This American champion filly won only three times in a 16-start career but managed to snag two championship titles on the basis of those three wins. Name her, and name the races she won to secure her titles.
On July 25, Royal Flag picked up her second Grade 3 win in the Shuvee Stakes at Saratoga. While she is no champion, the 5-year-old daughter of Candy Ride is admirably consistent. Never out of the money in 10 lifetime starts, she has three Grade 3 placings in addition to her wins at that level and looks like a very nice broodmare prospect when her racing days are done.
Royal Flag comes from a family that parallels her racing career, one that has done good work in the breeding shed without ever quite breaking through to the heights of fashion and success. Her fifth dam is Royal Rafale, a daughter of the good stakes horse Reneged and a descendant of a family developed by August Belmont II at his Nursery Stud in the early 20th century
Royal Rafale was bred along similar lines to 16-time stakes winner My Request, a leading member of the 1945 American foal crop who was by Reneged's sire Revoked out of a half sister to Royal Rafale's dam Questar. As a racer, Royal Rafale was of much lesser ability than My Request; sent to Puerto Rico to race, she won a juvenile stakes, but that was the pinnacle of her racing career.
Royal Rafale fared better in the breeding shed, where she produced two stakes winners, two stakes-placed runners, and the unraced dam of a multiple Grade 3 winner. She was particularly effective with 1961 American co-champion juvenile male Crimson Satan, who sired three black-type daughters from her in three matings.
Of the three, three-time stakes winner Royal Saint became the second dam of Italian Group 3 winner Ellenica, while stakes-placed Buda Lady produced the Grade 2-winning sprinter Salt Dome (by Blushing Groom). But the best of the trio, both on the track and in the breeding shed, was Flama Ardiente, a tough mare who won 15 of her 49 starts, placing another 19 times, and gained graded laurels in the 1975 Falls City Handicap (USA-G3).
Flama Ardiente produced two good racehorses in Magical Wonder (by Storm Bird), who won the 1986 Prix Jean Prat Ecurie Fustok (FR-G1), and Mt. Livermore (by Blushing Groom), a multiple Grade 2-winning sprinter and a good sire whose 70 stakes winners included two-time American champion sprinter Housebuster. The mare also produced unraced Exclusive Moment (by Exclusive Native), who carried on the female line. Exclusive Moment is the second dam of Group 1-placed German Group 3 winner Saugerties and Grade 3 winner Host and, through her listed stakes-winning daughter Exclusive Bird (by Storm Bird), is the third dam of Royal Flag (out of Sea Gull, by Mineshaft) as well as Grade 3-placed stakes winner Private Ryan (a Quiet American half brother to Sea Gull).
Royal Rafale's family does not rank among the great matriarchies of the turf, but it is one that has certainly shown itself as worth persevering with. In Royal Flag, it has come up with its best female representative in four generations, perhaps signaling a return to a higher level. One can hope so, for there are certainly worse combinations of traits to perpetuate than honesty, consistency, and a nice level of talent.
Who were the four mares who have each produced two winners of Breeders' Cup races?
On July 17, 2021, Graceful Princess broke through as a stakes winner in the Molly Pitcher Stakes (USA-G3) at Monmouth. The 146th stakes winner recorded by The Jockey Club for her sire, three-time American champion sire Tapit, the 5-year-old mare is also the first stakes winner from six named foals for her dam, 2011 American Horse of the Year Havre de Grace.
Bred and owned by Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm, Graceful Princess is now an incredibly valuable broodmare prospect, though the likelihood that she will see a sale ring any time soon is slim. More likely, she will follow in her dam's hoof prints as a broodmare for Pope, who purchased Havre de Grace for US$10 million at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale.
The price tag was exceptionally high, but there were reasons for it, beginning with Havre de Grace's race record. A Grade 2 winner at 3 and third in that year's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (USA-G1), Havre de Grace won five of her seven starts at 4, including the 2011 Apple Blossom Handicap (USA-G1) and the Beldame Invitational Stakes (USA-G1) against her own division. She added to her reputation by defeating next-out Jockey Club Gold Cup (USA-G1) winner Flat Out and other males in the Woodward Stakes (USA-G1), and a bang-up second by a nose to her archrival Blind Luck (the American champion 3-year-old filly of 2010) in the Delaware Handicap (USA-G2) did nothing to diminish her luster. Her only other loss of the season was also a good effort; bypassing a likely win in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (USA-G1), owner Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones sportingly put her in the Breeders' Cup Classic (USA-G1), in which she ran a good fourth behind upset winner Drosselmeyer. In a year lacking a standout runner in either the older male or 3-year-old male divisions, Havre de Grace's consistency plus her Grade 1 win against open company was enough to land her American Horse of the Year honors in addition to the Eclipse Award as champion older female. The victim of a suspensory injury at 5, Havre de Grace retired with a 9-4-2 record from 16 starts after winning her first outing at 3.
