This week's mystery horse failed to make his reserve on a US$34,000 bid when offered at auction as a yearling. Three years later, after becoming a champion both years that he raced in Europe, he was syndicated at a valuation of US$16 million and was a successful sire. Who was he?
Lady Prancealot left England in 2018 with only a single win in five starts to her credit. She finished 2019 as a three-time graded stakes winner. Saving her best for her season finale, the 3-year-old daughter of Sir Prancealot made her final start of the year on December 28 in the 10-furlong American Oaks (USA-G1) and exited the race as a Grade 1 winner. It took a gutsy dive toward the inside to find the filly clear sailing in the stretch, but with an open path in front of her, Lady Prancealot showed a strong turn of foot and collared Mucho Unusual within the last 50 yards to win by a half-length.
The win will undoubtedly make great advertising for the filly's sire, Sir Prancealot, who will stand for the first time in California in 2020 after being represented by three graded winners of 2019 in the state from foals conceived in Ireland. The victory may also represent the best chance for continuation of the family of Lady Prancealot's fourth dam, Brave Raj, who took some obscure Florida bloodlines to the heights of American racing.
Foaled in 1984, Brave Raj was sired by the useful Florida sire Rajab, a son of Jaipur who placed in three graded stakes before being packed off to a regional market. Her dam, Bravest Yet, was a half sister to Grade 3 winner Perfect Poppy and was sired by Bravo, an obscure son of Bold Ruler. The female line was not stellar, but it had a certain knack for producing stakes winners in spite of its members mostly being bred to sires decidedly off the beaten track.
Bravest Yet went to the good Florida stallion Valid Appeal for her first mating and produced multiple stakes winner Peal Out. Brave Raj was her next foal, and while Peal Out was providing some reason to think that her little sister could be a useful runner by the time the Rajab filly went into training, Brave Raj exceeded all expectations. A first-out winner by over seven lengths for Al-Ben Partnership, Brave Raj looked good enough that Dolly Green bought her for US$300,000 and transferred her to the barn of Melvin Stute.
Sent to California, Brave Raj lost her first two starts in the Golden State, but then everything started clicking. At the Del Mar meeting, she won the Sorrento Stakes (USA-G3) and the Del Mar Debutante Stakes (USA-G2). She then went back to Florida to annex the last two legs of the Florida Stallion Stakes series for Florida-bred juvenile fillies before flying back to California with the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (USA-G1) in her sights. Anyone who had thought she might be over the top when she finished with Added Elegance lapped on her in the My Dear Girl Stakes found themselves mistaken as Brave Raj cruised in alone at the finish of the Juvenile Fillies; Tappiano, her nearest pursuer, was five and a half lengths back. The Rajab filly then tried tackling males in the Hollywood Futurity (USA-G1) and failed, finishing fifth, but the loss did not keep her from claiming an Eclipse Award as America's best 2-year-old filly.
Unfortunately, knee trouble kept Brave Raj from running again, and her results as a broodmare were a little disappointing considering her own class and the quality of her mates. She produced 14 named foals, of which 12 started and 11 won, but her best were the listed stakes winners Russian Tango (by Nijinsky II) and Brave Bull (by Holy Bull). Russian Tango, in turn, produced Grade 2 winner Eurosilver (by Unbridled's Song), while another Brave Raj daughter, El Rabab (by Roberto), produced Canadian Grade 2 winner Muntej (by Muhtarram). A third daughter, Renfro Valley Star (by Dayjur), produced the Grade 2-winning sprinter Fast Bullet (by Speightstown).
Filfilah, a Cadeaux Genereux half sister to Muntej, proved to be the key to continuing the family. Her first foal was French Group 2 winner Baqah (by Bahhare), who in turn produced 2017 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) winner Almanaar (by Dubawi). As a gelding, Almanaar has no opportunity to contribute to future generations, but Bawah's half sister Nagrah (by the Group 2-winning sprinter Haatef, by Danzig) has come through, producing Lady Prancealot as her first foal.
With a Grade 1 win now on her resume, Lady Prancealot will undoubtedly be accorded excellent opportunities on her retirement to the paddocks. Nagrah, who is only 8, should also see the class of her mates rise, providing this family its best chance to recapture the talent that carried Brave Raj to a championship over three decades ago.
