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Blame and the Ladies

Saturday in the U.S. saw a potential star among the older horse ranks gain his first grade I, and a slew of events for older fillies. An in-form Rachel Alexandra might have tackled males in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I), but she side-stepped that one, and instead the race confirmed Blame as one of the best of his division.

Blame gained his first black type win at three last year in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga. He wasn’t able to peg back Regal Ransom (a Pedigree Consultants mating) in the Super Derby (gr. II), but he then defeated talented older horses Parading and Wicked Style to take the Fayette Handicap (gr. II) at Keeneland. At that point, Blame’s career path was oddly similar to that of his sire, Arch (TrueNicks,SRO). He won five straight, four at three, culminating with wins in the Super Derby (gr. I) and Fayette Handicap (gr. III), in which he defeated older horses, among them Touch Gold (TrueNicks,SRO). He came back four weeks later to finish unplaced in what we’d have to say was probably the strongest ever renewal of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) – Awesome Again (TrueNicks,SRO) won from Silver Charm, Swain, Victory Gallop, Coronado’s Quest, Skip Away, Running Stag, Touch Gold, Arch and Gentlemen – and never ran again. Blame’s connections elected to end his three-year-old campaign in the Clark Handicap (gr. II), which he won. He opened this year with a win in the William Donald Schaefer Stakes (gr. III), and so he’s now won four straight.

One thing for certain is that Blame has the pedigree to make him a very interesting stallion prospect. From the Roberto line, he’s out of the stakes-placed Seeking the Gold mare Liable. Rated (TrueNicks A), he is bred on the same cross as the ill-fated Arch filly Pine Island. His dam is a three-parts-sister to grade I winner Archipenko, but more importantly is out of Bound, a stakes-winning three-parts-sister to Nureyev, and a very close relative to Sadler’s Wells and Fairy King.

Meanwhile, those two distaff giants – Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta – did compete on the weekend, albeit at different tracks and on different days. In the Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II) on the Stephen Foster undercard, Rachel Alexandra (TrueNicks A+) defeated her overmatched opponents by 10 ½ lengths, in a time around 0.5 seconds outside the stakes record. This was the second successive Saturday that her sire, Medaglia d'Oro (TrueNicks,SRO) had a daughter capture a major stakes, his three-year-old, Champagne d’Oro, upsetting the Acorn Stakes (gr. I) last weekend.

Compared to Rachel Alexandra’s race, Zenyatta’s task in trying to secure a third consecutive win in the Vanity Handicap (gr. I) looked a lot tougher on paper, as she was set to carry 129 lbs, conceding between nine and 17 lbs to her rivals. The task proved to be a testing one, and it was only in the last 50 yards or so that she headed St. Trinians (by the European-based In Reality line horse, Piccolo), herself good enough to defeat Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I) heroine Life is Sweet in the Santa Maria Handicap (gr. III). The daughter of Street Cry (IRE) (TrueNicks,SRO) (rated A+) has now won 17 straight.

An odd quirk in scheduling meant that there were plenty of other opportunities for older fillies and mares to gain valuable black type without facing either of the Queens of the division. At Belmont Park, Malibu Moon (TrueNicks,SRO) daughters took first and third in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I), with the winner, Life At Ten, taking her first grade I win, and previous grade I winner Funny Moon in third. Life At Ten, who is out of a mare by Rahy, is TrueNicks rated A despite being bred on the A.P. Indy/Seattle Slew over Blushing Groom cross which has not been a very prolific one. However, Malibu Moon has two graded stakes winners on the cross, perhaps influenced by the presence of well-known Blushing Groom affinity Nijinsky II in his dam. One of the other two graded winners on the cross is grade I winner Rutherienne, who is out of a Rahy mare, and by Pulpit (TrueNicks,SRO), whose dam, like the dam of Malibu Moon, has Mr. Prospector and Nijinsky II. Life At Ten’s granddam, Saratoga Ten, is by Saratoga Six, so Life At Ten also has Mr. Prospector/Alydar (as does Funny Moon). This is the immediate family of Relaunch, which also means that Life At Ten has the same sire and dam line as Tapit (TrueNicks,SRO).

Malibu Moon had another weekend stakes winner in Baltimore Bob, who took the Henry S. Clark Stakes. He is TrueNicks A+ and out of a mare by Perkin Warbeck (by Vaguely Noble). He’s also line bred to Nijinsky II and Swaps (grandsires of Malibu Moon’s granddam, Maximova), with the Nijinsky II through three-quarters relatives Green Dancer and Hostage. We think that Malibu Moon really does throw strongly to the distaff side of his pedigree.

The other middle-distance race for older mares, the Obeah Stakes (gr. III) saw a first stakes victory for Miss Singhsix (TrueNicks A+). A daughter of Singspiel, Miss Singhsix is out of a mare by Miswaki, and so is one of at least 15 stakes winners, eight graded, by Singspiel out of Mr. Prospctor line mares. Four of them are out of mares descending via Woodman, who, like Miswaki, is a Mr. Prospector/Buckpasser cross. Although bred in Ireland, Miss Singhsix is out of a half sister to Malibu Stakes (gr. II) winner Star of the Crop, and her third dam is the West Coast star Convenience.

