With the auction season gearing up, one of my favorite things to do is “shop” the sales catalogues.Instead of looking forward to what might be, I thought it would be interesting to highlight a few sales from the past and see how it all turned out.I will be writing four articles in this series, starting with Yearlings, moving to Two Year Olds, Broodmare Prospects and The Bargain Bin.
Waiting to buy a two year old can be a costly decision.Yearlings are truly gambled on for their pedigree and conformation in hopes of greatness.The juveniles hitting the auction ring can compare to having a recipe that you are ready to pull out of the oven.It’s no longer just a list of great ingredients, but now you can start to see what the finished product might look like.They are developing under tack just months away from beginning their racing career.
When two year olds begin to reveal their potential is when prices can explode.The juvenile sales can be quite costly as buyers get a closer look at what could be in this prospect’s future.
The then unnamed Unbridled’s Song was a colt entered in the 1995 Barretts sale in March for two year olds in training.His seller, Erine Paragallo, had purchased him at Saratoga’s yearling sale for $200,000.New to the yearling to juvenile pinhooking business, Paragallo made people chuckle when he made wild predictions about his grey colt.“He’s going to sell for more money than any two year old ever has.”He also stated, “I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t sell for a million dollars.”
His colt did have a strong pedigree, and had nothing noticeably at fault in his conformation.Unbridled’s Song was by Kentucky Derby winner, Unbridled, and out of Trolley Song.His dam was by Caro (IRE) who sired Winning Colors, winner of the 1988 edition of the Kentucky Derby.
Though Unbridled’s offspring had never stepped foot on a racetrack, the stallion’s progeny showed great promise.Unbridled was a quick developer, winning first time out as a two year old by 10 ½ lengths.This meant that the return of investment could come quickly for potential buyers of the Unbridled colt.
Unbridled’s Song was rightfully noticed when he stepped into the auction ring in California, satisfying his seller when the winning bid was $1.4 million.He sold to a Japanese owner, Hiroshi Fujita, who ordered post-sale X-rays which revealed a bone chip.Fujita requested to return the most expensive juvenile up to that point.Paragallo surprised many when he took Unbridled’s Song back.
“They’ve just made the biggest mistake of their lives.” He said after the sale.“They’ll never find a horse as good as this one.I didn’t want to sell him anyway.We’re going to win the Breeders’ Cup, and they’re going to wish they had never brought the matter up.”
Paragallo’s flamboyant prediction yet again became reality when a massive Unbridled’s Song crossed the wire first by a neck in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Instantly, Unbridled’s Song was made the favorite for the 1996 Kentucky Derby, coming off a romp in his final Derby prep.However, he acquired a small crack in his left front hoof, and it was patched with acrylic.Many horses race perfectly normal with this issue, but it spelled disaster for Unbridled’s Song.
The behemoth colt maturing to seventeen hands came back lame from a workout six days out from the run for the roses, and it was discovered that the acrylic patch had caused a bruise and a small infection.Immediately, different shoes were placed on the colt, and his foot was soaked in a tub.
More bad luck came when he drew post
position twenty, which, at the time, no horse had ever won from.The Unbridled’s Song camp experienced a stroke of good luck, as small as it was, when another horse scratched, and Unbridled’s Song was moved into gate nineteen.However, no horse has ever won from that post position either.
Despite all the hardships of Unbridled’s Song’s Derby week, he still managed to cross the wire fifth.I consider this an outstanding feat, taking into consideration all the troubles that came before the race.Even rival trainers in that year’s Kentucky Derby considered Unbridled’s Song as the best horse in the race.
After his exceptional racing career, Unbridled’s Song went on to be a brilliant sire.His progeny’s winning percentage is an astonishing forty-nine percent, and his offspring’s total earnings on the track exceed $74.5 million.He has sired eighty-seven stakes winners, thirteen of whom are GI winners.Only three other active stallions in the United States have sired more GI winners.Unbridled’s Song has had eleven or more stakes winners for eight consecutive years, and has had Eclipse Award winners or finalists for four consecutive years.In 2008 alone, he sired twenty-two stakes winners, and in 2009, twenty stakes winners were sired by Unbridled’s Song.His foals can both sprint, and have success at longer distances.His top progeny includes late 2008 Kentucky Derby placer, Eight Belles; 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, Midshipman; 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner, Unrivaled Belle; Thorn Song, Political Force, First Defence, and Songandaprayer.In the auction ring, his foals have also shined, because twenty-four of his sale horses have brought seven figure prices.Standing at Taylor Made Stallions with a stud fee of $125,000, Unbridled’s Song has proven that he was well worth the price that Hiroshi Fujita was willing to pay had the X-ray came back negative at the Barretts sale.
THE GREEN MONKEY:
Trainer Randy Hartley and Dean De Renzo had just been outbid on a yearling colt from the breeding of Forestry-Magical Masquerade, by Unbridled at Fasig-Tipton’s July Sale for yearlings when the auctioneer was in the midst of hammering down the colt to another buyer.Suddenly, De Renzo threw in a final bid on the son of Forestry for $425,000.The bid won the Hartley/De Renzo team the colt, but it was risky business buying such a pricey horse for the purpose of reselling it as a two year old in the spring.
Going into the sale, the then unnamed The Green Monkey had never breezed due to Hartley/De Renzo’s fears of injuring the horses.This created a sense of curiosity, not knowing what The Green Monkey could do on the racetrack.However, he wowed everyone at the sale when he finished his eighth of a mile work in :9.4 seconds with striking fashion.The Green Monkey was so impressive that many around the sales facility believed that the colt could go for ten million dollars at the Fasig-Tipton Calder sale.
When bidding began on the uneasy colt, constantly circling his handler, the bids shot past two million dollars in just over one minute.Yet again, it was Sheikh Mohammed represented by John Ferguson, and Coolmore Stud, represented by Demi O’Byrne.
Only the two bidders remained as the colt’s price rocketed past four million dollars, onlookers from outside stepping into the sales pavilion to watch the dispute over the striking bay.
Seattle Dancer’s big price was passed with John Ferguson’s bid of $13.5 million, but O’ Byrne countered with a fourteen million dollar offer.However, Ferguson raised the bar with a one million dollar jump to fifteen million dollars.O’Byrne, determined to get The Green Monkey, placed a bid of $15.2 million.
The bidding had slowed, but Ferguson was still willing to respond with a bid of $15.5 million.After a pause, O’Byrne threw in an offer of sixteen million which won Coolmore the colt.When the auctioneer hammered down The Green Monkey, the spectators erupted with applause that alarmed the anxious colt who had paced around the ring for ten minutes.
The Green Monkey raced in America, his greatest finish being a third place.Despite his racing record, his stride was measured at 25 ½ feet, and when galloping, his speed reached forty-five miles per hour.For his stud career, he stands at Hartley/De Renzo that also stood Mr. Prospector at the dawn of his stallion career.The Green Monkey’s offspring has yet to be tested, being yearlings of 2011.
It is yet to be determined whether Coolmore’s record breaking investment was a wise one.Keep in mind horses like Storm Cat who had a less than impressive racing career and went on to be a legendary sire.So we wait and see.
With the auction season gearing up, one of my favorite things to do is “shop” the sales catalogues.Instead of looking forward to what might be, I thought it would be interesting to highlight a few sales from the past and see how it all turned out.I will be writing four articles in this series, starting with Yearlings, moving to Two Year Olds, Broodmare Prospects and The Bargain Bin.
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The excitement that people get from placing their bet at the window on race day is the picture that most everyone imagines when they think of gambling on horseracing.The gambling that takes place years before the horse even shows up at the gate is when the real action begins.
