Mating Choices -- Serena's Song

When discussing a Thoroughbred racehorse, it's customary to rattle off a list of its biggest victories. In the case of Serena's Song, that list would fill up my word count for the entire article.  Suffice it to say, few fillies have ever recorded double-digit grade I victories or come close to her on-track earnings of nearly $3.3 million.

I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the great distaffers of recent history and ponder the mating choices made during their broodmare careers.  Serena's Song is a fine first subject; she has multiple runners and has achieved success with divergent sire lines for breeders Robert and Beverly Lewis.  As a daughter of Rahy, Serena's Song also descends from an aptitudinally and physically distinct branch of Nasrullah, making her potential (and actual) matings even more intriguing.

So here we go, in order:

  • 1998 - Serena's Tune (pedigree) by Mr. Prospector:  The cross of modern breeding's most omnipresent influence -- Mr. P -- with daughters of Rahy is an example of the popular breeding pattern where a sire is crossed with mares from his own broodmare sire line. In this case we see Nasrullah 4S x 5D (and there's a third cross at 7D for good measure). We also see a duplication of  Native Dancer/Nasrullah lines in a reverse cross. For Serena's Song's first foal, Mr. P was the obvious choice. He'd been a leading sire for most of the previous two decades and was the undisputed go-to stallion in Thoroughbred breeding. Another son of his sire had already crossed well with Serena's Song's dam (giving us 1991 Golden Rod Stakes (gr. III) winner Vivid Imagination). And perhaps most important, Mr. P was getting old.  Actually, at age 27 when he was bred to Serena's Song, he had reached "old" several years before and was approaching the extremes of age for stallion potency. (In fact, the son of Raise a Native went on to two additional years at stud.)  Serena's Tune won seven of 14 races including black type contests on turf and dirt -- while Mr. Prospector might have been the safe pick, he was also a wise selection.  Sadly, Serena's Tune was euthanized due to laminitis in 2006. Two of her four foals were stakes winners.
  • 1999 - Sophisticat (pedigree) by Storm Cat: This filly marks the first of multiple attempts at this cross and for good reason: it worked darn well. Sophisticat took the Coronation Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot and won or placed in graded/group races in France and Ireland as well. The mating with Storm Cat brought in the same Nasrullah pattern (in the sire's damsire line and in the dam's sire line) but added a new twist: here, Serena's Song's Northern Dancer damsire line was matched with Storm Cat, whose grandsire was Northern Dancer. Sophisticat has two black type horses from three foals of racing age thus far.
  • 2000 - Arbitrate (pedigree) by Deputy Minister:  The first non-stakes-winning offspring of Serena's Song was at least stakes-placed. When the mating that resulted in Arbitrate occurred, Deputy Minister was the reigning top sire in the U.S., a position he'd held for two years. Again, this stallion selection wasn't much of a leap for Serena's Song -- it followed the age-old reasoning that "sending the best to the best" was the best way to breed Thoroughbreds. Had Arbitrate taken a few stakes races, he likely would have been a reasonable stallion prospect for a regional program in the U.S.  As it is, he's standing in Mexico where his bloodlines are enough to take the chance on him.
  • 2001 - Grand Reward (SRO) by Storm Cat: Arguably the best of the five full siblings (a sixth is not yet of racing age), Grand Reward won only a single grade II contest in the U.S., but he placed in four group contests in England and Ireland to retire from the track with a career bankroll topping a half-million dollars. Grand Reward was conceived when Sophisticat was just a yearling, but the element of risk was minimized:  Storm Cat had just spent the past two years as leading sire in America. He was also at the beginning of a three-year stretch that saw his stud fee rise $100,000 each year
  • 2002 - Harlington (SRO) by Unbridled: It was lucky timing that Serena's Song went to Unbridled's court in 2001 -- the son of Fappiano was only 14 but would die later in the year. By this time, Serena's Tune had been an impressive juvenile winner and had already won the first of her stakes races. It was a good choice to send Serena's Song to a son or grandson of Mr. Prospector, and Unbridled was one of the best Mr. Prospector-line stallions standing. In addition to Mr. P's pedigree influences, Unbridled contributed a sex-balanced cross to Wild Risk (FR) to the mating, an influence that probably contributed to Harlington's fairly lengthy 8.75-furlong average winning distance.
  • 2003 and 2004 - Pure Symmetry (pedigree) and Colourful Score (pedigree) by Storm Cat: Here's proof that the same mating doesn't always produce comparable results. Pure Symmetry could only mange two third-place finishes in a short juvenile campaign, and full brother Colourful Score didn't finish in the money in either of his 2-year-old starts.
  • 2005 - Spark Candle (pedigree) by A.P. Indy (SRO):  The ridgling Spark Candle completed Serena's Song's own version of the "Big Three" -- she had then produced foals from the Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector, and Seattle Slew sire lines.  Spark Candle was sold as a yearling to Japan and still races there; his only win to date came as a juvenile.  A.P. Indy was yet another stallion whose broodmare sire line descended from Rahy's great-grandsire Nasrullah.  And yet again, Serena's Song was sent to the reigning leading sire in America.
  • 2006 - Schramsberg (pedigree) by Storm Cat:  Unraced.  Bred before Pure Symmetry and Colourful Score proved that Storm Cat/Serena's Song wasn't going to have quite the hit rate as, say, Danehill/Hasili.
  • 2008 - Unnamed Colt by -- you guessed it! -- Storm Cat:  The good news is that Serena's Song took a year off and had some time for physical renewal. Perhaps a newly reinvigorated mare will help this now-yearling colt rise to the level of his eldest full siblings.
  • 2009 - Unnamed filly by Unbridled's Song (SRO):  It's one step further removed from Mr. Prospector, but the next logical mate from this sire line was Unbridled's Song.  No real notable differences in the five-cross pedigree for this foal versus Harlington.  As a filly, this could be the first Serena's Song foal in a while to avoid the Keeneland September sale ring (all male foals other than Grand Reward have been offered there).

