Two noted American jockeys finished 1-2 in the Kentucky Oaks of one year and the next day hooked up again in the Kentucky Derby, again finishing 1-2 (though not necessarily in the same order). In both races, the margin in favor of the victor was a neck. Who were the jockeys and their mounts, and in what year did they meet in their Classic duels at Louisville?
It has been a while coming, but 6-year-old Hibiscus Punch finally broke through with a Graded stakes win in the Runhappy Barbara Fritchie Stakes (USA-G3) on February 20. The lightly raced Into Mischief mare pulled a 40-1 shocker in just her eighth lifetime start, but she ran like an odds-on choice, blowing part her rivals coming out of the stretch turn in spite of trying to lug in. After taking until age 4 to get to the races, she now sports a lifetime record of 8-3-2-2 with earnings of $246,561.
Whatever physical or mental issues Hibiscus Punch may have, she does have talent. Obviously, Into Mischief has something to do with that, but her female line need not blush for its role in her makeup. The mare is a fifth-generation direct female descendant of High Voltage, the American champion 2-year-old filly of 1954 and a near-champion at 3, when she won five major stakes races including the Coaching Club American Oaks.
Sired by the successful French import Ambiorix from a family initially developed in the Whitney stud and nurtured for several generations in the Wheatley Stable breeding program, High Voltage proved a fine broodmare for Wheatley, producing 1966 American champion sprinter Impressive and stakes winners Bold Commander (the sire of 1970 Kentucky Derby winner Dust Commander) and Great Power. High Voltage also produced several stakes-producing daughters, among them Irradiate. A daughter of the staying Ribot, Irradiate became the dam of Majestic Light (by Majestic Prince), a horse that won Grade 1 races on both dirt and turf at distances up to 12 furlongs and later became a good sire. She also produced multiple Grade 2 winner Fluorescent Light (by Herbager) and Grade 3 winner Celestial Lights (by Bold Ruler).
Overpowering was the second best among High Voltage's daughters as a producer. Sired by Bold Ruler and so a full sister to both Bold Commander and Great Power, she was bred repeatedly to Graustark, a son of Ribot but one that had a powerful, muscular build not dissimilar to that of Majestic Prince. The results were good, as Overpowering's Graustark foals included multiple Grade 3 winner Proctor, multiple French stakes winner Al Rahib, and Grade 2-placed listed stakes winner Over Your Shoulder.
A distance-loving mare who took until age 4 to get good, Overpowering spent most of her broodmare career being put to sires with more speed in their backgrounds and stud histories. The results were fairly good. Bred to the champion European sprinter Dayjur, she produced Japanese stakes winner Shinko Splendor. Bred to Dayjur's sire Danzig---a far better stallion who led the American general sire list three times---she produced Harbour Club, who won the listed Marion H. Van Berg Memorial Stakes as a 5-year-old in 1992 and ran second in three Grade 1 stakes that year at distances from 7 to 9 furlongs.
Bred to Woodman (a son of Mr. Prospector and a juvenile champion in Ireland), Harbour Club produced multiple listed stakes winner Holzmeister, who showed his sire's influence by winning two stakes events as a juvenile and placing in Grade 3 races at both 2 and 3. Harbour Club also produced Galleon of Gold to the cover of another Mr. Prospector son, 1987 Dwyer Stakes (USA-G1) winner Gone West. Galleon of Gold never raced, but bred to 1999 Kentucky Derby (USA-G1) and Preakness Stakes (USA-G1) runner-up Menifee (a two-time Grade 1 winner over 9 furlongs in spite of being a son of sprint Grade 1 winner Harlan), the result was Game Face, whose race record leaned more toward the sprinter-miler elements in her pedigree. Game Face won six graded races at 3 and 4 including the 2009 Princess Rooney Handicap (USA-G1) on the "Summit of Speed" card at Calder.
Harbour Club is also the dam of True Legacy, whose sire A.P. Indy was a different kettle of fish to the Mr. Prospector tribe as he won the 1992 Belmont Stakes (USA-G1) and Breeders' Cup Classic (USA-G1). True Legacy did not race, but put to the miler Rahy, she produced 2008 Selene Stakes (CAN-G3) Verdana Bold, whose big success came at 8.5 furlongs. Verdana Bold, in turn, is the dam of 2017 Sunland Park Oaks (USA-L) winner Ghalia (by Medaglia d'Oro) and multiple stakes winner Lucrezia (by Into Mischief).
