The most famous Standardbred chestnut in the world today is the 12-year-old trotter Commander Crowe. “Le Grand Blond,” as he is known, retired after winning the Breeders Crown open in December, giving him 61 wins and more than $5 million in earnings. The fact that a retired horse is our most recognizable chestnut is noteworthy.
Red heads have never been as plentiful among the trotting set in North America as they have in the pacing fraternity. Yankee Paco, a son of Balanced Image, became the second chestnut to win the Hambletonian 15 years ago. He was the first Canadian sired trotter to win that classic. The first chestnut to win the race was the Hoot Mon trotter Blaze Hanover, 43 years earlier. Neither one was a successful stallion, so they didn’t serve as prolific missionaries of the blond or red mane.
In recent years the pickings have been pretty slim when it comes to successful trotting chestnuts in North America. Keystone Activator, a nine-year-old son of SJs Caviar and grandson of the outstanding Speedy Crown mare Armbro Blush, had some success at two and three. And the Striking Sahbra colt, Count Strike, was good in the OSS a couple of years ago, but there isn’t much there.
Ensign Hanover, a son of Billy Direct who won the inaugural Little Brown Jug, was a chestnut. He slugged his way to victory over four heats for Curly Smart. The next golden hued winner was Hall of Famer Shadow Wave, who won in straight heats 12 years later, in 1958, for Joe O’Brien. Shadow Wave was one of the more prolific chestnut stallions that have plied their trade in North America, most of whom have failed to impress in this regard.
The son of Adios sired such standouts as Super Wave, Springfield, Invincible Shadow, Dangerous Wave, Real Hilarious and Saucy Wave. He was also an effective broodmare sire: Falcon Almahurst is out of his daughter Ingenue, and Oil Burner, the sire of No Nukes and grandsire of Western Hanover, is out of Dottie Shadow. Unfortunately none of his sons were of any help when it came to extending Adios.
Romeo Hanover and Romulus Hanover, two grandsons of Adios, were the cream of the crop when it came to pacing chestnuts. Romeo won 13 of 16 starts at two and 36 of 44 overall. He took his division at two, three and four. George Sholty said he was so smooth that he could pace the turns as fast as the straightaways. And Romulus was a star for Bill Haughton. He was so fast that Del Miller predicted he would pace in 1:52 a few years before Steady Star did it. Both were failures as sires.
Strike Out was a handsome chestnut from the second crop of Bret Hanover. He took his division at two and three and compiled one of the more complete resumes in this group. Fertility issues put a serious crimp in his ability to extend Bret and Adios, however. Hot Hitter, a winner of the Jug, Messenger and Adios, was his richest son, but proved to be a failure as a sire. He also produced Meadowlands Pace winner Hilarion, League Leader, Ring Of Light, Fulla Strikes and Striking Image.
Bret’s claim to fame was as a broodmare sire, but Strike Out had limited success in this area. Pace winner David’s Pass, Handsome Sum, Radiant Ruler and JAs Outlaw are a few of his better broodmare credits.
Seahawk Hanover, who won his division at three, taking the Messenger and Prix D’Ete, is another chestnut by Bret Hanover who failed as a stallion.
Blaze Pick, a chestnut son of Gene Abbe, won his division in Canada at two, three and five for Keith Waples. And, from very limited opportunities as a stallion, he sired JR Amy, the dam of Jate Lobell, and JR Daisy, the dam of The Panderosa.
The Panderosa, courtesy of his mama, is the source of many of today’s chestnut pacers. His son Ponder gave us Go Daddy Go, who was successful in the OSS last year, showing a win in the Battle of Waterloo and a second place finish in the Governor’s Cup. He’s rated fifth in this year’s NA Cup Spring Book. Ponder lover Adam Bowden bought into the colt a month ago. Dapper Dude, another mahogany stained chestnut by Ponder, has earned three-quarters of a million dollars. The Panderosa is also the sire of the black stallion Shadow Play.
And chestnut Blaze Pick, his daughter JR Amy and grandson Jate Lobell all show up in the maternal pedigree of Totally Rusty, the speedy filly who recently won the $100,000 Delaware Sire Stakes final for three-year-old pacing fillies. She circled the sloppy Dover Downs track in an eye-catching 1:51.3 in the process of dropping a 13-length win on the opposition. Thus far she’s the only starter by her daddy, Rusty’s For Real, but there are sure to be more on the way.
Brooks Hanover, a brother to Bullet, as well as Easy Adios, Lang Hanover and Adios Bomber were other chestnuts by Adios. The latter’s son Taurus Bomber equaled Albatross’s world record for a race mile at Springfield in 1976.
Jimmy Creed, the sire of Widower Creed, was a chestnut from the 1940s. Jerry Way and Bachelor Hanover, a stablemate of the great Belle Acton, appeared in the 50s. The latter was an exception to the lack of production as a sire that has plagued chestnuts; he was a very successful stallion in New Zealand.
On The Road Again, from the first crop of Happy Motoring, set a single season earning’s record at three, when he won the Pace for Buddy Gilmour from the 12 post, the Cane, Provincial Cup and Confederation Cup, among others. He topped his division at three and four, was Horse of the Year in Canada at three and four and is a member of the Canadian Hall of Fame. OTRA is the best chestnut pacer of the modern era. He sired the very productive fillies Delinquent Account and Sara Loren Rd, and was a very successful stallion in the New York Sire Stakes program. On the other hand, he left no memorable sons and failed to extend himself.
Thanks to a pair of bays, The Panderosa and his son Ponder, the chestnuts are in better shape than the grays, who lost any significant output from Laag almost two decades ago. With The Panderosa well placed in Ohio and Ponder being supported to the max in Pennsylvania, perhaps we can look forward to a golden resurgence.