Updated on 09/16/2011 8:45AM

In the market for best in breed


In 1953, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt was the honored speaker at the annual Thoroughbred Club of America testimonial dinner in Lexington, Ky. That was the year that his homebred Native Dancer became one of racing's immortals.

In explaining how he bred the champion colt, Vanderbilt said, "Well, I gave the mating of Geisha to Polynesian a great deal of thought and a great deal of study and the somewhat nebulous value of 20 years of breeding experience, and lo and behold, here comes Native Dancer."

Without skipping a beat, Vanderbilt added, "Of course, I also gave the same amount of thought, study, and experience to a lot of other horses that couldn't get out of their own way."

Representatives of some of the richest people from around the world will gather at the annual Keeneland selected yearling sale on Monday and Tuesday to use their research and experience to try to pick out the next Native Dancer.

Test your knowledge of sires who have made their mark on American racing.

1. Lexington is America's undisputed champion stallion - leading the sire list for 16 years between 1861 and 1878. Bold Ruler holds the 20th Century record for most years atop the sire list - eight between 1963 and 1973.

During the first half of the 20th Century, this imported stallion led the list more years than other horse - five times between 1911 and 1919. Name him.

2. When this week's selected yearling sale is completed, the name Storm Cat is likely once again to appear prominently on the list of highest-priced transactions.

A son of Storm Bird out of the Secretariat mare Terlingua, Storm Cat stands today at Overbrook Farm for the highest advertised stud fee in history - $500,000.

When Storm Cat left the racetrack in 1986 after a career that included eight starts and only one stakes win, few would have predicted that he would become the most commercially successful sire in history. In fact, his stud fee the first year (1988) was $30,000. Three years later, it dropped to $20,000.

Name the only stakes race that Storm Cat won.

3. In 1933, a 27-year-old cattle rancher from Arizona, Rex C. Ellsworth, arrived in Lexington, Ky, with his life savings of $625. He bought eight Thoroughbreds for $600.

By 1946, after moderate success as an owner and breeder, Ellsworth was ready for the big time. He traveled to England to buy the new stallion Nasrullah. Unsuccessful in purchasing Nasrullah, however, Ellsworth turned his sights to a colt who, as a sire, was destined to help take him to the top of the national standings. Name the horse.

4. At the Saratoga summer auction in 1936, Warren Wright Sr. of Calumet Farm paid $14,000 for a colt by Bull Dog out of Rose Leaves - to be named Bull Lea. A stakes star at ages 2, 3, and 4, Bull Lea won such races as the Blue Grass Stakes and Widener Handicap, but it was at stud that he made his biggest mark.

Bull Lea led the sire list five times and became one of only four horses to sire three Kentucky Derby winners. A record seven of his sons and daughters are enshrined in the Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Racing. Name the seven horses.

5. The claim of Stymie for $1,500 by Hall of Fame trainer Hirsch Jacobs in 1943 is often referred to as "The Claim of the 20th Century."

Stymie retired the world's leading money winner ($918,485). But a $2,500 claim a year earlier by another Hall of Fame trainer might in the long run have been a better claim.

Not only did this horse become a major stakes winner, but he also was for two years America's leading sire, a major sire of sires, and the country's leading broodmare sire for eight years. Name the horse and the trainer who claimed him.

History Challenge answers

1. As a 2-year-old, Star Shoot won three stakes races in England and Ireland in 1900. He developed a wind problem the following year, was promptly retired and exported to America, standing the first 10 years at Runnymeade Farm in Kentucky. He was among the top 20 sires in America every year from 1908 to 1923. He led the list in 1911, 1912, 1916, 1917, and 1919.

Star Shoot was sold in 1912 to "The Wizard," John E. Madden, who bred five Kentucky Derby winners at his Hamburg Place, near Lexington. In all, Star Shoot sired 61 stakes winners, including Sir Barton, the first horse to win the series we know today as the Triple Crown, and Grey Lag, acclaimed Horse of the Year in 1921 and champion handicap horse in 1922 and 1923.

2. Storm Cat scored his only stakes win on Oct. 10, 1985, when he won the ninth running of the Young America Stakes at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The race was a Grade 1 and carried a purse of $500,000, with $300,000 to the winning owner.

In his next start, Storm Cat appeared headed to victory in the second running of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Aqueduct. Leading by nearly three lengths in midstretch, he was caught in the last few strides by Tasso.

Storm Cat, an overbrook Farm homebred, made only two starts at age 3, and while training for his 4-year-old season was injured and retired. His race record was eight starts, four wins, three seconds, and once unplaced, with total earnings of $570,610.

3. When he couldn't buy Nasrullah in 1946, Rex Ellsworth settled on Khaled, a son of Hyperion, whom he bought for $160,000 from the Aga Khan. Khaled stood the 1947 breeding season in Ireland before Ellsworth bought him to California.

Khaled was a successful stallion from the start. From his first American crop came Big Noise, winner of the Del Mar Futurity. His second crop included Correspondent, winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup. In 1952, the mare Iron Reward dropped a Khaled colt who would be named Swaps. He won the 1955 Kentucky Derby, was named Horse of the Year in 1956, and is regarded as one of the sport's superstars.

In all, Khaled sired 61 stakes winners, including A Glitter, Hillary, Terrang, New Policy, and Linmold.

Nasrullah, the stallion that got away from Ellsworth, went on to sire Nashua, a horse whom Swaps beat in the Kentucky Derby but who defeated Swaps in one of the 20th Century's most famous match races.

4. A remarkable seven sons and daughters of Bull Lea are enshrined in racing's Hall of Fame. They are Armed, Bewitch, Citation, Coaltown, Real Delight, Twilight Tear, and Two Lea.

Four of these racing greats were females, and perhaps that should have been a significant factor to consider when Bull Lea's offspring were sent to the breeding shed.

Sons of Bull Lea were major disappointments at stud. Citation did sire a classic winner (Fabius) and a champion filly (Silver Spoon), but little else. Coaltown never sired a stakes winner. Armed was a gelding.

Bull Lea's daughters were much more successful. In all, they foaled more than 100 stakes winners. Two Lea produced Tim Tam, who nearly became a Triple Crown winner in 1958.

5. The legendary trainer Horatio Luro claimed Princequillo in 1952 for $2,500 and won such races with him as the Saratoga Cup and Jockey Club Gold Cup. At stud, Princequillo sired 65 stakes winners, including two Horses of the Year - Hill Prince and Round Table - and Prince John. Round Table and Prince John both became outstanding sires and broodmare sires.

Daughters of Princequillo produced a remarkable 170 stakes winners. In 1970, one daughter, Somethingroyal, foaled a chestnut colt who was named Secretariat.