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Posts Tagged ‘Empire Maker’

When the death of Empire Maker was announced, the response on social media was immediate. It was partly shock. But as the hours passed, shock turned to grief.

This post is dedicated to the connections of Empire Maker at Juddmonte, the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders Association, Gainesway Farm and Don Alberto.

EMPIRE MAKER at Gainesway Farm in Kentucky,. Copyright Gainesway Farm. Used with permission.

Writing on Twitter, photographer Courtney Snow wrote, “Oh Empire Maker.” Simple as were her words, they captured perfectly what I was feeling: dismay that this could happen, loss, an unbearable sadness. Empire Maker’s death seemed particularly cruel coming, as it did, on the heels of the death of his son, Pioneerof The Nile (the sire of America’s Triple Crown champion, American Pharoah) and the death due to foaling complications in 2017 of much-loved champion, Royal Delta.

As a thoroughbred fan and researcher for over half a century, I’ve admired and respected countless individuals. A precious few have reached out to “speak” to me — and Empire Maker was one of them.

I never saw Empire Maker in person.

In my province of Quebec there is no longer any horse racing and gaining access to live horse racing continues to be a challenge. Most networks in the USA won’t take Canadian subscriptions, so I end up doing odd things out of necessity — like following American racing on a channel in Dubai. Despite all that, social media allowed me to witness Empire Maker’s career from the track to the breeding shed.

He was always special to me. Different, the way Man O’ War and a few precious others are “different.” In his eye, creating the impression that he was looking to a place beyond human perception, the “look of eagles.” Only the truly great ones — Man O’ War, Phar Lap, Equipoise, Bernborough, Sunday Silence, Nijinsky and his sire, Northern Dancer, Secretariat, Frankel — have that look. Who knows what it signifies, distinctive as is its expression.

A Juddmonte owned and bred, as a colt Empire Maker appeared to treat the career he’d been handed with disdain; you saw it in his tendency to linger on the lead, as though he’d done enough. As a runner, Empire Maker never did more than he had to do, except perhaps in the Florida Derby, where he showed a gritty determination that was rare.

 

After that brilliant performance, and out of my untiring respect for HOF trainer Robert “Bobby” Frankel, Empire Maker became my Derby horse, the colt who would carry my flag into America’s most prestigious race. His performance in the Wood Memorial made him the favourite going into the Kentucky Derby, even though, near the finish, Empire Maker’s tendency to wind down once he was ahead is apparent.

 

However, coming up to the Derby, it wasn’t his ambivalence on the lead but a foot bruise that proved Empire Maker’s undoing, since it got in the way of his training.

The Derby pace early on was sizzling. HOF jockey, Jerry Bailey, was quoted post-race as saying that when he asked him, Empire Maker didn’t go after Funny Cide with his usual “authority.” Years later, Bobby Frankel would say the missed training was too much for his star colt to overcome.

Empire Maker didn’t run in the second leg of the Triple Crown (The Preakness), but he was ready to fire in June in the third leg, the Belmont Stakes. And fire he did — even though the track was muddy and slick — denying New York’s hero, Funny Cide, the Triple Crown.

He would make only one more start, in the 2003 Jim Dandy at Saratoga, where he got going too late to catch the winner, Strong Hope. A foot problem ended his career.

That expressive face: EMPIRE MAKER at Gainesway Farm after his return from Japan in 2017. Copyright Gainesway Farm. Used with permission.

Upon his retirement, Bobby Frankel said of Juddmonte’s homebred, “We weren’t within 10 lengths of seeing this horse’s best race. With his prospects as a sire, considering his exceptional talent, extraordinary pedigree, and incredibly good looks, I want to be remembered as the trainer of Empire Maker in the same way that Horatio Luro’s name is attached to Northern Dancer or Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons’ name is with Bold Ruler.” (Kellie Reilly, Brisnet.com in “Empire Maker lived up to his name as a classic winner, patriarch” published January 20, 2020)

Frankel wouldn’t have made this declaration lightly. He was a man of discriminating judgment who had trained some outstanding thoroughbreds. Frankel had also trained Empire Maker’s dam, Toussaud, who was so difficult that the trainer admitted that near the end of her racing career he didn’t want to train her at all. But Frankel clearly respected the filly, snapping at an interviewer who asked if he had expected the performance Empire Maker gave in the Belmont, “… he’s by Unbridled out of Toussaud, right?”

