Temperament & Typology

March 1899: Obituary of Tremont

Tremont, known in his racing days as ‘The Black Whirlwind,’ is dead at Belle Meade. In some unaccountable manner, he broke his stifle Thursday, and yesterday when the veterinarian looked at him, it was decided best that he be destroyed to put him out of his misery.

Tremont, was bred at Elmendorff [sic] stud, by the late Daniel Swigert,  and was by Virgil, son of Vandal, out of Ann Fief, by Alarm. He ran eleven races as a 2-year-old, winning them all, and earning the title given him above. Early in his 3-year-old career and before he had faced the flag, he developed a ring-bone. He was the property of the Dwyers, and his career had been such a phenomenal one that Mr. Swigert paid $25,000 for him and took him back to Kentucky. At the Elmendorff [sic], disposal sale, some years later, Gen. Jackson bought the unbeaten stallion, paying $17,500 for him. Since that time he has been domiciled at Belle Meade.

Tremont’s get were numerous, but the best of them were Dogonet [sic] and Lovelace. El Telegrafo also gave promise at one time of being a wonder.

The dead stallion was of a highly nervous temperament. He was almost unmanageable, often kicking his barn until he was exhausted. It is presumed he met with the accident which cost him his life during one of these tantrums.” (The Nashville American, 03/04/1899)

Schreiber & Sons photographs of Asteroid, Australian (GB), Canary Bird, Eltham Lass (GB), Enquirer, Hester, Idlewild, Lavender, Leamington (GB), Lexington, Longfellow, and Planet, ca. 1860s-70s

In 1874, the Schreiber & Sons photography studio released Portraits of Noted Horses of America, a collection of photographs of select Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds of the day. The prescient purpose of this collection was stated in the book’s preface:

“In offering to the public the first book of this kind ever published, we are carrying out the suggestions of several eminent breeders who have examined our collection of photographs, and who have declared them to be the best pictures of horses ever produced. This is a point on which each admirer of good horses may judge for himself. The pictures are all taken from life, and present every animal just as they actually appear when at rest, which is the posture every horseman desires to examine a horse in when studying his various points of form.

The value of such pictures as these is not alone in the pleasure and profit they afford to the present, but will increase with years, indefinitely, becoming an interesting part of history that can be relied on as perfectly accurate.”

The notable Thoroughbreds included in the collection were the stallions Asteroid, Australian (GB), Enquirer, Leamington (GB), Lexington, Longfellow, and Planet, and the mares Canary Bird (dam of Harry Bassett), Eltham Lass (GB) (dam of Kingfisher), Hester (dam of Springbok), Idlewild, and Lavender (half-sister to Lexington and dam of Baden-Baden and Helmbold).

Click on each photo to enlarge, and then click again to enlarge even further.


Enquirer (1867 b. c. by Leamington (GB) – Lida by Lexington)

The beautiful Enquirer, who was reported to have been a blood bay in color.

Leamington (GB) (1853 br. c. by Faugh-a-Ballagh (IRE) – Pantaloon Mare (GB) by Pantaloon (GB))

Lexington (1850 b. c. by Boston – Alice Carneal by Sarpedon (GB))

Lexington’s blindness is apparent in the photo.

Longfellow (1867 br. c. by Leamington (GB) – Nantura by Brawners Eclipse)

Planet (1855 ch. c. by Revenue – Nina by Boston)

Australian (GB) (1858 ch. c. by West Australian (GB) – Emilia (GB) by Young Emilius (GB))

Asteroid (1861 b. c. by Lexington – Nebula by Glencoe (GB))


Canary Bird (1860 ch. f. by Albion (GB) – Penola by Ainderby (GB))
Dam of Harry Bassett

Eltham Lass (GB) (1859 b. f. by Kingston (GB) – Maid of Palmyra (GB) by Pyrrhus the First (GB))
Dam of Kingfisher

Hester (1866 b. f. by Lexington – Heads I Say by Glencoe (GB))
Dam of Springbok

Idlewild (1859 b. f. by Lexington – Florine by Glencoe (GB))

Lavender (1855 ch. f. by Wagner – Alice Carneal by Sarpedon (GB))
Half-sister to Lexington and dam of Baden-Baden and Helmbold

October 1878: Obituary of Harry Bassett

Illustration of Harry Bassett as published in Harper’s Weekly (Vol. XV, No. 764), 08/19/1871.

