in memoriam: northern dancer

There is much to be said for pausing and considering how much the sport and the breed owes to the great sire Northern Dancer (by Nearctic).

The great little bay, who stood 15.1 hands when he was feeling especially perky, was foaled 60 years ago, on May 27, 1961, and he overcame every barrier placed before him by nature or man.

Northern Dancer, it was said, was too small a yearling to be much good; he was a May foal and would need a lot of time to be any good; he was too small to be a classic horse; he did not have the pedigree to race effectively at 10 furlongs; he was too small to make a stallion; he was foaled in the wrong country; he was by an unimportant sire; he was standing in the wrong place to have a chance to succeed at stud.

With a toss of his dramatically striped head and a flourish of his thick, black tail, Northern Dancer proved all those comments wrong. Every one.

A winner in 14 of his 18 starts, Northern Dancer had a first-rate race record, but there have been horses with even more exemplary records who were, shall we say, less successful at stud. To the contrary, Northern Dancer was even more successful, even more influential, and even more pervasive as an influence at stud.

The greatest of the good sons by Nearctic, Northern Dancer was too big to stay in Canada; mares needed access to the horse, and owner-breeder E.P. Taylor obliged by developing Windfields Farm in Maryland, which became for a time the most important breeding operation in the world due to one stallion.

The demand for the offspring of Northern Dancer had to be seen to be believed, and in the sultry weather of the July select yearling sales in Kentucky especially, the money that his stock would bring in the heady days of the 1980s bloodstock boom would make anyone swoon.

And, if a single offspring of Northern Dancer would be chosen as the wellspring of the sire’s reputation and the early star of his importance to the breed, that colt would be Nijinsky.

A big, stretchy bay rather unlike his sire, Nijinsky sold as a select yearling at the Ontario yearling sale in 1968. He was from his sire’s second crop and was yet an excellent representative of the Northern Dancer type in body mass and racing enthusiasm.

Trained by Vincent O’Brien and racing for Charles Engelhard, Nijinsky won his first 11 races, including the only English Triple Crown from Bahram’s in 1935 to the present. That the dashing, grand colt lost his last two races was unfortunate, but it wasn’t the end of the world. Nijinsky retired, as planned, to stud at Claiborne Farm and became Northern Dancer’s first great son at stud.

Many others followed, and that in itself is the greatest anomaly in all the exceptions to the norm that Northern Dancer flouted.

Even very good sires rarely get more than one really good son to carry on their male-line, but Northern Dancer had at least a half-dozen very high-class sons. In addition to Nijinsky, Northern Dancer’s important sons included Sadler’s Wells, Lyphard, Nureyev, The Minstrel, Vice Regent, Northern Taste, Storm Bird, and Danzig. If any of those are objectionable, there are others to fill their spot, such as Dixieland Band, El Gran Senor, Try My Best, Northfields, and Northern Baby.

Son after son sired a champion, a classic winner, or winners at the premium level in racing around the world.

Yet for all that transformative genetic energy, only a handful of those sons have bred on to the present, as the breed has regressed to the norm of typically only one or no successful sire to carry on for a very important stallion.

Of all the Northern Dancer sons, those male lines today that stand strongest are through Sadler’s Wells (especially Galileo), Storm Bird (the Storm Cat crowd, especially Into Mischief today), and Danzig.

The latter is the male-line source through Green Desert for Helvic Dream (Power), winner of the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh over the weekend. Danzig is also source of the broodmare sire line through Danehill, and there are four other Northern Dancer lines in the pedigree of Helvic Dream. Lyphard through the great racer Dancing Brave and Lomond through his G2-winning daughter Inchmurrin do their part, and Nijinsky is twice in the pedigree, first through his son Green Dancer and then through the third dam of Helvic Dream, the winning Cascassi, who is a half-sister to Diminuendo (Diesis), winner of the English, Irish, and Yorkshire Oaks, all G1.

From the perspective of history, the more Northern Dancer we find in a pedigree, the better. Genetically, he’s as close as we’ve come in breeding to something that’s “all good.”

So on this May 27, take moment. Heave a sigh. Think of past glories and the little bay horse who could.

candy’s dandy: rombauer wins the preakness

Becoming the fifth Grade 1 winner by his sire Twirling Candy, Rombauer rocked the racing world back on its heels with a 3 ½-length victory in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md., on Saturday.

Furthermore, if we consider classic success the pinnacle of Thoroughbred achievement, then Rombauer appeared to add another dimension to his pedigree, especially to his quality female family, which has proven itself one of the fastest in the world.

The Preakness winner’s dam, the unraced Cowboy Cal mare Cashmere, is a half-sister to the tremendous sprinter California Flag, a winner five times at the G3 level sprinting. The gelded son of Avenue of Flags (by Seattle Slew) earned $1.2 million making an exhibition of speed, won the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, and set a course record at Santa Anita for 6 ½ furlongs.

California Flag’s full sister was the highly talented Cambiocorsa. She won half of her 18 starts, earning more than a half-million, and becoming the victor in a pair of G3 races. Despite those significant accomplishments, she has shown even more at stud.

And one of the most fascinating things about Cambiocorsa is that she has translated her speed into performers who race with distinction at longer distances than she excelled at herself.

Cambiocorsa is the dam of four stakes winners, and two of her stakes-winning daughters, Moulin de Mougin (Curlin) and Schiaparelli (Ghostzapper) won at the G2 level. Also, both of them showed their form at distances beyond sprints. Moulin de Mougin won the G2 John C. Mabee at Del Mar, and Schiaparelli won the G2 Royal Heroine at Hollywood Park.

As daughters of stallions who each won a Breeders’ Cup Classic at 10 furlongs, Moulin de Mougin and Schiaparelli had reason to show form over longer distances than their dam, but some families do not move up when bred to classic sires. Instead, some families lose both speed and class, becoming lesser performers at distances short or long.

