Bobby Zen

Before anything else, first and foremost we need to acknowledge the unfathomable legacy of Darling My Darling (Deputy Minister) as second dam of both colts denied in an agonizing three-way finish to the GI Kentucky Derby. The odds of that coincidence, for all her elite blood and performance, are best be left to an actuary. In the meantime, however, we should salvage the contrasting narratives aptly condensed, in what remains the definitive test of the American Thoroughbred, by her two grandsons.

For our collective obsession with first place is such that two fairly momentous scenarios were stifled by their historically narrow failure to retrieve the advantage stolen along the rail by Brian Hernandez.

On the one hand, by their patient cultivation of ostensibly uncommercial genetic assets, the Japanese have reached a point where the fairly random candidature of sophomores diverted from their own domestic Classics can produce Forever Young (Jpn) (Real Steel {Jpn}), arguably the moral winner in view of his buffeting; and the raw T.O. Password (Jpn) (Copano Rickey {Jpn}), who came from nowhere (almost literally, in the race itself, as well as figuratively beforehand) for fifth on only his third start.

On the other hand, the runner-up came within an ace of the ultimate vindication for the second-highest price paid for an American yearling in 2022, suggesting that the domestic market must still be functioning quite effectively. Giving $2.3 million for Sierra Leone (Gun Runner) left his purchasers a very narrow path to a dividend on their investment. While it proved a vexing day for those partners whose European champion juvenile had earlier bombed out in his own Classic test at Newmarket, in Sierra Leone they successfully identified one of the very few future stallions in his crop to have been offered at auction as yearlings.

The colt who thwarted Sierra Leone, of course, was yet another to extend the long list of homebreds whose collective success, on both sides of the Atlantic, has in recent years implied a very different message about the yearling market. But we can’t make any sweeping judgements about that (as though we ever should, with horses…) in view of the fact that Mystik Dan’s breeders in 2020 chose one of the busiest commercial stallions around for his dam Ma’am.

She was one of 204 partners for Goldencents that spring, when his fee had been doubled to $25,000 on the back of his second-crop sires’ title the previous year. (For more on Goldencents, read Jill Williams’s Saturday Sires.)

Obviously it was a dashing rails move that just enabled Mystik Dan to last out on Saturday, and conceivably he might yet end up trying to emulate his sire, Into Mischief, back in trip for the GI Dirt Mile at the Breeders’ Cup. But Ma’am did offer Goldencents one or two stretchy flavors: she’s by a son of Tiznow (moreover one out of a Turkoman mare) out of a sister to GI Hollywood Futurity winner Siphonic, their sire Siphon (Brz) being a sturdy repository of South American stamina and grit.

Ma’am | Coady

Bred by the late Lucy Bassett, wife of Keeneland legend Ted, Ma’am was sold privately after failing to meet her yearling reserve ($9,500 at the September Sale) and dropped to claiming level for three of her four career wins. Nor is there much other distinction behind her until you get to where Rokeby Farms tried to tap into the Indiana-bred matriarch Hillbrook as seventh dam.

Luckily for Mystik Dan’s breeders, Ma’am never slipped from their grasp under a tag, and they were well counselled by McPeek, whose team even foaled the Derby winner on Magdalena Farm. But one way or another this astounding first foal is yet another blue-collar package in a race that makes a habit (think runner-up Two Phil’s in 2023, and of course Rich Strike the year before) of maintaining the equilibrium so crucial to our business.

Because we need a horse like Sierra Leone (and indeed elite producers like Darling My Darling) to work out often enough to keep the biggest players in the game; but we also need the Mystik Dans to ensure that the rest of us have a chance, as well.


McPeek Finds Bargain from Noble Line

Kenny McPeek’s historic Classic double last weekend came almost three decades after saddling Derby runner-up Tejano Run. He cost $20,000 as a yearling, and ever since McPeek has continued similar alchemy with horses rejected by the market.

Nowadays, of course, you don’t see too many trainers at the sales at all, never mind trainers whose signature on a docket will send the professional agents immediately back to their notes, scratching their heads over just what it was they might have missed.

Thorpedo Anna | Coady Media

Actually McPeek was operating as an agent himself-he was taking a break from training to take care of his mother-when finding dual Horse of the Year Curlin for just $57,000, lurking as Hip 2261 at the September Sale. One way or another, then, Thorpedo Anna (Fast Anna) was all in a day’s work when he gave $40,000 for her at the Fasig-Tipton Fall Yearling Sale in 2022.

The sire had died the previous year, which often (instructively of the skewed mindset of many who shape the market) proves equally fatal to the commercial prospects of the stock they leave behind. Moreover, the filly bought by McPeek, one of 46 live foals in Fast Anna’s final crop, was out of an Uncle Mo mare gifted as a premature foal to Judy Hicks by breeder Sanford Robertson.

Hicks remembers her as “45 inches tall and 60 pounds,” but retained a stake in her Fast Anna baby-she’d kept the only previous foal, a Tourist filly, a $5,000 RNA before winning a Belmont maiden on debut-and so, too, did McPeek. That’s something he often does, to have skin in the game, and all concerned should get their due reward from the GI Kentucky Oaks winner as a breeding prospect, regardless of Fast Anna’s fleeting opportunity and influence.

