By Alan Porter
It's been a while coming, but at the weekend, it proved to be worth the wait.
Off a modest $7,500 stud fee, Cherokee Run sired champion 2-year-old filly Chilukki in his first crop, and another grade I-winning juvenile, Yonaguska, in his second. When a relatively inexpensive horse hits with a first or second crop, he often then goes fairly quiet–having been less well supported in his third and fourth years–only to rebound with the runners from the mares his initial success brought him. Cherokee Run, however, has refused to fit the formula.
Following the bright start with his first two crops, Cherokee Run was then represented by a fourth crop that was deeper than any of the three preceding it, producing seven stakes winners, headed by the multiple graded winners During, Kafwain , and Sir Cherokee. His progeny’s success still didn’t wane beyond the fourth crop, which might have been expected. The 2001 foal crop (his fifth) yielded three stakes winners, and the 2002 crop another four, with the best of these two crops being the Mazarine Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) winner Dream About.
Amazingly, these waves of Cherokee Run's successes seem now to have been merely building momentum toward the weekend of Oct. 6-7 that arrived with almost tsunami force. Juvenile War Pass delivered a dominating performance to capture the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) and 3-year-old Zanjero took his earnings past the $1 million mark with a tally in the Indiana Derby (gr. II). Cherokee Run's total of 2007 stakes winners now stands at eight, with War Pass and Zanjero being joined as graded scorers by the Northern Dancer Stakes (gr. III) winner Chelokee, and the ill-fated Vagrancy Handicap (gr. II) victress Indian Flare.
War Pass is Cherokee Run's third 2-year-old grade I winner and fifth juvenile graded scorer, which is interesting when one considers that, while Cherokee Run won five of seven starts at 2, his only try in stakes company at that age resulted in a second in the What a Pleasure Stakes (gr. III). At 3, Cherokee Run hit a rich spring vein of form that saw him take the Lafayette Stakes and Derby Trial Stakes (both gr. III), before running Prairie Bayou–the Champion 3-year-old of his crop–to a half-length in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I). An unplaced effort in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) was followed by a six-length victory in a muddy Dwyer Stakes (gr. II). Defeats in the Haskell Invitational Handicap and Travers Stakes (both gr. I) indicated that Cherokee Run was not best suited to middle-distances.
The following year confirmed that Cherokee Run's true forte was as a sprinter/miler. The stakes campaign began with minor rewards: thirds in the Westchester Handicap (gr. III) and Carter Handicap (gr. I), followed by a second behind a rampaging Holy Bull in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I). He had another second, beaten a head by Virginia Rapids–who was besting him for the third time that year–in the Tom Fool Stakes (gr. II). In his next start, the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Stakes (gr. II), then contested in July, Cherokee Run gained his first graded success of the season, and he followed that with a second in the A Phenomenon Handicap (gr. III) and a third in the Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I). If not dominant, Cherokee Run had been extremely consistent, and that consistency saw him sent off as favorite for the 1994 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I). It was close, but Cherokee Run's late charge landed him both the race–which he took by a head from Soviet Problem–and the vote as the year's Champion Sprinter. Kept in training, Cherokee Run won the Gulfstream Park Sprint Handicap on his first start of 1995 but came out of the Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III) with an injury, and although he worked toward a return, he was never seen in public again.
War Pass's dam, Vue, can now boast the relatively rare achievement of having produced two grade I 2-year-old winners, as she is also dam of the 1996 Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) heroine, Oath (by Known Fact). Vue was a useful runner in her own right, winning three times at 3, and finishing third in the listed Audubon Oaks and the Wilma C. Kennedy Stakes. Vue boasted a noteworthy pedigree, being a Mr. Prospector half-sister to the Louisiana Derby (gr. III) winner Country Light and to multiple stakes winner Packet (herself dam of Great Intentions, winner of the 2006 renewal of the Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) and the 2005 First Flight Handicap (gr. II)). War Pass's second dam, Harbor Flag, was by 1970 champion 2-year-old Hoist the Flag, out of Bayou Blue by Bold Ruler. Bayou Blue was only a minor winner and never bred a winner of note, but she was a sister to the excellent mare Batteur, winner of two renewals of the New York Handicap, as well as the Santa Maria, Santa Margarita, Santa Monica, and Santa Barbara handicaps. At stud, when bred to Hoist the Flag, Batteur produced Harbor Flag's close relative Flag Officer, winner of the Illinois Derby (gr. III), and she is also granddam of the Turf Classic Invitational Handicap (gr. I) winner Anifa. The next dam is champion 3-year-old filly Bayou.
From a pedigree standpoint it's interesting to note that War Pass, who is out of a Mr. Prospector mare, echoes an earlier Champagne Stakes (gr. I) winner from trainer Nick Zito: 1998 victor, The Groom is Red, is by Cherokee Run's sire, Runaway Groom, out of a mare by Fast Gold, a son of Mr. Prospector. The cross of Cherokee Run out of Mr. Prospector-line mares has played a notable part in Cherokee Run's success. He has another stakes winner, Cherokee Girl, out of a mare by Mr. Prospector; he also has five other stakes winners out of Mr. Prospector-line mares, including Yonaguska (out of a mare by Silver Ghost), Chelokee (dam by Silver Ghost), and grade II winner Dream Run (dam by Naevus). Mr. Prospector also appears as the second damsire of Cherokee Run stars Zanjero and Indian Flare. This duo is out of mares by sons of Seattle Slew, a strain that hasn't normally melded particularly well with that of Cherokee Run. This fact underlines something that has been apparent from the beginning of his stud career: From a pedigree standpoint, Cherokee Run is very much "his own man" rather than being easily pigeonholed as "a Blushing Groom (FR) line stallion."