Sunday, December 26, 2010

Eskendereya's half-sister graduates at second asking on Tampa turf

John Duca/Tom Cooley

Favored Wear Red, Eskendereya's two-year-old half-sister by first-crop sire Henny Hughes, rallied in the stretch of a one-mile maiden special weight turf test at Tampa Bay Downs today to prevail over nine rivals in her second start for conditioner Bill Mott.

The Kentucky-bred bay filly is the third winner from Seattle Slew's daughter, Aldebaran Light, who, in addition to Eskendereya, has also produced the graded stakes-winning Balmont (by Nureyev's son, Stravinsky), who captured the Shadwell Stud Middle Park Stakes-G1 and three other races in England.

Notably, each of Aldebaran Light's winners to-date is by a Northern Dancer-line stallion.  As such, they are all inbred to the influential foundation mare, Almahmoud, who is the second dam of Northern Dancer and the fifth dam of Aldebaran Light.

Wear Red's sire, Henny Hughes, is by Storm Cat's high-class son, Hennessy, whose last two-year-olds raced this year.  Henny Hughes himself was a top sprinter who captured the Grade I Vosburgh and King's Bishop but never won a race beyond seven furlongs.  To-date, he has sired two minor stakes-placed horses but has yet to get his first stakes winner.

Wear Red, who races in the colors of her breeder, Sanford R. Robertson, was offered at last year's Keeneland September sale before Eskendereya had made his first start, but was a buyback at $160,000.  In contrast, her half-sister by Giant's Causeway's son, First Samurai, sold for $525,000 at this year's Keeneland September auction, and was the top-priced yearling for her sire in 2010.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Comma to the Top looks like he could be a good one

Benoit Photo/Hollywood Park
Though the start of Saturday's Cash Call Futurity--Hollywood Park's last Grade I race of the year--was held up for 30 minutes while favored Comma to the Top had a shoe replaced, the two-year-old gelding came out running as if nothing was amiss.  And when Corey Nakatani pushed the button, he effortlessly accelerated in the stretch of the mile and a sixteenth contest and beat everyone else to the wire, holding back even the relentless closing charge of the talented J. P.'s Gusto.  He won like a good horse does, and now his sights are on next spring's Run for the Roses.

Indeed, Comma to the Top's victory in the Cash Call Futurity was only the latest in what is now a five-race winning skein.  He's now won half of his 10 starts, including the Grade III Generous Stakes on the Hollywood turf, and earned $551,600.  Not a bad return on the $22,000 price he brought at auction earlier this year.

Comma to the Top is by far the most successful performer for his modestly priced sire, Bwana Charlie, who stands for $2500 in Ocala.  The bay gelding is a member of Bwana Charlie's second crop, and is the first graded stakes winner for this son of the tried and true Indian Charlie, who rocketed to prominence again this year because of the eye-catching exploits of his Uncle Mo, the all-but-crowned Two-Year-Old Champion Colt of 2010.  His talented daughter, Indian Blessing, was Champion Two-Year-Old Filly in 2007.

A cursory glance at Comma to the Top's pedigree wouldn't have pegged him as one who would become one of the best of his generation, and he was largely dismissed by the commercial marketplace, fetching a bid of onloy $5000 from astute pinhooker Clyde Rice, who plucked him out of the OBS October yearling sale.  Rice's Indian Prairie Ranch subsequently resold him for $22,000 to trainer Peter Miller at this year's OBS April Two-Year-Old-in-Training Sale.  Miller ran Comma to the Top in two maiden claimers; he won his first race for a $50,000 tag at Del Mar in July.

Comma to the Top is out of the Stormy Atlantic mare, Maggies Storm, who is a half-sister to the hard-knocking Yes He's a Pistol, a stakes-winning won of Yes It's True who has so far won 15 races in 71 starts and compiled earnings of $336,868.  It's a family that seems to produce runners who are genuine and sound, and perhaps just a notch below the highest calibre.

So what's the explanation for Comma to the Top's rise to the ranks of elite runners?  It might be in the fact that he's got no less than four distant crosses of the great Almahmoud, who John P. Sparkman has called, "the single most influential broodmare of the 20th century's second half."  And rightfully so.  Almahmoud is the ancestress of Bwana Charlie's maternal grandsire, the influential Halo (out of Cosmah), as well as of Northern Dancer (out of Natalma), who appears in Comma to the Top's pedigree both through Stormy Atlantic and in Bwana Charlie's fourth and fifth generation.

This pattern of inbreeding to Almahmoud by nicking the Northern Dancer and Halo lines has been a tried and true method of producing high-class athletes.  Among its most famous examples is two-time Champion Filly and Mare, Ashado (by Halo's son, Saint Ballado, out of Goulash, by Northern Dancer's son, Mari's Book).  And this year, we saw a similar pedigree pattern repeated in Eskendereya (Giant's Causeway -- Aldebaran Light, by Seattle Slew), whose brilliance was cut short before it really had a chance to shine. 

Whether Comma to the Top will be in the same league remains to be seen, but it's clear that he's moving in the right direction.