Torch Rose

A Surprising Superstar

About the most unlikely family number one would think to come across in a major winner is something like A29.  Admit it – you think of “1” for *La Troienne’s 1-S, or 13-C for Myrtlewood, maybe 6-E for Selene.  But A29?  Never.

Well, guess again.  Yours truly, who actually owned a mare from this family at one point in time (don’t ask), would not have thought so herself.  But things change, which is why we make every effort to keep in touch with families that seem to be blossoming, whether we thought they might do so from the outset or not.

A quick look at the Family Tables tells us that though there were two early Kentucky Oaks winners, Miss Hawkins in 1891 and Lucy May in 1881, the Old Pet (A29) female clan has, in its most recent carnation, been held together via the 1934 Torchilla mare Torch Rose, or more specifically via her two half sister descendents Take A Stand and Close Control.

Most of us think of the 1929 Kentucky Derby winner when the name Clyde Van Dusen is uttered.  And of course, that is correct.  However, Clyde Van Dusen – the horse- was named after a man, a breeder.  He had Reine-de-Course Betty Derr in her early years at stud, though he did not “make” her.  He did, however, breed our current subject, Torch Rose.

Like the early foals of Betty Derr, Torch Rose was by the Bend Or-line sire Torchilla, and he brings up some fun trivia.  His sire, Torchbearer, was referenced in the one and only movie “Kentucky” – yes the “Kentucky” based on John Taintor Foote’s wondrous “Look of Eagles” story.

Torchilla won the Bashford Manor Stakes in 1926.  The only racing information we could locate on Torchbearer tells us he won at two, three, four, five and six years of age.   His sire Radium, winner of the Doncaster and Goodwood Cups and the Jockey Club Stakes, is probably most famous for his 2000 Guineas-wining son Clarissimus, a Chef-de-Race.

The California Years

The leading money-earner bred by Louis B. Mayer was Torch Rose’s marvelous son On Trust, by Mayer’s *Alibhai.  On Trust won the Santa Anita Handicap and was good enough to be classic-placed, running second in Faultless’s Preakness.

On Trust did not run in Mayer’s colors, and was a failure at stud, but his full sister, Alibhai Rose, who was bred by Neil S. McCarthy, proved the savior of the family.  It is from this unraced mare by the unraced *Alibhai that a wealth of wonderful runners evolved, horses like Peaks and Valleys and Open Mind, Souvenir Copy and Doneraile Court.

McCarthy was Mayer’s lawyer and he counseled the MGM magnate on horse purchases, from which he sometimes benefited himself in no small way.  For example, he arranged the purchase of Busher, whom he later bought back at the Mayer dispersal.  He also advised Mayer to buy both *Alibhai and *Beau Pere.

In all, McCarthy bred 32 stakes winners including such good runners as Seaneen.  His stock was dispersed in 1972, but by then it was greatly depleted as to quality.  His was a monumental contribution to California racing and breeding, but in retrospect, Torch Rose was one of his brightest lights.  It is no small irony that one of the best branches of this family, which was later improved to include such good horses as Excellent Meeting, was developed by California’s most recent leading breeder, Golden Eagle Farm.

Scattered And Improved –

The Self Control and Close Control Lines

Two things generally happen when a family is removed from its origins and scattered to points afar – it either disappears from the radar of major racing or it improves.  In the case of Torch Rose, it improved considerably.

In California, sires like Dunce, Amerigo, Deputy Minister, Green Dancer, Raja Baba, Stop The Music, Mr. Prospector and Seattle Slew are simply not found.  Sons, yes, the real thing, no.

Self Control, bred by Sam A. Mason, was a daughter of Alibhai Rose.  Self Control was not a stakes winner, but she was tough, running 60 times.

Her daughter Dun-Cee by Dunce, was her first stakes winner and she produced stakes winner Bold Dun-Cee herself.  Dun-Cee’s younger half sister, Take A Stand by Amerigo, did not win a stake, but she became an even better producer.

It is Take A Stand’s descendents that have accounted for such good horses as Peaks And Valleys and Open Mind.  The family came down to us from Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stud where Peaks And Valleys came home to stand at stud.  A son of Mt. Livermore, the colt was Horse of the Year at three in Canada and has been a successful sire, getting 4% stakes winners including G2 winners Dollar Bill and Chamrousse in his first few crops.

Ambercrombie also bred Stage Luck, the dam of Open Mind.  Stage Luck was a half sister to Strike A Pose, the second dam of Peaks And Valleys.  Open Mind was a wonderful racehorse, winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Filly Triple Crown the following year.

Her exact fate is not known and given the disposition of poor Ferdinand, one cannot help but wonder.  Open Mind was bred twice to Easy Goer and produced a filly in 1992 and a colt in 1993.  She was barren, slipped or lost a foal in 1994, 1996 and 1997.

She had been sent to Japan in 1997 and no more foals are listed for her after that date.  The Blood Horse of April 8, 2000 reported that, “Word was received from the Japan Racing Association of the death of Open Mind at age 12 at Keiai Farm on the island of Hokkaido on Dec. 10, 1998.  The JRA was unable to secure additional information.”  We are not accusing anyone of anything here, but one cannot help but speculate…

Sadly, her only daughter, Easy Mind, has no reported foals.  The whole business is a tragedy. And if the stakes producer Scapa’s daughter Caiseal Ros cannot save the line, then the Stage Luck group of mares is pretty well lost.

