Archive for April, 2015

The dams of this year’s top Derby contenders have had a 50% influence on the makeup of each of these colts. So what does the tail female of the top 5 contenders bring to the table?


Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is the way nature tracks “Who Is Your Mama?” in every species, including humans and racehorses, since it is passed down from mothers to daughters intact. mtDNA is like a kind of spice, scattered throughout the gene pool, that makes up a horse’s pedigree. One of the interesting things about mtDNA is that it is thought to play a large role as a speed influence in a thoroughbred’s pedigree.


Out of the mare Parlez, this colt’s BM sire is French Deputy (Deputy Minister). Parlez hails from a good female family and International Star (IS) is her third really good offspring. The other two are both by Not For Love, the filly Fools In Love and the gelding D C Dancer, winner of the Maryland Million Sprint. So Parlez has proven herself to be a good producer.

IS’s second and third dams also proved to be sound producers. Speak Halory (Verbatim) the colt’s second dam, has 7 winners out of 10 foals, including Lovely Sage, and is the grandam of New Edition (Stormy Atlantic) and Venezuela’s champion, Karun (Arch). IS’s third dam is the better known Halory (Halo), the dam of the great Halory Hunter (Jade Hunter), Key Lory (Key To The Mint), Van Nistelrooy (Storm Cat), the gelding, Prory (Procidal), Brushed Halory (Broad Brush) and grandam of the Storm Cat filly, Sly Storm.

What becomes apparent is that Parlez’s female family produce strong fillies and a few good colts, the best of which (other than IS) are Karun (VEN), Halory Hunter and Key Lory. However, the number of really good colts produced by Halory has not been duplicated by Speak Halory, leaving us with the question of whether or not Parlez is a strong influence in IS’s pedigree or not.

As for French Deputy, who stands at Japan’s Shadai Stallion Station, he seems best at siring 8f runners who are especially good as two year-olds. But, in 1995, French Deputy did post the highest 3 year-old Beyer figure (119) and his own sire, Deputy Minister, was one of the great progenitors of the breed.


The undefeated Dortmund’s dam, Our Josephina, wasn’t an impressive runner herself, but being a daughter of Tale of the Cat helps hugely.

“Coolmore’s Cat” is chalking up a very impressive record at stud, including champions like Stopchargingmaria, She’s A Tiger, Lion Heart, Gio Ponti, Cat Moves, My Trusty Cat and Tale of Ekati. Nor is the success of the 21 year-old confined to the Northern Hemisphere: his latest star in the Southern Hemisphere is The Diamond One, a very smart filly racing in Australia. The overwhelming influence of Terlingua (Secretariat) — Tale of the Cat’s grandam — is a signature of the most successful of Storm Cat’s progeny; you see it in their conformation, temperament —and lust for speed:

Another aspect of Dortmund’s tail female is the influence of Danzig in his third generation, repeating the lucrative Northern Dancer-Secretariat nick (responsible for Summer Squall, Secreto, Storm Bird, among others) while adding still another juicy element: the Danzig line in Europe has produced champion runners and sires in the form of Oasis Dream and Dansili.


The presence of Giant’s Causeway in Carpe Diem’s pedigree makes us less unsettled by Unbridled’s Song in his tail female, at least in terms of soundness issues. And his dam, Rebridled Dreams, also has two other very good progeny: Doncaster Rover (War Chant) and J B’s Thunder (Thunder Gulch), even though the best she did in Grade 2 company herself was a place and a show. In general, Carpe Diem’s maternal family in his tail female lacks depth, with the exception of Unbridled’s dam, Gana Facil, also the dam of Cahill Road (Fappiano).

However, the stallion influences are interesting: Fappiano, Caro, Danzig and Aloma’s Ruler appear in his 4th generation but that may be too far back to exert any real influence.

Still, in the mysterious muddle of thoroughbred genetics, this handsome son of Giant’s Causeway may have more than enough on top to carry him to victory. After all, his daddy’s nickname during his racing career was The Iron Horse!



