PETER MCCUE

EQUUS - - Insights Conformation -

In this shot, Peter McCue is 4 years old and still in rac­ing con­di­tion. A big horse at 16-plus hands and 1,400 pounds, he had plenty of “bone” with sub­stan­tial knees, an­kles and hocks. Long-bod­ied, Peter McCue is quite dif­fer­ent in con­for­ma­tion from the punchy, pony­like Mis­souri Ron­dos and Texas Billys fea­tured in pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cles, and yet his physique is, like theirs, very mus­cu­lar. His big hindquar­ters are given ex­tra lever­age by a long, prom­i­nent is­chium (the part of the pelvis be­hind the hip socket). The pic­ture of rac­ing ap­ti­tude is com­pleted by a spec­tac­u­lar elas­tic shoul­der, prom­i­nent with­ers that carry well back, well-shaped neck, qual­ity head and the small, pricked ears which are of­ten found in Quar­ter Horses.

Read­ers of this se­ries will rec­og­nize the sprint­ers Old Billy, Dolly Coker, Steel Dust and Mon­key who trace di­rectly back to the orig­i­nal Printer and *Lit­tle Janus. Note that Peter McCue car­ries mul­ti­ple crosses to two of the most pop­u­lar Thor­ough­bred sires of the 19th cen­tury: four to Sir Archy (via the mares Mistle­toe, Gamma, Maria West and Gabriella), and three to the el­e­gant im­ported dis­tance horse Glen­coe. Peter McCue is tran­si­tional in the Thor­ough­bred parts of his pedi­gree, with an al­most even split be­tween Eclipse and Herod sire-lines, with one to Matchem. The most in­ter­est­ing, and one of the most telling, parts of his pedi­gree is the tail-fe­male, which goes di­rectly to the Godol­phin twice via two Colo­nial-era horses, the stal­lion Tay­loe’s Bel­lair II and Ran­dolph’s Chatsworth mare. At the root of Peter McCue’s tail-fe­male lie mul­ti­ple crosses to royal hobbies and Old Bald Peg, who are the ul­ti­mate sources of speed in both the Thor­ough­bred and the Quar­ter Horse.

Peter McCue’s sire, Dan Tucker. As with other color ren­di­tions in this his­tor­i­cal se­ries, this was pro­duced by work­ing di­rectly from an en­large­ment of the im­age of Dan Tucker on page 91. A half­bred, Dan Tucker is smaller and more closely cou­pled than most Thor­ough­breds.

Peter McCue daugh­ter Mary McCue (ca. 1910; out of a mare by Old Fred) was match-raced un­til 4 years old, but she made her rep­u­ta­tion pri­mar­ily through her most in­flu­en­tial foal, the stal­lion Ding Bob (1926), by Brown Dick, a seven-eighths Thor­ough­bred dou­ble-bred to St. Si­mon. The McCue “Thor­ough­bred” daugh­ter Car­rie pa­pers Na­tion of (ca. Peter 1900) call her Belle of Oak­ford—Oak­ford be­ing the res­i­dence of Sam Watkins’ cousin Hugh Watkins. This mare’s pedi­gree is still of­ten quoted as “by Bowl­ing Green out of Trixey W, by Fib,” i.e. pure Thor­ough­bred. In ac­tual fact, there’s no mis­tak­ing her as a daugh­ter of Peter McCue—she and Mary McCue are as alike as two peas in a pod, with their long hindquar­ters, long is­chia, long backs, high with­ers, sub­stan­tial hocks, clean elas­tic shoul­ders, and short, wedge-shaped heads. I agree that Car­rie Na­tion's dam was in fact Trixey W—a mare bred by Sam Watkins and later sold or loaned to Oak­ford—but my "ed­u­cated guess" is that Trixey's sire was not Fib but Dan Tucker, and that Car­rie Na­tion’s sire was not Bowl­ing Green but Peter McCue.

on the de­vel­op­ment of the Amer­i­can Quar­ter Horse really be­gins af­ter the turn of the cen­tury. The most im­por­tant fact to be gained from study of his pedi­gree is that, un­like most of the good quar­ter-mil­ers of the pre­vi­ous cen­tury, Peter McCue is three-quar­ters rather than one-half Thor­ough­bred. Al­though mus­cu­lar, his skele­tal frame is large, long and nar­row, hew­ing more to the many crosses to Herod and Eclipse in his pedi­gree than to the punchy, pony­like Printer, Brim­mer and Janus-bred Billys and Ron­dos.

