Thursday, July 5, 2012

Clear Attempt burnishes the legacy of A. P. Indy and the Wygods

Clear Attempt wins the Poker-G3 at Belmont on July 4, 2012
Photo: Adam Coglianese, Courtesy of NYRA
Clear Attempt, a lightly raced son of A. P. Indy out of Santa Anita Oaks-G1 winner Silent Sighs (by Benchmark) was a facile winner of the eight-furlong grassy Poker Stakes-G3 at Belmont yesterday, defeating seven other rivals to notch his first stakes victory and his third trip to the winner's circle in 11 starts.

The four-year-old dark bay or brown colt, racing in the colors of his breeders, Martin and Pam Wygod, became at least the 80th graded stakes winner for his venerable sire, whose last foals are two-year-olds of 2012.

Patiently handled by trainer Bill Mott, Clear Attempt was unraced at two.  His initial two starts, in maiden special weight company over conventional dirt at Gulfstream early last year, were undistinguished, but when the colt was switched to the grass, he became a different kind of runner, narrowly losing turf contests at Gulfstream, and over yielding ground at Keeneland, before eking out his maiden victory at a mile and a quarter over good turf at Belmont last June.  He went on to place at Saratoga before capturing his second race, over allowance foes, at nine furlongs on firm turf at Churchill Downs last November.

In two prior outings this year, Clear Attempt placed in grassy allowance/optional claiming events at Gulfstream and at Belmont, where he was nosed out in a head bob on May 18th, a race that perfectly primed him for his winning effort in the Poker.  Clear Attempt has now won or placed in eight of 11 starts, amassing earnings of $197,902, a bankroll that seems certain to grow.

Clear Attempt is a product of the Wygods' breeding program, through and through.  They raced and bred Clear Attempt's first three dams, who trace back to the Chilean mare, Viga (by Schleswig), a winner of the 1000 Guineas in her native country before being imported to the U.S.

Clear Attempt is the third winner and first stakes winner from his dam, Silent Sighs, one of the classiest performers sired by Benchmark, a grade II stakes winner by Alydar who the Wygods campaigned in the name of their River Edge Farm.  His best-known runner is Brother Derek, winner of the Hollywood Futurity-G1 and Santa Anita Derby-G1, who now stands at Airdrie.  His first foals race this year.

Clear Attempt is one of several graded stakes winners produced by crossing A. P. Indy or his sons with mares by Alydar or one of his sons.  The others include the full siblings (by A. P. Indy out of Private Status, by Alydar) Secret Status, winner of the Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose, and Alumni Hall, who captured the grade III Ben Ali and Fayette Stakes; A P Valentine (by A. P. Indy out of Twenty Eight Carat, by Alydar), who won the Champagne-G1 and placed in both the Preakness and the Belmont; Corinthian (by Pulpit out of Multiply, by Easy Goer), a top dirt miler who won both the Metropolitan-G1 and the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile; and CCA Oaks-G1 winner Funny Moon (by Malibu Moon out of Fun Crowd, by Easy Goer).  Interestingly, none of these runners showed a prowess for the grass, and of the graded-stakes caliber horses produced by the A. P. Indy/Alydar cross, Clear Attempt is preceded only by Fisher Pond (by A. P. Indy out of Chipeta Springs, by Alydar), a grade III-winning half-brother to two-time turf champion Gio Ponti, in his ability to score on the turf at an elite level.

Though Clear Attempt's female family seems also to be lacking in grassy credentials, the family of his maternal grandsire, Benchmark, has them aplenty.  Benchmark is a half-brother to the Wygods' top turf mare, Tranquility Lake (by Rahy), dam of the full brothers After Market and Courageous Cat (by Storm Cat), both of whom were grade I winners on the sod.  Clear Attempt's victory in the Poker gives the Wygods their second consecutive trophy for that race; Courageous Cat captured it in their colors in 2011.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bobina's short life ends tragically

Bobina (outside) broke down right after the finish line of the Senorita
Photo: Benoit, Betfair Hollywood Park

It was not an outcome that anyone could have foreseen.  Bobina, a three-year-old Malibu Moon filly, won the Grade III grassy Senorita at Betfair Hollywood Park today, narrowly prevailing after a brave stretch duel with My Gi Gi , but then, just a second after she crossed the wire, her right front ankle shattered and she fell heavily to the ground.

