This important broodmare produced a Kentucky Derby winner, is the second dam of a French Derby (Prix du Jockey Club) winner, and is the third dam of both a Derby Stakes winner and a Kentucky Derby winner. Name this classy matron and her Classic-winning descendants.
In some quarters, the St. James's Palace Stakes (ENG-I) at the recent Royal Ascot meeting was seen as a rematch between Phoenix of Spain and 2018 European champion 2-year-old male Too Darn Hot, who ran 1-2 in the 2019 Tattersalls Irish Two Thousand Guineas (IRE-I). Circus Maximus had other ideas. Sent off at 10-1, the Galileo colt benefited from both a drop back in distance from a sixth-place finish in the Investec Derby Stakes (ENG-I) and a first-class ride by Ryan Moore in taking his first Group I win by a neck from King of Comedy, with Too Darn Hot another three-quarters of a length back.
Bred in Ireland, Circus Maximus has deep American roots on his dam's side as he is a scion of the family of the fabulous La Troienne, by far the most influential matriarch of American Thoroughbred breeding in the 20th century. His descent traces though Lady Winborne, who raced only twice but, like her great-great-granddam, proved far more important in the paddocks than on the track.
A Secretariat half sister to the great Allez France, Lady Winborne was Group III-placed in Ireland as a 3-year-old and was initially mated to 1978 Wood Memorial Stakes (USA-I) winner Believe It as a 4-year-old. The resulting foal, Al Mamoon, proved an excellent kickoff to her broodmare career as he won five graded stakes including the 1987 John Henry Handicap (USA-IT).
Following Al Mamoon, Lady Winborne produced five other stakes winners from her 15 named foals. The best of the bunch was La Gueriere, a 1988 daughter of Lord At War who won the 1991 Queen Elizabeth II Invitational Challenge Cup Stakes (USA-IT). La Gueriere followed up on her racetrack success by producing 2009 Personal Ensign Stakes (USA-I) winner Icon Project (a daughter of Empire Maker who is, in turn, the dam of Grade II winner Fashion Business, by Frankel) and 1997 Oak Tree Derby (USA-IIT) winner Lasting Approval (by With Approval). Through her unraced Holy Bull daughter La Comete, La Gueriere is also the second dam of multiple Grade II winner and successful sire Munnings (by Speightstown).
La Gueriere is one of five stakes producers among Lady Winborne's daughters and is one of three with Grade or Group I winners among their descendants. Another to achieve that distinction, Lady Lady (by Little Current) produced stakes winner Lovat's Lady (by Lord At War) and is the third dam of three graded or Group stakes winners, headed by 2015 VRC Sprint Handicap (AUS-I) winner Delectation.
Circus Maximus traces to the third of those daughters, Benguela (by Little Current), who did not herself produce any stakes winners but is the dam of Catumbella (by Diesis), dam of 2003 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes (USA-IT) winner Honor in War (by Lord At War), a horse who was also a Group II winner in Australia as a 9-year-old. Another daughter of Benguela, Lady Angola (by Lord At War) produced multiple Group stakes winner Duntle (by Danehill Dancer), whose only foal is Circus Maximus.
Lady Winborne's family has repeatedly scored its greatest successes at 9 furlongs or less, which may help explain why a son of Galileo failed to stay out the 12 furlongs of the Derby stakes (though the influence of the speedy and precocious Danehill Dancer also cannot be discounted). On rain-softened going at Ascot, however, Circus Maximus had both the foot and the stamina to beat off more-fancied rivals, and the 10-furlong Eclipse Stakes (ENG-I) on July 6 has been mentioned as a possible next outing. Regardless of how he fares in the future, however, he was good enough to be a star on one of the world's biggest stages, reflecting great credit on a lady whose antecedents were royal indeed.
This champion racehorse broke the 10-furlong track record at a major North American track during his championship season. 16 years later, his best son broke his own sire's record with a mark that still stands. Name this father-and-son duo and the track where they set their records.
There are exactly two 20th-century North American champions who retired unbeaten after full racing careers, and both have had a substantial impact on American breeding. One was the great Colin, who sported a perfect 15-for-15 mark and managed to continue the male line of Domino in spite of subnormal fertility. The other was Personal Ensign, who ran down Winning Colors in a spine-tingling edition of the Breeders' Cup Classic to leave racing with 13 wins from 13 starts.
As good as Personal Ensign was as a runner, she may have been still better as a broodmare. The 1996 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year, she is the matriarch of a family that includes two more generations of Breeders' Cup winners and now has a contender for a third such title.
