Edwin Anthony examines the pedigree of Tampa Bay Derby winner Odysseus in the newest installment of his series of articles spotlighting Triple Crown candidates. While the son of Spendthrift Farm stallion Malibu Moon may not have enough graded stakes earnings to ensure a spot in the starting lineup, Odysseus gets a chance to add to his bankroll in this Saturday's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. – Ray Paulick
ODYSSEUS (Malibu Moon—Persimmon Hill, Conquistador Cielo)
By Edwin Anthony
While viewing Triple Crown prep races, breeders and casual fans alike are looking for something out of the ordinary— an eye-catching turn of foot, the ability of a horse to accelerate through traffic and overcome adversity, or simply the capacity to stay the distance and draw away from competition in the final eighth of a mile.
You always have to keep in mind that, during the Triple Crown, these horses are going to be asked to run further than they have ever run before, against bigger fields than they ever have, and against better competition than they will have faced to that point. That's a lot of hurdles to clear.
There are no easy leads or soft fractions in the classics, and they will have to fight to the finish. Only Thoroughbreds with a good mind, an adequate amount of racing experience, and a wealth of stamina will be up to the challenge. Horses that balk when they get bumped around or spit out the bit after having dirt kicked in their face need not apply.
This brings us to Odysseus, who displayed a remarkable recovery in winning the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) March 13. After losing position and precious ground on the turn, he rallied on the inside, split horses, and won a photo finish. THAT is the kind of tractability and tenacity that you like to see in a horse this time of year.
Odysseus's amazing effort in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) followed a 15-length allowance win at Tampa in February, which was preceded by a maiden win at Gulfstream in January. His connections have announced their intentions to run him in Saturday's Blue Grass Stakes (G1), although that race is on a synthetic surface and could produce an unpredictable result.
It looks as if they are trying to space the horse's races to about once a month and they want to give the horse a little more racing experience. Plus, Odysseus is still well down the list on graded stakes earnings, and they want to make sure that he makes it into the starting gate on Kentucky Derby day. We know that the horse likes racing on the dirt, and that is the most important factor moving toward the classics.
I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of unsound horses, and Odysseus's sire, Malibu Moon, only ran twice. In breaking his maiden going five furlongs at Hollywood Park as a 2-year-old, we really didn't learn much about him before an injury forced his retirement. But being a son of A.P. Indy and out of a Grade 1-winning daughter of Mr. Prospector, Malibu Moon did possess a gene pool brimming with quality.
Malibu Moon carries three crosses of the Secretariat family (two through A.P. Indy and the third cross in direct female line), as well as quality ancestors like Nijinsky II, Swaps, Hasty Road, and Crafty Admiral. He was highly regarded by his owner, B. Wayne Hughes, and in Mr. Hughes there was a man with the resources and the confidence in his horse to give him a chance at stud.
So, Malibu Moon was sent to Maryland, where he proceeded to sire champion 2-year-old colt Declan's Moon, the G1-winning filly Malibu Mint, and hard-knocking runners like Ah Day (nearly $900,000 in earnings). This punched Malibu Moon's ticket for the more lucrative pastures of Kentucky, where he now commands a stud fee of $40,000. With runners in recent crops like Frizette (G1) winner Devil May Care, Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) winner Funny Moon, and Sara Louise (G2, defeated Rachel Alexandra), I must concede that any concerns about Malibu Moon's soundness as a racehorse must be discounted by his tremendous performance in the breeding shed.
There are a number of horses on the Triple Crown trail this year sired by sons of A.P. Indy out of G1-winning daughters of Mr. Prospector—Pulpit (out of Preach) is the sire of Florida Derby (G1) winner Ice Box; Indy King (out of Queena) is the sire of Florida Derby (G1) runner-up Pleasant Prince; Mineshaft (out of Prospectors Delite) is the sire of Discreetly Mine; and Malibu Moon (out of Macoumba) is the sire of Odysseus.
That is an interesting pattern, but it is only half of a horse's pedigree. We know that A.P. Indy is a stamina influence for two-turn runners, but breeders often encounter sires like Malibu Moon that are capable of siring Grade 1 winners from six furlongs to the classic distance of 10 furlongs (a mile-and-a-quarter). Surely, the dams of his runners are playing a major role in their distance capabilities.
Malibu Moon's daughter Funny Moon won the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) going 10 furlongs last year, but she was produced by a daughter of Easy Goer (Belmont winner) and is from the immediate family of champions Vanlandingham (Jockey Club Gold Cup winner) and Temperence Hill (Belmont, Jockey Club Gold Cup winner).
We know that Odysseus can run a mile and a sixteenth with aplomb. What does the bottom side of his pedigree tell us about his potential ability to get a mile and a quarter (or further)?
Odysseus is inbred 5 x 3 to the English Triple Crown winner and stamina influence Nijinsky II (through a son and a daughter), and his second dam by Nijinsky II is a full-sister to champion grass female De La Rose and Suburban Handicap (G1) winner Upper Nile—horses that could get the distance. This Nijinsky II mare was bred to Horse of the Year Conquistador Cielo, who within the span of a week won the Metropolitan Mile (G1) then the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes (G1) by 14 widening lengths.
Odysseus also carries 6 x 4 inbreeding to the stamina and soundness influence Round Table (through a son and a daughter). Even closer, we see 3 x 3 inbreeding to Mr. Prospector (through a son and a daughter). This “balanced” inbreeding to great ancestors like Mr. Prospector, Nijinsky II, and Round Table has been a very positive factor for class and speed in Thoroughbreds.
I also find the combination of A.P. Indy and Conquistador Cielo intriguing, as when they are crossed in pedigrees, the closely related stallions Ambiorix (Conquistador Cielo), Turn-to (two sons in A.P. Indy's pedigree, a daughter in Conquistador Cielo's lineage), and My Babu (A.P. Indy) are all combined. This threesome from the Sweet Lavender family have a long history of working well together and come from a rich stallion family that also includes the very good turf stud Irish River and his damsire, Klairon.
At the very least, Odysseus is another feather in Malibu Moon's cap as he climbs the stallion ranks. With the level of quality inbreeding found in his pedigree, the chances of him becoming yet another G1 winner for his sire are fairly good as well. I, for one, will watch his races in the Blue Grass and hopefully Kentucky Derby with great interest.
Edwin Anthony was the staff pedigree consultant at Three Chimneys Farm for six years and has written dozens of articles on pedigree research. In 2008, he published The American Thoroughbred (Volume I), which can be ordered via the ad link on this web page or through his web site at www.throughbredadvisor.com.
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