When Courtly Dee retired from racing, her prospects seemed modest. As a racer, she was essentially what horsemen often refer to as "cheap speed"—though in fairness to her, part of her problem may have been temperament, as she often became nervous and washy in the paddock. At one point in her career, she was claimed for $15,000 only to be badly beaten in three more races.
Fortunately for the breed, Lee Eaton and Leo Waldman thought she was worth buying as a broodmare prospect, mostly because of her pedigree. A daughter of 1962 champion juvenile male and successful sire Never Bend, she was a half sister to two stakes winners and was out of the War Admiral mare Tulle. As Tulle's dam Judy-Rae was by Beau Pere out of Betty Derr, Tulle was closely related to Iron Maiden (War Admiral—Betty Derr), dam of 1957 Kentucky Derby winner Iron Liege, and to Iron Reward (Beau Pere—Iron Maiden), dam of the great Swaps.
Courtly Dee rewarded her new owners well, producing grade I winner Ali Oop (by Al Hattab), grade III winner Native Courier (by Exclusive Native), and stakes winner Princess Oola (by Al Hattab) before being sold for $900,000 to the partnership of Helen Groves, Helen Alexander, and David Aykroyd at the 1980 Keeneland November mixed sale.
Courtly Dee would have been a bargain at almost any price. The 1983 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year, she produced five more stakes winners before her death in 1995. Two were grade I winners, including 1983 champion juvenile filly Althea.
None of Courtly Dee's sons made much mark at stud, but 10 of her 11 daughters became stakes producers. Among those was the unraced Sir Ivor mare Foreign Courier, whose son Green Desert won the 1986 Norcros July Cup (Eng-I) and has established his own branch of the Danzig male line through his sons Volksraad, Invincible Spirit, Oasis Dream, and Cape Cross. The last-named horse is the sire of 2009 European Horse of the Year Sea the Stars, now off to a promising start at stud.
Courtly Dee's best daughters were Althea and her grade II-winning sisters Aishah and Aquilegia, all by Alydar. All three have bred on successfully, beginning with Althea. While the champion produced only five foals before being killed in a paddock accident, all four of her fillies became stakes winners including 1994 Japanese champion juvenile filly Yamanin Paradise. Two of Althea's daughters have in their turn become grade I producers. Destiny Dance (by Nijinsky II) is the dam of 1994 Frizette Stakes (gr. I) winner Balletto (by Timber Country), while Aurora (by Danzig) produced four stakes winners including 2010 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (gr. I) winner Acoma (by Empire Maker ) and 1998 Super Derby (gr. I) winner Arch (by Kris S.), a good sire at Claiborne Farm.
Aishah also proved a very good producer. Her three stakes winners, all fillies, include 1998 Go for Wand Handicap (gr. I) winner Aldiza (by Storm Cat) and 2002 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) winner Atelier (by Deputy Minister). Aldiza, in turn, is the dam of 2008 Turnback the Alarm Handicap (gr. III) winner Altesse (by A.P. Indy), while her Danzig half sister Aurelia is the dam of this year's multiple grade III winner Aurelia's Belle (by Lemon Drop Kid ), who took the Regret Stakes (gr. IIIT) on June 14.
Aquilegia's accomplishments at stud have not been the equal of her sisters, but she is also the dam of three stakes winners including Bertolini (by Danzig), winner of the 1998 TNT International July Stakes (Eng-III) but perhaps best known as the broodmare sire of multiple Japanese champion Gentildonna. Her branch of the family has been in the news recently thanks to Bayern (by Offlee Wild), a highly regarded son of her Thunder Gulch daughter Alittlebitearly who won the Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) June 7. Through her stakes-winning daughter Amelia (by Dixieland Band), Aquilegia is also the granddam of 2012 Sycamore Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Kindergarten Kid (by Dynaformer).
Space does not permit listing all the accomplishments of Courtly Dee's other daughters. Nonetheless, if Courtly Dee had accounted for no more than has already been mentioned, it would be safe to say that the one-time $15,000 claimer will be playing a role in top pedigrees around the world for a long time to come.