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Lightning Doesn't Strike Twice in the Same Place

Pride Of Kildare (IRE) 1948 h. [Royal Charger-Gainsborough Lass]
Pride Of Kildare (IRE) 1948 h. [Royal Charger-Gainsborough Lass]

Dubbed "The Chestnut Thunderbolt" and the undisputed champion of his time, Mainbrace played a significant role in the direction and development of the New Zealand breeding industry.

His bloodlines set a trend that was to last for several decades, all in the name of attempting to breed the next Mainbrace.

There is a wise old saying, however, that lightning does not strike twice in the same place and in the case of replicating Mainbrace, that appears to be true despite the many efforts to disprove that wisdom.

Te Rapa Stud's Malcolm Brothers went out on a limb in the late 1940's when they imported Admiral's Luck, being a very ordinary racehorse with a solitary win in four seasons of racing. As was very common at that time, most New Zealand studs could not afford sires with top level race performance backed with a commercial pedigree so many had little option but to settle for the latter, and Admiral's Luck did have a nice pedigree.

On the track, his sire Precipitation excelled over distance, taking out the "Consolation Derby" (the Royal Ascot King Edward VII Stakes) and the following year, the two-and-a-half-mile Ascot Gold Cup. Clearly, he was top class and was first past the post in eight of his ten starts but lost one due to "crossing" (interference).

At the time of Admiral's Luck's importation Precipitation was able to lay claim to being a half brother to the fine racehorses Persian Gulf (Epsom Coronation Cup and a successful sire) and Casanova (Newmarket Dewhurst Stakes). Ultimately, he would sire nearly 50 stakes winners and would greatly impact the New Zealand (and Australian) breeding industries, evidenced by champion sires Count Rendered, Summertime and Agricola. Summertime's importation was directly attributable to the Mainbrace effect.

Gainsborough Lass, Admiral's Luck's dam, also played an important role in shaping the stud book and she could run too. Among her five wins was the Royal Ascot Coronation Stakes and as hot favourite for The One Thousand Guineas finished third behind that year's Epsom Oaks winner Exhibitionnist. Her full brother, Orwell, won the Two Thousand Guineas and after Admiral's Luck, she threw Lincoln Imp (by Nearco), a two-year-old stakes winner.

Mainbrace was not offered for sale as a yearling but had he been, his pedigree read well. His dam, Maneroo, won twice and was a half-sister to the highly-rated three-year-old View Halloo - nine times a winner including the Avondale Guineas and placed in both St Legers.

The next dam, Haligan, was beautifully bred being a winning half-sister to two stakes winners (Perth Cup victor Bonny Note plus Waikato Cup winner True Blood) as well as being a three-quarter blood-sister to near champion Reremoana (both by Hallowmas).

Reremoana was a prolific performer, his 24 wins included numerous weight-for-age events, a Railway Handicap (under 9st 7lbs) and two Easter Handicaps (the second carrying 9st 11lbs) and whose half-sister, Lady Cavendish, would also score a Railway Handicap before producing the dual Oaks winner Golden Hair (VRC and Great Northern Oaks). Haligan's dam (Bonny Helen) and grandam (Helen Portland), were also Oaks winners.

Based upon the above, Mainbrace may have commanded a fair price but the first crop of Admiral's Luck did not make a big impression or big money so breeder Dr Tom Fraser's decision to race Mainbrace himself turned out to be a very good decision indeed.

At two, Mainbrace claimed top honours after a run of six consecutive victories (five of them stakes) but before he had turned three, tragedy struck: Admiral's Luck was dead.

One can only imagine the exasperation and sheer disappointment at losing a young sire in his prime. His chief flag-bearer was just getting into his stride so when Mainbrace extended his winning record to 21 (15 consecutive stakes wins) in an amazing three-year-old season it merely rubbed salt into the wound.

In a short career of 25 starts, and ably assisted by master jockey Grenville Hughes, Mainbrace retired during a 17 win streak, two races into his four-year-old season. In 21 starts at stakes level he was never beaten, although he and his greatest rival, The Unicorn, were separated by just a half-head in the race of the year - the Great Northern Derby.

