After this years Derby Clare Balding, in one of those effusive statements she makes, said ‘that this colt (Harzand) comes from a family the Aga Khan would have known since he was a boy’. Well she, as she often is on bloodstock matters, was wrong: that was unless the Aga Khan was still considered a boy at the age of 40! This family was developed by a gentleman called Major Lionel Holliday and a fine family it is, as were other Holliday families. Lionel B Holliday was a typical bluff Yorkshireman. He was also very rich as his grandfather Read Holliday had invested in the Chemical Industry in its sunrise days of the early 1800s. Even today part of Holliday Chemicals and Dyestuffs can be traced through to ICI dyestuffs and the current company of Astra Zeneca. In racing terms the story of the Holliday horses can be seen as somewhere between the stories of Boussac and Astor. He has elements of both though perhaps never quite reached their heights. Holliday got interested in racing after the First World War and, like the two above owner-breeders, purchased fillies and mares from families he liked. He had 3 studs, though all operated under the Cleaboy Stud umbrella. This stud was based in Ireland though he also had studs in Yorkshire (Copgrove Hall where he lived: now owned by Guy Reed) and in Newmarket (Sandwich Stud: now part of Cheveley Park). In 1932 Holliday purchased a yearling filly he called Lost Soul. She was by the Ascot Gold Cup and St Leger winner Solario out of a mare called Orlass by the Derby winner Orby. She wasn’t a bad filly and won two races. Her best performance was a 3rd in the City and Suburban Handicap as a 4yo, which then had a similar standing to a Group 2/3 race. She was a fair mare and spent quite a few years being mated to Nearco, a sire Holiday admired. Her best produce as a racehorse was probably Dumbarnie who was by Nearco’s son Dante. He won 7 races and became a sire. However her most important produce was a filly called Phase by Windsor Lad. Holiday nearly always named his horses with the first letter of their sire but Phase obviously escaped that. He could so easily have got rid of her as she was born in 1939 and by 1940 he was very negative about the outlook and decided to sell all his yearlings. He invited Joe McGrath to have a look at them and he took them all with the exception of Phase because he thought she had a big head. As it was she won a couple of races for Holliday and being his only filly from that year went to stud to be mated to Nearco. Her first foal was a filly called Netherton Maid who won two races, one over 5f as a 2yo and another over 8.5f ( the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom: then a 1000G/Oaks trial) as a 3yo. But she was better than this bare form and finished 2nd in the Oaks, Yorkshire Oaks and Park Hill Stakes. At stud her best colt was Pirate King who was just off top-class and won the St James Palace Stakes and was 2nd twice in the Eclipse: he became a sire. Not quite as good was his full-brother Pampered King (by Prince Chevalier) who also became a sire and whom Holliday used: probably too much. There was another fine colt called Chatsworth (by Chanteur) who was 2nd in the St Leger and won a number of good handicaps. Her best filly was Bride Elect (by Big Game) who won on her debut and then took the Queen Mary before finishing 2nd in the Lowther and Cheveley Park Stakes. She ran only once as a 3yo before being sent to stud. Her first foal was Proud Chieftain (by Persian Gulf) who was 2nd in the Eclipse and won several top handicaps before becoming a sire. A few years later she was sent to Hugh Lupus and produced a beautiful colt who was named Hethersett. He appeared as a 2yo in the September of 1961 and ridden by Harry Carr won the 6f Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at Ascot. Jumping off the colt Carr said to trainer Dick Hern ‘this is your Derby colt’. His next race was probably a step too far too soon and he finished a disappointing 5th in the Timeform Gold Cup. Next season he reappeared in the Brighton Derby Trial and won in such scintillating style that he was made Derby favourite. The race was a disaster for him as a horse fell bringing him down, leaving him badly injured and on the easy-list for a month. He reappeared at Goodwood but was short of work. In his next race he looked to be on his way back when he won the Great Voltigeur at York. Though only 5th favourite for the St Leger he took it in great style. He was a bit disappointing after that running 2nd in the Champion Stakes and as a 4yo ran 2nd twice in the Jockey Club Stakes and Coronation Cup (to Exbury). He retired to Sandwich Stud where he stood for 3 years before his premature death from a brain tumour: a huge loss to his owners and, as a rare representative of the Byerly Turk line, a huge loss for breeding. In his second crop he sired the Derby winner Blakeney and in his 3rd crop, his best produce, Highest Hopes (but more of her later). Netherton Maid had other daughters and an important one was the non-winning Cherished by Chanteur. She got an unraced filly called Won’t Linger by Worden who produced Hazy Idea the great –grandam of the Harzand. In 1966 Holliday died. He left enormous death duties and his son