by Avalyn Hunter
One year ago, Mr. Nightlinger would have been all dressed up with no place to go. Despite five straight wins to close out his 3-year-old campaign, major opportunities for turf sprinters simply weren’t there. But thanks to the inaugurations of the Sentient Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and the "Win and You’re In" program in 2008, the partnership of Martin Racing Stable and Carl R. Moore now has the option of sending its colt to Santa Anita for American racing’s championship weekend.
A Breeders’ Cup World Championship start would cap a huge turnaround for Mr. Nightlinger, whose best performances last year were stakes placings in the Lone Star Derby (gr. III), Derby Trial Stakes at Fairplex Park, and Pomona Derby, all at 8 1/2 or 9 furlongs. The difference this year has been a move to shorter distances and turf. Since switching to the grass and distances less than six furlongs, Mr. Nightlinger has streaked home first in the Shakertown Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland, the Aegon Turf Sprint (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs, and the Taylor’s Special Stakes and Arlington Sprint Handicap at Arlington Park. The Arlington Sprint Handicap is one of the Breeders' Cup Challenge races, which means the winner automatically qualifies for the corresponding championship race. Mr. Nightlinger has not only earned a spot in the Turf Sprint by winning but he did it in a course record time of 1:01.89 for 5 1/2 furlongs.
Bred in Kentucky by Brereton C. Jones, Mr. Nightlinger is a son of Indian Charlie, who showed plenty of speed himself during a brief racing career. Unbeaten in four starts through the 1998 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), Indian Charlie started as the favorite for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) but was injured during the running and finished third behind stablemate Real Quiet. He retired to Vinery Kentucky in 1999 at a fee of $10,000, later moving to Airdrie Stud for the 2003 breeding season.
An attractive, powerfully-quartered individual who had shown plenty of racing talent, Indian Charlie stood at a relatively modest initial fee due to a pedigree that was far from being either conventional or fashionable. His sire, In Excess (IRE), was one of the best older males of 1991, winning four grade I races that year. An extremely fast horse who could carry his speed 10 furlongs, In Excess retired to stud in California and has been a successful regional sire despite a tendency to sire horses that are a little too heavy-bodied and muscular for their underpinnings. To date, he has sired 56 stakes winners from 815 foals of racing age and sports a healthy Average Earnings Index (AEI)/Comparable Index (CI) ratio of 1.92 to 1.51, indicating that he has been improving on his mates’ records by other sires. The leading California-based sire of 2002 and 2003, In Excess is still active at Vessels Stallion Farm.
In Excess is known for throwing speed, which is not surprising given his own pedigree. A son of 1984 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (Fr-I) winner Siberian Summer (by Caro (IRE)), he is out of Kantado, whose sire Saulingo (GB) was a good sprinter from the speed-oriented line of *Tudor Minstrel; his second dam, Vi, is a daughter of another confirmed speed influence in Vilmorin (GB).
Indian Charlie’s distaff-side pedigree is a little more familiar, if not fashionable. His dam, Soviet Sojourn, was a very fast multiple grade III winner by 1987 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) winner Leo Castelli (by Sovereign Dancer) out of Political Parfait, by Diplomat Way. The family traces back to Clonaslee, also the ancestress of the important sire In Reality, but the connection is not close as Clonaslee is the fourth dam of In Reality and the eighth dam of Indian Charlie.
Still, Indian Charlie has made good on his opportunities as a sire, earning his way up to a $50,000 stud fee for 2008. To date, the stallion has sired 36 stakes winners from 469 foals of racing age and has an AEI of 1.99 against a CI of 1.49 for his mates. And there is no question whatsoever about his ability to throw blazing speed. Besides Mr. Nightlinger, he is represented in 2008 by 2007 champion juvenile filly Indian Blessing, now on track for a run at an Eclipse as champion female sprinter after wins in the grade I Prioress Stakes and Test Stakes, and the very quick Indyanne, who turned heads with her win in the Azalea Stakes (gr. III) at Calder before finishing second Aug. 23 in the Victory Ride Stakes (gr. III). Indian Charlie has been more than a pure speed sire, however, as his progeny also include Fleet Indian, 2006 champion older female and a grade I winner at up to 10 furlongs.
On the dam’s side, Mr. Nightlinger is the first stakes winner for the Time for a Change mare Timely Quarrel, a half-sister to 1992 Del Mar Invitational Oaks (gr. IIT) winner Suivi (by Diesis (GB)). The dam of Timely Quarrel, Quarrel Over (by 1970 Canadian champion turf horse One for All) was herself a grade II-placed half-sister to four graded stakes winners, headed by 1981 Arlington-Washington Futurity (gr. I) winner Lets Dont Fight (by Drone). This family is a branch of American family 4 tracing back to Uncle’s Lassie (1916, by Uncle) and has a distinguished record; its other members include 1955 Kentucky Derby winner and 1956 Horse of the Year Swaps, 1957 Kentucky Derby winner Iron Liege, 1929 Kentucky Derby winner Clyde Van Dusen, and KTOB Broodmares of the Year Iron Reward (1955), Track Medal (1962), and Courtly Dee (1983).
A nice touch in Mr. Nightlinger’s pedigree is the pairing of the closely related Leo Castelli and Quarrel Over, both by sons of Northern Dancer out of daughters of Raise a Native. While this may not have been the spark that touched off the speed so abundant in the colt’s background, it certainly can’t have hurt.