Not unlike Carpe Diem (above), American Pharoah’s bottom line is not particularly impressive.

Out of Littleprincessemma (Yankee Gentleman), the colt carries Storm Cat in his female family and, therefore, the promise of Terlingua’s speed. Of two foals, American Pharaoh is by far his dam’s best. A prohibitive Kentucky Derby favourite as of this writing, the colt’s second and thirds dams are useful, producing some winners with modest earnings. The most impressive female influence comes from his BM sire’s dam, Key Phrase, but her influence on his pedigree would be negligible at best. The stallions Flying Paster and Exclusive Native come up in the fourth generation of his tail female but, again, don’t expect a strong influence here.

The prohibitive Derby favourite (at this writing) owes far more to his sire, Pioneerof the Nile, a son of the mighty Empire Maker, and this comes through in his conformation and precocity.


There’s no denying that the brilliance of his sire, Tapit, shines in the coat and talent of Frosted. He is his dam Fast Cookie’s third and most successful foal, although the other two were winners, albeit in modest company. Fast Cookie is a daughter of the great sire, Deputy Minister, and her dam Fleet Lady (Avenue of Flags by Seattle Slew) is also the dam of Darley’s BC Juvenile and 2 YO Eclipse Champion colt, Midshipman (Unbridled’s Song). Frosted’s third dam, Dear Mimi (Roberto), is the maternal grandam of Pantomima (JPN) by Seattle Dancer and Mars Princess (JPN) by Danehill, both modest producers in Japan. Frosted is also inbred 2 X 4 to the immortal Seattle Slew.

So although Frosted’s female family is nothing to be sneered at, it is undoubtedly his sire’s influence that dominates.


PERSONAL ENSIGN appears in OCHO OCHO OCHO'S tail female. An omen perhaps?

PERSONAL ENSIGN appears in OCHO OCHO OCHO’S tail female. An omen perhaps?



MATERIALITY’S dam is also the dam of MY MISS SOPHIA and his second dam, DIAL A TRICK, is the dam of EYE OF THE TIGER. A daughter of DIAL A TRICK, WILDWOOD FLOWER, is the dam of AFLEET EXPRESS. The colt’s 3rd dam, ICE FANTASY, is the grandam of champions SNOW RIDGE & SWEETNORTHERNSAINT.


PASSING MOOD, the dam of UPSTART‘s BM sire, TOUCH GOLD, was also the dam of champion WITH APPROVAL, winner of the Canadian Triple Crown.

FAR RIGHT’S tail female includes VINDICATION, SHADEED & AFFIRMED and his 4th dam is the fabulous CASCAPEDIA.

DANZIG MOON’S 3rd dam, PURE PROFIT, was the dam of the incomparable INSIDE INFORMATION and the great EDUCATED RISK. Below: INSIDE INFORMATION wins the 1995 BC DISTAFF:

WAR STORY’S 2nd dam, POLLY ADLER, is the dam of YOURSMINEOURS and his 3rd dam, HONEST AND TRUE is the dam of champion EPITOME and grandam of ESSENCE OF DUBAI.

STANFORD has a hugely impressive tail female through his 3rd dam, MYTH, the dam of champion JOHANNESBURG, and 4th dam, YARN, who is the dam of champions MINARDI and TALE OF THE CAT and the grandam of FED BIZ. Below, JOHANNESBURG’S 2001 BC JUVENILE win:

MR Z’S 2nd dam, AMELIA BEARHART, is the dam of champions CHIEF BEARHEART & EXPLOSIVE RED. Another daughter, RUBY RANSOM, is the dam of STRUT THE STAGE & SACRED SONG. MR Z’s 4th dam is none other than the great GOLD DIGGER, who is the dam of MR PROSPECTOR.

OCHO OCHO OCHO’S 3rd dam is none other than the incomparable PERSONAL ENSIGN.

