What champion racehorse recorded the last walkover in a major stakes in American racing history, and in what race was this accomplished?
While she was overshadowed by Sir Winston's Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (USA-I) victory in news south of the Canadian border, Desert Ride captured a Classic of her own by taking the Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser on June 8. The daughter of top sire Candy Ride closed strongly to capture Canada's top race for sophomore fillies by a neck in her first stakes attempt. It was also her first race in her native Canada, as she had made her previous three starts in the United States.
Bred and owned by Canada's legendary Sam-Son Farm, Desert Ride incorporates plenty of Canadian racing history in her pedigree. Her family's roots go back to Oleana, a daughter of 1966 American champion turf male Assagai who was a US$8,000 purchase at the 1971 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Oleana wasn't much of a race mare, but her first foal for Sam-Son was better. A daughter of 1969 Garden State Stakes winner Forum, Forleana won six of her 28 starts and ran second in the 1978 Tattling Handicap. Her 1982 daughter by perennial Canadian sire champion Vice Regent, Queen of Egypt, continued the improvement, winning the listed Tattling Handicap and the restricted Jammed Lovely Stakes as a 3-year-old.
Queen of Egypt got her broodmare career off smartly by producing the No Louder filly Quiet Cleo as her first foal. A multiple stakes winner, Quiet Cleo ended up amassing a bankroll of US$517,467 before retiring to the paddocks, where she produced 2000 Canadian Horse of the Year Quiet Resolve (by Affirmed).
It took until 2001 before Queen of Egypt came up with another important foal, but the results were well worth the wait. A daughter of three-time American champion sire Smart Strike (a Sam-Son product who hailed from the family of the farm's great foundation mare, No Class), Eye of the Sphynx earned a Sovereign Award as Canada's champion 3-year-old filly after winning the 2004 Lablatt Woodbine Oaks, the Selene Stakes (CAN-II) and the Fury Stakes.
Retired to the paddocks. Eye of the Sphynx has been a first-rate broodmare for Sam-Son. Her first foal, the A.P. Indy colt Eye of the Leopard, won Canada's oldest and most prestigious Classic, the Queen's Plate, en route to honors as the Canadian champion 3-year-old male of 2009. His full brother Hotep won two Canadian stakes and was runner-up in the 2010 Queen's Plate, and his full sister Deceptive Vision won the 2014 Canadian Stakes (CAN-IIT).
Fun in the Desert, Eye of the Sphynx's 2011 foal by Distorted Humor, lasted only two starts before being retired to the paddocks (she won one), but after producing Desert Ride as her first foal, she has certainly done her duty in continuing the family. Her most recent foals are the unraced juvenile filly Saturday Sun (by Sky Mesa) and a yearling colt by Candy Ride, and there is every chance that her half sister Deceptive Ride will get in on the act; her first foal is the unraced juvenile filly Goldeye (by Medaglia d'Oro), and she has a yearling Medaglia d'Oro filly waiting in the wings.
Sam-Son and trainer Neil Howard now have the happy dilemma of deciding whether to point Desert Ride toward a collision with colts in the Queen's Plate (which Sam-Son has won five times, most recently with Eye of the Leopard) or reserve her for races within her own division. Either way, Desert Ride has already done her part to keep up the family tradition at one of Canada's most storied breeding operations.
In the trivia challenge's "Test of the Champion," here are five questions related to the third jewel of the Triple Crown. See if you can come up with the answers by post time!
1) This mare was the only 20th-century matron to produce both a Belmont Stakes winner and a winner of the longest race of England's Triple Crown, the St. Leger Stakes. Name her.
2) This Belmont Stakes winner bore the rather unflattering nickname of "Old Pea Head." Who was he?
3) This Belmont Stakes winner was very fond of having his tongue pulled and would stick it out on the command, "Give me your tongue." He was also quite fond of cats. Who was he?
4) This Belmont Stakes winner is the namesake for a research project at Columbia University dedicated to researching the benefits of equine therapy for military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Who is he?
