ANCESTORS OF SECRETARIAT: NEARCO, the ITALIAN STALLION
While we have featured many of Secretariat’s descendants on our website and Secretariat’s Meadow Facebook page, we were overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response to our recent Facebook posts about Secretariat’s ancestors. Therefore, we’re going to devote our blog to this topic for awhile.
We’ll start with Nearco, Secretariat’s paternal great grandsire, since this photo of him sparked a surge of interest when we posted it. It shows Nearco being led out of his specially built bomb shelter at Beech House Stud in Newmarket, England during World War II. The photo was taken in 1941 by the noted equine photographer R Anscomb.
That the stallion merited his own bomb shelter speaks to his enormous importance in the world of Thoroughbred breeding. Nearco (1935-1957) stamped his place in history as one of the most prepotent and influential sires of the 20th century. He was also one of the most successful racehorses of his era, undefeated in 14 races. His victory in the Grand Prix de Paris in 1938 was called his crowning glory.
Nearco was bred and raced by one of the most successful and influential horsemen of his time, the renowned Federico Tesio of Italy. Tesio, a breeder and geneticist, held views that were often contrary to the prevailing wisdom of the day. He would frequently purchase less “fashionable” mares and stallions because of something he discerned in their pedigrees. Many times over, his unorthodox formula produced international champions.
Mussolini and the looming threat of war curtailed Nearco’s time in Italy with Tesio. In 1938, Tesio sold Nearco to Martin Benson of Beech House Stud in England. The stallion went on to produce the winners of some 657 races.
Some of his most famous progeny include Nasrullah (sire of Bold Ruler and grandsire of Secretariat), Nearctic and Royal Charger. Reportedly over 100 of Nearco’s sons have stood at stud around the world. Blood-Horse Magazine’s list of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century includes several Nearco descendants: Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Bold Ruler, Nashua, Ruffian, Northern Dancer, Riva Ridge and Fort Marcy.
While Secretariat’s lineage traces back to Nasrullah, Riva’s traces to Royal Charger. Royal Charger sired Turn-To, who sired First Landing of Meadow Stable, a champion handicap horse, who then sired Riva Ridge out of the Meadow mare, Iberia.
Turn-To also sired Sir Gaylord of Meadow Stable, who was out of Somethingroyal. (She, of course. gave the world Secretariat when she was mated with Bold Ruler.) Sir Gaylord, a strong Kentucky Derby favorite in 1962, broke his sesamoid before the race and was retired. However his son, Sir Ivor, won the Epsom Derby and became British Horse of the Year and an important Thoroughbred sire.
Thus, the influence of Nearco was surely felt at Meadow Stable and far beyond. Secretariat, who sired 653 foals, and Riva Ridge, who sired 359 foals, continued to perpetuate his remarkable bloodline.
Next on the Ancestors Series: Nasrullah, the Irish Rogue.
by Leeanne Meadows Ladin
co-author of “Secretariat’s Meadow – The Land, The Family, The Legend’