Staunch Avenger was foaled in Kentucky on March 16th, 1968. He was bred by Charles Heekin. Staunch Avenger was by multiple stakes winner Staunchness. Staunchness, a son of the great Bold Ruler, was the sire of several strong sprinters including Over Arranged, the grandsire of Deb Mohon’s great NFR barrel horse Special Agreement, aka “Brown.” Staunch Avenger had connections to the western industry on the topside of his pedigree and class on the bottom. His dam, Careless Miss, was by Revoked and out of Miss Carlaris, by the British stallion Carlaris. Careless Miss produced five winners, including Our Sonata, Misgiving, Careless Note, and Fantastic Miss. Staunch Avenger was her most successful foal.
Staunch Avenger was purchased by trainer Gin Collins for owners John and Annette Mann for $7,700 at the 1969 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Collins was hoping to buy a horse with Bold Ruler bloodlines. Because he was skinny and scruffy, Collins got Staunch Avenger for a bargain. After the colt was purchased, John Mann noticed that he had a small pink marking on his nose that looked a lot like the state of Texas turned upside down. The Mann’s, as well as their trainer and their jockey Dave Whited, were all from Texas. John considered the marking to be a sign of good fortune. He may have been right.
Staunch Avenger won his first race by 12 lengths, setting a new track record at Arlington for five furlongs in 0:57.20 seconds. After he won his second start by four lengths, his connections decided to enter him in stakes company. He won the Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park by four lengths and returned to Arlington to win the Arch Ward Stakes by a neck over Hook It Up. After his first four races, Sports Illustrated called him one of the best two-year-olds in the country. “He’s the fastest I’ve ever ridden,” said Whited to the magazine, “and I’ve been on some fast horses. Yet he’s not speed crazy—he doesn’t mind laying off the pace. And you never saw a horse so easygoing—he’s like a big old cow when he’s not running. He drags his feet around and lolls along. He wears out his shoes three times as fast as your average horse. He’s got the personality to be one of the best, because he’s not washy and he’s not wild.”
His impressive wire-to-wire wins made him an early favorite for the 1971 Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, an injury kept him out of the race. Staunch Avenger still won four starts during his three-year-old season and placed third in the Pontiac Grand Prix Stakes. Although he never returned to the dominant form that he displayed as a juvenile, he continued to turn in respectable performances. As an older horse, he added wins in the Olympia Handicap and the Washington Park Handicap to his record. He retired from racing at the end of his five-year-old year. In total, Staunch Avenger made 42 starts, won 15 races, and earned $294,486, the equivalent of about $2 million today.
Perhaps it was destiny that upon his retirement, the horse with Texas on his nose ended up there. Staunch Avenger was purchased by N. B. Hunt and stood at the Circle T Ranch in Roanoke, Texas. He was later syndicated and moved to the Classic Manor Ranch in Aubrey. He was described as having a great temperament and disposition. As a balanced horse with explosive early speed, it made sense that he appealed to both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse breeders. His first foal crop arrived in 1975 and included stakes placed Thoroughbreds Hot Loot and Cultured. In 1979, Avenger M., a Thoroughbred stallion by Staunch Avenger and out of Miss Native M., by Gallant Native, won the Envoy Stakes and the Stardust Stakes at Louisiana Downs. The success of his get during the 1980s and early 90s would put him at the top of the leading sires list in Texas.
Top Avenger, a bay stallion and out of Atop, by Dunce, was Staunch Avenger’s best Thoroughbred starter. At two, Top Avenger went undefeated just like his sire. He won the Lafayette Futurity, Old Hickory Stakes, and Sugar Bowl Handicap and placed second in the Gr. 1 Arkansas Derby in preparation for the 1981 Kentucky Derby. Top Avenger ran a record-setting first quarter in the Derby but slowed to finish 19th out of 21 contenders. As an older horse, he won the Churchill Downs Handicap, Coaltown Stakes, Sporting Plate Handicap, White Skies Handicap, Gr. 3 Toboggan Handicap, Gr. 3 Bold Ruler Stakes, Gr. 3 Roseben Handicap, and Arkansas Traveler Handicap. Top Avenger retired from racing at age seven with a race record of 57 starts, 23 wins, and $721,237 in earnings. He also went on to sire race winners and performers including, This Bugs an Avenger, a 1D money earning barrel horse.
Staunch Avenger’s best Quarter Horse starter was Staunchs Velvet, a black mare out of Sugar Bar Sissy, by Sugar Bull. Staunchs Velvet won the Miss Princess Handicap and Gr. 1 Vessels Maturity. She also set a new track record at Trinity Meadows for 440 yards in 0:21.640 seconds. Staunchs Velvet was named the 1984 AQHA Racing Champion Aged Mare. She went on to produce graded stakes contender Contessa Cash, as well as race winners Filthy Fine and Velvet And Cash.
Other Thoroughbred stakes winners by Staunch Avenger include Silent Reflex, Mineisthesunit, Avenging Gossip, Avenger Mist, Avenger’s Bouquet, Staunch’s Annie, Bold Etching, Sudden Avenger, Never Late Mate, and El Tigris. His Quarter Horse stakes winners include Virgil Vengeful, Daylight Avenger, Stormin Avenger, Revengeful, Vengeful Virgin, Liz Smith, Straight Forward, Mighty Avenger, Avengers Promise, and Forward Bingo Lady. In total, Staunch Avenger sired 578 Thoroughbreds, 284 Quarter Horses, and a handful of Appaloosas and Paints in 19 foal crops. His progeny included 396 race winners, 106 Racing ROM-earners, 22 stakes winners, five graded stakes winners, and five Superior Race Award earners, with earnings of $10,036,971 on the track.
Staunch Avenger’s sons Billy Ringo, Double Avenger, Trux Boy, and the abovementioned Top Avenger all went on to sire runners and performers of their own. Notably, Pauls Victory and Staunchy Avenger, full brothers out of Sugar Bar Sissy, by Sugar Bull, were both incorporated into barrel horse breeding programs. However, daughters of Staunch Avenger produced far more barrel horses than his sons sired. Mystical Avenger, a bay mare by Staunch Avenger and out of Nina Triple Chick, was crossed several times to Dr Nick Bar. She produced barrel racing legends DJ Nick Bar, Willy Nick Bar and As Good As Nick Gets. Other winning barrel horses out of Staunch Avenger mares include Krimps Dream Jeans, Miss Gold Promise, Miss Zema, and Rough And Tumble. You can read more about Staunch Avenger’s influence on the barrel horse industry here: https://barrelhorsenews.com/barrel-racing-articles/throwback-thursday/throwback-staunch-avenger-tb-dream-machine/
Staunch Avenger died in 1992 at the age of 24 due to heart problems. He is buried on the Classic Manor Ranch under two pecan trees. He was inducted into the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2002. He also has a race named after him at Lone Star Park. The horse with Texas on his nose, will forever be remembered as one of the greatest sires and broodmare sires the state has ever known.
Sources: Equibase, Equineline, Sports Illustrated, Barrel Horse News, Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame