by Rosana Rivera ©
It is well known that the world record achieved by Camarero changed Puerto Rican horse racing in more ways than one. A similar statement can be made of Battle Morn, a stallion that redefined the history of horse breeding in this Caribbean island.
Bred by Harry F. Guggenheim, and born in 1948, Battle Morn was a son of the Epsom Derby winner Blenheim II out of Good Morning by Sir Gallahad III. Among the 61 stakes winners produced by his sire were Mahmoud, Donatello II, Whirlaway, Jet Pilot, Mumtaz Begum, A Gleam, and Saratoga. Blenheim II was a successful sire yet he failed to produce an American-bred son that would carry his male line in this country. However it seems that the one successor destined for this task was overlooked by the breeding establishment in his native land and rediscovered when it was too late and he is the subject of this article.
Battle Morn's dam was Good Morning, a winner of 9 races including the Matron Stakes (NTR), the Vineland H., the Florence Nightingale H. and the Hannah Dustin Handicap. She was sired by the French Sir Gallahad III who produced 60 stakes winners including Gallant Fox, Gallahadion, Hoop Jr., Vagrancy, and Roman. Sir Gallahad was the Leading Sire in the U.S.A. on four occassions and headed the broodmare sire list on twelve.
Good Morning was a prolific broodmare and among her produce are the stallions Hoist Away (by *Turn-to), Prince o' Morn (by Round Table), Magic Morn (by *Nasrullah), Sweet Prince (by Princequillo), Fleeting Morn (by Count Fleet), Victory Morn (by Nasrullah) and Regal Morn (by Ambiorix). Two other of her colts were the winners Gala Morn (by Menow) and Great Morning (by Whirlaway).
Good Morning foaled three fillies; Sunny Morn (by Princequillo) who was third dam of Sultry Song, Wings o' Morn (by Alsab) who was grandam of Royal Intent who, in turn, sired the third dam of millionaire Frisk Me Now, and Break o' Morn (by Eight Thirty) the dam of stakes winner and stallion Amber Morn.
As a two-year-old, Battle Morn won the prestigious Grand Union Hotel Stakes, was second in the Champagne Stakes and the Hopeful Stakes and third in the Saratoga Special. His successful juvenile campaign along with a second place finish in the Wood Memorial earmarked him as a strong candidate for his next engagement, the Kentucky Derby. Guided by Eddie Arcaro, Battle Morn finished a disappointing sixth, more than seven lenghts behind the winner Count Turf. In second place was Royal Mustang, who would eventually become the broodmare sire of Wiso G., the first Puerto Rican-bred winner of the Clasico Internacional del Caribe.
Battle Morn skipped the Preakness Stakes, but he finished a respectable third in the Belmont Stakes from Counterpoint and Battlefield. The son of Blenheim II ran one more season and retired with 5 wins, 8 seconds and 2 thirds on 27 tries and earnings of $62,175.
Upon his retirement from the racetrack in 1953 Battle Morn entered stud at North Cliff Farm in Virginia for the modest fee of $250. In October 29, 1957 Battle Morn entered the sales ring at the Breeders' Sale Company at Keeneland where he was acquired by Puerto Rican breeder Mr. Jorge Castro for $3,500. Almost a year after the sale Mr. Castro was approached by U.S. interests offering him $10,000 for Battle Morn. He said "no," but the offers for his stallion kept coming until they reached the amount of $96,000, a considerable sum at that time.
The sudden interest in the failed Derby hope was due to the success of the foals he left on American soil. In 1958, three of his offspring had won stakes races. Warhead had won the Roamer, Manhattan and Jerome Handicaps; Battle Neck won the Independence Day Stakes; and the filly Any Morn won the Test Stakes. The return of Battle Morn to the U.S. would grant him the opportunitiy of larger books and better bred broodmares. For the last time Mr. Castro declined an overseas offer for his sought-after stallion. Shortly thereafter he accepted another offer, this one coming from the San Juan Racing Association, operators of the local El Comandante Racetrack.
