Sunday, August 28, 2011

What makes Hot Summer so good?

Hot Summer bests Maple Forest in the Victory Ride
Photo:  Adam Coglianese, Courtesy of NYRA
With her victory in yesterday's six-furlong Victory Ride Stakes-G3 at Saratoga, Hot Summer proved that her previous triumph over eventual Grade I winner Her Smile in last spring's Comely was no fluke.  

The three-year-old Malibu Moon filly is fast cementing her credentials as a specialist at distances up to a mile, and a peak at her pedigree suggests why she was cut out to be a good one.  She has now won or placed in six of her seven career starts, and earned $245,700.

Purchased for $180,000 by current owner Harold Queen at the 2009 Keeneland September sale, Hot Summer is the third foal from the stakes-placed Quiet American mare, Summer Delight, who has also produced stakes-placed Southwest (by Cozzene).  The mare's yearling colt by Hard Spun will be offered for sale next month at Keeneland, and her two-year-old Lemon Drop Kid colt, Stirred Up, who brought $420,000 at last year's venue, is in training at Del Mar.

Hot Summer is the latest in a line of top-class fillies from A. P. Indy's son, Malibu Moon, who has established quite a reputation as a sire of good distaff runners, including Grade I winners Life At Ten, Devil May Care, Malibu Mint, Malibu Prayer, and Funny Moon.

Shortly after Hot Summer entered the winner's circle at Saratoga, Pedigree Consultants tweeted:  "Crazy good nick for Hot Summer--son of A. P. Indy over a Quiet American mare."   And indeed, the cross has produced Champion Bernardini (by A. P. Indy out of Quiet American's graded stakes-winning daughter, Cara Rafaela), Grade II winners A P Warrior and Astrology, and this year's Busanda winner, Dance Quietly.

A. P. Indy and his sons have actually done well not only with daughters of Quiet American, but also with mares by other sons of Fappiano, too.  This pattern has produced Wood Memorial winners Tapit (Pulpit/Unbridled) and I Want Revenge (Stephen Got Even/Roy), Grade I winner A. P. Adventure (A. P. Indy/Fappiano), Grade II winner Apart (Flatter/Unbridled), and the current graded stakes-placed two-year-old colt, Brigand (Flatter/Quiet American).

But in my opinion, it's not just this nick that makes Hot Summer's pedigree so noteworthy.  Rather, it's the fact that Hot Summer descends from the great foundation mare, Missy Baba, who is her fifth dam as well as the fourth dam of her grandsire, A. P. Indy.  To make it even more intriguing, Hot Summer carries two more crosses of this superior female family by virtue of the fact that she is inbred to Broodmare of the Year Weekend Surprise, the dam of both A. P. Indy and Summer Squall (sire of her second dam).  She beautifully embodies the "Rasmussen Factor," a pattern of female family inbreeding through different individuals that has consistently produced a higher-than-average percentage of graded stakes winners.

Interestingly, Hot Summer's breeders, Lazy Lane Farms, sought to replicate this pattern when they bred her dam, Summer Delight, to A. P. Indy's close relative, Lemon Drop Kid, a mating that produced the aforementioned two-year-old colt, Stirred Up.  By Kingmambo, Lemon Drop Kid is out of Weekend Surprise's half-sister, Charming Lassie (by Seattle Slew).  

Stirred Up is therefore inbred to Lassie Dear (dam of both Weekend Surprise and Charming Lassie), 3 x 5.  And as a result, Missy Baba appears as the fifth dam of both Lemon Drop Kid and Stirred Up, who seems to have the birthright to be as good as or better than his Victory Ride-winning half-sister.  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

How much more can Indian Tale take?

Indian Tale wins a $75,000 claimer at Saratoga on August 11th
Photo:  Tod Marks
I'm praying that it doesn't rain tomorrow.

If it does, and the Grade II Woodford Reserve Lake Placid Stakes is taken off the turf at Saratoga, trainer Richard Dutrow will send his recently claimed three-year-old filly, Indian Tale, to the starting gate for what will be her fifth race in 14 days.  What in the world is he thinking?

The controversial conditioner must not have been in the room at the Gideon Putnam last Sunday when the University of Glasgow's Tim Parkin delivered his compelling presentation on The Jockey Club's Equine Injury Database (EID), highlighting what are now becoming predictable causative factors leading to race-related catastrophic breakdowns.

