Princequillo – The Ultimate Rags To Riches Sire

Princequillo 1

When it comes to breeding Thoroughbreds, the wise money generally goes with the tried and true within the box of fashionable bloodlines. The wiser money will look outside the box and, once in a while, find gold where no one else would consider looking. Princequillo is one such Thoroughbred. He was like this his entire life.

Born in Ireland, conceived in France to a French mare, bred by an American and raced in the USA, Princequillo was by the Belgian bred sire Prince Rose out of the mare Cosqulla by Papyrus. Cosqulla was a good stayer as was her sire Papyrus, who won the 1923 Epsom Derby and other high class races of longer distances. Prince Rose was a national treasure in Belgium winning all sixteen of his races in his home country. He was sent to France and entered in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe of 1931. He finished third but was far from out classed and he distinguished himself admirably.

The Belgian government would not let the people’s favourite Thoroughbred out of the country for breeding for some time. The eminent threat of war (the Nazis were inching closer to Belgian borders) gave them no choice but to let him go to France in 1939. He was leased by American breeder Laudy Lawrence, who just happened to own the broodmare Cosquilla, to stand in France. Once she was certified in foal to Prince Rose, Cosquilla was shipped to Ireland, hoping for a safer home. Unfortunately even in France Prince Rose was not safe. After the Nazis took the area of France he was in, Prince Rose was confiscated and subsequently killed by artillery fire.

Prince Rose was by Rose Prince, a direct descendant of the great St. Simon male line through Persimmon to Prince Palatine to Rose Prince. This branch of the St. Simon sire line is noted for very good staying stamina. Since Cosquilla’s sire Papyrus was a noted stayer, there was not much high class speed in the immediate pedigree of Princequillo. Horses that have the ability to stay and win long distance races are usually referred to as plodders.

Princequillo was foaled in 1940 and Lawrence made the decision to send all of his horses to the US. Cosquilla and her new bay son were boarded along with the others on a ship and then embarked on a harrowing journey across the Atlantic. The ship encountered rough water and even rougher U-boats, however luck was on their side and they made it to America.

Princequillo and his shipmates were in terrible condition when they disembarked but they were safe. Lawrence decided to sell the little colt, perhaps due to his dishevelled appearance, to Anthony Pelleteri. His début race was on July 23, 1942, and four starts later he was claimed by Horatio Luro for $2,500. Luro, who would go on to become one the most renowned trainers in America, was acting on behalf of his clients the Boone Hall Stable.

Under the patient care of Horatio Luro, Princequillo developed into one of the top Handicap horses of his generation. He won the Saratoga Handicap at one and five-eighths miles (thirteen furlongs) and the one and three-quarters miles (fourteen furlongs) Saratoga Cup, setting a new track record while beating the good Bolingbroke. Princequillo finished his three year old season with a victory in the prestigious Jockey Club Gold Cup, then run at the distance of two miles. He displayed a good turn of speed when asked and was very adaptable rating. Apparently, he was not just a plodder.

Given time to enjoy some rest Princequillo came into his four year old season in fine shape but soon developed navicular trouble. He was still able to win the thirteen furlong Questionnaire Handicap and the one and three-sixteenths mile Merchants’ and Citizens’ Handicap, despite his injuries.

When he raced at Saratoga he was spotted by a young Kentucky horseman named A. B. “Bull” Hancock. Son of Claiborne Farms owner A. B. Hancock Sr. “Bull” was keen to have Princequillo for the family farm. Luro was also promoting the horse’s merits to the Sr. Hancock as well but, A. B. was of the mind that he had enough stamina sources in his stud barn and really was not looking for more.” Bull” also noted that Princequillo had won races at six furlongs as well as his long distance cup victories and so the Sr. Mr. Hancock relented, partially, and agreed to stand the young stallion at Ellerslie Stud in Virginia. At that time, this farm was a kind of minor league farm to the Claiborne operation in relation to the main farm in Kentucky.

From here is where Princequillo began his epic rise to the top echelon of Thoroughbred breeding. Having already gone from a claiming horse to a handicap stakes winner, he was now going to go from a modestly bred sire to a sire that breeders would soon clamour over. Princequillo would revive a sagging branch of the St. Simon male line. His first crop contained champions Prince Simon in England and Hill Prince in America. The emergence of a new legend in Thoroughbred breeding is now under way.

