Big Towner — Simpson’s Folly, Part 2

by Murray Brown

Part 1 is here.

Big Towner’s pedigree is likely as unique as that of any prominent stallion in the history of harness racing. He was sired by Gene Abbe, then a 30-year-old stallion, who in turn was sired by Bert Abbe, then 22. He was only six generations removed from Hambletonian himself.

I know I’m probably missing some, however I picked up 17 descendants of Hambletonian in his pedigree, only in the male portion of his lineage.

Just think of that. When presenting his pedigree, you would have 54 years of heritage on the page. Compare that, for argument’s sake, to a 2-year-old by Captain Crunch, then a 4-year-old stallion who was by Captaintreacherous, then a 5-year-old stallion.

In comparing Big Towner’s male pedigree to that of the son of Captain Crunch, you would have a spread in years of 52 to one of nine.

Yet the sons and daughters of Big Towner were able to compete and often subdue horses whose lineage was far more modern than those with which they were competing.

How could this be? I have no idea. Mother Nature does not always provide answers to her actions. It’s just one of the many unanswerable questions that one comes across in this huge puzzle involving the breeding of racehorses.

If you were speaking in terms of generations and were considering each generation as 10 years, Big Towner was at least five generations behind his contemporaries.

I digress. This column is about Big Towner as a great sire of fillies and perhaps, more importantly, as a great sire of broodmares.

Before going further, one needs to mention that Big Towner’s sire, Gene Abbe, was known as a very good sire of raceway pacers with very few of the female persuasion involved in his better performers. Yet, arguably his greatest son is known as a great sire of fillies and mares and, more importantly, known for producing exceptional broodmares.

Big Towner sired five millionaires. They were out of mares by five different sires. Two of them were the fillies Town Pro ($1,229,582) and Sweet Reflection ($1,004,639), a more than significant impact.

Big Towner mares have produced 17 millionaires by 14 different sires. The three richest money winners sired by him were females: Anndrovette ($3,544,930), Darlins Delight ($2,901,926) and Voelz Hanover ($1,609,543). Only Bettors Delight, Cams Card Shark and Western Ideal are credited with more than one of those 17, with two each. One might be accused of not telling the complete story without mentioning that one would have to go significantly beyond the three leaders until one encountered another filly at number 18.

The fact that his fillies have excelled, does not mean that the male horses as a result of being out of Big Towner mares did not. Included among them were Whosurboy ($1,690,543), Big Jim ($1,541,924), Timesareachanging ($1,516,563), Goliath Bayama ($1,503,428) and ten other millionaires.

Unlike his sire Gene Abbe who did not do particularly well with fillies, Big Towner certainly did well both as a sire of terrific fillies and as a sire of the dams of excellent racehorses.

One thing Big Towner did have in common with Gene Abbe was his disposition. I was never around Gene Abbe, but from what I’ve been told he was somewhat cranky, not overtly mean, but certainly not to be trusted and definitely not a kid’s horse. Steve Jones, the son of Hall of Famer Hal Jones tells the story his dad would tell. The stud man at Pickwick farms had been told not to trust Gene Abbe, to never turn his back on him. One day he grew too trusting and Gene Abbe picked him up and threw him out the door. The man was lucky. If he hadn’t been thrown out of the stall, Lord only knows what might have happened. Big Towner was somewhat similar, if you allowed him to, he could hurt you.

As good, possibly bordering on great a sire as Big Towner was, he was even more noted as a broodmare sire. He sired the winners of $118,217,494 and sired the dams of the winners of close to double that number.


I’d be very remiss if I did not mention Pacey Mindlin, AKA The Wizard; a friend of over 50 years who we lost last week. He was what we call a “lifer.” I have not known that many lifers, but in the last two years I’ve lost three of them: first Gerry Bloch, then Eddie Schneerer and now Pacey. Each one of those three were closely involved in the sport for over 50 years.

For as long as I knew him, Pacey has always been involved in many facets of the game. He loved just about everything pertaining to harness racing. Most of all he loved the people and the horses. For as long as he and I have been on social media, we have been involved in back-and-forth repartee. I delighted in pulling his chain as he did mine. I’ll miss you, my friend.