IT’S ALL UP TO ‘”KING” NOW…..THE ST. SIMON LEGACY
“The last produce of all great sires have a way of boiling down, as the years go by, to a single tag line:
Galopin sired St. Simon” …..Joe Palmer.
The great stallion’s eyes stare back at the Jockey Club visitor with the brilliance of a champion just retired. It appears he could have raced only yesterday, though about him in every racing museum on the planet hang literally hundreds of oil paintings of his descendants.
Can a world without Hyperion, *Nasrullah or Northern Dancer be imagined? Could Tesio have bred a *Ribot without him? What a boring year 1957 might have been without Round Table, Gallant Man and Bold Ruler. And how bleak the 1970’s would have been without the wonderful trio of Triple Crown winners we had; Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed.
Even our newly-minted Triple Crown hero, American Pharoah, is riddled with his uber-blood through his multliples of Hyperion, Princequillo, Ribot, Wild Risk, et. al.
Who is this majestic creature? A Triple Crown winner of old? Hardly. Indeed the death of an owner precluded his even contesting a classic. Still he remains alive in the veins of classic winners from Pimlico to Newmarket and from Longchamps to Woodbine. He is St. Simon.
Defining immortality in the Thoroughbred is a controversial issue with no definitive answer. Racing is a sport of opinion. Yet we offer for consideration an undefeated racehorse who subsequently lead the sire list nine times. A horse whose son, Rabelais, is responsible in direct male descent for another undefeated champion, *Ribot, once called “the greatest classic influence in the history of the sport.”
Today, the *Ribot line descending from St. Simon is down to a trickle of of His Majesty and Hoist the Flag descendants. Likewise the *Princequillo and Wild Risk lines are not thriving. Bois Roussel-line *Gallant Man is probably extinct. This is tragic but sire lines come and go. Phalaris has and continues to absorb St. Simon as a tail-male influence, though it is worth noting that without St. Simon there would be no Phalaris – his second dam is a St. Simon mare.
Is it possible that one of these other St. Simon lines can be resurrected? After all, it only takes one horse to make it happen, witness Ack Ack for Domino or Rough’n Tumble for Himyar. Actually, thanks to Gunpowder Farm’s wonderful boost of K One King there is still a prayer for the Round Table line of *Princequillo (Prince John is gone). The first K One Kings from the excellent group of mare assembled for this beautiful Apalachee son will be two in 2016. Their early training gives one hope that they will be quite different from the offspring he got from earlier, mostly indifferent mates.
But before we discuss the possibilities, let us first acquaint ourselves with the great ancestor responsible for their excellence. His is a story to tell and re-tell and tell again. It is the stuff of legend.
The Racing Career of St. Simon
“So long as I live, I will never again touch that animal with a spur; he’s not a horse, he’s a bloomin’ steam engine…..” St. Simon’s jockey, Fred Archer.
Any undefeated Thoroughbred is eligible to capture the imagination of the racing public, whether his name is Colin or Eclipse or more recently Personal Ensign. Yet because St. Simon was not a classic winner, students of the sport tend to ignore him when this exclusive group is discussed, thinking of him as “only” a great sire.
The colt was purchased by the Duke of Portland as a two year old from the dispersal of Prince Batthyany for the munificent sum of $8400. Such an amount must have seemed huge in 1883, especially since all stakes engagements for the dark bay youngster had been negated at Prince Batthyany’s death.
Yet his promise was vindicated immediately when he raced to a six-length score in the Halnaker Stakes in his debut, then returned the following day to win a Maiden Plate carrying 133 pounds. Even Man o’ War could not boast so auspicious a beginning.
Next, a win in the Devonshire Nursery Plate, which he won “in a common canter” set up a match between the son of Galopin and Duke of Richmond, thought to be his most likely competition. Both riders were given instructions to try their opponents from flagfall to finish, and to the credit of both they gave the crowd a show, with St. Simon just three-quarters ahead at the finish. No other horse ever came within a length of him again.
St. Simon began his three-year-old campaign with a walkover victory in the Epsom Gold Cup, then added the 2 1/2 mile Ascot Gold Cup by 20 lengths. In the latter, he defeated a very good colt named Tristan who returned the next day to win the Hardwicke Stakes. Next came the Newmarket Gold Cup in which he finished his career with a 20 length win, defeating St. Leger winner Ossian in the process.
So although legalities precluded a classic campaign for St. Simon, classic winners fell before the onslaught of his sustained speed, and his proven ability as a Cup horse of quality could not be questioned.
