Mitchell, Sparkman revisit The Boss, a ghost of years past

10 thoughts on “Mitchell, Sparkman revisit The Boss, a ghost of years past”

  1. Actually, the whole cornerstone of the American breed is Nearco/Polynesian – Northern Dancer (Nearco/Native Dancer (by Polynesian) cross); Mr. Prospector (Native Dancer/Nearco cross); Seattle Slew (grandsire, Boldnesian, a Nearco/Polynesian).

    Nearco/Polynesian doubles the Phalaris/Chaucer cross, and throws in Polymelian (by Polynesian out of a Sundridge mare, where Phalaris is Polynesian out of a mare by Sainfoin, a brother to the dam of Sierra).

    Virtually everything we do now either intensifies this background, or picks up on stuff behind it (for example Rock Sand, by Sainfoin, in Man o’War, and thus In Reality)

  2. Alan, Polymelian, which you made a typo on, is by Polymelus out of a Sundridge mare — not Polynesian out of a Sundridge mare. Another typo: for Phalaris, who was by Polymelus out of a Sainfoin mare, not, by Polynesian.

    Phalaris, son of Polymelus, for general readers, is the scion of the Nearco line responsible for Northern Dancer, Nasrullah, Hail to Reason.

    Phalaris, through Sickle, accounts for Native Dancer, whose sire Polynesian was inbred 4×3 to Polymelus.

    This is the “Phalaris Revolution” that Franco Varola wrote about, and Alan’s reference to Phalaris/Chaucer relates this way: Pharos, sire of Nearco and son of Phalaris, was produced from a Chaucer mare. Sickle likewise was bred the same way: by Phalaris out of a Chaucer mare (Selene).

  3. Sorry, at that time of night, by Polynesians and Polymeluses tend to run together…..thanks for the corrections.

    Anyway you get the general picture, the U.S. breed virtually revolves around variations on that one cross…particularly as Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector were reverse versions (of Nearco/Polynesian – Polynesian/Nearco), and now we’re playing on variations of Northern Dancer/Mr. Prospector (and reverse), typically with a stallion bred on a Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer cross, back over a mare bred on a Northern Dancer/Mr. Prospector cross (or by a stallion bred on that cross).

  4. Sid,

    The Phalaris Revolution was one of the principal points that Varola develops in his thoughts on the evolution of the contemporary Thoroughbred. Sons of Phalaris went all round the world: Pharos to France; Pharamond and Sickle to the US; others to Australia, Argentina, Italy, and assorted countries.

    Now we have Phalaris linebreeding from deep in the pedigree — eighth, tenth, or twelfth generation — interlacing time and again.


  5. Frank adverts to what, to me, is one of the striking features of the Phalaris revolution–that it went hand in hand with two not unrelated trends: first, the internationalization of pedigree and, second, accelerating population change. These two trends are, in fact, fundamental to Varola’s account of thoroughbred typology.

    A reader of Varola’s account must have the sense that the developments following upon the Phalaris revolution were instigated, not by the breeders, but by the breed itself. It’s as if, once the Phalaris revolution was set in motion, breeders had no choice but to go along for the ride. This is largely because of a limitation inherent in Varola’s thesis. He sees the 20th-century evolution of the breed largely as a parallel to social development, rather than as a commercial-industrial development. He sees pedigree as a cultural concept, rather than as a commercial concept whose primary function, arguably since the late 18th century, is to define market value.

    Tesio was the only breeder of consequence who resisted the Phalaris revolution. Varola’s survey in The Tesio Myth shows that Tesio bred to Phalaris line in very nearly inverse proportion to its proliferation. One who thinks that the larger evolution of the breed is a function of taste and opinion should consider that Tesio bred only one mare to what is now regarded as the most important horse he ever bred–Nearco. The Phalaris revolution did not happen by design. A market system takes on a life and purposes of its own, quite apart from the intentions of those who operate within it.

    I have a chuckle every time I read the expression “Tesio’s linebreeding methods.” One can’t help it after reading this passage from Varola’s The Tesio Myth:

    “It transpires. . . that inbreeding and outcrossing were secondary elements of the Tesio breeding operation, since the nature of the names involved was so much more important to him than their mere repetition. For this reason, . . . (a table) shows those of the most famous inbred Tesio horses and mares as a matter of curiosity rather than as a basis for analysis.”

    Furthermore, in any given year no more than a single foal bred by Tesio was inbred as close as 4×4. Other breeders went along with the Phalaris revolution by yielding to the very practices he eschewed.

  6. Roger, some interesting notes here on Tesio vis-a-vis the “Phalaris Revolution.” Also interesting is that a common link between his great undefeated Nearco (foal of 1935) and undefeated Ribot (1952), during a span of almost 20 years, is a pedigree pattern in reverse, with common markers, notably Pharos and St. Simon.

    Nearco is a son of Pharos and is 4×4 to St Simon within 4 gens (inbred 5x4x4x5 to St. Simon). Nearco is out of a Havresac mare. Havresac is by Rabelais by St Simon.

    Now look at Ribot, 20 years later and his posthumous masterpiece: He is an outcross within 5 gens, but he descends in sire line to Havresac and is out of a Pharos line mare!

    So, it is the inverse pattern of Nearco, and Phalaris is still important then as before, but not as you point out in the manner of duplications that became common through fashion.

  7. Indeed, and Tesio’s brilliance to me personally, in my ignorant level of knowledge of pedigree or his true ability, lay in the area that he allowed for the totality of the horse, from genes to intelligence, of which he wrote about.

