Turf racing is now very popular in the United States, but there was a time when it was more of a novelty. Who is believed to be the first Kentucky Derby winner to have won a stakes race on turf?
The COVID-19 pandemic has set the racing world (and a lot more besides) on its ear, but in Saturday's Curlin Florida Derby (USA-G1), one thing was in proper order: the best horse won easily. That horse was Tiz the Law, (by Constitution) who in an ordinary year would now be headed for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (USA-G1) as a likely favorite.
This, of course, is not an ordinary year, and the Derby trail is now uncertain. Nonetheless, Tiz the Law has stamped himself as the best horse to emerge from his family in several generations. He is a great-great-grandson of Evil Elaine, a mare of modest origins who rose to become the dam of a Horse of the Year as well as the ancestress of a promising Classic horse.
Sired by the useful Florida stallion Medieval Man (a sprinting son of Australian champion Noholme II) out of the winning Distinctive mare Distinctive Elaine, Evil Elaine was bred for speed top and bottom and lived up to that heritage. Like her full sister Ravensmoor, she was a stakes winner over sprint distances at 2. She did not train on quite as well as Ravensmoor, who became a listed winner at 3, but did add a couple of stakes placings during her sophomore year before retiring to the paddocks.
Evil Elaine became the dam of eight winners. The best of the group was Favorite Trick (by Phone Trick), who in a rather weak year overall for American racing earned Horse of the Year honors on the basis of an undefeated juvenile season. An extremely athletic, fluidly gaited colt whose mechanical efficiency let him stretch his speed to intermediate distances, Favorite Trick captured the 1998 Jim Dandy Stakes (USA-G2) and the Keeneland Breeders' Cup Mile Stakes (USA-G2). He retired to stud having won 12 of his 16 starts but was not able to pass on his own exceptional mechanics consistently before his death in a barn fire at the age of 11.
Evil Elaine also produced restricted stakes winner Cold n Calculating (by It's Freezing) and the stakes-placed fillies Tricky Elaine (by Grindstone) and Crafty and Evil (by Crafty Prospector). The former produced 2015 Smile Sprint Stakes (USA-G2) winner Favorite Tale (by Tale of the Cat), and another daughter of Evil Elaine, the Unbridled mare Legs Lawlor, is the dam of listed stakes winner Clarinet (by Giant's Causeway). A fourth daughter of Evil Elaine who is worthy of note is Unenchanted Evening (by Unbridled's Song), who produced multiple Grade 1 winner Moonshine Memories (by Malibu Moon) and juvenile listed stakes winner Indian Evening (by Indian Charlie).
Given the records of her half sisters, Crafty and Evil became a case of "what might have been" as she produced only one foal, the winning Go for Gin filly Gin Running. This mare made up for her dam's lack of opportunities as she has produced three stakes winners in 2009 San Gorgonio Handicap (USA-G2) winner Tizfiz (by Tiznow), 2014 Precisionist Stakes (USA-G3) winner Fury Kapcori (by Tiznow), and 2010 Turf Paradise Derby winner Dixie Commander (by Dixie Union). Tizfiz, in turn, produced Tiz the Law as her fifth foal. Also the dam of stakes-placed Awestruck (by Tapit), Tizfiz produced the 2018 filly Angel Oak and a colt in 2019, both to covers by Mission Impazable. She was bred back to Constitution this spring.
Tiz the Law's dam and broodmare sire both improved substantially with maturity, giving reason to believe that he will do the same if he stays sound and healthy, and despite the speedy and precocious nature of his female line, repeated crosses to staying runners leave little doubt that he has the genetics to get 10 furlongs or more. He is part of the increasing influence of Evil Elaine, who seems to be less evil and more "wicked good" with every passing generation.
Two twentieth-century Kentucky Derby winners broke their maidens on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Can you name them?
It is relatively uncommon for a stallion to come up with two graded or group stakes winners in the same week, and for this reason, such an accomplishment is usually touted in the following week's stallion advertisements. Similar doubles for a female family are also uncommon but tend to get less attention. Nonetheless, astute observers of the bloodstock scene will already have noted that the Round Table mare Friendly Circle came up with such a double among her descendants recently. On March 17, Friendly Circle's great-granddaughter Humorada Negra scored in the Premio Arturo A. Bullrich (ARG-G3). Four days later, her fifth-generation descendant Wells Bayou went gate to wire in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (USA-G2).
