09/25/2015 3:23PM

Sparkman: Potential fulfilled

Barbara D. Livingston
I'm a Chatterbox won the Cotillion to become the first Grade 1 winner for Munnings.

A widely quoted proverb says a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Knowledge in depth, on the other hand, can be very profitable in the long run.

At the 1988 Keeneland November sale, Pillar Stud, where I was general manager at the time, was able to purchase the 3-year-old filly Bedroom Window for only $11,000. Winner of a maiden race at Arlington Park from 12 career starts, she was by the moderate sire Linkage, but her dam, Guichet, by Jacinto, had been a good racemare, winning the Group 3 Prix de Sandringham and two listed stakes, and Guichet was a full or half-sister to three American stakes winners.

What the catalog could not show – but any avid reader of Timeform’s Racehorses annuals like myself knew – was that Guichet should have won the Group 2 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, where she was an unlucky second by a head to Kesar Queen. That meant Guichet had been a top-class racemare, and her daughter, a big, handsome filly with excellent conformation, was likely to be worth far more than $11,000.

I was also enamored of the possibilities of breeding Bedroom Window to our resident star sire, Cure the Blues, a mating that would produce well-placed inbreedings to Bold Ruler, Tom Fool, and Turn-to. That cross produced $586,569-earner and multiple stakes winner Bedroom Blues, as well as her winning full sister Bedroom Chatter, second dam of recent Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes winner I’m a Chatterbox, by Munnings.

Bedroom Window descended in female line from Ladasine, one of dozens of beautifully bred English mares imported by that paragon of American breeders, James R. Keene. By Epsom Derby winner Ladas, by Hampton, Ladasine’s dam, Allumeuse, by the immortal unbeaten St. Simon, was a half-sister to Illuminata, by Rosicrucian, dam of classic winner Chelandry, by Gold Finch, and of Ladas himself, meaning that Ladasine was inbred 3x2 to Paraffin, by Blair Athol, a daughter of one of the most famous of 19th-century English foundation mares Paradigm, by Paragone.

Ladasine was something of a disappointment as a producer in the Keene stud, but her daughter Rebelion, by Disguise, was exported to Argentina, where she established a highly successful female line later re-imported to the U.S. that includes champion Informed Decision and Grade 1 winner Ecton Park. Ladasine’s daughter Panasine, by Peter Pan, carried on the line in America, where her tail-female descendants include champions Maria’s Mon and Process Shot, but the line descending from Panasine’s daughter Waif, by Greenback, has consistently produced good horses, but little of championship caliber. Bedroom Window’s third dam, Kitten, by Tom Fool, had produced a pretty good filly named Flying Fur, by Sky High II, winner of the California Oaks and second in the Grade 2 Diana Handicap, but that was the basic level of the family.

Kitten’s daughter Croquet, by Court Martial, won 3 of 11 starts and was a much better broodmare than her dam. Guichet was probably her best offspring, but her full brother Buzkashi won the American and Arcadia handicaps, equaling a course record in the latter, and another full brother, Silver Mallet, won the Longacres Mile. That trio’s half-brother Silent Dignity, by Damascus, was a good sprinter who won the Count Fleet Handicap, and two other half-siblings were stakes-placed. Their half-sister Samantha Gal, by Sensitivo, is the dam of Chilean Group 1 winner Barzio, by Bricken, and the granddam of Grade 1 Gamely Breeders’ Cup Handicap winner Noches de Rosa, by Stagecraft.

Bedroom Window’s best daughter, Bedroom Blues, won three stakes and placed in four graded races, and is the granddam of Grade 3 winner Commander, by Broken Vow. Her full sister Bedroom Chatter was not so talented, winning only a maiden claimer at Louisiana Downs from 15 starts, but she was a better broodmare than her sister, producing the good Florida 2-year-old Chatter Chatter, by Lost Soldier, dam in turn of Japanese stakes winner Obruchev, by Malibu Moon, and Maryland stakes winner That’s How I Roll, by Speightstown. Bedroom Chatter is also the dam of stakes-placed Gold Cure, by Gold Alert, and Chit Chatter, by Lost Soldier.

