November 29, 2010

Brilliant juveniles who don’t race beyond their 2-year-old campaigns aren’t a new phenomenon. Either due to injury or simply being unable to compete successful at the highest level as they age, some horses only excel for an oh-so-brief time. Perhaps one of the best ever was Friar’s Carse.

Born in 1923 and named for owner/breeder Samuel D. Riddle’s ancestral home in Scotland, this chestnut filly’s sire was Friar Rock, 1916 Horse of the Year and winner of that year’s Belmont Stakes (not to mention the Brooklyn and Suburban handicaps). Her dam Problem was by Brooklyn Handicap winner (and Belmont Stakes runner-up) Superman. Overall, her pedigree featured crosses of no less than three Epsom Derby winners: Galopin (5 x 5), Hermit (5 x 5 x 5), and Bend Or (3 x 4). Riddle bred her not necessarily to race, but ideally as a future mate for Riddle's stallion Man o’ War, a mating that produced a 2 x 2 cross of half-brothers Fair Play and Friar Rock, as well as Epsom Derby victor Rock Sand.

A “wild tip” arose on Friar’s Carse at Pimlico on May 11, 1925, as she went postward an even money favorite as a first-time starter. Money well-invested as:

“Friar’s Carse never left the result in doubt after the start. She got off with the leaders and before they went a dozen strides she began drawing away and the further they went the bigger the gap she opened, until she led Shampoo by five lengths at the finish.”

As the Daily Racing Form (DRF) chart remarked, she won in a canter. After finishing second to the colt Galetian in the 17-horse field Juvenile Stakes at Belmont next out on May 23, she defeated 10 other fillies in Belmont’s Fashion Stakes on May 30—a race that in the two preceding years had been won by subsequent Preakness winner Nellie Morse and champion 2-year-old filly Mother Goose, respectively.

On the same day that Riddle’s American Flag captured the Belmont Stakes, Friar’s Carse defeated males for the first time in winning the Keene Memorial Stakes, carrying the top weight of 122 pounds. She followed that up with a facile victory against six of her own sex in the Clover Stakes at Aqueduct on June 17.

Several race accounts note the “peculiar” habit Friar’s Carse had of swishing her tail as she ran, as well as her calm demeanor at the barriers. All agreed she was something special. The June 19 DRF column “Here and There on the Turf” prematurely crowned her champion 2-year-old, “a filly of heroic proportions” and “agile as a cat”, noting that her nearly $20,000 in earnings was “almost twenty times as much as Mr. Riddle paid for the dam of this great filly.”

Yet, in her next race, the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, Friar’s Carse failed to stay on after taking the early lead but carried wide on the turn, finishing 14th and defeating only one competitor. In addition to the winner Pompey, among those who defeated her were 1927 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Chance Play and 1926 Kentucky Oaks winner (and prodigious open handicap winner) Black Maria. Exactly why she failed is uncertain, although an October 29 article in the Washington Post by J.B. Snodgrass hints, “It is not known how good Friar’s Carse is, but it has been understood that she has been progressing satisfactorily since her affliction in August.” A follow-up story post-race elaborated upon the affliction as a “cough.” Whether it was before or after the Hopeful is unclear.

Unable to run as planned in the Eastern Shore handicap at Havre de Grace in September, her seventh lifetime start was a 5.5-furlong allowance race at Laurel on October 29, which she won, although in the stretch she “faltered, showing she yet is not back to her best.” Friar’s Carse never raced again.

While her racing career was short-lived, her impact was profound in differing ways. Much due to her success in 1925, her 12-year-old sire Friar Rock was purchased by W.R. Coe from John E. Madden for a U.S. sire record of $130,000. Also, during much of that champion juvenile campaign, the trainer of Friar’s Carse, Gwynn Tompkins suffered from ill-health, and, as the New Year 1926 dawned, it was announced he had resigned as Riddle’s stable trainer.

The progeny of Friar’s Carse were predictably hit-and-miss as racehorses, although three became stakes winners—all sired by Man o’ War. Her first offspring—a Black Toney filly named Black Carse—failed to live up to her dam’s early brilliance, losing her first two races by a combined 21 lengths. Her second daughter Yellow Flag (by Man o’ War son American Flag) never won in six starts, but her third foal Black Jacket (Black Toney) finished third at three in the Fall Highweight Handicap.

