Beau Pere, where the legend goes wrong
published: 01 Sep 2016 in Pedigree analysis
ANY year, then or now, where a stallion is represented by winners of such races as the Caulfield Cup and The Metropolitan as well as 11 quality weight-for-age contests in Sydney and Melbourne including the Craven Plate, W.S. Cox Plate, L.K.S. Mackinnon Stakes and Rawson Stakes is going to be a very good year for that stallion.
Which is exactly the case for Beau Pere in the 1940-41 season, the second year in which he is acknowledged as the Champion Australian Sire based on figures published in “The Australasian” Turf Register 1941.
Part One of this feature went some way to dismissing Beau Pere’s claims to the title in 1939-40 on what were seen as the fairly reasonable grounds that more than 70% of his progeny’s declared prize money earnings were recorded not in Australia at all, but in New Zealand, by horses sired in his three seasons at stud in that country.
Peter Pan’s sire, Pantheon, must be given recognition as the Champion Australian Sire for that season by any measure.That’s Strike One.
But as Beau Pere stepped up to the plate in 1940-41, he had a couple of very big hitters in his Australian batting line-up. One was Beau Vite and the other Beaulivre, the two best horses sired during Beau Pere’s southern hemisphere stud duties. Between them, the pair won each of the 13 races outlined in the opening paragraph. You do not need me to tell you that the famous Son-in-Law stallion’s Australian figures this time will be at the very pointy end of the business.
So, let’s start at the start and examine the table of “Principal Winning Sires” as it appeared in “The Australasian” Turf Register 1941, remembering that such information “was not available from any other source”. Which means, among other things, that it became gospel.
Principal winning sires
From August 1, 1940 to July 31, 1941
Stakes won in Australia and New Zealand by the progeny of Australian owned sires and the Australian winnings of horses sired in New Zealand (Stakes of less than £15 are not included)
(Compiled for “The Australasian” Turf Register)
Stop right there.
“Stakes won in Australia and New Zealand by the progeny of Australian owned sires . . .”
Compared to the wording the year before: “Of horses bred in Australia and Australian-bred horses in New Zealand”, even though, correctly, the 1940 wording should also have included “ . . . and the Australian winnings of horses sired in New Zealand”, as it does to this day.
The Beau Pere Clause
Rule 9 in George Orwell’s Animal Farm went like this:
Before: All animals are equal.
After: All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.
As we can see, “Stakes won in Australia and New Zealand by the progeny of Australian owned sires . . .” is a major alteration to the wording from the previous year’s Turf Register (and all the years before that, and most all since), which relates specifically to Beau Pere. Of the 200-odd stallions appearing on the 1940-41 table only Beau Pere fell into that category although a handful of other lesser sires would also be treated this way over the next few years, most notably Beau Pere’s half-brother, Mr Standfast.
This amendment explains the mysterious anomaly that saw Beau Pere rise from 20th place in the initial 1939-40 “Principal Winning Sires” list (as seen in The Australasian newspaper on August 10, 1940) to the head of the class just a fortnight later with the publication of “The Australasian” Turf Register 1940. Beau Pere was at that time owned and standing at stud in Australia.
While this became obvious in our review of that year in Part One, the wording of the “Principal Winning Sires” in the 1941 Turf Register seeks to make that line of thought official. Just like the example
of Rule 9 from Animal Farm.
The line of thought being that because Beau Pere was now owned in Australia and at stud here, the prizemoney earnings of his stock racing in New Zealand (which, let’s not forget, were also bred in New Zealand) should count towards his standing on the Australian list of “Principal Winning Sires’’, or as we call it today, the General Sires’ List.
That line of thought, the “Beau Pere Clause”, was rejected in Part One and is rejected again now.
OF the 30 individual Beau Pere winners tabled above, only 16 raced and won in Australia, with the balance performing across the Tasman. The local winners were Beaucaire, Beau Frere, Beaulivre, Beau Mari, Beau Port, Beauregard, Beau Son, Beau Vite, Bel Oiseau, Benzonia, Good Morning, Grand Fils, Justitia, Snow Queen, Sun Belle and Whisper Low.
This group won 40 races with earnings of £24,160.
A further £135 can be added through place money earned by a handful of non-winners during the season, so that the total prizemoney earned on Australian tracks by Beau Pere’s progeny in 1940-41 was £24,295.
* Firstly, place prizemoney of less than £15 has been included in these figures, otherwise I would be somewhat more grey and more bald than I am already.
* Secondly, following the 1940 Melbourne Cup carnival, the great Beau Vite returned to New Zealand where he won the Auckland Cup and the Clifford Plate for his original trainer, earning a further £2450 in the process. This amount is not included in my figures.
Because if you accept that these winnings should be added to Beau Pere’s tally, then you also accept that all prizemoney earned in New Zealand by his progeny should be tacked on to his Australian total. You accept the “Beau Pere Clause”. As it turns out, the money won by Beau Vite in New Zealand makes little difference to Beau Pere’s end of year standing on the Australian Sires List. It is only when all New Zealand prizemoney is included that Beau Pere heads the list of “Principal Winning Sires”.