On the breeding front, there would have been major behind-the-scenes activity seeking sons of Precipitation and sons of Gainsborough Lass. Enquiries and negotiations were carried out via telegraph and teleprinter machines capable of a blazing 60 words per minute - unlike today's instant visual communication in real time, or much like comparing a Bugatti Veyron to Fred Flintstone's footmobile. Nonetheless, the machines would have been furiously clattering away with messages seeking anything that had a connection with Admiral's Luck.

Lightning had most definitely struck but the storm was over. The big question: Was there another Mainbrace out there?

Surprisingly, Gainsborough Lass was never again mated with Precipitation but that didn't deter the Kiwi studs at all. In quick succession, three of Admiral's Luck's siblings were dispatched and their respective race performances were not a consideration.

A similar pattern had been set subsequent to Beau Pere's huge stud fame when four of his half-brothers soon followed: Gay Shield, Mr Standfast, Dink and finally Balloch - all sons of Cinna. For good measure, two of Cinna's daughters found their way to the Antipodes as well.

First out of the blocks to satisfy the demand to breed the next Mainbrace was Pride of Kildare (by Nasrullah's three-quarter blood brother Royal Charger). Unraced at two, he managed a couple of placings at three before being sent to Matamata Stud (later to become Balcarres Stud).

It was hardly surprising that Te Rapa Stud would want another son and they found Resurgent (by The Phoenix), the last of Gainsborough Lass's foals. Resurgent never raced and was very hastily pressed into service, covering mares before his actual third birthday, beginning in 1952. It took two stallions - Summertime (Precipitation) and Resurgent (out of Gainsborough Lass) to replace Admiral's Luck but Te Rapa was back in business.

Meanwhile, West Derby Stud in Levin would import Knight's Romance, a brother to Pride of Kildare, but in a surprise move they chose to race him first. In four New Zealand starts (he had one start at two in England) Knight's Romance won at nine furlongs at the Christchurch Hunt Club's late July meeting before standing his first season later that year (1953).

Admiral's Luck sired 108 foals in four all too brief seasons. Thirteen won at stakes level but none came close to the quality of Mainbrace, the next best being Wellington Cup winner Golden Galleon - also the champion two-year-old of his year, and a dual Guineas winner.

Further top liners such as Commodore (AJC Metropolitan Handicap), Sobranie (Great Northern Oaks), Seven Bells (Wellington Guineas) and Taringaroa (Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes) indicate that had Admiral's Luck lived he would no doubt have added more stakes winners to his roster.

His half-brothers did even better yet they also had far greater opportunities. Comparisons based on black type performance makes for interesting reading and the table (below) shows how each stallion fared.

Feature races were not categorized under the grading or group system here in New Zealand until the 1970s but courtesy of Arion Pedigrees it is now possible to retroactively rate a stallion's performance and to rank individuals within each sire's own record.

Crops Foals Wnrs SW's Gr.1 Gr.2 Gr.3 GW's

Pride of Kildare (IRE) 8 132 99 20 7 3 2 12

Admiral's Luck (GB) 4 108 95 13 4 1 1 6

Knight's Romance (IRE) 11 219 166 23 2 7 4 13

Resurgent (IRE) 23 378 251 23 2 3 4 9

(Three of Resurgent's crops resulted in fewer than ten foals)

Pride of Kildare (IRE)

If individual Group One winners is the measure to determine which of the four siblings was the most successful, Pride of Kildare would head those rankings. Seven Gr.1 winners is impressive and it therefore comes as no surprise that, even in the twilight of his stud career, the Japanese bought him.

Of the four, only Pride of Kildare sired a Melbourne Cup winner (Hi Jinx - the Centenary Cup) but Ripa, a three time Gr.1 winner (VRC Newmarket Handicap, VATC Toorak Handicap and VRC Craven A Stakes) plus six Gr.1 placings heads the list.

Tara's Pride was a fabulous miler, taking out the George Adams Handicap at Trentham (a race in which he was also twice placed) as well as the Easter Handicap at Ellerslie just two of his 19 wins.

Rounding out the seven are South Australian Derby/Adelaide Cup winner Hunting Horn (15 wins); Great Northern Oaks winner Catania; Queensland Oaks winner Winnipeg and Ripa's big brother Prince Lea (VATC Caulfield Guineas).

Significantly, seven of Pride of Kildare's 20 stakes winners were out of Foxbridge mares and a further six were out of daughters of Foxbridge mares.

