09/08/2014 10:40AM

Sparkman: Super beginning for Super Saver

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Barbara D. Livingston
Hopeful winner Competitive Edge is among the stakes winners from the first crop of Super Saver.

When the 2010 Kentucky Derby winner, Super Saver, retired to his birthplace, WinStar Farm, in 2011, he ticked all but one of the boxes commercial breeders want in a prospective stallion. He was precocious enough to win the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes as a 2-year-old. He trained on at 3 to win the Kentucky Derby in impressive fashion. He hails from the best female family in the American Stud Book. He is a correct, exceptionally handsome individual, beautifully balanced, and an outstanding mover.

The one flaw from a commercial viewpoint was that his sire, Maria’s Mon, was not viewed as a sire of sires, and he descends from the “wrong” branch of the Raise a Native male line through his Kentucky Derby-winning son, Majestic Prince, instead of the wildly successful sire of sires Mr. Prospector. This prejudice, of course, ignored the fact that Maria’s Mon was the only horse to sire two Kentucky Derby winners in the last two decades and was a highly successful sire in his own right, despite never receiving the cream of the American broodmare population to his court.

After Super Saver’s first-crop sons Competitive Edge and I Spent It finished first and second in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes last Monday, there is little doubt that commercial breeders will forget all about Super Saver’s unfashionable sire line.

Competitive Edge is the third stakes winner from 30 starters through Sept. 1 among the 153 foals in Super Saver’s first crop, since I Spent It had previously captured the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and Hasthtag Bourbon won the Mountaineer Juvenile Stakes. That is a remarkably good beginning for a freshman sire – regardless of pedigree.

Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Super Saver was from the penultimate crop of Maria’s Mon, the champion 2-year-old male of 1995. The winner of the Grade 3 Sanford, Grade 1 Futurity, and Grade 1 Champagne Stakes, Maria’s Mon missed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile because of an ankle injury and raced only twice more at 3, finishing second in an allowance race and up the track in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy.

By the good but unfashionable sire Wavering Monarch (by Majestic Light, by Majestic Prince) out of Maria Carlotta, by Caro, Maria’s Mon’s pedigree was not especially appealing to breeders, and by the time he went to stud, his juvenile wins were ancient history in a “what have you done for me lately?” culture.

He sired the 2001 Derby winner, Monarchos, and nine other stakes winners in his first crop but had covered relatively few mares of lower quality after that first crop, and his next really good ones did not come along until breeders sent better mares in response to that first-crop success. His first subsequent crop included the champion Wait a While, the Grade 1 winner Latent Heat, and the multiple Grade 2 winner Strong Contender, but just as he was getting started again, Maria’s Mon died in 2007. All told, Maria’s Mon sired 62 stakes winners from 980 foals (6.3 percent), including eight Grade 1 winners.

WinStar acquired Super Saver’s dam, Supercharger, at the 2006 Keeneland November breeding stock sale for only $160,000, despite the fact that she was then a full sister to graded stakes winners Daydreaming and Accelerator (another full sibling, the eventual Grade 1 winner Girolamo, was foaled in February 2006). By A.P. Indy out of Get Lucky, by Mr. Prospector, Supercharger possessed one of the best pedigrees in the stud book, and she also showed some ability on the racetrack, winning 3 of 8 starts, including allowances at Saratoga and Belmont, but finished sixth in the Grade 2 Cotillion Handicap in her only stakes appearance.

The reason the Phipps family was willing to let her go for only $160,000 was that she had been barren four years out of seven, and none of her three foals had raced. WinStar had previously acquired Supercharger’s full sister, She’s a Winner, the dam of the 2006 Grade 1 Haskell Invitational winner and Kentucky Derby runner-up, Bluegrass Cat, by Storm Cat.

Second to the brilliantly fast Discreetly Mine in his first start at Saratoga, Super Saver duly won his maiden next time out at Belmont Park over a mile. Fourth in the Grade 1 Champagne behind Homeboykris, he closed his first season in training with an emphatic, front-running victory in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs, setting a stakes record of 1:42.83 for 1 1/16 miles.

Because of a minor illness, Super Saver was behind in his training and got a late start at 3, running third March 13 in the Tampa Bay Derby. He showed improved form in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby a month later, closing on Line of David all the way to the line but falling a neck short. Super Saver finally was fully fit for the Kentucky Derby and ran a textbook race, sitting just behind the pacesetters under a typical ground-saving Calvin Borel ride, then splitting front-runners Conveyance and Noble’s Promise to draw off for a comfortable victory.

