Full brothers have finished 1-2 on the American general sire list only once since records began being kept, but full brothers have headed the American broodmare sire list four times. Can you name the brothers involved and give the years in which they dominated their lists?
Dismissed at odds of 36-1 in the Buena Vista Stakes (USA-G2), Keeper ofthe Stars delivered a shocker on February 22 by running down previously undefeated Jolie Olimpica for the victory. A change of tactics seemed to be the key to victory. While Jolie Olimpica was overly keen in the early going. Keeper ofthe Stars was able to relax off the pace and delivered her closing punch when it counted to secure her second graded stakes win.
While she is now part of the Southern California scene, Keeper of the Stars has her roots in a prominent family of the Mid-Atlantic region. The daughter of Midnight Lute is descended from Right as Rain, whose sire Rasper II, an imported son of 1941 Derby Stakes winner Owen Tudor (by Hyperion), stood in New Jersey after a useful but uninspiring racing career.
While there was a time when some very good horses were being bred in New Jersey, that was well before Rasper II went to stud. Nonetheless, he proved a useful stallion, and his Maryland-bred daughter Right as Rain did her part to prove the worth of her sire's genes. A winner on the track, she produced four stakes winners and two stakes-placed runners. The best of the bunch was Gala Lil (by the hardy 1965 Pimlico Futurity winner Spring Double), who won eight stakes races on the Mid-Atlantic circuit and was Grade 2-placed in a racing career that saw her notch 25 wins from 65 starts.
Rain Shower, Right as Rain's 1980 daughter by Bold Forbes, was not as talented as Gala Lil but was the best of Right of Rain's daughters as a producer. After placing in minor stakes races at Fairmount Park and Balmoral, she produced two stakes winners as well as stakes-placed Nina Ashley (by Criminal Type), whose son Maerto won two Group 1 events in Peru.
Both of Rain Shower's stakes winners became stakes producers as well. Showering (by Miswaki) went to Canada, where she was a listed stakes winner before producing 2009 Breeders' Stakes winner Perfect Shower (by Perfect Soul). As for Skatingonthinice (a cleverly named daughter of Icecapade), she won two minor stakes races in the Midwest as a 4-year-old before producing Chief Seattle. A highly regarded son of Seattle Slew, Chief Seattle ran second in both the Champagne Stakes (USA-G1) and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (USA-G1) but fell prey to injury at 3 and did not live up to the hopes placed on him as a sire.
Greyciousness, Skatingonthinice's daughter by Miswaki, has had greater long-term importance. A winner of two of her 14 starts, she produced the multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter The Factor (by War Front), now a successful young stallion. Through her unraced daughter Sociable (by Run Away and Hide), she is also the second dam of Keeper ofthe Stars. Sociable. now a 10-year-old, produced the Verrazano colt Valenzano in 2018 and a colt by Classic Empire in 2019 before being bred to Mor Spirit. As for Greyciousness herself, she last produced a Super Saver colt in 2018 but has several other young daughters now in production.
Right as Rain's family is not one of the great matriarchies of the turf, but its members have done well with the opportunities that have been provided to them and have shown the ability to improve their production when mated to better stallions. After having produced The Factor and Keeper ofthe Stars, its prospects are better than ever. It remains to be seen whether this family can use its improved opportunities to build its status further or if its recent successes are only a passing shower in the overall climate of the breeding industry.
Looks like last week's "name's the same" question was a stumper; the name looked for was "Floreal," which was borne by both the 1909 Kentucky Oaks winner (female) and the 1905 Gran Premio Nacional (Argentine Derby) winner (male). For this week, we turn to the male line of 16-time American champion sire Lexington, which died out in the late 20th century. The question is this: Who was the last horse descended from Lexington in direct male line to have won the Kentucky Derby?
A US$500,000 sales yearling, Invader has been a work in progress but seems to be catching on to the racing game. Now 2-for-2 at Turfway Park after breaking his maiden by nearly 13 lengths in his last outing, he aired again in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes on Valentine's Day.
That may be enough to start Kentucky Derby dreams dancing in the heads of the regally bred War Front colt's connections, but transitioning from the synthetic surface at Turfway to the dirt at Churchill Downs has not proven easy in the past, and Invader has not won anywhere else in six starts. Further, Invader has no points on the board for a Derby starting berth and will have at most two opportunities to acquire enough points to make the Run for the Roses.
Still, a look at the colt's family is enough to set anyone dreaming of what might be. He is a full brother to Fog of War, victorious in the 2018 Summer Stakes (CAN-G1), and to Naval Intelligence, a listed stakes winner in England. That is three stakes winners from three foals to race from his dam Say, who has not produced a foal to live since Invader but was sent back to War Front for 2020.