Empire Maker’s sire, Unbridled, was a much-loved champion who had sewn up the 1990 Kentucky Derby, beating another champion in Summer Squall. Unbridled also won the 1990 Breeders Cup Classic, soundly defeating the Canadian Triple Crown winner, Izvestia. (Note: The 1990 Breeders Cup also marked the deaths of the champion Go For Wand and another horse, Mr. Nickerson. The NY Times referred to it as “Racing’s Darkest Day” — and it was, despite Unbridled’s courageous victory in the BC Classic.)

But Empire Maker’s pedigree was spectacular beyond his sire and dam. He was 4s X 3d to In Reality (a champion on the track and sire of sires), 5s X 4d to Buckpasser (another champion who was also a powerful BM sire), and 5s X 5d to Native Dancer (an American legend), Rough N’ Tumble (sire of champion Dr. Fager) and Aspidistra (dam of champions Dr. Fager and Ta Wee).

Empire Maker had, quite simply, blue-blood-to-burn. Below is vintage footage of some of Empire Maker’s ancestors, all of whom appear within the first five generations of his pedigree:

 

 

 

But it didn’t stop there: Empire Maker’s BM sire was the turf champion El Gran Senor, a son of Northern Dancer who was named after the Dancer’s trainer, the Argentinian-born and Spanish-speaking, Horatio Luro. El Gran Senor raced in England and Ireland, and was trained by the legendary Vincent O’Brien, the first Master of Ballydoyle.

In temperament, El Gran Senor was so sweet that O’Brien regularly brought him out when his grandchildren visited. Irascible as his daughter, Toussaud, may have been, I like to think that the kindness of Empire Maker’s son, Pioneerof The Nile, and grandson, American Pharoah, came to them on a Y chromosome courtesy of El Gran Senor.

Vincent O’Brien introducing EL GRAN SENOR to some of his grandchildren.

Even though he was the only colt of his generation to score in three classic races in 2003, Empire Maker didn’t seem to appeal to American breeders as much as he should have done, given his pedigree, race record and conformation. In 2011 he was relocated to Japan, standing at the JBBA’s Shizunai Stallion Station in Hokkaido.

From 5 crops sired in Japan, Empire Maker had 10 stakes winners, headed by Eterna Minoru(2013) and Power Gal(2016). This wouldn’t be considered a brilliant track record by the JBBA, despite the fact that the young stallion wasn’t getting the very best mares. (It should be noted that in Japan the desire for immediate results is no less tempered than it is worldwide.)

But in America, Emnpire Maker colts and fillies from his few American crops were shaking things up, resulting in the stallion rocketing up the sire lists. Among his outstanding fillies there were the millionaires Acoma(2005), Mushka (2005), Emollient(2010), Grace Hall (2009) and his best daughter, the beloved Royal Delta (2008). In addition, there were other excellent fillies: In Lingerie(2009) and Icon Project(2005), as well as at least a half-dozen others who earned over $200k.

Royal Delta was a strong-willed, competitive filly who had the attitude of a colt, according to her trainer Bill Mott. But she was a huge presence on the track during her racing career and had thousands of fans in North America. Retired in 2013, Royal Delta was saent to Ireland to be bred to Galileo but didn’t get in foal; a second attempt was made but the mare aborted.

In 2017, she delivered a filly foal by Galileo but it would be her last: Royal Delta died of foaling complications. A much-loved champion was suddenly gone. The filly foal survived and was named Delta’s Royalty. She won her first start at Kempton Park in the UK (below) in December 2019. Thousands from the USA and Canada tuned in to watch.

Sons of Empire Maker who made a splash were headed by the millionaires Pioneerof The Nile (2006) and Bodemeister(2009), both trained by HOF Bob Baffert. Pioneerof The Nile’s loss in the 2009 Kentucky Derby to Mine That Bird was an upset that few, if any, had foreseen. But “Nile” also won the Santa Anita Derby, Robert B. Lewis and San Felipe Stakes that same year.

He was retired to stud at the Vinery in 2010 and finally, to Winstar in 2013. Nile’s first crop produced the champions Cairo Prince, Midnight Storm and Jojo’s Warrior, as well as several others who earned in excess of $200k. In his second crop in 2012, Nile sired a bay colt who was named American Pharoah; in 2015, “Pharoah” became America’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Pharoah’s Triple Crown and BC Classic victoiry was the last push that was needed to repatriate his grandsire and home Empire Maker came home in 2016 to take up duties at the historic Gainesway Farm, from where he could appreciate his son Bodemeister’s son, Always Dreaming, winning the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Always Dreaming is from Bodemeister’s first crop, hinting that the young sire might well have had more to come. If he does, Bodemeister won’t be here to witness it: he was sold to Turkey in 2019.

