Graustark, 1965

Charles Hatton on Graustark as a two-year-old in 1965 from the 1966 American Racing Manual.


John W. Galbreath divulged a taste for the spirited literature of adventure when he named a most promising colt for legendary Graustark, and the colt’s 1965 record certainly was novel enough. He started just three times and won each engagement with great eclat, none by less than six lengths.

Word of his mobility had preceded him to the races and 1-5 was the tote’s introductory offer when he entered public life. He reduced his second start to a betless exhibition and was a prohibitive and punctual favorite in the Arch Ward Stakes at Arlington Park. Shin splints precluded him from running again at two. His campaign lasted only 18 days, but sufficed to stamp him one of the nimblest colts of the year.

Responsibility of Living Up to Pedigree

Graustark was a marked colt from the first, given the responsibility of living up to a pedigree that thunders big names like a roll of drums. He is by Italy’s invincible Ribot out of Delaware Handicap winner Flower Bowl, she of the flat hocks and plumb hind legs. Graustark was quite the most robust specimen among the Galbreaths’ 1963 crop of foals. Visitors to Darby Dan, among them the fastidious student Baron Fred d’Osten, were attracted to him and many took snapshots of him, confident these would accrue an interest for posterity when he reached racing age.

Graustark did not race in the East, nor was he confronted with Buckpasser. But there is scarcely any doubt he is a born runner. Family is important in manorial Kentucky and Galbreath’s colt comes of one redundant in classic performers. His dam, Flower Bowl, warranted a study in these volumes, along with his half-sister, Bowl of Flowers.

Dam Classed as “Irregular Breeder”

There is a story that Galbreath was able to acquire Flower Bowl because she was reluctant to increase the horse population. “An irregular breeder,” they said. But then the same might have been said of Black Tarquin’s dam, Vagrancy, and indeed of the world famous Pretty Polly. Darby Dan manager Olin Gentry formerly managed Idle Hour and the broodmares in his care always have produced their share of foals.

Graustark was turned over to Gentry’s nephew, youthful Loyd Gentry, for campaigning with the midland division of Darby Dan’s extensive string. Trainer Jim Conway of the New York division was said to have felt rather strongly about this and, in any case, soon resigned.

Few horsemen have ever reacted to such privations with an existential shrug. The affair provoked the usual widespread conjecture, but, after all, the merits of the case were none of racing’s concern. Regarding the piece de resistance, Graustark himself, it surprised many observers, acquainted with the Ribots’ general lack of precocity, that the Galbreath colt was so exceptional in this characteristic.

Until he appeared, virtually all the Ribots had been, like the Princequillos and the Fair Plays in another day, slow to develop their talent. Graustark excited Chicago’s most blase clockers from the outset. He worked through the mud in :58 2/5 before coming to the races, though he was never really “with it” in any phase of his prep. In winning the Arch Ward, he ran six furlongs in 1:09 1/5.

Trainer Loyd Gentry supposes this sort of precocity is attributable to the bottom half of his charge’s pedigree, which seems a pat and obvious enough deduction. Dismounting from the colt after he won his first venture, Braulio Baeza remarked on the fluency of his action. Graustark wears blinkers, but he seems to be generosity itself once he gets on stride in the first 70 yards.

He usually requires approximately that distance to get into gear. In this respect, he is reminiscent of Count Fleet and Coaltown, front runners who were sometimes outbroken but rarely ever headed for long. Post positions can be a crux to such a horse when he finds himself confronted with a breaker of the alacrity of a Tom Fool. Historians tell us that no horse was ever in front of unbeaten Tremont for a single stride in any of his 13 races back in the ’80’s.

Striking Physical Specimen

Physically, Graustark is striking. He is a fairly level, hard-colored chestnut, with a faint star as his only marking. Both his sire and dam are bays, but Ribot is out of the chestnut mare Romanella, who was, incidentally, said to have a mad streak in her lineage.

Again, Graustark’s dam, Flower Bowl, was by the chestnut Alibhai. This for whatever the color dominance theorists care to make of it. Our Italian colleague, Desmond McGowan, noted early in Ribot’s signally successful stud career he sires capable animals of all shapes and sizes, though one might guess such a progenitor would be more prepotent than that.

Galbreath estimates Graustark’s height at “about 15.3 hands.” During his challenging racing career of 16 victories in as many starts, he girthed 74 inches, measured 42 inches from hip to hock, and had eight inches of bone below the knee.

