While we're waiting to see if Florida blows away over the next few days, here's a question regarding bananas (which is a pretty good description of the mental state of anyone ignoring evacuation orders right now). While most horses have a soft spot for apples, this mighty champion apparently liked a taste of the tropics and snacked on bananas if he had the chance. They certainly didn't hurt his weightlifting ability as he won 13 times with 130 pounds or more aboard. Who was he?
When Colonel E. R. Bradley died, most of his bloodstock ended up being divided between Greentree Stud, the King Ranch, and Ogden Phipps. All benefited considerably in the division, which distributed the priceless daughters and granddaughters of the great matron La Troienne among some of the nation's top breeders, but the Phipps family probably came out best. In no small part, this was due to the descendants of Striking, a full sister to 1945 Horse of the Year Busher who became the 1961 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year.
Many of Striking's descendants were given baseball-related names, among them her granddaughter Stolen Base. Sired by French champion Herbager, Stolen Base was not a top-class racer, although she placed in six black-type events. She proved a first-rate broodmare, however, and established a branch of her family which leads to Come Dancing, winner of the Ketel One Ballerina Stakes (USA-I) at this year's Saratoga meeting.
Most broodmares are most productive during the first half of their producing careers, but Stolen Base reversed that pattern. After throwing just one stakes-placed runner from her first four foals, she was culled from the Phipps broodmare band and was sold to Frances Genter. For her new owner, Stolen Base came up with four stakes winners from her final five foals. The Buckpasser colt Ask Clarence (who was sold to Mrs. Genter in utero) and his half brother Passing Base (by In Reality) had little long-term significance, but Dont Worry Bout Me (by Foolish Pleasure) produced multiple Grade III winner Cowboy Cop (by Silver Deputy) and multiple stakes winner I'll Get Along (by Smile), dam of 2004 American champion 3-year-old male Smarty Jones (by Elusive Quality).
The best of Stolen Base's runners was Basie, an In Reality filly who scored her signature win in the 1985 Delaware Handicap (USA-I) at Saratoga. Basie produced just one foal of any real significance, the Fappiano mare Jeano, who won five stakes races including the 1993 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (USA-III) . This mare proved a disappointing producer of runners and, after passing through several hands, ended up selling in foal to Alphabet Soup at the 2009 Ocala Breeders' Sales October mixed sale for just US$5,000.
As it turned out, Jeano was a better producer of broodmares than of racehorses. She is the second dam of five stakes winners, and two of her daughters produced graded stakes winners: Contrive (by Storm Cat), dam of 2005 American champion 2-year-old filly Folklore (by Tiznow), and Never a No Hitter (by Kris S.), dam of Demoiselle Stakes (USA-II) winner Tizahit (by Tiznow), who in turn produced Come Dancing (a daughter of Malibu Moon) as her third foal.
While the mating that produced Come Dancing is an outcross to the 4x4 In Reality inbreeding found in her dam, it shows duplications of 3x5 to Seattle Slew and to Mr. Prospector, stallions who trace back to the same matriarch (Myrtlewood). Tizahit's most recent foal is a 2018 full brother to Come Dancing, and it will be interesting to see if the same combination works a second time. In the meantime, one can hardly argue with the results already obtained, which would be a home run in anyone's ballpark.
This Kentucky Derby and Travers Stakes winner faced a grand total of three opponents in these two important races. Who was he?
In a tumultuous American racing year in which multiple Eclipse Award divisions lack a clear leader, the latest horse to step into the ring as a possible contender for year-end honors is Higher Power, who scored a visually impressive victory in the $1 Million TVG Pacific Classic (USA-I). The field he defeated was solid rather than stellar, but this may well be one of those seasons in which two or three marquee wins at the right time are enough to catch voters' attention.
Higher Power is the latest star for a family developed by Pin Oak Stud from its foundation mare, Take a Stand. A winning half sister by Amerigo to stakes winners Dun-Cee (by Dunce) and Controlled Landing (by First Landing), Take a Stand had a satisfactory production record in her own right, throwing French Group III winner French Friend (by Herbager) and multiple stakes winner Stage Luck (by Stage Door Johnny). Stage Luck, in turn produced two-time American champion filly Open Mind and two other stakes winners.
