St. Marguerite

When a man breeds a classic winner from his best broodmare, he has every right to expect a great deal from her full sister.  Thus when W. S. Crawford started his Hermit filly St. Marguerite in the 1882 One Thousand Guineas, he had high hopes that she would emulate the task of her year-older sister Thebais, who also won the Epsom Oaks.

St. Marguerite did not disappoint, winning by a neck over Shotover, the Two Thousand Guineas winner (and only the fourth filly to that time which had triumphed in the colt’s classic).

St. Marguerite had been hard-raced at two, starting 11 times and winning four races; the Chesterfield, Bretby, Home-Bred Foal Post Stakes and Municipal Stakes, the last named in a walkover.  In her remaining seven starts, she never ran worse than third.  In carrying Crawford’s colors to victory in the One Thousand Guineas, she placed her owner in exalted company.  To that time, only one other owner, the Duke of Grafton, had won the filly classic two years in succession.

In due course, St. Marguerite was retired to the breeding shed and in this endeavor she outstripped her more successful racing sister a thousandfold.   While Thebais is indeed the ancestress of a good French branch and is responsible for a handful of Japanese group winners, it is St. Marguerite who has carried the torch and become a legend.

There are three major and several minor branches of St. Marguerite’s family extant today.  Her best branch is undoubtedly that of Roquebrune.

Roquebrune is herself dam of English Triple Crown winner Rock Sand, a great sire and a Chef-de-Race.  From Roquebrune also descends the great Roselys group of mares which is responsible for several German classic winners including Padang, Yngola and Idrissa.  Also from this branch are French classic winners Yonne, Rose The and French Group 1 winner Tactic.  The Rhea II group of mares, some of which has had the good fortune to fall into the hands of the Aga Khan’s stud, has been responsible for the fine Val Divine group of mares which descend from Oaks and One Thousand Guineas winner Bella Paola, herself dam of French One Thousand Guineas winner Pola Bella.

Americans are more familiar with the Baton Rouge group of mares which spawned Hail To Reason, Kentucky Derby winner Canonero II, and Meadowlake and the Fairy Ray group which is responsible for Gallant Fox and the fine Margarethen group of mares which counts Trillion and Generous among its descendents.

It is always difficult to chose the best horse from a great family, but certainly, a brief retelling of the stories of Rock Sand, Gallant Fox, Hail To Reason and Pola Bella are necessary to appreciate not only the depth and class of this family, but its versatility.  In these four names, after all, we have two Triple Crown winners, one American and one English; a great two year old turned American classic sire; and one of the most potent groups of European-raced mares seen in years.  They are not only representative of the best of the family, but the very best of the breed.

Gallant Fox, the 1930 American Triple Crown winner who is still the only winner of the triad to have sired a Triple Crown winner of his own (Omaha), was by the great imported stallion *Sir Gallahad III, from the chestnut Celt filly Marguerite. William Woodward of Belair Stud, in whose colors Gallant Fox would race, purchased Marguerite from the Claiborne Farm consignment at the 1921 Saratoga yearling sale.  Purchased as a broodmare prospect from the outset, she ran unplaced in her only start and in her third season at stud gave the racing world its second American Triple Crown winner, the mahogany bay with the white around one eye known as Gallant Fox.

“The Fox of Belair” thrilled the racing world in 1935, winning in addition to the Triple Crown the Dwyer, Lawrence Realization and Jockey Club Gold Cup and Saratoga Cups.  Even in defeat, he made history, for when 100-1 shot Jim Dandy defeated him in the Travers even the upsetter made a name for himself and now, of course, Saratoga’s Travers prep is named the Jim Dandy Stakes.

Gallant Fox retired after his three year old season, having spiked a fever after winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup.  At stud at Claiborne Farm for a $3,000 fee, he got Omaha in his first crop, then continued on to get good horses like Granville and Flares.  But his glory years at stud were but the first few.

As is often the case with a sire line, it was a lesser member of Teddy’s male line, Sun Teddy, rather than Gallant Fox or Bull Lea who carried the line forward. But Gallant Fox lives on nontheless through his daughters and great sires like Seattle Slew, Nijinsky II, Mr. Prospector and Nureyev can all lay claim to owning a drop or two of Gallant Fox blood.

Yes, the “Fox of Belair” was, as turfwriter “Roamer” wrote in his epitaph, “more than a racehorse – he was an institution.”

