breeder blum believes in mining the maternal line of mono, famous for major winners, including triple crown champ assault


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The family that produced the 2023 Preakness Stakes winner National Treasure has been owned by breeder Peter Blum since Moses was wearing diapers.

Over the past seven generations of this family, from sixth dam Mono (by Better Self) to breeding and selling the Preakness winner through the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale consignment of Bridie Harrison, whose family farm operation foaled and raised the colt, Blum has concentrated on quality. Quality and classic athleticism.

But the mare that began this saga and that Peter Blum acquired a while back was the Better Self mare Mono, out of Sin Igual. Mono was a good-looking mare, and this is a family with good looks and attractive physicality. Broad and thick-bodied, Mono wasn’t the very best racing type, not being especially tall and scopey, but she was much better than average as a producer, and her family continues on to the present with such as this year’s Preakness winner.

Bred in Kentucky by King Ranch, Mono proved a winner and was six times second or third from 14 starts, earning $3,752. Judged surplus to requirements for King Ranch, Mono went on to produce three stakes winners, including Rare Performer (by Mr. Prospector) for Blum, and the bay son of Mr. Prospector went to stud in Kentucky at Murty Farm, then moved to Prestonwood Farm (now WinStar) in the late 1980s.

Rare Performer was a fast son of Mr. Prospector who sired a powerful, chunky type in the mold of this family. And Blum bred a full sister to Rare Performer whose physique followed the family type (just a bit chubby) but whose racing success was limited.

Like her dam, Mine Only proved a winner on the racetrack but a dazzling success as a broodmare. That has been the common thread among the broodmares of this line that Blum has retained. Only one has done more than win a maiden, National Treasure’s second dam Proposal (Mt. Livermore), who won at two and four and placed in a stakes.

Retired to stud, Proposal produced four stakes winners. Each of the dams tracing backward, even beyond the ownership of Blum, show a perplexing laxity on the point of racing performance, but they are dynamite broodmares.

Each has produced at least one stakes winner; most went for multiples. For instance, third dam Lady of Choice (Storm Bird) only placed on the track but foaled Proposal and her full brother G3 stakes winner Multiple Choice. Fourth dam Chosen Lady (Secretariat) also only placed on the track but produced G1 winner Well Chosen (Deputy Minister), winner of the Ashland Stakes, and G3 winner In Contention (Devil’s Bag). A full sister to G2 Manhattan Handicap winner Academy Award, Chosen Lady was a half-sister to G3 winners Good Mood (Devil’s Bag) and Statuette (Pancho Villa); these are all out of Mono’s daughter Mine Only, a full sister to Rare Performer.

Another facet to the breeding story of National Treasure is the repeated addition of classic quality to these rugged, fast, strong mares. In particular, the sire and broodmare sire of National Treasure, Quality Road and Medaglia d’Oro, are dominant for adding scope and classic stamina to pedigrees; their addition to this fast, sturdy family resulted in National Treasure. Last season, the bay colt could fairly have been called the third-best juvenile after a second-place finish to Cave Rock (Arrogate) in the American Pharoah and then a third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile behind Forte (Violence) and Cave Rock again.

Thus, the step forward to compete in the classics was not a long one from National Treasure’s standing at two, although his level of success was a major elevation for his dam, the Medaglia d’Oro mare Treasure. She placed six times from seven starts, earning $63,180, and the Preakness winner is her fourth foal.

In addition to the current Preakness winner, this is the family line of the 1946 Preakness (and Triple Crown) winner Assault (Bold Venture), and National Treasure’s seventh dam is Sin Igual (Bold Venture), a full sister to Assault foaled in 1952. They are both out of the unraced Equipoise mare Igual.

As a mate for Bold Venture, Igual delivered for King Ranch, getting a Triple Crown winner and other talented racers. Bold Venture, whom King Ranch had acquired after his racing career was finished, proved a mixed blessing for the breeding operation. The 1936 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner sired a Triple Crown winner for them, plus Middleground, who won the 1950 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

In the loss column, however, Bold Venture wasn’t the most fertile stallion, and his sons were somewhat worse. Assault was effectively sterile, and Middleground was noted as a “patchy foal-getter.”

That doesn’t seem to have been a problem with the fillies in the family, however, and the line continued on.

Nor are Assault and his sire the only other Preakness winners related to this distinguished family. Igual’s dam is the Chicle mare Incandescent, bred in Kentucky by C.V. Whitney and a minor stakes winner out of the Fair Play mare Masda. The latter is the elder full sister to 1920 Preakness winner Man o’ War.

If you breed to real quality, it keeps coming back.


the classic traditions of arcangelo


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When Arrogate died in June 2020, his oldest foals were only yearlings. None had gone into training; nothing substantial was known about their potential or prowess.

The best-known racer from that first crop is 2022 Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath, also winner of the Grade 2 Azeri this season and second in the G1 Apple Blossom and La Troienne. The first crop also included Grade 1 winner Fun to Dream (La Brea Stakes).

Although a stakes winner did not emerge from Arrogate’s first crop until New Year’s Day of their second season, the black type popped up earlier with the racers from the second crop, including the 2022 Grade 1 winners Cave Rock (Del Mar Futurity, American Pharoah Stakes), as well as And Tell Me Nolies (Del Mar Debutante).

The gray champion’s second crop has continued to add graded stakes winners this season with Affirmative Lady (G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks) and most recently with Arcangelo, who won the G3 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on May 13.

Peter Pan: The 1907 Belmont Stakes winner entered stud at Castleton for James R. Keene but became an important sire in the Whitney stud and is shown above in front of one of the barns at the Whitney operation north of Lexington. Much of this land is now part of Gainesway Farm, which stands Tapit, broodmare sire of the 2023 Peter Pan Stakes winner Arcangelo.

The nine-furlong event around the sweeping turns of Belmont Park is typically seen as a significant prep for the Belmont Stakes over 12 furlongs, and there is more than a hint of classic quality to the pedigree of this season’s winner, Arcangelo.