Hibiscus Punch is the first stakes winner produced by Harbour Club's last foal, Bellini Sunrise, who was sired by 1989 French champion 2-year-old male Machiavellian (like Woodman and Gone West, a son of Mr. Prospector). The winner of one of her seven starts, the mare has also produced Hibiscus Punch's 3-year-old full brother Into the Sunrise, who was stakes-placed in a listed event at Woodbine as a 2-year-old. The dam of six other winners, Bellini Sunrise has a 2-year-old filly, Flirtini, by Kantharos and produced a colt by Into Mischief's son Goldencents in 2020. She was bred to Omaha Beach for 2021.
Hibiscus Punch actually repeats some of the breeding patterns seen in Game Face, as Into Mischief is by Harlan's Holiday, by Harlan, and so comes from the same male line as Menifee. Whether she will stay sound long enough to see if she can step further up the class ladder remains to be seen, but Hibiscus Punch certainly looked good enough in winning the Barbara Fritchie to make one suspect that she has inherited at least a spark of the talent that made High Voltage a champion five generations ago.
Who was the first California-bred horse to win the Preakness Stakes?
On February 13, one of the most regally bred 3-year-old fillies on the planet won her first stakes race in the Queen Cup (JPN-G3). Her name is Akaitorino Musume, and she is the product of a mating between two Triple Crown winners: Deep Impact, who won the Japanese Triple Crown in 2005, and Apapane, who won the Japanese Fillies' Triple Crown in 2010.
Deep Impact needs little introduction as a sire, having led the Japanese general sire list every year since 2012 according to the Japanese Bloodstock Information System. For as long as he lived (he died in July 2019), he was Apapane's only mate, and she had previously produced three winning colts by him, two of them Group 3-placed.
Most of Akaitorino Musume's story has yet to be written, but in her origins, she does have parallels in modern American breeding. The most obvious is Six Crowns, who was sired by 1973 American Triple Crown winner Secretariat out of 1974 New York Triple Tiara winner Chris Evert. A minor stakes winner during her own racing career, Six Crowns hit it big as a broodmare, producing 1984 American champion 2-year-old male Chief's Crown (by Danzig; a good sire) and multiple Grade 1 winner Classic Crown (by Mr. Prospector). Six Crowns is also the third dam of Giulia, a Group 1 winner in Uruguay; Grade/Group 2 winners Bourbon Courage and Reach the Crown; and Japanese Group 3 winner A Shin G Line.
While Six Crowns was probably the best known, she was not the only American filly produced by a mating of Triple Crown/Triple Tiara winners. She was. in fact, a full sister to Center Court Star, dam of South African Group 1 winner Lambent Light (by Capote) and one other stakes winner. She was also a half sister to two fillies sired by 1970 English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky II. The first, stakes-placed Tournament Star, is the second dam of Grade 3 winner Delay of Game. The second, Nijinsky Star, produced Grade 2 winner Revasser (by Riverman) and two other stakes winners and stands at the head of the strongest branch of Chris Evert's family with Grade/Group 1 winners Sightseek, Tates Creek, Etoile Montante, and Special Duty; Grade/Group 2 winners Bowman's Band, Bonny South, Pollard's Vision, and Starformer; and French Group 3 winner Glaswegian among her descendants.
Of the seven other fillies that have swept the Triple Tiara, two (Dark Mirage and Ruffian) died as a result of racetrack injuries and had no foals. The others had the following foals by Triple Crown winners:
Two other North American mares in the modern era, 1991 Canadian Triple Crown winner Dance Smartly and 2007 Canadian Triple Tiara winner Sealy Hill, could also have produced foals with six crowns between their parents, but neither ever visited the court of a Triple Crown winner although both were very good broodmares. Thus, the tally for North American members of the "Six Crowns Ciub" stands at seven, of which one was a stakes winner and three were stakes-placed. Perhaps significantly, all the ones of any importance as broodmares were daughters of Chris Evert, whose record as a "dam of dams" is all the more impressive when one considers that she only had five foals all told. (The only one who was not by a Triple Crown winner was minor stakes winner Wimbledon Star, who was sired by 1970 American champion 2-year-old male Hoist the Flag; the second dam of Chilean Group 2 winner Quiet Call, she is also the third dam of Peruvian champion Dr Action, Chilean Group 1 winner Querido Machito, and Grade 1 winner Dominican.)
For Akaitorino Musume, one hopes that the paddocks are not in her immediate future, given that the Japanese Classics are still to come. She is already a step ahead of her North American counterparts, having become a Group stakes winner, and it would be a pleasant thing to see her live up to her royal heritage both on the race course and, in due time, in the breeding shed.
