Three of a Kind
Three of a Kind
By Andrea Caudill
Each of the three brothers was unique: One was stylish and catty; one was beautiful and tough; and one was stout and consistent. And each passed his own unique traits to his get. But they were the same in a vital way: They carried the blood of royalty and passed on greatness to generations of champions.
All three stallions were by American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame member Peppy San Badger, better known as “Little Peppy,” a 1974 stallion owned by AQHA Best Remuda winner King Ranch, and a legendary cutting horse and sire. Their dam, the 1968 Doc Bar mare Doc’s Starlight–herself a member of the National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame–is among the greatest western performance broodmares to ever live. Bred six of eight times to Peppy San Badger, Doc’s Starlight produced these three stallions, who together earned nearly $75,000 in the mid-1990s and have combined progeny earnings of more than $20 million and broodmare-sire earnings of more than $33 million. Three full-brother stallions have seldom had this kind of effect on the cutting, reining, reined cow horse and ranch horse industries.
Grays Starlight, Gallo Del Cielo and Paddys Irish Whiskey helped change the American Quarter Horse as all-time great performance sires and broodmare sires.
In 1984, Doc’s Starlight dropped her second foal, a delicate little balanced sorrel colt whom Louisianan Harold H. “Spook” Stream III, the owner of the mare at the time, named for his son, Gray. When it was time, Grays Starlight was sent to Charlie Ward, who also trained Doc’s Starlight when her breeders, Dr. Stephen and Jasmine Jensen, owned her. Charlie quickly recognized what he was riding and knew he had to have him.
“He was really a good horse to be around, a good horse to train and very athletic,” Charlie says of the stallion who earned $33,080 in his show career.
“I’d always make it a point to be in there when he showed, because he was just fun to watch,” remembers cutting icon and NCHA Hall of Famer Lindy Burch. “I really liked Grays Starlight. He really laid down in front, was probably a little bit more stylish than (his brothers).”
In 1997, Charlie sold Grays Starlight to Joseph and Karalyn Schuchert’s Polo Ranch in Marietta, Oklahoma.
“Grays Starlight was calm, but really feely,” remembers ranch manager Susie Reed. “You could show him something different, and he’d sure see it.”
He was about 14.3, she remembers, stout, good boned and good minded. Grays Starlight, aka “Spook,” sired 727 foals that earned more than $12.6 million in the performance pen, vaulting him into the top 15 all-time sires list in both cutting and reined cow horse. He is also in the top 15 of all-time broodmare sires for cutting, reining, reined cow horse, ranch horse events and ranch riding, with combined earnings of more than $27.8 million. His own progeny are led by Stella Starlight, who earned $310,379 in her career, but he had many notable offspring including reiner Starlights Wrangler, whom champion trainer Dell Hendricks co-owns and rode for much of his $128,000-earning career.
Grays Starlight (Credit: Don Shugart/UNT Digital Library)
“I rode a lot of Grays Starlights,” says Dell. “I got along really well with them. As a show horse, (Starlights Wrangler) had some characteristics that are very rare. He was the type of horse that had a lot of feel, but was very, very quiet. He was always just fun to ride. He was very willing, and did anything you wanted as hard as you wanted.”
Starlights Wrangler currently stands at Hendricks’ facility in Tioga, Texas, where he has sired the earners of more than $1.3 million.
“The Starlights, you kind of had to find the ones that were right,” Dell says. “You were always looking for the Starlights that had feel. But when you found that right Starlight, he’d break his legs trying for you.”
Other notable horses by Grays Starlight include daughters Amanda Starlight, Katie Starlight and AQHA Superhorse RS Lilly Starlight, each not only a performer but also a significant producer; and significant siring sons Soula Jule Star and Spooks Gotta Gun. Grays Starlight is also the broodmare sire of leading reining stallion Smart Spook, the 2005 AQHA world champion in junior reining.
“Grays Starlight had as good a back leg and hock set (as I have seen). It was just perfect, and he produced it,” Susie says. ”It’s something we lack nowadays in a lot of horses. I buy mares (by him) whenever I can find them. People want them. They’re such great producers.”
Grays Starlight died in 2002 at age 18 from complications of West Nile virus.
Gallo Del Cielo
In 1989, Doc’s Starlight dropped a bay colt that was a mirror image of herself. Spook Stream owned Doc’s Starlight at the time, but Gallo Del Cielo was foaled at Oxbow Ranch in Weatherford, Texas, which was at the time co-owned by Wall Street investor Dan Lufkin and Lindy Burch.
“Dan named him Gallo Del Cielo after a song recorded by Ian Tyson, whom we were good friends with,” says Lindy. “It means ‘Rooster in the Sky,’ which is how he got his nickname, ‘Rooster.’”
Gary Bellenfant, who trained cutting legend Peptoboonsmal, trained Rooster and showed him to earn $28,436 in competition.
“I remember what a great disposition and character that Rooster had,” Lindy says. “He was just easy to be around, more of a pet than a stud. He was real, real, real cowy and smart. It’s like he didn’t do anything extra. If he cut a soft cow, he’d just be soft and hold it. If he cut a tough-running cow, he’d run and be tough. Then the next cow, if it was soft again, he’d slow right down. He didn’t make many mistakes. He read the cow and did just what he needed to do to hold that particular cow.”
ABOVE: Gallo Del Cielo, best known as "Rooster." BELOW: Full brothers Gallo Del Cielo, left, and Grays Starlight, right. (Credit: John Brasseaux)
In 1992, Rooster was purchased by a limited partnership. A few years later, the Schucherts bought the bay and brought the two brothers–Grays Starlight and Gallo Del Cielo–together under the same roof at Polo Ranch.
