Day At The Track

Art Major latest star for Romola Hanover

11:39 PM 06 May 2008 NZST
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Romola Hanover with John Simpson snr
Romola Hanover with John Simpson snr - at Du Quoin in the late 1950s.
Photo Courtesy Of Frank Marrion

Art Major is clearly on course to become one of the hottest sires in the business in both hemispheres. The one time racing contemporary of Mach Three, McArdle and Red River Hanover in what was obviously a great crop of colts, was last year's leading sire of juveniles in America with his first crop, and his progeny have also been very much to the fore in both America and Australasia at the yearling sales.

So much so that he is presently serving a full book at Blue Chip Farms in New York at a fee of $14,000 and he was also well over subscribed when standing at Alabar Stud in Victoria this past season and covering some 340 mares.

Art Major's success is however just the latest chapter in the re emerging story of the once great family of Romola Hanover.

Romola Hanover was the 'Rich N Elegant' of her time in the 1960s, and while that fame went through an extended flat patch for a decade of two, the family is well and truly 'back' now.

This was first highlighted by the great mares Bunny Lake and Worldly Beauty going head to head in many great clashes a few seasons ago.

Closer to home, another more recent member of the family in Sands A Flyin has sired two of the best pacers bred and raced in New Zealand in recent times – Sly Flyin and Monkey King.

These have been just some of the strings to the bow however of Romola Hanover, one of the all-time great broodmares of the breed.

Romola Hanover's broodmare excellence was such that she proved an impossible act for her family to follow, and for many years breeders strangely considered her subsequent generations disappointing, particularly when many sires from the family proved less than spectacular.

However, there is an old school of thought that good blood never dies, it just lays dormant for a while at times, and recent events have just been a return to the earlier glory days.

Worldly Beauty underlined that fact in no uncertain terms when she first burst to prominence when in her third lifetime start, exploding from the gate to win the $751,800 She’s A Great Lady for 2-year-old fillies at Woodbine in Ontario in 1.53 in 2001.

She also won the $350,000 Three Diamonds soon after, and as a 3-year-old accounted for the $200,000 Miss New Jersey in 1.51.6, $431,802 Fan Hanover at Woodbine in a race record 1.51.2, $200,000 Glen Garnsey Memorial at The Red Mile and $152,588 Matron at Dover Downs, while she was second in the $350,000 Mistletoe Shalee and $500,000 Breeders Crown and in the end she would win almost $2m.

Just as was the case with Romola Hanover, Worldly Beauty was a successful example of outcross breeding, with the only double-up a 3x4 cross to Albatross within the first four generations of her pedigree.

Pretty much every racing and siring great in modern times appeared at least once however, with three crosses to Meadow Skipper, four to Tar Heel and five to Adios further removed.

Romola Hanover herself actually had no duplications within four generations.

Hanover Shoe Farms acquired Romola Hanover's dam, the Hal Dale mare Romola Hal, from Two Gaits Farm in 1955 in foal to Direct Spangler.

After producing a colt in Rome Hanover, she was bred to Tar Heel in his second year at the Pennsylvania nursery and produced Romola Hanover in 1957.

Murray Brown, publicity director at Hanover, recalls that "even though for her time, Romola Hanover’s records of 2, 1.59.8 and 3, 1.59 were relatively fast, they were in no way indicative of her true speed or ability. John Simpson senior always felt that for a small piece of a mile she was the fastest pacer he had ever sat behind.

"This was an incredible statement when you consider that he also trained and raced Bullet Hanover (foaled the same year) and Torpid, each of whom were the fastest 2-year-olds ever for a period of time. They were renowned high speed horses and won heats of the Little Brown Jug among other events."

However, Romola Hanover had some problems that accompanied her blazing speed.

"She could go incredibly fast, but was neither good gaited nor the most sound of fillies. She had a pair of curbs that stung her pretty bad. I believe that once she was going so fast that she got mixed up and came down with Simpson at Monticello."

Romola Hanover also got mixed up in a year that featured such classy fillies as Countess Adios, Dream Girl and Meadow Helene among others.

She retired with earnings of $18,104 and prepared for a far more successful calling - in Hanover's famed broodmare band.

Bred to supersire Adios in 1961, Romola Hanover produced a filly in Rarest Hanover who was not a particularly good individual and sold for $15,000.

At the same sale, a colt by Adios from a Tar Heel mare fetched $50,000 - Bret Hanover.

But Romola Hanover was just getting started and over the next seven years she would produce six $100,000+ winners, primarily to the cover of the Adios speedster Dancer Hanover.

Romeo Hanover was the first of them and from the first crop by Dancer Hanover.

He was a relatively small colt and had very suspicious looking hocks and fetched only $8500 at Harrisburg.

"Jerry Silverman bought him as he had been around Romola Hanover and knew what kind of speed she had."

Romeo Hanover could simply fly and after winning the Fox Stakes and Sheppard at two became the third winner of the Pacing Triple Crown during a season in which he lost only one race.

He retired after a 4-year-old campaign with 44 wins and $658,505 and only Bret Hanover and Nevele Pride prevented him from being a Horse of the Year.

Thus when Romeo's full brother Romulus Hanover walked into the Harrisburg ring in 1965, many of the sport's leading horsemen were waiting and he was knocked down for $35,000 to Billy Haughton.