Her rider, Victor Espinoza, got up in short order, but Bobina never did.  In a display of misplaced zeal, Kevin Krigger, the rider of My Gi Gi, claimed foul against Bobina as she awaited the veterinarian’s needle.  The stewards disallowed the claim, but no one could save Bobina.

When track vets determined that her injuries were catastrophic, they euthanized Bobina as she lay, even as the tote board flashed her number on top and bettors cashed their winning tickets.  The trophy that was meant to honor Bobina’s crowning achievement as a graded stakes winner became her memorial, instead.   It’s small consolation to the people who bred and owned her, Haras Santa Maria de Araras, or to her trainer, A. C. Avila.  They had painstakingly brought Bobina this far, only to lose her, just like that.  Horse racing can be cruel.

Bobina didn’t know how to do anything but win.  Unraced at two, she didn’t make her first start until the last day of March, when she outclassed a field of maiden special weight fillies at Santa Anita, rallying to finish more than two lengths the good of her nearest rival at a mile on the grass, the same conditions she faced in the Senorita today.

She came right back two weeks later and did it again, this time over a sloppy mile in an allowance test that had been taken off the turf.  It was that victory that inspired her connections to take a shot in the Senorita, which seemed to be the perfect spot for this up-and-coming filly who had such a bright future. 

Bobina didn’t disappoint them.  Her courage carried her over the finish line today, even as her ankle failed her.  It’s not known when Bobina sustained the injury that felled her; there was nothing to suggest she’d gone wrong until she suddenly went down. 

Bobina was the fourth foal out of the durable Dynaformer mare, Maliziosa, a multiple stakes winner who won or placed in 12 of her 22 starts, while earning $327,581. In an eerie coincidence, Bobina’s stakes-placed half-brother, Tutti Buona Gente (by Aldebaran), broke down and was vanned off just three days ago in a $10,000 claiming race at Churchill Downs.  It’s not known whether, unlike Bobina, he has survived.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Don't dismiss Kentucky Oaks contender Jemima's Pearl

Jemima's Pearl (front) works with Bodemeister at Churchill  4/29/2012
Photo:  Reed Palmer Phography, Churchill Downs

Unlike most of her rivals in the Kentucky Oaks, longshot Jemima’s Pearl has never won a stakes race, but based on her running style, and the fact that she’s held her own against her workmate, Derby favorite Bodemeister, the daughter of Distorted Humor shouldn’t be dismissed. 

A $100,000 Keeneland September yearling, Jemima’s Pearl began her two-year-old career in Ireland, where she broke her maiden at seven furlongs in her fourth career start at Dundalk, defeating Homecoming Queen, who went on to win a listed stakes last year and was the recent upset winner of the Leopardstown 1000 Guineas Trial-G3 for trainer Aidan O’Brien.

Repatriated to the U.S. this year, Jemima’s Pearl captured a mile and a sixteenth allowance test at Santa Anita in March, in her first effort on American soil, under the tutelage of conditioner Simon Callaghan.  Switched to the barn of trainer Bob Baffert, the filly ran a creditable third to Mamma Kimbo and Oaks contender Amie’s Dini in the Grade II Fantasy at Oaklawn Park

But it wasn’t until she shipped to Churchill Downs to prepare for the Oaks that people began to take notice.  She breezed side-by-side with the powerful Bodemeister on two occasions, and barely batted an eye.  Jemima’s Pearl may have been overlooked by the pundits, but she was making quite an impression among railbirds.

She’ll get her chance to prove herself among members of her own sex in the prestigious Grade I Oaks, where, in a field of fillies brimming with speed, the race may set up for Jemima’s Pearl to unleash her trademark late surge.  Her style is reminiscent of her dam, the British-bred Jemima, a closer who excelled on the turf, notching the Peugeot Lowther Stakes-G2 in England and placing in stakes company in the U.S. 

As a daughter of classic sire Distorted Humor, Jemima’s Pearl’s ability to get Oaks’ nine furlongs shouldn’t be in question.  In spite of the fact that he never won beyond a mile, Distorted Humor has been a consistent progenitor of high-class stamina, siring classic winners Funny Cide (Kentucky Derby) and Drosselmeyer (Belmont) as well as mile-and-a-quarter winners Flower Alley (Travers), and Regal Ransom (U.A.E. Derby).

Interestingly, Jemima’s Pearl has what Pedigree Consultants’ Alan Porter and Byron Rogers term a “Reverse Parallel Pattern” pedigree, in that Distorted Humor is by a Mr. Prospector-line sire (Forty Niner) out of a Danzig mare (Danzigs Beauty), while Jemima is by a Danzig-line sire (Green Desert’s son, Owington) out of a mare by Mr. Prospector’s son, Damister.  