With all that black type from her early foals, it's hard to fault Serena's Song's produce record.  I might say the stallion choices were somewhat uncreative -- or perhaps it would be fairer to say they were "obvious" in that they were all cases of picking leading sires and top stud fees -- but this mare deserved no less than the best.  I would like to have seen a couple of those Storm Cat matings mixed up a bit by instead going to other sire lines, however. 

Dynaformer (SRO) would be a great choice and wouldn't sacrifice the M.O. of always visiting top sires. The hypothetical mating with Dynaformer is especially interesting because his sire (Roberto) and Serena's Song's sire (Rahy) were bred on a reverse Hail to Reason/Nasrullah cross.  Other interesting choices would be Singspiel (IRE) (SRO) (giving a 2S x 3D cross to Glorious Song), a cross likely to produce a European-style classic horse, or Giant's Causeway (SRO), whose broodmare sire is Rahy and who I've always thought would be a better conformation match for Serena's Song than his own sire (Storm Cat) was.


Leave a Comment:


One point you have missed is that a mare like Serena's Song needs to be bred with the idea of producing a stallion prospect. Dynaformer is a great option but he has no viable sons at stud as of yet. And as for Giant's Causeway, why would you want to risk a multi-millionaire dollar mare and a $100,000+ stud fee for a foal that would be inbred 3 x 2 to Rahy?

05 Jun 2009 2:36 PM

Is she bred back for 2010?  Who to?  I agree that Dynaformer would be an interesting choice for her.  

05 Jun 2009 2:53 PM

Sometimes it really irks me that really good racemares always end up visiting the "obvious" sires, even when their produce records don't show much. Are you really lowering the value of a mare by breeding her to a stallion whose genetic makeup and phenotype matches her but isn't as commercial? I like seeing full siblings to a successful racehorse, but I wouldn't want a mare's produce record to be so...lacking.

(I say this and my favorite horse of all time is Man O'War, whose dam was famously called "Fair Play's wife", since he was the only stallion she was bred to)

05 Jun 2009 3:09 PM
Mike S

TIZNOW...all the way!

