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.