Few 20th-century breeders had more influence on American Thoroughbred breeding than Colonel E. R. Bradley, who built his Idle Hour Stock Farm mostly on bloodlines developed in the late 1800s by James R. Keene. But Bradley also acquired a number of animals from Europe, including the good sire North Star III and a number of important mares.
None of those importations were more important than La Troienne, a daughter of Teddy whom Bradley purchased for 1,250 guineas at the 1930 Newmarket December sale, in foal to Gainsborough. The resulting filly was put down due to physical issues, but La Troienne made up for the loss with 14 named foals, of which five became stakes winners, including champions Black Helen and Bimelech.
La Troienne’s purchase was one of two critical turning points that raised Bradley from a merely successful breeder to a breed shaper. The other was Bradley’s decision to begin sending mares – among them, some of La Troienne’s daughters – to Man o’ War’s Horse of the Year son War Admiral, beginning in 1940. Up to that time, Bradley had adamantly refused to cross to the blood of the great sire Fair Play; he did not like the rangy, rawboned look typical of many of that line, and he considered too many of the Fair Plays to be prone to sulking. Even Man o’ War (by Fair Play) was not enough to change Bradley’s mind, but War Admiral, who resembled the neat, compact Sweep – his maternal grandsire – won over the aging Colonel.
Bradley’s experiment with War Admiral was quickly rewarded, as Bee Mac (out of Baba Kenny, by Black Servant) proved one of the best juvenile fillies of 1943, winning the Spinaway Stakes against her own sex and the Hopeful Stakes against colts. The following year, Busher, a granddaughter of La Troienne, was co-champion juvenile filly of 1944 and then was Horse of the Year in 1945.
Bradley died in 1946, but his breeding patterns were carried on by the King Ranch and Ogden Phipps. All told, War Admiral sired 16 foals from daughters of La Troienne. Six of those foals – including Busher – were stakes winners, an excellent strike rate by anyone’s standards. But more importantly, five of the seven fillies produced from this cross turned out to be influential producers: Busher, Striking, Searching, Busanda, and Blue Eyed Momo. This group of closely related mares, along with their near male relatives Mr. Busher (a full brother to Busher) and Better Self (by Bimelech, a son of La Troienne, out of Bee Mac, a daughter of War Admiral), has become a focus for some very successful linebreeding, most recently evidenced by the pedigree of Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Super Saver .
The buildup of La Troienne and War Admiral in Super Saver’s pedigree begins with Buckpasser (Tom Fool–Busanda), who appears 4x5x5. A model Thoroughbred in both racing performance and conformation whose only weakness was a troublesome right forefoot, Buckpasser died at the early age of 15 but still led the American broodmare sire list four times, as well as founding a male line most recently represented by his great-grandson Einstein. Multiple inbreeding (three or more crosses within the first five generations) to Buckpasser is not nearly as common as similar patterns with Northern Dancer or Mr. Prospector, both because Buckpasser sired fewer foals than either and because he lacked great sire sons among his progeny, but such inbreeding has still produced at least 20 graded or group winners, including Discreetly Mine, also a starter in this year’s Derby.
Crossed to the male line of Seattle Slew (whose dam, My Charmer, featured the full sisters Busher and Striking 3x3 in her pedigree), mares carrying Buckpasser produced many brilliant performers, including champions Slew o’ Gold, Surfside, and A.P. Indy. The last-named horse is, of course, the broodmare sire of Super Saver, and he has sired 17 graded stakes winners from mares returning Buckpasser.
Supercharger, the dam of Super Saver, was not among that number, but she was a nice allowance filly with a potent pedigree. Not only is she inbred 4x4 to Buckpasser, but she is inbred 5x5 to Striking’s daughter Glamour, herself a broodmare of great importance. As if that were not enough, Supercharger also brings in an extra cross of War Admiral through his maternal great-grandson Swaps, sire of Glamour’s daughter Intriguing.
The late Maria’s Mon, sire of Super Saver, brings still more of the potent War Admiral/La Troienne cross to the Derby winner’s pedigree. Buckpasser, of course, appears as the broodmare sire of Wavering Monarch, sire of Maria’s Mon, but a less-common source of the cross may have brought an extra spark to the mixture. This is Better Self, second damsire of Wavering Monarch. Bred on a reverse of the usual War Admiral/La Troienne cross, Better Self brings in La Troienne through a son rather than a daughter.
As noted in a previous column (Exhi Emerges As Sophomore Standout), Maria’s Mon has done well with mares returning Buckpasser, getting eight of his 23 graded winners from this cross, including four of his seven North American grade I winners. He also has done well with mares sired by Seattle Slew and his sons; of 17 such foals, five are stakes winners, including champion Wait a While (also out of an A.P. Indy mare) and grade I winner Latent Heat. These results would seem to support one of longtime pedigree analyst Les Brinsfield’s favorite axioms: “If a pedigree lacks La Troienne, get some in there. If it has La Troienne, get more in there.” Super Saver certainly has no shortage of La Troienne blood, and no shortage of the quality that so often goes with it.
Somewhere, Colonel Bradley must be smiling.