When Itsmyluckyday ran away from juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby through the stretch of Saturday's Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfsteam Park, the winner affirmed how rapidly he is improving over his good juvenile form and raised questions of what “might have been” for his deceased sire, Lawyer Ron.
A good-looking chestnut who showed first-class form, Lawyer Ron earned $2,790,008 in a stellar racing career with a dozen victories from 26 starts and eight more finishes in the money. His Grade 1 victories came in the Whitney and Woodward, with a second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and a third in the Metropolitan Handicap.
As a stallion prospect, Lawyer Ron was a very powerful horse, with the muscularity of the Danzig tribe through Lawyer Ron's sire Langfuhr, and the big chestnut possessed the bone and scope typical of his broodmare sire Lord Avie.
In short, he had an excellent physique for muscle, strength, and stride, and “all” he had to do was to reproduce his best qualities with consistency. Therein lies the rub.
Rob Whiteley, co-breeder of Itsmyluckyday, said that he chose Lawyer Ron for the mating that produced the Holy Bull winner because “I was so impressed with him as a racehorse and as a physical specimen. I believed there were serious hidden value with him, and when his first foals arrived, I said ‘This horse is going to be a major stallion.' ”
This evaluation is moot because Lawyer Ron died from complications of colic surgery on July 11, 2009, after his second season at stud, and he sired 147 foals in two crops. With eight stakes winners, that puts his percentage of stakes winners to foals at slightly more than 5 percent, which is a fair result for the sire.
One point of interest, however, is that seven of those stakes winners are from the horse's first crop. If the second crop continues to improve like the first, the stats should tell a different story a year from now.
Foaled March 18, Itsmyluckyday – from Lawyer Ron's second crop – was bred in Kentucky by Whiteley's Liberation Farm and Brandywine Farm. His dam is the Doneraile Court mare Viva La Slew, with whom Whiteley had a long list of connections.
The first of them began with Viva La Slew's second dam, the splendid Secretariat mare Viva Sec, whom Whiteley purchased for $330,000 at the 1989 Due Process dispersal for Foxfield. “Viva Sec was all class,” he recalled. “She's one of the best mares that I've been connected with. Physically, she was a medium-sized mare with great balance, and, like her daughter Viva La Viva (by Crafty Prospector), looked bigger than she was.”
Viva La Viva was bred by Foxfield and was unraced but produced a pair of stakes winners, including Ready to Live (More Than Ready). Foxfield sold Viva La Viva at the 2004 Keeneland January sale for $102,000, and a couple of years later, Whiteley purchased her with partners and resold her to Fares Farm, which dispersed her in November . The mare, then barren, sold for $16,000 to Sally Thomas.
At the 2012 Keeneland September sale, Viva La Viva's yearling colt by Indian Charlie sold for $125,000 to Tristan de Meric.
That's a far cry from the mare's earlier yearling by Doneraile Court, Viva La Slew, who was bred by Gulf Coast Farm and is the dam of Itsmyluckyday. Gulf Coast bred Viva La Slew in between Foxfield's ownership of Viva La Viva and Whiteley's acquisition of the mare.
For whatever reason, Viva La Slew sold for only $2,700 as a yearling at the 2006 OBS August yearling sale.
Given that poor price, many people would expect Viva La Slew to be a poor athlete, but she placed third in a minor stakes against colts and won two other races. What is more extraordinary, however, is that she raced 18 times at 2. After two starts the next season, Whiteley and partners acquired Viva La Slew and sent her to stud, where she was mated with champion juvenile Dehere.
The mare's first first foal, a filly named Findthesource, died after two starts at 2, and her second is the now-3-year-old Itsmyluckyday. Whiteley said, “Personally, this is a joy to see Itsmyluckyday emerge at the top level because I see so much of Viva Sec in his physical makeup, allied with the grit and competitiveness that characterized so many of Crafty Prospector's offspring.”
Viva La Slew produced a dark bay colt by Henny Hughes in 2011 and a dark bay colt by Tale of Ekati last year.
This is the point where I should be estimating the value of a nice young mare with a classic prospect as her second foal, but unfortunately, Whiteley said, “Viva La Slew is a classic tale of the struggling breeder. She died last year.”
The toughness and desire to win that propelled his dam through 20 races in 11 months seems to burn in Itsmyluckyday, however, and he is offering a tribute to the better qualities of his dam and his breeder with classy performances on the racetrack.
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 a private consultant to breeders on pedigrees, matings, and conformation. He 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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