American Breeders Should Get It Together

American Breeders Should Get It Together
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

How many American runners could win a grade I race while making their third start at that level in just 22 days? For that matter, how many American runners could do that at any level nowadays? Yet that is exactly what Irish-bred Together did last Saturday. After finishing a well-beaten seventh September 24 in the Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes (Eng-I) at Newmarket, the Coolmore-owned filly crossed the Atlantic to finish second in the First Lady Stakes (gr. IT) run October 8 at Keeneland (VIDEO). Following those races against her elders, Together dropped back to her own division a week later in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (gr. IT) and finally found the winner's circle, beating the best of the American sophomore turf fillies and snapping a 12-race losing streak in the process (VIDEO).

In fairness, Together's feat compared to the typical campaigns of today's American runners probably reflects differences in training techniques and philosophies more than it does differences in the gene pools of Europe and North America. In fact, Together's pedigree is quite cosmopolitan. Although both her parents are Irish-bred, all four grandparents are US-bred. The next three generations of Together's pedigree bring together ancestors from Argentina, Canada, England, France, Germany, and Italy as well as the United States.

Bred by Lynch Bages and Samac, Together is by Galileo, who appears well on the way to winning his third European sire title in five years. Arguably the best sire son of Sadler's Wells, Galileo is represented by 25 Northern Hemisphere stakes winners so far this year, eight of them at the grade/group 1 level. The best of them, of course, is current superstar Frankel, who appears a strong bet to be named Europe's Horse of the Year after demolishing most of the continent's best older milers in the Qipco Sussex Stakes and the Qipco Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (both Eng-I).

Galileo is one of three champions and eight stakes winners produced from Urban Sea, one of the great broodmares of modern times. She is, of course, the dam of the sensational Sea The Stars (by Cape Cross), who capped off his unbeaten 2009 season by emulating his dam's win in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I). Also the dam of Italian highweight Black Sam Bellamy, Urban Sea is currently represented on the course by her final foal, Born To Sea (by Invincible Spirit), winner of the listed Irish Field Blenheim Stakes in his only start to date.

A daughter of the speedy Mr. Prospector horse Miswaki, Urban Sea owed her stamina to her dam Allegretta, an English-bred scion of some of Germany's best bloodlines. As a sire, Galileo has benefited from the blend of speed and stamina in his pedigree, proving able to transmit both miler speed and the ability to stay 12 furlongs effectively.

Shadow Song, the dam of Together, showed little ability as a racer, winning a minor French allowance race from six tries. She is a daughter of 1995 Madagans Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) winner Pennekamp, the French champion juvenile of 1994 but an unsuccessful sire whose failure proved a major blow to the male line of the great Sea-Bird. While Sea-Bird did well as a sire after being imported to Kentucky, he probably would have fared better in his native France, where his ability to sire turf runners would have been more appreciated. His one truly top-class dirt runner was 1974 champion 3-year-old male Little Current, who proved only a modestly successful sire. Sea Bird's best runner was the brilliant mare Allez France, winner of five French championships including the 1974 Horse of the Year title.

A half sister to 1991 May Hill Stakes (Eng-III) Midnight Air (by Green Dancer), Shadow Song is out of Evening Air, a daughter of 1976 English champion juvenile male J. O. Tobin. Best remembered in the United States as the colt who upset Seattle Slew in the 1977 Swaps Stakes (gr. I), J. O. Tobin went on to a share of the title as U.S. champion sprinter as a 4-year-old before a useful stud career. Evening Air, in turn, is out of Nellie Forbes, a Secretariat half sister to 1976 champion 3-year-old male Bold Forbes (by Irish Castle). Nellie Forbes is also a half sister to See You At The Top (by Riva Ridge), dam of multiple grade I winner Life At the Top, and to Priceless Fame (by Irish Castle). Priceless Fame was dam of 1982 William Hill Futurity (Eng-I) winner Dunbeath and 1984 Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) winner Saratoga Six and granddam of multiple grade I winner Lakeway, 2002 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) winner Jilbab, and 2004 Premio Vittorio di Capua (Ity-I) winner Ancient World. The female family traces back to 1934 champion juvenile filly Nellie Flag, who was acquired by Calumet Farm after her racing career and proved an important foundation mare for owner Warren Wright.

The disturbing thing about Together is not her bloodlines. It is the fact that her victory represents yet another top American turf prize carried off by an invader considered to be a bit below the best in Europe. This is not to slight Together, whose losing streak includes five runner-up finishes in group I events. But, along with Cape Blanco and Sarah Lynx, she is a warning that this year's Breeders' Cup turf events—and many future prizes—may be pretty much Europe's for the taking in the absence of a stronger American focus on turf racing and breeding. 

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