Success on Saturday Was a Given

Any Given Saturday has been threatening to break out at the highest level for some time now. He closed out his 2-year-old career with a second to Tiz Wonderful in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II), losing out close to home after appearing to have made a winning move (an effort which made him my long-term Derby pick), and on his second start at 3, he went down by just a nose to Street Sense in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III). It’s likely that he bounced off that effort when third to Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I), and in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), he faded to eighth having turned for home in a striking position. A two-month break saw a revitalized Any Given Saturday return to take the gr. II Dwyer Stakes by four lengths, and on Aug. 5, the breakthrough finally came. Any Given Saturday captured the gr. I Haskell Invitational by 4-1/2 lengths from Hard Spun and Curlin, while setting the best Beyer speed figure of the year (113) by a 3-year-old at a distance longer than six furlongs.
 
The career track of Any Given Saturday is reminiscent of fellow Todd Pletcher-trainee, his paternal half brother, Flower Alley. He finished off the board in the 2005 Kentucky Derby (gr. I), then, after being freshened, returned to stamp himself as the best “second season” 3-year-old of his crop, winning the Jim Dandy (gr. II) and Travers Stakes (gr. I), and running Horse of the Year Saint Liam to 1/2 length in the Breeders’ Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I).
 
Perhaps it’s not totally surprising that it took Any Given Saturday and Flower Alley a little time to show their best. Of course, both are by Distorted Humor, who was a son of Champion 2-Year-Old Forty Niner, but didn’t race at 2, and scored his only stakes victory at 3 in the relatively minor Screen King Stakes. Continuing to progress with age, Distorted Humor took the Salvator Mile Handicap (gr. III) at 4, and the Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III), Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II) and Commonwealth Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. II) at 5, when he also gained his only grade I place, a third in the Cigar Mile Handicap.
 
Distorted Humor initially retired to stud at a very modest fee ($12,500 in 1999), but even with only five crops of 3-year-olds to represent him, he is already firmly established as one of the best sires in the U.S. That rise to a position among the elite started with a first crop that delivered the Leading Freshman Sire title in 2002. That crop ultimately supplied 12 North American stakes winners, headed by Champion Funny Cide; the precocious Awesome Humor, winner of the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I); and three other graded scorers. Fifteen stakes winners emerged from Distorted Humor’s second crop, including the occasionally brilliant Commentator and turf grade I winner Fourty Niners Son.

The third crop has seen a hiccup in the progress of many a promising young stallion, but in Distorted Humor’s case it meant seven more stakes winners, including the previously mentioned Flower Alley, and multiple graded scorer It’s No Joke. His fourth crop are headed by Hystericalady–who maintained her sire’s record of getting at least one grade I winner per crop by taking this year’s renewal of the Humana Distaff Stakes–and other graded winners Sharp Humor and Original Spin.

Distorted Humor’s current 3-year-olds are the first conceived following his Freshman Sire title and offer encouraging evidence that better mares are going to continue to provide better results, which is not always the case. Remarkably, 12 of this crop have already earned bold black type, with Any Given Saturday being joined by stablemate Cowtown Cat, Irish filly Gaudeamus, Change Up, Bit of Whimsy, and Got The Last Laugh, as group or graded scorers.
 
Any Given Saturday is the second foal of his dam, Weekend in Indy, the first being the graded stakes-winning Carson City filly, Bohemian Lady. Weekend in Indy is half sister to the smart Louis Quatorze colt, Second of June. Any Given Saturday’s granddam, Whow, was a stakes winner and half sister to three other stakes winners, including the Gimcrack Stakes (gr. II) winner, Auction Ring (actually a three-parts-brother to Whow, since he was by her grandsire, Bold Bidder), and Vanity Handicap (gr. I) heroine, Afifa. She’s also half sister to Passing My Way, the dam of Champion 2-Year-Old Filly, Phone Chatter. The third dam, Hooplah, won the Hollywood Oaks, and is a daughter of Beadah, also ancestress of Relaunch, Rubiano, Glitterman, Tapit, and Golden Act.
 
Any Given Saturday’s dam is by A.P. Indy, which means he is bred on rather similar lines to Funny Cide: A.P. Indy is by Seattle Slew with a second dam by Buckpasser, and Funny Cide’s broodmare sire, Slewacide, is by Seattle Slew out of a Buckpasser mare. The cross of Distorted Humor over Seattle Slew-line mares has been a highly productive one so far, having also produced group winner Gaudeamus, and stakes winners Upturn (out of a mare by Slew o’Gold, another Seattle Slew/Buckpasser cross), Spin Master, Humor Me Molly, and Orange Crush.
 
Of course, this is a version of the very successful Mr. Prospector/Seattle Slew cross. Mr. Prospector and Seattle Slew both go back in tail female line to the fleet Myrtlewood, but we suspect there is another reason why Distorted Humor particularly likes this strain. Distorted Humor’s granddam is by Mr. Leader, who was out of a mare by Djeddah. This Boussac-bred sire was inbred 3 x 2 to the sisters Durban and Heldifann, both granddaughters of Myrtlewood’s second dam, famed tap-root mare, Frizette. For good measure, Seattle Slew’s granddam, Fair Charmer, has a double of Myrtlewood’s dam, Frizeur.
 
Lest the connection with Djeddah be thought tenuous, we should note that Djeddah appears in the distaff side of at least 12 of Distorted Humor’s 59 stakes winners (20%), a proportion far in excess of Djeddah’s representation in the population. That number includes grade I winners Any Given Saturday (whose fourth dam is by Djeddah), Flower Alley, and Hystericalady, and graded scorers Bit of Whimsy, Distorted Halo, Got The Last Laugh, and Humorous Lady. -- Alan Porter

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