Princequillo was the first American-based sire to be represented by the champion 3-year-old males in both England and the United States in the same year. In 1950, Hill Prince took the honors in the United States, while Prince Simon was ranked atop the Free Handicap for English-3-year-old males.
American Pharoah's backers and fans have to be breathing a sigh of relief after yesterday's Rebel Stakes (USA-II) -- not because it was a tough race for their hero, but because he did exactly what he should have done against an overmatched field in spite of the sloppy surface and a twisted shoe: he practically walked home. Essentially, the colt got a paid workout with a nice little pipe-opener of a final 5/16 in :30.56 after being allowed to gallop through a slow early pace.
Critics will point out that the race provided little toughening for the son of Pioneerof the Nile, and this is true. On the other hand, the fact that he could quicken away from the slow pace with Victor Espinoza sitting chilly is encouraging, as is the lovely way he lengthened stride. Like many of the leading contenders among this year's colts, he has a pedigree with substantial question marks as to his ability to get 10 furlongs, at least on the dam's side, but his beautifully fluid action will go a long way toward making the most of whatever stamina he has. His other great weapon is his ability to set an early cruising speed that can take rivals out of their own game and gallop them into the ground even before the homestretch.
American Pharoah's pedigree has similar elements to that of Half Ours, a brilliantly fast but fragile horse sired by Unbridled's Song (like American Pharoah's grandsire Empire Maker, a son of Unbridled) out of Zing, a full sister to Pharoah's broodmare sire Yankee Gentleman. This is not entirely reassuring as to the colt's distance capabilities, especially since these elements are grafted onto a speed-oriented female line. The saving grace for Pharoah may be his direct male line, as Empire Maker (sire of Pioneerof the Nile) won the Belmont Stakes (USA-I) and has turned out to be a good source of stamina.
As Pioneerof the Nile's oldest foals are only 4-year-olds, he is still something of a question mark as to just how much stamina he will transmit, but he's a better bet to sire staying offspring than quite a few stallions out there.
At the least, American Pharoah should get 9 furlongs with no trouble, and the Arkansas Derby (USA-I) looks to be pretty much at his mercy assuming he stays healthy.
This American leading sire was the first horse to be represented by the champion 3-year-old male in the United States and the champion 3-year-old male in England in the same year. Name him, his champion sons, and the year in which the feat was accomplished.
Kim has it. The 1932 Agua Caliente Handicap in Mexico was Phar Lap's only start in North America as the great horse died of a combination of bacterial infection and arsenic poisoning shortly afterward. Nonetheless, Phar Lap was ranked #22 among the top 100 American racehorses of the 20th century by an expert panel assembled by The Blood-Horse.
After watching Dortmund's front-running score in the San Felipe Stakes (USA-II), count me in among his growing number of fans. The hulking colt is still growing into himself, but his increasing professionalism and his versatility are impressive. He can run on the inside or the outside and from off the pace or on the lead. This is one horse on the Kentucky Derby trail who doesn't have to have things his own way to be dangerous, and it's beginning to look as though he has another prized asset: the tactical speed to make his own luck.
His San Felipe win wasn't particularly easy, but then Dortmund never does things the easy way. He likes the excitement of a good tussle and may have been waiting around a little on his opposition. Give him a challenge as Bolo did, though, and Dortmund gets down to business with long, fluid, efficient strides that may carry him further than his pedigree suggests (see my 12/20/2014 post on him). There are not many horses who are going to pass him when he's going like that and not many who will be able to stave off one of his gritty challenges.
While his final time of 1:41.65 is slower than California Chrome's sparkling 1:40.59 last year, it was made off a slower early pace and is still much the best time turned in by any of the major Triple Crown prospects at the distance this year. What makes it especially impressive is that Dortmund ran the final 5/16 in :30.35 and gave the impression that he could have found more if he'd needed it.
The other attractive thing about Dortmund as a Derby prospect is his level of seasoning. While he's only made five lifetime starts, he has gotten a lot out of each race since stepping into stakes company, and he is still growing and developing both mentally and physically. I don't know yet that he is going to be my Derby pick, but at this point he's certainly among the top three or four on my radar.
The historic Santa Anita Handicap will go off tomorrow with a field of 13. Despite the large field, Shared Belief will almost certainly go off as a prohibitive favorite. Why not? The best horse in the field by far on his previous record, he is coming in off a fair-and-square win over California Chrome in the San Antonio. The only other Grade I winner in the field, Moreno, is a one-dimensional speedster who has won just three times from 23 lifetime starts, and the rest of the field ranges down from there to Crimson Giant, who has managed just one win from 66 starts and has never earned black type.
From the weights assigned, though, you'd think Shared Belief was in with a field that could actually give him some serious competition. The Candy Ride gelding is topweight at 125 pounds. Moreno is next with 121 pounds, and the rest of the field has from 114 to 117 pounds. The other two at 114 are Catch a Ride, an Argentine import whose top performance was third in a Brazilian Group I race, and Cool Samurai, who has been out of the money only once in six starts but has yet to earn black type.
Anything can happen in a horse race, and Shared Belief's competitors can always hope that the gelding either has a spectacularly bad day or gets a repeat of the terrible trip he suffered in the Breeders' Cup Classic (USA-I). Nonetheless, the assigned weights are ludicrous. Many observers believe Shared Belief is the best racehorse on the continent right now, yet he is not even being asked to pick up the standard 126-pound package of scale weight for an older male. As for the 11-pound spread against this kind of competition, the only legitimate reason for not assigning some of the other horses less -- much less -- is that they'd probably have trouble finding jockeys who could make the weight.
Unfortunately, the Santa Anita Handicap is only the latest in a long, long list of handicap races where the weights seem more governed by the desire to not upset the connections of a star horse than to fulfill the theoretical intent of a handicap: to give every horse in the race as nearly equal a chance of winning as the handicapper can contrive. It is getting rarer and rarer to see a top male asked to carry much over 120 pounds, and five-pound spreads in a graded handicap are not all that uncommon.
These races make handicaps pretty much meaningless as such. It meant something when a Discovery or a Forego could give away chunks of weight to high-class competitors and still win, and few fans felt a champion was disgraced by dropping a race to a lightly weighted rival -- something that happened just often enough to keep the longshot players hoping. It means much less when the spread of weights is such that the best horse looks like a shoo-in anyway, and such lopsided contests create the lack of betting interest that handicaps were supposed to address to begin with.
When handicaps neither serve the original purpose of encouraging bets and increasing handle nor provide a true measure of the superiority of the best horses against their competition, then it is time to let them go, at least so far as the best races are concerned. We would lose very little by requiring that all graded races be staged under level weights, weight for age or allowance conditions, and might well gain in the eyes of most of the rest of the racing world by eliminating the perceived possibility that an inferior horse can use a weight break to gain graded black type it really doesn't deserve.
I never raced in the United States and made only one start in North America, yet that one start left such an impression that I am still considered one of the best horses seen on the continent during the 20th century. Who am I, and what was the race that made me an American legend?
Joanna has it once again. Citation is the namesake for the Cessna Citation, while Nijinsky II is honored by a wine named "L'esprit de Nijinsky." "Twilight Tear" became the name of a historic P-51 warplane, and "Buckpasser" was Ogden Phipps' personal yacht.
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.