These American breeders scored an incredible double as two colts they bred won races accounted as 3-year-old Classics in a major racing nation over the same weekend. Unfortunately, neither horse would pass on the genetic legacy bred into it as both died as a result of racing injuries. Can you name the breeders, the colts, and the Classic races won by each horse?
There was a time when the Withers Stakes (USA-G3) ran in the late spring and was arguably America's top mile test restricted to 3-year-olds---if not quite a counterpart to England's Two Thousand Guineas as it was originally conceived, still serving a purpose in allowing sprinters a chance to show come ability to stretch out and staying colts the chance to show that they were not merely plodders. Times have changed, and the Withers is now an early-season prep on New York's branch of the Triple Crown trail. At 9 furlongs, it is no longer a test of miler speed; it is a race that fits the modern system of getting two two-turn preps into a colt prior to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (USA-G1).
Whatever the limitations of the race' s current format, it did turn up a promising winner on February 6 in Seth Klarman's Risk Taking, a son of Medaglia d'Oro who posted a visually impressive score by 3-3/4 lengths. Just how much this actually amounts to is open to question, as the field was not a particularly tough one, the pace was very moderate, and the final furlong went in :13.44. It was good enough for Risk Taking to earn a 102 Equibase speed figure, but the real tests are yet to come. Nonetheless, it was a step in the right direction for a beautifully bred colt who has now won two nine-furlong races in a row after failing twice over shorter trips.
Risk Taking's name is most appropriate as he is from the family of Con Game, a mare who did the Phipps breeding program good service in the 1980s. A Buckpasser daughter of the juvenile stakes winner Broadway and a half sister to 1967 champion 2-year-old filly Queen of the Stage and the fine racer and sire Reviewer, Con Game fit pretty well in the category of "New York allowance filly" and as such was worthy of retention for the Phipps broodmare band.
Con Game proved her worth by producing three graded stakes-winning sons in succession. The first was Stacked Pack (by Majestic Light), winner of the 1987 Jamaica Handicap (USA-G3); the third was Fast Play (by Seattle Slew), winner of the 1988 Remsen Stakes (USA-G1). In between, she gave birth to the best of the trio, Seeking the Gold. A handsome horse who combined the strong hindquarters and speed of his sire Mr. Prospector with the stamina and elegance of his maternal grandsire Buckpasser, Seeking the Gold was first or second in 14 of his 15 starts and earned Grade 1 laurels in the 1988 Dwyer Stakes and Super Derby, as well as running a couple of heart-stopping seconds to the similarly sired Forty Niner in the Haskell Invitational Handicap (USA-G1) and the Travers Stakes (USA-G1). Retired to stud at Claiborne Farm, Seeking the Gold proved a fine sire and broodmare sire whose male line continues today through his European-based grandson Dubawi.
Con Game's daughters have not been as significant thus far, but two have been of some importance. One is Seeking the Gold's full sister Miner's Game, who produced 2005 Gotham Stakes (USA-G3) winner Survivalist (by Danzig) and is the second dam of Grade 2 winner Nefertini and Grade 3 winner Awesome Chic. The other is Tricky Game, a full sister to Stacked Pack who produced multiple Grade 2 winner King Cugat (by Kingmambo). Through her daughter Commodities (by Private Account), Tricky Game is the second dam of Grade 3 winners Rey de Cafe (by Kingmambo) and El Crespo (by A.P. Indy), and is the third dam of Risk Taking through Commodities' Distorted Humor daughter Run a Risk.
Even with an extremely strong pedigree from top to bottom, Risk Taking is by no means guaranteed to progress and move forward; he could just as easily turn out another Survivalist as another champion. Nonetheless, he is an exemplar of the time-honored saw, "breed the best to the best and hope for the best," which over the long haul is still the best bet for coming up with something special in the risky business that is Thoroughbred racing and breeding.
It was all in the family for this Kentucky Derby winner. Not only did he win America's most cherished Classic, but a full sibling won a race on the same Derby's undercard. Who were the horses involved in this sibling pair, and in what year did they accomplish their feat?
