Tale of Two Darleys and a Kitten

Before we get to the Darley duo, we have to begin with a nursery story.

Once upon a time, there was a boy (well, a boy in a man’s body) named Ken who had a kitten. As hard as Ken would try to find the kitten a home, no one was willing to take it in. So, Ken decided to keep the kitten and give it a good home. But the kitten grew into a big ferocious cat and had litters upon litters of kittens of its own. Before Ken knew it, he had kittens running all around his house. He sent them out into the world and they scattered across the country. Kittens here, kittens there, kittens everywhere. No one could figure out how to get rid of all these kittens and stop this feline frenzy. Ken and his kittens became such a national phenomenon he found himself making millions of dollars. All the people who had turned down Ken’s kitten years earlier cried. But whenever anyone saw Ken, he had a great big smile on his face. The more the kittens ran amok, the louder Ken’s booming laugh became. His world was now one big kitten’s joy and he and his beloved wife Sarah and their family, and that little unwanted kitten, lived happily ever after.

OK, now let’s turn our attention to the Travers Stakes.

Transparent and Romansh, the two Darley Stable colts who crossed the finish line first and second, respectively, in the Curlin Stakes prior to the former’s disqualification, have not yet earned their stripes. That basically means they have not done quite enough to be fitted for the Godolphin blue, worn by the crème de la crème of Sheikh Mohammed’s equine society.

Both colts are by the greatest horse ever to wear the Darley colors, Bernardini, who somehow avoided being snatched up by Godolphin during his spectacular 3-year-old season of 2006.

Both Transparent and Romansh still are works in progress as they prepare for their biggest test in the Aug. 24 Travers for trainers Kiaran McLaughlin and Tom Albertrani, respectively.

Because they are still progressing and improving with every start, we really have no idea how good they are, but they made their case for a potential upset, or at least a competitive effort, with excellent performances in the 1 1/8-mile Curlin Stakes.

Before we get to the Curlin, mention must be made of their pedigrees, which require close scrutiny due to their unique nature.

Earlier in the year, we wrote about John Nerud’s influence on a number of Kentucky Derby hopefuls, including Kentucky Derby winner Orb. Well, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

In Transparent’s first six generations, there are an amazing 19 horses bred by Nerud at Tartan Farms (counting several duplicate names).

Forgive the number times we use “bred by Nerud,” but here goes. On the sire’s side, Bernardini’s broodmare sire, Quiet American, was bred by Nerud. Quiet American’s sire, Fappiano, and dam, Demure, both were bred by Nerud. Fappiano’s dam, Killaloe, was bred by Nerud. Demure’s sire, Dr. Fager, and dam, Quiet Charm, both were bred by Nerud. Killaloe’s sire, Dr. Fager, and dam, Grand Splendor, both were bred by Nerud.

On the dam’s side, Transparent’s broodmare sire, Unbridled’s Song, is by Unbridled, who was bred by Nerud. Unbridled’s sire, Fappiano, and dam, Gana Facil, both were bred by Nerud. As stated earlier, Fappiano’s dam, Killaloe, was bred by Nerud, which brings us back to Killaloe’s sire and dam, Dr. Fager and Grand Splendor, both bred by Nerud. Gana Facil’s dam, Charedi, was bred by Nerud, and Charedi’s dam, Magic, was bred by Nerud.

Transparent’s second dam is by Ogygian, who was bred by Nerud. Ogygian’s dam, Gonfalon, was bred by Nerud. And Gonfalon’s dam, is Grand Splendor, who as we know by now was bred by Nerud.

It is quite obvious by now that Nerud, at age 100, still is as big an influence on the breed as ever. To expand on that statement, other Travers hopefuls who trace to Nerud-bred horses are Orb (out of an Unbridled mare), Verrazano (whose dam traces to Dr. Fager), Will Take Charge (who is inbred 3x4 to Fappiano), and, of course, Romansh (who is by Bernardini, out of a Quiet American mare).

If you’re a child of the Sixties and are still fixated with the 1967 Woodward Stakes, often-dubbed the Race of the Century, you will be interested to know that the three Hall of Fame titans in that race – Damascus, Buckpasser, and Dr. Fager – all are in the first five generations of Transparent’s pedigree, as are three of the legends of the Seventies, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, and Spectacular Bid.

