She was named for the Greek goddess of the Moon, and like the moon which influences tides, so too have her descendents influenced the shaping of the Thoroughbred breed. Even the mating which produced Selene is worthy of myth.
Col. Hall Walker, whose breeding theories were espoused by the Aga Khan among others, bred Selene’s second dam, Gondolette. When Lord Derby, who had wanted to experiment with inbreeding to the great broodmare Pilgrimage, purchased Gondolette at the Newmarket December sales of 1912, it was with this end in mind.
Gondolette’s sire, Loved One, was a son of Pilgrimage while Lord Derby’s fine sires Chaucer and Swynford had Pilgrimage as their second dam. However, at the time of her purchase, Gondolette was in foal to Epsom Derby and Two Thousand Guineas winner Minoru.
In 1919 Gondolette foaled her Minoru offspring, a filly who was named Serenissma. Although competing during the limited racing years of World War I, Serenissima was considered a good runner.
Before Serenissima entered stud, Lord Derby had twice bred her dam, Gondolette, to Swynford. These matings resulted in Epsom Derby winner Sansovino and Ferry, winner of the One Thousand Guineas. Neither had a lasting impression on future generations.
Then in 1918, Serenissima was sent to the court of Chaucer and foaled a filly who would race as Selene and become known as the best offspring of her sire, a son of the immortal St. Simon. Selene’s pedigree reflected a 3 x 4 cross of Pilgrimage through the mare Canterbury Pilgrim and the sire Loved One and her subsequent success as a racehorse and producer provided Lord Derby the satisfaction of knowing that he was indeed onto something with his inbreeding experiment.
A champion at two, when she won eight of 11 starts, Selene was considered too small to be prepared for the classics, though she did win the Park Hill Stakes (sometimes referred to as “the fillies’ St. Leger”.) Since her three-quarter sister Tranquil (by Swynford) subsequently won the One Thousand Guineas and St. Leger, how Selene herself might have fared in such races has beeh the stuff of much speculation. But wherever such fanciful thinking might lead, her racing career – however brilliant – would undoubtedly have paled in comparison to her record as a broodmare.
Selene produced her first foal in 1924 to the cover of Phalaris. Named *Sickle, he did not win stakes although he ran third in the Two Thousand Guineas. Imported to the United States, he became the leading sire in North America in 1936 and again in 1938, and also ranked among the top five broodmare sires for another three seasons. Today he is best known as the tail-male ancestor of Native Dancer.
Mated to Phalaris a second time, Selene produced *Pharamond II in 1925. *Pharamond II won the Middle Park Stakes and was also imported to the United States where he ranked among leading sires in 1937-1938 and again in 1943. He also became an excellent broodmare sire. Like *Sickle before him, *Pharamond II’s influence comes down through one major relative, Menow, sire of Tom Fool who in turn sired Buckpasser.
Hunter’s Moon was Selene’s next foal. A son of Hurry On, Hunter’s Moon won the Newmarket Stakes and ran fourth in the Two Thousand Guineas and Epsom Derby. Later imported to South America, Hunter’s Moon led sire and broodmare sire lists in Argentina, Brazil and Peru.
Selene’s next two foals, Salamis by Phalaris, and Guiscard by Gay Crusader, were by no means as good as their predecessors. Salamis did not win and Guiscard, who did not start until he was four, won the Queen’s Prize Stakes at Kempton.
Selene was barren in 1929, perhaps preparing for her greatest and most lasting achievement, champion and Chef-de-Race Hyperion. One amusing historical error does occur regarding this great racehorse, an error as simple as his name.
Hyperion, in Greek mythology, was the father of the moon goddess Selene. Only in Thoroughbred history is the relationship reversed.
Hyperion was a son of Gainsborough, who won an English Triple Crown of sorts. He was victorious in the 1918 Two Thousand Guineas, then won the “New Derby” run that year at Newmarket, and finally was three lengths victorious in the September Stakes, a wartime substitute for the St. Leger.
Hyperion, of course, was a Derby and St. Leger winner himself, but he was so small as a yearling (he never did grown beyond 15 hands 1 1/2 inches) that it was suggested he be gelded. Had that occurred, there would have been no leading sires such as Heliopolis, Khaled or Alibhai – no Epsom Derby winner Owen Tudor or Kentucky Derby winner Pensive, no massive Australian influence through Star Kingdom, no Forego through *Forli. Hyperion, however, was by no means just a sire of good males. His best daughters included One Thousand Guineas and Oaks winner Sun Chariot, Oaks and One Thousand Guineas winners Godiva and Sun Stream, Oaks winner Hycilla and One Thousand Guineas winner Hypericum.
For all this largess of progeny, Hyperion is best remembered in one special sentimental account.