He is, for one thing, out of a mare by multiple leading sire Tapit (Pulpit), who has sired four winners of the longest classic: Tonalist (2014), Creator (2016), Tapwrit (2017), and Essential Quality (2021).

In addition, Arcangelo’s dam, the Tapit mare Modeling, is out of Teeming (Storm Cat), a half-sister to a pair of Belmont Stakes winners: Jazil (Seeking the Gold), winner of the classic in 2006, and Rags to Riches (A.P. Indy), the Belmont winner in 2007 over subsequent Horse of the Year Curlin.

In addition to her relationship to these elite performers, Teeming is the dam of three stakes winners and two stakes-placed racehorses, along with the elite producer Achieving (Bernardini), who is the dam of three stakes winners, including Grade 2 winner Cezanne (Curlin) and Arabian Hope (Distorted Humor).

Bred by Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings and Edward McGhee, Teeming’s daughter Modeling was unraced and was covered as a 2-year-old and sold at the 2014 Keeneland November sale to Don Alberto for $2.85 million, in foal to Distorted Humor (Forty Niner). The resulting foal was the maiden special winner Montmartre.

Bred in Kentucky by Don Alberto, Arcangelo sold for $35,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September sale to Jon Ebbert and races for Blue Rose Farm.

A May 11 foal, the scopey gray did not race until the closing weeks of 2022, finishing second on debut at Gulfstream on Dec. 17. Arcangelo won his third start, a maiden special at Gulfstream on March 18, when he raced a mile on dirt in 1:34.82. The colt’s next start was the Peter Pan.

The classic prep was a major step up for a maiden winner, but Arcangelo handled the escalation in class and won by a head over Bishops Bay (Uncle Mo), who was the undefeated favorite coming into the Peter Pan. The third horse, Henry Q (Blame), was 8 3/4 lengths back in third after nine furlongs in 1:49.71.

The effort suggests that the first two in the Peter Pan may possess the required quality to challenge for the classic prize next month in the Belmont Stakes. A good showing would be a compliment to the namesake of their prep race because Peter Pan won the Belmont Stakes more than a century ago.

The Peter Pan Stakes was named for the son of Commando (Domino) and Cinderella (Hermit) who won 10 of his 17 starts, including the 1907 Belmont Stakes. At stud, Peter Pan the horse became an even more important influence in American breeding in the first half of the 20th century. His most important sons were Black Toney, the sire of Black Gold, winner of the 1924 Kentucky Derby, and Bimelech, winner of the 1940 Preakness and Belmont Stakes; and Futurity winner Pennant, the sire of the top racehorse and sire Equipoise, whose son Shut Out won the 1942 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

What a classic tradition that is!

good magic is adding to the myths of donegal; mage wins the kentucky derby


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The victory of Mage (by Good Magic) in the 149th Kentucky Derby was the culmination of visions and hopes, of plans and dreams. And as befits the success of a colt going off at 15-1, the triumph had something unexpected, almost magical, to it.

Bred in Kentucky by Robert Clay and partners’ Grandview Equine, Mage settled some issues (and raised others) when he crossed the wire as the winner of the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby. In winning his first stakes, Mage put his sire Good Magic into a $1.6-million lead as the top second-crop sire.

Through last year and this, Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm’s Good Magic (Curlin) and Spendthrift’s Bolt d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro) have been tussling head and head for sire leadership of this cadre of young stallions, and at present, they stand well separated from the rest of the field, with the Spendthrift Farm stallion approximately $700,000 ahead of Army Mule (Friesan Fire), also standing at Hill ‘n’ Dale and in third by a little more than $130,000. Ashford Stud’s two sons of Scat Daddy, Justify and Mendelssohn, stand fourth and fifth, separated by $50-odd thousand.

Good Magic: The champion 2-year-old colt of 2017 was second in his Kentucky Derby and now has sired a winner of the race in his first crop, which contains at least two other colts being pointed for the next leg of the Triple Crown. The handsome son of Horse of the Year Curlin is part of the Hill ‘n’ Dale stallion roster, which is based at historic Xalapa Farm in Bourbon County, Ky. (Hill ‘n’ Dale photo)

A second point of significance in a windfall weekend for Hill ‘n’ Dale is that Curlin (Smart Strike) had a second consecutive Kentucky Derby victor by one of his sons. Last year’s winner, Rich Strike, is a son of Travers winner Keen Ice, who stands at Calumet Farm; Good Magic was not only the champion juvenile colt of 2017, when he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but also finished second in the 2018 Kentucky Derby behind Justify.

Winner of the Preakness and second in the Belmont, third in the Kentucky Derby, Curlin has become an eminent classic influence, siring Preakness winner Exaggerator and Belmont winner Palace Malice. Good Magic’s second in the Kentucky Derby is the closest that Curlin has come to that victory but is not the only classic performance close up in Mage’s pedigree.

The winner’s dam is by Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown (Boundary). The champion 3-year-old colt of 2008, Big Brown entered stud in 2009 at Three Chimneys Farm, and both he and Curlin had first foals of 2010. Bred in Kentucky by Jerry Crawford and Paul Pompa, Puca was from the third crop by Big Brown, who now stands in New York at Irish Hill & Dutchess Views Stallions LLC.

Sent to the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale, Puca sold for $90,000 to Crawford’s Donegal Racing, which also acquired the Curlin colt later named Keen Ice at the same sale. Puca proved a 16-length winner in maiden special company at Belmont Park in October of her juvenile year and then finished in mid-pack (sixth of 12) of the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies after an eventful trip.

Puca came back in 2014 to finish fourth in the G2 Davona Dale and second in the G2 Gazelle before a disappointing 12th in the G1 Kentucky Oaks, as she was “hung wide throughout,” according to the chart, from her start in post 14.