“He was a large horse, being over 16 hands high, chestnut in color, with a beautiful star and a slight blaze running down his face and inclining toward his right nostril. His hind feet were white half way to the hocks. He was a magnificently formed horse and looked like a first-class racer, as he was. He had a splendid head, well set on a strong neck, running into powerful and well-inclined shoulders. With great body, he possessed a good back and strong loins, powerful quarters, with well-extended and strong limbs. He dropped well down in the flanks, and had strong and powerful stifles. With good legs and feet, strong arms, and clean hocks, he looked a thorough race-horse.” (The New York Times, 10/28/1878)

Harry Bassett, one of the most noted horses that ever appeared on the American turf, and the champion 3-year old of his year, died yesterday at the farm of Col. McDaniel, at Trenton, N. J. Since his retirement from the turf Harry Bassett has been regarded as one of the coming stallions, but death has suddenly deprived the turf of his services.

In his prime Harry Bassett was as popular as that phenomenal colt, Duke of Magenta, who is henceforth destined to measure strides with the champions of the British turf, and, like the latter, Bassett was regarded as invincible.

Bassett was foaled April 27, 1868, and was consequently in his eleventh year. He was sired by the now famous Lexington, the sire of a line of victorious horses. Bassett’s dam was Canary Bird, a chestnut mare, foaled in 1867, who was sired by Albion, who was foaled in 1837, bred by M. E. Peel, and imported in the ship China to Charleston, S. C., in January, 1839. He was sired by Cain or Active [sic], out of Panthea, by Comus.

Canary Bird ran many races as a 3 and 4 year old, but without success. Her only produce besides Bassett was Ortolan, by Donerall. Canary Bird’s dam was Panola, by imported Aincler, and her dam was Sweetbrier, by Recovery; her dam Primrose, by Comus, and she out of Cowslip, by Cockfighter.

Harry Bassett was purchased at the Woodburn sale of yearlings in 1869 by S. D. Bruce, for Col. McDaniel, the price being $315. He was a large horse, being over 16 hands high, chestnut in color, with a beautiful star and a slight blaze running down his face and inclining toward his right nostril. His hind feet were white half way to the hocks. He was a magnificently formed horse and looked like a first-class racer, as he was. He had a splendid head, well set on a strong neck, running into powerful and well-inclined shoulders. With great body, he possessed a good back and strong loins, powerful quarters, with well-extended and strong limbs. He dropped well down in the flanks, and had strong and powerful stifles. With good legs and feet, strong arms, and clean hocks, he looked a thorough race-horse.

Harry Bassett’s career justified the expectations regarding his appearance and breeding. He made his debut as a 2-year-old in 1870, when he started four times, and was thrice a winner. He made his debut in the Saratoga Stakes when he was unnamed, and was unsuccessful, running third to Mary Louise, then owned by John O’Donnell. His next appearance was in the Kentucky Stakes, also at Saratoga, one mile, when he defeated in fine style his seven competitors, on a heavy track, in 1:51. The stake was worth $3,400. He next appeared in the Nursery Stakes, at Jerome Park, which he won in 1:49 ¼, Fifteen horses started, and the stake was worth $4,000. His fourth and last appearance as a 2-year-old was in the Supper Stakes, at Baltimore, one mile, when he defeated his only competitor, Madame Dudley, in 1:49 ¼; the value of the stake being $7,350.

As a 3-year old Harry Bassett started nine times, and on every occasion defeated his competitors with ease. He won the Belmont Stakes from 10 competitors, among them being Monarchist and Wanderer, neither of whom were placed. The stake was worth $5,850, and the time was 2:56 – the distance of the race at that time being a mile and five furlongs. He supplemented this by winning in succession the Jersey Derby at Long Branch, the Travers and Kenner Stakes at Saratoga, the Champion (now called Jerome) Stakes, and a dash of a mile and three-quarters at the Jerome Park Fall meeting; the Reunion, now called the Dixie Stakes, and a dash of a mile and a half at Baltimore, and wound up his career as a 3-year old at the same meeting by winning the Bowie Stakes, four mile heats, beating Helmbold, who was then 5 years old, in two straight heats, which was a great performance for a 3-year old, especially against so good a horse on a heavy track.