The hopes invested in Empire Maker were great and I joined those rejoicing on his return, anticipating more greatness to come. Not another American Pharoah, since such monumental talent is rare, but certainly more deeply talented progeny. But those hopes, that promise, was cut short when the stallion died on January 20 of a rare immune deficiency disease called CVID. This disease annihilates the immune system and is so rare in North America that one top immune deficiency expert, vet Dr. Nathan Slovis, stated that he had only ever seen it twice. It is hoped that Empire Maker may be of some help in coming up with a cure.

Of those Empire Makers bred in America since his return, Eight Rings(2017) who won twice in 4 starts at two, appears to have potential. After a hugely disappointing run in the 2019 BC Juvenile, the colt was given a training break. Bob Baffert is pointing him towards the Rebel Stakes in March and if he does well, Eight Rings may get the green light to embark on the 2020 Triple Crown trail.

In the meantime, Empire Maker’s grandson, American Pharoah, is looking to be a stellar sire, and it will largely fall to him to keep Empire Maker’s influence on the breed alive.

 

From 70 starters to date, Pharoah has sired 26 winners, 4 stakes winners and 3 graded stakes winners. Eleven of his foals have placed in stakes races. Through December 20, American Pharoah’s foals have earned more than $2.6 million (Bloodhorse.com) landing the young stallion the title of leading first-crop sire of 2019 by a wide margin. Pharoah’s progeny are winning over any surface and he’s had a total — as of January 20, 2020 — of 30 winners to date in America, Canada, England, Ireland, France and Japan. True, Coolmore is ensuring that he gets the best mares whether at Ashford Stud in Kentucky or at Coolmore Australia, but that does nothing to diminish the fact that Pharoah’s early progeny record is an absolute standout.

The young stallion is getting foals of a quality that is impressively consistent.

FOUR WHEEL DRIVE, from the first crop of AMERICAN PHAROAH, sporting his BC Juvenile Turf victor’s blanket.

 

Coolmore’s HONG KONG, also from PHAROAH’S first crop.

 

2018 filly, born in Australia, out of Deer Valley.

 

Another Australian-bred from 2018, a colt out of AZUMI.

American Pharoah is an American treasure. Like his grandsire, he’s different. Everything about him says it — the soft eye that looks right through you to some forever place, the balanced and powerful conformation, the elegance of his ancestry. And I see Empire Maker in him just as clearly as I see the influence of Pioneerof The Nile and Littleprincessemma, Pharoah’s dam.

Through the pain of his loss, his legacy goes on, running like the current that powers a mighty river. And I’m happy for that.

 

 

 

BONUS FEATURES

 

1) Rare footage of the great Toussaud, Empire Maker’s dam:

 

 

2) A Visit To Gainesway Farm, Empire Maker’s home:

3) PIONEEROF THE NILE Schooling At Santa Anita. Video by Mary Forney:

4) An Empire That Will Survive It’s Maker’s Loss by Chris McGrath, TDN

An Empire That Will Survive Its Maker’s Loss

 

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hunter, Avalyn. American Classic Pedigrees: Empire Maker. Online: http://www.americanclassicpedigrees.com/empire-maker.html

Mitchell, Frank. Bloodstock In The Bluegrass — writings on Empire Maker. Online: https://fmitchell07.wordpress.com/tag/empire-maker/

Voss, Natalie in Paulick Report, “He May Be Able To Save Horses’ Lives: The Mysterious Disease That Killed Empire Maker. Online: https://www.paulickreport.com/horse-care-category/he-may-be-able-to-save-horses-lives-the-mysterious-disease-that-claimed-empire-maker/?fbclid=IwAR3ejgUL2IvAl-XLlL6-IMpE0rcTpyNL8BQQGcpWobHRBPkztqqRTBXXHBQ#.XisLUBSJmxA.facebook

 

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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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My idea to collect photographs of the progeny of Northern Dancer, our King of Thoroughbred Racing here in Canada, led to the discovery of just how influential this tiny thoroughbred stallion really was — and continues to be today, particularly in Great Britain, Ireland, Europe and Australia.

