A feminine counterpart to the famous four-Derby winner Black Gold, this American champion won four Oaks races over the course of her 3-year-old season. Unfortunately, also like Black Gold, she left no foals to carry on her heritage. Who was she?
Not too many mares manage to throw two foals who end up winning stakes races on the same card, but that's exactly what happened on March 16 at Laurel. In the fifth race, the 4-year-old gelding Cordmaker (Curlin x Tanca) won the Harrison E. Johnson Stakes. Two races later, his 3-year-old half sister Las Setas (by Seville) won the Beyond the Wire Stakes, completing the rare daily double for her dam. Coincidentally, it was the second stakes win for both the half siblings, who were bred by Robert T, Manfuso and Katharine M. Voss.
No one is going to mistake Tanca for one of the great matriarchs of the breed, but she has an admirably consistent record as a broodmare that many of her more heralded sisters might well envy. She has produced eight named foals, of which seven have started, and all seven have won. Aside from her Laurel stakes winners, she has also produced the 2013 Dance With Ravens gelding Corvus, winner of the 2015 Maryland Million Nursery Stakes. Her credentials, if displayed on a catalog page, might not impress someone looking for potential champions or a home-run sale yearling, but most breeders in regional markets would be delighted to have a mare like this in their broodmare bands.
A winner during her own racing days, Tanca has undoubtedly been aided by a quite solid pedigree in achieving broodmare success. A daughter of the top Maryland sire Polish Numbers (a regally-bred horse by Danzig out of champion Numbered Account, and a half brother to multiple Grade I winner and successful sire Private Account), she is a half sister to the stakes-winning juvenile Sara Rocks (by Rock Slide). Their dam, Grade II-placed Waltz, is by 1992 American champion older male Pleasant Tap (a good sire and a Pleasant Colony half brother to 1994 Kentucky Derby, USA-I, winner Go for Gin) out of Mythical Dancer (a half sister to three stakes winners by the successful Northern Dancer son Sovereign Dancer, whose maternal granddam is the fabulous producer Grey Flight) and is a half sister to Grade III winner Midnight Cry (by Smart Strike). This is a pedigree incorporating many of the best families in American breeding, and its consistent quality from top to bottom surely is no handicap in consistently transmitting genes that help make winners.
While Cordmaker is pretty much a known quantity at this point, Las Setas (a homebred whose breeders race her in partnership with Wayne Harrison and who is trained by Voss) is currently unbeaten at 3 after winning her last two starts in open stakes company and could still have some significant upside. Tanca produced a 2017 filly by the even more blue-blooded Grade I winner Imagining (she was barren in 2018), and it is to be hoped that this daughter will add to the already honorable record of a dam who has been a credit to her illustrious forebears.
This horse won the first Kentucky Derby to be accorded front-page coverage in the Louisville Courier-Journal, an honor the great race has been accorded ever since. Who was he, and in what year did he win the Derby?
History buffs should have loved the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (USA-II) on March 9, won by the namesake of a Roman historian and a descendant of a mare named for an American president. Whether the equine Tacitus will go on writing racing history is anyone's guess, but a stakes-record performance telegraphs promise, and the colt certainly has the bloodlines to deliver more.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Tacitus comes from the same fountainhead as does the other headliner so far on the Triple Crown trail, Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford (USA-II) winner War of Will. Both trace back to the modern matriarch Best in Show, War of Will through her Sir Ivor daughter Minnie Hauk and Tacitus through Minnie Hauk's full sister Monroe.
Of the sisters, Monroe was definitely the better racer. After placing in the Gallaghouse Phoenix Stakes (IRE-I) at 2, Monroe won the Ballyogan Stakes (IRE-III) at 3 and was first or second in all but one of her eight starts. She continued her winning ways as a broodmare, producing four stakes winners including 1997 European champion 2-year-old male Xaar (by Zafonic). Adding icing to the cake, six of her seven daughters produced stakes winners. The best producer among them, as might have been expected, was Group III winner Diese (by Diesis), whose three stakes winners include multiple Grade I winner Senure (by Nureyev).
Stakes-placed Silver Star, a full sister to Xaar, was less distinguished in the paddocks, as listed stakes winner Barsanti (by Champs Elysees) was her only black-type winner. It was left to her winning Storm Cat daughter Rising Tornado to carry on, and carry on she did by producing Close Hatches as her first foal. The daughter of First Defence was a very good 3-year-old, winning the Mother Goose Stakes (USA-I) and Cotillion Stakes (USA-I). At 4, she added three more Grade I wins and was voted an Eclipse Award as American champion older female. Rising Tornado later produced Close Hatches' full sister Lockdown, a Grade I-placed stakes winner, and is still in active production; her most recent foal is a 2018 colt by Pioneerof the Nile.
