Some of you may know that I
have been involved (with Patricia Erigero) with the great website Thoroughbred
Heritage. There's a section on the site known as Grave
Matters, which lists the final resting place of thousands of famous horses,
Thoroughbred and otherwise. Some think it a little grisly but this all came about
from my love of Thoroughbred history, since the graves mark the locations of the
estates and farms where these great horses lived, and obviously died.
standing under the archway in the magnificent old stables at Wandlebury near Newmarket
in England, looking down at a cordoned-off stone marker in the floor that reads:
THE GODOLPHIN ARABIAN
There's something almost surreal
about being there, knowing the bones of that amazing stallion lay below, and in
reality, not just his bones. The very DNA of that great foundation sire is hidden
there, more than just a little y-chromosome that has trickled down through the
centuries from son to son to son to Successful Appeal and Tiznow.
a lot of horse graves and cemeteries over the years, but one that made a very
strong impression was at Sagamore Farm in Maryland, famous as the home of racing
great Native Dancer. Sagamore is beautiful and its cemetery is understated. The
graves are marked with low simple grey stones, with the horses' names and pertinent
dates, but oh, what names!
The oldest horse buried here is Discovery,
which to you young whipper-snappers might not be a name that means a lot, but
to pedigree geeks, Discovery is pure gold. The greatest weight carrier of the
1930s, he was the foundation stallion for Sagamore's founder, Alfred G. Vanderbilt.
Discovery sired 25 stakes winners (8% stakes winners to foals), the majority of
which were bred by Vanderbilt, including the champion mare Conniver. There are
three of Discovery's best offspring buried here with him, including the former
leading Maryland-bred money-winner Find, the stakes winner Loser Weeper,
and the champion producer Good Thing.
Loser Weeper was a full brother
to two other Discovery stakes winners, Thwarted and Miss Disco. Vanderbilt sold
Miss Disco as a yearling and she later became a broodmare for Mrs. Henry Carnegie
Phipps' Wheatley Stable. Her best offspring was a brilliant colt named Bold Ruler,
who won the 1957 Preakness, was voted Horse of the Year that year, and went on
to become the dominating stallion of the 1960s and 1970s when he reigned as Leading
Sire eight times. Loser Weeper and Miss Disco were both sired by Discovery and
out of the mare Outdone, a homebred for Vanderbilt. He purchased her dam from
the 1935 Shoshone Stud Dispersal of W. R. Coe, when Sweep Out was in foal to Pompey,
carrying Outdone in utero. That's how Outdone earned her own spot in the
Vanderbilt was a clever man and when asked what his secret
to breeding success, he answered "Breed a mare to Discovery." Later,
he adapted his philosophy to "Breed any stallion to a Discovery mare."
Miss Disco was just one of several daughters of Discovery who proved vastly
influential broodmares. Vanderbilt's own stakes-placed homebred Good Thing came
home to produce the Sagamore-bred filly Bed o' Roses (by Rosemont), a champion
filly at two and four. Bed o' Roses raced through the age of five and retired
back to Sagamore but died suddenly in January 1953 before she could be bred to
Count Fleet and was buried at the farm. Good Thing's last foal was born
in 1966, and when she died, the mare found her place in the farm cemetery near
her sire and daughter.
(continued next column)
Farm Horse Cemetery (Vanderbilt era):|
Discovery (c. 1931-1958)
Weeper (c. 1945 - 1960)
Native Dancer (c. 1950-1967)
North Sea (c. 1969-1986)
Restless Native (c. 1960-1988)
Bed o' Roses (1947-1953)
(f. 1941 - 1969)
Next Move (f. 1947-1968)
Now What (f. 1937)
Find (g. 1950-1979)
Social Outcast (g. 1950-1970) Shut Out
Besides the top producers Miss Disco (dam of Bold
Ruler) and Good Thing (dam of Bed o' Roses), other Discovery daughters include
stakes winner Traffic Court (dam of Traffic Judge and Hasty Road), My Recipe (dam
of Intentionally), and most important, at least for Sagamore, Geisha, the dam
of Native Dancer. So Discovery's influence travels wherever the descendants of
Bold Ruler, Intentionally and Native Dancer go, and that's pretty far.
Dancer was one of racing's all-time greats and became a great sire, his legacy
living on through his many sons, in particular Raise a Native, also Dancer's Image,
Dan Cupid, Atan and Restless Native. Restless Native was a homebred out
of Vanderbilt's two-time champion filly Next Move. Next Move was a Sagamore-bred
daughter of Bull Lea out of the champion filly Now What. All three, Now
What, Next Move and Restless Native were buried in the farm's cemetery when their
Like Discovery, Native Dancer became an influential broodmare sire.
His daughter Natalma produced Northern Dancer, and if she'd done nothing else,
it would have been enough, but several of her daughters carried the family forward
to a few nice horses like La Prevoyante, Machiavellian (sire of Street Cry) and
Danehill (who is inbred to Natalma). Other daughters of Native Dancer included
Shenanigans (dam of Ruffian, Icecapade), and Courbette (fifth dam of Gun Runner).
Another daughter, Look Ma, produced the good Vanderbilt stakes winner North
Sea, by Northern Dancer, one of his best early runners in the U.S.. North
Sea earned his spot in the Sagamore Cemetery, too.
Another prominent Sagamore
runner sleeps alongside these stars. His name is Social Outcast, a durable
gelding who ran five years in stakes all over the country and earned over $600,000
in the 1950s, when that was truly exceptional.
Look over those names and think
on it. Outside of the stallion cemetery at Claiborne Farm, few plots of ground
contain as many influential individuals as the horse cemetery at Sagamore Farm.
horse significantly missing from the Sagamore Farm Cemetery is Native Dancer's
dam, Geisha, also a Sagamore-bred. She died in March 1959, one day after foaling
Face East, a chestnut full brother to his great brother. At the time, she was
boarding at Julian Rogers' Idle Hour Farm, a parcel of the original Idle Hour
on Old Frankfort Pike near Lexington, Kentucky. The property was absorbed into
the adjacent Darby Dan Farm in the early 1960s. It's unknown whether Geisha, who
would have been a celebrity broodmare at the time, was buried there.
by Anne Peters 2018.