NORTHERN DANCER QUOTE by SANGSTER_$_57

It was the last Kentucky Derby my ailing grandfather and I watched together. He sat, wrapped in blankets, in his favourite armchair and I sat cross-legged near him on the carpet, the rest of the family ranged in chairs around the black and white television console. When the little colt hit the wire, the room erupted with gasps, followed by delight. Here he was, the very first Canadian bred and owned 3 year-old to win the Kentucky Derby and he had done it in record-breaking time.

As we watched EP Taylor leading his fractious champion into the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs, my grandfather exclaimed, “Well I never……just look at him ….he’s only a pony!”

I had been born with Grandpa’s “horse gene,” as my mother liked to say. Shortly after the Derby win, I bought a copy of Sports Illustrated magazine, carefully removed a photo of “The Dancer” winning the Florida Derby and glued it onto a sturdy sheet of blue cardboard, under which I wrote: ” ‘He’s all blood and guts and he tries hard.’ Northern Dancer: first Canadian owned-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby. Time: 2:00:00 flat.”

The photo and the memory stuck. Today, as I write this, the faded blue cardboard with The Dancer’s photo and my round printing sits in a frame just above the computer.

This SI shot of Northern Dancer winning the Florida Derby has come down through the decades with me. Once the prized possession of a 14 year-old girl, it now sits in a frame above my computer.

This SI shot of Northern Dancer winning the Florida Derby has come down through the decades with me. Once the prized possession of a 14 year-old girl, it now sits in a frame above my computer.

Punctuated as he was by the love of a grandfather who was gone only a year later, as well as that festering horse gene of mine, it was predictable that by 1990 I had decided to collect original press photos of Northern Dancer and some of his progeny. What I had in mind was a project: to collect some photos and then mount them in an album, together with a little research on The Dancer’s most prominent progeny.

Lester Piggott and NIJINSKY, the last British Triple Crown winner.

Lester Piggott and NIJINSKY, the last British Triple Crown winner.

I started out in earnest, shopping on places like the newly-opened EBAY. But little did I know what I was going to uncover. The search for original photos of Nijinsky and The Minstrel connected me to a number of UK sellers — and it was here that the proverbial “floodgates” flew open. My career and family had necessitated a lengthy sabbatical from all things thoroughbred, leaving me somewhat amazed to discover that through the aegis of the great trainer and horseman, Vincent O’Brien, Canada’s tiny Dancer had, in fact, gone viral. 

NORTHERN DANCER by Brewer, Jr.

NORTHERN DANCER by Allen F. Brewer, Jr. The artist’s exquisite portrait belies the temperament of Canada’s King of Thoroughbreds which was, to quote E.P. Taylor’s daughter, “Not very nice at all.”

 

I had bought a few albums to house the photos and had started mounting them together with text. But as the sheer number of photos mounted, I could see that I was making myself a project that would take a lifetime to complete. It wasn’t that I had no criteria for acquiring a photo…..it was that truly great thoroughbreds kept coming and coming, like an enormous tidal wave, prompting the question: Where do I draw the line?

Think about it. Out of the “Danzig connection” alone, another galaxy of superstars in England, Ireland, Europe and Australia have emerged. And this is only one of many Northern Dancer sire lines.

DANZIG pictured here at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky where he stood for the whole of his career at stud.

DANZIG pictured here at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky where he stood for the whole of his career at stud.

 

DANZIG'S best son, DANEHILL.

DANZIG’S best son, DANEHILL.

 

DANEHILL'S son, DANEHILL DANCER, a sire of sires.

DANEHILL’S son, DANEHILL DANCER, a sire of sires.

 

DANSILI, another son of DANEHILL who is making a huge impact on the breed worldwide.

Juddmonte’s DANSILI, another son of DANEHILL who is making a huge impact on the breed worldwide.

 

Among the remarkable thoroughbreds who descend from a bewildering galaxy of Northern Dancer sire lines and families, and who have recently retired are the champions: Rachel Alexandra (USA), America’s sweetheart and 2009 Horse of the Year, is a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro and granddaughter of Sadler’s Wells; Black Caviar (AUS) whose sire, Bel Esprit, is the grandson of Nijinsky and whose dam, Helsinge, is the granddaughter of the late Green Desert (by Danzig); the incomparable Frankel (GB) a son of Galileo (by Sadler’s Wells) whose dam, the Blue Hen, Kind, is a daughter of Danehill (by Danzig); America’s two-time Horse of the Year and turf star, Wise Dan (USA), who carries Storm Bird (by Northern Dancer) and Lyphard (by Northern Dancer) on both sides of his 4th generation pedigree; the 2014 and 2013 Investec Derby winners Australia (IRE) by Galileo and Camelot (IRE) by Montjeu; Arc winner Danedream (GER), whose sire Lomitas is a grandson of Nijinsky and whose dam, Danedrop, is a daughter of Danehill (by Danzig); the brilliant Nathaniel (IRE), a son of Galileo and only one of two horses to seriously challenge Frankel, the other being Zoffany (IRE) by Dansili, a son of Danehill and grandson of Danzig; the mighty Igugu (IRE), winner of the SA Triple Tiara and a daughter of Galileo; the immortal Hurricane Fly (IRE) whose sire Montjeu is a son of Sadler’s Wells; the undefeated Arc winner Zarkava (IRE) whose sire, Zamindar, is a grandson of The Minstrel and whose dam, Zarkasha, is by the superb Kahyasi, a grandson of Nijinsky; the ill-fated and brilliant St. Nicholas Abbey (IRE) a son of Montjeu; the Australian champion All Too Hard (AUS), the half-brother of Black Caviar, and a grandson of Danehill (by Danzig); the wonderful mare, The Fugue (IRE), a daughter of Dansili (by Danehill) whose dam, Twyla Tharp, is by Sadler’s Wells; Canada’s Inglorious, winner of the 2011 Queen’s Plate, who is a granddaughter of Storm Bird (by Northern Dancer); and last but hardly least, Goldikova (IRE) whose sire, Anabaa is a son of Danzig and whose dam, Born Gold, is a granddaughter of Lyphard (by Northern Dancer).

It’s impossible to think of thoroughbred racing or the National Hunt without these individuals — but even they are the tip of the proverbial iceberg in the ongoing genetic dance of The Dancer.

Below, a video of the American turf superstar, Wise Dan, winning the 2013 Breeders Cup Mile for the second straight year:

“The bird has flown” — the fabulous Nathaniel winning the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot:

The “sensational” Canadian filly,Inglorious, winning the 2011 Queen’s Plate at Woodbine, Toronto, Canada:

Stallions — so many names that one gets dizzy just trying to keep them in a kind of chronological order. Among the best-known: Giant’s Causeway, Medaglia d’Oro, Elusive Quality, Animal Kingdon, Big Brown and War Front in the USA; Galileo, Sea The Stars, Yeats, Invincible Spirit, Cape Cross (sire of Sea The Stars, Ouija Board and Golden Horn), New Approach, Oasis Dream, Kingman, Mastercraftsman, Dansili and Dubawi in Great Britain, Ireland and Europe; So You Think, Exceed and Excel, Sepoy, Redoute’s Choice, Fastnet Rock, More Than Ready, Bel Esprit and Snitzel in Australia; and in Japan, the great Empire Maker and leading sires by earnings, Deep Impact and King Kamehameha ( a son of Kingmambo who is inbred 2 X 4 to Northern Dancer through his sons, Nureyev and Lyphard, and carries Nijinsky’s son, Green Dancer, in his 4th generation).

A look back at the late Bart Cummings’ great champion, So You Think:

And in 2015?

Well, let’s see.

There’s America’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, American Pharoah (whose brilliance, I will continue to insist, owes at least as much to Empire Maker and his Blue Hen dam, Toussaud, a daughter of Northern Dancer’s El Gran Señor as to any other in his pedigree), the Investec Derby winner Golden Horn, Shadwell’s brilliant Muhaarar, Coolmore’s Gleneagles, the up-and-coming sire, Mastercraftman’s The Grey Gatsby and Amazing Maria in Great Britain. And it’s impossible to overlook the incomparable Treve, who now has her own theme song!

This year, they all look like him, carrying his bay coat and dark mane and tail into a future he never saw. But the familiar colours of my “tiny Dancer” always take me back to that last Kentucky Derby my grandfather and I watched together. And as for my collection of photographs, it’s tailed off considerably since it arrived at 500 + images. I’m well behind in recording them all, so the considerable overflow are now housed in an archival file.

But then along came 2015.

And I can see that my collecting is not yet done…….

