“When we first saw this Thoroughbred named Beduino we couldn’t believe it,” said jockey Ronnie Banks. “He was awesome, almost frightening. But still I thought there was no Thoroughbred that could beat a Quarter Horse going a quarter mile.”
Beduino was foaled on February 29th, 1968 in Mexico. He was owned by Justo Fernandez who won the stallion as a yearling in a bet. His name means Bedouin and was likely a reference to the Bedouin horses that are often gray in color. He was by Romany Royal and out of Jo-An-Cat, by Rejected. Beduino’s grandsire, Grey Sovereign, was a leading sire of two-year-olds in Great Britain and France. His second dam, Quick Eye, was a daughter of the King Ranch’s legendary stallion, Depth Charge. He was also descended from Nasrullah, Blenheim II and Teddy. Further back, Beduino traced to Man O’ War and several times to Domino. His pedigree was a blend of European champions and American sprinters. That combination is undoubtedly where Beduino, who was described as “’The Black Stallion’ in gray,” derived his brilliance.
In 1970, as a two-year-old, Beduino won two of four official starts. At three, he won three races and ran second in the 1971 Clasico Windsor Stakes. In all thirteen of his official starts, Beduino led the field into the first turn, however, his momentum would frequently cause him to drift to the outside rail and allow horses to pass him on the inside. Fernandez knew that his speed was better suited to Quarter Horse racing – short distances on a straightaway. Unfortunately, Thoroughbreds were no longer allowed to enter official Quarter Horse races. So, after winning only six official starts and earning the equivalent of $11,630, Beduino began his famous career as a match racehorse.
Fernandez would bet almost anything on his horses and Beduino made him the winner of many wagers. The gray stallion bested all Quarter Horse rivals in Mexico. Then, in 1972, Beduino faced an opponent from the United States. Veteran rider Ronnie Banks had purchased multiple stakes winner Chariwari to match race him in Mexico. Chariwari was a gelding by Tiny Charger and out of Miss Magnum Bar, by Three Bars. He was coming off a win in the 870-yard Marathon Handicap. Chariwari was a good horse and when his first match race was arranged against a Thoroughbred, Banks thought there was no way that he would lose.
Banks had just broken his arm so he took his friend Charlie Smith with him to Mexico to ride Chariwari. Smith remembered that they had taken the race against Beduino lightly. This was his recollection of the events: “We’d been down there two or three days before we went out to the track. Finally, we went out the morning of the day we were supposed to run and they asked us if we wanted to watch them work the horse. Hell, they blew him out an eighth of a mile that morning. He was a good-looking old horse. Finally, we went to the gate and they loaded him in and told us we should load whenever we were ready and to holler when we wanted them to kick it. They sure weren’t taking advantage of us. I must have beat him away from there by a length and a half but then he just blew on by me. He must have beat us by a couple of lengths.”
After that, Banks was determined to defeat Beduino. He happily obliged when Fernandez arranged a meeting to discuss another match race. At that meeting, Fernandez claimed that Beduino was the fastest horse in the world. Banks thought that was a brash statement, but when Fernandez offered to pay all expenses and put up $50,000 against any horse worthy of matching Beduino, Banks accepted the challenge.
In 1974, Banks and Smith thought they had found the horse for the job – Come Six. Come six was a three-time AQHA Racing Champion by Azure Te and out of Flicka Six, by Tonto Bars Hank. He had won several stakes races including the World’s Championship Stakes and was the reigning AQHA Racing Champion Aged Gelding. Banks and Smith were certain that Come Six would beat Beduino. They spoke to Mildred Roe, the owner of Come Six, and she agreed to the conditions of the match race. They took nearly thirty people to Mexico City for the week. Come Six had his regular jockey, Luke Myles, his trainer Bubba Werner, and assistant trainer James Forrester. The gelding also had his regular horsehoer, grain and hay. Steven Rothblum, a trainer at Los Alamitos was responsible for taking care of Come Six during the trip.
Come Six and his crew took a small plane from Pomona, California to Mexicali. When they landed in Mexico, their plane was surrounded by armed policemen. Apparently, the company that chartered the flight failed to notify Mexican authorities when a different plane was substituted due to mechanical issues. The unidentified plane was assumed to be carrying drugs. Thankfully, Fernandez was able to settle the situation. The plane carrying Come Six fueled up and continued to Mexico City where he was escorted to Hipodromo de Las Americas.
The $100,000 winner-take-all match race took place on February 24th, 1974. It was advertised as a contest between two nations. It was also a contest between two breeds. More than 50,000 spectators were present and over $1 million was allegedly exchanged in informal wagers. American stunt performer and entertainer, Evil Knievel, was said to have bet $40,000 on Come Six. Knievel had traveled south with the connections of Come Six. And true to his word, Fernandez had covered all expenses the Americans incurred on their trip, even their hotel and bar bills.
