02/12/2016 2:40PM

Sparkman: Dirt pedigrees for dirt at Meydan


Meydan Racecourse’s switch from Tapeta to a dirt surface for the 2015 Dubai World Cup did not produce the expected result. The best available American dirt horse did run in the World Cup for the first time in three years, but California Chrome was beaten by the second-rate 8-year-old Prince Bishop, a horse with a very similar background to four of the five previous winners on Tapeta.

If the results of the year’s first World Cup preps at Meydan on Feb. 2 are any indication, however, that is highly likely to change at the 2016 World Cup.

From Cigar’s victory in the first World Cup in 1996 through 2009, when Well Armed scored a record 14-length victory, American-trained horses won the race eight times – nine if you count the previously American-raced and -trained Street Cry, who was trained in America at 2 before being switched to Saeed bin Suroor, and raced only in America and Dubai, and only on dirt.

In the first World Cup run on Tapeta in 2010, the American representatives were Gio Ponti and Richard’s Kid, both accomplished synthetic or turf horses who finished fourth and seventh, respectively, behind the 7-year-old Brazilian runner Gloria de Campeao. Gio Ponti and Richard’s Kid showed up again, along with the good turf horse Fly Down, in 2011, but all finished unplaced behind the top-class Japanese grass horse Victoire Pisa. In 2012, Game On Dude and Royal Delta, both championship-quality dirt horses, finished far behind the second-rate English-raced grass horse Monterosso.

Animal Kingdom, the only American-trained winner on the Tapeta surface in 2013, was famously indifferent to surface, and an undeniably top-class horse on all three surfaces. Ron the Greek, no one’s idea of a champion, was the only American horse to show up in 2014 and finished 12th behind the Dubai synthetic specialist African Story.

California Chrome’s defeat by Prince Bishop last year when the race returned to dirt was inexplicable, but the 2014 champion 3-year-old male ran his race, as did the American-trained Lea and Candy Boy, who finished third and fourth, respectively. California Chrome is already in Dubai for a return engagement in the 2016 World Cup, but he did not run in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 won by Frosted, or the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes won by Confrontation, both trained by Kiaran McLaughlin.

Frosted at his best was arguably the second-best American 3-year-old behind American Pharoah last year, while Confrontation had previously placed in four stakes in New York and Florida. Frosted is by two-time reigning leading general sire Tapit, whose progeny have excelled on both dirt and turf, out of Fast Cookie, a Grade 2 stakes winner on dirt by dual leading sire Deputy Minister. Confrontation is by 2007 champion 2-year-old male War Pass out of dirt stakes winner Successfully Sweet, by Successful Appeal.

Yes, there is definitely a trend there. Whatever one’s prejudices may be about oversimplifying pedigree analysis, pedigrees with proven dirt performance work best on dirt.

Frosted was bred in Kentucky by Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum’s Darley, from a mare acquired along with Sheikh Mohammed’s purchase of Robert and Janice McNair’s Stonerside Farm in 2008. Stonerside bred Fast Cookie from Fleet Lady, a multiple Grade 2 winner Stonerside purchased privately from her breeders, John C. and Betty Mabee.

Also included in Darley’s purchase of Stonerside was Fleet Lady’s 2006 colt, Midshipman, a son of Unbridled’s Song who paid immediate dividends on the purchase by earning champion 2-year-old male honors through his victories in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Fast Cookie was not quite that good, but she was a talented, versatile, and durable racemare, who captured the 2003 Grade 2 Cotillion Stakes on dirt and the listed 2004 De La Rose Stakes on turf and placed in eight other stakes while winning 9 of 31 lifetime starts and earning $557,480. Fleet Lady was the only stakes winner produced by her dam, Dear Mimi, by Roberto, but  Dear Mimi was a half-sister to the top-class sprinter and good sire Salse, by Topsider, out of a half-sister to four stakes winners, including Italian champion Carnauba, by Noholme II.

Frosted is the fifth foal and only stakes winner out of Fast Cookie, who has since produced two fillies by Bernardini, and was covered by both Tapit and Street Sense in 2015.

Placed in the Grade 2 Remsen at 2, Frosted won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial and Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby last year at 3 and ran an honorable second to American Pharoah in the Belmont. Frosted was also the horse who may have cost American Pharoah victory in the Travers by dogging him through the first six furlongs before fading to third. The Maktoum Challenge was his first start at 4.

Confrontation was bred in Kentucky by William S. Farish of Lane’s End, and is the fourth foal out of Successfully Sweet, who was purchased by Farish for $255,000, covered by Speightstown, at the 2006 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale. By Successful Appeal out of Princess Meadowlak, by Meadowlake, Successfully Sweet won the last three of her four starts at 2 in 2004, culminating with a victory in the restricted East View Stakes over Aqueduct’s inner track, but did not race again.

Successfully Sweet was a half-sister to another New York-bred stakes winner, Princess Sweet, by Precise End, but her female family had enjoyed considerable success on a national scale. Successfully Sweet’s second dam, Princess Polonia, by Danzig, won the Grade 3 Sixty Sails Handicap, and was the dam of Grade 3 winner Molto Vita, by Carson City, and her grandam, stakes-placed My Sister Kate, by Native Dancer, was a full sister to 1963 champion 2-year-old colt and line-founding sire Raise a Native.

Lane’s End sold Confrontation for only $11,000 to agent Darin Lamoreux at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale, and he was resold for $35,000 to trainer Barclay Tagg at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of 2-year-olds in training the following spring. He won his only three starts at 3, and placed in four graded stakes for Eric Dattner and Harry Astarita at 4 and 5. The Firebreak was Confrontation’s first start in Godolphin’s colors.

Tapit led the American sire list for the second consecutive year in 2015, setting an earnings record, but it is hard to know what to make of War Pass as a stallion, since he died after only two years at stud. Confrontation is the eighth stakes winner from 243 foals in those two crops, a number that includes Grade 1 winner Java’s War and Grade 2 winner Revolutionary. War Pass was the best son of 1994 champion sprinter Cherokee Run, a grandson of the great sire Blushing Groom.

Tapit’s honor roll of stakes winners has climbed to 72 from 893 foals age 3 and up, a number that includes 46 group or graded winners, 16 Grade 1 winners, and three champions. Tapit himself won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial in a racing career hampered by illness.

California Chrome, Frosted, and Confrontation are expected to have plenty of American-based competition on World Cup night. Grade 1 Donn Handicap winner Mshawish and American Pharoah’s conqueror, Keen Ice, are on their way to the Persian Gulf as well, and in fact, the Emirates Racing Association will likely soon face the obverse of the problem it had when the race was on Tapeta.

Despite the fact that erstwhile grass horses Singspiel, Dubai Millennium, Almutawakel, Moon Ballad, and Electrocutionist won the Dubai World Cup over the dirt surface at Nad al Sheba before Meydan’s construction, all of those horses were owned by the Maktoum family. With the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic run on turf on the same night, few if any other owners of the world’s best turf horses are likely to enter a World Cup held on dirt.