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Union Rags' Special Win Hope for Sire's Line

Dixie Union's precocious son Union Rags makes a claim to be heir apparent.

by Alan Porter

For most of the last decade, Dixie Union was a “go to” sire for commercial breeders. In fact, when planning matings for mares to be bred to mid-range Kentucky sires, he virtually became a near-default option. It wasn’t that the son of Dixieland Band was noted as prolific source of absolutely top-class horses, in fact he’s been represented by only two grade I winners from his first eight crops. However, what he could be relied upon to do was to get an attractive, physical individual, and to consistently get good class stakes winners. Seeming never to have a bad season, Dixie Union sired 39 stakes winners from his first eight crops, with no fewer than 20 of them capturing graded stakes. He could get a good colt or filly, and while his offspring were frequently precocious, they were also often able to distinguish themselves at 3 and up.

Unfortunately, a deteriorating neurologic problem meant that Dixie Union had to be euthanized in July 2010, at age 13. The news was all the sadder as he had apparently yet to sire a son who would serve as his legitimate heir. (A few sons currently at stud are still capable of rising to the occasion, including Dixie Chatter , a grade I winner at 2, a stakes winner at 3, and graded winner at 4, who now stands at stud in California for $5,000; High Cotton, who stands in Florida for just $2,500 and already has six first-crop 2-year-old winners this year, including graded-placed Tarpy's Goal and the highly-rated Currency Swap; and graded winner and multiple grade I-placed Grasshopper , who stood his first season in Texas this year for $3,500.) However, including his current juveniles, Dixie Union still has three crops to run, and his son Union Rags  raised hopes that Dixie Union could still come up with a colt to extend his branch of the Northern Dancer line with a 7¼-length victory August 15 in the Three Chimneys Saratoga Special (gr. II) (VIDEO).

Union Rags was bred by Phyllis Wyeth in Kentucky, and runs in the colors of Wyeth’s Chadds Ford Stable. However, Wyeth sold Union Rags for $145,000 to IEAH Stables at Fasig-Tipton’s 2010 Saratoga yearling sale, only to buy him back for $390,000 from the consignment of Eddie Woods at this year’s Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-year-olds in training sale. Union Rags is the best runner to date for his dam, the winning Gone West mare Tempo, who was 17 years old when Union Rags was born. Tempo is dam of seven winners from eight starters, and her most notable previous runner was Union Rags’ brother Geefour, a four-time winner who was also stakes-placed in restricted company at Philadelphia Park. Tempo’s Rahy daughter Tempo West is dam of Vertiformer  (by Dynaformer), winner in France of the Grand Prix du Lion d’Angers, and of War Pact, a War Front  colt who this spring was second in the Prix de Suresnes, an early trial for the French Derby.

Union Rags’s second dam, Terpsichorist, was a long winded daughter of Nijinsky II, who excelled on the grass. Successful in the Sheepshead Bay Handicap (gr. IIT), Long Island Handicap (gr. IIIT), Rutgers Handicap, Athenia Handicap, and Violet Handicap, she set course records for both 11 furlongs and 13 furlongs at the Meadowlands. At stud, Terpsichorist produced only one stakes winner, Marry Me Do, a tough son of Blushing Groom, who won four black-type events at Laurel Park and was placed in a Pimlico grade III. However, her grade II-placed Devil's Bag daughter Dancing Devlette has continued her branch of the line very effectively, as she is dam of the graded winners Satans Quick Chickand Pratella and stakes winner Satan's Code, and she’s also granddam of the graded scorer Blue Sky Holiday and stakes-winning and multiple graded-placed Angliana. Another of Terpsichorist’s daughters, the unraced Wild Again matron Fortunee, is dam of stakes winners Cheiron and Deadline.