In the meantime, Close Hatches has wasted no time going about her dynastic duties, producing Tacitus as her first foal. After winning at second asking on November 10 at Aqueduct, the big, growthy son of Tapit was not seen again until the Tampa Bay Derby. Trainer Bill Mott seldom moves a horse that rapidly up the class ladder without having good reason for confidence in the results, and his confidence was justified when the Juddmonte homebred found an opening late on the rail and powered through. The final time for one and one-sixteenth miles was 1:41.90, erasing the stakes record of 1:42.36 set by eventual Belmont Stakes (USA-I) winner Tapwrit in 2017 and just .15 second off the track record.
With three Belmont Stakes winners and a Belmont runner-up already to his credit, Tapit obviously has no trouble getting a horse that can stay classic distances, so there are only two real questions facing Tacitus with regards to a start in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (USA-I): whether he can avoid injury, and whether he is good enough. As for Close Hatches, she has since produced the 2017 filly Atheer (by Malibu Moon), a yearling full brother to Tacitus, and a 2019 colt by two-time American Horse of the Year Curlin. With continued matings at this level, she will continue to have every chance of extending the history of her distinguished family.
This champion was sold as a yearling for just US$700 but, among his other accomplishments, set two world records for juveniles. Who was he?
Troubled by various issues during the early part of his racing career, Zulu Alpha took a while to get good. That was probably why owner-breeder Calumet Farm dropped him into the claiming ranks, running him for a tag of US$80,000 at Churchill Downs on September 14. Two parties came out pretty well that day. Calumet got the winners' purse from the race (which Zulu Alpha won by over nine lengths) plus his purchase price, and new owner Michael Hui got a horse that has turned into a new star in the turf ranks. Since being claimed, Zulu Alpha has won three of four races, all in graded stakes, and most recently took down the Mac Diarmida Handicap (USA-IIT) at Gulfstream Park on March 2.
Zulu Alpha's immediate female family goes back to Highest Trump, a daughter of 1966 American champion handicap male Bold Bidder and the fine broodmare Dear April. Raced in Europe, Highest Trump was something of an anomaly as she scored her biggest win in the Queen Mary Stakes (ENG-II) but was rated the champion 2-year-old filly in Ireland. Taking more after her maternal grandsire My Babu (the English champion 2-year-old male of 1947) than Bold Bidder, Highest Trump did not advance on her juvenile form at 3 or 4 and was retired to the paddocks with the Queen Mary as her only black-type win.
A half sister to the good California stakes mare April Dawn (by Gallant Man) and to the minor stakes winner Hurry Up Dear (by Dark Star), Highest Trump had the racing and pedigree credentials to gain access to the best sires of her day and started off with one of the best ever, Northern Dancer, for her first mating in 1977. The resulting colt, Dance Bid, won the 1981 Tetrarch Stakes (IRE-III) and placed in four other Group races including the Irish Sweeps Derby (IRE-I).
Highest Trump produced five more foals in succession by Northern Dancer, including her second Tetrarch Stakes winner, Northern Plain, but her next foal of much significance was the 1987 filly Wasnah (by Northern Dancer's champion son Nijinsky II). Stakes-placed on the race course, Wasnah threw two fine runners in Bahri (by Riverman), rated the best 3-year-old miler in England in 1995 after winning two Group I events, and Bahhare (by Woodman), winner of the 1996 Laurent-Perrier Champagne Stakes (ENG-II).
Winglet, Highest Trump's 1988 daughter by Alydar, was her first foal by a non-Northern Dancer line sire, and she was Highest Trump's most accomplished runner on the track, her victories including the 1991 Princess Stakes (USA-II). She was also Highest Trump's best producing daughter, coming up with 1997 American champion 3-year-old filly Ajina to her initial mating with Australian Horse of the Year Strawberry Road (a paternal grandson of Nijinsky II). Ajina was a modestly successful broodmare, becoming the dam of stakes winner Manchurian (by Deputy Minister) and the second dam of multiple stakes winner North Slope, juvenile stakes winner Ruthless Quality and Grade I-placed listed stakes winner Emboldened---all by 2004 American champion sire Elusive Quality, who, when put to Ajina's year-younger full sister Kobla, begot four-time Grade I winner and current top sire Quality Road. Kobla is also the second dam of 2016 Sanford Stakes (USA-III) winner Bitumen, Group III-placed Japanese stakes winner Mount Gold, and Grade III-placed stakes winner Meshell.
