The German Thoroughbred is one animal about whom many American breeders still have serious doubts. So little is written regarding the major meetings in Germany, so little information regarding German champions is disseminated in the U.S. that many Americans can only scratch their heads and say “Who?” when a German horse’s name or family is mentioned. Which is one reason why Lando was such a puzzle to many people in the 1995 Breeders’ Cup (where he ran poorly) and the Japan Cup (which he won).
In brief, several sources including the Keeneland library, J. A. Allen Booksellers of London and European pedigree researchers/associates all inform us that no definitive text (in English) exists on the German racehorse and his origins. Only bits and pieces of information filter out: For example, it is widely accepted that Mill Reef worked well with German mares. We all know who Lando and Borgia are now and how unique and powerful their pedigree profiles really are. And we have since been treated to the class and toughness of Running Stag, whose broodmare sire, Orsini II, was a German-bred.
The Reine-de-Course series has touched briefly on German horses, as in the case of The Squaw II, who was actually captured by the Germans during World War II and recaptured in 1943, and Catnip, whose offspring made a major contribution to German racing through Nera Di Bicci.
But our current subject, Schwarzblaurot, was German bred and born and many of her offspring are German-raced as well. So why is she important to American breeders? How about American grass champion Steinlen, who descends from her – or English Derby winner Slip Anchor, sire of the great filly User Friendly – or Star Lift, third in the 1989 Breeders’ Cup Turf – or Sagace, the Arc de Triomphe winner who stood at Calumet Farm during his all-too-brief stud career and sired 1993 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arcangues, no doubt the only real major hope to keep Luthier’s sire line alive? Yes, indeed, this diverse group of horses all descend from the mighty Schwarzblaurot – and to understand her contribution and the pedigree elements which made her all that she was, it is necessary to understand something of German breeding.
With apologies to Dickens, we begin at the beginning. In 1913, German breeder Burchard von Oettingen paid 25,000 pounds to Sir Abe Bailey for the Irish-bred stallion Dark Ronald, winner of the Hurt Park Foal Plate, Royal Hunt Cup and Princess of Wales’ Stakes. An established sire in England, Dark Ronald left behind in England such good horses as Ambassador, One Thousand Guineas winner Vaucluse, Dark Legend and the outstanding mare Popingaol, ancestress of Reine-de-Course Courtesy. Also left behind was his excellent stamina son Son-in-Law, whose bloodlines later made an impact on American pedigrees with Claiborne Farm’s importation of French Derby winner *Herbager, sire of Big Spruce and Grey Dawn II among others.
While in Germany, Dark Ronald founded a true dynasty and he is found in multiple crosses in many of today’s German horses. In Schwarzblaurot’s pedigree alone, he is three times present, through his three sons Wallenstein, Prunus and Herold, the latter one of the finest sires ever to stand in Germany, and in turn sire of Alchimist, whose sire line through Birkhahn-Literat-Surumu-Acatenango accounted for Lando (who is inbred to Dark Ronald a total of eight times.)
So prepotent is this sire line that it is responsible, in perfect sequence, for seven German Derby winners and one German Two Thousand Guineas winner. German pedigree researcher Myron Jefka wrote that while Varola believed Alchimist to be a stout influence, he did not name him a Chef-de-Race, but that after Dark Ronald and Ticino, Alchimist is the most important German sire of the century, having even more impact that his older Dark Ronald-line ancestor Oleander, who was in fact named a Chef-de-Race.
Dark Ronald’s Herold branch was also responsible for Schwarzblaurot’s dam, Schwarzgold (Alchimist-Schwarzliesel by Oleander). Schwarzgold was bred by Baron Eduard von Oppenheim (of the Oppenheim banking family) at his Gestut Schlenderhan stud, which was established in 1868. Consistently among the leading breeders in Germany, Gestut Schlenderhan’s success is in large part due to Dark Ronald’s role in the development of the German horse, but it additionally owes a great deal to the development of Schwartzblaurot’s family, which has been so successful outside its native land.
