George Washington is a unique conundrum. Bred by Roy and Gretchen Jackson – also the breeders and owners of Kentucky Derby (gr, I) winner Barbaro – he has a name as American as baseball and apple pie, yet is largely European in background and performance. And with four European Group I wins under his belt, he has one of the better records in the prospective field, yet is trying to defy his own history by scoring his first win on dirt – and his first win at a distance greater than a mile – in the toughest race on the North American calendar, the Breeders' Cup Classic–Powered By Dodge (gr. I).
Although George Washington's sire Danehill was bred in Kentucky, his entire racing career was spent in Europe, where he proved a capable sprinter. Winner of the Ladbroke Sprint Cup (Eng-I) and the Cork and Orrery Stakes (Eng-III), the Danzig colt stayed well enough to place in the classic Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) over a mile.
By pedigree and performance, Danehill had earned a reasonable trial and stud. It is doubtful that anyone would have anticipated that he would become one of the world's great sires, however. Shuttling between Australia and Ireland, Danehill served enormous books of mares prior to his death in a paddock accident in 2003, but his success was far more than a numbers game. The sire of over 320 stakes winners, with more doubtless still to come from his final crops, Danehill has to date led the Australian general sire list nine times and has also been a champion sire in Europe.
Obviously, the Danehills have been very capable on grass, a surface that his daughters Banks Hill (GB) and Intercontinental (GB) both exploited to win championships in the United States. Very few Danehill progeny have tried dirt, however. Danehill's sire Danzig was known for siring fine runners on both surfaces, as was his broodmare sire His Majesty, but his own ability to sire top dirt runners is still an open question. Many observers have voiced the opinion that George Washington would have a much stronger chance in the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), in which the similarly sired Aussie Rules will probably be among the favorites off a win in the Shadwell Turf Mile S (gr. IT).
The distaff side of George Washington's pedigree is at least as European-oriented, if not more so. Although 1988 U.S. Horse of the Year, Alysheba was a first-class dirt runner himself, his progeny showed a strong bent for being stamina-oriented turfers instead of following in their sire's hoofprints. His daughter Bordighera was typical; stakes-placed in France, her sole win from five starts came over a trip of nearly thirteen furlongs.
Blue Tip, the second dam of George Washington, is as European as the Eiffel Tower. Winner of the 1985 Prix Penelope (Fr-III) with placings in three Grade/Group II events during her career, she was sired by Tip Moss, a group II-winning son of the important French sire Luthier, out of English-bred As Blue, by the American-bred but French-based 1967 Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French Two Thousand Guineas) winner Blue Tom. The female line has been essentially French since the birth of Odine, fifteenth dam of George Washington, who was foaled in France in 1832 from the English-bred Miss Ann.
On paper, George Washington seems like a good bet to stay the distance of the Classic. His half brother, Grandera (by Grand Lodge), was a three-time Group I winner at 2000 meters (approximately ten furlongs) and won a listed race at 2200 meters. Further, Danehill has sired horses all over the distance spectrum. The primary question appears to be more how George Washington will handle dirt; if he can do so, he has the class to be a genuine threat against some of the best runners from two continents.