Oscar Wilde.

Lady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest online

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opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses. Dame Winnie was
a plain, common-looking mare, with nothing about her to indi-
cate high breeding, and if we lay aside Mr. Wilson's story and
accept the pedigree as usually given she was strongly running
bred, but at several points in her pedigree she fails of being thor-
oughbred. The internal evidence as to the breeding of this
mare, brought to light in the performance of her produce, sug-
gests very strongly the probability that she possessed some trot-
ting blood, from some source not far removed. She has five
representatives in the 2:30 list, and this of itself strongly supports
Mr. W^ilson's untold story, that I would not listen to. In passing
I will say I would be glad to listen to it now; for this solid
foundation of experience is so stoutly corroborative of what he
suggested as to justify an effort to reach the exact truth. When
it was known in Kentucky that Senator Stanford had sent his
representative down there to gather up a lot of "thoroughbred"
mares from which to breed trotters in California, every dealer in
the State had just what he wanted. He was looking for pedi-
grees, and it was a very easy matter to shape up the pedigrees
just to suit him.

Whatever may have been the breeding of his dam, Palo Alto
was a great horse, but he came to his speed slowly, and this
would seem to indicate that if his dam had any trotting inherit-
ance it was weak in the direction of attaining a high rate of
sneed. From the day he was weaned till the day he died he was
Senator Stanford's idol, and with this horse as an object lesson
he was going to teach the world how to breed the trotter. At
two years old he was driven a mile privately in 2:22|, and his
owner, feeling that his dream was realized in breeding the great-
est horse the world had produced, named him "Palo Alto," as


he deemed him worthy of being at the head of the greatest breed-
ing establishment of the world. He was in the hands of the
most skillful and careful of all trainers, and the training went
on without respite, year after year. When four years old he
went through the Eastern circuits, winning the larger share of
his purses, and making a record of 2:20^. Now let us consider
for a moment whether the Senator did not make a great mistake
and select the wrong horse as the typical representative of his
great establishment. In 1888 he bred a colt by Electioneer out
of Lula "Wilkes, grandam the famous trotting mare Lula, 2:15,
by Norman, etc., intensely trotting bred, and when he was three
years old he made a record of 2:16. This is better than 2:20^ as
a four-year-old, for this fellow had not to take one-half the train-
ing that Palo Alto was subjected to. The next year he bred another
colt by Electioneer called Arion, out of a mare by Nutwood; she
out of a sister to Voltaire, 2 :20i, by Tattler, 2:26; and she out of
the famous trotting brood mare Young Portia, by Mambrino
Chief; and the next dam Portia by the pacer Eoebuck.
This colt came out and trotted a mile in 2:10| as a tAvo-year-old.
The four-year-old had a great "boom" and was considered by
many as the phenomenal colt of his year, but when we place his
record of 2:20^ beside the 2:16 of the three-year-old, it looks
very sickly, and when we comjiare it with the 2:10f of the two-
year-old it is shaded into a deathly pallor. The four-year-old is
largely the result of skill and art; the two-year-old is the result
of nature. Arion is the best horse, by the record, that the world
has ever produced, and the Senator was mistaken in his dream.
We must judge of the value of a fast performance by the degree
of naturalness which it represents and the measure of its freedom
from the arts of the trainer. The "born trotter" is what we
want, and at two years old Arion, or any other colt, was at the
right age to determine whether a fast performance was the result
of nature or of art.

It is a fact well known to everybody that some trotting-bred
stallions have shown greater power in controlling the action of
their progeny than others that seemed to be equally well bred.
If out of the great mass of stallions, past and present, that have
been more or less successful as trotting progenitors, we jsick out
thirty of the very best, as shown by their progeny, it will proba-
bly surprise many of my readers to learn that only three of that
number have been able to triumph in the supreme test of getting