Personal Ensign produced 10 named foals, and three were stakes winners, all at the Grade I level. Neither Miner's Mark (1993 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes) nor Traditionally (2001 Oaklawn Handicap) were of much account as sires in spite of being by the excellent sire of sires Mr. Prospector (though their Grade I-placed full brother Our Emblem sired 2002 American champion 3-year-old male War Emblem). However, their Easy Goer half sister, My Flag, proved a good producer. Herself winner of the 1995 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and the 1996 Coaching Club American Oaks, My Flag produced 2002 American champion 2-year-old filly Storm Flag Flying (by Storm Cat), who sealed her title with a win in that year's Breeders' Cup Fillies. She is also the dam of stakes winner With Flying Colors (by A.P. Indy), who, in turn, is the dam of Grade III winner Teresa Z. (by Smart Strike).
Prior to the birth of My Flag, Personal Ensign had produced the Mr. Prospector filly Pennant Champion, who did not exactly live up to her name although she won or placed in five of her seven starts. Unlike her brothers, Pennant Champion was better in the paddocks than as a racer. She produced 2011 Bourbon Stakes (USA-III) winner Animal Spirits (by Arch) and is the second dam of Grade II winner Interactif and of Grade III winners Divine Oath, Auntie Joy and Ocho Ocho Ocho. A later daughter of Personal Ensign, the 2002 Unbridled mare Salute, also did her bit for the family reputation: After being Grade II-placed on the track, she produced 2014 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (USA-IT) winner Mr. Speaker, now a young stallion at Lane's End Farm in Kentucky, and 2918 Dixie Stakes (USA-IIIT) winner Fire Away (by War Front).
Title Seeker, a daughter of 2001 Kentucky Derby (USA-I) winner Monarchos, was Personal Ensign's last daughter, and she never made it to the track. Nonetheless, she proved her genetic worth by producing 2010 Iowa Oaks (USA-III) winner Seeking the Title (by Seeking the Gold). Seeking the Title, in turn, is the dam of 2017 Clark Handicap (USA-I) winner Seeking the Soul (by Perfect Soul), who earned a "Win and You're In" berth to the Breeders' Cup Classic on June 15 by taking the Stephen Foster Stakes (USA-II) over a high-quality field.
Seeking the Soul is probably a longshot to take the Classic, as his record is more hard-knocking than brilliant, but he does already have a runner-up finish in the 2018 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (USA-I) to his credit and is an honest and consistent runner. If he succeeds in springing the upset, he will add one more chapter to the story of a legendary mare whose banner is already flying high.
What champion racehorse recorded the last walkover in a major stakes in American racing history, and in what race was this accomplished?
While she was overshadowed by Sir Winston's Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (USA-I) victory in news south of the Canadian border, Desert Ride captured a Classic of her own by taking the Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser on June 8. The daughter of top sire Candy Ride closed strongly to capture Canada's top race for sophomore fillies by a neck in her first stakes attempt. It was also her first race in her native Canada, as she had made her previous three starts in the United States.
Bred and owned by Canada's legendary Sam-Son Farm, Desert Ride incorporates plenty of Canadian racing history in her pedigree. Her family's roots go back to Oleana, a daughter of 1966 American champion turf male Assagai who was a US$8,000 purchase at the 1971 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Oleana wasn't much of a race mare, but her first foal for Sam-Son was better. A daughter of 1969 Garden State Stakes winner Forum, Forleana won six of her 28 starts and ran second in the 1978 Tattling Handicap. Her 1982 daughter by perennial Canadian sire champion Vice Regent, Queen of Egypt, continued the improvement, winning the listed Tattling Handicap and the restricted Jammed Lovely Stakes as a 3-year-old.
Queen of Egypt got her broodmare career off smartly by producing the No Louder filly Quiet Cleo as her first foal. A multiple stakes winner, Quiet Cleo ended up amassing a bankroll of US$517,467 before retiring to the paddocks, where she produced 2000 Canadian Horse of the Year Quiet Resolve (by Affirmed).
It took until 2001 before Queen of Egypt came up with another important foal, but the results were well worth the wait. A daughter of three-time American champion sire Smart Strike (a Sam-Son product who hailed from the family of the farm's great foundation mare, No Class), Eye of the Sphynx earned a Sovereign Award as Canada's champion 3-year-old filly after winning the 2004 Lablatt Woodbine Oaks, the Selene Stakes (CAN-II) and the Fury Stakes.
Retired to the paddocks. Eye of the Sphynx has been a first-rate broodmare for Sam-Son. Her first foal, the A.P. Indy colt Eye of the Leopard, won Canada's oldest and most prestigious Classic, the Queen's Plate, en route to honors as the Canadian champion 3-year-old male of 2009. His full brother Hotep won two Canadian stakes and was runner-up in the 2010 Queen's Plate, and his full sister Deceptive Vision won the 2014 Canadian Stakes (CAN-IIT).
Fun in the Desert, Eye of the Sphynx's 2011 foal by Distorted Humor, lasted only two starts before being retired to the paddocks (she won one), but after producing Desert Ride as her first foal, she has certainly done her duty in continuing the family. Her most recent foals are the unraced juvenile filly Saturday Sun (by Sky Mesa) and a yearling colt by Candy Ride, and there is every chance that her half sister Deceptive Ride will get in on the act; her first foal is the unraced juvenile filly Goldeye (by Medaglia d'Oro), and she has a yearling Medaglia d'Oro filly waiting in the wings.
