09/18/2015 3:25PM

Sparkman: Eyes on the Prize


The great Northern Dancer set the standard as a sire of sires for the late 20th century, with his sons Be My Guest, Danzig, Fabulous Dancer, Fairy King, Lyphard, Nijinsky II, Northern Taste, Nureyev, Sadler’s Wells, and Try My Best all leading sire lists in major racing countries. That has proved to be an impossibly high standard for his successors like Mr. Prospector, Danzig, and Sadler’s Wells to match, with his grandson Danehill perhaps coming closest as the sire of leading sires Danehill Dancer, Dansili, Fastnet Rock, Flying Spur, and Redoute’s Choice.

Dual leading American sire Storm Cat sired a worthy successor in three-time leading sire Giant’s Causeway, who with the help of other successful sons such as Hennessy and Tale of the Cat, has continued a thriving male line, but Storm Cat did sire two other leading sires. His son Bernstein topped the Argentine sire list in 2006 and 2007, and Pure Prize led the same list in each of the last two years. Both Bernstein and Pure Prize also have enjoyed some success in their native land, though not quite at the same level. The most recent success came in the victory of Pure Prize’s daughter Dothraki Queen in the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes on Sept. 12 at Churchill Downs.

Bred in Kentucky by Liberty Road Stables, Dothraki Queen is the 64th stakes winner for Pure Prize, who possesses about as good a pedigree as any in the “American Stud Book.” One of 181 stakes winners sired by Storm Cat, Pure Prize is out of the Seeking the Gold mare Heavenly Prize, who was America’s champion 3-year-old filly of 1994 and winner of eight Grade 1 races. Heavenly Prize also produced Grade 1 winner and sire Good Reward, by Storm Cat, and stakes winner and sire Cosmic, by El Prado. Heavenly Prize was a full sister to Grade 1 winner Oh What a Windfall from the great Phipps family founded by Ogden Phipps’s purchase of 1966 champion 3-year-old filly Lady Pitt that includes Grade 1 or Group 1 winners The Liberal Member, Dramatic Gold, King of Clubs, Dancing Spree, Furlough, Finder’s Fee, and Persistently.

Not as precocious as some sons of Storm Cat, Pure Prize did not win until his third start at 2, a mile maiden race at Belmont Park on Oct. 12, 2000. He did not run again until the following June and did not win again until his fifth start at 3, capturing a 1 1/16-mile Belmont allowance race by
2 1/4 lengths over an undistinguished field. In his final start at 3, he finished fifth, beaten 4 1/2 lengths by Evening Attire, in the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap.

That seemed a fair measure of Pure Prize’s ability at the time, and it took him another full year to demonstrate that he was better than that. He won his second start at 4, another 1 1/16-mile Belmont allowance race, but ran fifth, beaten 9 1/4 lengths by E Dubai in the Grade 2 Suburban, before winning a 1 1/8-mile Saratoga allowance race by 4 3/4 lengths. When the Grade 3 Fourstardave Handicap was forced off the turf by rain, Pure Prize earned his first black type, running a good second to Capsized, beaten 3 1/4 lengths.

Trainer Shug McGaughey shipped Pure Prize to Turfway Park for the Grade 2 Kentucky Cup Classic Handicap, and he scored an upset win, holding off the charge of multiple graded winner Dollar Bill by three-quarters of a length, with graded winner Hero’s Tribute two lengths away third. That proved at last that Pure Prize was a good horse, but it also proved to be his last start.

Pure Prize retired to Vinery Stud near Lexington for the 2003 season at a $7,500 stud fee with a record of five wins in 17 starts and earnings of $475,459. A tall, lengthy, slightly plain horse, he inherited his sire’s offset knees, and is more sparely made than most sons of Storm Cat.

He made a pretty good start with his first crop of 2-year-olds, when Birdbirdistheword (out of Berchta, by Rocky Mountain) won the $1 million, Grade 3 Delta Jackpot Stakes in 2006, and that crop also included graded winners Holy Nova (Starline, by Matty G), Cowgirls Don’t Cry (Emphatic Style, by Crafty Prospector), and six other North American stakes winners, but none proved to be top-
quality runners. His first Grade 1 winner, Pure Clan (Gather the Clan, by General Assembly), arrived in his second crop and remains his best American runner, with victories in the Grade 1 American Oaks Invitational and Flower Bowl Invitational Handicap and earnings of $1,987,498.

