This unlikely Kentucky Derby hero was a rogue with a history of bolting and swerving and was produced from a mare who served as her owner's favorite buggy horse until she was 17. Adding to the improbability of his story, he was a maiden when he faced the starter at Churchill Downs, and his jockey had to be compelled to ride him by track officials, who threatened to suspend the rider if he did not honor the commitment. Who was this improbable Derby winner?
On April 18, 2019, Wonder Gadot became the second daughter of Medaglia d'Oro to earn Horse of the Year Honors as she was crowned Canada's Horse of the Year for 2018. While she is so far not in the same league as the similarly sired Rachel Alexandra, who earned American Horse of the Year honors in 2009, her achievements are still noteworthy and a credit to a high-class family that has been turning out excellence in North America for a century, that of Flambette.
Wonder Gadot belongs to a branch of Flambette's family descended from the Claiborne Farm-bred Nasrullah mare Gal I Love, whose dam Gallita is a full sister to the great race mare Gallorette. Herself a sister to 1957 American champion 2-year-old male Nadir, Gal I Love never raced. It was in the breeding shed that she proved the worth of her bloodlines, producing three stakes winners. The best of the trio was Saber Mountain (by Bagdad), who won four stakes including the 1966 San Felipe Handicap but suffered a fatal breakdown as a 4-year-old.
Several of Gal I Love's daughter had some influence as broodmares, and the most important of them was Homespun, a stakes-placed daughter of Round Table who became a top producer for William Farish and partners. Improving on her dam's produce record, Homespun produced multiple European Group I winner Mashaallah, 1984 Oak Leaf Stakes (USA-I) winner Folk Art and multiple stakes winner Sportin' Life to the cover of Nijinsky II.
Like Gal I Love, Homespun bred on well through her daughters, among them the unraced Raja Baba mare Hard Knocker. Hard Knocker's foals include the Green Dancer colt Huambo, a stakes winner in Germany and Turkey. and Grade I-placed Grade III winner Chimichurri (by Elusive Quality), who got her major score as a juvenile in Aqueduct's Tempted Stakes.
Chimichurri became an object lesson in the volatility of a Thoroughbred's value. Changing hands six times via the auction ring, she was a US$25,000 weanling at the 2000 Keeneland November mixed sale, a US$250,000 juvenile at the Fasig-Tipton February sale of 2-year-olds in training, a US$675,000 purchase as a racing or broodmare prospect at the 2003 Keeneland November sale, and a US$2.1 million broodmare when sold in foal to Unbridled's Song as a 5-year-old at the 2005 Keeneland November mixed sale. Eight years later, with only three minor winners to her credit from seven foals of racing age by some of the top sires in the industry, she went back to Keeneland November, where she sold for US$52,000 while in foal to Astrology. She completed her slide to the basement at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga October sale, selling for US$1,500 in foal to Emcee. The foal she was carrying, the 2017 filly Havin' a Party, was a $37,000 RNA at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton October yearling sale.
Chimichurri's first foal was Loving Vindication (by Vindication), a US $725,000 Keeneland September yearling who won two of her 13 starts and had enough talent to hang up a 109 Bloodstock Research Information Systems speed figure. A US$180,000 as a broodmare prospect from the 2011 Keeneland January mixed sale, she proved a money-making machine for Ontario-based Anderson Farms, which to date has sold four yearlings out of the mare (including Wonder Gadot and 2015 Tropical Park Derby winner Solemn Tribute) for a total of US$1.165 million. Following Wonder Gadot's championship season, Loving Vindication was offered in foal to Curlin at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton November sale but failed to meet her reserve on a final bid of US$1.45 million.
With three Canadian championship titles, two Canadian Classic scores over males, a Grade II win, and three Grade I placings under her belt, Wonder Gadot has all the resume she needs to secure matings to Kentucky's top sires even if she never wins another race. She is still in training as a 4-year-old, however, so, Canadian fans will be treated to at least one more season of performances by a gal they love. And nothing would please them more than if there is a Grade I race with her name on it, an accomplishment that would add extra glitter to her already-burnished pedigree.