BOLO’S 2nd dam, ASPENELLE, is the dam of MINING MY OWN, dam of Kentucky Derby winner MINE THAT BIRD and the champion DULLAHAN. Below, Churchill Downs welcomes MINE THAT BIRD in 2013:




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By all accounts, the brilliant William (Willie) “Smokey” Saunders led a somewhat “mysterious” life — both before and after guiding Omaha to win the Triple Crown.

Willie "Smokey" Saunders and Omaha's owner, William Woodward, celebrate the colt's Derby win.

Willie “Smokey” Saunders and Omaha’s owner, William Woodward, celebrate the colt’s Derby win. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE TIMES.

In a 2014 article about William Saunders in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle — Bozeman, Montana being the place of Saunders’ birth — journalist Kyle Sample begins:

“As best as anyone can tell, Willie Saunders was a time traveler.
He would sporadically pop up in the time’s newspaper headlines, and then just as easily drift away, leaving family members unable to tell what became of Saunders’ marriage to Pauline Waterbury, or even if the couple had children.
Not even Lou Ocauz,  {driving force behind the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame –AA} who wrote the biography of Saunders for the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame when the hall made Saunders one of its first inductees, could tell how Saunders came to fame, or what happened to him after it.
‘He’s a mystery,” Ocauz said. “Don’t try to interpret the mystery.’ ”

Mind you, evading publicity might have been what Saunders learned from the headlines that pursued him after the mutilated body of Evelyn Sliwinski was found on River Road in October 1935, just months after Saunders had swept to fame as the youngest jockey to win the American Triple Crown. It was an honour that would stick, until snatched away by Steve Cauthen and Affirmed in 1978.

The horse that had carried Saunders to glory was Omaha, a son of Gallant Fox, himself  the 1930 Triple Crown winner. And although Willie “Smokey” Saunders’ life may remain shrouded in mystery forever, one thing is certain: the 20 year-old loved Omaha.

OMAHA with 20 year-old Willie "Smokey" Saunders share a moment before the camera.

OMAHA with 20 year-old Willie “Smokey” Saunders share a moment for the photographers. Photo and copyright, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

Born in Bozeman, MO in 1915, the Saunders family moved to Calgary, Alberta when Willie was eight and it was there that the boy’s connection to thoroughbreds began. He was a hot-walker and exercise boy until returning to Montana to attend high school. But after growing up on the back field, high school must have seemed a very strange world and, predictably, Saunders shows up in the winner’s circle at Tanforan on April 14, 1932. It was his first recorded win.

Jockeys had contracts that were transferred to different trainers/owners and, shortly thereafter, the boy began working for the great “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons and riding horses from the Phipps Stable and Belair Stud. So, as the “dirty Thirties” began to unleash their force on America, young Willie found himself in privileged circumstances. It isn’t a stretch to assume that the boy worked and worked hard to gain Fitzsimmons’ confidence. Fitzsimmons was kindly, but a hard task-master; and having come up through the ranks himself, Sunny Jim knew all about the vices of the track and tolerated none of it. He was tough to deceive and exacted high standards from all who worked with him, including indentured jockeys. In a race and occasionally when he was training, Omaha had the habit of trying to lash out at any colt that got near to him. Willie was able to work with the big chestnut to avoid these kind of attacks. Clearly, “Mr. Fitz” saw something special in the Saunders – Omaha connection and so it was that the young man from Bozeman got the call to ride the Belair colt on the Triple Crown trail.

It was the ride of Willie’s life.

"Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons aka "Mr. Fitz" as portrayed by PAP

“Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons aka “Mr. Fitz” as portrayed by PAP


March 7, 1935: The 3 year-old OMAHA works between two other colts. Although his 2 year-old season was less than stellar, OMAHA was still a Kentucky Derby favourite by March.


OMAHA in shed row_$_57

OMAHA walks the shed row. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.


Two short takes of Omaha’s Derby and Preakness wins, followed by a 3-minute segment that summarizes his Triple Crown campaign from the ESPN series “Jewels of the Triple Crown,” moderated by the legendary Jim McKay:



OMAHA and Willie Saunders shown winning the Belmont Stakes to sweep the 1935 Triple Crown. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.