Whatever happens in the Oaks, Jemima’s Pearl seems amply credentialed for success.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bellamy Road's All Squared Away comes into his own

All Squared Away was all alone at the wire of the Lexington
Photo:  Coady Photography/Keeneland

If ever there was a bargain basement horse gone right, it’s All Squared Away.  The three-year-old Bellamy Road gelding, who cost a mere $1000 as a yearling, came from behind to blow away a cast of 10 other high-priced contenders to win today’s Coolmore Lexington Stakes-G3 at Keeneland at odds of 70-1.  Beaten in his wake were the highly regarded Southwest Stakes winner Castaway (9th) as well as the previously undefeated Summer Front, who finished second.

All Squared Away’s victory in the prestigious mile-and-a-sixteenth contest was only his second in nine starts, but it was his first effort under the tutelage of red-hot Keeneland trainer Wesley Ward, who took over the reins from West Coast conditioner Peter Miller, part-owner of the gelding in partnership with Altamira Racing Stable and Wire to Wire Racing.   With his winner’s take from the Lexington, All Squared Away more than tripled his previous earnings, and has now amassed a bank account of $164,180.

All Squared Away raced in California until mid-March, when he was shipped east to compete in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, in which he finished sixth to Went The Day Well.  As a two-year-old, he had failed to break his maiden in $30,000 to $40,000 claiming company, at distances from four-and-a-half to six furlongs, but stepped up to win in wire-to-wire fashion in his first start at three, a mile-and-a-sixteenth maiden special weight contest over the synthetic track at Golden Gate Field. 

Based on both his race and sales record, it would appear that All Squared Away is a bit of a late bloomer.  The first foal from his unraced dam, Squared, by Posse, he was a $3000 weanling at Keeneland November, but brought but a third of that when he was pinhooked at the following year’s Fasig-Tipton October venue.   Squared herself was sold for $2000 at the 2009 Keeneland November sale, in foal to Eurosilver, and subsequently exported to South Korea

All Squared Away becomes the first graded stakes winner in the first three generations of his female family, and the fifth graded stakes winner for Bellamy Road, a son of the Kinsman Stud bred and raced Concerto, a multiple graded stakes winner by Intermediate/Solid Chef-de-Race Chief’s Crown.

Bellamy Road had a short but sparkling career on the track, and is perhaps best known for his dominating 17-length victory in the Wood Memorial, in which he equaled the Aqueduct track record for a mile and an eighth (1:47.16).  Favored in the Kentucky Derby, he finished a tiring seventh, some 18 lengths behind Giacomo, and was subsequently found to have sustained a splint injury.  In what would be his final race, Bellamy Road was a courageous second to Flower Alley in the Travers, but that effort aggravated his prior injuries, and after an unsuccessful comeback attempt at four, he was retired to stud.  All Squared Away is a member of his second crop.

Bellamy Road sired seven stakes winners from his first crop, including his top earner Toby’s Corner (out of Brandons Ride, by Mr. Frisky), who emulated his sire by winning the Wood Memorial; he has also placed in two stakes so far this year.  His other graded stakes winners are both fillies who excelled at SaratogaAdirondack winner Position Limit and last year’s Schuylerville heroine, Georgie’s Angel

There seems to be a common thread in the pedigrees of All Squared Away, Toby’s Corner, and Position Limit in that all three have at least one cross of Intermediate/Classic Chef-de-Race Damascus in their first four generations.  All Squared Away’s second dam, Second Degree, is by Time for A Change (by Damascus), while Toby’s Corner’s dam, Brandons Ride, is a granddaughter of Marsayas (by Damascus).  Interestingly, Position Limit is inbred to Arabian Dancer (by Damascus), the dam of her maternal grandsire, Out of Place, and also the fourth dam of Bellamy Road himself.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Silver Max runs to his pedigree

Silver Max winning the Transylvania-G3 at Keeneland
Photo:  Coady Photography, Courtesy of Keeneland

Silver Max burst out of the gate in the Grade III grassy Transylvania yesterday, and never looked back until he cleared the finish line.  His six rivals seemed content to let the three-year-old Badge of Silver colt gallop loose on the lead in the early part of the mile-and-a-sixteenth contest, apparently believing either that they would catch him on the turn or that he’d falter in the stretch. 

