A sales catalog pedigree is a physical image of accomplishments on the racetrack, and sales catalog pages emphasize racing success by using black type for stakes and grading numbers that roughly correspond to stakes of greater or lesser import.
For instance, in the pedigree of Escape Clause, winner of the Grade 3 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita on January 12, the 5-year-old daughter of the Unbridled's Song stallion Going Commando and the Circulating mare Danger Pay, there are not any graded stakes horses in the first three generations of the female family, the part of the pedigree that shows on the catalog page.
As a result, Escape Clause's accomplishment is a step up for the quality of the catalog page for this family, and Escape Clause is an outstanding example of a racer who is improving her pedigree. She has won 19 of 28 races, including three stakes, two last year and the La Canada on Saturday, earning $423,500. She is a full sibling to stakes winner Danger Rulers, winner of the restricted J.W. Sifton Stakes and an earner of $127,105, and they are out of the stakes winner Danger Pay, who won a restricted stakes and was second and third in two more.
Quite possibly the most talented racer on the dam's side of the pedigree in the three generations seen on a sales page is Circulating, a high-quality son of Bold Ruckus who won the Coronation Futurity at 2 and the Plate Trial at 3. He's the sire of Danger Pay, who has been key to upgrading the fortunes of this family.
Danger Pay's dam is the stakes-placed Anotherbuck (by Aferd), a half-sister to Winnipeg Futurity winner Buckpiat (Gallapiat), and both of those are out of the winning mare Choo Choo. Each generation back to Choo Choo in the third echelon behind Escape Clause is a step down in racing class, from stakes winner (Danger Pay) to stakes-placed (Anotherbuck) to winner (Choo Choo).
Choo Choo was not simply a winner, a designation that applies to only slightly more than 40 percent of the breed, but she won six races and earned about a third more than the average horse when she was racing in the late 1970s.
Even though she was a competitive athlete, the fact that she wasn't more of a racehorse resulted in her being bred to horses like Gallapiat, a beautifully pedigreed son of Buckpasser who managed to win a single stakes. Likewise, her daughter was bred to the well-pedigreed (and unraced) Hoist the Flag stallion Aferd, who was a pretty good sire. This trend of mares with modest recognition being bred to stallions with moderate demand at stud is typical of this family, including the mating that produced Choo Choo.
She is by the beautifully pedigreed O'Hara out of the unraced King's Darling (King of the Tudors). O'Hara is the most talented racehorse among the sires in this female line and has quite possibly the best pedigree too. Bred in England by Greentree Stable, O'Hara was a foal of 1962 by European champion Ballymoss out of Track Medal, a stakes-winning full sister to Horse of the Year Swaps (Khaled), and their dam was a half-sister to 1957 Kentucky Derby winner Iron Liege (Bull Lea).
Now that's a pedigree.
Furthermore, each of the first four of Track Medal's foals to race was a major stakes winner. The mare's first foal didn't race. The second was Tutankhamen (Nasrullah), winner of the Manhattan Handicap at 4 and the Donn Handicap at 5; the third was Fool's Gold (Tom Fool), winner of the Musidora Stakes at 3; the fourth was Outing Class (Nasrullah), winner of the Hopeful at 2 (also second in the Futurity and third in the Champagne); and the fourth was O'Hara, who was stakes-placed each year from 2 through 6 but won only the Sunset Handicap at 4.
One of the most interesting things about O'Hara is that he was part of an incident in his 5-year-old season, when he finished first in the 1967 Hollywood Gold Cup in a five-horse field that included the great fan favorite Native Diver (Imbros). At the start, O'Hara dumped rider Milo Valenzuela. In typical fashion for the near-black winner of the 1965 and 1966 Gold Cups, Native Diver went tearing away like this was a seven-furlong race, and with a small field, the race proceeded uneventfully until the far turn, when second favorite Pretense, later to sire Santa Anita Derby winner Sham, rapidly closed most of the ground between him and Native Diver.
O'Hara had been racing outside of Pretense around the turn, and coming into the stretch, Pretense appeared to have the momentum to carry on to victory. Native Diver wasn't having any of that nonsense and turned back the effort of Pretense. O'Hara, however, kept going right on and finished ahead of the strong-willed Native Diver by about three-quarters of a length.
The stewards, of course, placed O'Hara last for carrying about 100 pounds less than his assigned weight, but the horse had shown his grit and his good training by continuing on to finish first in the race and without fouling anyone in the process.
So, while pedigrees carry an indelible record of accomplishments, there are many stories that don't show up on the page.
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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