Horse running through field

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.

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