Four years after the death of Gallant Fox, the mare Nothirdchance by Blue Swords (a persistent rival of Triple Crown winner Count Fleet) gave birth to a huge *Turn-To colt who would race as Hail To Reason.  There was good reason for believing that this oversized youngster might be something special.

Nothirdchance was herself a winner of over $100,000 and she had been victorious in the now Grade 1 Acorn Stakes.  Her dam, in turn, was bred on the same *Sir Gallahad III/St. Marguerite cross which had produced Gallant Fox, with the fourth dam of Gallant Fox and the eighth dam of Galla Colors being half sisters.

The name of Hail To Reason and his dam also are rich in racing history. In addition to being tough (she ran 93 times), Nothirdchance was something of a running political statement for owner Hirsch Jacobs.  She was so called as a warning by Jacobs to the Allied powers not to allow Germany to begin another war.  When the Allies responded as Jacobs had hoped, he called her son Hail To Reason.

If Nothirdchance had been tough, Hail to Reason was asked to be even tougher, racing 18 times as a two year old.  He won half of them, including the Hopeful and was named champion of his age and division.  But the wear and tear took their toll and the oversized colt (he was close to 17 hands) never raced again.  On Sept. 18, 1960, as Hail To Reason took the track at Aqueduct for a gallop, he shattered both sesamoids in his left foreleg.

Hirsch Jacobs’ son John later remembered, “I grabbed his leg.  Father had me hold it up so he wouldn’t step down on his ankle.  There were no vets around that early on Sunday, so we had no tranquilizers at that time.  We we got him back to the stall, father rolled a plaster of Paris cast on the leg. I think he knew how seriously he was hurt, because he stood like a statue when we put that first cast on.”

The intelligence Hail To Reason displayed immediately after suffering the life-threatening injury ultimately saved his life.  Just how magnificent that life and how glorious its eventual contribution could hardly have been guessed at.

When Hail To Reason died 16 years later, he had sired the winners of all three American Triple Crown races in Proud Clairon (Kentucky Derby); Personality (Preakness) and Hail To All (Belmont) as well as a winner of the Epsom Derby in Roberto.  No horse has done it before or since.

But Hail To Reason did more; among his best offspring were champions Regal Gleam (USA); Hippodamia (France); and Cake (Ireland) as well as major winners Halo, Mr. Leader, Priceless Gem, Stop the Music and Inca Queen.  He was leading sire in 1970 and sired 43 stakes winners in all.  His daughters have produced 111 stakes winners to date and his sons, of course, have sired many more.

Hail To Reason was more than just a great progenitor; he made a lasting impression on all who were intimately associated with him, John Jacobs in particular.  “As a foal he was all legs and no body, like a kid standing six-foot-five at 15. He was the absolute boss in a field of about 20 colts. When they ran in the paddock, he was always the leader.”

Hail To Reason’s penchant for leading, whether it be in races or on sire lists must therefore have been inborn.  Perhaps it was a gift from St. Marguerite.

In Abram Hewitt’s Sire Lines, the author quoted an Australian pedigree student who said, “The Americans who do not appreciate the value of the male line of *Rock Sand must surely judge these things from a most original angle.” Hewitt also noted that South Americans might well suggest the same thing.

However, if Rock Sand himself is not appreciated by Americans, bits and pieces of his blood most certainly are.  Take for instance the highly regarded In Reality line.

In Reality is, of course, inbred to War Relic, who is himself inbred to Rock Sand through a son, Friar Rock, and a daughter, Mahubah (dam of Man o’ War).  So in actuality, all those good taproot dams by Man o’ War also have Rock Sand blood.

In the state of Washington, Eight Thirty blood is highly prized.  Eight Thirty, a son of Pilate, is a grandson of Friar Rock, he by Rock Sand.  As a matter of fact, Eight Thirty appears in scores of pedigrees including Strawberry Road, Carr De Naskra, Copelan, Meadowlake, Stalwart, Silent Screen, and Brown Bess.  Virtually dozens of horses are inbred to Pilate and some of these have In Reality blood, making for five Rock Sand crosses without trying very hard.

Rock Sand’s is an international contribution. Be on the lookout, for instance, for the name of Congreve, a South American Chef-de-Race, who is a male-line great-grandson of Rock Sand, in the pedigrees of some of the recent Argentine and Brazilian horses who have done so well in the U.S..  And of course, there is the mighty Generous, winner of the Epsom and Irish Derbies winner, who has seven Rock Sand crosses.