After three consecutive improving performances, Super Saver clearly was a very good horse, but he ran most disappointingly in the Preakness, fading to finish a distant eighth after stalking the pace. His return to action 2 1/2 months later in the Haskell was a little better, but he faded to fourth behind Lookin At Lucky, and he ran no sort of race in the Travers, beaten 24 1/4 lengths.

Not long after, Super Saver’s retirement was announced due to bruises in his cannon bones. A winner of 3 of 10 starts, his record was somewhat difficult to evaluate because of the poor performances in his final three starts. Still, on his best form, he clearly was a top-class runner, capable of competing on at least even terms with the best of his generation.

Thanks in part to WinStar’s liberal support, he has plenty of foals in his first crop, and though there will be an inevitable drop-off over the next few years like his sire, the performance of his first foals is almost certain to give him every chance for eventual success.

Competitive Edge’s brilliant win in the Hopeful stamps him as the best American juvenile so far this year. Bred in Kentucky by WinStar, he is the first foal out of Magdalena’s Chase, a multiple stakes-placed mare whom WinStar acquired for only $27,000 in the name of Maverick Racing at the 2010 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. October mixed sale. By the 1998 Florida Derby winner Cape Town out of Illuminance, by Dehere, Magdalena’s Chase was a notably tough and sound racemare who won 9 of 32 starts and earned $205,338, racing mostly on the Southwestern circuit.

She began her racing career for her breeder, Padua Stables, winning her second start at Calder as a 2-year-old, and finished fourth in two stakes and seventh in another at the south Florida track before being sold privately to SEJ Stables.

Magdalena’s Chase ran regularly at Turf Paradise, Sunland Park, Lone Star Park, Remington Park, and Zia Park for the next three years, mostly in allowance races and local stakes events at distances from five to eight furlongs, winning twice more at 3 and notching 6 of 15 starts at 4. She ran second in the six-furlong Flashy Lady Stakes at Remington and third in the six-furlong Remington Park Filly and Mare Sprint and the 5 1/2-furlong Bold Ego Handicap at Sunland. She was claimed for $40,000 in her penultimate start at 4 out of an optional claimer but did not win in four starts at 5.

Magdalena’s Chase’s sire, Cape Town, was regally bred, by Seeking the Gold out of the Kentucky Oaks winner Seaside Attraction, by Seattle Slew, but was only moderately successful at stud, siring 24 stakes winners from 455 foals, including the champion 3-year-old filly Bird Town. His daughters have produced 15 stakes winners to date, including the millionaire Pants On Fire.

Magdalena’s Chase is the only black-type horse produced by her winning dam, Illuminance, by Dehere, a half-sister to the 1995 longshot Blue Grass Stakes winner Wild Syn, by Wild Again. Wild Syn also was the only black-type performer out of his dam, Synformer, by Sovereign Dancer, but Synformer was a half-sister to the Grade 1 winner All Fired Up, by Timeless Moment, and the stakes winners Assombrie, by Timeless Moment, and Angel Light, by Majestic Light. Assombrie is the dam of two stakes winners and the grandam of another.

The best branch of this family in recent years, though, explains why WinStar purchased Magdalena’s Chase in the first place. All Fired Up’s unraced half-sister, Cox’s Angel, by Cox’s Ridge, is the dam of three stakes winners, including the prolific stakes winner Horns Gray, by Pass the Tab, who provided WinStar with one of its first big successes as a breeder as the dam of the 2002 Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes winner Awesome Humor, by Distorted Humor. Horns Gray also is the second dam of the Grade 1 winner Emcee, by Unbridled’s Song, and the third dam of this year’s Florida Derby winner, Constitution, by Tapit.

Competitive Edge is inbred 4x4 to both Mr. Prospector and Seattle Slew, since Supercharger is by a son of Seattle Slew out of a daughter of Mr. Prospector and Cape Town is by a son of Mr. Prospector out of a daughter of Seattle Slew for an inbreeding coefficient of 2.84 percent through the first six generations.

Super Saver has made it clear that he is capable of siring fast, classy horses. Since he himself was a classic winner at 3, many of them are likely to improve with age. If his first crop is any indication, we are going to hear a lot more about him in the next few years.