This champion racehorse was the star of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's "Moment of the Year" in two consecutive years, based on performances in consecutive editions of the same race. Name the horse and the race involved.
It's over. The last winner's circle shots have been taken; the roar from the grandstands at Royal Randwick has died away into memory. Whether Winx will miss the excitement of the racecourse and the adulation of the crowds is anyone's guess---most likely not, as biology takes over and she becomes absorbed in the business of reproducing her kind. It is left for her fans to feel the hollow place where she once was. For four seasons, she was the uncontested queen of Australian racing. Now she is gone, leaving an empty throne.
Numbers tell the bare bones of her story. 43 starts, 37 wins, the last 33 of them in succession. A record 25 Group I wins, more than any Thoroughbred in history. Group victories from 1200 meters (about 6 furlongs) to 2200 meters (about 11 furlongs). Four consecutive wins in three different Group I races, including the historic Cox Plate. A three-time Australian Horse of the Year, and virtually guaranteed a fourth such title when the votes are officially tallied. The world's top-rated mare on the Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings for three consecutive years, and tied with Cracksman for delivering the world's top-rated performance in 2018. The highest-earning racehorse ever, anywhere.
But numbers cannot capture what she meant to fans around the world. As her triumphs mounted, webcasts of her races became must-sees. Europeans longed to see her in action on their turf, and the collective sighs of disappointment when her connections decided against an invasion of Royal Ascot in 2018 could surely be heard on the International Space Station. Americans followed her story with such enthusiasm that in that same year, Winx became the first horse based outside North America to be voted the Secretariat Vox Populi Award as the horse "whose popularity and racing excellence best resounded with the general public and gained recognition for Thoroughbred racing," as specified in the terms of the award---and this in a year featuring American Triple Crown winner Justify. And Australians knew her simply as "The Queen."
Comparisons between the greats of different eras and different continents are essentially pointless, given the differences in conditions and competition that racing's legends faced. What matters is the privilege of having seen, even in the tiny images of a computer screen, one of the rare Thoroughbreds whose feats transcend nationality, space and time.
Thanks for the memories, Winx.
Following his retirement to stud, this champion racehorse made such an economic impact on his new community that he was made an honorary member of the local Chamber of Commerce. Who was he?
On past performances, Out for a Spin deserved to be a longshot in the Ashland Stakes (USA-I) on April 6, though at 52-1 odds, she should probably have been considered an overlay even without the benefit of hindsight. On pedigree, however, she yielded to none in the field, and the daughter of Hard Spun has now secured the credentials needed to make her a highly valuable broodmare prospect.
Out for a Spin traces her female line back to Moccasin, who has a unique claim to fame as the only 2-year-old filly to earn honors as American Horse of the Year since official voting began in 1936. Because there were multiple organizations crowning champions at the time, she shared her title with champion handicap male Roman Brother. Nonetheless, no other 2-year-old filly has come close to Moccasin's achievement.
Moccasin was a daughter of the 20th-century matriarch Rough Shod II and became a broodmare of matriarchal status in her own right. Her seven stakes winners included Apalachee (by Round Table), a horse rated so highly at 2 that he was not only the English and Irish champion juvenile male of 1973 but shared Timeform's European Horse of the Year honors with English and French champion older male Rheingold, winner of that year's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (FR-I).
Moccasin's daughter Flippers was not as good a 2-year-old as her dam or her half brother but was a good juvenile nonetheless, taking after her dam rather than her Belmont Stakes-winning sire Coastal. She won the 1983 Golden Rod Stakes and a division of the Pocahontas Stakes, was a stakes winner again at 3, and was Grade II-placed both years she raced. She had the stamina to stay intermediate distances, however, and when bred to 1977 American Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, she produced a very nice filly in Hail Atlantis, winner of the 1990 Santa Anita Oaks (USA-I).
