Sceptre possessed a truly blue-blooded pedigree, and she ran to the promise it represented. Her breeder was Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, the first Duke of Westminster, master of the storied Eaton Stud near Chester, England. Sceptre's dam was Ornament, a failure as a racer, but a fine producer. Ornament represented the finest bloodlines at Eaton, for she was a full sister to the Duke's unbeaten Triple Crown champion, Ormonde, and a half-sister to the Duke's One Thousand Guineas victress, Farewell. Sceptre's sire, Persimmon, won the Derby and St. Leger for the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.
Ornament had already been the dam of a classics-placed colt in Labrador (1893, by Sheen), when, in 1898, she was sent to be covered by Persimmon , who was standing his first season at Sandringham Stud. The next spring, Ornament gave birth to a magnificent bay filly destined to become a legend in her own time as Sceptre.
Sadly, Sceptre never raced for the Duke, for he died when she was a weanling. Much of his stock was sold at auction, and Sceptre went through the auction ring at Tattersall's, Newmarket, as a yearling in July, 1900. The Duke's heir, his grandson, as well as the first Duke's trainer, John Porter, wanted to purchase Sceptre and keep her for the Westminster colors of yellow jacket and black cap. They were, however, thwarted by Robert Sievier, a well-known figure of the British turf. The latter opened the bidding at 5000 guineas and never wavered. In the end, Sievier landed Sceptre for 10,000 guineas, then a record price for a yearling.
Robert Sievier was a journalist, being the owner and editor of The Winning Post, but was more widely known as an inveterate gambler. His financial fortunes ebbed and flowed, and he was frequently in debt. Due to several successive, highly successful bets, Sievier had a personal fortune of £100,000 at his disposal for the July sale, and a desire to acquire some of the fabled Eaton bloodlines. He set his sights on the old Duke's yearlings offered for sale at Tattersall's, and the filly by Persimmon and Ornament, in particular. After some intense bidding against the young Duke and his advisers, Sievier prevailed with his record-breaking bid.
The daughter of Persimmon and Ornament was sent to trainer Charles Morton and made her debut at Epsom the next summer. This was the Woodcote Stakes, which she won easily. She jarred her knees on the hard ground that day, and was not seen until the July Stakes at Newmarket, where again, she easily emerged victorious. Her last juvenile race was the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in the autumn, but she had already begun to grow her winter coat and ran listlessly, finishing third to fillies she had effortlessly defeated in her earlier races. Good as her juvenile campaign was, her three-year-old season was to be one of unparalleled greatness for any filly who had ever graced the turf.
Sievier had bought several horses at the dispersal of the Duke of Westminster's yearlings, but the only other one which had amounted to anything was a son of Orme, which he named Duke of Westminster. By the time his horses were ready to start their sophomore campaigns, Sievier was badly in debt again, and needed to sell Sceptre or her stablemate, Duke of Westminster. The latter soon found a buyer in Gerald Faber and moved on to trainer John Porter's yard. Porter really wanted Mr. Faber to purchase the filly. But his client thought more highly of the colt, and so Porter deferred. Sievier kept Sceptre, and in a startling move, decided to train the filly himself when Charles Morton left his employ to become the exclusive trainer to J.B. Joel.
Sceptre for sale in 1911, after 4 foals
Sievier was a man of large ego and extreme ambition. He entered Sceptre in every race worth entering, including all five of the English classic races. He worked her hard and raced her even harder. A pattern throughout the season was to race her every couple of days at the major race meetings. Thus at the Newmarket spring meeting, she raced in both the Two Thousand Guineas and the One Thousand Guineas, run just two days later, and she won both. Before those races, though, he could not resist trying to land a bet with the filly by running her in the Lincolnshire Handicap. She very nearly pulled it off for Sievier, for she lost by only a head.
At Epsom, she was entered in both the Derby Stakes and the Oaks, the races held just a day apart. In the Derby, she was left at the post, and her rider galloped her hard to get into good position. She tired and finished fourth to Ard Patrick. But the next day, she easily carried off the Oaks.
The grueling schedule continued. She was shipped to Paris for the Grand Prix de Paris, then France's most prestigious race. She had a terrible trip during the race and ran very wide. She gave a decent account of herself, though, as she finished just a couple of lengths behind Kizil Kourgan, still regarded today as the Sceptre of her country.
|Sceptre on the Turf
|Two Years Old 1901
|Won Woodcote Stakes, Epsom 6 f.
|Won July Stakes, Newmarket 5 1/2 f.
|3rd, Champagne Stakes, Doncaster, 6 f.
|Three Years Old 1902
|2nd Lincolnshire Handicap 1 m.
|Won Two Thousand Guineas 1 m.
|Won One Thousand Guineas 1 m.
|4th Derby 1 1/2 m.
|Won Oaks, 1 1/2 m.
|Unplaced Grand Prix de Paris 1 m. 7 f.
|5th, Coronation Stakes, Ascot 1 m.
|Won St. James' Palace Stakes, Ascot, 1 m.
|2nd, Sussex Stakes, Goodwood, 1 m.
