(Originally published in the April 23, 2011 issue of The
Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and
the bottom of the column.)
“Don’t give up on a mare with a great pedigree,” was one piece of advice offered recently by former breeder Madeleine Paulson Pickens. The philosophy sure applies to Miss Doolittle, the graded-placed dam of Dialed In, a son of Mineshaft who solidly appears now to own the title of favorite for the 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Pickens is the co-breeder of Dialed In along with William S. Farish of Lane’s End Farm and Skara Glen Stables. She is also the sole breeder of Miss Doolittle, whom she raced in partnership with Farish and Skara Glen.
As a broodmare, Miss Doolittle got off to a good start when her first foal became the stakes winner Broadway Gold. The 2002-model filly by Seeking the Gold won two of four starts as a 2-year-old including the Astoria Stakes at Belmont Park, which she won by three lengths over a field of five that would all go on to become either stakes winners or stakes-placed runners.
Her second foal, a Kingmambo gelding named Mambo Master, started 32 times but managed only a third-place finish in a minor stakes at Meadowlands as his best career performance. Mambo Master was followed by the gelding Hometown Boy (by Came Home), who earned a respectable $149,136 but never started in a stakes, and then by the Elusive Quality colt Backstabber, who won twice in five starts and earned $47,870.
By the time Dialed In was foaled in 2008, the blush was fading on the rose. The expectations for Miss Doolittle understandably would have been high, considering she is the daughter of 1992 champion 2-year-old and multiple grade I winner Eliza. Pickens’ late husband Allen Paulson raced Eliza, a brilliant daughter of Mt. Livermore who sealed her championship title by winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). As a 3-year-old, she won the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) and placed in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).
As a broodmare, however, Eliza has not produced a runner as talented as she. Out of 13 foals of racing age, she has eight winners that include two stakes-placed runners. Eliza’s most lucrative runner is Mr. Kevin, by Storm Cat, who raced in Japan and earned $728,607. Judged by racing class, Miss Doolittle, by Storm Cat, stands out as Eliza’s only graded stakes-placed runner.
Pickens said she always dismissed any comments that Eliza was not “producing anything.”
“When you are in breeding, you have to stay in it and stay the course,” she said. “You don’t know. Sometimes it is the last baby who is brilliant.”
After many years of racing and breeding top horses and after Dialed In had foaled in 2008, Pickens lost her enthusiasm for Thoroughbred breeding and let her share in Miss Doolittle pass to her partners. Miss Doolittle’s progeny had cooled sufficiently on the track that the mare was offered in foal to Curlin at the 2010 Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale, where she sold for $85,000 to Arindel Farm near Ocala, Fla. Just over two months later, lightning struck in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) when Dialed In swept to an impressive last-to-first victory. His only other start had been in a maiden special weight, which he won at 2. Dialed In would go on to win the grade I Florida Derby in equally impressive fashion and secure a place in the gate of the 137th Kentucky Derby May 7.
Now Arindel owns a grade I producer who this year delivered a well-balanced chestnut daughter of Curlin that has two white socks on her back legs, just like her sire. Miss Doolittle has been confirmed back in foal to Mineshaft.
A throwback to the old classic-type mares, Miss Doolittle is not a big, robust mare nor is she small. She is about 16 hands and exudes class.
“There is a myth out there that if you are the breeder of a stakes horse, you are just as excited even if you no longer own the mare,” Pickens said. “That’s not true. I’m not breeding horses anymore, but if I were, I would wish I still owned the mare.”