French Deputy, the sire of unbeaten Bella Bellucci, stood at Robert Clay's Three Chimneys Farm near Midway, Ky., from the time he entered stud in 1996 until late 2000, when the Yoshida family's Shadai Corp. purchased the son of Deputy Minister to stand in Japan.
Too bad for American breeders. As has happened with a number of other horses sold to Japan, French Deputy's offspring really began to heat up soon after the deal was announced last December. In 2001, the son of Deputy Minister has sired eight stakes winners, by far his best year to date from three crops to race and bringing his stakes winning total to 12.
Five of those stakes winners won their added-money races as 2-year-olds, including Bella Bellucci, who won the Astarita Stakes (gr. II) on Oct. 8 in just her second career start.
There was a very good reason for the interest from Japan in French Deputy. His top two money winners are racing in Japan, including Kurofune, a 3-year-old full brother Bella Bellucci. Kurofune was stakes placed in Japan last year and is a grade I winner there this year at a mile. Like Bella Bellucci, Kurofune is a gray. The other top Japanese runner by French Deputy is Nobo Jack, who has won five stakes there, but none higher than grade II.
In this country, Left Bank, from French Deputy's first crop, is his most accomplished runner, having taken the Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) recently at seven furlongs. Other current-year stakes winners are Queue (New Castle Handicap), Latour (Davone Dale Stakes, gr. II), French Assault (El Joven Stakes), and Meggie Meg (Bayou City Stakes).
Neil Drysdale, the trainer of Bella Bellucci, also trained French Deputy, who raced for his breeders, Irving and Marjorie Cowan. The Cowans also raced French Deputy's dam, the grade I stakes-winning Mitterand, trained by Randy Winick. Mitterand, by Hold Your Peace and out of Laredo Lass, by Bold Ruler, was a bit more durable than French Deputy, winning six of 17 starts over three seasons of racing, beginning with her 3-year-old year in 1984. French Deputy, by contrast, ran just six times during his 2- and 3-year-old season, winnning four times.
French Deputy, a muscular chestnut, won at first asking in a November maiden contest at Hollywood Park, going wire to wire over six furlongs and drawing off by five lengths. He was rested until February, when Drysdale found an easy allowance race at Santa Anita, where the colt settled off the pace and moved with a rush on the turn to win by 2 3/4. Three weeks later French Deputy was tried around two turns and he responded with a powerful 11-length victory, a race that put him squarely in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) picture. However, a deep foot bruise sidelined him for the rest of spring and summer.
When he returned in the fall, French Deputy won the one-mile Jerome Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park Sept. 4 by four lengths, beating the top sprinter Mr. Greeley. He came back a month later, finishing second as an odds-on favorite in an allowance race. French Deputy's final career start came in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Belmont. Sent off at 14-1 odds, French Deputy did not handle the muddy track and was never a factor, finishing more than 18 lengths behind Cigar.
French Deputy entered stud in 1996 with a $15,000 live foal fee that increased to $17,500 in his third year. His progeny sold well as yearlings, with a $70,451 average from his first crop and $81,393 in his second. French Deputy ranked 13th by progeny earnings among first-crop sires in 1999, and he moved up to just 12th the following year. His yearling average declined to $52,556 in 2000 and Three Chimneys agreed to sell him. This year's yearlings averaged $53,644. He is currently eighth on the list of third-crop sires (through Oct. 7).
Blue Avenue, a daughter of Classic Go Go, produced Bella Bellucci. The gray or roan mare won a minor stakes at the Pleasanton fair in Northern California at three and won 5-of-20 starts overall, racing from 1992-94. Kurofune was her third foal, and first to gain black type. Bella Bellucci is her fourth foal.
Blue Avenue's dam, Eliza Blue, was unraced, but she produced the top-class mare Brought to Mind, winner of the Vanity Invitational Handicap (gr. I), the Milady Handicap (gr. I), and five other stakes. Brought to Mind (by Ruthie's Native) won 11-of-36 career starts.
Bella Bellucci was the top-priced filly when agent Demi O'Byrne bought her on behalf of Michael Tabor for $925,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of 2-year-olds in training this February. She was pinhooked for $100,000 from the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale by J.J. Crupi's New Castle Farm.
Neil Drysdale has a very good Breeders' Cup record: six wins, three seconds and a third from 22 starts. In Bella Bellucci, he has a filly by a well-bred, hot sire out of a dam that produced a top miler in Japan. The gray filly has a long stride that seems suited to Belmont Park, but she was fast enough earlier this year to nearly top a 2-year-old sale where quick bursts of speed help bring top dollar.