Knight's Romance (IRE)

Knight's Romance is best remembered as a sire of sprinter-milers as only two of his 23 stakes winners (and none of his group winners) had any success beyond a mile. High Delight earned top billing due to her being named the top two-and-three-year-old of her crop and whose premier performance was in winning the Wills Championship Stakes (for 2YOs) at Ellerslie. High Delight also deserves special mention because she was in-bred 2x3 to Gainsborough Lass being by Knight's Romance from a Resurgent mare.

A Railway Handicap winner (Karina), three Telegraph Handicap winners (Sonare, Bamboo and Kathey's Romance) and three Stewards' Handicap winners (High Delight, Castlereagh and Huka Falls) underline the brilliance that Knight's Romance injected into his progeny.

Devastation and His Grace each scored a Wellington Guineas while Commanding took out the Great Northern Guineas and at two ran third in Magic Night's 1961 Golden Slipper Stakes.

Completely opposite to his brother, Pride of Kildare, there is not an ounce of Foxbridge blood to be found in any of Knight's Romance's stakes winners' pedigrees.

Resurgent (IRE)

Despite Weatherley's Gr.1 Great Northern Oaks and Valiant Rebel's Gr.1 Easter Handicap, Resurgent's best galloper was, easily, Up and Coming, the champion three-year-old of his year (and whose grandam was a sister to the great Desert Gold). Like Mainbrace, Up and Coming won six times (three stakes) at two, then at three added the Great Northern, Wellington and Avondale Guineas plus the New Zealand Derby (Riccarton) and Great Northern St Leger. Included in his 18 wins were the AJC Warwick Stakes and the STC Canterbury Stakes before winning in USA.

Worthy of mention are Boulder Block (Great Northern Guineas) and Turbino (Avondale Guineas) however several listed winners deserve a mention too. Resurgent's stock were noted for their toughness and were especially adept in the worst of track conditions. Whakamoa (20 wins including the Hawke's Bay Cup), Surge Again (15 wins), Ruakiwi Lass (13 wins) and Scramble (14 wins) were great examples.

Another measure of a stallion's quality is how their daughters breed on and the three that were imported because of Mainbrace can claim to have made worthwhile contributions to the stud book.

Gr.1 Gr.2 Gr.3 Listed Total SW's

Resurgent (IRE) 11 5 7 19 42

Pride of Kildare (IRE) 5 4 3 7 19

Knight's Romance (IRE) 3 1 10 10 24

Admiral's Luck (GB) 0 1 0 1 2

Of the 79 total stakes winners sired collectively by all four brothers, Mainbrace was supreme but he was also a freak.

As for Mainbrace's female line, Maneroo visited Admiral's Luck twice more but there was no lightning - merely a minor winner named Yardarm. Her 1951 colt, Turkman (by Khorassan) fared much better, placing three times in Guineas races and taking out the Listed Summer Cup at Ellerslie. Apart from that, the family has pretty much faded away, not helped by the fact that Maneroo foaled just a solitary filly, Shirin (by Nizami).

The only other family activity of note is via Lou Morton (by Truly Vain), an Avondale Guineas winner during the late 80's who descends from Maneroo's half-sister Hilton Gorse.

There is a certain reluctance to write anything negative about our heroes, but as a sire, it would be fair to say that Mainbrace was a major disappointment.

In 14 seasons Mainbrace sired just 104 foals and 77 of those were from his first five crops (the remaining 27 from his last nine seasons), so, clearly, he had fertility problems but with 55 winners from 100 runners, the quality just wasn't there. Forebrace (11 wins including the ARC Mitchelson Cup) and Native Diver (ARC Queen Elizabeth Handicap) were his only two stakes winners.

Of his five stakes-placed runners, Conch (13 wins and placed in the Waikato Cup) has an interesting pedigree, being by Mainbrace from a grand-daughter of Mainbrace's half-sister Shirin (above).

Mainbrace on the track was a flash of lightning but at stud, and with the benefit of hindsight, merely a flash in the pan....

Nevertheless, the New Zealand studmasters who reacted to Mainbrace's freakishness did the industry a huge favour. The stud book is all the better for the presence of Pride of Kildare, Knight's Romance and Resurgent.

- Lloyd Jackson


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