Sophomore Standouts Best Elder Rivals

Two features of the July 4 holiday weekend were the victories achieved by 3-year-old sprinters Munnings  and Zensational, who both captured prestigious graded stakes wins while defeating older horses. On the East Coast, Munnings accounted for the Tom Fool Handicap (gr. II), scoring by 2 1/4 lengths while running seven furlongs in a swift 1:21.08. A few hours later on the West Coast, Zensational led throughout in the Triple Bend Handicap (gr. I) to tally by a length while negotiating seven panels of Hollywood Park’s all-weather track in 1:21.34.

The victory of Munnings completed a remarkable holiday weekend for his sire, Speightstown , who in the space of three days was represented by no fewer than four stakes winners from his first crop of 3-year-olds. Speightstown has now been represented by eight first-crop stakes winners, seven of which have captured black type events. On the basis of the evidence so far, the champion sprinter looks as if he’s set to join Elusive Quality, Mr. Greeley, Grand Slam, Zafonic, Zamindar, and South African star Western Winter as one of the horses who have established Gone West as an outstanding sire of sires.

A $150,000 RNA at the 2006 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall weanling sale, Munnings was purchased for the same price at the 2007 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling Sale. Reoffered at the Fasig-Tipton Florida select 2-year-olds in training auction in 2008, Munnings appreciated dramatically in value, realizing $1.7 million. He scored impressively over six furlongs at Saratoga on his juvenile debut, then finished third to Vineyard Haven as favorite in the Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) after stumbling at the start. Reopposing Vineyard Haven in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I), Munnings took second to that horse, but was beaten 5 1/4 lengths. He concluded his 2-year-old campaign with an off-the-board finish (although beaten less than five lengths) in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I). This year, Munnings didn’t appear until May, when he took second to the highly-regarded Warriors Reward in a Churchill Downs allowance race. On his only other start before the Tom Fool, he gained a first stakes victory by taking the Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) by 5 1/4 lengths, while covering seven furlongs in a very swift 1:20.63.

Grazen Pedigree

Munnings is the fourth foal of the unraced Holy Bull mare La Comete. She is a half-sister to the Oak Tree Derby (gr. IIT) and Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Lasting Approval and to Icon Project, an Empire Maker  filly who captured the New York Stakes (gr. III) two weeks before the Tom Fool. La Comete is out of the Lord At War (ARG) mare La Gueriere, who captured the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (gr. IT) and Bewitch Stakes (gr. IIIT). The third dam, Lady Winborne, was group-placed in Ireland, and owned about as impressive a pedigree as one could wish to find. A half-sister to the great European racemare Allez France, she was by Secretariat, out of Priceless Gem, winner of the Futurity Stakes (over Buckpasser) and Frizette Stakes. At stud, Lady Winborne more than lived up to her pedigree, producing eight black type horses including five stakes winners. They included La Gueriere’s brothers Long War and Lord of Warriors; the John Henry Handicap (gr. IT) winner Al Mamoon; and Lost Soldier. The latter, a son of Danzig, gained a group win in the Isle of Capri Casino Louisiana Downs Handicap (gr. IIIT), and subsequently sired ill-fated champion sprinter Lost in the Fog. Several of Lady Winborne’s daughters went on to become the dams and granddams of stakes winners, most notably Lady Lochinvar, a sister to La Gueriere, who is dam of five-time graded winner Master Command, and the Little Current mare Benguela, the granddam of grade I winner Honor in War (whose sire, like La Gueriere, was Lord At War). Priceless Gem’s own dam, the excellent runner and producer Searching, is one of the tribe of notable horses produced by the formula of crossing War Admiral over daughters of La Troienne. Another mare bred on that cross, Busanda, appears in the pedigree of Speightstown through her son, Buckpasser, sire of Speightstown’s third dam, Insilca. Since Speightstown’s granddam, Silken Doll, and Lady Winborne are both by sons of Bold Ruler with Busanda/Searching close up in the pedigree, they are bred on rather similar lines. The pedigree has two more crosses of La Troienne through Holy Bull, and there are three crosses of Secretariat.

Like Munnings, Zensational was an expensive juvenile, costing $700,000 at the same Fasig-Tipton sale that supplied Munnings. This was a particularly remarkable turn of events, as the gray had been knocked down for just $20,000 at the previous year’s Keeneland September yearling auction. Off the board at Saratoga in his only start at 2, Zensational took a six-furlong Santa Anita maiden special weight first time out at 3. Stretching out to a mile in an allowance race at the same track, Zensational opened up a 10-length lead at the first call but tired to finish second. Shortening up again for a 6 1/2-furlong allowance at Hollywood Park, Zensational battled for the lead through fractions of :21.53 and :43.6 before drawing clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths in a sharp 1:14.52. Making his stakes debut in the Triple Bend, he was in front from the off, and dug in through the stretch to score by a length over Rush With Thunder.

Even though two of his juvenile stars from last year have gone to the sidelines -- Old Fashioned is retired, but Midshipman  is preparing for a return -- Zensational’s sire Unbridled's Song is currently enjoying an excellent season, with Zensational becoming his tenth stakes winner of the year.

Zensational is out of the Phone Trick mare Joke, and is his dam’s fourth foal. Like her son, Joke was also a speedster, winning the Vallejo and Fairfield Stakes, both over six furlongs, Joke is half-sister to Laity, winner of the Miller Lite Cradle Stakes and John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, and to three-time graded winner and stakes producer Trip. The second dam, Tour, is a listed stakes-winning daughter of Forty Niner. She is a sister to stakes winner Flight Forty Nine, and is half-sister to Pink Shoes (by Zensational’s damsire Phone Trick), a stakes winner and multiple stakes producer. The third dam, Fun Flight (by Full Pocket), is a stakes winner, as is the fourth dam, Fun and Tears (who set a track record for four furlongs at Timonium). Fun and Tears is inbred 3 x 3 to the fleet Spy Song, and goes back to Myrtlewood through Manzana (her third dam), who was bred on a similar cross as the granddam of Mr. Prospector.

Grazen Pedigree

This gives Zensational a rather interesting pedigree pattern as he is inbred 4 x 4 to Mr. Prospector, as well as descending in tail female from a close relative to Mr. Prospector’s granddam. The Mr. Prospector strains represented here, Fappiano and Forty Niner, are combined in the pedigrees of at least 18 other stakes winners, including grade I winners Albertus Maximus , Rica Roy (ARG), Snack Bar (BRZ), and Deepak. In this particular case, Zensational’s granddam, Tour, combines Mr. Prospector with Relic, as does Unbridled’s Song, while Unbridled has Mr. Prospector and In Reality (who was inbred 3 x 3 to Relic’s sire, War Relic).