The first two centuries of recorded Thoroughbred breeding emphasised endurance over sheer speed. The gradual change to shorter distances in racing, with increased purses to aim for, eventually made stallions of staying ability obsolete in the breeding world. One of the last true sources for staying blood came from a brown foal of 1911. His name was Son-In-Law, a name that has graced the pedigrees of many of the finest champions and breed shapers in the twentieth century.
Son-In-Law was bred by Sir Abe Bailey and raced under the black and gold hoops colours of this prominent turf patron. Deftly trained by Reginald Day, Son-In-Law won the then prestigious Goodwood Gold Cup, the Cesarawich Stakes and twice captured the Jockey Club Cup. The latter two events were two and one quarter miles (18 furlongs), while the Goodwood Cup was contested over a demanding two miles and five furlongs. Son-In-Law won eight of eighteen races in his career with the shortest race victory being twelve furlongs. Today we consider this distance as an endurance race.
The sire of Son-In-Law was Dark Ronald. This sire line was one of the more fashionable lines in European racing at the turn of the previous century. Dark Ronald was sired by Bay Ronald, a great grandson of the important stallion Newminster through the Lord Clifton branch. Son-In-Law came from the first crop sired by Dark Ronald when that one began his historic stud career. Dark Ronald was sold in 1913, before any of his get could establish themselves in Britain, to German breeders and established a dynasty.
The dam of Son-In-Law was Mother In Law. She was a multiple stakes winner as a juvenile but did not train on well at three having never finished in the money in any of her three year old races. Matchmaker was the sire of Mother In Law, he being a grandson of Galopin (sire of St. Simon), while her dam was Be Cannie by Jock Of Oran, a son of the influential Blair Athol. The third dam of Mother In Law was the very good Seclusion, who was the dam of Epsom Derby winner Hermit, a two times leading sire in his day. Therefore with the breeding of Dark Ronald to Mother In Law, the resulting foal Son-In-Law was inbred to Newminster 5×5, to Galopin 5×4, and to Blair Athol 4×4. Prominent sires all.
When Son-In-Law retired from racing he was universally rated as the best stayer in racing. He was an attractive individual with an elegant head containing bright expressive eyes. He had perfect shoulders but low withers and a high croup which gave the impression he was weak in the back. Not so because his hindquarters were strong. Son-In-Law had the leggy appearance of a true stayer. The only marking on his dark brown coat was his white right hind pastern. The only negative to his conformation was that his front pasterns were a bit steep.
With the race track résumé and body of a natural stayer, Son-In-Law was very successful in transmitting these traits to his offspring. Son-In-Law returned to his birth place Tickford Park Stud to begin his soon to be influential career as a stallion. Among the strong contingent of mares in his first season in the role was Signorinetta, winner of both the Derby and the Oaks at Epsom. This union produced multiple stakes winner The Winter King, who later sired Grand Prix de Paris winner Barneveldt. Also in this first crop came Bucks, out of Barona by Carbine, who emulated his father in winning the Goodwood Cup.
Son-In-Law’s second season at stud saw him meet the seminal broodmare Lady Josephine, from famous Sledmere Stud. The result of this became Lady Juror, the first foal from her dam. Lady Juror also won a race her father had won when she took the 1922 Jockey Club Stakes. Lady Juror was a very versatile runner winning stakes from five furlongs to fourteen furlongs. She later became a very important broodmare in the stud book with her son Fair Trial. Following his brilliant racing career where he established himself as one of the fastest horses ever seen on a race course, Fair Trial became a notable contributor to future pedigrees when he sired the likes of Court Martial, Palestine and Festoon.
A daughter of Lady Juror sired by Epsom Derby winner Sansovino was named Sansonnet. Although she never won from seven starts, Sansonnet continued the first class production of the family. Coronation Stakes winner Neolight, by Nearco, and 1946 English Champion juvenile Tudor Minstrel, by Owen Tudor, are both sons of Sansonnet. Lady Juror is also the grandmother of Epsom Oaks winner Commotion (Mieuxce – Riot by Colorado), who in turn is the dam of undefeated major stakes winner Combat and of Doncaster Cup winner Aristophanes, the sire of major stallion Forli.
Lady Juror is also a half sister to Mumtaz Mahal, the famous “Flying Filly” who is another esteemed producer in racing history. Mumtaz Mahal was sired by The Tetrarch who was also a foal of 1911, thus a contemporary of Son-In-Law.
Two years after Lady Juror won her stakes races, Son-In-Law had his first, and only, classic winner. Straitlace, out of the Best Man mare Stolen Kiss, won the Epsom Oaks in 1924. She also took the Coronation Stakes and several other stakes races that year. Son-In-Law won the first of his two sire championships in 1924.
While the daughters of Son-In-Law were thrusting their sire to the head of the list, the sons of the popular stallion were not dragging him down. Foxlaw, out of Alope by Gallinule, won the prestigious Ascot Gold Cup. This race was not available to Son-In-Law due to his racing during the First World War and the Ascot venue was not in use. Foxlaw became the first of four winners in the Gold Cup for Son-In-Law. Foxlaw later continued the Ascot Gold Cup sire line by siring two winners himself in Tiberius and Foxhunter, and became the sire of eleven times New Zealand leading sire Foxbridge.
