07/19/2004 11:00PM

Link to Courtly Dee provides class


LAS VEGAS - Pedigree handicappers just drool over maiden races for 2-year-olds. While pedigrees are the most potent weapon in handicapping maiden turf races, they also are important in finding value in maiden dirt races. A prime example occurred last Sunday at Belmont Park, where Balletto won a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race for 2-year-old fillies in an explosive effort at 16-1.

Eight of the nine fillies were first-time starters, the lone exception being Winsome, who showed good speed to finish third in her only start, beaten a head and neck. Winsome is by freshman sire War Chant, winner of the 2000 Breeders' Cup Mile. Expected to improve off her first race for Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, Winsome was made the 7-5 favorite.

While it may not have been obvious to the casual observer, Balletto's pedigree jumped off the page. The first thing that caught my eye was that she is by 1994 2-year-old champion Timber Country (by Woodman), who was whisked away to Japan immediately after his retirement. He became a successful stallion in Japan and it is rare to see his offspring in the U.S.

Most importantly, Balletto's dam is Destiny Dance, who won the Sheepshead Bay Handicap as a 4-year-old filly in 1990 after she was imported back to North America after starting her career in England. A daughter of English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky II, Destiny Dance is from one of the most prolific stakes-producing female families of the last 30 years. Her dam, Althea, was 1983 champion 2-year-old filly and defeated males on three occasions - the Del Mar Futurity and Hollywood Juvenile Championship at 2, and the Arkansas Derby at 3.

The key to Balletto's class is through her third dam, 1983 Broodmare of the Year Courtly Dee, who produced eight high-quality stakes winners. Courtly Dee was born in 1968 and was a modest racemare, winning 4 of 33 starts. Like so many great broodmares who were average on the track but very well-bred, Courtly Dee became a stakes-producing machine, through a variety of stallions. Remarkably, she bore 18 foals, eight of whom became significant stakes winners. But even her non-stakes-winning foals became an integral part of her legacy.

Her first foal was Ali Oop (Al Hattab), who won the 1976 Sapling Stakes when it was a Grade 1 event.

In 1975, she produced Native Courier (Exclusive Native), a gelding who was a multiple stakes winner on grass. Native Courier raced 51 times, winning 14 races.

In 1976, she produced Vireo (True Knight), who won only once in 15 starts. But from seven foals, Vireo produced five runners and all five were winners, including stakes winner Chief Turko (Turkoman) and stakes-placed Rush for Gold (Quack). Vireo is also the granddam of Australian Group 1 winner Precious Glitter (Danehill) and Miss Angelina (Brilliant Protege).

In 1977, Courtly Dee produced Vireo's full brother Ragtime Knight, one of her few foals to run who was not much of a racehorse. To be fair, however, he was a throwback to the iron horses of yesteryear, as he raced nine years, starting 73 times and winning five races.

In 1978 came stakes winner Princess Oola (Al Hattab), a sister to Ali Oop who produced Australian Group 1 stakes winner Azzam (Chief's Crown) and English stakes winner Balwa (Danzig).

In 1979, Courtly Dee produced the unraced Foreign Courier (Sir Ivor), whose contribution to the family was producing two stakes winners by Danzig, the top English sprinter and sire Green Desert, and Yousefia. Yousefia produced stakes winner Mythical Girl (Gone West).

In 1980, Courtly Dee produced Embellished (Seattle Slew), who only won once in nine starts. But from 11 foals, Embellished produced 10 winners from as many runners, including three stakes winners, Seattle Dawn (Grey Dawn II), Truckee (Danzig), and Island of Silver (Forty Niner), and two stakes-placed runners, Lord Charmer (Our Native) and Alydar's Son (Alydar). Embellished is also the granddam of stakes winner Gold Sunrise (Forty Niner) and stakes-placed Premium Thunder and Te n Te (both by Easy Goer).

In 1981, Courtly Dee produced Althea, the first of three foals by Alydar, all of whom were stakes winners. Althea was the best of Courtly Dee's nine stakes winners, and she produced four high-quality stakes winners herself, including Japanese 2-year-old filly champion Yamanin Paradise (Danzig), Aurora (Danzig), Alyssum (Storm Cat), and Destiny Dance, the dam of Balletto. Aurora is the dam of Super Derby winner Arch (Kris S.), an emerging young stallion.

In 1982, Courtly Dee produced the modest Barada (Damascus), who did not win in three starts.

Sent back to Exclusive Native, Courtly Dee produced a 1983 foal, Ketoh, who won the Cowdin Stakes but died at age 3.

To the cover of Roberto, Courtly Dee produced Maidee in 1984, who won just once in 14 starts but produced stakes winner Defacto (Diesis).

Her 1985 foal was Namaqua (Storm Bird), who won once in three starts, but produced stakes winner Namaqualand (Mr. Prospector) and stakes-placed Lemon Dove (Forty Niner).

In 1986, she produced Karraar (Saratoga Six), another non-stakes winner, but in 1987 came Aishah, her second stakes winner by Alydar, and the dam of stakes winner Aldiza (Storm Cat) and stakes-placed Aunt Anne (Deputy Minister) and Elajjud (Dayjur).

In 1989, she produced her third foal by Alydar, stakes winner Aquilegia, the dam of three stakes winners, Bertolini (Danzig), Alchemilla (Deputy Minister), and Amelia (Dixieland Band).

In 1990, she produced Press Card (Fappiano), who missed becoming a stakes winner by a whisker, finishing second in the Pennsylvania Derby.

Her last stakes winner was Twining, her 1991 foal by Forty Niner. Courtly Dee produced her last foal in 1992, Amizette (Forty Niner).

This extraordinary type of class could not go unnoticed. Balletto was impressive, making a strong rally to win at $35, and the $2 exacta with Winsome returned $85.50.