Winglet next produced multiple Grade III winner Rob's Spirit (a 1997 son of 1987 American champion turf male Theatrical) and Zulu Alpha's dam Zori (by 1992 American Horse of the Year and two-time American champion sire A.P. Indy) before being sent to the 1999 Keeneland November mixed sale, where she brought US$4.6 million. Unfortunately, she lived only long enough to produce the Storm Cat filly she was carrying at the time of her sale before her untimely death at age 13, and that filly, Winged Cat, has not had any significant success as a broodmare in Japan after failing to reach the race track.
Zori, previously the dam of the stakes-winning Distorted Humor gelding Bank the Eight, has not managed to produce a live foal since the 2014 colt Zulu Echo (by 2007 American champion turf male English Channel), and her only daughter, the winning Rock Hard Ten mare Call the Ten, never produced a foal. Nonetheless, Zulu Alpha has already proven himself a credit to his dam as well as his sire, the late Street Cry (also the sire of the great Zenyatta and Australian sensation Winx), and given the improvement he has already shown, his flight up the ranks of staying American turf runners may have only just begun.
Horses, like humans, exhibit "handedness," expressed as a preference for a dominant side or lead. This European-raced champion and important sire was apparently a "lefty," as he never won over a course with a right-handed turn or bend. Who was he?
There is nothing that erases the grief of losing a horse in one's stable, particularly one as talented as 2017 Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (USA-I) winner Battle of Midway. Nonetheless, Vasilika did what she could to provide a consolation prize to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's barn later the same day by winning the Buena Vista Stakes (USA-IIT) on February 23. It was the 5-year-old mare's 10th win from 12 starts since being claimed for US$40,000 and was the fifth graded stakes win for last year's Rodeo Drive Stakes (USA-IT) heroine.
Grade or Group I success is not new to the family of Nato II (Court Martial x Safari Moon, by Big Game). which also includes multiple Grade/Group I winners Quack and Flemensfirth, the Grade I-winning fillies Bundler and Likeable Style, and a fair number of lesser graded or Group winners including It's Freezing, a multiple Grade/Group III winner who carved out a niche for himself at stud as a prolific sire of durable, hard-knocking winners. Vasilika, however, hails from a lesser branch of the family.
Sired by 2010 Swaps Stakes (USA-II) winner Skipshot, an otherwise unheralded son of 1998 American Horse of the Year Skip Away, Vasilika is one of four winners produced from the Marquetry mare La Belle Marquet. A winner of one of her two starts, La Belle Marquet was acquired privately by breeder Mikhail Yanakov while in foal to Tale of the Cat (the resulting foal, a 2013 colt, was never named) and has since been bred exclusively to Skipshot. Her other foals by the stallion are the 4-year-old winner Golden Dragon, the placed 3-year-old filly Vasilisa, and a yearling colt.
A full sister to Grade II-placed multiple listed stakes winner Chris's Bad Boy, La Belle Marquet is out of the minor stakes winner Good For Her (by Topsider), whose stakes-placed half sister Sweet and Steady (by Canadian champion Steady Growth) is the dam of 1998 Princess Stakes (USA-II) winner Sweet and Ready (by El Prado). Good For Her, in turn, is out of multiple Grade III-placed winner Please Try Harder (by Nashua), whose dam is Nato II's winning daughter We Try Harder (by Blue Prince).
If Vasilika were a male, the presence of Skipshot as her sire would likely preclude top-class opportunities as a stallion. As a broodmare, however, her status as a Grade I winner and multiple graded stakes winner is likely to weigh far more than her immediate pedigree, and with good reason. Because of the stiff competition among stallion owners and managers for mares with desirable credentials as racers or producers, a good race mare need not have a top pedigree to qualify for a top sire's book. It's also worth noting that good race mares have a much better than average track record as producers regardless of strength of pedigree. That means that Vasilika, in spite of her relatively modest antecedents, will most likely complete her Cinderella story in some Prince Charming's court, giving her a good chance of adding another chapter of success to her female family's story.