As a 4-year-old Harry Bassett started twelve times and won nine of the events. He began the season by beating Lyttleton for the Westchester Cup at Jerome Park, which he followed up by distancing Metelia, at two-mile heats, at the same meeting. He then left the scene of his triumphs for Long Branch, to meet Longfellow in the Monmouth Cup. The scenes of that memorable day are still fresh in the minds of turfmen. Such a crowd has never assembled on a race-course in this country before or since. Longfellow won a hollow victory, and then Bassett was taken to Saratoga, and won the All-aged Stakes, one mile and a quarter, and three days afterward again met Longfellow in the Saratoga cup. It was the fiercest struggle ever seen in this country, and Bassett won in 3:59, Longfellow breaking down in the race. Bassett had now disposed of Longfellow, and had everything clear before him until he met Monarchist, in the Maturity Stakes, four miles, at the Jerome Park Fall meeting. Hayward, the well-known English jockey, who was then riding for Mr. Sanford, prayed the latter to allow him (Hayward) to run at Bassett from the start, and being allowed to have his way, Bassett was defeated. At the same meeting they again measured strides in a dash of four miles, and Bassett again lowered his colors. This was his last appearance for the season.

In 1873, being 5 years old, Harry Bassett appeared eight times, but gained only two victories. Being forced by circumstances and the importunities of his partners, Col. McDaniel entered Bassett in all sorts of races in 1874, and finally ran the great horse virtually off his legs, and was obliged to retire him. With this action the famous McDaniel confederacy was broken, and the Colonel entered upon a career of misfortune. Harry Bassett had shown his ability as a race-horse until he was abused, and gave promise of making a name as a sire, as shown by the running of the two fillies Fawn and Lillian. His early death will be regretted by turfmen, with whom he was a general favorite.” (The New York Times, 10/28/1878)

On Sysonby’s overstep and propulsion

Sysonby was a horse with tremendous leverage in his hind legs. Few horses do more than slightly overstep the imprint of the front feet, whereas the imported son of Melton completely cleared it, indication enough of the great propulsion he possessed in the rear.”
(Leonard W. Collins / The Washington Post, 04/28/1929)

PHOTO - Sysonby Flash S. (HW Vol. XLVIII No. 2487 1904.08.20)

Sysonby wins the 1904 Flash Stakes at Saratoga over Augur (2nd).
Photo by N. W. Penfield as published in Harper’s Weekly (Vol. XLVII, No. 2487), 08/20/1904.

On champion Decathlon’s unorthodox running style

“Physically handicapped horses, like their human counterparts, sometimes scale to great heights. One of the more telling cases is that of King Ranch’s Assault, Triple Crown winner of 1946, which had a club foot. Now along comes Decathlon.

Considered the fastest sprinter among the 3-year-olds, which not only was born with a club-footed left fore hoof, but seriously aggravated his right fore hoof by jamming a nail through it after a workout at Hialeah early in the winter of 1955.

Decathlon almost did not survive the blow, but after five weeks, trainer Rollie Shepp succeeded in getting the colt to step on his hoof again. There has been a noticeable effect in the colt’s running action ever since.

The son of Olympia-Dog Blessed races as if he were shot from a rifle. He throws his injured member out to the side in a “straddling” gesture that makes him appear as if he were in a spinning, trajectory flight towards the wire.”
(Walter Haight / The Washington Post and Times Herald, 04/11/1956)

1921: Great racers noted for their symmetry

“It has been remarked that the best thoroughbreds have had beauty of outline in addition to other attributes to make then notable among their kind. The good horse or mare as a rule looks the part, but there have been notable instances of animals utterly devoid of qualities one expects in the highest blood horse type racing with rare speed and courage. Many fine looking thoroughbreds have been seen in action in this country in the last twenty-five years. Some of them had a majestic quality, while others were faultless in point of physical perfection.

Nobody would think of denying Man o’ War a place among the good looking performers of the American turf, and yet his claims for distinction bulk largely on his noble, majestic bearing. His very countenance bespeaks his greatness, and yet the critics say he is too heavy in the forehand to conform to the standard of perfection. The fact that he is higher over the croup than at the withers robs his top line of the symmetry which is characteristic of Whiskbroom II [sic], one of the handsomest of all the thoroughbreds of the present day, or of Leonardo II, the best looking of the younger generation, despite his calf knees.