When the chutes opened, Come Six took a full stride before Beduino even left the gate. Beduino’s jockey, Manuel Zavala, later said that it felt like Beduino had slipped at the start. Banks thought that the gray horse was surely beaten. According to Myles, “we had a half-length lead or more coming out of the gate and led all the way until the last two jumps. Then this gray blur shot past me.” Banks, who had been in the starting gate did not get a good view of the finish. He said “I remember looking at the people and thinking there were a lot of happy Mexicans.” Beduino had outrun Come Six by a length. The crowd at Hipodromo went wild.
After the race, Fernandez wanted to match race Beduino in the United States. Rothblum hauled Beduino back to his barn at Los Alamitos. It was with Rothblum as his trainer that Beduino ran 350 yards in 17.80 seconds in a morning workout with Banks in the irons. “They got on me because I didn’t let him run,” Banks said. “I think he was probably the fastest horse I ever rode of any breed.”
A match race was arranged between Beduino and Charger Bar, a four-time AQHA Champion mare by Tiny Charger and out of La Ree Bar, by Rocket Bar. The bet for the Beduino and Charger Bar match race was raised to $100,000. Then Fernanedez wanted to raise the stakes even higher to a ‘my horse for yours’ type of wager. It was probably for that reason that the race did not happened.
Nevertheless, Beduino never left California. Rothblum introduced Fernadez to Frank Vessels Jr. and his wife Mildred. When Frank and Mildred met Beduino, they were awestruck. Frank saw so much promise in Beduino that he sold Tiny Charger, the cornerstone of the Vessels breeding program, and bought a 50% share of Beduino for $250,000. The partnership between the Vessels and Fernandez that Beduino would stand at the Vessels Stallion Station. Rothblum personally walked Beduino from Los Alamitos to the stallion station.
When Beduino entered stud, he stood 16.1HH and weighed 1250 pounds. He was a heavy-muscled, well-balanced brute with a commanding presence. Frank “Scoop” Vessels III even described him as “a gray Secretariat.” Despite Beduino’s dominance, the hype surrounding the stallion faded shortly after he took up residence at the stallion farm. However, his popularity as a stallion rose when his first starters hit the racetrack.
Borrasca and Bullanguero were among Beduino’s first foals. They were out of mares that he bred before leaving Mexico. Not much is known about their racing careers. In 1976, his first Californian foal crop arrived and included Bedawee, Desert Spirit, and What a Woman. What a Woman was out of Whataway To Go, by Go Man Go. She won five races and earned $80,142 on the track. Although the race between Beduino and Charger Bar never occurred, it is interesting to note that What a Woman beat Charger Bar’s first foal, Proud Heritage. Beduino’s second foal crop in the United States included Fishers Favorite, winner of the Sophomore Handicap and Miss Princess Handicap.
Tolltac and Indigo Illusiuon were Beduino’s first champions. Both were foaled in 1981. Tolltac was a bay stallion out of Little Smoothie, by Smooth Move. In 1983, Tolltac won the Golden State Futurity, Kindergarten Futurity and Bay Meadows Derby on his way to becoming the 1983 AQHA Racing Champion Two-Year-Old and Champion Two-Year-Old Colt. He set a new track record for 440 yards at Bay Meadows in the 1984 Golden State Derby. He also won the 1984 El Primero Del Ano Derby and earned the title of 1984 AQHA Racing Champion Three-Year-Old Colt. In total, Tolltac made 18 starts, won 12 races, and earned $1,143,043 on the track. He went on to sire 40 stakes winners with earnings of $7,094,401 on the track.
Indigo Illusion was a brown mare out of Copy Capri, by Duplicate Copy. She was named the 1983 AQHA Racing Champion Two-Year-Old Filly after winning the Las Ninas Handicap and Faberge Special Effort Futurity. Indigo Illusion also won the Rainbow Derby, Vessels Maturity, TQHA Texas Derby and Go Together Handicap. She set three track records for 350 yards at Fairplex Park and Trinity Meadows. Her fastest recorded time at that distance was 17.460 seconds. In total, she won 17 races and earned $867,417 on the track. She went on to produce First Place Dash, Magic Dozen and Streakin Sixes. Indigo Illusion was inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame in 2012.
Tragedy struck when Brigand Silk, one of Beduino’s most promising starters, passed away as a two-year-old. Brigand Silk was a gray colt out of Dusty Be Lady, by Alamitos Bar. He was undefeated in seven starts including the 1985 Rainbow Futurity in which he set a new track record at Ruidoso Downs for 400 yards in 19.370 seconds. One week after an impressive win in an All-American Futurity Trial, Brigand Silk coliced and died. He was posthumously awarded the AQHA Racing Champion Two-Year-Old and Champion Two-Year-Old Colt titles. Brigand Silk is still considered to be one of the all-time fastest horses in Quarter Horse racing.
