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     The Californians


  Sir Modred

Sir Modred  
Bay Colt, 1877 - 1904.
By Traducer - Idalia by Cambuscan

Byerley Turk Sire line

Family 17

His sire, Traducer

A very good race horse in his native New Zealand and in Australia, Sir Modred was arguably the best Herod line sire to be imported into the U.S. since Glencoe earlier in the century. He was champion sire in 1894, sending a series of good winners out of California to beat the top horses in the east from the time his first crop hit the ground in 1887 to the mid 1890s.

His sire, Traducer (1857, out of the fertile Arethusa), was a son of The Libel, who started third favorite for the 1845 Derby, but was kicked by Alarm at the start. He later placed second to Sweetmeat in Ascot's Queen's Vase. The Libel got Bribery, the dam of St. Albans, a staying son of Stockwell. Arethusa, by St. Leger winner Elis, bred nineteen foals, her best probably Fernhill, by Ascot. Traducer did not win any significant races, and was sent to New Zealand in 1862, enduring a six month voyage on the sailing ship Kensington,imported by Lancelot Walker of Canterbury.

He stood at Canterbury, South Island, but was not well-patronized. He mostly covered half-bred mares and some with even less thoroughbred blood; some of these mares eventually produced some top hurdlers and steeplechasers, and "quite a number of hunters" to his cover. This jumping ability was seen later in his grandson, Moifaa (1896, by Natator), winner of steeplechases in New Zealand and then the 1904 Grand National Steeplechase at Aintree, England, and his grandson Dummy (winner of every major steeplechase in New Zealand), and in Sir Modred's grandson Rubio (1898), who won the 1908 Grand National, and in Sir Modred's grandson Lytle (1914), winner of the 1922 American Grand National.

In 1870 Traducer was shipped of to the Aramoho Stud in Wanganui, North Island, but when his Canterbury youngsters started to win -- Scandal (1863, Canterbury/New Zealand Derby); Backbiter, and Slander among them -- he was repurchased and taken back to Canterbury. In his almost 20 years at stud in New Zealand (he died in 1880), he became the most influential stallion of his time in the country.

Traducer got a great many high class runners, which included nine New Zealand Derby (16 furlongs) winners, eight Canterbury Cup (18 furlongs) winners, and six Champagne Stakes winners (6 furlongs), including Natator, the outstanding stayer Welcome Jack and Le Loup, and many good broodmares. His daughter Lurline (out of Mermaid, who was sent to New Zealand with Traducer) was an outstanding winner of ten races in New Zealand and then five in Australia, including the 3 mile AJC Plate, the 2-1/4 mile Australian Cup, and the 2 mile Adelaide Cup. She became the dam of Darebin (1878, by The Peer), winner of the Sydney Cup and other races, who later joined Sir Modred at James Ben Ali Haggin's Rancho del Paso Stud in California's Sacramento valley. Darebin's daughter Philippa produced the 1900 American Grand National Steeplechase winning mare Philae; Darebin was also dam's sire of Commando.

Sir Modred's dam was Idalia (1870, out of Cesarewitch winner Dulcibella), by Cambuscan (1861). Cambuscan was a good juvenile winner of the July Stakes who later got Two Thousand Guineas winner Camballo, and, after his export to Hungary, the famous race mare Kincsem, as well as a number of German and Hungarian classic winning fillies. Idalia was imported into New Zealand and installed at the Middle Park Stud where she produced a series of high class runners to the cover of Traducer. The first was Betrayer (1876), winner of the CJC Canterbury cup, Champagne Stakes, and the Wanganui Jockey Club Wanganui Cup, and later a sire, getting Canterbury Cup winner Grip. Next came Sir Modred (1877), and then Cheviot (1879), who won the New Zealand Derby. She later produced Idalium and July (1880), both winners, with July later a fair sire in Australia. Sir Modred, Cheviot, and Idalium all ended up in California. Of these, Sir Modred became a leading sire in the U.S., Cheviot was largely a disappointment, but got a great runner in Rey el Santa Anita and a good one in Hindoo Rey, and Idalium, purchased by San Francisco sugar heir Adolph Spreckels as a stallion for his Napa Stock Farm, failed to get a stakes winner.

Sir Modred was, by several accounts, an exceptionally handsome horse with perfect conformation and a wonderful temperament..."a thorough gentleman." He was 16 hands tall and "...of that rare tint known as 'claret bay." He was the best of Idalia's offspring, and among Traducer's top three or four, becoming a versatile winner, first in New Zealand and then in Australia.

