• by Alan Porter 
  • on July 2, 2016  -  

With Harzand and Minding taking the Epsom Derby (gr. I) and Epsom Oaks (gr. I), and then following up with wins in the Irish Derby (gr. I) and Pretty Polly Stakes (gr. I), it’s interesting to reflect how both go back to families developed by the great English breeder, Major Lionel Holliday.


In the period from the early 1940s to the 1960s there were few more important British thoroughbred breeders than Major Lionel Holliday. Owner of Copgrove Hall in Yorkshire, Cleaboy Stud in Westmeath, Ireland, and Sandwhich Stud in Newmarket, Holliday was Leading Owner three times, Leading Breeder three times, and bred and raced three classic winners. He twice raced homebred three-year-old colts rated at the top of their generation in Europe, and even the bred the sire and dam of an Epsom Derby winner, Blakeney, but success in the “Blue Riband’’ eluded him.


His two outstanding colts were Hethersett and Vaguely Noble. Hethersett started favourite for 1962 Epsom Derby, but was one of seven horses who fell or were brought down in melee on the decent to Tattenham Corner. Hethersett subsequently took the St. Leger, and at years end, Timeform rated him as co-top three-year-old in Europe, equal with the Irish 2,000 Guineas and Champion Stakes captor, Arctic Storm. Vaguely Noble was born in 1965, the year of Holliday’s death, and as a consequence was not nominated to the classics, but his victory over that year’s Derby hero, Sir Ivor, in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, showed  him to be amongst the best runners of the post-WWII era in Europe.


Given that Holliday by all accounts was not the easiest of men to get along with, we’re not sure that he’d appreciate the irony, that just a year on from the 50th anniversary of passing, not only the Epsom Derby winner, Harzand, but also the Epsom Oaks victress, Minding, descend from families developed by Holliday, and with ties to respectively to Hethersett and Vaguely Noble.


The most important of the Holliday foundation mares was Lost Soul, who was a 1,800 gns. purchase at the 1932 Doncaster St. Leger yearling sales. Bred at Sledmere Stud in Yorkshire, Lost Soul was by the St. Leger, Coronation Cup and Ascot Gold Cup victor, Solario, out Orlass, a daughter of the English and Irish Derby winner Orby, and was half-sister to the Derby third Shian Mor. Lost Soul wasn’t a top-class runner, but did win twice, and was placed in the City and Suburban Handicap and Victoria Cup, efforts that would certainly qualify her as a black-type performer in modern terms. At stud, Lost Soul produced seven winners, including Goldsborough, who won the Prince of Wales’ Stakes; Dumbarnie, a top-sprinter and subsequently sire of Lochnager, the best sprinter in Europe in 1976; and Nearly, a filly who was third in the Middle Park Stakes. Subsequently, Nearly became ancestress of a slew of major winners, the most prominent including Dumka, who took the French 1,000 Guineas, and produced the 2,000 Guineas winner and Derby third, Doyoun; Alexandrova, successful in the Oaks and Irish Oaks; another Irish Oaks heroine, Chicquita; the Champion Stakes scorer Flossy; Cheers Grace, Champion Two-Year-Old Filly in Japan; top miler Indian Lodge; Droll Role, a standout turf horse in the U.S.; and the important sire, Derring-Do.


In addition to Nearly, several other daughters of Lost Soul became successful producers, but the most import to Holliday, was her 1939 foal, Phase, a daughter of Derby, St. Leger and Eclipse Stakes winner, Windsor Lad. Holliday was actually rather lucky to keep Phase as with the outbreak of WWII Holliday sold his entire 1940 yearling crop to leading Irish breeder, Joe McGrath, who passed on Phase due to her rather large and unsightly head. Phase was to prove a smart runner, winning three races, including the Bottisham Stakes, but her true value was as a producer.


Lost Soul’s good runners Goldsborough and Nearly were by Nearco, while Dumbarnie was by Nearco’s son, Dante. It’s no surprise then, to find that Phase also made a number of visits to Nearco’s court. The union proved to be a remarkably successful one yielding the 1951 Oaks victress Neasham Belle; Narrator, winner of the Champion Stakes and Coronation Cup; Netherton Maid, who took the Princess Elizabeth Stakes and ran second in the 1947 renewal of the Oaks; None Nicer, winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes, Yorkshire Oaks and Lingfield Oaks Trial; and runner-up in the St. Leger; and another Lingfield Oaks Trial winner, No Pretender.


Although inferior to Neasham Belle and None Nicer, it was Netherton Maid that proved to be the most important of Phase’s daughters. She was dam of a trio of good colts in Chatsworth (runner-up in the St. Leger, and  a successful sire in New Zealand), Pirate King (St. James’s Palace Stakes) and Pampered King (a useful sire, including Champion Two-Year-Old and outstanding NH stallion, Deep Run).


