11/07/2014 6:38PM

Sparkman: Baby Zip exerts influence on Breeders' Cup

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Emily Shields
Baby Zip is the dam of Ghostzapper, whose daughters Judy the Beauty and Better Lucky ran one-two in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (pictured above). Ghostzapper's half brother City Zip was represented by a pair of Breeders' Cup winners.

In compiling and analyzing pedigrees of the 13 Breeders’ Cup races, the names of successful stallions dominate the statistics. Popular stallions nowadays routinely sire 100 or more foals every year, while broodmares are limited to one foal per year, so that is the norm.

It is standard in contemporary Thoroughbred racing that the Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector male lines divided the spoils more or less evenly at the Breeders’ Cup, with the Icecapade, Hail to Reason, Blushing Groom, and Rough’n Tumble lines in supporting roles.

Conversely, it is quite a remarkable accomplishment that the Relaunch mare Baby Zip appears four times in the second generation of Breeders’ Cup-winning and -placing pedigrees.

Baby Zip’s son, the Grade 1-winning sprinter City Zip, by Carson City, was the surprise star sire of the Breeders’ Cup, being the only sire with two winners, as Dayatthespa wired the field in the Filly and Mare Turf and Work All Week won the Sprint. In between those two victories, another son of Baby Zip, 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper (by Awesome Again), sired the exacta in the Filly and Mare Sprint, in which Judy the Beauty held off Better Lucky.

Such prominence at one of the world’s most prestigious and highest-class racing festivals could hardly have been imagined when Frank Stronach acquired Baby Zip privately in 1995, following her racing career.

Bred and raced by J. Robert Harris, Baby Zip won her maiden in her first start at 2 at Delaware Park for trainer Tim Ritchey, running six furlongs in 1:11.76. Fourth in the Schuylkill Stakes at Philadelphia Park, she won an allowance race at the same track and then earned stakes brackets in her final start at 2 when winning the Kattegat’s Pride Stakes at Laurel. She ran 11 times at 3 in 1994, mostly in allowance company, but won only once at Pimlico, running six panels in 1:11.47.

Baby Zip was therefore not among the best of her sire Relaunch’s 89 stakes winners from 742 lifetime foals (12 percent), but her black type was just as black on the catalog page as his seven Grade 1 winners, including Breeders’ Cup winners Skywalker and One Dreamer. That did not prevent her third foal, City Zip, from selling for only $9,000 as a “short yearling” at the 1999 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale.

That derisory price was dictated by the fact that, although well balanced and quite powerfully muscled, City Zip toes out rather markedly, and it was pinhooker Carl Bowling’s Straightaway Farm that took a chance on him. Although City Zip failed to sell at a hammer price of $80,000 at the 2000 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. February sale of 2-year-olds in training, there is no doubt that Bowling eventually made a handsome profit on his $9,000 investment.

Second, beaten a head, in Bowling’s colors in his debut at Keeneland in April 2000, City Zip raced thereafter for a partnership that at various times included Charles R. Thompson, Becky Thomas, Bowling, and Lewis Lakin. City Zip won his maiden in his second start at Churchill Downs by 6 3/4 lengths, and then, after finishing second in the Grade 3 Kentucky Breeders’ Cup Stakes at Churchill and third in the Flash at Belmont, he swept the Grade 3 Tremont, Grade 2 Sanford, Grade 2 Saratoga Special, and Grade 1 Hopeful in rapid succession, winning the last in a dead heat with Yonaguska.

City Zip tried valiantly to extend his winning sequence to five in the Grade 1 Futurity Stakes at Belmont, but he did not really last out the mile distance, veering out into the closing Burning Roma and being disqualified from first to second after barely keeping his nose in front at the wire. After that it was no surprise that City Zip made no show in the 1 1/16-mile Champagne and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Tried unsuccessfully around two turns in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby early at 3, City Zip was properly restricted to shorter distances by trainer Linda Rice thereafter, and he confirmed his prowess as a sprinter with victories in the Grade 2 Amsterdam, Grade 3 Jersey Shore Breeders’ Cup, and the Hirsch Jacobs and Bergen County stakes.

