Day At The Track


02:59 AM 31 Jan 2007 NZDT
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Courage Under Fire-Splashed colt foal
Courage Under Fire-Splashed colt foal
Courtesy Of Frank Marrion

Coloured pacers are making a comeback. (31 January, 2007)

Coloured horses have been going through a bit of a resurgence in more recent times, not the least of the reasons being the prices lately paid for some around Australasia by Ireland's Patrick Dougan, a colourful individual himself.

So we figured there was probably no better time to have a look at the origins and evolution of these most distinctive racing standardbreds.

They were pretty much 'gone for all money' until the arrival of Splashed, who not surprisingly 'threw' to the skewbald variety, being a 1995 daughter of the skewbald stallion Wilkie's Wonder and tracing to the famous skewbald mare Snowflake.

Wilkie's Wonder traces to Snowflake as well, meaning Splashed is an example of a distant (5x5) 'Rasmussen Factor'.

plashed left three foals in New Zealand before being purchased by Dougan last year and exported in foal to Courage Under Fire, which resulted in a skewbald colt.

Her first foal was a bay colt by New York Motoring in Beddabee, who qualified but was retired after nine fruitless starts.

However, skewbald Christian Cullen filly Cullermein was next and she won twice as a 2-year-old at Alexandra Park and is presently racing with three wins on the board, while her 3-year-old brother Tomahawk was second on debut earlier this season before going for a spell.

The Pemberton family of Pukekohe are involved in all this and are certain to retain Cullermein for breeding with a viewing to continuing the breeding of coloured horses, while whatever the future holds for Tomahawk, he is sure to siring more than the odd foal before his days are over.

All this will however be bringing back memories for a few old-timers of the top class skewbald filly Snowflake.

Racing in the late 40s for Leo Berkett of Highland Fling fame, Snowflake won her only race as a 2-year-old when she took out the featured Great Northern Stakes by three lengths in Auckland, only to be disqualified over an ownership registration irregularity.

The next season she had four wins and six seconds from 13 starts, winning the Great Northern Derby with five lengths to spare and chasing the Maurice Holmes trained and driven Free Fight home in the NZ Derby, where County Antrim was third in what was a 24-horse field.

Snowflake was also beating older pacers that season and in one of her seconds at Addington at Easter, she was beaten a head off 48 yards over two miles in 4.18, which slashed five seconds off Indianapolis' 3-year-old national record and remained one until metrics arrived in 1973.

In a day where racing very much revolved around handicaps, placed times were recognised as records, which seems ironic in a day now where winning records are not recognised unless they are electronically timed.

Snowflake's class and colour, and she was not only a beautifully marked skewbald (piebald being black and white and a skewbald white with any other colour), but the first 'coloured' standardbred seen widely on a racetrack in this part of the world, creating a lot of public interest in the days when 'trotting' was as big a sport as any in New Zealand.

However, a bad race accident subsequently left her embarrassingly unsound, and Berkett was only able to patch her up enough to win once at four and once at five.

Berkett bred most of Snowflake's eight foals in Moray (brown colt by Highland Fling), Elegant (piebald filly by Highland Fling), Blizzard (brown filly by Quite Sure), Reputation (bay colt by Attack), Del Nuit (bay filly by Smokey Hanover), Snow Time (piebald colt by Meadow Chief), Snowfall (piebald filly by Meadow Chief) and Deep Snow (piebald filly by Deep Adios).

Moray, Elegant, Reputation and Snow Time were winners, with the latter being the best of them.

Snow Time was bought as a youngster along with Snowflake and Elegant by Noel Simpson and after chasing the brilliant Lordship home in the Welcome Stakes, was sent to America to be trained by Del Miller.

He likewise attracted tremendous interest in America as the first 'pinto' pacer, but bowed a tendon in training and was pulled up in his race debut.

On his way to Australia for stud duties however, Snow Time stood training long enough in Wales to win his two races at the Simpson inspired Prestatyn Raceway.

Snow Time only sired 20 winners from 150-odd foals and the only one that really amounted to much was Valda's Lad (1.59.4, $114,891).

Chief Nakia was a piebald son who was sold to the U.S. and likewise created a lot of interest racing around Roosevelt and Yonkers in the early 80s.

Snowflake's family bred on quite effectively, particularly through Aspen and Del Nuit in New Zealand and Elegant in Australia, but the coloured aspect of the family has struggled for survival over the years outside of Shows, with Cullermein being the only one since Snowflake and Snow Time to show any real ability outside of Tomahawk's promise.

Wilkie's Wonder was a skewbald son of Deep Adios bred in Australia from a line of skewbalds in White Christmas (by Smokey Hanover), Christmas Snow (Johnny Globe) and Elegant.

