Toussaud – Equine Diva
Blue Hen Mare is a frequently used title in breeding, but in reality the term should be sparsely used. A “Blue Hen” is an elite mare in producing top level stakes winners on multiple occasions. Juddmonte Farm has had a few such mares in their realm. Toussaud definitely qualifies as an elite “Blue Hen Mare”. She was a remarkable Thoroughbred.
Toussaud began life at Juddmonte’s Kentucky farm on May 6, 1989. Her dam was the graded stakes winner Image Of Reality, a daughter of the very notable sire In Reality. Image Of Reality also produced graded stakes winner Navarra, a full sister to Toussaud, and stakes winning filly Image Of Class. The female family of Toussaud is a rich one.
Fourth dam Bravura was bred in Kentucky by John Galbreath of Darby Dan fame. This ancestor of Toussaud was actually conceived in England and came to America in utero when Galbraith purchased the broodmare Teretania at auction. Bravura’s sire was Niccolo Dell’Arca, a half brother to the great Nearco, who no slouch himself as he is the 1941 Italian Triple Crown winner. Bravura produced three quality stakes winners including Candalita (Matron, Spinaway Stakes) as well as Hail The Pirates (Gulfstream Park Handicap). Another notable name within this family is Funny Cide. We will meet up with him later in the article.
El Gran Senor is the sire of Toussaud. Here we have an elite racehorse from an elite sire line. El Gran Senor did have fertility issues, but at 14% of stakes winners to foals, he got a lot of quality from his limited crop numbers. El Gran Senor was an agonising nose away from being undefeated, but that defeat came to him in The Derby Stakes at Epsom. The horse that beat him to the Epsom winning post was Secreto, who like El Gran Senor was a son of the great stallion Northern Dancer.
A champion in both years he raced, El Gran Senor was out of Sex Appeal, a wonderful broodmare daughter of Buckpasser. His full brother Try My Best was also a champion on the track, and later became a leading sire in England/Ireland. Another full brother, this one named Northern Guest, was injured as a foal and did not race. Northern Guest did however become a breed changing stallion in South Africa.
So both sides of Toussaud’s pedigree contained quality, class and speed. Toussaud herself added to the on track accomplishments in the family. She began her race career in England under the guidance of John Gosden and captured the group three Van Geest Criterion Stakes against a predominantly male field as a three year old. Juddmonte sent her to Bobby Frankel to compete from his barn the next year.
In the US, Toussaud found her form. She won the grade three Wilshire Handicap and Autumn Days Handicap, the grade two American Handicap, and the grade one Gamely Handicap. The Juddmonte runner also finished second to champion Flawlessly in the Matriarch Stakes. Toussaud retired from racing with a 7-4-2 record from fifteen starts.
Bobby Frankel said of Toussaud “She never trained conventionally. Not one day”. His statement captures the essence of Toussaud’s personality. She had a mind of her own, doing only what she wanted on her terms, and no one else’s. She was moody, but not mean. If she did not feel like training, she wouldn’t. If Frankel needed a good work from her he would begin the training run from the gate because Toussaud would think it was race time, and she never mailed in a race. But for regular training exercise she would only participate if inclined to do so. Toussaud also did not like to work alone. She had to have two or three other stable mates in her company.
Toussaud possessed a quick accelerator when asked and her inherited speed would come in an instant. She rated well for her rider in a race, but in training she was frequently not interested. There were times when she would stop from a full gallop or even a morning light workout canter. When that happened, the only thing to do was turn her around a walk back to the barn. Training session over, she has decided. Toussaud was not a morning horse. Her speed and quick action came from her sire line, as did much of her quirky personality.
Now if you are beginning to think Toussaud was a diva, you would be absolutely correct. Toussaud was a special lady, and she knew it. She was a drop dead gorgeous rich dark bay with a white spot and small stripe on her forehead and a bit of white on her front pasterns. She possessed the swagger of a runway model and looked the part. Attitude in spades, if Toussaud was human she would have been a paparazzi favourite. Her inquisitive nature and stubborn eccentric personality sees to that.
Now this is not say that Toussaud was by any means uncomfortable to be around. Far from it. She had oodles of charisma and could command the attention of even the most jaded of souls. She was the antithesis of boring. She had her ideas of how things should be, and the stubborn mind set to get it done her way.
