MAJMU, who was unbeaten until her luckless reappearance at Turffontein last Saturday, still has the potential to become one of South Africa’s turf darlings, not only due to her track performances but also because everybody loves a grey horse, writes DAVID THISELTON.
It is interesting to note that the Australian-bred Majmu, by Redoute’s Choice, gets her colouring from the same horse, Roi Herode, that sired one of the most famous greys in history, The Tetrarch. The Tetrarch was voted Britain’s greatest two-year-old of the last century. He was unbeaten in his only season of racing and was favourite for the British classics 100 years ago in 1914. However, injury then put paid to his racing career.
Majmu as a young foal at Arrowfield Stud.
All of Majmu’s bottom line females were grey up until the 1915-born British-bred La Grisette, who like The Tetrarch got her colouring from her grey sire Roi Herode. To call grey a colour of a horse is actually a misnomer as it is actually caused by an inherited gene that slowly removes pigment from the coat. Grey horses are never born grey, rather they are born with the usual base colours such as bay or chestnut.
The Tetrarch was made fun of by spectators when arriving in the saddling paddock at Newmarket for his first appearance as he had spots all over his coat and resembled a rocking horse. His sire was an out and out stayer and in conformation as a youngster The Tetrarch was duly big, gangly and backward. Therefore many were taken aback when trainer Atty Persse paid 1300 guineas for him. However, the shrewd Persse had seen the horse running rings around his paddock companions at the stud farm in Ireland that bred him. Persse passed The Tetrarch on to his cousin Major Dermot McCalmont, who agreed that the colt should be given time to mature. In fact he was nearly gelded and put away for a while.
However, one morning, as he was above himself, Persse decided to put him upsides with his most forward two-year-olds. He expected him to finish tailed off, so was amazed to see him thrashing them unextended. To ensure the gallop was no fluke he put him through a series of tests including galloping him against a seven-year-old carrying the same weight. He won at a canter with another two-year-old, Land Of Song, receiving 2kg, beaten out of sight. Land Of Song went on to win the Windsor Castle Stakes so The Tetrach was a racing certainty on debut. However, such was the security at Persse’s stable that he started at 9-2. The laughter of the crowd soon turned to awe as he won with ease. He was quickly dubbed “The Spotted Wonder”.
He won all seven of his starts as a two-year-old, including one occasion when he went up with the tapes and lost close to 50 yards. All of his victories were over six furlongs or less, but that didn’t stop him from being voted Britain’s two-year-old of the century. He was a freak and some go as far as saying that he was probably the fastest horse in the history of the turf.
The Tetrarch was a shy breeder, who only produced 130 foals. Eighty of them won and he had four classic winners. His most famous progeny was Mumtaz Mahal, who was known as “The Flying Filly”. Mumtaz Mahal’s descendants include Mahmoud, Nasrullah, Abernant, Petite Etoile and Shergar. Mumtaz Mahal appears on the female side of both Northern Dancer and Mr Prospector, via Mahmoud and Nasrullah respectively. Therefore, The Tetrarch is found multiple times in most thoroughbred pedigrees today.
He appears in Majmu’s pedigree at least 25 times, although quite a number of them are not via Mumtaz Mahal.