09/14/2013 6:07PM

Sparkman: Bertrando’s final chance for Breeders’ Cup glory


During his highly successful and admirable racing career, Bertrando twice came into deep stretch on the lead in a Breeders’ Cup race only to be beaten by a foreign-trained horse. It is all but forgotten that it was Bertrando who finished second in Arazi’s brilliant Breeders’ Cup Juvenile tour-de-force in 1991, and two years later, Arcangues paid the highest price in Breeders’ Cup history when his late surge deprived Bertrando of victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Coincidentally, Bertrando’s best son, Officer, endured a similar fate when beaten by Irish-trained Johannesburg when heavily favored in the 2001 Juvenile. If Bertrando’s latest and perhaps last good son, Tamarando, winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 4, makes it to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as one of the favorites, perhaps we should beware of foreign-trained challengers.

Tamarando (out of Tamarack Bay, by Dehere) is Bertrando’s 57th stakes winner from 1,114 foals in 17 crops of racing age, a highly respectable 5.1 percent of foals for a horse based in California. Tamarando is his fifth Grade 1 winner and 14th graded stakes winner in his long and successful stud career.

Bred in California by Ed Nahem and campaigned by Nahem, Gus Headley, and Marshall Naify, Bertrando was from the second crop of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Skywalker out of the Buffalo Lark mare Gentle Hands, from a speed-oriented family nurtured in recent generations at Jack Dreyfus’s Hobeau Farm. He won his first three starts at 2  – a maiden race at Del Mar, the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity, and the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes, all in gate-to-wire fashion.

Second choice at 5-2 to French-trained Arazi for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs, Bertrando went to the front as expected, clocking fractions of 23.31 seconds, 46.63, and 1:12.09, but he had no answer for Arazi’s devastating burst on the final turn and finished second, beaten five lengths.

Bertrando began his 3-year-old campaign with a victory in the San Felipe Stakes, but A.P. Indy caught him in the Santa Anita Derby, and Bertrando then went to the sidelines for nearly nine months with an injury. Third in the Malibu on his return, he romped by nine lengths in the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes at 1 1/8 miles in his first start at 4, but could not give Siberian Summer four pounds at 1 1/4 miles in the Grade 1 Charles H. Strub Stakes.

Bertrando ran the first of very few bad races in his career in the Santa Anita Handicap, fading badly to ninth, but bounced back with good seconds in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup. Third in the Grade 1 Philip H. Iselin Handicap, he then scored his only victory at 1 1/4 miles in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar. He completed his Breeders’ Cup preparations with a 13 1/2-length drubbing of Devil His Due in the Woodward Stakes.

A relentless galloper who knew only one way of running, Bertrando set out to run everyone off their feet in the 1993 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita, laying down steady fractions of 23.28, 46.91, 1:11.24, and 1:36.01 in the process. That cooked all but the unconsidered French-based Arcangues, who shocked the crowd with a late rally to win by two lengths at 133-1. His second-place finish was good enough to earn Bertrando an Eclipse Award as champion older male.

Bertrando raced on through his 5-year-old season and started twice at 6, but he showed his old form only a couple of times in those eight starts, winning the 1994 Wickerr Stakes at a mile on grass at Del Mar and the Grade 2, 1994 Goodwood Handicap at Santa Anita.

Bertrando stood his entire career at stud in California and has been consistently successful without ever reaching the top of the tree nationally. That is an almost impossible task for a California stallion, since they are generally bred to mares with lesser credentials than those available to stallions standing in Kentucky.

Still, Bertrando’s best progeny have been good enough to compete anywhere. His best previous son, Officer (out of St. Helens Shadow, by Septieme Ciel), won the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park before his Breeders’ Cup failure. Though he sired 32 stakes winners during eight seasons at Gainesway in Kentucky, Officer did not sire the top Grade 1 winners necessary to maintain viability in that tough commercial market and was exported to South Korea in 2010.

Bertrando’s other Grade 1 winners, Karelian (Leaning Tower, by Theatrical), Unfurl the Flag (Escape the Storm, by Storm Cat), and Bilo (Raffle’s Bag, by Devil’s Bag) all were geldings, so Tamarando may well be Bertrando’s last chance to carry on his male line.

Tough female line

Tamarando is the fifth foal and third stakes winner produced by Tamarack Bay, a sound, useful filly who won only 3 of 29 starts in four years of racing, but placed in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes and four other listed races. Bred in Kentucky by Mike Akers and Pat Gutherie, Tamarack Bay was purchased for $35,000 by Darby Dan Bloodstock at the 2000 Keeneland September yearling sale on behalf of Larry D. and Marianne Williams, owners of TreeTop Ranches in Parma, Idaho.

Trained by Jerry Dutton and later by Grant Forster, Tamarack Bay raced all over the West Coast at 2 and 3 but was transferred to race in the Midwest midway through her 4-year-old season. She was competitive everywhere she raced, but finished second 10 times and third four times, with just three wins.

Her first foal, Tamarack Smarty, by Smart Strike, has compiled a similar record, winning 4 of 27 starts to date, but placing nine times, including a second in the California Dreamin’ Handicap at Del Mar. Her second named foal, Luckarack, a gelding by Lucky Pulpit, is equally sound and tough but more talented, winning 11 of 36 starts to date, including three stakes on the California fair circuit.

Tamarino, by Marino Marini, Tamarack Bay’s third named foal, is unraced, but U’narack, her 3-year-old gelded son by Unusual Heat, has won 3 of 5 starts, including the recent Real Good Deal Stakes at Del Mar.

Tamarack Bay has since produced two colts by the Williams’ stallion Lucky Pulpit, and was covered by Lucky Pulpit again this year.

Tamarando’s pedigree is an interesting illustration of what often happens to good stallions as they age. The DNA contributed by stallions (or mares for that matter) does not change significantly with age, but production of high-class runners declines sharply for all but the very best stallions as they age into their 20s. That is mostly because breeders move on to the next hotter, younger sire with their best mares, but the pedigrees of older stallions also tend to age out of the compatible pedigree strains that made them successful in their younger days.

The pedigree of Tamarando carries the inbreeding to Northern Dancer (in his case 5x4) that is standard in virtually all current graded stakes winners, but the next closest inbreeding in his pedigree is to Boldnesian, sire of Skywalker’s dam and grandsire of Seattle Slew, grandsire of Tamarando’s second dam, Gee Toto, by Slew o’ Gold. There are additional duplications of Bold Ruler (Boldnesian’s sire), Count Fleet, Polynesian, and Pilate, all historically important names, but well back in the pedigrees of most contemporary mares.

Tamarack Bay won at distances up to 1 1/8 miles, so Tamarando may have a better chance of staying extended distances than many of Bertrando’s progeny. With the Breeders’ Cup run at Santa Anita this year, perhaps Tamarando can finally break the Bertrando hex at the Breeders’ Cup.