03/13/2013 3:49PM

Three Bars: His influence is still felt today


One of the most influential sires in shaping the modern racing Quarter Horse breed was, in fact, a Thoroughbred.

Born in 1940 and named after the winning combination of symbols on a slot machine, Three Bars showed a lightning-quick burst of speed over short distances on the racetrack, but his career was repeatedly interrupted by injury and also by the onset of World War II.

The son of Percentage, out of the Luke McLuke mare Myrtle Dee, Three Bars was a serviceable sire of Thoroughbreds, but his compact 15.3-hand frame, paired with his sprinting ability, helped him excel as a sire of Quarter Horses.

From 24 Quarter Horse crops, Three Bars sired 410 foals to race with 316 winners, an astounding 77 percent. Sixteen of those foals became champions.

As his progeny began to reproduce, Three Bars became one of the breed’s great broodmare sires and sires of sires. From 1940 to 1988, 287 Quarter Horses were awarded the title of running champion. Of those award winners, 55 were sired by Three Bars, his sons, or his grandsons.
Three Bars’ influence is still seen today, as the paternal great-grandsire of the legendary Dash For Cash. The son of Rocket Wrangler was a two-time world champion on the racetrack, then went on to sire five world champions of his own, making him the breed’s second-leading career earner as a sire behind his son First Down Dash.

Three Bars’ storied career also included an incident in the late 1950s where he was stolen from his barn in the middle of the night to breed mares. He eventually found his way back home with a broken nose after apparently being clubbed by his rustlers. Despite the injury, Three Bars continued his breeding career until his death in 1968.

Three Bars was enshrined in the American Quarter Horse Association’s Hall of Fame in its inaugural equine class of 1989. He has five foals in the Hall of Fame, the most of any sire, and is represented by another as a broodmare sire.