Hail To Reason

Hail To Reason 1

Hail to Reason was the champion two year old in 1960. He was a son of the good sire Turn-To by Royal Charger, a son of Nearco. This male line of Nearco was considered as a great source of sprinters and/or milers but not for horses able to carry their speed to the classic distances. Hail to Reason was destined to change the perception in breeder’s minds toward this bias.

Turn-To was bred in Ireland but then subsequently exported to the U.S. and sold as a yearling to Arthur B. Hancock on behalf of Harry F. Guggenheim. He won the Garden State Futurity and the Saratoga Special as a two year old and the Flamingo Stakes at three. Unfortunately Turn-To was forced to retired from racing due to a bowed tendon discovered while he was in Kentucky preparing for the Derby. Claiborne Farm was his next destination to begin his stud career.

Turn-To would prove to be an influential sire as he not only got Hail to Reason but also First Landing and Sir Gaylord, all three being brilliant two year olds just as their sire was. Each one of these stallions sired progeny of considerable merit and influence as well. Turn-to was not a prolific sire per say as he got 8% stakes winners from total foals, which isn’t shabby but not considered great either. However the stakes winners he got were exceptional individuals, so he was one of those who lacked quantity but made up for with high quality.

Turn-To was moved to Spendthrift Farm after a falling out between Guggenheim and Hancock, and spent the remaining years of his life there. His name is still prominent in top pedigrees through First Landing (sire of Riva Ridge), Sir Gaylord (sire of Sir Ivor) and of course Hail to Reason. It should also be noted that Turn-To sired Cyane and Best Turn who also had an important say in some of the pedigrees to come.

Hail to Reason was out of Nothirdchance by Blue Swords. Nothirdchance was bred and owned by the Bieber – Jacobs partnership that became a prominent operation in American turf. She was described as “a tough powerfully built mare with legs like iron” according to John Jacobs, son of her trainer Hirsh Jacobs. She ran in ninety-three races during her six seasons on the track winning eleven of those encounters including the Acorn Stakes.

Hail to Reason was foaled at Hagyard Farm near Lexington in 1958. He was observed as a yearling to be a dominant combative colt while in the paddocks with other youngsters during his formative year. He was essentially a bully to the other colts, acquiring various cuts and bumps from his little skirmishes. He was growing in more of his mother’s image in size and appearance but was a nervous and difficult colt around people which was the hallmark of his sire line temperament.

It is at this time when Jacob’s daughter Patrice would play a large part in Hail to Reason’s life as she was able to calm him to the point where he could be manageable and channel his aggression and talent into a workable colt for her father to train.

Hirsh Jacobs was of the mindset that races as opposed to gradual training were a better way of getting a horse fit. He would use this method with Hail to Reason as he considered the big strapping colt’s future. Hail to Reason made his début on January 21 of his two year old season in a three furlong race at Santa Anita and finished well behind. In New York later in the spring he would start in four five furlong races in a fifteen day stretch, finally breaking his maiden on the fifth asking. This sort of training method would be vilified in today’s backstretches but, as we shall see it worked for Hail to Reason.

Hail to Reason was quickly developing into a physically and more importantly, mentally efficient race horse. He became the champion two year old that 1960 season with his major wins coming in the Hopeful, the Youthful, the Sapling, the Tremont, the Great American and the Sanford Stakes. He won nine of his eighteen races, a huge number of starts for a two year old of any era.

Hirsh Jacobs’ acute horsemanship would come to be Hail to Reason’s saving grace when on September 18, 1960 he took a “bad step” and fractured both sesamoid bones in his left foreleg. Jacobs quickly spring into action and by having his son John hold the broken leg while they got the horse back to his stall. The elder Jacobs then moulded a plaster cast on the leg to help immobilise it, since the accident took place before any vets were around to administer treatment.

Hail to Reason, obviously knowing he was in a dire situation, was the epitome of good manners as he never put up any kind of fight while his human handlers were trying to save him. With the leg securely immobilised, Hail to Reason was sent to Hagyard Farm where the veterinarians were able to save his life. A special shoe was constructed to elevate the leg an inch or so to let Hail to Reason put some weight on his leg and begin the long arduous process of recovery. During this entire ordeal, Hail to Reason was an “ideal patient” according to the people involved in his treatment.

It took two years before he would fully recover but in the mean time he was able to cover a few mares in his first couple of seasons as a sire. A stud fee of $10,000 was the asking price and while closely watched by his handlers during his covering of mares, he exhibited no adversity during his stallion duties.

