Great English Thoroughbreds - The Tetrarch

Thoroughbred horses are not usually born with spots. However, back in 1911, a thoroughbred was foaled which had enough spots to make up for many unspotted thoroughbreds. That horse was The Tetrarch. He was sired by the French stallion, Roi Herode (King Herod) from Vahren. He was foaled in Ireland at Straffan Station Stud, near Ardclough in County Kildare. Vahren was by Bend Or which is where the term 'Bend-Or spots' comes from. Bend Or was by Doncaster from Rouge Rose.

Rouge Rose's sire was Thormanby who had black spots on is quarters, shoulder and neck. Bend Or, a chestnut, also had these same black spots plus white flecks through his coat. Bend Or figures in the pedigree of that great American race-horse 'Man o' War. Sceptre, Roseben and Phar Lap are other famous thoroughbreds that are descended from Bend Or. Like The Tetrarch, Bend Or was unbeaten as a two-year-old.

When born, The Tetrarch was gangly and awkward. His grey coat was sprayed with blotches of white. He was not attractive and most buyers dismissed the colt as having little potential. Hie breeder, Edward Kennedy, eventually sold the colt to Major Dermott H B McCalmont. He was sent to Atty Persse to be trained.

The Tetrarch raced as a two-year-old under the guidance of top jockey Steve Donoghue. He easily eclipsed the competition. He raced seven times in 1913, winning all seven races. He was given the name 'Spotted Wonder' or sometimes 'the Rocking Horse'. The only time he looked like being beaten, he was held up at the start and gave away four or five lengths. On this occasion he won be a head coming from behind to win the National Breeders Produce Stakes. At the end of 1913, he hurt himself and the following spring, injured himself again. By the end of 1914, it became obvious that he would not race again. The Tetrarch's races, being for two-year-olds, were never more than six furlongs and it has been a matter of much conjecture as to what he would have achieved had he raced when older, and whether or not he would have won at longer distances. He had plenty of stayers in his pedigree and some of his progeny excelled as stayers.

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The Tetrarch's progeny were a mixed bunch with some never winning past sprinting distances and others maturing into champion distance runners. The National Horseracing Museum in the United Kingdom voted The Tetrarch Britain's two-year-old of his century. On the Thoroughbred Heritage website of the National Sporting Library (USA), he is lauded as 'probably the greatest two-year-old of all time' as well as 'possibly the greatest runner ever'.

In 1915, The Tetrarch was sent to County Kilkenny to stand at Thomastown Stud. Later he was moved to Ballylinch Stud. He was a reluctant sire with little interest in breeding. However, despite siring only 130 foals in his lifetime, his incredible speed was passed down to his progeny. In 1919, he was the leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland. Tetratema and Snow Maiden were of his outstanding progeny of the time. Another daughter Mumtaz Mahal was a great sprinter and later became one of the most important broodmares of the 20th century.

Mumtaz Mahal figures in the pedigrees of horses like Nasrullah, Royal Charger, Mahmoud and Tudor Minstrel. Seattle Slew and A P Indy trace back to Bold Ruler (by Nasrullah) who is also the sire of Secretariat. The longest classic race in Great Britain, the St Leger Stakes, was won by three of The Tetrarch's sons – Caligula, Polemarch and Salmon-Trout.

The Tetrarch was 24 when he died at Ballylinch stud in 1935.

The breeds usually associated with a spotted coat are the Falabella, Pony of the Americas, Appaloosa, Knabstrupper and Pinzgauer.