Anthony previously looked at leading candidates for the Kentucky Derby: Louisiana Derby winner Friesan Fire, Florida Derby winner Quality Road, Santa Anita Derby winner Pioneerof the Nile, Florida Derby runner-up Dunkirk, Wood Memorial winner I Want Revenge, Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem, and Santa Anita Derby runner-up Chocolate Candy.
RACHEL ALEXANDRA (Medaglia d'oro—Lotta Kim, by Roar)
By Edwin Anthony
Every horse race has a winner; that's a fact. And just because a horse wins an otherwise important race, that does not make that horse particularly special, other than it may have been the best (that day) of an average field of Thoroughbreds. Greatness must be earned—gauged against the clock, measured against the history books. There must be dominance and consistency, across state borders and time zones, over varying track conditions and against the best competition available. When these conditions are met, then a discussion of history and greatness can begin.
It is too early to call Rachel Alexandra great; she hasn't even won a G1 race yet, much less run in one. But any serious fan of Thoroughbred racing has chill bumps in anticipation of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and the rest of her 2009 campaign. Having seen her races in the Golden Rod (G2, new stakes record), Martha Washington Stakes (in time a second faster than Old Fashioned's winning time in the Southwest Stakes), Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), and Fantasy (G2), all of which she won with devastating ease, we know that this filly has very serious talent.
Will Rachel Alexandra ever race against males? Perhaps. She looks a lot more like a colt than a filly, and her imposing frame makes her seem like the kind of filly that wouldn't be intimidated by colts. Her front-running style would also make it easy for her to stay out of trouble, and she could simply run them off their feet (like Winning Colors or Lady's Secret), which is a distinct possibility, given the times of her races. You can't blame her owners for wanting to pick off the important filly races that are at their mercy in the immediate future, however, as those races are very prestigious in their own right and very difficult to win under any circumstances.
But, then, all of that is conjecture. Let's discuss things that are a little more based in fact. Where does Rachel Alexandra's talent come from? We should take a closer look at her pedigree, in search of some clues.
The race record of Medaglia d'Oro (her sire) is fairly fresh in our minds, as Rachel Alexandra is from his first crop. There were his wins in the Whitney (G1), Travers (G1), Donn Handicap (G1), Oaklawn Handicap (G2), Strub Stakes (G2), San Felipe (G2), and Jim Dandy (G2)—he certainly liked Saratoga—as well as solid second place finishes in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1, twice), Belmont (G1), Dubai World Cup (G1), Pacific Classic (G1), and Wood Memorial (G1). So, he was very fast and very consistent, always part of the exacta in important races, it seemed (he was first or second in 15 of his 17 starts).
El Prado, sire of Medaglia d'Oro, was champion 2-year-old colt in Ireland and has a top-drawer pedigree, being a son of the great stallion Sadler's Wells from a classic-winning dam (Irish 1000 Guineas) by Sir Ivor from a mare by Tom Fool. His family is very deep, having previously yielded stallions like Drone (damsire of Kentucky Derby winners Grindstone and Charismatic), Dunce, Notebook (damsire of 2009 Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed), and Sir Wimborne. His dam also carries inbreeding to Sir Ivor's family via the three-quarter siblings Menow and Athenia (second dam of Sir Ivor).
Medaglia d'Oro's dam side has some quality, although it is not as obvious as in the case of his sire, El Prado. His dam was a stakes winner of five races, although not of particularly high quality. You have to go back to his third dam to find another graded stakes winner (Sapling-G1 winner Travelling Music) but his family is better than it appears. Medaglia d'Oro's second dam was sired by champion 2-year-old colt Silent Screen, who is from the same family as Medaglia d'Oro (creating inbreeding to the foundation mare Sunday Evening) and it is a deep family indeed. Sunday Evening is part of the great Idle Fancy family that has yielded a number of champions, including Hill Prince (Horse of the Year), First Landing, Cicada, Dark Mirage, Indian Skimmer, and Speightstown, as well as G1 winners like Bluebird, Cherokee Colony, Classy Mirage, Crusader Sword, Daaher, Java Gold, Kennedy Road, Missy's Mirage, Spun Sugar, Timely Writer, Timely Assertion, and Upper Case. That's quite a list, and it shows what you can learn if you are simply curious enough to look off the edge of a catalog page.
Bailjumper, the damsire of Medaglia d'Oro, elicits yawns from commercial breeders, but he is closely related to a number of other successful progeny by Damascus from the important Frizette family. Furthermore, Bailjumper was the sire of the extremely sound runner Skip Trial (Haskell—G1, Gulfstream Park Handicap—G1 twice), who in turn sired the equally hickory Skip Away (Horse of the Year). The important thing is that Medaglia d'Oro was a top-class performer, and the potential was always there for him to be a good sire. It doesn't always work out that way (seldom, in fact), but the potential was there. And the fact that he comes from such sound stock (El Prado and Bailjumper are both known for passing this forward) makes him a sire to watch. Soundness comes from soundness.
Moving to the dam side of Rachel Alexandra's pedigree, her dam was a very nice racemare, winning the Tiffany Lass Stakes at Fair Grounds, and finishing a credible second in the Golden Rod (G2) at Churchill. Her dam's sire, Roar, was a winner of the Jim Beam Stakes (G2, now known as the Lane's End at Turfway) and bred in the purple, being a son of champion Forty Niner from the mare Wild Applause (by Northern Dancer and closely related to Kentucky Derby Sea Hero). Roar's second dam is Broodmare of the Year Glowing Tribute, she being a daughter of Graustark from one of the most productive branches of the La Troienne family.
Rachel Alexandra's second dam, Kim's Blues, is by Cure the Blues, who is from the family of Secretariat and Sir Gaylord, and Rachel Alexandra's pedigree does in fact carry two crosses of Sir Gaylord, giving us three crosses of the Imperatrice family. Lotta Kim carries 4 x 5 balanced inbreeding to Raise a Native (through a son and a daughter) and 5 x 5 inbreeding to the important mare Pocahontas (through her sons Tom Rolfe and Chieftain), while Kim's Blues has 4 x 4 balanced inbreeding to Bold Ruler.
El Prado has a similar pedigree to that of Lotta Kim, with balanced inbreeding to Northern Dancer (4 x 4) and Native Dancer (6 x 6), as well as inbreeding to Hail to Reason (6 x 5), Sir Gaylord (5 x 5), Tom Fool (5 x 6), and Turn-to (6 x 6) when they are crossed in Rachel Alexandra's pedigree. Rachel Alexandra also picks up balanced inbreeding to Ribot (6 x 6,6) through his daughter Social Position and his sons Tom Rolfe and Graustark in Lotta Kim's pedigree.
The lesson that we can learn from Rachel Alexandra's lineage is that if you start with a mare than can run some (Kim's Blues) and start inbreeding to all of these important and well-bred stallions, good things are going to start happening for you. Talent doesn't fall out of the sky, at least not in Thoroughbreds. If you look closely enough and do your research, you can invariably figure out the source or sources of excellence in a horse's pedigree. It can skip a generation or two, but it's always there.
Edwin Anthony was the staff pedigree consultant at Three Chimneys Farm for six years and has penned dozens of articles on pedigree research. He recently published a reference book, The American Thoroughbred (Volume I), which can be ordered by clicking here.
Copyright © 2009, The Paulick Report
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