In a day when few juveniles run through their conditions before stepping into stakes company, an early stakes win can be a misleading guide to a colt’s later prospects. Even a graded stakes win may be earned against a field composed mostly of maidens and recent graduates from maiden special weight races. But if Backtalk and D’Funnybone are as good as they looked in capturing the first two graded races for 2-year-old males at Saratoga, the rest of the country’s juveniles had better look out. Each earned grade II brackets in a manner stamping him as something special.
Backtalk was the first to strike, capturing the Sanford Stakes (gr. II) for Gold Mark Farm July 30. The son of 2004 champion 3-year-old male Smarty Jones has yet to get an ideal trip in three starts, but no one can fault him for sheer grit. Caught on the inside in the Bashford Manor Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs after stumbling at the break, the colt burst through a tight hole to win by a length. In the Sanford, the colt made a six-wide bid and had enough in the tank to land the prize by a neck.
That kind of determination was apparent in Smarty Jones’ racing career, but even more so in the career of Backtalk’s maternal grandsire, Affirmed. Whether Affirmed was the best horse ever to win the American Triple Crown can be debated, but no other winner of the classic series ever won it over a gamer or more talented opponent than Alydar. In the magnificent 1978 Belmont Stakes, Affirmed came home first by sheer willpower, turning back his splendid rival by a matter of about 18 inches after being headed in deep stretch.
Backtalk’s efforts in the Bashford Manor and the Sanford doubtless reminded some observers of his half-sister, Bsharpsonata (by Pulpit), who won the 2008 Forward Gal Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park in a pulsating stretch duel and next split horses to win the Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) at the same track. Both siblings were bred in Florida by Cloverleaf Farms II and were produced from Apasionata Sonata, herself a winner of the listed Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf Stakes as a 5-year-old in 2003.
Bred in Kentucky by Marshall Naify Revocable Trust, Apasionata Sonata comes from a tough and prolific family developed by Florida-based Farnsworth Farms. Her great-granddam, Miss Newcastle (by Coaltown), won 15 of 130 starts before proving that hard raced mares do not necessarily suffer as broodmares. She produced 12 foals for Farnsworth, including the stakes winners Faneuil Boy and Faneuil Hall and stakes-placed Faneuil Girl, all by Bolinas Boy. Both Faneuil Hall and Faneuil Girl became multiple stakes producers in their turns, though not for Farnsworth Farms.
Farnsworth did retain Miss Newcastle’s last foal, Faneuil Lady, and their decision proved well justified. Although the daughter of Diplomat Way failed to win, she produced multiple stakes winners Light Line (by Line In the Sand) and Express Star (by Baldski) for Farnsworth. The latter mare, who racked up seven stakes wins and $450,147 during her 45-race career, produced Apasionata Sonata as her fifth foal.
Provided Backtalk stays healthy, his pedigree suggests that he should train on well. The main question is just how much he will improve with maturity and how much distance he will want. On pedigree, he has a nice balance of staying and speedy strains, and he has certainly done everything asked of him so far. He should certainly be a contender through the remainder of this year based on the form he has shown so far.
Backtalk was not in the lineup August 20 for the Saratoga Special (gr. II), but after D’Funnybone crushed his seven rivals by 10 1/2 lengths, observers were thinking not of Backtalk but of Big Brown. That comparison was probably inevitable, given that D’Funnybone races for Paul Pompa Jr., co-owner of last year’s champion 3-year-old male.
While the comparison may be premature, there is no question that D’Funnybone has ability. And, like Backtalk, he has a pedigree suggesting that he may well be able to carry that ability over a distance. He is a classically American speed-over-stamina cross, the speed coming through his sire, 2002 Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash Stakes (gr. I) winner D'wildcat. Currently standing at Vinery’s Summerfield, Fla., operation, D’wildcat is by multiple grade III winner Forest Wildcat, one of the more consistent sires of speed among the sons of Storm Cat.
The stamina element comes through Elbow, who produced D’Funnybone for Florida breeder Harold J. Plumley. She is a winning daughter of Woodman, whose best progeny stayed 10 furlongs as often as not, and out of the Roberto mare Elvia. Roberto needs no introduction as a stamina influence, nor does Lyphard, sire of Elvia’s dam, 1981 Top Flight Handicap (gr. I) winner Chain Bracelet. Chain Bracelet, in turn, was produced from Chain, a full sister to 1977 Widener Handicap (gr. I) winner Yamanin as she is by the notable stamina influence Herbager out of Continue, by Double Jay. This is the family of 1984 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes (both gr. I) winner Swale and of 1987 Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner Forty Niner.
D’Funnybone is bred on the same general cross as was 2002 San Carlos Handicap (gr. I) winner Snow Ridge, who is by Storm Cat’s son Tabasco Cat out of a Woodman mare, and is the fifth graded or group stakes winner produced by crossing a Storm Cat-line stallion to a Woodman mare. None of the others stayed more than nine furlongs, but none of the others had the number of quality stamina influences in the distaff pedigree that D’Funnybone boasts. Whether that will be enough to make him a Classic contender next year is anyone’s guess, but it should be quite enough to take him as far as 2-year-olds are asked to run.