06/15/2007 12:00AM

Rags to Riches born to run in Belmont


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Her victory in the Belmont Stakes made Rags to Riches the answer to at least a half-dozen trivia questions, including, "Can you name the only three-generation succession of Belmont Stakes winners in modern racing?"

The answer is Seattle Slew (1977), A.P. Indy (1992), and now Rags to Riches. And how fitting it is that the classic victory by Rags to Riches came in the year of the 30th anniversary of Seattle Slew's Triple Crown.

Seattle Slew, a seal-brown son of the Bold Ruler-line stallion Bold Reasoning, was undefeated at the time of his Belmont success and was the odds-on favorite to win the race and to complete the second Triple Crown of the 1970s.

At the time, the most common questions about Seattle Slew's prospects in the Belmont concerned his ability to race a mile and a half. Seattle Slew was a natural front-runner, gifted with so much pace that most good horses couldn't keep up with him, and as a result, he was typically on the lead in his races.

This gave some observers the impression that he was a speed horse and that stamina might prove to be his weak point.

That did not prove to be the case, however, and in the Belmont, Seattle Slew triumphed without being unduly tested. Despite the doubts of pundits and the challenges of his rivals, Seattle Slew took the lead and turned his Belmont into a procession to glory.

"The Belmont was the easiest of the three," Seattle Slew's trainer, Billy Turner, said in a telephone interview last week.

Seattle Slew's Triple Crown was the second for the Bold Ruler line, which had reached its peak of success about that time. With seven winners of the Kentucky Derby from 1970 to 1979 tracing to Bold Ruler in the male line, there is no argument that the Bold Ruler line was the dominant male line of American classic winners during the period.

The eminence of the Bold Ruler line diminished rapidly thereafter, however, and its success over the past 25 years has continued principally through the descendants of Seattle Slew, who sired two Belmont winners - A.P. Indy and Swale (who also won the Kentucky Derby) - as well as champion Slew o' Gold, who ran second in the Belmont.

The early Derby favorite in 1992, A.P. Indy might have joined Swale as a Kentucky Derby winner, but a bruised hoof kept A.P. Indy from racing on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs.

A.P. Indy had a top-notch campaign the rest of that season and was named Horse of the Year after his victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Following his retirement to stud, A.P. Indy has become one of the world's best sires, including several classic performers among his progeny. The most successful of them before Rags to Riches were two colts who ran second in the Belmont, Aptitude (in 2000) and A P Valentine (2001).

In addition to these classic performers, A.P. Indy is the sire of Bernardini, winner of last year's Preakness and champion 3-year-old colt.

Some of A.P. Indy's best racers also showed elite form at classic distances, even though they did not start in the Triple Crown. Raced overseas through the midpoint of his 3-year-old season, Mineshaft won four Grade 1 stakes during a 4-year-old campaign that resulted in his becoming Horse of the Year in 2003. The talented filly Secret Status won the 2000 Kentucky Oaks, which Rags to Riches also won as her prep for the Belmont.

In addition to the Belmont successes of her sire and grandsire, Rags to Riches carries in her pedigree such exceptional Belmont Stakes winners as Man o' War, his son War Admiral, the unbeaten Colin, and Secretariat. The latter is the broodmare sire of A.P. Indy and was the best son of Bold Ruler.

After linebreeding to Bold Ruler and his sire Nasrullah had yielded positive results early in the stud career of Seattle Slew, that approach to mating was continued with some success with the Triple Crown winner and his sons. And Rags to Riches carries another line of Nasrullah through Blushing Groom, the sire of the filly's second dam, Kentucky Oaks winner Blush With Pride.

Of even greater importance to the overall quality and racing ability of Rags to Riches is the uniform excellence of her immediate ancestors. Each of the filly's ancestors in the first three generations of her pedigree is an outstanding racehorse or the parent of a champion. Most are both.

The combination of so many positive factors surely increased the probability for success with Rags to Riches, and her own physical excellence has allowed this filly to make racing history.