By Alan Porter
Despite a pedigree that suggested speed – he was by a high-class sprinter out of a grade I-winning juvenile – it took quite some time for Orientate to establish himself as a short-course star. Orientate did start off sprinting. His first win came in a six-furlong Saratoga maiden that he took by 6 1/2 lengths in July of his sophomore year at the track. That outing had been preceded by two starts at seven furlongs (which resulted in seconds to future grade I winners Millennium Wind and Kela) and one try at 8 1/2 furlongs. The maiden win under his belt, Orientate quickly scored another by an impressive three lengths in a six-furlong allowance race at Saratoga but followed that performance with a disappointing seventh in the seven-furlong King’s Bishop Stakes (gr. I).
The King’s Bishop effort suggested that Orientate might do better given an opportunity to stretch out, and he appeared to confirm that notion on his next start, leading throughout to take the Indiana Derby by 3 1/4 lengths. An attempt to employ similar tactics in the Breeders’s Cup Classic (gr. I) had a very different outcome. Orientate backed up fast after leading through the first two calls, and ultimately finished nearly 30 lengths behind the winner, Tiznow . The aftermath of the Breeders’ Cup led to another incarnation, this time as a turf horse. Once again, Orientate confused the situation by leading throughout to take the one-mile Sir Beaufort Stakes at Santa Anita in late December. It seemed the right move had been made. Tried back on at middle-distances on the main track, Orientate then finished second in the 8 1/2 furlong San Fernando Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. II) and off the board in the nine furlong Strub Stakes (gr. I). Those two defeats converted Orientate back into a dirt sprinter, and in the Commonwealth Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. II) on a sloppy seven furlongs at Keeneland, he ran his best race to date leading throughout to score by 1 1/4 lengths over Aldebaran, who was to be the Champion Sprinter of the following year.
It seems that the merits of victory over Aldebaran were not fully appreciated at the time, as Orientate was switched back to grass for his next two outings, and finished off the board in the Aegon Turf Sprint S. (gr. III) and Shoemaker Mile S. (gr. I). Logic prevailed for his next move and he returned to dirt sprints, lining up for the Aristides Handicap (gr. III). In a race run over 6 1/2 furlongs – the shortest distance Orientate had tried on dirt since breaking his maiden – Orientate produced a dominating effort, taking charge from the off, and winning by 4 1/2 lengths. Victories in the Smile Sprint and the A. G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II) followed, before Orientate gained his first grade I with a 2 1/4 lengths win over Aldebaran in the 6 1/2 furlong Forego Handicap. On his final outing, Orientate made the voting for Champion Sprinter a formality by running down Thunderello close home to claim the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I).
With the benefit of hindsight, it’s obvious that Orientate was a superior dirt sprinter, but that this was obscured for some time by the fact that he had sufficient class and versatility to perform well over different distances and surfaces, especially when allowed to dominate less talented opponents. It may also be that he made more than usual improvement with age, given that both his sire, Mt. Livermore, and his broodmare sire, Cox’s Ridge, were at their best as 4-year-olds.
With this background, it was always likely that Orientate could turn out to be somewhat multi-dimensional as a sire, and that hypothesis has been borne out by his early runners. Last year, Orientate’s first crop yielded 22 juvenile winners, an excellent tally for a horse who didn’t himself win at 2. They were headed by Lady Joanne, winner of the Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II); Successful Outlook (out of a Gulch mare and inbred 3 x 3 to Orientate’s grandsire, Blushing Groom), who took the Tempted Stakes (gr. III); and Welcome Inn (dam by Seattle Slew), winner of the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship. This year has already revealed a pair of Orientate juvenile stakes winners in Tanika, who has taken stakes at Northlands Park and Stampede Park, and Gipson Dessert (like Tanika, out of a Dixieland Band mare), successful in the Criterium du Fonds Europeen de l’Elevage at Deauville.
Meanwhile, Lady Joanne has developed into one of the best fillies of her crop. Successful in the Dogwood Stakes (gr. III) in the spring, she narrowly lost out to Octave in the Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I), and then, after a prep in the restricted Banshee Breeze Stakes, returned to take a game victory over a tough field in the 10-furlong Alabama Stakes (gr. I).
Lady Joanne’s dam, Oatsee, took 12 tries to break her maiden, eventually achieving the feat with an 8 1/2 lengths win over 6 1/2 furlongs at Ellis Park. She went on to add an allowance race at Churchill Downs, and collected some black type with a third in the restricted Supertrack Racing Series Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Oatsee’s broodmare career is off to an excellent start as Lady Joanne, her third foal, was preceded by the Royal Academy filly, Baghdaria, winner of the Indiana Breeders’ Cup Oaks (gr. III), Silverbulletday Stakes (gr. III) and Iowa Oaks (gr. III). Oatsee’s dam, With Every Wish (by Lear Fan, sire of the Alabama runner-up, Lear’s Princess), was also minor stakes placed. With Every Wish was a half-sister to the Foolish Pleasure Breeders’ Cup Stakes winner Amos (by Cryptoclearance, a son of Oatsee’s grandsire, Fappiano), and to Christy Love, a daughter of Unbridled, and therefore a three-parts-sister to Oatsee. Christy Love didn’t do much on the track, but as a broodmare it has been a different story as her first three live foals are graded stakes winner Atticus Kristy and stakes winner Fiery Dancer (both by Atticus ), and the Distorted Humor colt, Distorted Reality, winner of the Lexington Stakes, runner-up in the Hill Prince Stakes (gr. III), and third in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. II) this year.
This is a branch of the famed Mixed Marriage family, and Lady Joanne’s fourth dam, Taminette, is a sister to English 2,000 Guineas (gr. I) winner Known Fact, three-parts-sister to the top-class Tentam, and half-sister to stakes winner Secrettame, the dam of Gone West. It’s also worth noting that Taminette enjoyed success with Unbridled’s sire, Fappiano, producing Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) winner Tappiano, and Japanese stakes winner A P Jet (later a sire in New York) to that horse.
Oatsee is inbred 4 x 4 to In Reality, and has a third cross of In Reality’s broodmare sire, Rough’n Tumble, through Fappiano’s broodmare sire, Dr. Fager, a son of that horse. Rough’n Tumble is by a son of Questionnaire out of a Bull Dog mare, and the same cross produced Mt. Livermore’s third dam, Questar. Orientate’s sire, Mt. Livermore, doesn’t have a stakes winner out of a Fappiano line mare, but he has done well when bred to mares carrying Rough’n Tumble. This is particularly notable in his success with mares by Dr. Fager’s close relative, Great Above, the broodmare sire of Housebuster, who preceded Orientate as a Champion Sprinter by Mt. Livermore, earning the Eclipse Award in that category in 1990 and 1991.