Bloodlines: Midshipman Progeny A Lasting Legacy For McNair

by | 11.27.2018 | 11:14am
Princess Warrior and jockey Brian Hernandez winning the Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs

With a victory in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 23, Princess Warrior became the 19th stakes winner for her sire, 2008 champion 2-year-old colt Midshipman (by Unbridled's Song).

A good-sized, scopy chestnut, Midshipman is one of three stakes winners foaled from graded stakes winner Fleet Lady, a daughter of the Seattle Slew stallion Avenue of Flags and the Roberto mare Dear Mimi. This is a quality family developed by the California- and Kentucky-based owner-breeder John Mabee.

Mabee did not breed Midshipman, nor any of Fleet Lady's foals, however, because he sold the young mare to the Stonerside Farm of Janice McNair and her husband Bob, who died last week.

Stonerside's longtime bloodstock adviser John Adger recalled: “Dick Lossen called me up and said that we needed to buy this mare Fleet Lady that he was authorized to offer from the breeders. I knew Fleet Lady because she had outrun Stonerside fillies several times in graded stakes on the West Coast. So, my only question was, 'Why in the world would John Mabee want to sell a nice young mare like this?'

“Dick said he didn't know why they wanted to sell but they wanted $1.2 million. I called Bob and said there was a mare we needed to buy today. When I mentioned how well Fleet Lady had performed against some of our home fillies, he said, 'Go ahead and do the deal. See if we can get it done.' She had just been covered by Deputy Minister and was carrying her first pregnancy, and the foal she was carrying turned out to be Fast Cookie,” who became a graded stakes winner and important producer.

Midshipman was Fleet Lady's sixth live foal, but by the time the sharp-looking chestnut was a 2-year-old in the summer of 2008, the McNairs were looking to get out of horse racing. Adger went looking for someone who would buy the entirety of the Stonerside property, bloodstock, and racing stable and found that investor in Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai, who operates an international breeding establishment in the name of Darley and typically races under the banner of Godolphin.

“When we made the deal with John Ferguson [in the summer of 2008], I told him that this was going to be a good deal for both parties,” Adger said, and the bloodstock and racehorses were a major success for the new owner from the first. On Sept. 3 at Del Mar, Midshipman was the last G1 winner for Stonerside Stable, winning the Del Mar Futurity. At the Breeders' Cup races a few weeks later, Midshipman earned Sheikh Mohammed a first G1 from his new acquisitions with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and subsequently the Eclipse as leading juvenile colt. [Another horse from the Stonerside deal, the 3-year-old Elusive Quality colt Raven's Pass, won the Breeders' Cup Classic in the colors of Princess Haya.]

The Breeders' Cup and Eclipse Award proved to be the peak of Midshipman's racing career, which was limited to four starts and two victories, plus a third in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, over the next two years, but at stud, the charming chestnut has proven himself very nearly, if not the, best stallion son of Unbridled's Song to date.

Adger noted that, in the negotiations to sell Stonerside, Fleet Lady and her G1-winning son were key horses in the deal. Notably, this family has also continued to provide successes in breeding and racing. This weekend, for instance, Godolphin's juvenile filly Elsa (Animal Kingdom) won the Jimmy Durante Stakes at Del Mar over a mile on turf. Elsa is out of a half-sister to Midshipman. Their eldest half-sister, Fast Cookie, is the dam of two stakes winners, most notably Frosted (Tapit), winner of the G1 Metropolitan Handicap, Whitney, and Wood Memorial.

Second in the 2015 Belmont Stakes behind American Pharoah, Frosted is a stallion at Darley's Jonabell Farm in Lexington, where he stands alongside kinsman Midshipman. An additional half-sister to Midshipman, Fast Cookie, and others is the unraced Storm Cat mare Surf Song, the dam of Solomini (Curlin), who has been second or third in four G1 races and earned more than three-quarters of a million dollars.

In summing up the impact of Stonerside, Adger suggested its value came from the commitment of its owners, Bob and Janice McNair. “Bob McNair was a very special man,” Adger commented, “both to me professionally and to the sport. You know, he didn't want to get too involved in racing. [Adger laughed.] Early on, he said he didn't want more than 10 horses and didn't want a farm. Then it grew.”

Then it grew.

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 chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and 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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