Horse running through field

Ruler on Ice, Slop, Whatever

by Roger Lyons

Ruler on Ice, the horse that beat Shackleford at his own game in the Belmont slop, might not have been put to his highest and best use when he appeared to close well in the Sunland Derby (G3) to finish one-and-a-quarter lengths behind Twice the Appeal. That must have left the impression that he’s a closer because he was taken even farther back in the Frederico Tesio, came up two lengths short at the finish, and, really, was cruising, rather than closing.

The sloppy track notwithstanding, his Belmont effort suggests Ruler on Ice has more in common with Shackleford than with the closers in the race, most of which faded. I have to admit, he had me fooled. I dismissed him because he’s out of a Saratoga Six mare, and, in doing so, I missed the point entirely.

Several years ago I began to notice that quite a number of sires were getting stakes winners out of mares that had Saratoga Six either as their sire or broodmare sire–all from very slight opportunity. To take that as a suggestion of his quality as a broodmare sire doesn’t go quite far enough. After all, recognition of a good broodmare sire can arise from an ability to contribute quality to the foals of a limited range of sires or sire lines.

What distinguishes Saratoga Six as an ancestor of broodmares is his ability to contribute quality to the foals of a wide range of sires and sire lines. In short, he’s a good mixer. What he adds to the mix is suggested by the 7.4-furlong average stakes-winning distance of horses aged three and older out of his daughters. Ordinarily, the mode (most frequently occurring) distance more accurately captures central tendency as to distance than the average or median, but not in the case of Saratoga Six as a broodmare sire. Offspring of his daughters win stakes going six, seven, eight, and 8.5 furlongs at nearly equal frequencies.

Which is to say that he consistently passes on speed through his daughters, and it’s delivered in packages that tend to be exploitable by a wide range of stallions. Considering the wide range of sires that are represented by stakes winners out of mares with Saratoga Six in their ancestries (which you can look up yourself if you subscribe to CompuSire online), the frequency of graded/group stakes winners is creditable enough–11.3% G1 winners, 22.7% G1-2 winners, 37.5% G1-3 winners.

What I couldn’t imagine is that Ruler on Ice could stay–and I use that word advisedly–the Belmont distance of 12 furlongs. I have to think that says more about his sire Roman Ruler than about his broodmare sire, but there can be no doubt that the running style he’s discovered is just what Saratoga Six had in mind for him.

That’s where the parallel with Shackleford breaks down. It’s obvious that Shackleford gets speed from his sire and the ability to carry it from his dam. For Ruler on Ice it’s the other way around. In any event, it’s been a good year so far for horses that can do it that way.

The Best Nick in the Belmont

by Roger Lyons

Master of Hounds (Kingmambo-Silk and Scarlet, by Sadler’s Wells) makes his third start of the year in the Belmont on Saturday, following his fifth-place finish in the Kentuck Derby, so he’s a relatively fresh horse, and he apparently travels well. So does his breeding.

His sire, Kingmambo, has at least one foal from each of 65 mares by Sadler’s Wells, and eight of those mares produced superior runners by him. It’s a simple nick to be sure, but it’s also very special. Besides Master of Hounds, that cross has yielded six G1 winners, including El Condor Pasa, Divine Proportions, Virginia Waters, Henrythenavigator, Thewayyouare, and Campanologist.

An actual cross is never quite as simple as its simple nick, which is why I like to consider a sire’s record with all of the potentially effective influences–for better or worse–that comprise a mare’s ancestry. That means compiling the sire’s superior-runner strike rates with all individual ancestors within six generations of the dam. On that basis, appropriate applications of the nick can be separated from those that are not.

With respect to Kingmambo’s record, the ancestry of Master of Hounds’ dam is all good. Through his 2008 crop Kingmambo has sired foals out of 48 mares with Lyphard in their ancestries–that’s her broodmare sire–and six of those mares produced stakes winners. The sire of her second dam is Irish River, with which Kingmambo has a strike rate of 2/20, one of those two being the dam of Master of Hounds. The other one was Sequoyah, also by Sadler’s Wells and the dam of both Henrythenavigator (G1) and Queen Cleopatra (G3).

That strike rate of 2/20 doesn’t seem encouraging until you consider the bigger picture. Kingmambo has sired foals out of only four mares that had both Sadler’s Wells and Irish River in their ancestries. Two of those mares account for Master of Hounds and two graded stakes winners, including the best one that’s come from the cross–Henrythenavigator. Thus, the strike rate of 2/20 can be reduced to 2/4.

Master of Hounds’ breeding doesn’t say definitively that he can handle the Belmont distance of 12 furlongs, but it’s not beyond the cross. El Condor Pasa and Companologist both won G1 races at that distance. He may not win, but Jackie and I aren’t going to let him take down our Belmont super.