In addition to the racetrack successes of these two fillies, their half-sister Vionnet, by Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, ran third in the G1 Rodeo Drive. A stud, Vionnet has produced the outstanding Roaring Lion (Kitten’s Joy), who won a quartet of G1 races in England and Ireland at distances from 8 to 11 furlongs. Roaring Lion was placed at the top of the handicap rankings in Ireland and England for performers from 9 ½ to 11 furlongs.

That is a sharp upgrade in distance and level of achievement from “just” being a good-class sprinter family.

Now Cashmere, a half-sister to Cambiocorsa and California Flag, has done her part by producing a U.S. classic winner in Rombauer. Since she was unraced, we don’t know the racing class of Cashmere, but it would appear to have been useful, at least, because she has four winners from four runners, with three of them earning well into six figures, and a pair have black type, with Cono (Lucky Pulpit) being stakes-placed.

It might seem surprising that the classic winner for this family came from Twirling Candy (Candy Ride), whose best victory was the G1 Malibu at seven furlongs. The horse also won a trio of G2 races at nine furlongs, as well as placing a close second in the G1 Pacific Classic at 1 1/4 miles. From the start, moreover, Twirling Candy has shown that his stock are not limited to sprints, and his best go a mile or more.

In addition to siring last year’s winner of the Queen’s Plate in Canada (One Bad Boy), Twirling Candy has G1 winners Gift Box (Santa Anita Handicap), Concrete Rose (Belmont Oaks), Finley’sluckycharm (Madison Stakes), and now Rombauer.

A good-sized horse with scope and good bone, Twirling Candy has sired 26 stakes winners to date and has progeny earnings of more than $34 million from seven crops of racing age.

The stallion also comes from the most classic branch of the Mr. Prospector male line, through the great stallion’s son Fappiano. This is not the omnipresent Fappiano branch through Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, who sired winners of each of the Triple Crown races, and that has added glories to the sport such as Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

Instead, this is a branch of Fappiano through Cryptoclearance, one of the toughest of racehorses, through his grandson Candy Ride, an elite sire whose son Rock Your World won the G1 Santa Anita Derby and was one of the favored colts in the Kentucky Derby.

Instead of success there, the male line has prospered through the rapidly progressing Rombauer and his rising tide of a female family.

conscientious support gets its just reward with english channel

Is there a less-appreciated upper-tier sire in the country than English Channel?

Channel Cat’s victory in the Grade 1 Man o’ War Stakes was a reminder of the excellence that the stallion imparts to his offspring and that English Channel showed emphatically during his own racing career.

The 19-year-old son of Smart Strike and the Theatrical mare Belva proved himself a hickory racer, winning 13 of 23 starts over four seasons and $5.3 million. At the races, English Channel began his career the right way: winning his debut at 2 at Saratoga.

The horse then proceeded to win four of his first five starts at 3, including the Grade 3 Virginia Derby, and he also placed second in a pair of G1 races, the Secretariat at Arlington and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont.

English Channel returned to the races at 4 to win a trio of G1 stakes: the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont, and the United Nations at Monmouth Park. Then the horse returned at 5 and did the same thing. And this time, a trio of G1s, the Turf Classic at Belmont and the United Nations, plus the Breeders’ Cup Turf run at Monmouth Park, brought English Channel the Eclipse Award as champion male turf horse.

And a turn at stud.

English Channel’s sire, Smart Strike, could not have been hotter at the time. He was the leading sire in North America, due not only to English Channel but also to Curlin, who was elected champion 3-year-old colt and Horse of the Year in 2007 after G1 victories in the Preakness, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The cachet of a stallion like Smart Strike – himself a son of the great Mr. Prospector – who could sire such good horses brought considerable attention to his sons and then sent them to stud with lordly expectations of success.

Yet, aside from their sire, high racing class, and chestnut coats, two horses could hardly be more different than English Channel and Curlin.

The latter is a brawny beast who left some breeders wondering whether he might not be too massive a specimen to breed on successfully. Time and the proof of elite racing class have disproven those concerns.

The exact opposite concern was held for English Channel, who came to stud looking so racy, lean, and elegant that some breeders wondered if he would produce enough muscle and mass in his stock to make them high-class racehorses.

Time and the test of the racecourse have proven that English Channel can sire those top horses, with 30 graded stakes winners to date, which is more than half of all his 58 stakes winners. They come in a range of sizes, colors, and shapes that has tended to bewilder the commercial market, which values consistency very nearly as much as quality.

A stallion of similar character is the broodmare sire of Channel Cat: Kitten’s Joy. A champion turf racer like English Channel, Kitten’s Joy throws a wild array of physical types, from the lean-bodied sort who remind us of whippets to the hulking powerhouses similar to himself.

Yet both Kitten’s Joy and English Channel are very good sires, especially of turf horses, and in part that is because a turf horse has to have some level of pace to succeed. It is a great gift if the racer possesses a first-rate change of pace like these two champion turf performers, but the ability to get up to the lead and tough it out to the wire is evidence of a grand racing character and a hardy constitution.

Channel Cat possesses these in spades. He relied upon his strengths so effectively that he made the Man o’ War a considerable test of stamina (starting with an opening quarter mile in :22.69) and then refused to be swamped for speed in the final three furlongs, which he ran in :35.85.

In addition to his own genetic contribution to the greatest game, English Channel has succeeded because breeders, especially the owner of Calumet Farm, have believed in the stallion and have supported him with quality mares. For a stallion who does not often get the “sales type” of yearling, this is an essential support system, and the sport is all the richer for it.

a romantic approach to excellence: as time goes by

Victory in the Grade 2 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita on April 24, made As Time Goes By (by American Pharoah) the third graded stakes winner from her dam, Take Charge Lady. On May 22, As Time Goes By picked up the baton again and won the G2 Santa Maria.