The Experimental Free Handicap has now been relegated to history, but in the days of more frequent juvenile racing was an important yardstick for rating the best Classic prospects of the 2-year-old division. Begun in 1933, its weightings were based on a hypothetical race at one and one-sixteenth miles. What horse earned the highest all-time rating on the Experimental, and what horse was awarded the largest margin of superiority over his peers?
On December 28, Hard Not to Love became something more than just Wonder Gadot's younger half sister. A come-from-behind win in the La Brea Stakes (USA-I) made her a top stakes winner in her own right. The win will also put her into the record books as the mount on which Mike Smith tied Jerry Bailey's record for Grade I wins. (He broke the record later on the same card by winning the Malibu Stakes on Omaha Beach.)
As noted in a previous post ("Wonder Gadot Is a Gal Canadians Love," April 22, 2019), Hard Not to Love is a member of the family of the modern foundation mare Gal I Love. The daughter of Hard Spun is the third stakes winner produced by Loving Vindication (by Vindication), a great-great-granddaughter of Gal I Love who had previously produced both Wonder Gadot and Grade II-placed stakes winner Solemn Tribute (both by Medaglia d'Oro). In between those two, Loving Vindication produced their full sister Bezzera, who never raced and now has a yearling colt by Street Boss and a weanling filly by Bernardini. The former, a US$90,000 weanling at the 2018 Keeneland November mixed sale, proved a successful pinhook at Keeneland September, bringing US$300,000 as a yearling.
Wonder Gadot herself sold for US$2 million to Japan's K I Farm at the Fasig-Tipton November sale last month and will begin her breeding career next spring after retiring from racing on June 6, 2019. As for Loving Vindication, she has a good chance of adding to her resume. Her 2017 colt by Bodemeister, Loch Garman, has yet to race, but the mare has since foaled a 2018 filly by Nyquist and a 2019 colt by Curlin before being bred to Medaglia d'Oro for 2020.
While Loving Vindication is the most successful daughter of Chimichurri (an Elusive Quality mare who traces to Gal I Love through that mare's daughter Homespun, herself an important producer), another daughter has helped to boost this branch of the family in 2019. This is the winning A.P. Indy mare Chimayo, whose daughter Secret Spice (by Discreet Cat) won the 2019 Beholder Mile Stakes (USA-I) and placed in two other Grade I races. Also the dam of stakes-placed Mexican Hat (by Street Cry), Chimayo produced a Nyquist colt in 2018 and a Medaglia d'Oro filly in 2019.
Chimichurri was represented by still another stakes producer in 2019 thanks to Claire's Song (by Unbridled's Song), whose son Elusive Mischief (by Into Mischief) won the restricted Meadow Stable Stakes at Colonial Downs on August 10. The next two foals of Claire's Song have so far failed to win, but the mare is still getting good opportunities as she produced a 2018 filly by Exaggerator and a 2019 filly by Gun Runner.
Chimichurri herself sold for just US$1,500 at the Keeneland November sale of 2016, thanks to a produce record that at that time boasted only three winners from 10 foals. Most of her foals were sired by top-class stallions, however, and Bull Hancock's dictum that the family is greater than the individual---at least when it comes to mares---appears to be illustrated by the production records of her daughters. All of her black-type producers are young enough to still have years of broodmare service in front of them, and given the quality of the sires they have been seeing recently, it is entirely possible that Hard Not to Love is part of a still-rising tide that may make a US$1,500 purchase into a modern foundation mare.
On December 15, Nice Lady picked up her first group win by taking the Premio Cordeiro Da Graca (BRZ-II) on the turf at Gavea. Besides being a nice Christmas gift for her connections, her win is a reminder of the international influence wielded by Pocahontas. If not the equal of her 19th-century namesake, the American Pocahontas was a first-rate producer in her own right and worthy of continued notice.
During her own broodmare career, Pocahontas produced five stakes winners headed by the champion and good sire Tom Rolfe. She also produced three daughters who, while unable to perform at stakes standard themselves, became stakes producers, among them Wampum.
Sired by 1959 American champion juvenile male Warfare and foaled in England, Wampum never made it to the track and produced only one stakes winner, Fiddlers Fare (by Luthier). However, she has been the most influential of Pocahontas' daughters in the Southern Hemisphere. In Australasia, her key daughter is Get Ready Peggy (by Hello Gorgeous), who produced New Zealand Group II winner The Warrior (by Zabeel) and is the second dam of multiple New Zealand Group II winner Kerry O'Reilly.
