02/20/2017 9:33AM

Sparkman: Keeping Man o' War in the game

Shane Micheli/Vassar Photography
Zakaroff, a son of Slew's Tiznow, wins the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby.

The male line of perhaps America’s most celebrated racehorse of the 20th century, Man o’ War, survived to the 21st century by a somewhat serpentine route. It was Man o’ War’s second-rate son War Relic - not his Triple Crown winner War Admiral or champion 3-year-olds American Flag and Crusader - who passed on the line to his son Intent, a formidable stayer who handed genes of Man o’ War on to his son Intentionally, who was, somewhat paradoxically, the champion sprinter of 1959.

Intentionally’s son In Reality was demonstrably only the third-best racehorse of the great crop born in 1964 behind Dr. Fager and Damascus, but his line persists while those of his two contemporary superiors are effectively dead. In Reality’s son Relaunch sired 89 stakes winners, but it was his non-stakes-winning son Cee’s Tizzy who sired 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow, who has sired 67 stakes winners, including champions Folklore and Bear Now, as well as 2016 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Tourist.

One-hundred years on from Man o’ War’s birth, Tiznow is the obvious conduit for the Man o’ War line, but it is by no means certain that Tiznow will succeed in projecting his illustrious ancestor’s genes into the third and fourth decades of the 21st century.

Thus it was oddly gratifying to see two sons of Tiznow’s previously obscure son Slew’s Tiznow finish first and second in the Grade 3 El Camino Derby at Golden Gate last Saturday. Unfortunately, the winner, Zakaroff, is a gelding. More Power to Him, who crossed the wire third but was moved up to second by disqualification, has yet to win a stakes race, much less the Grade 1 that would be required for a horse with his pedigree to earn any chance at stud.

Bred and raced by Joseph LaCombe Stables, Slew’s Tiznow was a full brother to multiple graded winner Slew’s Tizzy, out of the Slewpy mare Hepatica from the outstanding family descending from the Count Fleet mare General’s Sister. That family includes top-class runners Al Bahathri, Haafhd, Red Cadeaux, Spanish Fern, and Firm Stance, among many others. Slew’s Tiznow was not quite as good as Slew’s Tizzy, winning 4 of 14 starts from 2 to 5, including the listed El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar and the War Chant Stakes at Hollywood Park. In deeper waters, he was second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity to Wicked Style, 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, and third in the Grade 2 Californian behind Rail Trip and Sangaree.

That was as good as Slew’s Tiznow was, and there was simply no way he would attract many mares at Rancho San Miguel in California. There were only 60 foals in his first two crops, now 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds, and Zakaroff and More Power to Him are his first stakes horses.

Zakaroff’s dam, Grand Advice, by Mr. Greeley, must be one of the better mares bred to Slew’s Tiznow. She won 2 of 13 starts, earning $107,165 in the U.S. and Canada, and was good enough to run in two stakes at Woodbine but not good enough to earn black type. Her dam, Signoretta, by El Gran Senor, placed in the Bug Brush Stakes, and was a half-sister to stakes-placed No No Never, by Nijinsky II, dam of Japanese stakes winner Rikiai Taikan, by Afleet.

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As the sires of those two black-type horses indicate, this is a very good family, and the third dam, stakes-placed Cavort, by Foolish Pleasure, is half-sister to leading American sire Buckaroo, by Buckpasser, and stakes winner and good Argentine sire Parade Marshal, by Caro. This Greentree Stud family gets even better in more distant generations, since it includes top racehorses and sires Stop the Music and Hatchet Man as well as champion 3-year-old filly Yanks Music.

Obviously, it is highly unlikely that Slew’s Tiznow will become the savior of the Man o’ War male line, but then it was even less likely that Cee’s Tizzy would perform that service two generations ago. Among Tiznow’s best sons, Colonel John has been only moderately successful and was exported to South Korea last year; Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed is a gelding; and Grade 1 winners Tizway and Bullsbay have made little impact. But Wood Memorial Stakes winner Gemologist’s first crop showed considerable promise last year at 2.

Gemologist and Tourist, his new barnmate at WinStar Farm, may well be the best hope for the continuation of the Man o’ War male line.