In the Santa Margarita, the 4-year-old filly had been making only her sixth start, and in her previous race and stakes debut, As Time Goes By had finished second in the G1 Beholder Mile to 2020 champion 3-year-old filly Swiss Skydiver (Daredevil).

A May 22 foal, As Time Goes By was not raced at 2, then was brought along patiently by trainer Bob Baffert. The filly made her debut at Del Mar on Aug. 22 last year, and she won her first race in her third start, a maiden special on Dec. 13 at Los Alamitos over six furlongs. Leading from the half-mile (in :45.39), As Time Goes By drew off by 4 lengths to win in 1:09.01.

As Time Goes By is the 13th stakes winner from the first crop of foals by 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who stands at Ashford Stud in Kentucky and shuttles to Coolmore in Australia. (Coolmore photo)

From four subsequent starts, all in 2021, As Time Goes By has won an allowance by 9 lengths, was second by 2 3/4 lengths to Swiss Skydiver in the Beholder, and now has won the Santa Margarita and Santa Maria.

The last of 10 foals out of the dam, Broodmare of the Year Take Charge Lady, As Time Goes By is her dam’s eighth winner and joined her older siblings Take Charge Indy (A.P. Indy) and Will Take Charge (Unbridled’s Song) as graded stakes winners. Take Charge Lady had won at the premier level three times (Ashland and two runnings of the Spinster), and her first stakes winner was Take Charge Indy, who won the 2012 G1 Florida Derby. The mare’s second stakes winner came the following year with Will Take Charge, who won the G1 Travers and Clark, and also was second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to cinch the 2013 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old colt.

Bred in Kentucky by Orpendale and Chelston, As Time Goes By is by 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) and is the 15th stakes winner for her sire. From American Pharoah’s first crop, As Time Goes By is the 13th stakes winner from the stallion’s first crop.

Although several stakes winners by American Pharoah won stakes during their juvenile season, including Four Wheel Drive, winner of the G2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, the improvement seen from such as Harvey’s Lil Goil (G1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes) and Pista (G2 Park Hill Stakes) seems to have inclined owners and trainers to wait with more of them.

In addition to As Time Goes By, some who are continuing to improve at four include Merneith, winner of the G2 Santa Monica on Feb. 13, and Café Pharoah, winner of the G1 February Stakes at Tokyo eight days later.

The latter is generally regarded as the best dirt horse in Japan, and it is notable that all three of these recent stakes winners have shown their best form on dirt. The early stakes winners by the Triple Crown winner had shown an unexpected affinity for turf, but the overall record for the sire is now trending strongly toward versatility, rather than a surprising specialization.

A big, scopey filly who has clearly made significant progress and strengthened, As Time Goes By adds a further layer of quality to a filly and mare division that is remarkable for depth with champions Swiss Skydiver, Monomoy Girl (Tapizar), Gamine (Into Mischief), and Letruska (Super Saver), as well as last season’s Kentucky Oaks winner Shedaresthedevil (Daredevil).

In the event that As Time Goes By should add a victory in a G1 to her stakes successes, that would make her dam one of the few to produce three G1 winners.

There will not be more, however.

As Time Goes By is the last foal and sixth daughter out of 2013 Broodmare of the Year Take Charge Lady. A $175,000 select yearling at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky’s July sale, Take Charge Lady earned more than $2.4 million at the races, winning a trio of Grade 1s and the Alcibiades Stakes, which now also shares that premium designation. The mare was sold at the 2004 Keeneland November sale for $4.2 million while carrying her first foal, Charming (Seeking the Gold), and Charming went through the ring two years later for $3.2 million at the Keeneland September yearling auction.

Like her famous dam, Charming has produced two Grade 1 winners. She is the dam of the 2014 Eclipse Award champion 2-year-old filly Take Charge Brandi (Giant’s Causeway), winner of the BC Juvenile Fillies and the Hollywood Starlet, and of three-time Grade 1 stakes winner (Arkansas Derby, Malibu, Santa Anita Sprint Championship) Omaha Beach (War Front), now a stallion at Spendthrift Farm.

In 2021, Charming has been bred to American Pharoah.

kentucky derby pedigree: medina spirit

The lyrics of Dan Fogleberg’s song Run for the Roses, “the chance of a lifetime in a lifetime of chance,” are well understood in assessing Medina Spirit, the winner of the 2021 Kentucky Derby. By measures of pedigree fashion, economic success, or marquee appeal, the dark brown son of Protonico and Mongolian Changa (by Brilliant Speed) was not a star.

But in the Grade 1 classic at Churchill Downs, the colt who cost $1,000 as a short yearling, by an under-appreciated sire and out of a mare who was given away, bucked the odds, flattened the probabilities, and looked like several million dollars as he led from early ’till late and won the Kentucky Derby by a half-length from Mandaloun (Into Mischief).

On pedigree, Medina Spirit is not poorly or even quite obscurely bred. Neither could it be said that his parents are trend setters in bloodstock, at least not until the first Saturday in May.

The colt’s sire is the beautifully pedigreed Protonico, a dark bay son of leading sire Giant’s Causeway out of the A.P. Indy mare Alpha Spirit, a daughter of Chilean champion and U.S. G1 winner Wild Spirit (Hussonet). The latter won a trio of G1s in her homeland for owner-breeder Haras Sumaya, which also bred Alpha Spirit and Protonico, and in the U.S., Wild Spirit won the G1 Ruffian, was second in the G1 Apple Blossom and Personal Ensign.

Protonico’s race record likewise was nothing to sneer at. A three-time winner at the Grade 3 level, the son of Giant’s Causeway stepped to win the G2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs in 2015 as a 4-year-old. In addition, he also ran second in the G1 Clark Handicap at Churchill at three and was third in the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont at five.

Perhaps the prejudice against “turf horses” put Protonico in the wrong category, even though he could make a good claim as one of his sire’s best dirt performers.

