By Alistair Nicolson

Does family matter? Listeners to Dr James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family” at 5:50am on East Coast Radio, will tell you it does, Hugh Jonsson, Jet Master’s breeder, would’ve told you it doesn’t, yet here’s a story that reminds us of its value.

“His uncle’s invitation was not hard to accept. With his two brothers, the young Jack traded in the rough diamonds of London’s East End for those of South Africa, just as his uncle Barney had with brilliant success all those years before. Not just diamonds but gold, and how the money flowed! But lo the tides of wealth. Less than a year after his dear uncle’s drowning, one brother was murdered and Jack was back at home, never to return.

The death of a brother is a terrible thing, especially death from a bullet. Yet, there is always the inheritance! And thus Jack Joel had the task of selecting a mate for his new pride and joy, a fine daughter of the 1885 Derby and St Leger hero Melton by the name of Yours. The 2,000 Guineas and Derby victor Ayrshire was chosen and the 1903 Oaks heroine Our Lassie was duly conceived, followed five years later by a St Leger winner in Your Majesty. By the time Our Lassie was a yearling, Jack had a second broodmare, so horrified at the thought that his brother should sell one named after his sister that he was given her too! A daughter of Loved One, Doris the mare soon became as loved as Doris the sister, bearing the 1911 2,000 Guineas and Derby hero Sunstar to Jack’s own stallion Sundridge and the 1914 1,000 Guineas and Oaks heroine Princess Dorine to Your Majesty.

In 1906, Jack inherited a third mare, this time from his uncle Harry, simply on the basis that he had a stud, Northaw House at Potters Bar, but poor Harry did not. Absurdity had wooed only the faithful of Brighton and Hurst Park with her talents, but she too was by Melton, and just like Our Lassie, was inbred to the Champion Sire Newminster. Successful in the 1851 St Leger, Newminster was by another winner of that Classic in Touchstone out of the great Beeswing (victorious in 51 out of her 64 races, including the Doncaster Cup four times), and thus was a full-brother to Melton’ fourth dam.

Jack Joel was indeed blessed. His first two mares had delivered two Classic winners apiece and now so did his third. Absurdity’s third foal by Sundridge, Jest, carried his now famous colours of black with a scarlet cap to victory in the 1931 1,000 Guineas and Oaks and the following year her first by Polymelus, Black Jester, repeated the feat in the St Leger. Of course, Jest and Black Jester were both further inbred to Newminster and, indeed, Jest’s full-brother Absurd won the 1911 Middle Park Stakes before becoming New Zealand’s Champion Sire on five occasions. After three barren years and a dead foal, Jest produced her first, a strapping chestnut Polymelus colt, Humorist, whose broad white blaze adorned every front page the day after the 1921 Derby. Yet, the fates were turning. Jest had died that spring, and before the end of the month of his greatest success, Humorist too was gone, taken by a severe haemorrhage of the lungs from the tuberculosis he had battled gallantly against his whole life.

Humorist was the last of Jack Joel’s Classic winners. Upon his father’s death in 1940, son Jim inherited £5million and the beautiful Childwick Bury Stud, close to that most quintessential of English towns of charm, St Albans. One of the mares bequeathed to Jim was Amuse. By Polymelus’ son Phalaris, she was out of Jest’s winning three parts-sister Gesture, a daughter of Sunstar and Absurdity. Unraced until finishing second in a Newmarket sprint in the autumn of her three-year-old career, Amuse ran just once more, unplaced in the King’s Stand Stakes no less. By the time she foaled a filly by the Italian Champion Donatello in 1941, she was 14 years old and yet to produce a winner. But good things come to those who wait. The 1944 1,000 Guineas was a four length romp for Picture Play and the glory days had returned.

The mating of Donatello and Amuse which produced Picture Play was one inspired. Not only did it duplicate our old friend Pilgrimage through her son Loved One and Oaks-winning daughter Canterbury Pilgrim, but Donatello’s grandma, the Premio Regina Elena heroine Duccia Di Buoninsegna was by Bridge Of Earn, whose grandma is Melton’s full-sister Bridget. A few months after Picture Play’s finest hour, absurdity’s family was celebrating again, this time across the Channel. By Phalaris’ grandson Pharis, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hero Ardan was out of the 1934 Prix de Diane heroine Adargatis, whose third dam was Absurdity’s full-sister, Doxa. And, across the Atlantic, Adargatis’ three parts-sister La Troienne, was forming a dynasty of her own; her outstanding trio Bimelech, Black Helen and Big Hurry each inbred to Newminster. Soon La Troienne would become the third dam of the magnificent Buckpasser, the US Horse of the Year, brimming with the female family of Newminster and Melton, and featuring Bridge Of Earn’s close relative, Lady Cicero, to boot.

Picture Play’s seven winners featured two of the Falmouth Stakes in Queen Of Light and Red Shoes, and one of the Richmond Stakes, Promulagation. By Borealis, Queen Of Light became a fine broodmare for Jim Joel. Her son Ancient Lights won the Dewhurst Stakes, and her daughters Crystal Palace and Picture Light the Nassau Stakes and the Hungerford Stakes respectively, before in turn producing the 1967 2,000 Guineas and derby hero Royal Palace and the fine miler Welsh Pageant. Runner-up in the Musidora Stakes, Royal Palace’s half-sister Glass Slipper gave Jim Joel two further Classic aces in the 1980 St Leger hero Light Cavalry and the following year’s 1,000 Guineas heroine Fairy Footsteps. Indeed, the latter rewarded her owner with a deep satisfaction, her sire Mill Reef sporting as fifth dam Black Ray, herself by Black Jester out of a daughter of Our Lassie.

Runner-up in the 1968 1,000 Guineas, Picture Lights’s daughter, Photo Flash, delivered her fourteenth foal on 9th March 1983. By High Line, and thus inbred 4x5 to Donatello, High and Dry finished third in the Gr.3 Prestige Stakes on just her second start. Fifteen months later, she made her next public appearance, together with Fairy Footsteps and Glass Slipper, as one of the 20 jewels in the dispersal of the Childwick Bury stock, the eyesight of their modest, kind and now 92-year-old owner, beginning to fail. It was the end of an era, and an auction ring filled to bursting paid its respects, not to mention its guineas, for the arts of the beloved genius.

High and Dry’s first named foal was a daughter of the brilliant Dancing Brave; Dievotchka, the little girl, blossomed into a broodmare of rare beauty. The first of her six Stakes-winning progeny was the Gr.2 Grand Prix de Deauville ace Russian Hope, followed by the Gr.2 Prix Eugene Adam victor Archange D’Or and the Gr.2 Prix Guillaume d’Ornano scorer Russian Cross. So to the present, and Deauville’s magnificent August carnival is set alight as Dievotchka’s twelfth foal, Esoterique, sprints past her rivals to provide her owner-breeder Baron Edouard de Rothschild with victory in the event named in his family’s honour. Esoterique by Danehill Dancer, Archange D’Or by Danehill Dancer’s sire Danehill.

And look, dear reader, Danehill is a great-grandson of Buckpasser, and Danehill Dancer is inbred to the fine speed-miler Olympia, he combining Melton with Bridget. Esoteric it may be, but this 111-year-old Absurdity lives on!

Extract from European Bloodstock News