Blossoming in the 1980’s, partnerships and syndications have created avenues for more money and breeding opportunities that weren’t available in the past when the business of breeding, selling and buying were primarily done privately.Auctions were used to cull the lesser of their breeding crop.Currently, the auction is the primary catalyst for selling and buying the best bred horses, bringing together the best horses and the wealthiest investors willing to gamble thousands, up to millions of dollars, on bloodlines and conformation.
The budding of the incredible bidding wars between Coolmore Stud, and Sheikh Mohammed put a sizzle in the auction world, giving hips selling prices in the millions.In this illustrious time for the sport, money was no object to buyers.Long before the 80’s, auctions had been held, but none to the standard that the 1980’s displayed.At that time, the auctioning industry kicked off with nuclear power, producing two yearlings that sold for over ten million dollars.
Snaafi Dancer began the auction boom at the 1983 September Yearling Sale held at Keeneland.With seemingly perfect confirmation, this colt was sired by 1964 Kentucky Derby winner, Northern Dancer, and out of My Bupers who foaled My Juliet-a graded stakes winner who was a champion sprinter in the United States.
Northern Dancer’s offspring brought buyers from all over the globe to the Keeneland sales ring in order to get a piece of this stallion whose stud fee at its highest reached $1,000,000.The auction ring rivalry had officially begun between Sheikh Mohammed and Coolmore Stud, competing in high-stakes bidding wars over Northern Dancer’s progeny.
Snaafi Dancer had two crosses of Blue Larkspur, and horses in his first five generations included Black Toney, War Admiral, and legendary broodmare, La Troienne.For a yearling, he looked too good to be true.His legs were already solid, his back appeared strong, and his rump displayed impressive angulation.In a game where there is no such thing as a sure thing, he appeared pretty close to a sure thing when he stepped into the auction ring.
With an opening bid of one million dollars, the bidding war escalated from there, but was resolved by Sheikh Mohammed’s winning offer of $10.2 million.The Keeneland numbers board could not display eight figure digits at the time, and therefore returned to zero when the bidding reached ten million dollars.At the end of this titanic financial tug of war, the board showed that the colt was sold for $200,000.
At the time, $10.2 million was unimaginable for a completely untested horse who had not even begun training for racing.Like any other yearling that has ever walked through the auction ring, only time would tell.And, oh boy, did it ever.
Time would reveal that Snaafi Dancer never made it to the racetrack, and only sired four horses in the breeding shed due to infertility.Of those four mediocre horses, only one crossed the wire first and none going on to produce good runners. No doubt, to the disappointment of Sheikh Mohammed, this costly adventure is the ultimate lesson in gambling.To the relief of Coolmore Stud, losing ultimately turned them into winners.
The latest information on Snaafi Dancer, is that he is part of the witness relocation program, living somewhere in Florida.People connected to the horse have never revealed his exact location to the public.
Only two years after Snaafi Dancer walked through the Keeneland auction ring, another yearling by the name of Seattle Dancer created a ruckus in the auction world.He would break Snaafi Dancer’s record for largest priced yearling ever sold at auction, and still holds that title.Consequently, he would become the most expensive horse ever sold at public auction until the two year old, The Green Monkey, shattered that record twenty-one years later.
Seattle Dancer was a spectacular specimen from his heritage to his confirmation.He was a descendant of Equipoise, Myrtlewood, and Alsab who defeated the three year old Whirlaway in a match race.Seattle Dancer’s second dam was by Jet Action, by 1947 Kentucky Derby winner, Jet Pilot.
The yearling colt’s broodmare sire’s second dam was a full-sister to Busher, who also appears in his bloodlines.With two crosses of the legendary Nearco, he was also a descendant of Princequillo.
However, what undoubtedly got bidders most excited about this son of Nijinsky (by Northern Dancer) was that he was out of My Charmer, making him a half-brother to 1977 Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew, who was a missed opportunity for bidders, being a buyback for $17,500.Bidders would not miss the promise Seattle Slew’s little brother displayed when he entered the historic Keeneland auction ring.
When bidding opened on Seattle Dancer in Keeneland’s 1985 July sale, two spotters almost instantaneously informed auctioneer Tom Caldwell of two one million dollar bids.It took less than one minute for the price to reach seven million dollars.In a relatively sleepy time for auctions, it was not Sheikh Mohammed fighting Coolmore (because they had teamed up before that year’s yearling auction season), but it was the Eugene Klein/D. Wayne Lukas team.The bidding got so high that Robert Sangster of Coolmore who was behind the sales pavilion thought Sheikh Mohammed had broken their deal.
The sale price rocketed far beyond the recent record price for Snaafi Dancer.Reaching $11.7 million, it appeared that a sweating Eugene Klein was nearing his tipping point.After surpassing the record, Klein had pulled out of the bidding, but Lukas was representing Mel Hatley, who was absent from the sale. Lukas and Sangster implored each other with bids in the hundred thousands.
When Caldwell asked for a bid of thirteen million dollars, and Lukas accepted.However, Sangster retorted with a bid of $13.1 million which sealed the deal.
My Charmer was obviously a consistent broodmare, producing not only a Triple Crown winner, but also Seattle Dancer, who went on to perform well on the racetrack.He did not reach the quality that the bidding war implied, but respectively won two graded stakes races, and was GI placed.Out of his five starts, the bay colt who resembled his brother finished in the money in all but one start.
In 1988, Seattle Dancer entered stallion duty at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky.Afterward, the stallion stood at Coolmore’s Ireland division.In 1997, he was shipped to East Stud in Japan, and in his final five years as a stud, he stood in Germany.Seattle Dancer had a commendable breeding career, being the sire of thirty-seven stakes winners including Seattle Ryhme, winner of the 1991 Racing Post Trophy; Pike Place Dancer, winner of the 1996 Kentucky Oaks; Caffe Latte who won the 2000 Santa Barbara Handicap, as well as that year’s Romana Handicap.Seattle Dancer also sired Que Belle, who was a champion filly in Germany.
His career as a stallion probably made an honest effort at turning a profit from his initial investment through syndications and stud fees. As a twenty-three year old in 2007, he suffered a fatal heart attack in Germany.
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The New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick was in search of something inspirational to encourage his losing football team. He showed his team a replay of the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Classic with Tiznow denying that year’s Arc winner, Sakhee, the victory. The Patriots went on to win the 2002 Super Bowl.
This big horse has leapt into my heart with all four hooves for not only his racing career, but also his beauty, unique personality, and greatness as a sire. My admiration for horses who have impacted racing and breeding history, usually have come and gone by my lifetime. However, this time, history is on my side, in the here and now. Although I didn’t get to see him race, Tiznow is currently a force in the breeding shed.
While visiting Kentucky at this time last year, my mother, sister, and I stopped at WinStar Farm for their stallion tour, for one goal in mind…Tiznow.
Standing before Tiznow, I saw a gentle giant. Surrounded by onlookers, the two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner stood statuesque with his dark ears facing forward contentedly, his eyes shaded. I had to wonder if we were the spectacle, with Tiznow the onlooker.
As a three year old in 2000, the Jay Robbins trainee was a relatively late-bloomer, winning the Super Derby in track record time. Born into an impressive crop of three year olds, he proved to be the best when he crossed the wire first in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Ireland’s champion three year old, Giant’s Causeway was a neck behind in second. That year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Fusaichi Pegasus, and Belmont Stakes winner, Lemon Drop Kid also fell victim to the daunting dark bay.
Tiznow’s owner, Cecilia Straub-Rubens, had owned both the superstar colt’s sire and dam since they were yearlings. Preferring to be called Cee, she commonly included this nickname in her horses’ names. Tiznow’s sire was Cee’s Tizzy, and Tiznow’s dam was Cee’s Song.