Schwarzgold was a very classy filly, winning the Preis Der Diana (the German Oaks), the German Derby and the Grosser Preis Von Berlin (now a Grade III race for older German runners). The mating which resulted in Schwarzblaurot took place in 1946 when Schwarzgold was bred to German Derby winner Magnat, a grandson of Teddy.
Magnat had been a good runner, winning the Grosser Preis Von Baden and the German Two Thousand Guineas in addition to the German Derby. His sire, Asterus (Teddy-Astrella by Verdun by Rabelais) could not, according to Abram Hewitt, “stay beyond 10 furlongs in a rapidly run race.” Hewitt concluded, “A fair idea of his class may be obtained from the fact that Asterus, winner of the Hunt Cup at Ascot, the Champion Stakes and French Two Thousand Guineas, was set to carry 113 pounds as a three year old in the Cambridgeshire and finished third. This form was at least 10 pounds below the form of a true classic colt in England at the time.”
Given that his sire was not considered a true classic horse, Magnat did not do too badly in Germany. In addition to Schwarzblaurot, he also sired German One Thousand Guineas winner Bella Donna, granddam of One Thousand Guineas winner Brisbane and Two Thousand Guineas winner Nebelwerfer, a good stallion who sired a better stallion than himself in Kaiseradler.
Schwarzblaurot was not as good a racehorse as her dam, winning four times at ages two and three and placing in two stakes. However, as a producer, she has been responsible for a solid gold family.
Her first foal, the filly Scherezade by Ticino (sire of Neckar, Orsini and Bella Paola and one of the great German sires of all time), was born in 1952, was a winner at two and placed in stakes. Scherezade’s is the branch responsible for Steinlen, Star Lift and Sagace, so it has the most importance to American breeders.
Scherezade foaled a filly by Pantheon in 1966 named Schonbrunn, also bred by Gestad Schlenderhan. When she was purchased by Daniel Wildenstein (subsequent breeder of Star Lift, Steinlen and Sagace) Schonbrunn was champion filly of 1969. Schonbrunn raced three years, winning four races including the German Oaks and the Grand Prix de Deauville, the latter for Wildenstein.
Mated to American-bred Jim French (by Graustark), Schonbrunn produced the winner Southern Seas, dam of Steinlen. Southern Seas also produced two other stakes winners, Sophonisbe by Wollow, and Seurat by Crimson Beau, the latter a Grade II winner.
Schonbrunn’s daughter Seneca, a winner by Chaparral, produced both Star Lift and Sagace as well as Simply Great, winner of the Grade II Dante Stakes.
In 1954, Schwarzblaurot foaled Suleika, a full sister to Scherezade. Suleika produced German champion Sabera, dam of German Derby and St. Leger winner Stuyvesant and stakes winning Sayonara, dam of English Derby victor Slip Anchor and Lancashire Oaks winner Sandy Isle, also a stakes producer. When Slip Anchor won the English Derby in 1985, Kent Hollingsworth of THE BLOOD HORSE was on hand and wrote of the mating which produced the fine horse and how it came to involve a strain of German blood.
Plantation Stud manager Leslie Harrison explained that they had been looking for an outcross for Mill Reef’s Nasrullah blood and traveled to Germany to see a filly named La Dorada, whom they did not like. At the same time they happened to see 12-year-old Sayonara, who had placed in the German Oaks but she was not for sale at any price. Two years after that, however, the stud felt the need to divest itself of some horses and they asked Harrison if he was still interested in acquiring Sayonara for Plantation.
Harrison answered a resounding “yes” since Sayonara had already produced German Two Thousand Guineas winner Swazi and Saros (FR), also a stakes winner in Germany. However, complications arose when Mill Reef’s book was full, so Sayonara was sent to High Top and produced a disappointing colt. The following year to Mill Reef’s cover she produced the filly Sandy Island, winner of the Pretty Polly Stakes and Lancashire Oaks. (Sandy Island is now dam of stakes winner Sardegna).