The other reasons behind Havre de Grace's price were her attractive conformation and her pedigree, which is equally attractive. A member of the sole crop of 2005 American Horse of the Year Saint Liam, she was produced from Easter Bunnette (by the good Mr. Prospector horse Carson City), whose Grade 3-placed half sister The Bink (by Seeking the Gold) is the dam of multiple Grade 1 winner Riskaverse (by Dynaformer) and Grade 3 winner Cozzy Corner (by Cozzene). Havre de Grace's catalog page looked even better in 2014, when Tonalist (by Tapit out of her dam's Pleasant Colony half sister Settling Mist) won the Belmont Stakes (USA-G1) and the Jockey Club Gold Cup (USA-G1). Tonalist added two more Grade 1 wins at 4 and retired with over US$3.6 million in earnings.
Havre de Grace's second dam is Toll Fee (by Topsider), who is one of seven stakes winners (including American champion sprinter Plugged Nickle and Grade 1 winner Christiecat) produced from 1991 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year Toll Booth. A daughter of 1966 American Horse of the Year and four-time American champion broodmare sire Buckpasser, Toll Booth, in turn, is out of another marvelous broodmare in Missy Baba (by Tulyar or My Babu), the dam of six stakes winners and the ancestress of champions A.P. Indy, Duke of Marmalade, Gay Mecene, Lemon Drop Kid, and Summer Squall via other branches of her family.
Havre de Grace's most recent named foal is the unraced 2-year-old Saint Tapit (a full brother to Graceful Princess), and after a barren year in 2020, the mare produced a colt by 2018 American Triple Crown winner Justify on March 17. That colt is one of the few horses in the record books who can boast of being by a Horse of the Year out of a Horse of the Year, and if he can live up to the expectations created by that heritage, US$10 million may seem cheap for a mare who last year looked like an expensive disappointment as a producer.
Beautifully bred but crooked, this filly was sent to Europe to race by her American owner because he feared she would not stay sound under American racing conditions. She became a Classic winner in Europe but only after four different jockeys had turned her down as a mount for the event in which she made her name. Who was she, and in what Classic race did she have her success?
Galileo was 23 when he was euthanized due to a chronic foot injury on July 10, but even though that is not a particularly short lifespan for a horse, the consensus of the bloodstock world is that he departed far too soon. The sire of a record 92 Grade/Group 1 winners (and counting) and the owner of multiple sire titles in England, France, and Ireland, he proved himself a more than worthy successor to the great stallion Sadler's Wells, taking his sire's mantle as Europe's greatest progenitor.
It will take decades to be able to fully assess the impact of Galileo on Thoroughbred breeding around the world, and perhaps even longer to gain a similar perspective regarding his dam, the great matriarch Urban Sea. Already worthy of being acclaimed as the 21st century's first truly breed-shaping mare, the 1993 CIGA Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (FR-G1) winner is assured a lasting presence in pedigrees through Galileo and his sons and daughters, but there is far more to her story as a producer than that.
One of a handful of mares to produce four or more Grade or Group 1 winners, Urban Sea produced an even better racehorse than Galileo in Sea the Stars (by Cape Cross), voted the 2009 Cartier European Horse of the Year after winning six Group 1 races including the Two Thousand Guineas (ENG-G1), the Derby Stakes (ENG-G1), and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (FR-G1). While not Galileo's equal as a sire, Sea the Stars is no slouch in that department and is doing his part to maintain the Green Desert branch of Danzig's male line. Already the sire of over 80 stakes winners, his 13 Group 1 winners include dual Derby winner Harzand and the magnificent stayer Stradivarius, and it is only a matter of time before breeders start using Urban Sea's two great sons as vehicles for inbreeding to her.
None of Urban Sea's three other stakes-winning sons (including multiple Group 1 winner Black Sam Bellamy, a full brother to Galileo) have done much at stud, and her Grade 1-winning daughter My Typhoon (by Giant's Causeway) has a disappointing broodmare record thus far. Three other daughters are stakes producers, however, and all three have added Group winners to their profiles in the last few years. Group 1-placed stakes winner Melikah (by Lammtarra) added her fourth stakes winner in 2019 when her Dubawi son Royal Line won the September Stakes (ENG-G3), and her stakes-winning daughter Hidden Gold is the dam of 2021 listed stakes winner Creative Flair (by Dubawi). Group 3 winner All Too Beautiful (by Sadler's Wells), the dam of two listed stakes winners, is now the second dam of 2020 W. S. Cox Plate (AUS-G1) winner Sir Dragonet
Cherry Hinton, a Group 3-placed daughter of Urban Sea and Green Desert, has been the most active of all in recent years. Already the dam of 2011 Rockfel Stakes (ENG-G2) winner Wading (by Montjeu, by Sadler's Wells) and 2014 Irish Oaks (IRE-G1) winner Bracelet (by Montjeu), she has since produced two more classy stakes winners by Montjeu's champion son Camelot: Athena, winner of the 2018 Belmont Invitational Oaks Stakes (USA-G1), and Goddess, winner of the 2019 Snow Fairy Stakes (IRE-G3). Wading, in turn, is the dam of 2018 Rockfel Stakes (ENG-G2) winner Just Wonderful, who also placed in two Group 1 races.