Eighty-three year old Straub-Rubens was known for her passion for her horses. Tiznow brought joy into his owner’s life that was plagued by cancer. Her boy’s co-owner, Mike Cooper, stated, “Those two minutes it took Tiznow to run that race (2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic) were the best she had felt in a long time." He said, “I think it was Tiznow that kept her going.”
Straub-Rubens went against her doctor’s orders when she watched Tiznow cross the wire first in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in person. That nail-biting victory earned her pride and joy Horse of the Year, Champion Three Year Old Male, and NTRA’s Moment of the Year award.
Only three days after her boy’s legendary win, Straub-Rubens went in for surgery. At six-fifteen in the morning during the operation, she died of a heart attack. Her last words were, “You tell Jay (Robbins) to take care of my boy .”
Tiznow came into his four year old career a winner, crossing the wire first in the San Fernando Breeders’ Cup Stakes by 1 ¼ lengths.
The behemoth colt had lost the spark he had from his three year old career according to the people close to the horse. Tiznow was reluctant to train, and his regular jockey, Chris McCarron thought the Breeders’ Cup champion was “bored”.
After a two length loss in the Strub Stakes, Tiznow came back to his three year old form in the Santa Anita Handicap by easily running away from opposition to win by six lengths. However, his following two starts in the Woodward and Goodwood Breeders’ Cup displayed a lackluster Tiznow crossing the wire third.
In the 2001 Breeders’ Cup, Tiznow would have to overtake a large field of twelve other horses who had exhibited dominance throughout the year. Orientate was coming off a victory in the Indiana Derby, and Include had won that year’s Pimlico Special, defeating the successful Albert The Great by a head. Albert The Great, who had won the previous year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup as a three year old, had continued to perform consistently. Galileo (IRE) was a factor to take into consideration, winning the Epsom Derby, Irish Derby, and showing older horses his heels when he won the King George IV and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Sakhee was the defending champion’s largest opponent, running away with that year’s Arc by many lengths. However, it was Aptitude who was made the 2-1 favorite with Tiznow at odds of 6-1.
Breaking from gate ten in the Classic, Tiznow came out cleanly, and raced in a relaxed third one length behind a speed duel with fractions of :23 1/5 for the quarter and :47 for the half. After the half mile, Tiznow, running on the outside, had dropped back to fourth, loping along with ease.
With three furlongs to go, Tiznow had moved into second, but Sakhee was ready to strike, hanging on Tiznow’s waist. McCarron aboard Tiznow was only hand riding when Sakhee and Frankie Dettori made a strong bid for the lead out of the final turn.
It appeared that both Albert The Great and the Arc winner had the defending champion beat midway down the stretch. However, Tiznow came on with a valiant rush in the final strides, claiming his title as the only two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic victor in those triumphant closing yards. What determined the win was a head bob at the wire that allowed track announcer, Tom Durkin, to exclaim, “And Tiznow wins it for America!”
Not only did he complete that daunting task that which no other horse has succeeded, but also, the time it took this tremendous horse to run this 1 ¼ mile contest was 2:00.62. Tiznow went out of his racing career a champion, receiving honors for Older Male Horse, and yet another NTRA Moment of the Year award.
Because of his outstanding accomplishments, there are two races named after Tiznow, the first California-bred horse to ever win a Breeders’ Cup race. Out of his fifteen starts, he won eight, placing in four, and showing in two races. Tiznow earned $6,427,830 from his racing career.
Tiznow, beginning his stallion career as a WinStar/Taylor Made venture, had an impressive pedigree presenting abundant potential in the breeding shed.
Cee’s Tizzy was a consistent sire in the Breeders’ Cup Classic-Budroyale, a full-brother of Tiznow placed in the race as a six year old. Cee’s Tizzy’s other successful offspring that contributed to his progeny’s total earnings of $32,311,112 include Champion Older Female, Gourmet Girl; and Cee’s Elegance who was California’s Champion Older Female.
The white stallion is by Relaunch, whose broodmare sire, The Axe, is by Mahmoud- also the sire of Almahmoud. Cee’s Tizzy’s broodmare sire is Lyphard, by Northern Dancer whose second dam is Almahmoud. Three more crosses of Mahmoud can be found in Cee’s Song’s heritage.
The Axe’s broodmare sire is Shut Out who won the 1942 Kentucky Derby. By racing star Equipoise (aka “The Chocolate Soldier), Shut Out has an interesting pedigree. His second dam, Oval was a product of the breeding of Fair Play-Olympia, by Rock Sand. It is intriguing that the breeding of Fair Play to a Rock Sand mare also produced Man O’ War.
Relaunch is by In Reality with his desirable bloodlines. In Reality has two crosses of War Relic in his pedigree. War Relic’s sire, Man O’ War, was not only brilliant as a racehorse, but also passed on some of his greatness to his progeny.
Cee’s Song, by Seattle Song, is the dam of four stakes winners, all by Cee’s Tizzy. Her dam, Lonely Dancer, traces back to Northern Dancer. This alone makes Cee’s Song a strong match for Cee’s Tizzy.
Straub-Rubens’ decision to breed Cee’s Song to Cee’s Tizzy impresses me greatly. Seattle Song’s fourth dam is by Man O’ War, who, as mentioned above, has played an important role in Cee’s Tizzy’s pedigree. Seattle Song’s sire is Seattle Slew who won the Triple Crown in 1977. Seattle Slew’s fourth dam is Crepe Myrtle. This mare is by Equipoise who took part in producing Cee’s Tizzy. Both Peter Pan and Broomstick appear twice in Cee’s Song’s pedigree. Cee’s Tizzy is also a descendant of these two horses.
Seattle Song’s broodmare sire is Prince Blessed, by Princequillo. This is one of the two times where the champion broodmare sire (Princequillo) appears in Seattle Song’s pedigree. Cee’s Song is inbred to Blue Larkspur because Crepe Myrtle is out of champion broodmare Myrtlewood, who is by Blue Larkspur who is also the sire of Prince Blessed’s second dam.
Cee’s Song’s fourth dam, Blue Canary, is by Buy And Sell, by Bimelech who is from the breeding of Black Toney to La Troienne. Prince Blessed’s broodmare sire is Bull Dog, by Teddy-the sire of La Troienne.
While researching Tiznow’s bloodlines, I discovered eight crosses of the Darley Arabian and Byerley Turk, as well as three crosses of the Godolphin Arabian in his fifteenth dam’s pedigree. He is one of the few modern Thoroughbreds whose sire line does not end at the Darley Arabian-instead ending at the Godolphin Arabian.
Tiznow has had great success as a sire, producing 2008 wire to wire Belmont Stakes winner, Da’Tara; 2008 Travers Stakes winner, Colonel John; 2009 2- length Dubai World Cup winner, Well Armed; Bullsbay, Tough Tiz’s Sis, Slew’s Tizzy, Informed, Tizqueena, Tizdejavu, and Tizway who is aiming for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. In his first year at stud, he sired Folklore, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
He was the leading first crop covering sire, as well as the leading first crop weanling sire. Out of the stallions standing stud in 2009, horsemen ranked Tiznow seventh behind A.P Indy (pensioned), Distorted Humor, Smart Strike, Dynaformer, Awesome Again, and Dixieland Band (deceased).
Having seen Tiznow, standing squarely, in person, I could clearly see that he was the ideal racehorse. Obviously, the first quality of Tiznow I observed was his enormous stature. A great appeal of Tiznow is his proportionality. Unlike many horses with such height, his legs are substantial and correct.
One of Tiznow’s greatest quality is his strong topline, from his withers to his tail. Coming out of his withers, Tiznow’s back is straight to his prominent and powerful loins which are nearly convex. He does not fall short in his rump that has outstanding angulation which allows Tiznow to reach and push farther and harder with those hind legs. Even after stepping off the track nearly ten years ago, I was amazed by how the strength of his back had maintained that power over time, displaying longevity.
