by Alan Porter
Stallions that achieve early success after retiring with a relatively low initial stud fee often go on to run hot and cold throughout their stud careers—that’s hardly news. However, few indeed reach the scalding intensity that the offspring of the late Mr. Greeley achieved in early October.
His son Crusade began things October 8 when he pulled off a 25-1 upset in the Emaar Middle Park Stakes (Eng-I), England’s premier event for 2-year-old colts. A few hours later, sophomore Western Aristocrat—making his U.S. debut—led from start to finish to capture the Jamaica Handicap (gr. IT) (VIDEO) at Belmont. Then, the following day, Aruna, one of last year’s top 3-year-old turf fillies, claimed her first grade I triumph in the Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland (VIDEO).
The victories of Crusade, Western Aristocrat, and Aruna took Mr. Greeley’s total of Northern Hemisphere-sired group or grade I winners to 10 (he was also represented by Australian group I winner Miss Kournikova from a single Southern Hemisphere crop and Derby Mexicano (Mex-I) winner Super Abraham). While that level of achievement my not have been predictable when Mr. Greeley retired to stud, in retrospect it’s clear that Mr. Greeley had several credentials for stallions success. An extremely good-looking horse—the physical appeal of his yearlings did a lot to sustain him through his cooler time—Mr. Greeley was a son of Gone West, not only a very successful sire, but subsequently a noted sire of sires (through such as Mr. Greeley, Elusive Quality, Grand Slam, Speightstown , Zafonic, and Zamindar). He also had plenty of pedigree on the distaff side: his dam, Long Legend, also produced stakes winner Majestic Legend, the granddam of champion 2-year-old and Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Street Sense . Long Legend was out of the Dancer’s Image mare Lianga, a stellar sprinter-miler in Europe, and later also third dam of Irish champion juvenile and leading sire Danehill Dancer. As a racehorse, Mr. Greeley wasn’t quite out of the top drawer, but certainly did enough to establish himself as a sprinter-miler. Successful in a one-mile maiden event at Belmont Park and a six-furlong allowance at Aqueduct from six starts at 2, Mr. Greeley really blossomed at 3 when he finished first or second in seven of his 10 outings. His wins came in the Spectacular Bid Breeders’ Cup Stakes, Swale Stakes, and Lafayette Stakes (all gr. III). All four of his seconds also came in graded stakes events, and he produced his most notable effort in his final outing, going down by a neck to the filly Desert Stormer in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I).
Mr. Greeley retired to Dixiana Farm in Lexington at an advertised fee of $10,000 (although in reality his seasons traded at nearer the $7,500 mark), and he would later stand at Spendthrift Farm, and then Gainesway, where he died last year at the age of 18, a victim of laminitis. The distribution of Mr. Greeley’s grade I winners is remarkably uneven, and is probably another good illustration of how fashion’s waxing and waning impacts a horse’s books of mares, and subsequently his degree of success.
That is emphasized by the fact that five of Mr. Greeley’s grade I winners appeared in his first few crops (he now has 13 crops of racing age). The star of the initial crop was El Corredor, who took the Cigar Mile (gr. I). In his second crop came Celtic Melody, successful in the Humana Distaff Handicap (gr. I), and Reel Buddy, who took the Sussex Stakes (Eng-I), one of England’s premier mile events. Nonsuch Bay, whose premier victory was achieved in the Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) represented Mr. Greeley’s third crop. Whywhywhy, who captured a trio of graded stakes, including the Futurity Stakes (gr. I), headline his fourth crop.
With the stars of his first two crops not making their presence felt until they were 3 or older, Mr. Greeley had to work his way through some quieter seasons, and it wasn’t until his eighth crop when his next grade I winner, Finsceal Beo, appeared. European champion 2-year-old filly, Finsceal Beo was even better at 3, when in a four week period she won the Stan James One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I), took second in the French equivalent, and then added the Boylesports Irish One Thousand Guineas (Ire-I). The following year, Finsceal Beo’s trainer, Jim Bolger, had another Mr. Greeley standout in Saoirse Abu, who took the Independent Waterford Wedgwood Phoenix Stakes and Moyglare Stud Stakes (both Ire-I).
The success of Finsceal Beo and Saoirse Abu rocketed Mr. Greeley back into the big time, this time as a sire with international significance, and 2007 and 2008 saw his stud fee rise from $35,000, to $75,000, and then $125,000 (in his final two years he dropped to $75,000 and then to $50,000). Aruna is from a $35,000 stud fee, but Western Aristocrat is from the first crop sired at $75,000, and Crusade is one of 129 registered foals from the crop conceived when Mr. Greeley was standing for $125,000. One interesting footnote is that three of Mr. Greeley’s most recent grade I winners have run in Europe; while Western Aristocrat and Aruna, who both started their careers on that side of the Atlantic tallied on turf and all-weather. In the light of that, one has to wonder whether Mr. Greeley’s career would not have been even more successful had he stood in Europe.
We quickly will summarize the distaff side of the pedigrees of the October 8-9 grade I winners. Aruna (TrueNicks A++) is out of the Unbridled mare Surya, winner of the Dahlia Handicap (gr. IIT). Her dam, Wild Planet, was a French listed winner by Nureyev, out of Sir Ivor’s stakes-winning daughter Ivory Wings, who in turn is out of the graded winner Kittiwake. Western Aristocrat (TrueNicks A) is the first foal of Aristocratic Lady, a Kris S. mare who was a winner in France and the U.S. His granddam, American Dynasty, won three black-type races in the U.S., and is a half sister to the Alberta Derby (gr. III) victor Digital Dan, to stakes winner Dynasty (dam of the recent Barbara Fritche Handicap (gr. II) captress Harissa), to stakes winner Everheart, and to the dams of several additional stakes winners. Third dam Northern Dynasty is half sister to the dam of Vodafone Epsom Derby (Eng-I) winner Benny the Dip, who, like Western Aristocrat’s dam, was sired by a son of Roberto. Crusade (TrueNicks A+) is the first foal of his dam, La Traviata, a daughter of Johannesburg. The mock catalog page for Crusade gives the race record of La Traviata as a “three wins at 3, $129,248, in U.S. Won Victory Ride Stakes (gr. III) and Post Deb Stakes.” However, that scarcely reflects the impression that La Traviata left in her brief career. A winner by 13 lengths at Churchill Downs on her debut, she took the Post Deb by five lengths and the Victory Ride by 9¼ lengths despite stumbling at the start. On her only other outing, she was a short-priced favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Monmouth Park, but finished unplaced after dueling through fractions of :21.3 and :44.2 on a rain-drenched track.
Although Aruna, Western Aristocrat, and Crusade are products of different sire/broodmare sireline crosses, their pedigrees do have one common factor, the presence of Fappiano (like Mr. Greeley, a member of the Mr. Prospector line). As mentioned, Aruna is out of a mare by Fappiano’s son Unbridled, who also appears as the sire of the second dam of Crusade, and Western Aristocrat’s granddam is by another Fappiano son, Quiet American. The overall record for the offspring of Mr. Greeley out of mares that give Fappiano in the first four generations of the foal is six stakes winners from 43 starters (14%), with Whywhywhy joining the weekend’s trio as a group/grade I winner with that pattern. Mr. Greeley’s grade II winner Nicole H. is out of a mare who has Fappiano 3x3, but it’s Crusade who takes Mr. Prospector inbreeding to a new level. He has that horse 3x5x5x6, and to the best of our knowledge is the first group or grade I winner with four crosses of Mr. Prospector.