Brook sold a great number of mares and horses, closed the private LaGrange stables and transferred most of his horses to Dick Hern at the end of the 1967 season. Hern had been hit by the virus in 1966 but bounced back in 1967 to win 60 races with 31 winning horses from 71 horses in the stable. Brook sent him 14 horses including 2 3yos and 7 2yos by Hethersett. Sadly Hern had a disastrous year (the equine virus again) in 1968 winning only 21 races and Brook Holliday’s horses won only 4 races. In 1969 he sent him 10 more 2yos with 6 of them by Hethersett. Hern had another pitiful year winning only 24 races with Holliday having only 10 of those but only 2 of the 2yos won. With such a concentration of Hethersett’s offspring in the virus ridden stable it was a damaging hit to this sire’s influence. It damaged Holliday and the other owners as well. It is amazing that Hern recovered from this to become the great trainer he did but it did for Holliday and the Cleaboy Stud. Hazy Idea won her first 3 races including the precursor to the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury. For her 4th start they sent her to France for the Criterium des Pouliches (now the Prix Marcel Boussac) and finished 4th. Reckoned to be Hern’s Oaks filly she disappointed in the spring and only won 2 races, though the 2nd of these was the March Stakes. She did run placed in a couple of good French races. What of others of the Phase/Lost Soul family? One of Lost Soul’s matings with Nearco produced a filly called Nearly who was an above average 2yo winning a good race and finishing 3rd in the Middle Park. She was a fair mare herself but this branch died out in the Cleaboy Stud but flourished elsewhere. Nearly’s great-grandaughter was the dam of the 1974 French 1000G winner Dumka. This filly was acquired by the Aga Khan and was the source of some of his D horses, the most important of which was probably Doyoun (2000G winner and Derby 3rd). So maybe I’m a tad unfair to Ms Balding but this branch of the family has nothing to do with Harzand, seems to have faltered and is no longer present in the Aga’s studs. Like her mother Phase spent a lot of time being bred to Nearco. She got an Oaks winner in the shape of Neasham Belle (who was never as influential as a broodmare as her sister Netherton Maid). She got an Champion Stakes and Coronation Cup winner in the shape of full-brother Narrator (who became a sire and was again used by Holliday). Another sister was the extremely useful None Nicer, who won the Convivial Stakes as a 2yo and the Yorkshire Oaks, Ribblesdale Stakes and Lingfield Oaks Trial as a 3yo. She also was 2nd to Alcide in the St. Leger and 3rd in the Cheveley Park. This filly was retained by Holliday and produced a Park Hill Stakes winner in Cursorial (by Crepello) who in turn produced a fine 2yo in Fine Blade (by Fortino) who was the only 2yo mentioned in the same breath as his stablemate Brigadier Gerard. Hethersett was not the best racehorse the Hollidays bred or owned as I can think of 2 others, but pride of place must go to Vaguely Noble. The Major acquired a yearling called Belle Sauvage in 1950. She won a couple of races but was a good broodmare who dropped many foals, 11 of which won races. Her best foal was (you guessed it) a Nearco filly called Noble Lassie who Dick Hern trained to win the Lancashire Oaks in 1959. In 1964 Noble Lassie was sent to Aureole’s son Vienna (by no means a top sire or indeed racehorse). In the year of Major Holliday’s death a colt was born who went into training with the then Holliday private trainer, Walter Wharton, at La Grange stables. He had not been entered for the Classics as a foal and indeed Brook Holliday decided to send him to the December Sales at Newmarket before he’d even run. He ran twice on firm ground in August and was 2nd both times. His next race was in the Sandwich Stakes at Ascot where he totally annihilated the field coming home 12 lengths clear on soft ground. On similar ground a few weeks later he slammed a useful field in the Observer Gold Cup (now the Racing Post Trophy) by 7 lengths. Holliday persisted with the sale and Vaguely Noble was sold for a then record sum of 138,000guineas. He of course went on to win the next year’s Arc. It is hard to know whether the same thing would have happened if Holliday had kept the horse. There is a view he needed the money to pay off death duties so it may have not been an option. He might also have thought he had better 2yos than Vaguely Noble. If he had retained the horse and sent him to Hern, as he did most of his 2yos that Autumn, then history would have been very different as it’s likely he’d have succumbed to the same virus that blighted the whole Hern stable. Hern already had a Derby horse in the shape of Remand who was rated within a pound of Vaguely Noble as a 2yo so with no Classic entries it would have made more sense to send Vaguely Noble to France anyway: as Holiday often did with a few horses every year. There were probably a combination of reasons for selling the horse and money was probably the main reason. He retained Noble Lassie for a few years and got a Relko filly called Regal lady who herself produced a Lupe Stakes winner and oaks 3rd in the shape of Britannia’s Rule (by Blakeney). This year’s top filly Minding is an ancestor of Vaguely Noble’s full-sister Vive la Reine, whom Brook Holliday bred. The other really top racehorse that the Holliday’s bred was Highest Hopes who in a year of top class staying fillies (1970) was judged the best. In 1950 Holliday bought her dam Verdura at the sales and she won 4 races for him. She was by Court Martial out of a daughter of Bahram and traced back to a full-sister to Pretty Polly. Verdura proved to be an interesting mare. Her first offspring of importance was Gratitude (by Golden Cloud) who was a good 2yo and won the Nunthorpe as a 3yo before becoming a sire: so a sprinter. Her next important offspring was Pharsalia (by Panorama) who was an unbeaten filly who won the Queen Mary, Molecomb and Lowther Stakes as a 2yo: did not run as a 3yo but probably a sprinter. Next came Avons Pride (by Arctic Prince) who won 4 races including the Cesarawitch: so a stayer. When Brook took over this 17yo mare in 1965 she produced for him a fine Hethersett colt in Heathen. He won the Duke of Clarence Stakes (6f) and then ran 3rd in the Dewhurst. As he was a contemporary of Vaguely Noble it is reasonable to think he was at least as highly rated as a 2yo by Holliday. As a 3yo he transferred to Dick Hern and started his season by convincingly winning the Greenham Stakes from So Blessed. As stable jockey Mercer was already on 2000G fancy Petingo the decision was made to go to France for their version in which he ran a slightly disappointing 6th. Soon after he succumbed to the equine virus and was never the same horse again. He later became a highly successful sire in South America. Two years after him came his full-sister Highest Hopes. She ran a highly promising debut when winning at Newbury in September over 6f. She reappeared in the Ascot 1000G Trial (7f) and in hock deep going cantered to an 8 length victory. So easy was her race that Hern decided to bring her out a week later in the Fred Darling Stakes against the 1000G favourite Humble Duty. In a bizarre race the two fillies were heavily restrained by their jockeys in the soft ground and Highest Hopes came home ahead of Humble Duty by half a length. There is little doubt that today Piggott, who rode Humble Duty, would have received a suspension for not trying. Lindley, who rode Highest Hopes that day, could not get a similar suspension as he won but one cannot help but wonder what the conversation was between the two jockeys before the race. As it was both fillies went off to Newmarket as joint-favourites for the first classic. Humble Duty won the race easily and Highest Hopes unaccountably finished near-last. Six weeks later Highest Hopes proved this running to be all wrong when she was narrowly defeated in the Prix de Diane (10.5f) by the best Irish filly Sweet Mimosa (a full-sister to Levmoss and Le Moss). Soon after that she returned to France for the Prix Eugene Adam (10f) and she won comfortably from the top-class colt Caro. The decision was taken to go for the Yorkshire Oaks (12f) and a virtual match with the Oaks winner Lupe. As she passed Lupe with a furlong to run punters were counting their winnings but then for some unknown reason she tied up and Lupe got back up to beat her. Not disheartened the decision was taken to go back to France over 12f again in the Prix Vermeille. She saved her finest performance for this race beating Miss Dan (who 2 weeks later finished a close 3rd in the Arc) conclusively: further back were Sweet Mimosa and Lupe. Such was the power of her victory some judges felt she should have gone to the Arc but her finale was to be the Champion Stakes in which she was to meet Arc 2nd Nijinsky. Whether she was over the top or she just didn’t like Newmarket she again ran a poor race and was almost tailed off. She was judged the best European staying filly of the year. In the BTRB review of the year the author spoke of the two spring races with Humble Duty and said to see them was to compare chalk with cheese: Highest Hopes they said was the most beautiful filly you could imagine. At this point an aside, as this filly played a part in the downfall of the Holliday bloodstock influence. During her 3yo campaign Hern wanted to give the filly a racecourse gallop to sharpen her up and because the local courses were too firm (though she handled all goings) decided to send her to Newmarket. He sent the bill for this to Holliday, which he did not pay. Towards the end of the season Hern asked his boss (Jakie Astor) what he should do and Astor told him that if Holliday refused to pay he should remove his horses. He refused and at the end of a fine season at West Ilsley Holliday sent his horses to be trained by Denys Smith. Now I’m sure Smith was a good trainer but he wasn’t a Dick Hern, and this petulant action must have played some part in the demise of his bloodstock’s fortunes. Holliday never won the Derby but had a hand in this years winner Harzand. However this was not the first time a Holliday family played this role. Holliday had purchased Derby winner Blue Peter’s half-sister from her breeder Lord Rosebery. This filly, Springtime, did well for Holliday producing a large number of winners of various abilities. A lesser light, a grand-daughter