05/05/2003 11:00PM

Honor in War owns strong family ties


LAS VEGAS - He always had the pedigree. After winning the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic last Saturday at Churchill Downs in the race immediately preceding the Kentucky Derby, Honor in War now owns the credentials. Honor in War, a 4-year-old by the deceased Lord at War, out of a stakes-producing female family tracing directly in tail-female to La Troienne, finally fulfilled the expectations that such a pedigree inspires. At 24-1, no less.

A $140,000 purchase at the 2000 Keeneland September yearling sale, Honor in War showed promise from the start. A strapping chestnut, Honor in War finished third in his 2-year-old debut over a tricky Kentucky Downs turf course as the 9-5 favorite and followed that effort with a victory on the dirt at Keeneland.

But it was his third start, back on turf at Churchill Downs, that hinted of something special. Blocked behind a wall of horses in deep stretch, Honor in War appeared hopelessly beaten when jockey Jon Court suddenly yanked him out six wide and wore down Mecke Stakes winner Rylstone, to win by a head. It was 6 1/2 lengths back to the third horse, Mystic Storm.

Two months later, Honor in War suffered a minor injury while finishing fourth in his 3-year-old debut, in the 2002 Dave Feldman Stakes at Gulfstream Park. And he showed only flashes of brilliance until this winter at Gulfstream, when he started to put it all together. It was his last effort going into the Woodford, an allowance win over a yielding Keeneland turf course at 1 1/8 miles, that prompted trainer Paul McGee to enter the colt in the Woodford Reserve.

Honor in War is from the last crop of the late and prolific Lord at War, a champion miler and Group 1 winner in Argentina who was undefeated in his three starts at 3.

Brought to the U.S. at age 4, Lord at War was an immediate hit, winning the Citation, Native Diver, and Goodwood handicaps. He was even better at 5, winning the Santa Anita Handicap over Greinton and Gate Dancer. He also captured the San Antonio and Goodwood handicaps.

Although he sired dirt winners, Lord at War became synonymous with turf. His offspring were dramatically better on grass, and his stakes winners included La Gueriere, who is closely related to Honor in War.

Female family also strong

Honor in War's dam, Catumbella, placed at 2 and 3 in England and won two races at 4 in the U.S. Devoid of speed, she was a one-paced runner by Diesis out of the Little Current mare Benguela. While Catumbella did not achieve much on the track, she possessed the genes to be a superior broodmare.

Benguela was a modest allowance winner in England, but was out of stakes-placed Lady Winborne, a half-sister to Allez France, French Horse of the Year and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner and considered to be one of Europe's all-time great fillies.

Lady Winborne was group 3-placed in Ireland, and she became a foundation mare, producing five stakes winners, including Al Mamoon (Believe It), Born Wild (Wild Again), La Gueriere (Lord at War), Lost Soldier (Danzig), and Lord of Warriors (Lord at War). She is also the dam of three stakes-placed runners - Long War (Lord at War), Baranof (Arctic Tern), and Caspian Tern (Arctic Tern). An unraced daughter, Lady Lady (Little Current), produced stakes winner Lovat's Lady and stakes-placed Weepnomoremylady.

Secretariat sired Risen Star and General Assembly, but his legacy is as a broodmare sire. His daughters were coveted broodmares and in addition to Lady Winborne, they include Secrettame (dam of Gone West), Weekend Surprise (dam of A.P. Indy, Summer Squall, and Honor Grades), Sister Dot (dam of Dehere), Six Crowns (dam of Chief's Crown), and Terlingua (dam of Storm Cat).

Honor in War's fourth dam is Priceless Gem (Hail to Reason), who was the second-best 2-year-old filly of 1965, only behind undefeated co-Horse of the Year Moccasin. Priceless Gem won the Frizette Stakes and defeated 2-year-old champion colt, Buckpasser, by a half-length in the Futurity Stakes. In addition to Allez France and Lady Winborne, Priceless Gem also produced Priceless Countess, the dam of Ordway.

Priceless Gem was a half-sister to champion sprinter Affectionately (Swaps), one of the best racemares of the 1960's. Affectionately was also the dam of 1970 Preakness winner Personality. Priceless Gem's full sister Admiring produced Glowing Tribute, 1993 Broodmare of the Year, who established a dynasty of her own. Her seven stakes winners include 1993 Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero, as well as Wild Applause, the dam of stakes winners Blare of Trumpets, Eastern Echo, Roar, and Yell.

A Grade 1 winner with an impeccable pedigree, Honor in War has a future as a stallion that is secure.