This important American broodmare could not stay even 6 furlongs in good company, but she was the dam and granddam of successful sires. She was also a great producer for the sale ring, as her yearlings sold at auction went for an aggregate of over US$17.7 million. Who was she?
What equine matriarch is the dam of one Breeders' Cup Mile (USA-G1) winner, the granddam of another, the great-granddam of a third and the great-great-granddam of a fourth? (Hint: not all of these relationships are in the direct female line.)
At first glance, Matron Stakes (USA-G3) winner Arella Rockstar's pedigree looks fairly ordinary. Sired by the unproven Astrology, a well-bred horse but not an outstanding runner by the standards of the Kentucky stallion market, she is the first foal of an unraced mare whose primary credential is that she is a half sister to a Grade 3 winner. There is more going on below the surface than meets the eye, however, and the strongest undercurrents owe their existence to John Nerud and the breeding program he oversaw at Tartan Farm.
Arella Rockstar is inbred 4x5 to Fappiano and to Hold Your Peace through Quiet Eclipse, dam of Astrology, and Old Fashioned, sire of Arella Rockstar's dam Story Untold. The two are bred on rather similar lines, as Quiet Eclipse is by a son of Fappiano out of a Hold Your Peace mare while Old Fashioned is by a grandson of Fappiano out of a granddaughter of Hold Your Peace. More important, perhaps, is the reinforcement of the bloodlines that created Fappiano in other parts of the pedigree.
One of the best horses that John Nerud bred in his own name, Fappiano was sired by Mr. Prospector from the mare Killaloe, a daughter of the great Dr. Fager and a granddaughter of Tartan Farms foundation mare Cequillo. Dr. Fager, in turn, was produced from the mating of Rough'n Tumble with Tartan Farms' other foundation mare, Aspidistra, whose great-granddaughter Gana Facil produced champion Unbridled when mated to Fappiano. Unbridled, in turn, sired Unbridled's Song, sire of Old Fashioned.
Astrology carries a still more concentrated dose of these same bloodlines through his broodmare sire Quiet American, who was sired by Fappiano from Demure, by Dr. Fager. As Demure was produced from a daughter of Cequillo, Quiet American is inbred 3x2 to Dr. Fager and 4x3 to Cequillo.
The final strands in the design of Arella Rockstar's pedigree are supplied by her second dam, Shappy, who was sired by the In Reality horse Really Secret from the Dr. Blum mare Salt in My Stew. While none of these names are exactly household icons (though In Reality was quite a good racer and sire), they are significant in this context. In Reality is out of My Dear Girl, a champion daughter of Rough'n Tumble, while Dr. Blum is a son of Dr. Fager. Thus, Arella Rockstar's pedigree blends line breeding to Dr. Fager, Rough'n Tumble, Cequillo and Aspidistra. No one of these elements may be very significant when taken alone but taken together, they represent a cluster of bloodlines that have proven compatible in the past and could reasonably be expected to prove so again. That they combined in this case to produce a nice filly from a relatively modest pedigree is still luck, but luck that had the boost of intelligence and study behind it.
The Futurity Stakes (USA-G3) has faded to a mere shadow of what it once was, but there was a time when it was the richest event on the American racing calendar and the de facto championship event for American juveniles. In the days when it was legal for a stable to declare which of a coupled entry was intended to win, it was often the target of strategic planning as a stable might use the "declared to win" option to get some racing experience into a promising maiden while preserving the weight allowance granted to maidens. In another case, one Futurity winner may have been the first colt to make use of high-altitude training and strength training in his preparation for the historic race. Who was he?
This horse was the first to win a Triple Crown plus a Breeder's Cup race during the course of a racing career. Name this champion.
There was a time when horsemen of the old Bluegrass would almost rather have seen a daughter go to an unsuitable marriage than part with one of their farm's four-legged matriarchs. Such mares were virtually irreplaceable treasures, and the only ways to acquire them or their immediate descendants were usually either marriage into the human family of the owner or purchase on the relatively rare occasions when they came up for auction due to the dispersal of an owner's estate or the need to reduce a broodmare band.
Acquiring a well-bred filly with a deep family is a little easier nowadays thanks to the much larger auction market for young horses, but the reasons for the old-timers' attitude were never more apparent than during October 1's stakes action, when race after race was won by horses tracing to one of the great queens of the paddocks. Among them:
This isn't to say that every filly descended from an important matriarch is worth retaining; even the best families require culling. Nonetheless, the persistence of class in top families is well worth noting and good reason to give decent fillies from these families every chance as broodmares.
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.