Perhaps what is most amazing is that Rock Sand’s blood exists in so many good runners today considering the ill luck that persistently dodged his footsteps.  He was doing well at stud in England, but his owner died and he was sold to the U. S.  When his first foals arrived, it was on the eve of the collapse of New York racing.  Then, when he was returned to France in 1912, he stood only one full season before dying of heart disease.  Given all those twists of fate, we should be glad to have had him at all!

Finally we come to the marvelous Rhea II group of mares, led by Epsom Oaks and One Thousand Guineas winner Bella Paola, a German-bred daughter of Ticino.  Bella Paola, who raced for Monsieur Francois Dupre, was called the best three-year-old filly in Europe since Meld (winner of the One Thousand Guineas, Oaks, St. Leger and Coronation Stakes), possibly since Coronation V (winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Queen Mary Stakes, French One Thousand Guineas and Prix Robert Papin).

The compliment was well deserved.  In addition to her classic triumphs, Bella Paola won the Champion Stakes, the Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte, the Grand Criterium and the Prix Vermeille.  In the Champion Stakes, she defeated Irish Derby winner Sindon.

The British Bloodstock Review’s description of her in the walking ring prior to the One Thousand Guineas is quite charming:  “No one could have failed to approve of what they saw.  According with what one had been led to expect of the produce of Ticinio, she proved to be a big, powerful brown filly measuring about 16.3 hands but showing no signs of leginess, for she stands over an immensity of ground.  With length and scope, she had under her limbs proportionate to her frame and with it a quality head with the kindest of aspects and the big, slightly lopped ears that normally denote honesty of purpose.”

Given her remarkable record and equally remarkable pedigree, Bella Paola retired with nothing left to prove on the racecourse.  In due course, she produced three stakes producing fillies, but none better than Pola Bella, a classic winner who also raced in Monsieur Dupre’s colors.

Pola Bella, a daughter of Darius (a grandson of Nearco), won the French Two Thousand Guineas and ran second in the French Oaks, but it was her gallant loss to the great Sir Ivor in the Grand Criterium which perhaps best expressed her worth.  Other good horses she did meet and defeat included Epsom Oaks winner La Lagune, Locris and Taneb and Prix de l’ Arc de Triomphe victor Vaguely Noble bested her just a half length in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.  She retired with a less glittery reputation than her dam but with a great deal of respect for her courage and consistency during very ambitious campaigns.

The H. H. Aga Khan ultimately acquired the best of this family via the Dupre dispersal in the late 1970’s.  Its crown jewel proved to be the Val de Loir mare Val Divine, who did not win stakes but who foaled little else but stakes winners or stakes producers.

Val Divine’s excellence was not attained with one bloodline, either.  She produced Group stakes winners by four different sires, stakes horses by six different stallions.  Two of her daughters, the winning Niece Divine by Great Nephew, and the listed stakes winner Vearia by Mill Reef, have produced classic winners.  In short, Val Divine is the kind of mare every owner dreams of having.

These are, of course, mere thumbnail sketches of the best runners and producers from St. Marguerite’s family.  There are volumes of stories to tell and hundreds of important horses which is what, of course, makes a Reine-de-Course family.

If ever a horse can be said to be bred as a classic winner and producer, it most certainly is St. Marguerite.  She was sex-balance inbred to St. Leger winner Touchstone 3 x 3; to Oaks winner Medora through her two daughters Margaret and Pucelle (her fifth dam); her dam Devotion was 4 x 4 to Muley, son of Oaks and Derby winner Eleanor, and Sultan is 3 x 6 x 3, through his two fine sons *Glencoe and Bay Middleton and daughter Palmyra. Touchstone’s sire Camel is also balanced via a daughter, Hester, and she is linebred to Highflyer/Herod and Eclipse.  In other words, her pedigree pretty well represents the heart of and the best of the breed.

For her contributions over the last century, we now include St. Marguerite and her notable ancestors Baton; Roquebrune; Roselys; Rhea II; Fairy Ray; Yonne; Bella Paola; Val Divine; Marguery; Russ-Marie; and Trillion as Reines-de-Course.  There are few more classic families in the stud book.

Family 4-N