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Luck & Devil Shaping Up for Alabama Decider

We’ve mentioned before that it’s not exactly clear what constitutes the Filly Triple Crown. The Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), Acorn Stakes (gr. I), Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I), and Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) would seem to be the primary candidates, which might place the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) as a filly counterpart to the Travers Stakes (gr. I).

It certainly might fulfill a championship-deciding function this year if Blind Luck, who took the Kentucky Oaks as well as the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. II), Fantasy Stakes (gr. II), and Delaware Oaks (gr. I), squares off against Devil May Care (TrueNicks A++), who has staked her claim for divisional leadership with wins in the Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II), Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) and, this weekend, the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I).

Devil May Care is from the third Kentucky crop sired by Malibu Moon (TrueNicks,SRO), who we mentioned last week as running riot with his fillies and mares this year (as well as colt classic trial winner Odysseus). Bred – on a Pedigree Consultants recommended mating – by Diamond A Farms, Devil May Care is a half sister to last year’s Super Derby (gr. II) and UAE Derby (gr. II) winner Regal Ransom. Malibu Moon was a mating with obvious appeal here. The dam is three-parts-sister to Pico Teneriffe (both are by Red Ransom), a graded stakes winner who produced multiple Canadian Champion Marchfield to Malibu Moon’s sire, A.P. Indy (TrueNicks,SRO), and is half sister to graded-winning and grade I-placed Minister Eric (by another son of A.P. Indy, Old Trieste). The mating was also attractive in that it gave inbreeding to the Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer cross. It’s been suggested that inbreeding to Mr. Prospector is not a good direction to go with Malibu Moon, but inbreeding to the Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer cross (where the dam is, or carries, an individual from the Mr. Prospector sire line out of a mare from the Northern Dancer) is found in at least six of Malibu Moon’s stakes winners, including Devil May Care, Champion Declan’s Moon, and Odysseus. As far as those who have the cross with both Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer in the first four generations, there are five stakes winners from 26 starters (19% stakes winners to starters), which needless to say is significantly in advance of his overall strike rate.

Not too far behind the big two in ability is Evening Jewel (TrueNicks A++). She ran a good second to Blind Luck in the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), sandwiching a win in the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) between those two efforts. Since the Kentucky Oaks, she’s gone on to add the Honeymoon Handicap (gr. II) and on the most recent weekend, the San Clemente Handicap (gr. II).

Evening Jewel is from the first “post Afleet Alex” crop sired by Northern Afleet (TrueNicks,SRO) , a crop that also includes the Alcibiades (gr. I) winner Negligee and Aegean, who took the Kentucky Juvenile Stakes (gr. III). Evening Jewel’s dam, Jewel of the Night, is bred very similarly to Eskendereya, as she’s not only by Giant's Causeway (TrueNicks,SRO) (whose generation two influence is rapidly increasing) but also out of a mare by General Meeting, a son of Seattle Slew out of an Alydar mare, so the same cross as the dam of Eskendereya. This is a good Mabee family, the granddam, Jeweled Lady – who produced stakes-winning and grade I-placed Saucey Evening to More Than Ready (TrueNicks,SRO) – is a sister to the multiple grade I winner General Challenge and stakes winner Western Hemisphere, and three-parts-sister to grade I winner Notable Career. The third dam, is out of Northern Dancer’s graded-winning daughter Northern Sea, and is half sister to Southern Halo (the sire of More Than Ready).

Evening Jewel is the second stakes winner by Northern Afleet out of a Storm Cat line mare, and his emerging second crop son Afleet Alex (TrueNicks,SRO) already has stakes winners out of mares by Storm Cat and his sire, Storm Bird (grade I winner Dublin), and two stakes-placed horses out of mares by sons of Storm Cat.

Northern Afleet is out of a mare by Nureyev, and a son of that stallion, Unusual Heat, is one of the more surprising stallion success stories of recent times. Virtually unheard of a few years ago, Unusual Heat has emerged by one measure (Bill Oppenheim’s APEX ‘A’ Runner rating) as one of the top sires in the world. In fact Oppenheim described him as “practically one of the top five sires in the country in the last five years…” and last time we looked at the “Top Sires by A Runner Index, for 2003-2009” we found Unusual Heat in third, just behind A.P. Indy and Galileo, and just above Sadler’s Wells, Monsun, and Storm Cat. While there’s no doubt Unusual Heat has benefitted from his runners competing in the lucrative restricted Cal-bred program, there is also no doubt that he’s a very serious sire.

Unusual Heat is also a horse with a pretty international background. His sire Nureyev is by Canadian-bred Northern Dancer out of a mare by Argentine-foaled Forli, and his dam, Rossard, was born in Denmark. Scandinavian horses have not made much impact on the world scene, but Rossard was something different. The daughter of Glacial (by the Boussac-bred Pardal) became a legend in Scandinavia, ranking as the finest distaffer ever to race in the region. Winner of five classic events, including both the Swedish and Danish Derby, Rossard subsequently proved she was of the highest international quality when brought to the U.S., where she captured the Flower Bowl Handicap (gr. I).