By the time they figured out that Silver Max wouldn’t easily relinquish his advantage, there wasn’t enough time to reach him.  He won by five and a half lengths in 1:41.80 and earned $60,000 for the effort, capturing his first stakes race and the first added-money event of the Keeneland spring meet on a beautiful opening day.

Silver Max could have been claimed for $50,000 in his career debut: a five-and-a-half furlong maiden race on Saratoga’s main track last July, when he was piloted by Robby Albarado, the jockey who rode him to victory yesterday.  He finished second that day, as he did in his next four attempts in maiden special weight company at varying distances on the grass, finally breaking his maiden in a one-mile maiden special weight race over firm turf at Gulfstream Park in January. 

Two weeks later, Silver Max ambitiously encountered some of the best colts of his crop in the Grade III Holy Bull, where he finished a tiring fifth over a sloppy mile to Bernardini’s Algorithms, who decisively defeated last year’s Two-Year-Old Champion, Hansen

Trainer Dale Romans wisely regrouped and ran Silver Max back to his strength six weeks later in a grassy allowance/optional claimer at the Transylvania distance, and he ran as he did yesterday, winning in wire-to-wire style by three widening lengths at Gulfstream.  The bay colt has now won or placed in eight of his nine starts, and bankrolled $169,475.

That’s a nice return on the $20,000 that Dale Romans paid for him at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton July sale.  Silver Max is the fifth foal and third winner from the winning Kissin Kris mare, Kissin Rene, a half-sister to graded stakes-winning Prince of the Mt. and to the dams of Canadian Champion Kiss a Native and Grade I stakes winner and sire Yes It’s True.  Kissin Rene has also produced the stakes-winning filly, True Kiss, by Yes It’s True’s sire, Is It True

Silver Max’s female family had been a relatively quiet one until his third dam, the Colorado-bred Party Date (by the obscure Speedy Frank) was bred to Prince of Ascot, and then it exploded.  The resulting foal was Silver Max’s second dam, Monique Rene, a tough Louisiana-bred stakes-winning sprint specialist who notched 29 races in 45 starts while earning $456,250.  Her descendants appear to have inherited her speed, and perhaps, her distance limitations.

With his victory in the Transylvania, Silver Max became the second North American graded stakes winner for his sire, the fourth-crop Silver Deputy stallion Badge of Silver, a fast, versatile performer who was effective in elite company on both dirt and turf at middle distances up to nine furlongs, capturing the Grade II New Orleans (dirt) and San Gabriel (turf) Handicaps in the colors of Ken and Sarah Ramsey.  At four, and again at six, he placed in the Cigar Mile-G1, and in his penultimate start, he was third to Turf Champion Miesque’s Approval in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Mile.    He stands at Airdrie for a published fee of $6,000.

Like Badge of Silver’s son, Fly Lexis Fly, a two-time Grade I winner in Peru who is currently being pointed to the Belmont, Silver Max is inbred to Classic Chef-de-Race Roberto, 4 x 4.  Badge of Silver’s dam, Silveroo, is a daughter of Roberto’s son, Silver Hawk, while Silver Max’s broodmare sire, Kissin Kris, is also by Roberto. 

True Nicks rates the match that produced Silver Max as an A++, and indeed, there is precedent for the cross.  Among the other stakes winners that have been bred on a similar pattern are the stakes-winning fillies Beso Grande (by Mass Media) and Devonspaintedlady (by Devon Deputy), both out of Kissin Kris mares.  When bred to daughters or granddaughters of Roberto, Deputy Minister’s son, Touch Gold, has sired stakes winners Sharp Susan (out of Winter’s Gone, by Dynaformer), Flaming Heart (out of Hot Lear, by Lear Fan), and Adobe Gold (out of Urus, by Kris S.).

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Life and Legacy of Grand Slam

Grand Slam's daughter Millionreasonswhy winning The Matron-G2
Photo:  Adam Coglianese, Courtesy of NYRA

Grand Slam, a regally bred son of champion sire Gone West who demonstrated brilliance and tenacity on the track, and as a sire, passed those attributes on to his progeny, died suddenly yesterday, felled by heart failure.  The 17-year-old stallion, who has thus far sired 73 stakes winners from 11 crops of racing age, was standing at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, Kentucky at the time of his death, for a published fee of $12,000. 

Grand Slam’s unexpected passing came just two days after the untimely demise of Coolmore’s world-class sire, Montjeu, a 16-year-old champion son of Chef-de-Race Sadler’s Wells who stood at the group’s main farm in Ireland.