And now for something a little different. Romansh, as we mentioned, also is by Bernardini, but you would have to look far and wide to find a tail-female pedigree with more odd names and storylines, especially for a Darley-bred..

Romansh’s broodmare sire, Go For Gin, is a Kentucky Derby winner with a top-class pedigree that goes through two of the biggest class and stamina influences in the last 30 years – His Majesty and Stage Door Johnny. But, oh, that tail-female family. We haven’t seen anything quite like this in a while.

Romansh’s second dam is by Slady Castle, an Irish sprinter who wound up standing in New Jersey, where he was Stallion of the Year 11 times. Slady Castle is by Tudor Melody, who was strictly a five-furlong horse, out a mare by Blue Train, who managed to sire an Irish Oaks winner before becoming sterile.

Romansh’s third dam is by Deep Sun. Who, you ask? Well, Deep Sun set a five-furlong track record at now-defunct Cahokia Downs and a four-furlong record at Thistledown. Deep Sun is by Depth Charge. Here is where it gets really strange. Depth Charge, whose claim to fame on the racetrack was a third in the Miles Standish Stakes, is a half-brother to Triple Crown winner Count Fleet and wound up becoming a leading sire of quarter horses and is in the American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame.

Romansh’s fourth dam is by Hy Diamond, who is by Hygro. No, I am not making these names up.

Getting back to the mares, his second dam, C.J.’s Sister, took 26 starts to break her maiden. His third dam, Time Barrier, is a Texas-bred who won one of 15 starts, and his fourth dam, Double Diamond, is an unraced Texas-bred. Fifth dam, Double Orphant, is an unraced filly by Liberty Limited, who pulled up lame in the 1932 Kentucky Derby.

Romansh’s pedigree demonstrates what an inexact science this is. You’ve got the ultimate in class with Bernardini and A.P. Indy and so forth on top combined with more class in Go For Gin through His Majesty and Stage Door Johnny on the bottom. It seems this has connected very well with all that European sprinter’s speed from Slady Castle through his grandsire, the brilliant and classy Tudor Mintsrel. And you can sprinkle in the family of Count Fleet and an Irish Oaks winner. Who knows what to make of that wild tail-female line?

Two of the obscure names we mentioned, Hygro and Liberty Limited, are by well-known French-bred sires Epinard and Sir Gallahad. To continue the oddball tidbits about this pedigree, Epinard and Sir Gallahad faced each other in a match race at Saint-Cloud in 1924, with Sir Gallahad winning by a neck The following year, A.B. Hancock brought Sir Gallahad to the U.S. to stand at his Claiborne Farm and he became a major influence on American breeding.

While Sir Gallahad came here by steamship, Epinard arrived on a luxury liner to compete in a series of three races, called the International Special, a brainchild of August Belmont, Matt Winn, and James Shevlin. Although Epinard finished second in all three races, he still was named champion handicap horse in America in 1924. The story goes that Epinard was returned home and eventually was commandeered by the Germans during the occupation of France and was last seen being used as a cart horse. He died in 1942.

Yes, this drifted way off subject, but the story is too good to pass up, and just further demonstrates the unusual history of this family.

Like Transparent, however, you cannot throw Romansh out of the Travers picture, especially if you’re looking for a price horse for the trifecta who is improving rapidly.

Making only his fourth career start in the Curlin, he stumbled, not once, but twice coming out of the gate, nearly falling to his knees both times, while slamming into the horse on his outside. Although he quickly recovered, he was forced four-to-five-wide going into the first turn and raced wide the rest of way. He then made a big wide move on the turn to pull abreast of the two leaders, finally put them away inside the eighth pole, but was no match for Transparent, who demonstrated an excellent turn of foot to draw clear. But Transparent, who had saved ground most of the way, had come out for his run and took away the path of Proud Strike, who stumbled badly, and that was enough for the stewards to take Transparent down and place him fifth.

It should also be pointed out that Romansh earned a 110 BRIS speed rating for the Curlin, while Transparent earned a 112, the same number as Verrazano earned in his Haskell romp. In his previous start, Transparent captured a one-mile allowance race by 10 3/4 lengths in a sharp 1:35 3/5, earning a strong 117 BRIS rating, higher than anyone in the prospective Travers field. So, from a numbers standpoint, both Darley colts certainly fit with these horses and should relish the mile and a quarter.

And, heck, anyone can win this race. After all, there are no kittens in there.

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