Goldikova was the first horse to win three Breeders' Cup races, with all three of her wins coming in the Mile in 2008-2010. Who was the first horse to win three Breeders' Cup races on the dirt?
Centuries ago, it was said that the native breeders of Arabian horses would sell stallions but never good mares, prizing them almost as daughters. Old-school Kentucky breeders were of a similar mind, to the point that to gain access to the daughters of some remarkable matrons, one practically had to marry into the family of the breeder who owned these jewels of the paddocks. There was good reason behind this. A fine stallion may be half the herd and the quickest means of upgrading a breeding program, but if excellence is to be developed and sustained from generation to generation, foundation mares and their produce are absolutely vital, and their availability is limited by the fact that a mare can produce but one foal per year.
Nonetheless, money talks, and money has brought a good many high-class mares to American shores. Among those purchases was French-bred Monade, a European champion who found a new home at Robert Kleberg Jr.'s King Ranch. While Monade was not able to transfer her excellent European form to the United States, she provided a valuable outcross to the American breeding pool and succeeded in founding a family of international influence. The most recent star for Monade's family is the 5-year-old Brazilian mare Hevea, who on October 24 scored her first Group 1 success in the Grande Prêmio O.S.A.F. at São Paulo's Cidade Jardim race course, but the successes of Monade's descendants has hardly been limited to Brazil; they include Grade/Group 1 winners in Belgium, England, Sweden, and the United States.
A daughter of 1955 Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French Two Thousand Guineas) winner and French champion miler Klairon from a staying French family, Monade was at her peak as a 3-year-old in 1962 and won that year's Oaks Stakes in England and the Prix Vermeille in France, as well as running second in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. She continued to race well in Europe over the next two years but was unsuccessful in the United States, where she was unplaced in the 1962 Man o' War Stakes and a winner of only one of six starts after being brought back to North America at age 5.
As a broodmare, Monade did not live up to the high hopes that Kleberg held for her, producing just one stakes winner---Grade 1-placed Pressing Date (by Never Bend)---from 11 named foals. All of her foals started and won, however, and her true significance to her breed emerged when her daughters entered their own broodmare careers. Of Monade's nine daughters, seven produced stakes winners, and three---Que Mona, Remedia, and Miss Mazepah---produced the winners of Grade or Group 1 races. Remedia, a daughter of Dr,. Fager, had the most influence in the United States, as her Grade 1-winning daughter Too Chic (by Blushing Groom) produced 1991 American champion older female Queena and 1987 Ashland Stakes (USA-G1) winner Chic Shirine (both by Mr. Prospector) and numbers Grade 1 winners Brahms, Harmonize, Serra Lake, Somali Lemonade, and Verrazano among her descendants.
Hevea's branch of the family descends from Remedia's Grouo 2-placed half sister Mariella (by Roberto), who failed to produce a stakes winner from 15 named foals. As with Monade herself, if has been Mariella's broodmare daughters who have cast a more positive light on their dam's production record. The best of them has been her Rahy daughter Maritana, who produced English Group 2 winner Close to You (by Shinko Forest) and, through her Grand Lodge filly Chris Lady, is the second dam of both Hevea (by Agnes Gold) and of Uruguayan Group 3 winner Malandrino (by Redattore). Mariella is also the dam of stakes-placed Black Truffle (by Mt. Livermore), second dam of Grade 3 winner Blueeyesintherein.
Like many another high-class race mare, Monade was a case of talent skipping a generation when it came to her produce record. Fortunately, her well-bred daughters were persevered with, and the result is a family that is still in top-level production nearly 50 years later. In a breeding market currently dominated by the mad rush to manufacture a rapid return on investment, it is well to remember that long-range success requires patience, and Monade's family is a case in point.
As many of you already know, Leamington was the first stallion to sire Derby winners in both England and North America, getting 1875 Kentucky Derby winner Aristides and 1881 Derby Stakes winner Iroquois. Who was the first stallion to sire a winner of the Derby stakes and an equivalent race in South America?
While the Classic season has been a muddled affair in the United States, no such confusion exists in Japan. Among the colts, unbeaten Contrail has already taken two legs of the Japanese Triple Crown and is a heavy favorite to complete the sweep. His feminine counterpart is Daring Tact, likewise unbeaten and the winner of Japan's Triple Tiara series after quickening brilliantly late to take the Shuka Sho (JPN-G1) on October 18.
A daughter of 2014 Japan Cup (JPN-G1) winner Epiphaneia (by two-time Japanese Horse of the Year Symboli Kris S.), Daring Tact is from the family of Impetuous Lady, Sired by 1954 Preakness Stakes winner Hasty Road out the stakes-winning Argentine import Escocesa II (by Nigromante), Impetuous Lady started only once without displaying the talent of either parent. She made up for her failings as a racer by producing four graded stakes winners, and all four of her producing daughters became graded stakes producers as well.