 

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UPDATE

Since I began THE VAULT’S rescue fund, $1,542.00 CAD has been raised, allowing THE VAULT readers and yours truly to rescue Hale, as well as a Standardbred gelding and a beautiful blue roan QH mare, in foal, from slaughter. Too, donations have been made to Our Mims and RR Refuge. I continue to work to save horses, one horse at a time: this week, it was a granddaughter of Secretariat.

This blue roan mare, in foal, was rescued from slaughter by VAULT readers the week of August 31, 2015

This blue roan mare, in foal, was rescued from slaughter by VAULT readers the week of August 31, 2015

Here’s some footage of Hale, a mere month after VAULT readers, his new owner and yours truly rescued him:

If you love THE VAULT, please accept my heartfelt thanks. I write it for you.

And please consider making a donation:

http://www.gofundme.com/8d2cher4

Together we can make a difference.

 

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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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We’ve been here many, many times before and this year it’s all about American Pharoah, whose misspelled name has only made his wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness more distinctive.

The delight and the doubts have dominated the press in North America since Zayat Stables’ American Pharoah began his Triple Crown bid, first by winning the Kentucky Derby and then by romping to a Preakness victory in the slop, winning by a margin only equalled by Smarty Jones 11 1/4 victory in the 2004 Preakness (above).

But then came the Belmont…..and the undefeated Smarty, who had won every heart along the way, suffered his first — and only — career defeat. To say that it was a heartbreaker would be an understatement.

It’s 2015, and here we go again.

And what can be studied to ascertain whether or not American Pharoah’s (AP) chances in a dwindling field are better than that of a champion like the great Smarty Jones? Truthfully, no analysis can be foolproof which is one of the reasons that horse racing worldwide still brims with anticipation, hope and dreams of glory.

There are a number of complex factors that will determine the outcome on June 6th and how they interrelate is where the mystery lies.

First, there is the colt himself — how tired is AP? After all, as E. P. Taylor who owned and bred Northern Dancer observed, ” If you run them enough times, they get beaten…A horse can’t tell you how he’s feeling…” And the “fatigue factor” would arguably be less relevant if the Derby and Preakness winner was going up against colts who had run in the first two legs of the Triple Crown. But he isn’t. In the Belmont, he’ll meet up with colts who are fresher, who’ve had time to rest and work up to the Belmont. AP’s had three weeks.

AMERICAN PHAROAH shown after his Preakness win.

AMERICAN PHAROAH shown after his Preakness win.

 

Then there are the bloodlines and what these might cough up in terms of indicators. AP’s bloodlines are superb on his sire line. In fact his grandsire, Empire Maker, trained by the legendary Bobby Frankel, was himself the spoiler when he won the 2003 Belmont to quash Funny Cide’s Triple Crown bid:

Empire Maker had been beaten by Funny Cide in the Derby that year, but skipped the Preakness before running in the Belmont. He was a fresher colt going in, but it’s impossible to overlook his bloodlines: Unbridled (Mr. Prospector sire line) out of the fabulous mare, Toussaud, by El Gran Señor (Northern Dancer). And Empire Maker, who stands in Japan now, has thrown a hailstorm of champions from his American foal crops, including AP’s sire, Pioneerof the Nile, Eclipse champion (2011-2013) Royal Delta and champions Sky Kingdom, In Lingerie, Grace Hall, Emollient, Bodemeister and Acomas. Pioneerof the Nile looks to be on his way to following in Empire Maker’s steps, but it’s still too early to be certain. Often, though, it takes a generation for a sire or a dam to produce a superstar like AP, win or lose on June 6. And Empire Maker has the goods to do it.

The handsome and prepotent EMPIRE MAKER.

The handsome and prepotent EMPIRE MAKER.

Of course, AP is not the only colt going into the Belmont with a great pedigree. There is the sensational Mubtaahij, who appears to like the Belmont surface and is by the hot sire, Dubawi, out of Pennegal by Pennekamp, himself a sire who showed brilliance on the turf — winning the 2000 Guineas, Prix de la Salamandre, Dewhurst and Prix Djebel, among 6 of 7 lifetime victories. If our “might skip a generation” breeding axiom kicks in here, then Mubtaahij is doubly-blessed. His dam is a Blue Hen in her own right — and let’s keep in mind that it’s the dam that hands on the powerful X in Mubtaahij’s genetic profile.

MUBTAAHIJ working at Belmont. Photograph and copyright, Emily Gricco.

MUBTAAHIJ working at Belmont. Photograph and copyright, Emily Gricco.