Later in her racing career, as a 5-year-old, Puca won a minor stakes to polish her graded placing, and Donegal sold her as a broodmare prospect. Ray Smith, a longtime Donegal shareholder and partner in the group that included Puca, noted that “the rationale was to close the partnership. She had some value as a broodmare, and making a decision like that’s the hardest part of Jerry’s business, especially on behalf of first-time owners. But he takes his fiduciary responsibility very seriously, and we made quite a bit of money with her” as a broodmare prospect, selling for $275,000 at the 2017 Keeneland November sale.

As part of its investment strategy of breeding nice young mares to top young sires, Grandview Equine had acquired the Kentucky Derby winner’s dam, Puca, for $475,000 in foal to Horse of the Year Gun Runner (Candy Ride) at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton November sale. Retaining that Gun Runner filly, named Gunning and now stakes-placed, Clay and partners next sent their mare to champion Good Magic, and Mage is the second foal from Puca.

Puca has now produced a Grade 1 winner, and her dam, the stakes-placed Silver Ghost mare Boat’s Ghost, did likewise. Puca is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Finnegan’s Wake (Powerscourt). Racing for a Donegal partnership, Finnegan’s Wake won the 2015 Turf Classic at Churchill on the same day that American Pharoah won the Derby in his march to the Triple Crown.

Jerry Crawford not only co-bred Puca but also was the sole breeder for Finnegan’s Wake. In fact, Crawford either owned or bred the first four dams of the Kentucky Derby winner. He bred second dam Boat’s Ghost and co-bred with Fred Kammeier the third dam, Rock the Boat (Summer Squall), who produced a stakes winner and a pair of stakes-placed runners.

Crawford and Kammeier owned and raced the fourth dam, the Native Royalty mare Native Boat. A stakes winner and multiple stakes-placed runner, Native Boat started this progression, at least for Crawford and partners.

Racing the filly against modest company, she performed well enough to try a claiming race at Churchill Downs, and Crawford drove down from Iowa to see it with a couple of friends, including Smith. The latter recounted the scene: “On a hot June day in the early 1990s, Native Boat was running in a mid-week $10,000 claimer, and yet when Native Boat came rolling down the stretch, you’d have thought we were the winners of the Derby.

“When the race was over, Jerry turned around and said, ‘Can you imagine being here on Derby Day with your own horse?’ That was the inspiration for Donegal Racing, the partnership he would put together a decade or so later.”

Native Boat continued to improve, taking her owners to the winner’s circle after an allowance victory at three, then more allowances and a pair of stakes victories at four. She set the hook in Crawford and others for what would become a succession of racing partnerships. Then, retired to become a broodmare, Native Boat started the progression of quality that led to the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

Racing and breeding can be that way: It’s a kind of good magic.

hit show brings contemporary attention to the star-crossed stallion who won the 1960 kentucky derby


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Among the 20 colts entered for the 2023 Kentucky Derby on May 6, there is one who is unique among his peers for a tie to a Kentucky Derby winner of decades past. Hit Show has this special heritage and was bred in Kentucky by Gary and Mary West Stables Inc. and races for the Wests, like many other of their homebreds.

Hit Show’s dam, also bred by the Wests, is the Tapit mare Actress, who won her maiden in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico in 2017. And the dam of Actress is Canadian champion Milwaukee Appeal (Milwaukee Brew), winner of the Woodbine Oaks and second in both the G1 Alabama and Spinster during her championship season.

After these two high-class racers, the family thins out for a couple of generations until we come to Hit Show’s fifth dam, the stakes winner Here’s Inez (Venetian Court). She is the connection to one of the least-known Kentucky Derby winners, at least in pedigrees.

That horse is the 1960 Derby winner Venetian Way.

Bred in Kentucky by John W. Greathouse, whose family still owns and operates Glencrest Farm near Midway, Ky., Venetian Way came from the first crop of the Eight Thirty stallion Royal Coinage, who won the 1954 Saratoga Special and Sapling and finished third behind divisional champion Nashua (Nasrullah) in the Futurity Stakes.

Rock Sand, winner of the 1903 English Triple Crown, is the male-line ancestor of 1960 Kentucky Derby winner Venetian Way. Although the latter left little trace in pedigrees, Rock Sand is widespread as the broodmare sire of Man o’ War and as the sire of Tracery, winner of five premier events: St Leger, Champion, Eclipse, Sussex, and St James’s Palace Stakes.

Injured in the Futurity and subsequently sent to stud at the Stallion Station outside Lexington, Royal Coinage sired some good-looking foals, but Venetian Way was a star among them from the first. Brought to the 1958 Keeneland summer yearling sale by his breeder, the striking chestnut colt with a blaze down his face sold for $10,500 to Isaac Blumberg’s Sunny Blue Farm.

The following year, Venetian Way proved both precocious and talented. Among other races, he won the Washington Park Futurity, one of the richest events for juveniles at the time, and continued to progress into his second season of racing.

However, while unquestionably talented and ranked second behind only divisional champion Warfare (Determine) on the Experimental Free Handicap ratings of juveniles for their 3-year-old season, Venetian Way had more than his share of challenges. He was reported to have bucked shins multiple times, to have sore stifles, and eventually was found to have a splint which made him unwilling even to leave his stall.

These nagging physical woes kept Venetian Way from prospering in accord with his natural ability. He would race well, then poorly. Owner Blumberg and trainer Vic Sovinski persevered, however, and in the spring of 1960, Venetian Way ran a superb race to finish a nose second to Bally Ache (Ballydam) in the Florida Derby. That effort mattered enough that, although Venetian Way did not win a Derby prep, he still started a well-regarded third choice among 13 runners at Churchill Downs.

In the 1960 Kentucky Derby itself, the race second-choice Bally Ache led the way until Venetian Way rallied past him in the stretch to win by 3 ½ lengths. E.P. Taylor’s Victoria Park (Chop Chop) was 7 ½ lengths farther back in third, and favorite Tompion (Tom Fool) was fourth.

Venetian Way was then unplaced behind front-running Bally Ache in the Preakness before returning to finish second in the Belmont Stakes behind Celtic Ash (Sicambre). The flashy chestnut Venetian Way did not win another top race, subsequently was injured in the Arlington Classic when third, and was retired to stud.

