by Alan Porter
Two of Northern Dancer’s most important sons – Danzig and Nureyev – have been hugely influential in European classic pedigrees, but their impact on the U.S. Triple Crown events has been far more limited. In fact, this year’s dominating Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner, Big Brown (by Danzig’s son Boundary, out of a mare by Nureyev), is only the third Danzig-line horse to capture a North American Triple Crown event, following Pine Bluff, who took the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) in 1992, and Sea Hero, who won the 1993 Kentucky Derby. It should be noted that Danzig does appear as broodmare sire of both Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus and Distorted Humor , sire of Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide.
The victory of Big Brown, following the efforts last year of Danzig’s son Hard Spun , who was second in the Derby, third in the Preakness, and winner of four other graded events including the King’s Bishop Stakes (gr. I), make it look as if the Danzig line might be staging a late rally to establish itself as a viable U.S. dirt sire line. Also consider Danzig’s son Langfuhr getting last year’s champion older male Lawyer Ron(who ran unplaced as one of the favorites in the 2006 Derby); his grandson Concerto(by Chief’s Crown, a juvenile champion who placed in all three legs of the Triple Crown) siring Bellamy Road, who started as favorite for the 2005 renewal of the Derby after a devastating victory in the Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I); and the emerging Exchange Rate getting two dirt grade I winners in his first crop.
Rated A++ by TrueNicks, Big Brown is the first winner of a Triple Crown event bred on a Northern Dancer/Northern Dancer cross, but in Europe, this specific version (Danzig/Nureyev) has previously come up with Lexus Irish Two Thousand Guineas and Budweiser Irish Derby (both Ire-I) winner Desert King (IRE); the Boylesports Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I ) winner Araafa (IRE); Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) victor Rail Link (GB); and group I winner Echelon (GB). Ironically, however, the real key to Big Brown’s pedigree is probably the combination of a Derby winner, Northern Dancer, with two horses who failed in their Derby quests, Damascus and Round Table. They appear together in Big Brown’s pedigree through the closely-related Edge (dam of Big Brown’s sire, Boundary) and Syrian Circle (third dam of Big Brown).
The Derby second and third, the tragic heroine Eight Belles and Denis of Cork, are linked by the presence of Unbridled in the second generation. Eight Belles – the first Triple Crown-placed runner for Unbridled’s leading stallion son Unbridled’s Song – was inbred 4 x 3 to Mr. Prospector and 5 x 4 x 5 to Raise a Native. Denis of Cork, out of a mare by Unbridled, is from the first crop of Harlan’s Holiday, who himself started favorite for the 2002 Kentucky Derby and has now been propelled to the top of the second-season stallion table. Incidentally, the pedigrees of both Eight Belles and Denis of Cork feature inbreeding to Raise a Native through Mr. Prospector and Exclusive Native, a feature also found in Unbridled’s Song’s grade I-winning son (and now promising young sire) Songandaprayer.
The Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Proud Spell is also by a second-season sire – in this case, Proud Citizen. Runner-up in the Kentucky Derby, Proud Citizen follows Elusive Quality , Grand Slam, Mr. Greeley, Zamindar, and Zafonic as the sixth Northern Hemisphere-based son of Gone Westto sire a grade I winner in his first crop. Proud Spell actually has some pedigree parallels to Big Brown, as she also has Danzig in her pedigree, along with inbreeding/linebreeding to genetic relatives. A TrueNicks B+ rated product, Proud Spell is out of a mare by Langfuhr (by Danzig) – who is beginning to look like he might be a promising broodmare sire – and has the sister and brother, Arctic Dancer (third dam of Proud Citizen) and Northern Dancer, 4 x 4 x 5.