Given her excellent pedigree and her status as a Grade I winner, Hail Atlantis was somewhat disappointing as a producer of winners given that her two best runners were only up to winning listed stakes. One of those listed stakes winners, however, was Stormy Atlantic, who proved to be one of Storm Cat's best sons at stud and a good sire of turf runners. In addition, while none of Hail Atlantis' four daughters were stakes winners, all four became stakes producers.
Not surprisingly, it was listed stakes-placed Divine Dixie (by 2004 American champion broodmare sire Dixieland Band) who became the best broodmare of the group with 2005 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (USA-I) winner Bandini (by Fusaichi Pegasus) and English Group III winner and multiple stakes producer Discourse (by Street Cry) to her credit. She is also the dam of My Mammy (by Came Home), who was listed stakes-placed as a juvenile and is now the dam of Out for a Spin, listed stakes winner Sweet Victory (by Blame) and listed stakes-placed Fernandina (by Giant's Causeway).
My Mammy is still in production and most recently produced a 2018 filly by Uncle Mo. No one can foresee what the future holds for this filly, for Out for a Spin, or for any of My Mammy's other daughters, but with the depth of pedigree these regally-bred females possess, there is every chance that one or more of them will turn out to be the kind of broodmare who throws multiple foals that, in the manner of Moccasin, have their running shoes on.
Named for a fictional European kingdom, this handsome equine prince was so impressive in his maiden victory that his second race was run as a betless exhibition. Injury prevented his appearance in the American Triple Crown series, but he later became a successful sire. Who was he?
On March 30, international racing fans were treated to a brilliant debut on the world stage. Last seen conquering older males in the 2018 Japan Cup (JPN-I) after a sweep of Japan's Filly Triple Crown series, Almond Eye (by Lord Kanaloa) simply cruised in winning the Dubai Turf Sponsored byDP World (UAE-I). The margin of victory was not huge---a little more than a length---but there was no doubt as to the eventual winner once Almond Eye launched her bid at the top of the stretch. It was the filly's first start outside her native Japan, and racing fans may now salivate at the possibility of a clash between Almond Eye and two-time Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (FR-I) winner Enable in this year's renewal of the Arc.
Almond Eye continues a run of successes for the family of Best in Show, which has been red hot in the early months of 2019. In her case, Almond Eye's connecting link to the modern matriarch is the latter's daughter Sex Appeal, who never raced but has achieved matriarchal status in her own right.
A daughter of four-time American champion broodmare sire Buckpasser, Sex Appeal inherited the back-at-the-knee conformation unfortunately common among that great sire's progeny. This flaw has cropped up repeatedly among her descendants, starting with her first foal, Try My Best. A son of Northern Dancer, Try My Best ran admirably anyway, earning championships in England and Ireland at age 2. Also the Irish champion miler of 1978 as a 3-year-old, Try My Best was handicapped at stud by his tendency to pass on his own imperfect knees but was nonetheless a two-time champion sire in Italy. He also managed to pass on his male line via 1986 English and French champion sprinter Last Tycoon, who became a champion sire in Australia.
Sex Appeal next produced the Halo filly Solar, a Group III winner who numbers 2004 Nunthorpe Stakes (ENG-I) winner Bahamian Pirate among her descendants, and Northern Guest, a full brother to Try My Best who never raced but became a champion sire in South Africa. After producing two more fillies of some significance as broodmares as well as Compliance (a poor racehorse but sire of 1991 Airlie Coolmore Irish Two Thousand Guineas, IRE-I, winner Fourstars Allstar and the popular Saratoga specialist Fourstarsdave), Sex Appeal went back to Northern Dancer and came up with a champion even better than her first. This was El Gran Senor, who emulated Try My Best by becoming the best English and Irish juvenile of 1983. Although he went under to the similarly sired Secreto in a spine-tingling edition of the Derby Stakes (ENG-I) the following year, he was nonetheless honored as 1984's champion English 3-year-old male and champion miler. He was a successful stallion in spite of subnormal fertility and made a lasting contribution to international bloodlines through his daughter Toussaud, a Grade I winner and the 2002 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year.