The impact of Cecilia Straub-Ruben’s decision to cross Cee’s Tizzy and Cee’s Song has left thoroughbred horseracing with a legacy that will impact the industry in a profoundly magnificent way far into the future. Justifiably, the horse demands our primary focus in this sport, but without these passionate people making smart decisions, none of us would have the opportunity to admire these great athletes.
Thank you Cee.
Frankel Fever! Part Two: The Blood
Since my interest in horseracing began, I have been enthralled in the study of thoroughbred heritage. People who tune in to watch only the big races such as the Kentucky Derby do not realize the centuries of foundation building that it took to create these horses.
The everlasting legacy horses, such as Eclipse, can have a tremendous influence when they are taken into consideration in the modern-day breeding shed.Frankel is a perfect example of the seamless tapestry made up by looking beyond the fifth generation.
Despite doubts that Classic winner, Frankel, would have the ability to run past the one mile distance, his sire’s progeny is known to produce racehorses with both endurance and superiority.Galileo’s offspring who have made headlines include 2006 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, Red Rocks; Rip Van Winkle, Cape Blanco, Lush Lashes, Teofilo, and New Approach who won the 1 ½ mile Epsom Derby in 2008.He is a two-time champion sire, producing eighteen Group I winners-nine of whom are Classic winners.
Galileo made news with his own racing career, by winning his first time out by fourteen lengths.He would win the Irish Derby, as well as the Epsom Derby, a race that he won by 3 ½ lengths.Against older horses in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Galileo crossed the wire in front by two lengths.His complete time for the 1 ½ mile affair was 2:27.71.
This Sadler’s Wells colt not only earned $2,245,373 in his racing career, but also was voted Three Year Old Champion in Europe.He won six out of his eight starts, placing once, and finishing out of the money once.
His pedigree implied greatness as a sire.Being by all-time great, Sadler’s Wells, put him on the path to success, as did his dam, Urban Sea.
In 1993, she was declared Champion Older Mare in Europe for her victory against the colts in the Arc.Urban Sea did not fall short as a broodmare, showing amazing consistency in producing outstanding racehorses.She was ranked the top broodmare in both Ireland and England in 2001, and received the ITBA’s award for Outstanding Broodmare in 2005.In 2009, ITBA also awarded Urban Sea with their Special Achievement Award.In the Epsom Derby’s 231 year history, she is one of only two broodmares to produce two horses who crossed the wire first in the Epsom Derby.
Aside from Galileo, Urban Sea foaled My Typhoon, who as a weanling, sold for $2.95 million at Tattersalls.My Typhoon went on to be quite popular in the United States by winning the GI Diana Handicap at Saratoga.On the racetrack, My Typhoon earned just over $1.3 million.
Cherry Hinton was one of her “lesser” foals, placing in a Group III event, and placing fifth in the Epsom Oaks.
Urban Sea foaled two colts who etched their name into the history books as legendary racehorses who should never be overlooked.The first is Galileo, and the other is Sea The Stars who many regard as one of the greatest European racehorses in history.
Born in a strong crop of racehorses, Sea The Stars shook the entire racing world in 2009 by winning the Epsom Derby, 2,000 Guineas, and, most notably, the Arc.In a perfect three year old season, Sea The Stars won six Group I’s (three of which were Classics) in just six months. Doubts that he had stamina were silenced when he took the Epsom Derby in come-from-behind fashion.Many consider the colt the greatest racehorse in modern times.
Frankel’s dam, Kind, performed well on the racetrack, winning a Stakes race, and finishing third in a Group III event.
Kind is a half-sister to Powerscout, explaining Frankel’s similarities to the Group I winner who earned just short of two million dollars on the racetrack.
Deeper into Kind’s heritage, I discovered that the successful broodmare had two crosses of Rock Sand, and Fairy Gold, the dam of Fair Play.I also found two crosses of Himyar, the sire of Domino; and also that Bend Or appeared three times in this mare’s pedigree.
Lastly, I found five traces of the undefeated St. Simon, a stallion who I admire greatly.Though legendary breeder, Federico Tesio was an advocate against linebreeding, he made exception to seeing multiple crosses of the nine time champion sire, St Simon.Aside from his success on the track and as a sire, St. Simon also proved to be a six-time champion broodmare sire in both Great Britain and Ireland.
The theory that only the first five generations affect the way a horse is built does not limit me from searching beyond that boundary when I am studying a racehorse.In my eyes, there is no such thing as a minor detail, which is why I believe the entire pedigree must be taken into consideration when breeding a racehorse.Taking these ancient horses into contemplation sensibly carries through their qualities to the foal in a prominent way.From what I have found, this makes for a stronger horse all around.
Closing in on five months of publishing almost seventy pages of articles on the Bits N’ Bunny blog, I have received an overwhelming positive response from fellow horseracing enthusiasts.
Thank you all for taking time out of your busy lives to read my articles and share your experiences and knowledge with me.
I have taken great effort to keep my facts accurate and always strive to publish credible information that others, like me, would like to know.
It has been brought to my attention by a few helpful readers that I have published some inaccurate information. I would like to offer my apologies and corrections.
Shackelford Wins Preakness 136
Published on: May 23, 2011
I stated: “Not only is his dam, Shared Interest, a GI winner, but she is also a GI winning producer aside from Forestry, being the dam of Cash Run, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and also went on to be a Graded Stakes producer.”
Clarification: Shared Interest is a G1 winning producer and Cash Run is a Graded Stakes producer. Cash Run, dam of Great War Eagle who placed in the Aussie Rules E.B.F Tetrarch Stakes(G3) and Ballycorus Stakes(G3). A reader remarked that Cash Run was not a Graded Stakes producer because Great War Eagle never won a Graded Stakes. I felt I accurately interpreted this information because I learned that a Graded Stakes producer is a broodmare who foals a horse who competes in a Graded Stakes race. If this is an inaccurate way to state these facts, I would appreciate someone to explain the correct way to make this statement, as to not repeat my error.
Belmont Stakes: Part Two: Real Quiet
Published on: May 30, 2011
I stated: “Dr. Fager is inbred to La Troienne(FR), his dam, Aspidistra, being out of Tilly Rose, whose great-grandsire is Teddy(FR) – the sire of La Toienne(FR). Rough’N Tumble, the sire of Dr. Fager, is out of a mare by Bull Dog, another son of Teddy(FR).”
Correction: Dr. Fager is closely related to La Troienne(FR) via Teddy(FR). Not inbred.
Belmont Stakes: Part Five: Conquistador Cielo
Publish on: June 6, 2011
I stated: “Mr. Prospector’s greatest offspring include Gone West, Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner, Gulch; Forty-Niner, 1991 Kentucky Derby winner, Seeking The Gold….”
Correction: Strike The Gold won the 1991 Kentucky Derby. (I commonly get them confused. My bad.)
Please don’t hesitate to let me know when I go astray. I will be correcting my articles soon.
Once again, my heartwarming thanks go out to all who read Bits N’ Bunny. I will work my hardest to publish the most accurate information possible.
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I have been spotlighting some of my favorite Belmont Stakes in history over the past few weeks leading up to this year’s edition. Animal Kingdom, Shackelford, Nehro, Master of Hounds, and Brilliant Speed were all poised to add another favorite to my list. They failed.
Unpredictability can make this sport so exciting, not predictability. However, there is a difference between the longshot winning a great race against great horses ie: Mine That Bird’s 2009 Kentucky Derby, versus a longshot winning a mediocre race against great horses that ran an ordinary race.