As a sire, however, Venetian Way was woefully infertile and sired only 31 foals, then fractured a hind leg and was euthanized in 1964 at age seven. None of the stallion’s foals won a stakes, but one of them, a colt by the name of Venetian Court, is the hero of his sire’s star-crossed stallion career.

Racing from age two through seven, Venetian Court won only two of 17 starts, earning $5,283. That doesn’t seem like a racing record to build a story on, nor a record likely to earn the horse a spot at stud. Somehow, it did.

Sent to stud in Ohio, Venetian Court sired only about half as many foals as Venetian Way, but one of those was a stakes winner. That was Here’s Inez, and she is the fifth dam of Hit Show.

From the data I can summon, the family of Here’s Inez is the only connection between contemporary graded stakes winners and the 1960 Kentucky Derby winner Venetian Way, a handsome colt of great talent and a powerful mix of good and ill fortune.

The romance of finding a nearly forgotten former hero of the Kentucky classic among the ancestors of a current Derby entrant is an entertaining story, but the keys to the talent and potential of Hit Show lie in Candy Ride, his outstanding sire, and Actress, his graded stakes-winning dam, and her sire, Tapit, a source of classic ability without question in contemporary racing.

fifty years on, secretariat looms large in kentucky derby pedigrees



Fifty years ago, the hottest topic in racing, as well as the subject of numerous comments and rumors from Las Vegas odds-maker Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, was Secretariat, the son of 1957 Horse of the Year Bold Ruler who had been named the 1972 Horse of the Year following his sterling juvenile campaign.

Coming into his 3-year-old season, Secretariat had been syndicated by Seth Hancock to stand at Claiborne Farm for a record sum of $6.08 million. The syndication was for breeding purposes only, and the reason for the timing in between seasons was to help satisfy the massive inheritance taxes that had become due after the death of Meadow Stud founder Christopher Chenery.

The chestnut champion opened his 3-year-old season with a smooth success in the Bay Shore Stakes, then followed with a track-record victory in the Gotham Stakes. In the latter, Secretariat had shown a different dimension, taking command of the race much earlier than in the past and cruising to a powerful win.

Then, Secretariat ran a stinker in the Wood Memorial, finishing third behind his stablemate Angle Light (Quadrangle) and archrival Sham (Pretense). It was the first time that Secretariat had finished behind an opponent since his debut, and it was the first time the champion had raced nine furlongs.

Secretariat’s pedigree contains many of the most famous sires and dams of the 20th century and earlier, as well as an outlier or two. Caruso, anyone?

All the cliches about “Bold Rulers can’t go that far” came into heavy use as soon as Secretariat passed the finish, and with three weeks to ponder the situation before the Derby, Secretariat’s doubters came out in full force. In fairness, only eight years prior, another champion chestnut by Bold Ruler, the American-bred Bold Lad, had finished third in the Wood before going to Churchill Downs and winning the Derby Trial at a mile. Then he finished unplaced in the main event.

The gut-churning possibilities for those most closely connected to Secretariat were obvious, but those handling the colt, rider Ron Turcotte and trainer Lucien Laurin, remained stoic against the winds of rumor. The colt trained beautifully, even exceptionally, at the Downs in preparation for the Kentucky classic.

On the day, the sun shone brightly on the Kentucky Derby, and Secretariat shone even brighter. The doubts and skepticism were thrown aside and reams of praise were spun on the colt’s behalf. The result seemed even more impressive as the newly minted “superhorse” came from off the pace to win in stakes and track record time over Sham and Our Native, with future multiple Horse of the Year Forego in fourth place.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of that record performance, it is worth noting that two sires born in 1970 feature in the pedigrees of every American-bred Kentucky Derby contender. Mr. Prospector (Raise a Native) will not be a surprise, but Secretariat is the other.

Despite the rumor that Secretariat was not a successful sire, his presence is essential in modern pedigrees, and typically, the 1973 Triple Crown winner is found not once in pedigrees but twice or three times, just like his exact contemporary. They are the two youngest sires found in all these pedigrees, although a younger pair (Deputy Minister 1979 and Unbridled 1987) are bidding to join them.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown, there is a new book available that focuses solely on the champion and his offspring, and particularly on their continuing contribution to the breed. Patricia McQueen (SECRETARIAT’S LEGACY BOOK | Patricia McQueen) has produced a gorgeously photographed volume of coffee-table dimensions that documents the sons and daughters of Secretariat and their descendants.

A journalist whose work in prose and pictures has been widely featured around the world, McQueen has traveled across the country and around the globe to report on and photograph the sons and daughters of Secretariat, in particular. Her book records not only the champions and memorable stakes winners by Secretariat but also the stallion’s most noteworthy producers. Will statistics and lists of stakes winners and producers, this volume adds a significant chapter to the library of serious literature about racing and Secretariat, in particular.

McQueen’s commentary takes us from Secretariat’s first Group 1 winner in England, Dactylographer, through Horse of the Year Lady’s Secret and on to classic winner Risen Star. There are lovely color photo reproductions of these and other noteworthy racers, as well as horses who did not find themselves in the headlines.

Secretariat, in particular, remains vibrant in pedigrees through the excellence of his producing daughters Terlingua (Storm Cat), Secrettame (Gone West), and Weekend Surprise (A.P. Indy and Summer Squall), but there are a surprising number of other branches of transmission for Secretariat’s athleticism and beauty.

As we enter the intense excitement of the Triple Crown, it is a pleasure to look back on these great memories and the horses who carry on a genetic legacy through the deeds of our current classic performers.

could i have some extra phalaris with that? mr prospector forecast the next stage of the ‘phalaris revolution’


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If there were an award for “inbred of the week,” it should go to Clairiere, who carries a plethora of inbreeding. In particular, she is inbred to a couple of sires that some commentators have declared as negative influences for inbreeding. The closest of these is Mr. Prospector (by Raise a Native), who’s in the pedigree of the Grade 1 Apple Blossom winner 3x6x4, in descending order from her male line.