The Strike A Pose group is stronger, with Wedding Picture the best producer to date.  She has several producing daughters that seem able to carry on including Wedded Bliss, Wedding Vow and Constant Companion.

Wedding Picture is rather closely related to Peaks And Valleys.  Wedding Picture is by Blushing Groom, Peaks and Valleys by Blushing Groom’s son Mt. Livermore.  Wedding Picture is out of Strike a Pose, Peaks and Valleys has Strike a Pose as his second dam.

Moving on to Close Control, who was bred by Dr. and Mrs. G. G. Meredith, we again see a strong California influence, only not in the beginning.  At the outset, Close Control was bred to such horses as Raja Baba (Fair Advantage) and Stop the Music (Sophisticated Girl).  Her later matings to Slew o’ Gold and Chief’s Crown were all Golden Eagle’s doing.

Intriguingly enough, Fair Advantage’s offspring, Advancing Star and Darby Fair, both ran in California, the latter for Golden Eagle Farm.  A charming three-year-old, Darby Fair made quite a name for himself with his mud-loving ways early in his sophomore season in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Wrote the late Daily Racing Form chart caller and handicapper Dale Duspiva, “Thinks he’s a fish.”  Darby Fair ended up at stud in South Africa.

Several of Sophisticated Girl’s offspring ran in the east, and the now successful young sire, Doneraile Court, made his name in the Jerome Handicap.  The Minstrel filly Belle Et Deluree had a European branch and then we once again find ourselves in California with the Golden Eagle influence of Souvenir Copy, Early Pioneer, Excellent Meeting, Crowning Meeting and the like.  Souvenir Copy has recently been relocated to California to stand at stud.

Sadly, Excellent Meeting died after colic surgery earlier this year.  She produced two Storm Cat offspring, a colt and a filly.  Her three-quarter sister Crown of Crimson by Seattle Slew produced a Kingmambo foal in 2003.  There is a full sister to Excellent Meeting named Sweeping Views who was foaled in 2001.

Interestingly enough, there are two Souvenir Copy-Golden Darling foals to date, one a colt foaled in 2000 named Monday Thru Friday and the other a 2001 filly named Golden Copy.  On the top line, they are by Mr. Prospector and with Slew o’ Gold on the bottom they share the Mr. Prospector/Slew nexus (Myrtlewood/Humanity/Lady Comfey).  Souvenir Copy has Close Control as his fourth dam, Golden Darling has her as her first dam.  We do not have enough evidence from just these two matches to damn inbreeding to the family out of hand.  However, it is a good idea to keep an eye on any inbreds that pop up in order to see if inbreeding to the family only works in certain ways – say with Blushing Groom instead of Seattle Slew added.

The Pedigree

Torch Rose’s pedigree is a study in antiquity.  As previously mentioned, she is Bend Or-line.  It is easy to understand why a breeder might have thought that Torchilla would make it at stud.

In addition to being by a sire from the foremost speed line in the stud book, he was also inbred 4 x 3 to three-quarter brothers Donovan and Raeburn and he carried two lines of the Middle Park Stakes winner Albert Victor.  However, his tail-female line was not terribly strong and his own race record was not memorable.

Torch Rose’s dam, May Steil, was by the St. Simon (via Childwick)-line sire Tchad, a horses of little note who is probably not found in many pedigrees other than her own.  Her St. Simon line, being male, also adds little to Torchilla, who also carries a male line and her Bend Or lilne, via Martagon, also offers no balance.

The overall pedigree has many lines of Pocahontas via King Tom, Stockwell and the richly bred Wellingtonia, who carries two of Pocahontas’ daughters, Ayacanora and Auracaria.  But that type of linebreeding is quite common and frankly, there is nothing about this pedigree which jumps out and says, “Bound for glory.”  As a matter of fact, it is rather indifferent.

Blank canvas that it was, it seems obvious that the Bend Or/St. Simon background was enough to use for a base as the richer lines of horses like *Alibhai, with his beautiful Pilgrimage and Angelica lines and his stabilizing Isonomy blood, were painted upon it.  Over the years, as Bradley blood like Better Self came along to blend with her Maggie B. B. cross via Iroquois, a family was built that was continuously enriched with the best blood of its time.  This is how Reines-de-Course are made.

Make no mistake, this is a family which could easily have been lost.  But a fine thread of quality wound through its roots and survived the loss of horses like Open Mind and Excellent Meeting, the gelding of an Early Pioneer and a Stage Door Avie, to live on through those tough enough to honor its roots.  Horses with names like Peaks And Valleys and Doneraile Court, mares like Wedding Picture and Fitted Crown.

New Reines-de-Course from this all-American family are Torch Rose, Alibhai Rose, Take a Stand, and Close Control.  We are looking forward to returning to this family fairly soon to reconsider Wedding Picture, once she has a strong daughter branch in place, and doing likewise for Dancing Tribute and Fitted Crown.

Family A29