called Chorus Beauty (by Chanteur) won twice but after three foals was sent barren to the December Sales along with her filly-foal by Hornbeam. The foal was unsold but trainer Arthur Budgett offered the reserve price of 1000 guineas and took her home. Though a fine trainer Budgett was also open to some profit and sent the filly back to the sales as a yearling where she again failed to meet her reserve. Budgett decided to train her himself and named Windmill Girl she won two races but had her finest moment when a 66-1 2nd in the Oaks to Homeward Bound. She did win the Ribblesdale and Budgett sent her to his Kirtlington Stud where she proved particularly successful during her tragically short stud career. Budgett decided to send her to Hethersett for her first season. He then tried to sell this foal but ultimately trained the colt who turned out to be the Derby winner Blakeney. So Holliday owned and bred both parents of a Derby winner and yet gained only 1000 guineas plus the cost of Hethersett’s covering fee from the whole business. Of course Windmill Girl went on to produce another Derby winner in the shape of the unbeaten Morston and in all had 7 foals, 6 runners and 6 winners. Sadly after her 7th foal she died in a paddock accident. Budgett was left with an unraced daughter by Derring Do and this family still turns out winners today for the Kirtlington Stud. We’re not quite done with Holliday families as another successful one joins him to Marcel Boussac. At different times Holliday bought two mares who were daughters of a filly Boussac owned. The more important was probably Palma Rosa who was bought as a 10yo. She produced a filly for him called Persuader (by Petition) who won the Clarence House Stakes and Horris Hill Stakes before herself producing Night Off ( by his own Narrator) who won the 1000G in the year of Major Holliday’s death. As a 2yo she had won the Cheveley Park Stakes and was the champion 2yo filly. Brook Holliday kept her and she produced a decent filly for him called madams Share who Hern trained to win some good races as a 2yo before Smith got her to win a Group 3 as a 3yo in France. The other mare was Vellada who was by Boussac’s favourite sire Tourbillon. Sent by Holliday to Nearco she produced a useful filly called No Saint who ran 2nd in 4 Group races as well as being a listed winner. When Holliday transferred his hoses to Hern the Ballymoss 3yo daughter of No Saint called Blessed Again was 2nd favourite for the Oaks despite only having run unplaced as a 2yo. In that virus ridden year she did nothing but at stud produced Michael Stoute’s first good horse Blue Cashmere (by Kashmir) though Holliday had sold him as a yearling. He did keep his full-sister and she produced the excellent 2yo filly Embla who had been sold as a yearling to Sheikh Mohammed. Finally another Holliday filly Pugnacity (Pampered King) out of a mare Major Holliday owned for a short time was a very fast 2yo and good 3yo who won 8 races including the Lowther and Falmouth Stakes when trained by Walter Wharton. She was a fair broodmare and her best produce was sold as a yearling by Holliday to Lady Beaverbrook. This was the Relko colt Relkino who was 2nd in the Derby but also won the Lockinge Stakes and International Stakes at York. Major Holliday was leading breeder 3 times (1954, 1956 and 1962) but had many wonderful seasons. In 1957 he won 53 individual races with 31 winners which for an owner breeder of his size was a phenomenal performance. He bred many wonderful horses and did a lot right. He was particularly ruthless in culling fillies who didn’t have the confirmation despite having good race records. He also, for the most part, used the best sires (eg Nearco) and some inspired sires (Hugh Lupus and Vienna). As an aside, he also ruthlessly culled his private trainers and had 4 between 1945 and 1967 despite them all being pretty successful (to be fair he did not sack Dick Hern as Hern resigned to take up the role of being the Astor trainer). He did make some mistakes and that was akin to the Boussac mistake of using his own sires and the 2nd rate sires Narrator and Pampered King were sent to too many of his mares even if they did throw up the odd decent horse. Tesio would even tut tut and how much Hethersett was used in his 3 short years at stud. The question that must be asked is that if death duties and the virus had not hit Brook Holliday so much would he have had the vision to use the type of sires he’d needed to have to keep his bloodstock at the top table? The meagre evidence we have would suggest no as he did not utilise Ribot, Nasrullah and other such sires as the power of Nearco waned. I believe the 3 years at virus ridden West Ilsley was a huge drain on his bloodstock and he then left Hern at the wrong time. But in 2016 the families live on. Minding has won 2 classics and Harzand has won 2 Derbys and they both look pretty good. They both date back to purchases made 1930-1950 by Holliday. I’ve little doubt we’ll hear more from them and from the other families too. Even David Lanigan’s Northdown is a minor testament to Holliday breeding being a Paco Boy colt out of the same grand-dam as Harzand, that being the Hethersett filly Hazy Idea. Good families if nurtured don’t die.