By Alan Porter
That this is an exceptional crop of second-year sires is not exactly news any more. Still, the point was hammered home again at the weekend, when two second-season horses were represented by grade I winners.
At Belmont Park, Even The Score’s son Take the Points added a win October 10 in the Jamaica Stakes to an earlier victory in the Secretariat Stakes (both gr. IT). The same day at Keeneland, Cuvee was represented by his first graded stakes winner when Noble's Promise upset the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (gr.I). Along with Even the Score and Cuvee, other second-crop sires with a grade I winner are Medaglia d'Oro , Birdstone , Speightstown , Tapit , and Candy Ride (ARG)..
Take the Points started the year as a classic candidate, after winning a maiden at Belmont on the final of three juvenile starts, and a Gulfstream Park allowance on his 3-year-old debut. Sent to continue his campaign on the West coast, he took second to The Pamplemousse in the Sham Stakes (gr. III), and was then fourth behind Pioneerof the Nile in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). Take the Points skipped the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brand (gr. I), but did make the line-up for the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I), where he finished nearly 33 lengths behind Rachel Alexandra. Switched to the turf, Even the Score has shown progressive form on that surface. Fourth in the Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIIT), and third in the Virginia Derby (gr. IIT), he now has to be considered one of the best 3-year-old turf performers in the country following courageous back-to-back victories in the Secretariat and Jamaica Stakes.
Take the Points is one of four stakes winners from the first crop of Even the Score, whose other black-type winners include Four Gifts – who took the Boyd Gaming’s Delta Princess Stakes (gr. III) at 2 and the Eight Belles Stakes (gr. III) this year at 3 – and Scorewithcater,winner of the Borderland Derby, runner-up in the Canadian Derby (gr. III), and third in the Swaps Stakes (gr. II).
Even the Score’s progress into a place among the top 10 second-year sires is even more impressive when one considers his race record. A son of Unbridled’s Song and the Rahy mare Ashtabula, Even the Score didn’t start at 2, and at 3 he won three times, but his only black type place was a third in the Woodchopper Stakes on turf. Persisted with on the sward at 4, he captured an allowance race at Churchill Downs, took second in the Fair Grounds Breeders’ Cup, and finished third in the the Explosive Bid Handicap and Firecracker Breeders’ Cup Stakes (both gr. IIT). At 5, Even The Score won three of eight starts, including an allowance race on turf and one on the dirt, and the Mardi Gras Handicap, his first stakes score. However, it wasn’t until he was 6 that he really peaked, four outings yielding wins in the Californian Stakes and Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (both gr. II) and thirds in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) and San Bernardino Handicap (gr. III).
Take the Points, a $160,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky select sale yearling, is out of the unplaced mare Ginger Ginger (by Fred Astaire, a turf horse by Nijinsky II). She was taken over by Take the Points’ breeder, Phoenix Farm, in lieu of a board bill, and is also dam of the minor stakes winner Tin Man Commin (by Tinners Way). The female line is a European turf one, as the granddam, Late Flight (FR), is by French Derby (gr. I) winner Caracolero and is half-sister to group II winner Condorcet. Take the Points’ fifth dam, Fragrant View (GB), was a half-sister to the 1946 Epsom Derby winner Airborne (GB), and is ancestress of numerous major winners.
Take the Points is rated B+ by TrueNicks and is an example of the Unbridled/Nijinsky II cross that has also produced Travers Stakes (gr. I) victor Unshaded, successful sire Broken Vow, and graded winner and young stallion Eurosilver. Even the Score might particularly like Nijinsky II, since his broodmare sire, Rahy, is by Blushing Groom (FR). The Nijinsky II/Blushing Groom combination has long been established as important, and the key is probably that Blushing Groom’s sire, Red God, is out of Spring Run (Menow/Bull Dog cross) where Nijinsky II’s dam, Flaming Page, is a Bull Dog/Menow cross. In Take the Points’ pedigree, this cross is reinforced by the fact that Fred Astaire’s second dam, Dunce Cap II, is by Tom Fool (Menow/Bull Dog cross) and is herself out of mare by Bull Dog’s son Bull Lea. We can’t leave this pedigree without also noting that Fred Astaire is out of a mare by champion Stage Door Johnny, where Even the Score’s third dam is by Stage Door Johnny’s close relative, Speak John.
If it took a while for Even the Score to reach his peak, the same can’t be said for Cuvee. A typical precocious son of Carson City, he had sound claims to be regarded as the fastest 2-year-old of his crop. Cuvee won four of his first five races, including the Kentucky Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. III), Saratoga Special (gr. II), and the Futurity Stakes (gr. I), all by 8 seven lengths or more. He finished well back in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) but was still co-highweight on the Experimental Free Handicap. Cuvee ran just three times at 3, finishing second in the Matt Winn Stakes and Kentucky Cup Sprint Stakes (gr. III), and off the board in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I).
Given his background, expectations for Cuvee to make a splash with his freshman juvenile crop last year were high. He did have two black type scorers among his 20 individual winners, but both earned their stakes victories in minor contests. This year Cuvee has reversed the usual trend and his second crop appears better than his first. He’s sitting sixth on the juvenile sires table with 12 winners and three stakes winners, headed by Noble’s Promise.
Noble’s Promise (A++) is out of the Clever Trick mare The Devil’s Trick, a half-sister to the multiple graded winner New Economy. Third dam Far Beyond (by Nijinsky II out of Soaring, also ancestress of Devil’s Bag, Saint Ballado, Glorious Song, Rahy, and Singspiel (IRE), to name but a few) started her own branch of this famous family.
Oddly enough, Noble’s Promise, like Take the Points, is a beneficiary of the Nijinsky II/Blushing Groom combination. Cuvee’s sire, Carson City, is out of Blushing Promise, who is by Blushing Groom out of a Nijinsky II mare, and Nijinsky II is also sire of Noble’s Promise’s third dam. Along with the double of Nijinsky II’s sire, Northern Dancer, Noble’s Promise also has Northern Dancer’s close relative Icecapade, the sire of Clever Trick.