04/24/2008 11:00PM

Colonel John harks back to California greats

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - This year's leading Kentucky Derby candidate from California, Colonel John has done more than race impressively in the state. The bay colt has immediate ties to California breeding in his pedigree.

No discussion of the influence of California-breds on the Kentucky Derby can begin without burning incense and making a bow toward the great Swaps, the plucky Determined, and his game son Decidedly. All won the classic in Kentucky, raced with distinction in their home state, and focused national attention on the potential of California breeders to produce horses of the highest standard.

And although Colonel John is not a California-bred himself, his success in the Santa Anita Derby has shown a couple of bright spots in the state's breeding scheme, as the sire of Colonel John, Horse of the Year Tiznow, was bred in California, and broodmare sire Turkoman is in California at E.A. Ranches.

Tiznow is arguably the best state-bred racer since Swaps (and loyalists of Native Diver, Ancient Title, and Best Pal would argue the point), but there is no question that he is the best stallion of the group, since the others were geldings.

Bred by Cecilia Straub Rubens, Tiznow is by the Relaunch stallion Cee's Tizzy and is out of the Seattle Song mare Cee's Song. Cee's Tizzy, now 21, still stands at Harris Farms in Coalinga, where David McGlothlin manages the equine division.

"Tiznow is a bigger, rangier individual more like his dam, Cee's Song," McGlothlin said. "Tizbud and Tiznow are both scopier types of horses than Cee's Tizzy. But the stallion and dam complemented each other very well."

Indeed, Cee's Tizzy proved the perfect match for Cee's Song, who produced four stakes winners from her matings to the stallion (Budroyale, Tizbud, and Tizdubai), and another full sister to Tiznow, Tizso, is already the dam of a stakes winner.

Despite the fact that Cee's Tizzy is past 20, McGlothlin said, "He's going to have a good-sized book for a horse his age. He still gets the respect of California breeders, and he's still producing good horses."

In addition to Tiznow, Cee's Tizzy has sired statebred champions Gourmet Girl and Cee's Elegance, as well as the graded winners Theresa's Tizzy and Lucky J.H.

A big, rangy horse with good bone, Tiznow showed his best form at 10 furlongs, winning four Grade 1 races at the distance: the Breeders' Cup Classic twice, the Santa Anita Handicap, and the Super Derby.

His repeated high-level successes propelled Tiznow to a valuation that guaranteed he would go to stud in Kentucky, and the Breeders' Cup champion stands at WinStar, the outfit that bred and races Colonel John.

Tiznow sired champion 2-year-old filly Folklore (out of a Storm Cat mare) from his first crop of foals, and graded winner and onetime classic prospect Tiz Wonderful in his second.

A genuinely classic type of racehorse who matured a bit late for the Triple Crown, Tiznow has sired a classic candidate with high potential in Colonel John, who is from his third crop of racers.

After being placed in Grade 1 stakes at 2, Colonel John, a bay colt, won the Sham Stakes prior to the Santa Anita Derby.

In addition to the classic influence of his sire, Colonel John is out of the winner Sweet Damsel, a mare by the useful stallion Turkoman.

Turkoman is a champion older horse and a son of Alydar, who ran second in the 1978 Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont. As a stallion, Alydar became one of the most consistent classic influences, siring Kentucky Derby winners Alysheba and Strike the Gold, Derby second Easy Goer, Irish Oaks winner Alydaress, and champions like Althea, Criminal Type, and Turkoman.

Turkoman developed after the classics and came to his best form at 4, winning the Marlboro Cup and Widener Handicap at 10 furlongs, as well as finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Classic and the Jockey Club Gold Cup in 1986.

After several seasons at stud, Turkoman was moved to stand in California at E.A. Ranches in the fall of 2005, and as a proven broodmare sire, he stood there in 2006 and 2007.

"We tried to breed him earlier in the year, covering a few mares," said Marguerite Eliasson, farm manager for E.A. Ranches. "But it was obvious the time had come, and he has been pensioned. He has a nice retirement on an acre field and is very content."

In addition to Colonel John, Turkoman is also the broodmare sire of Horse of the Year Point Given, winner of the Preakness and Belmont, who stands at Three Chimneys Farm.

Colonel John has a pair of full siblings, the 2-year-old colt Mr. Hot Stuff and a yearling filly named Kayce Ace.