08/23/2007 11:00PM

Alabama winner elevates her sire's lineage


LEXINGTON, Ky. - With a game victory in the historic Alabama Stakes at Saratoga, Lady Joanne became the first Grade 1 winner for champion sprinter Orientate, whose first crop of foals is 3.

Lady Joanne is the brightest star from her sire's first crop, which also includes stakes winners Successful Outlook and Tanika. Orientate ranks third among all second-crop sires.

The stallion's performance with his initial racers was noticed, and Michael Hernon of Gainesway said that the stallion's first-crop performers were enough to "fill the stallion's book to overflowing."

"We unfortunately had to turn away mares in 2007," he said.

Moreover, Orientate's first-crop racers like Lady Joanne are training on, and his second crop of juveniles is not being left in the dust. Last weekend, Orientate, a son of Mt. Livermore, was represented by the first stakes winner from his second crop, the 2-year-old filly Gipson Dessert, who won a listed race in France.

With this level of success, Orientate, who was raced by Bob and Beverly Lewis and trained by Wayne Lukas, is helping to generate continuing interest in the male line of Blushing Groom, one of the lines of Nasrullah and his sire, Nearco, that can be so useful in linebreeding for breeders.

A muscular and very handsome chestnut, Blushing Groom was an exceptional 2-year-old champion in France and trained on at 3 to win the French 2000 Guineas and finish third in the Derby at Epsom.

Purchased to stand at Gainesway Farm by the late John Gaines, Blushing Groom became a stallion of international consequence, and his male line has bred on successfully.

In fact, the Blushing Groom line has had a resurgence of success in the United States over the past few years, with Orientate joining Housebuster and Eliza as champions by Mt. Livermore, and with Candy Stripes siring American champions in Leroidesanimaux and Invasor.

Invasor and Leroidesanimaux both will be at stud in Kentucky in 2008 and should benefit from the example of their kinsman's success, as an example of what careful matings with sires from this line can do.

An uncommonly fast horse, Blushing Groom became an uncommonly versatile sire, getting classic winners, top juveniles, champion older horses, and major winners on all surfaces.

Blushing Groom's son Mt. Livermore was a high-class sprinter, but Orientate was more than a champion sprinter who was limited in his athletic capacity. Purchased for $250,000 as a yearling at the 1999 Keeneland September sale, Orientate was initially campaigned as a classic prospect, but an adventurous strategy of placing him in shorter races at 4 brought successes at the Grade 1 level and an Eclipse Award.

But Lukas's initial impression of Orientate as a balanced and athletic horse well suited to classic distances has played out with the champion's offspring.

While they have shown speed and won stakes at 2, the young prospects showed some traits that indicated they would actually do better with more distance and maturity.

Figures pointed to potential

One measure of assessing the distance capacity of young horses, and thus evaluating how their sires are breeding on, is the BreezeFig number assigned to horses breezing at the sales of 2-year-olds in training by DataTrack International.

Bob Fierro, president of DataTrack, said: "Orientate always indicated that his offspring would have the ability to get two turns. Orientate and Street Cry actually tied for the top spot judged on the BreezeFigs of their juveniles. On that basis, Orientate is likely to be a solid, consistent sire with sprinter-milers, as well as occasional top performers at longer distances."

Fierro noted that the BreezeFig files showed that Orientate's offspring had average stride lengths of nearly 24 feet at the eight major sales last year, compared with the overall average stride length of 23.25 for horses who breezed at these sales.

Clearly from her performance at Saratoga, Lady Joanne has both an outstanding stride and the gameness to compete with the best.

Bred in Kentucky by Bentley Smith, Lady Joanne is out of Oatsee, a daughter of Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled. Smith signed the ticket for the purchase of Unbridled on behalf of the Frances Genter Stable, which led to Carl Nafzger's memorable stretch call in the Derby with the colt's owner.

On his retirement to stud, Unbridled first stood at Gainesway, and Smith has retained several members of this family at the farm. As a result, Hernon proudly noted that "not only was Orientate foaled and raised at Gainesway, but his daughter was also."

Victory in the Alabama put Lady Joanne even in her competition with Octave, and Hernon assessed the Alabama as "a breakthrough win for Lady Joanne, and she is now being pointed to the Spinster en route to a tilt at the Breeders' Cup Distaff."

As a graded stakes winner with excellent speed who has matured into a Grade 1 winner as a 3-year-old, surely the best is yet to come for Lady Joanne, as well as her high-class sire, and the prospects for other Blushing Groom sires, such as Horse of the Year Invasor, and champion Leroidesanimaux, offer much hope for those breeders using outcrossing and distant linebreeding methods to improve their racing stock.