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on showed really brilliant form over hurdles in France,
and was no doubt as good as ever he was.



Lucky Purchase of Qeeen Mary Sir Daniel Cooper's Enforced Luck
Sanda's Worthless Foal Rosaline Cheapness no Merit But do
not despise Cheapness Money does not make Money Ring-side
Maxims Valuation of Blood Stock impossible Leave Nothing
to Chance Make all possible Inquiries Foreign Buyers at a
Disadvantage Sir Tatton and La Fleche Purchase of Sceptre
La Fleche as a Yearling Sierra

THE above headline is very far from a truism,
though the element of luck has a great deal
to do with success in breeding and racing. Old-
time instances in proof of this can easily be recalled
e.g. the late Mr William I'Anson's purchase of Queen
Mary for 100 guineas ; but few people are aware how
the late Sir Daniel Cooper had greatness as a breeder
thrust on him. He had a thorough knowledge of blood
stock when he came to this country, and, in fact, had
those good three-year-old fillies, Mons Meg, Dorcas and
Melody, in training as three-year-olds, with Mathew
Dawson in 1891, and later with George Blackwell ;
but he was not after buying brood mares at that time.
His brother, the present Sir William Cooper, happened
to ask Sir Daniel to pick him up a likely mare or two
if he came across any such ; and in due course Sir
Daniel bought Footlight (by Cremorne out of Paraffin)
and Satire (by Blair Athol out of Jocosa) for quite
small prices so small, indeed, that his brother thought
they must be rubbish and refused to have anything


to do with them. So Sir Daniel Cooper kept them
himself, and Footlight, through her daughter Glare
not to mention Float became the source of one of
the most successful modern families, while Satire pro-
duced Juvenal (by Springfield) and other good winners.
Juvenal, by the way, was bought by the late Colonel
W. P. Thompson of the Brookdale Stud, U.S.A., and
became a successful stallion, siring, among other great
winners, Chacornac, who won the Futurity Stakes, and
later on was trained at Beckhampton and won the
Snailwell Stakes, Newmarket, and other races. The
prices realised by Flair, Lesbia and Menda, all daughters
of Glare, are well remembered, and the family is still

Another curious case is that Sanda's last foal, born
in 1897, was so small, and showed so little promise of
reasonable growth, that he was given away and the
old mare destroyed the following * year. Sir James
Miller, who owned Sanda, would not have it that the
colt could be of any use at all, but George Blackwell
formed a different opinion, and in due time this despised
son of Melanion became a great race-horse, and not
only won a Cesarewitch, but beat William the Third
for the Jockey Club Cup.

Rosaline (by Trenton out of Rosalys) was bred by
Mr J. B. Joel, and as a two-year-old was so small
that her breeder, on the advice of Charles Morton,
gave her away to the Fresh Air Fund. She was sold
by auction together with a, mob of other cast-offs at
Hurst Park, and I bought the little daughter of Trenton
for 25 guineas the top price, I think it was.

Rosaline grew fully two inches in the following year,
and I passed her on for 200 guineas to the late Mr J. A.


Doyle. She was then in foal to Collar. Doyle bred
a winner out of her by Orme, and the following year
mated her with St Frusquin, to whom she produced
Rosedrop, winner of the Oaks and dam of Gainsborough,
who fills at a 400 guineas' fee.

Rosedrop, so far from taking after her dam in being
on the small side, errs if anything in bulk and magnitude.
She was a great mare on the turf, and beat Willonyx
fairly and squarely over one and a half miles at York,
with the weights 6 Ib. in his favour.

It would perhaps be irksome to pursue this subject
of mares cheaply bought and great stock resulting, but
I may just mention Lowland Aggie, bought at the
December sales, Newmarket, for 35 guineas, and two
years later developing into the dam of Lomond, who
was certainly the best colt of his year, though he went
amiss as a three-year-old and could never run up to his
form at that age. 'He showed at Ascot the following
year that he had retained his form, and later on he
has become a very successful sire.

Now all such records as these are very tempting
to small men, who think they see in them a royal road
to riches. Blue Tit cost only 30x5 guineas, and her
last yearlings have made 11,500, 14,500, and 7700
guineas respectively. It may happen indeed that a
man with no knowledge of breeding or blood stock
will pick up a little gold mine in the shape of a brood
mare for a trifling sum. To such men the game is a
lottery indeed, but people of large experience, unless
they are constrained by lack of capital, will not lay
themselves out to secure cheap bargains. If what
you know to be good is going cheap, buy her by all
means, but not because she is cheap.


