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Derby Threat: Brethren

by Alan Porter

Last weekend on the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) scene, the most impressive performance was the effort of the much-touted Brethren in the Sam F. Davis (gr. III, video below). In terms of a classic pedigree, Brethren (TrueNicks A+) is almost uniquely qualified, as not only has his sire Distorted Humor (TrueNicks,SRO) been represented by a Kentucky Derby winner (Funny Cide, 2003), but his dam, Supercharger, produced last year’s winner Super Saver (TrueNicks,SRO).

This means that if Brethren does make it to the line-up at Churchill Downs, he will be bidding to create history, and in the 135 years that the Derby has been contested there have never been two winners produced by a single mare, let alone two winners in consecutive years. There will also be more than a touch of irony in the situation as Supercharger was purchased by WinStar Farm, the owners and breeders of Super Saver and Brethren, from Ogden Mills Phipps, and for all their long and storied association with the thoroughbred, the Phipps family have never been represented by a Kentucky Derby winner. The aforementioned irony is compounded by the fact that not only did Phipps sell Supercharger carrying Super Saver, the result of a mating that he had planned, but he also had bred Supercharger to Super Saver’s sire, Maria’s Mon, earlier in her career, but this throw of the genetic dice resulted not in a classic performer, but in Hedge Fund, who proved to be no better than a hard-knocking runner, grinding out $160,699 with five wins from 57 starts between the ages of 4 and 7.

The female line that produced Super Saver and Brethren has been developed by the Phipps family since the mid-1940s, when the Phippses acquired some of the bloodstock holdings of the late Col. E. R. Riley’s Idle Hour Farm, one of those acquisitions being Baby League, a daughter of Bubbling Over and La Troienne, who now appears as eighth dam of Super Saver and Brethren. Here the La Troienne influence goes significantly beyond the tail female line. A look at the pedigree of the duo’s fourth dam, Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Numbered Account (by Buckpasser), shows the closely related Busanda (dam of Buckpasser) and Striking – both by War Admiral out of daughters of La Troienne – 2x3. The next two sires in the female line, Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector, didn’t add to the La Troienne background, but the mating with Supercharger’s sire, A.P. Indy (TrueNicks,SRO), certainly did, as he is by Seattle Slew (dam inbred to the sisters Busher and Striking, Striking also being the sixth dam of Supercharger) with a second dam by Buckpasser, and as a consequence Supercharger has War Admiral/La Troienne combinations through Busher, Striking, and Busanda 6x6x5x5x6 in her pedigree.

Supercharger was no more than useful as a runner, but is a sister to the 2010 Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) victor Girolamo, and to the graded scorers Daydreaming and Accelerator, both of whom were also grade I-placed. Supercharger is also a sister to She’s A Winner, the dam of Bluegrass Cat (TrueNicks,SRO). A son of Storm Cat, and like Super Saver and Brethren, bred by WinStar and trained by Todd Pletcher, Bluegrass Cat won the Nashua Stakes (gr. III) and Remsen Stakes (gr. II) at two, and the Sam F. Davis and Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at three, and was runner-up in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Now standing at WinStar, Bluegrass Cat has made a promising start to his career, and was one of the leading freshman sires of 2010.

Speaking of Bluegrass Cat, his WinStar-bred and owned half brother Cal Nation (by Distorted Humor out of She's a Winner, so a genetic full brother to Brethren) won his maiden impressively on Feb. 5 at Gulfstream (video), stamping himself as a possible classics contender.

Supercharger and She's a Winner’s dam, Get Lucky, is a graded stakes-winning daughter of Mr. Prospector, and is a sister to Champion 2-Year-Old and Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner Rhythm, and to stakes-placed Not For Love (TrueNicks,SRO), subsequently an outstanding sire in Maryland.

