Galopin - New Research and an answer to an old question
The summer of 2017 saw the publication of a scientific paper titled "Y Chromosome Uncovers the Recent Oriental Origin of Modern Stallions" with the outcomes found in this paper covered by
Eric Mitchell in the Blood Horse that year.
The paper at the time, while generally a broad discussion about the origins of the equine breed, did raise some questions about our understanding of sire lines in the Thoroughbred, specifically that of the great St. Simon, one of the most prolific stallions of the breed.
Last month a follow up study from the same group of researchers headed by Dr Barbara Wallner,
“The horse Y Chromosome as an informative marker for tracing sire lines” was released. While these studies contain much to fascinate with regard to the history of the horse as a breed, the most important part as far as the Thoroughbred concerned involves the nature and origins of the foundation stallions from which all current Thoroughbreds descend in direct male-line.
It’s well-known and agreed in both scientific and pedigree research circles that the modern Thoroughbred was established by the breeding of oriental stock imported in the 17th and 18th centuries with native strains found in various areas. While the breed still embraces female genetic haplotypes whose mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) indicate descent from a wide-range of sources – for example the female line that produced Sadler’s Wells and Nureyev traces distantly to that of the Shetland Pony and the Norwegian Fjord – as far as the male-lines in the Thoroughbred, there are now only three distinct ones that are still extant, all tracing to horses of eastern origin.
While the historical record and the Y-chromosome study concur on this point, there are also important differences. What this most recent study revealed is that there were two Oriental populations splitting from a common source, a southern one, from the desert regions of Central Arabia (what would now be identified as ‘Arabians’) and a northern one, from Central Asia (the Turkoman). Further, despite their names, the trio of founding fathers are shown by the Y-chromosome of their descendants to stem from the Turkoman branch, not from that of the modern Arabian, All are from one of two sub-groups of an oriental type, now both labelled Tb. These also include several warmblood breeds, as the Akhal-Teke (either identical too, or descending from, the Turkoman), Morgan Horse, American Quarter Horse, Standardbred and Tennessee Walking Horse.
The Byerley Turk and Godolphin Arabian are from a branch more recently connected, broadly categorized as Tb-o (the Byerley Turk is Tb-oB1 and Godolphin Arabian Tb-oB3b) with the Darley Arabian categorized as Tb-d. Around 95% of the breed now trace in male-line to the Darley Arabian, through Eclipse, and as a curiosity, this is almost exclusively through Whalebone, a great-grandson of Eclipse, who owned a mutation that separated him from other descendants of Eclipse.
The first to arrive in England, The Byerley Turk – who may have been captured by his owner at the Battle of Buda in 1686, where a European coalition defeated the Ottoman Empire – certainly fits the idea of a Turkoman, described at the time as horses that were descended from "those of Arabia or Persia", but ‘longer in the body and of a larger size.’ The Darley Arabian arrived in England in 1704, having been acquired from Fedan Bedouins, in the Syrian Desert outside of Aleppo. Given that background, it initially seems surprising that he is from a Turkoman, rather than Arabian Y-chromosome line. Enlightenment on that circumstance might lie in a letter sent from Thomas Darley, who had discovered The Darley Arabian, to his brother. There, according to Thoroughbred Heritage “he explained that the colt was believed to be from one of the purest of Arabian strains, and his name was Manak or Manica, obviously a reference to the famed ‘Muniqui’ strain of Arabians noted for their swift paces.” It’s known that the Muniqui or Muniq’i strain of Arab were crossed with Turkoman during the 17th century, accounting for that Y-chromosome appearing through a southern oriental source.
It’s possible that something similar explains the Godolphin Arab, described here by a contemporary veterinary surgeon, Osmer: “There never was a horse… so well entitled to get racers as the Godolphin Arabian…his shoulders were deeper, and lay farther into his back, than those of any horse yet seen. Behind the shoulders, there was but a very small space where the muscles of his loins rose exceedingly high, broad, and expanded, which were inserted into his quarters with greater strength and power than in any horse... yet seen. A smaller horse with a short-back, the Godolphin Arab doesn’t sound much like a Turkoman, and we can only surmise that in his case the cross of a Turkoman sire (or sires) on Arab mares came some generations earlier. Interestingly enough, it has been mentioned that The Godolphin Arab was a ‘gold-touched bay’ as were his trio of important offspring out of the mare Roxana – Lath, Cade and Regulus. This rather recalls the metallic sheen often seen in the Turkoman descended Akhal-Teke.
Beyond clarifying the foundation of the Thoroughbred, the studies might offer answer to a century and a half old question, a near forgotten controversy. One of the greatest racehorses and stallions foaled in the 19th century was undefeated St. Simon. Under the rules prevailing at the time, St. Simon’s classic entries were invalidated, due to the death of his breeder, Prince Batthyany, but despite only being a three-year-old, he thrashed his elders in Ascot Gold Cup and the Goodwood Cup, winning by 20 lengths on each occasion. Leading Sire in Great Britain and Ireland nine times, he sired ten English classic winners, who won 17 English classics. His male line dominated the first 20 years of the 1900s, and was still potent in the mid-20th century, when it was represented by such immortals as Ribot and Round Table, with horses like Alleged and Pleasant Colony carrying the banner in the last quarter of the century, but at this stage its future looks decidedly bleak. The fate of his sire line notwithstanding, St. Simon remains one the most important shapers of the breed.
The accepted pedigree for St. Simon shows that he is from Darley Arabian sire line, descending from the King Fergus branch of Eclipse. That means that horses descended in male-line from St. Simon should carry the Y-chromosome Tb-d (the Darley Arabian/Eclipse line). What the two scientific studies discovered, however, is that all the St. Simon male-line descendants, actually carry Tb-oB1 y chromosome, indicating descent from the Byerley Turk.
