Messenger (horse)

Messenger (1780 – January 28, 1808) was an English Thoroughbred stallion bred by Richard Grosvenor, and imported into the newly-formed United States of America just after the American Revolution.

Messenger horse.jpg
Painting of Messenger by George Stubbs
DamTurf Mare (Unnamed)
Maternal grandsireTurf
Foaled1780 (1780)
DiedJanuary 28, 1808 (aged 27–28)
CountryGreat Britain
BreederRichard Grosvenor


Along with three other stallions, (Medley, Sharp, and Diomed), Messenger provided the type of foal that was needed for the era of long-distance (stamina and speed) racing popular in the early days of the American sport.

Messenger was a grey by Mambrino out of an unnamed mare (1774) by Turf. He was most likely foaled at Oxford Stud in Balsham, Cambridgeshire. Messenger was inbred to Cade in the third and fourth generations of his pedigree.[1] Mambrino traced straight back to Blaze, the father of trotters. Messenger has crosses to all three of the Thoroughbred foundation sires, particularly Godolphin Arabian. Although his sire was a trotter, Messenger never ran a trot race. While still in England, he started in 16 flat races and won ten of them. Messenger's races, usually less than two and half miles, were mainly "match" races in which the side bets far exceeded the purse.

Messenger's appearance gave an impression of solidity and power. He had large and always active ears, a large and bony head; its nose had a decided Roman shape, the nostrils large and flexible. He had a large windpipe and short neck, but not coarse or thick, low withers and around the shoulders, heavy and upright. Messenger had superior hips and quarters. The bones of the limbs were strong and large. He always stood prompt and upright on all four legs. He was 15.3 hands (63 inches, 160 cm) high.[2]

Arrival in AmericaEdit

In May 1788 Sir Thomas Benger imported Messenger to Pennsylvania. In 1793, Messenger was sold to Henry Astor. Messenger was once advertised in a Philadelphia newspaper as: Available for service: Inquiries to be made to a certain Alexander Clay at the sign of the Black Horse in Market Street.[3]

Offspring and legacyEdit

Like the other three English stallions, and as was the custom of the day, Messenger was bred throughout Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. The mares he was bred with were not of the highest quality, but even so he proved himself a superior stallion, siring a great many successful racehorses.

Messenger's daughter, Miller's Damsel, also known as "Queen of the American Turf", gave birth to the horse his breeder named American Eclipse in the belief the foal would be as great as the famous English Eclipse.[4] By Duroc, a fine son of Diomed, American Eclipse did indeed turn out to be a champion.[5]

He was not only a great sire of Thoroughbreds, he was also the founding father of the harness breed, or modern-day American Standardbred through his great grandson, Rysdyk's (Hambletonian 10). His genes have also contributed to the American Saddlebred, and Tennessee Walking Horse breeds.[3]

Messenger died on January 8, 1808 at the age of 28.[3] He is buried under a boulder memorialized with an inscribed plaque on Duck Pond Road in Locust Valley, Long Island, New York. He was inducted into the United States Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 1964.


Pedigree of Messenger (GB), gr. h. 1780
gr. 1763
br. 1755
Mare by Hip
Mare by Young Greyhound Young Greyhound
Mare by Curwen Barb
Mare by Cade
gr. 1751
br. 1734
Godolphin Arabian
Mare by Little John
gr. ~1741
Bolton Little John
Durham's Favorite
Sister to Hyacinth
blk. 1774
b. 1760
b. 1748
Mare by Partner
Mare by Starling Ancaster Starling
Miss Romp
Mare by Regulus
b. 1761
ch. 1739
Godolphin Arabian
Grey Robinson
Mare by Starling
blk. 1753
Ancaster Starling
Sister (1740) to Slipby (1)

Note: b. = Bay, blk. = Black, br. = Brown, ch. = Chestnut, gr. = Gray

  • Messenger is inbred 3 x 4 to the stallion Cade, meaning that Cade appears once in the third generation and once in the fourth generation of his pedigree. Messenger is also inbred 4 x 4 to Godolphin Arabian.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ TesioPower 2000, Stallions of the World
  2. ^ Berry, B. (1979). The Standardbreds. London: Thomas Yoseloff Ltd. pp.41-43
  3. ^ a b c Thoroughbred Heritage: Messenger Retrieved 2010-4-17
  4. ^ "Messenger". Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame. Retrieved Jul 11, 2020.
  5. ^ Montgomery, E.S, “The Thoroughbred”, Arco, New York, 1973 ISBN 0-668-02824-6

External linksEdit