“They were extremely, extremely sweet stallions,” Susie remembers. “I’ve never been around any stallions that were kinder or sweeter than either one of them. They were really different personalities, and their colts are, too. It’s amazing to me because they didn’t look anything alike and, to me, they didn’t produce anything that looked alike. Yet, they were both really strong producers. You can pretty much pick out a Rooster or a Grays Starlight in any pasture. I miss that look, you know? We don’t see it as much anymore. They both produced a whole lot of bone, a whole lot of back leg.
“We’ve had a lot of stallions, I’ve done this all my life, I’ve traded horses for 50-some years, but I’ve never had two stallions that were better minded or kinder horses than those two,” she says. “Anybody could do anything with them. It must have come from (Doc’s Starlight), because you don’t get many stallions like that.”
Rooster is in the top 20 of all-time sires for reining, ranch riding and reined cow horse, and among the top 25 broodmare sires for reining, ranch horse and ranch riding events. He has sired the earners of more than $6.3 million. As a broodmare sire, Rooster has gotten the earners of more than $4 million. His earners are led by The Wizster, who has earned $206,152, but his leaders also include the 1999 stallion Roo Star, an AQHA Superhorse owned by Melissa Ann Miller. Previously an all-around exhibitor, when Melissa saw the stallion performing at the 2005 AQHA World Championship Show, she fell in love and eventually found a way to get the horse bought. He completely changed her life, she says, as she now rides cow horses and breeds and raises western performance stock.
“To me, ‘Roo’ is what we used to have–the ideal conformation, pretty, gorgeous to look at it, well balanced, a lot of muscle, a big hip, not a real heavy front end, great bone, good foot,” Melissa says. “I love him. He’s just a gorgeous horse. He’s got a great mind and a great heart.”
All of which he passes on to future generations.
“He puts the pretty on them,” she adds. “You go to my place where I keep the mares and babies, and you can spot the Roo Stars. There’s no doubt about it–they have little tiny, pretty heads and big butts. He certainly passes on his looks, his heart and his try on to his babies.”
Gallo Del Cielo was euthanized at age 26 in 2015 after a pasture accident.
Paddys Irish Whiskey
In 1991, at age 23, Doc’s Starlight delivered her final Peppy San Badger foal, a bay colt whom his breeders dubbed Paddys Irish Whiskey. In that era, the management at Oxbow Ranch pioneered a creative way of selling the ranch’s horses: Instead of holding back the best stock, which some customers could perceive as selling only culls, the ranch management instead sold horses in pairs. The horses were matched by pedigree and quality, and winning bidders got to keep their choice from the pair. Oxbow retained the other horse.
“The buyers got to see all of our production; we didn’t keep our favorites at home,” Lindy says.
That’s how Tom Reidy’s Reidy Land & Cattle Co. purchased “Paddy.” NCHA Hall of Fame rider Mark Lavender trained and showed him. In 1993, John Scott Jr. bought the horse and showed him to complete a show career in which he earned $12,149 in competition before Scott took the horse home to his AQHA Best Remuda-winning S Ranch Ltd. in Montana to cross on ranch mares.
Paddys Irish Whiskey (Credit: Don Shugart courtesy of the Four Sixes Ranch)
AQHA Past President and highly respected horseman Dr. Glenn Blodgett, who manages AQHA Best Remuda-winning Four Sixes Ranch’s horse division, was another fan of the sons of Doc’s Starlight. In fact, he had hoped to purchase Grays Starlight in the late 1980s, when Charlie Ward had him.
“I’ve always been a fan of those brothers,” Dr. Blodgett says. “I flew out to (Charlie Ward’s) when (Grays Starlight) was still there. I hoped to work something out to stand the horse or buy him. But they weren’t interested.”
Fortunately, there was another brother, and Dr. Blodgett went to Montana in 1999 to look at Paddys Irish Whiskey, but Scott wasn’t ready to sell. However, the following year, S Ranch had a dispersal sale, and the stallion was included and bought by a syndicate. The bay stallion continued his stud career at the Four Sixes in Guthrie, Texas, landing in the all-time top 10 sires of ranch horses and ranch riding horses, and as a broodmare sire of ranch horses. His progeny have earned more than $1.6 million. As a broodmare sire, he has gotten more than $1.9 million to his name. The youngest of the brothers, he is the last surviving, now pensioned at the ranch he has called home for the past 20 years.
“When we have tour groups, I like to drag him out and emphasize all the important traits—the good withers and back, deep heart girth. He has a real short cannon bone. He’s a real good-boned horse. You walk around behind him, and he has muscle that carries on down deep into his gaskin,” Dr. Blodgett says. “He has excellent feet–since we’ve owned him, we’ve never put shoes on him. Personality wise, he has always been a great horse to work with, and from a health standpoint, he has never had one hiccup the whole time he has been here. He has all the traits we’re trying to produce. He’s 29, but he still looks like he’s about 12.”
Dr. Blodgett believes that ultimately the greatest legacy “Paddy” will leave is as a broodmare sire. He is also a performance sire, giving the world Smart Whiskey Doc, an AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse world champion trained and showed by AQHA Professional Horseman Mike Major.
“He was just really trainable,” Mike says of his 1999 bay stallion. “He listened, didn’t get mad. He tried to grasp what you were showing him. Of course, I was a pretty young trainer back then. I didn’t have a lot of finesse. In spite of me, he still made a pretty good horse. He was very trainable, quiet-minded, but had lots of speed and could control his speed.”
Smart Whiskey Doc, who is himself among the top 20 all-time sires of ranch horses, sired Black Hope Stik, whom Mike and his wife, Holly, both showed to Versatility Ranch Horse world champion titles and who continues to produce future stars at Mike and Holly’s place in Bowie, Texas.
Though the three brothers were different in many ways, in blood and in legacy, they were the same.