Pin Oak did not retain Stage Luck, but the stud did keep her older half sister, stakes-placed Strike a Pose (by Iron Ruler). In the tradition of her dam and granddam, Strike a Pose also came up with two stakes winners, the gelding Tonka Wakhan (by Big Spruce) and Wedding Picture, a daughter of Blushing Groom. In due time, Wedding Picture joined the Pin Oak broodmare band and produced four stakes winners, headed by Grade III winner Winged Victory (by Nijinsky II). She is also the second dam of seven stakes winners including Forever Together (by Belong to Me) and Broken Vow (by Unbridled). The former won the 2008 Eclipse Award as champion turf female for owner George Strawbridge, while the latter, a Pin Oak homebred, was a multiple Grade II winner before becoming a linchpin of Pin Oak's stallion roster. Still active at the age of 22, Broken Vow has sired well over 80 stakes winners including this year's Canadian star Tone Broke, winner of two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown.
Strike a Balance, Strike a Pose's 1983 daughter by Nijinsky II, did not last long enough to gain much racing glory, though she won two of her three starts. Nonetheless, she has made her own set of contributions to her family, beginning with 1995 Canadian Horse of the Year Peaks and Valleys (by Mt. Livermore). She also produced Alternate (by Seattle Slew), a multiple listed stakes winner who has come up with three stakes winners of her own. They are Alternation (by Distorted Humor), a multiple Grade II winner who is now a stallion at Pin Oak; Interrupted (by Broken Vow), a multiple listed stakes winner; and Higher Power. Aside from those three, Strike a Balance is the second dam of six other stakes winners, including Grade II winner Eleusis (by Diesis) and Grade III winners Equality (by Mt. Livermore) and Cryptograph (by Cryptoclearance).
Take a Stand's family is unusual in that it represents one of the few flourishing lines descended from old American lineages that cannot be connected to any of the Bruce Lowe families, in this case American Family 29. Descended from an unnamed daughter of Diomed, this line may or may not incorporate non-Thoroughbred elements in its early history, but it has long since proved its merit by the test of the racetrack.
There has not been any particular magic in how Take a Stand's family rose to its present heights, just a lot of well-applied common sense. Pin Oak has routinely made use of access to good stallions with a history of delivering racing results, regardless of the current bloodstock fashions, and has tried to produce well-made specimens with the potential for going two turns. Equally important, when a mating has turned out well, Pin Oak has not been shy about going back to the well by mating related mares to the same stallion. That formula for success may not be dramatic, but its results are beyond question.
Name the 20th-century American Horse of the Year and the Kentucky Broodmare of the Year who are full siblings to one another.
Fillies aren't supposed to tackle the boys. Horses aren't supposed to win a Grade I race off a week's rest. That's the conventional wisdom, but no one bothered to tell Got Stormy that she wasn't doing things according to the book. The first filly to win the Fourtstardave Stakes (USA-IT) at Saratoga, she didn't just win; she blistered the mile in a course-record 1:32.00 while earning a "Win and You're In" slot for the Breeders' Cup Mile (USA-IT).
A daughter of multiple Grade I winner Get Stormy, Got Stormy represents the family of Tiy, whose family hasn't quite gotten the acclaim of the branch of the Bold Irish tribe descended through Shenanigans but has gone about the business of producing good horses for some 40 years nonetheless.
Tiy herself, a granddaughter of Bold Irish through Shenanigans' stakes-placed half sister Leix, was not a stakes winner but was out of the money only once from six starts. Most of her mates were second-tier stallions, but she did well in the paddocks with three stakes winners to her credit. The best of the trio was Pok Ta Pok, a son of the good speed sire Full Pocket who captured the 1989 Bold Ruler Stakes (USA-II). Tiy's stakes-winning daughter Loa (by Hawaii) is the dam of multiple Grade III winner Eagleton (by Majestic Light), and three winning daughters of Tiy also got into the act as graded stakes producers. Golden Tiy (by Dixieland Band) produced 1999 Prioress Stakes (USA-II) winner Sapphire n' Silk (by Pleasant Tap) and 2010 Affirmed Handicap (USA-III) winner Golden Itiz (by Tiznow), and Popul Vuh (by Czaravich) produced 1993 Nashua Stakes (USA-III) winner Popol's Gold (by Strike Gold).
Ahpo Hel (Mr, Leader x Tiy) contributed to the family record with four stakes winners, headed by 1994 Prioress Stakes (USA-II) winner Penny's Reshoot (by Turkey Shoot). Unfortunately, Penny's Reshoot died without issue, but other daughters have carried on. General Jeanne (by Honour and Glory) is the dam of Grade II winners Chace City (by Carson City) and Justwhistledixie (by Dixie Union), and the last-named mare broke the Grade I barrier for the family by producing 2013 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (USA-I) winner New Year's Day (by Street Cry) as well as multiple Grade II winner Mohaymen (by Tapit) and recent Grade III winner Kingly (also by Tapit).