 

Another serious contender in the Belmont is Frosted. He’s by America’s arguably best sire, Tapit (AP Indy) out of a Deputy Minister mare, Fast Cookie. What’s interesting about Frosted is that he carries Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew on both sides of his fourth generation. And that can’t be bad. Other strong pedigrees are found in Materiality (his sire is Preakness & Belmont Stakes winner, Afleet Alex/BM sire, Langfuhr) and Keen Ice, a son of the mighty Curlin, who certainly will get the distance.

The gorgeous FROSTED has the pedigree to match. Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

The gorgeous FROSTED has the pedigree to match. Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

KEEN ICE at work over the Belmont track. Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

KEEN ICE at work over the Belmont track. A son of the mighty CURLIN, he has what it takes to get the distance. Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

 

A factor that looms large is that of the jockeys.

AP keeps his regular rider, Victor Espinoza, who is no stranger to pressure. He rode the last Triple Crown hopeful, California Chrome, in the 2014 Belmont where the colt finished out of the money, overtaken by much fresher horses. In 2002, Espinoza was astride the Baffert-trained War Emblem, but the colt stumbled coming out of the gate and never really recovered. So Espinoza knows the hype and knows the track; hopefully, he’ll ride at least one race on June 6th prior to the Belmont to get the feel of the track.

Mubtaahij will be missing his regular rider, Christophe Soumillon, and some are speculating that Soumillon’s decision to drop the ride (because of a previous commitment) speaks loud about the colt’s Belmont chances. However, the talented son of Dubawi gets the services of talented Irad Ortiz Jr. Ortiz has won a Breeders’ Cup and knows the Belmont track. Kent Desormeaux and Joel Rosario ride Keen Ice and Frosted, respectively, and both can be counted on to come up with sound performances. The great Mike Smith rides the Nick Zito-trained Frammento and these two are a formidable combination: over the years, American racing fans have learned to never count Zito out.

One of the very best: trainer Nick Zito brings FRAMMENTO into the Belmont.

One of the very best: trainer Nick Zito brings FRAMMENTO into the Belmont.

 

Then there’s the matter of the track itself. Although Saratoga has the reputation of being “the graveyard of champions,” in North America every true racing fan knows that the real graveyard is the Belmont, aka “Big Sandy.” To quote the pre-eminent correspondent of American racing, Steve Haskin, writing in Blood-Horse on June 1:

“…the fact is, many jockeys who don’t have experience at Belmont Park, especially going 1 1/2 miles, get lost on those sweeping turns, with the far turn being what I call the turn of no return. Once you make a mistake on that turn, especially going that far, there is no recovering from it.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but you do not want to get caught wide on the first turn and you certainly don’t want to go into the second turn wide. At Belmont, the ideal trip is to remain closer to the rail (if it is playing fair), then ease out nearing the quarter pole or waiting for an opening on the inside. Going wide at the five-sixteenths pole or quarter pole is not a big deal. It is going into the turn wide that leaves horses rubber-legged after turning for home, as they are forced to lose ground for a very long time while negotiating that seemingly endless turn.

…As far as staying on the rail, that is going to be up to Bob Baffert. The great John Nerud has always said the key to Belmont is knowing the track on that day and watch how the track is maintained the days leading up to the race. And he’ll be able to tell by watching all the races run on that Friday and of course on Saturday. According to Nerud, it all depends on what the crew does with the cushion. If they remove a good part of the cushion on the inside and dump it 20-25 feet out from the rail, you want to get on that rail and stay there, especially from the five-sixteenths pole to the eighth pole.. If they leave the cushion alone, because of the pitch of the track, it likely will be slower down on the inside.”

(See more at: http://cs.bloodhorse.com/blogs/horse-racing-steve-haskin/archive/2015/06/01/memo-to-victor-don-t-let-belmont-park-beat-you.aspx#sthash.q752Ur2V.dpuf)

belmont park_tc

 

Last, but not least, is the matter of statistics, those supposedly factual indicators of what a colt has got, pedigree-wise, and therefore, what he should do in a classic, 1.5 mile/12f race like the Belmont Stakes.

To help those new to the business of handicapping, we need to stress that both the Dosage Index (DI) and Centre of Distribution (CD) of any thoroughbred are, in actuality, trends used by breeders more than “facts” per se. What we mean by this is that both DI and CD are attempts to consolidate pedigree information along the lines of stamina and speed influences. The CD and DI of a thoroughbred are tied to the influences of chef-de-race stallions found in a horse’s pedigree over the first 4 generations.