He won New Zealand's premier juvenile race, the Canterbury Champagne Stakes over 6 furlongs as a juvenile, and the other big juvenile event, the Dunedin Champagne Stakes. At age three he won the 12 furlong New Zealand Derby in "the hollowest fashion," the Timaru Cup and Dunedin Cup, and at age four the Canterbury Christchurch Plate and the important handicap, the Canterbury Cup. At age five he was taken to Australia, where he won the Australian Jockey Club's Craven Plate (Victoria) and the Great Metropolitan Stakes, "simply galloping over his opponents" carrying 122 pounds.

He was retired to stud, making a half season in New South Wales before he was shipped off to America. In Australia he got about six foals, four of which raced, two of which were pretty good runners -- ANTAEUS, winner of a mile race in Sydney who "could carry big weights over a 2 mile course in the best company," and SIR WILLIAM (1886), the latter winner of the 8 furlong AJC Doncaster Handicap and the 16 furlong Tattersall's Club Cup.

In New York wealthy San Franciscan James Ben Ali Haggin, had met Australian C. Bruce Lowe, a turf writer and bloodstock consultant whose Breeding Racehorses by the Figure System, the first English-language massive scale attempt to compile, organize and assess the matriarchal lines of thoroughbreds, was posthumously published in 1895. Lowe told Haggin about Sir Modred, and acted as agent for him in purchasing the young stallion for $16,000. Sir Modred arrived in the U.S. in early 1886, and was sent to Haggin's vast Rancho del Paso stud, near Sacramento, California. Sir Modred joined the Rancho del Paso stud while Haggin was still in the process of building it (he had co-owned the 44,000 acre site with his partner, Lloyd Tevis, since the 1860s, running imported sheep and cattle and growing crops) --eventually more than 600 thoroughbreds would be residents on its vast acreage. Haggin had successfuly raced trotters and entered the flat racing game in the early '80s. In 1882 his horses were running in San Francisco, and two years later they were shipping off to Chicago to run. By 1885, they were going by rail from California to all important midwest and east tracks -- Washington Park (Chicago), Louisville , St. Louis, Coney Island, Saratoga, Jerome Park, and Monmouth Park, New Jersey. His first big winner was Ben Ali, purchased from Daniel Swigert's Elmendorf Stud in Kentucky, who won the Kentucky Derby and other good races in the year Sir Modred arrived in the U.S.; that year Haggin was third on the list of winning owners of race horses in the U.S., less than a half-dozen years after he entered the game.

Rey El Santa Anita
The aged Rey El Santa Anita with Baldwin's daughter Anita

Sir Modred's brother, New Zealand Derby winner Cheviot, was imported by Leland Stanford into California in 1888 to stand at the Palo Alto Stock Farm on the San Francisco peninsula, and stood at (then Senator) George Hearst's 48,000 acre Piedra Blanca Stud at San Simeon. In 1891 the mare Alaho (1886), by Lucky Baldwin's stallion Grinstead, dropped a handsome bay colt by Cheviot at Baldwin's Santa Anita Stud. Named Rey el Santa Anita, he was a terrific runner for Baldwin, placing in 62 of his 69 starts, and winning a great many important races in Chicago, St. Louis, and New York. But his most notable was the American Derby of 1894, when he blew by the great Domino in the last quarter of the race, soundly beating him by six lengths in a time equalling the race record over 1-1/2 miles, and giving Baldwin his fourth Derby winner. Given pride of place at Baldwin's stud, he was a disappointing sire. When he died on July 2, 1919, he was buried on the ranch under a granite maltese cross, the symbol carried on the jockey silks of all Baldwin's runners; his remains and those of Baldwin's other three American Derby winners were later reburied in Santa Anita Racetrack's paddock area.

Sir Modred joined Longfield, a stallion purchased from the Fashion Stable in San Francisco, King Ban (by King Tom), imported from England, and the imported Kyrle Daly, whom Haggin had bought in 1883 for $8,000, and an ever-increasing band of well-performed and well-bred mares by America's best stallions, mostly from successful and well-established Kentucky farms. Over the next decade Haggin imported many other stallions, mostly from England, and several from Australia and New Zealand, including the aforementioned Darebin (out of the Traducer daughter Lurline), and later New Zealand Cup winner Maxim (1890, by another great New Zealand horse, Musket), who died after only a few years at stud, but left Maxine, the best filly on the Pacific Coast.