Chit Chatter placed in three stakes at Calder, and her first foal, Pegasus Again, by Fusaichi Pegasus, ran second in the 2007 Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot. Chit Chatter’s fifth foal, Lady Bear, by Bluegrass Cat, was also stakes-placed, running third in the Ontario Debutante. I’m a Chatterbox, who was bred in Kentucky by Fletcher and Carolyn Gray and races in their colors, is Chit Chatter’s sixth foal. She has since produced the current 2-year-old filly Say It Slow, by Haynesfield, who was unplaced in her only start; a yearling colt by The Factor who failed to meet his reserve at a hammer price of $285,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale; and a weanling filly by Flat Out. Chit Chatter was bred back to Munnings.

I’m a Chatterbox is the first Grade 1 winner for Munnings, an obviously highly talented horse who never quite fulfilled his promise on the racetrack. Bred in Kentucky by Dan Tayloe and Glencrest Farm, he was purchased for $150,000 at the 2007 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings by Mike Mulligan’s Leprechaun Racing. Pinhooked to the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of selected 2-year-olds in training at Calder the following spring, he breezed an eighth in 10 seconds, joint-second-fastest time of the sale.

That was fast enough to attract every major buyer at the sale to the Leprechaun barn, where they found a beautifully balanced, correct, muscular colt with the flowing, rhythmical walk so prized by the representatives of Coolmore. Thus it was no surprise when Demi O’Byrne signed the ticket at $1.7 million, second-highest price of the sale.

The colt’s pedigree made it easy to justify such a gaudy price tag. From the first crop of the beautifully bred 2004 champion sprinter Speightstown, by Gone West, he was the fourth foal out of the unraced Holy Bull mare La Comete, who hailed from an active branch of the best family in the “American Stud Book,” tracing to La Troienne. The catalog page showed that La Comete was a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Lasting Approval, by With Approval, and that the second dam, La Gueriere, by Lord At War, was a Grade 1 winner and full or half-sister to four stakes winners, including Grade 1 winner Al Mamoon, by Believe It. Within a few months of Munnings’s purchase, the family added another Grade 1 winner when his dam’s half-sister Icon Project, by Empire Maker, captured the Grade 1 Personal Ensign.

By that time Munnings had proven that he was indeed a fast horse, winning his debut at Saratoga before running third in the Grade 1 Hopeful and second in the Grade 1 Champagne. He completed his juvenile season with a 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and missed the classics the following spring. Second in his first start back at 3, he then won the seven-furlong Grade 2 Woody Stephens, running the distance in 1:20.63, and beat older horses over the same distance in the Grade 2 Tom Fool.

Munnings ran with credit against the great Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell Invitational, leading the filly through the first six furlongs in 1:09.92 before succumbing and finishing third, beaten a length by champion colt Summer Bird for second. That was good enough to make one think he might thrive around two turns given the chance, but he was never tried over farther than a mile again, closing out his sophomore season with thirds in the King’s Bishop and Vosburgh.

Munnings opened his third season in training with a victory in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship, but could not win again in three more starts. Retired to Ashford Stud in 2011, he made a good start with his first crop of 2-year-olds last year when No Problem (Brief Tears, by Orientate) won the Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar, and Lake Sebago (Aviva’s Pride, by Borrego) and Catalina Red (Lovely Dream, by Freud) won minor stakes.

That record has improved dramatically this year with the emergence of I’m a Chatterbox as one of the best 3-year-old fillies in the country, Grade 2 Del Mar Derby winner Om (Rare Cat, by Tabasco Cat), and six other new stakes winners. That brings Munnings’s first-crop totals to 9 stakes winners from 105 foals in his first crop, an 8.6 percent strike rate that seems certain to improve.

To put it bluntly, Munnings did not get a great first book of mares, and his nine first-crop stakes winners are out of mares by nine different broodmare sires. And while it is true that most of those broodmare sires are from the Northern Dancer male line, that should hardly be news to anyone, nor of any real significance in terms of pedigree.

Munnings’s early success is bound to attract much better mares this coming breeding season at a stud fee certain to be rather higher than the $12,500 quoted for 2015. He may be well on his way to reaching top rank as a stallion, fulfilling the potential he showed on the track.