The sale was accomplished through the intervention the Secretary of State and later Governor of Puerto Rico, Mr. Roberto Sánchez Vilella. He had heard about the horse and thought it to be beneficial to the local Thoroughbred industry if Battle Morn remained on the island. Mr. Castro, in an excellent show of sportmanship, accepted the payment of $75,000 for his prized stallion. The dawn of Battle Morn's reign had just begun.
As with his American crops, his Puerto Rican runners had a liking for the winners' circle. Proof of this is that in 1963, his third native crop placed Battle Morn as the U.S. leader in number of races won by juveniles with 15 (above the likes of Hasty Road, Nashua, Nearctic, Prince John and Traffic Judge) and among the leading juvenile sires in money won.
It is worth noting that Battle Morn's crops were very small, the mares he was bred to were not exactly royally bred and purse money in Puerto Rico was considerably less than in the U.S.A.
That same year and in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Puerto Rican horse racing, a special event was staged in the form of a challenge race between native-breds and imported horses. The winner, American bred Candid Boy (by Polynesian) was followed by two of the members of Battle Morn's second crop, Aluvión and Fusilero. Aluvión had won one of the Triple Crown events of that year along with another Battle Morn colt Comerío, thus awarding two of the Triple Crown events for the son of Blenheim II.
In addition the most prestigious juvenile stake races of that year were swept by his produce. The rich Puerto Rico Futurity as well as the Camarero Stakes were won by Imperial. The historic Luis Muñoz Rivera Memorial victor was Tabagón (who had finished second in the Camarero) followed by Galleguito I, giving Battle Morn a 1-2 on said race. At the end of the year, five of his runners were among the leading money winning horses, including the top four.
During the next year (1964), the Triple Crown events were monopolized by his offspring. The first jewel was won by Galleguito I while the remaining two by Imperial, these two champions played a rivalry that to this day have bands of fans with undivided loyalty. Besides beating one another intermittently and beating other native horses, they also defeated American bred horses as well as established new track records at the old El Comandante Track. At a time when purse money was low, Galleguito I became the leading money winner with $218,245. a record that he held for a long time.
Not only were Battle Morn's produce was consistent but also they were doted with speed. By 1966 Galleguito I, Cuñadita, El Guícharo, Imperial and Aluvión held track records from distances that ranged from 5 furlongs to 1 ¼ miles at El Comandante. The exploits of Battle Morn's produce were being followed in the United States as shown in the publication "The Blood-Horse" from September 24, 1964 titled "Big Day for Battle Morn". Said article mentioned that on September 3 , 1964 five of his offspring won all the 5 races held for native breds that afternoon at El Comandante.
Other stakes winners for Battle Morn were San Juan (out of Inaction by Hypnotist II), Mayagüez (out of Batteuse by Battlefield), Sympatica (out of Mamá Fufú by Hash), La Señorita (out of Fresh Tonic by Challedon) and Cuñadita (out of Bubola Mowlee by Fritz Maizel) as well as several stakes placed runners.
It certainly seemed like the gods were smiling on the son of Blenheim II, but destiny had taken an unexpected turn, Battle Morn had become sterile. In 1963 and 1964 he failed to get any mares in foal. The grand stallion was examined several times and was shipped to the United States with the objective of reestablishing his fertility, but he was sent back with little hope. Finally Mr. Castro was allowed to take Battle Morn to his farm where he managed to sire his last crop (born in 1965) consisting of the filly La Pili and two colts, El Símbolo and Valentino, who became his last stakes winner.
Five years later Battle Morn died leaving too many questions unanswered. How many more champions had he produced have he not had fertility problems? Was he the last hope of maintaining the male line of Blenheim II alive in the U.S.? Certainly there are no answers but one thing is for sure, Battle Morn, just like Camarero took Puerto Rican racing to a new level.
February 3, 2002. Copyright by Rosana Rivera 2002.