By Alan Porter
With the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) recently in the record books , it did not take long – a week to be precise – for potential challengers to the established order. Winners of two graded events for 3-year-old colts, the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) and the Lone Star Derby (gr. III), may well be headed for the June 5 Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
In the Dwyer, Fly Down impressed with a six-length tally. An $80,000 Keeneland September yearling, Fly Down broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last November in the second of two juvenile outings. He reappeared in February to take a Gulfstream Park allowance, but was off the board in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) a month later.
Fly Down is a member of the third crop sired by 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft . Although he’s not become the heir to his sire, A.P. Indy, as his connections no doubt hoped when he retired to stud, Mineshaft has established himself as a solid sire, and he presented good value, particularly for owner/breeders, at his 2010 fee of $20,000. His first crop included the Japanese-trained Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) winner Casino Drive, a leading Belmont hopeful until hit by an injury; the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) victor Cool Coal Man ; and Coal Play, successful in the Salvator Mile Handicap (gr. III). No graded stakes winners emerged from Mineshaft’s second crop, but six of that group have won stakes events. Fly Down follows Mineralogist, winner of two New York-bred juvenile events last year; French juvenile listed winner Bottega; and the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) victor Discreetly Mine, as the fourth stakes winner from Mineshaft’s third crop.
Fly Down’s dam, the Fly So Free mare Queen Randi, has produced an earlier graded winner in Seafree, winner of the La Canada Stakes (gr. II) and third in the Santa Margarita Invitational (gr. I). She was by Chief Seattle, a son of Mineshaft’s grandsire, Seattle Slew, so bred on somewhat similar lines to Fly Down. Queen Randi was half sister to the minor stakes winner and graded stakes-placed horse Prince Randi and to stakes-placed Queen Explo, dam of restricted Philadelphia Park stakes winners Carrie the Flag and Accelerant. Fly Down’s granddam, the Mr. Prospector daughter Randi’s Queen, won four times and is half sister to the Dade Turf Classic Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner, Rich Sun. This branch of the family has not been a particularly outstanding one in recent times, but Fly Down does go back to a notable tap-root as his sixth dam, Jayjean, is also ancestress of 1975 champion 2-year-old filly Dearly Precious and a host of other top performers, including Giant's Causeway , Leroidesanimaux, Dansili, Banks Hill, Intercontinental, Cacique, Heat Haze, Champs Elysees, Three Valleys, So Factual, I Believe In You, and Cost of Freedom.
Fellow Mineshaft sophomore graded winners Discreetly Mine and Fly Down (TrueNicks-rated A++) are out of Damascus-line mares, Discreetly Mine from a daughter of Private Account and Fly Down out of a mare by Fly So Free (by Time for a Change). Since Mineshaft is out of a mare by Mr. Prospector, also the sire of Fly Down’s granddam, Fly Down has Mr. Prospector 3x3. Mineshaft has had 66 starters with Mr. Prospector 3x4 or 3x3 and eight of them are stakes winners (12% stakes winners to runners), so the duplication is definitely a positive for Mineshaft. Some question whether the Mr. Prospector double will prevent Fly Down expressing his talent over a classic distance. Certainly inbreeding to Mr. Prospector has been responsible for a lot of speedy stakes winners, but we can also note that Flower Alley, Volponi, Fourty Niners Son, Red Rocks, Storming Home, Whobegotyou, are all grade or group I winners over at least 10 furlongs (Red Rocks took the John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf at 1½ miles, and Fourty Niners Son and Storming Home were both group winners at that distance).
We noted Game On Dude as a horse to watch when he broke his maiden at Gulfstreak Park earlier this year. He was then unplaced in the Florida Derby (gr. I) and The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial Stakes (gr. III), but he showed the benefit of the seasoning with a win May 8 in the Lone Star Derby (gr. III). Game On Dude is by Awesome Again , also sire of 2010 Derby contender Awesome Act.
Game On Dude is out of Worldly Pleasure, a daughter of Devil His Due who captured the Politely Stakes at Laurel. Like Fly Down, Game On Dude represents a female line that has been relatively quiet in recent times, and, with the exception of a hunt winner under his third dam, Game On Dude and Worldly pleasure are the only stakes winners under the first three dams. The fourth dam, Princess Fager, is a half sister to graded winner Royal Roberto and to the dam of Crafty Prospector, runner-up in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. I) and sire of 93 stakes winners.
Game On Dude is the product of a cross that has had a disappointing strike rate, that of Deputy Minister-line stallions over mares by Devil’s Bag and his sons. The broad Deputy Minister/Halo cross has done somewhat better, but there has still never been a North American grade I or II winner by a Deputy Minister-line stallion out of a Halo-line mare. Perhaps the negative of the nick is somewhat compensated for by the presence of the close relatives Mr. Prospector and Raise a Cup, who appear together In more than 30 stakes winners. Actually, Awesome Again’s dam, the blisteringly-fast Primal Force, is a cross of Nasrullah (Nearco over Mumtaz Begum) and Mr. Prospector, and Devil His Due is a cross of Royal Charger (Nearco over a daughter of Mumtaz Begum) and Raise a Cup (bred on the same Raise a Native/Nashua nick as Mr. Prospector).