The victory of Lord Tavistock in the Blamey Stakes at Flemington was a pleasing illustration that, contrary to what many people believe, form from New Zealand can indeed hold up on the other side of the Tasman. (The horse, incidentally, races as Tavistock in New Zealand and Lord Tavistock in Australia.) The victory also provided yet another illustration that the Sadler’s Wells sire-line is very effective in Australasia – but in this case (Lord) Tavistock’s sire Montjeu was helped by some distinguished broodmare sires and one outstanding broodma the late Bloomsbury Stud matriarch Mrs Moss, writes John Berry.
No breeder could have asked for a better mare to put their stud on the map than Mrs Moss, whose long and distinguished career as a broodmare provided the impetus for turning the Duchess of Bedford’s Bloomsbury Stud into an internationally successful nursery – and proved that she had been one of the great bargains of history when bought at Tattersalls’ 1975 December Sales for 2,100 gns. Trained by Fulke Johnston-Houghton, Mrs Moss showed good form in a 5-race campaign as a two-year-old in Britain in 1971, winning a five-furlong maiden at Chester. That proved to be her only season of racing, but the form was more than good enough to qualify her for a career as a broodmare, over and above the fact that, while her pedigree was not bursting with class, her dam Golden Plate was a full-sister to the very speedy Whistling Wind. From a family which revolved around speed, Whistling Wind had been one of Britain’s fastest juveniles of 1962, winning all of his three races, including the National Stakes at Sandown (which was then a far more prestigious contest than is the case nowadays). Whistling Wind proved to be a decent stallion in a relatively short career at the Irish National Stud; he is perhaps best remembered for siring Whistling Deer, one of Ireland’s best two-year-olds of 1975 when he won the Beresford Stakes and made the frame in the National Stakes, Railway Stakes and Anglesey Stakes.
Decent sire though Whistling Wind was, his contribution to the breed fell far short of that subsequently achieved by his ‘niece’ Mrs Moss. Sent to a wide variety of stallions, Mrs Moss produced 15 foals, 11 of whom won. The overwhelming conclusion of her breeding career proved to be that she was a remarkable influence for speed (as well as for toughness). To the sprinting stallions Mummy’s Pet, Sharpen Up and Tower Walk she produced the high-class juveniles Precocious (a very well-named colt who won, in his breeder’s colours, the National Stakes, Norfolk Stakes, Molecomb Stakes and Gimcrack Stakes in an undefeated juvenile campaign in 1983), Pushy (winner of the Queen Mary Stakes in 1980) and Krayyan (winner of the National Stakes and placed in the Middle Park in 1982) respectively. To the Derby, Eclipse and St. Leger winner St Paddy she produced the splendid Jupiter Island, the winner of 14 races who posted the fastest time ever recorded by a British horse for 2400m when winning the 1986 Japan Cup as a seven-year-old. Mrs Moss’ descendants have remained the bedrock of Bloomsbury Stud to this day, producing countless good winners. Her memory lives on there not only through them, but also courtesy of a beautiful life-size Philip Blacker bronze statue of her which graces the property.
Jupiter Island’s Japan Cup victory proved more crucial to Bloomsbury Stud than merely providing Mrs Moss’ son with a Group One victory. In a high-class international field, the defeated runners included not only the mighty mare Triptych but also the high-class New Zealand–trained (Our) Waverley Star, winner of 13 races but best remembered for running second the previous month to Bonecrusher in the epic renewal of the Cox Plate which has become known as the ‘Race of the Century’. His trainer Dave O’Sullivan and the Duchess of Bedford (or Lady Tavistock, as she was then) became acquainted at the race-meeting and a friendship developed which saw Lady Tavistock and her husband racing a Kingdom Bay filly with the O’Sullivans; named Snap, she became the first filly since La Mer in the 1970s to win one of New Zealand’s Group One juvenile races at two, the NZ Oaks at three and a weight-for-age Group One as a four-year-old. When Snap retired from racing, a career at stud naturally beckoned – hence Bloomsbury Stud (NZ) came into being.
With Bloomsbury Stud (NZ) developing in tandem with its English counterpart, it was inevitable that some of Mrs Moss’ descendants would find their way down under. One of Mrs Moss’ few non-winning foals was Pedestal, a daughter of the great staying stallion High Line, a grandson of Hyperion whose greatest moment came at York’s Ebor Meeting in 1980 when he sired four winners in one day: Master Willie in the Group One Benson and Hedges Gold Cup, Shoot A Line in the Group One Yorkshire Oaks, Heighlin in the Lonsdale Stakes and Cocaine in the Acomb Stakes. Pedestal bred three winners, while her non-winning offspring included Upstage, a daughter of the 1990 Derby winner Quest For Fame. After a 6-race career in England had produced nothing better than fourth place in a 10-furlong three-year-old maiden at Windsor in June 2001, Upstage, having failed to sell at the December Sale, was sent to join the Bloomsbury Stud (NZ) broodmare band – and, following her mating in 2004 at Windsor Park Stud with Montjeu, (Lord) Tavistock was the result. What has been particularly fitting about (Lord) Tavistock’s career is that, over and above his Blamey Stakes victory in Australia, he has won two Group One races (the Mudgway Stakes at Hastings and the Waikato Sprint at Te Rapa) in New Zealand – and both are races which Snap landed in her racing days.
