by Alan Porter
Ever a Friend appears to have improved at an astonishing rate recently. He was claimed Dec. 6 by trainer Mike Mitchell for $62,500 out of a 6-furlong contest at Hollywood Park in which he finished third. On Dec. 31, he returned in the Impressive Luck Handicap at Santa Anita Park and closed strongly to win by three-quarters of a length. Freshened, Ever a Friend made his first start of 2008 in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. I) March 1, and after pressing the early pace, shot clear in the straight for an impressive 3 3/4-length triumph.
Perhaps part of the key to Ever a Friend’s improvement is time. He is now a 5-year-old and his sire, the Crafty Prospector horse Crafty Friend, was another horse whose record improved significantly with age. That said, Crafty Friend did at least show stakes-class talent early, taking third in the Remsen Stakes (gr. II) at 2 after winning a Belmont Park maiden. He gained a stakes win the following year in the R.R.M. Carpenter Jr. Memorial Stakes at Delaware Park, and came close to a graded win when running Gold Fever to a head in the Discovery Handicap (gr. III).
At 4, Crafty Friend kicked off the year with a win in the Broward Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park, but he then spent most of the rest of the campaign on the West Coast. There he took the Bel Air Handicap (gr. II) at Hollywood Park, equaling the track record for 8 1/2 furlongs in the process. He also placed in three other graded events, stretching out to 1 1/4 miles to take third to Gentlemen (ARG) and Siphon (BRZ) in the Pacific Classic (gr. I).
At 5, Crafty Friend found the going harder, starting six times, his best results being a second to Distorted Humor in the Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III), and a third in The Wicked North Handicap. Up until that point, Crafty Friend’s best performances had been in the 8 1/2- 9 furlong range, but as a 6-year-old, he shortened up to score the most prestigious victories of his career. In the Tom Fool Handicap (gr. II), he scorched 7 furlongs in 1:20.62 to score from Affirmed Success and that year’s champion sprinter, Artax. Next time out Crafty Friend again beat Affirmed Success, this time for the Forego Handicap (gr. II) (third here was Sir Bear, who had earlier kept Crafty Friend out of the winner’s circle in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I)). This spectacular peak was to be short-lived, however, and in his final three starts Crafty Friend was out of the first three in the Vosburgh Stakes and Cigar Mile (both gr. I) and the Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap, starting as favorite on all three occasions.
Crafty Friend began his stud career in Kentucky, but he now stands for $6,000 at Walnford Stud in Allentown, N.J. For a stallion at this fee, he’s compiled a more than useful record. His first crop produced no less than five stakes winners, headed by Friendly Island, who took the Palos Verdes Handicap (gr. II) and Maryland Breeders’ Cup Sprint Handicap (gr. III) and runner-up spots in both the TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) and Gulf News Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I). That crop also included My Snookie’s Boy, who never won a stakes but did take second in the Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I). The only stakes winner from Crafty Friend’s second crop was Jamaican champion Clock Work, but from his third crop, he is represented by Ever a Friend and another U.S. stakes winner, Nine Best.
If the sire’s side of the pedigree pointed towards later development, Ever a Friend has a distaff pedigree that might have been well-calculated to offset that, as his first three dams are all by horses that were champions at 2. Ever a Friend is the second foal of his dam, the twice-winning Capote mare Never Is a Promise, whose first foal is a non-winning daughter of Crafty Friend. The granddam, Ms. Patty B., is a daughter of Grey Dawn II — champion 2-year-old in France, when he became the only horse ever to defeat the mighty Sea Bird II. Ms. Patty B. won three times and produced the 2006 Herecomesthebride Stakes (gr. III) and Virginia Oaks victress Aunt Henny (by Hennessy), as well as three other stakes-placed horses.
Ever a Friend’s third dam, Apalachee Princess — by Apalachee, champion 2-year-old in England and Ireland — failed to win in 10 starts but did produce the minor stakes winner Lori’s Light. Apalachee Princess was half-sister to a talented performer called Cactus Road, winner of the El Dorado Handicap (gr. III) and placed third in the Hollywood Derby (gr. I). Her third dam was the excellent runner Bonnie Beryl, who won the Frizette Stakes, Comely Handicap, and Delaware Oaks in the days before graded stakes. Bonnie Beryl later became the dam of Bug Brush, who captured seven races that would now qualify as graded events, including the Santa Margarita and San Antonio Handicaps, Kentucky Oaks, and Inglewood Handicap.
Ever a Friend is one of 12 stakes winners, five graded, to be sired by a Mr. Prospector-line stallion out of a mare by Capote (and 2007 Canadian Horse of the Year Sealy Hill is by a Mr. Prospector-line sire out of a mare by a son of Capote). The reverse cross also worked very well, Capote siring eight graded stakes winners out of Mr. Prospector-line mares. Of course this is a version of the very successful combination of Mr. Prospector and Capote’s sire, Seattle Slew. There are at least two interesting aspects to this from a pedigree standpoint. The first is that Mr. Prospector is by a grandson of Polynesian out of a mare by a son of Nasrullah, and Boldnesian (the grandsire of Seattle Slew) is by a son of Nasrullah out of a mare by Polynesian (for good measure, in this case, Crafty Friend’s dam is also a Polynesian/Nasrullah cross, albeit an extended one).
Turning to the distaff side of their pedigrees, it’s been oft recorded that Mr. Prospector and Seattle Slew are from the same family, Mr. Prospector’s third dam, Miss Dogwood, being half-sister to Seattle Slew’s fourth dam, Crepe Myrtle, both out of the famed runner and producer Myrtlewood. Less well-known is the fact that Seattle Slew’s granddam, Fair Charmer, is inbred to this family: her grandsire, Jet Pilot, is out of Black Wave, who is turn is by Sir Gallahad III out of Black Curl, a half-sister to Myrtlewood. This pedigree line also makes her a three-quarters relative to Miss Dogwood, already noted as the third dam of Mr. Prospector. Capote’s particularly strong affinity for Mr. Prospector might be explained when we observe that he adds another cross of this important female line. His broodmare sire, Bald Eagle, is out of a mare by a horse called Tiger. Another member of the family of Frizette (granddam of Myrtlewood), Tiger is closely related to both Miss Dogwood and Black Wave, and out of a mare closely related to Myrtlewood. Bald Eagle is by Nasrullah, and Gold Digger (dam of Mr. Prospector), My Charmer (dam of Seattle Slew), and Seattle Slew himself, all combine Nasrullah with these similarly-bred members of the Frizette family.