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Some French history behind the female line of Mr. Prospector and Seattle Slew

Regarding the post below this one (discussing the pedigrees of Imagining, Super Saver, and Revolutionary), the foundation of some of the best racers of the Phippses—and many, many others—is the imported French mare La Troienne, the dam of Baby League. The story of La Troienne is well known, but here’s the long story short: the great French breeder Marcel Boussac, who operated Fresnay-le-Buffard (now owned by Maria Niarchos), famously culled La Troienne, a foal of 1926, and Col. E.R. Bradley of Idle Hour Stock Farm bought her in 1930. The rest is history.

Not as often told is the tale of another mare who came from France before La Troienne to become the tail-female ancestor of both Mr. Prospector and Seattle Slew—two of the greatest sires of modern times in North America.

The mare in question? Frizeur, a foal of 1916 bred by American H.B. Duryea in France.

Frizeur was a daughter of the American-bred Frizette (Hamburg–Ondulee, by St. Simon), who’d been sent to France by Duryea in 1908 when anti-gambling laws closed down racing in New York. (If interested, read the bracketed paragraph below for the history of Frizette’s breeding and her acquisition, otherwise skip to the graph below that.)

[Duryea was an associate of W.C. Whitney and his son H.P. Whitney, and he was familiar with the pedigree of Frizette as the elder Whitney had imported Ondulee, her dam, from Britain, in foal to the stallion Martagon. The result of that mating was the colt Marathon, foaled in 1904, the year W.C. Whitney died. Ondulee was mated to Hamburg in 1904 and sold, and the subsequent foal of 1905 was Frizette. In 1908, at a dispersal of his US-raced stock, Duryea sold Marathon, then 4, for $1,000 at auction, but he claimed the 3-year-old Frizette as a broodmare prospect for his French operation.]

Haras du Gazon, in Normandy, was Duryea’s French breeding farm, where he stood  his American-raced Irish Lad—the sire of Frizette’s first foal, Banshee, born in 1910. Banshee won the Pouliches—the French Guineas equivalent—in 1913 and then returned to Gazon to produce for Duryea. Frizette’s next filly foal was Frizeur, foaled in 1916 and sired by Duryea’s 1912 2000 Guiness winner Sweeper.

[Note: Duryea died in 1916, the year Frizeur was born, but his widow kept the stud going on a limited basis. Banshee was later bred to Haras du Gazon resident sire and Duryea’s 1914 Epsom Derby winner Durbar II and produced the sisters Durban (1918) and Heldifann (1921)—both subsequently acquired by Marcel Boussac, along with Frizette, and huge building blocks in the Fresnay-le-Buffard empire. That’s another story! Frizeur, however, came along a few years before Boussac came knocking at Gazon and made her way to America.]

After Duryea’s death in 1916, Mrs. Duryea sent a draft of 24 French-bred yearlings to sell in the US in 1917. Frizeur was among them. In December of 1917, the New York Times reported that Frizeur was sold for $2,600 to E. McBride at an auction of racing stock at Durland’s Riding Academy.

The Combses

Fast foward this story to Brownell Combs, whose nephew Leslie Combs II would later establish Spendthrift Farm. He purchased Frizeur sometime in the 1920s, and from her he bred the champion mare Myrtlewood in 1932, when Frizeur was 16. Myrtlewood won 15 of 22 starts, was renowned for her speed at up to a mile, and was named the champion sprinter and top older filly or mare of 1936.

Both Mr. Prospector (1970) and Seattle Slew (1974)—also blessed with speed—trace directly back to her in tail-female, and here’s the path for each:

Myrtlewood (1932 by Blue Larkspur–Frizeur) Bred by Brownell Combs

Crepe Myrtle (1938 by Equipoise–Myrtlewood) Bred by Brownell Combs

Myrtle Charm (1946 by Alsab–Crepe Myrtle) Bred by Brownell Combs and Leslie Combs II

Fair Charmer (1959 by Jet Action–Myrtle Charm) Bred by Elizabeth Arden (Owner of Maine Chance Farm; note mare is inbred 5×4 to Frizeur)

My Charmer (1969 by Poker–Fair Charmer) Bred by Fiege-Castleman (mare inbred 3×3 to siblings Striking and Busher)

Seattle Slew (1974 by Bold Reasoning–My Charmer) Bred by Ben Castleman

And now Mr. Prospector:

Myrtlewood (1932 by Blue Larkspur–Frizeur) Bred by Brownell Combs

Miss Dogwood (1939 by Bull Dog–Myrtlewood) Bred by Brownell Combs

Sequence (1946 by Count Fleet–Miss Dogwood) Bred by Brownell Combs

Gold Digger (1962 by Nashua–Sequence) Bred by Brownell Combs and Leslie Combs II

Mr. Prospector (1970 by Raise a Native–Gold Digger) Bred by Leslie Combs II

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2 thoughts on “Some French history behind the female line of Mr. Prospector and Seattle Slew

  1. fmitchell07 says:

    This is a really cool look back at some of the best of international breeding. Thanks, Sid. It was a great trip down memory lane.

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