On the other hand, it is the greatest mistake of all
to despise a mare because you have bought her cheaply.
Most people are affected by this feeling more or less,
and even I must admit an unreasonable prejudice against
Lomond because I bought his dam for 35 guineas, but
this is absurd, as I well know. In other countries the
prejudice against cheaply bought mares is carried much
further. For example, when, in 1919, I had to buy
four or five mares for The Panther up to 5000 guineas,
I secured four according to the best of my ability for
4900 guineas, and then, seeing a very nice young
Symington mare, dam by Baliol, grandam by Trenton,
hanging fire in the ring, I got her for 100 guineas,
and exactly made up the amount of the commission.
But the idea of a loo-guineas mare for The Panther
was anathema maranatha at Buenos Aires, and I
cheerfully kept her myself. She was in foal to the
anything but fashionable Bonfire, to whom she pro-
duced an excellent foal last year, which alone paid
for the purchase. This year she had a beautiful filly
by Sundridge, and of course went to big value.

Mere money does not make money in buying blood
stock, as poor Kennedy Jones, Lord Wilton and many
others have found to their cost, but if money is spent
with well-balanced judgment by people who understand
their job whether launching out or buying cheap the
average result is sure to be good. The worst fault of
all is to be prejudiced against anything because it is
cheap, especially if you are present at the ring-side and
have previously inspected the animals. So many people
hesitate to trust their own judgment on such occasions,
and think because no one else is bidding there must be
something wrong.


It is not so difficult to estimate the absolutely top-
class lots. Thus when Mr Goculdas cabled me in
December 1920 to recommend him the four best mares
coming up at the sales, and my idea of value, I recom-
mended Sourabaya, Monisima, Snow Marten and
Salamandra, at 5000 guineas each. I was instructed to
buy them at those prices, and got the first three for
15,200 guineas, but such are the eccentricities of sales
that Salamandra realised 16,000 guineas, and, honestly
speaking, I would sooner have any one of the other

Of course when you are among mares of this class
there is no such thing as buying them cheaply, but the
point is that many a good mare, with less immediate
pretensions, has been bought cheaply, and people in
other parts of the world won't look at them unless at a
large price. Senor Ignacio Correas, who, through Mr
Casares, gave 970 guineas for Rosaline at the December
sales, was horrified the following spring when he found
that I had originally bought her for 25 guineas, but as
her daughter Rosedrop won the Oaks that year the
mare was by that time worth more like 5000 guineas.

Valuation of blood stock is impossible.

Years ago I bought Lady Sterling, by Silver, for
10 guineas, and from that inauspicious beginning she
proceeded to prove herself an extraordinarily successful
brood mare, producing nine winners out of ten foals, and
some of them were of good class. The fillies out of her
did equally well as matrons ; notably Cooee (dam of
Last Call, Cooya, Bill and Coo, Call o' the Wild,
etc.) and Queen Gold (dam of Gera and other good

On the other hand, that grand mare Flair, who,


with her colt foal, was sold for 16,000 guineas, never
produced anything at all worthy of herself.

I don't think the best judge in the world could have
faulted Flair when she made that price, though he
might naturally have said it was too much to give for
any brood mare. Her failure must always remain a
mystery, except that she was a shy breeder in the later
years of her life. Her sister Lesbia (dam of Torchlight,
Moonfleet, Passer, Damaris, Stratford and other
winners) is very good individually, but by no means the
equal of Flair. Such as she is, however, the late Sir
John Thursby gave 9000 guineas for her, and even at
that price she may be regarded as having been a bargain,
and she may still have two or three more profitable
seasons to come.

The one sovereign rule in buying brood mares at
an auction sale is to leave nothing to chance. This
necessitates a lot of spade-work and judicious inquiries
of stud grooms. You may have to buy, say, half-a-
dozen at a certain average for a certain horse, and you
will probably find about thirty lots in a December sales
catalogue that are likely, on the face of it, to suit

Then comes the task of inspecting the whole lot and
inquiring about them in every detail. Practically all
stud grooms will tell you the truth though with natural
bias in favour of the seller. I never met with but one
who told me a deliberate untruth, and that was nearly
thirty years ago. The mare was a very good one
indeed, and had all the appearance of being certain in
foal so much so that I hardly troubled to inquire, but
this man vouchsafed the assurance that there was no
possible doubt on the subject.


