by Alan Porter
When 2006 Hollywood Starlet Stakes (gr. I) stakes winner Romance Is Diane went through the first 10 months of 2007 with no wins and only a second and third in non-graded stakes to show from five starts, it looked as if she was another good 2-year-old who had failed to train on. Then, Nov. 3, she lined up for the California Cup Matron Handicap. Heading straight to the head of affairs in the 8 ½-furlong event, she set demanding fractions of :22.98, :46.77, 1:09.84, and 1:34.07, before crossing the line six lengths clear in 1:40.38, a track record for Santa Anita’s all-weather surface. Returning just under a month later for the Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II), Romance Is Diane was once again a monster on the lead. Shrugging off grade I winner Sugar Shake in the early stages, Romance Is Diane then held off the challenge of Tough Tiz’s Sis after the six-furlong mark to win by a length in a new Hollywood Park 8 ½-furlong Cushion Track record of 1:40.90. Recalling that Tough Tiz’s Sis – who did concede 5 pounds – defeated Emirates Airline Breeder’s Cup Distaff (gr. I) runner-up Hystericalady in a Breeder’s Cup prep, the Lady’s Secret Stakes (gr. I), it can be see that Romance Is Diane is back very near the top of her age group.
Romance Is Diane is the latest credit for California sire In Excess, who has long been the leading contender for the unofficial title of “best North American sire standing outside of Kentucky.” That he could rise to that level of achievement would have been hard to predict when In Excess retired to stud. In Excess began his racing career in Europe, where he won three times at 2 and 3, without earning black type. Brought to the U.S., In Excess was initially campaigned on turf, and as a 3-year-old he took three stakes events, including the Volante and San Gabriel Handicaps (both gr. III). The following year, In Excess moved on to the dirt, and that surface proved a revelation, the 4-year-old taking the Whitney Handicap, Woodward Stakes, Suburban Handicap, and Metropolitan Handicap (all gr. I). Kept in training for another year, In Excess failed to recapture his 4-year-old form, but did take second in the San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) and third in the Metropolitan and Carter Handicaps (both gr. I).
Despite his excellent race record, when In Excess retired to stud in California (first at Rancho Why Worry, and since 1994 at Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall), he took with him a pedigree that at first look did not even hint at the potential to become an outstanding sire. He is by Siberian Express, a son of Caro who was not a terribly consistent runner, but who did put up an impressive performance to take the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French Two Thousand Guineas, Fr-I). At stud, Siberian Express sired a total of 12 stakes winners from 321 foals, but only three other group/graded stakes winners . Nor was there much cause for optimism in the distaff side of In Excess’s pedigree. The dam, Kantado, a daughter of the English sprinter (and disappointing sire) Saulingo, was also granddam of Irish group winner Smart Guest, but no important stakes winners are to be found under the next two dams. Initially, In Excess struggled to attract mares, and he got only 125 foals in his first four crops – a figure which these days is attained by some of the most popular horses in just one crop. However, 14 stakes winners emerged from those four crops, with the Hollywood Prevue Stakes (gr. III) winner In Excessive Bull in the first crop and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Indian Charlie – now a leading sire in his own right – in the second. In Excess continued to build on that momentum, and with 12 crops of racing age, he now has 51 stakes winners, including – in addition to Romance Is Diane, In Excessive Bull, and Indian Charlie – Musical Chimes, winner of the Gainsborough Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French One Thousand Guineas, Fr-I), John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT), and Oak Tree Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IIT); Romanceishope, a brother to Romance Is Diane who took the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT); Notional, winner this year of the Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) and San Rafael Stakes (gr. II); Del Mar Futurity (gr. II) victor Icecoldbeeratreds; other graded scorers Icantgoforthat, Above Perfection, and Uncle Denny; and Texcess and Valentine Dancer, who have both earned more than a million dollars without gaining graded stakes wins.
Romance Is Diane and Romanceishope are the only two foals sired by In Excess out of Romantic Fibs, who has one additional winner from four other foals of racing age. A winner at 2, Romantic Fibs is by the versatile Kris S. horse Prized, winner of the Swaps Stakes (gr. II) – in which he defeated Sunday Silence – and Molson Export Million on the dirt, and the Breeders’ Cup Turf and San Luis Rey Stakes (both gr. IT) on the grass. While Prized represents stamina, the second dam, Scatillac, is a daughter of a champion sprinter in Groovy, by Norcliff. Scatillac never ran, and produced only five foals, of which two were minor winners. She is, however, half-sister to the stakes-winning and graded stakes-placed Formidable Lady, and to Silveroo, the dam of millionaire Badge of Silver (both Formidable Lady and Silveroo were by Silver Hawk, a son of Kris S.’s sire, Roberto, and so bred along similar lines to Romantic Fibs). Badge of Silver stands at Brereton Jones' Airdrie Stud near Midway, Ky. His 2008 fee will be $15,000.
Romance Is Diane’s third dam, Hey Mama, won three minor stakes at Louisiana Downs and was by the Prince John horse High Tribute, winner of the Jerome Handicap. Hey Mama is out of Pat’s Mama, a minor winner by Hospitality, he a relatively obscure son of Hail to Reason who raced only at 2, when he captured a division of the National Stallion Stakes. However, although her sire is relatively unknown, Pat’s Mama’s dam is Momamamu, who gained fame as second dam of New York filly Triple Crown heroine Mom’s Command, and who is also granddam of the Wood Memorial Stakes victor Good Behaving, and third dam of another Hollywood Starlet Stakes heroine, I’m Splendid. This is a famous Whitney family which goes back to Momamamu’s third dam, Schwester, a sister to Equipoise.
In Excess has worked over an extremely wide range of different strains, and, with a considerable amount of his pedigree being obscure as far as mainstream U.S. breeding is concerned, it’s not surprising his offspring are generally fairly outcrossed at five and six generations.
The probable key to his success is a deep accumulation of unusual concentrations and sources of strains which are common in the background of the modern North American Thoroughbred. His dam has a rarely seen double of English Two Thousand Guineas winner Diophon, accompanied by a cross of his three-parts brother Diadumenos. Diaphon is by English Derby winner Grand Parade whose grandsire, Orme, was by unbeaten Ormonde out of a sister to unbeaten St. Simon. Grand Parade’s dam, Grand Geraldine, had a very similar genetic background to Selene , dam of the tremendously important stallions Hyperion (seen twice in In Excess’ sixth generation), Sickle (in the male line of Native Dancer) and Pharamond II (in the male line of Tom Fool). In Excess also has a sixth-generation double of the top-class runner and broodmare Teresina (as do the dams of classic heroes Funny Cide and Empire Maker). She is by Tracery, who is something of reverse to Grand Parade (by a grandson of Orme out of a mare by a son of St. Simon), as he is by a stallion who has St. Simon as his broodmare sire, and is out of a mare by Orme. To this tight package of St. Simon and his sister we can add that In Excess has two rarely seen strains of the Frizette family (from whence came Mr. Prospector and Seattle Slew), one of La Troienne’s half-sister Adargatis (thus adding more St. Simon combined with Ormonde), and daughters of brothers Pharos and Fairway.
Romantic Fibs has any number of strains which link back into In Excess’ background, but it is interesting to note her sire has a Hail to Reason/Princequillo cross through Kris S., while her second dam is a reverse of that cross. Princequillo links particularly strongly into the combinations of Grand Parade/Selene in the pedigree of In Excess. Princequillo's dam, Cosquilla, is bred on the same cross as the notable mare, Teresina, who we mentioned as being duplicated in the pedigree of the dam of In Excess.