Many of the thoroughbreds of the past that are held in high regard, become legendary, almost mystical in reverence to pedigree junkies like myself. Then there are some that are held on a higher pedestal, attaining a level of divine proportion. One such broodmare is La Troienne. Her incredible legacy through her descendants reverberates throughout the breeding world, as there are to this day many recent champions with La Troienne prominently within their family tree.
La Troienne was bred in 1926 by Marcel Boussac in France. Her sire is the great Teddy, one of the most influential sires in history. Her dam is Helen de Troie, a daughter of Helicon. Helicon, a son of Cyllene, was a sire of unremarkable remembrance. Helen de Troie won only one race as a two year old on the flat but did win three additional minor races over the jumps, after Boussac purchased her following her three year old season.
La Troienne herself was not an accomplished runner, in fact she never won a race. Her best showing was a third from seven starts. Boussac was so disappointed by her race record that after breeding her to Gainsborough, he consigned La Troienne to the Newmarket December sales. She would be purchased by bloodstock agent Dick Thompson for American breeder Edward Riley Bradley, commonly known as Col. E. R. Bradley, the owner of Idle Hour Stock Farm in Kentucky. Bradley, who had the honorary title of Colonel, was actually a gambler by profession and a superior thoroughbred breeder. His purchase of La Troienne would be the most important acquisition he ever made pertaining to his breeding and racing endeavour.
The foal by Gainsborough which La Troienne was carrying, a filly that was never named, would turn out to be very weak and subsequently put down. La Troienne was then bred to the Colonel’s own stallion Black Toney, a son of Peter Pan by Commando by Domino, one of the more dominant sire lines in America at that time. The resulting foal was Black Helen, the champion three year old in 1935.
Black Helen was a small filly, prompting Bradley to not nominate her to any of the classic filly engagements. She did win the Florida Derby, the CCA Oaks and the American Derby among her top victories in her championship season. Her daughter Be Like Mom by Sickle would in turn produce But Why Not (Alabama Stakes, Beldame Handicap etc) by Blue Larkspur, the champion three year old filly in 1947. Another daughter of Be Like Mom, a full sister to But Why Not named Renew (Firenze and Top Flight Handicaps) produced Refurbish, the third dam of champion Princess Rooney (Breeder’s Cup Distaff). Hula Hula by Polynesian, yet another daughter of Black Helen became the direct female line ancestress of champions Pleasant Tap and Go For Gin, three generations removed.
La Troienne’s third foal was Biologist by Bubbling Over, the 1926 Kentucky Derby winner bred by Bradley. Biologist was gelded and was a well raced individual with forty-two starts winning only three.
Fourth foal, and second offspring by Bubbling Over – La Troienne, was Baby League. A winner of only one race, Baby League became a valuable broodmare as she is the dam of Busher, Mr. Busher (Arlington Futurity), and Striking (Schuylerville Stakes) all sired by War Admiral, and Harmonizing (Man O’ War Stakes) by Counterpoint. Busher was the champion two year old filly in 1944, and then one bettered herself as the Horse of the Year in the following season. She later produced Jet Action (Withers Stakes, Olympic Handicap).
Striking became a great broodmare producing fifteen foals, five of which won stakes races. The stakes winners were Bases Full (dam of Bold And Brave) and Hitting Away (Dwyer Handicap) by Ambiorix, Batter Up (Black Eyed Susan Stakes) by Tom Fool, Glamour (Test Stakes) by Nasrullah, and My Boss Lady (Prioress Stakes) by Bold Ruler. Some of the descendants from this branch of La Troienne are Boucher (St. Leger Stakes), Poker (dam sire of Seattle Slew and Silver Charm), two year old champion Numbered Account (dam of Private Account and Dance Number), Playmate (dam of Woodman), as well as Mineshaft (Eclipse Horse of the Year) and Smarty Jones (Kentucky Derby Preakness Stakes etc) further down the direct female line.
The fifth foal from La Troienne was Big Hurry, a full sister to Black Helen. Big Hurry won the Selima Stakes at two but then broke down after her second start at three. In the breeding arena she would shine as she is the dam of Bridal Flower by Challenger II (Beldame Handicap, Gazelle Stakes, Roamer Handicap etc) and Searching by War Admiral. Following a disappointing two year old campaign, Searching was sold to Hirsch Jacobs for $15,000 and became a top handicap mare under Jacobs’ tutelage. She won the Vagrancy Handicap, Top Flight Handicap, Gallorette Handicap twice and Diana Handicap among her twenty-five victories in her Hall of Fame career. After her racing ended she then became one of the more important direct female line descendants of La Troienne.
Searching is the dam of Affectionately, winner of the Astoria Stakes, Spinaway Stakes and Fashion Stakes at two and the Vosburgh, Top Flight, Toboggan and Vagrancy Handicaps, the latter race carrying 137 lbs, as an older runner. Affectionately is the dam of Personality (Preakness Stakes, Woodward Stakes, and Wood Memorial etc). Another daughter of Searching named Admiring (Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes) became the dam of Glowing Tribute, who in turn produced Glowing Honor, Hero’s Honor and Sea Hero. Priceless Gem (Frizette Stakes, Futurity Stakes, beating Buckpasser) is a third daughter of Searching to produce a champion as she is the dam of the great Allez France and Lady Wimbourne, dam of Al Mamoon.
Big Hurry is also the dam of No Fiddling by King Cole, dam of Straight Deal, as well as Dashing by Menow, grand dam of True Knight and Zoman, and Allemande by Counterpoint, dam of Marking Time who in turn produced champion Relaxing (Ruffian Handicap, Delaware Handicap etc), a broodmare of the year as she is the dam of Easy Goer, Cadillacing and Easy Now.
