Breeding Watch: Eyes on the Oaks

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Brereton Jones has won the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks twice with homebreds by Proud Citizen – Proud Spell in 2008 and Believe You Can in 2012.

The former governor of Kentucky may have to make room in his trophy case with a pair of contenders for this year’s Oaks in Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland Stakes winner Lovely Maria and Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes victress Include Betty.

Lovely Maria isn’t a homebred, but she is a daughter of a stallion stationed at Brereton and Libby Jones’ Airdrie Stud in Midway, Ky.

Lovely Maria is the first Grade 1 winner sired by Majesticperfection, a second-crop son of Harlan’s Holiday.

Bred by Olin Gentry and Thomas Gaines, the bay filly is out of a mare by Thunder Gulch, whose daughters have had considerable success when bred to Storm Cat-line stallions.

Lovely Maria is at least the 11th stakes winner bred on this cross and, with Thunder Gulch being out of a mare by Storm Bird, there is a double of Storm Cat’s sire in all of those pedigrees.

Majesticperfection is now the third member of his sire crop to sire a winner at the highest level after Super Saver (Hopeful Stakes hero Competitive Edge) and Quality Road (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Hootenanny). Majesticperfection is the sire of three stakes winners in 2015, tops among his peers.

While Lovely Maria was favored by the crowd that turned out for the first Saturday of the Keeneland spring meeting, Oaklawn Park bettors let Include Betty go at 18-1 in the Fantasy. The Tom Proctor-trained filly rallied from last of 11 to gain the neck victory over third choice Oceanwave.

Gov. Jones co-bred Include Betty with Lavin Bloodstock on a foal share and bought out his partner at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale for $42,000. He races her in partnership with Tim Thornton, Airdrie’s longtime general manager. She’s a daughter of the Airdrie Stud stallion Include, a veteran son of Broad Brush and the sire of 33 stakes winners and 11 graded stakes winners from his first nine Northern Hemisphere crops (564 foals).

Include Betty is out of a mare by the Cox’s Ridge son Eltish. She is Include’s first stakes winner out of a mare from this broodmare line, but Broad Brush sired at least six stakes winners, including Grade 1 winner Mongoose, out of direct daughters of Cox’s Ridge.

Life is full of ‘what ifs’ and the horse business perhaps even more so. For example, what if unbeaten Santa Anita Derby champion Dortmund emerged from Big Brown’s first crop instead of his third?

After standing his first six seasons at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Big Brown is in the midst of his first season in New York at Dutchess Views Farm, while Dortmund heads to Louisville for a chance at history. What if?

Dortmund is out of a mare by the Storm Cat son Tale of the Cat and is Big Brown’s second graded stakes winner out of a Storm Cat granddaughter (from seven starters). Brazilian Group 3 winner in Brazil Big Wildcat (dam by Forest Wildcat) is the other.

Big Brown has another potential third crop star in Puca, who is rounding back into the form that catapulted her from 16-length maiden winner to 4-1 third choice in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall (where she finished a troubled sixth). The Bill Mott-trained filly now has reservation in the Kentucky Oaks starting gate after her runner-up performance in Aqueduct’s Grade 2 Gazelle Stakes to the loose-on-the-lead Condo Commando.

Dortmund and Puca share some similar pedigree elements. Tale of the Cat is bred Storm Cat over Mr. Prospector while Puca is out of a mare by the Mr. Prospector son Silver Ghost who is out of a mare by Summer Squall who, like Storm Cat, is bred Storm Bird over Secretariat.

Tapit’s stranglehold on the North American general sire list was temporarily broken by Candy Ride, but Gainesway Farm‘s champion sire is back on top after his son Frosted got the victory in Saturday’s $1 million Wood Memorial Stakes.

The Wood Memorial was the first stakes victory for the Darley-bred and owned colt who will now advance on to the Triple Crown series seeking to become Tapit’s second classic winner in as many years. Tonalist was the first, spoiling California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid in last year’s Belmont Stakes.

Tapit is the sire of 10 starters out of mares by Deputy Minister and Frosted is the second Grade 1 winner, along with 2012 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner and fellow Gainesway stallion Tapizar. Frosted is also the sixth Grade 1 winner by an A.P. Indy-line stallion out of a Deputy Minister mare with 2007 champion 3-year-old filly and Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches among the others.

Frosted makes it 16 Grade 1 winners overall for Tapit and one of two winers at the highest level in just over a month’s time. Ring Weekend (out of a mare by Cryptoclearance) scored in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes in early March for owners West Point Thoroughbreds and trainer Graham Motion.

Matt O’Neil is a freelance writer and pedigree consultant based in Chicago. A former editor of Owner-Breeder International, his work has also appeared in numerous publications that include The Blood-Horse MarketWatch, The Florida Horse and Keeneland Magazine. He is currently marketing and social media coordinator for Adena Springs Farm and a partner in the fantasy horse racing game