Sex Appeal produced three more stakes-producing fillies in the years 1983-1988, through whom she became the ancestress of 2013/14 Brazilian champion older female Estrelas Monarchos and 2002 Breeders' Cup Mile (USA-IT) winner Domedriver, among others. Her final foal of significance was Lotta Lace, a 1992 daughter of Nureyev who never raced and was exported to Japan. There, she produced nine foals including stakes winner and Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) runner-up Fusaichi Pandora (by Sunday Silence), dam of Almond Eye.
How much credit Sex Appeal should receive for Almond Eye's quality is, of course, debatable. Nonetheless, the Japanese champion is one more feather in the cap for a remarkable matron's family, and any further victories she can deliver will only add to the appeal of her bloodlines.
This hulking horse inherited much of his noted sire's stamina but little of the class of either sire or dam and was exported from his native England for a pittance when he could not attract sufficient mares even at the paltry fee of 9 pounds. In exile, his blue-blooded pedigree apparently came to the fore, for he became an important sire in three countries' bloodlines. Name him.
March Madness apparently applies to more than NCAA basketball, to judge by recent results in prep races for the American Triple Crown series. The latest upset took place in the Sunland Park Derby (USA-III) on March 24, in which Cutting Humor went from maiden winner to Kentucky Derby candidate while leaving Grade I-placed Grade III winner and heavy favorite Mucho Gusto nearly six lengths up the track.
While Cutting Humor was light on racing credentials prior to Sunday, he has perfectly good pedigree credentials for a potential Classic contender. A son of Claiborne stallion First Samurai, the colt is from one of Claiborne's more successful families of the 1990s, that of the Forty Niner mare Tour.
Bred by Patricia Blass and Claiborne from their stakes-winning Full Pocket mare Fun Flight, Tour proved a capable sprinter, winning the 1993 Curious Clover Handicap (a listed race) at Hollywood Park and placing in eight stakes races. She got off to a good start to her broodmare career with her first foal. Bred to Lord At War, she produced Trip, a multiple Grade III winner. While Trip produced only one stakes winner, Passport (by Pulpit), she is the second dam of three stakes winners including multiple Grade I winner Bolt d'Oro.
The remainder of Tour's broodmare career continued on a solid but not stellar level, with two more stakes winners and two lesser daughters who became stakes-producing broodmares (including Leave, dam of multiple Grade II winner Departing). Her second stakes winner, Joke, was the product of a mating with the top sprinter Phone Trick and, predictably, was a sprinter herself, winning the 2001 Vallejo Stakes (a listed race) at Golden Gate Fields. Joke, in turn, threw the brilliant speedster Zensational (by Unbridled's Song), winner of three Grade I sprints.
Prior to producing Zensational, Joke produced the unraced Pulpit mare Pun, who is turning out a pretty fair broodmare in her own right. Cutting Humor is the second graded stakes performer for Pun, who had previously produced Grade II-placed listed stakes winner Irish You Well (by Broken Vow).
Besides his level of overall class, one question that Cutting Humor still has to answer is that of stamina. While the track record he set for 9 furlongs on the Sunland Park Derby is certainly a good sign, Tour's family has been one in which speed has predominated. The X factor, then, is likely to be how much stamina First Samurai has bequeathed to his son, and to date he has been more a source of miler speed than stamina. Still, there are exceptions to every rule, and if Cutting Humor proves he has classic stamina in addition to speed, he may take his family touring in a new direction.
I'm Avalyn Hunter, an author, pedigree researcher and longtime racing fan.