09/12/2014 1:26PM

Sparkman: Cristina’s Journey a rising star for Any Given Saturday

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Pocahontas winner Cristina's Journey is the fourth graded stakes winner by her sire, Any Given Saturday.

When Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum acquired the breeding rights for three of the four best 3-year-olds of 2007 to stand at Darley at Jonabell in Kentucky, Any Given Saturday clearly was the third string in the bow behind the champion 2-year-old male and Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and the Grade 1 winner and Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Hard Spun. The pecking order has remained pretty much the same among those three stars at stud, although Hard Spun and Street Sense may have reversed places in the minds of some observers.

The victory of Cristina’s Journey in the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes on Sept. 6 will do nothing to change those rankings, but it serves as a reminder of Any Given Saturday’s prowess as a racehorse and makes one wonder if he might have done better at another stallion station, where he would not have been seen as the third or fourth choice among the horses on offer.

Bred in Kentucky in the name of Racehorse Management LLC, an affiliate of WinStar Farm, Any Given Saturday was the second foal out of Weekend in Indy, a well-bred daughter of the great racehorse, sire, and broodmare sire A.P. Indy from a very good American family. Weekend in Indy won only one of her 11 races but was a half-sister to the Grade 3 winner Second of June, by Louis Quatorze, and graded stakes-placed Jack Flash, by Sovereign Dancer.

Weekend in Indy’s multiple stakes-winning dam, Whow, by Spectacular Bid, was a half-sister to the Grade 1 Winner Afifa, by Dewan, the Grade 2 winner Alias Smith, by Al Hattab, and the multiple Group 3 winner and sire Auction Ring, by Bold Bidder, from the family of the high-class runners Relaunch, Tapit, Golden Act, Life At Ten, and Hooplah.

Weekend in Indy’s first foal was the Grade 3-winning sprinter Bohemian Lady, by Carson City, and Any Given Saturday’s sire, Distorted Humor, had sired the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner and champion 3-year-old male Funny Cide in his first crop. Therefore, WinStar had every reason to expect that its beautifully made yearling by Distorted Humor out of Weekend in Indy would attract deep-pocketed buyers at the 2005 Keeneland September yearling sale, and he was knocked down to agent Buzz Chace at $1.1 million.

Any Given Saturday began his career in the colors of WinStar and Maverick Racing (another WinStar-associated group) and won his first two starts at 2 at Turfway Park and Keeneland for trainer Todd Pletcher. He also ran well in his final juvenile start, making the lead on the turn but failing to hold off Tiz Wonderful, who won the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes by a half-length.

Any Given Saturday made a good start to his sophomore season with a comfortable victory in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. Padua Stables then bought an interest in Any Given Saturday, but the previous year’s champion juvenile male, Street Sense, nosed him out in a thrilling duel for the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby. An even third behind Nobiz Like Shobiz and Sightseeing in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, Any Given Saturday frankly ran like a non-stayer in the Kentucky Derby, rallying to fourth on the turn but flattening out to finish eighth, well behind Street Sense, Hard Spun, and Curlin.

Any Given Saturday skipped the rest of the Triple Crown and returned to the races two months later, demolishing his old foe, Nobiz Like Shobiz, in the Grade 2 Dwyer, running the 1 1/16 miles in a quick 1:40.69. A month later, he ran the best race of his career in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, tracking the pace-stalking Hard Spun in third place, then bursting past in the stretch to win impressively by 4 1/2 lengths, with the Preakness winner Curlin third.

The Haskell victory placed Any Given Saturday firmly among the four best 3-year-old colts in a very good year, and he then gave weight and a beating to older horses in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap. The heavens opened, however, dropping a Biblical deluge on Monmouth Park for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and whether it was the track or the distance, Any Given Saturday ran a very similar race to the Kentucky Derby, rallying on the turn but fading during the stretch run to finish sixth, beaten 28 1/2 lengths.

