From time to time there are results that make us wonder, what if? One of those moments came Dec. 9 when Robe Tissage staked her claim to the Japanese 2-year-old filly crown with an upset victory in the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (Jpn-I).
Robe Tissage is a daughter of War Emblem, the champion 3-year-old colt of 2002. Bred in the name of Charles Nuckols Jr. & Sons for owner Russell Reineman (under an arrangement where Nuckols leased all of Reineman’s mares), War Emblem won two of three juvenile starts, but sprang to national prominence on his fourth start as a 3-year-old when he led throughout to take the Illinois Derby (gr. II) by 6 1/4 lengths over Repent, earning a Beyer speed figure of 112.
Shortly afterwards, War Emblem was purchased for around $900,000 by the Thoroughbred Corporation of the late Prince Ahmed Salman and transferred to the barn of Bob Baffert. In the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) he again led throughout, scoring by four lengths from Proud Citizen and Perfect Drift. In the the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) he was again in front from the gate, although he had to dig deep to hold off the late charge of locally-trained longshot Magic Weisner, winning by a half length. Odds-on favorite to take the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), War Emblem’s Triple Crown hopes disappeared when he stumbled at the break. The dedicated frontrunner was never able to get back into contention and trailed home eighth, beaten nearly 20 lengths, as longshot Sarava narrowly defeated Medaglia d'Oro .
War Emblem bounced back to lead throughout the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) by 3 1/4 lengths from old rival Magic Weisner. He ended his career unplaced in the Pacific Classic and Breeders’ Cup Classic (both gr. I): In all probability, knee and ankle chips that had been present even at the time of his purchase had caught up with him.
As talented as he was, War Emblem’s pedigree didn’t set the pulse of U.S. breeders racing. His sire, the beautifully-bred Our Emblem—he was by Mr. Prospector out of the undefeated champion Personal Ensign—was a late-closing sprinter who, although he was several times grade I-placed, never won a stakes. At stud in the U.S., Our Emblem was disappointing, getting only two other graded stakes winners. (He did better in South America.) What’s more, Our Emblem was a brother to Miner’s Mark, a better racehorse—he won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I)—but another disappointing stallion. Thus, it was no great surprise when, just a few weeks after the death of his owner, it was announced that War Emblem would commence his stud career in Japan, having been purchased for a sum in the region of $17 million by Shadai Farm, Japan’s leading stallion station.
That move actually might have turned out to be inspired, had it not been for War Emblem’s mysterious lack of libido. Showing almost no interest in breeding, War Emblem sired only four foals in his first crop, born in 2004. War Emblem did much better in his second season, getting 34 foals, but that proved to be a false dawn, as after siring five named foals the following year, he saw fit to cover only one mare in 2006 (he failed to get her in foal) and didn’t breed any mares at all in 2007. Things have picked up a little since, and War Emblem’s current 2-year-old crop contains 28 foals, bringing his lifetime total of foals of racing age to 89.
Robe Tissage is War Emblem’s first group or grade I winner, but he has an overall record of eight stakes winners and five stakes-placed horses from 75 starters, particularly impressive since his libido hiccups surely must have dissuaded breeders from sending their best mares to him. In addition to Robe Tissage, War Emblem’s best include the Antares Stakes (Jpn-III) victor War Tactics; the Sirius Stakes (Jpn-III) winner King's Emblem; and Civil War, a star in the Japanese regional racing program who has earned more than $3.7, about a third of that sum bankrolled 2012.
Robe Tissage is the first foal out the unraced Singspiel mare Petit Noire. Second dam Rich Affair, a daughter of Machiavellian, was stakes-placed in England and is a sister to the high-class stayer Whitewater Affair (highweighted older mare in England and Ireland), who won the Prix de Pomone (Fr-II) and Lane’s End John Porter Stakes (Eng-III) and took second in the Yorkshire Oaks (Eng-I) and third in the Jefferson Smurfit Memorial Irish St. Leger (Ire-I). This means Petit Noire is closely related to Asakusa Den’en, a son of Singspiel and Whitewater Affair who won the Yasuda Kinen, a race designated as a grade I by local standards. Whitewater Affair produced a far better offspring in Victoire Pisa, who was champion at 3 and 4 in Japan, and earned highweight honors when he made history leading home a Japan-bred one-two in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I).
The family of Robe Tissage rose to prominence from relatively obscure beginnings, aided by some clever inbreeding and linebreeding. Robe Tissage’s seventh dam, Cherry Way, was a daughter of the well-bred Airway (by the great runner Fairway, out of the English Oaks winner Udaipur), a horse who was pretty insignificant as a racehorse or sire, outside of the handful of stakes winners he got in New Zealand. Cherry Way was a minor winner in Ireland, but produced one better than herself in Padus, who earned black type with a third in the Pretty Polly Stakes. Padus was a daughter of Anwar, a useful runner at just below stakes level, who was black type-placed before going on to a modest career as a sire. What made Anwar important to this pedigree is that his sire, Umidwar (winner of the Champion Stakes) is a brother to Udaipur, which meant that Padus had the top-flight siblings Umidwar and Udaipur 2x3.
The inbreeding that produced Padus coincided with a serious upgrading in the fortunes of the family. Padus is ancestress of numerous other good winners, but the branch of her family that leads to Robe Tissage comes down through her daughter Short Commons, winner of the Free Handicap, and fourth in the Irish One Thousand Guineas.
Short Commons also became a good broodmare, her offspring including three-time English group winner He Loves Me, group I-placed Wattlefield, and group-placed stakes winner Common Land. Short Commons’ winning Lorenzaccio daughter Short Rations produced Arctic Owl (winner of the Irish St. Leger) and Marooned (a Mill Reef son who was exported to Australia, where he won the Sydney Cup (Aus-I) and became a more than respectable sire). It’s Short Rations’ Bustino daughter Much Too Risky who is dam of Whitewater Affair and Rich Affair, as well as group winners Little Rock and Short Skirt, and stakes winner Seductress.
Robe Tissage is TrueNicks-rated A++ on the basis of the War Emblem/Sadler’s Wells cross that has produced both Robe Tissage and War Emblem’s leading earner, Civil War. She is also inbred 3x4 to Mr. Prospector, who—interestingly enough—sits between the 3x4 Halo inbreeding in the pedigree of Petit Noire.