by Alan Porter
A smart filly but no superstar in her native New Zealand, Black Mamba (NZ) has been a much improved performer since her arrival in the U.S. In fact, her connections are now considering supplementing her to the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. I), after her Aug. 3 victory in the John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. I).
Bred by the Keltern Stud of Hawkes Bay businessman Sam Kelt, Black Mamba was sold as a yearling for NZ$120,000 at the Karaka Premier Yearling Sale. She broke her maiden in her fifth start, a mile event at Te Aroha, in November 2006. After a second over the same distance at Auckland, Black Mamba made her final four starts in New Zealand in graded events. She failed to reach the frame in any of those contests, but did perform with credit when fourth in the Devon Plastics Lowland Stakes (NZ-III) and fifth in the New World New Zealand Oaks (NZ-I). Following the Oaks, Black Mamba was purchased on behalf of her current connections by California-based bloodstock agent Denny Boultinghouse.
On her U.S. debut — which came almost 12 months to the day before her Mabee triumph — Black Mamba ran out a decisive winner of a one-mile Del Mar allowance contest. Following that effort, Black Mamba finished second or third in seven straight stakes, six of them graded, including when beaten just 3/4-length and a nose by Nashoba’s Key and Citronnade, respectively, in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. I), and when going down by just a neck to Costume in the Buena Vista Handicap (gr. II). After missing by a nose to Foxysox (GB) in the April 19 Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. II) — having been blocked at the quarter pole — Black Mamba finally broke through with a win in the Beverly Hills Handicap (gr. II) June 29. Black Mamba has clearly improved with age, but it is worth noting that her trainer, John Sadler, has said that she "doesn’t have an incredible turn of foot" and is "a little bit of a plodder." So it seems a good guess that she appreciates the fact that races in the U.S. tend to be run at a faster tempo than those in New Zealand.
Black Mamba is a member of the first Southern Hemisphere crop sired by Black Minnaloushe. A Storm Cat half-brother to 1994 French champion 2-year-old and Madagans Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) winner Pennekamp, Black Minnaloushe won his only two starts at 2, including the listed Aga Khan Stud’s Blenheim Stakes. At 3, he took the Entenmanns Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) and St. James’s Palace Stakes (Eng-I), and finished third in the Champagne Lanson Sussex Stakes (Eng-I). In addition to Black Mamba, Black Minnaloushe’s first Southern Hemisphere crop also included the two-time group I winner Jokers Wild (NZ); graded scorer Jazzella (NZ); and black-type winners Veloz (NZ) and Changing Eyes (NZ). In the Northern Hemisphere, Black Minnaloushe stood at Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky. From his first few crops sired there he was responsible for Stream Cat, winner of Kentucky Cup Juvenile Stakes, Crown Royal American Turf Stakes, and Arlington Handicap (all gr. III); Artie Hot, successful recently in the Seagram Cup (Can-III); and stakes winners Act of God, Dancing in Silks, and Malt or Mash. Black Minnaloushe now stands at Maine Chance Farms near Cape Province, South Africa.
Black Mamba’s dam, Sneetch (NZ), was a talented runner in her own right, winning the Wilkinson Insurance Brokers Mile (NZ-III) and finishing third in the Wrightson Bloodstock Ltd. New Zealand Oaks (NZ-I). Sneetch is dam of eight other foals, none having earned black type. She is, however, also granddam of Rios (NZ) (by Hussonet), winner of the Wellington Thoroughbred Breeders’ Guineas (NZ-II) and also third in the First Sovereign Trust New Zealand Two Thousand Guineas (NZ-I). A daughter of the very successful Sir Tristram stallion Grosvenor (NZ), Sneetch is half-sister to Fleur de Chine (NZ), winner of the Lion Red Two-Year-Old Classic (NZ-II) and subsequently dam of Schweppes Australasian Oaks (Aus-I) heroine Tully Thunder (AUS), and black type winner Sufficient (NZ) (by Zabeel (NZ), like Grosvenor a son of Sir Tristram and therefore bred similarly to Sneetch). Black Mamba’s granddam, Sellou (NZ), is by the Queen’s Plate winner Sound Reason (by Bold Reason), out of Sanderae (NZ), champion 3-year-old filly in Australia and winner of the VRC Oaks. Sanderae never produced a black type winner, but she is granddam of stakes horse I Will (NZ) (by Sound Reason, and so closely related to Sellou). Sanderae is also second dam of Sandy’s Pleasure (by the U.S.-raced Foolish Pleasure horse Dash o’ Pleasure), who emulated her granddam with a win in the Australian Oaks. The female line has been active in New Zealand since arriving in there in the mid-to-late 19th century.
Black Mamba follows Australian star Grand Armee (AUS) as the second grade I winner by a son of Storm Cat out of a mare by a son of Sir Tristram, a pattern that gives a double of Somethingroyal (dam of Storm Cat’s maternal grandsire, Secretariat, and of Sir Tristram’s paternal grandsire, Sir Gaylord). Of additional interest in Black Mamba’s pedigree is the connection between Storm Bird (grandsire of Black Minnaloushe) and Sound Reason, sire of Black Mamba’s second dam. South Ocean (the dam of Storm Bird) and New Tune (the dam of Sound Reason) were both stakes winners bred by E.P. Taylor’s famed Windfields Farm. Both were by the Teddy-line sire New Providence, and while South Ocean was out of a mare by Chop Chop, New Tune was out of a mare by Chop Chop’s son Victoria Park. Incidentally, New Providence was from the Bull Dog sire line, while Chop Chop was a male-line descendent of Bull Dog’s brother, Sir Gallahad III.
The similarly-bred South Ocean and New Tune — who are 4 x 4 in the pedigree of Black Mamba — have had relatively few opportunities to combine in pedigrees. However, through Storm Bird and Sound Reason, they appear together in group/grade I winners Tully Thunder, Glamour Puss (NZ), and The A Train. Meanwhile, the mating of Sound Reason’s half-sister, Breezy Stories, to Storm Bird’s son Storm Cat, resulted in Desert Stormer, who defeated Mr. Greeley to take the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I).