By Alan Porter
It was around 20 years ago that Ken McLean’s book "Tesio - Master of Matings" predicted that the combination of Nijinsky II and the similarly bred Storm Bird would one day be a potent one. At the time, Storm Cat — Storm Bird’s most important stallion son — had yet to cover a mare and as McLean pointed out, the cross was likely to be at it’s most effective when it had receded to the third and fourth generations of the pedigree, and beyond, so the prophecy took some time to reach fruition.
Over the years, however, the prediction has come to show itself an extremely prescient one, as Nijinsky II and Storm Bird are now combined in the pedigrees of more than 120 stakes winners, at least 60 of them graded and 20 grade I. We were reminded of this again at the weekend when two young sires scored important stakes winners with the help of the Nijinsky II/Storm Bird combination.
The first of these is Go Between, who took his earnings to over $1.8 million with a win in the weekend’s richest race, the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic. Until recently, Go Between had completed exclusively on turf, but he won his first outing on an artificial surface when taking the Fayette Handicap (gr. III) at Keeneland in October. With his Sunshine Millions win coming at Santa Anita, his record on artificial tracks is now two-for-two.
Go Between is a member of the first crop sired by 2001 Horse of the Year and Champion 3-Year-Old Colt, Point Given. That crop also contained the Affirmed Handicap (gr. III) winner, and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) runner-up, Point Determined, and stakes winner The Max. Point Given’s second crop, which just turned 4, is headed by a trio of very talented runners — Sealy Hill, who became the first ever winner of Canada’s Triple Tiara, and earned honors as Champion 3-Year-Old Filly, Champion Turf Mare, and Horse of the Year; Point Ashley, the Del Mar Debutante Stakes (gr. I) winner; and, Air Commander, who won the San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) on Jan. 12.
Go Between is out of Mediation, an Irish-bred daughter of the Nijinsky II stallion, Caerleon. Mediation won the Derrinstown Stud One Thousand Guineas Trial in Ireland, and was graded and group placed in the U.S. and Ireland. The granddam, Redeem Herself, an Irish stakes placed daughter of General Assembly, is out of Redowa, a sister to the Yellow God. By Blushing Groom’s sire, Red God, Yellow God was among the best of his generation at 2 and 3, and coincidentally, giving the focus of this article, ran second to Nijinsky II in the classic English 2,000 Guineas (gr. I).
Go Between owns a very creditable TrueNicks rating of B, achieved on the basis of the cross of Thunder Gulch and his sons over Nijinsky II line mares. Thunder Gulch brings in Storm Bird as the sire of his dam, and is he is sire of five stakes winners out of Nijinsky II line mares, among them are Matron Stakes (gr. I) heroine, Sense of Style, and Australian grade I winner, Shot of Thunder. Thunder Gulch has also sired Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) victress Spain and grade I winner Circular Quay, who are both out of mares carrying Nijinsky II elsewhere in the pedigree.
The second notable runner from the weekend to combine Storm Bird and Nijinsky II is another horse who successfully transitioned from turf to dirt. This is Yankee Bravo, who maintained an undefeated record with an impressive win in the California Derby at Golden Gate Fields. He’d broken his maiden going five furlongs at 2 in England last year, and won the Eddie Logan Stakes over a mile on turf at Santa Anita in his only previous U.S. start. Yankee Bravo is one of two black type winners (out of a total of 17 winners) from the first crop of his sire, Yankee Gentleman. The other stakes winner is Golden Yank, winner of two stakes and a third place in Boyd Gaming’s Delta Jackpot Stakes (gr. III).
A son of Storm Cat, Yankee Gentleman ran only 10 times in two seasons, but showed both blistering speed, and the ability to carry that speed 8 1/2 furlongs. Yankee Gentleman caused something of a sensation on his debut, which came in the March of his 3-year-old season, and saw him win a seven-furlong maiden race at Gulfstream by 11 lengths. He unseated his rider in his second start, but took his third race, an 8 1/2-furlong allowance at Belmont, by five lengths. Unfortunately, Yankee Gentleman failed to live up to that early promise in his three subsequent sophomore outings finishing fourth in the Riva Ridge Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. II), fifth in the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) and second in a turf allowance race. The final start of that campaign came in August and Yankee Gentleman wasn’t seen out for over a year. When he did resurface, it was on the West Coast, in a six-furlong allowance race at Del Mar, which he took by 3 1/2 lengths. Returning for the Pirate’s Bounty Handicap, Yankee Gentleman blitzed the opposition scoring by five lengths while running the six furlongs in 1:07.9. He came back as favorite for the Ancient Title Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. I), but was beaten into fourth in a race won by his Pirate’s Bounty runner-up, Avanzado. Yankee Gentleman’s career ended with a fifth, beaten five lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I).
A $17,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling, Yankee Bravo has Airdrie Stud connections on both sides of his pedigree. His sire stands at that Midway, Ky., nursery, and his dam, Vickey Jane, an unraced daughter of Royal Academy, is out of a sister to former Airdre resident, Siphon.
In addition to being by a grandson of Storm Bird out of a mare by a son of Nijinsky II, Yankee Bravo’s pedigree has a particularly interesting variant on the theme. He is by a son of Storm Cat, who is by Storm Bird (by Northern Dancer out of a mare by a son of Bull Page) out of Terlingua, a daughter of the mare, Crimson Saint. Yankee Bravo’s broodmare sire, Royal Academy, is by Nijinsky II (by Northern Dancer out of a mare by Bull Page), out of Crimson Saint, so very closely related to Storm Cat. There have so far been 20 starters by sons of Storm Cat out of Royal Academy mares. Yankee Bravo was preceded as a stakes winner bred on the cross by Tale of the Cat’s Australian-bred son, El Cuento. There are also two stakes-placed horses on the cross, for a 25% black-type horses to starters tally. The only starter by Storm Cat out of a Royal Academy mare is group-placed Emerald Cat. Royal Academy has sired group winner Dream Impact from five starters out of Storm Cat mares, so on the whole the combination looks positive.