Trainer Mat Dawson, who conditioned many a fine performer, including six English Derby winners, remembered St. Simon as surpassing all his classic victors in a quality he chose to express as “electricity”. An opinion supported by champion jockey Fred Archer’s statement that, “So long as I live, I will never again touch that animal with a whip…”
St. Simon As A Stallion
Thus St. Simon retired to stud, for all intents and purposes as a still-untried competitor, with the possible exception of his winning match against Duke of Richmond. Like many other leading sires with fine bloodlines and little or no classic experience, he simply outbred himself from the start.
An immediate success, he sired 10 horses who won 17 classics: two Derbies, five Oaks, four St. Legers, two Two Thousand Guineas, four One Thousand Guineas, and three winners of the Ascot Gold Cup. The epitome of his influence is reflected in the 1896 sire list – St. Simon first; his son St. Serf second; his sire Galopin third. So like Bold Ruler, St. Simon had managed to surpass a sire known for his own excellence. And even as Bold Ruler was once more frequently mentioned as starting his own immortal line (largely via Seattle Slew) than was his sire *Nasrullah, St. Simon is more commonly referred to as “the prototype of the modern horse” than is his sire Galopin.
Perhaps among his descendents today, the ones most like the great stallion in temperament are the descendents of Rabelais through *Ribot. When asked if St. Simon was a kind horse to handle, one groom noted, “It’s very well to talk about the patience of Job, but Job never had to groom St. Simon.” Stamped-to-death stable companions and savaged handlers were recorded in history until one wily groom discovered the only item which the great horse would respect – an umbrella.
*Ribot’s unmanageable temper is legend and seemed to reappear with a vengeance through Hoist The Flag – a Thoroughbred version of Ivan The Terrible whose personality resembled that of a hungry shark, but whose brilliance at stud was proof positive that St. Simon lived on. Perhaps it was Hoist the Flag’s brief life that robbed him of a son to carry on. Yet just as his character came through when he struggled to live with a badly broken leg, he now appears not once but twice in two Breeders’ Cup Classic winners – Volponi and Zenyatta.
Still, in tail-mail even double Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Alleged did not prove worthy of extending the male line. Instead – at least for awhile – the ungainly, and most unattractive Pleasant Colony stepped forward to take up the torch. Now, though his daughters have produced such as Belmont winner Tonalist, his male line is mostly gone, too.
Pleasant Colony was, of course, by His Majesty. Just why his “full” brother Graustark was never able to do the same is simply one more reason so many of us believe that Graustark was not by *Ribot. Graustark was also physically very different from the typical *Ribot type, once described by an Eclipse-award winning writer as “little brown midgets”.
The Great Sons
Because the bottom line may never be written regarding St. Simon’s contribution to the breed, it is difficult to single out his three most influential sons. So difficult, in fact, that we felt compelled to include a fourth, St. Frusquin, whose name appears in the pedigree of Hyperion and who just might have been a better racehorse than his paternal half brother and frequent rival, Persimmon.
Turf historian Joe Palmer once wrote that, “One of the problems which beset the descendents of St. Simon was getting out of one another’s way” – a statement made more credible by the Persimmon-St. Frusquin duels and the subsequent one-two-three finishes of Rock Sand, Flotsom III and Chaucer in a number of contests.
However, each displayed his individual excellence, from Persimmon and St. Frusquin’s duels, which have led some racing researchers to opine that neither would have been beaten at three had it not been for the other, to Chaucer’s decidedly less spectacular race record – a record that nonetheless, earned him the compliment “lionhearted”. He was to later prove the compliment at stud.
St. Frusquin and Persimmon met on the course at two and at three. Each finished his brief career with the footnote, “never unplaced”, though St. Frusquin carried the distinction of being the only horse ever to defeat Persimmon.
Persimmon also had a full brother named Diamond Jubilee. The brothers were bred to succeed, carrying three lines of Pocahontas (1837) via King Tom/Rataplan/Stockwell and three of full siblings Voltigeur x2/Volley. Both won the Epsom Derby and St. Leger, but Diamond Jubilee also won the Two Thousand Guineas to earn a Triple Crown. (There were actually two other male siblings, the best of which was Florizel II, who won the Goodwood and Manchester Cups, the Gold Vase and St. James’s Palace and Jockey Club Stakes. The other brother was Sandringham.)
St. Frusquin, born the same year as Persimmon, defeated him at two in the Middle Park Stakes. The following season, he won the Two Thousand Guineas, a race in which Persimmon did not compete. He also defeated Persimmon in the one-mile Princess of Wales Stakes, with Persimmon winning the Derby from him by a neck between the two heats. Even today, it is difficult to tell which of the pair was the better racehorse.
At stud Persimmon gave us, most notably, the immortal Sceptre and *Prince Palatine (tail-male ancestor of *Princequillo, Prince Bio and Prince Chevalier). St. Frusquin got unbeaten One Thousand Guineas winner Quintessence, dam of Clarissimus, as well as Oaks winner Rosedrop, dam of Gainsborough.