|Won Nassau Stakes, Goodwood 1 1/2 m.
|Won St. Leger, Doncaster 1 3/4 m.
|2nd Park Hill Stakes, Doncaster, 1 3/4 m.
|Four Years Old 1903
|5th Lincolnshire Handicap 1 m.
|Won Hardwick Stakes, Ascot 1 1/2 m.
|2nd Eclipse Stakes, Sandown Park 1 1/4 m.
|Won Jockey Club Stakes, Newmarket 1 3/4 m.
|Won Duke of York Stakes, Kempton 1 1/4 m.
|Won Champion Stakes, Newmarket 1 1/4 m.
|Won Limekiln Stakes, Newmarket 1 1/4 m.
|Five Years Old 1904
|2nd, Coronation Cup, Epsom 1 1/2 m.
|3rd, Ascot Cup, 2 1/2 m.
|3rd, Hardwicke Stakes, Ascot 1 1/2 m.
Then came Royal Ascot and consecutive races. She lost the Coronation Stakes, and then the next day captured the St. James Palace Stakes. The pattern repeated itself next at Goodwood. She failed in the Sussex Stakes and then triumphed in the Nassau Stakes. Finally, came fall and the Doncaster meeting. The brilliant filly had had a terribly severe season, but she still managed to soundly defeat the colts over 1-3/4 miles in the St. Leger, thereby becoming the only horse in history to win four English classics. Sievier tried her one more time, the next day, in the Park Hill Stakes against fillies over the same distance. But her exertions over the season had taken their toll and she ran a dull race to be soundly beaten by fillies she had handled easily earlier in the year.
Sceptre's achievement of capturing those four classic races made her only the second horse to win so many classics. Previously, in 1868, the filly Formosa, had won every classic except the Derby, but even then she technically won three and a half classics, for she deadheated with the colt Moslem in the Two Thousand Guineas.
Sievier, even though Sceptre had been such a winning proposition, literally and financially, was badly in debt, and during the late winter, was forced to sell his magnificent filly. He placed a sizable bet on her for the Lincolnshire Handicap, but she failed to even place. That sealed her fate, and she was sold.
|She went to Mr. (later Sir) William Bass for £25,000. Finally Sceptre was able to enjoy the services of a trainer of the highest class. She became a member of Alec Taylor's stable, which was based at Manton. Taylor, during his long career, trained such standouts as Bayardo, Lemberg, Craig an Eran, Buchan, and Picaroon. But when he first got Sceptre, he did not know quite what to do with her, as she was in a very worn condition. Taylor asked Sievier how to train her. The reply was to "treat her like a selling plater." That was enough for Taylor, who promptly did the reverse. Her training was patiently carried out, a hallmark of Taylor, who refused to rush the horses under his care. Consequently, her first race for her new connections was the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot in the summer, which she won easily.
Then, at Sandown, came the £10,000 Eclipse Stakes, a race her sire, Persimmon, had won. Sceptre lost this race. But the titanic struggle through the stretch between her and Ard Patrick, each horse giving everything in their soul to get the better of the other, only to have the mare lose by a mere neck, was a race for the ages. Third under the wire was that year's Two Thousand Guineas and Derby winner, Rock Sand, who later that year also captured the St. Leger, to complete a sweep of the Triple Crown. Rock Sand, the future grandsire of Man o' War, retired with only four defeats in twenty starts over three seasons, so he was no hack. But that day, he was in a totally inferior class to his elders.
During her tenure in Taylor's care, Sceptre developed some personality quirks which, owing to her celebrity status, were catered to. As recorded in a story in The Bloodstock Breeders' Review, "While in training she had a great fondness for apples. In later life her favorite delicacy was chocolate. After she reached Manton she became very fastidious and finicky about her food. One day she would refuse white oats, but eat black; another day she would prefer the white, while there were occasions when she insisted on black and white mixed. Nor was that all. Some days she would eat oats only if they were placed in her manger, on other days she wanted them in a sieve, and occasionally would not look at them unless they were placed on the ground. It was no easy matter to satisfy her desires and whims."
Sceptre won her remaining four races that season, including the Jockey Club Stakes, in which poor Rock Sand was again her victim, and the Champion Stakes. She stayed in training at five, but did not win again, though she did run second in the Coronation Cup and third in the Ascot Gold Cup.
