Published in the Nov. 2 issue of The Blood-Horse
This past July, the last place anyone expected Starine to be was in the winner's circle after the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT). Her owner and trainer, Bobby Frankel, had just announced her retirement. Less than a month later, the retirement party was abruptly halted and Starine was back in training. Unconventional uncertainty has been a hallmark of Starine's career. Starine's meteoric rise from a French claimer to Breeders' Cup winner is anything but routine. She is the lone stakes winner by her sire and the only stakes horse out of her non-winning dam. In fact, her female family is so light on black type that one has to go all the way back to her third dam before another stakes winner appears. Bred in France by Catherine Dubois, Starine began her racing career for her breeder while competing at provincial tracks. Dubois, along with Jacques Dubois, has bred three other stakes winners--Bal Star, Cartum, and Timmy Perle--but none are on the same level as Starine. The Filly & Mare Turf winner broke her maiden in her second start at two before putting in a few sub-par efforts and it wasn't long before she changed hands. She began improving near the end of her juvenile season and closed out the year with a win in the Prix Saraca. A year and four months would pass after her initial stakes victory before the now 5-year-old mare would win another race, but she did take home three stakes placings in the interim. She caught Frankel's eye and he opened his wallet for approximately $150,000. When the deal was done, he imported her to the U.S. and she rewarded him immediately with a runner-up finish in a graded stakes. He offered her for sale to his clients, but no one was interested and Frankel kept her. Starine threw in a few brilliant performances with thrilling wins in the Matriarch Stakes (gr. I) and Diana Handicap (gr. IIT) for her new owner, but she also threw in a few clunkers, including a poor showing in last year's Filly & Mare Turf after being supplemented. Her powerful victory in this year's Breeders' Cup edition was her first win in 11 months. Not only did Starine's dam, Grisonnante, never win a race, but she never even hit the board in six attempts in France. Bred to noncommercial stallions, she has produced two minor winners from three other foals to race besides Starine. Stakes winners are a precious commodity in her family; including Starine, only five stakes winners have been produced by all the mares in the family through her first eight generations. Mendocino, the sire of Starine, was an Allen Paulson-bred horse from the first crop of Theatrical. He was a nice 2-year-old, winning his maiden and the Prix Herod in France, but never quite recaptured that form in ensuing campaigns. He has sired small crops in France, where he stood the 2002 season at Haras de la Grande Maison near Les Charencey, with 61 foals from eight crops on the ground including weanlings. He reportedly will stand at Haras des Chartreux in 2003. Starine stands head and shoulders above Mendocino's six other lifetime winners as his best offspring and her money makes up the bulk of his progeny earnings. Mendocino has done a lot with little opportunity, so a glance at his pedigree hints that Starine's rise should not be unexpected. He is by Theatrical, a champion, a Breeders' Cup winner, and a top sire, who is the leading sire son of the incomparable Nureyev. Mendocino is out of the Caro mare Brorita, who is from the immediate family of Exclusive Native, the leading sire in the U.S. in 1978-79. Other members of the extended family include champion and leading sire Deputy Minister, Horse of the Year Charismatic, and grade I winners Versailles Treaty, Chief Honcho, and General Assembly. Starine is bred similarly to her sire as she also is by a Nureyev-line stallion out of a Caro-line mare. She is inbred 3 x 3 to champion Caro. When Starine's grandsire, Theatrical, was mated to mares from the Grey Sovereign (Caro's grandsire) male line, he also found success in Irish champion and classic winner Zagreb and additional group I winner Marchand de Sable. Fellow Filly & Mare Turf entrant, fourth-place finisher, and post time favorite Golden Apples, is bred similarly. Like Starine, the grade I winner is by a Nureyev-line stallion out of a Caro granddaughter. Golden Apples is inbred 4 x 3 to Caro.