Pedigree Profile Guest Blog: Glencoe – Nick Pemberton

Glencoe – A Great American Stallion

The Preakness Stakes was first run in 1873, and the winner in that inaugural year was a horse named Survivor. The bay colt won the race by 10 lengths; it would not be until the victory of Smarty Jones in 2004 that this record winning distance would be surpassed. Survivor was by Vandal, a son of one of the first great stallions to stand in America – Glencoe.

Glencoe was bred in England by Lord Jersey and was foaled in 1831. He was a chestnut by six-time champion sire Sultan out of Trampoline, by Tramp. Unraced as a two-year-old, Glencoe won the 2000 Guineas and was third to the very high-class colt Plenipotentiary in the Derby in his classic year of 1834. Glencoe would be the first of four consecutive 2000 Guineas winners by Sultan (he sired a record five in total) and all of them were owned by Lord Jersey and trained by James Edwards. Glencoe also won the 2-1/2m Gold Cup at Ascot on his only start the following season. He retired with an excellent record of eight wins from ten starts, being placed on the other two occasions.

Glencoe would only have one season at stud in England but this was enough to produce Pocahontas, arguably the greatest broodmare in the history of the Turf. She was the dam of Stockwell, known as ‘The Emperor of Stallions’, along with King Tom and Rataplan. Pocahontas was bred by King William IV at the Hampton Court Stud but later sold as a foal following the death of the King in 1837. She never won a race, but her fame would be assured by her success at stud.

Of that famous trio, Rataplan was highly regarded; he won a great many races and later on sired a Derby winner in Kettledrum. King Tom was twice champion sire and, along with the winners of seven classics, he also sired St Angela, the dam of the legendary St Simon. But the most influential son of Pocahontas was Stockwell, who would be champion sire seven times in Great Britain and who was the sire of a record seventeen classic winners (he shares this record with St Simon). Stockwell, who descended from Eclipse, is also a ubiquitous presence in the direct male line of most modern-day Thoroughbreds. In addition to these three great sons, Pocahontas also produced a number of influential daughters such as Araucaria, dam of three classic winners. Some breeders believe Pocahontas carried the ‘X-factor’, a gene on the X chromosome responsible for the development of a large heart in racehorses and thus the source of great champions such as Secretariat.

In 1836 following that first season in England, James Jackson of Alabama bought Glencoe for $10,000 and shipped the stallion across the Atlantic to take up stud duties in America. There he would prove to be both tremendously successful and highly influential. In particular, Glencoe was an outstanding broodmare sire, and his daughters proved to be well suited when bred to the great American stallion Lexington. Asteroid, Kentucky and Norfolk were examples of this particular cross. All three were foaled in 1861, and all were brilliant racehorses. Aerolite, another product of this famous Lexington/Glencoe mare nick (and again born in 1861) would be the dam of Spendthrift, later a leading stallion. Spendthrift was the sire of Hastings, who in turn sired Fair Play; both would be champion sires in North America, and the latter, of course, would gain lasting fame through his son Man o’War.

Glencoe produced a number of other celebrated daughters, such as Southern champion Peytona, who won a famous ‘North versus South’ match race against the mare Fashion in 1845, and Reel, who is generally considered to have been the best broodmare in 19th-century America.

The best sons of Glencoe were Pryor and Vandal (sire of that first Preakness winner) who in turn sired Virgil. Although not a top-class runner, Virgil managed to take up a place at stud where he would sire three Kentucky Derby winners; Vagrant, winner of the second running in 1876, Hindoo (1881) and Ben Ali (1886). Hindoo was a superb racehorse and a very good stallion. He sired Belmont Stakes winner Hanover, who would be champion sire four times and who was the maternal grandsire of 1907 Derby winner Orby.

Glencoe himself was champion sire on eight occasions. Unfortunately, in the early 1860s, some of Glencoe’s offspring born in his final years at stud, along with many other horses at the time, did not make it to the racetrack as America was embroiled in a devastating Civil War. This had a significant impact on the Thoroughbred industry, particularly in Kentucky. Sadly, a good number of Thoroughbreds were drafted into service in this terrible conflict, and many would not return. Asteroid himself, the grandson of Glencoe, was stolen by Confederate soldiers from his stud farm in Kentucky. Destined for cavalry service, he was only returned home following payment of a large ransom to the raiders.

So there we have the story of Glencoe. If you look back far enough in the pedigrees of our current champion racehorses, you will find this influential stallion. Look at the pedigree of Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, for example, and there is Glencoe’s grandson Stockwell in the top line, and in the direct female line, many generations back, is a certain mare named Julia (the fourteenth dam) – her sire? None other than the illustrious Glencoe.

America in the 1800s saw many important sires from Diomed at the turn of the century through to Sir Archy, Boston and, of course, Lexington. These great stallions have all had a lasting influence on the American Thoroughbred, and, undoubtedly, Glencoe is worthy of his place amongst them.

The article above was written by Nick Pemberton, a racing fan with a great enthusiasm for the history of Thoroughbred racing and breeding. He has submitted pieces to the website for England’s National Horse Racing Museum; you can read a sample of his work, a story on the great stallion The Tetrarch, here.

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