As many of you already know, Leamington was the first stallion to sire Derby winners in both England and North America, getting 1875 Kentucky Derby winner Aristides and 1881 Derby Stakes winner Iroquois. Who was the first stallion to sire a winner of the Derby stakes and an equivalent race in South America?
While the Classic season has been a muddled affair in the United States, no such confusion exists in Japan. Among the colts, unbeaten Contrail has already taken two legs of the Japanese Triple Crown and is a heavy favorite to complete the sweep. His feminine counterpart is Daring Tact, likewise unbeaten and the winner of Japan's Triple Tiara series after quickening brilliantly late to take the Shuka Sho (JPN-G1) on October 18.
A daughter of 2014 Japan Cup (JPN-G1) winner Epiphaneia (by two-time Japanese Horse of the Year Symboli Kris S.), Daring Tact is from the family of Impetuous Lady, Sired by 1954 Preakness Stakes winner Hasty Road out the stakes-winning Argentine import Escocesa II (by Nigromante), Impetuous Lady started only once without displaying the talent of either parent. She made up for her failings as a racer by producing four graded stakes winners, and all four of her producing daughters became graded stakes producers as well.
Both on the track and in the paddocks, the best of the bunch was the Briartic mare Impetuous Gal, whose racing career his its peak with her victory in the 1980 Arlington Matron Handicap (USA-G2). Put to Nijinsky II, she outbred herself with Banker's Lady, a three-time Grade 1 winner and the dam of multiple Grade 2 winner Banker's Gold (by Forty Niner). She also produced Idabel (by Mr. Prospector), winner of the 1990 Ark-La-Tex Handicap (USA-G3).
Daring Danzig, Impetuous Gal's 1990 filly by Danzig, never made it to the track, but she shone as a broodmare, producing 1999 Super Derby (USA-G1) winner Ecton Park (by Forty Niner) and Japanese Group 3 winners Pit Fighter (by Pulpit) and Daring Heart (by Sunday Silence). Daring Heart's daughter Daring Bird (by King Kamehameha) continued the alternation between good race mares and mares who failed to demonstrate talent on the track, for she made only one unplaced start before getting her broodmare career off to the best possible start with Daring Tact as her first foal. She has since produced full sisters to the likely champion in 2018 and 2019.
Impetuous Lady's family has never gotten quite the attention some other notable producing families have received, but it has also done well in the United States and Europe, accounting for 2014 Del Mar Oaks (USA-G1) winner Personal Diary, 2012 Jenny Wiley Stakes (USA-G1) winner Daisy Devine, multiple Grade 3 winner Alms, and French Group 3 winner Charity Belle over the last dozen years. In Daring Tact, this line appears to have reached a new height, and one can hope that more good things are on the way for this globetrotting family.
While 1924 Kentucky Derby winner Black Gold is commonly thought of is the first horse to win four "Derby" races as a 3-year-old, this isn't quite the case. He is the first Kentucky Derby winner to do so, but an American champion of the 19th century succeeded in collecting four "Derby" races even though he was second in the Kentucky Derby. Name him and the derbies in which he was victorious.
This past weekend demonstrated once again what has been apparent for years: Since its effective demotion to a mere prep race for the Breeders' Cup Classic (USA-G1), the Jockey Club Gold Cup (USA-G1) is an anemic shadow of what it was when it was America's premier test for older runners. Only five went postward in the 2020 edition, and the fact that a chronic underachiever like Tacitus was made an odds-on favorite is no compliment to the overall quality of the field.
Nonetheless, an interesting winner turned up in lightly raced 3-year-old Happy Saver, who showed determination in coming through on the inside to score by three-quarters of a length. Making just his fourth lifetime start, Happy Saver outran fellow 3-year-old Mystic Guide (winner of the 2020 Jim Dandy Stakes, USA-G2), and earned a "Win and You're In" slot for the Classic. Should he start and win, he would become the most lightly raced Classic winner ever; he would also be the first to win the race while unbeaten.
