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The Winterbach Stud-bred Querari colt in his younger days, with the mark on the side clearly evident and the smaller spot still hidden by his winter coat.
 
Bend Or spots are an interesting colouring phenomenon in horses and get their name from the controversial 1880 Derby winner Bend Or.
 
Winterbach’s grey colt on their CPYS draft, lot 56, (see earlier post) has a couple of dark blotches on his grey coat, a big heart-shaped blotch on his side and a smaller spot on his flank.
 
Another possibility for this sort of mark is that they are “corn marks” or “corn spots.”
 
While corn spots resemble Bend Or spots, they are linked to solid-coloured hair growing in over minor cuts or scratches to the skin, and thus the underlying genetic cause appears to be unrelated.
 
However, Hendrik Winterbach Jnr confirmed the grey Querari colt was born with the marks, so they are most likely Bend Or spots. 
 
Bend Or was a chestnut thoroughbred stallion foaled in 1877 and had white flecks in his coat and black spots on his neck, shoulder, and quarters.
 
He is a direct ascendant of Northern Dancer on the male line, so just about all newly born thoroughbreds on the planet are open to inheriting Bend Or spots.
 
Man O’War, whose sire Fair Play was out of a Bend Or mare, was said to have Bend Or spots and, interestingly, Man O’War appears ten times in the pedigree of the grey colt from Winterbach. 
 
Hendrik Winterbach describes the grey as “a very special colt not just because of the spots.”
 
Indeed, he has a magnificent pedigree and is a real looker, so should attract a lot of interest at the CPYS.     
 
It is still unknown what causes these markings, as they do not appear to be related to other spotting patterns. However, they may have some connection to the “sooty” trait.
 
A horse coat colour that has the sooty trait is characterized by black or darker hairs mixed into a horse’s coat, typically concentrated along the topline of the horse and less prevalent on the underparts. Sootiness is presumed to be an inherited trait, though the precise genetic mechanism, or series of mechanisms, is not well understood. 
 
Bend Or the horse is controversial because an objection was lodged against him after the Derby by the connections of the runner up on the grounds that Bend Or was not Bend Or but a horse called Tadcaster.
 
Bend Or was a Duke Of Westminster homebred and as evidence the objectors presented the testimony of one Richard Arnull, a stud groom at the Duke’s Eaton Stud. He claimed the horse raced as Bend Or was actually produced from the mare Clemence (by Newminster) and not from Rouge Rose (by Thormanby) as stated in the animal’s nomination.  
 
However, Eaton Stud’s records were so poorly kept they relied almost solely on human memory.
 
The stewards ruled in favour of The Duke on the ground’s of his stud superintendent saying the horse was Bend Or and not Tadcaster.
 
A debate raged on for decades, but the Epsom stewards’ ruling stood and the official records in the General Stud Book regarding Bend Or’s parentage remained unaltered.
 
It took until the 21st century for the case to be reopened.
 
This time, science rather than human memory or opinion rendered a verdict, courtesy of a team of researchers at Cambridge University. The key evidence was mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) retrieved from the bones of Bend Or and compared to that extracted from known descendants of Clemence and Rouge Rose in the direct female line. Since mtDNA is passed only through the maternal line, Bend Or would have the same mtDNA as his dam—either Clemence, from Bruce Lowe Family #2, or Rouge Rose, from Bruce Lowe Family #1. The results showed that Bend Or’s mtDNA matched that of the descendants of Clemence rather than that of Rouge Rose, indicating that Clemence was in fact his dam. Nonetheless, the General Stud Book continues to show Bend Or as the son of Rouge Rose.
 

Americanclassicpedigrees.com makes the following thought provoking statement about the controversy: “Regardless of his true parentage, Bend Or was a great racehorse and a sire of immense value. His story can serve as a cautionary tale about being too dogmatic about the pedigrees or purported influence of remote ancestors, for if so famous a horse from a relatively recent time could have a significant issue regarding his pedigree because of poor records and human error, it can only be imagined how many earlier pedigrees are inaccurate—meaning that the ancestors of our modern heroes may not be who we think they are.”