Both on the track and in the paddocks, the best of the bunch was the Briartic mare Impetuous Gal, whose racing career his its peak with her victory in the 1980 Arlington Matron Handicap (USA-G2). Put to Nijinsky II, she outbred herself with Banker's Lady, a three-time Grade 1 winner and the dam of multiple Grade 2 winner Banker's Gold (by Forty Niner). She also produced Idabel (by Mr. Prospector), winner of the 1990 Ark-La-Tex Handicap (USA-G3).
Daring Danzig, Impetuous Gal's 1990 filly by Danzig, never made it to the track, but she shone as a broodmare, producing 1999 Super Derby (USA-G1) winner Ecton Park (by Forty Niner) and Japanese Group 3 winners Pit Fighter (by Pulpit) and Daring Heart (by Sunday Silence). Daring Heart's daughter Daring Bird (by King Kamehameha) continued the alternation between good race mares and mares who failed to demonstrate talent on the track, for she made only one unplaced start before getting her broodmare career off to the best possible start with Daring Tact as her first foal. She has since produced full sisters to the likely champion in 2018 and 2019.
Impetuous Lady's family has never gotten quite the attention some other notable producing families have received, but it has also done well in the United States and Europe, accounting for 2014 Del Mar Oaks (USA-G1) winner Personal Diary, 2012 Jenny Wiley Stakes (USA-G1) winner Daisy Devine, multiple Grade 3 winner Alms, and French Group 3 winner Charity Belle over the last dozen years. In Daring Tact, this line appears to have reached a new height, and one can hope that more good things are on the way for this globetrotting family.
While 1924 Kentucky Derby winner Black Gold is commonly thought of is the first horse to win four "Derby" races as a 3-year-old, this isn't quite the case. He is the first Kentucky Derby winner to do so, but an American champion of the 19th century succeeded in collecting four "Derby" races even though he was second in the Kentucky Derby. Name him and the derbies in which he was victorious.
This past weekend demonstrated once again what has been apparent for years: Since its effective demotion to a mere prep race for the Breeders' Cup Classic (USA-G1), the Jockey Club Gold Cup (USA-G1) is an anemic shadow of what it was when it was America's premier test for older runners. Only five went postward in the 2020 edition, and the fact that a chronic underachiever like Tacitus was made an odds-on favorite is no compliment to the overall quality of the field.
Nonetheless, an interesting winner turned up in lightly raced 3-year-old Happy Saver, who showed determination in coming through on the inside to score by three-quarters of a length. Making just his fourth lifetime start, Happy Saver outran fellow 3-year-old Mystic Guide (winner of the 2020 Jim Dandy Stakes, USA-G2), and earned a "Win and You're In" slot for the Classic. Should he start and win, he would become the most lightly raced Classic winner ever; he would also be the first to win the race while unbeaten.
He would not be the first such winner for his family, however, for he comes from a distinguished clan indeed. Sired by 2010 Kentucky Derby (USA-G1) winner Super Saver, who is now in Turkey, Happy Saver is a great-grandson of 1992 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year Weekend Surprise, who scored a previous Breeders' Cup Classic success with her Seattle Slew son A.P. Indy.
A.P. Indy rode his Classic success to titles as the American champion 3-year-old male and Horse of the Year in 1992 and later became a champion sire and broodmare sire in North America, but he is far from Weekend Surprise's only claim to fame. The daughter of Secretariat also produced 1990 Preakness Stakes (USA-G1) winner Summer Squall (by Storm Bird), a good sire; Grade 3 winner Welcome Surprise (by Seeking the Gold); and listed stakes winner Eavesdropper (by Kingmambo).
As a Grade 3-winning daughter of a champion broodmare sire from a female family that has turned up top producers for generations, Weekend Surprise was a genetic treasure trove, and her descendants continue to share the wealth. A.P. Indy and Summer Squall were both expected to make good sires and did so, but their lesser half brothers Honor Grades (by Danzig; Grade 3-placed) and Tiger Ridge (by Storm Cat; winner) also became better sires than their race records warranted, spreading the influence of Weekend Surprise to New Zealand and South Africa, respectively. As for Weekend Surprise's daughters, five of them have become the first or second dams of graded or Group stakes winners.
The most recent addition to the quintet is Lassie's Legacy (by Deputy Minister), whose name alludes to her Grade 3-winning and multiple stakes-producing granddam Lassie Dear (by Buckpasser). She won only one of her eight starts and did not have any stakes winners among her eight named foals, but her multiple stakes-placed daughter Happy Week (by Distorted Humor) produced Happy Saver as her fifth foal. Happy Week's most recent foals are a 2019 Candy Ride filly named Happyfew and a 2020 full sister to Happy Saver, already given the name Happy Charger.
Happy Saver would have to defeat a substantially larger and deeper field to win the Breeders' Cup Classic, and even if he does, that might or might not give him an Eclipse Award in a year that has turned all manner of expectations inside out. It is to be hoped that he will reappear in 2021 and give everyone a chance to see whether he has the makings of a great champion or was just a pleasant surprise during a week in October.