Writing in a 1979 Bloodlines column, Leon Rasmussen reported part of an article written by English turf journalist Tom Forest in which the author named his personal favorites of the Epsom Derby winners he had seen. Wrote Forest of Hyperion, “Hyperion is a horse I met only once, and never saw race. But that brazen bantam-cock told me everything about his whole career, on the track and at stud, in the outrageous swagger with which he stepped out of his box at Stanley House. Well over 20 years old at that time, sway-backed and swollen-bellied, with tear tracks tracing down from his fading old eyes, he was not a sorry sight at all. He was the indefatigable trouper, the star, the champ…the greatest. And how he bragged of it.
“Racing’s prince of showmen was undoubtedly Hyperion, who claimed his crown in 1933 and flaunted its splendour to every available audience to the day he died. If there is one horse it would break my heart never to have seen, this is the one.”
As good as Selene’s sons were, her daughters were disappointments, which is not to say they did not produce some good horses. However, Hyperion or *Sickle as a sire is a hard act to follow. Nevertheless, several Selene daughters were responsible for leading sires, and one branch in particular shows enough strength – spotty though it may be – to live on.
Examples of Selene’s daughter branches producing good sires include Coronal whose branch is responsible for leading South American sire Afghan II; good Australian sire Sabaean from Moon Priestess’ branch; New Moon’s branch, which is represented by leading New Zealand sire Star Way, and *All Moonshine, who is responsible for Chef-de-race Mossborough (himself sire of Chef-de-race Ballymoss) and the great Australasian super-sire Sir Tristram.
*All Moonshine’s branch which is, in fact, the leading stakes producing daughter branch of Selene’s female line was imported to this country and shows a strong American influence, much as her full brother, *Moonlight Run, influenced the pedigrees of Californian George Pope. Pope, who was the only major breeder who had any real luck with *Moonlight Run (who sired only three stakes winners) bred from him Vanity Handicap winner Mary Machree, dam of Sunset Handicap winner Hill Clown and Beverly Hills Handicap winner Hill Circus, as well as Moonrise, the third dam of English Oaks winner Mysterious and her champion half brother J. O. Tobin.
In addition, *All Moonshine’s daughter All My Eye founded a good California branch through her daughter Captivator who is responsible for Variety Queen, dam of Grade I winner Variety Road and his Grade III winning full sister Variety Sis. Captivator also has the distinction of being a three-quarter sister to Isolt, dam of the superior sire Sir Tristram.
Other major horses evolving from *All Moonshine include Lancashire Oaks winner Eyewash; Biomydrin, a leading sire in Peru; Irish St. Leger winner Mountain Lodge; Italian Derby winner Ardale; American Derby winner Fortunate Moment and Kentucky Oaks winner Lucky Lucky Lucky. The last named may, in point of fact, be one of the keys to keeping Selene’s female line alive in America.
Lucky Lucky Lucky was not a champion, but she was the kind of mare that every owner would love to have. At two she won the Grade I Matron, and the Grade II Gardenia and Alcibiades Stakes. She also placed in two more Grade I stakes. As a sophomore she added the Kentucky Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan Stakes as well as running second in the Spinster (against her elders) and the Grade I Alabama Stakes. She retired after only 14 starts with earnings of $847,126.
To date, Lucky Lucky Lucky has not set the world on fire as a broodmare, producing only the non-graded stakes placed Mashair (by Diesis) from nine foals of racing age. At this point, it appears that one of her daughters will have to carry on the line.
Selene’s own pedigree is worthy of mention. Not only was she inbred to Pilgrimage, as Lord Derby had planned, but also was inbred to the great foundation matron Pocahontas (1837) through her two sire sons Stockwell and King Tom 5 x 6 x 6. She further has St. Simon’s sire Galopin represented 3 x 5 as well as doubles of Voltaire, great-grandsire of Galopin; Doncaster, sire of Bend Or and tail-male ancestor of *Pharamond and *Sickle, great broodmare sires Macaroni and Hermit; Sterling, sire of Isonomy; and the superior broodmare Madame Eglentine, dam of Rosicrucian and The Palmer.
One of the true modern legacies of Selene is showcased in an increasingly popular breeding pattern. When her son Sickle’s relatives (like Raise A Native) are crossed with her son *Pharamond’s relatives (like Buckpasser) they have produced such horses as Easy Goer, Coastal, Miswaki, Seeking The Gold, Woodman, Mining and Grand Canyon. This group consists of two winners of the Belmont Stakes, a Horse of the Year’s sire, a leading first crop sire, a classic sire, a top sprinter and a Hollywood Futurity winner. And each and every one is inbred to Selene.
Selene lived to the grand age of 23 and was destroyed due to the infirmities of old age in 1942. Yet today she lives in every Mr. Prospector, every Nodouble and *Forli relative, every Buckpasser relation. And like the goddess whose name she bears, she shines through in all of them. It is as much a pleasure to add her and her daughter *All Moonshine to the Reine-de-Course list as it is to watch their descendents upon the course.
Family 6-E Gondolette