The colt represents the Storm Cat branch of Northern Dancer through the former’s best stallion son Giant’s Causeway, and this is the second year in a row that a descendant of Storm Cat won the Kentucky Derby after Authentic last year, who comes from Storm Cat through Harlan, Harlan’s Holiday, and Into Mischief.

Whereas agent Gary Young was charged with finding his client a Protonico, and Medina Spirit was the result, the dam’s side of the Derby winner’s pedigree wasn’t a commercial model either until her son began racing.

From the first crop of the Dynaformer stallion Brilliant Speed, Mongolian Changa was a big, scopey yearling who appealed to trainer Wayne Rice, and he purchased the filly for $9,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sale in 2015. Racing only at two, Mongolian Changa won a maiden special at Presque Isle in August of her juvenile season and earned $25,970 in six starts.

A reported bowed tendon having ended the filly’s career at that point, Mongolian Changa was sent to Protonico at Taylor Made Farm in 2017, and Gail Rice bred the Kentucky Derby winner from the mare in 2018. Then as part of a divorce, Rice sold the colt as a short yearling for $1,000 to Christy Whitman, who brought the colt back as a 2-year-old in the June sale of horses in training last year that was postponed to July due to the pandemic.

At that sale, Medina Spirit rocked his three-furlong breeze in :33 flat and earned the highest BreezeFig at the distance last year for his performance at the sale. Neither the time nor the fig brought a rush of buyers to Whitman’s barn, but the dark brown colt is a study in how a horse should look when breezing. The breeze video can be seen here.

Gary Young, as agent, acquired the colt for Amr Zedan’s Zedan Racing Stables. Zedan had wanted to buy a juvenile by Protonico because he’s good friend to the owner-breeder of Protonico, Oussama Aboughazale.

Aboughazale owns Haras Sumaya near Santiago, Chile, and is a primary player in the drama that brought Medina Spirit into being and to prominence. In addition to urging his friend to purchase a Protonico 2-year-old, Aboughazale bred and raced the sire, as well as the dam and second dam.

Although at least one Grade 1 victory is nearly a requirement for a term at stud in Kentucky, the owner of Sumaya Stud wanted his horse to stand in Kentucky and backed him each year with mares. That is a difficult push commercially, however, and the horse stood his first season at Taylor Made Farm, where Medina Spirit was conceived, then stood his second season in 2018 at Darby Dan, and has since been resident at Castleton Lyons on Iron Works Pike north of Lexington.

Castleton’s farm manager, Pat Hayes, said that the farm had received more than two dozen requests for seasons in the two days after the Kentucky Derby, and breeders are clearly not having trouble identifying Protonico now that Medina Spirit is a household name.

letruska makes history with apple blossom victory


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The brave victory of Letruska (by Super Saver) in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 17 over champions Monomoy Girl (Tapizar) and Swiss Skydiver (Daredevil) brought forward a couple of important issues. First, this result highlighted the excellent form the mare had shown in her early racing, which was in Mexico, and then her continued development here in the States.

A champion in Mexico and now the victor against a pair of champions at Oaklawn, Letruska has emphasized the quality of racing in Mexico, and she is not the only racer from Mexico to show her form in the more northerly part of North America.

Recently, Kukulkan (Point Determined) won 14 races on the trot before finishing unplaced in the 2019 Pegasus behind City of Light. In addition, Kulkulkan won a pair of black-type stakes in the U.S. and was second in a G3 stakes. Jala Jala, another champion in Mexico, ventured to Gulfstream to win the Caribbean Cup, and from two subsequent U.S. starts, was second in the G3 Royal Delta.

Both of those were owned by St. George Stable, which also owns and stands their sire, the Point Given horse Point Determined.

Although bred in Kentucky, Letruska was likewise bred by St. George Stable LLC. That is the nom de course of German Larrea, a man of vast wealth who lives in Mexico City, where he oversees operations of Mexico’s train service, as well as copper interests in Mexico and South America.

Larrea is also the leading breeder and owner in Mexico, where he races a stable of top horses. Letruska was one of these, winning each of her six starts at Hipodromo de las Americas. The last two of her races there were the G1 Clasico Esmeralda and Clasico Diamante.

Then the filly was shipped to the States, where she won her first start at Gulfstream in the Copa Invitacional del Caribe Stakes. In her 11 races since, Letruska has won six, including the G3 Shuvee at Saratoga and G3 Rampart at Gulfstream.

The Apple Blossom was the 5-year-old mare’s first Grade 1 that is recognized by the International Cataloging Standards, which is the sales industry standard for recognition and uniformity of black type in sales catalogs.

The Cataloguing Standards Committee was formed in 1981 to create a policy and designation for black type in sales cataloging that was implemented in parts over succeeding years. This also was very nearly the apex of the international Thoroughbred market, and the desire to compare racing form and stakes qualifications from country to country was intense because a great deal of money was dependent upon buyers feeling confident that a G1 winner from one country was comparable to a G1 winner from another country.

Representatives of the four member nations (England, France, Ireland, and the U.S.) have also been joined by a member from South America and from Asia, and this committee then makes recommendations to the Society for International Thoroughbred Auctioneers (SITA), which publishes the “cat standards” that determine black-type recognition in catalogs.

The point of all this is to make black type and graded stakes accomplishments as consistent as possible, and the Part I countries that receive full recognition of their graded stakes programs include the four member nations and a dozen more such as Argentina, Australia, and South Africa.

For inclusion in sales catalogs, Part II countries get black-type designation for their graded or group stakes races but the grades are “for information only,” and black type does not apply to their other stakes events in countries such as India, Italy, and Korea. Part III countries do not receive black-type designation for any races, and among those designated Part III is Mexico.

Thoroughbred consultant Tom Thornbury said: “Cataloging is at the center of the industry. It is essential to the sales avenue, and there’s worldwide interest in it. This drives the valuation of racehorses and bloodstock, and in Letruska you’ve found a gem really, a small part of that population of racehorses from Part III countries that has shown she is able to race with the very best.”

