Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer

Acoma is a Blue Hen in the Making

Acoma has just added polish to her sterling pedigree with a graded stakes victory.

by Avalyn Hunter

If there were an award for the most valuable broodmare prospect currently racing, Acoma would be a strong contender. With her come-from-behind victory in the Dogwood Stakes (gr. III) on May 31, the filly, who races as a homebred for Helen Alexander and her mother Helen Groves, added a coveted graded stakes win to a pedigree that is packed with the names of superb broodmares.

Acoma is the fifth stakes winner sired by 2003 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Empire Maker , who has as regal a pedigree as any young stallion in the country. A son of 1990 champion 3-year-old male Unbridled, Empire Maker is the fourth grade I winner produced by 2002 KTOB Broodmare of the Year Toussaud (by El Gran Senor). Herself a grade I winner and one of three stakes winners produced by the grade II-winning In Reality mare Image of Reality, Toussaud is also the dam of 2000 Arlington Million (gr. IT) winner Chester House, sire so far of 21 stakes winners from a brief stud career; of 2000 Santa Monica Handicap (gr. I) winner Honest Lady, already the dam of listed stakes winners Phantom Rose (by Danzig) and First Defence (by Unbridled’s Song); and of 2002 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) winner Chiselling, who was sold to South Africa’s Maine Chance Farms in 2004. Toussaud is also the dam of 2002 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap (gr. IIT) winner Decarchy, now at stud in California. Though Toussaud was pensioned in December, she has one more chance at glory through her A.P. Indy filly Gateway, a 2-year-old of 2008.

The late Unbridled also has a pedigree rich with broodmare power. His sire, 1981 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) winner Fappiano (by Mr. Prospector), was the best of five stakes winners produced by the Dr. Fager mare Killaloe, while his dam, Gana Facil, also produced 1991 Wood Memorial Invitational Stakes (gr. I) winner Cahill Road. The female family of Unbridled traces back to Aspidistra, a remarkable blue hen whose four stakes winners included 1968 Horse of the Year Dr. Fager and two-time champion sprinter Ta Wee. Ta Wee, in turn, produced four stakes winners from five foals, including the good Florida stallion Great Above, sire of 1994 Horse of the Year Holy Bull.

Acoma is the fourth stakes winner produced by the Danzig mare Aurora and is a half-sister to 1998 Super Derby (gr. I) winner and successful sire Arch (by Kris S.); to listed stakes winner Alisios (a full brother to Arch); and to 2001 United Arab Emirates Horse of the Year Festival of Light (by A.P. Indy). To date, Danzig is the broodmare sire of 150 stakes winners from 2934 foals produced by his daughters and has over $207 million in earnings as a maternal grandsire.

Aurora, in turn, is one of four stakes winners from five foals produced from 1983 champion 2-year-old filly Althea (by Alydar), whose broodmare career was cut short by a fatal paddock accident in 1995. Althea’s other progeny include 1990 Sheepshead Bay Handicap (gr. IIIT) winner Destiny Dance, dam of 2001 Aga Khan Studs Blandford Stakes (Ire-III) winner Dearly (GB) (by Rahy) and 2004 Frizette Stakes (gr. I) winner Balletto (UAE) (by Timber Country); 1994 Japanese champion 2-year-old filly Yamanin Paradise (by Danzig), dam of Japanese stakes winner Yamanin Seraphim; and listed stakes winner Alyssum (by Storm Cat), whose broodmare career has been hampered by frequent slips.

Althea is one of eight stakes winners produced by 1983 KTOB Broodmare of the Year Courtly Dee. As a group, the stakes-winning sons of Courtly Dee were disappointing stallions; 1976 Sapling Stakes (gr. I) winner Ali Oop (by Al Hattab) sired just six stakes winners from 257 foals, while 1985 Cowdin Stakes (gr. I) winner Ketoh (by Exclusive Native) died without issue. Native Courier (by Exclusive Native), a multiple grade III winner, was a gelding, and multiple grade II winner Twining (by Forty Niner), has enjoyed only modest success, getting 30 stakes winners from 660 foals of racing age to date; he is now standing in Japan.

Courtly Dee has had much more success in passing on her heritage through her daughters:

• Foreign Courier, a daughter of Sir Ivor, is the dam of 1986 Norcros July Cup (Eng-I) winner Green Desert (by Danzig), a successful sire in Europe with 85 stakes winners worldwide to his credit, and of listed stakes winner Yousefia (by Danzig), dam of 1998 Princess Margaret Stakes (Eng-III) winner Mythical Girl,

• Embellished (by Seattle Slew) produced three stakes winners including 1990 Delaware Handicap (gr. II) winner Seattle Dawn,

• Namaqua (by Storm Bird) produced 1993 Lamplighter Handicap (gr. III) winner Namaqualand to the cover of Mr. Prospector,

• Maidee (by Roberto) produced 1995 Young America Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Defacto to the cover of Diesis (GB), and

• Princess Oola (a stakes-winning full sister to Ali Oop) produced 1993 Sydney Cup (Aus-I) winner Azzaam (by Chief’s Crown) and the stakes-winning Danzig filly Balwa.

Althea’s full sisters Aishah and Aquilegia, both grade II winners on the track, have also enjoyed success in the paddocks. Aishah is the dam of 1998 Go for Wand Handicap (gr. I) winner Aldiza (by Storm Cat), 2002 Molly Pitcher Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. II) winner Atelier (by Deputy Minister), and minor stakes winner Arabis (by Deputy Minister), as well as two stakes-placed runners. Aquilegia has also produced three stakes winners, headed by 1998 T.N.T. International July Stakes (Eng-III) winner Bertolini (by Danzig). Between them, Althea, Aishah, and Aquilegia have accounted for ten of Alydar’s 142 stakes winners as a broodmare sire – not a bad record for any sibling group.

Whether Acoma will live up to her tremendous pedigree in the paddocks is a question for the future, of course. But she has already gone a long way towards proving the worth of her heritage on the track, and that is always a promising sign.