The Weekender Pedigree: Claiborne Weekend

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Vexed charges past Stonetastic to win the Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs Vexed charges past Stonetastic to win the Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs

The Thanksgiving holiday ushered in a Claiborne kind of weekend.

In New York, the Grade 1 Cigar Mile went to the evergreen competitor Flat Out, by Claiborne stallion Flatter. The sire is a son of A. P. Indy out of a mare by Mr. Prospector, who spent the great majority of his long life at stud standing at Claiborne, which also bred and raced Flatter.

Flatter has sired 29 stakes winners so far, and Flat Out is his leading earner with $3.6 million. The winner of seven stakes, Flat Out has won a G1 each of the last three seasons, with a pair of victories in the 10-furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup to go with the Cigar Mile.

At Hawthorne, Last Gunfighter (by Claiborne stallion First Samurai) won the G2 Hawthorne Gold Cup by a length. Last Gunfighter is one of 16 stakes winners by his young sire, and the Gold Cup was the horse’s fifth stakes victory of 2013.

At Churchill Downs, Tapiture, a grandson of the late Claiborne stallion Pulpit, carried off the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. The chestnut son of leading sire Tapit went into the Grade 2 stakes as a maiden and defeated his opponents by four and a quarter lengths.

On the same Churchill card, Vexed won the G2 Golden Rod Stakes and placed co-owner and co-breeder Claiborne Farm in a tie with Calumet Farm as the leading owner of stakes winners at the historic track, with 32.

A homebred in partnership with Adele Dilschneider, who also partnered with Claiborne in breeding and racing champion Blame, Vexed is a daughter of Arch, also the sire of Blame, and the filly is out of the Mighty mare Cross.

Mighty was a son of Lord at War that Seth Hancock selected at auction and raced successfully in the Claiborne colors. From 63 foals, Mighty’s most important claim to breeding fame might be his daughter Cross, who was bred by Dilschneider and Claiborne and won the restricted Hidden Light Stakes.

Cross has produced two stakes winners from three foals of racing age. Last year, the mare’s year-older daughter Sign (Pulpit) won the G2 Pocahontas and was unbeaten in a brief career. Cross has a yearling colt by Blame named Burden that Claiborne’s Dell Hancock mentioned was “real nice” after the race. The mare has a colt of 2013 by the same sire.

With this much happening with Vexed and her relations, it is worth noting that this family has been a cornerstone to Claiborne’s success for 60 years.

Vexed traces back through fourth dam Alluvial (dam of champion Slew o’ Gold and Belmont Stakes winner Coastal) to fifth dam Bayou (by Claiborne stallion Hill Prince) and sixth dam Bourtai (by Claiborne stallion Stimulus).

Vexed also traces back to a decision by Claiborne Farm owner A.B. “Bull” Hancock in 1953, the year before Bayou was foaled. Hancock broke with nearly 70 years of tradition by not selling the Claiborne yearlings of 1953 at auction.

Hancock explained by saying that Claiborne “wanted to race a few horses, but not all the horses we raise. Therefore, we have sold a few yearlings privately.”

The best Claiborne-bred colt in the crop was the Nasrullah speedster Blue Ruler, who won stakes at 2, and he was one of the yearlings the farm sold privately. The best yearling in the crop that the farm kept was the Nasrullah filly Delta, who was very nearly the top juvenile filly of the season in 1954.

Blue Ruler and Delta were ranked slightly below the 1954 divisional champions Nashua (Nasrullah) and High Voltage (by Claiborne stallion Ambiorix). Both the champions were raised at Claiborne for their breeders, William Woodward and Wheatley Stable.

The fabled farm in Paris, Ky., retained the majority of its yearlings from successive crops. Two years later, Bourtai produced the elegant chestnut Bayou. Unlike her famous half-sister Delta, Bayou took time to find her best form, but it wasn’t because she didn’t have speed.

Bayou was “one of the best morning glories in the land” in the spring of her 2-year-old season, according to Joe Estes in American Race Horses of 1957. She had blazing speed but was “frightened and nervous in the presence of the big crowds which came too close and made too much noise in the afternoons.”

The quick filly didn’t win a maiden till November of her juvenile season. The next season, she began to chill, won the Acorn Stakes, Delaware Oaks, Gazelle, and Maskette. As a result, Bayou was named champion 3-year-old filly.

It’s a Claiborne kind of family.

Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is a private consultant to breeders on pedigrees, matings, and conformation. He is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in central Kentucky. Check out Frank’s lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.

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  • Mimi Hunter

    I love articles like this one.

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