Bloodlines: Eclipse Award Winners Show Strong Female Influences

by | 01.19.2016 | 11:35am

One of the consistent points of reference in the highly inconsistent game of breeding the Thoroughbred is that class in the dam, as well as depth in that family, give us a pretty good guide of what to select as breeding stock.

Taking the most recent Eclipse Award winners as evidence, both champion 2-year-old filly Songbird (by Medaglia d'Oro) and champion older mare Beholder (Henny Hughes) are out of stakes winners.

The dam of Songbird, Ivanavinalot, won six races and $647,300 in three seasons of racing. Winner of the Florida Stallion Stakes (My Dear Girl division) at 2, the bay daughter of West Acre improved enough at 3 to win the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss Stakes at Gulfstream, as well as to finish second in the G2 Davona Dale.

One of three stakes winners out of the Deputy Minister mare Beaty Sark, Ivanavinalot was the best racer by her royally pedigreed sire West Acre. That stallion was a son of champion juvenile and leading sire Forty Niner (Mr. Prospector) and out of the important producer Narrate, who was also a graded stakes winner during her racing career. West Acre, despite his excellent pedigree, did not race and became only a modest sire. In Ivanavinalot, however, he got a really good one.

Leslie's Lady, the dam of Beholder, was no match for Ivanavinalot on the racetrack. Winner of a single stakes, the Hoosier Debutante, Leslie's Lady won five races and earned $187,014 while racing at 2 and 3. Then she retired to become a broodmare who appears to be more important every day.

The mare's first foal of significance was G1 winner Into Mischief (Harlan's Holiday), victor in the 2007 Hollywood Futurity and winner in half of his six starts. Raced by Wayne Hughes and sent to stud as one of the early stallion retirements at the owner's then-newly acquired Spendthrift Farm, Into Mischief has become one of the most significant young sires in America, with a stud fee that has risen to $45,000 live foal for 2016.

Harlan's Holiday (Harlan) was a very important sire himself and was entitled to sire a stallion son or two, but the contribution of Leslie's Lady to the genetic mix that produced Into Mischief should not be discounted. This is all the more obvious after considering the sire of her champion daughter Beholder, who is the best racer by Henny Hughes by about a mile.

Henny Hughes (Hennessy) was a good-looking and very fast stallion prospect who went to stud at Darley the same year as Bernardini and then just flopped here in Kentucky.

But don't tell that to Beholder, who is a first-rate racehorse and who possesses excellent credentials to be a good broodmare. In addition to Beholder's exceptional class, her dam Leslie's Lady has produced two G1 stakes winners and has a pair of daughters who are also stakes producers.

With Beholder or any other broodmare prospect, the first thing a breeder wants to see is athletic ability. Most good broodmares don't need to be superstars, and some don't even have to win a stakes because they have been highly tried in very good company. But they need to stand some training and show some ability.

The second thing a breeder wants to see is a broodmare who is getting athletic-looking and -acting foals. Then if they go on to the races and prove their ability on the track, the breeder is in great shape.

That would appear to be the ticket with the dam of champion juvenile colt Nyquist (Uncle Mo), whose dam is the Forestry mare Seeking Gabrielle.

A winner, Seeking Gabrielle got the champion 2-year-old colt as her first foal. Not bad. He was a very appealing young athlete from the start and sold for $180,000 as a weanling (fifth-highest price of 15 Uncle Mo weanlings), then for $230,000 as a yearling (10th highest of 107), and finally for $400,000 as a 2-year-old in training (4th of 37).

In his work for Fasig-Tipton's 2015 Florida sale, Nyquist showed that he was a well-balanced colt with quality and very good stride characteristics. He used himself well on the racetrack and showed himself a class animal back at the barns at Gulfstream last year.

By a really big sire, Nyquist is a good-sized colt but has shown the speed and efficiency so prized by breeders, and that complement of qualities has propelled him to an early leadership among his contemporaries.

Likewise, Songbird has matched an outstanding physique with the mental and athletic development needed for top-tier performance. An April 30 foal, Songbird was such an outstanding yearling that she was accepted for Fasig-Tipton's 2014 Saratoga select yearling sale. A real star on the sales grounds, the striking bay filly with four white stockings had a typical profile for her sire: scope and muscularity.

She carries very good condition, has good length through the body, with strong quarters, and has the balance of shape and fluidity of motion that suggests a high-quality individual. With those attributes to recommend her, Rick Porter purchased her for $400,000 and sent the lovely filly into training and racing for his Fox Hill Stable.

Both the juvenile champions, as well as the heroic Beholder, will be back to race in 2016, and the sport will be richer for it.

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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