Synthetic surfaces having become the X-factor in this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships. No one knows how any given runner (other than those that have already raced successfully at the Oak Tree meeting) is likely to handle Santa Anita. Even victories on other synthetic surfaces may not translate to success on the track’s new Pro-Ride mix. Nonetheless, the impressive Darley Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) victory of Kelly Colliver’s Dream Empress would seem to bode well for her, given that the filly now owns both a major win over a synthetic surface and a win at the 8 1/2 –furlong Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) distance.
Bred by Hopewell Investments, Glencrest Farm, and Bryan Cross, Dream Empress is by Bernstein, a stallion who is having a better year than his standing of 51st on the general sire list might indicate. So far in 2008, Bernstein has been represented by 14 stakes winners, including two South American Classic winners in Galactos (ARG) (Polla de Potrillos – Roberto Alvarez Calderon Rey, Per-I) and Savoir Bien (ARG) (Polla de Potrancas, Arg-I). He is also the sire of Matron Stakes (gr. II) winner Doremifasollatido, of Kentucky Cup Juvenile Stakes (gr. III) winner West Side Bernie, and of Argentine group winners Que Vida Buena (ARG) and Que Felicidad (ARG).
Bernstein has done very well considering his own merits as a racer, which were fair but hardly outstanding. Sent to Ireland as a yearling, the colt won two of his three starts at 2 including the 1999 Anheuser Busch Railway Stakes (Ire-III). He followed up at 3 by winning the Coolmore Stud Home of Champions Concorde Stakes (Ire-III) but was unplaced in both the Sagitta Two Thousand Guineas and the Victor Chandler Nunthorpe Stakes (both Eng-I) and retired to stud at Kentucky’s Buck Pond Farm, later to move to Castleton Lyons, having won half his eight starts.
Bernstein’s stud prospects were improved by a very good pedigree. A son of Storm Catfrom the Affirmed mare La Affirmed, he is a full brother to grade III winners Caress (dam of 2002 Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) winner Sky Mesa , whose daughter Sky Diva won the Frizette Stakes (gr. I) on the first weekend in October at Belmont Park) and Country Cat, and a half-brother to 2003 Belmont Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) winner Della Francesca (by Danzig). La Affirmed, in turn, is a winning full sister to 1986 Miss Grillo Stakes (gr. III) winner Lovelier and a half-sister to 1984 champion juvenile filly Outstandingly (by Exclusive Native, sire of Affirmed), who is herself the dam of English group II winner Sensation (GB). The family traces back to War Admiral’s high-class daughter Busanda, also the dam of the great Buckpasser and the ancestress of another good young stallion in 2001 Champagne Stakes (gr. I) winner Officer.
In Argentina, Bernstein has done very well with daughters and granddaughters of Buckpasser’s son Egg Toss, suggesting that Buckpasser, and particularly strains of Buckpasser through sons, may be something to look for in the stallion’s North American mates. To date, this cross has produced 2007 Argentine Horse of the Year Storm Mayor (ARG) and group I winners Stormy Kiss (ARG), Stormy Vil (ARG), Galactos, and Savoir Bien, as well as group III winners Great Guy (ARG) and Storm Mane (ARG). Dream Empress is from another promising cross as she is out of a Nijinsky II mare, while Doremifasollatido is out of a mare by Green Dancer, by Nijinsky II. In addition, Savoir Bien’s broodmare sire, Numerous, is out of a Nijinsky II mare. So far, Bernstein has 39 stakes winners from his 435 foals 3 years of age and older, a strike rate of 9%, and he sports a healthy Average Earnings Index of 1.90 against a Comparable Index of 1.41, indicating that he is moving his mares up.
On the distaff side, Dream Empress was produced from 1992 Sweetest Chant Stakes winner Chinese Empress (by Nijinsky II), a half-sister to multiple grade II winner Possible Mate (by King’s Bishop, and herself dam of a multiple grade II winner in Fairy Garden) and Canadian stakes winner Shy Proposal. The siblings’ dam, the well-named Execution (by The Axe II), is a half-sister to 1985 King Edward Gold Cup Handicap (gr. III) winner Jacksboro (by 1974 Sussex Stakes (Eng-I) winner Ace of Aces) and is out of 1972 Del Mar Oaks winner House of Cards, by the hardy Promised Land. (Promised Land, a member of the vintage crop that contained Bold Ruler, Round Table, Gallant Man, Clem, and Nearctic, did all right even in that august company, his 21 wins from 77 starts including 10 good stakes events.)
Dream Empress is inbred 4 x 3 to Northern Dancer through the popular cross of Storm Cat over Nijinsky II, which has yielded at least 47 graded/group stakes winners so far. With a distaff pedigree dominated by runners that improved from 2 to 3 and sometimes beyond, she may or may not be a good bet to win the Juvenile Fillies, but she looks like a good bet to be heard from further, somewhere down the line.