Since Plantation Stud had a share in Shirley Heights (a son of Mill Reef) Sayonara next visited his court and the result was Slip Anchor. Unfortunately, Sayonara died when her Derby-winning son was only a yearling.
Schwarzblaurot’s overall pedigree composition deserves some comment. We have already detailed the importance of Dark Ronald and the part he played in German breeding and in Schwarzblaurot’s ancestry. But there is more to say.
In addition to the three Dark Ronald’s crosses, there is an additional cross of his sire, Bay Ronald, through Asterus. This, in essence, sex-balances the Bay Ronald blood since Asterus’ contribution is the mare Rondeau. Further, this male ancestry via Bay Ronald’s sire Hampton, is expanded with five crosses in all, four through Bay Ronald and one through Ladas.
Schwarzblaurot’s dam, Schwarzgold, has three crosses of Ard Patrick and his half brother Galtee More, which appears in her daughter’s pedigree 5 x 5 x 5. Ard Patrick won the 1902 Epsom Derby and probably ran his greatest race when defeating Triple Crown winner Rock Sand and the great filly Sceptre in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park. He was sold to Germany for $105,000.
Schwarzblaurot is inbred to St. Simon’s son William The Third 5 x 5 through two daughter strains. William The Third was atypical of his sire’s sons in that he was “of greater length and scope” according to trainer John Porter. He also had the kindest of dispositions, being seen after his victory in the Ascot Gold Cup walking off with his head over his attendant’s shoulder, nibbling at a lump of sugar. (St. Simon himself was purportedly a sheer hellion at times). William The Third suffered from stringhalt in his older years and he died after covering a mare in 1917, apparently of a cerebral hemorrhage.
Finally, Schwarzblaurot is inbred to Flying Fox, scion of the Teddy male line 5 x 6 and to Austrian Derby winner Saphir, the latter supported solely by her sire.
Schwarzblaurot’s direct female line is that of Little Agnes, foundress of a huge family which includes such diverse horses as Epsom Oaks winner L’Abesse De Jouarre, Italian Derby winner Orange Bay, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Ortello, Coventry Stakes winner Desmond, Spinster Stakes winner Dontstop Themusic, Irish Derby winner Ballyheron, French Two Thousand Guineas winner Green Dancer, Epsom Oaks winner Fair Salina, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Detroit and French Derby winner *Herbager. Hers is a clan to rival *La Troienne and Frizette’s and we will one day return to some of these branches to give them their rightful place on the Reine-de-Course list as well.
Schwarzblaurot, however, is the Reine of the moment and few are so worthy. Her classic contributions have spanned an ocean and her descendents bring her great strength to America through Steinlen, who unfortunately died in June of 2001. What a sire this fellow would have made if given the proper opportunity! But his daughters can still be of help. Bits and pieces of Sagace’s blood are still available, though Slip Anchor’s line is more plentiful and easier to find. Going outside the immediate family, but staying within the Little Agnes clan, stallions with lines of Green Dancer and *Herbager should be viable. And, of course, if one prefers to not inbreed to Schwarzblaurot, Steinlen’s sire Habitat is a half brother to Northfields, so that is yet another way to go. Further, Steinlen also carried multiple lines of Plucky Liege, so Fappiano crosses should be welcome.
Wherever any of Schwarzblaurot’s descendents finally find a home in American pedigrees, they will be welcome. They have been producing top horses for many years and only a failure on the part of American breeders to appreciate their worth can prevent their making a major contribution in this country as well.
New Reines-de-Course from this family are thus Schwarzblaurot herself, Schonbrunn and Suleika. Savor their strength and applaud their differences. The Thoroughbred is a hybrid creature; we need valuable outcrosses of this type to strengthen the breed.