Turning to Europe, the weekend also saw the Stanjamesuk.com-sponsored Two Thousand Guineas and One Thousand Guineas (both Eng-I) contested. The Two Thousand Guineas was a third classic win of the weekend for a horse with inbreeding to genetic relatives. In this case the pair in question are the close relatives Nureyev and Sadler’s Wells combined in the pedigree of Henrythenavigator, who narrowly upset the previously-undefeated New Approach (IRE) (by Sadler’s Wells’ son, Galileo (IRE)). Henrythenavigator is a product of the by-now-famous Kingmambo/Sadler’s Wells cross (he is by Kingmambo out of Sadler’s Wells’ daughter Sequoyah (IRE)). That cross has produced nine stakes winners from 63 starters (earning a B+ TrueNicks rating), but it is really quality rather than numbers that makes it a standout: in addition to Henrythenavigator, the best on the cross includes El Condor Pasa (champion in Japan and France); Divine Proportions (Gainsborough Poule d’Essai des Pouliches and Prix de Diane Hermes-French Oaks (both Fr-I)); Virginia Waters (Ultimatepoker.com English One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I)); and Thewayyouare (Criterium International (Fr-I)). Henrythenavigator’s sister, Queen Cleopatra (IRE), was another classic performer for the formula as she took third in the Irish One Thousand Guineas and Prix de Diane-French Oaks. Sequoyah, the dam of this pair, was highweighted filly at 2 in Ireland, as was her sister, Listen, and both are very closely related to Irish Two Thousand Guineas winner Saffron Walden (FR), who is by Sadler’s Wells out of Or Vision, a stakes-winning sister to Brigid, the dam of Sequoyah and Listen. The family goes back to the great U.S. tap-root mare Sunday Evening – ancestress of such as Dark Mirage, Timely Assertion, Timely Writer, Java Gold, Bluebird, Indian Skimmer, Touch of the Blues (FR), and Classy Mirage – via Henrythenavigator’s fourth dam, Ringing Bells, a half-sister to U.S. champion 2-year-old Silent Screen. In addition to having Nureyev/Sadler’s Wells 3 x 2 (which gives Northern Dancer 4 x 3 and the mare Special 4 x 4), Henrythenavigator is also inbred 3 x 4 to Raise a Native. By strange coincidence, Big Brown’s dam, Mien, is inbred 3 x 4 to Special’s dam, Thong, and her brother, Lt. Stevens, and goes tail-female to their third dam, Simon’s Shoes (GB), so the influence of this female line is large in both of the weekend’s colt classic winners.
In terms of fashion, the pedigree of the One Thousand Guineas heroine, Natagora (FR), is in a different world from Henrythenavigator. The European champion 2-year-old filly of 2007, Natagora is by Divine Light (JPN), a Japanese-raced son of Sunday Silence, who initially stood in France but is now in Turkey. Divine Light won two Japanese listed races and also took second in the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (Jpn-I). Natagora is a member of Divine Light’s first crop – ignoring a couple of 3-year-old colts in Japan from test matings – that numbered only eight foals and has now produced three winners from five starters.
Natagora’s dam, Reinamixa (FR), a daughter of the French stalwart Linamix (FR), is half-sister to French black type scorer Reinstate (FR). The granddam, Reine Margie, is half-sister to Restless Girl (FR), who produced another top-class French filly in the shape of the 1988 French Oaks heroine Resless Kara (FR). The third dam, Reine des Sables, was five times black type-placed, and is half-sister to listed winner Montpelier and to Conestoga, the granddam of the Del Mar Oaks (gr. I) heroine Sicy d’Alsace (FR).
Natagora has Northern Dancer 4 x 6, with another cross of Northern Dancer’s granddam, Almahmoud, through Halo, the sire of Sunday Silence. Divine Light is out of a mare by Northern Taste, a Northern Dancer son who was inbred 3 x 2 to Lady Angela, the dam of Northern Dancer’s sire, Nearctic. Natagora’s pedigree has another twist in that Marino, the sire of Divine Light’s second dam, is a half-brother to Sena, the fifth dam of Natagora.