Bred by Overbrook Farm, Grand Slam was a $300,000 Keeneland yearling, purchased by the partnership of Robert and Christina Baker, William Mack, and David Cornstein, who raced him under the tutelage of Wayne Lukas. 

Grand Slam signaled from the outset that he was something special, breaking his maiden by 11 lengths in his first start while equaling the Belmont track record (1:03.06) for five and a half furlongs. He went on to triumph in the Grade I Futurity and Champagne, and seemed invincible until the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, when he suffered a gash to his hind leg that not only took him out of the race, but almost ended his career.

He was never quite the same again, though his sheer courage and ability shone through again at three, when he captured the nine-furlong Peter Pan at Belmont and ignited hopes that he was good as new.  Alas, that wasn’t true.  But Grand Slam acquitted himself with honor for the rest of that season, gutting out second-place finishes in the six-furlong Breeders’ Cup Sprint-G1, the one-mile Jerome-G2, and the nine-furlong Swaps-G2, as well as a third-place effort in the Haskell. 

Visionaire winning the King's Bishop-G1 at Saratoga
Photo:  Adam Coglianese, Courtesy of NYRA
At stud, Grand Slam has sired 26 graded stakes winners, many of whom were produced from mares who, like his own dam, Bright Candles (by El Gran Senor), descend from Northern Dancer. They include Jim Dandy-G2 winner Strong Hope (out of Shining Through, by Deputy Minister), King’s Bishop-G1 victor Visionaire (out of Scarlet Tango, by French Deputy), Brooklyn Handicap-G2 winner Limehouse (out of Dixieland Blues, by Dixieland Band), Mr. Prospector-G3 winner Apriority (out of Midway Squall, by Storm Bird), Daytona-G3 turf specialist Dilemma (out of Heavenly Cat, by Tabasco Cat), and Kentucky Cup Classic-G2 hero and recent Old Friends retiree, Ball Four (out of Making Faces, by Lyphard).

Malibu Prayer winning the Ruffian-G1 at Saratoga
Photo:  Adam Coglianese, Courtesy of NYRA
Grand Slam has also shown an affinity with A. P. Indy, having sired the current Kentucky Oaks hopeful Millionreasonswhy (out of In Secure, by A. P. Indy), winner of the Matron-G2 at two and of the Wide Country Stakes at Laurel last month.  Grand Slam’s stakes-winning daughter, Grand Prayer, who brought $1 million at last November’s Edward P. Evans dispersal at Keeneland (in foal to Medaglia D’Oro), produced the highly regarded Grade I winner Malibu Prayer (by A. P. Indy), who sold for $2 million (in foal to Smart Strike) at the same dispersal.  Both mares were purchased by Besilu Stables.

In the sales ring, Grand Slam’s individuals seem to get better as they mature.  His 137 weanlings sold at auction have averaged $88,613, his 719 yearlings, $110,281, and his 191 two-year-olds, $127,412.  Grand Slam’s colts have typically brought significantly more than his fillies, and for the most part, they have outshone his fillies on the racetrack, too.  He will have one of each sex in next week’s Keeneland April Two-Year-Olds-in-Training Sale.  A dark bay or brown colt out of the Awesome Again mare, Tyne, will be offered as Hip #81, and a chestnut filly named, “Work for a Living,” out of the Tiznow mare, Tiz Maya, is catalogued as Hip #77; she was a $4500 Keeneland September yearling.

Through March 25th, Grand Slam had sired 798 winners, with average earnings per starter of over $60,000.  At the time of the stallion’s death, Coolmore’s website sported a banner broadcasting his achievement in siring four three-year-old stakes winners in just the last three weeks:  Tribune (Fr) (out of Tanguista, by War Chant); Slamit (out of Excedius, by Seattle Dancer), Millionreasonswhy, and The Lumber Guy (out of Boltono, by Unbridled’s Song).  He will be missed.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

To the Derby, via Dubai

Daddy Long Legs wins the UAE Derby-G2
Photo:  Andrew Watkins, Dubai World Cup

Daddy Long Legs, a Kentucky-bred son of red hot sire Scat Daddy, bested a stellar international field of 13 other three-year-olds to win the mile and three-sixteenths UAE Derby-G2 on the undercard of the Dubai World Cup at Meydan today.   He was the only U.S.-bred runner to capture one of the prestigious contests on World Cup day.

