What was an otherwise ordinary midweek jumping fixture at Hexham in the north of England on December 7th was notable, on closer inspection of the pedigrees of the runners on that card, for the fact that no fewer than four of them were all out of the same mare.
The siblings in question in order of age were the ten-year-old mare Little Glenshee (by Terimon), the nine-year-old Here’s To Harry (by Helissio), eight-year-old Clan Chief (by Generous) and seven-year-old Clan Legend (by Midnight Legend), all of them trained at Kinneston in Fife, Scotland by Nick Alexander and bred from his unraced mare Harrietfield (pictured above). It was the junior member of the quartet, Clan Legend, who fared best on the day, making a successful debut over fences (below) on his reappearance to add to his four wins over hurdles the previous season.
Little Glenshee can boast a total of six wins over hurdles and fences, while Clan Chief has won over hurdles after making a successful debut in a bumper. In fact, these two had already completed a notable family double (both human and equine) at Ayr in February 2014 when Clan Chief made his winning debut ridden by the trainer’s son Kit, while sister Lucy was successful on Little Glenshee in the novice chase earlier on the card. Incidentally, the stable recorded its first treble at a more recent Ayr meeting two days before Hexham.
The other member of the ‘Hexham four’, Here’s To Harry, hasn’t won, though he has been placed in point-to-points, and, carrying the colours of his trainer, was returning to a racecourse for the first time since running at the same fixture three years earlier having had plenty of problems in the interim.
Harrietfield’s first four foals had all been winners of one sort or another for the Alexanders. Her very first foal Fearless Foursome (by Perpendicular) achieved the unusual feat of winning four chases within a month in December 2006 (an achievement which resulted in Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder naming his trainer Breeder of the Month), while Native Coll (by Primitive Rising), Skipping Chapel (by Minster Son) and the mare Amulree (by Dancing High) are all winning pointers, the first of those also successful twice over fences.
There’s a good story as to how Fearless Foursome got his name, and coincidentally it involves another quartet of siblings – human ones this time. “He was named after four not very fearless brothers who rode against each other in the Fife Members’ race in 2002” explained Nick. Between them, Nick and his brothers Jamie, David and Michael rode four of the five runners in the race, though as Hunter Chasers & Point-to-Pointers pointed out, “unfortunately for the fearless foursome the non-Alexander competitor won.”
Fearless Foursome and his current siblings who ran at Hexham represent the fourth generation of a family that has been at Kinneston for more than forty years. Harrietfield’s grandam Dysie Mary was bought by Nick’s late father Cyril as an unnamed four-year-old at the Ascot Sales in 1973 for 1,350 guineas. Although she failed to win herself, her daughter Lillies Brig was successful in a couple of point-to-points and was awarded a hunter chase at Carlisle when the winner failed to draw the correct weight.
Lillies Brig could be considered somewhat unfortunate to be racing at a time when the standard of hunter chases in her part of the world was remarkably high. For example, she returned from a two-year absence at Ayr in February 1987 at odds of 200/1 to be the last of four finishers behind Earls Brig, Coulters Candy and Flying Ace. The last-named achieved legendary status for winning nearly sixty races, while Earls Brig contested the following month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, having finished third in the same race two years earlier! Lillies Brig, incidentally, was by the same sire as Earls Brig, the Scottish-bred and -trained New Brig who won the 1960 Northumberland Plate under top weight.
Lillies Brig produced three winners – Moon Mist, Fountain Brig and Solsgirth – the last-named the most successful of that trio and by the dual Ascot Gold Cup winner Ardross. Lillies Brig had been due to visit another Gold Cup winner, Sadeem, but when he proved infertile she was sent instead to Nicholas Bill (winner of the Princess of Wales’s Stakes and Jockey Club Cup), which was the final covering that Cyril Alexander arranged. Harrietfield never ran, but her record as a broodmare speaks for itself and now approaching 25 years of age lives in retirement at Kinneston. She is on the left in the picture below with other members of her family.
“It is wonderful how much fun and excitement my father’s ‘in utero’ legacy Harrietfield has given us over the years” wrote Nick Alexander on his blog, who added that Clan Legend’s win was the 25th in total for Harrietfield’s offspring to date. “Let’s hope he is watching from afar.”
It is unusual for four siblings to be in training with the same stable at any one time, let alone for them all to race on the same card. However, a high-profile instance on the flat does come to mind. In 2012, besides the four-year-old Frankel himself, Sir Henry Cecil had his elder sibling Bullet Train at Warren Place along with his three-year-old brother Noble Mission and two-year-old half-brother Morpheus. Morpheus didn’t make his debut until the autumn that year, but Kind’s three other sons all ran on the same day at York’s Ebor meeting. Bullet Train acted as Frankel’s pacemaker when he won the Juddmonte International so brilliantly, while Noble Mission finished fourth in the Great Voltigeur Stakes earlier on the card.
[Many thanks to Nick Alexander for some of the content, including photographs, for this article. Other information sourced from the ‘Breeder of the Month’ article in the February 2007 edition of Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder]