Breyer’s Thoroughbred Mare & Suckling Foal

The Thoroughbred Mare and Suckling (nursing) foal as they appeared in the 1975 dealer catalog

This is one of those sets I saw as a kid but didn’t think much of at the time. There were other horses I wanted more. Besides, it was really old and no longer available having been discontinued way back in 1984. Now it was 1987, far in the future according to my eleven-year-old self.

The set wasn’t used again until 1994 when it was released as #3180 medicine hat mare and foal. But I still wasn’t really interested so I passed. Also, by this time my favorite local stores had either closed or stopped carrying Breyers. For the most part, my shopping was exclusively through what I found at the Michigan Stallion Expo in late March each year, and the Sears Wish Book catalog in the fall. I would visit the Bentley Sales or Walkabout Farms booth at the expo and pick up my new Breyer catalog for the year. That’s right kids, I had to wait until MARCH to see the new releases for the year.

After a ten year hiatus, the Thoroughbred Mare and Foal returned in 1994 as the Medicine Hat Mare and Foal. Pictured here in the 1994 dealer catalog.

In 1996, the set was released as a special run for JC Penney, but we didn’t get that catalog so I never learned of it until years later. The set saw a bit more use in the early 2000s, making an appearance as a grey mare and bay foal in 2000, a dun set for QVC in 2001, and the Cupid and Arrow set in 2002. By this time I wasn’t really collecting anymore, my life instead filled with training and showing real horses for my employer.

Fast forward to 2015–I’m making my living as a horse midwife, delivering foals for a large Thoroughbred farm in central Kentucky. That year, Breyer brought out the Thoroughbred Mare and Foal set again, this time as a Christmas special in red roan with adorable little green and red plaid blankets on. I thought it was cute but still, I didn’t go for it. Then, sometime in 2016 the set went on sale and I nabbed it.

Seriously, aren’t they adorable? #712165 Eve and Claus, Christmas 2015 Web Special

When they arrived, I opened up the box and unwrapped the horses, still not sure why I bought them or if I would keep them. I placed the mare on my table, and then moved the little nursing foal into position … “click” … the little foal latched on and my heart melted. You see, this is something I waited for with every foal I delivered, that moment when I could breathe a sigh of relief in my work, knowing we’d crossed this very important hurdle, the first nursing. A peaceful energy fills the barn and the beauty of the mare and foal connection can be felt. And that was it, I was in love with the set and had to have more.

That moment I fell in love with the set. Eve and Claus are pictured here without their blankets.

I knew I needed the original set–the bay mare with the chestnut foal so I sought them out and lucked into a chalky mare with a pearly foal, in their original box no less! These were from the 1970s oil crisis era when Breyer had to find cheaper sources of plastic. Some of these plastics were colored and therefore had a “chalky” white base coat painted over them to cover the oddly colored plastic before the horse was given its color. Brown, purple, pink, and green plastics have been found, as well as some swirled colors. The “pearly” plastic is a lot harder to identify in pictures and even in person but to me the bare plastic looks kind of like swirly pearly white hand soap. The painted plastic takes on a slight pearly sheen that is easiest to identify when comparing it to a non-pearly finish.

My first #3155 set. The mare is chalky but you can’t tell in this picture. I’ll make a post on that another time. However, you can see that the foal has a kind of pearly look to her finish.

In the years since that first set, I’ve acquired some others. Always following my rule of waiting to find what I’m looking for at a bargain price. At this point, I’m pretty happy with what I have. I do still hope to find the 2001 QVC set and the 1996 JCP set.

Left: the 2019 Vintage Club release #712280 Lillian and Molly. This set is really stunning and a “modern era” chalky where the white markings are painted as a white base coat rather than left as bare plastic like the Medicine Hat Mare and Foal set pictured on the right.

Left: #3357 Thoroughbred Mare and Foal set (2000-02). Right: The first special run on this set,. From Sears 1982-83.

I have managed to acquire three sets of the original bay mare with the chestnut foal, all different (I do love variations!). I also have an oddity true bay mare (she has black legs, unlike the original “bay” which has black mane/tail but brown legs) and brown plastic foal with a black mane and tail (vs. the usual chestnut foal). I have not been able to find much formation on either of these, especially the “bay” foal.

Left: a regular #3155 set which I bought because the foal had such lovely shading. Right: my chalky mare and pearly foal set again.
Left: the set with the lovely shaded foal. Middle: an unusual set where the mare has “socks” on her front legs, the foal is normal. Right: The mysterious true bay mare and the brown plastic foal with the black mane/tail.
Mare comparison photo: Left is a regular #3155 mare. Middle is the deeply shaded mare with the front socks. Right is the true bay mare. Note her finish is a bit more satiny.
Foal comparison picture: pearly on the left. Regular chestnut in the middle. Brown plastic with black mane/tail on the right.

My unusual true bay mare and her bay foal

I acquired this set off of Facebook several months ago. I’d heard of true bay mares (with black legs) and when I saw this one at a good price, I had to get her. She came with two foals, a light chestnut and an unusual bay foal made of brown plastic with a painted black mane and tail. I assumed the chestnut was the odd foal out, and paired up the two bays. However, in my research, the only mention I’ve found regarding the bay mare with the black legs is that perhaps she was a very limited special run of unknown origin or test run. The only picture I could find of her was from the Identify Your Breyer website, where she is pictured with a light chestnut foal. IDYB notes the set pictured on their site was a live show prize donated by Bentley Sales in the 1980s.

My oddity set with a true bay mare and the bay foal which is brown plastic with black painted mane and tail. You can see the tail on the foal is not fully painted, showing the brown plastic on the sides. I think this guy may be some kind of factory escapee.

In my research for this blog post, I learned from a fellow collector of at least one other set with a true bay mare and a chestnut foal that came in a plain cardboard shipping box like the type used for models sold from Sears in the 1980s so perhaps it was a limited run through a catalog company? Although if that were the case, I’d think more of them would be around. There is no mention of the true bay mare in Nancy Atkinson Young’s Breyer Molds and Models book, which again leads me to believe there are very few of these sets, as her book is well researched and she spoke to many long-time collectors and Breyer historians in her research–all of this painstaking work done before and in the infancy of the internet era.

Another foal comparison. On the left is the pearly foal. Second from left is the brown plastic foal with the black mane and tail. Note the brown plastic showing through where the black paint has rubbed off the mane. The far right foal is the other foal that came with my true bay mare.

Based on the little bit of information I have, I feel that the brown plastic foal with the black mane/tail does not go with the true bay mare but is perhaps some sort of factory cull/escapee. The little filly is in kind of rough shape but, assuming she is from the oil crisis era (given that she is molded from brown plastic, this seems likely), she is older than me and therefore gets a pass.

Left: another view of the mare with the front “socks.” The mare on the right is the true bay with the two foals she came with: the “bay” and the light chestnut.

As always, if anyone has any additional information about the models in this post, please please comment it below.

Thoroughbred Mare and Nursing Foal fast facts:

Introduced in: 1973
Sculpted by: Chris Hess
Most recent regular run: 2002-08 #3367 Cupid and Arrow
Most recent use: 2019 #712298 Lillian and Molly Vintage Club release
Regular Run sets: 4
Special Run sets: 5
Single or extremely limited run sets: 3
Mare without foal: has been a Breyerfest auction piece by herself twice: 1994 & 2001
Foal without mare: was released in 1989-90 with a grazing Appaloosa mare for Sears, in 1992 for JCP as part of a four foal set, and once as a Breyerfest auction piece in 1994.

*Information as of April 12, 2022

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Breyer Model Horses That Do Not Exist

If you’ve looked through the catalogs of the 1970s and 1980s, you’ve most certainly seen them, but you may not have noticed them. They appear in the Breyer catalogs of yesteryear, pretending to be someone they’re not, they are the Breyer horses that do not exist …

A minimal tobiano stock horse stallion? A splatter-style blanket Appaloosa stock horse stallion? A blonde rider with her palomino Adios? San Domingo painted like the Appaloosa Indian Pony? A black Appaloosa scratching foal with four socks? A version of Misty we’ve never seen? What are these strange models?

They are Breyer model horses that do not exist!

OK, not exactly, they do exist, but we can’t have them. They are test runs acting as stand-ins for regular production models that, one might presume, were not ready in time for the catalog. But in some cases, these non-existent models appeared in catalogs and on picture boxes year after year, even though that version was never available to customers.

Stock Horse Stallion (SHS)

Let’s start with the two that are hiding right out in the open–the two I know you’ve seen, even if you didn’t really notice them. They appear on the cardboard picture boxes, pretending to be #229 and #232.

Wait–What horse is that?

When you opened the above box, the horse you received looked nothing like the one on the box. What you received is pictured below.

#229 from my personal collection. This model also came in a one sock variation.

Even so, the above picture box was in use from 1981-1983. Breyer redid their packaging in 1983. The picture boxes had a white border. I think the new box for #229 had a correct picture but, try as I might, I could not find a picture of the box to confirm or deny this. I will post it if I ever find one.

As I was searching for a picture of the 1983-85 box, I ran across the picture below. It appears to be #229 with a face marking. Interesting! He is otherwise an example of the one-sock variation of this model.

from the 1981 Sears Wish Book — #229 with a face marking? Hmmmm

The Appaloosa SHS #232 had a similar identity crisis when it came to his box. The pattern on the model pictured on the box is the “splatter style” blanket appy while the actual production piece has a stenciled blanket similar to the one on the Stud Spider model. The actual release of #232 came with multiple sock variations. The one below has no socks and very light shading on the knees and hocks.

#232 from my personal collection. The box is still sealed so no one really knows what version is inside. I like to pretend it is the one that is pictured on the box. If I never open it, I’ll never be disappointed!

Of course if you used the 1981 dealer’s catalog to order you stock horse stallions, you were really surprised when they showed up on a completely different mold! Presumably the SHS mold was not ready when the 1981 catalog was prepared and printed, so San Domingo stood in for the soon to be released mold.

Who are these guys? Obviously the San Domingo mold was used as a stand-in for the SHS mold that wasn’t ready yet. Interestingly the appy looks more like the Indian Pony paint job.

By the time the 1981 box catalog was created, the SHS mold was ready but the pinto and appy shown turned out to be pre-production test pieces.

The SHS molds appeared in the 1981 Collector’s Catalog on the right molds but the pinto and appaloosa patterns were never released.

I can imagine the scrambling, hard work, and long hours as Breyer was simultaneously producing new molds, running test colors and creating their catalogs. This era saw the introduction of several new molds and also some new tack and therefore, the stand-ins were featured in the catalogs.

Appaloosa Scratching Foal

How about this little foal #168 from the 1970 dealer catalog? She has SOCKS!

#168 was never released with four socks

As we know, the scratching foal does not have socks although there are some earlier versions like the one below with grey hooves rather than black. This one also has the blue ribbon sticker which helps to identify it as early in the run (likely around 1971)

#168 with blue ribbon sticker from my personal collection

The Breyer History Diva blog mentions a many years search for a scratching Appaloosa foal like the one pictured in the catalog but, as of that post, she had not found one. I discovered just how rare a scratching Appy foal with socks was when I accidentally found one, not realizing just what a treasure I’d found! It’s still not like the four-sock version in the catalog, but it’s the closest I’ve seen.

Two and a half sock variation from my personal collection. I call her two and a half socks because the raised hind leg is black on one side and shows a sock on the other side!

As you can see this one (above) has socks that extend well over her fetlocks. I speculate that the reason the model did not go into production with socks is because it was difficult to paint that way. See how white the face is on the side where the raised leg has a sock? Compare to the other side where the raised leg is black and so is the side of the face.

Side-by-side comparison of four #168 variations. L-R early version with grey hooves and blue ribbon sticker, version with socks, typical black hoof version, unusual version with blanket extending down over hock.
Yellow Mount

Another one that doesn’t exist is this “melting spots” Yellow Mount model representing #51. The “melting spots” Yellow Mount image appeared in catalogs from his release in 1971 until 1976 but as far as I know, no collector has ever found one like this.

He kind of looks like his spots are melting off.

In 1976 the test run model picture was finally replaced with the real deal. I am a little curious about his Adios neighbor with the light grey front feet though.

Yellow Mount in the 1976 catalog

Also in the 1975 catalog is this version of #20 Misty. She is sporting a pattern that was never released. Also her mane looks not quite finished and she has black lip-liner like the early alabaster Proud Arabian mare and foal. I wonder if this is the actual sculpture rather than a plastic mold?

Misty came with a few different coat patterns, but none of them looked like this.

In the same catalog, we see Misty pictured in this rare, early version. Note the difference in the coat patterns. Still another version is pictured on the box:

In this picture from the 1975 catalog you can see the Misty model is not the same pattern as the model on the box. Neither of these looks like the catalog model for #20
Lady Phase

1976 brought the introduction of one of Breyer’s most beloved molds-#40 Lady Phase. In the catalog though she didn’t quite look like what came in the box. In this case, I’m OK with that, because she looks a little rough with those chalky white socks and dark grey/black feet.

Lady Phase as she appeared in the 1976 catalog

Below is Lady Phase as we commonly see her–with light grey hooves and socks that are bare plastic (vs. painted).

The actual release of Lady Phase also did not have the 4th sock shown in the 1976 catalog version. The real Lady Phase had an incomplete stocking or “roan” sock on her right front leg. This was difficult to paint with the technology available in the 1970s so it often shows up like a sock with paint overspray on it. Model from my personal collection.
Palomino Adios with blonde rider

Also appearing in the 1976 catalog was this Adios mold in a gift set with a BLONDE Breyer doll.

Set #3095 as it appears here was never released. Note, the doll doesn’t have any footwear. A few of these models are known to exist, but the blonde doll apparently was never produced.

Nancy Atkinson Young writes in her book Breyer Molds and Models that the above set was never released to the public but a few “jobber samples” were created and apparently found their way into a Salinas, California toy store. One belonging to Sheryl Leisure appears in Young’s book, it came with a note stating where the model was found (the aforementioned California toy store). A while back I recall seeing a discussion on Facebook where a collector had found and purchased one of these Adios models. Perhaps if the owner is reading this, she will comment below?

The blonde doll was never released and outside of the one pictured in the 1976 catalog, I don’t know if one exists. The same is true for the horse head T-Shirt she is wearing. The set mentioned above owned by Sheryl Leisure did not come with a doll, according to Young’s book.

In 1980 a horse and rider set finally became available. #3095 as well as Brenda Breyer and her outfits were all new in the 1980 catalog although the doll was apparently available as early as 1978. Photo from Identify Your Breyer.

What ever happened to these models that don’t exist?

Wouldn’t you like to stumble upon one of these in a little antique store someday? I know I would. As these “non-existent” models are actually pre-production test pieces, we know they existed at one time. This blogger speculates that perhaps some can be found in the infamous Breyer vault at their New Jersey headquarters.

Young mentions in Breyer Molds and Models that the San Domingo SHS test runs were sent to the UK to be displayed there in a toy store and that the set was later sold. At the time of the book’s printing (1997) the appaloosa was in the hands of a collector. I wonder where the other two are?

You might be wondering why Breyer allowed these inaccuracies in their catalogs. Don’t forget, in this era there was no digital photography or computer design programs. Back then individual photos of the models were literally hand cut and pasted onto a board as a collage with the type-setting pasted in place. Then the whole board was photographed with a stat camera to create a printing plate. Each page of the catalog had to be constructed and photographed in this manner. This was a time consuming and labor-intensive project.

By reusing photos, some time and resources could be saved. And by using stand-ins, Breyer could at least have a representation of the new molds to present to dealers and potential customers in a timely manner. In the case of the stock horse stallions, I wonder if the San Domingo models were in the original “camera ready” boards as place holders with the hope that the new mold would be ready in time for the 1981 catalog?

In lieu of a prototype, the 1981 catalog shows a simple drawing in place of the “new for 1981” Black Stallion model (fun fact, the black foundation stallion model is a “stand-in” in the film for the not yet finished Black Stallion mold). We also see in 1981 the race tack set is shown in green (instead of purple) and the set never came with a hood.

The Black Stallion mold #401 wasn’t ready yet when the 1981 catalog went to print
“Hood not available” is probably a good thing–I don’t thing the poor horse can see!

This has been a fun post to research and write. Do you know of any other Breyer horses that do not exist? Or do you have an especially unusual horse in your collection? Please do share in the comments below! If I get enough information, I’ll make a part two post!

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Breyer’s Show Stance Morgan

I wanted that horse so bad. He was so beautiful with his four perfect white socks and a glowing white star shimmering against a coal black coat. Like so many of the Breyer horses I pined over in the late 1980s, I simply had no way to access him.

#48 as he appeared in the 1987 box catalog

At risk of starting another sentence with “In those days…”

In those days, before the internet made everything accessible, I was limited to the models I could find at my local Ben Franklin store, or in the Sears Wish Book catalog. Unfortunately that black show stance Morgan I wanted so badly had been discontinued just a couple months after I received my first Breyer horse. I kept hoping he’d show up in the store anyway, but he never did.

In 1988 the show stance (or stretch) Morgan was released in a light bay. I purchased him from Ben Franklin and named him Cerage after a horse I’d seen in an old movie on TV. I had no idea how to spell it, so I guessed. I still longed for the black Morgan but I loved my Cerage.

“Cerage” the light bay Show Stance Morgan

For years Cerage was my only model on that mold. In 1998, I purchased Stonington from the local Farm King in Kewanee, Illinois, where I was attending college. He was the Mid-states exclusive that year.

I lost them both to the purge of 2008…that dark time when I sold off much of my collection because I needed money. I thought I didn’t miss them that much. But then, in 2018 I was drawn for Kaibab, the glossy pinto Morgan web special. He was absolutely gorgeous! I was once again smitten with that Morgan mold.

My “Kaibab”

That same year at Breyerfest, I came face-to-face with my old friend, Cerage. My heart leapt and I bought him right on the spot. Was it my same old Cerage that I sold years before? Unlikely. But he fit right back into the collection like an old friend–one you can pick up with after years apart as if you’d last seen them yesterday.

Now that Cerage was back, and I was an adult with a decent job, I allowed myself to search for that elusive black Morgan I’d always wanted. He was easy to find, so it didn’t take long before he joined the collection, too.

It took 32 years but I finally got one!

In the past few years a handful more have joined the herd. I like the oldies and the oddities. And let’s face it, some of those old paint jobs are just gorgeous.

I found this guy at an antique mall. He has the star on his face but has unusual shading on his right shoulder. Too bad they didn’t shade his left shoulder too!

Black horse, bay horse, star face, bald face…

The first release of Breyer’s Show Stance Morgan was the woodgrain version in 1963 (I don’t have one of these, they are rare and expensive!). In 1964 they released the Morgan in #48 black and #49 bay. The black version typically has four white socks and a star and the bay has two front socks and a bald face. However, the black can be found with a bald face, and the bay with a star face. The black and the bay have also been found with no socks (I believe there is at least one black with no markings at all known to exist). I love to look for variations!

In her Breyer Molds and Models book, Nancy Young mentions both the star and bald faced versions of the black and the bay as known variations (vs. factory mistakes), speculating that perhaps they black and the bay both received their star-faced paint job at the same time possibly around 1970/71. This would coincide with end of the run of #49 (bay), which is difficult to find with the star face, possibly due to it only being available for a year or so. The bay model is not shown at all in the box catalogs (Nancy Young notes that a bald face version of #49 is seen in a 1964 catalog supplement pages) but can be seen on the cover of the 1971 catalog if you look really close and squint a little.

That’s #49 in the back to the left of the five-gaiter

Upon checking the models in my collection, I see that both of my bay Morgans lack the USA stamp (making them pre-1971) and both my black Morgans have the USA stamp which only tells us they are no earlier than 1971. Of course the bay bald face Morgan can be seen on the cover of the 1971 catalog, BUT, the only thing we know for sure about that picture is that it was taken before the 1971 catalog was printed.

However, upon close inspection of the full 1971 catalog image , there are several models that were introduced in 1970 in the picture, which tells me it was probably taken in 1969 (basing this on the fact that the supplemental pages for the 1963 catalog showed models that were new for 1964). If it were in fact from 1969, then it would track that the bay and possibly the black made the switch from bald to star-faced in 1970. So, go check for USA stamps on your bay and black Morgans! I’d especially like to know if you find a star-faced one WITHOUT the USA stamp or a bald-faced one WITH the USA stamp.

From the 1968 catalog. Although not in color, we can see this horse is black, not bay. Also, earlier catalogs used this same picture and lettering but put “as shown” in parenthesis after “Black.”

The black Morgan appeared in the catalog with a bald face through 1975. BUT, we know that Breyer reused photos so it is of course possible that star-faced models were being produced sooner than 1976. This seems to be confirmed by this picture box from the 1970s that shows a star-faced Morgan. These boxes were introduced around 1973. Of course, we don’t know what came out of that box, but I’m guessing it had a star on it’s forehead.

1970s picture box shows star-faced Morgan. Photo courtesy of Jennifer von Geldern
In the 1976 catalog making his star-face debut…but was that really the first time we saw a star-faced black #48?

Now that I’ve covered the star vs bald mystery a little too thoroughly, lets move on.

As yet I have not found a bald-faced black #48 for my collection. I did purchase one off of eBay a while back that was misrepresented–somehow they “accidentally” forgot to mention or photograph the huge, gaping seam split that went from his throat latch to the middle of his chest. Interestingly, this is not an entirely unusual injury to find on the bald-faced black Morgans–I’ve seen and heard of several–but not so on their bay or star-faced counterparts. Another mystery.

This guy was a fun find! Bay with a star and solid brown legs (no grey/black or socks!) He’s also very orange-y.

The bay Morgan #49 had a much shorter run (1964-71) than his black friend #48 (1964-87). I’m sure the reasons are long ago lost to history but this blogger wonders if it had anything to do with the poor bay fellow never getting his picture in the catalog and therefore not selling as well? He really is quite lovely.

The typical bay with bald face, front white socks and grey hind legs. A very nice version of him with lovely shading.

This is a mold I don’t need one of every color. There are a couple more I’m looking for, and I wouldn’t mind if they put him out in another color someday soon. He’s another of those vintage models that doesn’t get much love from the younger collectors. Sure there are perhaps better representations of the breed available through the Breyer line these days, but as I’ve said many times before, nothing can replace the feelings of nostalgia when you can still see certain models with the heart of the child you once were.

Breyer Show Stance Morgan fast facts:

Mold name: Show Stance or Stretch Morgan
Introduced: 1963
Sculpted by: Christopher Hess
First release: Woodgrain #948 (1963-65)
Most recent regular run: #901 Lippit Pegasus (1994-95)
Most recent release: “Kaibab” – web special from the America the Beautiful series

**Stats as of February 2022**

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Silky Sullivan – The California Comet

I love a come-from-behind horse–the kind that hangs back off the pace, watching, waiting until just that right moment. Then, in a burst of speed, he makes his move, picking off the leaders one by one until he’s all alone at the front of the pack as he crosses the finish line. It makes for an exciting race.

Silky Sullivan was one such horse but at the same time, so much more. His name became synonymous in the world of sports and politics when a competitor appeared so far out of the race they couldn’t possibly win, but they did anyway–they pulled out a Silky Sullivan!

Who was Silky Sullivan?

A burly chestnut colt foaled February 28, 1955 in California, Silky Sullivan was sired by the sprinter, Sullivan, and out of Lady N Silk. The breeding farm manager where Silky was foaled told his owners the colt had the biggest rump he’d ever seen on a foal.1 Indeed the colt was thickly muscled and grew into an impressive looking fellow.

Silky stood 16 hands but weighed in at 1200 lbs – heavy for a racehorse in training. But he wasn’t fat, it was all muscle.

Silky’s running style was evident early on. As a yearling at turn out time, Silky would wait at the gate until the others had run half way across the field before taking off after them and coming out the winner on the other side.

On the track the bettors and fans called him “Mr. Heart Attack.” His extreme come from behind running style had him galloping leisurely along, letting the field get 15-20 lengths ahead of him right from the start. Then, at the moment he deemed appropriate, Silky would take off, making up normally insurmountable distances to come out the victor. This didn’t always work for him, sometimes he ran out of track before he could pull out a win. But Silky had his own style and was not interested in the suggestions of the jockeys that rode him.

Once Silky decided it was time to go, He took off flying like a red fireball, earning him the nickname “The California Comet.”

“You can’t do a thing with him, you just have to allow him to run his own race, at his own speed, in his own style in the first quarter or maybe the first three eighths. And you just sit there and wait, hoping you won’t have to wait too long, because when he really gets going you have to be alert or he might just leave you behind—and then you hold on for dear life,” said Hall of fame jockey Bill Shoemaker.2 In one race Silky let the leaders get 41 lengths ahead of him before he took off. He passed them all and won the race by 3 lengths, running the last quarter in a lightning fast 22 seconds flat!

Silky Sullivan was the co-favorite for the 1958 Kentucky Derby. For the race, CBS used the split-screen view, at the time a rarely seen technique on television. Knowing that Silky wouldn’t be running with the field, they gave him his own camera. But on that first Saturday in May, Silky never did fire and finished 12th, apparently he just wasn’t in the mood to run that day.

Silky’s exciting running style can be seen in this wonderful film clip which includes his incredible run in the 1958 Santa Anita Derby. A fan favorite, Silky Sullivan made appearances annually at Golden Gate Fields track in San Francisco Bay, prancing and kicking up his heels like a colt, even into his twenties. He died in 1977 and is buried on the infield of that same track.

Silky Sullivan’s Breyer Model

Silky Sullivan was introduced in 1975 as part of Breyer’s classic sized (1:12 scale) racehorse series. The mold was originally sculpted by Maureen Love for Hagen-Renaker. The mold was leased to Breyer from 1975-2002.

Hagen-Renaker Silky Sullivan released in 1961

During Silky Sullivan’s run from 1975-1990 there have been more than a few variations. The real Silky had a pastern sock (below the fetlock) on his left foreleg. But, I presume due to the lack of masking used while painting the models, the sock seems to seldom come as pastern length and often goes midway up the cannon or even to the knee. It also has a habit of showing up on the wrong leg and rarely, not showing up at all. Nancy Atkinson Young noted in her Breyer Molds and Models book that the early Silky models had a small, sharp-edged diamond, while the later Silkys had a larger, more irregular star. I have one diamond face model in my collection which also lacks the Breyer seal, signifying it is from early in the run.

The three Silky Sullivan race horse collection models in my herd. On the left: no sock version, middle: sock on wrong leg, right: sock on correct leg but is excessively high. This third model also has no Breyer seal and the sharp-edged diamond face marking.

The first Silky Sullivan came into my collection within the past few years. I have very few classic scale models but recently became interested in the Maureen Love racehorse molds when I acquired a hard to find Triple Crown Winners special run set from 1988 (I’ll share them in another post). I also like the 1970s picture boxes, and I like variations. I guess for those reasons I somehow ended up with three Silkys. Oops.

The classic race horse collection came in a cardboard picture box. These came in two versions, brown (as shown) and white.

Glen-Tek Lamps

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the company, Glen-Tek Scientific based in Arizona, mounted Silky Sullivan (and a few other molds) on a lamp. These lamps were not sold by Breyer but are considered to be original finish (vs. aftermarket or custom) by collectors. A year or so ago I found a Glen-Tek Silky Sullivan lamp without a shade. The original shade was burlap but I decided I’d rather paint my own replacement shade with the correct silks for Silky Sullivan (the silks pictured on the box are quite wrong being black with red circles).

Silky Sullivan’s Stablemate

In 1976, Silky was released in the stablemate scale. This mold was also a Maureen Love sculpture for Hagen-Renaker. Stablemate Silky was discontinued in 1994. I have two Silky Sullivan Stablemates. One is normal, the other is a factory cull with a very odd front stocking. Silky’s Stablemate was quite inconsistent. You can see neither of mine have a face marking. I’ve also seen them with two hind socks and with four socks.

My two Silky Sullivan Stablemates. The one on the left is a cull (factory mistake). Isn’t he cute?

Silky Sullivan fast facts

Classic mold #603
Sculpted by: Maureen Love for Hagen-Renaker
Model run: 1975-1990
Variations: diamond star, irregular star, front sock on either leg. Early models have no Breyer seal.
Last use by Breyer: 2002 for the QVC Ladies of the Bluegrass set. Used to portray 1988 Kentucky Derby Winner “Winning Colors” – Breyer’s lease with H-R went through 2002

Stablemate mold #5022
Model run: 1976-1994
Mold stamp on belly: Breyer Molding Co. ©1975
Variations: none to four socks.
Last use by Breyer: 2005-the last year for the Doctor’s buggy and Hidalgo sets.

** If you have any more information about Silky Sullivan, his Breyer models, or his H-R models, please add it to the comments below.

A plaque with this poem is mounted at Golden Gate Fields

reference articles: footnote 1, footnote 2

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Midnight Sun – Breyer’s most controversial mold?

A strange and wonderful thing happened for me in late 1987–I discovered Breyer model horses. I’ve already shared the story of my first model, Project Universe in an earlier post. Prior to seeing that model in the Sears Wish Book in the fall of 1987, I had never heard of Breyer horses–indeed, somehow I had lived my entire 10 years of life not knowing that Breyer horses existed.

But, on my 11th birthday, in addition to receiving Project Universe from my Sears catalog wish list, a few days later I was surprised and pleased to receive Breyer models as birthday gifts from a few of my friends, too. Phar Lap, Azteca, Buckshot, and Midnight Sun–suddenly I had five model horses in my brand new collection!

A Tennessee Walker, what’s that? I had no idea but the high-stepping, jet black horse soon became a favorite, even though he struggled to stand in the deep pile of my carpeted pasture.

The Midnight Sun mold may even have been my first conga, now that I think about it. Unintentional of course, I didn’t know what it meant to “conga” a mold back then (collect multiple versions/releases of the same mold) but when, in 1989, they released the Midnight Sun mold in blood bay, I had to have him. Later, he was released in charcoal and then in a lovely grey. Soon I had four. Voila! Conga!

L-R Midnight Sun, Blood Bay, Memphis Storm, Blackberry Frost

Sadly, my beautiful Midnight Sun, the blood bay (who I named “Canyoufeelthebeat”), and Memphis Storm were sold in 2008 when I needed money and parted with some of my collection. I don’t recall how Blackberry Frost survived the cull. Since the collection had been boxed and stored since 2002, it’s possible I just couldn’t find him. But in 2016, when I finally unpacked the remainder of my collection after 14 years in storage, I was thrilled to find him still with me.

I regretted selling pieces from my childhood collection, and have replaced many of them in recent years. The first one was my Midnight Sun. I found him in his original 1987-era box so I knew he was the same age as the one I’d lost.

The yellow box with the hollow box floor was used briefly 1987-88 before being replaced with the flat cardboard bottom
This barcode sticker with a silhouette of Midnight Sun is on the bottom of the yellow box

With the help of the internet, I was able to replace my blood bay and Memphis Storm–the boys were back together. I also found a still sealed late 1970s/early 1980s picture box Midnight Sun!

Nope, I won’t open him. I collect sealed in box models
Who was Midnight Sun?

Midnight Sun was the World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse of 1945 and 1946. He was also a breed-shaping sire, with all but four of the world grand champion horses since 1949 descending from him. A handsome, robust, and kind stallion, Midnight Sun was everything a Tennessee Walker should be.

Picture from

Midnight Sun’s rivalry with Merry Go Boy was the stuff of legends, the latter having won the world championship title in 1947 and 1948, after placing second in his first attempt in 1946.

Midnight Sun stood nearly 16 hands and weighed approximately 1350 lbs. at maturity but was gentle enough for children to sit on his back. He produced approximately 2600 foals in his 20 years at stud (with help from the then new technique of artificial insemination), and is found in the pedigree of 90% of Tennessee walking horses today.

Midnight Sun with Fred Walker around 1946.
Controversial Plastic Horse?

The controversy and likely the reason we no longer see new releases on the Midnight Sun mold is because many see it as a representation of the “Big Lick” horse–an abomination of an otherwise natural gait achieved through barbaric practices including the use of stacked pads, weighted shoes, caustic chemicals, chains, and foreign objects placed in the hoof.

You may have noticed in the picture above, that Midnight Sun is not as high stepping as his model. Although the picture is of a flat walk (if he were to step out into a running walk, he would be more animated), his gait would never be described as the “Big Lick” gait we see today. Back in Midnight Sun’s day, the horses were shown much more naturally. The hooves were allowed to grow longer but the shoes were plain keg shoes, no chains, no stacks or weights, no chemicals. Just natural talent.

Check out this film clip of Midnight Sun and you can see his natural gait. Some have said it was the amazing natural talent of horses like Midnight Sun and Merry Go Boy that eventually led to the abusive soring techniques that produce “Big Lick” horses as people tried to make less talented horses move like these champions of the late 1940s. Film clips from the mid-1950s show the unnatural changes already taking place.

As with so many other things, once money and notoriety are involved, it went from excessive to horrendous from there–far beyond “enhancing” a natural gait and on to creating something that never should have existed. For more on soring, see this article from the Humane Society.

So, how come Midnight Sun’s model looks like a “Big Lick” horse?

If you look up “Big Lick” horses on YouTube (bring your vomit bucket), you will see the horrors these horses are going through today are far worse than what is represented by this model. Yes, we see built up hooves but not the stacks and chains or insanely hideous gait you see today. But, as we can see from the pictures and videos, it is not an accurate representation of Midnight Sun’s gait, either.

It is interesting to note that Midnight Sun’s owner from 1956 until his death in 1965, Mrs. G.M. Livingston, refused to attend the World Grand Champion “The Celebration” show once the practice of soring became the norm. This according to the grandson of Midnight Sun’s trainer, Fred Walker, who conversed with Mrs. Livingston’s daughter at The Celebration show in the early 1970s.

When researching this blog, I found the picture below labeled as Midnight Sun, although it is actually a picture of Go Boy’s Sundust. I put a picture of the model below it for comparison.

Go Boy’s Sundust, 1967 World Grand Champion and great great grandson of Midnight Sun and a grandson of Merry Go Boy
Midnight Sun mold for comparison – what do you think?

Given the era of the photo, I think it’s possible the same mistake was made back in 1972 and the picture was used by Hess to create the Midnight Sun model. We know from the video that Midnight Sun didn’t move like that. Regardless, if you look at the picture above, you will see that the horse indeed has long hooves, but no stacks. The bands on his pasterns are likely action devices and may have been used with soring chemicals as this was a practice at the time but I can’t say for sure, it’s just speculation.

Will we ever see the Midnight Sun mold used again? I don’t know. It truly is a beautiful piece of art, just like the horse it represents. At what point does the representation of human interference outweigh natural beauty? I’d love to see them alter the mold to more accurately represent Midnight Sun’s hoof length and natural way of going but I doubt that will ever happen–I suspect it would be quite difficult.

Can we, as collectors appreciate the model for what it is, a piece of art, without also glorifying the sadistic practice of soring? I don’t know. Collectively, it seems we can not. Individually, I guess that’s up to each one of us. For me, I will always have this mold in my collection for the warmth of the memories and the artistic beauty, knowing it’s existence doesn’t mean I support the abusive practice of soring. But I’m unsure if it should be used again as a regular run in it’s current state where it could find new generations of collectors, at least not without a historical reference and educational disclaimer. But even then, is it really enough?

Perhaps the compromise is for it to remain mostly unseen. Save it for Breyerfest auction pieces and maybe a Vintage Club release, where people who knew it when we were young and naive, and are able to appreciate it as it was intended, will be happy to see an old friend.

All of my Midnight Sun molds
Midnight Sun Fast Facts

Mold #60
Created: 1972
Midnight Sun run: 1972-1987
Sculptor: Chris Hess
Regular Runs: 4
Special Runs: 14
Breyerfest Live Auction: 8
Last (multi-horse run) Release: 2002
Last Used: 2012 – Breyerfest Live Auction piece
(list as of January 2022)

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Secretariat: Nobility in the age of Scoundrels

A fiery chestnut colt galloped on air past the grandstand, the roar of an awestruck crowd filled the space between them, carrying the colt into history. Nearing the finish, the colt’s jockey peaks behind him and is shocked to see his is all alone. The legendary Secretariat gallops under the wire and into the realm of immortality, a full 31 lengths ahead of his nearest competitor, setting a record of 2:24 for fastest mile and a half on a dirt track.

Secretariat nearing the finish of the Belmont Stakes. Photo credit Bob Coglianese/

The crowd cheers, hats fly, a mass of people press closer to the track rail, trying to get a glimpse of the colt who just became the first Triple Crown winner in twenty-five years (Citation won in 1948). It was June 9, 1973, and the dry spell was finally over.

America was ready for a champion like Secretariat. News coverage was dominated by the Vietnam war, our involvement stretching into its ninth year with over 58,000 American casualties, the Watergate scandal, devastating worldwide economic inflation, and the beginnings of what would become the oil crisis of 1973. Louisville sports writer, Billy Reed, credited Secretariat as “a symbol of nobility in the age of scoundrels.”

Secretariat was on the cover of Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated.
Secretariat becomes a Breyer

Interestingly, even with all the excitement surrounding him in 1972-73, it wasn’t until 1987 that Secretariat finally became a Breyer model. Breyer approached Secretariat’s owner, Penney Chenery in 1973 about making a model of the famous colt. At the time, Ms. Chenery was not interested saying it didn’t seem right. It wasn’t until years later that company president, Peter Stone, finally convinced the reluctant Chenery saying “think of the children.” (from notes in Nancy Young’s Breyer Molds and Models).

Secretariat (#435) was the last sculpture Chris Hess created for Breyer. The model was part of the Artist Series (started in 1984) — a series featuring the work of well known equine artists. Other molds in the series included Sham, Lady Roxana, Buckshot, Touch of Class, and Sherman Morgan. The models were 1:10 scale, slightly smaller than Traditional scale models.

I acquired my original Secretariat in 1988. I remember he seemed extra special with the gold foil sticker on his box and the special brochure. Unfortunately, I no longer have him. In 2008 I sold much of my childhood collection because I needed money, and he was one that I regretfully sold, along with my special run gold charm version. This regret goes doubly now that in recent years I’ve learned that the mold was apparently damaged–it once had a pretty head–not the forehead bulge, half forelock version that showed up sometime in 1989.

This is how my original Secretariat looked sitting on the shelf at my favorite Ben Franklin store in 1988
When I sold my original Secretariat, I couldn’t find his brochure, so happily I still have it. Here is my 4 sock variation with the brochure.

For many years, I had no Secretariat in my collection. But in recent years I’ve been buying back pieces from my childhood that I regret letting go. My first acquisition was a factory goof (front sock on wrong leg) from the 1990 glossy race horse set. I then found a gold charm model, and then a rare factory error 4 sock version. I did eventually replace my 1988 version with another from the same era (OK, full disclosure, I just bought one while working on this post). He has the prettier head and full forelock.

Left: 1987 version, flat forehead. Middle: the “bulge head” version. Right: missing half forelock of the bulge head (damaged mold) version.

Secretariat is one of those models that when I was in my teens (and knew “everything”) I dismissed as ugly or not realistic enough–which is why I never collected other colors on this mold. The development of his bulging head certainly didn’t help my opinion. But something interesting has happened to me in recent years–maybe you could call it a collector mid-life crisis but I find myself viewing these old molds through the eyes of the little girl who first saw them–and she sees only a comforting old friend.

As an adult, I have a greater respect for the fact that Breyer models are pieces of art, and as such, are created with a piece of the artist within each one. This shows up in the particular artistic style or overall look of the model, and includes that moment of time (personally and professionally) in which the artist captures them. While today’s models may be sculpted using hundreds of pictures, 3-D imaging, and even visits to the actual horse, the older models may were sculpted using just a handful of pictures, the rest being left to the talent and imagination of the sculptor.

From the author’s collection
Other Breyer Secretariat Releases

Breyer has released several versions of Secretariat over the years in all scales and even in porcelain. Above are the versions in my collection (I also have the ornament but forgot to add it to the picture).

Releases on original mold
Secretariat on other Breyer molds

Secretariat’s run at glory happened a few years before I was born and, by the time I started paying attention to horse racing, he was just a few years away from his untimely death. In July 1989, I was in Kentucky (my first visit there) with my 4H group. One hot day the adults asked the kids if we would rather drive around and look at farms, or go swimming. Being a kid that gets carsick easily, I of course chose swimming, as did the other kids in the group. They didn’t tell us they were going to visit Secretariat, had I known, I would have jumped at the chance. The great horse died a few months later. Opportunity lost forever.

Almost 20 years later, I worked at Claiborne farm, my home on the farm just a couple minutes from the stallion barn where Secretariat had lived. I enjoyed taking family and friends on tours when they came to visit, seeing his grave and his stall at the stallion barn. Claiborne was the first farm I worked at as a foaling attendant (horse midwife). I helped foal out mares in the same barn Bold Ruler (Secretariat’s sire) was foaled in, the same barn all of the Claiborne-born Secretariat foals were delivered, as well as many other champions in the farm’s long history.

My life path has taken me away from Claiborne Farm and onto new adventures and opportunities to meet many more famous horses. When I look at my Chris Hess Secretariat models now, I can feel that little girl inside me perk up, excitement coursing through her little body as she dreams about working on famous thoroughbred farms in Kentucky, and walking in the hoof prints of champions.

What memories do you have of Secretariat? Do you own one of his models? Please scroll down (way down) to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

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Dr. Peaches Makes History…Twice

a story of one special thoroughbred and the very first Breyerfest

He was the model horse I didn’t know I needed, in fact, it wasn’t until I got my first Breyer reference book in 1997 that even learned he existed. I’m not even sure what put Dr. Peaches on my radar in the first place. Maybe it was the nostalgia of rediscovering my original Phar Lap model while unpacking my collection after fourteen years in storage?

Phar Lap, one of the first models in my collection, is not a popular mold. He is small, thin, a little course-headed, leans a bit to the right, and has a penchant for fracturing his right front leg mid-cannon. As a kid, I wasn’t interested in any of the other releases on the Phar Lap mold, but at that point (late 1980s-early 1990s). Regardless, something piqued my interest in the vintage bay thoroughbred portrait model of famed Olympian Bruce Davidson’s famous mount, Dr. Peaches. Almost 30 years after his release, I began to search for one of my very own.

Spoiler alert….I found one!

My quest of course took me to eBay, because that is where most of my collection has come from since they took over the world. Hard to find and often in the $100-125 range–much too rich for my blood, I spent months looking. There were 1000 made, not very rare by today’s standards, but for the vintage guys…well, one can assume the sands of time have not been too kind to the elderly gents.

I generally don’t spend a lot on my models as I’m always waiting for a great deal (a wait that sometimes goes on for decades). One glorious day, I found a listing on eBay with two Phar Lap molds in the lot, and, although the pictures were poor and dark, the one in the back looked like it could be the elusive Dr. Peaches.

I took a chance and bid $20 for the lot…and won! The wait was on…I either had a Dr. Peaches model worth over $100, or a dark bay galloping thoroughbred worth maybe $10. Luck was with me, the models arrived and out of the box emerged a nearly mint condition Dr. Peaches!

My “new” Dr. Peaches with my original Phar Lap — spanning over 30 years of collecting
Who was Dr. Peaches?

Dr. Peaches (Troubled Area x Doc’s Last Dollar) was a bay thoroughbred gelding, foaled in 1976. The youngster caught the eye of Olympian Bruce Davidson as a yearling.

“He was a lovely horse, and with a name like that I thought, ‘He’s got to be good.’ He was very tender and had lots of character, a great temperament and lots of movement,” said Davidson, in a 2005 Chronicle of the Horse article.

Davidson won the World Championship Three Day Event in 1978 (the event that would become the Rolex, currently known as the Land Rover 3 day event). This was the first time such a high-caliber eventing competition was held in America and is the primary reason the Kentucky Horse Park was created. His mount, a noble grey Thoroughbred called Might Tango, has also been featured as a Breyer model–I’ll write a post on that one another time.

Davidson and Dr. Peaches won the Rolex in 1984 and 1988, and then made history by winning it an unprecedented third time 1989 (an accomplishment matched by Winsome Adante in 2005).

Davidson and Dr. Peaches competing at Rolex in 1988.
cross country phase
Davidson and Dr. Peaches in the show jumping phase, 1989. Where is the Rolex arena? Not there…yet. Photo credit, Holly Ratcliff.
The first Breyerfest

In 1990, Dr. Peaches made history again. This time as the first Breyerfest Celebration Horse. The event was held at the same venue as his historic run of victories in the Rolex, the Kentucky Horse Park. In those early years, Breyerfest looked a lot different than it does today. What we now call the Celebration Horse, was then called the Dinner model as you had to buy a ticket to a special dinner to receive the limited run model.

picture of the Dr. Peaches model with the dinner ticket from Breyer’s website

Just over 1,ooo horse loving Breyer collectors converged on the Kentucky Horse Park for this first event. Dr. Peaches himself was not there, unlike the Breyerfest we know today, where you can meet the famous horses. There was no model horse show, and the event was only two days long. The area of the park used was much smaller, with the bulk of the event held in the viewing room above the covered arena and the dinner and model auction held in tents and the Steeplechase barn–a converted Tobacco barn located behind what is now the Rolex arena grandstand (and then was an open jump field) that is now used as storage for the Horse Park.

The dinner was a fund raiser for the Misty of Chincoteague Foundation whose goal was to purchase the land where the Bebee Ranch once stood. If you happened to be lucky enough to attend Breyerfest 1990, please comment below and share your memories!

Quick facts about Breyer’s Dr. Peaches

Name: Dr. Peaches
Number: #410090
Mold: Phar Lap
Sculpted by: Chris Hess
Description: bay, no socks, broken blaze (large star/snip), most with grey hooves
Signed: rarely found signed. Davidson signed one model for the auction, but has signed other models later when fans have brought them to him
Mold Mark: no Breyer seal but has a copyright “1984 20th Century Fox” engraved in the inner hind leg of the mold. TCF released the movie, Phar Lap.

A special thank you to Janine Bradshaw, Nancy Timm, and Stacie Beard for contributing their memories for the writing of this blog post!

Please share your Breyerfest memories in the comments below! I’d love to read them!

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My Man O’ War Army

How did I end up with thirty variations of the same model horse?

It was quite by accident, really. I was perusing eBay one day in 2008 and saw a “Buy It Now” auction with a ridiculously low price for a Man O’ War (MOW) model with an early 1980s picture box, and a sweet little bay appaloosa standing stock horse foal. The lighting in the picture was poor and the images not sharp, but the since the lot was only $20, I grabbed it up, mostly for the box.

