Monday, December 31, 2012

Juvenile Spotlight 12/31/12

Highestmaintenance (12/20): Upon debut, this Todd Pletcher-trained, Mike Repole-owned filly was sent off as the favorite in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park. After setting a brisk pace without much pressure from her rivals, the dark bay/brown filly drew off to a 6 ¾-length victory. Sired by Macho Uno and out of a stakes-winning mare, Highestmaintenance’s third dam, Wayward Pirate, is the granddam of the graded stakes-winning millionaire Continental Red.  

Departing (12/22): A homebred for Claiborne Farm & Adele Dilschneider, Departing made his debut at the Fair Grounds, settling several lengths off a brisk pace amongst a field that included only one juvenile that had raced before. The bay colt drew clear in the final stages of the race, crossing under the wire 2 ¼ lengths in front. A result of the mating between War Front and a
Pulpit mare, Departing is likely to perform best at middle distances. As a direct descendant of the great mare Myrtlewood, graded stakes success seems to be a probable future for Departing.

Gustavia (12/23): This Chad Brown trainee took four tries to break her maiden, but once she did, Gustavia displayed serious potential, scoring at Aqueduct by nearly 2 lengths in a good final time of 1:48.70 for nine furlongs over turf. Bred on the same Pulpit/Storm Bird sire line cross that has produced the likes of the grade one winners Careless Jewel,
Hansen, Ice Box, Mi Sueno, and Sky Mesa, Gustavia is a half-sister to the stakes-winning Hard Mystery.

Mylute (12/26): Beginning his career with a pair of in-the-money finishes, including a runner-up performance in the Prairie Gold Juvenile Stakes, Mylute broke his maiden at Arlington Park. The colt then contested in three stakes, finishing fifth in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (GIII), second in the Jean Lafitte Stakes, and third in the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (GIII). The Tom Amoss trainee seemed to find his best stride in his final start of 2012, dominating an allowance optional claiming field at the Fair Grounds that included impressive maiden winner
General Election by 10 ¾ lengths.

Private Ensign (12/26):
Following a second-place finish behind Oblahlah in her debut, Private Ensign coasted to a 3 ½-length victory in her second career start, going a mile and one-sixteenth over the dirt at Gulfstream Park. It is no surprise that the stretch-out in distance improved her performance, as this royally-bred filly is sired by the great A.P. Indy and out of a daughter of South African Triple Crown winner Horse Chestnut. This filly’s bloodlines are incredibly impressive, as her third dam is the great Personal Ensign, an undefeated champion on the track and a highly influential broodmare – a Reine de Course mare in fact – on the farm.

Distinctiv Passion (12/28):
Third behind Capo Bastone in his debut, Distinctiv Passion finished fourth in his second start just two weeks later. He returned to the races three months later, breaking his maiden at Hollywood Park. With ease, Distinctiv Passion took a stakes-quality allowance race at Santa Anita, defeating a field that included graded stakes winner Know More, the graded stakes-placed Super Ninety Nine, and the stakes-placed Mico Margarita. Sired by With Distinction and out of a granddaughter of Gone West, Distinctiv Passion is a full brother to the black-type-winning Italo.

Appealing Tale (12/29): Following two satisfactory performances at Hollywood Park, Appealing Tale excelled in his first dirt try, capturing a one-mile maiden special weight at Santa Anita by 6 ¼ lengths, defeating the highly-touted Mentor Cane in the process. The colt is bred on the successful Tale of the Cat/Unbridled’s Song cross, which has produced the group/graded stakes winners A Shin Top and Alpha Kitten.

Golden Soul (12/30): Defeated by a scant head in his debut, Golden Soul soared to an easy 7 ¼-length triumph in his second start, romping in a maiden special weight at the Fair Grounds. A result of the mating between Canadian champion Perfect Soul and a Mr. Prospector mare, Golden Soul is a half-brother to the graded stakes-winning Quintons Gold Rush.

