by Alan Porter
If one was inclined to follow the form book literally, there had to be few better bets in a stakes race May 9 than Mythical Power in the Lone Star Derby (gr. III). Mythical Power had won only one of his previous starts, but he had Mine That Bird back in fourth when occupying runner-up spot in the Sunland Park Derby. Form was duly borne out, Mythical Power starting as nearly even-money favorite for the $400,000 event and romping home 7 1/2 lengths clear. The Lone Star Derby was only the fifth start for Mythical Power, and he didn’t make his debut until this January, when he finished third in a six-furlong maiden on the all-weather at Santa Anita. Second over seven furlongs next time out, he gained his maiden win over a mile March 6. From there it was straight into stakes company. In the Sunland Park Derby, he was a good second to the far more seasoned Kelly Leak. According to trainer Bob Baffert, Mythical Power could be up to facing the leaders of the sophomore division later in the year, with the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) mentioned as one potential target.
Mythical Power is by second-crop sire Congaree who has overcome some uncertainty about how well he would do at stud. In fact he was considered one of those horses that fall into the category of “outstanding runner with an uncommercial pedigree,” a group not known to produce top-class sires.
There was certainly nothing to cavil about with Congaree’s race record. He started just once at 2, finishing of the board, but was exceptional at 3, 4 and 5. The most versatile top-class runner of his era, Congaree won grade I events at seven, eight, nine, and 10 furlongs. His 10 graded stakes victories included the Carter Handicap, back-to-back renewals of the Cigar Mile, the Swaps Stakes (gr. I), and Hollywood Gold Cup (all gr. I).
While his race record was nothing short of magnificent, it was hard to say the same about Congaree’s pedigree, at least in commercial terms. Congaree’s sire, the Blushing Groom (FR) son Arazi, came back from a European campaign where he had dominated the 2-year-old division to score a breathtaking victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I). Arazi did win the Prix Omnium II and CIGA Prix du Rond-Point (Fr-II) at 3, but he never recoved his best form, failing to reproduce his Breeder’s Cup effort when brought over for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). Despite his undoubted talent and excellent pedigree (he was out of a Northern Dancer mare from the Native Partner family), Arazi proved to be a singularly disappointing sire. He was responsible for just 13 stakes winners from 506 foals, only six of those gaining graded wins, with Congaree being the sole grade I winner.
Congaree’s dam, Mari’s Sheba, won three races and took third in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I). She is a daughter of Mari’s Book, a stallion who was a modest runner but who did possess an interesting pedigree, being a son of Northern Dancer and inbred 3 x 4 to Northern Dancer’s granddam, Almahmoud. Congaree’s granddam, Sheba Little (GB), was a minor winner by Known Fact, but was half-sister to Homing Pigeon (FR), the dam of Pigeon Voyageur (IRE), Italy’s Horse of the Year at 3. The third dam, French stakes winner Come Back, was by Bold Lad out of English Oaks heroine Long Look.
Congaree made a highly satisfactory start to his stud career last year. Eighteen of his first-crop 2-year-olds won, and three captured black type events. Maoineach took the Go and Go Round Tower Stakes (Ire-III) on her racecourse debut (she also added the Leopardstown One Thousand Guineas Trial (Ire-III) on her first start this year); Zigaree took the Minstrel Stakes on the turf at Louisiana Downs; and Congo Kaye won the Juan Gonzalez Memorial Stakes. Mythical Power is Congaree’s fourth stakes winners and gives him group/graded winners on turf and dirt. He has also been represented by four other black type-placed horses. Given that Congaree improved with age, there is a good chance that some other smart perfomers have yet to emerge from this crop.
In Mythical Power, Congaree sired a horse who is superior to anything else in the first four generations of his family. The dam, School for Scandal (by Is it True), was raced by Mythical Power’s owner/breeder, Peachtree Stable. She made a bright beginning to her career, her first three starts bringing victories in a maiden at Gulfstream Park and allowance events there and at Keeneland. On her fifth outing, School for Scandal gained black type with a third in the Dearly Precocious Stakes at Monmouth. She started nine more times after that event and won three more races, but all three were in claiming company.
Mythical Power is School for Scandal’s second foal, the first being the minor winner Keynes (by Invisible Ink). School for Scandal is one of two winners produced by her dam, Valhalla Vixen. She is by Deerhound, a non-stakes-winning but well-connected son of Danzig who is best remembered as sire of champion 2-year-old filly Countess Diana. Valhalla Vixen, who started just twice and won once, was the only foal dropped by her dam, Shimmydar, before the unraced daughter of Alydar was exported to Japan. Shimmydar would subsequently produce several winners in her new home, but none of consequence. Thus we come to Mythical Power’s fourth dam, Shimmy, to find the first previous stakes winner from the family. By Nijinsky II, Shimmy won the Senorita Stakes and took third in the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IIT). She never produced a stakes winner, but is granddam of the minor black type scorer Itsacryingshame. Shimmy’s granddam is the Spinaway Stakes victress Alanesian, dam of the filly Princessnesian (who defeated colts to take the Hollywood Gold Cup) and Boldnesian (winner of the Santa Anita Derby and grandsire of Seattle Slew), and ancestress of several other notables, including grade I winners Trapp Mountain, Limpid (GB), Revidere, and Harlan’s Holiday.
Mythical Power is the product of a cross – Blushing Groom/Raja Baba – that one wouldn’t have hit on as an obvious one, but that has actually turned out reasonably useful. Rated a strong B by TrueNicks, it’s produced seven other stakes winners including European group II winner Brave Indigo. A look at the pedigrees of Blushing Groom and Raja Baba does actually reveal some similarities. To start with, both are by sons of Nasrullah, and both go back to daughters of England’s Champion Stakes winner Umidwar (GB). Blushing Groom’s broodmare sire Wild Risk (FR) is out of a mare bred on a reverse cross (Blandford (IRE)/Ksar) to My Babu, the broodmare sire of Raja Baba. Mythical Power also has four crosses of Northern Dancer and five of that horse’s granddam, Almahmoud, who was by Mahmoud. This pedigree also has a lot of Nasrullah -- whose dam, Mumtaz Begum (FR), was a genetic relative to Mahmoud -- together with a double of Raja Baba’s dam, Missy Baba, whose sire My Babu is out of a mare by Badruddin (FR), a very close relative to both Mahmoud and Mumtaz Begum, all from the family of the “Flying Filly” Mumtaz Mahal (GB).