trotters out of running-bred mares. Of these three Electioneer
stands first, Almont second, and Pilot Jr. third. After mak-
ing all allowance for the anxiety of certain Californians and cer-
tain Kentuckians to prove the need of "more running blood in
the trotter," and their manifest willingness to help along with
pedigrees in that direction, I am fully convinced that these three
horses, in some cases, were able to meet and overcome the hostile
elements of the galloper. Not in every case, certainly, nor in a
majority of cases. When Senator Stanford was showing me the
step of Palo Alto, on his own track, as a three-year-old, I re-
marked, "Well, Electioneer certainly triumphed in that case,"
and the Senator replied, "Yes, but none of my other stallions
can do it, and there are some thoroughbred mares upon which
Electioneer can't do it." W'hen approached by others on this
subject in the riper years of his experience, he was in the habit
of replying: "There are thoroughbreds and thoroughbreds; some
of them will produce trotters to Electioneer, and some will not."
He accepted everything as thoroughbred that had been bought
by his agents as thoroughbred, whether in Kentucky or Cali-
fornia, and he claimed to be able to pick out those that would
produce trotters by their appearance. When pressed to give the
characteristics by which he was able to make his selections, he
spoke of the shape of the animal, in a general way, and especially
by the head and the expression of countenance. In selecting his
mares to put in the trotting stud by their "appearance" he
would naturally select such as had the "appearance" of trot-
ters, and as he personally knew no more about their pedigrees or
the inheritance of the animals than the mares knew themselves,
he was very liable to be deceived in the breeding of the animals
as he selected them. In selecting a mare by "appearance" as
indicating that she might throw trotters to Electioneer, there is
a strong suggestion that this "appearance" may have been a
legitimate "inheritance" sought to be covered up by that sadly
abused term "thoroughbred." Whether this suggestion ever
entered the Senator's mind I have no means of determining.
But whether some of the mares called "thoroughbred" had really
a mixed inheritance or not, the fact remains that the three horses
named above did succeed in getting some trotters from mares
that were strongly running bred. Then the question arises: Why
did these three horses succeed where all others failed? We are
not able to give an answer to this question that is complete and


irrefutable, for there is so much in the laws of generation that
we do not and cannot know. Take two brothers, for example,
and one is a great success and the other a great failure, and
often the failure is the better formed and the better looking
horse of the two. All that science teaches us here is that one
took after some ancestor, near or remote, that was good, and the
other after some ancestor that was not good. Electioneer, Al-
mont and Pilot Jr. all had short pedigrees composed exclusively
of trotting and pacing blood, except possibly a few drops of run-
ning blood that may have trickled down from the runner through
trotting or pacing channels. Their instincts to stick to the trot
had been encouraged and more or less completely developed.
Electioneer and Almont both had pacing blood some distance
away, and Pilot Jr., so far as we know, had nothing but j^acing
blood, and yet he never paced a step in his life. This embraces
all we know of the three horses that proved themselves the most
prepotent in overcoming all antagonisms of race or blood. Others
equally great, no doubt, have come up since their day, but as
breeding is now better understood and as the laws of nature are
now more carefully followed, tests of this kind are not often

After all the "wiring in and wiring out" of the tortuous advo-
cates of "more running blood in the trotter" had found that
their efforts had borne no fruit and that all intelligent breeders
had left their theories away behind, a remarkably brilliant genius
struck out a new line of thought and argument, which unfor-
tunately died "abornin' " just as the attention of all intelligent
breeders was turning away from "more running blood in the
trotter" as a senseless "fad," and looking to the pacer as a possi-
ble source of increased trotting speed. In formulating and ex-
ploiting his idea, our genius seems to have reasoned after this
manner: "The crisis is here, the breeders are all turning away
from the thoroughbred as a source of trotting speed and consid-
ering the pacer, and now if I can convince them that the pacer is
at least half-thoroughbred I Avill beat the standard and win the
day." Here we have the motive and the subject, and now we are
ready for the manipulation. In due time the article appeared,
and I must do the writer the justice of saying I never have been
fully satisfied that he believed a single word of it himself. He
starts out to show that the pace is not the result of hereditary
transmission but the result of "structural incongruity." He


