This is the fourth part of my series on the 18th century racehorse Flying Childers. You can read the third part here.
Unbeaten and untested, Childers retired to the Duke of Devonshire’s stud at Chatsworth after his final start in November of 1723. There, he covered few other mares but the Duke’s own, including many daughters of Devonshire’s stallion Basto.
The first successful Childers-Basto nick came to fruition in 1728, when Blacklegs was born. He was bred by the 2nd Duke but, after his breeder’s death in 1729, was owned and raced by the 3rd Duke. Taking on more competitors than his sire had faced, Blacklegs raced for two years and retired to stud alongside his sire at Chatsworth. Blacklegs’ dam, an unnamed sister to Soreheels, was as important to the stud book as any mare of her time.
Blacklegs did well at stud; he was the champion sire in 1746. But he failed to produce a son that would carry on his – and his sire’s – male line.
Then there was Blaze, born in 1733 out of a mare by Grey Grantham, a stallion owned by the Duke of Rutland, whose Brown Betty had been bested by Childers on the racetrack several years before. Blaze was bred by Thomas Panton of Newmarket and raced there as well as at Epsom, a racecourse now famous for the Derby. He defeated some well-known names of the turf in his three-year career, including Squirt and Lath.
Blaze stood at stud in Yorkshire and was moderately successful as a sire. His most famous daughter was Cypron, dam of Herod, from whom the line of the Byerley Turk extends to the present day. Other offspring of Blaze’s include Grenadier, a useful sire of racehorses, and Sampson, a regal black colt whose legacy would continue through his son Engineer. Though Childers’ direct male line is now extinct in the Thoroughbred world, many of the world’s finest Standardbred pacers and trotters trace back to him through Messenger, a stallion four generations descended from Blaze.
A mare named Roxana, best known as the dam of two of the Godolphin Arabian’s greatest sons, Cade and Lath, gave birth to a son by Childers named Roundhead in 1733. Roundhead’s greatest claim to fame, possibly, is that he is one of the few Thoroughbreds in the GSB listed as “sorrel.”
The same sister to Soreheels who produced Blacklegs gave Childers another son in 1736. The colt, named Snip, was described as being of “high blood, justness of shape, and fine appearance.” Snip wasn’t nearly as successful on the racetrack as his famous sire, but his son, Snap, was a great racehorse and leading sire on four occasions. Snap’s daughters produced some of the best performers in turf history – among them, Assassin, Medley, and Sir Peter Teazle.
As well as all the great sons he produced, Childers had no shortage of great daughters. Ebony, out of a mare by Basto, was one of the foundation mares of Female Family No. 5. Among her descendants are legendary sires like Doncaster, Native Dancer, and Sadler’s Wells, and racetrack champions such as Seabiscuit and Gladiateur. Another daughter, an unnamed sister to a stallion named Steady, was the great-granddam of Diomed, one of the most influential sires in early American Thoroughbred bloodlines.
Childers lived a full life at Chatsworth, dying at the age of 26 in 1741. While he managed to sire winners and producers, he failed to produce offspring as good as he was himself. Maybe it was impossible – maybe no horse, not even of his blood, could live up to the lofty expectations set by the racing public.
While Childers failed to carry on his male line to the modern Thoroughbred, his full brother, who never set foot on a racetrack, became a great sire.