But influences are just that and no more than that — even the great Secretariat’s speed-stamina profile (20-14-7-9-0) did not quite capture what he showed us on the track!

A thoroughbred’s Dosage Profile (DP), from which its DI and CD derive, is calculated based on the number of stamina-speed sire influences in a pedigree. There are five categories: Brilliant, Intermediate, Classic, Solid and Professional, with “Brilliant” denoting a preference for shorter distances (speed influence) and “Professional,” longer distances (stamina influence). Horses classified as “Classic” have an almost-equal speed-stamina ratio. The numbers assigned in all 5 categories (even if 1 or more are 0) constitute the DP. Then, through a numerical ponderation formula, the DI and CD are calculated and they indicate a trend represented by a ratio of stamina-to-speed influences that may (or may not) indicate the conditions under which a horse does best. The higher the DI or CD, the greater the speed influence.

(In fact, when we look at the CD’s of the 11 Triple Crown winners, we see just how misleading this kind of information can be if used as the sole criteria for picking a Triple Crown winner: Sir Barton @ 1.00, Gallant Fox @ 0.57, Omaha @ 0.75, War Admiral @ 0.52, Count Fleet @ 0.25, Whirlaway @ 0.10, Assault @ 0.46, Citation @ 0.04, Secretariat @ 0.90, Seattle Slew @ 0.68 and Affirmed @ 0.55. Then add, for good measure, Man O’ War @ 1.17, Alydar @ 1.10, Little Current @ 0.22 or the fabulous Smarty Jones @ 1.00 and one sees that while the CD is a useful indicator of the ratio of speed-to-stamina in an individual’s pedigree, it can also prove very dodgy for punters!)

AP comes in with a CD of 0.88, meaning that his speed influence is presumably more dominant than stamina; Mubtaahij has a CD of 0.00, showing a distinct speed-stamina imbalance that should favour stamina over speed. At 0.64, Keen Ice shows a relatively balanced speed-stamina influence; and Frosted shows a CD of 0.67. The average CD for 12 furlongs (the distance of the Belmont Stakes) is 0.43. And this is where the worm-hole that can be statistics opens up: none of the colts mentioned here compare favourably with the ideal of 0.43. But why is that? Probably because they’re babies with limited races under their belts, making it hard to assess them against a statistic that takes no account of the number of races those individuals used to reach this statistic had run.

Too, we would note that in comparing the respective DP’s of Frosted, Keen Ice, Mubtaahij and AP, the two with the most speed-stamina balance and therefore, using this theory, the most inherited Classic potential are Frosted and Keen Ice. But, again, what’s missing is the time it might take any of these youngsters to reach their Classic potential.

American Pharoah shown working at Churchill Downs pre-Belmont Stakes.

American Pharoah shown working at Churchill Downs shortly before he shipped to Belmont.

So….can American Pharoah, a brilliant colt at both two and three, give America its first Triple Crown winner since 1978? Having watched him through this year and last, we know that one thing is certain: he will do his best on June 6th. That’s the kind of honest, hard-working colt he is and it’s doubtful he knows any other way of being.

But the result on June 6th? There are no absolutes.

If the factors align for colt and jockey — from how the track plays to fatigue vs. freshness to what’s bred in the bone — then, when the gates spread and Big Sandy opens its arms, welcome all of these equine athletes….and the possibility of a Triple Crown champion.

AMERICAN PHAROAH with HOF trainer, Bob Baffert who says of his champion, "He is just the sweetest horse." Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

AMERICAN PHAROAH with HOF trainer, Bob Baffert who says of his champion, “He is just the sweetest horse.” Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

 

SPECIAL THANKS

…to gifted photographer, Emily Gricco, who generously gave THE VAULT permission for the use of her images of the Belmont contenders. If you love great photography, catch Emily on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

 

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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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?

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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.

 INTERNATIONAL STAR

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.

 DORTMUND

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.

 CARPE DIEM

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!

 

AMERICAN PHAROAH

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.

FROSTED

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?

 

OTHER FUN FACTS

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.

EL KABEIR’S 2nd dam, ROSE COLORED LADY, is the dam of TOO MUCH BLING.

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:

KEEN ICE’S 4th dam, CHIC SHRINE, is the grandam of HUNGRY ISLAND, SOARING EMPIRE, VERRAZANO, EL PADRINO & SOMALI LEMONADE.

 

 

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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