Hail To Reason became an influential sire of importance creating a strong branch of the Nearco/Royal Charger/ Turn-To line. He was the leading sire in North America in 1970 and sired separate winners of the three American Triple Crown classics and an Epsom Derby winner, proving that the sire line can get winners of classic races.

Hail to Reason’s first classic winner was Hail to All, the winner of the 1965 Belmont Stakes over Tom Rolfe, as well as the Travers Stakes, the Jersey Derby and the Hibiscus Stakes. Hail to All would not go on to be one of his sire’s best sons at stud however.

Proud Clarion won the Kentucky Derby in 1967 at odds of thirty to one, defeating the great Damascus. He only captured one other stakes race of note, the Roamer Handicap, before retiring to stud at Darby Dan Farm. His claim to fame as a sire was Proud Birdie (Marlboro Cup, Bahamas Stakes etc.), among his thirty stakes winners.

Personality would have a more successful career on the track. Out of the great race mare Affectionately, Personality gave his sire a family Triple Crown by winning the Preakness Stakes. Bred and raced by the Bieber – Jacobs partnership, Personality became the champion three year old in 1970, the year in which Hail to Reason was the leading sire. Personality added the Wood Memorial, Jersey Derby, Jim Dandy and the Woodward Stakes to his list of victories. He had limited success as a sire but did get Shy Spirit, the dam of Izvestia.

Another good stakes winner by Hail to Reason was Stop the Music, winner of the Champagne Stakes, Dwyer Stakes and the Saratoga Special. As a sire standing at Gainesway Farm, he would have some say in future pedigrees. Stop the Music sired Belmont Stakes winner Temperance Hill, French champion Squill, Music Merci, Cure the Blues and Dontstop Themusic, among his forty-seven stakes winners. The latter sired Set Them Free, dam of Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo.

Hail the Pirates a stakes winning son of Hail To Reason racing in the U.S. and Europe (Gulfstream Park Handicap, Gallinule Stakes etc). Bold Reason, a half brother to Never Bend, won the Travers Stakes, the American Derby and the Hollywood Derby among his seven career victories. He would have everlasting fame as the sire of Fairy Bridge, the dam of Sadler’s Wells.

Hail to Reason sired very important and influential daughters, adding to his exceptional credentials as a world class sire. Trillion won the group one Prix Ganay and the group two Prix Dollar twice before becoming the dam of the great race mare Triptych by Riverman. Triptych would emulate her mother by winning the Prix Ganay and added the Irish 2000 Guineas against the boys to her list of winning achievements. Triptych was consistently raced against males in her career and was victorious twice in both the Champion Stakes and the Coronation Cup along with many other major wins in her distinguished career. She was voted champion turf mare in 1979.

Multiple grade one winner Cum Laude Laurie was the daughter of two champions as her dam was Primonetta, the 1962 champion older mare in America. Cum Laude Laurie captured the Beldame Stakes, Delaware Oaks, Ruffian Handicap and the Spinster Stakes.

Priceless Gem won the Frizette Stakes and the Futurity Stakes, beating Buckpasser in the latter race, but more importantly she became the dam of Allez France by Sea-Bird II. Allez France is considered as one of the elite race mares in turf history and is still a national treasure in her native France. Her victory in the 1974 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe was the highlight of her exceptional career which included wins in Prix de Diane, Poules d’Essai des Pouliches, Prix d’Ispahan, two victories in both the Prix Ganay and Prix Foy, and the Criterium des Pouliches, the latter race being the top event for juvenile fillies in France.

Straight Deal was one Hail to Reason’s best examples of his toughness in his offspring. Straight Deal would start in ninety-nine races, winning twenty-two which included some of the top stakes and handicap races in America. The Hollywood Oaks, the Firenze Handicap, the Santa Margarita Handicap, the Spinster Stakes, the Bed O’ Roses Handicap twice, the Delaware Handicap, and the Top Flight Handicap were just some of the many wins by this very durable mare. She later produced multi stakes winner Belonging by Exclusive Native, dam of Belong to Me, and Reminiscing by Never Bend, dam of Premiership and Commemorate.

Another good broodmare sired by Hail to Reason was Reason to Earn. She in turn is the dam of Bold Reasoning by Boldnesian. Bold Reasoning won the Jersey Derby and the Withers Stakes in a lightly raced career. He went to Claiborne Farm but only stood for three seasons before he died from the complications of a cracked pelvis due to an unfortunate accident in the breeding shed. He developed severe colic from the mishap and was humanely euthanized. However he was able to sire one horse of lasting fame and influence on future pedigrees, Triple Crown Champion Seattle Slew.