Mr. Prospector comes through a trio of sons: Smart Strike, Fappiano, and Carson City. All three are significant contributors of speed and toughness. Despite the popular opinion that Mr. Prospector was brittle or fragile because his own career was interrupted by physical issues, the stallion is, in practice, an unequivocal source of athletic ability and quality performance.

A higher proportion of the offspring of Mr. Prospector got to the races than the norms of the breed. Likewise, more of them won, and they won more often, and they won at a higher level than their contemporaries or the breed averages. As a result, Mr. Prospector was a leading stallion around the world.

Bred in England by Lord Derby, Phalaris became the star of his owner’s stud with the successes of his sons and daughters, first on the racecourse and then in the paddocks. Phalaris was a fast, rugged horse, and his influence has permeated the breed around the world. (photo circa 1912 by W.A. Rouch)

In short, Mr. Prospector sired racing stock that was sounder than himself, and these were not occasional departures from the norm among his sons and daughters. They were consistently sturdier and yet retaining much of the freakish speed that Mr. Prospector possessed.

A handsome, not over-large or over-heavy son of the very substantial Raise a Native, Mr. Prospector had brought the top price of $220,000 at the 1971 Keeneland July select yearling sale, and trainer Jimmy Croll had purchased the colt for owner A.I. “Butch” Savin. Unraced as a 2-year-old, the colt developed into the winter racetrack sensation of later 1972 and 1973. Mr. Prospector’s local fame came as a result of the colt’s impressive works.

The dark bay son of Raise a Native and the Nashua mare Gold Digger flamed through his works in south Florida during the winter of 1973. Trained by Croll, Mr. Prospector did not see the point in conserving his speed, and in the cooler months before Secretariat came out of his winter hibernation, the talking horse in Florida was the “freak” in Croll’s barn.

Most horsemen wished he had been in theirs.

As a result, Mr. Prospector’s workouts became as well-attended by the insiders and knowledgeable horsemen as major racing events. Just to see that horse perform.

In addition to blazing fast workouts, Mr. Prospector translated his morning talent into afternoon performances that made him unbeaten in his first three starts, including a track-record performance at six furlongs in 1:07 4/5 at Gulfstream Park. He appeared to race with such ease and elan that, naturally, clamor arose to send Mr. Prospector against the leading racer of his crop: Secretariat.

To attempt that, Mr. Prospector was entered for his first stakes race in the 1973 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. It was his prep for destiny and a shot at Secretariat, but Mr. Prospector finished second. His first defeat and his first serious injury, as he was found to have chipped an ankle.

Mr. Prospector returned from his enforced layoff and won a pair of stakes the following year at four, as well as finishing second to 1974 Horse of the Year Forego in the Carter Handicap.

In all, Mr. Prospector won seven of 14 starts, with six more in the money. The payoff was going to stud, which Mr. P did in Florida at Aisco Stud, where he sired first-crop champion It’s in the Air (1978 juvenile filly) and Belmont Stakes winner Conquistador Cielo (1982 Horse of the Year).

Both of those champions were bred on crosses with Nearco lines, especially to Nasrullah, and Clairiere herself carries multiple repetitions of Nearco, notably through Nasrullah, Royal Charger, and Nearctic, with multiple repetitions of the latter’s son Northern Dancer.

The essence of Clairiere’s pedigree, however, is greater than the particular mingling of these iconic names. She is one of the best examples of deep linebreeding to Phalaris, with at least 32 individual lines of ancestry going back to Lord Derby’s son of Polymelus. Most of these descend through the great sire’s sons Sickle, a half-brother to classic winner Hyperion and the male-line ancestor of Mr. Prospector, and Pharos, a full brother to classic winners Fairway and Fair Isle and the sire of unbeaten Nearco.

Does this mean that Clairiere is a multiple Grade 1 winner because she has a particular number of occurrences of Phalaris in her pedigree? No, it’s not as simple as that.

Clairiere is a top-class racehorse and beneficiary of some of the best genetics in the breed because she is by one of the best sires in the world and out of a top-quality broodmare. Curlin was a classic winner, multiple Grade 1 winner, and Horse of the Year at three and four before retiring to become one of the best sires in the breed, and Clairiere’s dam, Cavorting, won three times at the Grade 1 level during her racing career.

Cavorting’s first two foals to race are Clairiere and her 3-year-old half-sister La Crete (Medaglia d’Oro), who won the Silverbulletday Stakes at the Fair Grounds earlier this year. A pedigree doesn’t get a lot better than this.

blind filly posed a challenge that alice chandler answered with heart and horsemanship; begum’s stakes-winning descendants include wood memorial winner lord miles


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Lord Miles closed on the outside for victory in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, and as a result, another son of Horse of the Year Curlin (by Smart Strike) has become a “talking horse” for the classics.

From his first crop of racers, which included Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, Curlin showed that classic performance was his strong suit, and he has been a consistent source of elite, largely classic, performers ever since. His third-crop son Keen Ice won the 2015 Travers (and sired last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike); his fourth-crop son Exaggerator won the Santa Anita Derby, Preakness, and Haskell; his sixth-crop son Good Magic was champion juvenile, ran second in the Kentucky Derby, and won the Blue Grass and Haskell. Other sons, such as Vino Rosso and Irish War Cry, won the Wood Memorial like Lord Miles, and the chestnut champion sired three Breeders’ Cup winners in 2022: Malathaat (Distaff), Cody’s Wish (Dirt Mile), and Elite Power (Sprint).

In other news of Curlin’s classic colts, Skinner was a contentious third in the G1 Santa Anita Derby, beaten a nose and half-length by Practical Move (Practical Joke) and Mandarin Hero (Shanghai Bobby).

Bred in Kentucky by Vegso Racing Stable and racing for the breeder, Lord Miles is out of the unraced Lady Esme, a half-sister to three Vegso-bred stakes winners, including champion juvenile filly Caledonia Road (Quality Road) and three-time Grade 3 winner Officiating (Blame). Lady Esme is out of the winner Come a Callin (Dixie Union), and both the dam and grandam also were bred by Vegso Racing Stable.