declared that this "structural incongruity" is the result of
breeding the thoroughbred horse on the slab-sided, ill-shapen
mares of the West and Southwest. From the inheritance, part
of the animal is structurally formed to run and the other part
structurally formed to trot, and between the two a compromise
is made on the pace. In this "structural incongruity," between
the two parts the pacing gait originated, and hence whatever
speed the pacer may possess comes from the "thoroughbred;"
and, therefore, of necessity, whatever speed the trotter gets from
the pacer comes from the "thoroughbred." There are many
humbugs in the literature of the horse, but this is the craziest
humbug I have ever met with. What a pity he left his work un-
finished, and failed to tell us which end of the horse was running
bred and which end trotting bred, so that we might locate the
"incongruity" and cut it out! But to look at this "structural
incongruity" seriously, it lacks but little of a scandal on the in-
telligence and honesty of American writers on the horse. Here is
a gentleman of reputed intelligence, who wields a facile pen and
has been writing on breeding subjects for about thirty years, and
much of his work was well done; and now at the close of the
nineteenth century he undertakes to tell us how the pacer orig-
inated in this country. The veriest tyro in horse history knoAvs
that pacers abounded in England in the twelfth century, and
indeed long before that. Every colony in this country Avas full
of pacers a hundred years before the first thoroughbred crossed
the Atlantic. But wild and absurd theories can safely be left to
the public judgment.

It required several years of labor and iteration to convince the
breeding public that the trot and the pace were simply two forms
of one and the same gait. When first advanced it was received
by the more intelligent breeders as an abstraction that had noth-
ing practical in it, while those of less ability to think for them-
selves only laughed at it. Since then the inevitable processes of
experience have demonstrated its truth, and the question of to-
day is how to separate these two forms of the same gait and to
breed either form, as we may desire, as a distinct and certainly
transmissible gait. With a few it will still remain a matter of
indifference whether the colt comes a pacer or a trotter, but with
the great mass of breeders the question of profit in breeding the
harness horse must be considered. Everybody knows that in the
market for road Jiorses the clean-stepping trotter is worth more


than the smooth-gliding pacer. This is not a question to be de-
termined by fashion, but a fact of universal experience that the
trotting action is better suited to harness and the pacing action
better suited to the saddle. Fashions may change, but these two
facts are unchangeable, for they are founded in the nature and
mechanism of the two forms of action. The difficulties in the
way of separating the diagonal from the lateral form of the trot
are very great, and there is no use or wisdom in attempting to
blink this fact. Speed at both forms of the gait comes from the
same source, the same blood, the same inheritance; and source,
blood and inheritance, in a breeding sense, are the hardest things
in nature to overcome. So far as experience teaches there is but
one method or treatment that has ever been successful in wiping
out the pacer. In the first half of the seventeenth century Eng-
land was full of pacers, and about a hundred years later she did
not have one. The trouble about this remedy is that the trotters
were wiped out also, and to-day England has neither a pacer nor
a trotter. When she now wants a trotter she has to send to this
country and get some of the blood of the little despised pacer
that was shipped from her own shores in the early colonial days.
The blood of the Saracenic horse has not lost its potency as a
pacing expunger, as shown by modern experiments, and all our
breeders have to do is to use it in copious effusions, and we will
soon be rid of the pacer, and the trotter along with him. The
pacer and the trotter are never found separate from each other,
so far as my information goes. In Russia they breed trotters
methodically, and they have a full supply of very fast pacers
that are used as shaft horses in their droskies. As in the past,
so in the future, we never need expect to see the two forms of
the gait entirely separated.

Our people, however, are not ready, and as long as the horse is
used for business and pleasure never will be ready to dispense
with the trotter; and even though some considerable number
might deplore the presence and prominence of the pacer, every one
of them would welcome him with great joy if they knew he was
a necessary adjunct of the trotter. When we consider the
problem of reducing the ratio of pacers and increasing the ratio
of trotters in what we produce, there is so much that is old and
still imperfectly known in what we incorrectly call our "earlier"
period of trotting that we find nothing encouraging in the
study. The origin of the principal trotters of the early part of


