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Mahubah's Corner: Etched Could Be Darley's Next Star

To no ones great surprise, grade I winner Discreet Cat has been retired to Darley for stallion duty but Godolphin may have already found in Etched a successor on the racing front.

Mahubah’s Corner

By Avalyn Hunter

To no one’s great surprise, Godolphin’s grade I winner Discreet Cat has been retired to Darley for stallion duty (at a $30,000 fee) following a 4-year-old season compromised by a throat abscess. But if the performance of its homebred Etched in the Nashua Stakes Oct. 28 is any indication of the future, Darley may well have already found a successor to Discreet Cat on the racing front.

Etched is the second foal of 2001 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) winner Unbridled Elaine. (Her first was the unraced 2003 Rahy filly Seresa’s Spirit.) A daughter of 1995 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner Unbridled’s Song, the big gray Unbridled Elaine is out of the Taylor’s Falls mare Carols Folly, and so is a half-sister to 1997 Ashland Stakes (gr. I) winner Glitter Woman (by Glitterman).

Carols Folly would probably not have been anyone’s bet for a multiple grade I producer at her foaling. Although her sire Taylor’s Falls (by In Reality) was a good sire of bread-and-butter runners, the closest he ever came to a "big horse" was probably Dazzling Falls, winner of the 1995 Arkansas Derby (gr. II) and now a sire in Nebraska. Carols Folly was fairly typical of the better progeny of Taylor’s Falls; a confirmed sprinter, she was a minor stakes winner and won five of 12 starts overall.

Carols Folly was the only stakes winner produced from the Bob’s Dusty mare No Trespassing, who was out of the Traffic Judge mare Private Parking, a three-parts sister to 1973 Vosburgh Handicap (gr. II) winner Aljamin (by Delta Judge, by Traffic Judge). The dam of Private Parking and Aljamin, Sucha Snob, was sired by 1957 U.S. champion handicap male and co-Horse of the Year Dedicate out of Dottie Dear, an Amphitheatre half sister to the top Midwestern runner Swoon’s Son. Overall, this is a family that has had its moments but has been far from a consistent producer of top horses prior to the emergence of Glitter Woman and Unbridled Elaine.

Etched is the 29th stakes winner (11th graded) for Forestry, who stands at Taylor Made Farm. Now represented by five crops of racing age, Forestry has been one of the most consistent commercial sires of yearlings around. While 2007 has been something of an off year for him – his 2007 yearlings have averaged $165,462 – his lifetime average of $234,174 is quite healthy, and his lifetime median yearling price of $160,000 indicates that this average is not heavily skewed by one or two big sales.

Given that Unbridled’s Song also stands at Taylor Made and has eight crops of racing age to Forestry’s five, it was probably inevitable that Forestry would start seeing some of his daughters. So far, five foals of racing age have been produced from this cross, four of them 2-year-olds of 2007; the fifth, Lucky Alizea, is a 3-year-old. Etched is Forestry’s only winner from an Unbridled’s Song mare so far, but given that Forestry’s runners generally do better as 3-year-olds than as juveniles, it is much too early to pronounce Etched a fluke.

Etched displays a pedigree pattern that has worked well for Forestry, that of Dr. Fager being returned in his mates. "Forestry has had seven stakes winners from 35 foals out of mares with Dr. Fager in their pedigrees," says Byron Rogers, the director of stallion operations for Taylor Made. "That includes at least 14 2-year-olds, so here’s hoping that Etched will be the first of many." Even including the juveniles, Forestry’s strike rate of stakes winners from mares returning Dr. Fager is 20%, considerably above his overall 7.2% stakes winners from foals of racing age; if only foals 3 years of age and older are considered, mares with Dr. Fager in their pedigrees have produced 28.6% stakes winners to Forestry’s cover against 9.5% stakes winners from all Forestry foals age 3 and up.

Oddly, Forestry has not done as well as might have been expected with mares from the male line of one of the most obvious sources of Dr. Fager, the Doctor’s maternal grandson Fappiano. Out of 25 foals produced from mares by Fappiano or his sons and grandsons, only eight have won, though two have won stakes. Etched, of course, is one; the other is 2004 Bay Meadows Derby (gr. III) winner Congressionalhonor, whose dam is by Quiet American. While two graded stakes winners from 25 foals isn’t bad, particularly since nine of those foals are only juveniles, these results still seem hit or miss compared to the five stakes winners (one graded) from 10 foals out of mares whose pedigrees carry Dr. Fager through sources other than male-line Fappiano – and indeed, Congressionalhonor straddles these two groups as Quiet American is out of a Dr. Fager mare as well as being by Fappiano.

Etched is an outcross through five generations but further back has eight crosses of Discovery featuring all four of the great weight carrier’s important producing daughters – Geisha (dam of Native Dancer), Miss Disco (dam of Bold Ruler), My Recipe (dam of Intentionally), and Traffic Court (dam of Traffic Judge). While these crosses are well back in the pedigree to be sure, a similar pattern can be seen in the pedigrees of grade I winners Empire Maker and Officer as well as in that of Unbridled Elaine. That’s not bad company and is one more reason to think that if Etched can just stay healthy, he may turn out to be something special indeed.