Rancho del Paso youngsters were first sold at auction in 1884, when 142 thoroughbreds, trotters, and "general purpose" horses were sold at Arcade, on Haggin's property north of Sacramento, which was conveniently located on the Southern Pacific Railroad line. With a distinct lack of enough well-heeled buyers in California, and with the arrival of Sir Modred's first youngsters, Haggin shifted his sales efforts to New York in 1888, where Sir Modred yearlings brought the largest average ever paid at auction for the get of a stallion that had not produced a winner (in the U.S.). At its peak, Rancho del Paso was shipping over 100 yearlings by rail for the six day trip to New York, with stops in Chicago and elsewhere for the race horses (both Haggins' and those of his west coast friends, such as Theodore Winters) that went with them, with multiple cars for feed, a vet for each of around fourteen cars loaded with horses, special apartments for the trainer and head vet, in all quite a traveling stable.

From California, then, the New Zealand-bred stallion, supported by Haggin's vast wealth and huge and ever-increasing herd of broodmares, sent out a number of winners, some of which were foals retained and raced by Haggin, and others sold at annual yearling sales in New York. Later Haggin shipped some Sir Modred foals to England for auction.

Sir Modred's best runner was probably TOURNAMENT, winner of the most money of three-year-olds in the U.S. in 1890, but he got winners of many other big east coast races, including the Withers Stakes, the Belmont Stakes, and the Travers Stakes. But it was his good mid-level runners, winning between $6,000 and $12,000 each annually that sent him up the sire charts.

In 1891 he was seventh on the leading sires list, with winners of $88,590, well behind first-placed Longfellow ($186,840). In 1892, he had winners of $75,582. In 1893 he had risen to second place ($160,197) on the list behind Himyar ($246,382, largely contributed by Domino). In 1894 he was America's leading sire, both in runners and monies won, with 47 winners of 208 races and progeny earnings of $127,000 (this was after the Sherman Silver Purchase Act and the subsequent rapid drop in prices accompanied by a depression that lasted throughout most of the rest of the decade); that June the Breeder and Sportsman reported that almost every day a horse by Sir Modred or out of one of his daughters was winning a race somewhere on the east coast. By the early '90s, however, Sir Modred had been supplanted by other high class stallions with more fashionable bloodlines, imported by Haggin, and in 1895 he was off the top ten list, although still high in the stallion rankings, with winners of $64,435, and in 1896 with progeny earnings of $52,900.

One of Sir Modred's early youngsters in the U.S. was GLOAMING (1887), out of the California-bred Twilight, by Theodore Winters' great stallion Norfolk. Twilight had been bred by Winters at his Yolo County, California, Rancho del Arroyo, and sold to Haggin. Gloaming was sold as a yearling to John G. Follansbee, a steward for both the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association and the Jockey Club. She won a number of races for him, including the Monmouth Handicap, and placed second to Sinaloa II in Belmont Park's Ladies Handicap in 1890. She was later a broodmare in J.R. Keene's Castleton Stud in New York, where she produced just one foal, was barren for successive years, and died in 1907.

Another in that same crop was SIR JOHN (1887), from Marian, by Hubbard. He won the 1-1/2 mile Travers Stakes at Saratoga in 1890, and placed second to Latonia Oaks winner English Lady in the 1-3/4 Kenner Stakes that same year. But the best of the small first crop, and Sir Modred's best money winner ($108,778 total) was TOURNAMENT (1887), out of the Alarm daughter, Plaything. Plaything had won $68,505 for George Hearst as a three-year old, and had previously been bred to the stallion Monday, and to a trotting stallion. Tournament was her fourth foal, and was an exceptionally large and growthy colt.

As a juvenile, in ten starts, he won the Great Eastern Handicap, beating a field of nineteen. At age three he started eight times before he finally won, but that was the Lawrence Realization, for which he had finally been given the work he needed to get fit by Hearst's trainer, Matt Allen. In that race he romped home fifty yards ahead of Her Highness, who ran second. He was shipped by rail to Monmouth for the Lorillard Stakes, but there was a cock-up, and he was held overnight in New Jersey when the boat was missed, which left him without exercise for two days; in an attempt to get him ready for the race, he was galloped in the afternnon of a day that reached almost 100 degrees, and when he came to the race out of condition he beaten by the indifferent Torso. He went on that year to win the Omnibus, Choice, Omnium, Jerome, Hickory and New Rochelle Stakes, and was the biggest earning runner of the year.

