Centre Court

Centre Court

Reed Palmer Photography, Churchill Downs

Centre Court Takes Center Stage

Centre Court showed that there is plenty of good racing left in the year.

The Breeders' Cup may be over and the championships decided for another year, but there is still some pretty nice racing going on. Just ask those who watched Centre Court power her way home Nov. 17 in the Mrs. Revere Stakes (gr. IIT). The homebred filly for the G. Watts Humphrey Jr. & Louise Ireland Humphrey Revocable Trust dominated a solid field of distaff turfers to notch her third graded stakes win of the year and enhance her already high value as a broodmare prospect.

Centre Court is a daughter of Smart Strike, who at age 20 is still going strong at Lane's End. The leading sire of 2007 and 2008, the son of Mr. Prospector and Canadian champion 3-year-old filly and Broodmare of the Year Classy 'n Smart has ranked among the top five American sires each year since then and is currently fifth on this year's list. He also continues to move up the broodmare sire list; currently 11th in the 2012 standings, he is represented by 15 stakes winners produced by his daughters, headed by Toyota Blue Grass Stakes and TVG Pacific Classic (both gr. I) winner Dullahan.

On the distaff side, Centre Court descends from the family of Dinner Partner. A stakes-winning daughter of Tom Fool, who was a champion broodmare sire in England, Dinner Partner was the granddaughter of another important broodmare sire in Blue Larkspur and the great-granddaughter of still another in Man o' War. She lived up to her heritage by producing five stakes winners and two stakes-placed runners. The best on the racetrack was Jim French, a tough son of Graustark who won six stakes races (including the Santa Anita Derby) from 28 starts at 2 and 3 and placed in all three of the 1971 Triple Crown events.

Native Partner, a 1966 daughter of Raise a Native, was if anything even tougher than Jim French. A two-time stakes winner, she made 42 starts at ages 2 to 4 before retiring to the paddocks. There, she produced three grade/group I winners in Formidable (by Forli), Flying Partner (by Hoist the Flag), and 1987 English and French champion sprinter Ajdal (by Northern Dancer).

Native Partner's 1974 Le Fabuleux daughter Fabuleux Jane was not quite as talented as her siblings but was not far from their level. The winner of the 1978 Prix de Pomone (Fr-III), she was classy enough to be third in the 1977 Prix de Diane de Revlon (French Oaks) and Prix Vermeille (both Fr-I). She continued the family tradition of excellent broodmares by producing 1998 Early Times Turf Classic (gr. IT) winner Joyeux Danseur (by Nureyev); Fabuleux Dancer, a stakes-winning son of Nijinsky II; group III-placed Danseur Fabuleux (by Northern Dancer), dam of 1991 European Horse of the Year and U.S. champion juvenile male Arazi and English group I winner Noverre; and Doubles Partner (by Damascus), winner of the 1987 Anne Arundel Handicap (gr. III).

Doubles Partner proved a gold mine at the sales, as her six named foals brought a collective $4.085 million at auction. Her firstborn, Net Dancer (by Nureyev and thus closely related to Joyeux Danseur), was the most expensive of the group at $1.2 million and was also the only one to earn black type, running third in the 1992 Old Hat Handicap at Detroit. She lived to produce only five named foals but was a better producer than racer as two of her foals became major stakes winners. Her 1997 colt by Gulch, Eagle Cafe, went to Japan, where he won two races now considered to be group I events by international standards: the 2000 NHK Mile Cup, then the most important Japanese race open to 3-year-olds bred outside Japan, and the 2002 Japan Cup Dirt.

Net Dancer's other major stakes winner is the A.P. Indy mare Let. The winner of the 1999 Churchill Downs Distaff Handicap (gr. II) as a 4-year-old, Let won three other stakes during her racing career and was grade I-placed at 3. Prior to producing Centre Court, the best of Let's foals had been Ravel, a 2004 son of Fusaichi Pegasus  who was considered a solid classic hopeful after a professional score in the 2007 Sham Stakes (gr. III). But he suffered a hairline fracture of his left front cannon the following month and never regained his earlier form. He was exported to India in 2011. Let had no produce in 2010 but gave birth to a Street Cry filly in 2011 and produced a Blame  colt in 2012.

While much can be expected from Centre Court as a broodmare given such a background, she is currently slated to race for at least one more season, giving her a chance both to secure grade I laurels and to demonstrate her ability to stay further than nine furlongs. But even if she fails to achieve either of these goals, the class she has demonstrated already, combined with her excellent pedigree, should make her a worthy partner for the finest stallions in Kentucky.