05/29/2014 2:23PM

Hovdey: Bloodlines key to Nashoba's Gold

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Benoit & Associates
Nashoba's Gold, a half-sister to the high-quality Nashoba's Key, has much of the class but little of the attitude her late big sister had.

As usual, a Belmont Stakes with a Triple Crown on the line is sucking all the oxygen from the room. Life goes on elsewhere, although you’d hardly know it.

Between May 17, when California Chrome added the Preakness to his Kentucky Derby, and June 7, when he will dance with the devil one more time at Belmont Park, there were two other stakes rated Grade 1 on the North American schedule.

The first of those occurred last Monday at a sun-drenched Santa Anita Park, where the Argentine mare Miss Serendipity edged New York invader Emollient in a renewal of the Gamely Stakes that won’t soon be forgotten. Emollient drifted badly to the right through the stretch under Rosie Napravnik, but Brice Blanc was able to get Miss Serendipity’s nose down first to spare the proceedings the indignity of a disqualification.

:: Click here to purchase a copy of “Long Rein: Tales from the World of Horse Racing,” a collection of columns and features by Jay Hovdey

The other Grade 1 prize will be offered Saturday, again at Santa Anita, which is now the home of the $350,000 American Oaks. At 1 1/4 miles on turf, it was a good race during its 12-year run at Hollywood Park, and it will continue to be a good race at Santa Anita, as promised by a field featuring 3-year-old fillies from the stables of Tom Proctor, Chad Brown, John Shirreffs, Richard Mandella, Mike Puype, Doug O’Neill, and Richard Mandella.

They’ve all got Carla Gaines to beat, however, because she has Nashoba’s Gold in the Oaks. And Nashoba’s Gold is the most exciting 3-year-old filly in California right now, a shining complement to all things chrome.

Bred and owned by Alyce and Warren “Spud” Williamson, Nashoba’s Gold enters the American Oaks half a length shy of a perfect 4-for-4 record, with two graded stakes wins at nine furlongs in her last two starts. She rates and waits, heeding Joe Talamo’s every move, then finishes her races with an authority found in the best of the breed.

Where does she get it? Ask a tougher one. Nashoba’s Gold is by Smart Strike out of the Caerleon mare Nashoba, which makes her a half-sister to Nashoba’s Key, a chestnut mare who flashed across the racing sky in 2007 and part of 2008.

Nashoba’s Key was Nashoba’s first foal. Gaines and the Williamsons waited until the filly turned 4 before unwrapping the package in public, and they were rewarded with a record of eight wins in 10 starts that included such major events as the Yellow Ribbon, the Santa Margarita, and the Vanity. Nashoba’s Key did not lose a race until she was fourth, beaten two lengths, in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf in the mire of Monmouth Park. Gaines was asked how the sisters compare.

“It’s a bit unfair,” the trainer said. “Nashoba’s Key was just a bear, any way you look at it. This one is a lot kinder, more sociable. Don’t get me wrong – I loved the other one more than anyone will ever know. But this one is very pleasant to work with. You don’t have to worry about losing an ear or a finger.”

Talamo was a 17-year-old apprentice when he rode Nashoba’s Key to major victories in 2007, including the Yellow Ribbon. He has been aboard Nashoba’s Gold in all four starts.

“Nashoba’s Key put me on the map,” Talamo said. “An apprentice doesn’t get to ride Grade 1 races like that, let alone win them. She taught me what it was like to ride a good horse.”

And little sister?

“Well, she tries to kick me, just like Nashoba’s Key,” he said. “She’s bigger, though, with a longer stride. Nashoba’s Key got a mile and a quarter because she had so much grit. This filly feels like she’s just warming up at a mile and an eighth. I can’t wait to see what she does at a mile and a quarter.”

After Nashoba’s Key won the 2008 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita, Gaines gave her mare a brief break, hoping not only for a restorative physical effect but also on the longshot chance that she might mellow, if only a little. Physically, she bloomed. But as for the other ...

Nashoba’s Key was in her pen outside the Gaines barn at Hollywood Park when, in the predawn hours of May 28, 2008, she somehow got a leg caught in the fencing. In her panic to pull free, she fractured the leg beyond repair. There was nothing to do except put her out of her pain. Veterinarians Chuck Jenkins and Sam Bradley were with her at the end.

