Breeding Watch: Power move

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While Pioneerof the Nile’s American Pharoah took another step toward ending the American Triple Crown drought, another grandson of classic winner Unbridled sired a pair of stakes winners last weekend at Pimlico Race Course.

Juddmonte Farm bred and raced both American Pharoah’s grandsire Empire Maker and his close relative First Defence. Empire Maker, by Unbridled out of the great Broodmare of the Year Toussaud, was a distance specialist and upset Funny Cide in the 2003 Belmont Stakes.

First Defence, on the other hand, was better up to a mile. That’s not entirely surprising since as he’s by Unbridled’s Song out of Toussaud’s Grade 1-winning sprinter Honest Lady, by Seattle Slew.

First Defence sired a top flight runner in his first crop in 2010 in Close Hatches, who earned the Eclipse Award last season as North America’s champion older female. The five-time Grade 1 winner is out of the mare Rising Tornado, by Storm Cat out of the Gone West granddaughter Silver Star, by Zafonic.

We see a similar pattern in the dam of First Defence’s latest stakes winner, Fame And Power, sharp winner of the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes for 3-year-olds before the rains came to Pimlico last Saturday.

The Bob Baffert trainee is out of the Storm Cat dam Storming On, herself a daughter of the Gone West mare Trekking.


Fame And Power was actually the second Pimlico stakes winner for First Defence on the weekend after Irish Jasper took Friday’s Grade 3 Adena Springs Miss Preakness Stakes.

Irish Jasper also shows Gone West in her lineage. The 3-year-old filly, now the winner of three stakes in her eight-race career, is out of a mare by the late Gone West son Mr. Greeley.

First Defence shows 110 starters in his first three crops and the weekend’s haul gives him eight stakes winners (7 percent) and three graded stakes winners (2.7 percent).

It’s no surprise that First Defence is clicking with Storm Cat-line mares.

There are now at least 57 stakes winners on the larger Fappiano-Storm Cat cross. While there are surely a large numbers of runners bred on the cross, the exceptional quality it’s produced and the variety of sires and dam sires involved is telling. Of those 57 stakes winners, 12 are winners at the highest level. This group includes the best runners so far by Candy Ride (Shared Belief), Empire Maker (Bodemeister) and now Pioneerof the Nile (American Pharoah).

American Pharoah has ‘just’ a mile and one half to go to reach the pantheon of North American racing.

As I wrote April 15, there is nothing in his female line to suggest 12 furlongs, just as there was nothing to indicate 10 or 9.5 furlongs either.

If he’s to win, pedigree pundits will point to his male line – Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled through Belmont Stakes hero Empire Maker through Santa Anita Derby winner Pioneerof the Nile.

At this point we’ve seen enough of American Pharoah, to set pedigree aside. If he’s to win the Belmont Stakes it will be his immensely efficient stride.

The Distorted Humor-A.P. Indy cross is another that’s been accumulating foals (114 to date) and starters (84) at an accelerated rate after early successes like Grade 3 winner Endorsement and Grade 1 winner Any Given Saturday. Ironicus is the latest good one by Distorted Humor out of an A.P. Indy daughter and he’s the second graded winner on this cross since late April.

A Stuart Janney homebred, Ironicus stormed home to snap up the trophy in Saturday’s Grade 2 Longines Dixie Stakes over the Pimlico grass course.

Ironicus’ dam, Megan’s Joy, never joined the ranks of A.P. Indy stakes winners in her racing days but she’s more than made up for it in her second career. Ironicus is her fifth stakes winner and she’s proven a worthy member of the La Troienne female line from which she hails. She traces back to La Troienne through a branch that produced some of the late Paul Mellon’s very best runners, including 1993 Kentucky Derby and Travers winner Sea Hero.


Back in mid-April, Distorted Humor’s Dramedy upset the Grade 2 Dixiana Elkorn Stakes at Keeneland at nearly 31-1. His long odds had nothing to do with his pedigree, that much is certain. He is also out of a mare by A.P. Indy who hails from the La Troienne family tree, a branch developed by the Phipps family. Dramedy’s dam, She’s A Winner, had already produced a pair of graded stakes winners, with Grade 1 Haskell Invitational winner and Kentucky Derby runner up Bluegrass Cat the headliner.

Ironicus and Dramedy make it 131 worldwide stakes winners for WinStar Farm’s Distorted Humor and 10 stakes winners out of A.P. Indy daughters. With 64 starters on the cross that translates to 15 percent stakes winners from starters.

Adena Springs‘ Ghostzapper continued his spring hot streak with another graded stakes winner Saturday.

Shaman Ghost materialized from out of nowhere to take the Grade 3 Marine Stakes at Woodbine in his stakes debut. He’s the fourth graded stakes winner for the Adena Springs stallion since April 18 when Moreno and Whiskey Ticket both scored graded victories with an hour’s time.

Whiskey Ticket and Shaman Ghost share Gilded Time as a their dam sire and the are among the six starters (all winners) for Ghostzapper out of mares by the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion.

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