The Pimlico Special (now USA-G3) was historically Maryland's top race for older horses on dirt. As with the Preakness Stakes (USA-G1), it is particularly sweet for Maryland horsemen when a state-bred horse makes off with the honors. This year, Maryland-bred Harpers Wild Ride carried off the honors. Can you name the four previous Maryland-breds who won the Special?
On October 4, 2019 Japanese champion 3-year-old filly Gran Alegria nailed down her second Group 1 win of 2020 in the Sprinters' Stakes (JPN-G1). Her victory underscored the loss of her sire Deep Impact, but it also brought back memories of one of the better broodmares of the 1980s and early 1990s. This was Perfect Pigeon, a daughter of Round Table who, while she never attained Broodmare of the Year honors, had a record better than some mares that did.
Perfect Pigeon was one of only three foals produced by the fine stakes mare Pink Pigeon, a daughter of T. V. Lark who would have been a multiple graded stakes winner had the modern graded stakes system been in effect when she was racing in the 1960s. Based on track performance, Perfect Pigeon's year-younger full sister Lexington Lark would have seemed the better bet to make a top producer, as she had enough ability to win a minor stakes race as a 3-year-old; Perfect Pigeon, on the other hand, could not even manage to hit the board in 13 starts. Lexington Lark, however, managed to come up with just two stakes-placed runners from nine named foals, though she is the third dam of Grade 3 winner Shoal Creek; Perfect Pigeon produced five stakes winners, three of them of graded/Group caliber.
Admittedly, Perfect Pigeon took a while to get going. Her first stakes winner, 1984 Dee Stakes (ENG-G3) winner Trial by Excellence (by Caro), was her sixth foal. But after that, she went on a roll. Her seventh foal was the Best Turn colt Aggies Best, a popular performer at Nebraska's Ak-Sar-Ben track where he was a multiple stakes winner. (He also won a stakes at Latonia---now Turfway Park---and was Grade 3-placed at Hialeah.) Foal number eight was sired by the Grade 1 winner but mediocre stallion Providential, but Perfect Pigeon came up with another multiple stakes winner anyway in Supreme Excellence, dam in turn of multiple stakes winner Glenbarra (by Vice Regent).
Returned to Caro in 1985, Perfect Pigeon produced her best runner in 1986. This was Golden Pheasant, a Group 2 winner in France and the winner of the 1990 Arlington Million Stakes (USA-G1) and two Grade 2 races in the United States. Sent to Japan to begin his stud career, Golden Pheasant was exported from there to China in 2002 and disappeared from available records after 2006.
Perfect Pigeon's final stakes winner was the 1988 Pleasant Colony filly Seewillo, who won the 1992 Queen Charlotte Handicap (USA-G3) at Monmouth. Seewillo is the second dam of Grade 3 winner of Time's Mistress and the third dam of 2019 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (USA-G1) winner Henley's Joy and Grade 3 winner Dennis' Moment.
Perfect Pigeon's other foals include three producers of stakes winners. Among them is the winner Pink Dove (by 1980 French champion 3-year-old male but poor sire Argument), who produced listed stakes winners Moonshine Hall (by Spinning World) and Malli Star (by Baldski; dam of Group 1-placed Japanese listed stakes winner Bella Rheia, by Narita Top Road).
Pink Dove also produced the Fortunate Prospect mare Morning Dove, who on the surface enjoyed only a modest broodmare career with four winners from seven named foals. Thanks to her daughter Flying Marlin (by multiple Grade 1 winner Marlin, another indifferent sire), she now appears more important, for Flying Marlin is the dam of multiple Grade 1 winner Tapitsfly (by Tapit). Tapitsfly, in turn, is the dam of Gran Alegria, and her Sky Classic half sister Classy Marlin is the dam of listed stakes winner Hesinfront (by War Front).
The family of Perfect Pigeon is not one of those families with a catalog page jammed with stars generation after generation, but in view of the uneven quality of the stallions it has encountered along the way, it has come up with its share of good runners and perhaps a bit more. In Gran Alegria, who will undoubtedly be granted access to the cream of the Japanese stallion population when she retires to the paddocks, there is hope that this family will fly to even greater heights.
As we conclude possibly the strangest American Triple Crown series of all time, here's a special Preakness trivia challenge in honor of the occasion. See if you can come up with all five answers by Preakness post time!
1) This Preakness Stakes winner was not an American champion but shared his name with another horse who was. What was the shared name of these horses, and in what years did they accomplish their signature feats?
2) What horse was the longest shot to win the Preakness?
3) Who was the youngest jockey to win the Preakness Stakes, and what horse carried him to victory?
4) This Preakness Stakes winner took such a liking to water from a Florida sulphur spring that he would raise a fuss if he didn't get his daily ration. Who was he?
5) It was all in the family for this Preakness winner, as his trainer had also trained his sire, his dam, and his older full brother. Who was he, and who was the trainer who enjoyed success with this family cluster?
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.