Terpsichorist was quite well-bred, as she was not only by an English Triple Crown winner, but was out of Glad Rags II, champion filly in Ireland at 2 and heroine of the English One Thousand Guineas at 3. By Sir Winston Churchill’s Hyperion stallion High Hat, out of the smart Irish sprinting mare Dryad, Glad Rags II went on to become an important broodmare. The most famous, or perhaps notorious, of her offspring was Terpsichorist’s English-raced brother Gorytus, who is still held by those who at the time worked for the powerful stable of his trainer, Dick (later Sir Richard) Hern to be the most talented horse they had seen work on the famed West Ilsley gallops. In his first start, Gorytus took the listed Acomb Stakes at York by seven lengths, while breaking the 2-year-old course record. Following an even more impressive victory in the Laurent Perrier Champagne Stakes (Eng-II), Gorytus was long odds-on to close his juvenile career by defeating three apparently over-matched opponents in the William Hill Dewhurst Stakes (Eng-I). Once again, Gorytus gave a startling display, but this time it was startlingly bad, as he rapidly faded from contention to finish more than 30 lengths behind winner Diesis. Rumors of foul play and illness abounded, but despite rigorous examination, no evidence of either was ever found. Although he raced on at 3 in England and at 4 in the U.S., Gorytus never showed a shadow of his earlier form, and over time those connected with him have come to believe that he just lost interest in racing. Gorytus’ stud career was another anti-climax, as he sired just 11 stakes winners, the only group I winners being Davsoyan, who achieved that honor in Brazil, and Adelanton, in Spain.

Glad Rags II produced a third stakes winner in the shape of Mirthful Flirt, a Raise a Native daughter who won the Kingsclere Stakes in England and the Golden Rod Stakes (gr. III) and Flirtation Stakes in the U.S. Subsequently, Mirthful Flirt became dam of the Cowdin Stakes (gr. II) scorer What's Dat and granddam of Belmont Stakes (gr. I) victor Colonial Affair (out of Snuggle, another daughter of Nijinsky II). Glad Rags II is also ancestress of numerous other major winners, including multiple graded stakes winner Stark South(by Dixieland Band, the grandsire of Union Rags), Dreams Gallore, who took the Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I), Prince of Birds, successful in the Airlie Coolmore Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I), and Sudan, whose credits include the Gran Premio di Milano (Ity-I) and the Golden Gate Fields Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT).

Of interest to breeders when Dixie Union retired to stud was that he was by a son of Northern Dancer, and his dam was by a son of Seattle Slew, out of a mare by Mr. Prospector, his pedigree therefore carrying three of the names most commonly found in current U.S. commercial pedigrees. As it turned out, the potential of duplicating that trio was no barrier to Dixie Union’s success. Union Rags (TrueNicks-rated A) is one of 15 stakes winners (eight graded) from 145 starters sired by Dixie Union out of mares by Mr. Prospector and his sons and grandsons (a 10% stakes winners-to-runners strike rate, as compared to 7% for the sire with mares by all other stallions). There are also at least nine Dixie Union graded stakes winners with Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer in the sire and dam, while High Cotton has duplications of Mr. Prospector, Northern Dancer, and Seattle Slew.

Union Rags’ immediate future, and perhaps his potential stud career, is going to depend on how well he handles distances in excess of the 6½ furlongs of the Saratoga Special. The messages are somewhat mixed in this regard. His brother Geefour was placed second over a mile and 70 yards in a claimer at Presque Isle downs, but proved better sprinting, and never attempted a distance beyond 6 ½ furlongs afterwards. On pedigree, however, there is a good chance that Union Rags will at least stretch out to be effective around a mile. Dixie Union was a graded stakes winner from six furlongs to a mile at 2, and at 3 defeated Captain Steve, Milwaukee Brew  and More Than Ready  in the nine-furlong Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I) before shortening up to take the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) over seven furlongs. Of his graded scorers, Dixie Chatter , Gone Astray , Justwhistledixie, Nothing But Fun, Dixie City, High Cotton, Turf War, Grasshopper, and Unification have all scored over at least 8½ furlongs. The dam did her winning at six furlongs, but was bred to get significantly further, as her sire Gone West has been responsible for top-class winners over a wide range of distances, while as mentioned, her dam had an abundance of stamina.