I had been a fan of Man O’ War (the greatest race horse to ever live–don’t argue, it’s my blog) since I first read about him in 5th grade. A monster of a horse, faster than any other horse that challenged him, no one ever saw him run full speed, ever. Once Man O’ War had defeated his competition, his jockey would slow him, headlines of the day often read Man O’ War won cantering. In rare footage from his match race with Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton, Man O’ War can be seen finishing the race well ahead of his rival, his jockey standing in the stirrups, pulling the mighty colt’s chin toward his chest in an effort to slow the champion down.

He ran under insane amounts of weight as handicappers tried to slow him down, yet, he continued to trounce all comers. As a three-year-old in 1920, Man O’ War raced carrying 138 lbs (Secretariat never carried more than 126), conceding as much as 34 lbs to his competition. When handicappers stated they would ask Man O’ War to carry 140 lbs as a four-year-old, his owner retired him. He’d beaten ever horse that ever challenged him, and smashed all the records–the colt had nothing left to prove.

When the models arrived in the mail days later, I was surprised to discover how unusual the color was on the MOW model, it was a very light brown, resembling the color of a more recent release on the mold, “My Prince” (#966) but this was definitely not that model as it had MOW’s star and a black halter, vs. the brown halter of My Prince. My own MOW model I acquired in 1988 was an unshaded red chestnut.

The light colored Man O’ War with the picture box. I later learned this model is actually the QVC special run from 2002 (and doesn’t go with the box). Still, this light color is unusual for the QVC run, too.

How interesting that two samples of a simple, chestnut model with one single white star could be so different from each other. I wondered how many different versions I could find of Breyer’s original #47 Man O’ War. The model had run from 1967-1995 — almost 30 years of production. How many MOW models had been created? How many different painters and different batches of paint?

Four of my MOW variations featured on the website Top right is the very light variation. Bottom left is my original 1988 MOW. Top left is an early 1967 version. Bottom right is an unusual, glossy finish.

I took to eBay to see what I could find, I even purchased a couple more, although I felt a little silly, seriously, how many versions of the same horse did I need? Soon I had four total, all different. I kept looking and the MOW army kept multiplying. Soon there were eight, then twelve, then eighteen. I found extremely dark models, different finishes, misplaced and misshapen stars, models with huge eye whites and hand painted battleship grey hooves. By 2016 I had over 30 of them–all different.

In the lingo of the model horse collector, my MOW army was a variation collection (or conga) — all intended to be the same, mass-produced model, but all were a little different from another. Do I have every possible version? No. I still look from time to time, just in case I find something I don’t have, but anymore, I seldom find one that isn’t already represented in my collection.

There are of course a few glaring holes in my army–a few exceptionally rare pieces I’ve not been able to secure–partly because they seldom are up for sale, and partly because part of my joy in collecting is finding exceptional models for fabulous prices. The most I’ve given for any of my MOWs is about $40.

The pieces I’m still looking for are the presentation collection piece, the World Equestrian Games re-release, the gold charm Breyerfest raffle model, and the small blue ribbon sticker version. The last one I have the best chance of finding, the others…well, never say never…but seriously, I’d need the kind of luck a horse called Upset had in the only race Man O’ War ever “lost.”

above: the ones I’ve yet to find

Breyer Man O’ War quick facts

Mold #47
Introduced 1967
Discontinued 1995
Sculpted by: Chris Hess
Variations: can be found in coat color, finish, color of hooves, presence of or amount of shading, presence of eye whites, star placement, size, and style, mane and tail color. Also exist as factory “goofs” or culls with unpainted or mispainted eyes, halter, hooves, etc.
Other versions: technically not variations but are different releases of the same model. I count these as variations for the purposes of my MOW army.
1972 Presentation Collection (mounted on wood base)
1990 Sears special run glossy
1991 Gold charm Breyerfest Raffle model
2002 QVC Special Run
2010 World Equestrian Games special run

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Sunday Silence

The first Saturday in May, 1989. Twelve-year-old me is sitting on the couch watching Sunday Silence win the Kentucky Derby. Something stirred within me that day, watching the near-black colt gallop across the finish line first. I had recently read Walter Farley’s Man O’ War, a story which enamored me with the history of Thoroughbred racing in America, and the legendary horses born and raised in the historic Bluegrass region of Kentucky.

I have remained a steadfast fan of Man O’ War to this day, but it was Sunday Silence who brought my interest into the present, and became the first modern era racehorse I was a fan of.

Two weeks later, Sunday Silence engaged in an all out battle to the finish with Easy Goer for the win in the Preakness. The stretch run is burned in my memory, the horses matching each other stride for stride, heads turned slight toward each other as if each were looking the other in the eye, measuring their worth or perhaps seeking to intimidate. Sunday Silence came out on top, and the stage was set for the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Belmont Park buzzed with excitement on that June day, would there really be another Triple Crown winner? It’d been 21 years since Affirmed secured the title…almost a quarter of a century.

I sat on the edge of the couch, unable to tear my eyes from the horses as they paraded to the starting gate. The last gate clanked shut, the bell rang, the doors flew open and the horses burst onto the track. In less than 3 minutes, we would know.

That day belonged to Easy Goer, winning by a devastating 8 lengths over Sunday Silence. I was crushed…the first of many such heartbreaks until American Pharoah finally won the Triple Crown in 2015.

Sunday Silence went on to win the 1989 Breeders Cup classic and secure Horse of the Year honors. However, many American breeders had no respect for the fiery colt, preferring more royal lineage and glamorous looks than the son of Halo had to offer.

Sunday Silence with Arthur Hancock. Photo credit the Tony Leonard Collection on Twitter

Such snobbery would be a detriment to American Thoroughbred breeding as Sunday Silence, sold to a prominent breeder in Japan, would become the greatest sire that country had ever seen and one of the top producers of all time–with progeny earnings upwards of $730 million.

Sunday Silence was a national hero in Japan. Leading sire from 1995-2008 (six years after his death), even non-horse people knew his name.

Fast forward to 2006, I was living and working at Claiborne Farm, just down the street from Stone Farm, where Sunday Silence was born. My life in Kentucky,working with Thoroughbred race horses, largely a result of my love for Sunday Silence.

One day I walked into the feed store and saw a display of Breyer model horses featuring Racing Legends and there he was, Sunday Silence. While I still owned many Breyer models from my childhood collection, I hadn’t actively collected in years. I stood at the checkout counter and looked over my shoulder at the yellow box holding the plastic likeness of my childhood hero.

“Just a minute,” I said to the cashier. I turned and picked up the yellow box, paused a moment, and remembered. A smile danced on my lips. I turned back to the cashier and gently placed the model on the counter. “I need this, too.”

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