“Sometimes it is necessary to tranquilize a horse before they are euthanized, but she was standing calm,” Jenkins said at the time. “Before I did it, though, I told Sam to be careful because she will get you. And don’t you know, she tried to bite him.”

Nashoba’s Key was a chestnut, while Nashoba’s Gold is gray, like Nashoba, which translates as “wolf” from the Native American languages of the Choctaw and Chickasaw. Such a coincidence can be taken seriously or not, but there is no doubt that the ferocity of competitive spirit found in Nashoba’s Key is present in the half-sister who hit the ground eight years later. Nashoba’s Gold has a lot to live up to, and she’s getting there fast.

sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
Other horses are running in America right now?
Ralph Arzoomanian More than 1 year ago
drf is alienating me and other thoughtful horseplayers. nine bucks for the drf? When will this end?
AzHorsePlayer More than 1 year ago
I miss Nashoba's Key so much...what a horse she was...glad to see little sis is making big sis proud:)
dameian ramsay More than 1 year ago
I loved this horse. I bet her the first race she had at 1 1/8 mile and she rung it up 9/1 for. Just loved her breeding. I love smart strikes and curlin lids going 1 or more miles over the grass
jttf More than 1 year ago
almost three months ago, i said it would be a good idea to put palice malice on the turf. he has the breeding like english channel. i also mentioned nashoba's gold breeding after her loss to diversy harbor (curlin). because nashoba's key ws so good, that zenyatta scratched out of their match. the excuse was a wet all weather track. i think gold will be better going longer. english channel only won by 7 against dylan thomas, red rocks, better talk now, and grand couturier on the monmouth bog at 12 furlongs.
dameian ramsay More than 1 year ago
I agree too about palace malice. I love that horse. Mayb down the line we will c him on the turf. As of mow he still has unfinished business on the dirt jockey gold club breeders cup classic . And met mile coming up next week
Walter More than 1 year ago
I don't recall Zenyatta scratching out of anything? If that is a veiled shot at the Queen, it's weak. All she did was win every big race for FM in CA, won the Apple Blossom twice, and was a nose short of winning the BC Classic twice. 19 of 20 is a resume' that requires no apologies.
Matt Banchero More than 1 year ago
Ha...he said Zenyatta scratched because Nashoba's Key ! Nashoba could run but Zenyatta's in a league of her own
nancyb More than 1 year ago
Zenyatta scratched out of a race at Churchill because the track was in such bad shape from heavy rain. The sad thing is that if she had run, she most likely would have won and then the perennial Right Coast naysayers would not be able to complain that she didn't run east of Arkansas.
jttf More than 1 year ago
true and devoted zenyatta fans would remember. just google, zenyatta nashoba's key san margarita. key won by four. zenyatta out of the six hole with six less pounds assigned. three out of the eight scratched.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
after zenyatta won the el encino. shirreffs was pointing her for la canada stakes. she missed that race also. zenyatta's sister, balance won the lacanada the year before. zenyatta followed azeri's schedule. azeri had a second in the lacanada, and then reeled off eleven grade 1 and 2 victories with smith aboard. it is incredible how similar azeri, nashoba's key and zenyatta's trails were so successful and similar in socal. they all started racing right when they were turning four years of age. all three of them had incredible records. i call this the perfect schedule for today's horse.
Walter More than 1 year ago
It seemed that Key & Zenyatta missed each other by a year. Key won her big races in 2007 when Zenyatta was just getting started. Too bad because it coulda been a great match up in 2008 & 2009. Good racing to all
Dylan More than 1 year ago
He's referring to the 2008 Santa Margarita which Nashoba's Key won. Zenyatta was entered in that race but scratched out of it. I think its dubious that Nashoba's Key was the reason for the scratch but Zenyatta did indeed scratch from that one which was anticipated as a summit between the two
Gaye Goodwin More than 1 year ago
So sad, that East Coast Z detractors have to make up stories to back up their weak positions
horsenewz More than 1 year ago
For all asking the question did Zenyatta scratch, it is true. John S didn't want anything to do with Nashoba's Key that day and I don't blame him as she was beating the likes of Balance, Hysterical Lady and Citronade. She actually bit Balance during the race when she tried to challenge her on the backstretch. We would have loved the chance to race against Z and we rooted her on with the same passion. For now all positive energy towards our filly Nashoba's Gold on the turf.