While she might not quite rank alongside La Troienne in the annals of famed producers, Ruby Slippers has exerted a considerable influence on North American racing and breeding, a point that was in evidence once again the weekend of March 29.
Bred and raced by Mr. & Mrs. Bertram Firestone, one of the most prominent owners and breeders of the era, Ruby Slippers was by Nijinsky II out of Moon Glitter, a stakes-winning sister to Relaunch. A most atypical daughter of her sire, Ruby Slippers was a roan, and was a pure sprinter, all five of her victories coming at six furlongs, four on dirt and one on turf. She never placed in a stakes but did win what was designated as a “Q” event, a Qualified Allowance, at Belmont Park.
For her first year at stud, Ruby Slippers was sent to the court of Fappiano, a mating selected to give a duplication of Rough’n Tumble through Fappiano’s broodmare sire, Dr. Fager, and through his daughter, My Dear Girl (the dam of Ruby Slipper’s broodmare sire, In Reality), and secondly to bring together some strains in the distaff side of the pedigrees of Fappiano and of Nijinsky II. Offered in foal to Fappiano at the November 1986 Keeneland November sale, Ruby Slippers was purchased for Heronwood Farm for $575,000.
The foal that Ruby Slippers was carrying at the time was Rubiano, who not only became what would be one of eight stakes winners for Fappiano out of mares carrying In Reality (the others including champion Unbridled, and grade I winners Cahill Road, Serape, and Tappiano), but would earn an Eclipse Award as the champion sprinter of 1992. Incidentally, Rubiano is not the only North American champion to have Fappiano in his male line and Ruby Slippers in his female line as Summer Bird, the champion 3-year-old male of 2009, is by Birdstone , a grandson of Unbridled out of Hong Kong Squall, a granddaughter of Ruby Slippers.
Rubiano was a disappointment as a sire, but both directly and indirectly he has made quite an impact on the breed in recent years. His daughter, Starry Dreamer, was second in the Gazelle Handicap (gr. I) on the dirt but recorded black-type victories in the Gold Digger Stakes, the Regret Stakes, and the Palisades Stakes on the turf, and showed high-class form in graded turf stakes at as far as 12 furlongs. As a broodmare, Starry Dreamer produced three stakes winners, including War Front , a graded stakes-winning and multiple grade I-placed sprinting son of Danzig. War Front has made a sensational start at stud, and for 2014 he is advertised at a fee of $150,000, with seasons rumored to be fetching substantially more in private sales.
Besides War Front, only one other stallion at stud in the U.S. for 2014 is advertised at a fee as much as $150,000. That horse is Tapit , and he too has a link to Rubiano. By 1995, Fappiano had already died, but his son, the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) winner, Unbridled, was in his fourth year at stud, and was selected as Ruby Slipper’s mate as the best way to emulate the cross that had produced Rubiano. The resultant filly, Tap Your Heels, earned black type with a win in the Hildene Stakes at Colonial Downs, but is now far more famous as the dam of Tapit. Thus, of the two most expensive stallions at stud in North America for 2014, one is out of a mare by Rubiano, and the other is out of a three-quarters sister to Rubiano.
At the start of this piece, we mentioned that the influence of Ruby Slippers was underlined again the weekend of March 29. One case was via a direct female-line descendant, In Tune. A daughter of Unbridled’s Song—another Fappiano line representative—In Tune is out of Ruby Slipper’s daughter, Wichitoz (by Affirmed). On March 29, making only the third start of her career, In Tune showed great courage in carrying the Wertheimer colors to a narrow victory in the Gulfstream Oaks (gr. II).
Of course, the highlight of March 29 at Gulfstream Park was the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I). That race also resulted in a hard-fought victory for a horse making his third start, in this case Constitution , who was headed to the Kentucky Derby before sustaining a minor injury. Rated A++ by TrueNicks, Constitution is out of the Distorted Humor mare Baffled. While Tapit has not particularly excelled with mares from the Mr. Prospector line in general, the specific version that Constitution represents has produced grade I winners Constitution and Dance Card and two stakes-placed horses from only 12 starters.
For good measure, March 29 also saw Tapit represented by Untapable, who flashed her Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) credentials with a 7 3/4-length romp in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II). Constitution and Untapable are two of four stakes winners from Tapit’s current crop of 3-year-olds, and we’ll also mention that the weekend saw Tapit’s 4-year-old son, Normandy Invasion —fourth in last year’s Kentucky Derby—run second to Palace Malice in the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II).