Hearst, who had made his fortune during the California gold rush and was a one-time partner of Haggin and Lloyd Tevis in gold and silver mines, died in February of 1891, and Tournament was sold to Foxhall Keene for the tidy sum of $35,000, more than twice what Haggin had paid for his sire. He did not run well at age four, but did win some races at age five. His lasting influence in the stud was limited to his daughter, Nethersole, whose grandaughters Gossip Avenue and Miss Puzzle were stakes winners. Miss Puzzle was later the dam of Questionnaire (1927, by Sting), the impressive handicapper who won nineteen races and later was a good sire.

The best of the 1888 crop was the chestnut DR. HASBROUCK, a top sprinter with total lifetime earnings of $43,055, bred by Haggin, out of Sweetbriar, by Virgil. His sister, BRIER SWEET (1895), was a good runner at age three, winning the California Oaks at Ingleside and other races there, races at Sheepshead and at Brighton, and the First Special over 1-1/4 miles at Gravesend. She was retired as a broodmare to Rancho del Paso.

The 1889 crop included SHELLBARK, out of the Glenelg daughter Hirondelle. He ran second (and last) to Patron in the Belmont Stakes. Another Sir Modred colt, the chestnut COMANCHE (1890, sometimes Commanche) won the Belmont in 1893. He was the first foal out of Ethel, by Haggin's imported stallion King Ban. Ethel's dam was the celebrated broodmare Maud Hampton, purchased for $10,000 by Haggin from Major Barek Thomas, owner of the Dixiana stud. Owned by Empire Stable, Comanche also was third in the Brooklyn Derby (Dwyer Stakes) to Rainbow at age three.

The best of the 1890 crop, however, was the bay filly NAPTHA (1890, out of Napa, by Enquirer). She won the Gazelle Handicap stakes over 1-1/16 miles at Aqueduct, and the Ladies Handicap over 1-1/2 miles at Belmont Park, and other races. She died the year of her triumphs, but her unraced sister, SUSCOL (1891), retained in Haggin's stud, produced several winners: Golden Days was a winner; Arquebus won seven races in 1899, and won over jumps in 1900 and 1901; Deseo was sent to England (Haggin and other west coast breeders sent several drafts of yearlings for auction in England around the turn of the century), where he won in 1900 and 1902, and Ice Water won races in all the years between 1901 and 1905. Suscol was also the dam of Basseting (1900, by imported Bassetlaw), who produced the in-bred Waterbloosm (1912, by Waterboy), winner of the Alabama Stakes and Kentucky Oaks, and Aquastella (1926, by Cudgel), who also won the Alabama Stakes. Waterblossom's descendants in tail-female include her grandson, Preakness Stakes winner Dauber (1935, by Pennant), and Stocks Up (1986, by Kris S.), a winner of the Hollywood Starlet Stakes. Napa, the dam of Naptha and Suscol, won the Gano Stakes and the Ladies' Stakes in San Francisco.

The best of the 1891 crop was SIR EXCESS (1891, out of Dixianne by King Ban). He won Belmont's Champagne Stakes at Morris Park over a 7/8 of a mile as a juvenile, among other good races. He was third to Dobbins and Assignee in the Brooklyn Derby over 1-1/2 miles at Aqueduct at age three, and was second to Keenan in the Sheepshead's Tidal Stakes over 1-1/4 miles when he was four years old. His brother, CONNOISSEUR (1892) was another good juvenile, winning the 5-1/2 furlong Eclipse Stakes at Morris Park and several other races, and running second to Waltzer in Sheepshead's Great Trial Stakes over 3/4 mile. At age three he was second to Keenan over 1-1/4 miles in the Tidal Stakes at Sheepshead.
LUCANIA (1892), out of School-Girl (out of Glenluine, by Glenelg) by Pat Malloy, won the Withers Stakes in 1895. In the Rancho del Paso stud she produced Cunard (1899, by imported Goldfinch), winner of $13,150 as a juvenile, which included Morris Park's National Stallion Stakes over 5-1/2 furlongs, and $7,460 at age three, which included the Kenner Stakes, and thirds in the Saranac Handicap and the Travers Stakes. Cunard's sister, Sweet Finch (1903, by Goldfinch) was one of the yearlings sent to England for auction. In 1913, in the stud of J.B. Joel, she dropped the racy-looking Star Hawk (1913, by Sundridge). Star Hawk, winner of a couple of juvenile races in England, was one of a big group of youngsters purchased by Walter Jennings for the wealthy Californian A.K. Macomber, and Star Hawk was returned to the land of his dam's birth. He debuted in the Kentucky Derby, beaten by a neck by George Smith, went on to run second in the Brooklyn Derby (Dwyer Stakes), and was beaten by a nose in the Travers. He went on to win the Lawrence Realization and the 2 mile Louisville Cup. LUCANIA'S brother, PUPIL (1897) won the National Stallion Stakes as a juvenile.

