Plate Trial Stakes winner Eye of the Leopard

Plate Trial Stakes winner Eye of the Leopard

Michael Burns

Royally-bred 'Leopard' Eyes Queen's Plate

Eye of the Leopard's pedigree makes him a good bet in upcoming Canadian Classics.

An unraced maiden just seven weeks ago, Eye of the Leopard  is now a legitimate contender for the historic Queen’s Plate, the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. In just his third lifetime start, the son of veteran Lane’s End stallion A.P. Indy scored a game victory May 31 in the Plate Trial Stakes, running down Southdale to win by a neck.

Should Eye of the Leopard win the Queen’s Plate, he will closely parallel the first part of the career of his dam, 2004 Canadian champion 3-year-old filly Eye of the Sphynx. Unraced as a 2-year-old, Eye of the Sphinx opened her career April 22, 2004 in a maiden special weight at Keeneland. She duly won and returned to her native country, where she ripped off three consecutive wins – the Fury Stakes May 9, the Selene Stakes May 23, and the Labatt Woodbine Oaks June 13.

Eye of the Sphynx never won again after her Oaks victory, though she ran second in the Labatt Bison City Stakes and the Wonder Where Stakes before finishing her career with an unplaced run in the Ontario Colleen Handicap. Eye of the Leopard is her first foal; a 2-year-old full brother, Hotep, has yet to start.

A Sam-Son Farm homebred, Eye of the Leopard has ties to two families that have been part of the Sam-Son breeding program for generations. Not only is Eye of the Sphynx also a Sam-Son homebred, but so are her sire, dam, and both granddams.

Eye of the Sphynx is by 1996 Philip H. Iselin Handicap (gr. I) winner Smart Strike, one of the best sire sons of Mr. Prospector. The leading American sire of 2007 and 2008, thanks in no small part to two-time Horse of the Year Curlin , Smart Strike is in a position to complete a unique Classic double: already the broodmare sire of Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird, he can add honors as the broodmare sire of Canada’s premier Classic should Eye of the Leopard win. Other stallions have completed the double as maternal grandsires, but the only other to do so in a single year was Native Dancer, whose grandson Northern Dancer won both the Derby and the Queen’s Plate in 1964.

Much of Smart Strike’s quality as both racehorse and sire can be attributed to his dam, the Smarten mare Classy ‘n Smart. The Canadian champion 3-year-old filly of 1984, Classy ‘n Smart is one of six stakes winners – four of them champions – produced by Sam-Son’s remarkable foundation mare No Class, who well repaid her $25,000 purchase price as a yearling. Canadian Broodmare of the Year in 1985, No Class stands at the head of a remarkable matriarchy; not only was Classy ‘n Smart a Canadian Broodmare of the Year in her own right, earning her title in 1991, but so was her daughter Dance Smartly (by Danzig), Canada’s Horse of the Year in 1991 and Broodmare of the Year a decade later.

Eye of the Sphynx is the second stakes winner for the Vice Regent mare Queen of Egypt, previously the dam of multiple Canadian stakes winner Quiet Cleo (by No Louder, and dam of grade I winner Quiet Resolve). Herself a two-time stakes winner, Queen of Egypt was produced from Forleana, a stakes-placed daughter of the Jaipur horse Forum and the Assagai mare Oleana. This family has not been nearly so prolific a source of stakes winners as has No Class’, but the line of descent from Forleana to Eye of the Sphynx and Quiet Cleo has more than justified Sam-Son’s acquisition of Oleana.

A.P. Indy, of course, needs little introduction; after 119 stakes winners, six champions, and two American Classic winners, the only question remaining appears to be how long Lane’s End’s “grand old man” can keep going. Now 20 years old, A.P. Indy has led the American general sire list twice (in 2003 and 2006) and is currently 11th on this year’s list.

With a pedigree completely free of both Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector, it was inevitable that A.P. Indy should be mated to many daughters and granddaughters of both sires. The cross with Mr. Prospector has been quite solid, as 25 of A.P. Indy’s graded stakes winners have been produced from mares sired by Mr. Prospector or his sons. Eye of the Leopard is the first winner and first stakes winner sired by A.P. Indy from a Smart Strike mare, but given that 17-year-old Smart Strike is still young by broodmare sire standards, more are likely to come if A.P. Indy remains in service for a few more years.