This anomaly revives once questions that once hung over the origins of St. Simon’s sire, Galopin. A foal of 1872, Galopin was the best of his age at two and three in England, winning eight of nine starts, including the Epsom Derby. Although not popular in his early years at stud, Galopin subsequently became an outstanding stallion, topping the sire list three times. Galopin was bred by William Taylor Sharpe who had purchased his dam, Flying Duchess, carrying Galopin in the winter of 1871/1872. The seller of Flying Duchess, Zachariah Simpson, owned a stud at Diss in Norfolk, where he stood the putative sire of Galopin, Vedette. As early as the end of Galopin’s two-year-old season, rumors that he was not by Vedette, but another of the Diss stallions, Delight (from the Herod/Byerley Turk male line), appeared in print, and those rumors persisted well into the middle of the last century. Given that the record-keeping at Diss was not exactly exemplary, and that the mares there were paddock-bred, such an error seems far from impossible. Those claims, however, were strongly refuted by Sharpe in a letter to the St. Stephen’s Review, published in 1890. In it, Sharpe states that he had purchased Delight “the year before I bought Flying Duchess in foal to Vedette” thus rendering it impossible that Delight, standing at Baumber Park in Lincolnshire in 1871, could be the sire of Galopin.
Given the Sharpe letter, a deeper error might seem the most likely explanation, were it not for some extensive further research by Judy Baugh and Tony Byles, which provides an avenue to harmonize the discrepancy between the advocacy for Delight as sire of Galopin and the information in Sharpe’s letter. The Racing Calendar indicates – as per Sharpe – that Delight did stand at Baumber Park in 1871, as does an advertisement from the Stamford Mercury, dated April 1871. As a counterpoint, however, the General Stud-Book record of the mare Delilah (1854, by Touchstone), shows that she foaled a colt by Delight in 1872, having produced a Vedette colt for Zachariah Simpson the previous year. The breeder of the 1872 Delight – Delilah colt, William Day, recalled in his Reminiscences of the Turf purchasing a mare believed to be Delilah in foal to Delight from a sale at Diss in 1871, strongly suggesting that Delight must have been at Diss for at least par of 1871.
The most logical explanation is that Delight was at Diss early in 1871, when he covered Delilah, and then moved to Baumber Park to complete the season (as per The Racing Calendar and Leicester Mercury advertisement). Given that Simpson was to enter bankruptcy the following year, it would have been no surprise if he had to part with Delight precipitously, perhaps even at or around the same time that Day purchased Delilah in foal to Delight. In this way, it is entirely possible for Delight to have covered Flying Duchess at Diss early in 1871; for him to be acquired by Sharpe in time to serve at Baumber Park for the latter part of the 1871 breeding season; and for Sharpe to later acquire Flying Duchess – supposedly bred to Vedette, but actually in foal to Delight – in the winter of 1871/1872, all in harmony with Sharpe’s account. At some future point, whether the error occurred with Delight or a more distant point in Galopin’s male-line may be resolved by testing a sample from a bone of Voltigeur that is in the racing museum at York racecourse, but for the moment the evidence points strongly towards Galopin being by Delight.
Delight was no better than useful as a racehorse, and never sired another horse of note, but he owns an interesting pedigree, and one which is equally intriguing when crossed with Flying Dutchess. Delight’s sire, Ellington, won the 1856 renewal of the Epsom Derby, and was by the great racehorse, The Flying Dutchman. In addition, Delight was not only from Herod’s male line, but also traced to Herod’s dam, Cypron, through a mare who was by Herod’s son, Highflyer, and inbred 3x3 to Cypron.
The proposed pedigree of Galopin, now by Delight – Flying Dutchess, shows the Flying Dutchman 3x2 as grandsire of the sire, and sire of the dam (an inbreeding pattern that has recently been seen in the pedigree of the great mare Enable). The Flying Dutchman is a member of the Bruce Lowe #3 family - which is actually more accurately known as the
mtDNA haplotype L2b1a. Flying Duchess is also from the immediate family of The Flying Dutchman, and her fourth dam, Virgin, and Selima, the third dam of The Flying Dutchman, are half-sisters both by Herod line horses. Herod’s branch of the Byerley Turk seemed to have a remarkable affinity for mares from the L2b1a haplotype, and the new Galopin pedigree is virtually saturated with that combination, with at least 28 instances, including through the similarly-bred sires Sir Peter Teazle and Buzzard.
When it came to crossing with St. Simon’s dam, St. Angela, it brought this remarkable concentration of Herod/L2b1a into contact with a particularly distinguished example of the combination, Pocahontas, who was by the Herod line horse, Glencoe, and herself from the L2b1a female line. Dam also of "The Emperor of Stallions" Stockwell, of that horse's brother, Rataplan, and of a number of family founding daughters, Pocahontas appears here as dam of St. Simon's broodmare sire, King Tom.
While it doesn’t have a direct impact on immediate pedigrees of current Thoroughbreds, the amendment Galopin’s pedigree would surely radically change calculations involved in studies of the breed, such those in the
“Founder-specific inbreeding depression affects racing performance in Thoroughbred horses” paper, Herod’s contribution potentially increasing, and that of Eclipse decreasing. It also makes a considerable difference the development of the sire line of Phalaris, that of Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector, Hail to Reason and Seattle Slew. All the current male-lines that stem from Phalaris come from horses bred on the Phalaris/Chaucer cross, which gives St. Simon 4x3, including as the sire of Chaucer. Another out of a Chaucer mare, and inbred to 4x3 to St. Simon is the great sire, Hyperion. There would also be tremendous differences to the ancestral pedigrees of such influential 20th century horses as Teddy, La Troienne, Tracery and Tourbillon, to name but a few.