03/20/2015 3:27PM

Sparkman: Warren's Veneda a highly improbable success story

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Benoit & Associates
Grade 1 winner Warren’s Veneda is the best horse bred by California businessman Benjamin C. Warren.

A good horse can come from anywhere, and have any kind of pedigree.

But good horses occur far more rarely from unfashionable pedigrees than from those replete with the heavy black type of graded stakes winners.

That is why the California Chromes of our small, insular world make such wonderful, populist stories. It also is why we must celebrate the Grade 1 success of horses such as Warren’s Veneda, winner of the Santa Margarita Handicap on March 14 at Santa Anita.

Warren’s Veneda is the best horse bred by California businessman Benjamin C. Warren, who was once the largest Thoroughbred breeder in California. He bred more than 100 foals per year in the first decade of the 21st century but got out of the breeding business in 2012. Warren’s Veneda comes from the penultimate crop of horses bred by Warren, and her pedigree is typical of the cheaply bred horses his operation generally produced.

Her sire, Affirmative, was once believed to be destined for better things. Bred in Kentucky by the Hindman Limited Partnership, Affirmative is by the champion 3-year-old male and outstanding classic sire Unbridled and out of the Alleged mare Tom’s a La Mode, a mare with an interesting if unusual pedigree. Tom’s a La Mode was not much of a runner, placing once from three starts at 2 and 3, and her only significant sibling was the multiple stakes-placed Lord At War gelding Holy Conflict. Her dam, Quilesse, by the Northern Dancer horse Fulmar, won the listed Prix de Lieurey in France for the Niarchos family but was the only black-type runner produced by the multiple Group 3-placed Soigneuse, by Tom Rolfe.

Soigneuse was a half-sister to the stakes winners Trim Colony, by Pleasant Colony, and Bold Navy, by Tentam, but more significantly, she was closely related to the 1970 champion 2-year-old male and great sire Hoist the Flag, who was by Tom Rolfe and out of Affirmative’s fifth dam, Wavy Navy, by War Admiral.

Of course, the interesting thing in all this otherwise uninspiring pedigree recitation is that Tom’s a La Mode’s sire, Alleged, was the best son of Hoist the Flag. That means that Tom’s a La Mode is inbred 3x3 to Tom Rolfe and 3x4 to Wavy Navy, an unusual and often potent pedigree pattern.

That pattern had no visible effects on the racing career of Affirmative or Tom’s a La Mode’s five other foals, which included only one winner. The late Prince Ahmed bin Salman’s Cimarron Racing paid $525,000 for Affirmative at the 2000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale of selected yearlings, but he did not race until February of his 4-year-old season, when he finished fourth after showing good early speed in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race over Santa Anita Park’s downhill turf course.

By that time, Salman had died of heart failure at age 43, and much of his racing stock was dispersed in March 2004 at Barretts, where Ben Warren paid $15,000 for Affirmative. The 5-year-old showed good speed again in his first start for Warren, making the lead in the stretch of a 5 1/2-furlong maiden turf race at Hollywood Park but finishing second by a length to Bear in the Woods. Warren gave Affirmative two more chances, separated by substantial layoffs, over the same course and distance, but Affirmative could not overcome his apparent soundness problems and finished unplaced each time.

Retired to stud at Warren’s farm in Hemet, Calif., Affirmative sired 22 named foals in his first three crops, 19 of them bred by Warren and given eponymous names. One of those 19, though, was Warren’s Jitterbug (out of Jitterbug Jan, by Peaks and Valleys), a good, tough, consistent filly who won the listed Sandy Blue Handicap at Del Mar in 2010 and the B. Thoughtful Stakes restricted to California-breds at Hollywood in 2012 and placed in four other stakes, earning $355,994.

Another tough, sound filly, Warrensmysterydice (Little Mystery, by Bertrando), placed in a stakes at Turf Paradise. That was enough to earn Affirmative a bit more patronage, both from Warren and other breeders, and he now has sired 87 foals of racing age, but Warren’s Veneda is the only other stakes horse to emerge from his subsequent crops. Warren sold Affirmative as part of his dispersal for $15,000 at the 2013 Barretts January mixed sale to BG Stable, and he now stands at BG Thoroughbred Farm in Hemet for a $1,000 fee.

Warren’s Veneda’s dam, More Cal Bread, was bred in California by Harris Farms and purchased for $55,000 by Jan, Mace, and Samantha Siegel at the California Thoroughbred Sales’s August yearling sale at Del Mar in 1998. She ran five times without winning for the Siegels before being claimed for $50,000 by trainer Doug O’Neill as a 3-year-old. More Cal Bread won a 1 1/8-mile turf maiden race at Santa Anita two starts later but was claimed again by Warren for $50,000 two starts later.

More Cal Bread ran four times for Warren, winning a 1 1/8-mile turf allowance race at Del Mar and running a good fourth in the 1 3/8-mile CTT and Thoroughbred Owners of California Handicap at Del Mar, beaten 1 1/4 lengths in her final start and only a head away from earning black type.

More Cal Bread may well have been the most talented runner bred to Affirmative, and she came by her obvious stamina honestly. Her sire, Flying Continental, was one of the best sons of top California sire Flying Paster. Winner of the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and Charles H. Strub Stakes, Flying Continental also stood in California and has sired 24 stakes winners from 506 foals. Easily the best of those 24 was Continental Red (Sharp Looking Lady, by Glaros), a long-winded turf horse who counted the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap at 1 1/2 miles among his 8 wins from 74 starts.

More Cal Bread was a half-sister to the stakes-placed Missle Away, by Moscow Ballet, and her dam, Nature’s Way, was the best offspring of Nain Bleu, by Lyphard, winner of the 1979 Bay Meadows Derby. Winner of the Grade 3 Countess Fager Handicap and three other stakes, Nature’s Way was a half-sister to the stakes-placed Cabell County, by Torsion. The next dam, Stew Zoo, by Sunrise Flight, was a half-sister to the fast Johns Joy gelding Try Cash, and the pedigree really does not get much better if one persists in investigating even further into the distant past.

Warren’s Veneda is the sixth and last foal and fourth winner out of More Cal Bread. Her first foal, More Bertrando, by Bertrando, her third, Warrens Mr Boswell, by Lake George, and her fifth, Warren’s Genius, by Doc Gus, are minor winners.

Warren’s Veneda was unraced at 2 but developed into a good, solid runner at 3 in 2013, counting the restricted Cat’s Cradle Handicap and Alphabet Kisses Stakes at Hollywood among 5 wins in 11 starts. She was winless in eight starts last year at 4, but the Santa Margarita was her third straight win this year, following victories in the Paseana and Grade 2 Santa Maria stakes.

Warren’s Veneda is inbred 5x5 to Prince John and Northern Dancer, but one has to assume that Warren cared little for pedigree. His methods may not have been designed to produce high-class runners, but in Warren’s Veneda, the genetic dice finally fell in his favor.