Eleven years after Funny Cide became the first New York-bred to win the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), two more horses bred in the Empire State—Samraat and Uncle Sigh—stamped themselves as legitimate classic prospects with a memorable duel in the Feb. 1 Withers Stakes (gr. III).
The duo, making their open company debut, had both demolished state-bred opposition in their previous outings. Samraat took a six-furlong maiden by 3 1/2 lengths on his debut, a 7 1/2-furlong allowance by 5 1/2 lengths, and concluded his 2-year-old campaign with a near 17-length victory in the Damon Runyon Stakes. Uncle Sigh, runner-up on his debut, captured his only other start, a Dec. 27 maiden event at a mile and 70 yards, by 14 1/2 lengths.
Both colts had both already established front-running tendencies, and in they dominated the Withers from the start. Uncle Sigh held a half-length lead until challenged in the stretch, offering stout resistance to Samraat's bid before succumbing by a length. The embattled pair drew well clear of the rest of the field, Uncle Sigh having 10 1/4 lengths in hand of the third horse, and both the formbook and the Beyer speed figure confirmed the merit of the performance (Samraat's Beyer of 94 is the third best by a 3-year-old at a distance beyond a mile this year, behind two of the leading Derby candidates, Vicar's in Trouble and Cairo Prince).
Interestingly enough, both Noble Causeway , sire of Samraat, and Indian Charlie, sire of Uncle Sigh, made it to the Kentucky Derby, and for both the race marked a watershed in their careers. Indian Charlie, undefeated going into the event, finished third to stable companion Real Quiet and never raced again. For Noble Causeway, the impact was not so immediate or decisive, but on reflection it was still enough to undermine what appeared to be a highly promising career.
Noble Causeway was a relatively late starter on the Derby trail. A son of Giant's Causeway , he didn't make his racetrack debut until October of his 2-year-old season, and after a fifth and two seconds, he only broke his maiden on his fourth start, that coming in early February at Gulfstream Park. But Noble Causeway then made swift progress, adding a Gulfstream Park allowance exactly a month later, then stamping his ticket to Kentucky with a second to High Fly—who would go off as fourth choice at Churchill Downs—in the Florida Derby (gr. I).
In the Run for the Roses, Noble Causeway finished 14th, losing any chance when knocked around badly in the early stages. Sixth in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), Noble Causeway was next pointed to the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II). However, jockey Jerry Bailey was unhappy with the way the colt warmed up before the start of that race and, after a discussion with the state veterinarian, the colt was scratched. The next day, Noble Causeway appeared fine, and five days after the Jim Dandy, trainer Nick Zito sent Noble Causeway out for a Saratoga allowance race only to see him pulled up after the first quarter mile.
Subsequently several days of testing at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Kentucky revealed what was described as "a pea-sized growth" in a front ankle as well as a "slight problem with a right front suspensory ligament" that connections believed stemmed from Noble Causeway's rough trip in the Derby. With the growth needing to be surgically removed, Noble Causeway was away from the races until February of his 4-year-old season.
In seven outings at 4, Noble Causeway won an allowance race, ran third in the Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III), and fourth in both the Suburban Handicap (gr. I) and Skip Away Handicap (gr. II). Two more starts in the spring of 2007, the second of which brought a fourth in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II), confirmed that Noble Causeway was unlikely to return to top-level form. His owner, My Meadowview Farm, elected to retire him to stand at Crestwood Farm in Kentucky (he later moved to Sequel Stallions in New York, a more convenient location for the mares of My Meadowview, whose home farm is in that state).
My Meadowview has been a staunch supporter of Noble Causeway since he retired to stud, and Samraat's dam, Little Indian Girl, was one of the mares acquired to breed to him, being purchased for $150,000 in foal to Malibu Moon at the 2007 Keeneland November sale. Sadly, Little Indian Girl has since died, but Noble Causeway's 2014 court will include the dam of another promising My Meadowview 3-year-old by the sire. This is Besige, whose stakes-placed son Noble Cornerstone actually started favorite in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III), run at Tampa Bay Downs just a few minutes after the Withers, but threw his chance away when becoming upset in the gate and then breaking slowly.
A daughter of Indian Charlie, who we've mentioned as sire of Samraat's Withers victim, Uncle Sigh, Little Indian Girl scored her only victory in eight starts when taking a Gulfstream Park maiden claimer at 3. She did, however, prove to be a very effective broodmare. In her first three years at stud, she produced Original Fate, a Grand Slam gelding who has been stakes-placed in Japan; Kaddish, a son of Bernstein who earned black-type with a second in the John Bullit Stakes at Canterbury Park; and Screen Legend, a daughter of Tiznow who took third in the Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes (gr. III).
The Malibu Moon colt that Little Indian Girl was carrying at the time of her purchase won twice. Samraat is the result of her third consecutive mating with Noble Causeway. It is an example of the dictum that if you have faith in a mating, it is often worth giving it more than one opportunity, as the previous two foals, the fillies My Noble and Cigala, have won only one race between them.
Samraat's family is one that has been upgraded from relatively modest Ohio roots. Samraat represents the second generation of that progression, as Little Indian Girl is a half sister to Nonsuch Bay, heroine of the 2002 Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I). Samraat's second dam, Brighter Than Gold, is by Light Idea (a son of Majestic Light) out of Princess Born, a daughter of Ohio legend Brent's Prince, and is a sister to Light's Question, a multiple stakes winner in Ohio-bred company.
One might be inclined to speculate that the upgrade in the family's fortunes was facilitated by the clever pedigree owned by Brighter Than Gold and Light's Question, who were both inbred 3x4 to Hail to Reason and 5x4 to Ambiorix (a half brother to Source Sucree, the dam of Hail to Reason's sire, Turn-to), and also carried a cross of My Babu, who is a grandson of Ambiorix's sire and dam, Tourbillon and Lavendula. The family does eventually go back to Veneration, a half sister to the great English runner, the "peerless" Pretty Polly, and it arrived in the U.S. with Veneration's granddaughter Highland Dell in the late 1930s.
Samraat (TrueNicks rated A++) is a product of a version of the Giant's Causeway/Siberian Express cross that also produced classic-placed, grade I winner Creative Cause . Even though there hadn't been a stakes winner on the version involving Indian Charlie at the time of Little Indian Girl's purchase, he always looked a good bet to work well under Storm Cat. Not only had there been some success for the sire line with Caro, but Indian Charlie's dam is by a son of Sovereign Dancer, a Northern Dancer/Bold Ruler cross like Storm Cat, and his second dam is by Diplomat Way, a Nasrullah/Princequillo cross like Storm Cat's broodmare sire, Secretariat. Theory has been borne out in practice as Samraat is one of eight stakes winners from 51 starters by Storm Cat line stallions out of Indian Charlie mares (16% stakes winners to starters), the others including Canadian Horse of the Year Biofuel.