Chingaderos, a sorrel gelding by Beduino and out of Mama Said Win, by Ettabo, became famous for his rivalry with four-time champion, Gold Coast Express. Chingaderos won 23 races and earned $853,404 on the track. His biggest wins were the Golden State Futurity, El Primero Del Ano Derby, Los Alamitos Derby, QHBC Sprint Classic, Chicado V. Handicap, St Nicholas Express Handicap, Z Wayne Griffin Director’s Stakes, Kaweah Bar Handicap, Orange County Invitational Handicap, Mr California Handicap and California Breeders Championship. Chingaderos was awarded the 1988 and 1989 AQHA Racing Champion Aged Gelding titles.
Strawberry Silk, Beduino’s chief earner, was the 1989 High Money Earning Horse. That year, she won the All-American Futurity and Sun Country Futurity on her way to earning the titles of 1989 AQHA Racing Champion Two-Year-Old and Champion Two-Year-Old Filly. Strawberry Silk won a total of 11 races and earned $1,266,263 on the track. She went on to produce stakes winners Cashington, Pappasito, Rousing Encore, Whathaveigottado and Stoli.
Femmes Frolic was the final champion racehorse sired by Beduino. He won the 1992 AQHA Racing Champion Three-Year-Old Gelding title. Additional track record setters by Beduino include Beda Cheng, Chieno, Mr Perote, Beduinos Charger and Gringo Gray. Aladuino, Chicks Beduino, Runaway Winner, Check the Charts, Bonsai Billy, Zipuino, Just a Play Mate, Illusivo, Artesias Special Gal, Be a Beduino, Oughterdo Good, To Toast, Chapanero, Shiloh Reb, Beduino Go, Billy Boy Blue, Ima Gold Digger, Majors Meyers, Sleek Sheik and Evidently are just some of his stakes winners.
In 1985, Mildred Vessels, Frank’s widow, purchased the remaining half of Beduino. It cost much more than the first half, but it was a profitable investment. There were years that Gene Chambless, the stallion manager at the Vessels Stallion Farm, had to turn away more than 100 outside mares. Beduino’s books were full months in advance of breeding season. In total, Beduino sired 724 registered Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse foals in 19 foal crops. Among those were 496 Race ROM-earners, 440 race winners, 35 Superior Race Award-earners, 25 black-type stakes winners, 15 graded stakes winners and six champions, with earnings of $13,153,846 on the track. As of 2022, he is ranked 44th on the list of Leading Sires of All Time. He is still the #1 Thoroughbred sire of Quarter Horses, outranked only by Apollo on the list based on average earnings per starter.
Twenty of his descendants are also on the leading sires list – Corona Cartel, Walk Thru Fire, PYC Paint Your Wagon, Chicks Beduino, One Famous Eagle, Game Patriot, Mr Eye Opener, Separatist, Valiant Hero, FDD Dynasty, Favorite Cartel, Royal Quick Dash, Ivory James, Stoli, This Snow Is Royal, Jet Black Patriot, Special Leader, Runaway Winner, Chicks a Blazin and Foose. Chicks Beduino was his most prolific son. His get earned $35,496,925 on the track. Chicks Beduino is also ranked 5th on the All-Time Leading Broodmare Sires list. His daughters have produced earners of over $72 million on the track.
As of 2022, Beduino was ranked 16th by money earned on the All-Time Leading Broodmare Sires list. Three of his daughters are on the All-Time Leading Dams list – Harems Choice, Strawberry Silk and Sweet Beduino. His daughters produced earners of over $28 million on the track. It is worth mentioning that Beduino also sired two Superior Halter horses and two Superior Performance horses. Many of his descendants compete in performance events such as roping and barrel racing. Royal Quick Dasah, a grandson of Beduino, is ranked 12th on the All-Time Leading Barrel Broodmare sires list. This past year, Burrs First Down, another grandson of Beduino, was ranked 4th on the Top 20 Barrel Futurity Broodmare Sires list. Chicks Beduino and Crimewave, a stallion by First Down Dash and out of a Beduino mare, were ranked 18th and 19th respectively.
Beduino was put down in 1991 at the age of 23 due to infirmities of old age. He was inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame in 2008. It is hard to measure the grand extent to which Beduino has impacted the racing and barrel racing industries. He will forever be remembered as one of the greatest Thoroughbreds of all-time.
Sources: Equineline, Equibase, Speedhorse Magazine and the American Quarter Horse Association