Red­headed Sam Watkins learned to love fast, well-bred horses from his father John D. Watkins, a Ken­tucky farmer who also worked as a far­rier. As a young man, Sam courted Mary Woldridge in Ken­tucky and mar­ried her in Menard County, Illi­nois, in 1863 af­ter his father helped him se­cure the Lit­tle Grove acreage. There Sam pros­pered by rais­ing hogs, cat­tle, corn, al­falfa and horses. The hard-work­ing young cou­ple built a beau­ti­ful house and raised a mag­nif­i­cent barn. They also raised eight chil­dren, some of whom are pic­tured in a price­less his­tor­i­cal photo that shows the barn, the fam­ily, the horses and hired hands both black and white as they looked in about 1892.

Sam Watkins started by buy­ing qual­ity brood­mares, among them Nora M., Butt Cut, Bird, and June Bug (see Peter McCue pedi­gree, op­po­site), and then (in as-so­ci­a­tion with his cousin and neigh­bor Hugh Watkins) breed­ing more in­clud­ing Nona P., Trixey W., Mol­lie D., Hat­tie W. and Lu­cre­tia M. He also stood three good stallions: the part-bred quar­ter-miler Dan Tucker (Shiloh-Steel Dust, whose dam was the very fast mare Butt Cut), and the Thor­ough­breds The Hero (Touch­stone-Lex­ing­ton) and Duke of the High­lands (also

known as Rath­ernod, West Aus­tralianBon­nie Scot­land). A clip­ping from the Bloom­ing­ton, Illi­nois, Pan­ta­graph of Au­gust 21, 1883, notes that “Nora M., a 3 year old by Voltigeur, dam Kitty Clyde, owned by Sa­muel Watkins of Menard Co., was en­tered in the race [open to] all ages, five fur­longs, run at Saratoga, New Jersey on the 8th of this month, and won with ease.” Like other race­horse men of the day, Watkins owned a box­car with one end fixed up as liv­ing quar­ters, the other fit­ted out with stalls and hay stor­age. Trav­el­ling on a cir­cuit with stops at tracks in Illi­nois, In­di­ana, St. Louis, Detroit and Wind­sor, and east­ward all the way to New Jersey and New York, Watkins would be gone for the sea­son, but the 1880 cen­sus for Menard County in­di­cates that be­sides hired hands, Sam’s par­ents, sis­ter, brother, a nephew and niece were all liv­ing at Lit­tle Grove at the time, so there was no lack of help to run the home place.

When Nora M. foaled Peter McCue in 1895, Sam was 53 years old with sev­eral of his chil­dren grown and mar­ried. His par­ents had passed on, so Sam was needed at home. In 1897 he had the dark bay colt bro­ken in by a neigh­bor and then put him in race train­ing with a nephew, Charles Watkins. “Thor­ough­bred” pa­pers in hand, Charles cam­paigned Peter McCue heav­ily as a 2 year old, scor­ing 16 wins in 27 starts at dis­tances of from a half mile to 4 1/2 fur­longs. In the 1940s, Quar­ter Horse his­to­rian Robert Den­hardt in­ter­viewed Milo Burlingame, an Ok­la­homa jockey, horse breeder and trainer who first met Peter McCue at a St. Louis race meet in 1897. Burlingame re­called, “I never saw him raced with horses that could make him straighten his neck out. There were 2,500 horses sta­bled at St. Louis, and af­ter he had run two races, it was com­mon knowl­edge that

he was by far the best and fastest there.”

His­to­rian Jack Good­hue, writ­ing in Leg­ends Vol. 2, re­lates that while at the St. Louis meet, Char­lie Watkins de­cided to run the colt wide open against the watch, with Burlingame up---just to see how fast the stal­lion could really go. “Those were the days be­fore gates,” re­called Burlingame. “We went to the track at day­light, and there were five watches put on him, all click­ing from flags, two at the start and three at the fin­ish. Well, I broke from an 18-ft. score and really pushed him out. It was the

clos­est to fly­ing I ever felt. When I got back, the five watches had been brought to­gether. As I got off, I saw them all with his time, just as they were snapped. Two were un­der 21 sec­onds and three were ex­actly 21 sec­onds. All five watch-hold­ers were ex­pe­ri­enced race timers and hand­i­cap­pers, and know­ing the horses of his day and their times, I can say quite hon­estly that I be­lieve the watches that morn­ing were cor­rect. I feel sure it would be un­der 22 sec­onds from a gate in our day.” One quar­ter-mile in 21 sec­onds equates to a speed of nearly 43 mph, near the max­i­mum ever recorded for any equine, wild or do­mes­tic.

