08/08/2016 11:22AM

Sparkman: A 'Champagne' toast for Broken Vow

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Benoit & Associates
Champagne Room, by Broken Vow, wins the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar.

In the big-book era of American Thoroughbred breeding, stallion managers have become increasingly selective in weeding through the high-class colts retiring from the racetrack each year. As a general rule, no matter how talented, horses without a Grade 1 victory after their names on a catalog page need not apply, though a sterling pedigree will sometimes override that requirement.

Broken Vow, sire of Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes winner Champagne Room, arrived at Pin Oak Stud in 2002 without that critical Grade 1 victory, though he possessed another advantage that few stallion prospects have - an owner/breeder determined to make him a success. Broken Vow's owner/breeder, Josephine Abercrombie, the only child of innovative Texas oilman James S. Abercrombie, grew up riding Quarter Horses on her father's Texas ranch and segued into competing at a high level on the Saddlebred show circuit at an early age.

Abercrombie and her father purchased the late Joseph N. Camden's Hartland Farm near Versailles, Ky., in 1952 and renamed it Pin Oak Stud. Pin Oak bred 1976 Preakness Stakes winner Elocutionist and 1982 St. Leger winner Touching Wood, but in 1988 Abercrombie moved the Pin Oak operation from the original acreage to a new farm further down U.S. 60 from Versailles. At the new Pin Oak, Abercrombie bred and raced champion turf female Laugh and Be Merry and Canadian champions Peaks and Valleys and Hasten to Add, but Broken Vow has turned out to be her most significant contribution to the Thoroughbred.

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By the outstanding sire Unbridled, Broken Vow is a fourth-generation descendant of Take a Stand, an Amerigo mare Abercrombie purchased in the 1970s. Pin Oak bred and sold stakes winners Stage Luck, by Stage Door Johnny (dam of champion Open Mind); Stage Door Avie, by Lord Avie; and Shaiba, by Alysheba, from Take a Stand; and retained the stakes-placed Iron Ruler mare Strike a Pose.

Strike a Pose expanded the Take a Stand family significantly through her stakes-winning daughter Wedding Picture, by Blushing Groom, and the latter's winning half-sister Strike a Balance, by Green Dancer. Strike a Balance is the dam of Peaks and Valleys, by Mt. Livermore, and granddam of current Pin Oak stallion Alternation, by Distorted Humor, who, like Broken Vow, never managed a Grade 1 victory.

Wedding Picture produced four stakes winners for Pin Oak, led by Grade 3 winner Winged Victory, by Nijinsky II, and the good regional stallion Service Stripe, by Deputy Minister. Winged Victory's full sister Wedding Vow is the dam of Broken Vow.

Trained by Graham Motion, the tall, massively built Broken Vow did not race at 2, but won all four of his starts at 3, culminating with a victory in the Sir Barton Stakes on the 2000 Preakness undercard. Injury curtailed that season, but he returned at 4 to prove he was a high-class racehorse. He won his second start at Gulfstream Park, but then ran third in his only Grade 1 start, the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Broken Vow won the Grade 2 Iselin and Grade 3 Ben Ali handicaps and retired to Pin Oak in 2002 with a lifetime record of 9 wins in 14 starts and a reputation of being rather better than that. He was an immediate success, siring Grade 1 winner Unbridled Belle, (out of Little Bold Belle, by Silver Buck) and six other stakes winners from his first crop, and he has been a consistent sire of high-class runners ever since, without ever quite reaching the top of the tree. To date he has sired 71 stakes winners from 1,013 foals age 3 and older, including six Grade or Group 1 winners.

Champagne Room's Sorrento victory showed that she has the potential to be his seventh. She is the second living foal out of the winner Lucky to Be Me, by Bernstein, and a half-sister to stakes winner Inhisglory, by Pure Prize, and Grade 3-placed Hat of Jacks, by Cowboy Cal. Champagne Room's second dam, Belle Erzulie, by Pulpit, is a half-sister to stakes winner Amanda's Fancy, by Tactical Cat, and her third dam, Grade 3 winner Fancy Erzulie, by Known Fact, is easily the best horse in the first four generations of Champagne Room's pedigree, which traces to foundation mare Lea Lark.

Bred in Kentucky by Respite Farm, Champagne Room was a $70,000 purchase by Summerfield Sales at the 2014 Keeneland November sale, but failed to reach her reserve at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale. A 20.80-second quarter-mile breeze at the OBS April Sale changed buyers' estimates of her worth, and agent Larry Zap paid $310,000 for her on behalf of Joseph Ciaglia Jr.

The Sorrento proved she is worth every penny and a Grade 1 victory in the Del Mar Debutante would add more multiples to her value.