Sir Harry Lewis: Last In a Line of Great Damsires -- by Scot T. Gillies

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This week came the sad news that 1987 Budweiser Irish Derby (Ire-I) winner Sir Harry Lewis has died.  (An interesting note for you equine health purists:  the Racing Post lists the cause of death as a "heart attack," terminology that is medically inaccurate but commonly used in cases of equine aortic aneurysms and atrial fibrillation.)  By coincindence, Sir Harry Lewis came up in a study I worked on this past month, so I thought it would be appropriate to spend a few minutes looking deeper into his story.

Perhaps best known in the States as damsire of 2002 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Volponi, Sir Harry Lewis (pedigree) has been a fixture on the MarketWatch list of leading broodmare sires by AEI since he was first eligible for inclusion (2005) in large part due to Volponi's nearly $3.2 million in earnings.

Back in 2005 (i.e., data of 2004), Sir Harry Lewis first met the study requirements: he was represented by more than four North American runners the previous year and he had reached the $5 million mark in earnings as a damsire. His was no case of slowly climbing up the ladder, however. He debuted as leader of the "Young Sires to Watch" and perhaps more impressively became the second-place stallion among overall AEI leaders (behind Buckpasser and a notch in front of Hoist the Flag, his own grandsire). A year later, Sir Harry Lewis dropped to second behind Quiet American on the list of young damsires Quiet American has held the #1 spot four consecutive years now — and dropped to fourth in overall AEI. He has remained a leader on both lists since. In this month's issue of The Blood-Horse MarketWatch, Sir Harry Lewis ranks third in overall AEI as a broodmare sire. (Because his first crop as a damsire was born in 1995, he is no longer eligible for the "young sires" rankings.)

The fact that Sir Harry Lewis' lofty rankings are skewed by a standout runner Volponi accounts for 38.8% of his progeny earnings as a damsire doesn't diminish the accomplishment. In fact, 2009 marks an interesting milestone for Sir Harry Lewis: it is the first year that he would qualify for the MarketWatch study even if Volponi's earnings were excluded.  (It's close progeny earnings would be only $26,252 over the $5 million cutoff without Volponi's bankroll.)

Because he has many daughters in active production, we'll see Sir Harry Lewis maintain a leadership position among broodmare sires over the next several years. Much less likely is any chance of the sire line continuing. Sir Harry Lewis descends from a male line that has been decidedly more successful at broodmare production than at turning out popular sires. From Federico Tesio's Tenerani (ITY) and Ribot to the American lines of Tom Rolfe and Hoist the Flag and on to Alleged, the line has rarely branched off with new stallions. Sir Harry Lewis himself has no active stallion sons. His sire Alleged has a handful of sons standing in South America and Great Britain plus Storada (pedigree) in North Dakota for $300 but the only upper-tier stud from the immediate line right now is the Hoist the Flag grandson Precocity (SRO) in New Mexico.

It requires going back to other sons of Ribot to find popular stallions standing today. The His Majesty branch includes such studs as Cetewayo and Nobiz Like Shobiz and Tiago and Pleasantly Perfect. The sire-line connection is many generations removed from Sir Harry Lewis, but an active Ribot-line stud that factored into another MarketWatch study recently was Raffie's Majesty, discussed here.

Subscribers to can access past issues in the TBH MarketWatch archives. Note that the Broodmare Sire AEI issue is published as the first issue in Spring each year.

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