Cherry Hinton and a slew of Urban Sea granddaughters still have foals who have yet to race, and it will not be long before royally-bred great-granddaughters will be adding to the tally. Thus, in addition to being a dam of two major sires (though "major" seems a bit weak when applied to Galileo), Urban Sea stands at the head of an expanding female family that seems likely to keep adding stars to the great mare's legacy for a long time to come.
"Eclipse first, the rest nowhere," reflects the fact that the great 18th-century champion routinely left his opponents outside the distance pole (beyond which no placings were made) on the four-mile courses typical of his time. Modern racing no longer uses a distance pole, but some champions have still had some amazingly long margins recorded in the record books. What horse holds the 20th-century record for the greatest recorded margin in a major stakes race in North America, and in what race was the record set?
The recent death of Arazi at the age of 32 has brought forth a slew of remembrances, most centered around the sensational move in the 1991 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (USA-G1) that emphatically stamped him as the best juvenile on two continents. The electric turn of foot he possessed when at his best certainly owes something to his sire Blushing Groom, himself the best French juvenile of his year as well as a champion miler at 3. But there is more to a horse's pedigree than his sire, and for another source of miler speed, one need look no further that the family of modern foundation mare Native Partner, to which Arazi belongs.
One of five stakes winners produced by the Tom Fool mare Dinner Partner, Native Partner won 11 of 42 starts with her best win coming in the 1970 Maskette Stakes. The equivalent of a Grade 2 winner by the standards of the modern graded stakes system (which placed the Maskette at that level when the system was inaugurated in 1973), Native Partner clearly had something of the speed of her sire Raise a Native, the co-champion American juvenile of 1963, and it became apparent during her broodmare career that she could pass that speed on in a form desirable to European racing.
Native Partner did produce one major stakes winner on American dirt, 1982 Fantasy Stakes (USA-G1) winner Flying Partner (by Hoist the Flag), but even Flying Partner left her main legacy on the grass as the second dam of Canadian champion turf mare Hero's Love. Native Partner's other two top-level winners were Group 1-winning sons in Europe: Formidable (by Forli), winner of the 1977 Middle Park Stakes (ENG-G1) as a juvenile, and Ajdal (by Northern Dancer), the French and English champion sprinter of 1987.
Neither Formidable nor Ajdal (who died young) rose beyond the useful as sires, and Native Partner's legacy was to be primarily through her daughters. Four were stakes producers, including her best racing daughter, 1978 Prix de Pomone (FR-G3) winner Fabuleux Jane (by 1964 French champion 3-year-old male Le Fabuleux).
While Fabuleux Jane stayed quite well herself, her best runners were most adept over intermediate positions, headed by 1998 Early Times Turf Classic Stakes (USA-G1) winner Joyeux Dancer (by Nureyev). Her other stakes winners were 1987 Anne Arundel Handicap (USA-G3) winner Doubles Partner (by Damascus) and French stakes winner Fabuleux Dancer (by Nijinsky II). She also produced Group 3-placed Danseur Fabuleux (by Northern Dancer), dam of Arazi and also of 2001 Champagne Lanson Sussex Stakes (USA-G1) winner Noverre (by Blushing Groom's son Rahy).
The one significant failing of Native Partner's family has been as a source of sire power, as the best male runners from this lineage (Arazi included) consistently underperformed their own considerable racing talent. Native Partner's best tail-female descendant thus far has probably been the Danzig horse Exchange Rate (out of Grade 3 winner Sterling Pound, out of listed stakes winner Spectacular Bev, out of Group 3-placed Bev Bev, out of Native Partner), who won the 2001 Tom Fool Stakes (USA-G2) and has ranked among the top ten Argentine sires four times after kicking off his stud career well in Florida. Nonetheless, the remembered brilliance of Arazi's charge to victory thirty years ago has not faded in spite of his failings as a sire, and it serves as a reminder of a fleet mare whose line may yet recreate that brilliance in some future hero or heroine of the turf.
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.