Pedigree Musings: From Sandy Blue to Petee-Wrack

Warning: This post is for pedigree fiends (Thoroughbred) only! All others reading this may experience uncontrollable head spinning and extreme disinterest.

When I opened my e-mail this morning, I read the “racing preview” from the Blood Horse. I scanned it to see what big races were running this weekend. Imagine my surprise when I saw the Sandy Blue Handicap offered at Del Mar! Well, no, you wouldn’t be able to imagine it, because you probably have no idea who Sandy Blue was, or what she meant to me.

Sandy Blue was a Thoroughbred filly that raced in California back in the early ’70s, competing against fillies such as Bold Liz, Kadesh, and Windy’s Daughter. I remember her as a good filly, a stakes winner. Nevertheless I was surprised that they had actually named a race for her.

Polo at Hollywood Park, 1972

Polo at Hollywood Park, 1972

I looked her up on one of my favorite websites, Pedigree Online’s Thoroughbred Pedigree Database. She was by Windy Sands, out of Blue Nola. I vaguely remembered that. The info box showed that she won 10 out of 16 starts, including six stakes races. And her total earnings was only $174,795—what a small amount, compared to today’s purses! Yeah, those were the days when a hundred-grander was a big race. (And they played polo in the Hollypark infield on Sundays!)

Windy Sands was by Your Host, who also sired Kelso. His ancestors include some big names, Hyperion, Blenheim, etc. Windy was out of Samoa Winds, by Polynesian. We’re all familiar with those bloodlines.

On the bottom half of the pedigree, Sandy Blue’s dam, Blue Nola, was by Limelight, a son of Nasrullah and a Hyperion mare. That mare was Nova Puppis; I’d never heard of her… of course there are a lot of horses I’ve never heard of, but this name struck me as unusual. Ah yes… Nova Puppis is the name of a celestial entity. As for the equine Nova Puppis, she was unraced, but evidently had some small impact on the eventing and Warmblood worlds.

But way down on the bottom of the bottom of Sandy Blue’s pedigree… there I saw a whole cluster of unfamiliar names. Australian? South American? Nope, all born in the USA. Free America was by Blenheim… okay, he’s a familiar name. But Heelfly? Petee-Wrack? Royal Ford? Case Ace?? Never heard of any of ’em!

A click on Heelfly’s name in the interactive pedigree and I see that one more generation back, not shown in Sandy Blue’s 5-gen chart, are Swynford and Roi Herode. These are British origins. (Heelfly himself, born in Texas, earned $51,075. And—oh yes!—he was the broodmare sire of TV Lark.) Campfire, Heelfly’s maternal grandsire, was an American stallion born in 1914, and descends from Bend Or. I used to think Bend Or was named after Bend, Oregon. But now I doubt it, since he was an English horse born in 1877 (and Bend, Oregon, wasn’t incorporated and named until 1904).

I really like “Campfire” as a name for a horse; I need to remember that (in case we ever end up with a nice little Shetland Pony for Elizabeth!). One other funny note on this page… Flivver was a bay mare born in 1922. Flivver? Oh wait… tells me it’s a slang term for a Ford Model T! That’s hilarious.

Nijinsky II

Nijinsky II

Okay, back to Sandy Blue, and one more name to investigate. Columbiana, dam of Free America (what a profound name for a horse sired by an English champion) and Sandy Blue’s great-great grandma, was by Petee-Wrack out of Firetop. Now I am a pedigree devotee, but I am not a pedigree expert. To my eyes, the line “by Petee-Wrack out of Firetop” looks utterly bizarre. But one click shows me… that Firetop (does that sound hillbilly or what?) was by the immortal Man O’ War. And further, she’s no hillbilly… she’s the foundation mare for the sire lines of Nijinsky II and millionaire Skip Trial. Excuse me for dissing Firetop! Let it be known that she is also inbred to Domino, further increasing her royalty.

Columbiana, who earned $60,925 in the late 1930s by winning 11 of 28 races (including the Widener Challenge Cup Handicap, where “she made history … by becoming the first distaffer to run 10 furlongs in 2:02”), was by Petee-Wrack. What kind of a name is Petee-Wrack, and what kind of horse was he?

He was by Wrack. Hmm. Is the “Petee” a perversion of “petit,” French for “small?” The elder (larger?) Wrack was British, with a French sire, and has Isinglass as his damsire. (Isinglass, of course, won the English Derby, St. Leger Stakes, Ascot Gold Cup, et cetera, et cetera.) Wrack’s race record is dodgy (“winner of at least 16 in England”), though Thoroughbred Heritage says he “did well on the flat, and then won over hurdles, winning six of seven outings, before export to the U.S.” It was Bull Hancock who purchased Wrack and brought him to America, where he led US sire lists in three different years. Clever man, that Bull Hancock. Wrack was the broodmare sire of Omaha… who happened to win the Triple Crown in the same year his grandpa died, 1935.

Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox

Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox

So Petee-Wrack had an influential papa, and his mama was the magnificent Marguerite. Let us extol the virtues of Marguerite! Bred at Claiborne Farm, owned by Belair Stud, she was by Celt (with Domino in her topline) out of Fairy Ray (grand-daughter of Bend Or). She was an unraced chestnut mare, but she gave birth to Gallant Fox and Fighting Fox, both by Sir Gallahad III. In fact, I’ve seen the name “Marguerite” underneath the name “Sir Gallahad” so many times, it seems completely unnatural to see her name in this context!

It’s interesting (to me, anyway) that the two Foxes, Triple Crown winner Gallant- and Fighting-, were full brothers. (In case you’re not familiar with Thoroughbred breeding terms, “full” siblings have the same sire and dam; “half” siblings share the same mother. Horses by the same sire but with different moms are not even referred to as brothers or sisters, they are simply “by” the same stallion. This shows the importance placed on maternal relationships.) Their sire, Sir Gallahad III, was a French stallion imported to the US… as was his full brother, Bull Dog. Lots of “full” family relationships back in the 20’s and 30’s. There are, of course, lots of “full” family relationships in Thoroughbred breeding even today, but they don’t tend to yield such outstanding results. (Do they?) Witness Barbaro and his baby brother; one phenom, one “eh.”

Getting back to Petee-Wrack, the horse with the majestic pedigree and ridiculous name. I’ve never seen his name in any bloodlines before, never heard of him winning a race or siring a stakes winner. Born in 1925 (two years before his Triple Crown-winning half-brother), he started 48 times, won 12 of those, and was second or third another dozen times. Meaning he was in the money in half his starts. He earned a whopping $98,990… and this was back in the late 1920’s! Of the dozen races he won, at least seven were stakes. He placed or showed in eight more stakes.

Petee-Wrack, by Wrack-Marguerite

Petee-Wrack, by Wrack-Marguerite

It seems that, with his illustrious breeding and not-too-shabby race record, Petee-Wrack should be a horse that I would be aware of. Yet I was not. Perhaps because he was overshadowed by his famous half brothers? Or perhaps because I didn’t have Google available to me as a teenager in the 70’s? (Yeah, I’ll admit that I spent way too many teenaged hours pouring over Thoroughbred pedigree charts. Horse nerd.)

So this is the story I learned of Petee-Wrack. Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a little horse…

Little Petee-Wrack (he had to have been small, with a name like that) had been a “prominent Derby candidate” as a two-year-old, as this archived New York Times article reports:

PETEE-WRACK WINS AT HAVRE DE GRACE; Prominent Derby Candidate Graduates From the Maiden Class in Impressive Debut. BEATS BROOMS BY LENGTH Shows Way Throughout, Running Mile and 70 Yards in 1:49 2-5 –Folamile Distant Third.

April 25, 1928, Wednesday
HAVRE DE GRACE, Md., April 24.–John R. Macomber’s PeteeWrack, equal favorite with Raigh Count [sic] for the Kentucky Derby, graduated from the maiden class in a public trial for the Chesapeake Stakes here this afternoon, and in doing so ran an impressive race.

Petee-Wrack finished 14th in the 1928 Kentucky Derby; the “equal favorite” Reigh Count (sire of future Triple Crown winner Count Fleet) won the race. Petee did have some notable wins, though, including the 1928 Travers Stakes (age 3), the 1929 Metropolitan Handicap (age 4), and the 1930 Suburban Handicap (age 5). He was raced plenty, but obviously stayed sound. He became something of a steeplechase stud, siring American Grand National winner Brother Jones, and Maryland Hunt Cup winners Peterski and Pine Rep. According to a post on Pedigree Consultants, “Petee-Wrack doesn’t come into many modern pedigrees, but can be found in Correlation, sire of Grand Splendor, granddam of Fappiano and Ogygian.” (Both of these horses were Grade I winners; Ogygian now resides at Old Friends.) Petee’s owner, John Macomber, had a weathervane made in Petee’s honor. That is cool.

And who will win the Sandy Blue Handicap tomorrow? It’s supposed to be a tough race, full of stakes winners and foreign horses. I’m betting on Hermione’s Magic. For the name, mostly!

Thanks to Mr. Know-It-All for some of the info on Petee-Wrack:

Tremblay, Bob. “Mr Know-It-All: A little bit more on Macomber.” April 26, 2008 . (accessed August 21, 2009).


Hermione was scratched!


2 responses to “Pedigree Musings: From Sandy Blue to Petee-Wrack

  1. Hey Sid, no I didn’t! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

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