The Free State’s First Sport Horse: Mokhieba (1980-2005)

©Brant Gamma Photography

Mokhieba was a horse of impeccable breeding. A 1980 foal out of the Royal Vale mare Court Circuit, his sire was the legendary Damascus, winner of the 1967 Preakness and Belmont (after placing third in the Kentucky Derby) and the 1976 Horse of the Year. Damascus, who himself won at all distances while carrying top weight, gained a reputation as a “sire of sires.” In addition to producing Mokhieba, Damascus and Court Circuit produced three graded stakes winners.

According to his last owner, Mokhieba’s racing career was cut short by a bout of pneumonia when he was 3; it was in the breeding shed that the son of Damascus showed his strength.

Emma, ridden here at Preliminary by Olympian Philip Dutton in 2003, has won several horse trials at Training level and higher with multiple riders.

Mokhiebas: Born To Jump 
For more then 20 years, Mokhieba sired foals that have gone on to a wide range of activities, making him a true “sport horse” sire. The term “sport horse” is a relatively new one in equestrian circles. The definition implies that “sport” stallions are used for sports other then racing and that their get are successful in their endeavors.

Thirteen percent of Mokhieba’s get who started on the flat were stakes winners; 100% who started over fences were winners.
Mokhieba produced great steeplechasers, no question about it: Circuit Bar (stakes winner), Crimson Tales, Psychotherapy, Damascake, Teb’s Bend (winner of the $75,000 Championship Supreme Hurdle Stakes), Key to the Abbey, Double Barrel, Bredesen Moe and Tall Choice. In the 1990s, Mokhieba was touted as the fifth all-time leading steeplechase sire.

But perhaps Mokhieba’s greatest breeding success was off of the flat and steeplechase tracks.

In the early ‘90s, Mokhieba’s get were showing success in the hunter ring. Among his winning foals were Danalle, Champion Yearling at both Pennsylvania’s Devon Horse Show and Virginia’s Upperville Colt & Horse Show; Thorn Bird, 1995 American Horse Show Association (now United States Equestrian Federation) Zone 3 Adult Amateur Champion and Champion in the adult divisions at Upperville and the
Charleston (SC) Classic; and Lady Stetson, who was champion in the Pre-Greens at ‘A’ shows.

In the jumpers, Oslek is typical of the diversity demonstrated by many Mokhiebas. After racing with steeplechase trainer Janet Elliot, Oslek went to Andrea King and was ridden by Arron Vale, winning more than 60 show jumping competitions. Just missing as a grand prix jumper, Oslek demonstrated what many Mokhiebas were known for: their “trying,” regardless of their ability, and this big trying Mokhieba heart transferred easily from the jumper ring to the eventer world. At the age of 14, Oslek became the mount of Canadian Samantha Taylor; in one spring, she qualified him for the Young Riders Competition at the CCI level, placing fifth. In the same year, she qualified Oslek for the Radnor CCI, where he was one of the few horses to achieve a double-clear cross-country trip.

And Oslek was not an aberration. While they blew away the contenders in the jump races and held their own in the hunters and jumpers, Mokhieba babies still dominate the eventing ranks today – and Mokhieba will most likely enter breeding history as the first true sport horse stallion.

The list of Mokhiebas in the eventing world is so long, it is impossible to list them all, but there are some early eventers of note, and several currently competing worth mentioning.

Most notable are those at the top level of the sport, galloping around one to four star courses, horses such as Jamie Maher’s Better Behave (“Hazmat”), who was turned over to John Williams at the age of 10. This Mokhieba baby is probably the highest profile to date, as – with Williams in the irons – Hazmat enjoyed a good ride around the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event (the only CCI**** event in the U.S). Mokhieba’s half brother, Most Chosen, also had a distiguished eventing career, winning the Camino Real Three-Day Event CCI**.
In addition to these international level eventers, outstanding local and national level eventers by Mokhieba include Nonesuch Master William, Tim, Whippoorwill and Denis Glaccum’s Emma.

Emma, bred by Glaccum out of a Babamist mare, won on the line at Devon as a 2-year-old and has been eventing for the last 10 years. She has carried no fewer then five different riders to victory at Training level or higher. In addition to her current owner, Emma has been competed successfully by Olympians Phillip Dutton and John Williams, as well as by two local girls, Marylanders, Sarah Connell and Molly Connell (age 14!), who each enjoyed multiple wins on Emma in 2007.

