Bloodlines Presented By Mill Ridge Farm: Bonny South, Chris Evert, And The Sick Mare That Linked Them

by | 03.24.2020 | 10:13am
3/21/2020 - Bonny South ridden by Florent Geroux wins the 53rd running of the $400,000 Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks at Fair Grounds.  Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges, Jr.

The first step in the path that led to Bonny South (by Munnings), the winner of the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks on March 21, came in 1972, when fashion magnate Carl Rosen purchased an athletic chestnut filly by the good, though not widely remembered, stallion Swoon's Son at the Keeneland July sale. He paid $32,000.

Rosen then named the filly Chris Evert in honor of the sensational young tennis star, whom he had signed to a line of clothing made by Rosen's Puritan Fashions.

Neither Chris Evert looked back. Both became greater stars, and their influence continues.

In racing, Chris Evert the filly won 10 of her 15 starts. At two, she won the G3 Demoiselle at Aqueduct and the Golden Rod at Churchill Downs. The filly's only loss at two was a second in the G1 Frizette Stakes at Belmont.

At three, it was set and match.

After losing her stakes debut in the Comely, Chris Evert went on a tear through the Acorn, Mother Goose, and Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont, and while Chris Evert established herself as the best filly in the East, another filly was burning up the tracks in California. Named Miss Musket, she and Chris Evert met a match in late July named the Hollywood Special. Chris Evert won by a pole, as Miss Musket was eased.

The only question now was whether this filly was as good as the colts, and at Saratoga, Chris Evert hooked the best of her own sex, as well as the other. In the Alabama, Kentucky Oaks winner Quaze Quilt (Specialmante) ran a tremendous race to deny her chestnut competitor by a neck.

In the following week's Travers, Chris Evert tackled Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Little Current (Sea-Bird), as well as Holding Pattern (Old Bag), who had just defeated the classic colt in the nine-furlong Monmouth Invitational (now called the Haskell). The filly vied for the lead for more than a mile, then tired a bit in the stretch to finish third behind Holding Pattern, who held off Little Current by a head on a sloppy track.

That was almost the end of Chris Evert's racing career. She came back at four, won the 1975 La Canada at Santa Anita, then was off the board in the Santa Margarita a month later and never raced again.

Retired to stud at Claiborne Farm, Chris Evert became an unqualified success as a broodmare. Each of her first three foals earned black type, including stakes winners Six Crowns (Secretariat) and Wimbledon Star (Hoist the Flag). The mare's fourth foal was a bay filly by English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky. Unraced but with the illustrious racing and production records of sire and dam, this young mare brought $700,000 at the 1987 Keeneland November sale, carrying her third foal on a cover to Horse of the Year Conquistador Cielo (Mr. Prospector).

The buyer was Juddmonte Farms.

And Juddmonte is the owner-breeder of Bonny South. Before her sale by the estate of Carl Rosen, Nijinsky Star produced her first stakes winner with her first foal, Hometown Queen (Pleasant Colony), who won the Magnolia Stakes, then placed second in the G1 Kentucky Oaks, before her dam sold in November at Keeneland.

The mare's consignor was Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services (John Stuart), and he recalled the situation from his current berth in Key West, where he is sheltering in place.

“We sold her because we were dispersing the estate of Carl Rosen. But despite all her positives, this mare wasn't the easiest sale,” Stuart recalled. “She had a tube coming out of her lung, and it had to drain all the time. It wasn't something temporary for the sale. It had been going on for a long time. She got pneumonia when she was young and had a continued fluid build-up in a lung; so we had that tube in there to drain out any fluid. It never seemed to bother her much. Tube came out the right side about half-way down, and I've never seen one like it before or since.”

Horsemen, and especially horse buyers, do not look with envy on anything that complicates the management of horses, who come with enough complexity with any added degrees of difficulty.

But in addition to a world-class pedigree, Nijinsky Star had other recommendations too. Stuart noted that “she was a big, heavy, 16.3 mare, and they bred her in such a way to scale her down, using Nureyev, for instance. George Blackwell bought her for Juddmonte, and we sold the man a damned good horse, and he got more out of that mare than anyone else, and that's a great credit to the management team and Mr. Abdullah's judgment in breeding and racing.”

Juddmonte's Garrett O'Rourke said that the purchase of Nijinsky Star “was just prior to my coming to Juddmonte, and she was fixed by the time I got here; she had had pleurisy and recovered from it. Nijinsky Star has been a tremendously successful purchase for Prince Khalid and has morphed into one of our most successful families.”

Indeed, after the mare produced the Conquistador Cielo colt Russian Sky (unraced), Nijinsky Star got the G2 Tidal Handicap winner Revasser (Riverman) and multiple listed stakes winner Viviana (Nureyev), plus the latter's full sister Willstar, who was a winner from five starts.

At stud, each of Nijinsky Star's four daughters produced stakes winners, and the Nureyev daughters Viviana and Willstar did the best. Viviana produced multiple G1 winners Sightseek (Distant View) and Tates Creek (Rahy), and Willstar produced the G1 Prix de la Foret winner Etoile Montante (Miswaki), who was also second in the G1 Matriarch, Prix Marcel Boussac, and Prix Maurice de Gheest.

“Viviana was an absolutely beautiful mare and a good runner too,” O'Rourke said. “Viviana was also a great big mare; you'd think of her as a Nijinsky with quality. She might have had markings you'd attribute to Nureyev but was not similar otherwise. She was 16.2, with great bone and substance, and Willstar was a lovely mare of the same type, although not quite as big; they have the Nijinsky size and mass.”

Willstar's 12th foal is the chestnut mare Touch the Star (Tapit), who produced Bonny South as her second foal.

“Touch the Star is lovely-looking mare too,” O'Rourke said, “and Bill Mott said that she had a lot of ability, even though we didn't get a win for her.”

So Juddmonte gave Touch the Star a serious shot at stud and hit the brass ring with the mare's second foal, Bonny South.

“Like the rest of this family, Bonny South has plenty of scope; you wouldn't look at Bonny South and say you're only a sprinter type,” O'Rourke said. “The family is coming through pretty strongly, with the Munnings zip too.”

Bonny South was such a good foal that Juddmonte sent the mare back to Munnings twice more, and she is now in foal to Quality Road, also from the Gone West male line.

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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