Her fourth foal (and first of five Man o’ War offspring), a filly named Speed Boat, won the Adirondack at two and the Test at three. Her son War Relic (Man o’ War) didn’t race at two, and started his 3-year-old campaign slowly, but wrapped it up with eight wins in 10 starts including the 1941 Mass Cap—not to mention defeating Triple Crown champion Whirlaway in the Narragansett Special. Unfortunately, his full-brother Gun Site won only once in 36 starts, but a few years later, his full-sister War Kilt won 1945 Demoiselle. Both stakes-winning siblings are today buried at the Man o’ War Memorial at Kentucky Horse Park.

Through her unraced daughter Anchors Ahead (Man o’ War), Friar’s Carse is a direct tail-female descendent of (among others): 1955 Vanity victress Countess Fleet and her daughter, 1976 G2 Sheepshead Bay winner Fleet Victress; 1962 Flamingo Stakes victor Prego; 1968 Widener Handicap winner Sette Bello; 1989 G2 Arlington Matron winner Between the Hedges; 1982 Arkansas Derby victor Hostage; 1996 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Storm Song; and Canadian champion and 2003 Queen’s Plate runner-up Mobil.

Through Speed Boat (Man o’ War), her descendents include 1940 champion juvenile filly Level Best (Equipoise), whose son Level Lea won the 1953 Jockey Club Gold Cup; 1959 Vosburgh Handicap victor Tick Tock; and two Belmont Stakes winners—Sword Dancer (1959 Horse of the Year) and Hail to All (1965). Even her less-than-spectacular racing daughter Black Carse produced offspring whose descendents include the last of four New York’s handicap Triple Crown (Metropolitan, Suburban, Brooklyn) winners, Fit to Fight.

And what of her son War Relic? Among his progeny was two-time San Juan Capistrano winner Intent; as a broodmare sire he produced 1959 juvenile filly champion My Dear Girl. Both of these horses show up in the pedigree of multiple-stakes winner and influential sire In Reality—his descendents include Smile (and thus Smarty Jones) and Relaunch (grandsire of Tiznow), as well as Bertrando and Unbridled, among others.

Even today the tail-female line of Friar’s Carse continues to produce top-quality racehorses—such as 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and multiple G1 turf victress Honey Ryder, both direct descendents through Speed Boat. G1 turf winners Dynaforce (Flower Bowl, Beverly D) and Elusive Wave (Poule d'Essai des Pouliches) trace their tail-female line back to Anchors Ahead, while War Kilt’s descendents include 2003 Fountain of Youth winner (and now sire) Trust N Luck and 2010 G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen victor Kinsale King.

And among 2010 juveniles to carry on the Friar’s Carse bloodline: G1 Norfolk winner Jaycito who ran seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Speed Boat); G1 Frizette third-place finisher Joyful Victory who finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (War Kilt); and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf third-place finisher Willcox Inn (Anchors Ahead) whose third-place form in the G1 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland was upheld when runner-up Santiva later won the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.

Thus, the legacy lives on.

Source Material Consulted:

“Wise Counsellor Winner” DRF, May 12, 1925, p. 1, 9.
“American Flag Wins Belmont Stakes” DRF, June 15, 1925, p. 1, 16.
Henry R. Ilsley “American Flag Wins the Belmont” New York Times, June 14, 1915, p. S1, S4.
Henry R. Ilsley “Friar’s Carse Wins The Clover Stakes” New York Times, June 18, 1915, p. 19.
“Here and There on the Turf” DRF, June 19, 1925, p. 2.
Henry R. Ilsley “$50,000 Hopeful Won Easily by Pompey” New York Times, August 30, 1925, p. S1, S3.
“W.R. Coe Pays Record Price for Friar Rock” Washington Post, September 15, 1926, p. 1.
J.B. Snodgrass “Friar’s Carse Picked for Sixth” Washington Post, October 29, 1925, p. 20.
J.B. Snodgrass “Rider Scores in Feature Event” Washington Post, October 30, 1925, p. 18.
“Tompkins Resigns as Riddle Trainer” New York Times, January 3, 1926, p. S6.

Avalyn Hunter, American Classic Pedigrees (1914-2002): A Decade-by-Decade Review (Eclipse Press, 2003) pp. 215-216.


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