With their majestic stature, large stud fees, often impressive racing records, fans’ occasional ability to visit them, and their immense amount of offspring, stallions generally garner the most attention of Thoroughbred breeding stock. The highest quality, most productive sires typically produce well over one hundred foals annually and therefore, they are much more well-known than Thoroughbred broodmares.
|Photo by Terri Cage|
However, the mares are extremely significant as well. More often than not, top racehorses have impressive dam lines. Yet, it is not as common for a mare to produce more than one successful horse as it is for a stallion. For this reason, any broodmare that is capable of producing more than one productive racehorse is held in high regards.
Racing fans frequently enjoy watching siblings to their favorite racehorses contest before the grandstand, powering down the stretch like their famous sibling had done. However, it is frequent that these siblings to superstars are often much less talented than their more accomplished brother or sister. The offspring of La Ville Rouge, the dam of Barbaro, come to mind. Though she is a very successful broodmare, she has never produced another foal anywhere near as brilliant as Barbaro. Recent broodmares who have had solely one superstar include Sherriff’s Deputy (the dam of Curlin), Here I Go (the dam of Summerly), and Belle’s Good Cide (the dam of Funny Cide).
It is broodmares that produce more than one outstanding foal that are held in the highest regard. Those that produce several graded stakes winners become known as “blue hens,” a term used for mares that produce several successful racehorses. Often, these mares become influential in the dam lines of Thoroughbreds and if they remain very effective, they could become a Reine De Course (Queen of the Turf) mare, which is a broodmare who becomes very famous, influential, and important in the pedigrees of Thoroughbreds. Such mares include the greats La Troienne, Alcibiades, and Somethingroyal. We have seen many magnificent broodmares as of late and I have chosen nine of them to feature.
Baby Zip: Following a racing career that saw her win a stakes race and a total of over $60,000, Baby Zip retired to life as a broodmare. Her third foal was the first one who made an impact. City Zip, a son of Carson City, won several graded stakes races throughout his career and also placed in several, including three grade ones. Two years after delivering City Zip, Baby Zip produced her fifth foal, which would grow into Ghostzapper. After a three-year-old campaign in which he was a successful grade one-winning sprinter, the horse put together a Horse of the Year campaign, capping it off with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI). He came back the next year to win the Metropolitan Handicap (GI). Both horses have gone on to be successful sires and Ghostzapper was recently elected to the Hall of Fame. Baby Zip is also the dam of the graded stakes-winning City Wolf.
Photo by Terri Cage
Indications that Baby Zip would be a good broodmare are present in her pedigree. Her sire, Relaunch, is the damsire of such horses as the champion Forever Together, as well as the grade one victors Ad Valorem, House Party, Negligee, Passing Shot, Pure as Gold, Starrer, and Stellar Jayne. In addition, her dam is the multiple stakes-winning and grade one-placed daughter of the Reine De Course mare Sailaway, who also produced the stakes-winning Cutter Sam. She also descends from female family twenty-three, which has yielded the dams of the champions Affirmed, Big Drama, Dance Smartly, and Mine That Bird.
For her obvious success as a broodmare, Baby Zip was voted Broodmare of the Year in 2005. As a dam of a champion and two other graded stakes winners, Baby Zip is clearly a very prosperous broodmare. The fact that she has sired two successful sires suggests that she could be considered a Reine De Course mare before long, as she could have great impact on many Thoroughbreds’ pedigrees.
Better Than Honour: Already considered a Reine De Course mare, Better Than Honor was a successful horse before she even headed to the breeding shed. At the races, she won the Demoiselle Stakes (GII) via disqualification, ironically defeating La Ville Rouge. She then ran second in both the Comely Stakes (GII) and the Acorn Stakes (GI) prior to finishing third in the Mother Goose Stakes (GI) to end her career.