05 Jun 2009 3:24 PM

What about hot sire Madeglia D'oro?

He is on a roll?

Scot's reply:  Not only on a roll -- but on a horse van shipping out to Darley....

05 Jun 2009 3:32 PM
Pedigree Shelly

       What about Big Brown ? I'm busy now but , I'll do more research on that choice ..

05 Jun 2009 3:53 PM

I would cross her with Distorted Humor which would give the foal a nice balance of speed and stanima.  Additionally, as a stallion he is currently ranked second in the nation.

05 Jun 2009 4:31 PM
just wondering

I'd send her to Smart Strike.

05 Jun 2009 4:33 PM
Pedigree Shelly

        I did some research on the cross of Big Brown /Serena's Song ,this is what I found...


  Northern Dancer-4sX4sX4d



Natalma -5sX5sX5d  with a dosage profile of 6 3 13 0 0  and a DI of 2.38 with a CD of 0.68 . I know there is alot of inbreeding there but,she's had success with Storm Cat who is from the Northern Dancer line. What do you think Scot ??

  • Scot's reply:  Well, it would be the first time since Unbridled she'd visited a stallion that made more than her on the track.... 
05 Jun 2009 4:40 PM

I thought I had seen somewhere that Serena was bred to Street Cry for 2010. Perhaps I am mistaken...

05 Jun 2009 4:50 PM
Fast Lady

Although I doubt they would ever go for this, because Serena's Song is such a high class mare, I would personally like to see her bred to Mingun.

That would be a very strong female family, with Miesque as a grandparent. She has only been bred to A.P. Indy once, correct?

He may not have won a whole lot, but his pedigree speaks for him. It usually never works out with mares being an excellent racehorse and a producer, so I don't think they have a whole lot to lose.

05 Jun 2009 5:26 PM
Pedigree Shelly

        My second choice would be Pulpit ! His Multiple graded stakes winning daughter Rutherienne was produced by a daughter of Rahy !

05 Jun 2009 5:41 PM

Did some playing with True Nicks for what it is worth.  She rates an A++ with Dynaformer, A+ with Big Brown, and an A with Medaglia d'Oro.  She does not appear to be a good nick with many of the "popular" stallions of today.  It might be worth going one of the above to try and see if there is a good nick.

05 Jun 2009 6:25 PM

Another interesting nick could be Point Given.  He rates an A++.  Just a thought.  She really does not nick too well with most of the "stylish" stallions of today through True Nicks.

05 Jun 2009 7:12 PM

Candy Ride should in all probability nick with Serena's Song using Serena's Tune and Harlington as indicators from the Raise A Native line through son Mr Prospector and grandson Fappiano respectively.  Also a 5 x 4 Blushing Groom cross through Candy Stripes on top and Rahy on the bottom should be highly potent in that offspring.  Candy Ride is throwing winners.

05 Jun 2009 8:00 PM

Medaglia D'Oro would be a great choice - not only ND but Damascus and Sir Ivor in his pedigree

05 Jun 2009 8:12 PM
Kerby Chua

I would want to see Serena's Song bred to either Awesome Again or Street Cry...

The Awesome Again x Serena's Song mating would yield a reverse parallel of Northern Dancer 4Sx4D/Blushing groom 3Sx3D. You can see Blushing Groom's 3x3 linebreeding coming from the x and y.

While the Street Cry x Serena's Song mating would produce a 5x5 Native Dancer, 4x4 Halo and 5x5 Rasmussen Factor linebreeding to the great mare Natalma.  

05 Jun 2009 9:39 PM

At this point in her produce career (mediocre when compared to her phenotype) I'd probably attempt some creative linebreeding. From the very beginning of her broodmare career, nothing ever stood out as great mates for her-and she's not all that well bred. Pat's Irish and good genes from Rahy did, perhaps, contribute in large part to her phenotypic excellence, as well as the linebreeding to Tudor Minstrel through two good sources. At this point I'd like to load her up with the "right" Tom Fool and Lady Josephine sources. Nothing much today stands out in this regard, but I'd probably opt for El Prado or Pivotal.  

