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.
Harlan's Holiday, who currently ranks second on the leading freshman sires list, is one of several grandsons of Storm Cat who are proving themselves as sires. His top runner to date is Into Mischief, winner of the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) at Hollywood Park on Dec. 22. Harlan's Holiday has also been represented by stakes winners Tasha's Miracle, Bear Holiday, P.S.U. Grad, and Harlan's Song.
When Fumie Takahashi's 4-year-old colt Matsurida Gogh swept across the finish line of the Arima Kinen (JPN-I), all Japan was once again reminded of the loss of Sunday Silence. A member of the stallion's last crop, Matsurida Gogh's upset victory, his first in a group I event, placed an exclamation point on the legacy of Japan's greatest sire.
If Empire Maker's career as a runner left his connections to speculate on what might have been trainer Bobby Frankel described him as the best he had trained, many lengths better than he was able to show his career as a stallion is rapidly beginning to shape as if to fulfill that unrealized potential through his offspring. One of his standouts is Country Star, who broker her maiden in the Darley Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) on Oct. 5. Three weeks later, Country Star staked a claim to the juvenile filly championship with a track record-breaking win in the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (gr. I).
Matching North American and South American bloodlines has always been a tricky business. Different racing conditions have helped to develop distinct Thoroughbred populations that do not always blend smoothly. One horse in whom north and south have met successfully is Argentine-bred Latency, champion miler and champion older male in Argentina in 2006 and the impressive winner of the prestigious Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini (Arg-I) Dec. 15.
An undefeated 2-year-old is the stuff of dreams, and at this time of year the dreams inspired often feature roses or lilies. By the Light, though not really tested, is from a family that has shown moments of brillance and so is one undefeated filly worth watching.
Alan Porter has been intrigued for a long time by the potential upgrading effects of inbreeding through brothers, sisters, three-parts brothers and sisters, and other close relatives. Naturally, the top international group I winners Ramonti and Good Ba Ba attracted his attention because they are two interesting examples of inbreeding via siblings.
by Avalyn Hunter
Anak Nakal's win in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) November 24 indicates that Four Roses Thoroughbreds does have a promising young racehorse with plenty of potential for improvement. That's a nice thing to have when looking forward to the 2008 Triple Crown trail. Any stamina transmitted to Anak Nakal by his sire Victory Gallop, winner of the 1998 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) is supplemented nicely by the distaff side of his pedigree. Anak Nakal's dam, Misk, was produced from Perlee (FR), who scored her biggest win in the 1982 Prix de Minerve (Fr-III) over 2,400 meters.
PORTER ON PEDIGREES
by Alan Porter
Following the Breeders' Cup World Championships each year, a major focus for race fans is the game of "spot the classic candidate," with bragging rights for the earliest identification of a future star. Colonel John was added to several lists when the youngster scored an impressive victory in a seven-furlong maiden at the Oak Tree-at-Santa Anita meet, and in all probability he has now moved several places up those lists following a decisive win in the Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park, an effort which may have earned him a tilt at the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I).
By Avalyn Hunter
To sire a national Derby winner in the first crop is always a notable feat for a young stallion. Getting a Derby winner in each of the first two crops is still more impressive, but getting that second Derby winner before the second crop has even turned 3? Tomcito, a 3-year-old on Southern Hemisphere time, accomplished this feat for his sire Street Cry by winning the Peruvian Derby (Per-I) on Nov. 17.
Hope springs eternal in the Thoroughbred world. Just consider octogenarian Harry Aleo, whose brilliant Lost in the Fog tragically succumbed to cancer last year. This year, his Smokey Stover developed into a contender in the sprint division but struggled with the off going and a less than ideal trip in the TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I), finishing ninth of 10. Smokey Stover will be back next year, however, and is half of a twosome that could make the spring an exciting time for Aleo. High Resolve is the other runner generating high hopes.
Porter on Pedigrees
Several state-bred fillies have taken advantage of restricted programs to run up some impressive win streaks in recent years. Louisiana-bred Hallowed Dreams won her first 16 starts, 10 of which came in events contested only by state-breds. Another Louisiana-bred " Happy Ticket, foaled four years after Hallowed Dreams " took nine straight, the first seven against state-breds. Now we have Peppers Pride, who has taken her record to a perfect 13, so far.
One of the great charms of Thoroughbred racing is that it has always been possible for a good horse to emerge from almost anywhere. The diminishing gap between the best and rest, however, will probably make this an increasingly likely occurence. One example is Rolling Sea, who won the Chilukki Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3. She is by a sire who stands for $2,500 and is out of mare who finished fourth in a $6,500 claimer in her final race.
The Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) can be a big temptation for the owner of a promising colt that has not yet proven himself to rank with the best. Some yield; others, usually proving wiser, aim for lesser targets, allowing their youngsters to continue their development under less pressure. The latter strategy paid off nicely when Sierra Sunset picked up his third victory and second straight stakes score in the California Cup Juvenile Nov. 3.
To no one's great surprise, grade I winner Discreet Cat has been retired to Darley for stallion duty (at a $30,000 fee) following a 4-year-old season compromised by a throat abscess. But if the performance of its homebred Etched in the Nashua Stakes Oct. 28 is any indication of the future, Godolphin may well have already found a successor to Discreet Cat on the racing front.
At the end of a rain-soaked Breeders' Cup meeting, the Mr. Prospector line drowned all other sire lines, having be represented by six of the 11 winners. The Northern Dancer line scored twice, while three other lines tallied one apiece: Caro (IRE), Blushing Groom (FR), and Seattle Slew. Three of the winners were inbred within four generations to Northern Dancer (two of them) and Raise a Native, and four winners were inbred within five generations to Raise a Native.
The North American racing spotlight was recently on Woodbine, where the E. P. Taylor Stakes and the Pattison Canadian International (both gr. I) saw a pair of high-class fields compete Oct. 21 for a total of $3 million in purse money.
When Kelso took the fifth and last of his five consecutive Jockey Club Gold Cups (then at two miles) in 1964, many veteran horsemen believed they had seen a feat never to be equaled in American racing. They were wrong. Michael Moran's fabulous gelding McDynamo not only equaled Kelso's mark in a championship-level event by winning the Breeders' Cup Grand National Steeplechase (NSA-I) for the fifth consecutive time, but in some eyes went one better.
When Yes It's True retired to stud in 2001, it was with mixed prospects. By September 2004, he was at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky, thanks to a freshman sire season that eventually saw him finish a solid second to Successful Appeal in the first-crop sire standings. Since then, he has quietly proceeded to add to his reputation as a stallion who offers consistent value for his stud fee.
With the Breeders' Cup only days away, the American racing front has been relatively quiet. Still, this does give us the opportunity to turn the spotlight on a filly that appears to be a rising star, and in doing so, pay tribute to her recently deceased sire, Maria's Mon.