With his victory over Meydan’s synthetic Tapeta surface, in his first start of the year, the long-striding chestnut avenged his 12th place finish in last November’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, which was captured by eventual Two-Year-Old Champion Hansen.  He also defeated the reigning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf  hero, Wrote, who finished third.  All three colts are likely to meet again in the Kentucky Derby, to be run at Churchill Downs on May 5th.

The lightly raced Daddy Long Legs, who runs in the Coolmore colors of John Magnier, Derrick Smith, and Michael Tabor, has now won three of his five starts, and amassed earnings of $1,308,909, including the $1.2 million winner’s share of the UAE Derby.  That will be more than enough to ensure that he’ll get a place in the Derby starting gate, if his connections want one.  And based on the comments of his trainer, Aidan O’Brien, immediately after the race, it sounds like that’s where Daddy Long Legs is headed.

Daddy Long Legs’ stylish performance in the UAE Derby makes him the current leading earner among members of the precocious initial crop of Scat Daddy, a multiple Grade I stakes-winning son of Johannesburg who stands for $17,500 at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, Kentucky.  With 23 winners and three two-year-old stakes winners last year, Scat Daddy was 2011’s leading first crop sire.  And it looks like his progeny’s early success was no fluke.  Commenting after Daddy Long Legs’ victory today, Aidan O’Brien said, “the Scat Daddys are doing very well this year and it’s interesting that they’re improving from two to three.” 

Indeed, Scat Daddy now has two sons on the Derby Trail.  Another colt, Daddy Nose Best (out of Follow Your Bliss, by Thunder Gulch), notched last week’s $800,000 Sunland Derby-G3 in rallying style and has earned enough to guarantee his place in the Kentucky classic.

Out of the stakes-winning Meadowlake mare, Dreamy Maiden, Daddy Long Legs is bred on the same pattern as crack sprinter Henny Hughes (by Scat Daddy’s grandsire, Hennessy, out of Meadow Flyer, by Meadow Lake), who is now standing at Darley’s Lexington division.  And, like all but one of Scat Daddy’s current stakes winners, Daddy Long Legs is inbred to Northern Dancer.

He descends from the French mare, Affection, the ancestor of influential Broodmares of the Year Delta and Levee (dam of multiple Champion Shuvee).  This is also the family of Slew o’Gold, Coastal, and Aptitude.  Daddy Long Legs is the seventh foal and sixth winner from his dam, who previously produced the multiple stakes-winning Chester House filly, Tres Dream.  Dreamy Maiden brought $170,000, in foal to Street Sense, at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton November sale, while her weanling Giant’s Causeway colt RNA’d for the same price at Keeneland November. 

Daddy Long Legs was plucked out of the 2010 Fasig-Tipton July Select sale by Ashford Stud for $100,000, a price that now looks like a very smart bargain.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Animal Kingdom punches his ticket to Dubai

Animal Kingdom easily won his comeback race at Gulfstream
Photo:  Adam Coglianese, Gulfstream

In an effort that left both his connections and his legions of fans sighing with relief and admiration, Animal Kingdom impressively won his four-year-old debut over the Gulfstream turf today, easily defeating seasoned allowance rivals in his comeback effort after an eight-month layoff. 

The reigning Derby winner and Three-Year-Old Champion son of Leroidesanimaux rallied with the greatest of ease in the stretch of the mile-and-a-sixteenth contest, and once jockey Johnny Valasquez said, “go,” he was never seriously threatened, besting second-place finisher Monument Hill by two lengths and stopping the timer in 1:41.72.  Animal Kingdom has now or placed in seven of his eight lifetime starts, and has banked earnings of $1,967,500.

Responding to a chorus of congratulations after the race, trainer Graham Motion tweeted, “Thanks everyone, humbled by an awesome animal.  Exhale.” 

Indeed, Motion had been holding his breath since last June.  After his brilliant victory in the Derby, and courageous runner-up effort in the Preakness, Animal Kingdom’s three-year-old season was abruptly curtailed when he was bumped and knocked off stride soon after the start of the Belmont, finishing a disappointing sixth to Ruler On Ice

The strapping chestnut was subsequently found to have sustained a potentially career-ending slab fracture of his left hock, probably caused by that incident.  Barbaro’s celebrated vet, Dr. Dean Richardson, performed remedial surgery at the New Bolton Center in early July, and when that procedure was deemed successful, Motion mapped out a plan to get the Team Valor colorbearer to Barry Irwin’s ultimate goal:  a berth in the starting gate of the $10 million Dubai World Cup at the end of March.  Irwin believes his colt is among the best in the world, and wants a chance to prove it.