This is a substantial specimen, considering Ribot was sired by the rather stringy stayer Tenerani. But the connoisseur will measure Ribot in vain in any effort to discover his innate quality, though the horse does have legs of iron. Sr. Tesio’s philosophy had it:

“A good horse walks with his legs, gallops with his lungs, resists with his heart, and wins only with his spirit and character.”

Graustark’s dam, Flower Bowl, and granddam, Flower Bed, by Beau Pere, were or are 16-hands mares and the Galbreath colt himself approximates that height at the wither. He will weigh more than 1,000 pounds. His head is rather plain, like that of his illustrious sire, with a deep jowl and broad muzzle which give him an imperious look. The throatlatch is neat and the neck off fair length, very muscular and mortised nicely into his withers and front fork.

He is rather heavily muscled about the elbow and scapula, which is of good length and angulation, so that the humerus is at about a 40-degree angle. His middle is remarkably like that of Ribot, with a deep and well sprung rib cage and moderately long standing ribs that are not too far removed from the flank and coupling.

Important in Horse’s Breathing

Long standing ribs and well developed abdominal muscles have an important function, since they serve as the bellows which govern the horse’s breathing. . . .

A long waist and weak flank are particularly undesirable and are almost invariably accompanied by weak constitutions and finicky appetites. There are exceptions to all these rules and premises, however, and we must say Ksar, Leamingon, Tourbillon and a few others managed well in spite of these structural defects.

Graustark has a broad, flat croup, with the tail, or “flag,” set on high and excellent length of pelvis. The stifle is well dropped and the gaskin and forearms are strongly muscled. His hind legs are reasonably straight, like those of both his sire and dam, with capital hocks, again like both his parents. The bone below the knee is neither too heavy nor too fine.

Graustark’s pasterns are of medium length but if one were asked to criticize him we suppose it might be to wish that his fore pasterns were a bit less low and sloping and his ankles somewhat smoother. The hoofs are dark, open and appear sound.

Ribot himself would win no blues in the show ring. . . . Graustark is one of the most captivating individuals among Ribot’s remarkable progeny, if any of them may be said to seduce the horse lover’s eye. They are more utilitarian than showy.

When it comes to one’s fancy in horseflesh, it is wise to “let every eye negotiate for itself.” This is a bit like one’s taste in music, art and literature, and it is subject to change.

Generalizing, level horses are somewhat better equipped by nature than those who are all front, or those who are higher behind than in front. Either extreme surcharges the opposite end with stress. A short forehand comes to rough action, as in the instance of Graustark’s kinswoman, Bowl of Flowers.

Graustark is fortified with a pedigree which goes around the world first cabin. Ribot has England’s St. Simon on top and crosses of America’s Tracery and France’s Rabelais. One of his ancestors, Bucolic, had a half-sister called Cyclonic who disappeared behind the Iron Curtain, where Lexington’s rival LeCompte is said to have vanished.

Superimposed on the cross-section of the species which produced Ribot are many foreign elements on Graustark’s distaff side, what with his immediate dam by England’s unraced Alibhai, and the second dam by Australia’s Beau Pere, who had British license plates, however. There is even a dash of Lexington’s unbeaten son Norfolk. “Brown Dick,” who rode Norfolk, and Kingfisher and Maggie B. B., and broke Hindoo, never tired of telling how fast Norfolk could run. Norfolk engraved his name on modern pedigrees through Americus Girl and Mumtaz Mahal.

Since Ribot is free from the influence of Blandford, Gainsborough and The Tetrarch, Galbreath’s decision to send Flower Bowl to him would be approved by the mystics of the breeding realm, though we cannot think he could care for such abstract propositions.

“Breed in for beauty, out for strength.” So goes the old adage, now almost a truism.

It is interesting that while he invested a fortune in Swaps and Ribot, Galbreath himself concurs in most breeders’ conviction the dam’s influence on the foal is far more important than that of the sire. The efficacy of class-in-the-dam is susceptible to proof in the racing records.


Graustark won four more straight races at age three. He was undefeated in seven starts when he broke down in the 1966 Blue Grass Stakes and finished second to Abe’s Hope. Saved for stud duty, Graustark did not disappoint in that calling. Graustark and Buckpasser never did meet. Braulio Baeza, regular rider of both, asserts that the former would have handled the latter with the greatest of ease. “Records live; opinions die.”

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2 Responses to Graustark, 1965

  1. fmitchell07 says:

    You loved that last bit. And should.

    Very disappointing that the horse was managed so oddly and damaged so soon. What might have been …. in an otherwise exceptional crop.

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