lea colt for whom the highest classic hopes were held but who disappointed in that regard though he did win stakes; Delidore, a daughter of Commodore M. whose branch contains the good California racemare Linda Card and finally, her piece de résistance, Real Delight.
Real Delight was foaled March 7, 1949, and the Calumet farm manager, Paul Ebelhardt, made the following note: “Could be another Twilight Tear”. Later, yearling manager Bob Moore affirmed Ebelhardt’s thinking, adding, “by far the best filly I have seen around Calumet Farm”, which is high praise indeed.
Real Delight did not begin racing until three due to a bothersome splint and a large frame (nearly 16 hands 2 inches). But once she got started, all fell before her. Among her victories were the Coaching Club American Oaks, the Beldame, the Modesty, the Arlington Matron, the Kentucky Oaks, the Beverly Handicap, the Black-Eyes Susan Stakes and a division of the Ashland Stakes. Though racing in 1952-53, she earned $261,822 and was named champion in both of her racing seasons.
If Real Delight was an accomplished racemare, her talent only established a base from which she could operate as a dynasty-builder. Despite her somewhat masculine looks, she fairly excelled as a broodmare.
Her first foal, Heliolight by Helioscope, won just $21,635. Yet it is her branch which is responsible for Codex.
Codex, who died after siring only a handful of crops, is probably best remembered as the horse whose bumping war with the gallant Genuine Risk in the Preakness might well have cost the filly her second classic. Despite his brief life, Codex lived long enough to sire several truly excellent horses including Flamingo Stakes winner Badger Land, a good sire, and Lost Code, whose record at stud is even better.
Spring Sunshine, a daughter of Nashua who won the Golden Rod Stakes, also provided a fine chapter to Real Delight’s story, foaling Raise A Cup, a useful sire for Calumet and Mawgrit, dam of Rare Perfume Stakes winner Dazzle Me Jolie.
However, as sire lines often are held together by one great son, so too do fine broodmare lines often boil down to one excellent daughter. In Real Delight’s case, this daughter was Jasmine Stakes winner Plum Cake, a daughter of Ponder. Just a few of her fine offerings to the improvement of the breed include Broodmare of the Year Sweet Tooth and her stakes winning children Alydar, Our Mims and Sugar And Spice; Yule Log, dam of Coaching Club American Oaks winner Christmas Past; Sugar Plum Time, a Grade II winner whose line is doing well through Christmas Bonus and Plum Plum, whose branch is strongly represented by Rich Cream, sire of Belmont Stakes winner Creme Fraiche.
Not to forget Ruddy Light’s other offspring, it should also be noted that Blue Delight’s younger full sister Light Lark is the third dam of Washington D. C. International winner and leading sire T. V. Lark. She is also the second dam of Queen’s Plate winner Blue Light.
Finally, Errard, a son of Challenger II, was a minor stakes winner good enough to place in such major races as the Cowdin and Futurity Stakes. Though far from being a major force at stud, he was a useful sire.
There is a good bit of inbreeding in Ruddy Light’s pedigree, but none more important than her 6 x 5 x 6 x 5 cross of the half brothers Stockwell and King Tom, both sons of the immortal Pocahontas. When Ruddy Light was, in turn, bred to Chicle to produce Chicleight, five more Pocahontas crosses were added, through a triple of Stockwell and a double of King Tom. Thus, in Chicleight we find nine Pocahontas crosses in all!
To make matters even more interesting, when Chicleight was bred to Blue Larkspur to produce Blue Delight, two more crosses of Pocahontas were introduced, both through Stockwell. So by the time Blue Delight was ready to work her magic in the breeding shed, she brought the full force of 11 Pocahontas crosses to help her in the quest.
Of course, Blue Delight had a bit more on the ball than just the Pocahontas inbreeding, which was pretty much invisible in her pedigree by the time she was born. Three sex-balanced crosses of St. Simon’s sire Galopin did no harm, nor did the balanced Domino.
Real Delight’s pedigree is actually even more interesting than any of her female relatives. Here Spearmint appears 4 x 4 through his immortal daughter Plucky Liege and his son Chicle. Added to this element is a third cross of Warble, second dam of Spearmint, through the mare Honeybird.
Spearmint’s paternal grandsire, Musket, is also a recurring pattern. Naturally, he is twice present through Spearmint himself but another cross is added through Trenton, also a son. These are complex patterns, and with Pocahontas behind it all, there is a common thread of excellence that has kept this family thriving for many a generation.
As good as this family is, however, it will probably always be best remembered for Alydar. Born in the wrong year – the year of his arch-rival Affirmed, his was a Triple Crown lost by mere chance of birth. Once in the breeding shed, however, it was a different matter entirely as he consistently eclipsed his persistent rival as a great progenitor. Then in mid-November of 1990, it all came to an end. Alydar injured himself in his stall and subsequent efforts to save him were fruitless. He was put down in his prime as a sire.
A life like Alydar’s is always too short, and tributes were written to him from all over the country. But perhaps the most touching appeared in an advertisement for a new portrait of the horse done by Ralph Douglas Scharff which appeared in THE BLOOD HORSE.
“The big, chestnut Calumet stallion Alydar died in Kentucky at the age of 15 last November. He crossed over to the the land of his forefathers much as he had lived, as a legend, uncrowned…for Alydar never wore the floral blanket of the classic victor, never received the coveted bronze trophy of an Eclipse champion, never was proclaimed champion sire.
“And horsemen everywhere, it seemed, would always wonder sadly how he, who had come so close in everything – he, the best running American stallion since Bold Ruler, could possibly have died without Honors.
“But then, as winter began to grip the Bluegrass, the Gods who ordain such matters, thought better of this travesty of justice – and as the year drew to a close, the name ALYDAR forged its way to the pinnacle of the U.S. sire list, and they crowned him, posthumously, champion sire of North America 1990.”
Yes, Alydar inspired sentiments of this kind during his lifetime and afterward. And he was Ruddy Light’s greatest gift. The family had come a long way from Denver and Washoe Belle’s little stake worth less than $700. All the way to the top.
It is our pleasure to name Ruddy Light, Chicleight, Blue Delight, Real Delight, Plum Cake and, of course, Alydar’s dam Sweet Tooth, to the Reine-de-Course list. Like Alydar, they waited patiently to be crowned and now the crown is theirs.