10/17/2015 3:07PM

Sparkman: A big hit for Successful Appeal

Keeneland/Coady Photography
Her Emmynency became a Grade 1 winner at Keeneland this month.

All through the 1980s, when I was general manager of William du Pont III’s Pillar Stud, we always were on the lookout for stakes-winning mares, even with relatively modest pedigrees. As disciples of Joe Estes, who conclusively demonstrated in the 1940s and 1950s that stakes-winning mares were by far the most successful producers, we always were happy to pay modest prices for mares of proven ability.

Debonair Dancer, who won the 1983 Flocarline Handicap at Pimlico and placed in seven other stakes, including the Grade 3 Affectionately Handicap and Cotillion Stakes, clearly had plenty of racing ability. But as a daughter of the unraced but well-bred Northern Dancer stallion Staff Writer out of a winning mare with very little black type in recent generations, Debonair Dancer was easy to buy for only $29,000 at the 1989 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. January sale, in foal to the young Florida stallion Fortunate Prospect.

A few weeks later, she foaled an attractive, racy filly who toed out a bit but was otherwise correct. Then things started happening in Debonair Dancer’s produce record. That summer, her second foal, Proud to Reason, by Proud Birdie, won the Florida Stallion Roman Brother Stakes. Debonair Dancer did not get in foal that year, but the following year got in foal to Key to the Mint.

By that time, unfortunately, Pillar Stud was in dispersal mode, and Debonair Dancer was sold for $33,000 to Farnsworth Farms at the 1991 Keene-land January sale. The resulting Key to the Mint filly turned out to be the stakes winner Smile On My Face, and Debonair Dancer’s next foal was Suave Prospect, by Fortunate Prospect, a high-class racehorse who won the Grade 3 What a Pleasure and Preview stakes, ran second in the Grade 1 Florida Derby and Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes, and later was a successful Florida sire.

Pillar sold its only foal out of Debonair Dancer, the Fortunate Prospect filly, for $25,000 at the 1990 OBS August yearling sale. Named Successful Dancer, she was a solid racemare, winning 7 of 42 starts and earning $96,817, but she turned out to be an even better broodmare. Though dam of Grade 2 winner True to Tradition, by Rahy, her most important contribution was the high-class sprinter-miler Successful Appeal, by Valid Appeal, whose daughter Her Emmynency gave him his fourth Grade 1 or Group 1 winner with her victory Oct. 10 in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland.

By top Florida sire Valid Appeal, by In Reality, Successful Appeal was bred in Florida by Valid Appeal’s owner-breeder, Harry Mangurian Jr. Consigned to the 1998 OBS February sale of selected 2-year-olds in training, he failed to meet his reserve at a hammer price of $55,000. He began his racing career for trainer John Kimmel and Starview Stable with a second in a 5 1/2-furlong, $75,000 maiden claimer in August 1998 at Saratoga. That was promising enough to move him up to an open maiden race at the same distance, and he showed marked improvement, rallying from midpack to win by six lengths in 1:05.12.

After an allowance victory back at Belmont Park in September 1998, Successful Appeal continued his ascension of the class ladder with a front-running score in the Grade 2 Cowdin Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs. His winning sequence came to an end, though, when he could not catch the front-runner Doneraile Court in the Grade 3 Nashua Stakes at a mile at Aqueduct. His first attempt around two turns in the Grade 2 Remsen hinted at stamina limitations. He stalked the pace of Doneraile Court and made the lead in the stretch but was tiring in the final furlong and finished fourth in a blanket finish behind Comeonmom.

Successful Appeal essayed the Kentucky Derby trail the following spring but never got closer than fifth in three two-turn trials and scored his first  victory at 3 in the Grade 2 Withers Stakes at a mile at Aqueduct on Kentucky Derby Day. His connections tried him three more times over the next two months over longer distances without success before restricting him to sprint distances for the rest of his career.

Successful Appeal immediately adapted to his new specialty, rallying from just off the pace to win the Grade 3 Amsterdam at Saratoga, running six furlongs in 1:10.25. Third in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop behind Forestry and Five Star Day, he rebounded with a career best, running six furlongs in 1:09.42 to win the Grade 2 Kentucky Cup Sprint Stakes at Turfway Park by six lengths over Five Star Day.