this century, except the direct descendants of Messenger, was so
sedulously concealed that it was entirely natural for so many
men to conclude that the trotter was not bred, but made by the
trainer. When Flora Temple was the queen nobody knew that
her speed came from a pacer. Old Kentucky Hunter was a very
fast pacer. When Pelham was king nobody knew he had been
a pacer. When Highland Maid eclipsed all records nobody knew
she was pacing bred and had been a pacer herself. When Ver-
mont Black Hawk was the most popular sire of his day nobody
knew that his dam was ''Old Narragansetfc," apacer. When Ethan
Allen stood at the head of all young trotters the old grey mare,
his dam, was, and still remains, entirely unknown, but everybody
believes that a large share of his speed came from that mare.
Andrew Jackson, the head of the great Clay family, was out of a
fast pacing mare. And thus we might extend the list indefinitely.
But away back, more than a hundred years before the period of
which Ave are here speaking, pacing and trotting races had be-
come so numerous that they had to be suppressed by legislative
enactment. More than two hundred years ago there were pac-
ing races and trotting races in this country, and then as now it
seems evident that the form of the action of the prospective colt,
whether lateral or diagonal, was uncertain until it appeared.
This condition of uncertainty about the secrets of the womb has
existed for centuries, as it exists to-day; and if we wsre furnished
a complete list of all the great trotters of the last two decades
that were born jjacers we would hardly be willing to believe our
own senses. The following short list of such animals as have
gone fast at both forms of the gait will serve to illustrate the
oneness of the two forms:

Pacing. Trotting.

Jay-Eye-See, bl. g. by Dictator 2:06J 2:10

Direct, bl. b. by Director 2:05^ 2:18i

Monbars, b. b. by Eagle Bird 2:16f 2:llf

George St. Clair, b. h. by Betterton 2:10^ 2:15^

Heir-at-Law, bl. h. by Mambrino King 2:07^ 2:12

Ottinger, br. g. by Dor-sey's Nepbew 2:1H 2:09f

Bert Oliver, b. li. by Asbland Wilkes 2:08| 2:19i

VaKsar, gr. b. by Vatican 2:07 2:21f

Pilgrim, br. h. by Acolyte 2:10* 2:20|

San Pedro, bl. g. by Del Sur 2:10f 2:14^

Wardwell, b. g. by Almont Jr 2:16^ 2:14^

Gazette, b. h. by Onward 2:09t 2:23f

Welcome, b. b. by Artbur Wilkes 2:10^ 2:27^


Pacing. Trotting.

Story's Clay. b. h. by Everett Clay 2:14f 2:18^

Captain Croucb, cb. b. by General Smitb 2:13 2:25

Red Bud, cb. b. by Redfern 2:12^ 2;14|

Cleveland S., b. b. by Montgomery 2:10 2:24

Connor, bl. b. by C. F. Clay 2:14 2:13^

Babette, b. m. by Sir Jobn 2:12^ 2:22^

This exhibit might be further extended, but the foregoing will
suffice for the purpose intended. The only remark that seems
needed byway of explanation is that all the animals named, except
two (San Pedro and Wardwell), made their records first as trotters.

In surveying the whole situation there is but little encourage-
ment in attempting to solve the problem of how to reduce the
ratio of the pacers and at tlie same time avoid the reduction of
the speed of the trotters. The central point in the problem is
the development of speed; and so long as the pacer comes to his
speed so much quicker and easier than the trotter, and so long as
the best pacer is a little faster, as he has always been, than the
best trotter, there is no probability that his speed will not be
developed. All efforts at repression or exclusion of the pacer
from contesting for prizes at public meetings would be futile and,
in a sense, unjust. Moreover, this would not be in the province
of the breeder and he must work out his plans within the boun-
daries of his own domain. The laws of heredity apply to either
of the two forms of the trot — the lateral and the diagonal — just
as certainly as they a,pply to the two forms united. This is the
breeder's opportunity, and if he grasps it he will make progress
slowly but surely. In his breeding selections he must lay it
down as an inviolable rule that all pacers, especially pacers with
their speed developed, must be excluded, no difference how
strongly they may be bred in the best trotting lines. If a horse
produces some fillies that, like Maud S., Sunol and hundreds of
others, are halfway, or more than halfway, inclined to pace, he
must rigorously keep them at the trot and nothing but the trot,
unless he sells them. He must study intelligently the pedigrees
and produce of the generations away back, and make such selec-
tions as are most likely to promote his object and least likely to
violate the rule laid down. Of all the varieties of the horse on
the face of the globe the American trotter is the typical harness
horse. Our civilization no longer requires the saddle to climb
through mountain passes, and to follow seldom-trodden paths.


through the wilderness. For either business or pleasure we
travel on wheels, and we want the bold, bounding trotter to
propel us. The pacer is the early and only saddle horse in the
world, but he is not a harness horse. Aside from the few that
will be used as gambling machines, his value will recede while
that of the trotter will always advance. In the hands of a man
of intelligent and fixed purpose it is certainly possible to breed a
family of trotters in which the appearance of a pacer from birth
would be of rare occurrence, and the longer such careful selec-
tions and purposes are continued the more rare will be the recur-
rence of the lateral habit of action.

