The Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT), run over nine furlongs on turf at Gulfstream Park, is not normally a stepping stone on the path to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). This year's winner, Gala Award, does not, however, have a pedigree that one would normally associate with a turf specialist, and with that in view, his connections are now considering races such as the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) on the all-weather or even a Derby trial on the dirt.
A $1,550,000 yearling purchase by Demi O'Byrne from the consignment of Valkyre Stud, agent for Mr. & Mrs. William Currin, Gala Award ran just once at 2, finishing second, beaten three-quarters of a length in an 8.5-furlong maiden special weight on the turf at Gulfstream Park. On his return over the same course and distance Jan. 20, Gala Award was this time at the right end of a three-quarter-length margin. The March 1 Palm Beach Stakes—Gala Award's third start—saw him stalk the early pace, take command inside the final furlong, and then hold off the Dania Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) victor Mr Speaker by a half-length.
Gala Award is the first stakes winner to emerge from the fourth Northern Hemisphere crop sired by Bernardini . Like Gala Award, Bernardini broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park on his second start and then moved straight into stakes company to score a win in the Withers Stakes (gr. III). On only his second black-type outing, Bernardini took the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) by 5 1/4 lengths, a victory that was overshadowed by the ultimately fatal injury suffered by the Kentucky Derby victor Barbaro in the early stages of the race.
Bernardini continued his progress with a nine-length triumph in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II), a 7 1/2-length triumph over twice classic-placed Bluegrass Cat in the Travers Stakes (gr. I), and a 6 3/4-length romp in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I). The triumphal progress came to a halt in Bernardini's final start, the Breeders' Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (gr. I), where after taking command a quarter-mile from home, he was caught inside the final furlong by Invasor , who went on to score by a length.
Retiring as champion 3-year-old male, Bernardini kicked off with nine first-crop stakes winners including group/grade I winners Stay Thirsty , To Honor and Serve , Biondetti , and A Z Warrior. Bernardini's second Northern Hemisphere crop contained seven stakes winners, headed by Alpha , who succeeded Stay Thirsty as a Travers Stakes winner (making Bernardini the first horse to sire two winners of this race in his first two crops), and the undefeated graded scorer Algorithms . Bernardini's third crop is headed by this year's La Canada Stakes (gr. II) scorer Spellbound and grade III scorer Romansh. From his Southern Hemisphere crops, Bernardini has been represented by Ruud Awakening, successful in the Haunui Farm Diamond Stakes (NZ-I) in New Zealand, and Boban, twice a group I winner in Australia last year.
Gala Award's dam, the Carson City mare Wilshewed, could do no better than take two thirds in 10 starts at the track, but she has been a far more effective broodmare. Her first foal, Stormello, was one of the best of his generation at 2, taking the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) and Norfolk Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II). The son of Stormy Atlantic was also several times stakes-placed, including when beaten a nose by Scat Daddy in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II). He finished only 19th in the Kentucky Derby and reverted to sprinting for his only other start, finishing third in the Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II).
Wilshewed's second foal, Ever So Pretty, a sister to Stormello, was a winner at 2 and placed fourth in a minor sprint stakes at 3. After producing a Malibu Moon filly who was unplaced, Wilshewed returned to Stormy Atlantic for her only two other foals prior to Gala Award. The first of these, the filly Atlantic Voyage, won two sprint races, but the second, My Best Brother, was a somewhat different type, scoring his most prestigious triumph when leading throughout to take the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) over nine furlongs on turf.
The second dam, So Cozy, a daughter of Lyphard, won the 5.5-furlong Priscilla Stakes at Suffolk Downs. She produced four stakes winners, including the stakes-winning Gulch fillies Special Alert, Braari, and Special Move. So Cozy's Arctic Tern son Saudi Desert never won a stakes event but did earn a classic placing when third in the Italian Derby (Ity-I). So Cozy is also the granddam of several stakes winners, among them The Pamplemousse , who appeared Derby bound when taking the Sham Stakes (gr. III) by six lengths, but then suffered a career-ending injury.
So Cozy is out of Special Warmth, who was a product of the famous California breeding outfit Old English Rancho and was by the Olympio grandson Lucky Mike out of Piece of Pie, a daughter of the very speedy English import The Pie King. While this may not have been the most fashionable pedigree, it certainly worked for Special Warmth, who won four black-type events as a 2-year-old, including the Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes (gr. II). In addition to So Cozy, Special Warmth also produced the minor stakes winner Special Power, and she is ancestress of several other stakes winners, among them Marlin, a four-time grade I winner going long on the turf.
Special Warmth herself was also a half sister to another precocious Cal-bred in Generous Portion, winner of the Del Mar Debutante Stakes and subsequently ancestress of grade I winners Madcap Escapade, Dubai Escapade, and Mi Sueno. The family goes back to the Jamestown mare Thorn Apple, whose other descendents include a recent classic-winning champion in the shape of I'll Have Another , and Acclamation, the champion older male of 2011.
Gala Award is inbred 5x3 to Mr. Prospector, but the duplication could hardly come through two more different sources than the ones we have here, the massive Fappiano (who is responsible for Bernardini's broodmare sire, Quiet American) and the diminutive Carson City. Whether or not those differences are fundamental or incidental, Bernardini certainly seems to like Carson City mares, as from only nine starters on the cross, he has not only Gala Award but also grade I winner A Z Warrior and the very talented grade II scorer Wilburn .
In general, one would not have concerns about the offspring of Bernardini being effective over the classic trip, but in the case of Gala Award it is not quite so cut and dried. Considering the other two stakes winners on the Bernardini/Carson City cross, A Z Warrior won the Frizette Stakes (gr. I) over a mile at 2 but was later brought back in a sprint after finishing third in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I), and Wilburn, who defeated Shackleford and Caleb's Posse in the 8.5-furlong Indiana Derby (gr. II), appears to have been more a stretching-out miler than a middle-distance horse. We also get mixed messages from Gala Award's half siblings Stormello, who, as mentioned, reverted to sprinting after a crack at the Kentucky Derby, and My Best Brother, who scored his most prestigious victory over nine furlongs. This appears to be another of those matings where repeat renditions can produce different types of runners, and Gala Award's stamina cannot be taken for granted at this point.