Retired to Darley in 2008, Any Given Saturday shuttled to Australia each year through 2011 but has not made a big impression on either side of the equator. He sired a very promising filly in Princess Arabella (out of Tortuga Lady, by Thunder Gulch) in his first crop, but she was retired with a ligament injury after winning her first three starts by wide margins, including the Sunland Park Oaks. Probably the best runner among his 14 stakes winners from 598 foals of racing age, though, has been Hoppertunity (Refugee, by Unaccounted For), who won the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes but has not raced since finishing second in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby this year.

Cristina’s Journey is Any Given Saturday’s fourth graded stakes winner. She is the fourth foal and the second winner out of Toss the Feather, a well-bred daughter of Dixie Union who showed modest ability in four starts at 3 but failed to win. Bred in Kentucky by Kilroy Thoroughbreds, Toss the Feather sold for $72,000 to Blythewood Stable at the 2004 Keeneland September yearling sale. Pinhooked to the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of 2-year-olds in training the following spring, she failed to meet her reserve for consignor Niall Brennan at a hammer price of $147,000.

Racing for Brennan and Mary Ryan, Toss the Feather did not run until July of her 3-year-old season, finishing third in a six-furlong maiden race at Belmont. After a third at Saratoga the following month over seven furlongs, she led most of the way in a six-furlong maiden race when racing returned to Belmont, but Diamantina ran her down to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Toss the Feather ran only once more, finishing third in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race.

Ryan and Brennan sold Toss the Feather for $105,000, in foal to Silver Train, to Phil Needham at the 2008 Keeneland January sale of horses of all ages. Although she had not shown much ability, she possessed a pedigree worth the price. Her sire, Dixie Union, was perhaps the best racing son of Dixieland Band and certainly was his best son at stud, with the classic winner Union Rags topping his 48 stakes winners.

Toss the Feather is a half-sister to the Japanese stakes-placed True Surpass, by A.P. Indy, and the listed stakes-placed Gemilli, by Lemon Drop Kid, and her dam, Dancing Mirage, by Alleged, won the Sandy Blue Stakes and placed in the Grade 2 Bayakoa and A Gleam handicaps. Dancing Mirage’s full brother, Light of Morn, also was a stakes winner, and their half-sister, Flaming Mirage, by Woodman, is the dam of the Group 1 Golden Shaheen winner Kinsale King, by Yankee Victor, and the Grade 3 winner Victoria’s Wildcat, by Bellamy Road.

The next dam, Flaming Leaves, by Olden Times, also was a stakes winner and a half-sister to the stakes winner Libanon, by Tom Rolfe, and several stakes producers. The family traces to Samuel Riddle’s foundation mare, Friar’s Carse, by Friar Rock, the dam of important sire War Relic, by Man o’ War, and ancestress of countless good horses, including the champions Sword Dancer, Storm Song, Roving Boy, Silver Cloud, Prudent, and Level Best.

Toss the Feather’s first foal, B F Chang, by Silver Train, sold for $27,000 at the 2008 Keeneland November breeding stock sale and finished second in her only start. Her second foal, Ives Hill, by Lawyer Ron, has won 3 of 19 starts and earned $27,237 to date. Her third foal, Cafe de Nuit, by Hat Trick, sold for $37,000 at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale but has yet to race.

Cristina’s Journey, Toss the Feather’s fourth foal, was bred in Kentucky by Phil and Judy Needham and Bena Halecky and sold for $37,000 to trainer Dale Romans as agent for Frank Jones at the 2013 Keeneland September sale. Toss the Feather sold for only $12,000 to agent Chad Schumer at the 2012 Keeneland November sale and was exported to Saudi Arabia, where she foaled an Even the Score colt in 2013.

Cristina’s Journey is inbred 4x5 to Mr. Prospector and to Seattle Slew, and 5x4 to Northern Dancer, all common inbreeding targets in the contemporary Thoroughbred, for an inbreeding coefficient of 1.52 percent, slightly above the average for the breed.

Relocated from Darley to Pin Oak Lane Farm in New Freedom, Pa., for the 2014 season, Any Given Saturday has sired a modicum of fast horses, as he is entitled to do, but to date, the best ones have not stayed sound for very long. Perhaps Cristina’s Journey, his most precocious star to date, will change that pattern.