Her first foal was a daughter of Storm Cat named Teeming, who won the final three starts of her career. Then her third foal, Jazil, came along. The son of Seeking the Gold ran second in the Wood Memorial Stakes (GI) prior to finishing fourth in the prestigious Kentucky Derby (GI). Five weeks after his good performance in the Run for the Roses, Jazil took the renowned third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes (GI). The same year Jazil took home the carnations after winning New York’s biggest race, a filly that would become Better Than Honour’s best foal debuted. Her name was Rags to Riches. The next year, the daughter of A.P. Indy won four grade ones, including the Kentucky Oaks (GI) and the Belmont Stakes (GI). With Rags to Riches’ win in the Test of the Champion, Better Than Honour became the only mare to produce two Belmont winners. Impressively, a year later, she had a top contender for the Belmont in Casino Drive after the Japan-based son of Mineshaft won the Peter Pan Stakes (GII). However, a foot bruise kept him out of the Belmont. The colt went on to become a stakes winner and group one-placed runner in Japan. Better Than Honour’s next foal, Man of Iron, went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Marathon. In 2008, Better Than Honour brought the highest price ever for a broodmare, when she sold for $14 million at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale.
As a daughter of Deputy Minister, Better Than Honour is a granddaughter of the very successful sire, sire of sires, and broodmare sire, Vice Regent. Deputy Minister was a tremendous broodmare sire as well, being the damsire of the champions Curlin and Halfbridled, the multiple group one-winning Kane Hekili, the Belmont Stakes-winning Sarava, and the grade one-winning Bob and John. Better Than Honour also hails from a very strong dam line, being a daughter of the Kentucky Oaks (GI)-winning dam of two other group stakes winners. The third dam of Better Than Honour is Best in Show, a Reine De Course mare and the 1982 Broodmare of the Year. As a descendant of female family eight, Better Than Honour is a member of a prolific female family that has produced the dams of the great horses Bold Ruler, Nijinsky II, Ruffian, and Whirlaway.
As 2007 Broodmare of the Year and a mare that is already listed as a Reine De Course mare, Better Than Honour is already considered to be one of the greatest Thoroughbred producers of all-time. Should her foals become at least fairly productive, she could certainly leave a lasting impact on Thoroughbred bloodlines.
Dear Birdie: Her racing career saw her go to post twenty times, once placing in a black-type race. She had a decent career on the track, but Dear Birdie was far more successful on the breeding farm. For several years, however, she appeared to be a flop in the breeding shed. Her first black-type horse was her seventh foal, Mountain Bird, who finished second in a grade two at Keeneland in his only stakes performance. Dear Birdie experienced a breakthrough with her next foal – a filly by Cape Town that would grow up to be the multiple grade one-winning champion Bird Town, who captured the Kentucky Oaks (GI). Dear Birdie was on a roll; her following foal was Birdstone, the multiple grade one winner who spoiled the beloved Smarty Jones’ bid for the Triple Crown. She has since produced the stakes-placed So Long Birdie.
Dear Birdie is sired by Storm Bird – the stallion famous for producing the great sire Storm Cat. Storm Bird was not only a top sire and sire of sires, but also a productive damsire. The son of Northern Dancer was the broodmare sire of the grade one winners Commentator, Court Vision, Medicean, Sand Springs, and Stay Thirsty. Dear Birdie’s own broodmare sire, the champion Silent Screen, was also the damsire of such horses as the grade one-winning horses Peter Davies and Secret Hello, the graded stakes-winning runners Yourmissinthepoint, and the multiple black-type-winning and graded stakes-placed Slide Show. The dam of Dear Birdie was the multiple graded stakes-winning Hush Dear, which makes Dear Birdie a direct descendant of three Reine De Course mares.
Honored as 2004 Broodmare of the Year, Dear Birdie has already been dubbed a Reine De Course mare. This is logical, considering she is the dam of the sire of both a Kentucky Derby (GI) winner and a Belmont Stakes (GI) victor. Dear Birdie has clearly left a large impact on the Thoroughbred racing world and should her offspring continue to be productive, her presence in a horse’s pedigree could be very beneficial.
Lisa Danielle: Though not very successful on the track, Lisa Danielle has been very lucrative as a broodmare. Lisa Danielle was productive immediately; her first foal, Our Royal Dancer, was a stakes winner. She later produced the multiple graded stakes-winning and grade one-placed Successful Dan and the brilliant grade one-winning victor of many graded stakes races, Wise Dan. Within less than two weeks of each other, both Successful Dan and Wise Dan scored in graded stakes races in Kentucky while setting new track records.
