The first weekend in May is always a racing aficionado’s delight, with the Kentucky Oaks being followed by the 2,000 Guineas, Kentucky Derby and the 1,000 Guineas. This year’s events didn’t disappoint, with the males’ Classics falling to two potentially very important colts in Gleneagles and American Pharoah. While the victories of Lovely Maria in the Kentucky Oaks and Legatissimo in the 1,000 Guineas were a bit less predictable, both have the potential to add to their laurels.
Was there anything to learn from a pedigree viewpoint? Well, the four Classics acted as a reminder that very few modern pedigrees are without a couple of lines of Northern Dancer, especially in Europe, where the season’s first two Classic winners are inbred 4 x 3 and 4 x 4 to the Windfields Farm champion.
American Pharoah’s two lines appear in the fifth generation, with Lovely Maria’s three lines being in the fifth and sixth. You will also find the ubiquitous Mr Prospector in three of the pedigrees, but to my mind the most notable achievement was by Storm Cat. In addition to his male line being responsible for Lovely Maria, Storm Cat also cropped up as the broodmare sire of Gleneagles and as the grandsire of American Pharoah’s dam.
I have to admit to not being a fully paid-up member of the Storm Cat fan club, partly because his name was often associated with wind issues and offset knees. However, those faults didn’t stop him notching up two general sires’ championships in North America, plus half a dozen championships as leading sire of two-year-olds. The scale of his success was such that his fee stood at no less than $500,000 for six consecutive years.
The scale of Storm Cat’s success was such that his fee stood at no less than $500,000 for six consecutive years
And – unlike some top American sires – Storm Cat proved very capable of siring top winners on European turf. The likes of One Cool Cat, Aljabr, Nebraska Tornado, Black Minnaloushe, Sophisticat, Denebola, Hold That Tiger and Mistle Cat all became Group 1 winners over here, but Storm Cat’s talents were best exemplified by his son Giant’s Causeway.
Many of Storm Cat’s progeny inherited his tough personality, which helped make them hard to beat. This will to win manifested itself magnificently in Giant’s Causeway, who fortunately also inherited plenty of soundness from his female line (his dam Mariah’s Storm won ten of her 16 starts, while his second dam Immense and third dam Imsodear respectively made 28 and 33 starts).
Of course Gleneagles’s dam, the smart You’resothrilling, is a sister to Giant’s Causeway, so there is every reason to hope that Gleneagles will cope well with a busy three-year-old campaign. Unfortunately, Coolmore will no doubt be extremely eager to retire him at the end of the year, as his attractive pedigree – coupled with his speed and juvenile ability – will make him an ideal match for all the Danehill line mares.
Further details of Gleneagles’s pedigree are available in the Data Book section but it is worth repeating that he represents a flourishing partnership between Galileo and Storm Cat. From 38 representatives aged three or over, this cross has so far managed to produce three Guineas winners in Gleneagles, his sister Marvellous and Misty For Me. The last two both landed the Irish 1,000 Guineas.
Other members of the 38 are the smart American turf colt Global View (a Group 2 and 3 winner), Misty For Me’s Listed-winning sister Twirl, and Aloft, runner-up to Elm Park in last year’s Group 1 Racing Post Trophy. We should keep an eye out for some of Galileo’s 2015 two-year-olds out of Storm Cat mares, which include a sister to Marvellous and Gleneagles named Coolmore, a sister to Misty For Me named Ballydoyle, and a filly out of the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac winner Denebola.
In America, mares by the speedy and muscular Storm Cat were often considered an ideal match for the rangier, more classic Unbridled branch of the Mr Prospector male line. Unbridled’s first son to become a Grade 1 winner, the 17-hand Unbridled’s Song, remains the most popular choice for owners of Storm Cat mares, to the extent that there are now 171 foals of racing age bred to this pattern.
Faith in this cross extended to other sons of Unbridled, and it was justified by Empire Maker. From his first 35 foals out of daughters of Storm Cat, Empire Maker has been represented by Bodemeister and In Lingerie. A Grade 1 Arkansas Derby winner, Bodemeister emulated his sire by finishing second in the Kentucky Derby, while In Lingerie won the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes before selling for $2.4 million in foal to Frankel.
It was therefore inevitable that Empire Maker’s other Kentucky Derby runner-up, Pioneerof The Nile, would also attract mares with Storm Cat blood when he retired to Vinery Kentucky at a fee of $20,000 in 2010 (he moved on to WinStar Farm after three years and his fee has soared to $60,000, with a further rise now likely). Pioneerof The Nile’s owner/breeder, Ahmed Zayat, employed this strategy when he sent Storm Cat’s grand-daughter Littleprincessemma to his young stallion in 2011.
Littleprincessemma had raced only twice, as a juvenile, without showing much sign of ability. She had cost only $10,000 to produce, her sire being Yankee Gentleman, a minor six-furlong stakes winner who is now based in Louisiana. This may sound unpromising but the fact that Littleprincessemma realised $135,000 as a weanling and $250,000 as a yearling proves she has some talented relations.
Her dam Exclusive Rosette had previously done well with two foals by Stormin Fever, another son of Storm Cat. The first, Storm Wolf, won the Grade 2 Lazaro Barrera Memorial, and the second, Misty Rosette, also possessed plenty of speed, landing the Grade 3 Old Hat Stakes over six and a half furlongs.
When American Pharoah fell well short of meeting his reserve price at Saratoga, Zayat was happy to campaign the colt, in the hope that the youngster would help put Pioneerof The Nile on the map as a stallion.
The colt wasted no time in doing so, taking the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity on his second start and the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes on his third. A setback prevented him contesting the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile but he had done enough to be rewarded with joint-top weight on the Experimental Free Handicap, ranked the equal of the Juvenile winner Texas Red.
Zayat decided to make hay while the sun shone and Littleprincessemma was entered for Fasig-Tipton’s November Sale. Carrying a full brother to the future Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, she made $2.1m. Zayat at least still has a yearling sister to American Pharoah to look forward to.