The 2009 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) is destined to be remembered for Calvin Borel’s rail-skimming ride to victory aboard Mine That Bird, a remarkable ride from last to first that included any number of moments when his mount’s momentum could have been halted. Had that happened, the beneficiary would have been Pioneerof the Nile , who instead entered the record books as runner-up.
Pioneerof the Nile was from the second crop of Empire Maker, who already had made a promising start with his first foals. We wonder, had Empire Maker been represented by a Kentucky Derby winner in his second crop, whether he still would have been dispatched to Japan 18 months later.
The record also relates that fortune didn’t smile on Empire Maker in his own crack at the Derby. An outstanding racehorse, Empire Maker was almost certainly the best 3-year-old of his crop. He defeated eventual 3-year-old champion Funny Cide in the Wood Memorial and Belmont stakes (both gr. I) but was edged into second by that horse in the Kentucky Derby after a bruised foot caused him to miss two gallops in the week of the race. The style of victory of Empire Maker’s son Bodemeister April 14 in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) raised the possibility that his sire is not yet done with North America’s premier classic.
Bodemeister is a member of Empire Maker’s fifth crop. His first crop produced 10 stakes winners, including grade I winners Acoma, Mushka, Country Star, Icon Project, and grade II scorer Battle Plan. From his second crop came not only Pioneerof the Nile—who won four graded stakes, including the CashCall Futurity and Santa Anita Derby (both gr. I), in addition to his Derby second—but graded winners Magical Feeling, Eagle Poise, and Country Flavor; French group winner Charity Belle; and three other stakes winners.
Empire Maker’s third crop contained six stakes winners and is headed by Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II) winner Acting Happy and graded scorers Soaring Empire and Federalist. The fourth crop sired by Empire Maker is rather paradoxical as it’s numerically his least successful, yielding just one stakes winner. But that individual is his most important runner to date, Royal Delta, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2011. Empire Maker appears back on form with his fifth crop, as it contains not only Bodemeister but also Grace Hall, winner of the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) and Gulfstream Oaks (gr. II) and runner-up in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I); In Lingerie, who took the Bourbonette Oaks (gr. III); and Charm the Maker, winner of the Sharp Cat Stakes and runner-up in the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (gr. I).
Owned by Zayat Stables and trained by Bob Baffert, Bodemeister represents the same owner/trainer/sire combination as Pioneerof the Nile. However, where Pioneerof the Nile was a Zayat homebred, Bodemeister was a $260,000 Keeneland September yearling. His dam Untouched Talent was a precocious daughter of Storm Cat, quick enough to win the Juan Gonzales Memorial Stakes over five furlongs at Pleasanton on her July debut as a juvenile. She went on to capture the 6½-furlong Sorrento Stakes (gr. III) by three lengths next time out but suffered her first defeat when going down by 2½ lengths to Point Ashley in the Del Mar Debutante Stakes (gr. I). Untouched Talent made only one more start, concluding her career with a 2¾-lengths second to Bel Air Beauty in the Darley Alcibiades Stakes (gr. II). Bodemeister is her first foal to race.
Untouched Talent’s dam Parade Queen is something of a rarety, an A.P. Indy daughter who did her best work on turf. She won the one-mile Staten Island Stakes on Belmont’s dirt course on her third outing, but on the grass she added three more stakes wins, including the Mrs. Revere Stakes and Joe Namath Handicap (both gr. IIIT). In addition to Untouched Talent, Parade Queen is also dam on the minor stakes winning Gulch gelding King Gulch. One doesn’t have to look far to see whence Parade Queen’s predelection for the green stuff comes. Her dam Spanish Parade, who preceded her as a winner of the Mrs. Revere Stakes, is by Epsom Derby (gr. I) winner Roberto out of Nijit, a graded stakes-placed daughter of English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky II. Spanish Parade is also dam of the Japanese group-placed King Namura and of Parade Queen’s sister Post Parade, the dam of three stakes winners, including the Dixie Union siblings Fierce Wind and Rebel Yeller.
Nijit, a sister to French group sprint winner Beaudelaire, was out of Bitty Girl. A member of the first crop sired by subsequent European stallion standout Habitat, Bitty Girl earned a title as champion 2-year-old filly in England in 1973 after winning the Queen Mary Stakes (Eng-II), Molecomb Stakes (Eng-III), and Lowther Stakes (Eng-III). At 3 she finished second against older males in the five-furlong King’s Stand Stakes (Eng-I). Bitty Girl is ancestress of stakes winners in Europe, the U.S., South America, Australia, and Dubai, the most familiar of these locally being champion 2-year-old colt Action This Day (by a son of Roberto, so bred on similar lines to the third dam of Bodemeister).
Bodemeister is TrueNicks-rated B+ on the cross of Empire Maker with mares by Storm Cat that also has produced graded winner In Lingerie from 18 starters to date. Empire Maker has done well with Northern Dancer in general and it may be significant that the Northern Dancer strain in his bloodlines sits between the pedigree’s closest inbreeding (a 4x3 double of In Reality). Empire Make also has a strong affinity for mares by A.P. Indy, sire of Bodemeister’s second dam, this cross providing Royal Delta, Soaring Empire, Charity Belle, and three stakes-placed horses from only 13 starters.
Few observers, when looking at a runaway winner of a grade I race over nine furlongs who is by a Belmont Stakes winner with second, third, and fourth dams by A.P. Indy, Roberto, and Nijinsky II, would hesitate to say in general terms that the profile would be well-suited to the Kentucky Derby trip. When we look at the early speed demonstrated by Bodemeister in his races to date (he was only a length off fractions of :21.41; and :44.17 going 5½ furlongs on his debut), however, and the pace demonstrated by his dam, there is just a niggling question as to whether 10 furlongs will be his optimum trip.