Pedigree Time Machine: Brigadier Gerard
Written by Alan Porter | Jun 27, 2012 |
With all the attention currently (and deservedly) lavished on Frankel, it's probably worth giving a perspective on Brigadier Gerard, the horse that he's supplanted as miler of a lifetime.
"The Brigadier" had more humble beginnings than Frankel. Bred by John Hislop (an outstanding amateur jockey and noted breeding and racing writer), was by Queen's Hussar (a son of March Past, whose own sire, the Fair Trial horse Petition, was a talented miler who was humbled by the great Tudor Minstrel in the 2,000 Guineas of 1947). Queen's Hussar was accomplished miler in is own right, winning the Sussex Stakes and Lockinge Stakes. However, at the time that Brigadier Gerard's dam, La Paiva, visited him, he was standing for just 200 guineas, and he sired only 14 stakes winners in his stud career, with his only other top-class runner being The Queen's dual classic winner and foundation mare Highclere. La Paiva was by the French Derby winner Prince Chevalier, and had an acceptable, if not particularly fashionable, pedigree: she was a half sister to the 2,000 Guineas runner-up Stokes, and out of a half sister to two good stayers in Challenge and Fearless Fox. Her fifth dam was the "peerless" Pretty Polly, winner of 22 of her 24 starts, and an extremely important foundation mare.
Trained by Major Dick (later Sir Richard) Hern and ridden throughout his career by Joe Mercer, Brigadier Gerard was undefeated in four starts at 2, including the Washington Singer Stakes, Berkshire Stakes, and the Middle Park Stakes (England's premier six-furlong juvenile event), in which he crushed two really fast horses, Mummy's Pet and Swing Easy. Despite that record, Brigadier Gerard was rated only the third best of his crop, behind My Swallow, who had been undefeated in seven starts and had taken the French juvenile quadruple crown, and Mill Reef, whose only defeat came at the hands of My Swallow in the Prix Robert-Papin.
Brigadier Gerard's first 3-year-old start came in the 2,000 Guineas, and saw him tackle My Swallow, Mill Reef (the trio having won 18 of their 19 starts) and Nijinsky II's highly-rated brother, Minsky. The race was expected to lie between My Swallow and Mill Reef, but Brigadier Gerard burst past them in the closing stages to score an authorative three-length triumph. Brigadier Gerard then had a close call on the soft ground he hated in the St. James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, but added the Sussex Stakes (by five lengths), the Goodwood Mile (by 10 lengths), the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (by eight lengths), and in his first try at 10 furlongs, the Champion Stakes, in which he had to battle to beat the Irish colt Rarity on heavy ground.
At 4, he kicked off in dominant vein, adding the one-mile Lockinge Stakes, and then at 10 furlongs the Westbury Stakes, the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot in a new course record, and the Eclipse Stakes. In the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Brigadier Gerard tackled 1 1/2 miles for the first time. He duly won, but only after surving a 13 minute stewards' inquiry caused when he drifted in and crossed the runner-up Parnell.
Then came the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup (now the Juddmonte International). Run over 10 1/2 furlongs at York, the race was initially devised as a to bring about a second meeting between Brigadier Gerard and Mill Reef. As it was, Mill Reef was retired by time the race came along, but the event did draw Roberto and Rheingold, first and second in the English Derby that year. Roberto, under a furious drive from Lester Piggott, had narrowly beaten Rheingold at Epsom, but since then Roberto had flopped in the Irish Derby, while Rheingold had captured the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, causing Piggott to swap mounts. The ride on Roberto went to the American-based Panamian jockey Braulio Baeza. In the words of Raceform, "Braulio Baeza aboard Roberto was out of the stalls like a bat out of hell." They continued to dictate a furious pace, and although Brigadier Gerard drew almost alongside Roberto with a furlong to run, he could do no more, and Roberto edged away again for a three-length score, cutting about trhree seconds off the course record in the process.
Any number of theories have been advanced to explain the defeat, including that The Brigadier was not 100% himself that day (if memory serves well, his owner stated that a large clot of mucus came from his nose). However, time has proved that the King George/Juddmonte International is a very hard double to pull off, and all the more so for a horse like Brigadier Gerard who was running so far beyond his optimum trip in the King George. Our feeling is that in a race conducted at what was an unprecendent pace for England at that time, Roberto may have simply run the finish out of Brigadier Gerard, a horse whose best distance was probably a mile. None the worse for this defeat, Brigadier Gerard concluded his career in a blaze of glory, taking the one mile Queen Elizabeth Stakes II by six lengths in a new course record, and the 10-furlong Champion Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths over Riverman.
Retired to stud, Brigadier Gerard's early career might have been hampered by some of the conditions imposed by his owners (as I recall they included stipulations that his young stock could not be sold overseas). Ultimately, he proved far less successful than his great rival Mill Reef, siring 25 stakes winners in 14 crops. He did get a classic winner in the shape of St. Leger (gr. I) winner Light Cavalry. His only other group I winner was the Champion Stakes (gr. I) victor Vayrann (who turned out to be a disappointing sire). The most talented of his offspring might actually have been the French juvenile group winner General, who unfortunately had quite a difficult temperament. Sent to Argentina, General sired Lord At War, champion miler in his own country, and successful in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) and San Antonio Handicap (gr. I) in the U.S. At stud, Lord At War did very well siring stakes winners, including grade I scorers John's Call, Honor In War, and La Gueriere. He's also done well as a broodmare sire, with such as Raven's Pass, War Emblem, No Matter What, Pioneerof the Nile (TrueNicks,SRO), Purim, Citronnade, and E Dubai (TrueNicks,SRO).
Brigadier Gerard's record as a broodmare sire wasn't a whole lot more impressive, although his daughters did produce a quartet of group/grade I winners in Antiqua (Laurel Futurity), Kings Island (Sunset Handicap), Mary Linoa (Prix Marcel Boussac), and Affinity (Caulfield Cup). Overall, though, apart from Lord At War, Brigadier Gerard's name is now very rarely seen in the pedigrees of top-class performers, and he stands as another example of the limited relationship between performance on the racetrack and achievements at stud.
None of this, of course, detracts from the superlative quality of his career, and while he may have conceded to Frankel his position as the best miler of the last 50 years or so, with group I-level wins at six, eight, 10, and 12 furlongs, Brigadier Gerard remains unmatched in terms of versatility at the highest level.