The two mares in the present composition belonged to Waldorf, 2nd Lord Astor, one of Munnings's most important patrons. He commissioned a series of works, commencing in 1925 with Saucy Sue winning the Oaks, 1925, depicting his horses, in winner's enclosures and at stud (both at Cheveley and Cliveden), that span the artist's mature career.
The brood mares and their foals in the present picture make an interesting pair and give a clear picture of the chancy nature of breeding racehorses. Short Story was a real champion as a racehorse but not particularly successful as a broodmare, whereas Instantaneous was a useful but much inferior runner but a champion broodmare.
Short Story was a bay filly foaled in 1923 by Buchan out of Long Shot by Lemberg. She won one of her two races as a two- year-old and was second in the other. As a three-year-old she began by being third in the 1,000 guineas and then won The Oaks at Epsom by four lengths. Her later form tailed off but she was a true champion on Oaks day. At stud she only had six foals between 1928 and her death in 1939.
Instantaneous was a bay filly foaled in 1931 by Hurry On out of Picture by Gainsborough. She did not win as a two-year old but was second three times from four races including in the Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood. As a three-year-old she won two races and showed her best form when third in the Oaks as a 20-1 outsider beaten only two lengths by the winner Light Brocade. She lived until 1955 and was an outstanding mare. Her best son was the 2000 Guineas and Champion Stakes winner Court Martial, who combined both careers by becoming a most influential stallion and twice being champion sire. She also bred the very useful Way In, who also became a stallion and in all she had 14 foals.
The present work would appear to date from 1939, therefore shortly before Short Story's death. This was the only year in which both mares had a foal at foot as Short Story produced only this final chestnut filly by Tai Yang after 1933. In that year Instantaneous's foal was a brown colt by Bahraim. Named Hasty Shot he won minor races and represented Lord Astor in both the 2000 guineas and Derby of 1942 as a complete outsider, being unplaced both times. The filly out of Short Story was named Pigtail and is notorious rather than famous. She appeared twice as a two-year-old in 1941 before being sold to the USA after being unplaced in her second appearance. Her first had seen her ridden by Gordon Richards, the champion jockey. He was badly injured when kicked at the start by another horse and missed the rest of the season. As a result 1941 was the only year from 1931 to 1953 when he was not champion jockey so poor Pigtail played an innocent role in breaking what would have been a sequence of 23 championships.
The present study relates to A Summer Evening: Lord Astor at the Cliveden Stud, 1939, which was shown at the Royal Academy in 1943 (no. 63). Another small panel study Brood mare and foal, the property of Lord Astor, was exhibited at the Wildenstein exhibition Alfred J. Munnings Images of the Turf and Field in 1983, no. 45.
This work will be included in Lorian Peralta-Ramos's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Sir Alfred Munnings.