By the South African Horse of the Year Wolf Power, Lisa Danielle provides her offspring with the same damsire as the multiple grade one-winning Milwaukee Brew. Interestingly, Lisa Danielle’s broodmare sire is the great Secretariat, who was not only tremendous as a racehorse, but also as a damsire. Big Red is also the broodmare sire of such horses as the great Thoroughbreds A.P. Indy, Chief’s Crown, Gone West, and Storm Cat. Lisa Danielle also has power in her dam line, as her fourth dam is the Reine De Course mare Vali, who not only produced the tremendous racehorse and sire Val De Loir, but also foaled the dam of the graded stakes-winning Savannah Dancer. Lisa Danielle also features two crosses of the excellent broodmare sire Princequillo in her pedigree. Princequillo is not only the damsire of Secretariat, but also the champions Key to the Mint and Mill Reef. The son of Prince Rose was the leading North American broodmare sire an incredible eight times.
Though Lisa Danielle has not produced multiple grade one winners yet, she could certainly be on her way to that feat, as both Wise Dan and Successful Dan are making big impressions at the track currently. Lisa Danielle’s breeding certainly implied that she’d be a successful producer and she has certainly lived up to those expectations.
Mining My Own: A result of the mating between the grade one-winning Smart Strike and the stakes-placed Vice Regent mare Aspenelle, Mining My Own never made it to the races. Rather, she visited Birdstone in 2005 at Gainesway Farm. Approximately eleven months later, the chestnut mare delivered a bay colt. He grew up into a small gelding named Mine That Bird and as a juvenile, he won two ungraded stakes and a graded stakes at Woodbine, earning divisional honors in Canada. Two months into the next year, Mining My Own foaled her third colt – a chestnut by Even the Score. It was just three months later that Mine That Bird became the second longest shot ever to win the Kentucky Derby (GI) before finishing in the money in both the Preakness Stakes (GI) and Belmont Stakes (GI). Though Mine That Bird never won again after his victory in the Run for the Roses, the colt that was foaled just months before he won the Derby would continue to add to Mining My Own's value. The colt by Even the Score was named Dullahan and in his first career victory, he won the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (GI). Six months later, he won the Blue Grass Stakes (GI) prior to finishing third in the Kentucky Derby (GI). Mining My Own is also the dam of Brother Bird, an earner of over $155,000 who once finished third in the Star of Cozzene Stakes, defeating the grade one-winning Jackson Bend.
Photo by Terri Cage
Mining My Own’s pedigree certainly supports her as far as being a successful broodmare goes. Her sire, Smart Strike, is the damsire of such horses as the champion and Queen’s Plate Stakes (10F)-winning Inglorious, the Hollywood Gold Cup (GI, 10F)-winning First Dude, and the group two-winning Strong Return. The sire of her dam, Aspenelle, was the Canadian Hall of Famer Vice Regent, who has sired the dams of the Canadian Horse of the Year Benburb, the champion juvenile Boston Harbor, the Dubai World Cup (GI)-winning Captain Steve, the Canadian champion three-year-old Cryptocloser, and the champion older horse Victory Gallop. Recently, he has been the damsire of the Canadian champion three-year-old filly Eye of the Sphynx, the grade one-winning runners Jambalaya and To Honor and Serve, and the multiple graded stakes-winning Nates Mineshaft.
Mining My Own, however, does not come from the strongest of dam lines, though hers is not one to sneeze at. The mare has already exceeded expectations in her success as a broodmare is certainly a broodmare anyone would be lucky to have in their broodmare band.
Oatsee: On the track, Oatsee raced twenty-one times, retiring with earnings of $106,945. Her first foal was Grand Portege, an earner of over $100,000 who contested in two black-type races. Her first “big horse” was Baghdaria, who won a trifecta of grade threes. Then came Lady Joanne, who was a graded stakes winner as a juvenile that went on to win a pair of graded stakes as a sophomore, including the ten-furlong Alabama Stakes (GI). Oatsee continued her success with Afleeting Lady, a graded stakes-placed daughter of Afleet Alex. Oatsee’s best offspring yet is Shackleford, a colt who has earned over $2 million with victories in the prestigious Preakness Stakes (GI) and Metropolitan Handicap (GI). She is also the dam of the stakes-placed Stephanoatsee.