Rabelais won six of his 11 starts and is responsible for the *Ribot and *Le Fabuleux branches of the St. Simon line. As a racehorse, Rabelais encountered the classic inability to escape his paternal relatives, finishing third to Rock Sand (out of a St. Simon mare) and St. Frusquin’s son Flotsam III in the Two Thousand Guineas before defeating both those rivals in the Triennial Stakes at Ascot. He, too, was an immediate success at stud, begetting such classic winners as Verdun, Durbar II, Ramus, Biribi, Rire aux Larmes and others. His name appears frequently in the names of Marcel Boussac’s better stock.
Though Chaucer emerged from the same foal crop as Rabelais and was a half brother to the classic-winning Swynford, his race record did not compare to that of several of his sire’s good sons. In only his second start, he ran into Flotsam III, then finished fourth to Rock Sand, Flotsam III and Rabelais in the Two Thousand Guineas.
Thus, though he showed flashes of talent and a number of minor stakes wins, Chaucer took a fairly indifferent race record (16 times unplaced) to stud, a fact highlighted by his initial $90 stud fee. And while he was thought to be too small (he stood a scant 15.1 hands), and had to compete with Swynford for the creme of the mares, the $90 fee was rapidly increased to $1000, largely due to his second place finish on the general sire list of 1916 and his subsequent fourth place ranking in 1918.
As a sire of sires, he begat Vatout, sire of Bois Roussel, and is thus responsible for the *Gallant Man branch of the St. Simon line. In truth, however, his greatest gift to the breed is undoubtedly Reine-de-Course Selene, dam of *Sickle, *Pharamond II and Hyperion and tail-female ancestress of the great Sir Tristram.
To keep things straight, the following chart shows just which sons sired which major branches:
K One King
Hoist the Flag
Arts And Letters
Tale of Two Cities
St. Simon lived to the grand old age of 27 and for many years his tail-male line lived on. Today, with a tiny handful of exceptions, it is clearly in trouble. And as it has succumbed to the Phalaris revolution, so, too, has toughness, substance and the ability become true routers been bled from our Thoroughbreds.
A look at the “grey pages” in the Blood Horse stallion book is a depressing thing for those who appreciate St. Simon and understand his influence well. *Ribot, as mentioned above, has really hung on the longest, but he is by no means dominant.
Hardy little *Gallant Man is gone. The tough Wild Risk has only Joe Who (BRZ) to represent him, and the lovely Prince Bio has but one line in Siphon (BRZ).
Perhaps saddest of all is that the elegant Princequillo is hanging on by a thread. Round Table is almost gone with K One King is his lone representative. Prince John shows no tail-male activity. For anyone whoever saw *Princequillo, this state of affairs is beyond tragic.
Many years ago, we noted a comparison between exceptional descriptions of St. Simon and Round Table. The first description is from Charlie Hatton’s 1959 American Racing Manual article on Round Table, “Smallest of His Transcendent Class”.
It was written that Round Table’s shoulder was “a study” and that he had “a short, sturdy back”. His “forelegs were set on well, affording him a fine liberty of action” and his ears were delicately modeled, having “the inward turn characteristic of the St. Simons”. Finally, Hatton said the colt’s strongest feature was his “proportionately deep and well-laid scapula (shoulder) and the density of bone” around his limbs.
Compare this to a Bloodstock Breeders’ Review description of St. Simon, printed in 1916:
“His shoulder was a study. So obliquely was it placed that it appeared to extend far into his back, making the latter appear shorter – and as a matter of fact, it was shorter – than any horse’s back I have ever known”. He had a “marvelous liberty of action – his forelegs, too, were beautifully set on, his bone hard and good.“
Amazingly similar, aren’t they, these two descriptions? And so it is particularly sad to note that such excellence has all but left us. Or perhaps this great ancestor has simply faded so far into the background that we have forgotten him. Yet he still prevails:
Find us a pedigree if you will that is St. Simon free. It won’t be any Northern Dancer, or any Mr. Prospector. It won’t be any major Australian horse, or most European stalwarts. Such an animal would be difficult to find in many South American countries, South Africa or the Far East. He is everywhere, you see, but where we need him most!
It was written of St. Simon that having no faults, he handed none on. That is a remarkable statement. About what horse today can such a thing be said? Today, we “live with” the faults of the top commercial sires. But we all know they are there.
Meanwhile, we stand idle and allow the greatness of St. Simon’s tail-male line (particularly via *Princequillo!) to fade slowly away. One can only hope that there is still enough, dormant though it may seem at the moment, to reassert itself when we need it most – which just so happens to be right now.
That said, a huge task lies before K One King. He has the conformation, the temperament and thanks to Gunpowder he now has foals out of top mares. Now all he needs is a bit of luck and St. Simon will live again. We have never needed him more.