5) Florida and California seldom agree on much of anything, but one thing the two states did agree on was the merits of this Belmont Stakes winner, who currently has races named for him at major tracks in both states. Who is he?
Moon Colony could hardly have picked a better time to step up his game than in the US$500,000 Penn Mile Stakes (USA-IIT). Showing a nice closing kick, the bay son of Uncle Mo used a hole on the inside to run past pacesetter Real News and finished with plenty of run left in him.
The race augurs well for Moon Colony's future in the turf division, but in some ways is no more than should be expected given his breeding. His fifth dam is Goofed, who in spite of her name was anything but an error either as a racer or as a broodmare.
A daughter of 1945 Two Thousand Guineas winner Court Martial, Goofed was the only stakes winner produced from the Formor mare Barra II. She was a pretty good one, too, winning the 1963 Ladies Handicap (then a race of much higher standing than it is now) and earning a respectable rating of 113 pounds on the Daily Racing Form's Free Handicap for American 3-year-old fillies of 1963.
Goofed proved herself even more valuable as a broodmare than as a racer with her third foal, the Northern Dancer colt Lyphard. A multiple Group I winner in France, Lyphard was a two-time champion sire in France, led the American general sire list in 1986 and was also a two-time champion broodmare sire in France.
As good a runner as Lyphard was, his Vaguely Noble half sister Nobiliary was probably even better. A winner of the Prix Saint-Alary (FR-I), Nobiliary was second in the 1975 Derby Stakes (ENG-I) and Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French One Thousand Guineas, FR-I) and third in the Irish Guinness Oaks (IRE-I) before coming across the Atlantic to capture the 1975 Washington, D.C., International (USA-IT).
Goofed also produced multiple Grade II winner Barcas (by Sailor) and the stakes-placed mares Anya Ylina (by Bold Reasoning) and Barb's Bold (by Bold Forbes), but the daughter who established the best branch of her family had no such credentials. Named Dumfries, the daughter of Reviewer showed little of the talent of either sire or dam, placing once in two starts, and produced only three winners from her nine foals.
Dumfries' record looked considerably better after her daughters entered the paddocks, as she had two good producers among them. Dumfries' Pleasure (by Pleasant Colony) produced multiple Grade I winner Urbane (by Citidancer) and 2001 Kildangan Stud Irish Oaks (IRE-I) third Karsavina (by Sadler's Wells), and Urbane, in turn, produced multiple Grade II winner Suave and listed stakes winner Worldly, both by A.P. Indy.
Dance Review (by Northern Dancer), the other important daughter of Dumfries, scored twice from 16 races and was placed another five times. She was a much better producer than racer, her foals including 1989 Santa Barbara Handicap (USA-IT) winner No Review (by Nodouble), 1992 Californian Stakes (USA-I) winner another Review (by Buckaroo) and multiple Grade II winner Dance Colony (by Pleasant Colony).
Neither No Review nor Dance Colony really lived up to expectations as broodmares (though No Review did produce listed stakes winner Smashing Review, by Pleasant Tap), but Dance Colony's full sister Promenade Colony did her part to keep the family going by producing Promenade Girl (by Carson City), winner of the 2006 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap (USA-II) and twice Grade I-placed, as well as the restricted stakes winner Dattts Awesome (by Awesome Again). Promenade Girl is, in turn, the dam of both Moon Colony and of multiple Grade I winner Cavorting (by Bernardini), now a young broodmare. Moon Colony is Promenade Girl's youngest foal of racing age, and the mare has since produced a 2018 filly by Tapit and a 2019 filly by Liam's Map.
The 50th stakes winner for Uncle Mo, Moon Colony still has some progress to make if he is to be successful at racing's top level. Nonetheless, he is a worthy member of a distinguished family whose record has proved it to be no goof.
I'm Avalyn Hunter, an author, pedigree researcher and longtime racing fan.