Peter Vegso bought into this distinguished family with the purchase of third dam Twilight Service (Horse Chestnut) at the 2004 OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training. Twilight Service, bred in Kentucky by Stuart S. Janney III, had sold to Eisaman Equine for $35,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, then resold to Vegso out of the Eisaman consignment at the March sale for $105,000.

Janney had bought the fourth dam, Sunset Service (Deputy Minister), through Seth Hancock at the 1994 Keeneland July select yearling sale for $260,000 and then resold her 10 years later at the Keeneland January sale for $60,000.

In the meantime, however, Sunset Service had contributed a pair of stakes winners to the Janney broodmare band in Vespers and Database (both by Known Fact). In addition to winning stakes, each also produced a G1 winner. Vespers is the dam of Donn Handicap winner Hymn Book (Arch), and Database is the dam of Data Link (War Front).

In fact, every dam in the family, generation after generation, has produced at least one stakes winner, but none of these dams was a stakes winner herself until we reach the fifth dam, Songlines (Diesis). She was one of two stakes winners out of sixth dam Begum (Alydar). A big, stretchy, lovely mare and a half-sister to three stakes winners, Begum was not raced and for a very good reason.

She had no eyes.

Headley Bell recalled the situation: “You occasionally have blind mares, but rarely do you have a foal born like that and kept alive. When she was born, she was normal but had only these little, dark things that looked like pencil erasers for eyes.

“To make this a challenge in every sense, this filly was from the first crop by Alydar, who stood for $50,000 live foal initially, and that was a big sum in 1981 for an operation that made a living from breeding and raising horses. This one could never race, could never go to sale, and we didn’t know if she could breed. Did she have ovaries, would she cycle properly without sight to respond to the changes in light? It was a leap of faith to consider keeping the newborn filly.

“At the time, Melvin Cinnamon was still the manager at Calumet, and Mom (Alice Chandler), John Chandler, and farm manager Duncan MacDonald were inclined to give it a go. Because she was a filly. She was from an old Bwamazon family, and the combination of things were such that Mom couldn’t put this baby down. But still, you didn’t know how this would work.”

To try to give the foal every chance, Alice Chandler and her staff at Mill Ridge set to work to teach this filly how to survive in a world without a horse’s primary sense: sight.

“We plowed inside the perimeter of the paddock so that the ground was rough near the fence,” Bell continued. “We were trying to teach her not to run into the fence by making the ground different, and then we put a bell on the mare.

“She was a foal of 1981, and we didn’t breed her until she was a 4-year-old. Then we bred her to our home stallion, Diesis, and the result was Songlines. Then we were able to train Begum to load on a van and sent her to a nearby stallion, the Juddmonte horse Known Fact, and got Binalong.”

The mare’s first three foals were all stakes horses, and four of her five daughters produced stakes winners.

“All because Mom was a great horsewoman and a great lover of the horse.”

What more could anyone want to be?

classic empire’s unfinished business


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When Classic Empire won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by a neck from Not This Time (by Giant’s Causeway) in 2016, it seemed that Kentucky Derby second Pioneerof the Nile (Empire Maker) was fashioning his own branch of the most classic line of Mr. Prospector.

Classic Empire was a champion at 2, then won a G1 at 3 before narrowly missing a classic victory in the 2017 Preakness. Now he has a classic prospect for 2023 with Arkansas Derby winner Angel of Empire. (Coolmore / Ashford photo)

The latter’s son Fappiano sired Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, who in his first crop sired leading stallion Unbridled’s Song, as well as Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone (sire of Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone, sire of two classic winners himself). From later crops came Preakness winner Red Bullet, as well as Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker.

Empire Maker proved the most successful of these three at stud, getting a pair of Kentucky Derby seconds, Pioneerof the Nile and Bodemeister, who have a signal distinction. Each has sired a Kentucky Derby winner himself. Bodemeister sired Always Dreaming, winner of the classic in 2017, and Pioneerof the Nile sired American Pharoah, winner of the Kentucky Derby and the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years with his victories in 2015.

So when Classic Empire came along to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile the following year and was acclaimed champion of his age and sex, it appeared that the bay colt with the classic bloodlines had the premium events at his mercy. That is not how it worked out, however.

Classic Empire had a troubled preparation for the Triple Crown, then stepped up and won the G1 Arkansas Derby as his prep for the Kentucky classic, where he finished fourth in the 2017 Derby won by Always Dreaming. As rough as his Derby trip had been, Classic Empire had a lovely race in the Preakness two weeks later, sitting second most of the way behind Always Dreaming, then taking the lead after the three-quarters when the Derby winner “weakened,” as the chart phrases it.

Classic Empire had a three-length lead at the stretch call and appeared to be home free in the second classic, but the handsome colt tired somewhat and was caught near the sixteenth pole by Cloud Computing, who won by a head after a contentious battle. Classic Empire never ran again but entered stud in 2018 at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud outside of Versailles, Ky.

Bred in Pennsylvania by Forgotten Land Investment Inc. and Black Diamond Equine Corp., Angel of Empire is from the second crop by Classic Empire and out of Armony’s Angel, by Honor and Serve (Bernardini). Black Diamond had purchased the mare in foal to Classic Empire for $67,000 at the 2019 Keeneland November sale and took her to Pennsylvania to foal.

There she was under the management of Christian Black at Blackstone Farm, which is an operation that Black has with partners. The two entities that bred Angel of Empire are both Black himself.

“Armony’s Angel is a good-sized mare,” Black said, “and this colt has always been a good mover. He was immature as a weanling, less so as a yearling. By the time that he sold with Warrendale at the September yearling sale, he had the movement and size, but he wouldn’t have been one for the 2-year-old sales.”

A $32,000 RNA as a weanling, the colt came back in the 2021 September sale and sold for $70,000 to Albaugh Family Stable, which races him. Angel of Empire has won four of his six starts, earning slightly more than $1 million.