Other notables from daughters of Hail to Reason include Glowing Tribute by Graustark (dam of Hero’s Honor and Wild Applause both by Northern Dancer), Break Through was the dam of Ribbon by His Majesty (dam of Risen Star by Secretariat). Further examples are Royal Gleam, the dam of Forseer by Round Table (dam of Caerleon by Nijinsky), as well as Sensibility, the dam of Tree of Knowledge by Sassafras (dam sire of Theatrical by Nureyev).

I haven’t mentioned the two most important sons of Hail to Reason as I am invoking writer’s privilege and wanted to save the best for last. Epsom Derby winner Roberto and two time leading sire Halo. Roberto is the sire of notables such as Brian’s Time, At Talaq, Sunshine Forever, Touching Wood, Lear Fan, Real Shadai, and the good sires Kris S, Red Ransom and Dynaformer. Brian’s Time has exhibited considerable influence in Japan, while Lear fan is the dam sire of leading sire Kitten’s Joy. Kris S is the dam sire of the great Zenyatta.

Halo has also been a very successful sire as well. He is responsible for Glorious Song, Sunny’s Halo, Devil’s Bag, Rainbow Connection, Misty Gallore, Goodbye Halo, Lively One, and the good sires Southern Halo, Saint Ballado and champion Sunday Silence.

The latter three have continued the line with considerable consistency. Southern Halo sired one hundred and seventy-six stakes winners, and is well represented today by his son More Than Ready. Leading American sire Saint Ballado, a full brother to champions Glorious Song and Devil’s Bag, sired Saint Liam and Ashado, before his early death from spinal meningitis.

Sunday Silence however has top them all. He not only was a horse of the year in America, capturing the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Breeder’s Cup Classic among his nine wins in thirteen starts,  but he then founded a dominating legacy at stud in Japan. His get read like a who’s who of champions. Hat Trick, Daiwa Major, Heart’s Cry, Stay Gold, Manhatten Cafe and the incredible Deep Impact are a small sample of Sunday Silence’s influence on the breed. Many of his sons have continued his leadership of the Japanese sire charts with Deep Impact extending the influence throughout the world. Deep Impact is one of the three top stallions actively plying his trade today.

The line and legacy of Hail to Reason through his sons and daughters, is very prominent in the Thoroughbred breed today. Through his sons Roberto and Halo, and his grandsons Sunday Silence, Dynaformer, Red Ransom, Kris S and Saint Ballado, the Hail to Reason tail male line is strong and very much alive and well at the top Thoroughbreds sales and  grade/group one races. The name of Hail to Reason is also very prominent through the extraordinary success of Sadler’s Wells, whose son Galileo is the leading sire in world breeding.

Hail To Reason’s legacy of toughness, heart and courage are many attributes breeders and owners of horses look for. His regular rider Bobby Ussery called him “a man’s horse”.  Hail to Reason is one of the premier sources in Thoroughbred bloodlines to obtain these key ingredients for success.

Hail to Reason died on February 24, 1976 at the age of eighteen. Sadly his last few days were spent in his stall as he began to have a great deal of trouble getting up and down. His owners decided to end his pain and indignity, from the inevitable lingering death that was onset. Hail to Reason is buried at Hagyard Farm.

We as Thoroughbred fans have much to thank Hail To Reason for.

(Photo courtesy of Hagyard Farm archives)


  • Wonderful article. I have a daughter of Sunnys Halo. Love her

  • Stop the Music entered stud at his owner and breeder’s Greentree Stud. He stood there a decade or so before moving to Gainesway, along with most of the other stallions standing there, after Mr. Whitney’s death.

  • Jan Cross Cubbage

    Failed to mention that Hail to Reason sired Hail the Pirates, who in turn sired the 1981 champion 3 year old filly of NA, Wayward Lass.

  • Thoroughly enjoyable article. Fantastic information. I knew HTR was a very good stallion but was unaware of the deep influence he actualy has on the breed.

  • After reading your Deep Impact article I took a look at this. You have nailed it here when you say Hail To Reason’s legacy of heart and courage are important to breeders. Since Deep Impact is a third gen stallion on the line we need this blood back to improve our overall quality. You have keen insight. Thank you for this informative site.

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