Twin Propeller, Ahpo Hel's stakes-winning daughter by Known Fact, managed to produce only three minor winners from five foals, but she provided the connection between Ahpo Hel and Got Stormy through her French Deputy daughter Air France. The dam of multiple Grade II winner Smooth Air (by Smooth Jazz) and 2011 Sanford Stakes (USA-II) winner Overdriven (by Tale of the Cat), Air France produced the winning Malabar Gold mare Super Phoebe, dam of Got Stormy, as her first foal. Also the dam of stakes-placed Sky Gold (by Successful Appeal), Super Phoebe's most recent foals are a 2018 colt by Super Saver and a 2019 colt by Mohaymen.
Tiy's branch of the Bold Irish female line has been notable primarily for sprinters and milers, and Got Stormy fits well into that profile. Prolific and versatile with regard to the sire lines it has worked with, it has also produced a good many horses that could be called overachievers considering their pedigrees. If it seldom produces the kind of horse that takes the racing world or the sale ring by storm, it has produced a steady rain of solid performers, and there are far worse credentials for a family to have than that.
A brilliant runner during his brief racing career, this Travers Stakes winner is one of four horses to have sired three Kentucky Derby winners. Name him and his Derby-winning sons.
There is cheap speed, and there is class speed. On August 3, Covfefe demonstrated that she possesses the latter quality in abundance. Asked to catch Longines Kentucky Oaks (USA-I) winner Serengeti Empress, who was setting a hot pace in the Longines Test Stakes (USA-I), Covfefe did so. The result was a stretch-long duel between the two fillies with neither asking quarter until Covfefe finally prevailed by a half-length. The victory marked Covfefe as being among the elite of her breed; only two in every thousand Thoroughbreds foaled in North America ever win a Grade I race.
Courtly Dee was at the opposite end of the spectrum. She was what horsemen call "cheap speed": a sprinter that flashes some speed but usually folds up under a challenge. She won only four of her 33 starts, and she had no pretensions of being anything but a modest claimer on the track. Yet somehow in the alchemy of genetics, the class embodied in her sire Never Bend and her broodmare sire War Admiral came through when she became a broodmare. She produced eight stakes winners, seven of them of graded class, and also produced the dam of the important European sire and sire of sires Green Desert.
Althea, Courtly Dee's 1981 daughter by Alydar, was the fourth of her stakes winners and the best of them on the track. She won four graded stakes as a juvenile, whipping males twice in Grade II events along the way, and was voted the Eclipse Award as American champion 2-year-old filly for 1983. Her brilliance earned Courtly Dee honors as the 1983 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year, and Althea reached an even higher peak with a track record-equaling victory against males in the 1984 Arkansas Derby (USA-I).
Unfortunately, Althea had probably peaked too soon, and after finishing next to last in the Kentucky Derby (USA-I) (in which she had been favored), she started only once more before retiring to the paddocks. Her ill-fortune dogged her in her broodmare career. as she collided with another mare in a 1995 paddock accident and did not survive her injuries. Her loss was a tremendous one, for of the five foals she left behind, four became stakes winners including 1994 Japanese champion 2-year-old filly Yamanin Paradise (by Danzig).
Of Althea's other daughters, the most important is Aurora, a 1988 full sister to Yaminin Paradise who was a listed stakes winner at 4. She produced four stakes winners, headed by 1998 Super Derby (USA-I) winner Arch (by Kris S.) and 2010 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (USA-IA) winner Acoma (by Empire Maker). Arch, in his turn, proved a very good stallion for Claiborne Farm and got a worthy successor in 2010 American champion older male Blame, who is continuing the line at Claiborne.
Aurora's best producing daughter thus far is Antics (by Unbridled), who is the dam of both Covfefe and Japanese Group II winner Albiano. The two are very similarly bred, as Albiano is a son of Harlan's Holiday while Covfefe is by that stallion's best son at stud, Into Mischief. Antics slipped in 2017 before producing a 2018 filly by Nyquist and a 2019 colt by Violence, and her 2014 daughter Airs (a full sister to Albiano) produced a 2018 Union Rags colt before being reported as barren for 2019.
The great gift of Courtly Dee's family has been speed, but it has been speed that has blended successfully with stamina bequeathed by more classically-oriented sires. Covfefe has already proved herself a worthy heiress to that legacy, and it can be hoped that in due time, she will do her part in transmitting the blend of speed and stamina that has brought her to the top echelon of Thoroughbred racing.
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.