07/18/2014 4:09PM

Sparkman: Divine rewards for deep family

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Barbara D. Livingston
American Derby winner Divine Oath comes from a deep female family.

Whatever Ogden Phipps paid for the top-class Argentine mare Dorine, by Aristophanes, when he purchased her privately and imported her in 1970, she proved a bargain many times over. Her first American foal, the Bold Ruler colt Our Hero, set a track record in the Atlantic City Handicap and won the Garrison Handicap as well, but it was her winning daughter, Grecian Banner, by Hoist the Flag, who made Dorine look cheap at any price.

Grecian Banner’s fourth foal, Personal Flag, by Private Account, a multiple Grade 1 winner who earned more than $1.2 million, doubtless paid back the initial investment several times over, but it was his full sister, Personal Ensign, who made Dorine’s purchase seem truly inspired. Undefeated in 13 lifetime starts, Personal Ensign emulated her dam by earning Broodmare of the Year honors and has founded one of the best and most fashionable families in the American Stud Book, including her great-grandson, Divine Oath, by Broken Vow, winner of the Grade 3 American Derby on July 12.

Though she had produced nothing of particular import in Argentina, Dorine was an attractive broodmare prospect on several levels for an American breeder. A top-class racemare who had won one of Argentina’s most prestigious races, the Gran Premio Internacional 25 de Mayo, along with eight other stakes, she also was a full sister to another 25 de Mayo winner, Doretta, and to Dorileo, an Argentine classic-placed winner who had shown the family’s racing abilities translated to the U.S. by winning the William Penn and Christmas Handicaps in the U.S. Furthermore, the three high-class siblings by leading Argentine sire Aristophanes out of Doria, by Advocate, were bred on the same pattern as Argentina’s all-time greatest racehorse, Forli, who was by Aristophanes out of Trevisa, by Advocate. Phipps was intimately familiar with Forli, since he stood at Claiborne Farm where Phipps boarded his mares, and the Phipps family eventually bred and raced Forli’s top-class sons, Intrepid Hero and Posse.

Dorine left behind a daughter, Dory, by Right of Way, who stands at the head of a thriving family in Argentina, but her branch of Dorine’s family tree cannot compare to Grecian Banner’s descendants. Personal Flag and Personal Ensign were Grecian Banner’s only stakes winners among seven foals, but their winning full sister Private Colors is the dam of stakes winner Private Dreams, by Johannesburg, the second dam of two stakes winners, and the third dam of two more on the flat, including the high-class English miler Strong Suit, by Rahy.

Personal Ensign’s daughter, My Flag, by Easy Goer, was of championship quality, though she was never voted a gold Eclipse statuette, winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Coaching Club American Oaks and finishing third in the Belmont Stakes against males. My Flag produced champion 2-year-old filly Storm Flag Flying, by Storm Cat, and is the second dam of multiple graded winner Parading, by Pulpit.

Personal Ensign produced four sons by the great Mr. Prospector. All of them earned black type, and three were of Grade 1 quality. Miner’s Mark and Traditionally both won Grade 1 races, and Our Emblem probably could have done the same had he been interested in finishing first. Narrowly beaten in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap and placed in the Met Mile and the Vosburgh, Our Emblem sired champion War Emblem in a stud career as erratic as his race record.

Personal Ensign’s daughter by Unbridled, Salute, was talented enough to run second in the Grade 2 Demoiselle and third in the Grade 3 Tempted and is the dam of the Phippses’ current Grade 1 winner, Mr Speaker, by Pulpit, who won the Belmont Derby on July 5.

Personal Ensign’s only Mr. Prospector daughter, Pennant Champion, won the first and last of her seven starts, a 6 1/2-furlong maiden at Belmont as a 3-year-old and a 1 1/16-mile allowance at Gulfstream Park early in her 4-year-old season, but never ran in a stakes race. Pennant Champion did not produce any stakes horses among her first 10 foals, and she was sold as a 16-year-old broodmare in foal to Arch for only $130,000 to Philip Steinberg and Ben Walden at the 2008 Keeneland November sale.

Steinberg and Walden sold the resulting colt, Animal Spirits, for only $50,000 as a yearling to EQB’s Patty Miller, agent. Animal Spirits won only one race from seven starts, but that race was the Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes.

The Phippses sold Pennant Champion’s first foal, the unraced Broad Pennant, by Broad Brush, for $675,000, in foal to Wild Again, to the Wertheimer brothers at the 2000 Keeneland November sale, and she has produced Grade 2 winner Interactif, by Broken Vow, stakes winner Stretching, by Red Ransom, and multiple Group 3-placed Wingspan, by Silver Hawk, to run in the blue and white silks of the Wertheimers.

The Phippses also sold Pennant Champion’s winning daughter by Forestry, Rejoicing, for $150,000 to agent Kathryn Nikkel at the 2010 Keeneland November sale, in foal to Broken Vow. Divine Oath, the resulting foal, is closely related to Interactif. Bred in Kentucky by Sanford R. Robertson, he was sold for $200,000 to trainer Todd Pletcher as agent for the Let’s Go Stable syndicate managed by Kevin Scatuorchio and Brian Sullivan.

Rejoicing has since produced a 2-year-old filly named Joyfully, by Mineshaft, and a yearling filly, by Uncle Mo, but was barren for 2014.

Divine Oath and Interactif are among 62 stakes winners from 883 foals age 3 and up (7 percent) by Broken Vow, including 20 group/graded winners. Broken Vow ranks as the third-best stallion sired by Unbridled, surpassed only by Empire Maker and Unbridled’s Song. Bred and raced by Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stud, Broken Vow won 9 of 14 starts at 3 and 4 and clearly appeared to have the ability to win a Grade 1 but finished third to Sir Bear and Pleasant Breeze in the 2001 Gulfstream Park Handicap in his only opportunity at the top level.

Trained by Graham Motion, Broken Vow won all four of his starts at 3, culminating in victory in the Sir Barton Stakes on Preakness Day. He did not race again until the following January and ran unplaced first out before winning an optional claimer prior to the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Fully fit after Gulfstream, Broken Vow won the Grade 3 Ben Ali Handicap, ran third in the Grade 2 Massachusetts Handicap, and won the Skip Away, Carpenter, and Grade 2 Philip Iselin handicaps in succession. He closed his career with narrow seconds in the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup and the Grade 3 Fayette Handicap.

Retired to his birthplace in 2002, Broken Vow has been a consistent overachiever at stud. He sired the Grade 1 winner Unbridled Belle (out of Little Bold Belle, by Silver Buck), the multiple Grade 2 winner Private Vow (Smooth as Silk, by Deputy Minister), and five other stakes winners in his first crop, which helped attract better mares for his subsequent crops. Broken Vow has since sired the Grade 1 winners Sassy Image (Ideal Image, by Hennessy), Cotton Blossom (For Dixie, by Dixieland Band), and recent Ashland Stakes winner Rosalind (Critics Acclaim, by Theatrical), all fillies like Unbridled Belle.

Physically, Broken Vow is fairly typical of the offspring of the massive Unbridled but is not overly big like many of his sire’s progeny. Lengthy, muscular, and beautifully balanced, he is much more correct than his sire and is an appealing mix of the characteristics of Unbridled and his broodmare sire, the massive but more refined Nijinsky II, with a bit of the elegant Blushing Groom, sire of his second dam, Wedding Picture, thrown in for good measure.

Broken Vow has yet to sire a Grade 1-winning colt, and Grade 2 winners Interactif and Cyber Secret (Stomping, by Dixieland Band) probably rank as his best sons to date. In the tradition of Dorine’s family, it would be no surprise if Divine Oath became his first.