Unusual Heat wasn’t as talented as his sire or dam, but was a useful miler in Ireland, where he won the Amethyst, Glencairn, and Platinum Stakes. Transferred to the U.S., Unusual Heat won an allowance race at Santa Anita first time out. He didn’t score again until his fourth U.S. outing where he was claimed for $80,000 in a winning effort at Hollywood Park. He race just twice more, adding another Hollywood Park claimer, before retiring to stud.

Initially used as virtually a private stallion, Unusual Heat sired just 92 foals in his first four crops, but found immediate success, with black type winners from each of those seasons. Despite never having the opportunity to cover high-class mares – his average earning index is almost twice that of the comparable index of his mates – Unusual Heat has sired 22 black type winners from 309 starters (7% a very creditable effort given his mares). Eight of these are graded winners, and three grade I. His most recent scorer at that level is The Usual Q. T. He won six straight at the end of last year, including the Oak Tree Derby (gr. II), Hollywood Derby (gr. I), and Sir Beaufort Stakes (gr. II). This year he was off-the-board in the Sunshine Millions Classic, then fourth in the Dubai Duty Free (gr. I). However, he’s been back to winning ways in his last two starts, a Hollywood Park allowance, and on the weekend, the Eddie Read Stakes (gr. I). The Usual Q. T. doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of a female line, but does have a very interesting pedigree. In addition to being by a son of Nureyev, he is out of a mare by Western Fame, a Gone West horse whose dam is by Topsider. Nureyev and Topsider are both by Northern Dancer, and Nureyev’s granddam, Thong, is a three-parts-sister to Zonah, the granddam of Topsider. For good measure, the second dam of The Usual Q. T. is by Golden Act, who brings in Ridan, a brother to Thong, and three-parts-brother to Zonah.

We started off with U.S. filly ‘classics’ but the weekend also brought the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales Stakes. This was won by Golden Moka (TrueNicks A+) who is bred on a proven formula, a he is by Golden Missile (a son of A.P. Indy who is now in New York), out of a mare by Seeking the Gold, a horse who has been an excellent foil for A.P. Indy. There is no other black type in the first two dams, but the granddam is a half sister to Arazi and Noverre, from the Fabuleux Jane/Native Partner family.

The tempo of the two-year-old action is stepping up, and in the Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III), Le Mi Geaux (TrueNicks rated A++), tallied to give her sire, First Samurai (TrueNicks,SRO), honors as the first of the freshman to be represented by a graded scorer. First Samurai is the third son of Giant's Causeway (TrueNicks,SRO) to be represented by a first crop group or graded winner following Shamardal (TrueNicks,SRO) (already a classic sire in Europe and Australia) and Footstepsinthesand (five stakes winners, two group, in Europe), who are both second year sires. Le Mi Geaux (dam by Cryptoclearance), who should get a mile without a problem, is one of two stakes winners from three starters by Giant’s Causeway or a son out of a Cryptoclearance line mare. In this particular case the mating gives inbreeding to Fappiano, sire of the granddam of First Samurai, and also of Cryptoclearance.

Also at Saratoga, the Sanford Stakes (gr. II) was won by Maybesomaybenot (TrueNicks A++), who is from the fourth crop of Forty Niner horse Sunday Break, who was exported to France after making a rather disappointing start to his U.S. stud career. The sire won the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) and placed in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), so Maybesomaybenot maybe won’t be limited to sprints, although there is a fair bit of speed in the distaff side of the pedigree. Interesting to note that Maybesomaybenot is by a stallion who is out of a Storm Cat mare, and his dam is by Olympio. Both Olympio and fellow Naskra son Star de Naskra are bred on a parallel cross to Storm Cat's dam, and there are at least 12 stakes winners with Storm Bird in the sire and either Olympio or Star de Naskra in the dam.

Storm Cat also turns up the pedigree of the Tyro Stakes winner Vengeful Wildcat (TrueNicks A++) a son of deceased Champion Two-Year-Old Vindication, out of Wild Snitch – winner of the grade III Sorority Stakes (like the Tyro, also at Monmouth Park), and second in the Matron (gr. I). Wild Snitch is by Forest Wildcat, with second dam by Key to the Mint. This is a more interesting pattern than might be immediately obvious, as Vindication is out of a mare by Strawberry Road, a son of Whiskey Road. In turn, Whiskey Road is by Nijinsky II (genetic relative to Storm Bird, the grandsire of Forest Wildcat), out of Bowl of Flowers (half sister to Graustark, whose son Key to the Mint is sire of the second dam of Vengeful Wildcat).

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