The mare has a 2-year-old by Collected and a yearling full brother to the Arkansas Derby winner. Black said that “Armony’s Angel foaled the yearling in late May and was not bred back. She was bred to Gun Runner in February and is 45 days in foal.”

Black said that “by myself, I breed 10 to 15 a year. All are raised on our Blackstone Farm property and are on the same program as the Blackstone Farm yearlings. But having a 7-year-old mare who’s the dam of a G1 winner (and in foal to a very hot commercial sire) is the kind of thing we all dream of. You have to allow yourself to enjoy it.”

The owner is likely to consign the mare to the November sale, depending on how things develop in the next few months. Especially if a big, improving colt were to win or place in a classic.

“That would be the natural thing to consider,” Black said. And what would classic performance mean for the sire?

The racing successes of Classic Empire indicated that Pioneerof the Nile might found an important classic dynasty. Although the juvenile champion just missed getting there in his own racing career, perhaps Angel of Empire will find the talent to succeed and make Classic Empire a classic sire.

spooky channel: ‘strongest galloper’ is finding new heights to conquer at age 8


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Not many racehorses peak at age eight, but in the case of Spooky Channel (by English Channel), he won his first Grade 2 stakes over the weekend at the Fair Grounds in the Muniz Memorial. A winner three times at the Grade 3 level before this, Spooky Channel didn’t win his first stakes until he was four, and not only that, there’s quite a lot about him, in addition, that isn’t the usual thing.

For instance, the chestnut gelding, like many another talented racer, has a sidekick, but in this case, that alter ego is a unicorn.

Trainer Jason Barkley said, “I wouldn’t call him ‘nervous,’ but Spooky is intense. My wife Shelbi gallops him, and she says that, even at his age, he’s just about the strongest galloping horse in the barn. Giving him a stuffed unicorn came from something that I had seen Roger Attfield do, giving a horse with some nerves something to nuzzle up to and give him something to think about and relax with.”

Spooky Channel is on his third unicorn at present, and it isn’t the little, fit in your hand kind of plush toy one might buy at the grocery. This is a horse-size plushy, and Spooky Channel is pretty fond of his.

Spooky Channel with his favorite stuffed unicorn

Certainly, the results from the racehorse are immensely positive since his acquisition by NBS Stables. After being claimed for $80,000 on Oaks Day 2021, Spooky Channel has earned a bit more than half of his lifetime earnings of $862,842, with four victories from eight starts, plus a second and a third, and yet only one of those starts came in 2022.

Entrepreneur and owner John Ballantyne recalled that “about three weeks after he won the (Grade 3) Sycamore at Keeneland (Oct. 22, 2021), Jason called me, and you know it’s not good news when a trainer calls from out of the blue.

“Spooky had a 15 percent tear in a tendon. There was treatment available, and plenty of time. Even if the treatment didn’t work, I wanted to give it a go to give him the best opportunity for a good quality of life thereafter. It’s a credit to how good veterinary science has become and to this animal. He’s a real tough horse.”

Trainer Barkley said, “At the end of December in 2021, we sent Spooky to Lori Hendrickson’s farm in Shelbyville, Ky., where I send all my layups, and she puts a lot of personal attention into the work. We got him back in the shed row in late May or early June. We took plenty of time with him here, and we kept scanning the tendon. Finally, it got to the point that we were confident he was sound to go, and everything has come along smoothly in his conditioning since.

“It’s an injury that a lot of horses don’t come back from,” Barkley said, “and yet if you base it strictly off speed figures, he’s a better horse now than he was before. He’s doing so well now that it’s a matter of managing him for the best results.

“It’s really refreshing to work with clients like John and Art, who recognize the value of a long-term vision. They like action, but they are patient and easy to work with. Willing to let you do your job, put the trust in you to do it right. I can’t say enough about the chances they’ve given us to show what we can do with nice horses.”

Spooky Channel is plenty nice and has won four of his last five races: two stakes before his injury, then two of the three stakes since, as well as a third in the G3 Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston.

The chestnut was bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, which sold Spooky Channel for $10,000 at the Fasig-Tipton October yearling sale to Terry Hamilton, who owned him when the horse won his second start, going 7 ½ furlongs on turf at Turf Paradise in December of his 3-year-old season.

The next year, Spooky Channel won a trio of handicaps at Turf Paradise that were non-black-type events, and as a 5-year-old in 2020, he won his first recognized stakes in the G3 W.L. McKnight Handicap at Gulfstream, going 12 furlongs on turf in 2:26.16 and paying $36.30 as one of the longer shots in the race.

As a 6-year-old, Spooky Channel began his year with a victory in the G3 Connally Turf Cup, then was ninth in the 2021 Muniz Memorial, behind Colonel Liam (Liam’s Map) and all but one other runner. The gelding’s next start was for the $80,000 tag at Churchill.

Art Neuhedel, racing manager for NBS Stables, noted that “Spooky Channel was such a nice horse that, even at $80,000, we thought ‘What’s wrong here?’ and almost backed out on claiming him. But John’s preference is going long and on the turf, and he liked the upside with Spooky.”

Bred by Calumet, from its flagship sire English Channel (Smart Strike) and out of a Kitten’s Joy mare, Spooky Channel certainly qualifies as a racehorse for “going long and on the turf,” and the powerful chestnut has amply rewarded the faith others had in him, even if he was 6 at the time.

“Honestly, the age didn’t bother me,” the New Zealand-born Ballantyne said. “I’m used to following runners who are up there. So I thought, ‘Let’s take a shot!’

“He’s done so well it’s almost scary. Sometimes you see a horse change barns and a light comes on … or goes off. With Spooky, he’d never won a Grade 2 before, and now he’s doing it at eight. He’s getting good care, training really well, and racing better than ever. He’s loving it.”

Neuhedel commented: “In bringing him back from injury, the thought was to keep him strong, keep him sound, and have some fun. Now he’s earned the right to go anyway, try anything.”

Among the anything that Spooky Channel may try is the G1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, and there are other important races at nine to 12 furlongs on turf that come to mind also. One might even be at the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita on Nov. 3-4.