In 2007, at the Weave-A-Dream Horse Trials, no fewer then three Mokhiebas placed first!

A Sleeper of a Superstar

Two successful Mokhieba steeplechasers: Crimson Tales and Psycotheraphy. ©Rob Banner

Like the cult classic that is a sleeper in the theaters but gains more fame and more fans as the years go by, Mokhieba started with a few prescient fans.

Explains Denis Glaccum, an original share owner in the stallion: “The career of Mokhieba typifies what is wrong with sport horse breeding in the United States … unless you can afford to spend thousands [of dollars] promoting the stud early in his career, he will only get promoted by what his offspring do, and it can take 10 years before a horse starts to have enough numbers on the ground to promote himself. Then the stallion passes away, and his offspring start producing. We need a better system if we are ever going to get top sport horses bred in this country.

“I broke more then 20 Mokhiebas,” he continues. “I have seven in the field right now, and they all are nice horses. He has produced four full siblings out of a Smarten mare—all of whom are good size, quiet [and] good jumpers. Three competed against each other this summer in Vermont, with all of them getting good placings. All the Mokhiebas have ability. Mokhieba consistently ‘moved the mares up.’ It is rare to go to an event in the mid-Atlantic area and not see a Mokhieba competing.”

Full Circle
Jervis Marshall first stood the dark bay in the Green Spring hunting country. Gordy Keys (then of Oatland Farm in Olney) was another early share owner in the horse, and bred many a mare to him. Recalls his daughter Chrissy Keys Heard, “They were good, solid horses… most of them ended up having long careers in the hunting field.”

Mokhieba moved his shingle to Spencer Young’s Sunny Dell Farm in Virginia after the passing of Jervis Marshall in the early ‘90s. Spencer believed in the horse, but felt he was not getting quite the exposure he really needed, so with the turn of the century, Mokhieba migrated to Tamarack Farm, owned by one of eventing’s most prolific breeders, Denny Emerson. It was he who coined the line: “If you have a Mokhieba baby, and it can’t jump, that’s your fault!”

Mokhieba moved back to Maryland in 2002, to Dr. Judy Tubman’s Glasgow Farm on the Eastern Shore, and there he stood for his final years at stud. Like all those before her, Judy believed fervently in the stallion and campaigned him relentlessly.
In September 2005, Mokhieba passed away after getting all but one of his mares in foal that year.

In October of 2008, My Little Khieba, ridden by Justine Ix, was part of the 8th-place Novice team at the Chronicle of the Horse Adult Team Challenge, held at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia.

Stories from Mokhieba Admirers

“If you have a Mokhieba baby, and it can’t jump, that’s your fault!”
– Denny Emerson, U.S. Eventing Association Hall of Fame inductee (2006)

Greg Ryan aboard Circuit Bar. ©Laurel Scott

Mokhieba, Sire of Steeplechase Glory
by Joe Clancy, editor/publisher of Steeplechase Times
Pinning down firm data on American steeplechase sires seems a little like trying to make water run uphill. First, few breeders actually try to get steeplechasers while planning a mating. Second, the available data isn’t all that available. The Jockey Club has kept statistics since the early 1990s, but that’s hardly a sample that will enable anyone to draw firm conclusions.

But that doesn’t mean steeplechase sire power doesn’t exist – and Maryland stallion Mokhieba occupies a spot near the top of any discussion when it comes to steeplechase breeding. On the data front, he occupied spots in the top five in terms of total wins and earnings along with such names as Northern Baby, Salutely and Turkoman – though most of Mokhieba’s reputation came from visual, not statistical, impressions.

The son of Damascus produced the blazing front-runner Circuit Bar, a winner of 12 races and more than $233,000 from 1991-97 and a host of other jump-racing stars. Circuit Bar raced for Parkton-based trainer Alicia Murphy, and took down major races over hurdles and timber. His full brother, Bredesen Moe, also won steeplechase stakes, including the 2001 New Jersey and Virginia Hunt Cups for Landslide Farm and trainer Sanna Hendriks. Further back in time, Mokhieba’s son Double Barrel captured the 1991 American Grand National Stakes for owner John Price and trainer Janet Elliot. Other steeplechase heroes by Mokhieba included Psychotherapy and Crimson Tales. The latter, a full sister to Circuit Bar and Bredesen Moe, continues the legacy as the granddam of current steeplechaser Class Bop.