05 Jun 2009 9:50 PM

It's a shame there's not a good stallion with Habitat in his pedigree State-side, because her pedigree is built around inbreeding to that family being out of a Northfields mare who is out of a Dancer's Image mare.

Habitat would provide more of that family with a possible RF to his dam Little Hut, via his half-brother Northfields.

Her daughters are worth their weight in gold with every single one with horses of racing age producing blacktype.

With that in mind, and with two of her sons already at stud in the US, I'd shoot for a future broodmare and send her to strong broodmare sires.

Dynaformer is a logical go-to that would provide a pedigree almost completely free of any of the major sirelines. A daughter would be worth her weight in genetic gold.

IF the comment of her being bred to Street Cry is correct, that's an inspired mating in my opinion. Not only do you have Halo inbreeding, but you also have an RF to Natalma, that is reenforced with the 5x5 RF Serena's Song already has to Almahmoud, the dam of Natalma and the 2nd dam of Halo. Concentrations of Almahmoud blood is never a bad thing in my book.

An interesting and more left field cross would be with Cherokee Run. Blushing Groom inbreeding has shown some very real success and she also brings in another line of Nasrullah that Cherokee Run usually finds in his better runners.

Ghostzapper is another who brings in Blushing Groom as well as more Northern Dancer, which one could argue are two of the main influences in her pedigree. If his juveniles show talent, he'd be an option on my list. She's certainly sound enough to offset any of his physical issues.

And just as a hail Mary, I'd love to see her go to Yes It's True. Her biggest physical drawback is her size and lack of leg underneath her, and he throws size and substance, as well as versatile speed, which has worked well for her in mates. I also love the Nasrullah and Nearctic additions. If the foal took after what it should on paper, it would be very much like the dam in aptitude, a very fast horse who could command the pace and stretch it out on absolute class.

05 Jun 2009 10:11 PM
serena's song

I have heard also that she is going to Street Cry as well.  I like Dynaformer for her as well.  Enjoyed reading this article very much!

05 Jun 2009 10:48 PM

How about Hat Trick? He is pretty much a total outcross, something that hasn't been tried with her. He's by Sunday Silence out of a Damascus granddaughter and he was no slouch on the track, winning over $3-million. I think a lot of potentially great stallions get overlooked as everyone goes for the popular ones.

06 Jun 2009 12:44 AM
Craig Bandoroff

As the person responsible for helping arrange these matings first with Mr. Lewis and now with his son, Jeff, and Mrs. Lewis I thought I'd chime in.  So here goes:

Serena as you probably know is not the biggest mare in the world so we have always tried to breed her to stallions that will give her offspring size and leg.  That is the reason we have not tried Distorted Humour for example.  Dynaformer is an excellent idea.

She has admittedly been to Storm Cat too many times but we kept doing it because we were hoping we would get fillies knowing they would be retained by the Lewises.  Unfortunately she didn't quite cooperate and kept giving us colts!

The one Storm Cat filly that was retained, Pure Symmetry, has had very exciting first two foals and we are very pleased about her potential.

Serena is in foal this year to Street Cry.  Of all her foals the Unbridled Song filly she has by her side now is one of her best.  I'd say we very well may try that again although Jeff, Mrs. Lewis and I have not discussed it yet.

Thank you for including her in your discussions.  We are very proud of her and I'm overwhelmed when I look at her production record.  She is a once in a life time type mare and we have been blessed to have her and play a part in her career as a broodmare. Frankly it's been an honor and I am very grateful the Lewis family entrusted her to us.

Craig Bandoroff

Owner, Denali Stud

06 Jun 2009 8:19 AM
American Dad

The other dominant sire line of the recent past that has not been tapped is that of Danzig.  The Danzig-Rahy cross is strong and many of the sons of Danzig currently at stud could provide the right physical balance for the rather diminutive Serena's Song.  Obvious choices include Langfuhr and War Chant or early career sire Hard Spun.  If she could be shipped, even better options may be available in Europe with Green Desert and his  sons, Cape Cross or Invincible Spirit.

