Prior to the weekend, Mistical Plan had tried for grade one glory on five occasions. On four of those she had failed to hit the board, and in the fifth, she had gained a third, but had been beaten nearly nine lengths. On Saturday, at the Summit of Speed, Mistical Plan cut back to six furlongs and produced the performance of her life to take the Princess Rooney Handicap.
A family full of consistent winners, albeit not terribly flashy, is propelling Tin Cup Chalice toward a shot at the Big Apple Triple, a series for New York-breds that offers a $250,000 to the horse that sweeps it. The son of Crusader Sword is out of the female family that produce Silky Sullivan.
Lion Heart, currently the freshman sire leader, and Friends Lake, who is ranked eighth, got big boosts from their recent graded stakes winners Azul Leon and Screen Your Friends, respectively. The talent both of these sires showed as juveniles appears to be passing along to their offspring.
MAHUBAH'S CORNER, by Avalyn Hunter
Duke of Marmalade carries a high concentration of the Thoroughbred's best blood, with inbreeding to Native Dancer, Northern Dancer, and Buckpasser. All this potential broke through on the racetrack recently when the Irish-bred son of Danehill won the Prince of Wales's Stakes (Eng-I).
The achievements of such Australian standouts as Choisir (AUS) and Takeover Target (AUS) have taught Royal Ascot regulars to have a healthy respect for the form down under. That lesson was underlined when Haradasun (AUS) captured the first race of the 2008 Royal Ascot carnival, the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-IT).
Ocean Colors has the potential to put some shine on the otherwise lackluster broodmare career of Winning Colors. The daughter of Orientate broke her maiden by 5 1/4 lengths at Churchill Downs on June 13 and seems ready for more.
The Juddmonte Epsom Oaks (Eng-I) victory of Look Here (GB) may have been a surprise to the bettors, but her staying ability should have been no surprise. In the male line, she is the fourth generation to prove able to win at 12 furlongs or better in group I-quality company.
Okay, so no Triple Crown, again. But the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) still made racing history. Da' Tara became the first male-line descendant of Man o' War to win an American classic since War Admiral took the Triple Crown in 1937. Tiznow, the sire of Da' Tara, is an extension of the Man o' War line through Cee's Tizzy, a son of Relaunch.
No one has to look very deep in Acoma's pedigree to see broodmare potential in spades. Helen Alexander's and Helen Groves' daughter of Empire Maker recently won the Dogwood Stakes (gr. III) is now bucking for broodmare prospect of the year honors.
Divine Park, recent winner of the Met Mile, continues to prove the great potential possessed by her sire Chester House. When the Juddmonte Farms stallion died of cancer, his oldest foals were yearlings. Each subsequent crop to race has improved with his third and final crop, now 4, including 11 stakes winners to date. One of them is Divine Park.
Already a graded stakes winner, Lattice showed he continues to belong among the top turf runners with a win May 25 in the Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT). His pedigree, however, indicates he could be capable of still more, of eventually joining the country's turf elite.
Roshani is one of only three graded stakes winners produced by crossing a sire from the Nijinsky II line with daughters of Deputy Minister. Clearly, Roshani inherited the best from the paternal and maternal sides of her pedigree. The daughter of Fantastic Light was sold for $135,000 as a racing/broodmare prospect at the 2007 Keeneland January mixed sale. She has now earned $320,550.
Danzig within the third generation and inbreeding to an influential dam is a pedigree pattern shared by Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown and international group I winner Jay Peg, a son of Camden Park. Jay Peg has won eight of 13 starts as a freshman and sophomore, including group I victories in his native Singapore, South Africa, and in Dubai.
Big Brown's victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Hard Spun's second in the Derby last year are the latest indicators that the Danzig line is asserting some authority in America's premier dirt races. Want more proof? How about last year's older male champion Lawyer Ron (a son of Danzig's son Langfuhr)and the emerging sire Exchange Rate, who got two grade I winners in his first crop.
Behindatthebar's owners bypassed the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and aimed instead at the Preakness. The son of Forest Wildcat will need every bit of his sire's speed and stamina from his broodmare sire Runaway Groom to take on the Derby winner Big Brown.
Sebring, who is being called the best Austrailian juvenile in many years, is keeping the momentum rolling for sire More Than Ready. The Vinery stallion is proving to be a solid sire in both Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
Two years ago, Big Booster was a $35,000-$39,000 claimer running at Belmont Park. Today, he has the honor of being a grade II winner, having just taken the San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap at Santa Anita Park. The move west and several goes over the synthetic turf reinvigorated Big Booster's racing career.
Gayego's victory in the grade II Arkansas Derby proved he deserves a chance in the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). With a pedigree rich in eight to nine furlong influences, the question remains whether the Derby distance of 10 furlongs is a bit too far.