We’ve no doubt that the WinStar team realized that Supercharger’s covering sire, Maria’s Mon, built on the La Troienne influence, as his sire, Wavering Monarch, is out of a mare by Buckpasser, who is inbred to La Troienne, but she must have also struck the eye as a perfect mate for home stallion Distorted Humor. With Funny Cide (dam by Slewacide, by Seattle Slew out of a Buckpasser mare) in his first crop, Distorted Humor rapidly demonstrated a potential genetic affinity for the influence of Seattle Slew, and events have proved that that was not a false lead. Distorted Humor has gone on to sire four stakes winners from 17 starters (23.5%) out of mares by Seattle Slew himself, and nine stakes winners from 57 starters (15.8%) out of mares by sons of Seattle Slew. At the time of Supercharger’s purchase there had yet to be a stakes winner for the Distorted Humor/A.P. Indy cross, but the merits of the nick has been well advertised by one of the first runners on the cross, Any Given Saturday (TrueNicks,SRO), who had recently run a very promising second in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II). Any Given Saturday didn’t win a classic, but after gaining his first stakes win in the Sam F. Davis Stakes – a race which is becoming a recurring theme here – he did add the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II), Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II), and Haskell Invitational (gr. I), over Hard Spun (TrueNicks,SRO) and Curlin (TrueNicks,SRO). The Distorted Humor/A.P. Indy cross has now produced five stakes winners from 27 starters (18.5%), Any Given Saturday and Brethren being joined by Endorsement and Z Humor as graded winners on the cross. See Brethren's TrueNicks Enhanced Report below.

In addition to being bred on a proven nick, Brethren also has some interesting inbreeding in his pedigree as Distorted Humor is by a son of Mr. Prospector out of a mare by a son of Northern Dancer, and his granddam, Get Lucky, is by Mr. Prospector out of a Northern Dancer mare.

Click here to view the TrueNicks Enhanced report for Brethren.

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My top 12 Derby contenders as of today (02/19) are (save for the obvious Uncle Mo):

1) To Honor And Serve - have been following him since last October. Great pedigree! Has what it takes to win a TC, imo.

2) Elite Alex - love this guy! I think he's going to be very, very good! Loved his daddy when he ran and picked him out early in his 2-yo campaign 'cuz of his strong late kick.

3) Brethren - can he follow big brother?

4) Dialed In - impressive so far!

5) Rogue Romance - could be very special!

6) Casper's Touch - has great potential

7) Sway Away - think he's going to be very good

8) Astrology - going to get better!

9) Alternation - better than most think

10) Machen - how far can he go?

11) Awesome Patriot - good enough?

12) Manicero - sleeper

Austin 19 Feb 2011 8:30 AM

There are several problems I have with Brethren and how people are touting him right now.  1st....his pedigree is not suited for distance as strongly as Super Saver's.  He is inbred 3x3 to Mr Prospector....a horse who could not get one step past 7 furlongs.  2nd...he is inbred 4x4 to Northern Dnacer.  Normally this reinforces some ability go get a distance, but in both cases, the parents were not able to get past 1 1/16th miles.  Brethren has shown he can get that distance, but against a so so field.  3rd... he is a runt of a horse.  He has a short neck and short coupled back.  His Phenotype says he is not built for distance running.  Having said that, neither is Drosselmeyer who is also by Distored Humor.  They went a slow time in his Belmont though, so I throw that out.  Cal Nation and Brethern are 15/16th full brothers....their dams are full sisters.... but Cal Nation also looks just like Brethren.  I will not be betting on either in the Derby....unless Calvin Borel is riding one of them, then all bets are off.  To illustrate my point.....look at the picture of Super Saver when he is crossing the wire of the Derby last year.  Look at the length of his neck.  Then do the same for Brethren in his win last week.  He has a short, fat neck, and is a runt compared to Super Saver.  He gets beat if he runs 1 1/8 miles in Grade 1 company.

Robert 19 Feb 2011 5:03 PM

Hi Robert,

Interesting comments. I don't know if Brethren is good enough - he didn't beat a lot at Tampa - but in this case, I don't think his pedigree will stop him as far as distance is concerned.

His dam is a sister to the dam of Bluegrass Cat (by Storm Cat, coincidentally another individual that sired somewhat short-necked horses), and he was one of the most staying of the good Storm Cats we've seen. Both mares (the dams of Bluegrass Cat and Super Saver/Brethren) are by A.P. Indy out of sisters to Rhythm, who won a Travers and sired grade one winners at two miles, so it's a very stout bottom line.

The other factor is that although he may not get the rangy classic type (and he is by Forty Niner out of a Danzig mare, so it would hardly be expected), Distorted Humor does have plenty of horses that get at least nine furlongs. Our guess is that he puts a heck of a cardio-vascular system into some of them, and that they are pretty economic in their action, so get further than horses that one might normally associate with the physical type.