Animal Kingdom’s unfortunate stumble early in the race, instantly dealt him out of the game. Shackelford confirmed that 1 ½ miles is not his distance. Nehro’s chipped ankle handed him a lackluster fourth place finish. The poorly managed Master of Hounds’ frequent flyer miles did not earn him an upgrade, landing him in a dismal tenth place. After Brilliant Speed’s third place finish, his owners may want to rethink a name change to Lil Bit O’ Speed. To add a little perspective, Secretariat would have finished approximately 35 lengths ahead of first place finisher, Ruler On Ice. Ok, I’ll deduct a few lengths for track condition. But you get the point.
On the upside, Shackelford proved that he is not a one style wonder with his pacesetting speed, but that he can slow it down anytime. I would love to see this boy shoot it out in the Breeders’ Cup Mile with Goldikova. Dale Romans are you listening?
In goat show terms, the judge verbally explains his placings, and by the time he reaches the last place goat, your goat is basically “commended” for showing up. I “commend” Ruler On Ice for crossing the wire first. I don’t consider this horse’s win an accomplishment of “overcoming” his circumstances, ie; Being a gelding and being shipped on the morning of the race. I would simply summarize the race by saying that he won at the hands of the others’ losing.
However, this race gives me the opportunity to spotlight an impressive stallion who I have been following since I was eleven years old, Ruler On Ice’s sire, Roman Ruler.
Roman Ruler, was highly successful at both two and three years of age. As a juvenile, he showed great promise by crossing the wire first in the Norfolk Stakes, and the Best Pal in a romp. Even after training horses such as Silver Charm, and Real Quiet, Bob Baffert called Roman Ruler his best two year old. He carried on his talent throughout his three year old year, finishing first in the Haskell Invitational, Dwyer Stakes, and third in the Travers.
Roman Ruler’s lineage backed him up when he entered his stud career. Being by Fusaichi Pegasus alone brought plenty of distance into his pedigree. The 2001 Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness second placer is not only by the largely influential Mr. Prospector, but is also out of Angel Fever, who has distance orientated bloodlines.
Angel Fever is a product of the strong Danzig-Rowdy Angel, by Halo breeding. Though Danzig’s perfect three for three racing career was cut short due to a knee injury, he excelled as a stallion. Out of his two hundred individual stakes winners, he sired a remarkable twenty-one champions, four of which were Breeders’ Cup winners. Danzig still remains the leading sire by stakes winners in all of North American breeding history. His sire, Northern Dancer, won the Kentucky Derby in 1964, and his broodmare sire, Admiral’s Voyage traces back to War Admiral, who won the Triple Crown in 1937. Fighting Fox, a successful full brother to 1930 Triple Crown winner, Gallant Fox; can be found twice in Danzig’s fifth generation.
Halo’s second dam, Almahmoud, is also the dam of Northern Dancer, which makes Rowdy Angel a strong match for Danzig. Halo, known for his wild disposition, sired two Kentucky Derby winners during his stud career.
Roman Ruler’s dam, Silvery Swan, was a proven broodmare, foaling GI winner, El Corridor, and the GI placed Maimondies. She is by Silver Deputy, who is by Deputy Minister, an outstanding broodmare sire. Deputy Minister is by Vice Regent, who is by Northern Dancer, creating more interesting line breeding. Silver Deputy’s broodmare sire is Mr. Prospector, which I believe makes Silvery Swan a perfect match for Fusaichi Pegasus. Her second dam is by Never Bend, and her broodmare sire’s broodmare sire is Princequillo (IRE), who was a spectacular broodmare sire, holding the title of leading broodmare sire in North America eight times, and once both in Britain and Ireland in 1971.
In his first year at stud, Roman Ruler was the leading sire by mares bred, with his brother, El Corridor in second. His progeny such as Rule, who won the Delta Downs Jackpot by nine lengths; and Homeboychris, who ran away with an imposing Champagne Stakes win, show that Roman Ruler is off and running as great sire, only standing stud for five years. In those five years, he has sired nineteen stakes horses, but has yet to sire a millionaire (Though Ruler on Ice won the Belmont Stakes, his earnings only reach $766,500. He is not Roman Ruler’s leading earner; Rule received $877,700 on the racetrack). His offspring’s winning percentage is forty-one percent. This is something I consider remarkable, bearing in mind his foals’ winning percentage is ten percent greater than the Afleet Alex progeny, and eleven greater than the Leroidesanimaux (BRZ) offspring.
This excellent horse is built beautifully, with a substantial chest, and a gorgeous neck. Roman Ruler’s withers and shoulders are not lacking in strength, and he has impressive depth through the heart girth, powerful hindquarters, and solid legs.
Roman Ruler is off to an outstanding start at Hill ‘N’ Dale Farm, and I greatly anticipate seeing more from this exceptional horse in the years to come. He has it all: pedigree, looks, and talent both on and off the racetrack.
Part Three: The Belmont Stakes
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The intense Triple Crown season was far from over when Native Dancer crossed the wire first in the 1953 Preakness Stakes. With three weeks until the Belmont Stakes, tension was high between Native Dancer followers and his doubters. The talk consumed not only the racing world, but was also captured the attention of the national spotlight. With each of The Dancer’s five national television appearances from April eighteenth to May twenty-third, arguments escalated immensely.
After the Preakness Stakes where Native Dancer held off Jamie K. for the win, people were reluctant to acknowledge Native Dancer’s abilities. As Arthur Daley wrote in the New York Times, “When the great ones come on with an invincible rush…they blasted away with surging power that was awesome to behold. As yet, the Dancer hasn’t awed anyone.” The facts were clear: Native Dancer’s combined winning margin for all his previous starts (eleven of which were the best stakes races in the country) was thirty lengths, including one race where he equaled a world record. Hmmm.
Sports cartoonist, Willard Mullin of the New York Telegram illustrated the debate with a sketch depicting Man O’ War, Citation, and Count Fleet in the grandstand, sitting with their arms folded and sour faces. Behind them were fellow racehorses Whirlaway, War Admiral, Gallant Fox, Omaha, Colin, and Assault shouting “Prove It!” to Native Dancer, out jogging on the racetrack.
Winfrey and Vanderbilt were never affected by the doubts. Vanderbilt told the media, what I believe to be one of the wisest quotes ever in horseracing, “It will be an awfully long time before we know for sure. Greatness doesn’t come in a single race, or even a series of races. It comes in perspective. Sometimes you have to wait until a horse is retired before you can point a finger, politely of course, and say ‘There’s a great racehorse’.”
Trainer Bill Winfrey, who always believed Native Dancer was worthy of his champion status, began to change The Dancer’s workout strategy once again-this time, to fit the Belmont Stakes. His workouts were made up of long distances; his shortest was a six furlong gallop the day before the Belmont Stakes. Every other work was at one mile, or longer. The Dancer’s longest work was 1 ½ miles, at the Belmont Stakes distance.
The Dancer’s main rival was Jamie K. with jockey, Eddie Arcaro, who was determined to defeat the Grey Ghost. Jamie K., second in the Preakness Stakes, had started once since the Preakness. Against older horses in an allowance, he finished a gaining second to a five year old carrying three pounds less. Agreeably, Eddie Arcaro believed Jamie K. was the best horse in the allowance. However, he was convinced he was on the best horse for the Belmont. “Native Dancer will know he has been to the races.” He said prior to the Belmont Stakes.
Winfrey became concerned when the entries for the race were announced. The Belmont was made up of come-from-behind horses who would create a slow pace. This would make it harder for an off-the-lead horse, like Native Dancer, to win because the horses on the lead are not burnt out from a fast pace. Uncertainty plagued Winfrey’s mind.
