This gentle, golden stallion displayed the talent and heart of a great American Quarter Horse.
?Question Mark was so gentle, and the best thing you ever saw,? said Ray Cates, whose father, J.R., bought the stallion in 1947. ?He was a good-looking horse. He could run, and he had a lot of sense. You could put a little kid up on him, and he?d walk around with him ? we did that a lot out in the pasture.?
That pasture was on 80 acres in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Bred by Waite Phillips and foaled in 1937 at Cimarron, New Mexico, Question Mark was by the Quarter Horse Plaudit, a son of the Thoroughbred King Plaudit, whose sire was 1898 Kentucky Derby winner Plaudit. Question Mark?s dam was Pepito, a speedy Thoroughbred mare by Kenward who once held the 3/8ths-mile record at Tanforan Racetrack near San Francisco.
?As handsome a horse as I ever saw was Question Mark,? wrote Bob Denhardt in the April 1957 Quarter Horse Journal. ?He stood 15 hands and weighed in good flesh about 1,250 pounds.
The crooked blaze on his face, running from his nose to his forehead, gave him his name. Head, neck, shoulders, middle, loin, rear quarters ? all were beautifully balanced and added up to a picture horse. He had beautiful small feet and straight legs with excellent flat bone. His gaskins and forearms bespoke speed and power. The large, soft eyes showed intelligent alertness, pride and spirit.?
Bob first saw Quarter Mark at the track, when Frankie Burns was saddling him for a three-horse race at Trinidad, Colorado.
?Joe Lewis, who had been burning up the short tracks, was to run a half mile against two newcomers, a palomino son of Plaudit and a lanky sorrel filly sired by Cowboy named Shue Fly,? he continued. ?Nobody gave the two rank outsiders much of a chance. In order to get some bets, they were taking bets at every eight pole.
?The colt we saw (Question Mark) was the smartest it had ever been my privilege to see,? Bob wrote. ?I told Jim (Minnick, AQHA?s first inspector) such a picture horse could never run in this company. It just wasn?t in the cards.?
Nelson Nye picks up the story: ?They were to run a half mile with a judge at each eighth pole. Golden Question Mark held the lead at the eighth; Shue Fly took over at the quarter. Somewhere between that first eighth and the quarter, Question Mark staggered, slowed up for a bit, yet came on to win.The astonishing thing is not that he lasted that full half mile but that he had the courage, the gallant heart, to overtake and pass the great Hepler mare on a broken pastern joint. The applause was tumultuous and redoubled in volume when the Trinidad crowd was told what he had done. He had to be helped into the winners circle, and when it was announced he had run his last race, more than one pair of eyes shed unashamed tears.?
While the broken pastern forced him from racing, Question Mark still could walk and trot. In 1945, he was the grand champion palomino of the stock horse division at the Fort Worth stock show, where the following year he was the overall grand champion. A year later, he stood grand at Tulsa and the Denver National Western, where that same year his daughter My Question topped out as the best 2-year-old mare and grand champion stock horsemare. And that was out of only 246 foals ever registered to his credit.
?Like other truly great sires of this Quarter Horse breed, Question Mark has gotten good stock out of all kinds of mares, very few of which were top ones,? wrote Nelson Nye (under the pen name Montague Rockingham) in the April 1963 Quarter Horse Journal.
Question Mark was a great broodmare sire, too. Bred to Everett Jr (TB), his daughter Savannah Gray produced two stakes winners, Savannah Cates and champion Savannah Jr, both of whom were bred by J.R. Cates. Racing in Ray?s name, Savannah Jr in 1965 won the All American, Oklahoma and Sunland Fall futurities. The golden stallion, in short, had it all.
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