*Blenheim II was one of the most significant sires imported into America
in the 1930s and the first of three Derby winners sold by the Aga
Khan to America. A proven sire in Europe, he is one of the few stallions
to have offspring win both the English Derby (*Mahmoud) and Kentucky
Derby (Whirlaway and Jet Pilot).
Bred in Great Britain by Lord
Carnavon at Highclere Stud, *Blenheim II was the third foal of his
dam, Malva, whose later foals included the good sires King Salmon
(1930 by Salmon-Trout), and His Grace (1933 by Blandford). The Blandford colt was purchased as a yearling for 4,100 guineas (the equivalent of $20,500) by the Aga Khan and named Blenheim.
Blenheim II in Racing Trim
|He was a top flight racehorse,
showing more speed at two than one would expect considering his stout
pedigree. *Blenheim II won the New Stakes, Hopeful Stakes, Manton
Plate, and Speedy Plate all at five furlongs, and was second in the
prestigious Champagne Stakes and Middle Park Stakes. At three, he
only made three starts, being unplaced in the Greenham Stakes, fourth
in the 2,000 Guineas to Diolite, but then won the Derby Stakes in
a great performance, defeating Iliad and Diolite. That was his last
start, and he was retired to stud shortly thereafter, with five wins
and three seconds from 10 starts.
His Derby win was the first of three for his owner, the other two being back-to-back wins by homebreds *Mahmoud (by *Blenheim II) in 1935 and *Bahram (also by Blandford) in 1936. After standing both horses at stud for a few years, the Aga Khan outraged English breeders by selling all three Derby winners to America early in their stud careers.
*Blenheim II entered stud at the Aga Khan's Haras Marly La Ville in France in 1931 where he was an immediate success. His French-sired crops included Derby winner *Mahmoud, Italian champion Donatello II, French 2,000 Guineas winner Drap d'Or, French 1,000 Guineas winner Blue Bear as well as stakes winners Pampeiro, Mirza, Acquaforte, Khan Bahadur, La Li, Le Grand Duc, Stratosphere, Vermeil II, and Wyndham.
Blenheim in America
In 1936, he was sold for $225,000
to an American syndicate consisting of Warren Wright (Calumet Farm),
Arthur B. Hancock (Claiborne Farm), William DuPont, Mrs. Thomas H.
Somerville, J.H. Whitney (Greentree Stud), John D. Hertz (Stoner Creek
Stud), and Robert A. Fairbairn (Fairholme Farm). He was imported after
the 1936 breeding season to stand at Claiborne Farm, Paris, Kentucky
alongside the current leading sire *Sir Gallahad III.
|From *Blenheim II's first American
crop came the great American Triple Crown winner Whirlaway, whose
exploits at three made *Blenheim II the Leading Sire in America for
1941. *Blenheim II sired a total of 536 foals, 61 stakes winners in
Europe and North America. After Whirlaway, who was the champion every
year he raced, his other good North American winners included champion
handicap mare Mark-Kell, her full sister Kentucky Oaks winner Nellie
L. (both out of Nellie Flag), Kentucky Derby winner Jet Pilot, American
Derby winner Fervent, Blue Grass Stakes winner Ocean Wave and his
brother Free America, top handicapper Thumbs Up, handicap mare A Gleam,
Bryan G., Proud One, Saratoga, Battle Morn, Miss Keeneland, and numerous
others. His offspring tended to improve from two to three and were
superior middle distance runners and handicappers.
While Whirlaway, a smallish,
ultra-refined horse, was a great disappointment for Calumet Farm as
a sire and was later sold to Marcel Boussac of France. His American
foals included the C.C.A. Oaks winner Scattered, and daughter Rock
Drill, dam of champion Lady Pitt. The great gelding Forego's third
dam was Whirling Girl, another Whirlaway daughter.
On the other hand, *Mahmoud became
a huge success, and became the Leading Sire in America in 1946 from
his base at C. V. Whitney's Farm in Kentucky. Donatello II was a top
sire in England, his best being the great stayer Crepello and Alycidon.
Jet Pilot was a useful sire, his best were Jet Action and Rose Jet,
and his line survived through Jet Jewel, sire of Jewel's Reward. Free
America was not a great stallion, but still appears in pedigrees through
his son, Correlation (in Fappiano and Ogygian), and daughter Prides
Profile (in Carson City). Another son, Bryan G., sired the champion
filly Cicada. Wyndham sired the champion and sire *Windy City II.
Battle Morn became a leading sire in Puerto Rico and Alate was an
influence among Quarter Horses.
|*Blenheim II's best daughter
was *Mahmoud's "aunt" Mumtaz Begum (out of Mumtaz Mahal),
who became the dam of the even more influential sire *Nasrullah, who
also was imported to stand at Claiborne Farm, and his stakes winning
sisters Malindi and Rivaz. Mumtaz Begum's daughter, Sun Princess produced
the good runner and sire *Royal Charger (sire of *Turn-to, Francis
S., Royal Serenade, etc.), the sires Madara, Flaneur II, and Lucky
Bag, as well as the important broodmare Tessa Gillian.
Broodmare of the Year Easy Lass
Other important daughters of
*Blenheim II were Easy Lass (Broodmare of the Year and dam of champions
Coaltown and Wistful), Miss Rushin (dam of Kentucky Derby winner Pensive),
Sweep In (dam of Kentucky Derby/Preakness winner Kauai King), Jane
Gail (dam of Kentucky Derby winner Hill Gail), A Gleam (dam of A Glitter),
Mar-Kell (dam of Mark-Ye-Well), Blue Bear (dam of Arc winner Le Paillon),
Acquaforte (dam of Antonio Canale), Nellie L. (second dam of Bold
Forbes), and Bouillabaisse (third dam of Foolish Pleasure)
*Blenheim II was a handsome, elegant individual but he was not a large horse, standing only 15.3 hands at maturity. He was rather longer than tall, with slightly upright pasterns and a little light of bone. His hindquarter, with a sloping croup and long hip, going into an excellent hind leg, were good for both speed and staying. In fact, that hindquarter, inherited to a large degree by his grandson *Nasrullah, has become a trademark of that male line, especially through Bold Ruler and Secretariat. He tended to be rather high strung and passed on that same temperament.
A dark bay horse with a large star and his left hind ankle white, his best runners came in all colors, but most showed much of his quality and staying ability. *Mahmoud was a medium-sized grey with so much refinement he resembled an Arabian. Whirlaway was a small, beautifully made chestnut. Donatello II was a big, lengthy chestnut.
*Blenheim II was fertile well up into his later years. He died in 1958 at the age of 31 and is buried in the Claiborne Farm stallion cemetery.
--by Anne Peters