Pocahontas' family came to Brazil through Wampum's daughter Imagery (by disqualified 1968 Kentucky Derby winner Dancer's Image), who produced Brazilian Group II winner Dieter Jet (by Tri Jet) and Brazilian Group III winner Makatani (by Vida Mansa). In between those two colts, Imagery produced Imaginary (by multiple English stakes winner St. Chad), dam of Brazilian listed stakes winner Shogun (by 1991 Brazilian Horse of the Year Falcon Jet) and second dam of multiple Uruguayan stakes winner Fantastica Chris.
Imagery's last foal was Swiss Beauty, a 1996 daughter of Falcon Jet who brought the family to Group I status in South America through her son 2008 Joe Owen. A son of Christine's Outlaw, Joe Owen is a two-time winner of the Grande Premio Presidente Da Republica (BRZ-I) at Cidade Jardim. Nice Lady is out of Swiss Beauty's only producing daughter thus far, Lady Beauty (by Argentine Group II winner Spring Halo, a son of 10-time Argentine champion sire Southern Halo), but Swiss Beauty's younger foals include two full sisters to Joe Owen who may yet come up with some nice winners themselves.
Like all female families, Pocahontas' family contains its share of mares that have failed to produce anything worthwhile and have faded into obscurity. The trait worthy of note here is the ability of the stronger branches of this family to adapt and find success when mated to stallions from widely different genetic pools. That kind of flexibility is a rare gift and one likely to find Pocahontas' descendants among the great ladies of widely flung broodmare bands for years to come.
This old-time Kentucky Derby winner owed his existence to a change of heart by his breeder, who had culled his dam and sent her off via railroad to be sold for farm work. While the mare was en route, her owner changed his mind, recovered her before she could be sold, and had her bred instead. The resulting foal was her Derby winner. Name the horse and his breeder.
Pumpkin Rumble isn't a great horse. Hard-knocking old warriors like him have an appeal of their own, however, and his repeat win in the 14-furlong Valedictory Stakes (CAN-IIIA) on December 15 was popular---the more so since it was the last stakes appearance for leading Canadian jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva, who is retiring from the saddle. It was the fourth stakes win for the 8-year-old gelding, who has bankrolled over US$700,000.
Much of the credit for Pumpkin Rumble's stamina and soundness can certainly go to his sire English Channel, but the dam's side of his pedigree deserves a shout out as well, for he traces back to Natashka. A descendant of the great foundation mare Frizette and the outstanding matrons Valkyr and Vagrancy, Natashka proved a remarkable producer in her own right and stands at the head of her own branch of Frizette's family.
Like her granddam Vagrancy, Natashka was an outstanding race mare in her own right, her five stakes wins including the 1966 Alabama Stakes and Monmouth Oaks. She was better still as a broodmare, earning the title of Kentucky Broodmare of the Year in 1981 after producing five graded stakes winners including 1972 Irish co-champion 3-year-old filly Arkadina (a first-rate producer who founded a strong European branch of the family) and Irish Group I winner Gregorian. In addition, Natashka threw three daughters who failed to win stakes but became stakes producers and the second or third dams of Grade/Group I winners.
Truly Bound (by In Reality) was the last of Natashka's stakes winners, winning the 1980 Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes (USA-II) as a juvenile and the 1981 Ashland Stakes (USA-II) at 3. While not up to her dam's mark as a broodmare, she did not do badly in the paddocks, producing Irish Group III winner Shell Ginger and two listed stakes winners. She also produced Bound to Dance (by Northern Dancer), dam of 2000 Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) winner Silk Prima Donna (by Brian's Time), and Secret Truth (by Secretariat), second dam of 2013 South Australian Derby (AUS-I) winner Escado.
Shell Ginger, a daughter of Woodman, failed to train on after her juvenile season and produced only five foals, of which two won. One of those winners was the Storm Cat filly Clarins, and she was also the sole stakes producer among Shell Ginger's foals, producing Pumpkin Rumble as the last of her four foals.