In fact, as Frances J. Karon writes in the Who’s Hot, Who’s Not blog at Werk Thoroughbred Associates, “Letruska is the first Thoroughbred racehorse from Mexico — either bred there, which she wasn’t, or raced there — to win an internationally recognized G1 race.”

And there is no more disputing the form of Letruska’s victory than quibbling with the grade; it’s a supremely legitimate G1. Not only did the mare win the Apple Blossom against exceptional champions in Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver, but in Letruska’s most recent previous race, she finished second by head to Shedaresthedevil (Daredevil), winner of the 2020 Kentucky Oaks over no less than 2020 Eclipse champion filly sprinter Gamine and 2020 Eclipse champion 3-year-old filly Swiss Skydiver.

That’s serious form.

Letruska has now won 13 of her 18 starts and more than $1.1 million. That’s a handsome advance over the $100,000 that St. George Stable paid to acquire Magic Appeal, a stakes-placed daughter of Successful Appeal, at the 2015 Keeneland November sale. At the time, Magic Appeal was in foal to Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and carrying Letruska.

Foaled on May 9 the following year, Letruska was the fifth foal from her dam and the third earner of black type. At the time of sale, however, none of those horses were on the dam’s page. Her second foal, the Tiznow daughter American Doll, finished second in a stakes at Parx in 2016, and Magic Appeal’s fourth foal, a yearling at the time of her sale, was Trigger Warning (Candy Ride).

Trigger Warning won a pair of stakes and was third in both the G1 Pennsylvania Derby and the G3 Ohio Derby, earning more than a half-million.

Magic Appeal has a 2-year-old colt named Ocotzingo (Hard Spun), a yearling colt by Arrogate, and is in foal to leading sire Malibu Moon for 2021.

Magic Appeal was the second-best racer by her dam, stakes winner Call Her Magic (Caller I.D.), and the best was full brother J.P.’s Gusto, winner of the G1 Del Mar Futurity and second in both the G1 Norfolk and Hollywood Futurity.

This family has plenty of quality, but Magic Appeal and her daughter Letruska have now added a footnote to history with their Grade 1 success at Oaklawn Park.

super stock and king fury highlight the importance of the 2020 breeders’ futurity


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Last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland is looking more and more like a key race for the classics this year. The winner was last year’s champion juvenile colt, Essential Quality (by Tapit), who is still unbeaten and is the solid favorite for the Kentucky Derby next month.

The second-place finisher in the Breeders’ Futurity was Keepmeinmind (Laoban), who won the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs in his next start, although he has not found his best form so far this season.

Farther back in the Futurity were a pair of well regarded colts who have taken a step forward, however, and they specifically did so over the weekend. Of those, Super Stock was third in the Breeders’ Futurity, and the bay son of Dialed In dimmed some classic dreams with a victory by 2 1/2 lengths in the G1 Arkansas Derby over the previously unbeaten Concert Tour (Street Sense) and the well-regarded Caddo River (Hard Spun).

The Arkansas Derby was the first graded stakes victory for Super Stock, who was bred in Kentucky by Pedro Gonzalez and P.J. Gonzalez and then sold at the 2019 Keeneland September yearling sale to Erv Woolsey and Keith Asmussen for $70,000.

That was a solid price for a yearling by the good young sire Dialed In (Mineshaft), who also sired classic prospect Gunnevera in his first crop. Likewise, Dialed In was a classic contender during his own 3-year-old season with victories in the G3 Holy Bull Stakes and the G1 Florida Derby.

Super Stock comes from his sire’s fifth crop and is one of 15 stakes winners by the stallion, who stands at Darby Dan Farm for $15,000 live foal. Dialed In’s other 3-year-olds include Papetu, who ran third in the G2 Fountain of Youth; Get Her Number, who was fourth in the Arkansas Derby; and Exogen, who was second in the Cicada at Aqueduct.

Super Stock is the fifth foal and fourth winner from his dam, the Closing Argument mare Super Girlie. She is also the dam of Boujie Girl (Flashback), who was third in the G1 Del Mar Debutante. Super Girlie was barren in 2019 and has a bay yearling colt by Mendelssohn (Scat Daddy).

Super Stock’s broodmare sire, Closing Argument, was second in the 2005 Kentucky Derby, beaten a half-length by Giacomo. So there are classic elements in the pedigree, although the dominant classic contributor would appear to be the male line from Seattle Slew, A.P. Indy, and Mineshaft.

Coming to the Arkansas Derby, Super Stock was already G1-placed from his finish in the Breeders’ Futurity, giving him significant form against the best of his crop, and if he maintained that level, he should have been a major force in the race, which proved to be the case.

That was not the status of another racer from the Breeders’ Futurity who returned to competition in the G3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday. King Fury (Curlin) had been beaten into eighth place in the Breeders’ Futurity after going wide on both turns, but the chestnut son of the 2007-2008 Horse of the Year had come back 22 days later and won the listed Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs over Super Stock.

Attempts in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes had suggested that King Fury wasn’t yet at his best, but the Lexington was the colt’s seasonal debut and delivered results that have inclined trainer Kenny McPeek to favor a possible attempt at the Preakness Stakes in mid-May, which the colt’s sire won in 2007.

Bred in Kentucky by the Heider Family Stables LLC, King Fury is the only foal out of G1 winner Taris (Flatter). Consigned to the Saratoga select yearling sale in 2019 through Hill ‘n’ Dale, King Fury brought $950,000 and races for Fern Circle Stables and Three Chimneys Farm.