Princequillo sired important sons as well as important daughters, of which the best on the track was Round Table. Round Table was out of Knight’s Daughter (a winner of three of her four races) by Sir Cosmo. Sir Cosmo is a direct male line descendant of Bend Or through the Ormonde branch. Knight’s Daughter was bred by King George VI, and would also produce the stakes winning fillies Monarchy by Princequillo and Love Game by Big Game.

Round Table was among the crop of exceptional colts born in 1954 which included Bold Ruler, Gallant Man and Iron Liege. He won seven major awards including the Horse of the Year award in 1958. Winner of forty-three races with eight second places and five thirds from sixty-six starts, Round Table was equally supreme on grass or dirt but never on muddy tracks. He later became the leading sire in North America in 1972.

Among Round Table’s top sons were Baldric II (2000 Guineas, Champion Stakes etc), Artaius (Eclipse Stakes), He’s a Smoothie (Canadian Hall of Fame), Poker (dam sire of Seattle Slew and Silver Charm), Apalachee (Observer Gold Cup, successful sire), Advocator (Seminole and Toboggan Handicaps), and Targowice (Champion two year old in France, sire of All Along).

Round Table’s daughters would be highly influential. Isolt was the dam of Sir Tristram by Sir Ivor. Sir Tristram, while not a great horse on the track, two wins from nineteen races, would become one of the most influential sires in New Zealand and Australian history. His highly renowned fiesty disposition led his handlers to wear protective gear for safety. Sir Tristram sired one hundred and forty stakes winners, which included three Melbourne Cup winners, in his illustrious career and a further two hundred stakes winners as a broodmare sire. Furthermore he would sire sons to continue the tradition he established in Marauding, Zabeel, Dr. Grace, and Grosvenor, to name a few. Sir Tristram died in 1997 and is buried at Cambridge Stud, where he stood for his career.

Among the high profile daughters of Round Table include Drumtop, winner of the Canadian International and the Hialeah Turf Cup among her many stakes wins. This consistent miss later produced Topsider by Northern Dancer, a multi stakes winner especially at sprint distances and successful sire. Sweet Lady Briar was the dam of Briartic by Nearctic, a successful sire in Canada. Stakes winner Two Rings produced Northern Baby who was a multi stakes winner in France and also a successful sire, as well as Canadian champion Bayford. Rosetta Stone was the dam of champion mare De La Rose and multi stakes winner Upper Nile both by Nijinsky, as well as Lie Low by Dr. Fager. De La Rose as a broodmare produced the grade one stakes winner Conquistarose.

Returning to the influential sons of Princequillo who became a successful sires we find Prince John. Out of Not Afraid by Count Fleet, Prince John would become the leading broodmare sire four times in a very successful career as a sire. The chestnut son of Princequillo was the winner of the Garden State Stakes, however while preparing for the Kentucky Derby he got loose in the stable area and suffered a broken foot, ending his racing career.

Prince John began his stud life at Elmendorf Farm then was transferred to Spendthrift in 1961. He sired Stage Door Johnny (Champion three year old and a successful sire), Speak John (1985 leading broodmare sire), and Silent Screen (champion two year old colt). His best racing daughters were, Typecast (1972 champion older mare), Deceit (Acorn Stakes and Mother Goose Stakes) and Magazine (CCA American Oaks).

The list of top producing broodmares sired by Prince John is very impressive. River Lady is the dam of Riverman by Never Bend. Riverman a dark bay or brown horse, was a multi group stakes winner whose victories include the Poule d’ Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas). Importantly he would become a very successful sire of high class champions such as Tryptich, River Memories, Irish River, Bahri, Detroit and Gold River. The latter two fillies were winners of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Riverman lead the French sire list in 1980 and 1981. Irish River, a multi group one winner, became a successful sire getting eighty-seven stakes winners.

Prince John’s daughter La Griffe produced Blushing John by Blushing Groom, the winner of the 1988 Poule d’Essai des Poulains and other group races in Europe. He came to the US and scored in the Hollywood Turf Cup and other graded stakes, on his way to Champion Older Horse honours in North America. Blushing John began his stud career in Kentucky before he was bought by Japanese interests, and relocated.

Ride the Trails was the dam of Cozzene by Caro. Cozzene was another very successful sire produced by a Prince John mare after his stellar racing career which included a big victory in the Breeder’s Cup Mile, propelling him to champion grass horse honours in 1985. Standing stud at Gainesway in Lexington, Kentucky he would become the leading North American sire in 2002. Among his many good sons and daughters were, Tikkanen and Alphabet Soup, both winners of Breeder’s Cup events, Cozzene’s Prince (Canadian Champion Older Male), and multi grade one winner Star of Cozzene.