When Better Than Honour went into the ring on November 2, 2008, at the Fasig-Tipton mixed select sale, she embodied an exceptional package of performance as both a racer and a broodmare, combined with a stellar pedigree. Sired by two-time American champion sire Deputy Minister (also the American champion broodmare sire of 2007), she was produced from 1982 Kentucky Oaks (USA-G1) winner Blush With Pride, an important producer in her own right and a Blushing Groom daughter of the great modern matriarch Best in Show. She had proved her own racing mettle by winning the 1998 Demoiselle Stakes (USA-G2) and placing in two Grade 1 races. And she was the 2007 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year after producing back-to-back Belmont Stakes (USA-G1) winners Jazil (2006) and Rags to Riches (2007). The last-named filly, a daughter of A.P. Indy, was also an Eclipse Award winner in the 3-year-old filly category, and Better Than Honor strode into the ring having further cemented her reputation as a once-in-a-lifetime producer by coming up with 2008 Peter Pan Stakes (USA-G2) winner Casino Drive. Best of all from a prospective purchaser's viewpoint, she was only 12 years old. The only fly in the ointment was that she was not in foal at the time of her sale.
Buoyed by this exceptional combination of desirable credentials, Better Than Honour went for US$14 million, a world record for a broodmare or broodmare prospect. The price was somewhat illusory as the mare was being sold in connection with the dissolution of a partnership between Michael Moreno's Southern Equine Stables, which owned a 70 percent interest in Better Than Honour, and John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Farms, which owned the other 30 percent. As Southern Equine was the buyer, Moreno was effectively gaining complete ownership of the mare for US$4.2 million plus sales fees and taxes on the transaction. That was still a pretty chunk of change to lay out for a single mare, however stellar, but there was every reason to believe that Better Than Honour might have more top runners in the pipeline, or at least top broodmares.
Only she didn't. Her only other stakes winner, Man of Iron, was already a 2-year-old at the time of her sale; he would win the listed Breeders' Cup Marathon in 2009 and would eventually be exported to Peru as a stallion. Better Than Honour produced only three more foals following her sale, the last in 2013, and none of them were winners.
All three, at least, were fillies, but until this year, none had done anything as producers to justify the expense behind them. In fact, of Better Than Honour's previous daughters, only Teeming (by Storm Cat) had come up with a major stakes winner, producing 2013 Hollywood Starlet Stakes (USA-G1) winner Streaming (by Smart Strike) as well as two listed stakes winners. Rags to Riches, a major disappointment as a broodmare thus far, has produced 2016 Hungarian Horse of the Year Rhett Butler (by Galileo) but has yet to come up with a stakes winner in a major racing nation.
That changed on January 30, 2021, when Courtlandt Farm's homebred Greatest Honour uncorked a visually impressive four-wide move coming around Gulfstream Park's far turn and drew off in the stretch to win the Holy Bull Stakes (USA-G3) by nearly six lengths. The son of three-time champion sire Tapit took four starts to put it all together mentally and physically to break his maiden going 8.5 furlongs at Gulfstream Park on December 26---this despite a troubled trip--and the smooth professionalism of his Holy Bull win suggests that he is going in the right direction at the right time of the year for a Triple Crown prospect. Trainer Shug McGaughey has already indicated that the colt will probably make his next start in either the Fountain of Youth Stakes (USA-G2) on February 27 or the Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill 'n' Dale Farms (USA-G1) on March 27.
Greatest Honour was produced from Tiffany's Honour, Better Than Honour's 2011 daughter by Street Cry. Unplaced in three starts, the mare had previously produced the 2017 War Front gelding Semifinal (unplaced in two starts) and was in foal to Medaglia d'Oro when she was sold to major Japanese breeder Katsumi Yoshida for US$2.2 million at the 2018 Keeneland November sale. She produced her Medaglia d'Oro filly in Japan in 2019 and has since been barren to 2015 Japanese champion 3-year-old male Duramente. Her most recent mating was to 2013 Japanese champion 3-year-old male Kizuna, a son of the great Japanese runner and sire Deep Impact and the leading Japanese freshman sire of 2019.
On pedigree, Greatest Honour would appear to have virtually limitless potential, but in reality he still has much to prove, given that 2020 Iroquois Stakes (USA-G3) winner Sittin On Go was the only one of the colt's eight rivals with a previous stakes win to his name. Other than that, the Holy Bull was essentially a glorified allowance for non-winners of two other than maiden or claiming if judged by the performance of its field prior to the race, and it will take some good later performances by some of Greatest Honour's defeated rivals to prove that there was more to it than that. Still, it was a nice race for a colt who appears to be coming into his own at a good time, and if Greatest Honour can continue to progress, he will add more luster to the name of a mare who has already accumulated honors aplenty.
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.