Char­lie Watkins con­tin­ued to cam­paign Peter McCue un­til Oc­to­ber of 1899, log­ging 12 wins in 18 starts as a 3 year old and 10 wins in 12 starts as a 4 year old. In ad­di­tion to com­pet­ing at rec­og­nized venues, the stal­lion ran dozens of races on pot­hole-rid­den, ill-main­tained “bullpen” tracks, which were the norm at county fair­grounds. His rac­ing ca­reer ended as a 4 year old

Peter McCue proved valu­able as a sire, es­teemed not only for his speed but for height and weight: As a ma­ture horse, he stood fully 16 hands tall and in breed­ing con­di­tion weighed more than 1,400 pounds.

when un­re­lent­ing heavy use be­gan to take its toll, re­sult­ing first in a strained ten­don and then in a frac­tured left fore pastern. Irate, Sam de­manded that his nephew re­turn the horse to Lit­tle Grove, where he was re­tired to stud.

There he proved valu­able as a sire, es­teemed not only for his speed but for height and weight: As a ma­ture horse Peter McCue was much big­ger than any Billy or Rondo, stand­ing fully 16 hands and in breed­ing con­di­tion weigh­ing more than 1,400 pounds. Dur­ing this pe­riod, Watkins bred him to an ar­ray of Thor­ough­bred mares, reg­is­ter­ing Di­a­mond Joe, Duck Hunter, Edee Ree, Emma Hill, Fore­gone, Me­trop­o­lis, Miss Cor­net and Nel­lie Mier---all in re­al­ity 15/16ths-breds---as full Thor­ough­breds (they are still con­sid­ered Thor­ough­breds by the Amer­i­can Jockey Club). He also pro­duced fiveeighths- and seven-eighths-breds such as Tern’s Trick (1907) and Run­ning Mal­lard (1903), now con­sid­ered Quar­ter Horses be­cause they were known to be out of mares by Dan Tucker. Many of Peter McCue’s get were, how­ever, falsely pa­pered at the time---for ex­am­ple, the great race mare Car­rie Na­tion (ca. 1902) whose sire was prob­a­bly Peter McCue, not Bowl­ing Green, and whose “Thor­ough­bred” pa­pers call her “Belle of Oak­ford,” Oak­ford be­ing the Menard County res­i­dence of Sam’s cousin Hugh. The Watkins’ cant­ing names of­ten tell the truth with a wink. For ex­am­ple, Trixey W.’s “Thor­ough­bred” sire is said to be Fib, while her dam is given as “Lyon Lady.” In re­al­ity, like Nona P. she was prob­a­bly by Dan Tucker and might have been out of Bird, a “bird” be­ing Mid­west pa­tois for some­one who “sings,” i.e., ha­bit­u­ally tells lies. Of all the horses sired by Peter McCue at Lit­tle Grove, three of his sons proved most cru­cially im­por­tant to the fu­ture Quar­ter Horse: Har­mon Baker and Hick­ory Bill, both foaled in 1907, and John Wilkins foaled in 1906 (not to be con­fused with an­other John Wilkins, also called John Wilkes, this stal­lion also by Peter McCue but foaled in 1912.

In 1908 Watkins sold Peter McCue to his friend John Wilkins of San An­to­nio, Texas, thus bring­ing Peter McCue to the no­tice of a whole new re­gion. While in Wilkins’ hands he sired the race mare Anna Sta­tia and the stallions Char­lie How­ell, Jack McCue, Kid, R.O. Sykes and San An­to­nio. In 1911, the year of Sam Watkins’ death, Peter McCue went to Milo Burlingame in Ok­la­homa, who kept him un­til 1916. Burlingame used him to get Badger (1912), A.D. Reed (1916) and Chief (1917), foun­da­tional Quar­ter Horses who were suc­cess­ful both on the track and as sires of brood­mares and good ranch horses.

In 1916, Burlingame sold Peter McCue to Si Daw­son of Hay­den, Colorado. Daw­son’s neigh­bor and fel­low short-horse hob­by­ist was Coke Roberds, who had dis­cov­ered Old Fred (“The Stuff of Leg­end,” EQUUS 491) and who had used him to build up a band of sturdy, mus­cu­lar short-speed brood­mares. Daw­son paid the high price of $5,000 to get the 21-year-old Peter McCue but it proved to be money very well spent. In 1919 Daw­son left Colorado to man­age a 250,000-acre fazenda in Brazil, leav­ing the stal­lion in the care of Roberds. When Daw­son died just a few months later, Roberds dis­persed all Daw­son’s brood­mares but kept Peter McCue, who had been willed to him by his friend. Peter McCue stayed with Roberds un­til he died in 1923, sir­ing a string of highly valu­able foals on Roberds’ Old Fred mares. Of th­ese, the most in­flu­en­tial were the stallions Buck Thomas (1921, not the geld­ing of the same name) and Sheik (1918), the brood­mare Mary McCue (ca. 1920) and Roberds’ win­ning race mare Squaw (ca. 1917).

Peter McCue’s size, long elas­tic stride, calm tem­per­a­ment and great speed con­tin­ued to be val­ued through the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, which led up to the estab­lish­ment of the Amer­i­can Quar­ter Horse As­so­ci­a­tion in 1941. The great stal­lion’s blood runs close up in the veins of such foun­da­tional horses as the King Ranch’s Old Sor­rel and Wimpy P-1, who won the Fort Worth stock show and thereby earned the first Quar­ter Horse regis­tra­tion num­ber. Any­one fa­mil­iar with Quar­ter Horses will rec­og­nize the names of Peppy, Bert, Joe Han­cock, Ding Bob, Mid­night, Grey Badger II, Pretty Boy, Nowata Star, Poco Bueno, King Fritz, Cow­boy P-12, Plaudit, Skip­per W. and King’s Pis­tol---all of whom came into ex­is­tence be­cause Peter McCue could “mul­ti­ply.”

The great stal­lion’s blood runs close up in the veins of such foun­da­tional horses as the King Ranch’s Old Sor­rel and Wimpy P-1, who won the Fort Worth stock show and earned the first Quar­ter Horse regis­tra­tion.

THE CA­JUN CON­TRI­BU­TION

Par­al­lel­ing the Watkins clan in Illi­nois were the short-horse fanciers of Louisiana, who at about the same time as Sam Watkins had be­gun to topcross their short-horses with Thor­ough­breds. By 1900 quar­ter-mile rac­ing in Louisiana was al­ready a long-stand­ing tra­di­tion car­ried on by a tight-knit

cir­cle of Ca­jun-speak­ing horse­men who passed on both know-how and blood­stock to their sons. Black train­ers and jock­eys who main­tained close con­nec­tions with sprint-horse fanciers in Texas were part of this cir­cle as well. In those days, two types of quar­ter-mile track could be found in the re­gion: The tra­di­tional straight de­sign was typ­i­cal in Louisiana, but across the Sabine many meets oc­curred on county fair­grounds with oval tracks, some of which mea­sured only a quar­ter-mile in length. This meant that the horses would have to con­tend with a J-shaped or even an O-shaped race­course with tight, un­banked turns---thus putting a high pre­mium on tough yet ag­ile com­peti­tors with sound, sub­stan­tial legs.

Re­search­ing the his­tory of Ca­jun quar­ter-mile rac­ing has proven some­what more dif­fi­cult than other parts of the Amer­i­can Quar­ter Horse story; his­to­rian Jack Good­hue sug­gests that, be­cause they per­ceived Robert Den­hardt as an out­sider and an of­fi­cial of an or­ga­ni­za­tion (the AQHA) that might seek to reg­u­late them, some Ca­jun in­sid­ers might have lied to him about the breed­ing of their horses. Cer­tainly, Den­hardt ap­pre­ci­ated their con­tri­bu­tion as he ob­served, “Louisiana is in many ways the home of the mod­ern short-horse…. It pro­duced more fast short-horses be­tween 1900 and 1940 than any other sin­gle area in the coun­try.” The two most fa­mous and in­flu­en­tial Ca­jun-bred short horses are the in­domitable race ma­tri­arch Della Moore (ca. 1909-1915) and the stal­lion Fly­ing Bob (1929).

