This year's Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) was supposed to be a rematch between Travers Stakes co-winners Alpha and Golden Ticket. But J. Paul Reddam's maiden winner Handsome Mike didn't know that, and the colt added to the turmoil in a sophomore division decimated by injuries and illnesses by scoring a two-length upset win over West Virginia Derby (gr. II) winner Macho Macho.
Golden Ticket checked in third, and Alpha, rank early, wound up next to last. While the race provided a measure of redemption for Handsome Mike, who had lost seven straight after breaking his maiden in his second start at Santa Anita Park last October, it did nothing to enhance the reputation of a 3-year-old division that, in the absence of Paynter, appears to have nothing remotely capable of wresting the Eclipse Award from the now-retired I'll Have Another .
Bred in Kentucky by John Liviakis, Handsome Mike is the fourth graded/group stakes winner of 2012 for Ashford Stud's Scat Daddy , who as of this writing holds a narrow lead over Hard Spun on the second-crop sires list. One of the better runners from the 2004 foal crop, Scat Daddy numbered the 2006 Champagne Stakes and the 2007 Florida Derby (both gr. I) among his five wins from nine starts. His final race was an unplaced run in the 2007 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), in which he suffered a tendon injury judged sufficient to put him on the shelf for a minimum of three months. He was sent to stud instead and was well received by breeders, covering 162 mares in his first season.
That decision was vindicated by results, as Scat Daddy edged out Hard Spun as the leading freshman sire of 2006. From 111 named juveniles of 2011, Scat Daddy was represented by 29 winners, including three graded/group winners and two other stakes winners. The best of the bunch was Daddy Long Legs, winner of the Royal Lodge Stakes (Eng-II) at Ascot. This spring, Daddy Long Legs added the UAE Derby Sponsored by The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (UAE-II) to his trophy case, making him Scat Daddy's leading earner so far. To date, Scat Daddy has sired 62 winners, eight of them stakes winners, from 184 named foals of racing age.
Scat Daddy and Florida-based Teuflesberg are the most promising young sires fathered by 2001 European and U.S. champion juvenile male Johannesburg. A close second to Street Cry for freshman sire honors in 2006, and second again to that rival among second-crop sires of 2007, Johannesburg was unable to sustain his momentum after that good beginning and was sold to Japanese interests in late 2009. He was himself the best son of Ashford stallion Hennessy (Storm Cat—Island Kitty, by Hawaii), who led the 2001 juvenile sire list based in no small part on Johannesburg's exploits. Johannesburg is closely related to another Ashford stallion, Tale of the Cat (by Storm Cat), who is a half brother to Johannesburg's dam Myth.
Scat Daddy is a maternal grandson of Mr. Prospector, who also appears as the sire of Handsome Mike's broodmare sire Smart Strike . The leading sire of 2007, and 2008, and currently fifth on this year's leading sire list, Smart Strike has been making headway in the broodmare sire ranks ever since the upset 2009 Kentucky Derby victory of his maternal grandson Mine That Bird. Currently 10th on the list of leading broodmare sires, Smart Strike is also the broodmare sire of Dullahan, winner of the 2012 Blue Grass Stakes and Pacific Classic (both gr. IA), and of the 2012 graded stakes-winning fillies Juanita, Dixie Strike, and Colonial Flag. Handsome Mike is the first foal of Smart Strike's daughter Classic Strike, whose only other foal of racing age is the unraced 2-year-old Handsome Perry (by After Market ). She is also the dam of Classic Sense, a yearling son of Street Sense , and produced a colt by Congrats in April.
A half sister to multiple stakes winner From Away (by Gulch), Classic Strike is out of the Red Ransom mare Classic Hostess, whose dam Court Hostess (by Sovereign Dancer) won the 1993 Brown & Williamson Handicap (gr. III) as a 5-year-old and is a half sister to grade II winner Connie's Gift (by Nijinsky II). Court Hostess and Connie's Gift were, in turn, produced from the winning Buckpasser mare Connie Knows, a half sister to multiple group I winner Mashaallah, grade I winner Folk Art, and multiple stakes winner Sportin' Life, all by Nijinsky II. The female line traces back to 1921 Coaching Club American Oaks winner Flambette, whose other descendants include 1935 Triple Crown winner Omaha, 1938 Ascot Gold Cup winner Flares, 1939 dual classic winner Johnstown, and 1946 champion handicap mare Gallorette. The last-named mare and her family were touched on in connection with Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) winner Rolling Fog.
Barring injury, it seems unlikely that Handsome Mike will join the parade of early retirements, as a single grade II win in relatively slow time is not likely to draw much patronage at stud despite the colt's solid pedigree. This may be just as well for Handsome Mike's future (as his breeding on the distaff side suggests that he may prove a better runner at 4 than 3 anyway) and for next year's older male division, which may be one of the thinnest in recent memory at the rate the 3-year-olds of 2012 are going.