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Bulle Rock

An event of central importance in the history of American horse racing was the importation of Bulle Rock to Virginia in 1730. A son of the Darley Arabian, Bulle Rock is remembered as the first Thoroughbred to reach American shores. He was 21 years old when he arrived, and had been a successful race horse in Britain in his youth. Over the next 70 years, Bulle Rock was followed by a succession of 338 other imported equine Thoroughbreds.

Monkey, Janus, and Fearnought; Pre-Revolution Imports
Of the 63 identifiable Thoroughbred imports before the Revolution, the most important were Monkey, imported in 1747 at the age of 22, who sired some 300 colts in Virginia; Janus, imported as a 10-year-old by Mordecai Booth in 1756, who had a profound influence on the Quarter Horse; and Fearnought, imported as a nine-year-old by John Baylor in 1764. Fearnought had a stud fee that was five times the amount charged for other good sires, and he was the most important Thoroughbred sire in America until Diomed was imported after the Revolution.

In May of 1788, another Thoroughbred was imported from England who put his stamp on the future of American racing. This horse was Messenger, who first stood at stud in Philadelphia. After having been sold to Henry Astor of New York and later to Cornelius Van Ranst, he sired a number of superior race horses. His greatest descendant was his great-grandson, known as Rysdyk’s Hambeltonian who became the foundation sire of the Standardbred breed.

Messenger’s Stud Poster
“At Mr. Philip Platt’s on Long Island, Queen’s Country, and State of New York, within about fifteen miles of the city of New York, and within about three or four miles of the town of Jamaca, and in the neighborhood of the Township of Newton and Flushing.
At five pounds the season for each mare, the money to be paid by first of September next.
Any Person wishing to bargain for a sure colt, will be treated with at the above mentioned place on reasonable terms, as he was proved himself a noted sure foal getter, where he has formerly bred, in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The Full Blooded Horse, Messenger
Imported in May, 1788

Messenger is a grey, full fifteen hands three inches high. He was bred by John Pratt, E. of New Market, and was got by Membrino, who covered at twenty-five guineas a mare, in 1784. Membrino was got by Engineer, who was got by Samson, who was the sire of Malton, and several other capital racers. His dam by Furt; his grand-dam Regulus. This mare was sister to Figerant, and was the dam of Leviathan, a capital racer.

Messenger won the following sums (in Guineas) in the years 1783, 1784, 1785 as may be seen by the Racing Calendar
- In September, 1783, he beat at Newmarket Mr. Potter
- Cochesler, by Shark, 100, also Mr. Standly’s horse, brother to Straightlegs 30
- October 30, 1783, he beat Mr. Napier’s horse Spectre across the Flat 300, and Mr. Fox’s Horse Pyrrhus, across the New Flat, 150
- May 1784, he beat Lord Barrington’s Trigger 25
- July, 1784, he beat Mr. Windham’s horse Apthecary 200; Lord Foley’s Rodney, Mr. Westell’s Snowfrag; and Mr. Clark’s Flamer 60, and Lord Foley’s Ulysses 100
- March, 1785, he beat His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales’ horse Ulysses 200, also, Mr. Windham’s horse Fortitude 300
- April, 1785, he beat Lord Sherborne’s horse Tayloe 50"