Dancing Rain ‘Not Guilty’ in Oaks Win

by Roger Lyons

If the expression “stole the race” is worth using at all, then it needs to be used less often than it is. First of all, stealing a race must involve an element of guile. A horse goes off at 20-1–kind of like Dancing Rain (Danehill Dancer-Rain Flower, by Indian Ridge, by Ahonoora) in the 12-furlong Epsom Oaks (G1)–and gets an easy lead. The soon-to-be losing jockeys are not that concerned, even though they’d prefer an “honest pace,” because they think she’ll be finished in any event by the time they’re coming off the turn. The soon-to-be winning jockey knows better, and that’s the con.

But, as W.C. Fields said, “you can’t cheat an honest man,” which in this context means that Dancing Rain could have stolen the Epsom Oaks only if there had been another filly (a mark) in the race better than she was. If the best horse wins, it’s not stealing, no matter how the race is run.

Anyone who thinks, as the T.V. analysts do, that there are just two kinds of horses, the front-runners and the closers, might well think Dancing Rain stole the Oaks. Because two horses were running more or less side by side in the lead during the early fractions of the Preakness, lots of people thought it was a speed duel. They entirely missed the point that one of those two horses–namely, Shackleford–is a stayer. Apparently, the concept of a horse that stays, that controls the pace and carries its speed around two turns, is too complex for network coverage.

Dancing Rain’s ability to show speed that stays is easy to figure out. The offspring of both Danehill Dancer (her sire) and Indian Ridge (her broodmare sire) have a mode (most frequently occurring) stakes-winning distance of eight furlongs, and in both cases it’s a strong mode. Dancing Rain’s speed carries because her second dam is by Alleged, the mode stakes-winning distance of whose offspring is, by a very large margin, 12 furlongs.

Not just any speed and stamina can combine effectively to yield a stayer, but this does. Danehill Dancer has a superior-runner strike rate of 7/42 with mares that have Alleged in their ancestries, and he has a strike rate of 6/28 when Alleged descends through a daughter, as in this case.

That daughter, Rose of Jericho, figures in the ancestry of another stakes winner by Danehill Dancer and in a revealing way. Dual-listed stakes winner Deauville Vision is out of a mare by Epsom Derby winner, Dr Devious. Like Indian Ridge, Dr Devious is by Ahonoora, but his dam is Rose of Jericho. So, Dancing Rain’s dam is a three-quarters sister to Deauville Vision’s broodmare sire. It’s the Ahonoora-Alleged sire-line cross through the same daughter of Alleged. Deauville Vision won listed stakes in Ireland at eight furlongs and 10 furlongs, at ages four and six, respectively.

Her pedigree says Dancing Rain is a stayer, and stayers don’t steal races. What could be more honest than a horse that goes to the front and stays there?

Stallion Selection Matters

by Roger Lyons

Bethany (Dayjur-Willamae, by Tentam), the dam of Met Mile (G1) winner Tizway, had good reasons for failing to produce a foal of any merit until her sixth season as a broodmare–I mean, besides her body refusing to cooperate in her fourth and fifth seasons. Or maybe she was trying to say she didn’t like the stallions she’d been bred to previously.

In retrospect, it’s clear she was bred beneath her station in 1998 when she conceived a foal by Benny the Dip. Seeking the Gold, sire of her 2000 and 2001 foals was her equal, more or less, but he lacked the commitment she required. Bethany is by Dayjur, whose broodmare sire is Mr. Prospector, and Seeking the Gold really didn’t want a foal inbred to his sire. Of the 24 mares he’d tried that with lifetime, only two produced stakes winners by him.

Finally, when bred to Capote, she had a chance with a sire that could have some affection for her. He didn’t like Danzig line much, but he was 3/8 with Tentam, sire of her dam, and 4/27 with Hoist the Flag, sire of her second dam. Not only did Bethany produce listed stakes winner Ticket to Seattle by Capote, but so did her half-sister, Ms. Teak Wood, the dam of Acceptable (G3). Bethany wasn’t the girl of his dreams, but Capote liked her well enough.

Tiznow, sire of Tizway, went downright goofy over her, and it was her speed. Her sire, Dayjur, was a Champion sprinter, and her broodmare sire Tentam was out of Tamerett, the second dam of Gone West. If a mare contributes the speed required to control or press the pace, then Tiznow will contribute the ability to carry that speed as far as it deserves to go. Tizway resulted from a match made in heaven.

Then Bethany went stone cold the next two years when bred to Gulch in 2005 and then to Aldebaran the next year. Lifetime, Gulch went 0/5 with Dayjur, 0/6 with Tentam, and only 1/48 with Mr. Prospector. Seeking the Gold, Gulch, Aldebaran–what difference could it possibly make? They’re all by Mr. Prospector!

Then, after a 2008 unraced foal by Vindication, she slipped in 2009, produced a 2010 foal by Elusive Quality, and that year went back to Tiznow. The good news, besides her second chance with Tiznow, is that Elusive Quality, by Gone West, by Mr. Prospector, is 3/10 with Dayjur–3/8 with daughters of Dayjur, including G1 winner Elusive City.

I’ve written in the past about how well daughters of Dayjur buffer inbreeding to Mr. Prospector, but every good thing has its limits. The lesson here is that, if the inbreeding notation on your pedigree printout says 2 x whatever, then just try something else.