He would not be the first such winner for his family, however, for he comes from a distinguished clan indeed. Sired by 2010 Kentucky Derby (USA-G1) winner Super Saver, who is now in Turkey, Happy Saver is a great-grandson of 1992 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year Weekend Surprise, who scored a previous Breeders' Cup Classic success with her Seattle Slew son A.P. Indy.
A.P. Indy rode his Classic success to titles as the American champion 3-year-old male and Horse of the Year in 1992 and later became a champion sire and broodmare sire in North America, but he is far from Weekend Surprise's only claim to fame. The daughter of Secretariat also produced 1990 Preakness Stakes (USA-G1) winner Summer Squall (by Storm Bird), a good sire; Grade 3 winner Welcome Surprise (by Seeking the Gold); and listed stakes winner Eavesdropper (by Kingmambo).
As a Grade 3-winning daughter of a champion broodmare sire from a female family that has turned up top producers for generations, Weekend Surprise was a genetic treasure trove, and her descendants continue to share the wealth. A.P. Indy and Summer Squall were both expected to make good sires and did so, but their lesser half brothers Honor Grades (by Danzig; Grade 3-placed) and Tiger Ridge (by Storm Cat; winner) also became better sires than their race records warranted, spreading the influence of Weekend Surprise to New Zealand and South Africa, respectively. As for Weekend Surprise's daughters, five of them have become the first or second dams of graded or Group stakes winners.
The most recent addition to the quintet is Lassie's Legacy (by Deputy Minister), whose name alludes to her Grade 3-winning and multiple stakes-producing granddam Lassie Dear (by Buckpasser). She won only one of her eight starts and did not have any stakes winners among her eight named foals, but her multiple stakes-placed daughter Happy Week (by Distorted Humor) produced Happy Saver as her fifth foal. Happy Week's most recent foals are a 2019 Candy Ride filly named Happyfew and a 2020 full sister to Happy Saver, already given the name Happy Charger.
Happy Saver would have to defeat a substantially larger and deeper field to win the Breeders' Cup Classic, and even if he does, that might or might not give him an Eclipse Award in a year that has turned all manner of expectations inside out. It is to be hoped that he will reappear in 2021 and give everyone a chance to see whether he has the makings of a great champion or was just a pleasant surprise during a week in October.
The Pimlico Special (now USA-G3) was historically Maryland's top race for older horses on dirt. As with the Preakness Stakes (USA-G1), it is particularly sweet for Maryland horsemen when a state-bred horse makes off with the honors. This year, Maryland-bred Harpers Wild Ride carried off the honors. Can you name the four previous Maryland-breds who won the Special?
On October 4, 2019 Japanese champion 3-year-old filly Gran Alegria nailed down her second Group 1 win of 2020 in the Sprinters' Stakes (JPN-G1). Her victory underscored the loss of her sire Deep Impact, but it also brought back memories of one of the better broodmares of the 1980s and early 1990s. This was Perfect Pigeon, a daughter of Round Table who, while she never attained Broodmare of the Year honors, had a record better than some mares that did.
Perfect Pigeon was one of only three foals produced by the fine stakes mare Pink Pigeon, a daughter of T. V. Lark who would have been a multiple graded stakes winner had the modern graded stakes system been in effect when she was racing in the 1960s. Based on track performance, Perfect Pigeon's year-younger full sister Lexington Lark would have seemed the better bet to make a top producer, as she had enough ability to win a minor stakes race as a 3-year-old; Perfect Pigeon, on the other hand, could not even manage to hit the board in 13 starts. Lexington Lark, however, managed to come up with just two stakes-placed runners from nine named foals, though she is the third dam of Grade 3 winner Shoal Creek; Perfect Pigeon produced five stakes winners, three of them of graded/Group caliber.
