In conventional wisdom, horses with “merely” regional pedigrees don’t knock off tough grade I fields. Conventional wisdom also doesn’t expect a regional sire to be responsible for two of the first three placers in a grade I race. And conventional wisdom gives little chance of making it even as a regional sire to a grass-bred horse with a decidedly off-the-beaten-trail pedigree. But apparently Unusual Heat has never listened to conventional wisdom, and neither has his son The Usual Q. T. , now winner of the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) for owners Don Van Kempen, Michael Nentwig, George Saadeh, and Thomas Braden.
A three-time stakes winner in Ireland at distances of eight and nine furlongs, Unusual Heat was not quite attractive enough on either performance or pedigree to earn a slot at a Kentucky farm. He is by Northern Dancer’s champion son Nureyev, an excellent sire but, excepting Theatrical (IRE), not a great sire of sires in North America. As for the dam’s side of Unusual Heat’s pedigree, it is rare indeed that a Thoroughbred bred and raced in Scandinavia proves to have much of an impact outside that region. Yet such is the case for Unusual Heat’s dam Rossard (DEN), a Danish-bred who earned Horse of the Year honors in Sweden in 1983. Rossard is by the Danish and Swedish stakes winner Glacial out of Peas-Blossom, whose pedigree – by 1960 Cambridgeshire Handicap winner Midsummer Night out of 1958 Cherry Hinton Stakes winner Fan Light – was much better than her racing performance.
Currently at Old English Rancho, where he has stood since 2000, Unusual Heat has sired nine crops of racing age. From those crops, totaling 422 foals, he has sired 202 winners (47.9%) and 26 stakes winners (5.7%). His best other than The Usual Q. T. include 2008 Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) heroine Golden Doc A., 2008 Hollywood Oaks (gr. II) winner Lethal Heat, and 2005 Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (gr. II) winner Tucked Away. While Unusual Heat has sired some nice winners on dirt, his progeny have thrived on California’s synthetic tracks and typically firm turf. As of December 2, the stallion stands second on the national turf sires’ list and sixth on the corresponding list for synthetic surfaces, and he is on course to win his second consecutive California sire championship.
Many of Unusual Heat’s best runners are clustered in sibling groups, suggesting that the stallion may have fairly specific requirements as to mates. For example, multiple stakes winner Thermal Ablasion, group II winner Tucked Away, and stakes-placed Add Heat are all out of the Be a Native mare Chemolo. Multiple restricted stakes winner Lennyfromalibu and stakes-placed Orbits World are both out of the Half a Year mare Style of the Year. Listed stakes winner Juliesugardaddy and restricted stakes winner Christiana’s Heat are out of the Tiffany Ice mare Silverstrike. The Dynaformer mare Andover the Money is the dam of the stakes-winning full sisters Spenditallbaby and Runforthemoneybaby and stakes-placed Andover the Cash. Restricted stakes winners America’s Friend and Bel Air Sizzle are out of the Runaway Groom mare Bel Air Belle. And Golden Doc A , out of Penpoint (NZ), is a full sister to Unusual Suspect, winner of the 2007 Hollywood Turf Express Handicap (gr. IIIT).
As the first foal of his dam, The Usual Q. T. is not part of such a sibling group, nor is Hollywood Derby third-place finisher Acclamation (out of Winning In Style, by Silveyville), who is the final foal of his dam. Bred by Carlee Van Kempen, the Derby winner is out of the winning Western Fame mare Lunge, a full sister to the stakes-winning gelding Western Act.
Lunge was produced from Qualified, whose pedigree is an excellent example of modern California breeding from top to bottom. Her sire, Cal-bred Golden Act, won the 1979 Canadian International Championship (gr. IT) and placed in all three Triple Crown races in the U.S. that same year. By long-time California stalwart Gummo out of Cal-bred Golden Shore (by Windy Sands), Golden Act was a useful stallion who got 36 stakes winners from 527 foals while standing in Kentucky and California.
Qualified is out of Select a Song, whose sire Messenger of Song is another horse familiar to fans of California racing and breeding. By the Bold Ruler horse Envoy out of the Tudor Minstrel mare Philomela, Messenger of Song had plenty of speed but could stretch it out a bit in good company, winning the nine-furlong San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) in 1976 at the expense of the previous year’s Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner, Avatar. Unfortunately, he was not a successful stallion, getting just 13 stakes winners from 310 offspring. The reverse is true for T. V. Lark, sire of Select a Song’s dam Selection. The sire of 53 stakes winners (13.8% of his 383 foals), he was as good a racer as a sire, following in the hoof prints of fellow Californians Swaps and Warfare by winning a national title (1961 champion turf male).
Selection was produced from Kick Pleat, whose sire Windy Sands is another California notable. A multiple stakes-winning son of the great California favorite Your Host (best known, of course, as sire of Kelso), Windy Sands sired 35 stakes winners during a long and useful stud career. Since he is also the broodmare sire of Golden Act, he appears 3x4 in the pedigree of Qualified.
As a gelding, The Usual Q. T. will not get the chance to pass on his accumulation of Golden State genetics, nor will he become a successor to his sire, who at 20 for the 2010 breeding season is beginning to run out of time in which to sire a top colt. But California has a rich legacy of popular geldings – Native Diver, Quicken Tree, Ancient Title, Best Pal, and Lava Man all come to mind – and if The Usual Q. T. continues to improve, he may just have what it takes to become another California legend.