For Thorpedo Anna extends one of the very best families in the book, tracing to none other than Almahmoud as eighth dam. That’s via Almahmoud’s great daughter Cosmah and her Ribot filly Queen Sucree, who produced Derby winner Cannonade (Bold Bidder). The latter’s half-sister by Northern Dancer, Stellar Odyssey, is fifth dam of Thorpedo Anna as well as third dam of GI Wood Memorial winner Eskendereya (Giant’s Causeway) and G1 Middle Park S. winner Balmont (Stravinsky).

Dreaming of Anna | Horsephotos

Don’t forget that Fast Anna himself had aristocratic genes as a son of champion Dreaming of Anna, a multiple graded stakes scorer on turf who also won the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Dreaming of Anna’s aptitude for grass was unsurprising, as a daughter of Rahy out of a half-sister to Kitten’s Joy. Throw in the versatility imparted by Medaglia d’Oro, in terms both of discipline and surface, and Fast Anna was able to sprint on both grass and dirt (beaten a neck in the GI King’s Bishop S.).

To me, Almahmoud is THE cornerstone of the modern Thoroughbred and it’s wonderful to find Cosmah directly in a Classic female line. In noting Japan’s role in the Derby above, we might have reiterated the impact of Cosmah’s son Halo through Sunday Silence, responsible for the respective grandsires of both Forever Young and T.O. Password, in Deep Impact and Gold Allure.


Messier Refreshing Sam-Son Legacy

When Messier lined up for the GIII Westchester S. last Friday, it was beginning to feel as though he was living up to the name of his dam, Checkered Past. Having won the GIII Robert B. Lewis S. by 15 lengths in 2022, he had to switch barns to overcome his trainer’s prohibition from Churchill but disappointed in the GI Kentucky Derby and this time last year seemed to have lost the thread sufficiently to be offered at Keeneland’s HRA Sale in April. But he stalled at $475,000 and his powerful ownership group have instead made two further trainer switches, latterly to Rick Dutrow Jr.

Messier | Susie Raisher

The man who achieved such a remarkable rejuvenation in White Abarrio (Race Day) appeared to have begun that process with Messier in an Aqueduct stakes in March, only to see him relegated for interference. In the Westchester, however, Messier held off thriving GII Carter H. winner Post Time (Frosted) and, having posted some big numbers in the process, he may now join White Abarrio in the GI Met Mile.

Messier represents a fifth generation of breeding by Sam-Son, the iconic Canadian farm that accumulated 84 Sovereign Awards, 14 Grade I winners and four Eclipse Awards under Ernie Samuel and his heirs. Its disbandment, poignant as it was, allowed other breeders to tap into a special legacy. A case in point was Silesia Farm, whose advisers Hunter Simms and Kitty Day of Warrendale were drawn to Checkered Past at the 2021 Keeneland January Sale, not least because her son from the penultimate crop of Empire Maker had been sold for $470,000 in the same ring the previous September.

Their clients covered a $290,000 play in one hit when selling the Candy Ride (Arg) filly Checkered Past was carrying that day as a Saratoga yearling for $500,000. The Candy Ride filly has yet to break her maiden in five attempts but is another whose connections will be enthused by Messier’s revival. Even as it is, Checkered Past is out of an unraced sister to Catch the Thrill, a top 2-year-old filly in Canada and herself daughter of a domestic champion in Catch the Ring. The next dam Radiant Ring was 2003 Canadian Broodmare of the Year, responsible overall for eight stakes performers and/or producers. And she, to continue a theme, was by none other than Halo.


Gun Firing on Both Barrels

He just missed out on the big one, but it was still another monster Saturday for Gun Runner. By this stage we’re all running out of things to say about the Three Chimneys top gun, but it’s kind of fun that his latest Grade I double, courtesy of Vahva and Gun Pilot, conforms to the profile most of us had in mind when he started out. For here are a pair of 4-year-olds, duly reaching fresh peaks with maturity.

Gun Pilot | Coady Media

And we have to remind ourselves that these guys are from only his second crop. If it’s still Into Mischief who sets standards, among the many different indices where he again leads the field this year is by sheer volume: the perennial champion has already fielded over 300 starters in 2024, nearly double Gun Runner’s 161. From these, both have three Grade I scorers already.

His own fee having obviously gone through the roof, Gun Runner has seen his debut crop generate frantic competition for the status of value alternative, with Cyberknife, Gunite, Taiba and Pappacap now again having to deal with Early Voting after his early hitch.

The homebred Gun Pilot will be a particular joy to the Three Chimneys team, his unraced dam Bush Pilot having been picked out as an eligible partner at $425,000 from the Keeneland November Sale of 2018. It was some weekend for the late damsire, incidentally, daughters of Smart Strike also producing Seize the Gray to win the GII Pat Day Mile on the same card, besides Messier in New York the previous day as noted above.

There may have been contrasting sentiments for the breeders of Vahva, her stakes-winning dam Holiday Soiree having been cashed out for $160,000 at the Keeneland November Sale in 2021, a couple of months after they had sold Vahva as a yearling in the same ring for $280,000. The mare’s then purchasers were presumably happy to sell her on for $300,000 back at the equivalent sale last November, after getting $400,000 for her City of Light filly in September. But kudos to Wimberley Bloodstock for keeping the faith with a mare rising 15, carrying another City of Light foal. Holiday Soiree was herself placed in the GI Distaff back in 2013-and now her daughter has won the same race.

The post Breeding Digest: Different Shades to Derby Photo appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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