Unlike his sire and champion sprinter Cherokee Run, Recapturetheglory seems to improve with distance. There is not a lot to predict stamina on either side of the Illinois Derby's winners pedigree, but on the dam's side there is a source of stamina that may manifest itself on Kentucky Derby day.
Bred with an abundance of speed, Bustin Stones is expected to be a top contender for the title of top sprinter throughout the year. Not only is the son of City Zip fast, showing great courage and grit in battling off a Executive Fleet virtually gate to wire in the Carter Handicap (gr. I), he is also tough. Bustin Stones is back in the racing game after having surgery on both knees.
Where have we seen this before? A modestly-bred Danzig-line horse, after leading throughout to score a devastating win in a grade I classic trial on his second start of the year, becomes a favorite for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).
On Saturday, March 29, two young horses captured an initial graded stakes win at Gulfstream Park and marked themselves as potential elites among the sophomores of 2008. Everyone, of course, by now has heard about Big Brown, runaway winner of the Florida Derby (gr. I) and now a likely favorite for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
The travails of War Emblem's stud career in Japan have been fairly well documented. Less realized, however, is that the results from his few representative runners have been extremely good, and that in 2008 he is already sire of three 3-year-old black type winners.
Honour and Glory had modest success in the Northern Hemisphere with 4% stakes winners from 773 foals and even less success in Australia. But the son of Relaunch is enjoying a stud career revival in South America, where his first Argentinian crop has already yielded seven stakes winners (7.4%) and the racing year isn't over.
Even though he had Tale of Ekati in his barn, trainer Barclay Tagg suggested Big Truck might be his most promising juvenile. The potential Big Truck possessed finally turned into performance in the Tampa Bay Derby, which he won with a gutsy drive against Atoned. Tagg believes Big Truck can handle the Kentucky Derby distance of a 1 1/4 miles. His pedigree raises some doubt.
Racing for Fox Hill Farms, Eight Belles has three consecutive impressive wins under her belt and will now be the likely favorite for Oaklawn's major Oaks prep, the Fantasy Stakes (gr. II),on April 6. She is the third graded winner by Unbridled's Song to feature inbreeding to Mr. Prospector.
Silver Charm has not been as dazzling a sire as he was a racehorse. Still, the son of Silver Buck is proving he can produce top-notch runners, such as Rampart Handicap (gr. II) winner Spring Waltz. The 4-year-old filly is apparently drawing her racing prowess from the same genetic well as her sire -- inbreeding to the great mare La Troienne.
Proud Spell stamped herself as a top contender for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) by winning the 8.5-furlong Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) in 1:44.01, a shade faster than the 1:44.44 that Pyro ran in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II). She is the leading runner to date for the second-crop sire Proud Citizen. Considering Proud Citizen ran better at 3, more of his runners are expected to blossom this year. Keep an eye in particular on those horses whose dams have Northern Dancer blood.
Only three months ago, 5-year-old Ever a Friend was claimed for $62,500 at Hollywood Park. Now Mike Mitchell's gelding by Crafty Friend looks like a bargain considering Ever a Friend just won the $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap (gr. I). It was Ever a Friend's second stakes win since Dec. 31.
Absolutely Cindy is an improving stakes winner who has shown a particular fondness for the turf and synthetics surfaces. This isn't too surprising since she is a daugher of Arch and a granddaughter of Kris S., sires that have both shown an ability to get top runners on dirt and turf. As for stamina and distance, Absolutely Cindy looks primed to run all day.
Another Triple Crown contender by a son of A.P. Indy is hot on the Derby trail. A couple of weeks ago it was Pyro, a son of Pulpit. Now it is Cool Coal Man, a colt by Mineshaft who recently won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) against a field of top challengers. He is extending the success already seen when A.P. Indy is crossed with Fappiano-line mares.
Einstein, the winner of three graded turf stakes, is from the second-to-last crop of 1985 Horse of the Year Spend a Buck, whose dominant stud career in South America is in sharp contrast to his performance in the United States. And though the 6-year-old horse is the only winner out of his dam Gay Charm, her sire is Ghadeer, whose daughters also produced grade I winners Investor's Dream, Irish Lover, and Forever Buck (all by Spend a Buck).
Many top stallions began their stud careers in the regional markets, like City Zip, whose national profile is improving because of runners like General George Handicap (gr. II) winner Bustin Stones. City Zip began at Contemporary Stallions in New York and now stands at Lane's End Farm near Versailles, KY. The son of Carson City has sired nine stakes winners and a total of 21 stakes horses from his first 141 starters.
With only 16 starts under his belt as a 6-year-old, Surf Cat is far from the most durable runner in North America. But when he is right, there are few with more sheer talent. Having run down grade I winner Greg's Gold in the San Carlos Handicap (gr. II) Feb. 16, Surf Cat has now recorded his fifth win in a grade II race.
