When First Samurai scored a 2 3/4-length victory over early season star Henny Hughes in the 2005 Champagne Stakes (gr. I)—having earlier defeated the same colt by 4 1/2 lengths in the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I)—he was hailed as a potential Triple Crown winner.
The bandwagon was rocked a little in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) when, having engaged the front-running Henny Hughes at the top of the stretch, First Samurai was unable to head his stubborn foe and was then demoted to third as Stevie Wonderboy’s late charge carried past the embattled pair to gain the day. A few more passengers may have been shed after First Samurai’s 3-year-old debut when he finished second to the speedy Keyed Entry—who broke the 7 1/2-furlong track-record—in a sloppy renewal of the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II). In the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II)—his first try around two turns—First Samurai hit the wire a length behind Corinthian, but was promoted to the win after Corinthian was disqualified to third for impeding both First Samurai and third home Flashy Bull. Seeking to solidify his classic credentials in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), First Samurai finished fifth, but was found to have broken two ribs, most likely due to hitting the starting gate at the break. When it became clear that First Samurai would not recover in time for a fall campaign, it was announced that he would retired to Claiborne Farm, where he began his stud career at a fee of $40,000.
That First Samurai has not started his stud career as triumphantly as his most ardent supports would have wished is evident from the drop in his stud fee, which was advertised as at $15,000 for the 2012 season. He is regaining considerable momentum this year, however, and sits third on the table of leading sires of 2-year-olds and fourth on the third-season sire rankings. The Labor Day holiday weekend was a particularly good one, with Executiveprivilege cementing her position as leader of the West Coast 2-year-old filly division, and Nakano, who had previously been grade I-placed, gaining her first stakes win in the five-furlong Connie Ann Stakes at Calder Race Course.
Nakano’s victory made her the fifth stakes winner to emerge from First Samurai’s initial crop, now 4-year-olds. The first of that quintet to capture a stakes was Le Mi Geaux, who become the sole juvenile stakes winner from First Samurai’s initial crop with a win in the Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III). But she has been outshone by Justin Phillip —a half-brother to First Samurai’s old rival Keyed Entry—who captured the Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) last year and has also been several times graded stakes-placed, including when second in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap and third in the Foxwoods King’s Bishop Stakes (both gr. I).
The best of the trio of stakes winners from First Samurai’s second crop is Northern Passion, who took the Natalma Stakes (Can-III) last year, and who has won the Fury Stakes and captured second in the Woodbine Oaks—Presented by Budweiser this term. From his current 2-year-old crop, First Samurai has not only Executiveprivilege, who took her record to four-for-four with her Sept. 1 win in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I), having previously annexed the Sorrento Stakes (gr. III) and Landaluce Stakes, but also Get Happy Mister, who has already won three stakes events, most impressively taking the Gold Rush Futurity in a swift 1:08.63.
We mentioned that First Samurai was considered to be a classic prospect, no doubt in part because he was a son of Giant's Causeway , a horse who stayed 10 furlongs well. On the other hand, his dam, the Dixieland Band mare Freddie Frisson, was a real speedster, and after winning a maiden and an allowance at seven furlongs, made all but one of her 21 subsequent starts at between 5 1/2 and 6 1/2 furlongs, winning the Queen Stakes and Holiday Inaugural Stakes, both run over six furlongs at Turfway Park. Looking at First Samurai’s offspring, it seems that his best are more sprinter/milers than middle-distance types, and it may be that his career upswing will continue if he is bred for speed.
The distaff side of Executiveprivilege’s pedigree contradicts that assessment, as her background is quite stout. Her dam, Refugee, won three times, all on turf, at 8 1/2 and nine furlongs, but produced her best performance when finishing a close third in the Orchid Handicap (gr. IIT) at 1 1/2 miles. Refugee is by the Private Account horse Unaccounted For, who claimed a grade I triumph in the Whitney Handicap and subsequently became a leading sire in Turkey. Refugee was the only black-type performer produced by her dam, Polish Maid, herself a winner at 3. Although her accomplishments as a runner and producer were modest, Polish Maid possessed an outstanding pedigree, as she was by Danzig out of champion 3-year-old filly Davona Dale. For all her talent, Davona Dale also failed to produce a black-type winner, although three of her offspring were stakes-placed, the best being Le Voyageur, who was sent from France to claim third in the 1989 Belmont Stakes (gr. I). She is also granddam of the 1996 Cowdin Stakes (gr. II) winner Just A Cat, a son of First Samurai’s grandsire Storm Cat. Bred by Calumet Farm, Davona Dale had as her third dam Siena Way, a sister to the greatest of the Calumet runners, Citation. Davona Dale also was inbred to Siena Way’s sire Bull Lea, via multiple champion Two Lea and her talented sister Miz Clementine, who both appear in the third generation of Davona Dale’s pedigree.
Executiveprivilege is TrueNicks-rated A++ on the basis of the Giant’s Causeway/Private Account cross that has already produced three stakes winners from just 13 starters. The Storm Cat/Private Account cross has done well in general, producing eight other group or graded winners, including additional grade I scorers My Trusty Cat and Discreet Cat. Unaccounted For adds another wrinkle, as he is out of a mare by The Minstrel, a horse with a similar pedigree background to Storm Bird, the sire of Storm Cat. There are at least another 18 stakes winners with Storm Bird in the sire and The Minstrel in the dam, among them champion 2-year-old filly Storm Song and other grade I winners Georgie Boy, Stormy Pick, and Querido Machito.