Sunday, July 21, 2013

4/23/13 Happy Birthday CH Wing Commander

Happy 70th Birthday CH Wing Commander!

CH Wing Commander was born in Rochester Michigan on 4/23/43, son of CH Anacacho Shamrock and Flirtation Walk (BHF).   He was owned throughout his 26 years by Frances Dodge Van Lennep’s Dodge Stables.  Dodge Stables relocated to Castleton Farms in Lexington Kentucky in the late 1940’s. 
CH Wing Commander as a 3 year old

The iconic Wing Commander photo by John Horst taken when he was 6 years old.

Wing did it all.  He was an incredible show horse, a sire of many BHF broodmares, and his stallions sons went on to be very successful as well.  Many of the tops stallions today trace back on their sire line directly to Wing Commander. 

This photo is from the 1954 issue of Life Magazine
showing Wing with all 122 ribbons he won.  
Wing began his show career as a three year old.  He campaigned fearlessly and tirelessly, the likes of which we don’t see today.  For nine show seasons, he regularly competed at seven or eight shows per year.  He only met with defeat twice, as a four year old against a much more seasoned show horse.   I never had the privilege of seeing Wing show, but it is said that his speed at the rack and trot pretty much blew everyone else away.  If a horse could compete with him at the trot, they couldn't at the rack, or vice versa.  He also could maintain his form at speed, and for great lengths of time.  Everyone who knows Saddlebreds knows that Wing Commander was a six time World’s Grand Champion 5-gaited horse from 1948 through 1953.  He won the stallion stake at the Chicago International  Horse Show for nine straight years, from 1946 through 1954.  Out of 122 classes, he won 120 blue ribbons and was second on two occasions.  He retired from showing in 1954 and made a final exhibition in the old coliseum at the Kentucky State Fair in 1955. 

The Dodge Stables' show string circa 1950's at Castleton Farms

Wing Commander being harnessed at Castleton Farms

Wing Commander jogging with Earl Teater

Wing wasn’t used much as a sire until his show career was over, but he made up for it.  He sired many, many good show horses.  Among his offspring with their champion designations were CH Dixie Wing, Dream Lover, CH Grape Tree Limelight, CH Rebel Command, CH Tashi Ling,
CH Valerie Emerald and CH Yorktown.   Other top showers were Callaway’s Johnny Gillen, Commander’s Love, Super Command and Sunset Commander. 

Wing Commander at the trot

Wing Commander and a young fan.  
He was known for his kind temperment.

Many of his daughters were good producers including BHF mares Starlike, Jasper Sweetheart,  Ann O’Lee, Jasper Lady Evelyn, Jasper Lou, and Lady Trigg.  Several other producers were Raven Wing, Lady Talmage, Hasty Honey, Commander’s Beauty, Sharp Lady and Empress Wing who was the dam of CH Imperator.  His daughters crossed with Supreme Sultan proved to be a fantastic match. 
Wing posing for a newspaper article.

Finally, we come to his breeding sons, of which there were many.  Rhythm Command, Wing Rhythm, Buck and Wing, Danish Commander, Wing’s Fleet Admiral, Callaway’s Johnny Gillen, Flight Time, Super Command, Chief of Greystone, Wingmaster, Mr.Magic Man, Sensational Commander, Center  Ring, Plainview’s Commander, Commander’s Best, CH Yorktown, Flame Commander, King Dell, Dutch Commander, Pride of Plainview, Oriental Aire, Wing Shot, Lucky Commander, Air Command and High Rank.   The list goes on and on, and I'm sure I missed many good horses in each category.
Wing died at age 26 at Castleton Farms in Lexington from colic.  He left an incredible legacy in the Saddlebred world.

 Wing Commander was a frequent subject for artists.
This is C.W. Anderson's drawing.

This drawing of Wing is by James Walls.

 Helen Hayse drew this portrait of Wing Commander

Wing Commander by artist George Ford Morris

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