Netherton Maid’s best daughter, Bride Elect (by the Royal 2,000 Guineas winner, Big Game) was one of the fastest juvenile fillies of 1942, winning the Queen Mary Stakes, and taking second in the Cheveley Park Stakes and Lowther Stakes. Bride Elect also proved to be a highly-important producer, among her offspring being Hethersett, of whom more in a moment; Never Beat, four-time Champion Sire in Japan; and Royal Prerogative, Champion Sire in South Africa. She also produced a stellar broodmare in Prudent Girl, dam of the Washington DC International captor, Providential, and co-Champion European Two-Year-Old Filly Play It Safe, and ancestress of numerous other stakes winners.


It was Hethersett, however, who was by some way the best of Bride Elect’s offspring. Hethersett was himself an outcross at five generations, but was by the intensely inbred Champion Stakes and Irish 2,000 Guineas winner, Hugh Lupus (2×3 to Tourbillon, and 4x5x3 to Tourbillon’s paternal grandsire Bruleur) with Bride Elect being 3×4 to Blandford and 5x4x6 to that horse’s broodmare sire, White Eagle.  At two, Hethersett won the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at Ascot on his debut, but could only manage fifth in the Timeform Gold Cup (now the Racing Post Trophy). He kicked off at three with a five lengths tally in the Brighton Derby Trial, and on the strength of that effort started favourite in a field of 26 for the Derby itself. Apparently traveling well in midfield, Hethersett, was brought down in the pile-up at half-distance as long-shot Larkspur took the victory. Unplaced on firm ground, and when short of peak fitness, in the Gordon Stakes, Hethersett rebounded take the Great Voltigeur Stakes. He gained a measure of classic compensation with a four lengths win in the St. Leger – Larkspur back in sixth – and was then second to Arctic Storm in the Champion Stakes. Hethersett remained in training at four, but failed to win again. At stud, he died after siring just three crops, but left ten stakes winners from 71 foals, including Epsom Derby winner Blakeney and Highest Hopes, who captured the Prix Vermeille.


One of Hethersett’s more interesting black-type winners was Hazy Idea, who won the March Stakes and Crookham Stakes, and also ran second in the Prix de Royallieu, and fourth in the French 1,000 Guineas and Prix Royal-Oak. She was bred after Major Holliday’s death by his son, Brook Holliday, and her dam, Won’t Linger, was by Worden II out of Chatsworth’s sister, Cherished, making Hazy Idea 3×3 to Netherton Maid.  Cherished was unraced, but she produced a trio of black-type winners, including Hethersett’s three-quarters sister, Heath Rose, a listed winner in England and France who was rated among the best of her crop at two and three, and who subsequently became dam of Middle Park Stakes winner Tudenham.


At stud, Hazy Idea kicked off with three black-type winners with first three foals, headed by Hittite Glory, who took the Flying Childers Stakes and Middle Park Stakes at two. Herr other early offspring included the Glenstal daughter Given Thought, granddam of Stream, a four-time graded one winner in Australia, and Decision Time, the highweighted two-year-old colt in Australia in 2009-2010.


In the mid-eighties, Hazy Idea was among a number of Holliday mares purchased privately by the Aga Khan. For him, she dropped a pair of black-type producing daughters. The most notable of those was the Darshaan mare, Hazaradjat. Her best runner was the Barathea daughter, Hazarista, who took the Blue Wind Stakes, and ran third in the Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks.Through the minor winners Hazarama and Handaza, Hazaradjat also appears as granddam of three stakes winners, including Humphrey Bogart, who won this year’s Lingfield Derby Trial, and ran fifth in the Derby, and third dam of Seal of Approval, successful in the Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes.


Hazaradjat was also represented by another good daughter at the racetrack in Hazariya (by Xaar). Hazariya wasn’t as talented as Hazarista, but she did win three races, including a pair of black-type events in the Athasi Stakes and Victor McCalmont Memorial Stakes. As a broodmare, Hazariya made a promising start, her first three foals being the listed winner Hazarafra, group placed Haziyna, and Harasiya, a group winner who also took third in the Moyglare Stud Stakes. The sequence of black-type horses ended with Hazariya’s fourth foal, Hazaraba, a minor winner in Ireland, but after aborting what would have been her 2012 foal, she rebounded in no uncertain terms with Harzand.