Other Sir Modred youngsters that ran well included BENDORAN (1895), second in the mile Sheepshead Bay Handicap twice, later a sire at Rancho del Paso, and KENILWORTH (1898), a good sprinter that ran for eight seasons, mostly in California, and after a short time at stud, was put back into racing when ten years old and finally retired for good to L.J. Bugera's stud in Novato, California. A Sir Modred daughter, MADEIRA (1899, out of Marsala by Salvator) was sold to England and sent to India, where she won the Pona Grand National Steeplechase over 2-1/2 miles in both 1906 and 1907 and eleven other races on the flat and over jumps, and in 1908 was shipped to England where she was a broodmare in Warwickshire.

In addition to SUSCOL and LUCANIA, Sir Modred got some other good producing daughters. These included ZEALANDIA (1893, out of Roke, by Alarm), the dam of the champion older horse of 1903 Waterboy (1899, by imported Watercress), winner at age four of the Brighton Handicap, the Century Handicap over 1-1/2 miles at Sheepshead, the Commonwealth Handicap over 1-1/4 miles at Sheepshead, and the Saratoga Handicap over 1-1/4 miles, among other races. Waterboy was later a stallion for Rancho del Paso. Waterboy's sister Zeala (1902) had a daughter that was sent to France, and from there the family went to Italy, where a tail-female descendant, Mahatma (1932, by Armenio) won the Italian Oaks.

LA TOQUERA (1892), out of the Spendthrift daughter Touche Pas , was the dam of two good winning brothers by Star Ruby: son Sombrero won the California Derby over 1-1/4 miles at Oakland, among other races, and was second in the Second Special over 1-1/2 miles at Gravesend; he was later a sire at Rancho del Paso. His brother, Rubio, was part of a draft of yearlings shipped to England for auction, where he was purchased as a field hunter, and in 1908 won the Grand National Steeplechase at Aintree.

ENID (1889, from the Billet daughter Miss Motley) was the dam of Brooklyn Handicap winner Tokalon (1901, by Tammany). Her tail-female family (A-29) is still active, with the 1965 Breeder's Cup (juvenile fillies) and Demoiselle Stakes winning filly Open Mind (1986, by Deputy Minister) and Prix du Conde winner French Friend (1973, by Herbager) among her descendants. SACCHARINE (1896, from Glorianne by Joe Daniels) had tail-female descendants (Family A-10) racing at the end of the 20th century, with B. Thoughtful (1975) and Hollywood Glitter (1984, by Irish Lord) both winners of the La Canada Stakes. SILEA (1901, from Silence by Rosicrucian), also has contemporary descendants, with Sweet Desire (1934, by Jean Valjean) a winner of the Pimlico Oaks, and her descendant Shocker T (1982, by Nodouble) a winner of the Delaware Handicap. The unraced TORRID (1896, from Tulare, by Monarchist ( a son of Lexington)) was the dam of the winner Sultry; her sister, Miss Modish, was dam of the good winners Inspector Shea, Vogue, and Katie Powers.

Sir Modred was the first stallion in America to get winners of over 200 races in one season, many of them running in top class company, although only Tournament was what could be considered a top class runner. He never got a first class sire son, but his good producing daughters persist in some pedigrees today, although the bloodlines of many were lost when California racing went virtually dark after anti-betting legislation was enacted in 1909. Suffering the infirmities of old age, Sir Modred was mercifully put down in May of 1904. He was, in the words of turf writer Thomas Merry, "about as good as he was beautiful."

--Patricia Erigero

SIR MODRED, Bay Colt, 1869 - Family # 17.
b. 1857
The Libel
br. 1842
ch. 1824
br. 1839
b. 1839
ch. 1833
b. 1831
x. 1870
ch. 1861
b. 1848
The Arrow
b. 1850
br. 1857
br. 1847
Martha Lynn
blk. 1846
The Doctor
The Biddy

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