A foal of 1971, Friendly Circle flashed talent as a juvenile, winning the Rare Treat Stakes (USA-G3), but ended up scoring in only three of her 23 starts. She proved a better broodmare than race mare, producing 1997 American champion older female Hidden Lake (by Quiet American), English Group 3 winner Ginistrelli (by Hoist the Flag), and listed stakes winner Midway Circle (by Alydar). Unfortunately, Hidden Lake was a disappointing broodmare, leaving it to the lesser racers among Friendly Circle's fillies to carry on the family.
Of those, Huddle (by Damascus) is the second dam of Grade 3 sprint winner More Smoke, but her branch of the family has not carried on. The branch descended from What Can I Do (by Mr. Leader) has had more success. The dam of I Can Do It All (by Linkage), a champion juvenile in the Dominican Republic), What Can I Do also produced stakes-placed Lynx (by Mountain Cat), whose daughter Uva Preta (by Dodge) became a Group 3 winner in Brazil. In addition, What Can I Do produced the Distorted Humor mare Hail to Humor, who now has two Group winners to her credit: Humorada Negra and multiple Argentine Group 1 sprint winner Humor Acido, both by the Southern Halo horse Emperor Richard.
Wells Bayou descends from Huddle's unraced full sister Syrian Circle, whose only black-type runner was the stakes-placed Lear Fan filly Miasma. Miasma, in turn, produced Saratoga stakes winner Queen of the Creek (by Theatrical) but, more importantly, is the dam of Mien (by Nureyev), dam of 2008 American champion 3-year-old male Big Brown (by Boundary) and Canadian Grade 3 winner Archaggelos (by Temple City).
Two other daughters of Miasma have produced listed stakes winners: Espial (by Banker's Gold) is the dam of Sky's Goldmaker (by Sky Mesa), while Theater Fan (by Theatrical) is the dam of Broadway Missile. A third daughter, Campy (by Theatrical), failed to produce a stakes winner but is responsible for Whispering Angel, a daughter of Hard Spun who won two of her three starts before producing Wells Bayou (by Lookin At Lucky) as her first foal. Whispering Angel has since produced the 2018 Karakontie colt Romy and a 2020 filly by Army Mule.
While this family has tended more toward speed, Big Brown is proof that it can come up with a horse capable of staying the American classic distance of 10 furlongs. With a win at 9.5 furlongs now under his belt and a Preakness Stakes (USA-G1) winner for a sire, Wells Bayou would be a hot prospect for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (USA-G1) even if the race were being run at its traditional time. Because of the Derby having been delayed to September 5 by the COVID-19 pandemic, his prospects may be still brighter, given the tendency of Lookin At Lucky's Northern Hemisphere stock to improve with maturity. A Classic win for him would add to the reputation of an already solid family whose circle of influence continues to widen.
Who was the oldest Kentucky Derby winner of all time? Can you give his exact age (years, months, days)?
On March 14, Nadal secured a likely berth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (USA-G1) by splashing home first in the Rebel Stakes (USA-G2). After setting a lively opening pace and running most of his opponents off their feet, the son of Blame had enough left in the tank to stave off a late-running challenge by Excession.
The race was just what you want to see midway through the Triple Crown prep season---testing enough to move the colt's fitness and stamina forward, not so hard as to leave him completely knocked out. Provided that the Derby runs at its traditional time, Nadal appears to be on a good path forward. A run in the Arkansas Derby (USA-G1) appears likely, and a win there would send him to the Kentucky Derby with a distance progression behind him (a sprint to 8.5 furlongs to 9 furlongs) that used to be considered traditional.
Nadal's bloodlines have plenty of tradition behind them as well. Blame, the champion older male of 2010, has a deep Claiborne pedigree behind him that has contributed to his success as a sire. On the distaff side, Nadal descends from Patelin, a daughter of Cornish Prince who stands at the head of a solid modern family.
Patelin was one of the best juvenile fillies of 1970, winning the Selima Stakes, Alcibiades Stakes, and Schuylerville Stakes. She did not train on at 3, but this did not keep her from becoming a good broodmare. She produced 11 winners from 16 foals, and among them were 1982 Athenia Handicap (USA-G3) winner Middle Stage (by Stage Door Johnny) and 1978 California Oaks winner Northern Meteor (by Northern Dancer). Patelin also produced several good broodmares, among them Last Bird (by Sea-Bird), dam of 1991 Californian Stakes (USA-G1) winner Roanoke; Flying Buttress (by Exclusive Native), dam of three stakes winners including 1984 Coaching Club American Oaks (USA-G1) winner Class Play and 1985 Remsen Stakes (USA-G1) winner Pillaster; and Pat Us (by Caucasus), whose four stakes winners were headed by Grade 3 winner Silver Fox.
