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
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".