- by Alan Porter
It has long been the avowed intent of Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation to win the Kentucky Derby with a horse prepared in Dubai. Going into the winter, the team’s best hopes appeared to be Midshipman and Vineyard Haven – on form the two best 2-year-olds in the U.S. Plans for that pair went awry, but Godolphin will still contend at Churchill Downs with the serious one-two punch of Desert Party and Regal Ransom. This pair has actually already swapped decisions in classic events in Dubai. Desert Party was visually very impressive when sweeping past Regal Ransom to capture the U.A.E. Two Thousand Guineas Sponsored by Gulf News (UAE-III). A few weeks later in the U.A.E. Derby Sponsored by Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (UAE-II), Regal Ransom gained his revenge a with a gritty display of front-running that saw him hit the wire a quarter-length to the good of Desert Party.
Desert Party’s sire Street Cry (IRE) is a result of another sample of innovative thinking from Sheikh Mohammed’s breeding arm, Darley. The farm’s sire Machiavellian, a son of Mr. Prospector from the family of Northern Dancer, had proved successful in Europe, but Darley was determined to establish him in as a force in the U.S. As part of this program, Street Cry, an Irish-foaled son of the Gilltown Stud Irish Oaks (Ire-I) heroine Helen Street (GB), was sent to race in the U.S. Although apparently bred for the turf – his Mr. Prospector male line apart - Street Cry never tackled that surface, spending his entire career racing on dirt (except for his appearance on sand in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I)). It appeared that the speedy Machiavellian influence might be predominant in Street Cry’s makeup when he won a 6 1/2-furlong Del Mar maiden by seven lengths as his second start – running the faster Beyer speed figure of the year by a juvenile – before losing out to Flame Thrower in close battles for the Del Mar Futurity and Norfolk Stakes (both gr. II), and finishing a close third to Macho Uno and Point Give in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I). Sent to Dubai to prep for the Kentucky Derby, Street Cry easily captured the U.A.E. Two Thousand Guineas before being beaten a nose by Express Tour in the U.A.E. Derby (UAE-III), but was the sidelined by injury until the fall, when he returned to take second to Evening Attire in the Discovery Handicap (gr. III). The following spring Street Cry proved his worth, and his stamina, with a 4 1/4-length tally in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), then took the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) by 6 1/2 lengths, performances that earned him the highest Timeform rating of any horse in the world that year.
Street Cry, whose first crop are now 5, has rapidly established himself as one of the world’s leading young sires. In line with his performance at the track, and with his pedigree background, his offspring have proved effective over a wide range of distance and on dirt, turf, and all-weather tracks. To date he has sired 22 stakes winners from his first three Northern Hemisphere crops, including champion 2-year-old and Kentucky Derby victor Street Sense; champion older mare Zenyatta; and other group and grade I winners Street Boss, Street Hero, Majestic Roi, Cry and Catch Me, and Tomcito.
Bred in Kentucky by David Smith and Steven Sinatra, Desert Party realized $425,000 as a Keeneland September yearling and $2. million at the Fasig-Tipton Florida select 2-year-old sale. He scored over 4 1/2 furlongs at Arlington Park on his 2-year-old debut, and then took the Sanford Stakes (gr. II) by 3 1/2 with Vineyard Haven back in third. He completed his season with an off-the-board run behind Vineyard Haven in the Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (gr. I). This year, prior to his Dubai classic contests, Desert Party captured a seven-furlong allowance test at Nad al Sheba.
Desert Party is out of the Tabasco Cat mare Sage Cat. She ran only twice, winning a maiden event at 3, but has produced the Chou Croute Handicap captress Elliecat, to the cover of another Mr. Prospector-line horse, Crafty Prospector. Sage Cat’s dam, the Lord Gaylord daughter Lady Sage, earned black type with thirds in the Berlo Handicap and Maryland Million Oaks; however, neither she nor her dam, Foxcroft Finale (by In Reality’s son Real Value), produced a black-type winner. There is a little more maternal strength under Desert Party’s fourth dam, Miss Foxcroft. None of her eight winners captured a black-type event, although two were black type-placed, but two of her daughters became dams of stakes winners: All For Amy produced the Barbara Fritchie Handicap (gr. III) winner Amy Be Good, and Lady Foxcroft became dam of stakes scorers Aloma’s Lady and Her Decision. There is Kentucky Derby-winning history in this female line, as Desert Party’s fifth dam Bolure is half-sister to Dust Storm, dam of the 1970 Derby hero Dust Commander. The family goes back to Laughing Queen, a sister to champion 2-year-old Pompey, and also third dam of Horse of the Year Tom Fool.
Street Cry has already sired Desert Party and stakes winner Onebadkitty out of mares by sons of Storm Cat (he also has grade I-winning 2-year-old Street Hero out of mare by Summer Squall, who is a product of the same Storm Bird/Secretariat cross as Storm Cat). That Street Cry would be well-suited by the Storm Cat line was not difficult to predict. As a Mr. Prospector-line horse free of Northern Dancer, but carrying a half-sister to Northern Dancer, one would expect Street Cry to like Northern Dancer in general. However, a look at his female line also reveals that his sister Helsinki (GB) produced champion and dual classic winner Shamardal when bred to Storm Cat’s son Giant’s Causeway.
