Pedigree Profile: Buzzards Bay
Photo: Associated Press
Buzzards Bay, left, beats General John B to win the Santa Anita Derby.
Students of speed figures may turn up their noses at the 2005 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) results--too slow and too lacking in class, with a 30-1 shot leading the way home. Yet the winner, Buzzards Bay, has done little wrong this season, and he has a pedigree that suggests things will only get better with maturity and distance.

Granted, much of that pedigree is rather obscure. Marco Bay, the sire of Buzzards Bay, scored his biggest win in the Tampa Bay Derby in 1993 and stands in Florida for a modest $3,000. His sire, Copelan was a multiple grade I-winning juvenile and a good sire, but until now seemed to have few prospects of continuing his male line, which passes back through Fred Hooper's stalwart runner and sire Tri Jet and the 1957 Futurity Stakes winner Jester to 1953 Horse of the Year Tom Fool. Tom Fool, of course, is better known as the sire of Buckpasser, whose male line last reached the winner's circle of a Triple Crown race when Silver Charm won the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness (both gr. I).

Marco Bay is out of Marimascus, a stakes-winning daughter of the
Damascus horse Bailjumper. Although a multiple grade II winner himself and a useful sire, Bailjumper's sole claim to any lasting fame has been through his son Skip Trial, a multiple grade I winner at ages three to five and the sire of 1998 Horse of the Year Skip Away.

Buzzards Bay is the first winner and first stakes winner for his dam
Lifes Lass, whose first two foals have not raced. She is by Seneca Jones, a winning son of Alydar and 1986 champion 3-year-old filly Tiffany Lass but not exactly a household name as a runner or sire.

The strong suit of this pedigree is revealed as we come to the broodmare sire of Lifes Lass, 1969 Horse of the Year Arts and Letters. Although not an outstanding stallion, Arts and Letters was a first-class stayer and a useful sire. He, in turn, was sired by Ribot, who was one for the ages. Undefeated in 16 starts--including the 1955 and 1956 runnings of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe--Ribot also proved a first-class sire and a great influence for stamina. He appears three times in the pedigree of Buzzards Bay: through Arts and Letters; through Maribeau, the second damsire of Marco Bay; and through Graustark, the broodmare sire of Tiffany Lass. Thus, Buzzards Bay is inbred 5x6x4 to the great European champion.

Buzzards Bay is also line bred 6x6x5 to Bold Ruler. Although often considered a source of speed, Bold Ruler himself won the 1957 Preakness Stakes, and the strains of Bold Ruler in Buzzards Bay's pedigree have all been involved in the production of classic winners. Boldnesian, third damsire of Marco Bay, is also the grandsire of Seattle Slew; Irish Castle sired 1976 Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Bold Forbes, sire of Tiffany Lass; and Bold Hour, third damsire of Buzzards Bay, is also the broodmare sire of 1988 Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors.

As might be expected for a horse with a strongly stamina-laced pedigree, Buzzards Bay was not a particularly precocious 2-year-old, scoring once in four tries. But this year, he won the Golden Gate Derby at 1 1/16 miles, then ran third--beaten only a little more than two lengths--in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) despite bleeding.

And his Santa Anita Derby effort was a gritty one: after taking the lead while racing three wide at the half-mile mark, he fought off the dogged challenge of General John B the rest of the way as well as the closing rush of Wilko, who seems back in top form after a winter season plagued by foot problems.

Despite his courageous performance, Buzzards Bay will probably be overshadowed at Churchill Downs by the spectacular Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Bellamy Road and Florida Derby (gr. I) winner High Fly, among others. Whether he can score another upset and take his place in Derby history is anyone's guess, but his heart has certainly earned him the right to try.

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