Those who have known the turf for the past quarter of a century speak of Salvator as their beau ideal. With his sparkling chestnut coat and white face and legs he was a model. The contrast between the son of Prince Charlie and his rival Tenny was startling, and it was difficult to realize that they were of the same tribe. Tenny was sway-backed to the point of deformity. He was heavy in the shoulder, and had the development of a quarter horse back of the saddle. The old saying that good horses come in all shapes and sizes was exemplified in his case with emphasis, for when in the mood Tenny was a sterling performer.

Troubador, for a big horse was a grand looking one, and in motion was a poem. Miss Woodford and her rival Freeland were both beauties, albeit the mare was a trifle masculine in type. El Rio Rey and his half brother Emperor of Norfolk were fine examples of the robust thoroughbred and Potomac was a handsome horse, though a trifle high on the leg.

Perhaps the greatest beauty of all the St. Blaise family was the lovely filly La Tosca, though the Nursery Stud has always been noted for the quality of its mares. Fides, Lady Primrose and others that could be mentioned had a smoothness of contour that was a delight to the eye. Kingston was truly made and beautifully balanced. His head was a trifle effeminate and he was over at the knees all his life, but up to the day he left the turf after winning upward of 90 races he was the type of a high mettled thoroughbred.

Hanover had a bold chestnut beauty of his own. Handspring and Hastings, though of different types, were good to look upon. Domino was not as prepossessing as Dobbins or Henry of Navarre, his greatest contemporaries, nor as many of his grand-note, notably Hippodrome. His greatest representative, taking turf and stud achievements both into consideration, the remarkable Commando, was distinctly coarse, breeding to the line of his Darebin dam. Emma C., Colin and Fair Play were both attractive, despite the former’s unsightly hock. As stallions Fair Play is the better looker; in fact he has been pronounced the best looking stallion in Kentucky. Peter Pan, though verging on the coarse side as a 3-year-old, has in the stud developed into a fine, robust type of the thoroughbred sire.

Among the mares of her day, Imp was noticeable. She had a rugged nature, which made her performances noteworthy. While not a great beauty, she was racy looking and pleasing to the eye. Firenzi was small, but she had quality, while Beldame and Hamburg Belle looked the great horses they were. Hermis and Irish Lad were unlike in type, though both were good to look at, the former as round as a butter ball, while the big horse attracted by his masculine quality. Pictures taken in France, especially one showing the horse with his former owner, that splendid type of sportsman, Herman B. Duryea, reveal Irish Lad as a fine specimen of the thoroughbred sire.

Sysonby and Artful, rivals as 2-year-olds, were each noted for their high quality, though the colt’s head had a plain look at times due to his being a trifle lop-eared. For power, the turf has seen few horses the equal of Sysonby, and his early death was a calamity to the breeding interests of this country. As a matter of fact, Mr. Keene had more than his share of bad luck when he lost Domino, Commando and Sysonby at the very outset of their periods of usefulness.

Broomstick, a neat colt on the small side when racing, has grown into a sturdy, handsome stallion, and, like Clifford, another fast horse, is a perfect type of the Bramble family. His daughter, Regret, was as handsome as she was fleet. Voter was not as fine looking as his best sons, notably Ballot and The Manager, each of which is conspicuous for finish. The great sprinter’s tail was set on very low and he was cloven like a ram, so great was the muscular development of his quarters.

In recent years Hourless was a conspicuous example of a good horse that looked the part. In the stud he has been praised by competent authorities. His old antagonist, Omar Khayyam, has developed to a point where he compels the admiration of those with an eye for beauty in the thoroughbred.

Cudgel, though a trifle long in the back, looked the great race horse he was. After a few years in the stud he should be a horse of great attractiveness. Sunbriar [sic] was always a perfect type of the blood horse, barring his faulty ankles, while the Macomber string boasted of a fine collection of stallions in Star Hawk, War Cloud and Star Master. Trompe la Mort is an unusually handsome horse.

Among last year’s crop of notables Man o’ War and Leonardo II have already been referred to. Inchcape was a smoothly turned juvenile, and those who have seen him this spring say he is a rare type. Tryster, a plain looking colt at first glance, improved with acquaintance last year, and he would not have to develop much in order to be classed among the good-lookers of 1921. Cleopatra, Prudery and Nancy Lee, among the fillies would command attention in any country. The former, which will be sadly missed from this year’s contests, has the greyhound quality of her dead sire, Corcyra.” (Louisville Courier-Journal, 04/03/1921)