"About the only thing Romulus had in common with Romeo was his chestnut colour. He was a tall, elegant horse, and resembled a thoroughbred in appearance. Although he possessed high speed and was incredibly game, he wasn't the soundest of horses though."

Romulus won the Adios and the Messenger and $485,000 and was the 3YO Colt Pacer of the Year.

A few days after Romeo Hanover completed his sweep of the Triple Crown with his rout of True Duane in the Messenger, Stanley Dancer paid $55,000 for a Romola Hanover colt by Lehigh Hanover, who he’d won the Little Brown Jug with.

Renamed Nevele Romeo, he was a plain but correct colt, and a capable sort who won some minor Stakes races and $141,821.

Next came the Torpid colt Romano Hanover, who was sold for $52,000 and won $133,676.

Romola Hanover's next foal was a colt by Dancer Hanover and again Stanley Dancer had to have him, going to a record $115,000 to ensure he did.

As Nevele Bigshot (3, 1.59, $29,360), he didn't amount to much and followed Nevele Romeo to stud in New Zealand.

In 1969, Romola Hanover's colt again rewrote the records when Dexter Hanover was bought for $125,000, while the following year Simpson paid considerably more for a half interest in him.

Unfortunately, Dexter Hanover was born the same year as Albatross and Nansemond and was usually racing for second money at best, eventually retiring with earnings of $332,090.

In 1970, Romola Hanover's first filly in almost a decade entered the ring and again a record was set when she brought a final bid of $101,000, and again the purchase price was dwarfed by the earnings.

As Romalie Hanover, she was a truly great filly and won 49 races and almost $400,000 from age two to four when that was about as much as a filly could win.

She retired with more 2.00 miles and stakewinnings than any filly or mare before her.

Romalie Hanover would prove to be Romola Hanover's swansong of sorts, as after her first eight foals would win over $2.1m, her last eight (five fillies) would win less than $300,000, and two thirds of that was won by her last foal, the 1979 Albatross colt Irish Jimmy (1.53).

But her earlier record was a pretty hard act to follow and in the final analysis she wound up with 16 foals, for 16 to race and 15 with records.

In the period from 1965-73, she had produced three world champions, a Triple Crown winner, six classic Stakes winning sons and four $300,000+ winners, not to mention rewriting the record books at Harrisburg.

"When I think back to Romola Hanover's foals they were a mixed bag in appearance. They were good natured and well mannered, but like Romola Hanover herself, several of them were sickle hocked with a predisposition for curbs."

Not surprisingly, much faith accompanied Romola Hanover’s sons to stud, but the results were mixed at best.

Romeo Hanover (62 in 2.00) and Rorty Hanover (157 in 2.00) were the best of them, but Romano Hanover (24 in 2.00), Romulus Hanover (five in 2.00), Dexter Hanover (eight in 2.00) and Irish Jimmy (25 in 2.00) were disappointing along with Nevele Romeo and Nevele Bigshot.

Her daughters did not disappoint however, even if most could not reproduce to the same remarkable extent as their dam.

Five of her six daughters produced 1.55 performers and/or $100,000+ winners, with the best by far being Romona Hanover, the dam of Rodine Hanover (2, 1.54, $231,630) and from whom the likes of Michelle's Revenge (3, 1.52.8h, $432,157), Perfect Art (3, 1.51, $576,983), Real Artist (3, 1.51, $424,947), World Order (3, 1.53, $267,205) and her daughter Worldly Beauty have emanated.

Art Major is like Worldly Beauty by Artsplace from a Nihilator mare – a half-sister to Real Artist in Perfect Profile.

He is a brother to Perfect Art, the imported Australian sire who has produced over 460 winners headed by Grand Circuit star Slipnslide.

Other daughters of Romola Hanover have led to the likes of big winners in Casanova Spur, George Allen, Music Director, Nuke Of Earl and Rumpus Hanover.

While we need look no further than the Tar Heel factor for Romola Hanover's remarkable record, she was not alone in being a noted producer from the family known as that of Miss Duvall.

She was a sister to Rochelle Hanover, who led to the likes of Bunny Lake ($2.8m, Misty Raquel, Chairmanoftheboard and Sands A Flyin among others.

It was in fact Romola Hanover's grandam Romola who was the initial catalyst to the success of the family.

Romola, who was by The Senator (by Peter The Great) from a mare by Joe Dodge (by Bingen), also established the branch of the family which has given us broodmare excellence in Hobby Horse Tar and Adora.

Hobby Horse Tar was the dam of sires in Silent Majority (sire of Abercrombie) and Landslide (sire of Run The Table), while Adios mare Adora brought us such brilliant performers as Three Diamonds, Life Sign, Naughty But Nice, Western Ideal, Tucson Hanover, Threefold and none other than another great mare in recent times in Eternal Camnation ($3.7m).

When Brown reflected on the broodmare band at Hanover 24 years after the passing of Romola Hanover in 1979, he offered this observation:

"Although she isn’t all that well known today, Romola Hanover had all the prestige that a mare like Rich N Elegent (dam of four $500,000+ winners) has now. She was thought of as simply the best."

Frank Marrion

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