The kid aboard his champion colt.

Willie and OMAHA coming in following a work. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun.

OMAHA coming in following a work. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

One can only imagine the fame and fortune that landed in young Willie’s lap.

Racing in the early part of the last century was a popular sport, one that was patronized by the wealthy and working person alike. In the Thirties it also provided a grand escape from the woes of the Depression. William Woodward and Fitzsimmons were no strangers to all that accompanied great horses, but for their jockey it was all new — and undoubtedly overwhelming. There would have been scores of unsavoury types waiting to prey on him, as well as a mass of groupies only too willing to stand in his albeit diminutive shadow. Suddenly, he was a “Sir” at Kentucky restaurants and a notable to the press. And Saunders was, by all accounts, on his own — as were most youth who rode at the time — without the security of either his family or a real mentor, although some reports of his jockey days assert that he was mentored by the great George Woolf in the early years.

It was one thing for the great "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons to cope with the fame of OMAHA'S Triple Crown. After all, it was Fitzsimmons second Triple in a mere 5 years! But for Willie Saunders, it must have been overwhelming. Here, admirers visit with Mr. Fitz and OMAHA. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

It was one thing for the great “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons to cope with the fame of OMAHA’S Triple Crown. After all, it was Fitzsimmons second Triple in a mere 5 years! But for Willie Saunders, it must have been overwhelming. Here, the press visits Mr. Fitz and OMAHA. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

So it was that early one night in October 1935, Saunders and a friend, exercise boy Walter Schaeffer,25, showed up at a Lexington bar and dance hall called Howard’s looking for a good time. The policy at Howard’s was that men needed to be accompanied by a woman to get in, but the bouncer called upon one of the establishment’s regulars, Agnes Mackison, 28, to partner up with Schaeffer. Once inside, Saunders spied a woman sitting at another table with a couple and asked Mackison to invite her over. The woman was Mrs. Evelyn Sliwinski, 25, the wife of a Louisville tailor who may/may not have been another Howard’s regular, depending on whose story one chooses to believe.

Therein lies the problem: there were two different stories of what happened next, the Mackison version reported in the Louisville Courrier-Journal in detail, and the Saunders-Schaeffer account, that appeared in several national newspapers of the day, including the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times. (Most papers reporting the story were at pains to draw a sharp contrast between the two versions of what happened that night, with a distinct preference for the Saunders-Schaeffer version.)

The foursome left Howard’s and climbing into Saunders’ car, stopped in at two other nightspots, The Venexia Club and the Cotton Club. The men had introduced themselves to their dates as “Jimmie” (Saunders) and “Tommy” or “Paul”(Schaeffer), according to Mackison. Both were great dancers and the money and drink flowed freely.

Below, the great Mabel Lee who, along with the likes of Duke Ellington and Count Basie, spiced up the club scene of the Thirties:

By the time Saunders, Sliwinski, Schaeffer and Mackison left the Cotton Club, all were very drunk. Schaeffer took the wheel after an alleged row (Mackison reported) between a very woozy Sliwinski and Saunders, before the pair crawled into the back seat. Then they took off out of town and ended up on River Road. The whole time, “Jimmie” (Saunders) and Sliwinski continued to argue, according to Mackison, adding that Saunders then raped the woman several times (The Chicago Tribune).

At some point, Sliwinski threw up in the back of the car and Saunders pushed Sliwinski out of the car. According to Mackison, as Schaeffer accelerated, he ran over the staggering Sliwinski. According to Saunders and Schaeffer, they left her on the road and drove on. All agree that between 10-20 minutes later, heading back to Louisville, Saunders’ car struck “something” in the middle of the road, although Saunders testified that as he was in the back, he felt a “bump” but actually saw nothing. Both men also denied that Mrs. Mackison had been threatened when she was dropped off at her home: “You ain’t seen nothing; you ain’t heard nothing; you don’t know nothing and you’re lucky you’re alive.” (Oswald, writing The Courrier-Journal).

