Nancy Hanks

Just as there were certain lines of sires that grew stronger than others, there were maternal lines that seemed to possess a lot of talent and speed. These families are special since they also seem to be able to leave their good genes to next generation and next and next... And so on even until today.

It's nigh or impossible to write something about this outstanding mar
e that will ever do her justice but since she left such an impression in history I will try my best to tell her story.

The year of 1886 was a golden year for the history of the standardbred. Stars like Allerton, Axtell and Sunol saw the light for the first time. This year was also the year when a remarkable little mare was born, who's story began and still hasn't ended.

Nancy Hanks was born in 1886 and bred by one of Kentucky's most respected breeders, Mr Hart Boswell. She was born in a little field on Mr Boswell's farm, which was later to become the Poplar Hill Farm.
The sire of Nancy Hanks was Happy Medium 400, who is most known to history as the grandsire of Peter the Great.
The dam of Nancy Hanks was Nancy Lee, a prominent matron and one of her sire's, Dictator 113, best producing daughters. Wallace Year Book of 1906 states that Nancy Lee has (until then) 2 trotters - 2 sires, who has gotten 5 trotters and 7 pacers - 2 dams, who have produced 4 trotters and 1 pacer registered with standard records.

Second dam of Nancy Hanks was Sophy, by Edwin Forrest 49. Sophy was the property of Mr Boswell, Fayette County, Kentucky from the year she was born, 1858, until she died in 1887. She was a bay mare standing 15 hands high (152 cm). Sophy had twelve foals, nine fillies and three colts. Only two of Sophy's fillies were ever trained and the best of them was Julia Ann Johnson, who became the first champion of the Sophy family when she placed the two-year-old record of the world in 1871. Five of the other fillies became speed producers. Only one of the colts produced by Sophy, Bristow, by Mambrino Patchen 58, was given the opportunity in the stud. However, just like the majority of the Mambrino Patchen stallions, he  was a failure.

Third dam of Nancy Hanks was Sophronia, by Parker's Brown Pilot. Fourth dam was by the thoroughbred stallion Bertrand, son of Sir Archy. Fifth dam was by Lance, a thoroughbred son of American Eclipse.

Nancy Hanks (extended pedigree)
Happy Medium Hambletonian 10 Abdallah 1
Charles Kent Mare
Princess Burdick Engineer
Isaiah Wilcox Mare
Nancy Lee Dictator Hambletonian 10
Sophy Edwin Forrest 49

The life of Nancy Hanks
Nancy Hanks was named in honor of the mother of the greatest of Kentucky's sons, Abraham Lincoln and you might say Nancy Hanks was going to be one of the greatest daughters of Kentucky. However, she wasn't a born trotter but a horse with a very mixed gait, having real problems making up her mind about which gait she preferred. Fortunately, Nancy Hanks was left in the hands of Ben Kenney, a trainer with great patience. When every method had failed to make a trotter out of Nancy, he decided to teach her to trot by laying fence rails upon the ground so spaced that she was obliged to take to trot in order to step over them. Finally this worked and as a three-year-old Nancy Hanks came out to make her first race at Harrodsburg, Kentucky. She lost the first of four heats but that would be the only time during her career of five seasons that any other horse would ever beat her.
Nancy Hanks made six more races in the year of 1889 and won them all taking a record of 2:24 1/2.

As a four-year-old in 1890 Mr J. Malcolm Forbes purchased Nancy Hanks for over $ 40,000, a huge amount of that time. In the year of 1890 Nancy made six races with the best time of 2:14 1/2, all but one in Kentucky.
When Mr Forbes purchased Nancy Hanks, she went from the hands of Ben Kenney to those of another great horseman, Budd Doble. In the season of 1891 Nancy Hanks and Sunol struggled to beat the world record held by Maud S. since 1885. Nancy Hanks made nine appearances and lowered her record to 2:09. But in October 1891 Sunol beat the world record trotting 2:08 1/4.
However, while Sunol's career was about to end the career of Nancy Hanks seemed to just have begun. Yet, there were another factor about to revolutionary harness racing: the bike sulky. The high-wheel sulky was going out and the bike sulky was going in. The bike sulky had pneumatic tires, ball bearing axle and was a much lighter vehicle compared to the high-wheeled sulky. Sunol never got advantage of this new sulky since her career ended just before it started being used.

The season of 1892 was to be the best year in the career of Nancy Hanks. Hitched to the bike Nancy began her record-smashing. That year she lowered the world record three times with the highlight at Terre Haute, Indiana on September 28 when she trotted 2:04 and became the first trotter to ever do a mile in 2:05 or better.

(Nancy Hanks' career in numbers)

As a seven-year-old Nancy Hanks got problems with her fore pasterns and was retired and placed as a matron at Forbes Farm near Boston. Here she produced eight foals before Mr Forbes died in 1904. As eighteen years old Nancy was sold to J.M. Johnson, who bred from her three more foals. In 1907, when Nancy Hanks was twenty-one, she was sold again and this time to John E. Madden. She died his property August 16, 2022 aged twenty-nine, without ever getting another foal. Nancy Hanks was buried at Hamburg Place, Lexington, Kentucky.
In John Hervey's book "The American Trotter" Nancy Hanks is described as "a rich brown-bay in color, with the near hind coronet white. She stood just a shade over 15 hands high (152 cm) and in type bred after her Dictator-dam, being elegantly, even daintily, high-bred in appearance."

Nancy Hanks got eleven foals and all but one either showed or produced or both speed. The exception was a filly, Ondawa, who was badly injured when young.
1896 - Narion, b.m. by Arion
1897 - No foal
1898 - Admiral Dewey 2:04 3/4, b.h. by Bingen
1899 - Princess of Monaco, b.m. by imp. Meddler (thb)
1900 - Lord Roberts 2:07 1/4, b.h. by Arion
1901 - Markala 2:18 1/4, br.m. by Peter the Great
1902 - Ondawa (injured as young), b.m. by Bingen
1903 - Pamela, b.m. by Bingen
1904 - Malcolm Forbes, b.h. by Bingen
1905 - No foal
1906 - Nancy McKerron 2:10 1/2, b.m. by John A. McKerron
1907 - King Todd, b.h. by Todd
1908 - Nancy's Todd 2:26 1/2, b.m. by Todd

Six of the eleven foals took standard records, the best being Admiral Dewey 2:04 3/4. With Admiral Dewey Nancy Hanks became the first 2:05 trotting mare to produce a 2:05 trotter herself. Unfortunately, he died young and never got the chance to start his own sire line.
Another of Nancy Hanks' sons was Malcolm Forbes. He sired Guy Forbes 2:07 3/4, the dam of pacing champion Billy Direct.
A daughter, Narion, produced Vice Commodore, who sired Margaret Parrish 2:06 1/4. Margaret Parrish is the grandam of the Hambletonian winners Protector, The Marchioness and The Ambassador.

In Wallace Year Book of 1916 Nancy Hanks has gotten (until then) 4 trotters and 2 pacers - 4 sires, who in turn have gotten 83 trotters and 29 pacers - 6 dams, who have produced 9 trotters and 1 pacer with standard records.