The once-beaten Holy Helena (by Ghostzapper) became the fourth winner of the Queen's Plate for owner-breeder Frank Stronach, who breeds in the name of Adena Springs and races in the name of Stronach Stable. His filly Holy Helena is the eighth winner of the Woodbine Oaks to come back and win the Plate, and she has now won three of her four starts, all this year.
Holy Helena won the Woodbine Oaks on June 11 by a length, then succeeded in the presumably more difficult Plate by 3 ½ lengths. The difference might be the longer distance of the Plate at 10 furlongs (run in 2:02.87), compared to the Oaks at nine furlongs (run in 1:50.18), both over the all-weather surface at Woodbine.
One reason the bay filly ran back so successfully after a three-week interval is, no doubt, that she was unencumbered by Lasix. All the filly's starts have been Lasix-free, and there is no question – whether one approves of the medication or not – that it taxes a racehorse's system and apparently requires the horse to have a greater interval between races.
That is not an opinion when trainers plan on 8-, 12-, or 16-week spans between races for horses who have trained and raced with the medication.
The changes in training and racing have evolved over the last 35 years or so of widespread Lasix use, a period that includes the racing careers of Holy Helena's immediate forebears. Her sire and grandsire raced on Lasix, but that has not impaired Holy Helena's ability to race without the medication.
Ghostzapper, the sire of Holy Helena, stands at Adena Springs in Kentucky alongside his famous sire Awesome Again, and they are the two best proven stallions at Adena Springs. Awesome Again won the Queen's Plate in 1997, and both sire and son won the Breeders' Cup Classic. Awesome Again won the race in 1998 at Churchill Downs, and Ghostzapper won the Classic at Lone Star in 2004.
Bred in Ontario, and therefore eligible to race for the Queen's Plate (which is restricted to Canadian-breds), Holy Helena is out of the winning Holy Grace, a daughter of Horse of the Year Holy Bull. Stronach was one of the early believers in the potential of Holy Bull as a sire, and the breeder-sportsman has been well-rewarded for his confidence in the son of Great Above.
Among other good performers, the best stallion son of Holy Bull, the gray Macho Uno, was bred and raced by Stronach. Macho Uno was champion 2-year-old colt of his year, when he won the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and he would rank behind only Awesome Again and Ghostzapper among the active proven sires at Adena Springs.
Racing at 2, 3, and 4, Holy Grace won twice from 14 starts, winning a maiden special at Calder and an allowance at Woodbine. She earned $103,626, and Holy Helena is the mare's fourth foal.
The Queen's Plate winner is a half-sister to graded stakes winner Holy Boss (Street Boss), who was the second foal out of their dam. Holy Boss won the Duncan F. Kenner Stakes earlier this year, and his best victory from three other stakes wins is the G2 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga in 2015. That year he was also third in the G1 King's Bishop, and last year, Holy Boss was second in the G1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes. He has earned $771,527.
Bought back for $175,000 at the 2013 Keeneland November sale while carrying Holy Helena, Holy Grace has a 2-year-old filly by Adena stallion Fort Larned named Holy Fort, and the mare has a yearling filly by Point of Entry and colt of 2017 by Silver Max.
Holy Grace is a half-sister to three stakes winners and one stakes-placed performer. The mare's stakes-winning siblings are Daiwa Carson (Carson City), winner of the Keio Hai Sansai Stakes in Japan; Mark One (Alphabet Soup), winner of the G3 Woodbine Handicap and Eclipse Handicap; and Rookie Sensation (Unbridled's Song), winner of the G2 Twilight Derby.
Their dam is the Stately Don mare My Marchesa, who won the restricted Gala Lil Stakes, was second in the Gold Digger Stakes and Navajo Princess Stakes, and ran third in the Carotene Handicap. My Marchesa is a half-sister to stakes winner Black Cash (Deposit Ticket; G2 Eclipse Handicap), and they are out of the stakes-placed Buckpasser mare Sooni, one of the many fine daughters of the great producer Missy Baba (My Babu).
Missy Baba produced seven stakes winners, including the leading sire Raja Baba and broodmare of the year Toll Booth. None of them raced on Lasix.
That, I believe, is important. In the discussion of Lasix and bloodstock, I have often been asked about how it has altered the breed. My answer is: I don't believe that Lasix has altered the breed; it has altered how we train and race and manage the breed.
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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