Admittedly, Perfect Pigeon took a while to get going. Her first stakes winner, 1984 Dee Stakes (ENG-G3) winner Trial by Excellence (by Caro), was her sixth foal. But after that, she went on a roll. Her seventh foal was the Best Turn colt Aggies Best, a popular performer at Nebraska's Ak-Sar-Ben track where he was a multiple stakes winner. (He also won a stakes at Latonia---now Turfway Park---and was Grade 3-placed at Hialeah.) Foal number eight was sired by the Grade 1 winner but mediocre stallion Providential, but Perfect Pigeon came up with another multiple stakes winner anyway in Supreme Excellence, dam in turn of multiple stakes winner Glenbarra (by Vice Regent).
Returned to Caro in 1985, Perfect Pigeon produced her best runner in 1986. This was Golden Pheasant, a Group 2 winner in France and the winner of the 1990 Arlington Million Stakes (USA-G1) and two Grade 2 races in the United States. Sent to Japan to begin his stud career, Golden Pheasant was exported from there to China in 2002 and disappeared from available records after 2006.
Perfect Pigeon's final stakes winner was the 1988 Pleasant Colony filly Seewillo, who won the 1992 Queen Charlotte Handicap (USA-G3) at Monmouth. Seewillo is the second dam of Grade 3 winner of Time's Mistress and the third dam of 2019 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (USA-G1) winner Henley's Joy and Grade 3 winner Dennis' Moment.
Perfect Pigeon's other foals include three producers of stakes winners. Among them is the winner Pink Dove (by 1980 French champion 3-year-old male but poor sire Argument), who produced listed stakes winners Moonshine Hall (by Spinning World) and Malli Star (by Baldski; dam of Group 1-placed Japanese listed stakes winner Bella Rheia, by Narita Top Road).
Pink Dove also produced the Fortunate Prospect mare Morning Dove, who on the surface enjoyed only a modest broodmare career with four winners from seven named foals. Thanks to her daughter Flying Marlin (by multiple Grade 1 winner Marlin, another indifferent sire), she now appears more important, for Flying Marlin is the dam of multiple Grade 1 winner Tapitsfly (by Tapit). Tapitsfly, in turn, is the dam of Gran Alegria, and her Sky Classic half sister Classy Marlin is the dam of listed stakes winner Hesinfront (by War Front).
The family of Perfect Pigeon is not one of those families with a catalog page jammed with stars generation after generation, but in view of the uneven quality of the stallions it has encountered along the way, it has come up with its share of good runners and perhaps a bit more. In Gran Alegria, who will undoubtedly be granted access to the cream of the Japanese stallion population when she retires to the paddocks, there is hope that this family will fly to even greater heights.
As we conclude possibly the strangest American Triple Crown series of all time, here's a special Preakness trivia challenge in honor of the occasion. See if you can come up with all five answers by Preakness post time!
1) This Preakness Stakes winner was not an American champion but shared his name with another horse who was. What was the shared name of these horses, and in what years did they accomplish their signature feats?
2) What horse was the longest shot to win the Preakness?
3) Who was the youngest jockey to win the Preakness Stakes, and what horse carried him to victory?
4) This Preakness Stakes winner took such a liking to water from a Florida sulphur spring that he would raise a fuss if he didn't get his daily ration. Who was he?
5) It was all in the family for this Preakness winner, as his trainer had also trained his sire, his dam, and his older full brother. Who was he, and who was the trainer who enjoyed success with this family cluster?
Handling a surface switch from turf to dirt with aplomb, Get Her Number went from maiden winner to Grade 1 winner in the American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita on September 26. He also secured a "Win and You're In" berth in the TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile (USA-G1), which will likely be his next start.
How good he really is remains a question, considering that only two of his rivals had collected any black type at all coming into the race: Spielberg, the favorite, who had been second to Dr. Schivel in the Runhappy Del Mar Futurity (USA-G1), and Touchdown Brown, second in the restricted I'm Smokin Stakes. The weakness of the field is reflected by Get Her Number's unimpressive time of 1:44.92, which earned an Equibase speed figure of 88---the lowest for the race since Bond Holder posted an 85 in 2013. Nonetheless, he is now officially a Grade 1 winner and may improve off his first effort at the distance and over the unfamiliar surface.