Mokhieba’s sons and daughters made ideal steeplechasers. They were fast, powerful and brave. They jumped boldly and carried their gallops over long distances.

To read steeplechase trainer Alicia Murphy interview about Ciruit Bar, click here.

The Mighty Mokhieba Lives On 
by Steuart Pittman, Dodon Farm, Davidsonville
We’ve had four foals by Salute The Truth out of our Mokhieba mare, Gallic Gal. She was bred to be a steeplechase horse by Don Yovanovich. She’s a gorgeous mover and very handsome. All four of her offspring by Salute The Truth are good looking bays with fancy movement and a huge jump. Bruce Davidson bought one, Soldier of Truth, as a prospect for Buck. He said it was as nice a four year old (he’s five now) as he’d seen anywhere. He and Buck are winning already. True Spectra is possibly the nicest thing we’ve bred. She’s the most laid back 4-year-old I’ve had until you put a 4’9” free jump in front of her. She attacks it and clears it with room to spare.

Mokhieba Musings
by Spencer Young, former owner of Mokhieba

Mokhieba (Damascus X Court Circuit by Royal Vale) ©Brant Gamma Photography

The racing industry these days is really breeding for speed – for the money – and not for soundness. The Damascus line produces really sound horses. Look at Skip Away: he is a tremendously sound horse, and he breeds tremendously sound horses, but he has never commanded the kind of stud fees [he should].
(Skip Away had lifetime earnings of over $9 million dollars, in the process racking up Champion 3-Yr-Old Colt in `96, Champion Older Male Horse in `97 & `98, Horse of the Year in `98, was entered into the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame in 2004, and is ranked 32 of the top 100 race horses of the 20th Century; Skip Away’s sire’s sire, Bailjumper, was Mokhieba’s full brother; Skip Away’s 2009 stud fee is a modest $10,000.)

The Godolphin Line
by Laura Harrison McBride
No doubt Maryland is still home to dozens of horses from the Godolphin Barb line, one of the three Thoroughbred foundation stallions. His progeny are considered relatively rare compared to the progeny of the Darley Arabian. Nonetheless, the great racing genes of the stallion named “Shami” by his first British owner, Edward Coke, can be found in Seabiscuit, Man o’ War and War Admiral. And, while Funny Cide’s sire line is from the Darley Arabian, he has the Godolphin Barb elsewhere in his pedigree, as do many American racing Thoroughbreds including Mokhieba.

Mokhieba, the Kentucky-bred stallion who stood in Maryland, with a brief stint in North Carolina, until his death in 2005, sired top hunters, eventers, flat racers and timber horses, although his own racing career ended at three years of age after a bout of pneumonia. But it’s no wonder that the horse was such a great sire. He’s got a ton of the Barb in his bloodlines, a ton of the Barb’s progeny—often from several sources in a single generation—and a lot of early mixing with the Darley and Byerly horses.

Olympian John Williams riding Better Behave, a.k.a. “Hazmat.” The pair went on to compete at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, one of eventing’s highest level of competitions. ©Christine Tchir

At a glance, even following only a couple of lines of his early ancestors, the strength and speed of the Barb seem to come to Mokhieba equally from both sides. For example, in the mid-1700s, in his sire’s line, both the Barb and the Barb’s colt Regulus appear. On his dam’s side, the Barb’s colt Cade and the “Regulus Mare,” offspring of Regulus, appear.

In the next generation, the sire Matchem appears. His breeding includes, from his sire, Cade by the Barb out of Roxana. Matchem’s dam’s line does not offer any of the Barb’s blood, but it does offer the Byerly Turk. A subsequent generation offers the Barb’s first colt, Lath, in the female line, as well as the Darley horse twice.
In the late 1700s, Mokhieba’s sire’s side offers Eclipse twice. On his dam’s side, you’ll find more Godolphin blood; Eclipse appears once, as do Marske and Spilletta, Eclipse’s own sire and dam. And so it goes.

A quick check of Mokhieba’s later forebears reveals more Godolphin Barb blood. The Barb’s progeny Eclipse sired an amazing 344 foals, making it easy to pass along the great bloodline of the scrawny, nasty, fast, strong, funny-looking Godolphin Barb through the British, Irish, American and French Thoroughbreds that appear in Mokhieba’s pedigree.

To learn more about the Godolphin Barb, click here and read Laura McBride’s full article.