Quill, 1958

Charles Hatton on 1958 champion two-year-old filly Quill from the 1959 American Racing Manual.


One could not blame sophisticated racing men if they thought it obvious, but in introducing Idun, champion two-year-old filly of 1957, as the subject of one of these sketches a volume back, it was remarked: “The probabilities are against any proposition that the filly who has the verve, dash and precocity to scintillate as a two-year-old will stay the distances of the Oaks and other classical events at three.” Well, Idun did not stay on stoutly enough to win any Oaks, indeed could not win beyond a mile and a sixteenth, though she was awarded the laurels again as the three-year-old filly champion in 1958, and for reasons which frankly baffle us but may be perfectly clear to any mystic versed in the occult science of reading between the lines of a chart. It may be pertinent to note, in somewhat the same skeptical vein, that the 1956 two-year-old filly champion Leallah also was found wanting in the stamina to match her speed as a three-year-old.

We have now to consider the 1958 two-year-old filly champion, Reginald N. Webster’s homebred Quill. Up to now there is an analogy in the form of Idun, Leallah and Quill, in the sense that each can read her title clear as the champion of her generation at two. But with the admonishing examples of the first two before us, we consider Quill a better bet to develop into a filly of Oaks “classicism” and stature, if only she remains reasonably sound. You see we persist stubbornly in regarding two-year-old competition as a means toward an end, rather than an end in itself. And we are persuaded by Quill’s genealogy to fancy she may succeed where so many flashy fillies have failed in the crucible of distance events.

A Member of St. Simon Line

Quill is by Princequillo, who is holding the St. Simon line as the sire of How, Prince Simon, Dedicate, Hill Prince, Round Table–the list goes on. She is out of the Count Fleet mare Quick Touch and the next dam was a three-quarters sister to Twenty Grand. We do not know what those who burn incense to Bruce Lowe and anoint him in ink make of this, but with apologies to Families 1 to 23 it occurs to us as a pedigree having no built-in limitations as to distance capacity. Until Quick Touch came along, Quill’s was admittedly a dead branch of old Forget’s family. And Quick Touch’s racing career was so compromised by unsoundness that Greentree considered her good riddance. All of her foals, including Quill, have developed osselets. These are a sort of occupational hazard for fast horses on our hard tracks, but her remarkable brood includes also the stakes winners Sorceress, Viscount and Capelet. Plainly, Quick Touch is what is known as an “old blue hen” in the picturesque patois of the breeders, i.e., the sort who would produce a runner bred to a jack. Though she has breeding enough, no horse grower would have embraced her as a desirable broodmare prospect before her retirement by Webster. For the flouted the arbitrary qualifications of conformation and the sticklers for “class in the dam.”

Quick Touch had and presumably still has a common head, ragged hips, bow legs, a long weak waist and flank and slack muscling. Moreover, she was a moderate plater and indeed Webster would have lost her through a claim except that the late Jack Campbell disallowed one on the grounds that the blank was improperly filled out. The popular polo player cum racing man now accounts this a singular stroke of good fortune, as he very well may. For Quick Touch is a brilliant broodmare “For a’ that and a’ that.”

Beginner’s Luck Defies Learned Book

Perhaps the moral is that one pound of beginner’s luck is worth a ton of learned books on breeding. All that is known is that the odds are safest breeding the best to the best, which is to say that “like” often “begets like,” though a disconcerting U. of K. professor estimates the breeder has one chance in 9,000 that the genes will fall into the desired pattern. In any case, all those who rejoice in Webster’s acquaintance will agree that Quick Touch could not have happened to a more charming and deserving sportsman.

Many young thoroughbreds give such promise that they are tapped for a high class by the connoisseurs before they come to the races. Though Quill had a star-crossed pedigree nobody among her familiars foresaw she had a future. She was a small yearling and early two-year-old, compact and rotund, who “ate well and slept well but had no desire to work.” Additionally, she was and still is more willful than willing in the morning, displaying a great deal of character, as turfmen politely call temper. She is a synthesis of vivacity and fire. And she is ambidextrous, kicking with equal facility with either or both heels when something displeases her. The large odds of 58.20-1, at which she first went to the post, are a microcosm of the lack of confidence Quill had inspired as a pupil. Still perverse, she won going away.

Quill kept right on winning, for the most part, though advanced hopefully to top class. In all, she won six of eight starts and $144,692. Her reversals were in the Schuylerville and Spinaway during Saratoga’s delightful summer solstice of sport. The deep going there did not suit her and she was third in both events, bucking painfully in the Spinaway. The winner on each occasion was Rich Tradition, a filly she beat repeatedly elsewhere. Belmont’s Matron and Garden State Park’s Gardenia were the vehicles of Quill’s most distinguishing and rewarding successes. The going was such that the Gardenia was to the stoutest rather than to the swift and Quill won with authority after Khalita was beaten by Arcaro when he sought to make her win from flagfall to finish in overcoming the disadvantage of drawing on the outside in a field of 12.

Quill was to have been a starter in the Frizette which followed, and must have won, on the basis of the form, but finally popped osselets and sensibly called it a season, forfeiting the Jamaica race. The Gardenia was a mile and a sixteenth, the longest distance two-year-olds are required to race in this country. Mindful of her stout bloodlines, the railbirds told one another knowingly that Quill “could not miss” in the fall features when she was winning summer dashes of five and a half furlongs. So it proved.

Not an Eye-Filling Individual

Cast in much the same mold as her kinsman Round Table, the audacious little Quill is not particularly eye-filling as an individual. Again like him, and their sire, Princequillo, she “picks to pieces well,” indeed has a straighter hind leg, though her forelegs have not withstood the rigors of racing so satisfactorily. Like the splendid sire he is, Princequillo stamps most of his progeny with his own impress. Extending the research, Princequillo is typical of the male line, a scaled-down model of his illustrious ancestor St. Simon, whose dormant and diminishing strain he has achieved so much to restore to popularity as a vital source of classic potentialities. The Princequillos are rarely big horses, but are wonderfully balanced, point and counterpoint, with two good ends and good middles making for a pleasing homogeneity of construction, at once aesthetic and serviceable.

The debutante Quill looked like maturing at about 15.3 hands at her long low withers. These extend into a short back, with just room enough for a saddle and good breadth over the loin, coupling and hips. Her pelvis is rather flat than sloping and of medium length. She has a round barrel and a short waist with no suggestion of weakness, or that she is a fastidious, delicate “doer,” as are all too many of her sex.

The shoulder is of fair length and at an angle assuring liberty of action. This, coupled with her depth of body, is the anatomy of a performer up to carrying a reasonable burden a reasonable distance. Her underpinning is set squarely under her with good definition of tendons and closely knit knees, which are low to the ground, implemented by long and well-developed forearms. Her stifle and gaskin are commensurately developed. the pasterns are of the approved angle and length. She has a nice frontispiece, her golden chestnut head marked by a rather prominent star. The ears have the Princequillos’ inward turn.

Has Profound Unconcern in Paddock

Quill is full of self confidence and resourcefulness and her manner in the paddock is one of profound unconcern. She is something less dashing than the quarter horse Shoo Fly out of the gate and usually is allowed to settle into stride with calm assurance, then she responds determinedly when set down for the drive. The Matron was the only one of her races she made look easy, but usually at the finish she had cashiered all her rivals and was either drawing out or about to do so.


Quill did win the Acorn and Mother Goose Stakes at age three and the New Castle Stakes and Delaware Handicap at age four. She retired with a record of 26-14-4-2 for earnings of $382,041. She also produced three stakes winners, the details of which will be discussed in my next post, on the female family of Quick Touch.

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