To find out how that works out, we’ll have to stay tuned. Same Spooky time, same Spooky Channel.

when the glove fits: lyster and knitted gloves have woven a legacy of success


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When Ballet Dancing came home first in the Grade 3 Santa Ana Stakes at Santa Anita, it was a very good result for the owners – Westerberg, Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith – but it was an even better result for the breeders, Ashview Farm and Old Oak Farm.

Wayne Lyster and his family are Ashview Farm, and Kelly and George Davis are Old Oak Farm. The Davises own one broodmare, the Unbridled’s Song producer Fully Living, who’s the dam of Ballet Dancing.

Lyster said that “Fully Living is a big, good-looking mare, and she gets great-looking foals. We’ve been very lucky with her and have had a great time.” He chuckled and continued, “It’s easy to have a good time when you’re making money.”

The co-owners and co-breeders have grossed nearly $3.5 million from the foals of Fully Living, including a Justify filly they sold last year at the Keeneland September sale for $1.05 million. That filly ranked third among the highest prices for a yearling by Justify in 2022.

Ballet Dancing, in contrast, was “only” the fifth-highest price among the yearlings of 2020 by Medaglia d’Oro, but she is the most accomplished of that elite quintet to date. Fully Living’s foal preceding Ballet Dancing, the Nyquist colt Untreated, sold for $550,000 at the 2019 Keeneland September sale, and he was the top-priced yearling by the sire. Untreated was third in the G3 Suburban and the Pimlico Special in 2022.

The decision that first set all this in motion came more than three decades ago with the purchase of an older broodmare, the multiple stakes winner Knitted Gloves (White Gloves). Knitted Gloves was bred in Kentucky by Robert E. Lehmann and was sold by Golden Chance Farm and Lehmann family for $9,000 at the Keeneland November sale in 1989.

The buyer was Wayne G. Lyster.

On the racetrack, Knitted Gloves had been the most notable racer for the stallion White Gloves, who was a good winner (Irish St. Leger, Desmond Stakes, Ballymoss Stakes) while racing in Ireland, and was by the Hyperion stallion High Hat out of a daughter of the great American champion mare Gallorette.

Racing from age two through five, Knitted Gloves had been a graded stakes winner in the first year of the program’s operation in the States, winning the Grade 3 Magnolia Stakes at Oaklawn in 1973, as well as other stakes, including the Fantasy and Fair Grounds Oaks, that were subsequently graded.

In all, Knitted Gloves won 22 of 79 starts, was 15 times second, 10 times third, and earned $231,376. What a hardy, admirable racemare she proved; nor was Knitted Gloves done.

As a broodmare, Knitted Gloves produced Spruce Needles (Big Spruce), winner of the G1 Arlington Handicap; Dusty Gloves (Run Dusty Run), winner of the Cumberland Handicap; Big E.Z. (Slew o’ Gold), who was second in the G3 Lousiana Derby; and At the Half (Seeking the Gold), winner of the G3 Golden Rod Stakes, as well as the Bassinet, Colleen, and Pocahontas.

At the time that Lyster bought Knitted Gloves, the mare’s first two stakes winners were already on the catalog page, and Big E.Z. was a 2-year-old.

“I bought Knitted Gloves because I knew that Golden Chance had bred some really nice horses, especially tough horses, and I loved her sturdiness,” Lyster said. “She had some age on her (19), she was barren, and the market just walked away from her.”

And Lyster profited.

He said, “I’d just bought a share in Seeking the Gold, and I bred her to him.” The result was At the Half, a classy filly and one of the early stakes winners by Seeking the Gold.

At the Half was a talented filly who won five of her eight starts while racing for Robert Crabtree and Lyster. She produced Lu Ravi from a mating with Horse of the Year A.P. Indy, and that dark bay athlete began a racing career that featured stakes victories at three, four, five, and six. In the meantime, Lyster sent At the Half to the November sale in foal to Storm Cat, and she brought $950,000 from Will Farish. At the same sale, Lyster sold the mare’s foal, a filly by leading sire Deputy Minister for $325,000 to Wertheimer et Frere. Named Half Queen, that filly won a maiden special at Santa Anita in her second start, trained by Dick Mandella for the Wertheimers.

That happened when Lu Ravi was a yearling, and subsequently Lu Ravi won 11 of 26 starts, with eight seconds and three thirds, for earnings of $1,819,781. She twice won at the G2 level (Molly Pitcher and Cotillion), was three times second in a G1 (Apple Blossom twice and the Alabama), among other stakes victories and placings.

Half Queen retired to stud in 2000, and her first foal was a dark daughter of Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled. Named Halfbridled was unbeaten in four starts at two, including three stakes: G1 Del Mar Debutante, G2 Oak Leaf, and G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She won the Eclipse as the best filly of her age, and more than a few thought she was the best 2-year-old, period.

When Halfbridled’s half-sister came to the sales as a broodmare prospect, Lyster bought back into this family for the second time, acquiring Half A.P. (Pulpit) for $825,000 at the 2007 Keeneland November sale. The broodmare prospect was consigned by Hagyard Farm, agent for the Wertheimers, and for her breeders, Half A.P. had made a single start, finishing third at Keeneland as a 3-year-old.

Ashview sold the foals out of Half A.P., including Fully Living, who brought $425,000 from Spendthrift Farm as a yearling at Keeneland September. The following year, this daughter of Unbridled’s Song won on debut at Belmont in May, then proceeded to finish fourth in the G3 Schuylerville, third in the G2 Adirondack, second in the listed Meadow Star.

Fully Living appeared to train off at the end of her juvenile season and was off racing for more than six months. In the interim, “Fully Living became available to purchase, and we bought her privately from Spendthrift and continued to race her,” Lyster said. Racing for Ashview and Old Oak Farm, Fully Living never won a stakes but finished second in the Miss Woodford at three, then in the Pippin Stakes at four.

Back home at Ashview, Fully Living has continued the amazing history of her family with that of the Lysters, and there is more to come.