The following post first appeared earlier this week at Paulick Report.
The races at Churchill Downs on Sunday for 2-year-olds not going to the Breeders’ Cup revealed some promising young athletes, including the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes winner Uncaptured (by Lion Heart), now the winner in five of six starts, and the unbeaten winner of the G2 Pocahontas Stakes, Sign.
The latter is a daughter of Pulpit owned and bred by Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm. Whereas Uncaptured was a multiple stakes winner coming into the Iroquois, Sign was only the winner of a maiden.
Her début, however, was not just any maiden special. Sign had a massively impressive success at Saratoga, sprinting to victory at six furlongs by 11 3/4 lengths on Aug. 26. The filly had not raced since, according to trainer Al Stall, because she was training at Keeneland before going to the Spa for her début, and “we thought she trained better on the dirt than on the polytrack.”
As a result, Sign did not race either at Turfway in September or at Keeneland in October. While awaiting the Pocahontas, Sign had a half-dozen official workouts at Churchill Downs. With her promise obvious from that impressive début and her readiness clearly in print from her work schedule, fans made Sign the 4-5 favorite for the Pocahontas, and the bay filly won by four lengths from the City Zip filly Gal About Town.
The unbeaten graded stakes winner is the second foal of her dam, the stakes winner Cross. The winner of three races from 14 starts, Cross was bred and raced by Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne, and the mare won the restricted Hidden Light Stakes and $126,207.
Descending from one of Claiborne’s bluest-blooded families, Cross is one of two stakes winners by her sire Mighty (Lord at War). A grand-looking yearling that Seth Hancock selected at the sales in 1998 with the goal of racing and standing as a stallion, Mighty came close to hitting the brass ring like Arch had done previously.
A winner of $705,432, Mighty won the G3 Iroquois Stakes at 2, then hinted at classic prospects with a victory in the G2 Louisiana Derby the following year. Those hopes did not bear fruit, but the son of Lord at War took a turn as a stallion, getting 63 foals and two stakes winners.
Cross is one of two stakes winners out of her dam, the Rahy mare Lateral. Bred to Arch, Lateral also has produced G2 American Derby winner Lattice.
Sign’s fourth dam is the major-league producer Alluvial, an unraced daughter of the great broodmare sire Buckpasser. A member of one of Claiborne’s best producing families, Alluvial became the dam of multiple champion Slew o’ Gold (Seattle Slew) and Belmont Stakes winner Coastal (Majestic Prince).
Alluvial is out of Claiborne’s champion 3-year-old filly Bayou (Hill Prince), and this family traces through Bourtai and Escutcheon to the imported mare Affection, who was bred in France.
Alluvial’s best produce was Slew o’ Gold, a son of Seattle Slew, and the mating that produced Sign brings Seattle Slew blood back to Alluvial’s family through the Triple Crown winner’s two strongest first- and second-generation descendants: his son A.P. Indy and grandson Pulpit.
While one would not want to make too much of this realignment of pedigree influences, with Seattle Slew in the third generation and Alluvial in the fourth, the female families of Pulpit and Cross have been part of the bedrock of Claiborne breeding for generations.
Pulpit’s dam Preach was a G1 winner at 2 and has produced 10 winners from the same number of starters, but Pulpit stands out as her best performer. Winner of the Blue Grass and fourth in the Kentucky Derby, Pulpit was from the first crop by A.P. Indy and marked his sire as a coming factor for classic quality.
Preach is a daughter of Mr. Prospector and G3 winner Narrate (Honest Pleasure), and her third dam is Monarchy (Princequillo), winner of the 1959 Arlington Lassie and a full sister to Horse of the Year Round Table.
Both Monarchy and Round Table were bred by Claiborne from Knight’s Daughter, an English-bred mare by Sir Cosmo that Bull Hancock imported in the 1950s to mate with Princequillo. Knight’s Daughter was named Broodmare of the Year in 1959.
These great families have the potential to produce stock with the ideal qualities of speed and staying power. In unifying these lines, both top and bottom, perhaps the winner of the Pocahontas is a sign of great things to come.