Taris was bred in Kentucky by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider and then was sold for $90,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale to Commonwealth New Era Racing. After winning the G2 Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland, Taris sold to Coolmore for $2.35 million at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton November sale. The next year, Taris won another graded stakes and was third in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly Sprint. At five, she won the 2016 G1 Humana Distaff and later was sold privately to the Heider Family Stables. Taris was retired for breeding in 2017 and died after foaling King Fury in 2018.

With his victory in the Lexington, King Fury made a significant step toward fulfilling the high hopes held for a racer of his pedigree and excellent physical character.

unbeaten malathaat is proving the dream is real for owner shadwell, as well as breeder stonestreet


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Superstar stallions have the highest stud fees, not for their good looks, but for the number of their racers who show up on the weekend cards for the premier races. Once again, Curlin, Into Mischief, and Tapit scored heavily over the Easter weekend of racing, with the highly regarded Bernardini and Candy Ride picking up major stakes on opposite coasts, as well.

At Keeneland on Saturday, April 3, the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes went to Malathaat (by Curlin). Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet and sold to Shadwell for $1.05 million at the 2019 Keeneland September yearling sale, Malathaat remained unbeaten with this victory in her fourth start, and she became the third generation of Grade 1 winners for her female line.

Malathaat is out of the A.P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia, who won the G1 Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park as a 2-year-old and then ran second in the G1 Mother Goose the following year.

Malathaat became the third generation G1 winner in her female line with victory in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland on April 4. The bay daughter of Curlin is now unbeaten in four starts at 2 and 3. (Bloodstock in the Bluegrass photo)

After retiring to stud, Dreaming of Julia was sent first to Horse of the Year Ghostzapper (Awesome Again) and produced a colt who was not named. In 2017, the mare produced Golden Julia (Medaglia d’Oro), who also died, and Malathaat is the third foal from Dreaming of Julia.

Of Golden Julia, Stonestreet adviser John Moynihan recalled: “We kept the Medaglia d’Oro filly the year before Malathaat, and Golden Julia was phenomenal. When we sent her to the training center in Florida, Ian [Brennan, trainer at the Stonestreet Training and Rehabilitation Center] said she was light years ahead of the rest in the crop, was phenomenal at every stage. As these things in racing do, however, she ended up getting hurt in a stall, she had a pelvis injury, and we lost her. It was heartbreaking because she was a Grade 1 horse if I ever saw one; I told Barbara that she’d have been one of the best we’d ever raced.”

The mare’s 2-year-old is an unnamed colt by Medaglia d’Oro; she has a yearling full sister to Malathaat, a filly foal of 2021 by Medaglia d’Oro at Stonestreet, and goes back to Curlin.

As a Grade 1 winner, Dreaming of Julia was the most accomplished foal of her dam, Grade 1 winner Dream Rush, and she won half of her eight starts at two and three.

But, there would be some who might argue that the mare’s other graded stakes-winning daughter, two-time Grade 3 winner Dream Pauline (Tapit), was just as good. A winner in four of five starts, Dream Pauline won the G3 Hurricane Bertie and Sugar Swirl Stakes at Gulfstream.

Both are broodmares at Stonestreet, and Dream Pauline had her first foal, a chestnut colt by Curlin, in February.

Their dam, Dream Rush, has produced three stakes winners, the two fillies above and the colt Atreides (Medaglia d’Oro), who likewise won four of his five starts, then went to stud in Kentucky at Hill n’ Dale Farm (now at Xalapa).

On the racetrack, Dream Rush was one of three black-type performers out of the Unbridled mare Turbo Dream, who was unraced. Turbo Dream also is the dam of Adream (Bernardini), dam of the G3 winner Song of Spring (Spring at Last).

There is no question that Dream Rush was much the best of all the foals from Turbo Dream. Dream Rush won both her two starts as a juvenile, then advanced impressively as a 3-year-old to win the Old Hat Stakes at Gulfstream, the G2 Nassau County at Belmont, place second in the G1 Acorn, then win the G1 Prioress and Test Stakes before finishing unplaced in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Filly Sprint.

That race was Oct. 26 at Monmouth Park, and nine days later she was in the ring at the 2007 Fasig-Tipton November sale.

As agent for Halsey Minor, Debbie Easter bought Dream Rush for $3.3 million after a spirited bidding battle, and the then-3-year-old was sold as a racing or broodmare prospect.

Easter said, “She was a big, long, beautiful mare, and with a pair of Grade 1 victories. This was his first venture into broodmares, and she was what we were looking for as a foundation mare. Dream Rush was one of the most beautiful mares I’ve ever seen, had such a lovely attitude, and was a great athletic individual.”

Unfortunately, Dream Rush didn’t reproduce her earlier form, coming back to race at four and five, but only placing third in the G1 Princess Rooney and second in the G2 Vagrancy.

“The point of the purchase,” Easter said, “was to acquire a foundation broodmare and that has worked out beautifully.”

The plan worked out for Stonestreet, rather than for Minor, who dispersed his stock after getting stuck in the Great Recession.

On acquiring Dream Rush from Minor, Moynihan recalled that “a year or two after the Fasig sale, he called, said that he remembered our bidding for Dream Rush, and asked if we’d be interested in buying the mare privately.

“When we bought her, it was about this time of year, and we were still waiting days to see if she was in foal from a cover to A.P. Indy,” and she was.

Dream Rush produced her first foal for Stonestreet in 2010, and that was Dreaming of Julia.

Since then, Dream Rush has had eight more foals, and after a pair of barren years in 2019 and 2020, the 17-year-old mare had a filly by Bernardini earlier this year. Moynihan noted that “we were trying to get a filly to carry on the line from Dream Rush,” and they got one.

Some dreams never go away, and some even come true.

australian noholme found a home and a place in bloodstock history


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While researching the female family of Travel Column, I came across a stallion whose history intersected my own. Specifically, Travel Column’s fourth dam, the Italian highweight Carnauba, is one of the best racing daughters of the Australian-bred racehorse and important stallion Noholme, a son of Star Kingdom and full brother to the great Australian champion Todman.