Northern Meteor was a good broodmare in her own right. Her three stakes winners include the brilliant sprinter A Phenomenon (by Tentam), winner of the 1983 Vosburgh Stakes (USA-G1), and Seattle Meteor (by Seattle Slew), winner of the 1988 Spinaway Stakes (USA-G1). She also produced the Stage Door Johnny mare Meteor Stage, dam of four stakes winners including 1991 American champion 2-year-old filly Pleasant Stage (by Pleasant Colony).
Pleasant Stage died before she could start a broodmare career, but Northern Meteor's Grade 2-winning daughter Colonial Play (a full sister to Pleasant Colony) produced multiple Canadian Grade 1 winner Marsh Side, and another full sister, Meteor Colony, is the dam of 2001 Grey Stakes (CAN-G1) winner Changeintheweather. A third full sister to Pleasant Stage, Solar Colony, produced Grade 2-placed stakes winner Reform Act and is the second dam of Nadal through her Pulpit daughter, Ascending Angel.
Patelin's family has generally tended toward speed but has demonstrated the ability to throw more stamina-oriented runners when crossed with staying sires. Nadal's pedigree, thus, contains a nice balance of speed and stamina elements, a combination that should stand him in good stead further down the line as he seeks to bring more glory to an already outstanding family.
After a week's hiatus to take care of some family concerns, time for another trivia question. This time, we're going abroad to England, home of the original Derby Stakes. The question is this: of the 20th-century winners of England's greatest Classic who were sold as yearlings, which one was the least expensive? (Yes, the answer is on the website.)
You have to hand it to Hronis Racing and John Sadler. A combo that seems to specialize in hard-running, distance-loving older males, they came up with another one after their Gift Box had to be scratched from an attempt at a second consecutive Santa Anita Handicap (USA-G1). After seven previous stakes placings, second-stringer Combatant deputized ably for his stablemate and captured his first stakes race at any level in the Big 'Cap.
Unless he can back it up with several more top-level performances, Combatant is not likely to be a top stallion prospect when he retires even with the Grade 1 on his resume. Unlike many other hard-knockers who get rolling late, however, he is both entire and possessed of a pedigree that may make him a little more attractive than most horses of this sort. A son of the excellent sire Scat Daddy, he is from the family of Fanfreluche, a champion on the race track in both the United States and Canada and one of the more prolific matriarchs of modern times.
A member of Northern Dancer's second crop, Fanfreluche was a good juvenile in her native Canada, winning three stakes races. At three she was first-rate. Her resume included the 1970 Alabama Stakes against the best American 3-year-old females, the Manitoba Centennial Derby and Quebec Derby against Canadian 3-year-old males, and the Benson & Hedges Invitational Handicap against open company. She set a Woodbine track record for 12 furlongs on dirt in the last-named race, and her overall record made her Horse of the Year in Canada as well as champion 3-year-old filly in both Canada and the United States (sharing the title with Office Queen in the latter country).
As good as she was as a racer, Fanfreluche was arguably even better as a broodmare. The Canadian Broodmare of the Year for 1978, she produced 18 named foals. 14 of them were winners. Her five stakes winners include Canadian champions L'Enjoleur, La Voyageuse, and Medaille d'Or, and no less than eight of her daughters appear as the first, second, or third dams of graded or Group stakes winners.
The most influential of Fanfreluche's daughters is Sir Ivor's stakes-winning daughter Grand Luxe, who is the second dam of Argentine champion sire Lode and Australian champion sire Flying Spur and the third dam of Australian champion sire Encosta de Lago. L'On Vite, a daughter of Secretariat, has also done the family proud, producing four stakes winners including multiple Group 1 winner Holy Roman Emperor. Her branch of the clan was recently represented by her great-grandson Sherwood Forest, winner of the 2020 New Zealand Derby (NZ-G1).
Slew and Easy, Fanfreluche's 1987 daughter by Seattle Slew, was not such a spectacular success, but she did come up with multiple Grade 2 winner Conserve (by Boundary) among her nine named foals. Equally important, she produced the winning Forty Niner filly Scads, whose unraced daughter Border Dispute (by Boundary) is the dam of both Combatant and English Group 3 winner Long Lashes (by Rock Hard Ten). Border Dispute's most recent foals are the 2018 American Pharoah filly Lisboa and a 2019 American Pharoah colt. She was bred to Mendelssohn for 2020.
Combatant is now one of three Grade 1 winners in the older male division owned by Hronis Racing and trained by Sadler, who would seem to have a strong hand for California's other two-turn events for older males later in the season. (Keeping them apart may be a problem, but it's a nice one to have.) Should the horse come through as more than a flash in the pan, it's nice to think that at least a little of his talent came from Fanfreluche, a gift to her breed who keeps on giving.
