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The Real Bend Or

Pedigree historians have long been suspicious about the exact parentage of the 1880 Epsom Derby winner. The record books will tell you that the winner was Bend Or, a son of Doncaster out of the Thormanby mare Rouge Rose, bred and owned by the 1st Duke of Westminster.

However, not long after the 1880 running of the Derby, the owners of the runner-up, Robert the Devil, wrote to the stewards and to Weatherbys, objecting to the result on the grounds that Bend Or was not in fact bred as he was registered. The controversy was even reported by the New York Times back in 1880. The claim was based on the account given by a disgruntled stud groom at the Duke of Westminster’s stud who said that two colts—both chestnut sons of Doncaster—had been inadvertently switched when they arrived at their trainers' yards, and that the colt who raced and won the 1880 Derby as Bend Or was in fact Tadcaster, by Doncaster out of the Newminster mare Clemence.

The case was duly considered by the Jockey Club stewards, who issued a verdict declaring that the pedigree of Bend Or was correct and that the Derby result would stand.

Following his win in the Derby, Bend Or went on to a highly influential stud career, siring among others the brilliant Ormonde. Importantly, Bend Or found favor at stud with mares by Derby and 2,000 Guineas winner Macaroni. Some of the more influential horses bred on this now famous Bend Or/Macaroni nick include the aforementioned Ormonde, leading racehorse and sire Kendal, 2,000 Guineas winner and successful sire Bona Vista, and the Goodwood Cup winner and prolific sire Martagon, among others. Today, Bend Or's name can be found in the pedigrees of many of the most important sires and broodmares in the General Stud Book.

A couple of decades after Bend Or’s win in the Derby, C. Bruce Lowe devised and published his Lowe family numbers (later expanded by Goos, Bobinski, and Toru Shirai). Lowe had traced back the pedigrees of the complete list of winners of the oldest English classics—the St. Leger, Epsom Derby, and Epsom Oaks—grouping them by direct lines of tail female descent, from dam to granddam and on back until the family was no longer traceable in the stud book. He then tallied the number of classic winners produced by each family and listed them in declining order. The family descending from Tregonwell's Natural Barb Mare had the most classic winners and was designated Family #1; the family of the Burton Barb Mare had the second most classic winners and was designated Family #2; and so on.

The Lowe numbers had little utility in terms of breeding a superior racehorse, but when geneticists came to discover mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)—the set of DNA that is passed solely and faithfully along the maternal line—the Lowe family numbers became a great reference point for the validity of Thoroughbred pedigrees.

While it has been previously reported elsewhere, a team led by Dr. Mim Bower at Cambridge University extracted mitochondrial DNA from the skeleton of Bend Or to discover whether he came from the No. 1 family to which Rouge Rose belonged, or the No. 2 family of Clemence. The team published their findings April 11 in an early view of the peer-reviewed journal Archaeometry.

If mtDNA from the skeleton claimed to be that of Bend Or matched the mitochondrial lineage of his dam Rouge Rose (family #1, of which the study had 21 representatives), then it is indeed that of Bend Or. Conversely, if the DNA matched the mitochondrial lineage of Clemence (family #2,18 representatives), the dam of Tadcaster, then the skeleton instead belongs to the lineage presently attributed to Tadcaster. Additionally, they obtained mtDNA from 10 additional historic Thoroughbreds in order to test, with statistical robustness, whether historic Thoroughbreds could be accurately placed within their maternal pedigrees using mtDNA, and compared these data with sequences obtained from 296 living Thoroughbred horses.

Well, it turns out that it might be time to change some pedigrees. It now appears that the skeleton of Bend Or belongs to the No. 2 family and, therefore, "Bend Or" is most likely to be the colt by Doncaster out of Clemence. The question is now, in light of this scientific paper, will the likes of Weatherbys and The Jockey Club update their historical records to reflect the corrected pedigree?

From a practical viewpoint, the change in pedigree makes very little difference; after all, we are talking about a horse racing in the late 1800s and in terms of genetics his impact on performance, if any, is minuscule. However, in terms of understanding how the pedigrees of the great horses of the past were constructed, it is probably quite important that an amendment is made.