Pure Prize also began shuttling to Argentina in 2003, and has been an immediate and sustained success there, siring Argentine champions Winning Prize (Winning Ways, by You and I), Ollagua (Open Secrets, by West by West), and Jumbalaya (Just the Same, by Gem Master) among 12 Argentine-conceived Group 1 winners.

Pure Prize’s 64 stakes winners from 1,397 foals age 3 and up amounts to only a 4.6 percent strike rate, and 12 of his 14 Group 1/Grade 1 winners are Argentine-bred. There is no doubt, however, that Pure Prize has covered better mares in Argentina than he has in America, and Sharaiji Blossom, the dam of Dothraki Queen, is fairly typical of his American mates, if not, perhaps, better than average, at least in terms of pedigree.

Bred in Kentucky by Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds, Sharaiji Blossom is by leading sire Saint Ballado out of the outstanding producer Lilac Garden, by Roberto. A $210,000 purchase by trainer LeRoy Jolley at the 1988 Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of selected 2-year-olds in training, Lilac Garden won three of her four starts in the silks of Carl Icahn but never ran in a black-type race.

Lilac Garden produced the brilliant Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Blushing K. D., by Blushing John, and Hong Kong Horse of the Year Electronic Unicorn, by Housebuster, for Icahn’s Foxfield before being sold for $700,000 to The Thoroughbred Corp. at the 1997 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Lilac Garden produced stakes winner February Storm, by Storm Cat, before being sold again for $710,000, in foal to Storm Cat, at the 2000 Keeneland November sale to Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds. Ambitious Cat, the resulting filly, earned champion grass female honors in Canada.

Lilac Garden came by her prowess as a broodmare honestly. By the great sire and broodmare sire Roberto, her dam, Balletomane, by Nijinsky II, won the Grade 3 Princess Stakes and was a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Group Plan, by Intentionally, Grade 2 winner Cut Class, by Arts and Letters, and stakes winner Perforce, by Seattle Song. The next dam, Nanticious, by Nantallah, was also a stakes winner, and a half-sister to stakes winner Artists Proof, by Ribot, from the great Idle Hour family of Bloodroot that includes Never Bend, Bold Reason, No Robbery, Tempest Queen, and Beautiful Pleasure.

Consigned to the 2003 Keeneland September yearling sale by Paramount Sales, agent, Sharaiji Blossom was purchased for $575,000 by Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum’s Darley Stud Management. Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, she ran third in her first start, a maiden race at Beverly at about 7 1/2 furlongs, but won her second start, over a bit more than a mile at Nottingham a couple weeks later.

That was her final start, however, and she reappeared in the Keeneland sales ring in 2006 at the November sale, in foal to Cherokee Run, where Narvick International paid $400,000 for her on behalf of Marsha Naify’s Liberty Road Stables.

Her first foal, Girl in Love, by Cherokee Run, sold for only $8,000 at the 2008 Keeneland September sale, but she won 6 of 29 starts and earned $13,201 in Mexico. Her second, Go Zapper, by Ghostzapper, sold for $35,000 at Keeneland September but failed to win in 18 starts. Her third, Lemon Drop Blossom, by Lemon Drop Kid, sold for $25,000 at Keeneland September but also failed to win in four starts. Sharaiji Blossom’s fourth foal, Roman Pleasure, by Roman Ruler, sold for $12,000 at Keene-land September and has won 2 of 13 starts and earned $22,115.

Dothraki Queen is Sharaiji Blossom’s fifth foal and was purchased for $35,000 by Ken McPeek at the 2014 Keeneland September sale. Sharaiji Blossom has since produced fillies by War Chant and Storm Wolf and was bred to U S Ranger this year.

The Pocahontas was Dothraki Queen’s second win in as many starts, and she is likely headed for an engagement in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She has a chance to Pure Prize’s Grade 1 tally in his native land.