On Leap Year's Day, Tonalist's Shape took another leap toward stardom. The undefeated Tonalist filly captured her second consecutive graded stakes in the Davona Dale Stakes (USA-G2) and put herself in the leading flight of fillies who are potential contenders for the Longines Kentucky Oaks (USA-G1). She also made herself arguably the best filly to grace her female family since Meadow Star went an undefeated seven-for-seven to become the American champion 2-year-old filly of 1990.
The connecting link between the two fillies is Imanative, who as implied by her name was sired by Native Dancer. Based on her racing career, there was no particular reason to expect that she would become a top broodmare, for she won only one of her 18 starts. She came from a good family, though, one that had been producing one or two good horses each generation, and although her dam Flolou (by My Babu) failed to produce any black type among her foals, Imanative made up for this with a vengeance by coming up with five.
None of Imanative's stakes winners were the stuff on which legends are based, but three graded stakes winners and two graded-placed stakes winners is an enviable producing record for any mare. The best of the bunch was Fairway Phantom, a son of two-time American champion sire What a Pleasure who won the 1981 Arlington Classic Stakes (USA-G1).
Imanative's sons did not do much at stud, and it has been left to her daughters to perpetuate her genes. While her stakes-winning daughter Marian Z. (by Gallant Man) is the second dam of two modest stakes winners, it is Imanative's non-blacktype daughters who have done the most to continue her lineage.
Ataire, a full sister to Fairway Phantom, is the second dam of 1992 Bay Shore Stakes (USA-G2) winner Three Peat and the third dam of 2003 Landaluce Stakes (USA-G3) winner Wacky Patty, but her achievements were easily eclipsed by her younger half sister Inreality Star (by In Reality). A full sister to 1985 Washington Park Stakes (USA-G2) winner Par Flite, Inreality Star produced Meadow Star (by Meadowlake) as her fifth foal. Meadow Star, in turn, is the second dam of two stakes winners and is the third dam of the brilliant Arrogate, the American champion 3-year-old male of 2016. Returning to Inreality Star, she also produced 1996 Hill Prince Stakes (USA-G3) winner Optic Nerve (by Majestic Light) and is the second dam of 2004 Berkeley Breeders' Cup Handicap (USA-G3) winner Snorter.
Fairway Star, a 1975 filly by Prince John out of Imanative, signaled that she too would make significant contributions to Imanative's family by producing multiple Grade 2 winner Wall Street Dancer (by Sovereign Dancer). Unlike most of his speedy, rather precocious family, Wall Street Dancer turned out to be a staying turf runner who could handle 12 furlongs just fine, but he had only a short stud career with indifferent results before dying of colic in 1998.
Really a Star, Fairway Star's 1982 daughter by In Reality, is the second dam of Argentine Group 2 winner Eridanus, but the branch of the family of most recent interest extends through Star of Fairway, a 1984 daughter of the good bread-and-butter sire It's Freezing. She produced two stakes winners by moderate stallions: New Haven, a gelded son of Simply Majestic, and Hi Tech Honeycomb, a Grade 2-placed stakes winner by Meadow Monster. Interestingly, both of these stakes winners were the result of low-budget versions of crosses previously successful with this family, as Simply Majestic is a son of Majestic Light and Meadow Monster is a son of Meadowlake. Adding to this theme of history repeating itself, Star of Fairway's 1995 Meadowlake filly Starry Lake, while not a black-type runner herself, produced stakes winner Grand Bank (by Dixieland Band).
Hi Tech Honeycomb's race record was sufficient to get her assignations to some solid sires, and the last of those matings paid off when she produced stakes winner Hitechnoweenie to a cover by Harlan's Holiday. The best of her dam's foals as a runner, she produced Tonalist's Shape as her first foal. Since then, she has produced a 2018 filly by Outwork and a 2019 colt by Connect before being bred to Tiznow.
Given the speed she has already shown, the ability to relax during a race, and the stamina potential bequeathed by her sire, Tonalist's Shape appears to have all the tools she needs to go forward as the distances stretch out. With a spot in the Kentucky Oaks now pretty much assured, her connections also have the luxury of being able to pick her spots between now and then. She still needs to prove herself away from Gulfstream Park and over distances greater than a mile, but on native ability, she seems to be as promising as any filly that has come out thus far this spring.
Full brothers have finished 1-2 on the American general sire list only once since records began being kept, but full brothers have headed the American broodmare sire list four times. Can you name the brothers involved and give the years in which they dominated their lists?
I'm Avalyn Hunter, an author, pedigree researcher and longtime racing fan.