Overnight rains brought a dreary mood to Belmont Stakes Day. Not wanting to weather the chilly breeze that was sweeping underneath the grandstand, many spectators chose to watch the race on their television. Belmont Stakes longshot, Bassino, who had only entered the day before, was scratched due to the unfriendly weather.
Despite the gloomy weather, thirty-eight thousand onlookers came to watch the moment of truth for Native Dancer. Wagering for the Belmont Stakes was limited to win and place betting, because the track officials feared the use of their minus pool.
Native Dancer reached remarkably low odds of 9-20, and Jamie K. was given his fair share of respect at odds of 5-2. Royal Bay Gem, who was third in the Preakness, and fourth in the Derby went off at 6-1, and Ran O’ War, fourth in the Preakness reached 32-1. Kamehameha, a Polynesian colt, was at odds of 24-1, and The Preem was at 122-1. By post time the track was rated ‘fast’.
At 4:46 PM, nine million households turned their attention to Native Dancer loading into the fifth gate, beside Jamie K. with Eddie Arcaro aboard, attempting to keep the Grey Ghost’s name from gracing the record books. In minutes, the Triple Crown saga would be over, and Native Dancer’s fate would be sealed.
Breaking from the gates in the Belmont Stakes, The Dancer was eager to take the lead, being the fastest from the start. However, Eric Guerin was quick to pull him back into fourth behind Ram O’ War, Kamehameha, and Jamie K. as they passed the grandstand for the first time.
Kamehameha was exhausted early in the race, and fell back. His abrupt withdrawal of all contention did not affect any of the other horses negatively. Down the backstretch, the horses remained in the same position, making a slow pace of :25 for the quarter, and :50 ½ for the half mile. Winfrey’s fear was being realized before his eyes. Native Dancer would have to overcome the dreadfully sluggish pace in order to win the Belmont.
Eddie Arcaro had blamed himself for Jamie K.’s loss in the Preakness Stakes, believing he moved too late in the race. As the horses ran around the sweeping final turn of the Belmont Stakes, Arcaro, not making the same mistake twice, sensed it was time for his horse to run, and let him loose. Jamie K. was up for the task, racing around Ram O’ War, and taking the lead. Arcaro would have the race play as he wanted, with Native Dancer pursuing him down the homestretch.
Shortly after Jamie K. made his bid for the lead, Guerin asked The Dancer for his best effort. Native Dancer blew by Ram O’ War as he entered the homestretch. Driving against the chilling rain, Native Dancer was trailing Jamie K. by less than one length. Pushing through the clouds of fog his breath made before him, he was moving so quickly over the track surface that his silvery legs were a blur. Jamie K. was only clinging to the lead, though he was still running solidly under brutal urging from Arcaro. The two rival jockeys implored their mounts, but Native Dancer was shortening the margin, and by the final furlong he had the edge on Jamie K.
At the sixteenth pole, Native Dancer slightly relaxed and the crowds shrieked when Jamie K. started close in on the big grey. Feeling the challenge, Native Dancer was recharged nearing the wire, and increased his lead to a neck, granting jockey, Eddie Arcaro his wish of “being at the races”, but without the outcome he desired.
When that massive, white head crossed the wire first, he was only two-fifths off the track record set by Count Fleet exactly ten years to the date, and had equaled Citation’s time for the Belmont Stakes. Native Dancer proved his greatness (once again) with a final quarter of :24.4, and a final half of :49.2, an amazing feat.
In the winner’s circle, Winfrey told CBS’s Red Smith, “He doesn’t waste any effort-that lazy so-and-so. He just does what he has to do to win, but he does it. There was never any doubt with me that he was a champion, but he surely proved himself to the others today.”
As the connections celebrated in the Belmont Park winner’s circle, Eddie Arcaro was suffering his eighth loss to The Dancer. He was sure that he would serve the big grey his second defeat this time out, but was denied his sixth Belmont Stakes win. Arcaro said, “…And if we were to have gone all the way around the track again, Native Dancer still wasn’t going to let me get past him.”
At last! Arcaro had finally given up in his battle against the Grey Ghost.
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Animal Kingdom is my clear-cut favorite for the Belmont Stakes. In his races, all the indicators point towards him having the ability to handle the Belmont. Coming out of the Preakness a little weary, he managed to recover, and has been training well. Graham Motion’s strategy to race this colt lightly early in his three year old season will give him an edge on the other contenders who also started in the first two Triple Crown races. Animal Kingdom should handle the track surface well, and if the pace is fast, I expect him to cross the wire first.
I see Master of Hounds as Animal Kingdom’s main opponent in the Belmont Stakes. Throughout his young career, he has proven to be a resilient racehorse. Master of Hounds has remained at the top of the sport on an international stage for his entire career, which is quite impressive for such a youngster.
This versatile colt performs effectively on dirt, turf, and synthetics. Master of Hounds has demonstrated is irrepressible spirit despite having a rigorous three year old campaign. He has been shipped to Dubai, America, Ireland, and then America again for the Belmont. He placed impressively in the UAE Derby, held at the Preakness Stakes distance, and then shipped to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby. Master of Hounds arrived less than one week out from the Derby, missing the opportunity to test, what is known as a difficult track. Never having raced over a dirt surface, this could have easily knocked him into the bottom of the field. An added disadvantage was that his first time rider, Garret Gomez, did not have a chance to ride the colt before the Derby.
In the Derby, he led the second pack of horses, trailing the wall made up by the horses ahead. After making his move, Garret Gomez had to tap on the breaks when he was trapped behind horses. The bay colt immediately recovered, and raced onward when there was space. He was also brushed several times mid-stretch, and, after attempting to run through a spot on the rail, Gomez had to pull his horse back, and go around on the outside. Even with all the bad luck, he finished gaining on the leaders. Master of Hounds was drifting to the outside when he passed the finish pole, which may be an indicator that he could have been a little fatigued. Regardless, I’m excited to see if this “globe trotter” is as hardy as I hope he will be.
Master of Hounds’ pedigree firstly implies he is a great Turf horse whose best suited distance is one mile. His sire, Kingmambo, found his greatest success at one mile, and his dam, Silk and Scarlet (GB) won a Group II Stakes ran at seven furlongs. Despite having been bred for half a mile less than the Belmont Stakes, Master of Hounds is racing royalty.
In the Kentucky Derby, Nehro proved his running style could be modified to fit any race by sitting much closer to the pace than in his previous starts as an off-the-pace horse. I believe the Ahmed Zayat colt will be placed off the lead with Animal Kingdom, and has the capability to recover from infractions during the race. Jockey, Corey Nakatani, handled Nehro’s run in the Kentucky Derby with such competency that I feel that Nakatani was a factor in how well the colt placed. If he handles this colt, on this course, with the same keen sense, I believe this talented duo will be a rival for any challenger in the Belmont Stakes.
Shackelfordand his beautiful white blaze, will no doubt, be dictating how this race will be run. He is built for the distance, and he has enough talent to finish on top of this impressive field. It is not impossible for a pacemaker to win the 1 ½ mile race, but the only way a pacesetter can win is if the pace is slow. Even though he did slow down after the quarter mile in the Preakness, I would like to see him pull back early on in the race. Never having witnessed this, I am not sure if his rider will be able to get him to conserve his energy early enough. It is vital that all the energy expended during the Belmont be spent wisely. This colt’s energy level seems to be rising with every race. Can’t wait to watch this guy go again!
Sixteen members of Brilliant Speed’s family are Belmont Stakes winners. Despite going nine paths wide around the final turn in the Kentucky Derby, he finished a strong fifth. Brilliant Speed has a wonderful running style for the Belmont as well, being a come from behind horse. Having skipped the Preakness, he should be well-rested and fit for the Belmont. If he is able to stay closer to the rail and cut off some of that distance, he is armed and ready for a strong Belmont Stakes performance.
