History: Greatest Canadian Bred Mare of All Time: Part 2

Reprinted from the April 1950 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

Greatest Canadian Bred Mare of All Time: Part 2
By Guy Weadick, High River, Alta.

The fact remains that Lynch and Rankin delivered the horses to Reynolds as agreed and in payment, Reynolds gave Lynch one of the race horses, a mare registered on the books as “Frolia,” but known in Canada as “Sangree.”

Some time after this a ranch owner located on what has been known for years as the Gardner ranch south of the Bar U in the Foothills, went to his stable about five o’clock one morning and found two strange horses in the stall: one a saddle horse and the other a mare, evidently a race horse. A man was asleep in another stall. The rancher woke the man up, asked him where he was from and where he was going.

The man said he had come from the U.S. boundary and he was taking the race mare to Calgary to deliver to a man named Farley (who at that time trained a few race horses). The ranch owner asked him why he had not travelled over the Macleod Trail which was much the best, to which the man replied he had been instructed to take the trail through the Foothills and to travel at night as it was much cooler. He pulled out that night saying he was headed for Calgary but as it turned out later he wasn’t headed to Calgary at all, rather to Tom Lynch’s ranch further east down the Highwood River.

So that was how “Frolia” from then on known in Western Canada as “Sangree” returned to Alberta, after having been spirited away previously from Calgary to escape judgment held against her former owner, Reynolds.

At Tom Lynch’s ranch the mare ran for some time with a bunch of his range horses, she grew a long tail and Tom put his T L brand on her. Later she was taken to Calgary, became the property of Duncan Cameron and he bred her to “Eagle Plum” by whom she had two colts, May W and another also a mare, although a good one, never in the same class as May W.

When Cameron took his racing stable to the U.S. “Sangree” assumed her rightful name of “Frolia” and as the dam of May W was so registered in the books.

Along about the time May W did her last racing in the U.S. there came a great slump in Thorobred racing, many states placing a ban on it. Duncan Cameron passed away and his racing stable was sold in New York, and May W, along with hundreds of other American race horses were shipped to England to be sold there at auction.

Out in Alberta they lost track of May W until along in 1918 an old-time Alberta ranchman leaned that Mrs. Cameron, living in California (where I understand she still lives) was anxious to learn what had become of May W after reaching England. The old-time ranchman started in to find out.

He first contacted an old friend of his, a prominent Irish breeder of Thorobreds named David Browning, who in the early days had run a bunch of cattle in Alberta on the same range with Ned Mausell in the Macleod area, after which he had returned to Ireland and conducted a large Thorobred stable. He replied to his old friend in Alberta telling him to write to a man named Kelly in County Cork, Ireland, who a few years before had a mare named “Minway” racing in Ireland that was out of May W. The old-timer wrote to Mr. Kelly giving him May W’s record in Canada and the U.S. Kelly replied that he was glad to get the record, as he had bought “Minway” as a yearling at the Newmarket sales and knew nothing of May W or where she was, but stated that “Minway” was the best mare he had raced for many years and that he still had her in his stud. He later sent the old-timer a photo of a stallion he had out of “Minway” named “Gehaja” who became a noted horse at the stud. The photo showed a remarkable likeness to “Eagle Plume.” (Unfortunately this photo was lost in a fire some time later.)

The old-timer next wrote to Wetherby Keeper of the General Stud Book and learned that May W had been sold to a Mr. Long of Cambridge, to whom the old-timer immediately wrote and from whom he received the authentic story of May W, after her arrival in England. Here it is, to quote Mr. Long:

“I am a large farmer and raise Thorobreds to sell as yearlings, but never raced them myself. At the time the U.S. was flooding this market I attended one of the sales at Newmarket, not to buy, but as an onlooker. I was not impressed by either the horses or their condition. It was a cold November day and towards the end of the sale, a small bay mare by the name of May W came into the ring, looking awful, in very poor condition. She was quickly sold for 15 pounds to a peddler — a man I happened to know. Suddenly a man standing next to me turned to me and said, ‘Would you believe it. I have seen that mare run on the New York tracks and I can tell you it took a might good horse to beat her up to one mile.’

“I asked him who he was, and he replied, ‘I am Andrew Joyner and I am the trainer of the largest American stable now in England.’ I had of course heard of this man, so I told him the business I was in and he said, ‘Go and buy that little mare from that damned peddler and you’ll never regret it.’ This I promptly did and paid the peddler twenty pounds for her. It was the best deal I ever made in my life, and May W never left my ownership again — until l buried her under an old oak tree on my farm in 1915. She was old (21) and troubled with her teeth, otherwise she might have lived a little longer, but her legs and feet were as sound as when she was young. I felt very sad at parting from her, she was a wonderful little mare. She had seven foals for me and I kept the last as a brood mare and still have her (1918). I sold the other six yearlings and they were all winners, in fact after “Minway” did so well, I got big money for all the others. You can assure all of May W’s Canadian friends that she had a good home with every care and I am glad to have her great Canadian and U.S.A. record, which you so kindly sent me.” — (Signed) A. Long, Cambridge, England.

So that is the true story of May W, the Calgary foal by “Eagle Plume” out of “Frolia,” the Tom Lynch mare that Duncan Cameron bought and that was trained by “Oregon George” Wentworth in Calgary, when it was in its heyday as a cowtown.

And who is the old-time Alberta rancher that checked and got the authentic data regarding May W? None other than Charley Knox, one of the pioneer horse and cattlemen of the High River district, who owned the ranch south of the Bar U, who found “Frolia” or “Sangee,” together with the rider and his saddle horse in his stable after they had travelled the Hoot Owl trail on their way to Tom Lynch’s ranch, on their way to racing history.

I am sure all will agree that Jim Speers made no mistake when he labelled May W the “Greatest Canadian Bred Mare of Our Time.”

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