Based on an analysis of 1.5 million starts between November, 2008 and October, 2010, EID researchers have been able to identify certain variables that put thoroughbred racehorses at greatest risk of fatal lower limb injuries.  Among these is the number of starts within one and six months prior to a particular race, with a positive correlation between a higher number of starts and a higher risk of injury.  Having made four starts within an 11-day period this month alone, Indian Tale seems to be moving rapidly into a high-risk category, and that's a shame.

Purchased for $65,000 by Flying Zee Stables at the 2010 Midlantic Two-Year-Old-In-Training Sale, Indian Tale had been slowly and carefully nurtured by her original trainer, Carlos Martin, who had her perfectly primed to win her debut:  a five-and-a-half furlong maiden special weight contest at Aqueduct last November.  She didn't race again until April of this year, when she finished a tiring seventh against $50,000 claiming foes at Gulfstream.

After that lackluster effort, Martin worked with the filly for three months before entering her again at Saratoga, in a five-and-a-half-furlong Allowance/Optional Claiming race on August 7th.  Indian Tale rewarded the trainer's patience with a sharp second place finish, but when she got back to the unsaddling area, she was led to Dutrow's barn, rather than to Martin's, having been haltered for $35,000.

Dutrow wheeled Indian Tale right back four days later in a $75,000 claimer at seven furlongs, and her new owner, J. W. Singer LLC (Jose Singer) collected the $33,000 winner's share of the purse after the filly demonstrated a strong closing kick and got up to win by more than three lengths.

Far from being content to have virtually broken even on Indian Tale's purchase price in a matter of days, the Singer/Dutrow team apparently figured that they could keep squeezing the lemon until the game filly ran dry.  So Dutrow waited only two days before he entered her again, this time in a one-mile contest originally carded for the turf.  And on August 15th, just four days after her second career victory, Indian Tale entered the starting gate again, in a seven-furlong allowance race that was switched to the dirt when the rains intervened.  Once again, she ran her heart out, and in spite of having been bumped at the break, she finished a willing second while contributing another $12,720 to the coffers of her connections.  But they wanted more.

As racing fans watched in disbelief, Indian Tale was led to the starting gate yet again just two days ago, on August 18th, in a one-mile grassy starter handicap.  This time, though, the filly had finally had enough.  After colliding with another horse soon after the start, she never got into the fray and was eased in the stretch, crossing the finish line some 40 lengths behind the winner.  The lemon had finally been squeezed dry, or so it appeared to everyone but the Singer/Dutrow camp.

Undeterred by the exhausted filly's performance, they've entered Indian Tale to run in tomorrow's Lake Placid, but she's listed as "main track only," and will only go if wet weather forces the race off the turf.

By Storm Cat's high-class son, Tale of the Cat, out of the A. P. Indy mare, Indy Power, Indian Tale was bred to be a good one.  Her third dam is a half-sister to influential sire, Clever Trick, and her fourth dam, Kankakee Miss, is the ancestress of Queen's Plate-G1 winner, Alydeed.

Though she may not have quite lived up to her lofty genetic heritage, Indian Tale has shown courage and heart and a modicum of talent, giving and giving until she had nothing more to offer.  She deserves better than to be run into the ground.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Union Rags impresses in the Saratoga Special

Union Rags splashes to victory in the Saratoga Special
Photo: Adam Coglianese, Courtesy of NYRA
As Union Rags drew off in the sloppy stretch to defeat five two-year-old rivals in the 106th running of the Saratoga Special, announcer Tom Durkin exclaimed, "Just a two-year-old frolicking in the mud!"  And indeed, that's how easily Union Rags won the Grade II contest, even though he veered out awkwardly as he approached the wire.  It didn't matter, because the colt was much the best.

The handsome bay son of Dixie Union, conditioned by Barbaro's trainer, Michael Matz, was winning his second race in as many starts, after a successful debut in a five-furlong maiden special weight contest at Delaware last month.  Union Rags has now banked $318,800, and is on his way to repaying the $390,000 that his breeder Phyllis Wyeth (aka "Chadds Ford Stable") paid to buy him back at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Two-Year-Old Sale in March.

The colt had been pinhooked to the two-year-old venue by IEAH, which had plucked him out of the 2010 Saratoga Selected Yearlings Sale, where Wyeth had sold him for $145,000.  With his victory in the Saratoga Special, Union Rags earned a $200,000 bonus for Ms. Wyeth, because he was the first member of the crop sold at last year's Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearlings Sale to win a graded stakes at Saratoga.

