Domino Lives On Through Good Night Shirt

Domino Lives On Through Good Night Shirt
Photo: Skip Dickstein
Good Night Shirt

When Sonny Via’s Good Night Shirt galloped away from his rivals in the final stretch of the Grand National Hurdle Stakes (NSA-I) at Far Hills, he virtually guaranteed himself a second consecutive Eclipse Award as champion steeplechaser. He also wrote one more chapter into the ongoing saga that is the Domino male line. Scarcely ever more than one good stallion away from extinction in the last 50 years, the Domino line has nonetheless persevered with success disproportionate to its numbers.

Domino himself was a portent of things to come. A great sprinter-miler who won 19 of 25 starts and was only once defeated at distances of a mile or less, he died at age 6 after siring just 19 named foals, only four of which were intact males. Yet of those four, two were successful sires: Disguise, whose best runners were the twice-champion filly Maskette and the grand sprinter Iron Mask (a gelding), and Commando, winner of the 1901 Belmont Stakes.

Like Domino, Commando proved short-lived, and he sired only 27 foals before his premature death. But three of his sons became important sires: the highly inbred Ultimus (out of Domino’s daughter Running Stream), sire of 1928 leading sire High Time and the good stallion Stimulus; 1907 Belmont Stakes winner Peter Pan, whose male line continued through the mid-20th Century thanks to such horses as Equipoise, Spy Song, and Bimelech; and unbeaten Colin, through whom the modern branch of Domino’s line descends.

The fact that Colin played any role in perpetuating a sire line is itself remarkable, as he was subfertile and sired only 83 foals during a long stud career. Further, unlike Domino and Commando, he was not able to sire an outstanding racehorse among his sons. Nonetheless, Colin’s son Neddie sired Good Goods, whose son Alsab was a champion at 2 and 3 in 1941 and 1942, respectively. Alsab, in turn, sired Armageddon, whose son Battle Joined became the sire of 1971 Horse of the Year Ack Ack. Ack Ack carried the line through the remaining part of the 20th Century by siring 1994 leading sire Broad Brush, who has been pensioned since 2004 but has several sons active in stud service.

Concern played a major role in making Broad Brush the leading sire of 1994 by winning that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). However, he was handicapped as a sire prospect by his small size (under 15.3 hands), his late-running style, and a pedigree that was solid enough in terms of racing quality but far from fashionable. At the time of Concern’s retirement, Broad Brush had not established any reputation as a sire of sires, and today, Include   seems to be the only son of Broad Brush with any real chance of maintaining the male line in North America. (Another Broad Brush son, grade I winner Mongoose, was recently exported to Peru; it remains to be seen whether he will prove a success in South America. Additionally, grade III winner Maybry’s Boy entered stud in New York in 2008.)

Concern’s female family has not been noted for sire production either, although it has produced some good racehorses prior to Concern. His dam, Fara’s Team, won the 1988 Test Stakes (gr. I) and came from a family that had produced Brazilian champion sprinter Mr. McCartney, but she was sired by the relatively unknown multiple grade II winner Tunerup, a son of 1970 American Derby winner The Pruner (by Herbager), and was produced from Specialization, whose sire, the Raise a Native horse Princely Native, was another modest stallion. The dam of Specialization, Special Vintage, was, in turn, sired by Specialmante, a well-bred failure as a racehorse but a fairly good sire for Fred Hooper in Florida. This was not the kind of lineage that would help promote a young stallion, and after failing to impress breeders during eight seasons in Maryland, Concern moved to Oklahoma in 2004. He currently stands at the Oklahoma Equine Hospital in Washington, OK.

Before Concern departed Maryland, however, Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Bowman took the opportunity to send their mare Hot Story to him for the mating that resulted in Good Night Shirt. A stakes-placed daughter of the good Mid-Atlantic regional sire Two Punch (by Mr. Prospector), Hot Story has produced four other winners, including a multiple stakes-placed 3-year-old Lion Hearted filly. Hot Story herself is arguably the best runner produced by her dam, the stakes-winning T. V. Commercial mare Media Girl. Media Girl is, in turn, out of Biava (by 1973 Canadian Horse of the Year Kennedy Road), a stakes-placed half-sister to the minor stakes winner Crumbs (by Bagdad). The family traces back to the Teddy mare Tedmelia, dam of 1950 Travers Stakes winner and Belmont Stakes runner-up Lights Up, and a full sister to Sun Teddy, ancestor of the modern American branch of the Teddy male line that survives today through sons and grandsons of 1967 Horse of the Year Damascus.

As a steeplechaser, Good Night Shirt would be a most unlikely source to continue the Domino male line even if he were not a gelding. Nonetheless, he has added another set of laurels to a male line that has gathered plenty despite its small numbers. One can only hope that he is not the swan song for this old American line.

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