Sam-Son and trainer Neil Howard now have the happy dilemma of deciding whether to point Desert Ride toward a collision with colts in the Queen's Plate (which Sam-Son has won five times, most recently with Eye of the Leopard) or reserve her for races within her own division. Either way, Desert Ride has already done her part to keep up the family tradition at one of Canada's most storied breeding operations.
In the trivia challenge's "Test of the Champion," here are five questions related to the third jewel of the Triple Crown. See if you can come up with the answers by post time!
1) This mare was the only 20th-century matron to produce both a Belmont Stakes winner and a winner of the longest race of England's Triple Crown, the St. Leger Stakes. Name her.
2) This Belmont Stakes winner bore the rather unflattering nickname of "Old Pea Head." Who was he?
3) This Belmont Stakes winner was very fond of having his tongue pulled and would stick it out on the command, "Give me your tongue." He was also quite fond of cats. Who was he?
4) This Belmont Stakes winner is the namesake for a research project at Columbia University dedicated to researching the benefits of equine therapy for military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Who is he?
5) Florida and California seldom agree on much of anything, but one thing the two states did agree on was the merits of this Belmont Stakes winner, who currently has races named for him at major tracks in both states. Who is he?
Moon Colony could hardly have picked a better time to step up his game than in the US$500,000 Penn Mile Stakes (USA-IIT). Showing a nice closing kick, the bay son of Uncle Mo used a hole on the inside to run past pacesetter Real News and finished with plenty of run left in him.
The race augurs well for Moon Colony's future in the turf division, but in some ways is no more than should be expected given his breeding. His fifth dam is Goofed, who in spite of her name was anything but an error either as a racer or as a broodmare.
A daughter of 1945 Two Thousand Guineas winner Court Martial, Goofed was the only stakes winner produced from the Formor mare Barra II. She was a pretty good one, too, winning the 1963 Ladies Handicap (then a race of much higher standing than it is now) and earning a respectable rating of 113 pounds on the Daily Racing Form's Free Handicap for American 3-year-old fillies of 1963.
Goofed proved herself even more valuable as a broodmare than as a racer with her third foal, the Northern Dancer colt Lyphard. A multiple Group I winner in France, Lyphard was a two-time champion sire in France, led the American general sire list in 1986 and was also a two-time champion broodmare sire in France.
As good a runner as Lyphard was, his Vaguely Noble half sister Nobiliary was probably even better. A winner of the Prix Saint-Alary (FR-I), Nobiliary was second in the 1975 Derby Stakes (ENG-I) and Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French One Thousand Guineas, FR-I) and third in the Irish Guinness Oaks (IRE-I) before coming across the Atlantic to capture the 1975 Washington, D.C., International (USA-IT).
Goofed also produced multiple Grade II winner Barcas (by Sailor) and the stakes-placed mares Anya Ylina (by Bold Reasoning) and Barb's Bold (by Bold Forbes), but the daughter who established the best branch of her family had no such credentials. Named Dumfries, the daughter of Reviewer showed little of the talent of either sire or dam, placing once in two starts, and produced only three winners from her nine foals.
Dumfries' record looked considerably better after her daughters entered the paddocks, as she had two good producers among them. Dumfries' Pleasure (by Pleasant Colony) produced multiple Grade I winner Urbane (by Citidancer) and 2001 Kildangan Stud Irish Oaks (IRE-I) third Karsavina (by Sadler's Wells), and Urbane, in turn, produced multiple Grade II winner Suave and listed stakes winner Worldly, both by A.P. Indy.
Dance Review (by Northern Dancer), the other important daughter of Dumfries, scored twice from 16 races and was placed another five times. She was a much better producer than racer, her foals including 1989 Santa Barbara Handicap (USA-IT) winner No Review (by Nodouble), 1992 Californian Stakes (USA-I) winner another Review (by Buckaroo) and multiple Grade II winner Dance Colony (by Pleasant Colony).
Neither No Review nor Dance Colony really lived up to expectations as broodmares (though No Review did produce listed stakes winner Smashing Review, by Pleasant Tap), but Dance Colony's full sister Promenade Colony did her part to keep the family going by producing Promenade Girl (by Carson City), winner of the 2006 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap (USA-II) and twice Grade I-placed, as well as the restricted stakes winner Dattts Awesome (by Awesome Again). Promenade Girl is, in turn, the dam of both Moon Colony and of multiple Grade I winner Cavorting (by Bernardini), now a young broodmare. Moon Colony is Promenade Girl's youngest foal of racing age, and the mare has since produced a 2018 filly by Tapit and a 2019 filly by Liam's Map.
The 50th stakes winner for Uncle Mo, Moon Colony still has some progress to make if he is to be successful at racing's top level. Nonetheless, he is a worthy member of a distinguished family whose record has proved it to be no goof.
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.