That proved he was a high-class sprinter, but he was no match for the brilliant Artax and Kona Gold in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, though he ran honorably to finish fifth, beaten 3 3/4 lengths and only a half-length out of third behind Big Jag and Forestry.

Successful Appeal was kept in training at 4 with the Breeders’ Cup Sprint as his main objective and made a good start to the season, winning an allowance and the Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt (via disqualification), but he went downhill in his final three starts and was beaten 6 1/4 lengths by Kona Gold in that one’s record-setting BC Sprint victory.

Walmac Farm’s John T.L. Jones had bought an interest in Successful Appeal between his 3- and 4-year-old seasons, and Successful Appeal retired to Walmac South/Hartley DeRenzo Stallions in 2001 at a $5,000 fee. His first 2-year-olds came out running in 2004, led by the speedy Lunarpal (out of Quiet Eclipse, by Quiet American), and by the end of the year, his six stakes winners from 43 2-year-olds helped put him at the top of the freshman sire list for 2004, well clear of Yes It’s True. That resulted in a quick move to Walmac’s Kentucky base, where he has stood ever since.

The best of that first crop turned out to be Closing Argument (Mrs. Greeley, by Mr. Greeley), who followed up his juvenile stakes win with a victory in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes and came within a half-length of beating Giacomo in the 2005 Kentucky Derby. Although he never won a Grade 1 race, Closing Argument may remain Successful Appeal’s most talented runner. Solid Appeal (Star of the Woods, by Woodman), his only champion, earned turf mare honors in Canada, and Wise Dan’s half-brother Successful Dan (Lisa Danielle, by Wolf Power) was, like Closing Argument, clearly good enough to win a Grade 1 but never did. Grade 1 winner J P’s Gusto was a fast 2-year-old and stands in Florida, as was Spinaway winner Appealing Zophie, but none quite reached top class.

As with his racing career, that has been the story of Successful Appeal’s stud career: very, very good but just short of top class. His record of 54 stakes winners from 630 foals age 3 and up (8.6 percent) is admirable, but his best offspring lack that touch of brilliance that would have made him a commercial star. He is what used to be called a private breeder’s type of sire rather than a commercial breeder’s horse.

The Queen Elizabeth II was Her Emmynency’s fourth victory in seven starts to date. Bred in Kentucky by S.D. Brilie, she was purchased for $115,000 by Ike and Dawn Thrash at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Her Emmynency is the fourth foal and third winner out of the talented turf mare Chic Dancer, by Joyeux Danseur, the latter a brilliantly fast turf miler but a moderate sire. The winner of the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap and two other stakes, Chic Dancer is a half-sister to the stakes-placed Glittering Affair, by General Meeting, and to Sweethrtofsigmachi, by General Meeting, dam of the multiple stakes winner Memphis Mobster, by Memo.

Her Emmynency’s second dam, Stylish Accent, by Beau’s Eagle, was a half-sister to the outstanding, beloved gelding Best Pal, a son of Habitony who earned legendary status in California with 18 victories, including Grade 1 scores in the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, Hollywood Futurity, Oaklawn Handicap, Norfolk Stakes, and Charles H. Strub Stakes. Her Emmynency’s fourth dam, the stakes-placed Ubetido, by Sir Wiggle, also is the second dam of Habitony’s second-best son, the Grade 1-winning sprinter Richter Scale.

Successful Appeal’s dam, Successful Dancer, was inbred 3x3 to Kentucky Derby winner Lucky Debonair, and Her Emmynency’s dam, Chic Dancer, is inbred 4x4 to noted foundation mare Thong, but the closest inbreeding in Her Emmynency’s pedigree is a 6x5x4 duplication of the ubiquitous Northern Dancer.

Her Emmynency finished second in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks on turf in her previous start and also was second in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante at 2. That kind of versatility in distance and surface should serve Her Emmynency well if she remains in training as a 4-year-old.