Sixth foal from La Troienne, and her third and final offspring by Black Toney, was the unbeaten champion two year old of 1939 Bimelech. Bimelech was a dark brown colt of exquisite conformation and racing class. His six for six season as a two year old culminated with victory in the Futurity Stakes at Belmont, a race Col. Bradley had always coveted but had never won until Bimelech’s victory. Bimelech won his first two starts at three but came up woefully short in the Kentucky Derby. Bimelech redeemed himself in the Preakness Stakes, came second in the Withers Stakes, and then captured the Belmont Stakes. After a third place in the Arlington Classic, Bimelech suffered a season ending injury. He made two starts at four, winning a minor stake and placing fourth in the Widener Handicap re-injuring himself, thus ending his racing career.
Bimelech initially stood stud at Idle Hour Farm his birth place, but upon the death of Col. Bradley, and the subsequent dispersal of his valuable breeding and racing stock, Bimelech would complete his stud career at Greentree Stud in Kentucky. He had a good record as a sire getting thirty stakes winners which include Better Self, Bimlette, and Be Faithful, the latter being the dam of Lalun, who in turn is the dam of Never Bend.
Big Event by Blue Larkspur – La Troienne is the seventh foal from our subject in this article, and the first of three to be sired by Col. Bradley’s champion grandson of Black Toney. Blue Larkspur won the Belmont Stakes, the Arlington Gold Cup and the Saratoga Special in his racing career. His race record from sixteen starts of 10-3-1 was against the best of his generation. Blue Larkspur later became a very successful sire, extending the Domino male line, but unfortunately did not sire a son to succeed him. His daughters were prolific broodmares however and elevated him to the leading broodmare sire lists for a solid sixteen seasons, although he never led the list in any year. One hundred and fourteen stakes winners would be produced by broodmares sired by Blue Larkspur.
Big Event was no exception to the broodmare producing lineage of both her parents as she is the dam of Hall Of Fame by Shut Out (Arlington Classic, American Derby) Blue Eyed Momo by War Admiral (dam of Francis S. who is the broodmare sire of Ogygian and It’s In The Air), and a full sister to Hall Of Fame named Blackball, who is the dam of The Axe II (Canadian International, Man O’ War Stakes etc) and Malicious (Jim Dandy Stakes, Stymie Handicap etc).
Foal number eight from La Troienne was Businesslike, by Blue Larkspur. Businesslike was no world beater on the track as she was zero for two, showing no inclination to race. In the breeding arena however, Businesslike became an important player in the La Troienne legacy of exceptional proliferation. Just prior to his passing, Col. Bradley bred her in 1946 to War Admiral. Businesslike produced the following year a filly to be named Busanda. Businesslike had been sold in the dispersal of Col. Bradley’s stock to Ogden Phipps while carrying her War Admiral foal, so subsequently this foal became the property of another one of the leading racing and breeding outfits in the U.S.
Busanda won such prestigious races as the Alabama Stakes, Top Flight Handicap, Suburban Handicap and the Saratoga Cup twice, when she was inclined to race, as she was a notoriously stubborn sort that would not always give enough of herself while racing. This was a personality trait that was known to horseman of the Fair Play male line, of which she descended from. Col. Bradley was always aware of this and was generally reluctant to breed to such thoroughbreds. However, even though War Admiral was not of this temperament, sometimes such mentality can skip a generation.
After her racing career, Busanda produced one of the finest thoroughbreds of the twentieth century, the exquisitely conformed Buckpasser. Buckpasser was one of the elite runners of the twentieth century and became a very influential sire at stud. Busanda also threw good producing daughters such as Finance, Oak Cluster and Navsup. Finance was the dam of La Mesa (dam of champion Outstandingly and La Affirmed) while Oak Cluster is the grand dam of Splendid Spruce (Santa Anita Derby), and Navsup is the dam of Polish Navy (Champagne Stakes, Woodward Stakes etc). Polish Navy later sired Sea Hero (Kentucky Derby, Travers Stakes etc) and Ghazi (Secretariat Stakes).
La Troienne went to Greentree Stud following the Col. Bradley stock dispersal in 1946. Here she would have seven more foals before she was pensioned in 1948 following the birth of her fifteenth and final foal Trojan War by Shut Out. Her fourteenth foal Belle Of Troy by Blue Larkspur, sixth sired by this stallion, was unraced but then became the dam of Cohoes by Mahmoud (Brooklyn Handicap, Whitney Stakes etc), who became a good sire. Bee Ann Mac by Blue Larkspur – La Troienne was her dam’s last foaled stakes winner when she won the Selima Stakes in 1946. La Troienne`s other foals were Besieged by Balladier, Broke Even by Blue Larkspur, Back Yard by Balladier, and Belle Histoire by Blue Larkspur. Belle Histoire is a direct (four generations removed) female line ancestress of the very good Tejano by Caro (Hollywood Futurity, Arlington-Washington Futurity etc).
Without any doubt, La Troienne has earned a place in the hearts and minds of all thoroughbred breeding enthusiasts everywhere. The vast amount of great racing and breeding descendants from this one exceptional mare is quite simply staggering. Buckpasser, Easy Goer, Allez France, Princess Rooney, Woodman, Go For Gin, Pleasant Tap, Numbered Account, Prairie Bayou, Straight Deal, But Why Not, Affectionately, Turgeon, Relaxing, Outstandingly, Caerleon, Busher, and Personality are all champions who are directly descended from La Troienne.
Her last years at Greentree Stud were happy and carefree as she roamed her paddock, and would have many visitors curious to see for themselves the mare that had by then been revered as the most important mare in American turf history. On January 30, 1954 La Troienne died and was laid to rest at Greentree under the lushness of the tree shaded cemetery on the grounds.
(Photo courtesy of Greentree Stud)