By Alan Porter
The Minstrel might have lacked a little of the flare of his close relative Nijinsky II, but he proved to be a very tough and talented runner. Undefeated in three starts at 2, including the William Hill Dewhurst Stakes (Eng-I), The Minstrel added the Epsom Derby (Eng-I), Irish Sweeps Derby (Ire-I), and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (Eng-I) at age 3. A stock chestnut, quite unlike the rangy bay Nijinsky II, The Minstrel also turned out to have considerably less impact at stud than his celebrated relative. That said, he did sire 58 stakes winners, including Irish champion 2-year-old filly Minstrella; the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) victor Opening Verse; Palace Music, a group/grade one winner in Europe and the U.S.; Musical Bliss, who took the General Accident One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I); L’Emigrant, successful in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (Fr-I); and Melodist, winner of both the Oaks d’Italia (Ity-I) and Kildangan Stud Irish Oaks (both Ire-I). Unfortunately, the sons of The Minstrel generally turned out to be disappointing sires, although Palace Music was represented by an exceptional horse in each hemisphere: two-time Horse of the Year Cigar (who proved be infertile when retired to stud) and the Australian star Naturalism (who failed to leave a top-class stallion son). As a broodmare sire of sires, The Minstrel has been best represented by the brothers Zamindar and Zafonic, although he has another interesting representative in that role in Dalham Hall Stud’s Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I) victor Shirocco, whose first crop are now 2.
Two recent graded stakes winners, both Edward P. Evans homebreds, and both featuring The Minstrel and genetic relatives in their pedigrees. The first was A Little Warm, who wore down game front-runner Miner's Reserve to gain a 1¾-lengths triumph July 31 in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II). A Little Warm won the Spectacular Bid Stakes earlier this year, and then took second in the Hutcheson Stakes and Louisiana Derby (both gr. II), before adding an allowance at Delaware on his most recent outing. Now a winner of four races with four seconds from eight starts, he will next point to the Travers Stakes (gr. I).
A Little Warm is a son of Stormin Fever, a stallion who started his stud career at Airdrie in Kentucky and now stands at Golden Eagle Farm in California. Another Evans homebred, Stormin Fever won only one black-type event, the seven-furlong Sport Page Handicap (gr. III), but he showed high-class form up to 8½ furlongs, including twice finishing second in the Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I). Stormin Fever sired the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap (gr. I) victress Tarlow in his first crop and Sweet Talker, successful in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) in his second, but overall the good ones didn’t come thick or fast enough to keep him in Kentucky, and for the 2009 covering season he made the move west. Ironically, his current crop of 3-year-olds – foals that came of age the year Stormin Fever first stood in California– includes, in addition to A Little Warm, Check The Label, successful in the Sands Point Stakes (gr. IIT); Biofuel, successful in the Mazarine Stakes (gr. III) and was twice grade I-placed; and Magical Solution, who won the Niagara Stakes.
A Little Warm is out of the Chicago Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. III) captress Minidar, a daughter of Alydar. A Little Warm is her first stakes winner, but her Storm Cat daughter Ministorm is dam of the Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) heroine Mini Sermon. As previously mentioned, Minstrella, the dam of Minidar, was a daughter of The Minstrel. She won four stakes in England and Ireland at 2, including the Heinz 57 Phoenix Stakes and the Moyglare Stud Stakes (both Ire-I) and the Tattersalls Cheveley Park Stakes (Eng-I). At stud, Minstrella produced two other stakes winners, the better of which was the Pleasant Colony mare Colonial Minstrel, winner of the Shuvee Handicap (gr. II) and subsequently dam of stakes winners Storm Minstrel (by Storm Cat) and Grand Minstrel. A sister to Colonial Minstrel, Colonella, produced the graded stakes winner Pleasant Strike, a son of Smart Strike. The third dam, the Misty Flight mare Flight Dancer, is dam of the prolific graded-winning Halo filly Misty Gallore (by Halo), and third dam of Horse of the Year Saint Liam. In tail-female line she goes back to the great mare of the 1940s, Gallorette.
In addition to being bred on the successful Storm Cat/Alydar cross – he is TrueNicks-rated A+ – A Little Warm has the similarly-bred Northern Dancer sons Storm Bird and The Minstrel, 3 x 3 in his pedigree.
The day after A Little Warm’s victory, the Evans colors were carried to victory in the Ruffian Invitational Handicap (gr. I) by the 4-year-old filly Malibu Prayer. She follows Life At Ten and Devil May Care as the third grade I-winning filly of 2010 for sire Malibu Moon . Malibu Prayer is out of the Grand Slam mare Grand Prayer, winner of the Without Feathers Stakes at Monmouth Park. Grand Prayer, in turn, is out of The Minstrel’s daughter Lyrical Prayer, and is half sister to graded stakes winner Tap Dance and to the dams of Silverside – champion 3-year-old colt in Spain – and 2010 stakes winner Rockin' Rockstar.
Malibu Prayer is only the second stakes winner by A.P. Indy or one of his sons out of a Gone West-line mare. Of course, Malibu Moon is out of a mare by Gone West’s sire, Mr. Prospector. Malibu Moon has sired four stakes winners out of 40 starters (10%) from mares by grandsons of Mr. Prospector, and two from 47 foals out of mares by sons of Mr. Prospector. Where the strike-rate has been more notable is with the Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer cross (where the dam is, or carries, an individual from the Mr. Prospector sire line out of a mare from the Northern Dancer). This pattern is found in at least six of Malibu Moon’s stakes winners, including Malibu Prayer, champion Declan’s Moon, Devil May Care, and Odysseus. Of those with both Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer in the first four generations, there are five stakes winners from 26 starters (19% stakes winners to starters), which needless to say is significantly in advance of his overall strike rate.
Malibu Prayer has this combination through both her broodmare sire and her dam. What is particularly interesting about her pedigree pattern is that Malibu Moon’s dam, Macoumba, herself a group I winner, is by Mr. Prospector out of a mare by a son of Nijinsky II, where Grand Prayer, the dam of Malibu Prayer, is by a grandson of Mr. Prospector out of a mare by Nijinsky’s close relative, The Minstrel.
Incidentally, the combination of Nijinsky II and The Minstrel is found in 75 stakes winners, ten grade I, and Storm Bird and The Minstrel combine in at least 30 stakes winners, three grade I.