High Voltage–1954

Charles Hatton on 1954 champion two-year-old filly High Voltage from the 1955 American Racing Manual.


The late William Woodward noted, quite accurately, that the success of a stud depends upon the quality of its mares. The only satisfactory criterion of desirable broodmare prospects is the crucible of the racetrack test. We are happy to say contemporary racing associations are providing Turfmen with many more, and more valuable, events for this sex than existed only a decade or so ago, when fillies were “a drug on the market.”

It is interesting to see each new generation of the stud’s future producers pass in review, and the two-year-old fillies of 1954 struck most observers as a particularly gay lot. Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps’ graceful High Voltage was voted the title and was patently deserving of it. But the season produced others of more or less class in Delta, Myrtle’s Jet and Lea Lane. Their development augured well for the 1955 Oaks renewals. The homebred High Voltage had a fairly busy campaign extending over 12 starts. She won six, was second twice and third three times. Her total earnings of $167,825 made her the leading money winner of her age and sex division in ’54.

The Wheatley broodmares, like those of Belair Stud, are maintained at Arthur B. Hancock’s Claiborne Farm in Kentucky, and it was there High Voltage first saw the light of day on May 8, 1952. She was trained and developed by James Fitzsimmons, the “Sage of Sheepshead Bay,” who also brought out the champion colt Nashua. While she was beaten in six of her starts, she was usually conceding weight and coming on like the genuine performer she is at the finish. In fact, jockey Eddie Arcaro considers “it is too bad she was ever beaten.”

High Voltage campaigned from April to November and seemed to thrive on racing. The striking gray stripped for the Matron, at Belmont in the fall, looking like a filly who had been in training only a few weeks, and of her “Mr. Fitz” commented, “It seems you just can’t hurt her.”

The Phipps filly began, rather casually, by finishing third in a maiden race at Jamaica, but she picked up the winning thread in her next start and supplemented this on April 14 by accounting for the Rosedale. Soon thereafter she won the filly division of Belmont’s National Stallion Stakes.

In the National Stallion, High Voltage encountered, and debited with defeat, Claiborne’s classy Nasrullah filly Delta. The latter’s apologists insisted this was not a true bill, however, explaining that the Kentuckian had experienced some misfortune at the break. On the basis of the from at Arlington and Washington, Delta was the cleverest of the two-year-olds of her sex seen in the midlands during the season.

The Wheatley homebred also won the Colleen and Selima, as well as the important Matron, and was narrowly beaten in the Astarita and Fashion. In the Astarita, she carried 125 pounds and was gaining steadily on the successful Two Stars, to whom she conceded six, making up a deficit of several lengths at the start. In the Matron, High Voltage maneuvered her way through an unwieldy field to win with impressive elan. But probably her smartest performance was in the mile and a sixteenth of the Selima at Laurel.

This event placed her versus Myrtle’s Jet, who had just won Keeneland’s Alcibiades from a stylish field, and who now attempted to purloin the Maryland fixture. She seemed about to bring it off midway of the backstretch, where she was ten lengths before the favorite with no indication of faltering. But High Voltage responded beautifully when Arcaro called on her and, cutting down the pacemaker’s lead with long, relentless strides, she yoked this rival in midstretch and beat her in a desperate finish. Arcaro estimated she might have won with more authority except that the sun seemed to bother her as she popped around the turn into the stretch and it shone in her eyes. In her next and last start of the season, High Voltage was fourth to Myrtle’s Jet in the Frizette, run in the slop, in which she stumbled and lost all chance. Incidentally, she races without blinkers, running on heartily as if she delighted in the sport.

High Voltage is a fairly short-backed specimen of curvaceous lines and she makes a considerable esthetic appeal, with her romantic gray coat and a head of exquisite quality and refinement. Also, she has manners, and a poise in the paddock and during the heat of conflict which must be a joy to her handlers. Though her neck is breedier than most fillies, she is quite feminine, with no reminiscence of such masculine mares of late years as Conniver and Gallorette,

The Wheatley filly appears to verge on 15.3 hands at the withers. She is round in her lines, rather than of the greyhound type, and she is not at all light in the flank and back ribs, as are many of her sex. It is clear High Voltage is what Turfmen call a “good doer.” Her hocks are a bit behind her, as were those of her grandsire, Tourbillon, and many of his progeny. But she compensates for this by having much evident propulsive power and a good front.

High Voltage’s shoulder is deep and at the correct angle and her forelegs are well under her. These appear clean and flinty, and of course she cannot have campaigned as she did were she not very “sound for racing purposes.” The muscularity of her forearms is exceptional for a two-year-old filly, and indeed this is the most distinctive point of her conformation. It suggests the length and sweep of her extended action.

She is altogether charming and reflects much credit on her rising young French sire, Ambiorix, now serving at Claiborne Farm. Mrs. Phipps’ pet is from that stallion’s second crop of foals. Ambiorix is out of the noted producer Lavendula by Pharos, ancestress of My Babu, Turn-to and other splendid performers. Ambiorix was considered the best middle distance campaigner of his time on the Parisian circuit.

High Voltage is out of the youthful mare Dynamo, a dark bay by the excellent Menow, foaled in 1945. Dyanmo herself was bred by Wheatley and was a winner at two and three. Her first foals to race were Power Plant and Coastal Trade, both of whom won. High Voltage is her third. The next dam, Bransome, is by Royal Minstrel, to whom High Voltage’s coat color is traceable. The third dam was Erin, the source of some of Wheatley’s ablest campaigners.

The pedigree is an admixture of some of the most fashionable French, English and domesticated strains. The noted French breeder Marcel Boussac would fancy this pattern, for it is his premise that it is essential that all studs periodically introduce vital new lines.


High Voltage raced through age four and won five more stakes at age three, when she lost the champion three-year-old filly title to her stablemate Misty Morn (subject of my next post). High Voltage retired with a record of 45-13-5-7 for earnings of $362,240.

At stud High Voltage produced ten foals, eight starters, six winners, and three stakes winners: Bold Commander (1960 colt by Bold Ruler), Impressive (1963 colt by Court Martial), and Great Power (1964 colt by Bold Ruler).

Impressive was champion sprinter in 1966. I was hanging out at the Keeneland Library a few years later, 1969 or 1970 or so, going through back issues of nag rags from 1966. I came upon a description of Impressive as being “a son of Bold Ruler.”

I started laughing and could not stop. The librarian came over and asked me what was so funny. I pointed out the passage to her. She did not get it. I had to explain to her that as any XXXXing FOOL knows, Impressive was by Court Martial (not Bold Ruler). Even back then the nag rags were in need of better proofreaders.

Getting back to High Voltage, probably her greatest contribution to the breed was as the second dam of Majestic Light. Just yesterday I saw a reference to inbreeding to Mr. Prospector through Majestic Light. OOPS!!!!!!! See a comment and reply to my last post for a good laugh on this subject.

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2 Responses to High Voltage–1954

  1. vineyridge says:

    Thank you for this. I’m always glad to see HIgh Voltage and her full sister Magneto in TBs for disciplines other than racing. They’ve been relatively good lines for that. Actually all of the Dynamo daughters are pluses.

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