05/08/2015 2:41PM

Sparkman: Different methods, same classic result

Barbara D. Livingston
Lovely Maria is the ninth Kentucky Oaks winner for the Northern Dancer male line.

Every breeder’s ultimate goal is to breed a classic winner. There are, however, as many routes to that goal as there are classic winners.

To reach that goal, breeders choose particular stallions for their mares for many reasons. The most reliable method, verified over hundreds of years, is to choose stallions who have proven they can sire horses of that caliber. That, of course, is expensive, since elite success justifies elite stud fees. The alternative is most often a young, unproven, and, therefore, cheaper stallion whose race record, pedigree, and conformation provide encouragement that he may one day become a proven stallion.

The winners of the four international classic races run over the three-day period from May 1-3 at Churchill Downs and Newmarket are illustrative of both methods, with the added touch in all four cases of the winning owners supporting stallions in which they own a major interest.

The Kentucky Derby was won by homebred American Pharoah, whose owner, Ahmed Zayat, also bred and raced his sire, Pioneerof the Nile, while Brereton Jones’s Airdrie Stud stands Majesticperfection, the sire of his Kentucky Oaks winner, Lovely Maria.

On the other side of the pond, Europe’s dominant ownership triumvirate, Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, captured both the 2000 and 1000 Guineas with horses sired by Coolmore stallions, each of whom has led the combined English/Irish sire list. The 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles is a homebred by Coolmore’s great sire Galileo, who has led that sire list every year since 2008 – except for 2009, when Danehill Dancer, sire of this year’s 1000 Guineas winner Legatissimo, sat atop the list.

Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier signed the $591,565 ticket for the Coolmore partnership for Legatissimo, who was bred by Newsells Park Stud, at the 2013 Tattersalls October yearling sale, but her pedigree bears close connections to one of Coolmore’s best recent runners. Legatissimo’s dam, Yummy Mummy, by Montjeu, is a winning full sister to Fame And Glory, who won 14 of 26 starts, including the Irish Derby and the Ascot Gold Cup. Coolmore purchased Fame And Glory for $382,122 as a weanling at the 2006 Tattersalls December sale through agent Timothy Hyde.

The late Lord Howard de Walden imported Legatissimo’s third dam, the German classic winner Grimpola, by Windwurf, in the 1980s in an obvious attempt to emulate his success in breeding 1985 Epsom Derby winner Slip Anchor, by Shirley Heights from the German mare Sayonara, by Birkhahn. Legatissimo’s second dam, the stakes-placed Gryada, also is by Shirley Heights.

Legatissimo is one of 169 stakes winners sired to date by Danehill Dancer, the first son of his late, great sire Danehill to prove Danehill’s enormous importance as a sire of sires. Like many shuttle stallions, his 6.8 percent stakes winners to foals ratio is not outstanding, but since his best runners include international champions and classic winners of the quality of Choisir, Mastercraftsman (both successful sires), Dancing Rain, Again, Speciosa, and Light Fantastic, it hardly matters in the big picture. Danehill Dancer, the high-weighted Irish 2-year-old of 1995, was pensioned last year due to declining fertility.

Gleneagles is an amazing 23rd  classic winner (including winners of French and Irish St. Legers, which are open to older runners) for Galileo, who has long been considered the world’s best sire. That number includes Gleneagles’s year-older full sister Marvellous, who was the first foal out of their dam, You’resothrilling, a Group 2-winning full sister to Storm Cat’s best son, the champion and three-time leading sire Giant’s Causeway.

As she clearly deserves to be, You’resothrilling has been covered by Galileo in each of her first four seasons at stud, and her 2-year-old filly has been given the rather ominously ambitious name of Coolmore. It is difficult to imagine even a juvenile with that name surpassing the achievements of her two older siblings, but it really would not be surprising, given the quality of her pedigree.

Gleneagles’s second dam, Mariah’s Storm, by Rahy, won 10 of 16 starts, including six graded stakes, and is a half-sister to the Group 2 winner Panoramic, by Rainbow Quest, and the Japanese stakes winner Air Zion, by Groom Dancer, who, like Rahy and Rainbow Quest, is a son of Blushing Groom. Out of a Grade 3-winning half-sister to the champion Dearly Precious, Mariah’s Storm is a fourth-generation descendant of foundation mare Itsabet. John Magnier purchased Mariah’s Storm, carrying Giant’s Causeway, for $2.6 million at the 1996 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

Galileo has sired 195 stakes winners to date from 1,998 foals age 3 and up, and is rapidly approaching a 10 percent stakes winners-to-foals ratio, steadily improving on a lower ratio on his early shuttle crops in Australia. That number, of course, includes the unbeaten Frankel, winner of the 2000 Guineas in a runaway performance in 2011, as well as the Epsom Derby winners New Approach, Australia, and Ruler of The World. Gleneagles is unlikely to run in the Epsom Derby since his trainer considers him to be a miler and there are other Epsom candidates in his stable.