Bosworth became an Ascot Gold Cup winner for Son-In-Law. Here again we have another important broodmare paying a visit to our subject, this time it was Serenissima, the dam of the great Selene. Bosworth went on to sire Boswell (St. Leger Stakes, Eclipse Stakes) and Plassy (Jockey Club Stakes, Coronation Cup). Plassy sired the consistent Vandale who in turn sired the very classy Herbager, himself a major influence at stud. Boswell came to North America for his stud career where he sired King’s Plate winner Major Factor, Round View (Flamingo Stakes, Whitney Stakes, Monmouth Handicap), and Cochise (Saratoga Cup, Arlington Handicap).
Perhaps the greatest gift Son-In-Law gave to the turf world was his daughter Aloe. A full sister to Foxlaw, Aloe was a step back of the best of her generation, being stakes placed on four occasions. However in the breeding shed Aloe produced three daughters that have created powerful families. Sweet Aloe, Aroma, and most importantly Feola are all daughters of this great mare. In the Aroma branch of descendants are Persian Maid, Obeah, Dance Spell, Discorama, Go For Wand, Atan (sire of Sharpen Up), Fappiano, Known Fact, Tentam and Gone West. From Sweet Aloe come the names of Salsabil, Alcide, Parthia and Flame Of Tara.
Feola however has such a rich family under her that one must concede this clan to be one of the richest in the sport. Descendants such as Aureole, Round Table, Highclere, Height of Fashion, Above Board, and Pebbles, who was inbred to Aloe 6×6. Recent big names such as Nashwan, Unfuwain, Deep Impact, Pulpit, Tale Of The Cat and Johannesburg bear proof of the importance this branch of the Aloe family has had on the breed.
Son-In-Law won his second sire title in 1930 with his son Rustom Pasha leading the way by winning the Eclipse Stakes and the Champion Stakes. The following year Trimdon won his first of two consecutive Ascot Gold Cups. Trimdon would later sire Marsyas (Prix du Cadran, Prix Jean Prat x2, Doncaster Cup, Goodwood Cup), regarded as one of the greatest stayers of the century. Son-In-Law’s Epigram won the Goodwood Cup and the Doncaster Cup. He later sired Ascot Gold Cup winner Souepi. While another son of Son-In-Law named Beau Pere became the most important son to continue the tail male line.
Beau Pere was a moderate winner at best on the track. Although he possessed a first class pedigree being out of 1,000 Guineas winner Cinna (by Polymelus), who in turn is a granddaughter of the immortal La Fleche, when Beau Pere went to stud in England he did not receive much attention from breeders. He was sold to Westmere Stud in New Zealand. With a new group of mares to work with, Beau Pere’s stud career took off. Siring the likes of Beau Vite, Beaulivre, Beaupartir, Belle Cane, Happy Ending, Peerless, and Tara King, Beau Pere became a three times leading sire in Australia and twice led the New Zealand list. He also attracted the deep pocket American breeders who successfully purchased Beau Pere to stand in America.
Success continued for Beau Pere in the U.S. He got a total of twenty-one stakes winners in the west. The best of his American get was likely Honeymoon. Winner of twenty races in a six year racing career, Honeymoon won prestigious races such as the Hollywood Derby, Hollywood Oaks, Santa Maria Handicap, Vanity Handicap, and the Top Flight Handicap. While Honeymoon did not leave any foals of significance, other daughters of Beau Pere did.
Iron Reward is the dam of American legend Swaps. Winner of the Kentucky Derby over the great Nashua, Swaps the following year became Horse of the Year with a scintillating season. Flower Bed, another non stakes winner daughter of Beau Pere, produced Flower Bowl (Delaware Handicap, Ladies Handicap). Flower Bowl in turn is the dam of champion filly Bowl of Flowers and the full brothers Graustark and His Majesty, both very influential stallions. Flower Bowl is also the second dam of another successful sire in Whisky Road. Judy-Rea by Beau Pere is the second dam of the great broodmare Courtly Dee, matriarch to a dynasty.
The athletic ability of the sons and daughters of Son-In-Law have been a major factor in the breed of sport horses and jumpers. For instance, his daughter Maureen was the dam of Furioso, sire of Olympic medal winners and World Champion show jumpers. His own sons Tourist II and Within-The-Law became top class sires of steeplechasers on both sides of the Atlantic. The latter is the sire of 1947 Grand National winner Caughoo.
Son-In-Law and his sire Dark Ronald are seen in the pedigrees of many of the top one hundred international show jumpers of the past decade. Son-In-Law’s grandson Cottage Son is the prime name being in 14% of the top show jumpers during the 1990’s.
In his famous book “Sire Lines”, author Abraham Hewitt described Son-In-Law as the best source of stamina in the British Isles. Hewitt has been proven correct with his observation. Son-In-Law indeed injected his top quality constitution, high class staying ability to subsequent generations. There are several of his daughter’s families that are still thriving today, many generations beyond their own. That is testament to the longevity of the line.
Son-In-Law passed away in May of 1941. He was thirty years old when he died. He had a full productive life and was the epitome of equine health his entire life until that fateful day when he collapsed in his paddock. His legacy of stamina, while not fully appreciated in today’s Thoroughbred breeding realm, is still a key factor in many of the champions we have cheered for.
I wonder if Son-In-Law was born today, would he be as appreciated or given the chance to be appreciated by those that buy and breed Thoroughbreds.
(Photo courtesy of The British Racehorse)
(Second photo courtesy of British Racing Archives)