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Crown of Thorns
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A Blending of Nicks and Patterns

Repent's top runners show combinations of unique pedigrees and strong nicks.

By Alan Porter

When Repent retired to stud for the 2004 breeding season, he presented breeders with something of a dilemma, that of performance versus pedigree.

As a racehorse, Repent was very near the best of his generation at both 2 and 3, and was an extremely consistent runner, finishing first or second in all but his first and last starts. As a juvenile, he took his maiden on his second start, and thereafter never ran in anything but graded stakes events. Successful in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Stakes (gr. III) on his third outing, he was a longshot for the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), but performed with tremendous credit, finishing well to take second, 1 1/4 lengths behind the 2-year-old "world champion" Johannesburg. In his final start of the 2-year-old campaign, he proved that effort no fluke, with a decisive win in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II).

Repent began his 3-year-old season with wins in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) and the Louisiana Derby (gr. II). In the Illinois Derby (gr. II), Repent was an odds-on favorite — as he had been in his three previous starts — but couldn’t get near the front-running War Emblem, who beat him by 6 1/4 lengths. Following this effort, Repent was found to have a chip in a left ankle and while War Emblem took the first two legs of the Triple Crown, Repent, the one-time Derby favorite, went to the sidelines. Following the surgery to remove the chip, Repent didn’t show up on the work tab until July 28, so he faced a very tough challenge when he made his comeback in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) just under a month later. Under the circumstances, he ran remarkably well, closing in determined fashion to lose out by just 1/2 a length to Medaglia d'Oro . The effort came with a price, however. Unplaced as favorite in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) on his next outing, Repent came out of the race with a tendon injury which brought about his retirement.

While Repent’s racetrack performances would have qualified him to stand just about anywhere, his pedigree was a different matter. He is by the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Louis Quatorze, a horse who is capable of getting a top-class runner but who is not the most consistent stallion. Louis Quatorze started his career in Kentucky and now stands in Maryland. Repent’s dam is an Argentinean-bred mare by Cipayo (ARG), a very good runner and sire in Argentina but representing a European sire line that, in the U.S., would have meaning only to very keen students of Thoroughbred history. To compound things, Repent’s second dam was by the equally unfamiliar French horse Kazan, and though his third dam was by a U.S. bred son of Nasrullah, that horse, Run and Rule, had never reached the races.

So, like many prospects that initially tick some of the boxes — good looks and excellent racetrack performance in Repent’s case — but not all, Repent began his stud career in Florida. He stood his first four seasons at Cloverleaf Farm. Following the sale of that nursery, Repent moved to Vinery Stud in Florida, where he is advertised for 2008 at a fee of $5,000, a price which doesn’t appear likely to hold for very long.

With his first crop — newly-turned 3-year-olds of 2008 — Repent already has 21 individual winners (18 as 2-year-olds, including four stakes winners) and a total of seven stakes horses.

Repent’s stakes winners are a mix of strong nicks and intriguing pedigree patterns, something that probably reflects the slightly unusual pedigree of Repent himself, and the rather unique background of his sire, Louis Quatorze.

Repent’s first stakes scorer, Atoned, won the Continental Mile Stakes and was a close second to the highly-rated Court Vision in the Remsen Stakes (gr. II) after nearly falling at the start. Atoned, who is out of an Icecapade mare, is rated "D" by the TrueNicks mating evaluation but has a very clever pedigree. The key is that Icecapade is by Nearctic (by Nearco (ITY)) out of the elite mare Shenanigans, a daughter of Native Dancer, making him a close relative to Northern Dancer (by Nearctic out of a Native Dancer mare). Repent’s sire, Louis Quatorze, is by a son of Northern Dancer out of a mare by Icecapade’s half-brother On to Glory, who is himself by a great-grandson of Nearco.

Prince Cortez, who took his record to 3-for-3 with a daylight win in the seven-furlong Triple Sec Stakes at Delta Downs, and who looks sure to do even better as the distances stretch out, is three-parts brother to Atoned (their dams are half-sisters), but owns a different type of pedigree pattern. An "A++" TrueNicks rated horse, Prince Cortez is out of the Relaunch mare Ranba. Relaunch is interesting here, as he brings in The Axe II, one of the best sons of Epsom Derby winner Mahmoud, a horse whose great daughter Grey Flight is closely duplicated in the pedigree of Louis Quatorze, through the three-parts brother and sister Bold Princess and Bold Lad (both by Bold Ruler, whose sire, Nasrullah, is out of a three-parts sister to Mahmoud). This is an interesting example of how close relatives can have pedigrees that work in very different ways.

Repent’s What a Pleasure Stakes winner, Check It Twice, is an "A+" TrueNicks horse. He actually has some pedigree similarities with Prince Cortez. His broodmare sire, Out of Place, is a son of Cox’s Ridge, whose pedigree has multiple crosses of Man o’ War’s grandparents Rock Sand and Fairy Gold – as does Ranba’s sire, Relaunch, and her broodmare sire, Olden Times. Check It Twice’s granddam, the excellent mare Christmas Past, is by Grey Dawn II (dam by Mahmoud and closely related to The Axe II, the broodmare sire of Relaunch) and out of a Bold Ruler mare, so is something of a reverse cross to Bold Princess and Bold Lad.

Repent’s latest stakes winner is B. Wayne Hughes’s Crown of Thorns. He jumped into the classic picture by taking the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Feb. 2 in decisive fashion in only his third start. A $300,000 purchase at the OBS March 2-year-olds in training sale, Crown of Thorns is the third foal of his dam, Crowning Touch. That daughter of Thunder Gulch – himself a Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner – never ran, but is a half-sister to three stakes winners, including champion sprinter Smoke Glacken and the excellent sprint filly Smokey Glacken.

Crown of Thorns is a "D" rated horse on TrueNicks – Louis Quatorze and Repent hitherto having had little success with Mr. Prospector-line mares. Historically, horses rated "C" and below by TrueNicks comprise something approaching half the population (44%) yet only provide around 8% of the stakes winners. On the rare occasions that a particularly good horse earns a low nick rating, a close look at the pedigree pattern will often prove very instructive, and that is certainly the case with Crown of Thorns.

The unique pedigree pattern of Repent’s sire, Louis Quatorze, is almost certainly the key to Crown of Thorns’ ability. Besides Louis Quatorze’s relation to Bold Princess and Bold Lad 2 x 3 through his sire, Sovereign Dancer, a look at the pedigree of Crown of Thorns reveals additional crosses of similar strains. Crown of Thorns’ granddam is Majesty’s Crown, who is by the Northern Dancer son Magesterial, who is out of a mare by Bold Lad. Magesterial, therefore, is both extremely closely related to Sovereign Dancer (all four of Sovereign Dancer’s grandparents are repeated in the pedigree of Magesterial) and bred on the same cross as Louis Quatorze.

For those still following, the intricacies don’t end there. Crown of Thorns’ third dam is by another Bold Ruler son, King Emperor, whose granddam is by Bold Irishman, a three-parts sister to Bold Irish. That mare is the granddam of Louis Quatorze’s broodmare sire, On to Glory.