Retirement from racing did not sit well for Toussaud at first. Heck it wasn’t her idea, so why should she think this new life would be any better than the one she knew. Once she settled in at Juddmonte Farm in Kentucky, Toussaud began to write a chapter in breeding that is the envy of most broodmares in the long history of the turf. She would claim a “Broodmare of the Year” title during her new career.
The first foal from our princess was a dark bay son of the immortal stallion Mr. Prospector. Given the name Chester House, this son of Toussaud won for Juddmonte the grade one Arlington Million Stakes and the group three Brigadier Gerard Stakes. He was retired to stand at his birthplace but unfortunately died at the young age of eight. Chester House had a form of cancer known as Myelodysplastic Syndrome. He underwent Chemotherapy immediately after the diagnosis but the cancer spread too quickly for the treatment to be of use.
Chester House sired only three crops of foals before his untimely passing. There were some very good stakes winners in his foals, which has led many to believe that Chester House would have been a very influential stallion had he lived longer. The first two crops did not signal much in the way of quality although there was multi graded stakes winner Spring House, who earned in excess of one million dollars.
The third and final crop from Chester House contained some real gems however. The dark bay filly Ventura, out of the Be My Guest mare Estala, won the Breeder’s Cup Filly & Mare Sprint and the Woodbine Mile. She also captured the Santa Monica Handicap, Just A Game Stakes and the Matriarch Stakes to run her grade one win total to five. Ventura won ten races from twenty-one starts and added eight second place finishes to her record. The Juddmonte runner began her racing in England, taking the group three Hyde Stakes, before coming back to the west to win her biggest events.
Other notables sired by Chester House in his final crop include Breeder’s Cup Marathon winner Muhannak, Metropolitan Handicap winner Divine Park, and multiple graded stakes winner Warning Zone.
The second foal from Toussaud was a dark bay filly by Seattle Slew named Honest Lady. In fifteen starts Honest Lady won six and placed in the money five more times. Her best achievement on the track came in the Santa Monica Handicap. Her best achievement in breeding has been her son First Defense, winner of the grade one Forego Handicap. First Defense began his stud career at Juddmonte and now plies his trade in Saudi Arabia.
Toussaud was bred to Juddmonte stallion Distant View and produced her third foal, a bay colt named Decarchy. Decarchy was a bit of a late bloomer when he won the grade two Kilroe Mile at the age of five. He stood at Magali Stud in California until his death in 2017 due to laminitis.
Fourth foal from Toussaud was Civilisation, a non winner of three races. The next foal however brought Toussaud back to the grade one producing ranks. Chiselling was sired by Woodman and captured the 2002 Secretariat Stakes. He was sold to Maine Chance stud farm in South Africa but unfortunately, Chiselling was stricken with a neurological disease. He has sired no foals to date.
This brings us to Toussaud’s most important offspring. Sent to the court of the dignified stallion Unbridled, Toussaud produced in 2000 a dark bay colt which was very much in the image of his dam’s father El Gran Senor. Prince Khalid named the colt Empire Maker. This colt also exhibited the unconventional personality traits of his mother. In essence, Empire Maker was a male version of Toussaud.
Empire Maker ran eight races through two seasons under the green with pink sash, white sleeves, pink cap colours of Juddmonte. He won four and finished second in four races. Although he did not win a stakes race in his juvenile year, Empire Maker was a highly regarded colt heading toward the 2003 Kentucky Derby. He won the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial in the lead up to the big event. As he entered the Churchill Downs starting gate on the first Saturday in May, Empire Maker was the betting favourite of the huge crowd. However he was beaten by Funny Cide in the race.
Many have pointed to a mishap during Derby week preparations when Empire Maker bruised a foot, causing him to not run at his best in the Derby. He was given time to heal before his next start, thus Empire Maker missed the Preakness Stakes, which was won by Funny Cide. So now the latter was going for Triple Crown glory. Could Empire Maker be back in time to deny his distant cousin the chance at immortality?