Della Moore was foaled on the farm of Lu­dovic Stem­mans a few miles from the town of Scott, Louisiana, which bills it­self as “the city where the West be­gins.” Den­hardt un­der­stood the Ca­juns to say that Stem­mans owned a fa­vorite

mare called Bell, who they averred was a daugh­ter of Sam Rock, a sor­rel sprinter of un­known pedi­gree. Den­hardt’s re­search later equated Bell with “La Her­nan­dez” by the Thor­ough­bred Dewey (St. Si­mon---Bon­nie Scot­land).

By the time Bell was 4, says Den­hardt, Stem­mans de­cided to breed her be­cause “she had taken the slack out of so many horses that she was get­ting a lit­tle hard to match.” He had planned to take her to Dewey (i.e., an in­ces­tu­ous mat­ing to her own sire), when Dewey was matched 265 yards against a new­comer called Dedier (the Ca­jun pro­nun­ci­a­tion of Dedier is “Dee­jay,” hence “Old D.J.”; a three-quar­ter­sThor­ough­bred trac­ing to Touch­stone and Lex­ing­ton). As a re­sult, Bell ended

up in D.J.’s book and the filly that re­sulted was the fem­i­nine yet highly ath­letic three-quar­ter-bred Della Moore.

Long be­fore she was 2, Della Moore had al­ready shown out­stand­ing speed in what the Ca­juns called a “milk race.” “Never known for their pa­tience,” re­lates Den­hardt, “and anx­ious to see what their young­stock could do,” the Ca­juns would take mares with foals at foot to a race­track. While two men held them be­hind the start­ing line, their mothers were led 156 yards up the straight­away. When the flag dropped the foals were turned loose, and away they sprinted look­ing for milk, with Della Moore eas­ily out­pac­ing the lot. As a re­sult, it was not long be­fore her rep­u­ta­tion be­gan to pre­cede her and it

be­came im­pos­si­ble to find any­one will­ing to match their horse against her. Stem­mans there­fore sold her and she went through sev­eral own­ers’ hands be­fore wind­ing up in about 1918 with Boyd Si­mar, a trainer from the par­ish of Ver­mil­ion. Like Sam Watkins, Si­mar owned a box­car fixed up with stalls and groom’s quar­ters, and, fig­ur­ing that Della Moore had prob­a­bly al­ready done all the rac­ing pos­si­ble in Louisiana, he took her to Texas. There, as Den­hardt notes, she proved to be a fierce com­peti­tor but also a hot com­mod­ity, with many horse­men of­fer­ing to buy her.

Si­mar fi­nally sold Della Moore to high-plains rancher Henry Lind­say, and this turned out to be the un­in­tended be­gin­ning of her ca­reer as a brood­mare. In 1920, while un­der Lind­say’s own­er­ship, she was at a big race meet in San An­to­nio and by chance was sta­bled near the stal­lion Joe Blair (Thor­ough­bred; by Bon­nie Joe out of Miss Blair, trac­ing mul­ti­ple times to Eclipse through Pot8- O’s and Vedette), fa­mous for set­ting a world’s record of 39 sec­onds over three fur­longs at the track in Juarez, Mex­ico. Pos­si­bly as the out­come of a night­long craps game among the sta­ble­hands, Joe Blair was al­lowed to cover Della Moore with­out the owner’s knowl­edge. Sev­eral months later, nei­ther Lind­say nor his trainer could fig­ure out why the mare’s girth kept in­creas­ing de­spite their ef­forts to “draw her weight down” for rac­ing, un­til fi­nally she re­solved the mys­tery by drop­ping a colt. To Lind­say this was an un­planned in­con­ve­nience and so the un­der­weight foal---who later ma­tured into the im­por­tant foun­da­tional stal­lion Joe Reed---was weaned im­me­di­ately and raised on the bot­tle, while Della Moore went back to the track.

At this point, the sto­ries of Peter McCue and Della Moore be­gin to dove­tail. Ge­orge Clegg, a horse­man from

The two most fa­mous and in­flu­en­tial Ca­jun-bred short horses are the in­domitable race ma­tri­arch Della Moore and the stal­lion Fly­ing Bob.

MARY MCCUE CAR­RIE NA­TION

DAN TUCKER

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