Splashed actually descended from a line of bays and browns in Silk And Ice (Vance Hanover), Del Again (Gaines Minbar) and Aspen (Grand John, by Light Brigade) to Blizzard.

Thus Splashed was actually an example of a 'Rasmussen Factor' in tracing maternally though both her sire and dam to Snowflake in the fifth generation, which meant there was probably a better than even chance that such a mating would result in a skewbald.

Splashed (2 NZ wins) was the first foal from such a mating and Auckland enthusiast Tooki Riggs bred another two foals from her by Wilkie's Wonder, with the bay filly Dontdressfordinner and skewbald colt Cool King Creole being unqualified.

Dontdressfordinner went to Australia as a 2-year-old, never to be heard of again, while Riggs still has the 6-year-old Cool King Creole and he is still an entire, and covered nine standardbred mares last season, with three foals having been branded so far.

Dougan also snapped up a few coloured horses in Australia from the same family last year.

Among these was the modestly performed Rorschach (TT1.58.6, 9 Aus wins & $30,331 from 95 starts), a son of Preux Chevalier and the Snow Time mare Mix N Match who was reportedly sold for $100,000 after covering a few mares in Queensland in recent years.

Christian Cullen is very much an outcross himself, his maternal pedigree evolving through different sire lines layer upon layer, with very little Hal Dale blood to speak of, which no doubt goes along way towards explaining why he has been so successful with today's Hal Dale saturated broodmare population.

Splashed represents the Adios sire line and Smokey Hanover (dam sire of Wilkie's Wonder) was from a sister to Adios in Adieu, while her dam Silk And Ice is line-bred 3x3 to Meadow Skipper and has a 5x6x5x5x6 cross to Hal Dale.

Getting back to where all this began however, a long time ago, the colour originated in a piebald pony stallion imported to New Zealand from England during the late 1800s.

A daughter of this pony and an unknown mare was mated with the imported Blackwood Abdallah, who was a unique horse himself in being line-bred 3x4x4 to Mambrino Chief and having no Hambletonian blood, to produce a piebald filly in Kaipara.

She was mated with Black Chief, a son of Black Child (by Rothschild) and a thoroughbred mare who not only did stud duties, but pounded out the miles around Marlborough pulling old coaches.

This resulted in the piebald filly Mapou, who while never broken to harness was reportedly a natural pacer, and the third dam of Snowflake.

She was by Dillon Hall from Silk Stockings, by Calm (Wildwood Junior) from Terou, by Lord Ashley (Rothschild) from Mapou.

After Simpson bought Elegant and Snow Time and bred her last two foals in the piebald fillies Snowfall and Deep Snow, the coloured aspect of the family largely wound up in Australia.

Snowfall had a piebald colt by Bravado Hanover in Karamea Snow, who made the 1972 Inter-Dominion Final in Brisbane won by Welcome Advice, only to miss away.

Snowfall also left a skewbald colt by Bravado Hanover in Santa Karamea, who was a winner, along with a chestnut filly by Deep Adios in Karamea Sophie, who left only bays and chestnuts and not much of note on the track.

Deep Snow left several foals and three were skewbalds, including the fillies Karamea Deedi and Calypso Colours, but they didn't amount to much either.

Elegant left unraced skewbald fillies by Johnny Globe in Christmas Snow and Little Pinto, but her best foal was the bay Smokey Hanover colt Elegant Hanover (2.00), who sired several winners including the good sorts Leitrim and Myron, the latter the 1970s version as opposed to the current one.

Christmas Snow left a few coloured foals, but her best foals were the bays Deep Drive (Geelong Cup) and Christmas Adios, while a bay daughter in Karamea Carol was a fine broodmare with nine winners, including tough sorts in Holy Night and Miss Karanover.

Christmas Snow did leave one skewbald filly in White Christmas, whose first two foals were skewbalds in Wilkie's Wonder and the filly Karamea Whirl, but this line went absolutely nowhere thanks to some very dubious siring selections.

Blizzard's branch has similarly struggled along in New Zealand, but the family has been alive and well through Del Nuit.

he left a string of winners including good sorts in Seanui and Western Light and is the grandam of Take Aim (8 NZ wins) and big Australian winner Morano Magic.

Good filly Ella Mae Morse is from a sister to the latter, while Sapling Stakes winner Proclaimer also comes from this line.

he line which led to Splashed, through Blizzard's daughter Aspen, also led to the good 'Haylin' family and to the brilliant Agua Caliente (1.55.3, 24 wins, $413,027).

Thus, while Cullermein will be a 'blast from the past' for some, in many respects she also represents the future of the coloured pacer in this part of the world.

And all things being equal, in Cullermein that aspect of the standardbred looks in safe hands for the time being.

By Frank Marrion

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