I bid up to 2000 guineas for this mare on behalf of
the late James R. Keene, and, having made my own
limit, let her go to the next bidder at 2100 guineas.

The mare, as it shortly afterwards transpired, had
slipped foal two or three weeks before the sale.

Mr Tattersall will remember the occasion, for the
mare was bought as one of the mates of Ormonde.

However, the question was very properly raised that
there had been a latent error in the catalogue's
description, and after arbitration, over which I think
Mr James Lowther presided, the sale was cancelled.

I mention this one exceptional case as proving the
rule. Reputable stud grooms do not have the instincts
of horse-copers about them, and they or their employers
will tell you the truth it may be sugared over, but you
will ascertain all you want to know.

That is where foreign buyers are at a disadvantage
when they come over here in search of bargains, and
cannot gain intimate knowledge, but simply buy as the
fancy moves them. I should look well trying to buy in
France in similar circumstances ; but this is just what
poor Cheri Halbronn tried to do in his later years at
Newmarket, with the result that, good judge as he un-
doubtedly was, he made many bad bargains, which I or
anyone with close knowledge would have warned him

There are mares for which, within reason, it is im-
possible to give too much, and La Fleche was one of
them. The late Sir Tatton Sykes had the chance of
buying her and her first foal privately for 10,000
guineas, but refused to do so, and in the summer of that
year the mare came up at the Newmarket sales. The
late Lady Sykes instructed Lord Marcus Beresford to


buy her, and he did so in all good faith, but he had to
bid 12,600 guineas for the mare alone. The result was
that the good old gentleman at first repudiated the
transaction, and went away to France to avoid being
worried about it ; but wiser counsels prevailed, and he
accepted the position, nor had he ever any reason to
regret the purchase, though the best of her stock, such
as John o' Gaunt and Baroness La Fleche, had bad
luck on the turf. From both of these classic winners
have already descended, with every prospect of more
to follow.

Sceptre even at 10,000 guineas as a yearling was
well worth the money. The late Duke of Westminster
never failed to breed more than half the Eaton stock
up to high-class weight-for-age form, and there was
not much of a lottery in buying his yearlings, at what-
ever price especially a daughter of Ornament, sister
to Ormonde. Sceptre more than trebled her purchase
price in stakes alone as a two and three year old, and
then, when she failed for her second Lincoln Handicap
as a four-year-old, Mr Sievier, who had not been having
a good time, asked me to sell her, naming 24,000 guineas
as the price.

Immediately on return from racing that day I wrote
to Mr Arthur Chetwynd asking him to transmit this
offer to Sir W. Bass, who was then in India, for it
seemed to me that a better nucleus for a first-class
stud could never be found.

The following afternoon I went on from Lincoln to
Liverpool, and that evening in the billiard-room of the
Adelphi Hotel Mr Chetwynd arrived, who told me he
had just been fixing up the purchase of Sceptre for
.25,000, which, of course, is but ,200 less than 24,000


guineas. However, I was out of it and did not

Sceptre continued to win great races, and she has
already established a great family, through her daughter,
Maid of the Mist, and others of her daughters have still
to be represented.

No mistake can be made in buying such a mare,
provided she has sound constitution and ordinary health,
for insurance rates are nowadays much lower than they
used to be.

There is a certain amount of interest in referring to
what one wrote of famous animals before they achieved

I quote from what I wrote for St Stephen's Review,
published 2ist June 1890:

" Reference to St Stephen's Review in 1889 will show
that I declared Her Majesty's yearlings to be the worst
lot I had ever seen having regard to their pretensions.
I said it before the sale and I said it afterwards, despite
the high average they made. The buyers will, in
almost every instance, admit now that I was right.
Where is there a winning two-year-old from that lot?
So far as I know, there is not one. But this year
matters are vastly different ; nor is it a mere question
of fashion. Nothing more astounding has ever been
done than for one stud to produce and sell on the
same afternoon the winners of Derby and Oaks, and
also the second in the Grand Prix ; and when we find
own sisters to Derby and Oaks winners, and half-
brother to the second in the Grand Prix, we may be
sure, without seeing them, that there will be tall
bidding ; but, apart wholly from that, Her Majesty's


yearlings are this time exceptionally good, and it will
be a record sale, unless I am much mistaken.