In my mind, the Belmont Stakes has always been the definition of a great racehorse: grit, stamina, speed, and beauty. The five strongest contenders mentioned above fit in all of those categories. I am expecting a great quality race this Saturday.
It is easy for me to get behind Animal Kingdom as the favorite, but I am changing my mind on a moment by moment basis about the place and show finishers. Of course, this is my prerogative being fourteen years old and a girl.
For more in depth information on all these horses, please visit earlier blog posts:
Master of Hounds, Nehro, Brilliant Speed:
Part Five: Conquistador Cielo
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Similar to this year, there was no Triple Crown on the line in the 1982 Belmont Stakes. However, the race did not fall short in quality, and played out as one of the most interesting Belmonts ever run. This race ranks among the most remarkable because of the unconventional path Conquistador Cielo took into the winner’s circle.
As a juvenile, Conquistador Cielo showed promise, placing first in two out of his four starts. His wins included the Saratoga Special, a premier race for young horses. This Woody Stephens trainee did not reach the zenith of his career until the summer of 1982.
It was expected that Conquistador Cielo would enter the Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, a leg injury acquired earlier in his career was not healing to the point where Woody Stephens felt it was safe to run the colt; therefore he would have to wait for his shot at the Preakness Stakes.
As Conquistador Cielo stood in his stall, the grey Gato del Sol made Derby history, becoming the first horse to win from the eighteen hole. With a quick time of 2:02.2, Gato del Sol had a legitimate chance to enjoy a victory in Baltimore.
Conquistador Cielo proved he was ready to challenge the imposing Derby winner upon winning a Preakness prep, but opted out of the big race for what Woody Stephens thought was an “easier” route to the Belmont Stakes. The connections’ desire to race in the Belmont was kept private.
After skipping the Preakness, the colt made his next start in the Metropolitan Handicap against eleven colts. The advantage of the “Met Mile” was that it was run at a mile-1 ½ furlongs shorter than the Preakness. The drawback was nearly lethal, being only six days before the demanding Belmont Stakes, also on the strenuous dirt track of Belmont Park; as well as a strong possibility of being pressured by older, more experienced horses.
By setting the half mile in :45 for the Metropolitan Handicap, Conquistador Cielo displayed his pacemaking running style. As the favorite at odds of 2-1, he began pulling away shortly after the half. Conquistador Cielo received hard urging from his regular rider, Eddie Maple, who had ridden Secretariat in his final start almost ten years before. Conquistador Cielo passed the wire 7 ¼ lengths in front, with a finishing time of 1:33, breaking the track record set in 1973.
After the race, it was announced that Conquistador Cielo would be a starter in the Belmont Stakes. This was shocking news for racing enthusiasts, from the fans to the insiders. The days of racing horses so frequently were far in the past. Was it possible for a horse of the ‘New Ages’ to come back to race just six days later?
Out of the gates in the Belmont Stakes, he proved he was far from empty when he ran up to make the pace. Breaking from the outside, he was placed approximately ten wide around the first turn. Because of his position, he obviously lost ground. He lost the pace, and was battling for second with a horse on the inside. New rider, Laffit Pincay, brought him closer to the rail into the backstretch, approximately three wide. It was not long before Conquistador Cielo passed the opposing colt, and challenged the pacemaker.
The two pulled away from the others by four lengths, remaining neck and neck. Without asking, Conquistador Cielo began drawing away from his competitor, midway down the backstretch.
As he led the field into the final turn, his winning margin was decreasing as High Accent, ridden by Frankie Lovato, came up to challenge. They were neck and neck for the lead, but Conquistador Cielo had not yet been pressed by his rider.
Shortly thereafter, the bay colt denied his opponents the Belmont Stakes win, pulling away as he entered the exhausting final turn at Belmont Park. Going approximately six paths wide, his margin only increased as he glided over the sloppy racetrack. Without urging, he hit the wire fourteen lengths in front of the placer, Gato del Sol. Conquistador Cielo’s time of 2:28 ¼ for 1 ½ miles was quite remarkable, considering the conditions on which the race was run. The 1982 racing season was punctuated by this son of Mr. Prospector for his outstanding performance in the Belmont Stakes.
Not only was Mr. Prospector one of the most influential sires of all time, but he also has Myrtlewood as his fourth dam. He was a versatile in the breeding shed, his greatest progeny having success at both Classic, and sprint distances. Mr. Prospector’s greatest offspring include Gone West, Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner, Gulch; Forty-Niner, 1991 Kentucky Derby winner, Seeking The Gold; and Fusaichi Pegasus, who wasn’t just an impressive yearling, selling for four million dollars, but also won the 2000 Kentucky Derby, and placed in the Preakness.
Conquistador Cielo is out of K D Princess, who is by Bold Commander. His broodmare sire is by Bold Ruler, and out of a Discovery mare. Two crosses of Discovery can be found in his fifth generation, as well as crosses of Nearco. Nasrullah appears twice in Conquistador Cielo’s fourth generation. His second dam is by Turn-To, who sired greats such as Hail To Reason, and Sir Gaylord. The colt’s third dam is by Tim Tam, who was sired by 1953 Horse of the Year, Tom Fool.
Before the end of the 1982 racing season, he was sold to a breeding syndicate for a then record price of $36.4 million. Conquistador Cielo went into his stud career at Claiborne Farm with high hopes, but his progeny brought some speculation.
The statistics speak for themselves. His offspring’s winning percentage was a remarkable sixty-four percent; one percent greater than his sire, and fourteen larger than Raise A Native. His foals also carried on their sire’s durability, and talent. Wagon Limit was third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup as a three year old, and then won the race at four. Mi Cielo won at both sprints and distance races, placing first in the King’s Bishop, and the Clark Handicap. Lexicon earned $820,965 during his career including GII, and GIII wins. Forty Niner Days started a remarkable forty-nine times, and also won GII’s and GIII’s. Marquetry won the Hollywood Gold Cup twice, and the Eddie Read Handicap once.
With just one more historical Belmont Stakes account left on my list following my article on War Admiral, I went back to review and make sure I did not leave anyone out that deserved accolades for their exceptional Belmont Stakes performance. I realized that this son of Mr. Prospector should never go overlooked when one thinks of the greatest Belmont Stakes of all time.
Part Four: War Admiral
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The modern day general public is most familiar with War Admiral from the Seabiscuit movie released eight years ago. The Admiral was portrayed as Seabiscuit’s monstrous, evil adversary owned by Daddy Warbucks. Of course, the movie was undeniably entertaining, once I swallowed all the inaccuracies. But that is a whole other article!
War Admiral’s 1937 Belmont Stakes performance was the “Kurt Schilling Bloody Sock” moment in horseracing; thrilling, gladiatoresque sportsmanship.
Since beginning his racing stable, Samuel Riddle had never raced a horse in the Kentucky Derby. Not because he did not have a horse good enough to run; in fact his highly competitive stable included Man O’ War. Riddle despised what he considered racing in the ‘West’, and was not attracted to the idea of running three year olds at a long distance that early in the year.
After winning the Chesapeake Stakes by an overwhelming six lengths, Riddle determined that the dark bay or brown colt could handle the Kentucky Derby’s 1 ¼ mile distance.
The Admiral was sent off as the favorite at odds of 2-1 for the 1937 Kentucky Derby. Out of the field of twenty, his obvious opponent was the juvenile champion, Pompoon. This distinguished competitor had faced War Admiral once prior to the Derby, and had defeated him by 2 ½ lengths as a two year old.
However, Pompoon was coming off a fifth place in the Wood Memorial-his second time being tested over one mile (his first start at over one mile was the New England Futurity, where he was second by a neck).
