Is Silverbulletday Skipping a Generation?

Sunland Park's big day turned into a benefit for Bob Baffert and Mike Pegram, who took the Sunland Park Derby (gr. III, VIDEO) with Govenor Charlie (also bred by Pegram) and the Sunland Park Oaks (VIDEO) with Midnight Lucky (owned by Pegram in partnership). The duo—who both scored in track record time—are both from the first crop of the Baffert-trained/Pegram-owned champion sprinter Midnight Lute (TrueNicks,SRO), and from families strongly connected with Pegram.

Govenor Charlie (TrueNicks A++) is a grandson of Pegram's Hall of Fame filly Silverbulletday, champion at 2 and 3, and heroine of such grade I contests as the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Kentucky Oaks, Ashland Stakes, Alabama Stakes, and Gazelle Handicap.

In view of her illustrious racing career, the daughter of Silver Deputy has been something of a disappointment as a producer to date, as her only winner from eight foals of racing age was the minor stakes-placed A.P. Indy gelding Tice.

Happily, the family is rebounding fast, and Silverbulletday's first three daughters are already stakes producers. Govenor Charlie is out of the unraced Storm Cat mare Silverbulletway, already dam of the Anoakia Stakes victor Crisis of Spirit (by Vindication). Silver Bullet Moon, a Vindication daughter of Silverbulletday, is the dam of Shakin It Up (TrueNicks B), another Midnight Lute horse. Winner of the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) earlier this year, Shakin It Up finished fourth in the Sunland Park Derby trying to close on a speed-favoring track. Silverbulletfolly, a sister to Silver Bullet Moon, is the dam of the Roman Ruler (TrueNicks,SRO) gelding Mile High Magic, a two-time winner who was beaten just a length in the Jim Kostoff Stakes at Fairplex Park last year.

Silverbulletday is hardly the first famous mare whose daughters have shown this "generation skip" phenomenon, nor is she exactly unique as a talented runner who has not been a successful producer. In fact, virtually every stallion crop has its share of accomplished racers that find it difficult to transmit their ability, despite being bred to books full of desirable mares. In that case we don't generally see the generation skip as there is little chance of a modestly-performed son of a disappointing sire finding his place at stud in the commercial mainstream, no matter how lauded a racehorse the sire might have been. Of course, as a daughter of Storm Cat and Silverbulletday, there was no chance of Silverbulletway falling out of the commercial mainstream, even had Mr. Pegram not wanted to retain her!

There are a number of reasons why a talented mare may not be as good a producer as a runner. For a start, there is the question of opportunity. Silverbulletday, who is now 17 years old, has missed just once at stud but has only seven named foals of racing age. That represents very few chances to produce a high-class runner, even assuming that each stallion chosen was an optimal genetic and physical match (and we'll note that two of her offspring are by Vindication, who himself didn't find it easy to transmit his positive characteristics). Take out offspring that may have been compromised by illness or injury at some stage (Silverbulletday has four named foals that didn't make it to the track) and just looking at the law of averages suggests that her opportunities to become the dam of a top-class runner have been limited. A male of Silverbulletday's standing is probably going to have upwards of 350 foals—out of mares with a wide range of genetic backgrounds—in his first four years at stud, so if he is a horse with a reasonable ability to transmit his positive traits, he's nearly guaranteed to have a chance to prove it.

As can be inferred by our reference to Vindication—a champion 2-year-old by Seattle Slew who sired only six graded stakes winners from 469 foals, none of them grade I—it's equally clear that stallion and mare alike, there is something of a disconnect between the ability a horse displays as a runner and the ability to transmit his or her positive performance variants at stud. It's likely that even if she doesn't display them on the track, the daughter of a great racemare is going to receive a significant proportion of her dam's positive attributes, and in general she will also be by a distinguished sire. Thus, it's not exactly a shock that Silverbulletway, by Storm Cat out of Silverbulletday, should have some positive genetics to pass on, but it is noteworthy that it has manifested itself through what is a relatively inbred mating with Midnight Lute.

Midnight Lucky (TrueNicks A++) is also something of a generation skip in that her dam, Citiview, could only muster four seconds and a third from 10 starts, so apparently having inherited little of the ability that distinguished her sister, Pegram's La Brea Stakes (gr. I) victress Hookedonthefeelin. Incidentally, Hookedonthefeelin is not one of those mares who has a problem passing on her positive attributes, as she's the dam of three stakes winners, including grade I winners Jimmy Creed and Pussycat Doll, the latter by Midnight Lute's sire, Real Quiet.

Speaking of Real Quiet, Midnight Lute appears to be doing a little bit of a generation skip himself, at least as far as aptitude is concerned, as it looks as looks as if he's siring far more like the classic runner that Real Quiet was than a two-time Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner. Of course, Midnight Lute's distance capacity was limited by his wind problems, and happily—even though roaring does have a proven genetic component to it—this trait seems to be one that he is not expressing in his foals. In fact, in addition to Govenor Charlie, out of a mare by Storm Cat (a line that has also been associated with wind issues), he already has two other stakes horses out of Storm Cat line mares. From a pure pedigree standpoint, Storm Cat is interesting with Midnight Lute as he is a Northern Dancer/Secretariat cross like Midnight Lute's broodmare sire, Dehere. As far as Govenor Charlie and Shakin It Up are concerned, Midnight Lute appears a good choice to reinforce the background of Silverbulletday, as Midnight Lute is a Mr. Prospector/Deputy Minister cross and Silverbulletday is by Silver Deputy, a Deputy Minister/Mr. Prospector cross.

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