Union Rags is from one of the last crops sired by Dixie Union, a multiple graded stakes-winning son of Dixieland Band who won seven of his 12 starts at two and three, including the Grade II Norfolk at a mile, the Grade I Malibu at seven furlongs, and the Grade I Haskell at a mile and an eighth.  The rangy, long-striding colt gives every indication that like his sire, he'll have no problem going a greater distance than the six-and-a-half furlongs he conquered today.

Union Rags has a strong infusion of stamina from the family of his dam, the winning Gone West mare, Tempo, who has produced six other winners, including Union Rags' full brother, the stakes-placed Geefour.  His second dam, the superior turf mare, Terpsichorist (by Nijinsky II) is herself a multiple stakes producer, out of the influential Glad Rags (GB), a Champion Two-Year-Old Filly in Ireland.  She is the ancestress of many good horses, including Belmont and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Colonial Affair.

While Union Rags represents Dixie Union's first stakes winner from a Gone West mare, he is but one of several stakes winners produced by the stallion when he was bred to mares by Mr. Prospector and his sons.  Other successful examples of this nick include last year's Demoiselle-G2 winner, Dixie City (from City Sister, by Brilliant/Intermediate Chef-de-Race Carson City), multiple graded stakes winner, Gone Astray (from Illicit, by Mr. Prospector), and Astarita-G3 winner Sensation (from Ryn, by Mr. Prospector).

As for what lies ahead for Union Rags, trainer Matz is considering his options.  "Obviously, our main goal is for next year," he said, "but we'll just have to see how he is and look for something in about a month or five weeks."  After the way he ran today, it's hard not to believe that the best of Union Rags is yet to come.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Broken Vow colt stands out at the Saratoga sale

Hip #103 at the 2011 Saratoga Selected Yearlings Sale
Credit:  Fasig-Tipton
The buzz at the Saratoga Selected Yearlings Sale may be all about the Bernardinis, but if you judge success by a seller's return on investment, and how far a horse exceeds the expected norm, look no further than Hip #103, the Broken Vow colt--the only one by his sire at this venue--who brought $440,000.

The colt had previously sold as a Keeneland November weanling for $165,000 (more than six times his $25,000 stud fee), by far outshining the other members of his crop, who as a group averaged $62,600.

Consigned at Saratoga by Gainesway, as agent, and purchased by Mark Casse, as agent, the dark bay or brown colt out of the graded stakes-placed Copelan mare, Copelan's Angel, must be a physical standout to command these prices.  In 2010, Broken Vow's 47 sale yearlings averaged $44,964, with a filly out of the stakes-winning Cat Thief mare, Cohiba Miss, fetching the highest price--$240,000--at last year's Keeneland September sale.  Subsequently named, "Lady Cohiba," the now two-year-old filly, purchased by Live Oak Plantation, is currently in training at Belmont.

Trainer Mark Casse knows Copelan's Angel well, having consigned her to two OBS Two-Year-Old-in-Training sales back in 1997, where she was sold for $55,000.  She went on to win or place in eight of her 11 starts, including a third in the Grade III Selima, while earning $134,195.

Copelan's Angel's previous foal, a 2009 colt by Corinthian (who stands for $25,000), had caught the eye of EQB's Patrice Miller, who bought him at last September's Keeneland sale for $100,000.  In order to qualify under EQB's stringent selection criteria, a yearling must have an excellent cardiovascular system, and meet other rigid biomechanical benchmarks, so it certainly appears that Copelan's Angel is producing some athletic-looking foals.

But her foals don't just look good, they run well, too.  Five of the mare's eight foals of racing age are winners, including the stakes winning Skip Away filly Fly Away Angel, and stakes-placed In the Paint (by Tiznow).

Broken Vow, a multiple graded stakes-winning son of Champion Unbridled, out of the Nijinsky II mare, Wedding Vow, is perhaps best known for his outstanding fillies, having sired Grade I winners Unbridled Belle, Sassy Image, Cotton Blossom, and Panamanian Champion Broken Wedding.

The colt by Broken Vow out of Copelan's Angel is bred on a pattern similar to that which produced Grade II stakes winner Rockport Harbor (by Unbridled's Song out of a Copelan mare).  The match merits an A+ TrueNicks rating.  With a solid record of performance in the sales arena, and the pedigree and conformation to match, this free-striding colt will be one to watch when he hits the racetrack.