Princess Pout produced Alleged by Hoist the Flag. Trained by Vincent O’Brien, Alleged won nine of his ten races with his only loss coming in the St. Leger Stakes to the Queen’s good filly Dunfermline. Alleged emulated his great grand sire Ribot by winning the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe twice. He was rated the top horse in Europe in his three year old year and again at four. As a sire, Alleged was quite successful with his daughter Miss Alleged his best distaff runner counting the 1991 Breeder’s Cup Turf among her many victories, on her way to be acclaimed champion turf mare. Law Society won the 1985 Irish Derby giving Alleged a classic winning son.

Other good winners produced by Prince John broodmares were Big Spruce (Marlboro Cup etc), Royal Chocolate (Queen’s Plate) Northern Trick (Prix de Diane), Summing (Belmont Stakes) and Palace Music by The Minstrel a group one winner in Europe who would become the leading sire in North America when his son Cigar was sweeping all on the racetracks of America.

Dedicate by Princequillo was the champion older horse in 1957. He won the Brooklyn, Whitney, Hawthorne Gold Cup, Monmouth and John B. Campbell Handicaps as well as the Woodward and Jersey Stakes. Dedicate had limited success at stud but did get champion two year old filly Smart Deb and multi stakes winner Natashka, dam of Gregorian, Truly Bound and Arkadina.

Hill Prince was bred and raced by Christopher Chenery, Meadow Stable in Virginia. Hill Prince would be named the Champion two year old after winning three stakes races, including the Cowdin Stakes and then earn Horse of the Year honours as a three year old after victories in the Preakness Stakes, American Derby, Withers Stakes, Wood Memorial, Sunset, Jerome and Jockey Club Gold Cup Handicaps. Hill Prince added another championship to his trophy case when he garnered the Champion Handicap honours as a four year old.

As you can see, Princequillo was not a one dimensional sire. These sons as well as their sons and daughters have kept the line a strong influence in today’s breeding pedigrees. If a sire can get one son to pass on the line, then the line has a chance to endure. Princequillo had four very capable sons to carry on the family tradition. However, the daughters of Princequillo would carry his name to such elite company in the realm of Thoroughbred pedigrees that one is forced to acknowledge him as a sire of immense stature.

Quill, a stakes winning daughter by Princequillo, won the Gardenia stakes and the Matron Stakes as a two year old, the Mother Goose and Acorn Stakes as a three year old, and the New Castle Stakes and Delaware Handicap at four. She was the dam Caucasus by Nijinsky, winner of the St. Leger Stakes, San Luis Rey Stakes as well as the Sunset, Manhattan, Arcadia and South Bay Handicaps. She also produced One For All by Northern Dancer, winner of the Canadian International, the Laurel Turf Cup, the Niagara, Sunset and Pan American Handicaps.

Misty Morn won the Monmouth Oaks, the Molly Pritchard, Gallant Fox, and Diana Handicaps and was a champion at three and four. Later she became a broodmare of the year in 1963. Misty Morn produced multi stakes winners Sunrise Flight by Double Jay, duel two year old champions Bold Lad and Successor by Bold Ruler, and the latter two’s stakes winning sister Beautiful Day.

Quillopoly is the dam of Classy Quillo by Outing Class, who in turn was the dam of No Class by Nodouble. No Class would become the foundation mare for the powerful Sam-Son Farms stable as she is the dam of four champions, Regal Classic, Grey Classic, Sky Classic and Classy’N Smart. Classy’N Smart later produced the great mare Dance Smartly and Smart Strike, a two time leading sire. This family is still to the day a potent force in racing.

Other good stakes winners from daughters of Princequillo include Sequoia the dam of Sham by Pretense, Luquillo is the dam of High Echelon by Native Charger, Key Bridge had a son named Fort Marcy by Amerigo, a three time divisional champion, Horse of the Year recipient and a member of the Hall of Fame.

Another very good son of Key Bridge was Key To The Mint by Graustark. Winner of fourteen races including the Travers Stakes, Brooklyn Handicap and Woodward Stakes, Key To The Mint would become a very good sire with champion sprinter Plugged Nickel and grade one winning sisters Kamar and Love Smitten among his get. The latter two have been outstanding broodmares with the likes of champions Swain, Gorgeous, Fantastic Light, Golden Attraction, and Key To The Moon among thier many descendants.