If we just look at it in terms of the Bend Or/Macaroni nick, the change of pedigree from Bend Or to Tadcaster results in some significant changes. Here is the great Ormonde as the pedigree stands today:

Click to enlarge

If you take Ormonde’s pedigree and swap out the pedigree of Bend Or for what is Tadcaster, although they are both by Doncaster, one might feel that the pedigree becomes a little more interesting (which is why pedigree historians suspected "Bend Or" was out of Clemence—not Rouge Rose—in the first place):

Click to enlarge

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After all this time, the Bend Or pedigree controversy was true?! This is amazing! What does this say about the Bend Or spots?

Susan C 20 Apr 2012 6:31 PM

Am I seeing that Mulatto is family 23-b? I thought he was family 5.

Andrea Bouwkamp 20 Apr 2012 6:52 PM

Wow!  Does this now mean that we will have to be talking about the "Tadcaster Spots"?  

mz 20 Apr 2012 8:21 PM

(as usual, I hit submit too fast...sorry)

Considering that he's in the pedigrees of Phalaris and The Tetrarch, and that he was called one of the greatest horses ever by his connections, maybe for fairness purposes, we should celebrate Tadcaster.

And what happened to "Tadcaster"?

mz 20 Apr 2012 8:29 PM

This was very interesting.  How will the Jockey Club correct the birth records for foals of both families from the past to the present?  Have the Jockey Club records been scanned, or keyed into computer databases that can identify, sort, or separate out the resulting foals from the ancestors of both families?  If so, it would be wise to make a copy of the records that they can manipulate and work with and not lose the original data until verification the newly created database record.   As they did not have computers at the time the historical data was recorded they would have to create them into a database for ease of updating all subsequent pedigree records.

Stellar Jayne 20 Apr 2012 9:36 PM

Despite the controversy over the running of the 1880 Epsom

Derby I have always been convinced that the son of Doncaster

that won that day was indeed Bend Or.Don,t forget it is as

you say it was an disgruntled stud groom who made the claim

that the horse was really Tadcaster.Bend Or went on to sire

one of the most influential sires in the British Stud Book,

Ormonde and i,m proud to say next month in May at that historic English track,Chester the Ormonde Stakes is still run.

John T 20 Apr 2012 10:22 PM

Col Vuillier's dosage system has always been disregarded by many researchers as a method of breeding good racehorses,

;groupies" would say that he was only following the stud book, it was not his fWith this extra information, it's even more worthless, as all his figures are now wrong.. how many more times does the St Leger winner NEWMINSTER appears in pedigrees other than the figure of 295 given by Vuillier in his early list.

I suppose dosage &quotault.

As POCAHONTAS was the ony mare on his list, it would seem that the great mare BEESWING should now also be there.

Hal Dane 21 Apr 2012 6:39 AM

I love articles such as this and know exactly what book is being refered to in the article as I have seen a copy in my travels to the UK.

Now this is what the X FACTOR books are all about.  Keep writing these articles.

Helen 21 Apr 2012 8:41 AM

Absolutely fascinating!   I was unable to access the full article...which other historical thoroughbreds were DNA tested?    

Saxtonhill 21 Apr 2012 7:56 PM

So on a side note, Bend Or-spots, where did they come from?  Fantastic article!

Michelle 22 Apr 2012 10:33 AM

This change would greatly affect the pedigree of War Relic since he has Fairy Gold, a daughter of 'Bend Or' on the top and bottom.

Karen in Indiana 22 Apr 2012 2:18 PM

Wouldn't be so quick to accept this new finding as reality. Was their work properly peer reviewed? Is there absolute certainty that this was indeed Bend Or's skeleton? Hard to believe that the Duke's stud would have later bred Bend Or to his dam. Also, as I understand it, there is only one truly accepted method utilized to evaluate mDNA-the other methods have proved to be inaccurate-so what method did they utilize? Lastly, even if true, it's of insignificant import.

sceptre 23 Apr 2012 8:59 PM

Wow Bend Or!!! Looks like products of the Bend Or(Tadcaster)/Macaroni cross are bit more closely linebred to Banter than we thought. Also Bona Vista is not 3x4 to full siblings Thormanby & Lady Hawthorn(his 4th dam).

Baby Jane Towser 23 Apr 2012 10:04 PM

As far as the "Bend Or spots" - I think they and some other funny colorings often go back to Birdcatcher, who is in the male-line of both Bend Or and Tadcaster (since they were both by Doncaster).

