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Updated on 09/16/2011 9:34AM
Certain champion bears proud family banner
LAS VEGAS - By now, everybody knows the history behind 2002 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Storm Flag Flying. Her dam, My Flag, won the 1995 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and her second dam, Personal Ensign, won the 1988 Distaff in one of the most dramatic Breeders' Cup races ever.
It all began, however, with Dorine, one of Argentina's greatest racemares. A champion by Aristophanes (sire of another champion, Forli), she was coveted by the late Ogden Phipps, who was always seeking bloodlines from outstanding female families to add to his elite broodmare band. Phipps first bred Dorine to Bold Ruler, and the result was the stakes-winning colt Our Hero. She was then bred to Hoist the Flag, producing Grecian Banner, a modest winner on the track who became Broodmare of the Year as the dam of the stakes-winning siblings Personal Flag and Personal Ensign.
Learning the lessons of such notable farms as Calumet, whose stock became stagnant with the blood of Bull Lea, Phipps recognized the need to diversify his female bloodlines. It is this program, combined with breeding to the leading stallions of the day, that has enabled the Phipps family to compete at the highest level of the sport for decades. The majority of Phipps broodmares descend from female families they have cultivated over six decades, including mares tracing directly to La Troienne, Grey Flight, Lady Be Good, and Broadway. But Phipps acquisitions through the years have also been golden.
After her racing career, Phipps purchased Lady Pitt, 3-year-old filly champion of 1966, and bred her to Riva Ridge, resulting in a multiple stakes winner, Blitey, who became a prized broodmare. Bred to Nijinsky II, Blitey produced the stakes-winning siblings Dancing Spree and Dancing All Night, as well as the unraced Oh What a Dance, dam of Heavenly Prize. Bred to Mr. Prospector, Blitey produced stakes winner Fantastic Find, and also produced stakes winner Furlough (by Easy Goer).
In August 1993, Phipps plucked a royally bred yearling filly before she was to be sold at the Saratoga yearling sale. By Pleasant Colony out of Alabama winner Maplejinsky, she had as her second dam the champion sprinter Gold Beauty, and this exceptional female family produced a European Horse of the Year, Dayjur, as well as stakes winners Stick to Beauty, The Prime Minister, Majestic Venture, and Miraloma.
The Pleasant Colony filly was named Our Country Place, and although she never raced, her first foal was stakes winner Country Hideaway (by Seeking the Gold), who was followed by the highly regarded Matlacha Pass, a full sister to Country Hideaway, who unfortunately was unsound.
Storm Flag Flying becomes an exciting 3-year-old prospect, and facing colts in the Kentucky Derby is not out of the question. My Flag finished third in the 1996 Belmont Stakes, and Personal Ensign defeated colts in the 1988 Whitney Handicap.
Storm Flag Flying is a lock for an Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old filly. But what about the other divisions?
Two-year-old colt: Vindication. The undefeated Sky Mesa was brilliant, but he missed the big dance and a showdown with undefeated Vindication, who earned the championship with his Juvenile victory.
Three-year-old colt: Medaglia d'Oro. The Breeders' Cup Classic became a race within a race, as War Emblem, Came Home, and Medaglia d'Oro all had a chance to claim the title of best 3-year-old, and possibly Horse of the Year. Medaglia d'Oro's second-place finish should be enough to make him champion.
War Emblem was seemingly on his way to the title after victories in the Derby and Preakness, and restored luster in the Haskell Invitational after his flop in the Belmont. But he was exposed in the Pacific Classic as a horse who needed the lead in order to win, and his stock plummeted. After the Classic, he cannot seriously be considered for any award.
Came Home, who attracted many admirers after his Pacific Classic victory, was never a factor in the Classic, and also eliminated himself from a title.
Fourth in the Derby and eighth in the Preakness, Medaglia d'Oro proved best the second half of the year. Second by a half-length in the Belmont, he won the Jim Dandy and Travers Stakes, and by virtue of finishing second in the Classic, well ahead of his contemporaries, he gets the nod.
Three-year-old filly: Farda Amiga. The Distaff was also a race within a race, as the 3-year-old filly title was up for grabs among Take Charge Lady, Imperial Gesture, and Farda Amiga. By virtue of her second-place finish in the Distaff, the winner of the Kentucky Oaks, and Alabama Stakes, Farda Amiga, gets my vote.
Sprinter: Orientate. A no-brainer.
Older male: Street Cry. One of the most difficult categories, as the best older runners were sidelined by injury. Mizzen Mast was best early in the year, and his efforts were followed by outstanding performances by Street Cry, then Left Bank. But Street Cry, who followed his jaw-dropping Dubai World Cup victory with another stunner in the Stephen Foster Handicap, was best.
Older female: Azeri. Her tour de force in the Distaff was the clincher.
Turf male: High Chaparral. Beat Hollow was dominant early but faltered late. Only a questionable ride in the BC Mile stopped Rock of Gibraltar from winning this hands-down. High Chaparral was dominant winning the Turf, following a championship 3-year-old season in Europe.
Turf female: Golden Apples. The Filly and Mare Turf winner, Starine, didn't do enough to earn a title, and although Banks Hill may actually be best, her third in the Yellow Ribbon and second in the Filly and Mare Turf isn't enough. Though Golden Apples was undone by a yielding surface in the Filly and Mare Turf, her victories in the Beverly D. and Yellow Ribbon may be enough to get the prize.
Horse of the Year: Azeri. With no standouts in the 3-year-old colt or older handicap division, combined with her overall record and commanding performance in the Distaff, Azeri is Horse of the Year.