    He worked to understand the entire roster, if you will, to better gauge what players who would show themselves now, and have the potential to show themselves in the get. The law of averages indicates that even with the same parents, not the same propensities will erupt.

    I am not the same as my brothers, even though we share the same gene’s. Making the indicator of emergent properties something that for me at least, is worth study and consideration.

    My mentality as a baseball coach, outdid my personal ability, but my brother had the physical ability without the same coachable aspects to his personality. Mental differences and nuances make the difference in many things; raised in the same environ is one thing, but different ways of stimulus interpretation to very similar things, is a key in the study.

    Physically… yes we had the same parents, in fact we have the same “pedigree” without deviation five generations back. I find it interesting, the deciding factor lay within the nuances, more than the written paperwork. Opinion only, of course.

  8. It would actually be interesting to look at what access Tesio had to the Phalaris line (or at least worthwhile representatives).

    He sent Nearco’s dam, Nogara, to Pharos because he couldn’t get to Fairway (brother to Pharos, better racehorse, different physical type). He’d been to Pharos the year before to get El Greco (broodmare sire of Ribot). I don’t have the books at hand to check, but I think Bozzetto, foaled a year after Nearco, was another Pharos bred by Tesio. A couple of years before El Greco, I think he bred Brueghel (three-parts-brother to Manna) subsequently a good sire in Australia by Pharos. Brueghel I think had an earlier sister, Bernina (Italian 1,000 Guineas).

    Pharos died in 1937, so Tesio appeared to be using him consistently by then (he had notable horses by him in four of the five years prior to then).

    Obviously he wouldn’t have used Pharamond II and Sickle, the next sons of Phalaris in terms of quality, as they went to the U.S.

    He did use Phalaris’s best runner, Manna (not an outstanding sire) and had Dagheroptia (Italian Guineas, by that horse), the Italian Oaks winner Archidamia (by Manna), might also have have been his.

    Colorado, another very good Phalaris died after only two seasons.

    That would probably account for the best sons of Phalaris.

    He used Cameronian, Derby winning son of Pharos on Nogara, dam of Nearco, and got stakes winner and classic placed Nakamuro.

    With all my “history” books in an attic in England, I’m not sure if he tried Pharis after his return from Germany.

    As regards Fairway, he was a disappointing sire of sires, apart from Fair Trial, a predominantly speedy horse, who I doubt would have been Tesio’s ideal.

    What is interesting is that one of his last good horses, Botticelli, was by Blue Peter (Derby winning son of Fairway, and generally a disappointing sire) out of Buonamica (by a half-brother to Nearco, Nicola Dell’Arca), out of Bernina (by Pharos, and a three-parts-sister to Manna).

    This meant that Botticelli was a Phalaris line horse and inbred 3 x 4 to Phalaris/Scapa Flow through Fairway/Pharos.

    This is just on a quick scan of what I can either remember, or easily find, but it seems that from the 1930s on he was willing to use the Phalaris line and by the Botticelli stage Tesio wasn’t that afraid of either Phalaris (via the strains that stayed the Derby distance) or close inbreeding.


    Re: Nearco and Ribot – as well as a lot of St. Simon, the both have St. Simon’s sister through Ajax. Havresac II who is in both, presages the Pharos/St. Simon cross (Nearco) and the reverse (Ribot) as he’s St. Simon over Ajax, who goes back in male line to Ormonde, who was bred on the same cross as Bona Vista (male line of Phalaris).

    Havresac II is inbred 2 x 3 to St. Simon and also has that horse’s sister, Angelica, in the fifth generation, and his dam has two horses who are inbred to St. Simon’s sire, Galopin.

    No wonder he proved such an important fulcrum for Tesio!

  9. Alan, I don;t think there’s any doubt that Tesio valued the line — how could anyone at the time not, much less Tesio, but Roger seems to say that Varola says he stayed away from Phalaris-line sires to a greater degree than most.

    I also think that Roger’s point is that Tesio, even to the end — and this is evident in Ribot’s pedigree — didn’t actively and intentionally participate in a lot of inbreeding like, say Boussac, and especially to Phalaris, which became common as the sires in this line multiplied. Your example of Botticelli as inbreeding to Phalaris on Tesio’s part may be an exception to the general Tesio rule, especially as regards Phalaris, according to Roger. I’m not certain on this.

    As far as Roger’s contention that Tesio bred only one mare to Nearco, I’d say that was a matter of economics, actually. He’d sold Nearco for a record price at that time to stand in England, and he probably stayed away from his best horse because he was too expensive — too commercial! — to breed to.

    I may be disagreeing with Roger here, but I don’t believe he stayed away from Nearco for pedigree reasons, because Nearco developed into one of the best stallions of the century and did sire Epsom Derby winners — the standard that Tesio valued.

  10. I’d be amazed if he avoided Nearco for pedigree reasons, given some of the horses he did use (Airborne!).

    Probably the most accurate reflection would be that financial reasons, and limited choice (in that Tesio preferred horses that would get 1 1/2 miles) restricted his options, at least until very late in his life as far as the Phalaris line was concern. For him through the 1930s there would have been very limited options; WWII took out most of the 1940a, which would account in part for the limited use of Nearco, who retired in 1939; and of course he died in the early 1950s.

    Obviously he wasn’t inclined towards such intense inbreeding as Boussac, in part I suspect because of the limited numbers of foals he produced every year made him somewhat more conservative. I think later in life when he realized he didn’t have a tremendous amount of time left he became more aggressive, witness Botticelli, who has a pedigree much more reminiscent of Boussac than a lot of Tesio’s matings.

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