Beau Vite’s contribution to his sire’s Australian tally was £11,230, with nine wins from 15 starts. Victories came his way in The Metropolitan, W.S. Cox Plate, Craven Plate and L.K.S. Mackinnon Stakes and in the current Bluebloods series he was voted HOTY for the 1940-41 and 1941-42 seasons. His long-time rival, Beaulivre, tipped in with the 1940 Caulfield Cup and three weight-for-age wins for stakes of £6970, the pair accounting for 75% of Beau Pere’s Australian prizemoney total that year.
The Son-in-Law stallion’s first Australian crop also raced in the 1940-41 season. As yearlings, as can be imagined, they had proven extremely popular in the sale ring with the a colt from the imported French mare, Banita offered by St Aubins, topping the 1940 William Inglis & Son Easter Yearling Sale at 3500 guineas, the highest price paid since 1928. The same stud’s grey colt from
the English mare Grey Port was knocked down for 2200 guineas.
These colts were named Beau Son and Beau Port and were among a small number of juvenile winners for their illustrious sire in the year under review. Beau Son would go on to be a good stallion, getting the Doncaster winner Oversight, the Sydney Cup winner Opulent and the very good stayer Beaupa. Beau Port’s younger brother Mayfowl would be among his sire’s best performers from his four Australian crops.
Reverting to the list of “Principal Winning Sires”, Beau Pere’s seasonal winnings of £24,295 definitely have him at the very pointy end of the business, but only in third place. The Buzzard, the sire of the 1940 Melbourne Cup winner Old Rowley among others, and with prizemoney earnings on Australian racetracks of some £9000 more than Beau Pere, is the rightful Champion Australian Sire of 1940-41.
Gone With the Wind
BEAU Pere’s phenomenal stud success in two countries attracted the attention of a major player from a third. Enter Louis B. Mayer, the Lion of Hollywood, co-founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and a thoroughbred breeder with a unique global vision. In October 1940, about the time Beau Vite and Beaulivre were carving up their opposition in Sydney and Melbourne, Beau Pere’s owner, W. J. Smith, received a cable from the States expressing interest in his star stallion.
The enquiry was for an outright purchase or, failing that, a lease of the horse for northern hemisphere stud duties in 1941, before being shipped back to Australia for our breeding season. The prototype shuttle stallion you could say, depending on whether you think three weeks in a smallish wooden crate sailing across the Pacific in those troubled times actually constitutes
And over the next weeks, in private, an agreement was reached. By late January 1941 Beau Pere had landed in San Francisco en route to Louis B. Mayer’s Californian stud, Deep Cliffe Farm. The horse would never return Down Under. Quarantine restrictions certainly impacted on Beau Pere’s fate, and, I suspect, so did the lure of the American dollar.
Mayer again negotiated to buy the stallion and eventually he did for a sum most often reported as $100,000. Beau Pere was “Gone with the Wind” you could say. Just as Mayer purchased Beau Pere after he was successful, MGM secured the film rights to “Gone with the Wind” from the original production company, Selznick International Pictures, a few years after its release.
The arrival of Beau Pere in the States came with all the trappings of a Hollywood blockbuster, MGM starlets included. And among the many photos of the day, there is one of the stallion being held by Mayer’s trusted lawyer and bloodstock adviser, Neil McCarthy, the future owner of Shannon, as W.J. Smith would also be.
Smith and Mayer were from the same school. You do not get a nickname of “Knockout”, as Smith had, or “The Lion” in Mayer’s case, without good reason and yet even though their worlds and their lives to this point were so far apart, I suspect they had a lot in common too. Sure, they represented the big end of town by now, self-made men who like most of their ilk preferred getting their own way, corporate opponents to be feared but with the loyal support of those working for them. Both are quoted as having said to know the first name of everyone in their employment.
The mix of two such hard heads, especially in bloodstock matters, does not always work, but in this case it did work successfully for many years and it is certain that the cool-headed powerbroker McCarthy was the go-between. Trained in law he may have been, but with a feel for racing and breeding and its people that ran deep.
But there was an all-important fourth party to this coalition, and when Leslie Combs II, the founder of Kentucky superpower Spendthrift Farm, came on board the significance of those times takes on monumental status. While each of the quartet was not always involved in each deal, over the next decade a microcosm of the broad Smith/Mayer/McCarthy/Combs II bloodstock portfolios includes links to Australian superstars Ajax, Bernborough, Shannon and the dual Derby winner Reading as well as Beau Pere and the famed stallions Royal Charger and Alibhai among many others.
Perhaps the most surprising and little known fact to come to light in my research was that Mayer imported a number of mares in foal to Ajax to northern hemisphere time soon after Beau Pere’s arrival in California and well before the chestnut son of Heroic had stood his first Australian season at Widden Stud. Smith, who had purchased Ajax
at auction soon after Beau Pere’s departure, and Mayer repeated the experiment with Smith’s champion sire Manitoba several years later.
Which leads us to the final word on Beau Pere’s very doubtful claims to the title of Champion Australian Sire in 1940-41, but this time under the “Beau Pere Clause”. The irony is that half way through the season, the stallion was no longer standing at stud
or owned in Australia.
Semantics aside, it should not matter. The Buzzard and Gay Lothario have put one past Beau Pere fair and square.
That’s Strike two. n
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