By Alan Porter
With the Breeders’ Cup only days away, the American racing front has been relatively quiet. Still, this does give us the opportunity to turn the spotlight on a filly that appears to be a rising star, and in doing so, pay tribute to her recently deceased sire, Maria’s Mon.
The filly in question is Criminologist, who was capturing her third straight victory when powering home 4 1/2 lengths clear Oct. 13 in the Athenia Handicap (gr. IIIT). Although Criminologist has hinted at more than average talent throughout her career, the 4-year-old has taken time to put it all together. She didn’t start in a stakes until this June, and the Athenia was her first graded attempt. Criminologist actually debuted back in August 2005, finishing a good second to subsequent grade I winner Swap Fliparoo in a 6 1/2-furlong dirt maiden special weight at Saratoga. Criminologist was then away from the races until the following May, when she captured a mile “off the turf” maiden by 8 3/4 lengths in her second out at 3. Surprisingly, in view of that impressive tally, Criminologist was beaten in allowance company in her next four starts, and her second win didn’t come until March this year at Gulfstream Park, where she captured an entry-level allowance condition in her second try on turf. Unplaced in allowance company next time out, Criminologist then graduated from her non-winners of two "other than” condition on Keeneland’s turf course, striding clear to score by five. This effort earned her a try at added-money company in the Foresta Stakes at Belmont in June, but after wide trip, she ended up sixth, although beaten only 2 1/2 lengths by Meribel. Given two months off, Criminologist reappeared in an allowance event at Saratoga, and rallied in time to get the better of a photo finish. Three weeks later, she took the $81,700 Perfect Sting Stakes at the same venue, setting up the hat-trick she completed on Saturday.
Criminologist races for Stuart S. Janney III and Phipps Stable, a major player in racing who are also her breeder, underlining the fact Maria’s Mon had earned some serious recognition as a sire. Unfortunately, however, Maria’s Mon was euthanized in September, the 14-year-old stallion suffering what was described as "a multiple organ dysfunction." In the most recent breeding season, Maria’s Mon had stood for $60,000, a considerable advance over the $7,500 which was his asking price when he retired to stud in 1997. Despite that low initial fee, Maria’s Mon had demonstrated plenty of merit on the track. In fact he was voted champion 2-year-old of what, upon reflection, is revealed to be an exceptional crop of youngsters, winning four of five starts, including the Sanford Stakes (gr. III), Futurity Stakes (gr. I), and Moet Champagne Stakes (gr. I), while accounting for such rivals as Unbridled's Song, Hennessy, Honour and Glory, Louis Quatorze, Gold Fever, and Editor’s Note. At 3, Maria’s Mon, raced twice without winning, and this, coupled with a less than fashionable pedigree—he was by Wavering Monarch out of a mare by Caro—determined a low initial fee when he retired to Josephine Abercrombe's Pin Oak Stud near Versailles, Ky.
However, from that first crop came nine stakes winners, headed by Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Monarchos and graded winners Wander Mom and Silver Tornado. There were five more stakes winners in his second crop, including grade I winner See How She Runs, but none in his third, which at 53 foals was his smallest to date (he was back to 86 foals the following year, suggesting that his young stock had been well-received). Monarchos’ Kentucky Derby (gr. I) came in 2001 and as a result, the mares which Maria’s Mon received in the next few years were of much higher quality. The degree to which Maria’s Mon has taken advantage of those better mares is demonstrated by the fact that Criminologist is one of no less than nine stakes winners to emerge from Maria’s Mon’s 2003 crop (the first conceived after Monarchos’ 3-year-old campaign). The others include last year's champion 3-year-old filly Wait a While; Malibu Stakes (gr. I) and San Carlos Handicap (gr. II) winner Latent Heat; Dwyer Stakes and Super Derby (both gr. II) victor Strong Contender; and Cause to Believe, successful in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III). Given this level of success, and given that he was free of Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector, and Seattle Slew (and had already sired good winners from mares representing each of these sire lines), and given that his offspring looked likely to be well-suited by artificial services, it can be seen that Maria’s Mon’s premature demise was a considerable loss to the industry.
Criminologist is the first foal of her dam, the Seeking the Gold mare Search Party. A six time winner, Search Party never captured a stakes event, but did run third in the Affectionately Handicap (gr. III) and listed Personal Ensign Stakes (at Monmouth Park). She is a full sister to the Ladies Handicap (gr. III) runner-up Manoa, herself dam of this year’s Humana Distaff Stakes (gr. I) third, Carriage Trail. The second dam, the Deputy Minister mare Deputation, earned more than $500,000, gaining her most prestigious victory in the Tempted Stakes (gr. III) as a 2-year-old in 1991. Criminologist’s third dam, Wedding Party, a daughter of Hoist the Flag, was another talented distaffer, winning the Gallorette Handicap and Chrysanthemum Handicap (both gr. III). In direct female line, the family goes back to La Troienne (Wedding Party’s fifth dam), through her daughter, Belle Histoire. This has been one of the less prolific branches of the family tracing to the great matriarch, but it has also produced the 2002 Prix de Diane Hermes-French Oaks (gr. I) heroine Bright Sky, whose fourth dam, Diary, is a half-sister sister to Betrothed, the fourth dam of Criminologist.
Mention of La Troienne brings us to one of the keys to Criminologist’s pedigree. Maria’s Mon’s sire, Wavering Monarch, was out of Uncommitted—a daughter of Buckpasser (one of the most famous descendents of La Troienne)—who was inbred 4 x 4 to La Troienne. Criminologist’s broodmare sire, Seeking the Gold, is also out of a Buckpasser mare, and since Wavering Monarch and Seeking the Gold are by Raise a Native line sires, they are the product of similar crosses.
Maria’s Mon’s grade I winner Latent Heat has a second dam bred on a Raise a Native/Buckpasser cross, and the reverse of this combination, Seeking the Gold over a mare by Wavering Monarch, resulted in multiple graded stakes winner and successful sire, Petionville. Other horses with a double of the Raise a Native/Buckpasser cross which come to mind are Seeking the Gold’s graded scorer, Happy Hunting; graded winner Willow o’ Wisp; and group/graded winning juveniles La Chunga and Ready’s Image (both by More Than Ready out of mares carrying Wavering Monarch).