Blenheim II – Important Pedigree Ingredient
Blenheim II and his son Mahmoud best typify the aspect of a sire line that achieved more success as sires of broodmares than male line successors, although in the case of Blenheim II he did get good sires who for awhile did continue the line but have now to this day become dormant. Hopefully a revival may emerge.
Blenheim II was by Blandford – Malva by Charles O’Malley bred in 1927 by Lord Carnavon, at Highclare Stud. His sire was one of the top sires in his day who led the British sire list three times even though he was a below average stallion as to his libido and fertility. Blandford was by the exceptional Swynford, a half brother to Chaucer. Among his get were English Triple Crown winner Bahram, Trigo and Windsor Lad, Derby winners all and Brantome, a future sire of note.
Blenheim II was not a big horse being 15.3 hands in a dark bay or brown colour. He won the Epsom Derby for the Aga Khan who had purchased him as a yearling. After the Derby, Blenheim II was retired with a tendon injury sustained in training and sent to the Aga Khan’s stud Haras Marly la Ville in France.
In his first crop came the great broodmare Mumtaz Begum, dam of Nasrullah. His next crop would have Mahmoud and his third crop contained future important sire Donatello, bred by Federico Tesio in Italy. Other good winners by Blenheim II were Mirza, Khan Bahadur, Wyndham, Drap d’Or and Blue Bear.
The Aga Khan then sold Blenheim II in 1936 to a syndicate headed by A. B. Hancock for $225,000 and sent to Claiborne Farm. He acquired the “II” suffix to his name in the U.S. because of name duplication. Blenheim II would prove a huge success at Claiborne and did not have his father’s low libido or fertility problems. He sired five hundred and thirty-six foals, getting sixty-one stakes winners, in his entire stud career.
As a sire, Blenheim II begot two sons to continue the tradition of his grand sire Swynford as a very successful sire of broodmares. Donatello sired the great stayers Alycidon and Crepello along with many important broodmares. Crepello, conquered Ballymoss in the Derby, became a leading sire in England and in turn would sire Busted, another source of top quality broodmares for future generations. The other son of Blenheim II to carry on was Mahmoud.
Mahmoud, bred by the Aga Khan, won the Epsom Derby in 1936 in record time, which stood until a distant descendant of his named Lammtarra bested his mark in 1995. Mahmoud, like his sire, began his stud career in Europe before exportation to the U.S. Among the notables Mahmoud sired are sons The Axe II, Cohoes, Oil Capital and Vulcan’s Forge. His daughters of note include Grey Flight, First Flight, Happy Mood, Majideh, Koubis, Boudoir II and Almamoud. The latter is the second dam to the incomparable Northern Dancer.
Among the notables that have Mahmoud as their dam sire are What A Pleasure, Misty Morn, Determine, Gallant Man, Grey Dawn II, Cap And Bells, Natalma and Your Host. Mahmoud’s influence to future racing and breeding stars such as Kelso, Quadrangle, Bold Lad, Halo, Relaunch, Arctic Tern, Foggy Note, Lady Capulet and of course the aforementioned Northern Dancer.
Donatello is the broodmare sire of Aureole. Aureole was a top class runner for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and would go on to become a very successful sire in his own right. His daughter Cutter produced group stakes winner Admiral’s Launch by Brigadier Gerard, who was sent to Uruguay to lead the sire list there.
Other good producing broodmares by Donetello include Madonna who produced stakes winner High Hat by Hyperion, a good sire. Pasqua produced 1953 Epsom Derby winner Pinza by Chanteur II, a huge horse with supreme class. Valkerie produced Tatan by The Yuvaraj, a son of Fairway. Tatan was a multi stakes winning champion in Argentina and Uruguay. Saracen gave birth to Washington DC International winner Wilwyn by Pink Flower, a leading sire in South Africa.
Of the many daughters of Blenheim II to keep his name prominent in future pedigrees, the most notable was Mumtaz Begum. A daughter of Mumtaz Mahal, she would produce nine foals including stakes winners Rivaz and Malindi by Nearco and their full brother Nasrullah, along with Sun Princess by Solario. Sun Princess is the dam of Royal Charger, himself a son of Nearco, and a very influential sire.
Additional stakes producing daughters of Blenheim II are Easy Lass produced champions Coaltown by Bull Lea and Wistful by Sun Again. She was also broodmare of the year in 1949.
Sweep In produced the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Kauai King by Native Dancer.
Miss Rushin was the dam of Kentucky Derby winner Ponder by Pensive, while another Kentucky Derby winner came from Jane Gail, dam of Hill Gail by Bull Lea.
A Gleam was a top handicap mare on the track and then became the dam of A Glitter by Khaled and Gleaming by Herbager, both top class horses in their divisions.
Mar-Kell, a Calumet Farms bred champion older mare on the track, produced Mark-Ye-Well by Bull Lea. Mark-Ye-Well became one the top handicap horses in his generation winning the Santa Anita, Laurance Armour, Stars and Stripes, San Marcos and San Antonio Handicaps, along with the Arlington Classic, American Derby and Santa Anita Maturity.
Blue Bear, from Blenheim’s European sire days, produced Le Paillon by Fastnet (Prix du l’Arc de Triomphe) and stakes winner Blue Kiss by Pharis, who in turn produced four good stakes winners herself.
Nellie L was the dam of Comely Nell by Commodore M, who in turn produced Bold Forbes (Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, and Wood Memorial etc).
Acquaforte would produce Italian champion Antonio Canale by Torbido.
Bouillabaisse was a minor stakes winner but produced Caudrilla by Toubillon. She in turn would produce Forget-Me-Not, dam of Foolish Pleasure.
There is one more horse I have not mentioned yet who was sired by Blenheim II, the great Triple Crown champion Whirlaway. The Calumet home bred, trained by Ben Jones, became the champion two year old and then went on to his Triple Crown three year old season, adding the Travers Stakes to his trophy haul. His regular jockey was Eddie Arcaro for his first two seasons on the track but in his four year old season George Woolfe became his regular rider after Arcaro ran afoul with various racing infractions.
Whirlaway was as good at four, with his new partner, as he was at three, claiming his second Horse of the Year honour in a row. His main adversary was Alsab but, even this foe did not challenge Whirlaway in the Pimlico Special as Whirlaway won in a walkover.
Retired in 1944 to stallion duty at Calumet, Whirlaway was not successful at stud. By 1950 it became clear to Calumet owner Warren Wright that his champion would not be the sire he hoped for. An offer from the top French breeder Marcel Boussac to lease Whirlaway at his Haras de Fresney-la Buffard was accepted, with an outright purchase by Boussac in 1952 completed. Whirlaway never sired anything of note while in France either and died April 6, 1953.
Blenheim II is one of only a select few stallions to sire an Epsom Derby winner and a Kentucky Derby winner. While his Kentucky Derby winner did not breed on, his Epsom Derby winner did, and very successfully as well.
Blenheim II became one of the finest and more important sires of the twentieth century.
(Photo courtesy of Haras Marly la Ville archives / Claiborne Farm)