By Alan Porter
A “sleeper” among the first-year stallions of 2004 was Yankee Gentleman , who retired to stand at Airdrie Stud at a fee of $10,000. The son of Storm Cat had won four of 10 starts at 3 and 4, and although his only stakes victory came in the restricted Pirate’s Bounty Handicap at Del Mar, he’d taken that race in 1:07.9, the fastest six furlongs recorded by a son of his sire. He’d also shown brilliance when taking a seven-furlong maiden event at Gulfstream Park by 11 lengths, and his other wins, in allowance contests at Belmont Park and Del Mar, were achieved by five lengths and 3½ lengths, respectively. In addition, Yankee Gentleman appealed as a physically imposing individual, was out of the grade I-winning mare Key Phrase, and appeared to have a pedigree that would dispose him well to crossing with Mr. Prospector-line mares.
Well, the sleeper has now really awakened, and although the emergence from slumber didn’t happen in time to save his Kentucky career, the Bluegrass’ loss has been Louisiana’s gain as Yankee Gentleman, who is now at Le Mesa Stallions, is now the clear leader of that state’s sire colony. (Incidentally, Yankee Gentleman’s somewhat similarly-credentialed and -pedigreed relative Tribal Rule–a Storm Cat half-brother to the dam of Yankee Gentleman–has stamped himself as one of California’s leading young sires with 14 stakes winners, including the grade I-winning Georgie Boy, in his first four crops.)
Although its impact wasn’t instant, there actually wasn’t a lot to cavil at with Yankee Gentleman’s first crop. From 73 foals emerged five stakes winners and 10 additional stakes placed horses. They are headed by E Z’s Gentleman, successful this year in the Triple Bend Handicap (gr. I); Golden Yank, an earner of more $770,000, whose victories include the Oklahoma and Zia Park Derbies; and Yankee Bravo, who took the California Derby. Yankee Gentleman’s second crop included only 41 named foals, of which Southern Yankee and Hello Again are stakes winners, with three others being stakes placed. His third crop numbers 74 named foals. Currently 3, this crop has already yielded five stakes winners, including the Commonwealth Turf Stakes and Hawthorne Derby (both gr. IIIT) winner Yankee Fortune and Washington Bridge, who captured the Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) December 5.
Washington Bridge, who was $24,000 RNA as a Keeneland November weanling and a $23,000 RNA as a Keeneland September yearling, was making her 18th start. She has finished first or second in half of those outings, and now has a three-race winning streak, having captured an October 24 allowance at Golden Gate, then returning just under three weeks later to add the restricted Life Is Sweet Stakes at Hollywood Park.
Washington Bridge is out of the Prized mare Stirling Bridge, winner of the Sangue Handicap on turf and Delicada Stakes on dirt, both at Louisiana Downs. Stirling Bridge, whose record as a broodmare boasts six winners from six starters, had previously demonstrated an affinity for sons of Storm Cat by producing the Tropical Park Derby (gr. IIIT) runner-up Fire Path to Tale of the Cat, and the minor stakes winner Noble Bandit to Cat Thief. Stirling Bridge’s dam, Early Lunch (by the Vaguely Noble horse Noble Table), won seven stakes, and gained a graded victory in the Suwannee River Handicap (gr. IIIT). Stirling Bridge was her only stakes winner, although she also produced stakes-placed Early Crown (by Chief’s Crown, a Northern Dancer/Secretariat cross like Storm Cat), and is granddam of the listed scorer Man On the Go and minor stakes winner Antler Lake. The third dam, Early Gift, a non-winning daughter of Verbatim, produced nothing else of note, and was exported to Venezuela (actually she was sent to that country twice, once at 6, and again at 15). The fourth dam, Early Glow, was also undistinguished both as a runner and as a producer, but was, however, a well-bred mare. A daughter of Hail to Reason, she was out of the important Prince Aly Khan-bred tap-root mare Skylarking II. A good stakes winner in France, and by Mahmoud’s close relative Mirza II (giving Early Glow the sister/brother Mumtaz Begum and Mirza II 5x2), Skylarking II produced the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches victress Yla, but through her daughter Soaring is also ancestress of string of important horses, among them Mehmet (out of Soaring); Glorious Song, Saint Ballado, Devil’s Bag, Singspiel, Rahy, Rakeen, Mezzo Soprano, Danon Chantilly, and Sligo Bay (all descending from Soaring’s stakes-winning daughter Miss Swapsco); as well as group/grade I winners Tribulation, Graceful Darby, Wonder Again, Soaring Softly, Plenty of Grace, Military, Sunshine Street, and Dawn’s Curtsey.
As mentioned in the introduction, Yankee Gentleman looked to be a particularly good cross for Mr. Prospector-line mares. As it turns out, that cross has produced two of his three graded winners, but Washington Bridge, from a daughter of Prized, is a product of the burgeoning cross of Storm Cat-line stallions with Kris S.-line mares. So far the cross has produced 17 stakes winners from 240 starters (a solid 7.1% stakes winners-to-starters ratio), including the Storm Cat grade I-winning siblings Sweet Catomine (the top 2-year-old filly of her crop) and Life Is Sweet.