01/18/2008 12:00AM

Vertigineux 3 for 3 as dam of stakes winners

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - With her El Encino victory, Zenyatta is proving that her resemblance to her famous older sibling, multiple Grade 1 stakes winner Balance, is more than skin deep.

A tall, somewhat angular filly, Zenyatta is the third foal and third stakes winner out of the Kris S. mare Vertigineux. All were bred by the Maverick Productions LLC of Eric Kronfeld, who is an attorney in the entertainment business in New York City.

Although he owns only a tiny broodmare band, Kronfeld has had uncommon success, and he keeps his mares and young horses at Winter Quarter Farm in Kentucky.

Owned and managed by Don Robinson, Winter Quarter is located just outside Lexington near Shadwell, Mill Ridge, and Jonabell farms.

The story of the matings that produced Vertigineux and her trio of stakes-winning daughters began nearly 30 years ago at the Saratoga yearling sales.

In 1979, Kronfeld bought the dam of Vertigineux, he said, "at Saratoga from the Newstead consignment, and from the time I bought her, I loved her page."

Named For the Flag, the filly was by the great Argentine champion and important sire Forli, and out of In the Offing.

"This is probably Newstead's best family," Kronfeld said. "In the Offing was a winning daughter of Hoist the Flag and Newstead's great mare Mrs. Peterkin, who also produced Kentucky Oaks winner Sweet Alliance."

Kronfeld sent For the Flag to England, where, he said, "she hurt her ankle, which kept her from realizing all her potential."

After Kronfeld returned For the Flag to the U.S. and won a maiden race with her, she went to stud and began to produce well, with three stakes winners among her early foals.

With this early production success, Kronfeld began to breed For the Flag to even better stallions, and one of the resulting foals was Vertigineux.

Vertigineux is a tall, rangy mare typical of her sire Kris S.

"Vertigineux was a horse who wanted every inch of a mile and a quarter during her racing career," Kronfeld said.

The mare also showed ability in training, although she did not earn black type as a racehorse. With a record of 2 victories in good company from 7 starts and a pedigree showing three stakes-winning siblings, Vertigineux was retired to stud.

"Pretty much from the jump, she surprised us," Kronfeld said.

The mare's first foal is the stakes winner Where's Bailey [by the Storm Cat stallion Aljabr], and her second is Balance, a daughter of Thunder Gulch who won Grade 1 races at 3 and 4.

And Balance is partially responsible for Zenyatta being purchased for her owners, Jerry and Ann Moss.

"Based on what Balance was doing in training, calls started coming in to purchase Vertigineux, and I declined them," Kronfeld said. "But the Mosses' trainer, John Shirreffs, shares a barn with David Hofmans, who trained Balance, and knew that filly was doing really well."

David Ingordo, who purchased Zenyatta on behalf of the Mosses and Shirreffs, selected the filly at the September sale.

"She looks like a special horse, and everyone wants to know how we bought her for only $60,000," Ingordo said. "When we bought her, she had a terrible case of skin disease, which was awful luck for the breeder that it happened at that time. And then, with her rangy physique, the pinhookers weren't going to buy her because she wasn't their type of early, quick 2-year-old prospect."

Kronfeld concurred. "With the rash covering her whole body, she looked like she had the plague," he said. "Also, neither of the stakes winners were yet on the page. And all credit goes to the Mosses and their team for selecting her and developing her."

Zenyatta is from the first crop of the important young stallion Street Cry. A leading first-crop stallion, Street Cry also sired Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense in his first crop.

Vertigineux has a 2-year-old by Pulpit and a yearling by Giant's Causeway.

"The Giant's Causeway was quite late and quite large," Kronfeld said. "As a result, we decided to give her the year off and breed back early in 2008."

The mare is booked to Preakness winner Bernardini. Kronfeld chose this young stallion for his mare because, he said, "I thought Bernardini was a great-looking athlete, clearly had an excellent racing career, and fit the mare exceptionally well on pedigree."

In evaluating his horse breeding philosophy, Kronfeld recalled the advice passed along by the legendary breeder Paul Mellon: breed the best to the best and hope for the best.

His choice of mates for Vertigineux has included classic winners Thunder Gulch, Giant's Causeway, and Bernardini - which shows that Kronfeld believes the classics are the best proving ground of high class in a horse.

"I think Bernardini's going to be a world-class sire," he said. "I've been in this game for 32 years, and in my breeding career I've been extremely lucky in picking young stallions who are going to be very good sires."

And broodmares like Vertigineux make stallions look really good.