A daughter of the great European sire Galileo, Say was herself a Group 1-placed Group 3 winner in Europe and is out of multiple Grade 1 winner Riskaverse, by the stamina influence Dynaformer. Herself a half sister to Grade 3 winner Cozzy Corner (by Cozzene), Riskaverse is out of Grade 3-placed The Bink (by Seeking the Gold), who is a half sister to the dams of 2011 American Horse of the Year Havre de Grace and 2014 Belmont Stakes (USA-G1) winner Tonalist. From there, the female line passes through the stakes-winning Topsider mare Toll Fee to Toll Booth, the 1991 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year.
This is a female line whose best members have typically taken some time to come to top form, and between that and the stamina influences loaded through the bottom side of the pedigree, Invader had every right to need a little time and distance to come to hand in spite of the speedier influence of his sire. On immediate pedigree, Invader also seems a natural for turf racing, but there he has not shown quite the expected affinity. And on that score, he seems to bear a resemblance to another son of War Front with a pedigree that should have destined him for the grass . . . War of Will, who ended up winning the 2019 Preakness Stakes (USA-G1) and two other graded stakes on dirt in spite of having a dam by Sadler's Wells (also a great sire in Europe and sire of Galileo) and a family with a lot of success on turf.
Could lightning strike twice? The next few months will tell.
In an unusual case of "name's the same," two horses with the same name won Classic races in the Americas during the 20th century. The two Classic winners are of opposite sexes, and neither achieved much distinction beyond his/her Classic win. Can you name these two racers and their major victories?
Few horses burst into stardom with the panache shown by Venetian Harbor. After breaking her maiden by nearly 11 lengths at second asking on December 29, the Munnings filly showed equal disdain for graded stakes competition when making her black type debut in the Las Virgenes Stakes (USA-G2). Bet down to 1-5, she ran as an odds-on favorite should, romping home by over 9 lengths. She is now being touted as a likely favorite for the Santa Anita Oaks (USA-G2), and if successful there, the Longines Kentucky Oaks (USA-G1).
Although the filly is no longer owned by breeder Colts Neck Farm (which sold her for US$110,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September yearling sale), she surely brings back memories for Colts Neck owner Richard Santulli, who partnered with Barry Weisbord to purchase a stakes-winning Maryland-bred filly following her juvenile season in 1988. Named Safely Kept, that filly took Weisbord and Santulli on the ride of a lifetime, winning a title as American champion sprinter in 1989 and defeating European champion Dayjur in a memorable edition of the Breeders' Cup Sprint (USA-G1). She raced on through age 5 and retired having won 24 of her 31 starts and US$2,194,206.
Since her retirement, Santulli has nurtured Safely Kept's family for generations, originally under the name of Jayeff B Stables and then as Colts Neck. The great mare produced 10 named foals, including Grade 3-placed multiple stakes winner Contrast (by Unbridled) and listed stakes winner Peace Chant (by War Chant).
Given the quality of the stallions Safely Kept was bred to during her broodmare career, these results could be considered somewhat disappointing. Nonetheless, she left four daughters to continue her family. The important one turned out to be the eldest, the 1995 Mr. Prospector mare Safe Return. Bred to Dixieland Band, she produced Welcome Home, who won the Montclair State University Stakes at The Meadowlands as a 4-year-old in 2005.
In her turn, Welcome Home produced Pool Winner (by Broken Vow), who won the 2016 My Frenchman Stakes as a 4-year-old and placed in two Grade 3 races. More importantly, she also produced Sounds of the City (by Street Cry), who placed in six stakes races before producing Venetian Harbor as her second foal. Sounds of the City has had no produce since Venetian Harbor but was bred to Oscar Performance in 2019.
Munnings is a stallion that has shown plenty of ability to transmit speed, but another key to Venetian Harbor's exceptional ability may be the high quality of the sires this branch of Safely Kept's family visited. Both Mr. Prospector and Dixieland Band were American champion broodmare sires, and Street Cry was a good sire who has the superstar mares Winx and Zenyatta to his credit. While the produce of their matings with Safely Kept's line never quite lived up to expectations, the result was an accumulation of high-class genes that appears to have finally found expression---not least those of Safely Kept herself, who may at long last have a worthy descendant to maintain her legacy.
Believed to have been the last to die of her sire's foals, this important matron wove his name into pedigrees. She was a very good producer in her own time and was the direct female ancestress of three runners who were acclaimed as American Horse of the Year in the period prior to the beginning of official voting in 1936. Who was she, and who are her champion descendants?
One may well have to go back to Zenyatta to think of a more imposing female Thoroughbred than Taraz, and this is a 3-year-old filly whose actual third birthday is still over two months off. She is huge, towering over handlers and making jockeys look like tots tossed into the saddle for a pony ride.