A marking known as Bend Or ticks probably due to gene that might be linked to the rabicano gene (gives white ticks interspersed with the base coat color, starting on the flanks and at the tail-head). In modern times one source was Cox's Ridge (we have a off-track riding horse by Notebook out of Cox's Ridge mare that has those markings).

The Bend Or Spots are also known as Birdcatcher Spots. There is some question as to whether they are genetic. The Tetrarch is one famous horse with those spots, and Eight Thirty was another. Funnily enough, the Birdcatcher tick source, Cox's Ridge, goes back to Corday, a mare with similar inbreeding to Man o'War's background as Eight Thirty (who has The Tetrarch - carrying Bend Or - and a double of Bend Or's daughter Fairy Gold).

Bend Or and Tadcaster still had a lot of similar background with regard to the 14 family, which is behind the Bend Or/Macaroni cross (along with the brothers Selim and Castrel). Where things get interestiing is if you replaced Bend Or with Tadcaster, and have a look at what happens when you combine the Bend Or/Tadcaster sire line with Carbine (as for instance in Nearco). Now you get inbreeding to the mare, Clemence, dam of Tadcaster, and granddam of Carbine. Tadcaster's second dam, Eulogy, is half-sister to Voltigeur, the great-grandsire of St. Simon, so that would make Martha Lynn dam of Voltigeur, third dam of Bend Or/Tadcaster, and fourth dam of Carbine (quite the stallion family).

It might have helped the development of the Bend Or/Tadcaster sire line that there was a maternal relationship with both St. Simon and Carbine. If we look at Nearco he is a Bend Or/Tadcaster sire line horse with inbreeding to the Bend Or/Macaroni cross, carrying four crosses of St. Simon and one of Carbine.

Alan Porter 24 Apr 2012 10:07 AM

Martha Lynn is also third dam of Lord Clifden (his 2nd dam is a full sister to Voltiguer), sire of Hampton, so Bend Or (Tadcaster) is also closely linked to the Hampton/Galopin cross. How will this be handled by the Jockey Club? Has Ken McLean commented on this matter?

Baby Jane Towser 24 Apr 2012 5:33 PM


I am not sure what you would mean to imply by 'properly peer reviewed'. The authors of the paper are some of the best in the field of thoroughbred genetics with many being involved in the original sequencing of the horse genome and many of the methods they have developed are used in horse genetics. Professional pride aside, many have too much to lose over an improperly reviewed paper.

I am not sure what evidence you need to satisfy the question of the skeleton in fact being Bend Or, or Tadcaster as it may be. The skeleton is in the Natural History Museum of London so one would have to think that following Bend Or's death at age 26, he being such a famous horse, on the presumption that it was donated shortly thereafter to such a prominent museum that it was in fact the right skeleton. Just because his life started in mystery, doesn't mean that it ended in it.

As far as the Duke of Westminster, at the time of the inquiry it was widely stated by both the Jockey Club stewards at the time and the press of the day that the Duke's personal stud book was about as worthless as the paper it had been written on. There were no markings for any of the horses bred in the crop that included Bend Or and Tadcaster taken by the Stud's head groom. In fact one of the stewards of the day, James Lowther, later stated that he was inclined to believe that he and his colleagues had come to the wrong conclusion in declaring Bend Or, as Bend Or.

This all said, I agree with your last statement to a certain extent. As Alan posted earlier, it certainly makes the pedigree of stallions such as the undefeated Nearco a far more different analysis (one wonders if Tesio thought Bend Or was in fact Tadcaster and mated Nogara on that basis?). As I said in the post.....From a practical viewpoint, the change in pedigree makes very little difference; after all, we are talking about a horse racing in the late 1800s and in terms of genetics his impact on performance, if any, is minuscule. However, in terms of understanding how the pedigrees of the great horses of the past were constructed, it is probably quite important that an amendment is made.....

Byron Rogers 24 Apr 2012 7:32 PM

Hi Baby Jane,

Good point - I'd forgotten about Lord Clifden being from that family. That has a big impact as regards Lord Clifden being in the male line of Gainsborough (sire of Hyperion and Solario) and Son-in-Law. Bay Ronald, sire of Gainsborough and Dark Ronald (a very important foundation sire in Germany) and grandsire of Son-in-Law, has Volley/Voltigeur 4 x 4. Gainsborough has four crosses of the siblings + Bend Or (Tadcaster). Teddy - male line of Bull Dog/Sir Gallahad II, is inbred to the Bend Or (Tadcaster)/Macaroni cross and is out of a Bay Ronald mare, from the immediate family of Gainsborough.