Retired originally to New York and transferred to Lane’s End in Kentucky after his initial success, City Zip has been a consistent sire, mostly of talented sprinters and milers, without ever becoming what anyone would describe as fashionable. Dayatthespa and Work All Week are among the very best of his 53 stakes winners from 724 foals age 3 and up, a respectable 7.3 percent strike rate. Those numbers include Grade 1 winners Palace, Bustin Stones, and Personal Diary.

Baby Zip’s fifth foal, Ghostzapper, is a very different type of individual and racehorse. Taller and leggier than City Zip, he is also more correct in front and much more of a classic American miler in type. Trained by the late Bobby Frankel for Stronach, he was much less precocious than City Zip and did not make his first start at 2 until mid-November 2002. He won impressively by nine lengths, but then finished fourth at 3-10 in his second start on Dec. 26.

Ghostzapper did not race again for six months because of leg issues. He won allowance races at Belmont and Saratoga on his return, but he was caught five wide and his late rally from far back fell short in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop, finishing an unlucky third, beaten a half-length by Valid Video and Great Notion.

Ghostzapper never lost again. His victory in the Grade 1 Vosburgh by 6 1/2 lengths completed his 3-year-old campaign, and he did not race again until the Grade 2 Tom Fool the following July. Ghostzapper had been a come-from-behind sprinter at 2 and 3, but he returned at 4 as a pace-pressing or front-running monster over any distance he was asked to run. He raced only four times as a 4-year-old in 2004, and his only close call was a thrilling head-to-head duel with Saint Liam (Horse of the Year the following year) in the Woodward Stakes that Ghostzapper won by a neck. His Breeders’ Cup Classic was a front-running tour de force, with Ghostzapper winning unchallenged by three lengths and earning a 124 Beyer Speed Figure. Ghostzapper was voted Horse of the Year, and Baby Zip received Broodmare of the Year honors the following spring.

Kept in training at 5, Ghostzapper managed only one start, but that was another thrilling display of speed, a 6 1/4-length victory in the Metropolitan Handicap in 1:33.29. Retired to Stronach’s Adena Springs at a record initial fee of $200,000, Ghostzapper made a slow start at stud that did not endear him to commercial breeders, partly as a reaction to his initial fee.

Since then, however, Ghostzapper has, comparatively quietly, gone about the business of being quite a good stallion, siring 40 stakes winners from 368 foals age 3 and up, a sparkling 10.9 percent stakes winners to foals ratio that is double that of some far more popular horses. That number includes Canadian champion Hunters Bay and Grade 1 winners Moreno, Stately Victor, Contested, and Starship Truffles, in addition to Judy the Beauty and Better Lucky.

Baby Zip is a half-sister to stakes winner Lucette, by Dayjur, dam of Grade 3 winner Everyday Heroes, by Awesome Again. Baby Zip’s dam, Thirty Zip, by Tri Jet, was a sturdy multiple stakes winner of $585,970 and a half-sister to minor stakes winner Cutter Sam, by Norcliffe. However, one must descend the female line to her fifth dam, Native Gal, by Sir Gallahad III, fourth dam of the great Affirmed, to find a broodmare of real significance.

Baby Zip is an outcross, with a 4x6 duplication of Mahmoud the closest inbreeding, and her two high-class sons carry even less close inbreeding, with no duplications closer than the sixth generation. Baby Zip has since produced Canadian Grade 3 winner City Wolf, by Giant’s Causeway, who now stands at Pleasant Acres Stallions in Florida.

The 10 other Breeders’ Cup races were divided among 10 different stallions, and only one, Offlee Wild, sire of Classic winner Bayern, carried an unusual pedigree. Despite those commonalities of pedigree, however, no other name appears as close up as many times among the 39 placed horses in the 13 Breeders’ Cup races of 2014 as does the name of Baby Zip.