Congrats on the Freshman Title?

Congrats, photo by Louise Reinagel

With the impressive victory of his daughter Turbulent Descent in the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (gr. I), Congrats (TrueNicks,SRO) may well have sewn up the 2010 freshman sire’s race. The winner’s purse of $245,550 propelled him into what may well be an uncatchable lead over Bluegrass Cat (TrueNicks,SRO) (out of a mare by Congrats’s sire A.P. Indy (TrueNicks,SRO)) and fellow A.P. Indy son Bernardini (TrueNicks,SRO).

Like several other recent leading freshmen, among them Successful Appeal (TrueNicks,SRO), Valid Expectations (TrueNicks,SRO), and End Sweep, Congrats began his stud career in Florida (although he’s moved to Vinery Kentucky for 2011, and not surprisingly has been subject to a flood of applications at his announced fee of $15,000). Unlike his most recent Florida counterparts, who all had obvious potential as sires of fast, precious horses, Congrats was a middle-distance horse who reached his peak at five.

Congrats was actually forward enough to win at Saratoga in two starts as a juvenile. At three, he recorded three allowance victories in seven starts, and earned his first black type with a third to Strong Hope (TrueNicks,SRO) and Empire Maker in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II). Six starts at four saw Congrats develop into a stakes winner, achieving that feat with a win over Perfect Drift in the Alysheba Stakes. It was at five, however, that he really showed his mettle, winning the San Pasqual Handicap (gr. II) by 5½ lengths; taking second to Rock Hard Ten (TrueNicks,SRO) in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), with Saint Liam, Borrego, Grand Reward (TrueNicks,SRO), Imperialism (TrueNicks,SRO), and Island Fashion among those in arrears; second in the Ack Ack Handicap; and third in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) and San Antonio Handicap (gr. II). Congrats remained in training at six, but four starts yielded only one placing, a second in the Memorial Day Handicap (gr. III).

Retired to stand in Florida at a fee of $12,500, Congrats may not have been typical of the usual Ocala draft picks–whose aptitude is almost always slanted to the fast and precocious end of scale–but he certainly owned the credentials for upside. In addition to a very respectable race record, he is out of a Mr. Prospector mare, so is bred on an identical cross to A.P. Indy stallion sons Pulpit (TrueNicks,SRO), Malibu Moon (TrueNicks,SRO), and Mineshaft (TrueNicks,SRO), and he’s also a brother to Flatter (TrueNicks,SRO). A winner four times in six starts, Flatter’s best achievement was a third in the Washington Park Handicap (gr. II). Retired to Claiborne, Flatter has never stood for more than $5,000 (although he will be at $7,500 in 2011), but with his oldest runners just five, has sired 15 stakes winners, including the U.S. graded scorers Apart, Tar Heel Mom, Mad Flatter, and Jack o’ Lantern. Praise, the dam of Congrats and Flatter, is half sister to grade I winner Eastern Echo, and graded winners Yell, Roar, and Blare of Trumpets. Her dam, Wild Applause, a graded stakes winning daughter of Northern Dancer, is a half sister to Kentucky Derby (gr. I) victor Sea Hero (TrueNicks), and from the Searching branch of the La Troienne family.

Given this background, it’s not particularly shocking that Congrats might come up with a good runner, although as we’ve said, it was less predictable that it would happen so quickly. However, he registered his first U.S. graded winner when the filly Wickedly Perfect took the Sorrento Stakes (gr. III) in August (having been preceded early in the month by Puerto Rican graded scorer Check My Cheeks), and his first grade I when the same runner captured the Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) in October. What’s really intriguing, however, is that Congrats is also leading freshman sire by individual winners (24) and by stakes horses, with ten (that’s ten two-year-old stakes horses from 58 starters, or more than 17% of his runners). Two of those stakes-placed horses have earned those credentials in grade I events: Jordy Y, finishing third to Wickedly Perfect in the Alcibiades, and I’m Steppin’ It Up finishing third in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I).

Turbulent Descent is the third foal and third winner for her dam, the unraced Forestry (TrueNicks,SRO) mare, Roger’s Sue. The second dam, Fabulous, was unplaced in her only start, and only one of her foals, the Tempted and Comely Stakes (both gr. III) third Bonay earned black type. Although she may have had her shortcomings as a runner and producer, Fabulous was certainly extremely well bred. A daughter of Seeking the Gold, she is out of the excellent mare Gorgeous, winner of five graded stakes events, including the Vanity Invitational Handicap (gr. I), Ashland Stakes (gr. I), and Hollywood Oaks (gr. I). Gorgeous never produced a top-class runner–her best was the Nureyev filly Stunning, a listed winner in France–but she is granddam of the Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) heroine Swift Temper (who is out of a sister to Fabulous), and of the 2010 Falmouth Stakes (gr. I) victress Music Show (whose dam is by Fabulous’s grandsire, Mr. Prospector). Gorgeous is out of Champion Canadian Three-Year-Old Filly Kamar, also dam of Champion Canadian Three-Year-Old Colt Key to the Moon, and of Seaside Attraction (by Seattle Slew, the grandsire of Gorgeous), winner of the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), and dam of Champion Two-Year-Old Filly Golden Attraction (by Mr. Prospector), and Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Cape Town (by Seeking the Gold). Kamar is also ancestress of several other major winners, including Fantastic Light, a Champion in Europe and the U.S. The dam of Kamar, Square Angel, was Champion Three-Year-Old Filly in Canada, and she is out of Nearctic’s intensely inbred daughter Nangela, an outstanding tap-root mare.

Rated A++ by TrueNicks, Turbulent Descent is bred on the same cross as Wickedly Perfect (dam by Tabasco Cat), both by Congrats out of mares by sons of Storm Cat, and they come from just seven starters to date bred on the cross. Turbulent Descent’s pedigree is an absolutely intriguing one as her sire and her granddam are reverse Seattle Slew/Mr. Prospector crosses, with the Seattle Slew through A.P. Indy (Seattle Slew, with a second dam by Buckpasser) and Slew o’Gold (Seattle Slew out of a Buckpasser mare). Congrats’ dam, and Roger’s Sue, the dam of Turbulent Descent, are reverse Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer crosses. In addition Congrats’ granddam, With Applause, is by Northern Dancer out of a Graustark mare, and Turbulent Descent’s broodmare sire, Forestry, is a Northern Dancer/His Majesty (brother to Graustark) cross. Finally, Turbulent Descent combines 3 x 4 inbreeding to Mr. Prospector, with a cross of Bold Sequence, a three-parts-sister to the dam of Mr. Prospector.

Storm Cat’s sire Storm Bird seems to be a positive influence in general here, as his son Personal Hope (from the same female line as Storm Cat) is broodmare sire of Congrats’s stakes-placed daughter Days Like This, and the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) third I’m Steppin’ It Up is out of a mare by Thunder Gulch (dam by Storm Bird, and a parallel Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer cross to the dam of Congrats). I’m Steppin’ It Up’s second dam is an Alydar/Nijinsky II cross, and the reverse of that cross produced Alydeed, the broodmare sire of Congrats’s stakes-placed daughter The Marikutana (granddam by Storm Cat). Of Congrats’s other stakes-placed horses, Jordy Y is out of a mare by Fly So Free (from the Damascus line); Mutin is out of another Damascus line horse, Friendly Lover, and has Seattle Slew 3 x 4; and Silverest and Congrats and Roses are out of Buckpasser line mares, from daughters of Silver Charm and Wayne’s Crane (by L’Enjoleur). Finally, Check My Cheeks, who won her stakes in Puerto Rico, is out of a daughter of Notebook (from the Raja Baba line).

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