05/08/2008 11:00PM

Derby winner has solid family ties


LEXINGTON, Ky. - One of the striking elements of the pedigree of Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown is the influence of Claiborne Farm, one of Thoroughbred racing's most important breeding operations.

The famous farm outside Paris, Ky., either bred, raced, or stood many of the stallions and mares in Big Brown's pedigree, including his sire, Boundary.

Now a pensioner at Claiborne Farm, where he was born and stood his entire stud career, Boundary has one of the distinctively Claiborne pedigrees.

His sire, an unbeaten son of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Northern Dancer, stood at Claiborne, and Boundary's dam, the stakes winner Edge, was bred at Claiborne from Preakness and Belmont winner Damascus and the stakes-winning mare Ponte Vecchio, by champion Round Table.

Ponte Vecchio was one of three stakes winners (all by Round Table) out of the Bold Ruler mare Terentia, who was also a stakes winner and out of the major stakes winner Romanita.

In summation, Boundary and his first three dams were all bred and raced by Claiborne as part of the farm's association with the Gamely Corp.

As part of a desire to race more of his homebred stock, A.B. "Bull" Hancock, son of Claiborne's founder, created the Gamely partnership with William Haggin Perry in 1959, and the common interest and continuing enthusiasm of the Gamely partnership was so strong that Gamely outlived its founders, being dispersed in 1998 at the Keeneland January sale. At the dispersal, Boundary's 20-year-old dam, in foal to Unbridled, brought $225,000.

Racing in Perry's name, Boundary won 6 of his 8 starts, and his most important successes were a pair of Grade 3 sprints, the A Phenomenon and Roseben handicaps.

Retired to his birthplace, Boundary became a talking horse with his first crop of foals, which showed speed and quality.

Despite the quickness of his foals, which included English highweight juvenile colt Minardi and Grade 1 winner Pomeroy, Boundary never quite captured the fancy of the general sales market. His offspring sold well, but not wildly so.

As a result, the demand for seasons to the stallion decreased somewhat over the years, and when he was pensioned in 2005 because of declining fertility, the stallion had covered about 30 mares but had fewer than 10 in foal.

Now, however, many a breeder wishes that dependable Boundary was still fertile and available, because Big Brown is the kind of advertising that money cannot buy. Continuing success by the bay colt would shine a spotlight on the subsequent offspring of the stallion and put mares in foal to him at a premium.

If only there were some. But the last foals sired by Boundary are now 2.

"Boundary is living the good life up at the Marchmont stud barn with Private Terms and Lure," Gus Koch of Claiborne said. "He's in great shape and is one happy horse."

So, in contrast to the recent Kentucky Derby winners such as Monarchos, Funny Cide, and Smarty Jones, who came from the first or second crops by their sires - Maria's Mon, Distorted Humor, and Elusive Quality - Big Brown is from the next-to-last crop by his sire.

In addition to the Claiborne stamp on the sire's side of his pedigree, Big Brown is out of the 9-year-old mare Mien, a daughter of Nureyev. Claiborne bred Nureyev and sold the dashing bay son of Northern Dancer for $1 million as a yearling at the Keeneland July sale in 1978.

Nureyev finished in front in each of his three starts but was disqualified from victory in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. A son of Northern Dancer, he became an international success as a stallion and as a broodmare sire.

Nureyev is a half-brother to Fairy Bridge, the dam of the great sire Sadler's Wells, and to a pair of graded stakes winners, Bound and Number.

At the Gamely dispersal, the highest-priced broodmares were Bound and her daughter Limit at $2.2 million and $2.5 million.

The dam of Nureyev and Bound is Special, by Claiborne stallion Forli and out of Thong, a full sister to stakes winners Moccasin, Ridan, and Lt. Stevens. This is the family bred from the imported mare Rough Shod, who had outstanding success at Claiborne with champion Moccasin and numerous stakes winners descending from this family.

Mien's second dam is the Damascus mare Syrian Circle, and Mien's third dam is the Round Table mare Friendly Circle.

As a result, Big Brown is inbred to Northern Dancer 3x3, to Damascus 3x4, and to Round Table 4x5.

And the Kentucky Derby winner has a pedigree that says "Claiborne" generation after generation.