Racing journalists and for that matter journalists in general are noted for their weakness for a bad pun, and the impressive Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) winner Pyro has already given rise to more than a few. Therefore, I must ask the reader's indulgence, or at least credit for having made nothing more than a Freudian Slip, when I say that my first thought on looking at Pyro's pedigree was that the family has been "on fire" in recent years.
MAHUBAH'S CORNER, by Avalyn Hunter Golden Doc A is by Kentucky-bred Unusual Heat, a three-time stakes winner in Ireland. He is by Northern Dancer's champion son Nureyev, an excellent sire but not a horse with a great reputation as a sire of sires. Still, Nureyev's son Theatrical (IRE) has been a good stallion by almost anyone's standards, and other sons of Nureyev that have had some measure of success include Stravinsky, Fasliyev, and Soviet Star.
MAHUBAH'S CORNER, by Avalyn Hunter Dynaformer had his first graded stakes winner as a broodmare sire in 2001. Since then, he has been represented by 13 more graded or group stakes winners. From 752 foals of racing age, Dynaformer has 42 stakes winners as a maternal grandsire, and his numbers should improve as daughters from his better-bred later crops continue coming into the broodmare ranks.
Repent's stakes winners are a mix of strong nicks and intriguing pedigree patterns, something that probably reflects the slightly unusual pedigree of Repent himself. One runner bearing a unique pedigree is Crown of Thorns, who just jumped into this year's Classic picture by winning the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita.
More than 20 years ago in Ken McLean's book "Tesio - Master of Matings" he predicted that the combination of Nijinsky II and the similarly bred Storm Bird would one day be a potent one. At the time, Storm Cat -- Storm Bird's most important stallion son -- had yet to cover a mare. McLean also predicted these sires would be most effective when they had receded to the third and fourth generations of a pedigree. What has come to pass is a cross that has produced 120 stakes winners, of which 60 are graded stakes winners and 20 are grade I winners.
Gibson County was a total outcross when mated to Young American, a mare inbred to In Reality and Rough'n Tumble. The result was the star runner American County, who won the Sunshine Millions Oaks on Jan. 26. She is the sixth foal and first stakes winner produced from Young American, a daughter of the late Florida-based sire Pentelicus.
Favorite Trick has proven not to be as strong a sire as he was a racehorse. But a strong pattern, which can be found in his grade III-winning daughter Trick's Pick, shows that the right mare can bring out the best of his pedigree. The pattern is so strong that it appears in six of Favorite Trick's 11 stakes winners.
Already a graded stakes winner and grade I-placed, Champs Elysees could become the fifth grade I winner for his dam Hasili (IRE). The star of the Juddmonte Farms broodmare band would then become the first Northern Hemisphere mare to accomplish this feat. No worries if Champs Elysees, who has already finished second in the Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT), does not earn grade I status. Hasili has a 3-year-old Sadler's Wells colt named Raise the Flag and a yearling Storm Cat filly yet to prove themselves.
Most veteran campaigners at the racetrack are geldings. So a mare that proves hardy enough to run in stakes company year after year is something truly special. Such is the case with Silmaril, who retired from racing Jan. 12 after winning the What a Summer Stakes at Laurel Park. The daughter of Diamond was a stakes winner for five consecutive years and retired as Maryland's 17th equine millionaire. Now, her future as a broodmare is wide open.
Were it not for Florida, there would now be no active male line tracing back to that most revered of American racehorses, Man o' War. The line had already begun to fade from prominence when Tartan Farms' colt In Reality came along in the stellar foal crop of 1964. Today, Bridlewood Farm's young stallion Put It Back, a son of Honour and Glory and a great-grandson of In Reality, is the latest young sire with the potential to keep this line alive. One of Put It Back's runners who is helping make this happen is grade I winner In Summation.
Giant Moon displayed a lot of heart in winning The Count Fleet Stakes over a stubborn Spanky Fischbein and shows he should be a key contender among the East Coast 3-year-olds this year. One thing that shouldn't be a question regarding Giant Moon is his potential to stay the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) trip.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's latest star, U.S. Cavalry, showed maturity and grit when capturing the Turfway Prevue Stakes on Jan. 5. The gelded son of Officer has yet prove whether he can handle longer distances, but his pedigree suggests the potential is there.
The new synthetic surfaces at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita Park have created some remarkable transformations in racing form in some horses. One is Dearest Trickski, a $10,000 claimer only eight months ago who set a track record at Hollywood Park in November and then won a grade I stakes at Santa Anita. While the Cushion Track seems to be a contributing factor, it doesn't hurt that Dearest Trickski is inbred to both Nearctic, through three successful sons, and Hyperion, through his two most successful sons.