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.

2 comments to “Ruler on Ice, Slop, Whatever”

  • Greg writes:

    You seem to be the only one willing to take a real shot at explaining this pedigree. I think the Belmont has everyone stumped.

  • Roger Lyons writes:

    Greg, I can understand the confusion because I completely mis-interpreted it when working on my Belmont super.

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