If the English Guineas winners represented the proven sire approach, both classic winners at Churchill Downs were sired by relatively unproven sires. American Pharoah comes from the second crop of his sire, Pioneerof the Nile, a son of Empire Maker. Winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and CashCall Futurity for his breeder, Zayat, Pioneerof the Nile finished second to the upset Derby winner Mine That Bird in 2009. Retired to Vinery Stud in 2010, he moved to WinStar Farm for the 2013 breeding season.

Pioneerof the Nile’s first crop was headed by the talented but fragile Cairo Prince (out of Holy Bubbette, by Holy Bull), who entered Kentucky Derby calculations last year after winning the Grade 2 Holy Bull but did not race again after finishing fourth behind winner Constitution in the Florida Derby. That first crop of 87 named foals included the Grade 2 winners Jojo Warrior (Carson Jen, by Carson City) and Midnight Storm (My Tina, by Bertrando) and the Grade 3 winner Vinceremos (Kettle’s Sister, by More Than Ready), but American Pharoah is the only stakes winner to date from Pioneerof the Nile’s second crop.

Bred by his owner, Zayat, American Pharoah is the second foal out of Littleprincessemma, by Yankee Gentleman, a mare Zayat purchased for $250,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2007. Unplaced in her only two starts, Littleprincessemma was sold for $2.1 million to Summer Wind Farm, carrying a full brother to American Pharoah, at last fall’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky selected fall mixed sale.

Lovely Maria, likewise, is by an unproven sire who needed the support of his connections, in this case Brereton C. Jones, who stands Majesticperfection at his Airdrie Stud. Bred in Kentucky by Ronald McPeek and Shane Floyd, Majesticperfection was purchased for $370,000 by Padua Stables at the 2008 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. April sale of 2-year-olds in training. Unraced at 2 and 3, he made only six starts at 4 but won the last five of them in the style of the best sprinter in the country.

Majesticperfection ran six furlongs in 1:08.63 in his final start, the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap, but suffered a condylar fracture of his right front cannon bone in a workout a few weeks later, forcing his retirement. By the good sire Harlan’s Holiday out of an unraced mare by Wavering Monarch from a family rather light on black type, Majesticperfection, as his name implies, is an exceptional physical specimen, a mass of muscle who looks every inch a very fast horse.

Majesticperfection sired 70 named foals in his first crop of current 3-year-olds, and although none of them won stakes last year at 2, his son Hebbronville ran second in the Grade 2 Futurity Stakes. In addition to Lovely Maria, the gelding Majestic Affair (Blumin Beauty, by Blumin Affair) and filly Perfect Style (Sentimental Style, by Crafty Prospector) have emerged as stakes winners at 3 this year, but Lovely Maria is his classiest representative thus far.

Bred by Olin Gentry and Thomas Gaines, Lovely Maria was purchased privately by Jones after she was withdrawn from the 2013 Fasig-Tipton October yearling sale. Gaines and Gentry bred Lovely Maria’s dam, Thundercup, by Thunder Gulch, and tried to sell her at auction several times without success, most recently buying her back for $32,000 carrying Lovely Maria at the 2011 Keeneland November sale.

The unraced Thundercup is a half-sister to the Grade 2 winner Rare Blend, by Bates Motel, dam of two stakes winners. Their dam, Buttercup, by Baldski, is a sister or half-sister to three stakes winners.

Three of the first four classic winners of the year are by sires from the Northern Dancer male line, but American Pharoah is the seventh winner of the Kentucky Derby this century for the Mr. Prospector male line and 11th since his great-grandsire Unbridled captured the first Derby for the line in 1990.

Somewhat surprisingly, Lovely Maria is only the ninth Kentucky Oaks winner for the male line of Northern Dancer, sire himself of 1978 Oaks winner White Star Line, but Northern Dancer’s male line has long dominated the classics in England. Legatissimo is the second 1000 Guineas winner for Danehill Dancer and the 17th for the Northern Dancer male line, while Gleneagles is the second son of Galileo to capture the 2000 Guineas and the 21st for the male line of Northern Dancer, who sired the Guineas winners Nijinsky II, El Gran Senor, and Lomond.