That the development of the speed of the parents was very
important, if not necessary to tlie increased speed of the progeny,
was a proposition that was long disputed. Generally, as on other
questions, each man argued it from the standpoint of his own
stable, but not a few men of clear minds took that side of the
question without regard to the potency of the law of heredity.
In the early stages of the discussion of this question it was a
difficult one to handle effectively. At that time very few sires,
and still a less proportion of dams, had ever been regularly
developed as trotters, hence the field for generalization was
narrow and many of the instances quoted Avere disi^uted. For a
time the battle raged quite fiercely around Hambletonian, as he
was the most prominent stallion of that period, and if a man was
trying to build up another family he would rave till he got black
in the face against "Bill Eysdyk's bull." It is but just to say
that the man who led in all this froth and fury against Hamble-
tonian was engaged in breeding what he called "Clay Arabs,"
and after dodging his creditors for a number of years his last
hoof was sold from him by the sheriff. On the other hand, Ham-
bletonian made his master a, rich man, and he left a large estate.
Hambletonian was only partially developed, but sufficient to shov.'
he was a fast colt for his period. (For full particulars see his
history in another chapter.) Abdallah was a very great sire of
speed and he was not a developed trotter, but his dam, old
Amazonia, was quite fully developed. She won many races and
was the fastest trotter of her day. Whether her speed came
from a fast pacing ancestry, or whether it came from the reputed
"son of Messenger," as stated when she was bought near Phila-
delphia, never can be determined. The "son of Messenger"
story seemed to be straight, but her form was coarse and plain.


and her legs were so hairy that many who knew her best con-
demned the story; hence, all we can say about her is simply that
she was a fast developed trotter. Andrew Jackson had but little
trotting inheritance from his sire, and his dam was a fast pacing
mare of unknown breeding, but his speed was very fully devel-
oped as a trotter, and he became the progenitor of the Clay and
the Long Island Black Hawk families, that became famous in
trotting history. While this reasoning was true in experience
and sound under the canons of science, it was not strong and
convincing, for the one and only reason that the basis of the
generalization was too narrow and lacked in a sufficient number
of cases to convince the understanding of the skeptical. We
have had to wait for the accumulation of the experiences of a
number of years, and now we have the evidence that is so com-
plete as to be really startling and which no man can gainsay.
The following little table embraces all the breeding farms in this
country that have produced three or more trotters with records
of 2:15 or better, and here the rate of speed is certainly high
enough and the foundation is certainly broad enough to furnish
just and safe conclusions:

Leland Stanford 18 Robert Q. Stoner 4

Fashion Stud Farm .13 R. S. Veech 3

William Corbitt 9 C. W. Williams 3

Wm. H. Wilson 8 Highland Farm (Lee, Mass.) 3

C. J. Hamlin 7 Falrlawn Farm 3

Glenview Farm. , 6 E. W. Ayers 3

Timothy Angiin 5 Charles Backnian . 3

Henry C. Jewett 4 George H. Ely 3

Wm. C. France 4 Mrs. S. L. Stout 3

Woodburn Farm 4 Monroe Salisbury 3

Quite a number of other breeders have produced one or U\o
that have made records in 2:15 or better, but I think the above
list embraces all that have bred three or more with trotting
records of 2:15 or better. The table will be a surprise to every-
body, but I doubt whether it will be a greater surprise to any-
body than it is to myself. At the head of the list stands the late-
Senator Stanford's great establishment with eighteen to its
credit, but this is not a fair basis of comparison with any other
establishment in the whole country, for he had about three hun-
dred mares in the trotting department of his breeding stud —

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 52 of 61)