Photo by Terri Cage
The sire of Oatsee, Unbridled, was not only a terrific sire and sire of sires, but he is also proven as a broodmare sire, being the damsire of the grade one winners Dream Rush and Tapit, as well as the graded stakes-winning runners Apart, Denis of Cork, and No Inflation. Oatsee is inbred 4 X 4 to In Reality, who yielded a spectacular one hundred fifty stakes winners as a broodmare sire. She also has two crosses of the great mare Aspidistra in her pedigree. Aspidistra, a Reine De Course dam, was the dam of the Hall of Famers Dr. Fager and Ta Wee, the graded stakes-winning Chinatowner, the stakes-winning A. Deck, and the graded stakes-placed Highbinder. From her fourth through eighth dams, Oatsee traces back to five Reine De Course mares. Most notable is Tamerett, who produced the champion Known Fact, the multiple grade one-winning Tentam, the grade two-winning Terete, the stakes-winning Tamtent, and the dams of the grade one winners Gone West and Tappiano.
As a result of her outstanding success as a producer, Oatsee was voted 2011 Broodmare of the Year. All along, her bloodlines have insinuated that she would become a lucrative producer, as the roster of names found in her pedigree have pushed her in the right direction for becoming a tremendous broodmare. Should her offspring be even half as effective at producing as her, Oatsee could have an enduring impression on Thoroughbred bloodlines.
Set Them Free: Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Set Them Free conquered four black-type races in California, acquiring earnings of $173,275 before retiring to life as a broodmare. Her first foal to race, which was the third foal she had produced, only raced four times, but captured a maiden special weight and first-level allowance in southern California by a combined 8 lengths. Set Them Free became a black-type producer with her next foal, Sea Jewel, as the filly placed in a graded stakes as a two-year-old prior to doing the same as a three-year-old. Her following foal was the one that marked her as an outstanding broodmare: Giacomo. The son of Holy Bull was grade one-placed as a juvenile and as a three-year-old, won the esteemed Kentucky Derby (GI). He added another graded stakes victory to his credit as a four-year-old and by the end of his career, Giacomo had placed in five graded stakes and retired with earnings of over $2.5 million. Set Them Free’s next foal was, at best, a first-level allowance winner, but it was her foal after that one that endorsed the mare as an incredible producer. That foal was Tiago, who won two grade ones as a three-year-old and also finished third in the Belmont Stakes (GI). He was a graded stakes winner as an older horse and placed in seven graded stakes races throughout his career, obtaining more than $2.3 million dollars in earnings.
Stop the Music, Set Them Free’s sire, has certainly played a role in her success as a broodmare. The son of the influential Hail to Reason is also the broodmare sire of the Canadian champion Kimchi, the grade one-winning Timely Warning, and the multiple graded stakes-winning Bursting Forth. In addition, Set Them Free shares her second dam, Barbarossa, with the champion Baiser Vole, as well as the multiple group stakes-winning horses Squill and Tenue de Soiree.
Set Them Free was never honored with a Broodmare of the Year award, but she is certainly one of the best broodmares we have seen lately. It is not common at all for a mare to produce two winners of over $2 million, but yet the Moss’ mare accomplished just that.
Sweet Life: A homebred for Marty and Pam Wygod, Sweet Life was rather successful at the races, competing in southern California her entire career to capture a stakes victory and finish in the money in a pair of graded stakes, including the Beverly Hills Handicap (GI). She retired with earnings of $223,486 and was sent to Storm Cat, the powerhouse sire that she visited numerous times.
The result of her first mating was Sweet Catomine, who won three graded stakes as a juvenile – including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) – to be named Champion Two-Year-Old Filly. As a three-year-old, Sweet Catomine – also a homebred for the Wygods – added two more graded stakes wins to her credit, including a triumph in the Santa Anita Oaks (GI). Sweet Life’s next two foals never amounted to much, but then again, they weren’t by the sire she crossed with best – the great Storm Cat. The next time she visited the famous stallion resulted in Life Is Sweet, a filly that would go on to capture four graded stakes victories – including the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap (GI) and the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (GI). Her following foal, Calimonco, was also by Storm Cat. The colt – who is still currently racing – was quite a late bloomer, not winning his first stakes race until he was five years old. Since that win, Calimonco has placed in a pair of grade threes and won another ungraded stakes contest.