Alan Porter 20 Feb 2011 9:11 AM

I don't know about short necks and short coupled backs, or if he's a runt of a horse.  I do know I see Seattle Slew in his linege, so I'll go with him on that basis.  I don't see a son of Indian Charley winning the Kentucky Derby, so I don't belieive we'll see Uncle Mo in the winner's circle on May 7th.  It was May 7th when Slew won the Derby.  Time for that day to go to an heir of Slew.  There are several in this year's crop of Derby contenders.  I say one of them will win the Derby.

Jon 20 Feb 2011 10:01 AM


Weren't horses like Grindstone, Thunder Gulch, Smarty Jones and Mine That Bird on the runty side?

Southern Chris 20 Feb 2011 7:12 PM

Before the current fad for monster-sized horses (and that is what big-bodied horses over 17 hands are), no one worried that a small horse couldn't go a distance of ground. Northern Dancer is a prime example; he may not have been a 12f horse, but 10f was fully within his grasp. Gallant Man was no a giant. In Reality was advertised as standing 15.2 1/2. Noholme II, who won the 10f Cox Plate in Australia and sired multiple 10f champion Nodouble was 15.3. Olden Times, winner of the San Juan Capistrano (with a clever ride to be sure) and second in the Big Cap, stood 15.3 as well. Ribot was know as 'Il Piccolo' (the little one) to his breeder. Size does not determine distance ability.

Pedigree Ann 21 Feb 2011 8:52 AM

Hi Pedigree Ann,

Well-remembered with Olden Times in the San Juan Capistrano - if I'm right he lead throughout the 1 3/4 mile event, never by more than 1/2 length, and was a neck or a head to the good at the line. Wonder if it's on You-Tube anywhere.

One of our clients owned English Channel, 15.3 in the Stallion Register, and he galloped everything silly in bottomless ground in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

The big deal with the Distorted Humor's is that he puts a great "engine" in there.

Alan Porter 21 Feb 2011 11:08 AM

It's difficult to tell if Robert doesn't care for thoroughbreds that are "runts", or thoroughbreds that have "short, fat necks", or thoroughbreds that have both of those characteristics. As noted by others above, there are many smallish horses that can go a distance--remember Birdstone? Of course Northern Dancer, himself, had all those characteristics and as we all know, the rest is history...

Karen in Texas 21 Feb 2011 11:12 AM

What about the most famous runt of all Northern Dancer?  He set a track record while winning the Derby.

Poormansracehorse 21 Feb 2011 11:25 AM

I have nothing against small horses.  The greatest runt was the great Northern Dancer.  My comments were aimed at his physical makeup.  He is barely 15 hands.  His physical makeup.....his Phenotype....does not suggest he will get better going much farther than 1 1/16th miles.  Grindstone and Birdstone had long necks and longer backs than the short coupled Brethren, and were bred for distance.  I suggested looking at Super Saver's Dergy winning picture from last year to emphasize his neck length.  I also stated Brethern is not bred as well for 1 1/4 miles as Super Saver is.  As for short necked horses and the like, If I breed one, then I run them.  9 out of 10 horse that I have bred are not short necked, because I don't breed to short necked, speed oriented stallions.  Yes I am hard on my horses...critically that is.....but I love them all and we are talking about the next Derby winner who more than likely will be used for breeding.  Brethern does not have the traits I look for in a distance stallion.  Even if he wins the Derby, he will have 2 more races in 2 weeks and then 3 weeks and his breeding does not show me that he has what it takes to be a serious Triple Crown threat.  Simply calling him as I see him is not a bad thing....I am looking at him for breeding and racing.  Beyond that, I would love to own him.  He seems like a nice horse.  He probably has a good engine that will help him outrun his pedigree.

Robert 22 Feb 2011 3:03 PM

Pedigree Ann;

Fascinating comment! John Henry wasn't very big either. I believe I remember reading that he stood just over fifteen hands. . . I'm afraid I can't recall exactly how tall he stood. But he won the San Juan Capistrano Handicap at fourteen furlongs and won  a host of other races at a mile and a half.


-Keelerman 23 Feb 2011 12:21 PM

"There are several problems I have with Brethren and how people are touting him right now.  1st....his pedigree is not suited for distance as strongly as Super Saver's.  He is inbred 3x3 to Mr Prospector....a horse who could not get one step past 7 furlongs."