A fifth-crop son of 2011 Florida Derby (USA-G1) winner Dialed In and that stallion's first Grade 1 winner, Get Her Number has an interestingly constructed pedigree undergirded by a female family that has produced some high-class horses. The core of the pedigree is a 3x3 sex-balanced cross to Storm Cat, sandwiched by a 4x4 sex-balanced cross to Mr. Prospector, and all four grandparents are backed by classy female families, giving Get Her Number a deeper pedigree than might be apparent from looking at his immediate parentage.
The colt's dam, Fancier, was admittedly nothing to write home about, as her two wins from nine starts after her maiden victory came in cheap races. Nonetheless, she had two points to commend her. One is that she is a daughter of Bernstein, a Storm Cat son who has been a multiple champion sire and broodmare sire in Argentina. The other is that she hails from the family of Shy Dancer, a mare who revitalized a branch of a fine family developed by the Whitneys with substantial help from the important sire Grey Dawn II.
One of many cases in which a mare of Whitney lineage became a foundation for someone else's breeding program, Shy Dancer filled that role for Jacques Wimpfheimer, who bred four stakes winners from her. The best of them on the track was Petite Rouge (by Ballydam), who won the 1963 Spinaway Stakes and produced multiple French Group 3 winner Princess Arjumand (by Prince Taj). She bred on through her daughter Aldonza, whose Grade 2 winning-son Purple Mountain and Grade 3-winning grandson Dawn Quixote were both by Grey Dawn II. Petite Rouge also produced the Grey Dawn II mare Auge Rouge, whose son Smarten Up (by Smarten) won the 1985 San Rafael Stakes (USA-G2).
Shy Dancer's second stakes winner was 1965 Adirondack Stakes winner Lady Dulcinea (by Nantallah), who produced 1980 American champion juvenile filly Heavenly Cause (dam of the good Maryland sire Two Punch) to the cover of Grey Dawn II. Lady Dulcinea also produced Heavenly Cause's stakes-winning full brother Jacques Who and 1983 Monmouth Oaks (USA-G2) winner Quixotic Lady (by Quadratic; second dam of Grade 2 winner Confide). In addition, Lady Dulcinea produced La Basque, dam of multiple Grade 1 winner Bounding Basque (by Grey Dawn II) and Grade 2 winner El Basco (by Grey Dawn II's top son Vigors). The most recent major winner to come from Lady Dulcinea's branch of the family was 2012 Canadian champion turf male Riding the River.
Shy Dancer's other two stakes winners both emerged after the North American grading system was instituted in 1973, and both were Grade 3 winners. One, the Northern Dancer colt Champagne Charlie, was exported to Japan. The other was four-time Grade 3 winner Shy Dawn (by Grey Dawn II), who produced multiple Grade 1 winner Opening Verse (by The Minstrel), Grade 3 winner So She Sleeps (by Seattle Slew), and multiple stakes winner Dangerous Dawn (by Cox's Ridge). She also produced the 1986 Prix Morny (FR-G1) runner-up Shy Princess (by Irish River), whose foals include English Group 2 winner Diffident (by Nureyev) and Pegasus Princess (by Fusaichi Pegasus), the granddam of Get Her Number.
While Shy Dancer's family has produced some horses capable of fine performances at 9 furlongs or more, the family tends to be tilted more toward sprinters and milers, leaving the question of whether Get Her Number will fare well at more than an extended mile, particularly in better company than he faced last Saturday. So far, Dialed In does not seem to be stretching out his offspring much, and Bernstein was a multiple Group 3 winner over sprint distances. Nonetheless, he has already added some fresh credit to a family that need not he shy in anyone's company.
Once the subject of great popular interest, match races have dropped out of favor with American racing fans since the tragic outcome of Ruffian's match race against Foolish Pleasure in 1975. Who were the participants in the last major match race held in North America prior to that event, and what was the outcome?
