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Elnaawi - A New Face for a New Year

On paper, none of the new faces of 2013 looks better than Elnaawi.

With the 2013 Triple Crown chase now officially under way, most of the big names from last year are still awaiting their sophomore debuts. In the meantime, other young horses that were not quite ready for the big time as juveniles are stepping into the spotlight. Vyjack and Dynamic Sky  turned in particularly impressive performances in the Jerome Stakes (gr. II) and Pasco Stakes, respectively.

Pedigrees don't win races, but on paper, none of the new faces to emerge so far in 2013 looks better than Elnaawi. The winner of a one-mile maiden race Jan. 12 at Aqueduct in his second start, Elnaawi still has a lot to prove about his class. But the authoritative way in which he handled both a muddy track and a persistent rival in Revocation bode well for his future, and the slow final time easily can be forgiven given the track conditions and a testing first half. And if bloodlines are any indication, Elnaawi should only get better as the distances stretch out.

A $500,000 purchase for Shadwell Stable from breeder Siena Farms at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale, Elnaawi is from the second crop of 2006 champion juvenile male Street Sense , who became the first 2-year-old champion to capture the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) since Spectacular Bid in 1979. Also the winner of the Travers Stakes (gr. I), Street Sense clearly had no trouble staying 10 furlongs. Tenth among American freshman sires of 2011 and third on the second-crop sire list in 2012, Street Sense is standing the 2013 Northern Hemisphere season at Darley Japan after standing his first five seasons in Kentucky alongside his sire Street Cry at Darley at Jonabell.

The winner of the 2002 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), Street Cry has been one of the best sons of the good European sire Machiavellian (by Mr. Prospector) at stud. While best known as the sire of super mare Zenyatta, he is not a one-horse sire, having gotten 62 worldwide stakes winners to date. He was represented at the top level in 2012 by Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Classic Cup (HK-I) winner Zaidan.

Street Cry, of course, drew much of his stamina from his dam, 1985 Gilltown Stud Irish Oaks (Ire-I) winner Helen Street, whose sire Troy won the 1979 Epsom Derby (Eng-I) and Irish Sweeps Derby (Ire-I) on his way to Horse of the Year honors in England. Elnaawi’s distaff side also promises the potential for stamina. His dam, Pilfer, is already the dam of To Honor and Serve (by Bernardini ), winner of the 2011 Cigar Mile Handicap and 2012 Woodward Stakes (both gr. I). A listed stakes winner over 8 1/2 furlongs on her own account, she is a half sister to multiple graded stakes winner India (by Hennessy), whose biggest win was in the 2006 Fitz Dixon Cotillion Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at a mile and one-sixteenth.

Pilfer is by two-time leading sire Deputy Minister (whose grade I winners include Breeders' Cup Classic winner Awesome Again , Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold, Coaching Club American Oaks winner Open Mind, and Travers Stakes winner Deputy Commander) out of the Miswaki mare Misty Hour, one of three stakes winners produced by the unraced Nijinsky II mare Our Tina Marie. Probably the best source of stamina among Northern Dancer's sons, Nijinsky II was in this case crossed onto a family with plenty of stamina of its own. Our Tina Marie is out of 1973 Comely Stakes (gr. III) winner Java Moon, by Graustark out of Darby Dan Farm's foundation mare Golden Trail and so a full sister to Outward Sunshine (dam of champion turf horse Sunshine Forever) and to Kelley's Day (dam of multiple grade I winner Brian's Time).

Elnaawi's pedigree shows inbreeding to both Northern Dancer (4x4x5) and Mr. Prospector (4x4), an increasingly common occurrence in modern American pedigrees which, of course, creates linebreeding to the great Native Dancer. The full brothers His Majesty and Graustark appear 4x5 as well, and Natalma appears 6x5x5x6 with a cross of her half sister Cosmah also at the sixth remove. But the overall quality of the pedigree is best shown by its strength in the first three generations; of the fourteen names appearing there, only one—stakes-placed Mint Copy, the dam of Deputy Minister—belongs to a horse that was not either a stakes winner or the dam of multiple stakes winners. That is a pretty serious accumulation of horses that have proven themselves by the ultimate test—performance —either on the track or in the breeding shed or both.

None of this guarantees that Elnaawi will rise above the ordinary; once a horse begins running, the individual on the track is more important than the potential on paper. But the colt's maiden victory is certainly a step in the right direction. The next few months should go a long way toward revealing whether Elnaawi is a true son of his regal heritage or just another pretender.