Porter on Pedigrees: Saratoga Holiday
Date Posted: 2/4/2009 8:03:19 PM
Last Updated: 2/24/2009 2:45:57 PM

Holy Bull winner Saratoga Sinner
Photo: Coglianese Photos

by Alan Porter

It was widely expected that Harlan's Holiday would supply the winner of the recent Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III). That expectation was duly fulfilled, but not in the way anticipated. Danger to Society, who started as favorite off an impressive win in a hot allowance race, was behind early, and failed to make headway in the straight. However, as he exited the fray, another son of Harlan’s Holiday, Saratoga Sinner, struck from his stalking position to wear down Woodbine invader Bear's Rocket, and score by 3/4 length. This result reversed the form of the last meeting between Saratoga Sinner and Danger to Society, the latter having emerged on top Nov. 19 in a Churchill Downs maiden. That was the second start for Saratoga Sinner, who had finished unplaced in a Polytrack maiden at Keeneland, and who took a maiden at Gulfstream Park Jan. 7 in his only other outing prior to the Holy Bull.

Gulfstream Park also proved a happy hunting ground for Harlan’s Holiday. He took the Florida Derby (gr. I) there at 3, and the Donn Handicap (gr. I) at 4, becoming the only horse to complete that particular double. Harlan’s Holiday had also been a precocious, and progressive, juvenile. Bred in Ohio, he took advantage of that qualification as a 2-year-old to begin his career with wins in the state-bred Cleveland Kindergarten and Hoover Stakes following a maiden placing at Churchill Downs. For his last three starts at 2, Harlan’s Holiday moved into open company, winning the Miller Genuine Draft Cradle Stakes, finishing second to Siphonic in the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (gr. II), and then capturing the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III). The following year, after adding a 4 1/2-lengths triumph in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) to his Florida Derby win, Harlan’s Holiday started favorite for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), but could finish no better than seventh to War Emblem, and then took fourth behind the same in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I). Following the classics, Harlan’s Holiday was switched from the barn of Kenny McPeek to that of Todd Pletcher, and didn’t reappear until September, when he scored a comfortable victory in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. III). Harlan’s Holiday completed his 3-year-old season with three tries against his elders. Third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, he was a distant ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic , and ended the year with a fourth in the Cigar Mile (all gr. I).

Following his Donn victory at 4, Harlan’s Holiday finished second to Moon Ballad (IRE) in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I). Unfortunately, the bay colt never quite returned to his best after his trip to Dubai, and although he did take second in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I), he was off the board in his other two starts, and retired to Airdrie Stud in Midway, Ky., after finishing eighth in the Saratoga Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. II).

With his first crop – now 4-year-olds – Harlan’s Holiday sired seven stakes winners, headed by the Hollywood CashCall Futurity (gr. I) winner Into Mischief   (who recently retired to stand at Spendthrift Farm); Denis of Cork, a graded winner who also took second in the Belmont Stakes and third in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (both gr. I); and the multiple graded stakes-winning filly Tasha’s Miracle. Saratoga Sinner is his first stakes winner from his second crop.

A $130,000 Keeneland September yearling, Saratoga Sinner is the fourth foal and second winner for his dam, the Slew City Slew mare Naughty Linda. She was only a minor winner, but was half-sister to the black type scorers Entitlement and Lower Egypt, and to stakes-placed Naughty Pam (dam of Call Me Lefty, a multiple stakes winner in Texas-bred restricted company, who was also good enough to take runner-up spot in the LeComte Stakes (gr. III)). Saratoga Sinner’s granddam, Naughty Nile, is a stakes-placed daughter of Upper Nile (a son of Nijinsky II, and a full-brother to champion turf mare De La Rose). It is Naughty Nile’s full sister, Alberta Johnson, who produced the only graded winner under the first three dams prior to Saratoga Sinner’s victory. This was the Major Impact gelding Minor Wisdom, a winner of 10 of 44 starts, including the Hawthorne Derby (gr. IIIT) and Kentucky Cup Mile Handicap.

Fourth dam Naughty Nedra was half-sister to Canadian champion 2-year-old filly Choral Group, but other than that the family has been quiet in recent times. However, when we investigate the pedigree of Saratoga Sinner’s sixth dam, Furlana, we find that she is inbred 2 x 3 to Marguerite (a great producer who was dam of Triple Crown hero Gallant Fox, Wood Memorial winner Fighting Fox, and Travers victor Petee-Wrack, and ancestress of more recent stars Generous (IRE), Trillion, Triptych, Imagine (IRE), Landseer (GB), and Albertus Maximus  , to name just a few). In addition to the close inbreeding to such a powerful matron, Furlana is also very closely related to Flaming Top, the third dam of Nijinsky II (Furlana is by Fighting Fox out of a daughter of the mare Firetop; Flaming Top is by a Omaha – a son of Fighting Fox’s brother, Gallant Fox, out of Firetop). It is interesting that the fortunes of the immediate family improved through the sisters Naughty Nile and Alberta Johnson, who were both sired by a son of Nijinsky II (reinforcing the Marguerite inbreeding in Furlana), and who also had the brother and sister Round Table/Monarchy 3 x 3.

Saratoga Sinner also owns a pedigree with an intriguing pattern (or more precisely, two distinct patterns). At the top of the pedigree, we have Storm Cat, who is by Storm Bird (by Northern Dancer), out of a mare by Secretariat (by Bold Ruler, out of a mare by Princequillo). At the bottom of the pedigree, there is Naughty Nile, who is by a son of Nijinsky II (by Northern Dancer, and having a very similar background to Storm Bird) and who is out of a mare by Blade (by Bold Ruler, out of a mare by Princequillo). Incidentally, Storm Bird brings in more of the Marguerite family, while Harlan’s Holiday’s broodmare sire, Affirmed, is out of a mare inbred to Marguerite through the brothers Fighting Fox and Gallant Fox. In passing, we can note that Nijinsky II appears in the pedigree of five of Harlan’s Holiday’s first eight stakes winners (62.5%), and it’s a fair bet that Nijinsky II doesn’t appear in 62.5% of mares that have been bred to the horse.

The second interesting pattern in this pedigree starts with Harlan’s Holiday’s granddam, Dowager. She is by a grandson of Bold Ruler, out of the daughter of another very good tap-root mare, Alanesian. This means that Dowager is bred on very similar lines to Boldnesian, who is by Bold Ruler out of Alanesian. Of course, Boldnesian appears in the male line of Saratoga Sinner’s dam, through his grandson, Seattle Slew. Oddly enough, despite this connection to Seattle Slew, Harlan’s Holiday has had relatively few starters out of Seattle Slew-line mares (I could find only five). He has, however, sired the multiple graded stakes-placed Riley Tucker out of a mare by Bold Ruckus, a son of Boldnesian.



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