by Alan Porter
Juvenile racing in New York treated us to Tale of Ekati and Proud Spell, a pair of 2-year-old stakes winners Sept. 15, with intriguing, and somewhat linked, pedigrees.
The Futurity Stakes (gr. II) fell to Tale of the Cat ’s son, Tale of Ekati. An impressive winner in his debut at Belmont, Tale of Ekati then finished second at Saratoga in the Sanford Stakes (gr. II) to Ready’s Image, emerging from that race with sore shins. In the Futurity, Tale of Ekati hit the gate at the start, and was behind in the early stages, but slipped through on the rail to score by a length.
Tale of the Cat himself was unraced at 2, but has already proven very efficient at siring precocious runners. In fact he was the leading sire of 2-year-olds for 2003. That year he was represented by Lion Heart--who was almost certainly the best juvenile of his crop, but whose victory in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) came too late for the voters to formally recognize that fact with an Eclipse Award--as well as the graded winning fillies Be Gentle, Whoopi Cat, and Feline Story. Feline Story and Lion Heart also took graded stakes at three, Lion Heart winning the Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I) and taking second in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). In addition to this quartet, Tale of the Cat is also sire of North American graded winners Spellbinder, Artemus Sunrise, Catboat, Ashley’s Kitty, and Catcominatcha.
Tale of Ekati’s dam, Silence Beauty, was conceived in Japan, but the daughter of Sunday Silence was imported to the U.S., where she sold for $1 million at the 1998 Keeneland July yearling sale. Sent to Ireland, Silence Beauty ran three times for one third before returning to the U.S. Here she slipped on her first cover, then produced colts by Forestry and Hennessy before being consigned to the 2004 Keeneland November sale where she sold for $525,000 while carrying Tale of Ekati. Although Silence Beauty failed to win and was still an unproven producer at the time of the sale, she did own an extremely desirable pedigree. Her dam, Maplejinsky, was by Nijinsky II out of champion sprinter Gold Beauty, and lived up to that pedigree with wins in the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) and Monmouth Oaks (gr. I). Bred to Blushing Groom, Maplejinsky produced one even better than herself in the shape of Sky Beauty, heroine of the Coaching Club American Oaks, Mother Goose Stakes, Alabama Stakes, Ruffian Handicap, Acorn Stakes, Shuvee Handicap, Hempstead Handicap, and Go for Wand Stakes, all grade I contests. To Tale of the Cat’s sire, Storm Cat, Sky Beauty produced the English group-winning 2-year-old Hurricane Cat. Another daughter of Maplejinsky, the Pleasant Colony mare Our Country Place, never ran, but is dam of Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) victress Pleasant Home and multiple graded winner Country Hideaway (herself dam of graded scorer Boca Grande, and granddam of Alabama Stakes (gr. I) and Gazelle Stakes (gr. I) winner Pine Island).
Tale of Ekati is by a son of Storm Cat out of a mare by a son of Halo. Storm Cat/Halo hasn’t been a prolific cross, but Storm Cat did sire grade I winner and successful sire Harlan, and group winner Van Nistelrooy (sire of Del Mar Debutante Stakes (gr. I) winner Set Play in his first Northern Hemisphere crop this year) out of Halo mares. Tale of the Cat has also sired Lion Heart and Catcominatcha out of mares descending from Halo’s sire, Hail to Reason, through other branches of that line. The most interesting connection in Tale of Ekati’s pedigree, however, is the similarity between the pedigrees of Tale of the Cat’s dam, Yarn, and Maplejinksy. Yarn is a daughter of Mr. Prospector, and her second dam, State, is by Nijinsky II, out of a sister to Round Table. Maplejinsky is by Nijinsky II out of a mare by Mr. Prospector, and her granddam is by a son of Round Table, giving the pair a very similar genetic background. Incidentally, Tale of Ekati is the sixth stakes winner by Tale of the Cat with inbreeding to Nijinsky II, who is a genetic relative to Storm Bird (the grandsire of Tale of the Cat).
In the Matron Stakes (gr. II), Proud Spell took her lifetime record to three-for-three. She is from the first crop of Proud Citizen , a horse who looks as if he has the potential to add to the already impressive record of Gone West as a sire of sires. Proud Spell is one of 10 winners thus far from Proud Citizen’s first crop, and he has already also been represented by group-placed River Proud and graded-placed Dreabons Legacy. This is a promising start for a horse who was achieved a lot more at 3 than he did at 2. Proud Citizen was precocious enough to break his maiden over 5 1/2 furlongs at Belmont Park in June of his first season, tallying nine lengths in front of My Cousin Matt, subsequently a top-class sprinter. That, however, was his only score in four juvenile outings. At 3, Proud Citizen won the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II), and ran second to War Emblem in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), and third to the same horse in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I). In the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), Proud Citizen suffered a condylar fracture, which necessitated the insertion of four screws. Proud Citizen did return to the races at 4, but in seven starts his only top-three finish was an allowance win over 7 1/2 furlongs at Churchill Downs.
As for the female side, Proud Spell is the second foal of Pacific Spell, a winning daughter of Langfuhr . Pacific Spell is half sister to the speedy Call Her Magic, a listed scorer who set a track record for five furlongs at Delaware Park. Proud Spell’s granddam, Malibu Magic, is a half sister to Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) winner Imaginary Lady.
I introduced Proud Spell as having an interesting pedigree pattern, and part of that pattern is one I expect to occur with considerable frequency for Proud Citizen. Proud Citizen’s second dam, Danseuse Etoile, is an extremely well-bred mare. A sister to champion U.S. 2-year-old filly La Prevoyante, Danseuse Etoile is by Buckpasser out of Arctic Dancer, a sister to none other than Northern Dancer. Thus, whenever Proud Citizen is bred to a mare carrying Northern Dancer, the resultant foal will have Northern Dancer and his full-sister combined in the pedigree (we can note that Machiavellian, like Proud Citizen a Mr. Prospector line horse, and who goes back to a half sister to Northern Dancer and Arctic Dancer, enjoyed exceptional success with Northern Dancer line mares). As far as Proud Spell is concerned, her broodmare sire, Langfuhr, is a grandson of Northern Dancer, which gives her Arctic Dancer/Northern Dancer 4 x 4. However, it should also be noted that her second dam is by Encino, who gives another interesting Northern Dancer source. A brother to Royal Academy and a close relative to Tale of Ekati’s grandsire, Storm Cat, Encino is by Nijinsky II. The Nijinsky II strain might prove to be particularly successful with Proud Citizen, because of the similarities between his pedigree and that of Proud Citizen’s granddam, Danseuse Etoile: Nijinsky II is by Northern Dancer out of Flaming Page, a Bull Dog/Menow cross, while Danseuse Etoile is by Buckpasser (by Tom Fool, a Menow/Bull Dog cross) out of a sister to Northern Dancer. Proud Citizen’s TNT July Stakes (gr. II) runner-up River Proud is out of a mare by River Special, whose own dam is by Nijinsky II, so Nijinsky II already appears in two of Proud Citizen’s first three stakes horses.