Such has been the influence of The Tetrarch that, more than a century after his racing days came to an end, we still refer to a grey horse with mottled white spots – such as recent Ascot Novice Hurdle winner Arpege d’Alene (who traces back to him) – as having ‘Tetrarch spots.’
For a horse who only ran seven times, all as a two-year-old, that’s saying something.
A new book has been released on the life of this juvenile phenomenon told, quite literally, from the horse’s mouth.
I must admit that before reading it I felt a bit of trepidation about a story being told from the horse’s point of view. I feared it might sound contrived or even, dare I say, twee.
My fears were unfounded. The book flows along easily, never sounding strained, managing to cover The Tetrarch’s unbeaten racing career and subsequent stud duty, which proved successful albeit with just a small amount of runners. There are thorough profiles of his breeder Edward ‘Cub’ Kennedy, owner Dermot McCalmont, trainer Atty Persse, jockey Steve Donoghue, and groom Dick McCormick, who are all liberally quoted throughout.
The grey won all his races, all at five and six furlongs, and was being prepped for a tilt at the Derby when he was retired to due reinjuring a tendon. Detractors said he would not stay the Classic trip, and the fact that many of his descendants excelled at sprinting does little to refute that claim.
It is revealed towards the end of the book that The Tetrarch is narrating his story in 1935. His passing later that same year is dealt with through a postscript which ties up all the loose ends of his connections and goes into further detail about his progeny.
His influence is still being felt today, mainly through his daughters, especially Mumtaz Mahal, the dam of Mumtaz Begum, whose offspring included Sun Princess and influential sire Nasrullah. The crack sprinter Abernant and champion filly Petite Etoile also trace back to Mumtaz Mahal on their dam side.
The book is largely written in language that wouldn’t date it to any specific time period, and there are two sections of black and white photographs.
It might have benefitted by more thorough proofreading, as there are several typos scattered throughout, but this is only a minor qualm. Ultimately, it is an interesting, enjoyable tale about a horse whose influence on the breed still resonates today.
The Spotted Wonder is published by AuthorHouse.