What many people don’t realize is that Noholme was regarded as a champion there also. In 1959, Noholme won the Cox Plate and the Epsom Handicap against older horses and was considered an unofficial Horse of the Year in 1959. Possessing speed, class, and a good pedigree, one would expect the Aussie breeders to have embraced Noholme enthusiastically.

Noholme was a son of leading Australian sire Star Kingdom out of Oceana, who produced three other important sons by the same stallion, including the star racer and important sire Todman.

That was not the case, however, because he was 15.2, too small to make a stallion, it was believed, although his equally unappreciated full brother Todman proved them wrong too. The young Noholme came on the market in 1960 for the remarkably reasonable price of 10,000 guineas. Gene Goff bought Noholme and 40 other horses as a group, and as things developed, there was a difference of opinion about how much Noholme’s price contributed to the overall figure.

Goff bought Noholme with a view to racing him, but the Australians definitely got the better of that part of that deal. Noholme left his best racing Down Under, and his most important efforts came when he placed second in the Stars and Stripes Handicap at Arlington, Bougainvillea Turf Handicap at Hialeah, and the Chicago Handicap at Hawthorne.

There is no doubt, however, that he was worth more than the lot from the viewpoint of bloodstock history. Retired to Goff’s Verna Lea Farm outside Fayetteville, Ark., Noholme became a bloodstock legend and a gold mine.

With a first crop from 14 mares of 13 foals and 11 winners, Noholme got off to a quick start, and Goff, an oilman from Arkansas, had backed up his faith in the horse with the purchase of enough mares to enlarge Noholme’s second book and have a second crop of 40 foals.

From these came 24 juvenile winners, which was a record number at the time, and it made Noholme the leading sire of 2-year-olds by number of winners in all of North America. The spotlight was on the smallish horse with the light chestnut coat.

And Noholme did not disappoint. With a mass of winners from his first two crops, Noholme was syndicated for $1 million in 1967 and moved to Bob Marks’s Robin’s Nest Farm outside Ocala, Fla.

Also from that second crop came handicap champion Nodouble and Hometown News, who became the champion 3-year-old filly in Canada in 1968. They fulfilled the test of quality that elevated Noholme from a fancy little sire of winners to the sire of major league racehorses.

Nodouble won the 1968 Arkansas Derby and was third in the Preakness. The angular and tough chestnut came into his own later and won the Metropolitan Handicap, Santa Anita Handicap, Hawthorne Gold Cup, Brooklyn Handicap, and Californian Stakes, with seconds in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Hollywood Gold Cup, Strub, and Woodward.

With the “Arkansas Traveler” churning out headline results at the racetrack, Noholme was doing his part at Robin’s Nest.

From the stallion’s 1970 crop came one of his best racers, champion sprinter Shecky Greene, who set the pace in the 1973 Kentucky Derby and proved a top-class sprinter. Shecky Greene was more than that, winning also the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream, and he sired a top European juvenile and topweight miler in Green Forest, who won the Grand Criterium at 2, the Prix de Moulin at 3, and became a good sire.

Shecky Greene was the champion sprinter of 1973, and his sire moved to Dan Lasater’s Lasater Farm in 1974. Noholme spent the rest of his life there.

The farm’s general manager was the late John Fernung, and his brother Brent was getting involved in the horse business when Noholme came to the farm.

Brent Fernung recalled: “I rubbed Noholme for a while, because I started out as a groom at the farm, getting to know the business from the ground up. This was a time when the farm had Nodouble, Cutlass, Great Above. But Noholme was an old horse by the time I got there. He had a real big dip in his back, his pasterns were slack, feet were pretty bad.

“But Noholme was a breeding machine even at that age. You’d bring him into the breeding shed, he’d drop down, cover in one jump, and out of there. He was such a cool old horse.”

Even as age lowered his back and pasterns, it hadn’t dented the stallion’s fertility.

Fernung recalled, “When Lasater had B.W. Pickett and J.L. Voss come to the farm to check stallion fertility, they checked a dismount sample from Noholme, and after they had put it under the microscope, Dr. Voss stepped out of the clean room and came over to look at him.

“Dr. Pickett was a PhD, and the veterinarian was Dr. Voss. They wrote the book on stallion fertility and led the research on stallion reproduction at Colorado State University. They had come all the way from Colorado to do some work for Lasater, mostly wellness care, because, back then, 75 mares was a lot of mares for most stallions, and we were regularly breeding Noholme to more than a hundred.

“John said, ‘Anything wrong, doc?’ The vet said, ‘I was just checking to see this was a horse and not a hog. His semen is off the charts.’ The horse’s fertility was so good that Dr. Pickett and the boss estimated you could have bred 60 to 70 mares from a single ejaculate.

“So far as semen quality, I’ve never seen a horse like Noholme,” Fernung said. “It had Pickett and Voss scratching their heads about him but favorably impressed.”

Noholme has lived on in pedigrees through Nodouble, who was leading general sire in 1981, through Shecky Greene and Green Forest, and especially through hundreds of daughters, such as Italian highweight Carnauba, who is the fourth dam of 2021 Fair Ground Oaks winner Travel Column (by Frosted).

On May 17, 1983, Noholme was euthanized at age 27 on Lasater Farm near Ocala due to the infirmities of old age and was buried there.

At the time, I was an intern at Verna Lea Farm outside Fayetteville, where I was finishing up my schooling at the University of Arkansas. Mostly, I led, fed, and picked stalls, but this was work with honest to god Thoroughbreds, and I thought it was more exciting than anything.

So it was a sad day at the farm in Arkansas when they learned that the best stallion ever retired to “The Land of Opportunity” had died.

