Bloodlines: The Intercontinental Tale Of Frizette

One of the lines of commonality between Grade 2 Fountain of Youth winner Promises Fulfilled (by Shackleford) and Davona Dale winner Fly So High (Malibu Moon) is a famous old mare who became a landmark producer, so important that the G1 Frizette Stakes for 2-year-old fillies is named in her honor.

Bred in Kentucky by James R. Keene at Castleton Stud, Frizette was a foal of 1905 by the important stallion Hamburg (Hanover) out of the St. Simon mare Ondulee. Keene had purchased Ondulee the previous fall out of the dispersal of the bloodstock of W.C. Whitney, who had died and whose estate was being liquidated. 

The high price of the sale was Hamburg at $70,000, selling to Harry Payne Whitney, but Ondulee was strongly sought after and brought $14,000 from Keene.

The resulting filly of the mating was a precocious, sound, and reasonably talented filly named Frizette. At 2, she won the Rosedale and Laureate Stakes. Frizette, however, was by no means the best filly in the Keene stable, and she was sent into the Troy Claiming Stakes, where she won and was claimed for $2,000 by J.A. Wernberg. 

Claiming races of the early 20th century were not like ours today. There wasn’t a fixed price, and a claim did not mean that ownership of the horse changed at the start of the race. Instead, after the race, the winner was presented to the other owners and trainers of horses in the race, and if any chose to, they could offer the sum for which the runner had been entered.

But even that did not mean the horse changed hands.

If anyone offered to buy the horse for the claiming price, the existing owner then could bid to retain the horse, and the price could run up far above the entered claiming price, sometimes even higher than the sum of the purse won and the claiming price together. This more personal and contentious manner of “claiming” horses led to numerous backstretch feuds and considerable ill will.

Not so with Keene. When one of his was entered for a tag, it was considered surplus to requirements.

And so Frizette proved. 

Although quite a useful filly who won a dozen races from 36 starts at 2 and 3, placing second in eight and third in seven, Frizette was largely competing in allowances and claiming stakes, which were the high end of the claiming scheme in America.

On June 24, 1908, the Keene filly Suffragette won the Surf Stakes, worth $3,970 to the winner, and on the same card at Sheepshead Bay racecourse, Frizette won a selling race against a field of older colts and fillies that was worth $550.

At 3, Frizette raced 27 times, and after the Seabreeze Stakes at Gravesend racecourse in New York, “she was claimed by Herman B. Duryea, one of several horsemen troubled by the condition of New York racing at the time,” according to Liz Martiniak.

The reason for concern about racing was logical because anti-gambling crusaders were working to change laws that would eventually eliminate gambling and therefore most of the funding related to horse racing.

So Duryea took evasive action and moved to France, taking Frizette along with him near the end of 1908. At Duryea’s French stud, Haras du Gazon, he sent the mare to his high-class American-raced Irish Lad, and the result was Banshee, winner of the classic Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000 Guineas).

In addition to Banshee, Frizette produced four more stakes winners, and her offspring and their sons and daughters enriched both European racing, as well as that in the States. Marcel Boussac, in particular, profited from acquiring members of the family that produced such standouts as his good racehorse and important sire Tourbillon. John Madden bought the mare’s 1916 daughter Frizeur, from whom descend Myrtlewood, Mr. Prospector, and Seattle Slew.

Another branch that returned to America is in the family of Aspidistra, dam of Horse of the Year Dr. Fager and champion Ta Wee, whose son Great Above is the sire of Horse of the Year Holy Bull. Another daughter is the female line connection to champion Dahlia.

As a result of these and their many pedigree ties, the mare that changed hands and continents so readily has made on the Thoroughbred a lasting mark that spans oceans and time.

Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in Central Kentucky. Check out Frank’s lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.

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