Q-Racing Blog: The 19th Century GOAT

Q-Racing Blog: The 19th Century GOAT

Peter McCue was a cornerstone of our sport.

AQHF Orren Mixer Paintings for exhibits only

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By Ty Wyant

If you could transport yourself back in time to the late 19th century and asked anybody with any knowledge of short-horse racing, “Who is the fastest horse?” There is little doubt. It was Peter McCue.

Peter McCue was registered as a Thoroughbred, but raced against the best Quarter Horses. He won at a quarter mile, however many say his best distance was 4 furlongs. In many of his 4-furlong races, he opened up a huge lead in the first quarter mile and coasted home. In one Thoroughbred race, he was timed in :21 for the second quarter.

It has been said that he ran in hundreds of races between April 1897 and October 1899; by his 4-year-old season in 1899, he was worn out. From 10 official outs, he raced to one second-place finish and a single third-place run.

Then he entered the stud and became the most sought-after stallion whose influence changed the breed. It is to the point that when you see an American Quarter Horse, there is a high probability that Peter McCue is in his pedigree. However, now it is many generations until you find him.

Peter McCue was sired by Dan Tucker who had Shiloh four generations back in the tail-male line. Dan Tucker was also bred 3x3x4 to Steel Dust.

A son of the Thoroughbred mare Nora M, Peter McCue was bred 3x3x4 to Glencoe, who looks like a Quarter Horse in his paintings. The English-bred Glencoe was primarily known for his fillies.

Therefore, with Peter McCue, we have a horse whose sire is a Steel Dust-Shiloh cross and out of a Thoroughbred mare with multiple crosses to Glencoe.

Peter McCue stood 16 hands tall and checked in at 1,430 pounds. He was hardly a 14.2-hand bulldog-type Quarter Horse.

The Sam Watkins-bred Peter McCue was foaled in Central Illinois after the Watkins family moved to Menard County, Illinois. Watkins stood two stallions, the Quarter Horse Dan Tucker and the Thoroughbred Duke Of The Highlands. While Peter McCue was, by all credible accounts, sired by Dan Tucker, Peter McCue was registered in The Jockey Club as being by Duke Of The Highlands so he could race in recognized Thoroughbred races. This was more than 40 years before the formation of the American Quarter Horse Association.

As a sire, Peter McCue’s offspring spread his name far and wide, with his offspring including five-eighths-of-a mile world record holder Carrie Nation and the always tough Buck Thomas, winner of 38 of 49 starts.

Then Peter McCue’s fame spread through the progeny of his sons and daughters. In addition to the above-mentioned Carrie Nation and Buck Thomas, Peter McCue sired the influential horses Harmon Baker, Sheik, Hickory Bill, Chief, Jack McCue, Badger and John Wilkens, the sire of Joe Hancock. Hickory Bill sired the King Ranch foundation horse Old Sorrel. And of course he contributed to racing legends like First Down Dash, Mr Jess Perry and so many others.

Virtually every Quarter Horse today – regardless  of specialty – traces to Peter McCue. His mark on the Quarter Horse will continue forever.

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