" Well, now, everyone wants to know about the sisters
to Memoir and Sainfoin.

" The sister to Sainfoin is remarkably like her brother,
being the same dark colour of chestnut rather darker if
anything and taking altogether after St Albans in this
respect. She is the same low, lengthy animal as Sainfoin,
except only her head and neck, and there she comes
out exactly what you might imagine two Stockwell
crosses and one Rataplan would create, whereas Sainfoin
has preserved his sire's quality in these points. Now I
have never seen a first-class filly whose head and neck
were decidedly short of quality. Others will form their
own opinion ; I have sufficiently indicated mine.

" As to the sister to Memoir, / can only say that had I
4000 guineas handy I would gladly disburse them now
and take my chance of a profit on the sale day. This
is as grand a filly as a man can imagine. Had her
sister not won the Oaks, were she an unfashionably
bred one altogether, still she would, of necessity, make
a very big price. As it is, there is no knowing what
she may fetch. A magnificent filly in every respect,
she stands fifteen hands now, and is positively an im-
provement on Memoir. Let anyone who wants to make
a fancy bet risk whatever he likes on this being the highest
priced one ever sold in England."

The above is what I wrote about Sierra (dam of
Sundridge and Amphora) and La Fleche when they
were yearlings at Hampton Court about a fortnight
before the annual sale. There was nobody present


when I saw them, except good old Mackrell, the stud
groom. As to La Fleche, the forecast was correct in
every detail. Sierra was bought for 1000 guineas by
the Prince of Wales, but she had some latent defect
in one of her nostrils, and he returned her. She was
never trained, but is certainly immortalised as the dam
of Sundridge.



Record since 1863 General Improvement Great Individuals in the
Past Occasional Bad Ones in the Present Blair Athol and Robert
Peck Gladiateur and Rev. Cecil Legard All the Winners
Prince Charlie magnificent Cremorne and Lord Rosebery
Doncaster Bend Or Ormonde Galopin, Kisber, Silvio
Defeats of Galliard and Bruce Iroquois and Foxhall St Gatien
and St Simon

I SUPPOSE there are not many people who have seen
more classic winners than I have, and the question
often crops up Which was the best of them? It
is a question which no human being can answer
definitely unless he lacks a judicial mind for how,
indeed, is it possible to compare the form throughout
more than fifty years ? That the form of our horses has
been improving throughout that time I know, though I
am quite sure that a Derby winner like Macaroni was
immeasurably superior to such as Durbar, Tagalie or
Aboyeur, who as Derby winners were mere freaks.

It is a different matter when we try to compare the
best of years that have passed, and I make no doubt
Macaroni was a good horse, though not a wonder. His
forelegs were proppy and light of bone, and he trans-
mitted that defect to many of his descendants, but he
was a good stud horse, and has always proved valuable
in the making of brood mares, such as Lily Agnes and
her sister, Tiger Lily. Macaroni stood little over 15-2,
and in his latter stages was wrong in his wind. I



always preferred to him his very close relative, Carnival,
who had infinitely better forelegs, and was better looking
all round, but having been sent abroad for some years,
never had a fair chance of success when he came back
to this country, where, nevertheless, he sired Mask,
Scobell and other good winners, as also Festive, the
dam of L'Abbesse de Jouarre.

I knew both Macaroni and Carnival well, for we had
them as stallions at Cobham ; but Blair Athol I knew
from his youth up, as he was bred and trained near to
my home in Yorkshire, and everyone there went more
or less mad about him, for was he not a son of Stock-
well and Blink Bonny (also bred and trained at Malton),
who won the Derby and Oaks ?

Moreover, Blair Athol was a wonder from the day
when he was foaled. The late Robert Peck, who was
then located at Malton, told me several times that he
never saw such a foal as Blair Athol, and, what is more,
the colt never looked back at any of his younger stages,
though he was a bit weak in the knees. The marvel of
it all was that Blair Athol was known to be good enough
to back for the Derby in a field of thirty, that being his
first race, and he won easily enough. I knew Blair
Athol well to the end of his life, and have never seen a
more beautiful horse. Most people nowadays think he
had a lot of white about his legs, but he had only a near
hind fetlock white, and a blaze face. I have never
seen a good portrait of him.

