If you ask ten people what makes a good sire, you likely will get ten different answers. As for us, we like a sound, athletic horse physically and above all, he must have pedigree and a racing heart. The latter is obviously subjective, though we have yet to see a truly great sire who did not have courage.
Looking back at Hail to Reason today, three things stand out: He is that oh-so-rare creature who could stand 18 starts at two, though it nearly killed him. That his name had a most unusual meaning. And most of all, he had a pedigree to die for, the kind of pedigree that makes students of the breed look back in awe.
Hail to Reason's racing career makes any modern racing enthusiast cringe. He started at three furlongs in January of his two-year-old year and by the time it finally got to him and he shattered both sesamoids in his left foreleg in a workout, it was only September! A loose shoe was eventually blamed for the accident, but the horse may have simply been thoroughly worn out at that stage of the game.
Nevertheless, though he never ran again, that two-year-old season proved just how tough this big son of *Turn-to really was. No vets were around on that early Sunday morning when Hail to Reason broke his sesamoids and it was the quick action of owner/trainer Hirsch Jacobs and his son John and the horse's own sensible temperament that allowed a make-shift cast to save his life. There were no tranquilizers readily available in 1960; Hail to Reason had to gut it out on his own. And oh, to think what we would have lost if he had not made it!
It was crystal clear from the outset that Hail to Reason's sire, *Turn-to, was not a particularly sound individual. But his dam made all the difference. Nothirdchance ran 95 times. Among her victories were the now Grade 1 Acorn Stakes and she traced to the immortal taproot matron and Reine-de-Course St. Marguerite.
Hirsch Jacobs named Nothirdchance as a warning to the Allied powers to not let Germany begin another war. When the Allies responded as he had hoped, he named her foal Hail to Reason. Hail to Reason's name may have been a political statement, but his career as a sire was a glory.
When the colt (for he still was) went to stud, he went with a pedigree that was right out of the 'how to breed a superior racehorse and sire' book. Consider his lineage: He was 3 x 3 to half brothers Admiral Drake and *Sir Gallahad III, two Chef-de-Race sons of Plucky Liege; 5 x 5 x 6 to Phalaris and his half brother Hainault; 4 x 5 to half siblings Craig An Eran and Hamoaze, who traced to Sceptre; and was linebred to Canterbury Pilgrim and the full siblings Sanfoin and Sierra. His dam was also inbred to St. Marguerite, his own taproot line, via a double of Rock Sand and his close relation Trefle (Hail to Reason's eighth dam).
The family alone could have sold him. Not only had it produced English Triple Crown winner Rock Sand, but horses like Kingsway (Two Thousand Guineas), Bella Paola (Oaks and One Thousand Guineas), Gallant Fox (American Triple Crown), Firethorn (Jockey Club Gold Cup), Noory (Irish Oaks) and Seabreeze (Epsom Oaks and St. Leger). St. Marguerite herself was no slouch at the races either, having won the One Thousand Guineas.
The family has continued to grow, with horses like Meadowlake, Pola Bella, Top Command, Natroun, Triptych and Generous emerging from it after the advent of Hail to Reason. It is a singularly great group of mares.
Hail to Reason spent little time announcing his worth to the breeding community, siring five stakes winners from a first crop of only 13 foals. Two of those horses were champion Straight Deal, a wonderful producer, and Belmont winner Hail to All. As the years went by, the champions and major winners kept right on coming: Roberto; Personality; Regal Gleam; Hippodamia; Cake; Proud Clairon; Stop the Music; Bold Reason; Limit to Reason; Good Counsel; Halo, Priceless Gem and Mr. Leader.
Today, his bloodline is still strong. His two best sons, Roberto and Halo, are breeding on wonderfully well, thought the U.S. needs to quit selling off Halo blood to Japan (where they are trying to find another Sunday Silence, and would be better off just using his already successful sons!).
The line has lost the brothers Devil's Bag and Saint Ballado in recent years, but got a big boost in 2006 when Saint Ballado's Horse of the Year son Saint Liam entered stud at Lanes End, along with Kris S.'s Rock Hard Ten.
Devil's Bag lives on via Devil His Due (his best racing son, Roses In May, was sold to Japan but did not have a very strong female line), and Saint Ballado has a lot of sons out there, though Yankee Victor, one of the best, was recently sold to Korea.
Kris S. has not only Rock Hard Ten but champion Action This Day, and stakes sires Arch and Kissin Kris. Lear Fan is almost gone, and we wish Labeeb had not been sold to South Africa. Red Ransom is now in Great Britain but has a couple of sons, Hold for Gold and Trail City, holding the fort.
Cure the Blues is Stop the Music's great white hope with Rock and Roll, Take Me Out and Tethra. And there are a few others, like More Than Ready (Southern Halo), Halo's Image (Halo) and Littlebitlively (Lively One).
Hail to Reason was also a marvelous broodmare sire and his daughters have produced over 100 stakes winners. Some of their best include Triptych, Allez France, Hail Bold King, Sabona, Colonial Waters, and Royal Glint. Perhaps his most famous daughter, however, was a mare named Reason to Earn who won only $6,075 at the racetrack. She is the dam of Bold Reasoning, sire of Seattle Slew.
It is not unusual to see inbreeding to Hail to Reason in a pedigree, either. Some of the best known horses with this aspect are American Chance; Metfield, Silver Music and Take Me Out and his name is in the pedigree of so many good horses it is impossible to count but just a few are Sea Hero; Sky Beauty; Pine Bluff; Dayjur; Warning; Rahy and Old Vic. Why not inbreed to a stallion who was the first ever to sire the winners of all three American Triple Crown events (Proud Clairon, Personality and Hail to All) and an English Derby winner (Roberto) as well? Why not indeed.
Sadly, for those who appreciated him most, Hail to Reason did not live a long life. Always a big, strong horse (jockey Bobby Ussery called him "a man's horse"), Hail to Reason began to fail in the spring of his eighteenth year. The big fellow got down one day and simply could not rise. To spare him the indignity of a lingering death, he was destroyed on February 24, 1976.
What he had left behind, however, would ensure that, like all great Thoroughbreds, he would never truly die as long as his bloodline lived on. Rather his name would be written in bloodlines of future champions in all parts of the world for decades yet to come. This was truly one of the all-time greats.
Ellen Parker's Hail to Reason story originally appeared in Pedlines #37, December 1998
and has been updated for the website