Frank Mitchell has an interesting historical post on the state of the breeding and racing business in America that spans 100 years, from the early 19th century to the early 20th century. Much of it is relevant to discussions today about importation of stallions, saturation of sire lines, inbreeding, and sales horses. About a 100 years ago, from the point that Frank’s post ends on the time line, similar discussions were taking place in Europe and America about the “sorry” state of the breeding industry in Britain — the greatest exporter of sires to that point in history. An article titled “British Owners Worried” in the New York Times, dated March 18, 1912, said:
There are many who think that the purchase of French horses on the part of the German Government is an indication that Continental breeders think the English thoroughbred blood stock is deteriorating because of the excessive amount of inbreeding which has taken place during the last two or three generations. Those who hold this opinion put down to it all the failures of very highly, or, rather, very fashionably bred yearlings, all the failures of temper which are shown by horses tried some time or other to be good, and, in fact, anything and everything which can be urged against the English breed at large.”
The French horses purchased by the German government that were noted in the article were American owner W.K. Vanderbilt’s Reinhart, winner of the French St. Leger in 1910, and Mme. N.G. Cheremeteff’s Nuage, who’d defeated Reinhart into 2nd in the 1910 Grand Prix de Paris — the most important race in France at that time [Note that Mme. Cheremeteff’s name is spelled incorrectly in Pedigree Online]. Note also that at this time in France, the racing scene was wildly international, with many Americans prominent at the time because of the betting bans in the US. Mme. Cheremeteff, however, was not an American; she was Russian, and she was a leading figure of the French turf at the time. In fact, she was the first female owner to win the Grand Prix de Paris, with Nuage in 1910. The year before she’d won the Grosser Preis von Baden — the 2nd most important race in Germany behind the German Derby — with Mademoiselle Bon, like Nuage by Simonian — a son of St. Simon. Read Anne Peters’ account of St. Simon here.
The German government, as it turns out, made a wise decision to purchase Mme. Cheremeteff’s Nuage. The stallion led the general sire list in 1915, 1916, and 1917, but he didn’t become a sire of sires. Instead, he exerted his influence through the interior of pedigrees. Notably, he was the broodmare sire of Alchimist, leading sire in Germany in 1946 and 1947 (and shot by Russian soldiers — Mme. Cheremeteff would not have approved — in the waning days of WWII).
Alchimist had profound influence in German breeding, notably through his son Birkhahn, who was conceived in 1945 before Alchimist was killed. A German Derby winner, Birkhahn was leading sire in Germany in 1967, 1968, and 1970. Birkhahn’s son Literat, a German 2000 Guineas winner, became the sire of Surumu, a German Derby winner and a six-time leading sire in Germany in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Surumu is the broodmare sire of the great German stallion Monsun, who has led the sire list four times since 2000. Monsun, who has no inbreeding within four generations, is the only major representative of the Blandford sire line in existence in Europe today, and we can thank German ingenuity for engineering the survival of a line that was once powerful in Britain. The importation of Nuage by the German government was part of the reason for Monsun’s existence today.