Leo San stands the test of time

January 25th, 2010

Scrabble – that’s what comes to my mind when I read an extended pedigree from right to left. Which vowels and consonants spell a winner’s name? In the case of the top cutting sires of 2009, Leo San, foaled in 1949, is an essential “piece.”

High Brow Cat’s pedigree is a good example. The all-time leading sire (and 2009 leader) carries Leo San on the top and bottom sides of his pedigree. His sire, High Brow Hickory, is out of Grulla San, by Leo San Hank by Leo San. His dam, Smart Little Kitty, is by Smart Little Lena (ranked #6), whose dam, Peppy Smart, is by Peppy San by Leo San.

Smart Little Lena is the sire of Smart Lil Scoot and Smart Mate, ranked #7 and #8, respectively. While High Brow Cat is the sire of #4 ranked Smooth As A Cat, who gets another dose of Leo San through his dam, Shes Pretty Smooth, whose paternal grandsire is Peppy San Badger.

Number 2 ranked Dual Rey is linked to Leo San through his sire, Dual Pep (ranked #5), a son of Peppy San Badger, by Mr San Peppy, by Leo San. Peppy San Badger and thus Leo San also turn up in the pedigrees of Peptoboonsmal (#3), Smooth As A Cat (#4), and CD Olena (#10).

Leo, Leo San’s sire, crops up in the pedigrees of Smart Lil Scoot and Playgun through Leo Pan, the dam of Jewel’s Leo Bars and Son O Sugar. CD Chica San Badger, CD Olena’s, dam traces again to Leo through her dam, Zorra Chica.

Playgun also carries Leo through his dam, Miss Silver Pistol. Playgun is the only one of the 2009 top 10 sires not related to Leo San.

Leo San’s breeder, H.H. Darks, Wetumka, OK, raised versatile horses that appealed to local ranchers and cowboys. So it seemed a good fit for him to breed San Sue Darks to the well-muscled racehorse, Leo, whose former owner had ridden him on occasion to work cattle.

In 1957, Leo San, who had been siring small crops of foals for Darks, was purchased by Texas oilman Gordon Howell, an admirer of Leo. “I was looking for a sire that could raise a cutter, a racer or a halter horse,” explained Howell.

“Leo San wasn’t really like Leo,” noted the late Matlock Rose, who ran Howell’s Quarter Horse operation in the early 1960s and showed many of Leo San’s top performance and halter champions. “He had more hip than Leo and he had one of the shortest cannon bones that I ever saw on a horse.

“He had some scale on him, too,” Rose added. “He probably weighed thirteen hundred pounds and stood fourteen-three hands.”

Bert Leo, foaled in 1955, was one of Leo San’s first successful performers. “He wasn’t the best halter horse, I’ve ever seen, but he was good enough to beat what was there at the time,” said Rose. “He also had a lot of speed and could hold a bad cow.”

At his first show with Rose, Bert Leo won the cutting, the reining, the calf roping, and was named grand champion at halter.

Like Bert Leo, many of Leo San’s best show horses were out of daughters of Bert or Bert Jr. But the most successful Leo San cross was with Peppy Belle, a Pep Up daughter and the dam of Peppy San and Mr San Peppy. Peppy San, with Rose in the saddle, was 1967 NCHA World Champion, and Mr San Peppy claimed the NCHA World title in 1974 and 1976 under Buster Welch.

Leo San, who died in 1968, is still listed among the top 20 leading paternal grandsires of cutting horses, as is Peppy San (#11), Mr San Peppy (#8), and Peppy San Badger (#3), and he is represented through offspring in the pedigrees of six of the 10 all-time leading sires.