Today, Animal Kingdom punched his ticket to that elite international test, and while the competition he trounced at Gulfstream pales in comparison to what he’ll face in Dubai, he showed that he’s made a full recovery and still has the stuff of which great horses are made.  

According to Trakus, Animal Kingdom covered a distance of 5690 feet in his comeback effort, which was 28 feet (and 3.2 lengths) more than his closest rival.  He motored at an average cruising speed of 38.2 miles per hour, suggesting that wherever Animal Kingdom goes, the others will have to catch him. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Awesome Feather impresses in Sunshine Distaff

Awesome Feather runs away in the Sunshine Millions Distaff
Photo:  Adam Coglianese, Gulfstream Park

Making the first start of her four-year-old campaign, 2010 Champion Two-Year-Old Filly Awesome Feather easily outclassed five Florida-bred fillies and mares to capture the nine-furlong Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream today.  With her victory in the $300,000 contest, Awesome Feather remained perfect in nine career starts, and increased her bankroll to $1,861,746.

Awesome Feather made headlines as a two-year-old, capping an undefeated six-race season with a sparkling win in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs in November, 2010.  Led through the auction ring at the Fasig-Tipton November sale two days later, she was purchased by racing magnate and 2011 Eclipse Award-winning Breeder Frank Stronach of Adena Springs for $2.3 million, an amazing price for a homebred by the unheralded Awesome Again stallion, Awesome of Course, who was then standing for a mere $1,750 in Oklahoma.

Within a matter of weeks, though, Stronach got some bad news:  Awesome Feather was found to have a tendon injury that put her future racing career in doubt.  Undaunted, Stronach told trainer Chad Brown to give the filly as much time as she needed, hoping for the best but knowing that Awesome Feather might end up being retired to the Adena Springs broodmare band without ever racing in his colors.

Exactly 11 months after her Breeders’ Cup victory, on October 5th, 2011, Awesome Feather made her comeback, in the seven-furlong Le Slew Stakes at Belmont, where, as the prohibitive favorite, she didn’t disappoint, prevailing by two lengths against minor stakes fillies.  The effort set her up perfectly for the mile-and-an-eighth Gazelle-G1 at Aqueduct on Thanksgiving weekend, where she vanquished a field of eight, including today’s Affectionately winner, Love And Pride.   The long months of patience had paid big dividends.  Awesome Feather was back, with a vengeance.

And today, after a two-month layoff, Awesome Feather did it again, signaling that we may not have seen the best of her yet.  After his filly’s triumph, Chad Brown was noncommittal about her future plans, but wherever she goes next, she’s sure to elicit excitement.   

As a result of Awesome Feather’s exploits, Awesome of Course is now attracting a decidedly better book of mares at Journeyman Stud in Ocala, where his stud fee is listed as $5000.  He’s sired four other stakes winners, mostly in Florida-bred company, and all bred, like Awesome Feather, by Jacks or Better Farm.   Awesome of Course has only sired 40 named foals of racing age, but has gotten a phenomenal 13% stakes winners from those few opportunities, greatly improving the mares with whom he’s been matched. That compares favorably with his sire, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again, who sired 11% stakes winners in his first crop, including Champion Ghostzapper and Grade I winner Toccet.

Out of the stakes-winning Gone West mare, Precious Feather, Awesome Feather is a half-sister to four winners, including stakes-placed Brooks ‘N Down (by Montbrook), who is now at stud in Oklahoma.  Her third dam is the Champion Two-Year-Old Filly and great racemare Quill, dam of the three-quarter brothers Caucasus (Nijinsky) and One For All (Northern Dancer), and ancestress of Champion and Chef-de-Race Run The Gantlet.  This is also the family of Champion Afleet Alex.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Proud Citizen's Daughters

Believe You Can (left) wins the Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds
Photo:  Lou Hodges, Jr., Hodges Photography
With stakes victories at two different tracks, two  different distances, and on two different surfaces, two of Proud Citizen's daughters, Believe You Can and Chilean-bred Vamo A Galupiar, demonstrated their sires versatility yesterday.

Brereton Jones’ homebred filly, Believe You Can, winner of last fall’s six-furlong Tempted-G3 at Belmont in her fourth start, captured the listed Silverbulletday Stakes at a mile and seventy yards at Fair Grounds on Saturday, in her initial race as a sophomore, and her first around two turns.  The Larry Jones trainee had hinted at her mettle in the Tempted, when she “fought tenaciously” while besting Schulyerville-G3 heroine Georgie’s Angel and three other rivals. 

