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  Family B-17: Oak Leaf Family

This family was included in the Family Table of Racehorses because Ilex won the Grand National Steeplechase in 1890. The mares in this family were bred by the Murphy family of Breemount, Trim, Co. Meath for over four generations. It was a strong chasing family, with some very good winners in Ireland, the Murphys taking advantage of the best jumping sires of each generation, such as Rostrevor, Ascetic, Play Actor, Hackler and Atheling.

The taproot mare was by Escape, who produced a daughter by Derby, both of which were owned by the Murphy family of Breemount. The Derby mare's daughter, Oak Leaf, was bred by O'Connell Murphy around 1858. She bred four winners of steeplechases for James O'Connell Murphy: Oak Stick, winner of two steeplechases; Acorn, winner of three steeplechases, including the Downshire Plate, Mistletoe, a winner of the Meath Hunt cup and one other chase, and Forest King, a winner of the Ward Union Cup and four steeplechases.

Her daughter Oak Branch was the dam of Roman Oak (1884, by Ascetic), a winner of many important steeplechases in Ireland. Oak Branch's daughter by Ingomar produced the colt Irish Oak (later St. Marnock), who won a maiden plate at Punchestown and ran second in the Aintree Steeplechase. Another Oak Branch daughter, Katie, produced the colt Organsdale, winner of eight steeplechases. Yet another daughter, Tidy Girl, had two steeplechase winners in the colts Old Oak and Oak Stick.

Oak Leaf's daughter, Valonia, by Master Bagot, a son of Faugh-a-Ballagh, had four youngsters of note: Mistletoe, a first prize winner at the Co. Meath show in three successive years, 1882-84; Rostrum, a winner of four steeplechases; the filly Silver Oak, and Ilex.

Both Mistletoe and Silver Oak bred on. Mistletoe produced two steeplechase winners for James Murphy, and a daughter, Oakmere II (Mistletoe), also produced a winner over fences; she was sold to Charles Berry after Murphy's death in 1900. Silver Oak, also sold when Murphy died, had five winners over fences, including Breemount Oak (1890) a winner of nine steeplechases and second in both the Conyngham Cup (twice) and the Irish Grand National, and Irish Oak (1905), a winner of 12 steeplechases. Breemount Oak later got a winner over fences and a show hunter winner. Another daughter of Silver Oak, Lady Breemount, who ran four times and walked-over for a hurdle race, produced a steeplechase winner.

Notable Descendants


Ilex ch. c. 1884
(Rostrevor - Valonia by Master Bagot)
Near the outset of his career, the great steeplechase jockey Arthur Nightingall was engaged to ride the four-year-old Ilex in a small chase at Leicester by the horse's owner, H.R. Singleton, who had purchased Ilex in Ireland. In his memoirs, Nightingall later said, "I noticed a queer-looking chestnut horse evidently there to run. It seemed to have no neck, no quarters, and, as an expert observed with a rare flash of insight, 'He's not all quality--he's all belly.'...He was heavily banadaged--and eager to be up and doing, with a heart for any fate, I accepted the mount on him in a selling hunters' steeplechase...riding Ilex out of the paddock to compete ...I was stopped by his owner, who calmly removed two pairs of bandages from each fore-leg. 'They are more ornamental,' he explained, 'than useful, and you can win by the length of a street without them.' ...Ilex won that race in a canter; he was not fully extended, and I had the laugh of my friends when he came back."

A few weeks later Nightingall again rode Ilex at Leopardstown, finishing third to Kilworth and making a good account of himself in the race. He then rode him in the inaugural running of the Irish International Steeplechase of 1889, placing fourth. When Singleton sent Ilex to Tattersall's, Nightingall persuaded George Masterman to purchase him, and Ilex was sent to Epsom to Nightingall's father, John, to be trained.

With Nightingall aboard, Ilex ran second to Battle Royal in the Great Sandown Steeplechase, and had shown great form in his trials. Word spread regarding his possiblities, and by the time of the 1890 Grand National, Ilex was the odds-on favorite at 4:1, even though he faced a good field with several previous winners of the National in it, including Frigate, Roquefort, and Gamecock. In the race, the game Why Not came down in at the fourth fence, but was remounted to finish fifth; Gamecock went down over Becher's, and Roquefort went down at the last fence before the second circuit. By the time Roquefort went down, Ilex was already clear of the field and not making a mistake, won by a dozen lengths. It was the first of three Grand National victories for Nightingall, who would win on Why Not in 1894, and on Grudon in 1891.

