Travel Column is a direct female-line descendant of another Oaks winner, and thereby hangs a tale. The ancestress in question is Carnauba, whose story served as the basis for the 1984 movie Rare Breed.
Foaled in 1972, Carnauba raced in Italy for Nelson Bunker Hunt and was the champion of her age and sex at both 2 and 3, her victories including the 1975 Oaks d'Italia (ITY-G1). With that kind of race record, the daughter of the Australian champion Noholme II and the Amerigo mare Carnival Queen seemed destined for a peaceful retirement as a member of Hunt's broodmare band. Instead, the Oaks winner fell victim to the social turmoil then embroiling Italy. She was stolen from the yard of trainer Luigi Turner, and Hunt received a note demanding a US$250,000 ransom for her return. Interestingly, the note was crudely scrawled on the end of a cigarette pack.
Unbeknownst to Hunt and Turner, Carnauba was not far away. The thieves had pulled off her racing plates and hacked off her mane in a crude attempt at disguise before concealing her at a girls' riding academy in the same general area. But the filly's time was running out. She was too big and hot-blooded for most of the girls to handle, and rumors were beginning to spread.
In the meantime, Hunt had reluctantly refused the initial ransom demand, knowing that if he gave in, many other horses would be put at risk as opportunistic thieves scented a profitable line of business. More ransom demands came, each demanding a lesser amount and each written on a cigarette pack of the same brand as the first but with a lower serial number on the pack. Finally, in early 1976, the ransom demand reached US$15,000 and the Italian authorities convinced Hunt to play along. After Hunt made a show of withdrawing money from a bank, a fake drop was arranged as bait. When a member of the gang showed up, the police pounced. They knew they had the right fellow immediately, for among his possessions was half a carton of cigarettes of the same brand and serial number series as the packs that had conveyed the ransom demands.
Under questioning, the thief quickly turned in his co-conspirators, but they refused to divulge Carnauba's location. Luckily, by that time Turner's son had heard the rumors about the mare at the riding academy, and he investigated. It turned out that just before the sting had been conducted, the horsenappers, fearing discovery, had removed Carnauba from the academy and looked for a way to dispose of her. Carnauba was less than 24 hours away from destruction when she was found at a Milanese butcher shop, having been sold for horsemeat at the going rate of about 60 cents a pound. She was about 80 pounds underweight and her feet were in bad shape, but she was alive.
Hunt promptly shipped Carnauba back to the United States and bred her to Vaguely Noble, and in due course she produced a bay filly appropriately named Spirited Away. The filly never raced but became the dam of multiple stakes winner Noble Regent (by Vice Regent), and Carnauba ended up producing 10 more foals including the stakes-winning Valid Appeal filly Valid Carnauba, dam of multiple Grade 3 winner Ebony Breeze (by Belong to Me) and multiple stakes winner Boastful (by Cozzene). Another daughter of Carnauba, the Empery mare Rich and Riotous, produced multiple French Group 2 winner Shaanxi (by Zilzal) and Grade 2-placed listed stakes winner Kraemer (by Lyphard), and a fourth daughter, Lyphard's Holme (by Lyphard), produced listed stakes winners Vijaya (by Lear Fan) and Takaddum (by Riverman).
Pay the Ransom, Carnauba's 1984 daughter by J. O. Tobin, did not race or produce a stakes winner, but her winning Our Native daughter Free Ransom carried on the line. The mare produced stakes winner Singit (by Sultry Song) and multiple listed stakes winner Swingit (by Victory Gallop) among her seven foals, and Swingit produced Travel Column as her sixth foal after previously producing multiple Grade/Group 1-placed Neolithic (by Harlan's Holiday). And so, Travel Column heads for Kentucky carrying at least a few adventurous genes along for the ride, handed down from the well-traveled Carnauba. If a Hollywood finish does occur in the Kentucky Oaks, it will be a fitting conclusion to one of the wilder stories in the annals of Thoroughbred racing.