So much has been written about Messenger, since you might call him the great ancestor of the Standardbred. It is impossible to find a trotter or a pacer today where Messenger doesn't show up several times in the pedigree. But Messenger was a Thoroughbred with excellent pedigree himself and he also raced respectably and sired excellent racers. However, he also carried an unusual gene with him and it was this gene that was the reason why he also became the founder of the Standardbred. But let's start from the beginning...

Messenger was foaled in England in 1780 and he was, just like his sire and grandsire, a grey. Interesting is that despite the great influence of Messenger, you seldom find a Standardbred with that colour today. The ability to trot wasn't something that was first discovered with Messenger either. that gene probably came from his grandsire Mambrino. But it was Messenger that carried it on and spread it so widely that we today can say that it was due to him that we have the Standardbred.

Messenger was bred by Richard Hugh Lupus, the Earl of Grosvenor, or John Pratt or even Thomas Bullock. What is known is that Messenger was raced as a three-year-old until he age of five and he was quite successful. After this there is no record of  him before he shows up again two years and six month later. This is when he arrives to the USA and Philadelphia May 6, in 1788. On his way down the gangway it is said that Messenger struck the groom that led him in the head and the groom was killed. This story have been told with different settings and it may have been improved but the fact that Messenger had a   hard and fiery temper stands clear. Many of this sons and their sons did inherit the bad temper and they were probably not that easy to handle.

The man that imported Messenger from England seem to have been Sir Thomas Benger but Messenger became the property of Henry Astor in 1793. During his years in the USA Messenger got a lot of foals. At least six hundred but some say there might have been as many as nine hundred. Since there was no restriction of what type of mares that was allowed to be bred to him, he got all kinds of foals. There where great racing horses, excellent trotters, good road horses, riding horses..they came in all forms and Messenger became famous as a sire.

When Messenger died in January 28, 1808, at Townsend Cock, Long Island, he was buried as a here and he sure deserved it since what was going to be the Standardbred was founded with him.

In his book "The American Trotter" John Hervey gives a good description of Messenger. According to him "Messenger was considered almost gigantic for a Thoroughbred". Messenger also had a "large head with Roman nose and large, bright eyes. He had a short neck, a robust middle-piece and hind quarters of tremendous power. His limbs were of heavy bone with large and strong knees and hocks and excellent feet. The tail was set high and well carried, and, like the mane, was rather thin".

  1. Hervey, John: The American Trotter, published in 1947 by the Trotting Horse Club of
  2. Akers, Dwight: Drivers Up-The Story of American Harness Racing, published in 1947
  3. Parlin, S.W.: The American Trotter, published in 1905 by American Horse Breeder
    Publishing Co.
  4. Woodruff, Hiram: The Trotting Horse of America: How to train and drive him, published
    in 1869
  5. Fransson, Bo: Myternas häst Messenger, Travrondens vinternummer 1990
  6. Wallace´s American Trotting Register vol. 1