Anne Peters



Anne Peters
P.O. Box 3926
Midway, KY 40347
(859) 846 - 9794


Why I am fascinated by horse cemeteries and the Sagamore Farm cemetery especially

Some of you may know that I have been involved (with Patricia Erigero) with the great website Thoroughbred Heritage. There's a section on the site known as Grave Matters, which lists the final resting place of thousands of famous horses, Thoroughbred and otherwise. Some think it a little grisly but this all came about from my love of Thoroughbred history, since the graves mark the locations of the estates and farms where these great horses lived, and obviously died.

Imagine standing under the archway in the magnificent old stables at Wandlebury near Newmarket in England, looking down at a cordoned-off stone marker in the floor that reads:

DIED IN 1753

There's something almost surreal about being there, knowing the bones of that amazing stallion lay below, and in reality, not just his bones. The very DNA of that great foundation sire is hidden there, more than just a little y-chromosome that has trickled down through the centuries from son to son to son to Successful Appeal and Tiznow.

I've visited a lot of horse graves and cemeteries over the years, but one that made a very strong impression was at Sagamore Farm in Maryland, famous as the home of racing great Native Dancer. Sagamore is beautiful and its cemetery is understated. The graves are marked with low simple grey stones, with the horses' names and pertinent dates, but oh, what names!

The oldest horse buried here is Discovery, which to you young whipper-snappers might not be a name that means a lot, but to pedigree geeks, Discovery is pure gold. The greatest weight carrier of the 1930s, he was the foundation stallion for Sagamore's founder, Alfred G. Vanderbilt. Discovery sired 25 stakes winners (8% stakes winners to foals), the majority of which were bred by Vanderbilt, including the champion mare Conniver. There are three of Discovery's best offspring buried here with him, including the former leading Maryland-bred money-winner Find, the stakes winner Loser Weeper, and the champion producer Good Thing.

Loser Weeper was a full brother to two other Discovery stakes winners, Thwarted and Miss Disco. Vanderbilt sold Miss Disco as a yearling and she later became a broodmare for Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps' Wheatley Stable. Her best offspring was a brilliant colt named Bold Ruler, who won the 1957 Preakness, was voted Horse of the Year that year, and went on to become the dominating stallion of the 1960s and 1970s when he reigned as Leading Sire eight times. Loser Weeper and Miss Disco were both sired by Discovery and out of the mare Outdone, a homebred for Vanderbilt. He purchased her dam from the 1935 Shoshone Stud Dispersal of W. R. Coe, when Sweep Out was in foal to Pompey, carrying Outdone in utero. That's how Outdone earned her own spot in the Sagamore Cemetery.

Vanderbilt was a clever man and when asked what his secret to breeding success, he answered "Breed a mare to Discovery." Later, he adapted his philosophy to "Breed any stallion to a Discovery mare."

Miss Disco was just one of several daughters of Discovery who proved vastly influential broodmares. Vanderbilt's own stakes-placed homebred Good Thing came home to produce the Sagamore-bred filly Bed o' Roses (by Rosemont), a champion filly at two and four. Bed o' Roses raced through the age of five and retired back to Sagamore but died suddenly in January 1953 before she could be bred to Count Fleet and was buried at the farm. Good Thing's last foal was born in 1966, and when she died, the mare found her place in the farm cemetery near her sire and daughter.

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Sagamore Farm Horse Cemetery (Vanderbilt era):
Discovery (c. 1931-1958)
Loser Weeper (c. 1945 - 1960)
Native Dancer (c. 1950-1967)
North Sea (c. 1969-1986)
Restless Native (c. 1960-1988)
Bed o' Roses (1947-1953)
Good Thing (f. 1941 - 1969)
Next Move (f. 1947-1968)
Now What (f. 1937)
Outdone (f. 1936)
Find (g. 1950-1979)
Social Outcast (g. 1950-1970) Shut Out Pansy

Besides the top producers Miss Disco (dam of Bold Ruler) and Good Thing (dam of Bed o' Roses), other Discovery daughters include stakes winner Traffic Court (dam of Traffic Judge and Hasty Road), My Recipe (dam of Intentionally), and most important, at least for Sagamore, Geisha, the dam of Native Dancer. So Discovery's influence travels wherever the descendants of Bold Ruler, Intentionally and Native Dancer go, and that's pretty far.

Native Dancer was one of racing's all-time greats and became a great sire, his legacy living on through his many sons, in particular Raise a Native, also Dancer's Image, Dan Cupid, Atan and Restless Native. Restless Native was a homebred out of Vanderbilt's two-time champion filly Next Move. Next Move was a Sagamore-bred daughter of Bull Lea out of the champion filly Now What. All three, Now What, Next Move and Restless Native were buried in the farm's cemetery when their time came.

Like Discovery, Native Dancer became an influential broodmare sire. His daughter Natalma produced Northern Dancer, and if she'd done nothing else, it would have been enough, but several of her daughters carried the family forward to a few nice horses like La Prevoyante, Machiavellian (sire of Street Cry) and Danehill (who is inbred to Natalma). Other daughters of Native Dancer included Shenanigans (dam of Ruffian, Icecapade), and Courbette (fifth dam of Gun Runner). Another daughter, Look Ma, produced the good Vanderbilt stakes winner North Sea, by Northern Dancer, one of his best early runners in the U.S.. North Sea earned his spot in the Sagamore Cemetery, too.

Another prominent Sagamore runner sleeps alongside these stars. His name is Social Outcast, a durable gelding who ran five years in stakes all over the country and earned over $600,000 in the 1950s, when that was truly exceptional.

Look over those names and think on it. Outside of the stallion cemetery at Claiborne Farm, few plots of ground contain as many influential individuals as the horse cemetery at Sagamore Farm.

One horse significantly missing from the Sagamore Farm Cemetery is Native Dancer's dam, Geisha, also a Sagamore-bred. She died in March 1959, one day after foaling Face East, a chestnut full brother to his great brother. At the time, she was boarding at Julian Rogers' Idle Hour Farm, a parcel of the original Idle Hour on Old Frankfort Pike near Lexington, Kentucky. The property was absorbed into the adjacent Darby Dan Farm in the early 1960s. It's unknown whether Geisha, who would have been a celebrity broodmare at the time, was buried there.

Copyright by Anne Peters 2018.