The other direction to go in is to Sadler's Wells line stallions such as El Prado or Galileo in order to get a more classic distance pedigree in the offspring.  

Since so much success in the family has been on the turf and Serena's Song had class plus, it may be time to look outside of the US for the right stallion.  I'm sure the good people at Darley and Coolmore would be happy to have her over to Ireland for a little holiday.

06 Jun 2009 12:17 PM

I think you are all so fortunate to have such a great mare and to have unlimited choices in who to mate her to. I am anxious to see the Street Cry filly! (Yes, I am keeping my fingers crossed for you, it WILL be a filly!) I like that cross.

I still like Hat Trick as a future mate for her, as he is free of both Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer (which will be important in the future, as almost every horse seems to carry Mr. P and/or the Dancer now) and he is a good size. I have never seen him in person, but in his photo he looks wonderful. I know hwe may be less marketable, but for a foal to keep as opposed toone for the sales, I'd consider him.

06 Jun 2009 12:42 PM

What about a Tiznow or Birdstone mating for her? Both stallions are off to a great start and offer both speed and stamina. I think it would be worth a shot.

07 Jun 2009 11:21 AM

In the scheme of things, Serena's Song chosen mate is of little importance. This blog (unlike many others), though, often serves as a tool for education, so in that vein Craig Bandaroff's observations seem worthy of comment.- Craig offers that they have always tried to breed her to stallions that would give her offspring size and leg. A look at those selected finds only three who have fit that criteria: Deputy Minister, Unbridled, and Unbridled's Song. Craig offers that Storm Cat was used so often in the hope of getting fillies that would be retained. Why would a Storm Cat filly (later broodmare) be more worthy of retention than those of other prominent stallions? For one, he wasn't then, or is he now, considered to be an elite broodmare sire (such designations are often questionable, anyway).          

07 Jun 2009 1:24 PM

this is by far my favorite race mare and the people at Denali have been so awesome when i wrote them recently about here.. When she retired many felt she would be a flop, to have the success she has had on the track, at the auctions and then watch her foals excell on the track and now as broodmares and exciting stallions.. I think she has proven what a amazing horse she is..

If i were sitting down to breed Serena my choices would be: North Light.. just an attmpt to take her to the Danehill/Danzig line.. its also an A++ nick.. I would also consider El Prado (iRE), Pulpit, Bernardini. Successful Appeal, Smoke Glacken, and Quiet American..

07 Jun 2009 4:19 PM

At this point in her broodmare career and with a limited number of "Great Stallion" choices here in the States that she hasn't already been to multiple times, I'm actually surprised that they haven't thought about shipping her over seas to Europe to try her with some of the "Best Stallions" that they have to offer.

07 Jun 2009 4:34 PM

The one thing Serena's Song needs is stamina.  Unbridleds Song won't give it to her, nor will Distorted Humor.  As for inbreeding to Rahy....Why not?  I would risk a sesaon to inbreed to this top stallion.  Medaglia d'Oro is another hot pick. Size and stamina in one fantastic package.  I would send her to Lemon Drop Kid.  Pedigree, size, stamina, and a Belmont winner.  Finally, I would send her to Quiet American.  A daughter of his is a gold mine.  

07 Jun 2009 10:29 PM

If I didn't have to get ready for work right now, I would have been going to all the major racing stables on line with a free nick rating option and would have been matching Serena's Song. I love what Rahy has been able to do as a sire and broodmare sire. An old mating method, give a stallion back the best of his dam......

11 Jun 2009 7:27 AM

Dynaformer would be a great choice for her, and then we could hope for a son of his at stud.  I would also like to see a breeding to El Prado or his son Medalia d'Oro. If you are going to consider sons of Mr P, certainly Kingmambo is no loser.

12 Jun 2009 9:00 PM

Steph you stole my thunder,

Mingun was my pick for her

19 Feb 2010 1:10 AM

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