So far, she has been imposing in another way as well. While she has a long, long way to go to compile the kind of record Zenyatta took with her into retirement, she has done everything asked of her so far and done it with a flourish. Now 3-for-3, she picked up her second stakes win in the Martha Washington Stakes over a mile at Oaklawn and did it with ease in spite of looking a little immature. Most likely she will take either the Oaklawn or Fair Grounds route toward the Longines Kentucky Oaks (USA-G1), but her connections have not ruled out a trial against males with the Triple Crown trail in mind.
A daughter of 2019 American champion sire Into Mischief, Taraz is a great-granddaughter of the modern matriarch Slightly Dangerous, a mare who showed substantial ability on the turf and still greater prowess in the breeding shed. The 1997 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year, Slightly Dangerous had progeny running the gamut from champions and Classic winners to top sires and daughters able to breed on.
Slightly Dangerous was produced by the mating of Derby Stakes (ENG-G1) winner Roberto with Group 3 winner and Oaks Stakes (ENG-G1) runner-up Where You Lead, by Raise a Native. Her racing career closely paralleled her dam's; a listed stakes winner at 2, she won the Fred Darling Stakes (ENG-G3) at 3 before emulating her mother with a runner-up finish in the Oaks. Also like her mother, she made just four starts before retiring to the paddocks, leaving one to wonder what might have been had she been more durable.
Nonetheless, the turf's loss proved the breed's gain. Slightly Dangerous produced 12 named foals. 11 of those foals started, and 10 were winners who between them amassed over US$3.6 million in earnings.
After kicking off her broodmare career with stakes-placed Timefighter (by Star Appeal), Slightly Dangerous produced her first headliner in Warning (by Known Fact), who won five championship titles in England and France. A crack miler, Warning was a successful sire who begot at least 51 stakes winners in Europe and Japan.
Deploy, Slightly Dangerous' 1987 foal by Shirley Heights, ran second in the 1990 Budweiser Irish Derby (IRE-G1). His 1989 full sister Shirley Valentine was not quite so able, getting her stakes placing in listed company, but has done more for future generations so far. She is the dam of Group 3 winners Memorise (by Lyphard) and Multiplex (by Danehill). She is also the second dam of Group 2 winner Await the Dawn and Group 3 winner Index Linked and the third dam of 2018 South Australian Derby (AUS-G1) winner Leicester and Group 3 winner Ollie Olga.
Following Shirley Valentine, Slightly Dangerous next produced Commander in Chief to the cover of Dancing Brave. in contrast to his half brother Warning, Commander in Chief was a top middle-distance horse by European standards and won the 1993 Ever Ready Derby (ENG-G1) and Budweiser Irish Derby (IRE-G1). His only loss in six starts was a third-place finish behind older horses in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (ENG-G1). Following his retirement at the end of the year, he followed Warning to Japan but was a less successful sire.
Slightly Dangerous followed up with a Group 3-placed full sister to Commander in Chief, Totality, before producing Dushyantor in 1993 to the cover of Sadler's Wells. He proved just below the top rank as a middle-distance runner, winning two Group 2 events and placing in five Group 1 events. In Chile, he led the general sire list in 2008-2010 and was among the top 10 sires for 13 consecutive years. He is now proving a valuable broodmare sire as well, having led the Chilean list of maternal grandsires for five consecutive years (2015-2019).
Yashmak, Slightly Dangerous' 1994 daughter by Danzig, won the 1997 Flower Bowl Invitational Handicap (USA-G1). She has proven a good broodmare in her turn, her foals including 2014 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere Grand Criterium (FR-G1) winner Full Mast (by Mizzen Mast) and Group 2-placed stakes winner Sound of Nature (by Chester House).
The last of Slightly Dangerous' five stakes winners is Yashmak's 1995 full sister Jibe, who was Group 1-placed at 2 and won a listed event at 3. Unlike her elder sister, Jibe was a disappointing broodmare with only one winner among her eight foals. Two of her daughters have produced stakes winners, however: Sharp Point (by Point Given), dam of New Zealand-bred listed stakes winner Flavigny (by Mastercraftsman), and Silk Route (by Empire Maker), dam of Taraz. Since giving birth to Taraz, Silk Route has since produced a 2018 full brother to Taraz (now named Silk Trade) and a 2019 filly by 2016 American champion turf male Flintshire. She was reported barren for 2020.
Although Warning was a champion juvenile in England, this family has generally produced horses that improve from 2 to 3, and Taraz seems likely to follow that pattern. The question may be more how durable she is likely to be given her great size and the stresses that high mass of necessity puts on supporting structures at racing speed. Should she remain sound and continue improving, she may be more than slightly dangerous when it comes to the spring Classics.
I'm Avalyn Hunter, an author, pedigree researcher and longtime racing fan with a particular interest in Thoroughbred mares and their contributions to the history of the breed.