Evelyn Sliwinski’s mangled body was found by a high school student early the next morning. Beside the body was a man’s brown hat that carried a California label. The coroner described the murdered woman’s body as one of the worst he’d ever seen. There were strong indications that she’d been badly beaten.

The same following day, Agnes Mackison, accompanied by her brother-in-law, came in to report a crime. From photos made available to her, she identified Saunders and Schaeffer. A warrant was issued for the two men, both of whom had gone missing. Saunders turned himself in first and bail was set at $5,000 USD (a fortune at the time). Detectives arrested Schaeffer in Baltimore and charged him with murder; Saunders was indicted as an accessory.

Willie Saunders (foreground) and Schaeffer at the latter's trial for the murder of Evelyn Sliwinski.

Willie Saunders and Walter Schaeffer (foreground) at the hearing into the $100,000 civil suit launched by the Sliwinski estate. Published in The Courrier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky in 2014.

At Shaeffer’s trial, the defense argued that the teenager who had found Sliwinski’s body was the one who had initially run her over. Agnes Mackison was the only witness for the prosecution. The jury returned its verdict quickly: not guilty. The way they saw it, the two women were “experienced ladies of the night” looking to”pick up men,” whereas the two young men were innocent victims. Following Schaeffer’s acquittal, the charges against Saunders were dismissed.

Following the Schaeffer trial and Saunders acquittal, a $100,000 civil suit was launched by the estate of Evelyn Sliwinski. Following the acquittal,  a settlement of $10,000 USD was reached.


Post Script

Willie Saunders married Pauline Waterbury of Detroit in 1936. Among the winners he rode in a career that continued until 1950 are Fareino, a Belair Stud colt that he piloted to a win in the 1934 Rochambeau Handicap, Dunlin Lady, winner of the inaugural Santa Anita Oaks and, as first-string jockey for Hal Price Headley’s stable, Whooper (a grandson of Man O’ War). During World War II, Saunders joined the U.S. Army and fought in the South Pacific. Like so many who fought in the Pacific, he contacted malaria, which left him light enough to resume his jockey career when the war ended.

In the 1948 Preakness, Saunders rode Bovard to a third-place finish behind the mighty Citation and Eddie Arcaro. He rode the colt to a win in the Louisiana Derby the same year. Other races won by Saunders include the Chicago Derby (1936), Detroit Derby (1936), Monrovia Handicap (1936), San Juan Capistrano Handicap (1936), Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (1937), New Year Stakes (1937) and the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap (1937).

After his retirement in 1950, Saunders worked as a racing official at various American racetracks.

He was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1976.

Another shot of Willie and the great OMAHA. The two understood each other well and Saunders was able to stop the big chestnut from savaging other horses during a race. However, following the Triple Crown, Saunders never rode Omaha again. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun.

Another shot of Willie Saunders and the great OMAHA. The two understood each other well and Saunders was able to stop the big chestnut from savaging other horses during a race. However, following the Triple Crown, Saunders never rode Omaha again. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun.



The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame: William (Smoky) Saunders

Kentucky Derby/ Triple Crown? Murder? It was 1935 by Jessie Oswald in The Courrier-Journal, April 26, 2014

Various articles in newspapers of the day covering the Evelyn Sliwinski murder trial and acquittal of William Saunders: The Chicago Tribune, Schenectady Gazette, Lewiston Journal, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, The New York Times, The New York Post, The Herald-Journal

NOTE: THE VAULT is a non-profit website. (Any advertising that appears on THE VAULT is placed there by WordPress and the profit, if any, goes to WordPress.) We make every effort to honour copyright for the photographs used in our articles. It is not our policy to use the property of any photographer without his/her permission, although the task of sourcing photographs is hugely compromised by the social media, where many photographs prove impossible to trace. Please do not hesitate to contact THE VAULT regarding any copyright concerns. Thank you.














































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