By Alan Porter
When looking at pedigrees, the natural tendency is to focus on successful crosses. However, we often find that as much may be learned from studying the exceptions to a rule, the good runners that stem from underperforming crosses. We had a good example this weekend in the shape of April Pride (GB), who took the Harold C. Ramser Sr. Handicap (gr. IIIT) on her North American graded stakes debut.
In doing so, she emerged as the first Northern Hemisphere graded winner to represent her sire, the much traveled Falbrav (IRE). A son of Fairy King – a once-raced brother to Sadler’s Wells, who became a top-class sire in his own right – Falbrav is out of a mare by Slewpy, a horse probably best remembered for his defeat of Deputy Minister in the 1983 Meadowlands Cup (gr. I), and subsequently as a useful sire of sprinters.
Falbrav began his racing career in Italy. In his first two seasons there, he established himself as a smart, but not top-class performer, producing his best effort when taking second in the Derby Italiano (Ity-I). At 4, however, he started to show considerable improvement. He captured in succession two of Italy’s most important races, the Premio Presidente Della Repubblica and Gran Premio di Milano (both Ity-I). He prepped for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Lucien Barriere (Fr-I) with a third in the Prix Foy Gray d’Albion Barriere (Fr-II), but could do no better than ninth, beaten 5 3/4 lengths by upset winner Marienbard. Falbrav rebounded from this defeat to end the campaign with his most important triumph to date, a game victory in the Japan Cup (Jpn-I).
Moved to the Newmarket stables of English-based Italian trainer Luca Cumani, Falbrav continued his improvement at 5, demonstrating consistently good form through a season that saw him start 10 times in five different countries, and over six different distances. The first half of the year brought him wins in the Prix d’Ispahan (Fr-I) and Eclipse Stakes (Eng-I). In mid-summer he was fifth in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (Eng-I), giving the impression, not for the first time, that a mile and a half was a little too far in the very best company. Back at an extended mile and quarter, Falbrav captured the Juddmonte International (Eng-I), and then was beaten a neck by High Chaparral (IRE) in the 10- furlong Ireland the Food Island Champion Stakes (Ire-I), after not getting the clearest of runs. Remarkably, having never run over a distance as short as a mile since his debut at 2, Falbrav was asked to tackle the best around over that trip in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I). Equally remarkably, Falbrav completed the task with aplomb, producing a terrific turn of foot to score by two lengths. Stepping back up to a mile and a half for the John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT), Falbrav was in front yards from the line, but was headed on the wire and finished third. None the worse for his exploits, he ended his season, and his career, on a well-deserved high, traveling to Hong Kong in December for a comfortable triumph in the Hong Kong Cup (HK-I). His efforts as a 5-year-old earned him laurels as Europe’s champion older horse.
Falbrav’s stud career has seen him clock up even more air miles than his racing career. He served his first Northern Hemisphere season in Japan, and then served a single term in England before returning to Hokkaido, where he now stands at the Shadai Stallion Station. In addition to his East-West peregrinations, Falbrav has also served shuttle seasons in Australia in each of the last four years. From his first Australian crop Falbrav sired group II winners Fravashi (AUS) and Brava Fortune (AUS). April Pride is from his sole English crop and is joined as a black type winner from that group by group-placed Splashdown (GB). The crop also produced Tagreed (out of the Roy mare Across (ARG)), who was highweighted 2-year-old filly in Qatar last year (where she raced as Al Basmah).
Though foaled in England, April Pride has a decidedly North American female line. Her dam, Hasta, a daughter of Theatrical (IRE), raced in the U.S., winning twice at up to 8 1/2 furlongs. Hasta is half-sister to juvenile stakes winner Magoo’s Magic (by Awesome Again), and to the dam of Maryland Million Million Turf Stakes victress Move Those Chains. Hasta’s dam, Slew the Queen, won twice, but more importantly was an extremely well-bred filly, being by Seattle Slew out of Inca Queen, winner of the Top Fight, Sheepshead Bay, and Columbiana Handicaps, and the Demoiselle Stakes. Slew the Queen was the first product of the Seattle Slew – Inca Queen union, and when the mating was repeated three years later, it came up with a more notable performer in the shape of the Sheridan Stakes (gr. III) victor Metfield. Incidentally, since Inca Queen was a daughter of Hail to Reason, and since Seattle Slew’s sire Bold Reasoning was also out of a mare by Hail to Reason, Slew the Queen and Metfield were inbred 4 x 2 to that horse. In addition to Metfield, Inca Queen produced two other graded stakes winners in Hail Bold King (by Bold Bidder), and Exile King (by Exclusive Native).
Inca Queen’s dam, Silver Spoon, is notable for being one of the few top-class horses sired by Triple Crown winner Citation. Champion 3-year-old filly in 1959, Silver Spoon won several important contests on the West Coast and defeated colts in the Santa Anita Derby. Silver Spoon’s half-sister Silver True (by Hail to Reason), won the Spinaway Stakes, and is dam of Silver Buck, winner of the Suburban and Whitney Handicaps (both gr. I), but is now best remembered as sire of Silver Charm. This is a notable Whitney family that goes back to the mare Equilette. A sister to Equestrian, sire of the great handicap horse of the 1940’s, Stymie, Equilette founded an outstanding family in her own right and is also ancestress of Kentucky Derby hero Gato del Sol and French champion 2-year-old filly Tersa (dam of promising young sire Rock Hard Ten).
April Pride’s has a pedigree with an interesting structure. The combination of Sadler’s Wells and Nureyev in pedigrees has long been known as a potent one, but as a direct sire/broodmare sire line cross it has tended to be less effective until recently (the first group or grade I winner on the cross is Rip Van Winkle (IRE), a current 3-year-old). For Fairy King and his sons (and admittedly few of his sons have distinguished themselves as sires), it has made even less impact, and April Pride is only the second black type winner bred on the cross. However, over the years we have noted that underachieving crosses can improve their strike rate when other factors are introduced. One of these is what he have called the “Parallel Pattern,” wherein two horses close up in the pedigree (for example the sire and dam, or sire and broodmare sire) are bred on the same cross. April Pride is a textbook example of a parallel pattern. Her sire is by Fairy King (by Northern Dancer) out of a mare by a son of Seattle Slew, and her dam is by a son of Nureyev (by Northern Dancer and a close relative to Fairy King), out of a mare by Seattle Slew. Before leaving April Pride, we’d also note that she has more crosses of Hail to Reason – five – than we recall seeing previously in a major winner.