The female family that produced Minding goes back to Belle Sauvage, who Holliday acquired as a 3,700 gns. yearling purchase in 1950. Belle Sauvage was classically-bred on both sides of her pedigree, as she was by Netherton Maid’s sire, Big Game, out out Tropical Sun, a Hyperion daughter who ran third in a war-time Oaks in 1943. The second dam, the French-bred Brulette, was the Epsom Oaks winner of 1931. Belle Sauvage didn’t live up to that gaudy pedigree on the track, but did become an important broodmare for Holliday. Belle Sauvage’s best runners were the Dee Stakes captor Pandour, and Noble Lassie, a daughter of Holliday favourite, Nearco, who took the Lancashire Oaks. Another daughter of Belle Sauvage, Promised Lady, made her way to Germany where she produced three stakes winners, headed by German Horse of the Year, Lombard. Although he was generally a disappointment as a stallion, Lombard does appear as broodmare sire of Urban Sea, who through her sons Sea The Stars and Galileo appears in the pedigrees of Harzand and Minding.


In 1964, the year prior to Holliday’s death, Noble Lassie was bred to Vienna. Then in his second season, Vienna turned out to be a very disappointing sire, but with Noble Lassie he did give an interesting pedigree, as he was by Aureole, a son of Hyperion, out of a mare by Turkhan (by Big Game’s sire, the Triple Crown winner Bahram), so bred on a reverse cross to Belle Sauvage, the dam of Noble Lassie. The result of this mating was Vaguely Noble. At two, racing for Holliday’s estate, Vaguely Noble won the last two of four starts, ending the year with a seven length victory in the Observer Gold Cup (now the Racing Post Trophy). Vaguely Noble – who due to Holliday’s death had no classic engagements – was offered as part of the final group of horses from the estate at the 1967 Newmarket December Sales, realizing a then world-record price of 136,000 gns. The purchaser was plastic surgeon, Dr. Robert Franklyn, who shortly afterwards sold a half-share to Nelson Bunker Hunt. Sent to France to be trained by Etienne Pollet, Vaguely Noble won three of his first four races, and then placed himself among the best of his era with a three length victory over that year’s Derby winner, Sir Ivor, in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Sent to stand at stud in the U.S., Vaguely Noble subsequently became an very successful sire and broodmare sire.


Noble Lassie would later produce two sisters to Vaguely Noble. One of these was Vive La Reine, a winner over 12 furlongs in France, and later dam of the Champagne Stakes winner R.B. Chesne. Vive La Reine’s daughter Alathea – by Nijinsky II’s Champion Stakes conqueror Lorenzaccio – was unplaced on the track, but did produce a pair of smart runners in the Nureyev colts, Great Commotion – officially weighted as top older sprinter in Europe – and Lead on Time, successful in two group sprints in France.


Hiwaayati, a Shadeed half-sister to Great Commotion and Lead On Time, was unraced, as was her Darshaan daughter, Hoity Toity. However, crosses with the Danehill line enabled Hoity Toity to revive her branch of the Belle Sauvage family, as she is dam of stakes winner Count of Limonade (by Duke of Marmalade), and of Lillie Langtry (by Danehill Dancer), and granddam of group winner Master Apprentice (by Danehill Dancer’s son, Mastercraftsman). A 230,000 Tattersalls October Yearling purchase, Lillie Langtry raced in the colours of Michael Tabor. She earned a ranking as top three-year-old miler in England and Ireland, and won five of 11 starts, including the Matron Stakes, Coronation Stakes, Debutante Stakes and Naas Fillies’ Sprint. Her first foal was Galileo’s daughter, Kissed By Angels, winner of the Leopardstown 1,000 Guineas Trial, and Kissed By Angels was followed one year later by Minding.


Although he couldn’t have know it at the time – Northern Dancer served his first season at stud the year that Holliday died – Holliday’s use of Nearco, particularly his success with daughters of that horse, set his families up perfectly to receive Northern Dancer’s influence. Netherton Maid, by Nearco, was out of a mare by a grandson of Swynford, had a second dam by Solario (by Gainsborough), which is similar to Northern Dancer’s sire, Nearctic (by Nearco out of a mare by Gainsborough’s son, Hyperion, and with a third dam by Swynford). This was also background similar to Royal Charger (by Nearco out of mare by Solario, with a second dam by a grandson of Swynford). Harzand’s pedigree features a double of Northern Dancer, and a double of Royal Charger’s male-line descendent, Sir Ivor.


Vive La Reine was a Hyperion (Gainsborough)/Nearco cross, the reverse to Northern Dancer’s sire, Nearctic (Nearco/Hyperion). Her descendent, Minding, has three crosses of Northern Dancer, including one through Sadler’s Wells, who is by Northern Dancer and out of a mare by a Royal Charger (Nearco/Solario (Gainsborough) cross) line mare.


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