This time in the form of one of the greatest trotting sires of all time: Stars Pride.
by Murray Brown
Before I get to this week’s column, I need to correct an old man’s error which I made in last week’s story about Western Hanover. Of course, Precious Bunny was not by B G’s Bunny. His sire was the great Cam Fella. It was his dam that was by B G’s Bunny and it was that part of his pedigree with which Mr. Simpson was not enamored.
Last week’s column related to destiny and how it defined Western Hanover’s career.
The subject of this week’s column is the trotting stallion, who in my often less than august opinion has had the greatest influence on trotting throughout the world — emphasis on “throughout the world” including and perhaps especially, the great French Trotter.
Just like with Western Hanover, there were several unforeseen events that came together that led to Star’s Pride being given the opportunity to become the great stallion that he was destined to be and to have the influence on the breed that he has had.
There is very little about Star’s Pride’s upbringing and youth that I am aware of. I do know that he was bred by Henry Warwick of Westfield, IN.
He was purchased as a yearling from a sale in Indianapolis by Harry Pownall for $5,250 (a decent price for the time) for the account of E. Roland Harriman.
I’ve been told that Pownall actually had to leave before the sale was over and left the bidding to Jimmy Wingfield who signed the slip. The pre-arranged ceiling price was exceeded by $250, but Mr. Harriman was still happy to acquire the colt.
Shortly thereafter, he took on his friend Lawrence Sheppard as his partner.
Physically, Stars Pride was a beautiful horse – that is, if one were looking to get a pacer instead of a trotter.
In his day, horses, especially trotters, were not measured for height versus length comparisons. If they were, my guess would be that Stars Pride likely would have been a minus two or minus three — that is, he would have likely been two or three inches taller at the withers than his length.
Generally speaking, that is not a desirable trait with trotters, since short coupled ones are more predisposed to hitting their shins.
Adding to the possibility of Stars Pride becoming a pacer was that his sire Worthy Boy, although a trotter himself, had exhibited a distinct likelihood of producing pacers.
Many of his better performers such as Harold J, Gold Worthy, Stand By and Winning Worthy wore hobbles.
Stars Pride was trained by Pownall, as was his main competitor, Florican, throughout their respective racing careers.
Both were very good horses in a year not considered the greatest for trotters.
They both had their adherents and the jury is still out on which was the better horse.
As the old maxim about quarterbacks says, “If a team has two good quarterbacks, the chances are that it doesn’t have one great one.” So it might have been with Stars Pride and Florican. Nevertheless, both Stars Pride and Florican were, at the very least, excellent trotters throughout their racing careers.
Stars Pride finished second in the Hambletonian while driven by John Simpson.
Harry Pownall chose to drive Florican in the Classic.
Lusty Song won the race.
Lusty Song was a very good colt, but nowhere near the equal of his two contemporaries. It was likely a case of the best horse on that particular day winning the race.
It had happened before. It will happen again. We saw an example of that in this past year’s Hambletonian.
As might be expected with a short coupled trotter, Stars Pride did hit his shins. But he was extremely game and still almost always stayed trotting despite the impediment.
In addition, he had bad feet which plagued him throughout both his racing and stud careers.
Both Stars Pride and Florican took their records in the same three-horse race at DuQuoin, IL. The third starter in the race, Scotch Rhythm, wasn’t in the same league as Stars Pride and Florican and was in the race in essence to help fill it.
Legend has it that it was a fixed race, although that is far too strong a term. There was no wagering on it, so no harm, no foul.
Pownall wanted to get the fast record that he felt both horses deserved. In the first heat, Stars Pride cut the mile for Florican, driven by Delvin Miller who won in 1.57.2. Florican then cut the second heat for Stars Pride who won in 1.57.1.
At the conclusion of his racing career, an attractive offer was made to sell Stars Pride overseas to Italian interests.
Mr. Harriman was not in the stud horse business and Mr. Sheppard was not interested in standing him at his Hanover Shoe Farms.
Although Mr. Sheppard loved Stars Pride, he felt that the horse had too much going against him to stand at Hanover.
1. He was by Worthy Boy and, at that time, he was the only prominent trotter ever sired by him. He was a horse not that well thought of by trotting lovers due to his propensity to produce a great number of pacers.
2. He was beautiful, but short coupled. As expected, he hit his shins and hit them more than a little.
3. As mentioned earlier, he had bad feet which bothered him throughout his career.
4. Mr. Sheppard already had four trotting stallions standing at Hanover — Hoot Mon, Dean Hanover, Titan Hanover and Nibble Hanover. The likelihood was that the Farms had barely enough trotting mares to do justice to the horses that they were already standing.
Mr. Sheppard felt that the fact that he hit his shins badly and had bad feet would definitely negatively affect the possibility of a successful stud career.
Thus, an offer from Italians to send Stars Pride overseas was accepted.
To quote Stephen Sondheim, then “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”.
As sometimes happened when dealing with the Italians at that time, the money never arrived.
Mr. Sheppard was in a bind. He would have to stand Stars Pride at Hanover.
As expected, he was not very well supported, neither from Hanover nor the breeders of the day.
His first three crops numbered respectively 21, 16 and nine foals — a total of 46 foals.
From his first crop of 21, all 21 raced with 20 of them taking records and included Section Man a horse that hit his shins terribly. Nevertheless he still finished 2-2 in the 1957 Hambletonian which was captured by Hickory Smoke.
His second crop of only 16 featured Emily’s Pride who won the 1958 Hambletonian and Little Rocky who won a heat of that same Hambletonian. Emily’s Pride also became the dam of Noble Victory.
His third crop numbered one third of the total of the first two combined, but included Diller Hanover who also won the Hambletonian. It also included Hickory Pride a wonderful colt who was destined to make his mark in the breeding shed at Hempt Farms.
Thus, from a total of 46 foals in his first three crops, Stars Pride sired two Hambletonian winners, a heat winner of the Hambletonian, a horse who finished 2-2 in the Hambletonian and a world class stallion.
Needless to say, he was now on his way.
Among his numerous feats, he sired eight Hambletonian winners, an accomplishment that in my less than humble opinion will never be equaled, let alone surpassed.
The story of Stars Pride would be certainly incomplete without mentioning the two people who kept him alive and functional during the last decade of his life.
Stars Pride had become seriously foundered. It was a combination of his extreme gameness and the skill of two great horsemen, Dr. Charles Raker of New Bolton Center and the farrier Robert Bosler Sr. that kept him alive and reasonably well. Each month, Dr Raker would come to the Farms and would work with Mr. Bosler on making essentially two new artificial front feet for the great stallion. I was privileged to see these gentlemen perform their magic on several occasions. If it were any other horse I doubt that it could have been accomplished.
Stars Pride seemed to sense that they were there to help him. He was always on his best behavior and never gave them, or anybody else for that matter, a bit of trouble.
By the way, Mr. Sheppard was correct in worrying about Stars Pride siring horses who hit their shins and had bad feet. A significant number of them did. But most were game and fast and still became good horses.
I’ve decided to run this tale in two segments. The second installment on his effect on world trotting, especially the French Trotter will run in the next edition of the column.
It will begin: Monsieur Henri Levesque had a dream.
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