This gives a bit of an extra dimension to the Northern Dancer/Bull Dog combination, Northern Dancer being Nearco/Gainsborough.

It doesn't make a practical difference to breeding thoroughbreds today, but it certainly significantly impacts interpretation of historical pedigrees, with the Martha  Lynn family having produced Voltigeur (Galopin/St. Simon line), Bend Or/Tadcaster (Phalaris line), Hampton (Gainsborough/Hyperion, Son-in-Law, Dark Ronald lines), and Carbine. In general, the effect is to tighten up a lot of major pedigrees from WW1 to the 1960s.

Alan Porter 25 Apr 2012 11:16 AM

I believe Bend-Or spots are dark, whereas Birdcatcher spots are white?  

Michelle 25 Apr 2012 12:23 PM

Hi Byron,

Sorry to have not responded sooner, but just now read your post (to me). I was only able to review the abstract from what you had highlighted, but it alone gave me pause and contributed to my comments. Your piece did stimulate some curiosity on my part, so I did some reading on mtDNA analysis-hence my comment re-"method"-as said, I'm not privy to their full report so questions remain. Please note that the abstract alone mentions previous doubts about the authenticity of Eclipse's skeletal remains. He, as was Bend Or, was a particularly notable racehorse/stallion-I say this in response to your responsive comments about Bend Or's skeleton. My skepticism was first raised by the notion that mtDNA analysis could differentiate two horses (through analysis of present representatives) from so many generations back. mtDNA is far more subject to mutation than is nuclear DNA. and, even back then, thoroughbreds were already bred selectively for many generations. mtDNA is rather finite when compared to nuclear DNA. So, putting these three basic facts together, one would imagine that the variability in thoroughbred racehorse mtDNA to be fairly minute. But, I'm rather sure that the authors of the "study" could put those concerns to rest-rather sure, but not certain. I doubt, though, that they can (or did) authenticate Bend Or's skeleton to be indeed Bend Or.-interestringly, the abstract seemed to suggest that Eclipse's skeleton was authenticated (by genetic analysis), but not Bend Or's. Then there is the ruling of the "Jockey Club Steward's" vs the "testimony" of a "disgruntled groom" and the Duke's Stud's shoddy record keeping. Yes, we don't know what were the Steward's methods for establishing their finding, but it's more likely than not that they were privy to the Duke's shoddy records. We also know that the Duke bred Tadcaster's dam to the horse named Bend Or. So, from my present perspective (subject to change with more data) I'd label their finding as being potentially somewhat short of reality. Yes, I grant that it is far more likely than not that their finding is reality. And, Byron, if it is indeed reality, it's greater revelation is that all pedigrees of that era and before should be taken with a grain of salt. So, I wouldn't much bother to re-evaluate the Bend Or presence going forward, or "an understanding (of) how the pedigrees of the great horses of the past were constructed..."-as, to my mind this is of little benefit anyway-those breeders had little understanding of genetics.      

sceptre 25 Apr 2012 5:37 PM

Hi Michelle,

The Birdcatcher ticks are white hairs in base coat. The Bend Or (also called Birdcatcher) spots are black (although I think the case of The Tetrarch, they turned white, and he was described as looking as if he'd been splashed with whitewash (hence the name 'The Spotted Wonder').

Alan Porter 25 Apr 2012 8:30 PM

They are using human mitochondrial DNA to trace all of us back to the African diaspora.

Mitochondrial Eve lived 200,000 years ago.

How fragile can it be?

And that work has been "peer-reviewed" as much as any scientific work ever done.

Cassandra.Says 30 Apr 2012 12:59 AM

Radium 1903 b.s. by Bend Or 1877 ch.s.? (died age 26 yrs)

I have studied this pedigree for some time and realized I don't think its right? I believe Carbine is sire of Radium, thus twice as primary (Y)** of Night Raid..the sire of

Phar Lap! Catherine Wheel 189? ch.m. (GB) (sent to AUS)

is twice Saraband (broodmare sire of) Pretty Polly (IRE)

Direct male line of Stockwell!

Delores Sunderlin 29 Dec 2012 12:26 AM

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