Rose Bower won six races including the Matron Stakes and the Princess Pat Stakes. Her claim to fame as a broodmare is from her son Miswaki, who stood his entire career at Walmac International and was very successful and influential. His best were Black Tie Affair (Breeder’s Cup Classic) and Urban Sea (Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe). He is also the dam sire of Galileo, Sea The Stars, Daylami, Dalakhani, Hernando and Johann Quatz.

Princequillo’s daughter How produced the aptly named Pocahontas by Roman. Pocahontas won the Schuylerville Stakes and then became broodmare of the year in 1965. Among her offspring are Tom Rolfe by Ribot, Chieftan by Bold Ruler, and Lady Rebecca by Sir Ivor (dam of Alzao) by Lyphard. Tom Rolfe, Chieftan and Alzao would all do very well as sires.

Milan Mill is another of Princequillo’s very influential daughters as she is the dam of the great Mill Reef by Never Bend. Mill Reef won the 1971 Epsom Derby during his European Horse of the Year season and then captured the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe to highlight his three year old season. A two time leading sire, Mill Reef would become a very influential sire before his passing in 1986. This line is still today a very important sire line with the likes of Darshaan, Shirley Heights, Acamas and Diamond Shoal leading the way.

Somethingroyal would prove to be Princequillo’s most famous broodmare daughter. Somethingroyal lived up to her grand name as the dam of two very royal Thoroughbreds, Sir Gaylord and Secretariat. Sir Gaylord by Turn-To was considered as one of the finest of Thoroughbred conformation in his time. A dark bay standing 15.3 hands at full growth, Sir Gaylord won ten of eighteen races counting the Sapling Stakes, the Tyro Stakes and the Bahamas Stakes among his victories. Following his victory in his final prep for the Kentucky Derby the Stepping Stone Purse defeating Sir Ribot, Sir Gaylord was to fracture the sesamoid in his right front fetlock in a workout two days before the big event.

Retired to stud duty he would go on to a successful career with his two best being the speedy Habitat, a successful sire, and the great Epsom Derby winner Sir Ivor, a horse legendary jockey Lester Piggott considered the best he ever rode. Sir Ivor also became a successful sire of ninety-four stakes winners. He is especially regarded as a sire of good producing broodmares, who cumulatively produced one hundred and forty-five stakes winners.

Secretariat became arguably the most recognisable Thoroughbred in history, and for good reason. He was quite simply amazing. A bright red chestnut by Bold Ruler, he went on to be the first winner of the Triple Crown (setting records in each race) after a twenty-five year drought. A magnificent specimen in his own right, Secretariat was taller, broader and more imposing than his half brother Sir Gaylord. Secretariat is still the widely known name to casual racing fans today.

So there you have it, some of the great horses in turf history that were influenced by Princequillo. After starting his stud career as a second string sire in Virginia, he was soon moved to the Claiborne Kentucky farm once his progeny started winning and proving his merit, as “Bull” Hancock and Horatio Luro had predicted. The appearance of the name Princequillo in the pedigrees of today’s top Thoroughbreds is a testament to his ability to pass on his courage, strength and class.

Princequillo was the leading sire in North America three years straight (1957, 1958 and 1959) and more importantly the leading broodmare sire seven times. He was a horse of intelligence and a pleasant demeanor, well liked by those who knew him. Princequillo died of a heart attack in 1964 and is buried at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky.

One could also say that Princequillo was the equine example of the American dream. A landed emigrant from a war torn environment who established a new and prosperous life in his new land he called home. This may be a very romantic way of looking at Princequillo but, if I were given the chance to spend time with a horse of the past of which I had never had the chance to see, my choice would be Princequillo

(Photo courtesy of Claiborne Farm archives)


  • Sadly Princequillo line almost gone. In an attempt to rescue the line, the last sire K One King is standing at Gunpowder Farms. Read more at Ellen Parker’s site. Scroll down on main page to “A Bit of Vision.”

  • Secretariat’s grand daddy. Thanks for a really good story about Princequillo. I see his name in so many pedigrees. What a great horse. I love Round Table too.

  • One of the giants of the breed. Wonderful story about a legend. Thanks for the exellent article. Thoroughly enjoyable reading.

  • John P. Sparkman

    Very minor point, but Hill Prince and Prince Simon were from Princequillo’s second crop, not his first. Nice job.

  • Stephen Draiitzki

    I have a horse that has Princequillo in it six times back to the 5th Generation…… I continue to search for the princequillo/nasrulla cross

  • Is Princequillo the progenitor of the ‘big heart ‘ gene?

  • The same large neck and chest as Secretariat. Guaranteed this is where Secretariat got his drive and his heart!

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