Looks like we had a stumper last week with Be Like Mom, a daughter of champion Black Helen who produced three-time American champion steeplechaser Oedipus and two-time American champion filly But Why Not. Let's see if this week's question proves easier. Five horses who earned American Horse of the Year honors have been residents of the Kentucky Horse Park's Hall of Champions. Can you name them all?
Last Saturday saw Cleber Massey's 4-year-old filly Blamed pick up her second Grade III win in the Royal Delta Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The victory was doubly sweet for trainer Bill Mott, who had trained the race's namesake, three-time American champion Royal Delta. It also ended up being an amusing irony for Mott's assistant Ken McCarthy, who was saddling Blamed for the Hall of Fame trainer while Mott was at the Fair Grounds to oversee Country House's run in the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford (USA-II). As Mott's stand-in, McCarthy ended up taking part in presenting the race trophy . . . to himself.
A daughter of 2010 American champion older male Blame, Blamed traces her ancestry back to another notable champion in Numbered Account, who was the best American 2-year-old filly of 1971 and was not far off that level as a 3-year old. Her pedigree was as stellar as her performance: a daughter of 1966 American Horse of the Year and four-time American champion broodmare sire Buckpasser, she was produced from the Swaps mare Intriguing, a fine producer from the Striking branch of the great La Troienne tribe, and was inbred to both War Admiral and La Troienne.
Numbered Account's performance as a broodmare was just as outstanding as her ability as a racer. Her best runner on the track was multiple Grade I winner Private Account (by Damascus), who was also an important sire. She also produced the good Maryland sire Polish Numbers (by Danzig) and the important producers Secret Asset (by Graustark) and Confidentiality (by Lyphard).
Dance Number, Numbered Account's 1979 daughter by Northern Dancer, was not far off Private Account in ability, winning the 1983 Beldame Stakes (USA-I). A first-rate broodmare in her own right, she produced 1989 American champion 2-year-old male Rhythm (by Mr. Prospector); his full brother Not for Love, who led the Maryland general sire list 10 times and five times ranked as the best American stallion based outside Kentucky; and Grade III winner Get Lucky (by Mr. Prospector), a modern matriarch in her own right.
Bred to Seattle Slew in 1985, Dance Number produced Oscillate, who won only once from 10 tries but made up for her shortcomings on the track by producing 2006 Argentine champion sire Mutakddim; Takesmybreathaway, dam of 2008 Suburban Handicap (USA-I) winner Frost Giant; and three other graded stakes producers, among them Miss Salsa, whose gelded son Pacific Ocean (by Ghostzapper) won two Grade III events.
Blamed is out of stakes-placed Salsa Star, Miss Salsa's 2006 daughter by Giant's Causeway. After producing five foals for Maryland-based Sagamore Farm, Salsa Star was exported to Saudi Arabia in late 2016, carrying a filly by Super Saver (who traces to Dance Number through Get Lucky).
Blamed is much the best runner produced by Salsa Star, and her pedigree features a string of inbreedings to some of the best bloodlines in American racing, virtually all of it through animals who themselves had impeccable credentials as either racing or breeding stock. She herself is inbred 4x5 to both Roberto and Mr. Prospector and 5x5x5x5 to Northern Dancer; Salsa Star is 4x4 to Northern Dancer; and Oscillate is 4x4 to Glamour (a good stakes winner and excellent producer), 5x5x5 to Nasrullah and 5x5 to Polynesian. Oscillate's pedigree packs even more of a genetic wallop thanks to the presence of Busher (a full sister to Glamour's dam Striking) in the fifth generation and Busanda (a first-rate staying mare and, like Striking and Busher, a product of the War Admiral/La Troienne cross) in the fourth generation. Then we come to Dance Number, inbred 3x5 to Nearco (sire of Nasrullah) and 4x5 to Hyperion, and finally to Numbered Account, inbred 3x5x4 to War Admiral, 4x5 to La Troienne, and 5x5 to the great English matriarch Selene, dam of Hyperion.
This accumulation of high-class ancestors, crossed and recrossed through descendants that themselves stood the tests of the racetrack and the breeding shed with honor, does not guarantee that either Blamed or her stakes-placed half sister Chubby Star (herself inbred 3x4 to Seattle Slew, 4x5 to Mr. Prospector, and 5x5 to Secretariat) will enjoy success as broodmares. Nonetheless, it has yielded a very nice racer in Blamed, and the odds are good that when the time comes for her to retire to the paddocks, she will post more good runners to her ancestress' account.
I'm Avalyn Hunter, an author, pedigree researcher and longtime racing fan.