Sired by Kris S, it is easily understandable why Sweet Life is such a productive broodmare. Kris S is also the broodmare sire of the grade one winners Balance, Kris Kin, Ladies Din, Student Council, and Zenyatta. As a son of Roberto, Kris S was sired by the broodmare sire of such graded stakes winners as Amerique, Icy Groom, Fair Judgment, Muntej, Risk Seeker, and Snit. Furthermore, Kris S was out of a Princequillo mare. Princequillo is one of the greatest broodmare sires of all-time, having been the leading North American damsire a remarkable eight times while siring the dams of such horses as Key to the Mint, Mill Reef, and Secretariat. Sweet Life descends from a line of Harbor View Farm – the same farm that produced the Triple Crown-winning champion Affirmed and the great mare Flawlessly – mares, being a daughter of the multiple black-type-placed Symbolically. Her dam produced not only the talented Sweet Life, but also the graded stakes-winning Pirate’s Revenge, the black-type winners Caribbean Pirate and Echo of Yesterday, the graded stakes-placed Strive, and the black-type-placed Magic Fantasy.
Sweet Life, as a producer of two Eclipse Award champions, was named 2009 Broodmare of the Year. As the dam of top females, Sweet Life could certainly have an influential presence in the dam lines of future racehorses. The Wygods’ beloved mares – Sweet Life and her champion daughters – will live out their days at the renowned Lane’s End Farm, bringing to the world possible future champions. After all, it’s in the family.
Vertigineux: She had a short career at the track, winning two of seven races and running fourth in an ungraded stakes at Delaware Park. Vertigineux quickly became a useful broodmare, when her first foal, Where’s Bailey, became a black-type winner in the South. But she really made impressions when her second foal, Balance, had a terrific two-year-old campaign in southern California, winning a stakes race while placing in not only a non-graded stakes, but also the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (GI). Balance furthered Vertigineux’s value when she later triumphed in the Las Virgenes Stakes (GI), the Santa Anita Oaks (GI), the La Canada Stakes (GII), and the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap (GI). Shortly after Balance’s career ended came the debut of not only Vertigineux’s best offspring, but one of the best racehorses the world has ever seen: Zenyatta. The great mare went nineteen-for-twenty, winning thirteen grade ones, including the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (GI) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), the latter in which she became the only female racehorse to ever win the race. Zenyatta not only captured four Eclipse Award titles – including Horse of the Year – but she also captured the hearts of thousands of racing fans and retired as one of the greatest horses to ever grace the racetrack. Vertigineux has also produced Souper Spectacular, an earner of over $100,000 who has twice finished fourth in grade three events.
Photo by Terri Cage
Like Sweet Life, Vertigineux had the support of Kris S as her sire when she entered her career as a broodmare, as the son of the influential Roberto has recently proven to be among the best broodmare sires. Vertigineux herself is out of a successful broodmare, being a daughter of the dam of the multiple stakes-winning and group stakes-placed Restrained and the group stakes-placed On the Staff. Her damsire, the Argentinian Horse of the Year Forli, was also the broodmare sire of such horses as the champions Nureyev, Precisionist, and Swale. As a member of female family four, Vertigineux is among an elite group that descends from the Layton Barb mare. Other descendants of this female family include the dams of the Triple Crown winners Assault and Gallant Fox, as well as the champions Afleet Alex, Bowl of Flowers, Hail to Reason, Real Quiet, and Sunny’s Halo.
Vertigineux was recently named not only 2008 Broodmare of the Year, but also a Reine De Course mare, and rightfully so. She provided the world with one of the greatest racehorses it has ever seen, as well as one of the most brilliant fillies southern California has seen in recent years.
It is the broodmares that I admire most in the Thoroughbred breeding industry. They do not receive anywhere near the amount of attention that the stallions do, but it is also much more difficult for them to become successful. Nonetheless, broodmares are incredibly important in the breeding of Thoroughbred racehorses.
*Of course these are not the only recent remarkable broodmares - others include Chipeta Springs, Prospectors Delite, and Toussaud. Perhaps I will feature them, as well as some others, eventually.
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