With all of (Lord) Tavistock’s best wins having come at distances up to 1600m, it is easy at first glance to express surprise that Mrs Moss’ influence for speed has shone through despite constant exposure to stallions who themselves excelled at distances of at least 12 furlongs. However, to take this view would be to do a gross disservice to the stallions involved, because it is a fallacy to equate stamina with lack of speed, instead of regarding it as the ability to sustain speed over longer distances. By producing (Lord) Tavistock, Upstage has proved herself a very good broodmare and, while her grand-dam Mrs Moss obviously takes a lot of credit for this, her sire Quest For Fame must be given credit too.
Quest For Fame is a classic illustration of the fact that Juddmonte principal Prince Khalid Abdullah breeds to race, rather than vice versa. By winning the Derby in 1990, Quest For Fame, a Juddmonte-homebred who was conceived at the Prince’s stud at Wargrave-upon-Thames in Berkshire and is a member of the first crop of his 1985 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Rainbow Quest, made himself a very valuable stallion prospect. However, true to form, the Prince only retired him to stud once his racing potential had been fully explored – which meant that he retired to stud as a six-year-old. Although he had won a Grade One (the Hollywood Invitational Turf Handicap) in America as a five-year-old, it is a sad fact of modern-day bloodstock life that (for reasons which are not clear to any sane on-looker) horses beginning their stud careers aged six are not accorded the same respect as those who do so aged four – even though common sense says that the opposite should apply. When, therefore, Quest For Fame retired to stud in 1993 in America, he was not regarded as the pick of the new intake. He did, however, prove more popular in Australia and he began the new millennium as a permanent resident of New South Wales, having already been shuttling to Woodlands Stud in between his northern hemisphere seasons. He remains there to this day, having come under the Darley banner two years ago when Sheikh Mohammed bought Woodlands from Bob Ingham and the estate of his late brother Jack. He currently resides at the secondary Woodlands property at Cootamundra.
Quest For Fame’s relative marginalization as a stallion is undeserved when one considers not only his racing record and pedigree, but also his achievements as a stallion. On the track he proved both his class and his toughness, and his family is one which still comes up with good horses to this day. His dam Aryenne became a Group One winner at both two and three by landing the Criterium des Pouliches (now Prix Marcel Boussac) in 1979 and the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches in 1980, while her dam Americaine keeps appearing as ancestress of good horses. Perhaps the best of these (aside, obviously, from Quest For Fame and his dam) have been the 1994 Criterium de Saint-Cloud winner Poliglote and the 2000 Prix Ganay winner Indian Danehill, but the most recent is Westphalia, placed last year in both the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and the Prix du Jockey-Club and runner-up (as Super Pistachio) this month in the Hong Kong Derby. As regards Quest For Fame’s sire, there is little that needs to be said about Rainbow Quest beyond remarking that producing the Derby winner in his first crop merely set the tone for a massively successful career at stud.
In America, Quest For Fame produced the Grade One winner Famous Digger (successful in the Del Mar Invitational Oaks) and the Grade Two winner Sagasious in his first crop, along with Sibling Rival, who was runner-up in two consecutive renewals of the Group Two Grand Prix de Chantilly in France. His production of good horses in the northern hemisphere, though, was patchy, and he had become a permanent resident in Australia by the time that his Prince Khalid Abdullah-owned son Perfect Sunday won the Lingfield Derby Trial in 2001, which performance was followed with a very good sixth of 12 to Galileo in the Derby and an excellent second of nine in the Group One Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.
In Australia, Quest For Fame’s stud record has been considerably more solid, as his terms at stud there have yielded seven individual Group One winners (six in Australia and one in Hong Kong). Two of these descend from the great broodmare Eight Carat: Rosehill Guineas winner De Beers and 3-time Group One hero Viscount, the latter currently in the news as the sire of the top-class Singapore-trained sprinter Rocket Man. Quest For Fame’s other top-level winners include Dracula (who is now permanently based at stud in West Australia, having had a season shuttling to Plantation Stud in Newmarket earlier in his career), Unworldly, Perfect Partner - Masked and Tributes, while the most recent has been Sarrera, winner of two Group One races (the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Sydney and the Doomben Cup in Brisbane) in the autumn of 2008.
Quest For Fame has also thrived as a broodmare sire. Over and above his contribution in this role to (Lord) Tavistock, his daughters have produced the likes of Deferential (a Group Two-winning juvenile in Sydney in 2007) and last season’s Danehill Stakes winner Aichi, both of whom were bred by Woodlands Stud. Interestingly, Bloomsbury Stud (NZ) is the breeder of another Group-winning grandson of Quest For Fame: the Centaine gelding Coup Bloomsbury. In the northern hemisphere, Quest For Fame is broodmare sire of two Group One performers, both for Juddmonte: 2008 Haydock Park Sprint Cup winner African Rose and Famous Name, who has three times finished second in Group One races between 1600m and 2100m. In central America his flag has been flown by 3-time Puerto Rican Grade One winner Batavia Light, a daughter of the Pleasant Colony stallion Colony Light and the Quest For Fame mare Rainbow Fame.
The ongoing success of (Lord) Tavistock is clearly a feather in the cap of his excellent sire Montjeu – but also very much a reflection on the class of both Quest For Fame and of Mrs Moss.