Ilex went on to win the Lancashire Chase at Manchester that year (1890), the first horse to win those two events successively. Ilex and Nightingall ran third in the 1891 National, to Come Away (11-12) and rising star Cloister (11-7), carrying 12st.-3lb., and the pair was again third in the 1892 National, carrying the heaviest weight (12-7), to Father O'Flynn and Cloister. In the latter event, he broke down, "with his leg in plaster for weeks." That was the end of his racing career. Manchester gave Ilex to Nightingall, and the pair spent many years hunting with the Surrey Union Foxhounds and Surrey Farmers' Staghounds.

A later observer described Ilex as a "good-looking chestnut of rather over medium size, well balanced, and active as a cat." Nightingall, who became a premier steeplechase jockey of horses in the U.K., France, Austria, and Germany, said Ilex was "the best horse I ever rode." Ilex's sire, Rostrevor, was a son of Thormanby. His dam, Valonia, was by Master Bagot, a son of Faugh-a-Ballagh (1844 winner of the St. Leger, a son of Sir Hercules). Master Bagot was also dam's sire of 1892 Grand National winner Father O'Flynn. Ilex's second dam was by Dr. O'Toole, a son of Birdcatcher (by Sir Hercules).

Roman Oak b.c. 1884
(Ascetic - Oak Branch by Whistle Binkie)
Bred by James Murphy from the unraced Oak Branch, Roman Oak won the Lancashire Handicap Chase at Manchester (1892), and most of the important steeplechases in Ireland, including the Irish International Steeplechase at Leapordstown (1891), the Irish Grand Military Steeplechase, the Prince of Wales' Plate at Punchestown, and the Champion Steeplechase at Liverpool; he was sent to Germany in 1896. His sister Katie, and half-sisters Tidy Girl and a filly by Ingomar, were dams of steeplechase winners.

Descent Chart

Mare by Escape
  Mare by Derby
    Oak Leaf (f.) by Dr. O'Toole
      Oak Stick (b.c. 1864) by M.D.
      Acorn (b.c. 1866) by Plum Pudding
      Mistletoe (br.f. 1867) by Eidolon or Lundyfoot
      Forest King (br.c. 1868) by Plum Pudding
      Valonia (gr.f. 187-) by Master Bagot
      |  Mistletoe (ch.f. 1880) by Rostrevor
      |  | Mr. Gladstone (chc. 1894) by Bird of Freedom
      |  | Oakmere II (b.f. 1897) by Ascetic
      |  |   Mirsfield (ch.f. 1904) by Britannic
      |  Rostrum (b.c. 1881) by Rostrevor
      |  Ilex (ch.g. 1879) by Rostrevor
      |  Silver Oak (gr.f. c1886) by Heart of Oak
      |   Breemount Oak (gr.f. 1890) by Ascetic
      |   | Queen of the Forest (gr.f. 1905) by Prince Henry
      |   | Walnut Tree (gr.c. 1906) by Bird of Paradise
      |   Laracor (gr.c. 1891) by Atheling
      |   Lady Breemount (gr.f. 1899) by Annagor
      |   | The Warrigal (br.c. 1905) by Abercorn
      |   Irish Oak (gr.c. 1905) by Sir Patrick
      |   Solid Oak (gr.c. 1909) by The Solicitor
      Oak Branch (f. 187-) by Whistle Binkie
       Tidy Girl (f. 188-) by Herbertstown
       | Old Oak (b.c. 1887) by Play Actor
       | Oak Stick (br.c. 1892) by Atheling
       Mare (f. 188-) by Ingomar
       | Irish Oak [St. Marnock] by Ascetic
       Roman Oak (b.c. 1884) by Ascetic
       Mare (f. 188-) by Ascetic
       | Hackle (b.f. 1897) by Hackler
       Katie (b.f. 1889) by Ascetic
        Organsdale (b.c. 1899) by Hackler

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