Regal Ransom has some parallels with Desert Party. Like that horse he was a 2-year-old in training purchase, and he is also by a Mr. Prospector grandson who sired a Kentucky Derby winner in his first crop. A $675,000 acquisition at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale, Regal Ransom made an impressive debut at Saratoga last year, leading throughout to win a seven-furlong maiden in 1:22.2. His only other start at 2 saw him finish unplaced as favorite when trying all-weather in the Norfolk Stakes (gr. I). Prior to his UAE Derby victory, Regal Ransom had made two 3-year-old starts in Dubai, finishing second to Desert Party both times. His reversal of form with that horse has been attributed to a track that seemed to favor front runners on World Cup Day, and to a slightly below-par effort by Desert Party. It’s worth remembering, however, that Regal Ransom is a May 26 foal, and is by a stallion whose offspring often improve with age, so he may just have made abnormal progress.
Regal Ransom’s sire Distorted Humor didn’t quite match Street Cry’s level of performance on the track, but did enough to show himself a smart and somewhat durable and versatile campaigner. Despite being a son of juvenile champion Forty Niner (himself only narrowly beaten in the Derby), Distorted Humor was not a precocious individual. He was unraced at 2, but at 3 won four of 10 starts, including the six-furlong Screen King Stakes, and also placed in the Fayette Stakes (gr. II) (at nine furlongs, beaten just a head), the Jerome Handicap (gr. II) over a mile, and the seven-furlong King’s Bishop Stakes (gr. II). Distorted Humor only visited the winners circle once at 4, after a 5 1/2-length tally in the Salvator Mile (gr. III), but also took second in the Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. III) at nine furlongs and Philip H. Iselin Handicap (gr. II) at 8 1/2 furlongs. Distorted Humor’s 5-year-old season proved to be his most lucrative, as he captured three graded stakes at seven and 7 1/2 furlongs, taking the Commonwealth Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. II), the Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II) in a new track record, and the Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III). He ended his career with his first grade I placing, a third in the Cigar Mile (gr. I).
Although he retired to stud at a fee of only $10,000, Distorted Humor was a success from the start, and ended 2002 as the leading freshman ire. He’s now sired 65 stakes winners from his first seven crops Northern Hemisphere crops, also including dual classic-winning champion 3-year-old Funny Cide,the somewhat fragile but brilliant Commentator, Travers Stakes (gr. I) victor Flower Alley; and other grade I scorers Hystericalady, Any Given Saturday, Awesome Humor, Fourty Niners Son, and Bit of Whimsy.
Regal Ransom was bred by Gerald Ford’s Diamond A Farm, out of the Red Ransom mare Kelli’s Ransom. Kelli’s Ransom never won, but she is half-sister to Minister Eric, who took second to stable-companion Action this Day in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at 2, and captured the San Fernando Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. II) at 4. Kelli’s Ransom’s dam Musical Minister, a daughter of Deputy Minister, won three times at 3 and 4. Musical Minister is half-sister to Pico Teneriffe (by Kelli’s Ransom’s sire Red Ransom), a three-time graded stakes winner who is dam of the 2008 Canadian champion older horse Marchfield, and of 2009 stakes winner Congor Bay (by Speightstown). Musical Minister is also half-sister to English group winner Salmon Ladder and to Capote’s Prospect, who set a new course mark for a mile at Lone Star when taking the Texas Turf Challenge Stakes.
Regal Ransom’s third dam is the exceptionally well-bred Ballerina Princess, a daughter of Mr. Prospector out of Northern Dancer’s top-flight daughter Aladancer. Ballerina Princess is half-sister to two stakes winners, including Vigliotto, a Blushing Groom (FR) colt who was a grade I winner in South Africa. She’s also half-sister to the dams of several stakes winners, among them the Californian Stakes (gr. I) winner Latin American and Run Softly (by Musical Minister’s sire Deputy Minister), who took the Volante Handicap (gr. IIIT). Ballerina Princess was also closely related to the top-class runner and successful sire Cryptoclearance, who was by a son of Ballerina Princess’ sire, Mr. Prospector, out of a half-sister to Aladancer. Mock Orange, the dam of Aladancer, is half-sister to the Spinaway and New Castle Stakes winner, Alanesian, subsequently dam of Boldnesian, who won the Santa Anita Derby but is now best remember as grandsire of Seattle Slew.
Regal Ransom’s pedigree shows quite a complex pattern of inbreeding and line-breeding. Distorted Humor is a Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer cross, as is Regal Ransom’s third dam Ballerina Princes, while his second dam is a Northern Dancer/Mr. Prospector cross. His dam Kelli’s Ransom is a Hail to Reason/Northern Dancer cross, and Distorted Humor’s dam Danzig’s Beauty is a reverse of that cross.