05/15/2014 3:14PM

Sparkman: California Chrome has Mid-Atlantic connections


The victory of California Chrome at Churchill Downs two weeks ago was only the fourth by a California-bred in the history of the Kentucky Derby. No horse bred in the Mid-Atlantic region has won the Derby since Smarty Jones in 2004, but there is an obvious regional connection in California Chrome’s pedigree.

California Chrome’s broodmare sire is perennial leading Mid-Atlantic sire Not For Love, who has stood his entire stud career at Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. California Chrome’s dam, Love the Chase, made only six starts, winning once, but other sons and daughters of Not For Love have made him a regional sire with a national impact.

Bred in Kentucky by Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps, Not For Love is a younger full brother to 1989 champion 2-year-old male and 1990 Grade 1 Travers Stakes winner Rhythm, and to Grade 3 winner and great broodmare Get Lucky. The three full siblings were sired by two-time leading sire Mr. Prospector out of the fabulously well-bred Grade 1 winner Dance Number. By the immortal Northern Dancer out of 1971 champion 2-year-old filly Numbered Account, by Buckpasser, Dance Number was also a half-sister to Grade 1 winner and top sire Private Account, by Damascus, from the best family in the “American Stud Book,” that descending from La Troienne.

Not For Love was not as gifted as his older full siblings, but still showed talent, winning 6 of 29 starts over four seasons and earning $178,870. Not For Love showed promise at 2, winning a six-furlong maiden race on a sloppy track at Belmont Park in his second of four starts that year, but he did not develop into the high-class runner his pedigree suggested as a 3-year-old, winning one seven-furlong allowance at Belmont but going unplaced in two stakes attempts.

Not For Love ran more consistently at 4, winning two route allowances at Saratoga and finishing third in the Bob Harding Stakes at Monmouth on turf. At the end of that year, though, he was purchased privately by Richard L. Golden, principal owner of Northview Stallion Station. Golden gave Not For Love chances in five more stakes races at 5, but the best he could do was tally two more allowance wins at Laurel.

Retired to Northview in 1996, Not For Love was an immediate and sustained success, siring Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup winner Duckhorn (out of Ten’s Testamony, by Deputed Testamony) and four other stakes winners in his first crop. For most of the last decade Not For Love has dominated the Mid-Atlantic stallion ranks, siring 75 stakes winners from 864 foals ages 3 and older, an 8.7 percent stakes winners to foals strike rate that is truly outstanding for a regional sire.

In addition to Duckhorn, who still ranks among his sire’s most talented runners, Not For Love has sired graded winners Love of Money (Mescalina, by Smarten), Not for Silver (Silverdew, by Silver Deputy), Together Indy (I Ain’t P T, by A.P. Indy), Touch Love (Smartenof, by Smarten), Presidentialaffair (Quite Amazing, by Bear Hunt), Talkin About Love (She’s Jane, by Northern Idol), Akronism (Jerry Bomb, by Explosive Bid), Sheila’s Prospect (Tequila Sheila, by Hagley), Blind Date (Snit, by Fit to Fight), He Loves Me (Palliser Bay, by Frosty the Snowman), For Rubies (Eliza Donner, by Oh Say), and Angela’s Love (Goldgorian’s Alden, by John Alden).

As that list of broodmare sires of Not For Love’s graded winners indicates, he seldom covered the highly pedigreed broodmares that are usually so essential to make even the most gifted stallions successful broodmare sires. Understandably, California Chrome is easily the best of the 15 stakes winners to date out of Not For Love’s daughters, but Not For Love is also broodmare sire of 2013 Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap winner Starship Truffles, by Ghostzapper.

Classic history

The Mid-Atlantic region, of course, has a long and proud history of breeding top racehorses dating to the Colonial era, when Virginia ranked as the cradle of the American Thoroughbred. In the modern era, however, the magnetism of the Kentucky Bluegrass area has steadily drawn most of the sire power and more and more of the best broodmares westward.

As shown in the accompanying box, since World War II, 17 horses born in the region have won 23 American Triple Crown races. That list is headed, of course, by the incomparable Secretariat, who was foaled at Meadow Stud near Doswell, Va.

Mid-Atlantic-bred classic winners were, in fact, relatively common in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s when staunch Virginia breeders like Paul Mellon, Isabel Dodge Sloane, Thomas Mellon Evans, and The Meadow’s Christopher Chenery foaled most of their runners at their Mid-Atlantic stud farms. Mellon’s Rokeby Farm near Upperville, Va., was the birthplace of Belmont Stakes winners Arts and Letters and Quadrangle, as well as 1993 Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero and 1971 Epsom Derby champion Mill Reef. Dodge Sloane’s Brookmeade produced 1951 Preakness winner Bold and 1959 Belmont winner Sword Dancer.

Those victories have become much more scarce in the last few decades, however. Smarty Jones’s victories in the 2004 Derby and Preakness remain the most recent American classic wins for the Mid-Atlantic region.

Mid-Atlantic-sired American classic winners are even more scarce. In fact, it has been 31 years since a stallion standing in a Mid-Atlantic state sired an American Triple Crown race winner. Amazingly enough, in 1983 two of the three classic winners were sired by Maryland-based stallions, and the third classic winner was a Maryland-bred by a Kentucky sire.

Halo was still standing at Windfields Farm’s Maryland division when he sired Canadian-bred 1983 Kentucky Derby winner Sunny’s Halo, while Bill Boniface’s Maryland-bred Preakness hero Deputed Testamony was by his Bonita Farm home stallion Traffic Cop. Three weeks later, Maryland-bred Caveat, by Cannonade, won the Belmont, completing a Maryland-related Triple Crown sweep.

Malibu Moon, sire of last year’s Kentucky Derby hero, Orb, stood in Maryland early in his career but had moved on to Kentucky by the time Orb was conceived. Similarly, Halo’s second Derby winner, Sunday Silence, was conceived after his transfer to Stone Farm in Kentucky. Before that, one has to go all the way back to 1966 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Kauai King, by Native Dancer, to find a Mid-Atlantic-sired American classic winner.

Connections via broodmare sire like Not For Love’s are also relatively rare. Deputy Minister, broodmare sire of Preakness winner Curlin and Belmont winners Rags to Riches, Jazil, and Sarava, stood in Maryland briefly before transferring to Kentucky; Halo was broodmare sire of Preakness winner Pine Bluff; Windfields’s Dancing Count was broodmare sire of Preakness and Belmont winner Hansel; and Caveat, who also stood at Northview, was broodmare sire of Belmont winner Editor’s Note.

The biggest reason that Mid-Atlantic breeding has declined somewhat from the historic highs of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, of course, is the concomitant decline of Mid-Atlantic racing. With recent signs of improvement in the racing sector, it is likely that the region’s breeding outlook will also improve. Changes in local conditions have already led to a healthy influx of stallions to Pennsylvania.

With fewer and fewer top racehorses finding places in Kentucky because of huge books, there are more well-bred, highly talented prospects available for regional markets. One of them might turn out to be another Halo, Malibu Moon, or even Northern Dancer.