A year later there was some sort of a bogus match
made up to show Blair Athol and Gladiateur against
one another, and they were both on view at Doncaster ;
but such a match was absurd, for Gladiateur was a
horse of wholly different type, more suitable for Aintree


jumping, whereas Blair Athol had immeasurably more
racing quality, though goodness knows what he too
might have done had he been put to jumping.

The suggested match has been of perennial interest,
for I remember that only a few short years ago that
dear, good man and best of sportsmen, the Rev. Cecil
Legard, wrote me that he and a hunting friend had
decided in favour of Gladiateur.

On the merits of Gladiateur there can be no doubt
his handicap performances showed that ; but after
his year classic form was not wonderful Lord Lyon,
Hermit, Blue Gown and Pretender were followed by
Kingcraft as Derby winners, and though the last-
named was about the best-looking Derby winner I have
seen, he was certainly a bad one according to classic

Lord Lyon, of course, became the sire of Minting, an
immeasurably better horse than himself, and Hermit
developed into a much greater stallion than he ever was
a race-horse ; but Blue Gown, whom we had at Cobham
for two or three years before he was sold to Mr James
R. Keene, and died in mid-Atlantic, was one of the
very worst stallions ever known in England, though
strangely enough he had made quite a success in

Pretender went wrong in his wind and did no good ;
but Favonius was a really fine horse, and it is wonderful
that with him and the succeeding Derby winner,
Cremorne great horses both the Sweetmeat line of
Gladiator, through Parmesan, did not go from strength
to strength ; but experience proves that nature defeats
all the most clever schemes of breeding, and, to the best
of my belief, there is not a single male descendant of


either Favonius or Cremorne in the Stud Book at the
present day.

It was Favonius whose success, combined with
Hannah's and Corisande's in 1871, led to the memor-
able watchword : " Follow the Baron ! " (next year).
This was based on the form shown by Laburnum
against Prince Charlie (then two-year-olds), but it was
a sadly mistaken estimate, for Prince Charlie beat even
Cremorne for the Two Thousand Guineas of 1872, and I
honestly think would have beaten any horse I ever saw
over that course.

He was a magnificent individual, with immense size,
power and bone, and faulty only that he was not very
deep in his girth. I can only repeat I have never seen
such a horse and don't suppose I shall do so again.
He was by far the best son of Blair Athol, and it is
a thousand pities that he never had a stud chance to
speak of in this country. During two or three seasons
in America he went right to the top of the tree, with
Salvator and others, and his son Lochiel did the same
in Australasia.

There can, I think, be no doubt that Cremorne was a
very great horse indeed, not merely because he won the
Derby in Prince Charlie's year, but for the way in which
he won the Ascot Cup the year afterwards. I well
remember seeing him win ; not altogether an attractive
horse, with something of a hammer head on a longish,
light neck, but a rare-made one otherwise, and there
was no mistake about the way he strung out his field.
I believe that Lord Rosebery to this day thinks
Cremorne about the best horse he ever saw, and he may
be right, but somehow neither Cremorne nor Favonius
proved capable of perpetuating the Sweetmeat line,


which had come to the front a few years earlier through

In 1873 Doncaster was not a great Derby winner by
any means, though equal to the task of beating Gang
Forward and Kaiser ; but he had been so reared at
Sledmere in those days tnat he gained the unenviable
reputation of being the fattest yearling ever sent into
a sale ring. It was a hopeless task to train him as a
two-year-old, and Robert Peck told me that he himself
beat the colt easily over three furlongs on an old hunting
mare, Doncaster being ridden by a light boy. There
came a change, however, the following year, though
not until Derby Day, and even then Doncaster was not
nearly at his best. He never reached his zenith till he
was five years old, when he won the Ascot Cup and
Alexandra Plate in grand style, and proved himself to
be a worthy perpetuator of the great Stockwell line.
Martin Gurry, who knew Doncaster and his son,
Bend Or, well, has told me that there was an immense
difference between the two, the sire being a very robust
staying horse, while the son was altogether more

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Online LibraryWilliam AllisonMemories of men and horses → online text (page 12 of 22)