Seventy-five thousand spectators showed up on the first Saturday in May to witness the horses load into the gates for the sixty-third edition of the Kentucky Derby. War Admiral, and three others, refused to load, and delayed the start by eight minutes.
War Admiral would win wire to wire by an unforced 1 ¾ lengths, finishing in 2:03.2, the second fastest time up to that point. Pompoon crossed the wire in second.
After the Derby, there was talk about a possible Triple Crown winner. The Triple Crown was actually a new concept, dawning in the early 1930’s. War Admiral would be officially recognized as the third to sweep the Triple Crown even though three had preceded him in this achievement. Sir Barton was the first to accomplish the three win-in-a-row races in 1919 without getting Triple Crown acknowledgement until 1948, ten years after his death.
In the Preakness, War Admiral ran straight to the lead, but was tested by two others for the majority of the race. Pompoon was back to his two year old form when he moved earlier than he had in the Kentucky Derby. The Admiral and Pompoon drew away from the field by eight lengths, but fought to the wire. War Admiral held a head’s advantage on the opposing colt who was under hard urging from his rider. At the wire, The Admiral held off Pompoon fair and square, his winning margin being a head. With a finishing time of 1:58.2, War Admiral was never urged by regular rider, Charlie Kurtsinger. A Sham v. Secretariat moment was in the making.
Despite a close finish in the Preakness, War Admiral was the overpowering favorite at 4-5 for the Belmont Stakes. Pompoon was once again the key opponent in the final leg of the Triple Crown, going off at odds of 3-1.
The track was rated fast for the sixty-ninth running of the Belmont, and War Admiral was fractious at the start, postponing the race for over seven minutes. Out of the gates, all the horses were slow to break. The Admiral, trying to rush from the gates, grabbed his right heel, and off came a quarter inch of hoof. Just then, Triple Crown dreams could have been dashed right in the starting gate. Never had a horse recovered from such a disaster.
Incontestably, he rushed up to dominate the pace with tremendous power. Pushing through the excruciating pain, The Admiral glided through the sandy track surface, while blood gushed from his hoof. He was never challenged in the Belmont, sustaining his multiple length lead.
War Admiral crossed the wire first by three lengths in what is indisputably one of the greatest Belmont Stakes of all time. When War Admiral stood in the winner’s circle, Charlie Kurtsinger, immediately dismounted, knowing the colt was injured. Discovering the traumatic foot injury and his blood soaked underside, it became evident that War Admiral had ascended to the peak of horseracing’s glory.
The injury sustained in the Belmont did not keep him from running a fast race. War Admiral had run the first ten furlongs in 2:02.3, placing him only 1 ½ lengths behind Animal Kingdom in the Derby. This was both without urging, and with another quarter of a mile to run. The Admiral passed the finish pole in 2:28.6, equaling the American record, and breaking the previous track record.
The Admiral not only won wire to wire, something that is a nearly an impossible feat in the Belmont Stakes, but also overcame an injury that would force many horses to pull up from the race.
In the Belmont Stakes, he earned his nickname, “The Mighty Atom”, by overcoming the adversity handed to him in the first moment of the race. He acquired this name for not only his toughness on the racetrack, but also his small stature. Contrary to the Seabiscuit movie depicting him at 18 hands, he actually stood at 15.2 hands a full inch shorter than Seabiscuit (I know. I just can’t let go of the Seabiscuit thing!).
From the breeding of Man O’ War-Brushup, by Sweep, War Admiral has quite a remarkable pedigree. Winning the Belmont Stakes runs strongly throughout his bloodlines, being by Man O’ War, who won the Belmont Stakes in 1920. Man O’ War is by Fair Play, who not only inherited his sire’s wild disposition, but also his talent at 1 ½ miles by finishing a close second to Colin in the 1908 Belmont Stakes. In 1896, Hastings, who would sire Fair Play, won the Belmont Stakes for August Belmont, Jr. His sire, Spendthrift, won the Belmont Stakes in 1879. It is very clear that War Admiral was destined to be a horse who could run all day, because his broodmare sire, Sweep, won the Belmont Stakes in 1910.
War Admiral was one of the Triple Crown’s “Founding Fathers”, setting a stellar example of what type of horse should be worthy of wearing this coveted title. He ran a Belmont Stakes that will be heralded throughout horseracing’s history.
Part Three: August Belmont, Jr.
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Back in the days when I was a little Bunny, five to six years old, my father was stationed in Long Island, New York. My mother, my sister and I would take the Long Island Railroad into Manhattan four days a week for ballet class. The train passed right next to the racetrack and would announce, “Belmont Park”. Every time my mother would say, “Look, there’s Belmont. That’s where Secretariat won the Triple Crown.”
Who could have imagined at that time I would be enamored with everything horseracing. We were living just minutes down the street when Point Given (who I love by the way!) won his Belmont. Who could blame me for missing the race; I four and a half years old. Just another one of those moments missed because of my age!
The history of racetracks themselves can be quite interesting. Maybe when we all turn to watch this year’s Belmont Stakes, knowing just a little bit about the man who is responsible for building the track will leave us with a deeper appreciation for the race as a whole.
August Belmont, Jr. had a massive impact on horseracing, not only for being the breeder of Man O’ War, but also credited for saving horseracing in New York. He was the first president of the Jockey Club that, since 1894, is the registry and rulebook for Thoroughbred horseracing in America. Aside from this prestigious title, Belmont was one of the nine founding members of the National Steeplechase Association in 1895, as well as the chairman of the New York Racing Commission.
August Belmont’s plans for building a racetrack were realized when Belmont Park was officially opened in 1905 on Long Island. Since 1867 the Belmont Stakes, which was named for his father, had been run at the monetarily troubled Morris Park Racecourse. The Belmont Stakes was moved to its current home in the track’s inaugural year. Horses carrying August Belmont’s racing colors won the Belmont Stakes in 1902, 1916, and 1917.
In 1908, August Belmont established a breeding farm in Upper Normandy, France. Haras de Villers produced horses that would run on an international scale. In 1908, his Norman III would win the British 2,000 Guineas. He also bred Prix de Diane winner, Qu’elle est Belle, and Vulcain, a top three year old colt. After the law passed in New York to ban pari-mutuel wagering, he shipped three of his stallions to his farm in France.
He inherited his father’s 1,100 acre Nursery Stud, located three miles outside Lexington. There, he would not only raise racehorses, but also Polo Ponies. Polo Pony Hall of Fame stallion, Kentucky, would stand stud at Nursery. However, his greatest success would come with the racehorses. August Belmont bred one hundred twenty-nine stakes winners, including Man O’ War, who had an extraordinary 20-1 racing record.
By 1918, Belmont had been serving overseas in World War I for some time, and had decided to sell most of his stock. However, he had a special attachment to one yearling in particular; a chestnut colt by Fair Play, and out of Mahubah, by his widely sought-after import, Rock Sand, whose greatest success was as a broodmare sire. It wasn’t until just prior to the sale when he decided to send the colt to auction at Saratoga. The colt was named for him by his wife, Eleanor, a year before, while he was off at war. She named him, “My Man O’ War”. Despite revision of his name to “Man O’ War”, the colt went on to become an all-time great.
After August Belmont’s death in 1924, George Herbert Walker and a partner would purchase Nursery Stud. It is interesting to note that George Herbert Walker was the grandfather of President George H. W. Bush.
People’s primary focus on the “horse” in horseracing is absolutely justifiable. But the incredible backdrops built for horseracing’s historic moments deserve to be appreciated. Unlike today’s mega-modern racing facilities, our legends of racing graced the grounds that were built, typically by one person putting their fortune on the line, particularly in a time that was very precarious for the racing industry.
These brave people passionately ventured into the undertaking of building a course that have offered many of racing's memorable and not-so memorable moments for us all. I am grateful.