Believe You Can showed the same grit in the Silverbulletday, this time seeming to get stronger as the stretch lengthened.  She never looked seriously threatened at any stage of the race, winning in wire-to-wire fashion while fending off determined tries from Hard Spun’s graded stakes-placed daughter, Inny Minnie and the even-money favorite Summer Applause.  The highly touted Applauding, who set a new track record for six furlongs (1:07.76) in her debut at Keeneland last fall, was a late scratch after developing colic-like symptoms earlier in the day.

In a post-race interview, Larry Jones confided that “we were very confident that she would go long,” adding that he’s penciled in a campaign that would send Believe You Can to the Kentucky Oaks.  Based both on her performance yesterday, that doesn’t seem far-fetched.

Brereton Jones probably never imagined he’d find himself in Believe You Can’s winners circle photos, having consigned the dark bay filly to the 2010 Keeneland September sale.  He brought her back home to Airdrie when she didn’t meet her reserve, after attracting a final bid of $70,000.  Believe You Can is the fourth foal from her unraced dam, El Fasto, a half-sister to the graded stakes winner Classic Elegance  (by Carson City).  At the time, El Fasto had produced but one modest winner, Oh Charlie Boy (by Canadian Frontier).  But the astute Jones must have seen something special in the filly, even then.  He let another, seemingly better pedigreed Proud Citizen filly, Businesslike, go for $40,000 at the same sale.  Businesslike is out of a half-sister to two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile-G1 hero, Da Hoss, and she herself is a full sister to the ill-fated Group 3 winner, River Proud.  To-date, though, Businesslike is unraced, and there is no record of her on the work tabs.   

Their sire, Proud Citizen, is a handsome, robust, well-balanced colt who, if he ran to his looks, would have won all his races.  I saw Proud Citizen run twice, at Saratoga:  in the 2001 Hopeful-G1, in which he finished a lackluster sixth to another son of Gone West, Came Home, and in the 2003 Forego-G1, where he was a tiring sixth to eventual Sprint Champion Aldebaran.  Proud Citizen always entered the paddock like he owned the place, and indeed, he came close to being a classic winner, placing in the Derby and finishing third in the Preakness, before suffering a condylar fracture in the Belmont.  Though rested for a year by D. Wayne Lukas, Proud Citizen never regained the form he’d shown at two and three, and was ultimately retired at the end of his four-year-old campaign.

From the start, Proud Citizen redeemed himself at stud, like so many sons of the great Gone West.  His best foal to-date, Champion Three-Year-Old Filly Proud Spell (out of Pacific Spell, by Langfuhr) was a member of his first crop.  Like Proud Spell, Believe You Can is from a Northern Dancer-line mare (by El Prado).  Indeed, several of Proud Citizen’s best runners, including Chilean Champion Two-Year-Old Filly Vamo A Galupiar, who won the grassy Megahertz at Santa Anita yesterday, are out of mares or have second dams who are by sons of Northern Dancer, notably Sadler’s Wells

And that’s no accident, in that Proud Citizen descends from the great foundation mare, Almahmoud, second dam of both Northern Dancer and Halo (sire of Believe You Can’s second dam, Taegu).  His fourth dam, Arctic Dancer, is a full sister to Northern Dancer.  To-date, Proud Citizen’s best runners have had two or more distant crosses of Almahmoud, and her daughter Natalma

Vamo A Galupiar (Chi) wins the Megahertz at Santa Anita
Photo:  Benoit Photos
In 2006, Proud Citizen shuttled to Chile, where he stood one season at Haras Don Alberto, south of Santiago.  It turned out to be a successful trip.  Among his Chilean foals born in 2007 were at least five stakes winners, including Vamo A Galupiar, who determinedly shot up along the rail in the eight-furlong Megahertz Stakes and never looked back, notching her first Northern Hemisphere victory in only her second U.S. start.  Vamo a Galupiar’s second dam, Catalina La Grande, is by Sadler’s Wells’ graded stakes-winning son, Stagecraft, and her maternal grandsire, Special Quest, is out of Mona Stella, by Nureyev

Like Proud Spell and Believe You Can, Vamo A Galupiar’s pedigree is fueled by multiple crosses of the blue hen Natalma, whose powerful influence may be the driving force behind Proud Citizen’s seeming emergence as a sire of outstanding fillies.  We’ll see.