Private studbooks rarely find their way into second-hand bookshops but a lucky find a few years ago was this 1972 publication listing the broodmares of the Cleaboy Stud. Although in Mullingar in Ireland, Cleaboy was owned by the Yorkshire-based Major Lionel Holliday* from 1914 until his death aged 85 in 1965, whereupon his son Brook Holliday inherited the breeding operation before selling Cleaboy in 1978.
The studbook lists 36 broodmares, among them Noble Lassie who bred perhaps Cleaboy’s most famous foal, Vaguely Noble, in the year of Major Holliday’s death. Indeed, it was to pay off death duties that Brook Holliday sold Vaguely Noble as a two-year-old for the then record sum of 136,000 guineas at Newmarket in December 1967 after the colt had won the Observer Gold Cup (now the Racing Post Trophy) at Doncaster. At three, Vaguely Noble went on to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe from the Derby winner Sir Ivor.
Rather than listing the broodmares in alphabetical order, they are arranged by order of seniority so that the then twenty-year-old Bride Elect takes pride of place at the start of the book, with her entry taking up no fewer than ten pages. By then, Bride Elect had produced ten winners, notably Major Holliday’s 1962 St Leger winner Hethersett.
The other idiosyncratic feature of the studbook is the extensive descriptions of some of the mares. Here’s how Persuader, dam of another of the Major’s classic winners, the 1965 1000 Guineas winner Night Off, is described:
A bay mare with broad white star and blaze from centre of forehead extended down face into left nostril. Black spot on flesh mark at nostril under lip. Greyish with small flesh marks on both corners of under-lip. Near fore black hoof and leg, off fore black hoof, white ring over coronet up to fetlock on inside, with black pips all round coronet. Near hind hoof white and black striped, white from coronet to above fetlock, higher on inside with three black pips on coronet. Off hind black hoof and black fetlock. A few grey hairs in mane and at butt of tail. Saddle mark two inches long at back of withers.
But it’s another broodmare we’re interested in (for reasons which will become clear), the ten-year-old Pugnacity, who is described simply as ‘a bay mare’. She was by the homebred stallion Pampered King; it was Major Holliday’s policy to give foals names starting with the same letter as their sires. Pampered King was out of the Oaks runner-up Netherton Maid, which made him a half-brother to Bride Elect. Netherton Maid was herself sister to the 1951 Oaks winner Neasham Belle, the first of Major Holliday’s three classic winners, and to the Champion Stakes (which he won as a maiden!) and Coronation Cup winner Narrator who went on to sire Night Off, that trio all by Nearco.
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Pugnacity was a smart filly at up to a mile and a quarter as her list of wins shows. It is, though, hard to imagine a filly today winning the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket over a mile and then dropping back to five furlongs next time out to win the King George Stakes at Goodwood! Her broodmare career was still in its early stages in 1972, but the mating which was to result in the best foal among her final total of seven winners was recorded at the front of the studbook. Pugnacity was one of four Cleaboy broodmares due to be covered by the 1963 Derby winner Relko in the spring of 1972.
The resulting foal from that mating was sent to the sales and became the top-priced yearling of 1974 when sold to Lady Beaverbrook for 58,000 guineas. She named him Relkino and he went on to finish second to Empery (a son of Vaguely Noble) in the Derby and win the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup and Lockinge Stakes as a four-year-old.
Most of the remaining Holliday mares were bought by the Aga Khan, and it was in his colours that Pugnacity’s granddaughter Timarida made a name for herself in the nineties. At three, she was only beaten once in eight starts, with her wins including the Prix de l’Opera and the E. P. Taylor Stakes. Three top-level victories was the reward for keeping Timarida in training at four; the Bayerisches Zuchtrennen at Munich, the Beverly D Stakes at Arlington and, back home, the Irish Champion Stakes.
But to bring things right up to date, there’s a champion from the current season who traces back to the Cleaboy studbook and Pugnacity. Through her daughter Triumphant (the dam of Timarida), Pugnacity is the fifth dam of this year’s champion sprinter in Europe Muhaarar. While Muhaarar embarks on a stud career in 2016, his two-year-old half-brother Mootaharer, an impressive winner of a Newmarket maiden last week, could be another star to emerge from Pugnacity’s family.
*A full account of Major Holliday’s breeding operation can be found at the excellent http://www.yorkshire-racing.co.uk