Mr. P has proven that his own distance limitations need not limit his offspring to any great extent. Conquistador Cielo, Forty Niner, Rhythm, Hello Gorgeous, Procida, Optimistic Lass, Damister, Scoot, Seeking the Gold, Jade Hunter, It's in the Air, Fusaichi Pegasus, and Chester House are among his offspring who were group or graded winners at 10f or more. So merely saying that he is inbred 3x3 to Mr. Prospector does not mean that the horse has no shot at a classic distance. One must consider the SOURCES of those crosses. One cross is through Travers winner Forty Niner and his son Distorted Humor, already sire of a Derby winner. The other cross is from a SW full sister to another Travers winner in Rhythm, sire of winners of the Melbourne Cup, New Zealand Oaks, as well as the Aukland and Wellington Cups. Toss in crosses of Seattle Slew, Secretariat, and Mr. Leader, and you have quite a stout pedigree, actually.

" 2nd...he is inbred 4x4 to Northern Dnacer.  Normally this reinforces some ability go get a distance, but in both cases, the parents were not able to get past 1 1/16th miles.  Brethren has shown he can get that distance, but against a so so field."

Oh, now you care about the source? Well, Danzig has sired his 10f+ stars, too, starting with yet another Travers winner, Chief's Crown, Versailles Treaty (Alabama), Ascot Knight (Scottish Derby), Dance Smartly (Queen's Plate),etc. while the other source, Brethren's own third dam Dance Number, won the Beldame S (10f then).

".. he is a runt of a horse."

Already addressed. Hyperion, won the Derby and St. Leger. 'Nuff said.

As to his dam's winning distances, how many chances did a horse get to run at 10f on dirt in the 1990s who wasn't a stakes horse or a claimer in a starter race? Some tracks run allowance races at 9f, but most prefer 1 1/16 mile races; they supposedly fill better.

Pedigree Ann 23 Feb 2011 8:56 PM

Pedigree Ann.....I apologize.  Remind me never to make you mad at me :)  Final thoughts:  Brethern won't hit the board in the Derby if he runs.  Nice job on Hyperion.  I had forgotten how small he was.  Another small guy was Ribot.  He was 15.1 but was long necked.  That and the fact that he was seriously crazy.  I do love all horses, but when it comes to a potential breeding animal, I am very hard on potential stallions.  I feel we don't geld enough stallions and the breed has suffered for it.  Would love to get some German blood over here for breeding.  Good luck in the Triple Crown preps and the big 3 races.

Robert 25 Feb 2011 3:17 PM

I'm a data-cruncher; what can I say? As a mathematical statistician, I am well aware of the difference between average expected outcomes (based on population-wide figures) and an individual outcome, based on a particular mating of two particular animals.(And it's why I write the way I do; precision is important to us math types.) 'Inbred to Mr. P' can encompass so many different possible outcomes that it is impossible to predict a particular outcome based on that fact alone. I presume you were thinking of animals like Flashpoint, who is inbred to Mr. P via the sprinter Pomeroy and the sprinter Two Punch; if he gets 1 1/16 miles in good company, he will be exceeding expectations.

I have no opinion about whether Brethren will win the Derby or not, yet; he hasn't run against the better members of his generation. These days we hardly get enough form to figure out who can run and who can't in the Derby run-up. When I was a newby, My Dad George and Corn Off the Cub butted heads every couple of weeks, and Jim French danced most of the dances, coast to coast to coast. But so far, 2yo stakes form from last year has been holding pretty well back East. I'm interested in Santiva in New Orleans and Bench Points in SoCal.

I've been a fan of German breeding since the 1970s. They are a small industry, and sport is still more important than business to breeders. The Direktorium has had for many years strict rules about which horses allowed to stand over there, one of which is that it must have achieved a certain level of performance at 3 or older; hot shot 2yos who don't train on or get hurt aren't wanted. And one-shot wonders, colts who win only one big race, more often end up like Deutsches Derby winner Muffel, who at 8 was a gelding running in hurdle races.

I agree that so many more US colts should be geldings, but the owners have so often overpaid for them at the sales that the only way they can recoup their investment is to sell them as stallions, using that sale price as an indication of quality! (Anybody who breeds to The Green Monkey needs to have a long talk with the ghost of Bull Hancock.)

Pedigree Ann 28 Feb 2011 6:44 PM

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