There is not much doubt as to the identity of the best horse in Canada right now. A three-time Sovereign Award winner as champion female turf horse and the reigning Canadian Horse of the Year, Starship Jubilee signaled her determination to hold on to her throne by turning back the males in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile (CAN-G1). The victory was her second in a Grade 1 race, her fourth in five 2020 starts, and her 19th from 38 lifetime starts. As a "Win and You're In" race for the FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile (USA-G1), the Woodbine Mile also punched Starship Jubilee's ticket to the biggest day in American racing.
In spite of her proven prowess, Starship Jubilee will not likely be a favorite for the Breeders' Cup Mile, which will almost certainly draw a much deeper field than she conquered at Woodbine. That being said, she will still go in with a real chance---heady stuff for a Florida-bred who was plucked out of a claiming race for US$16,000 three years ago.
Florida does not have the breeding market now that it did when In Reality, Dr. Fager, and Mr. Prospector were holding court there in the 1970s. As in other regional markets, its stallions tend to be either good racehorses with unfashionable pedigrees or well-bred underperformers who are getting a chance at stud because of their bloodlines; likewise, the mare base is plebeian compared to that found amid the great Kentucky farms.
As might be expected from the "Florida-bred" label, Starship Jubilee's immediate parentage is relatively modest. Her sire Indy Wind won five stakes races but none in graded company, and her dam Perfectly Wild never made it to the track at all. But behind them stand some very good horses. Although Indy Wind could not get enough traction to maintain a place in Florida and ended up moving to Ohio, he is by 1992 American Horse of the Year and two-time American champion sire A.P. Indy, boasts French Classic winner and important sire Kingmambo as a broodmare sire, and is out of a daughter of 1978 American champion older female Late Bloomer.
Perfectly Wild, too, has good pedigree connections. Her sire, multiple Grade 3 winner Forest Wildcat (by Storm Cat) proved a good speed sire, and his Grade 1-winning son Wildcat Heir was a perennial leading sire in Florida. As for her dam, she was 1995 Queen Elizabeth II Invitational Challenge Cup Stakes (USA-G1) winner Perfect Arc, a very good grass filly who won 10 of 13 starts and was only unplaced once during her racing career.
Like her granddaughter, Perfect Arc was much the best runner sired by a beautifully-bred underachiever, though one with less racing credentials than Indy Wind. In her case, the sire was the Alleged horse Brown Arc, a full brother to 1988 Prix du Jockey Club Lancia (French Derby, FR-G1) winner Hours After and a half brother to 1975 Belmont Stakes (USA-G1) winner Avatar, 1972 Charles H. Strub Stakes winner Unconscious, and multiple Group 2 winner Monseigneur. In her racing talent, Perfect Arc was much closer to her dam Podeica, an Argentine import who had a rather indifferent pedigree but established the family tradition by winning the 1987 Polla de Potrancas (Argentine One Thousand Guineas, ARG-G1) and placing in three Group 1 races including a second in the 1987 Gran Premio Selección (Argentine Oaks, ARG-G1).
Perfect Arc was by far the best of Podeica's four American-bred foals (though all were winners), and she herself was a great disappointment as a broodmare, producing only three minor winners from eight named foals. Perfectly Wild was her only producing daughter and has produced two stakes-placed runners in addition to Starship Jubilee.
Only one of Perfectly Wild's daughters has produced a foal to date, and Perfect Berry (by world record setter and multiple Grade 3 winner Mr. Light) has only one foal, the unraced 2016 colt Perfect Risk. This means that the perpetuation of this female line will most likely rest with Starship Jubilee, whose offbeat pedigree will undoubtedly be overlooked in favor of her excellent race record when it comes to her potential partners in the breeding shed. While she is a reminder of the fact that a good racehorse can come from anywhere, she is also a reminder of the fact that most of those who do come from less than stellar backgrounds usually have good horses close up in their backgrounds, providing some depth to their genetic pools and a chance that one mating will catch lightning in a bottle. In Starship Jubilee's case, the spark was there, and it remains to be seen whether she can pass that spark on consistently or if she will be another in her family's list of one-hit wonders.
I'm Avalyn Hunter, an author, pedigree researcher and longtime racing fan.