The answer was a definitive yes. Bobby Frankel had earlier in the year put blinkers on Empire Maker in order to have his easily distracted colt concentrate on race proceedings with more focus. The change in equipment paid dividends as Empire Maker won consecutive grade one races leading up to the Kentucky Derby. His loss to Funny Cide had nothing to do with his concentration. Empire Maker proved that with a resounding five lengths victory over a sloppy track to defeat Funny Cide in the Belmont. Another attempt for a Triple Crown had been denied.
Empire Maker ran one more race after his classic win, finishing second as the 3/10 favourite in the Jim Dandy Stakes. He was retired to stud and began his next career at Juddmonte in Kentucky. He stood seven years there before he was sent to Shizunai Stallion Station in 2011. In 2016 Empire Maker was repatriated and came back to Kentucky. He took up residence at Gainesway Farm where he still stands today. His return to the west has been received enthusiastically by breeders, and with good reason.
Among the top offspring from Empire Maker bred before he left for Japan are: Three time Eclipse Award champion Royal Delta (Breeder’s Cup Ladies Classic x2, Alabama Stakes, Beldame Stakes, Delaware Handicap, Personal Ensign Stakes), Bodemeister (Arkansas Derby, leading 2nd crop sire), Emollient (Spinster Stakes, American Oaks, Ashland Stakes), Grace Hall (Spinaway Stakes), Acoma (Spinster Stakes), and Pioneerof The Nile. The latter won grade one races at two and three (Cash Call Futurity, Santa Anita Derby) and has since sired Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, as well as champion two year old Classic Empire.
Toussaud was given a year off from foal production after the birth of Empire Maker, because she came down with a severe case of colic. She also had difficulties during that foaling, which was not uncommon for her. Surgery was required to alleviate the problem. Toussaud came out of the surgery in fine fettle, but the need to change her diet was paramount to her continued survival. This was not the first time the Juddmonte staff had to make special allowances for their star mare.
Following the birth of her first foal (Chester House), Toussaud was in a constant battle with that painful foot disease laminitis. Subsequently after the birth of her third foal (Decarchy), a nanny mare was brought in to nurse the foal. The Juddmonte vets and managers determined that the stress from foaling and nursing created too much for Toussaud to bear with her laminitis issues. This practice was followed for every foal she had afterward. To make up for her loss of her foal to another mare, the Juddmonte staff gave her a goat, named Liz, to keep her company.
Special renovations to Toussaud’s stall were also made in order to make her life more bearable while living with laminitis issues. The stall size was doubled, with a padded floor in which the straw was placed on. Air conditioning for the summer, heating for the winter and the entire section closed off to the elements were just some of the reno work done to Toussaud’s home to make her comfortable. With her pal Liz, and later Chloe when Liz passed away, for companionship, Toussaud lived the life of a queen.
Toussaud had ten foals in total. The last four, all daughters, did not become stakes winners. In fact only one, Tolerance sired by Seeking The Gold, won a single race. The others never raced. However, Mesmeric sired by A.P. Indy has produced multiple graded stakes winner Honorable Duty, thus keeping the female line in the stakes winning lists. Toussaud was retired from breeding following the birth of her 2006 daughter Gateway.
According to Juddmonte Farm manager Garret O’Rourke ,“Toussaud did not have a mean bone in her body. She was stubborn, but always inquisitive and engaging. She never pinned her ears or try to hurt anyone.” Toussaud seemed to consistently pass on her personality traits to her children. “They all have minds of their own”, said Bobby Frankel. “Eventually they will do what you ask them, but you have to let them do it at their own pace. You can’t rush them”.
Toussaud’s health steadily declined in 2008. Her battles with laminitis would eventually wear her down. On January 7, 2009 the wonderful mare Toussaud was humanely euthanized to end her suffering. She was twenty years old. Garret O’Rourke said at the time, “She was obviously a great broodmare but was an even more special character with a unique personality. She had a kind yet powerfully strong and resilient nature that live on in the competitive juices of her offspring”.
Beautiful, intelligent, fast, brave, and historic, Toussaud was one of a kind. Her exceptional record as a broodmare will be her lasting legacy for future generations, but for those who knew her, her legacy was of guts and determination. A charming mare with a unique outlook on life and the strong will to be herself, under any situation.
Toussaud was indeed a special horse.
(Photo courtesy of Barbara Livingston)