Frank Mitchell's recent blog on the influence of Native Dancer (read here)reminded me of the story behind the great gray son of Polynesian.
My house at Pillar Stud, which I managed during the 1980s was located on what had once been Gallagher Stud, and I lived in what was known as Gallagher House. Gallagher was directly across Russell Cave Pike from Dan and Alice Scott's farm. Dan was the son of Harrie B. Scott Sr., manager of Faraway Farm, where Man o' War and War Admiral stood, for the Riddle and Jeffords families. In the 1940s and '50s Dan and Alice, both wonderful people, boarded Alfred G. Vanderbilt's mares, including Native Dancer's dam Geisha, by Discovery.
Alfred Vanderbilt had purchased Discovery as a three-year-old in 1934, and he developed into one of the best horses of the Depressioin era, gaining renown as a great weight carrier and earning Horse of the Year honors in 1935. Discovery was a good but far from great sire of racehorses, but his daughters eventually occupied a unique place in Thoroughbred breeding history as the dams of top racehorses and/or sires Native Dancer, Bold Ruler, Intentionally, Traffic Judge, Hasty Road, and Bed o' Roses.
Discovery was Vanderbilt's foundation sire, and, as a result, Vanderbilt's self-confessed breeding strategy was to breed a Discovery mare to anything. Didn't matter very much to him.
Vanderbilt's maiden winner Geisha produced the decent filly and good producer Orientation, by Questionnaire, in her first season at stud, but she had been difficult to load on the van to take her down Iron Works Pike to Greentree Stud where Questionnaire stood. She was scheduled to go back to Questionnaire in her second season at stud, but she categorically refused to get on the van and could not be covered.
As it happened, Vanderbilt's cousin Gertie Widener stood her 1945 Preakness winner and '47 champion sprinter Polynesian at Gallagher Stud, then owned by Ira Drymon and his son Jimmy, who managed Mrs. Widener's mares. Since Polynesian was a first class racehorse, an excellent specimen, and right across the road, Dan Scott suggested to Ralph Kercheval, Vanderbilt's manager, that Geisha should be walked across Russell Cave Pike and covered by Polynesian, instead of risking life and limb to get her on a van.
The result, of course, was Native Dancer.
When I lived at Gallagher House during the 1980s, I bought a gelding by Crimson Satan out of Raise a Pocket, by Raise a Native, as a riding horse for my daughter Cassie. Named Satan's Pocket, he had been useless as a racehorse because of a breathing problem. Satan's Pocket was not a big horse, but he looked very much like his maternal grandsire Raise a Native, Native Dancer's best sire son.
Satan's Pocket definitely had a mind of his own, like his great-great grandam Geisha, and set yours truly off on his backside more than once. Let's just say he had a talent for "stumbling" at awkward moments.
Satan's Pocket and my son's half-Shetland pony from Tennessee were stabled side by side in what had once been the two-stall stallion barn behind Gallagher House where Polynesian once stood.
Somehow that seemed appropriate.
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