We mentioned Life At Ten as an A.P. Indy line stakes winner with a good version of a low-percentage nick, and Rail Trip, who emphasized his standing as top older horse in California with a 2¾ lengths win over Sangaree (Awesome Again half brother to Congaree (TrueNicks,SRO)) in the Californian Stakes (gr. II) is a variation on the theme. He’s one of only two stakes winners by an A.P. Indy line sire out of a mare by Carson City. The two stallions responsible are Rail Trip’s sire, Jump Start (by some way the dominant sire in Pennsylvania) and Sky Mesa (TrueNicks,SRO) (sire of graded winner Beethoven on the cross). Both Jump Start and Sky Mesa are out of mares by Storm Cat (giving Storm Bird with Nijinsky II, the sire of the granddam of Carson City), and both give line breeding to Mr. Prospector when crossed over Carson City.

Still on the Carson City track, that horse’s son City Zip (TrueNicks,SRO) had a weekend graded double. His Gleam of Hope (TrueNicks A++) captured the Jefferson Cup (gr. II) for three-year-olds at Churchill Downs. He is one of four stakes winners by Carson City or a son out of a mare by Vice Regent, and comes from a European family. The other half of the double was completed by the New York-bred six-year-old gelding Get Serious in the Monmouth Stakes (gr. III) at Monmouth Park. He is TrueNicks rated B+ and is out of the Java Gold mare Java Gal, and line bred to Nijinsky II (as well as going back to Nijinsky II’s family in direct female line). That double takes City Zip’s score of stakes winners in 2010 to eight, five graded, and he’s currently eighth on the Leading Sire list. We’d have to admit a little bit of a soft spot for the sire, having advised Gus Schoenborn, Jr. in the initial syndication, promotion, and selection of mares for City Zip when he retired to Schoenborn’s Contemporary Stallions, prior to his move to Kentucky.

Actually, doubles were the order of the day, or at least the weekend. Elusive Quality (TrueNicks,SRO) had one through Canadian Oaks victress Roan Inish (TrueNicks A++) and Starfish Bay (TrueNicks A++), who won the Candy Eclair Stakes. Roan Inish is out of a mare by Regal Classic, so bred on the successful Elusive Quality/Vice Regent cross, although this is more usually seen via Deputy Minister. In tail-female line she goes back to a sister to European great Vaguely Noble (who defeated Sir Ivor, the sire of Elusive Quality’s second dam, for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe). Starfish Bay is one of two stakes winners from three starters by Elusive Quality out of a mare by Not For Love. Elusive Quality is by a son of Mr. Prospector, out of a mare by Hero’s Honor, by Northern Dancer out of a granddaughter of Searching. Not For Love is by Mr. Prospector out of a mare by Northern Dancer, and his granddam is by Buckpasser (dam, three-parts-sister to Searching), out of a great-granddaughter of Striking (three-parts-sister to Searching).

Another double act was that achieved by More Than Ready (TrueNicks,SRO). His three-year-old daughter Caminadora (TrueNicks A) sprang something of a surprise in the Regret Stakes (gr. III). She is out of a mare by Storm Boot (third stakes winner by More Than Ready out of a Storm Cat line mare), with a second dam by Kingmambo (TrueNicks,SRO) and has Mr. Prospector 4 x 4 x 4. On the West Coast, two-year-old colt Road Ready (TrueNicks A++) took the Lost in the Fog Stakes at Golden Gate Fields. He is out of Eishin Bridle, an Unbridled three-parts-sister to Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) winner Buddha. More Than Ready has already sired Australian graded winners Brightexpectations and Colour out of mares by Unbridled's Song (TrueNicks,SRO), so this looks like a cross to watch.

A handful of other pedigrees worth a mention….Big Red Mike (TrueNicks A++), by the useful Smart Strike (TrueNicks,SRO) horse Tenpins, won the Queens Plate Trial in Canada. The sire is inbred 4 x 3 to Nodouble and out of a mare by Deputy Minister (by Vice Regent). Big Red Mike’s dam is by Vice Regent, so he has that horse 4 x 2, and this is an “inbreeding to the horse between the inbreeding pattern.” Recommended mating Pica Slew skated up in the Leave Me Alone Stakes at Calder. She is from the first crop of Pico Central (by Spend a Buck) out of a mare by Seattle Slew, with a lot of La Troienne in the background. Pica Slew will point towards the Azalea Stakes (gr. III). Last year the Leave Me Alone and Azalea were won by Pedigree Consultants recommended mating First Passage, who returned to Calder this weekend to add the U Can Do It Stakes. She is TrueNicks rated A, and is by Giant's Causeway (TrueNicks,SRO) out of a mare by Dehere, and inbred to the Northern Dancer/Secretariat cross.

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