As all of Clarins' foals were males, Shell Ginger's branch of her family appears to be a withering twig that will snap soon unless one of her granddaughters by her other two daughters proves to be the connecting link to an outstanding racer or producer. Why this should be the case is one of the mysteries of racehorse genetics, for Shell Ginger had excellent opportunities and was bred to horses who for the most part have proven top broodmare sires. Nonetheless, if Pumpkin Rumble is the last runner from his branch of Natashka's line to make some noise, there are far worse endings to have.
Only one horse has swept Santa Anita's top races for 2-year-olds (the Norfolk Stakes/FrontRunner Stakes/American Pharoah Stakes), 3-year-olds (the Santa Anita Handicap) and older horses (the Santa Anita Handicap). Name him.
On December 7, Bast (named for the Egyptian cat goddess) took down her third Grade I race at 2 with a professional-looking score over Donna Veloce in the Starlet Stakes (USA-I) at Los Alamitos. The effort will probably make her an Eclipse Award nominee rather than an Eclipse winner, as she was fairly beaten by undefeated British Idiom in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (USA-I). A look at her pedigree suggests that better things may be in store at 3, though, and the reason for that can be summed up in one word: Arch.
Not many Thoroughbred foals are inbred as closely as Bast, who has Arch 3x2 as the broodmare sire of her sire Uncle Mo and the sire of her dam Laffina. In her case, this cross builds on her second dam's being sired by 1992 Budweiser Irish Derby (IRE-I) winner St. Jovite to give a strong foundation of stamina, with the equally strong suggestion that she will be a better runner at 3 than 2---and quite possibly, better at 4 than 3 if she stays in training that long.
Bast's success at 2 is not necessarily a fluke, however. Her sire Uncle Mo was the American champion juvemile of 2010, and the aforementioned St. Jovite, though a top-class horse over a mile and a half at 3, was a champion at 2 in Ireland. Further, Bast comes from the female family of Quick Touch (by Count Fleet), which has produced its fair share of precocious runners.
While Quick Touch was bred for stamina, her primary gift to her three stakes-winning daughters (headed by 1958 American champion 2-year-old filly Quill, by Princequillo) was speed. Quill trained on to be a major stakes winner at 3 and 4 and proved a fine producer of staying runners as well, but her half sister Capelet (by the speedy Bolero) won the 1956 Frizette Stakes and afterward failed to distinguish herself further on the track. Her producing career reflected the form she had shown while racing as her best runner, Traffic (by Traffic Judge), won the 1963 Hopeful Stakes and did nothing after running second in the 1964 Gotham Stakes.
Nature, a stakes-placed half sister by Nashua to Traffic, was sounder and later-maturing but not as brilliant. She threw back to her speedy female line as a broodmare, with her best runner being 1979 Astarita Stakes (USA-III) winner Royal Suite (by Majestic Prince), who was also a runner-up in two Grade I events as a juvenile. Perhaps in an effort to breed more stamina back into the line, Royal Suite's winning full sister Majestic Nature was bed to St. Jovite, yielding stakes-placed St. Lucinda.
St. Lucinda did her best running on turf over intermediate distances and was listed-placed at both 2 and 3. She produced three stakes winners as a broodmare and was clearly at her best when bred to stallions with some demonstrated speed. Her best runner was Mananan McLir (by Royal Academy), who won the 2002 American Derby (USA-IIT).
Laffina, St. Lucinda's foal by Arch, apparently failed to pick up on the speed inherent in Arch's female family (that of 1983 American champion 2-year-old filly Althea) or in her own dam line and was probably simply too stamina-oriented to be very successful in American racing. For her, a sire with real speed was a necessity, and Uncle Mo certainly fit that bill even though many horsemen would have raised an eyebrow at the close inbreeding involved. Bast is the result of Laffina's first mating, and the mare has since produced a 2018 colt by California Chrome and a 2019 filly by Pioneerof the Nile before being bred back to Ghostzapper.
As previously noted, Quill---who as a daughter of Princequillo could be expected to stay---was both a top juvenile and a highly effective runner later. On pedigree, at least, Bast appears poised to follow the example of this distinguished member of her female family. If she does, then 2020---at least in the sophomore filly division---may well be the year of the cat.
This American champion sire was the first 20th-century horse to lead the general sire list after first standing in New York (he was champion sire after moving to Kentucky). He was also a champion on the track and was the last champion sired by his famous sire, also a leader of the American general sire list. Who was he?
I'm Avalyn Hunter, an author, pedigree researcher and longtime racing fan.