Although I worked with a number of his sons and daughters at Verna Lea, I knew the old boy only by the legacy of awe and excellence that he had left behind. Working at Verna Lea, however, earned me a reference that brought me to work in Kentucky and eventually edit copy and write at the Thoroughbred Record, where I was able to meet some of the great bloodstock commentators of the time, including Abram S. Hewitt, Tony Morris, Tim Capps, John Sparkman, Bill Munn, and David Dink.

The Record exists only in bound volumes in libraries nowadays, but it was a springboard to learning and writing and a lifetime of work in a sport that I loved. So, memories of Noholme are good.

known agenda ties past to the future in this year’s classic quest for st elias stables

In the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 27, Known Agenda lunged to the fore and won the race by 2 3/4 lengths, placing himself in the thick of competition for the Kentucky Derby a scant five weeks later.

Bred in Kentucky by the St. Elias Stables of Vincent and Teresa Viola, Known Agenda was produced by one of the first broodmares acquired by St. Elias more than seven years ago. Her son Known Agenda is the first Grade 1 winner bred by the operation, although it has raced several others, including 2019 champion older horse Vino Rosso (Curlin), 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming (Bodemeister), 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map (Unbridled’s Song), and 2018 Carter Handicap winner Army Mule (Friesan Fire).

John Sparkman, bloodstock and matings adviser to St. Elias, recalled the mare’s acquisition.

“Very early in building a high-class broodmare band, this mare came our way,” Sparkman said, “and the way to start a top broodmare band is with mares of high racing class.”

Byrama, the dam of Known Fact, won the G1 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park and was second in the G1 Madison at Keeneland for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners in 2013, then was auctioned at the Fasig-Tipton November sale, where she was an RNA for $725,000.

St. Elias made a deal to purchase the mare post sale, and the new owners raced her the next year before retiring the English-bred daughter of Byron to stud in 2015. Known Agenda is the mare’s third foal.

In selecting Byrama for racing class, Sparkman said, “Her head, neck, and shoulder reminded me very strongly of Sir Ivor, who is in the third dam, and when something like that comes through, I pay attention. She had speed, class, and is a very elegant mare,” and she clearly makes an excellent match with some of the large, hardy stallions in the Kentucky stallion pool.

The foal by Curlin was so nice that St. Elias sent him to the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale, but retained him as a $135,000 RNA.

Sparkman recalled “when we were going over the inspection statistics with consignor Gerry Dilger, we were pretty surprised that Known Agenda was at the bottom of the list. When we asked about that, Gerry said, ‘Nobody even wants to look at him because he’s out of a turf mare.’

“Looks pretty good on dirt, to me,” Sparkman concluded.

Indeed, the chestnut colt has progressed notably from his good juvenile form, where he won a maiden and was a respectable third in the G2 Remsen Stakes. This year, he won an allowance at Gulfstream, then was unplaced in the Sam F. Davis. In assessing the difference between the prior race and the Florida Derby, Sparkman gave praise to the work done by trainer Todd Pletcher in getting the colt to focus more effectively in his racing, and it showed at Gulfstream.

“Todd said that Known Agenda reminded him a lot of Vino Rosso,” also campaigned by St. Elias, “in lacking mental maturity,” Sparkman said. But the physical attributes of the colt have always been there, and he is a progressive colt who will profit from added time and distance.

The Kentucky Derby is expected to be the next start for Known Agenda.

If all goes well, the Derby would be the seventh start for Known Agenda; for his sire, Curlin, the Derby was his fourth career start, and Curlin went into the Derby unbeaten after an extraordinary maiden success, then victories in the G3 Rebel and G2 Arkansas Derby. Curlin finished third in the Kentucky Derby, won the Preakness from Derby winner Street Sense, and was a head second in the Belmont Stakes to the lovely filly Rags to Riches. Late-season successes in the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic brought divisional honors and the Horse of the Year award to Curlin.

A repeat as Horse of the Year in 2008 sent Curlin to stud with excellent racing credentials, although he wasn’t universally popular as a physical specimen, being a big, robustly made animal of generous proportions. From his first crop, however, Curlin showed he could sire individuals of greater quality allied with his scope and classic ability. St. Elias brought him a first-rate match with Byrama, as a racemare of high ability, allied with quality and refinement.

“Breeding to a horse like Curlin is obvious for a quality mare who matches on pedigree,” Sparkman said, “and he also has a cross of Sir Ivor in the fourth generation that seemed like a positive repetition.”

Although sometimes considered only as a turf horse because of his first-class record in Europe, Sir Ivor was a top 2-year-old who progressed to become a top classic colt, winning the 1968 2,000 Guineas and Derby, then finishing a gallant second to Vaguely Noble in the Arc de Triomphe. In his final start, Sir Ivor returned to the States and won the Washington DC International before retiring to stud at Claiborne Farm.

Considered simplistically, Sir Ivor was a “turf horse” because he showed exceptional form on the surface. “But all horses can run on turf,” Sparkman said. “All horses can run on dirt. Some have a preference one way or another, but it’s almost always pretty slight.”

Considering the horse on racing character, physique, and athleticism, Sir Ivor was much more than a turf horse. He’d have been among the favorites for the 1968 Kentucky Derby, had he been on this side of the Atlantic, and he might well have won the race too.

Bred in Kentucky at Mill Ridge Farm by Alice Chandler and sold to Vincent O’Brien on behalf of owner Raymond Guest at the Keeneland July sale, Sir Ivor proved a serious international sire after his classic-winning race career. The good-sized plain bay sired some quick juveniles, some classic competitors, and high-quality performers on turf and dirt. His early crops included Arc de Triomphe winner Ivanjica, and among his later foals came Eclipse champion older horse Bates Motel.

There weren’t any “turf” performers of great acclaim among the immediate ancestors of Sir Ivor, but O’Brien saw an athlete. Quick, strong, and competitive, Sir Ivor proved the judgment of his mentor to be eminently correct.

 With a known agenda for the classics, Sir Ivor’s descendant is taking steps of his own for classic recognition.