Two years ago, Todd Pletcher sent out WinStar Farm's Super Saver to win the 2009 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II). Super Saver, of course, went on to win the 2010 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). This year, the same owner-trainer combination sent out Gemologist to capture the 2011 renewal of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. Will lightning strike twice?
On pedigree, at least, Gemologist certainly has a fair chance to repeat Super Saver's double. Bred in Kentucky by G. Watts Humphrey Jr. and Louise Ireland Humphrey Revocable Trust, Gemologist is a son of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow , who stands at WinStar. The only horse ever to win the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) twice, Tiznow was one of the best 10-furlong horses in recent memory, also winning the Super Derby (gr. I) at 3 and the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) at 4 over the same distance.
Now the sire of 38 stakes winners from his first seven crops of racing age, Tiznow has plenty of staying power on both sides of his pedigree by American standards. His sire, Cee’s Tizzy, stayed well enough to finish a decent third behind Home At Last and Unbridled in the grade I 1990 Super Derby, then at 10 furlongs, before being forced into retirement by injury. The next stallion in the male line, Relaunch, was a grade III winner at eight and nine furlongs but could carry his speed much further, forcing the great John Henry to tie a world record for 12 furlongs on turf in the 1980 San Luis Rey Stakes (gr. IT). Through his dam, Cee’s Tizzy is a grandson of Lyphard, who proved a notable influence for class and stamina during a long career at stud.
On the distaff side, Tiznow is a maternal grandson of Seattle Song, who scored his biggest win in the 12-furlong Washington, D.C. International Stakes (gr. IT) as a 3-year-old in 1984. A son of Seattle Slew, Seattle Song is out of a daughter of Prince Blessed, a winner of the 10-furlong Hollywood Gold Cup. (The dam of Prince Blessed, Dog Blessed, was apparently one of those mares that throw according to the dominant influence of their mates, for while a mating to Princequillo produced Prince Blessed, a mating to the speedy Olympia produced Decathlon, a two-time champion sprinter.)
Tiznow never won over distances less than a mile, nor did he mature quickly, reaching top form late in his 3-year-old season. Not surprisingly, his progeny have reflected his own proclivities. Only 77 of his 691 foals of racing age have been winners at 2, though his 10 juvenile stakes winners include 2005 champion juvenile filly Folklore. In general, the Tiznows have been better with time to mature. Some have been determined front runners, generally best at about a mile, but the ones that have been willing to rate have usually been more effective with a bit more distance.
While Tiznow does not seem to need a particularly speedy mare in order to produce his best, he does well with strong-quartered types with a bit of speed. Gemologist's dam Crystal Shard never raced, but her sire Mr. Prospector had speed to burn as well as a penchant for throwing well-muscled individuals with powerful hindquarters. Following a racing career marked by great promise but hampered by injury, Mr. Prospector became a two-time leading sire and a nine-time leader of the broodmare sire list, as well as a noted sire of sires. So far, his daughters have produced 13 foals of racing age by Tiznow, yielding six winners and two stakes winners; the other stakes winner from this cross is grade II winner Tizaqueena.
Crystal Shard is a full sister to multiple grade II winner Withallprobability (herself the dam of multiple grade III winner With Ability, by A.P. Indy). She is also a half sister to Bradamante (by Roberto), dam of Japanese dual Classic winner Still in Love (by Sunday Silence), and to Color of Gold (by Seeking the Gold), dam of 2007 Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) winner Robe Decollete (by Cozzene).
Crystal Shard and her siblings were produced from 1984 Suwannee River Handicap (gr. IIIT) winner Sulemeif, a daughter of Northern Dancer. A half sister to 1988 Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) winner One of a Klein (by Danzig) and stakes winners Golden Highlights (by Secretariat) and Bare Minimum (by The Minstrel), Sulemeif is out of the Creme dela Creme mare Barely Even, a nine-time stakes winner and a full or half sister to three other stakes winners. The next dam in the female line, Dodge Me (by The Doge) won the important Princess Pat Stakes as a juvenile of 1961. In its further reaches, this female family traces back to the great 19th century foundation mare Queen Mary, whose descendants include the important stallions Bonnie Scotland, Blair Athol, Hampton, Watercress, Disguise, Bayardo, Lemberg, Black Toney, Prince Rose, Vice Regent, Victoria Park, Exclusive Native, Riverman, Crystal Palace, Highest Honor, and Deputy Minister.
Gemologist has now won twice over two turns at Churchill Downs, so it seems obvious that he can handle the surface. That isn't enough to guarantee him a slot in next year's Kentucky Derby, as he will probably need more graded earnings than the $103,855 he has now. But at least it seems safe to say that he is on the right track for a shot at next year's classics.