Sceptre and her second foal, Maid of Corinth
Sceptre's offspring were largely disappointing racehorses, but her daughters were successful producers. As recorded in The Bloodstock Breeders' Review, "Sceptre's first two foals were the sisters Maid of the Mist and Maid of Corinth, by Cyllene...in 1907 Sceptre was allied with Isinglass and bred Coronation, while in 1908 she visited Carbine and produced Queen Carbine. In 1910 she was barren to Cicero, and in 1911 to Marco; but to Cicero she produced, in 1912, Curia, her fifth filly, and in 1913, Grosvenor, her one and only son. In 1913 and 1914 she was mated with Swynford, the first year to no purpose, the second year to breed the filly, Sceptre's Daughter. In 1916 she was barren to William Rufus, but in 1917 there came her eighth and last foal, the filly Queen Empress, by Glenesky. Until 1922 fruitless efforts were made every year to get her in foal, and then she went into retirement."
|Foals of Sceptre
|Maid of the Mist (filly, 1906)
|Maid of Corinth (filly, 1907)
|Coronation (filly, 1908)
|Queen Carbine(filly, 1909)
|Curia (filly, 1912)
|Grosvenor (colt, 1913)
|Sceptre's Daughter (filly, 1915)
|Queen Empress (filly, 1917)
"Maid of the Mist, undoubtedly the best of Sceptre's produce, won three races and £1851; Maid of Corinth won two races worth £2895 and ran second in the One Thousand Guineas. Coronation won some races in Italy. Queen Carbine won a £100 plate, and Grosvenor one race worth £850. Curia failed to win, and Sceptre's Daughter and Queen Empress never ran."
Certainly a mediocre produce record, to put it kindly, and it suffered greatly in comparison to her own dam's record. But some of Sceptre's daughters put her name in the breeding annals as a superior foundation mare.
Maid of the Mist turned out to be the most superior producing daughter of Sceptre. Sold by Sir William Bass in 1911, along with her filly foal by Torpoint, to Waldorf Astor for 4500 guineas, Maid of the Mist and her daughter became phenomena of the breeding ranks. Maid of the Mist became the dam of two classic winners -- Craig an Eran, victor in the Two Thousand Guineas, and Sunny Jane, Oaks victress of 1917. Craig an Eran also ran a good second to the ill-fated Humorist in the 1921 Derby Stakes. As a stallion, he was responsible for many top notch stakes winners, including a Derby winner in April the Fifth and a Grand Prix de Paris winner in Admiral Drake.
Sunny Jane never matched her dam as a producer, but her female line has remained active, throwing out a high class stakes winner every so often, and as recently as 2000, an American classic winner popped up from this family when Red Bullet took the Preakness Stakes.
As good as Maid of the Mist's production was, she was outdone by her daughter, Hamoaze, the Torpoint filly that had sold at her side in 1911. Useless as a racer, she won only two tiny races. At stud, however, she produced dual-Eclipse Stakes winner Buchan, by Sunstar; his full brother, Saltash, also an Eclipse winner; Tamar, by Tracery, a runner-up in the Derby; and St. Germans, by Swynford, also a Derby runner-up and a victor in the Doncaster Cup and the Coronation Cup, in which he defeated his conqueror in the Derby, Sansovino. As a stallion, St. Germans was sold to the stud of Harry Payne Whitney in Lexington. In America, he became a leading sire, with Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Twenty Grand and champion Devil Diver among his progeny.
Buchan was a fine sire, as well, and counted among his progeny the St. Leger-winning filly, Book Law, the dam of Rhodes Scholar and Archive, the latter the sire of the immortal chaser, Arkle. Buchan's daughter, Penicuik II, sold in foal to Hyperion to Calumet Farm, produced a Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner in Pensive.
Sceptre was sold by Sir William in 1911, and she successively became the property of Somerville Tattersall, John Musker, and finally, Lord Glanely. She died in February, 1926 at the age of 27. Her first foal, Maid of the Mist, died the same year, at the age of 20.
Of Sceptre's other daughters, the families of Curia, Queen Carbine (sent to France), Sceptre's Daughter, and Maid Of Corinth were rather quiescent. The latter wound up in Hungary, Curia's family produced very little, and that of Queen Carbine produced hardly anything of note until Petition emerged in the 1940s to win several important races and then go on to become a champion sire. His daughter, Petite Etoile, with her sterling race record, drew comparisons to her ancestor Sceptre with her dominance on the racetrack.
That left two other daughters of Sceptre, Queen Empress and Coronation, and both of these mares founded major branches of the Ornament - Sceptre family. Coronation was, for a time, a broodmare for Federico Tesio in Italy, but she failed to produce anything of really top class, was sold and returned to England. Her daughter, Terra D'Ombra, became the dam of Crepuscule, a filly by Galloper Light, and from Crepuscule's descendants came such luminaries as Northern Light, Midnight Sun, and the mare Relance, dam of Match II, Relko, and Reliance II.
Queen Empress and her family could be said to have an almost equal amount of quality. From her was descended such champions as Noor, a son of Nasrullah who became a champion in the United States and lowered the colors of the mighty Citation four times in 1950. Zucchero, another champion son of Nasrullah, descended from Queen Empress, and his victories included the Coronation Cup.
Sceptre remained a pensioner for the last few years of her life. Lord Glanely tried to sell her in 1923 to a Brazilian breeder, even though he had promised upon his purchase of her that she would remain his property for the remainder of her life. Lord Glanely sold her for a reported £500--a pittance for a mare which had set the auction world on fire nearly a quarter century before. But even at her advanced age, Sceptre was adored by racing fans, and there was such outcry at the possibility of her being sent to Brazil, that Lord Glanely acquiesced and he was able to get the sale canceled. She lived peacefully in England, until her passing three years later.