Omega Star (12/31): After finishing second behind Clawback in his debut at Aqueduct, Omega Star was transferred to John Shirreffs’ barn in Southern California. On the final possible day he could win as a juvenile, Omega Star broke his maiden in a California-bred maiden special weight, coming from off the pace to coast to an easy 3-length triumph. Sired by Candy Ride and out of a Fusaichi Pegasus mare, Omega Star’s granddam is the Irish-bred Alpride, a multiple grade one-winning highweight.  

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Paynter: A True Superstar

This blog is short and sweet, one I wrote in a matter of minutes. But as my eyes took in the sight of Paynter finally back in Bob Baffert’s barn, I couldn’t help but write at least a short piece about him. When I became greatly impressed by Paynter’s maiden victory, I envisioned a future champion. Perhaps this horse would not make it to the Kentucky Derby (GI); perhaps he would not even make it to a Triple Crown race. But I knew this horse would become a superstar.

Paynter did become quite the superstar on the track, with performances that included a game runner-up finish in the Belmont Stakes (GI) and a dominant victory in the Haskell Invitational (GI). But it was what he did after those races that made him a true superstar.

Following his victory in the Haskell, Paynter was struck with a fever, which only became a more serious issue. Much too quickly, his illness became colitis and Paynter was soon also diagnosed with laminitis. Death seemed inevitable.

But Paynter fought hard. With the true heart of a champion, Paynter struggled to stay alive, fighting to defeat the illnesses that had been thrown at him. After several months, however, he achieved the impossible. With a team of supporters, including not only his loving owner Ahmed Zayat and the veterinarians that treated him, but also the thousands of fans that prayed for his recovery, Paynter became healthy again.

The awe-inspiring son of Awesome Again has returned to where he belongs: the racetrack. Only time will tell how his body handles the rigors of training again, let alone how he will fare when he returns to racing. But one thing is for sure: Paynter, the much deserving winner of the 2012 Vox Populi Award, is a true superstar with an incomparable fighting spirit.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

After the Auction: My Native Blues

As an avid fan of sales with possible aspirations to become an adviser/bloodstock agent, auctions are one of my favorite topics to write about on Past the Grandstand. This is the eighth edition in a blog series called "After the Auction" that will feature horses I selected in sales that have found success after the sale. *Note: If an "After the Auction" features a two-year-old, it will also be listed as a "Juvenile Spotlight."

As 2012 winds down, two-year-olds that have not been fortunate enough to garner a victory scramble to attain a win as a juvenile before they become a three-year-old. The remaining days of the year are numbered, but My Native Blues, one of my honorable mentions from this year’s 2012 Fasig-Tipton Texas Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, managed to record his first victory after four previous attempts.

Prior to breaking his maiden, My Native Blues had only hit the board once in his young career. He pieced things together in his third start against state-bred company, going a mile and seventy yards at Fair Ground Race Course in New Orleans, Louisiana. Racing over a sealed track, My Native Blues settled behind the front-running contingent, racing several lengths off the leaders as the horses rounded the initial turn.
My Native Blues
Photo by Terri Cage

Gradually, the chestnut grew closer to the pacesetters as longshot Collin Time recorded steady fractions. Galloping wide, My Native Blues easily overtook the leaders as the final curve came to an end, sweeping past the frontrunners to strike to lead at the top of the stretch. With strong urging from jockey Leandro Goncalves, My Native Blues drew off to an easy 8 ½-length victory.

Earlier this year, My Native Blues became one of my selections at the annual Fasig-Tipton juvenile auction held at Lone Star Park each spring due to his noteworthy work in the under-tack show and respectable pedigree. Though his time of 11 seconds for one furlong was not quite as impressive as many other juvenile workers at the under-tack show, My Native Blues displayed a powerful stride, easily covering ground.

Sired by a son of Mr. Prospector in Gold Tribute, My Native Blues shares his sire with the Chilean champions Gadanes and Giant, the group one winners Galan Fantasma and Gondolieri, and the graded stakes-winning Geronimo. The Mr. Prospector sire line is one of the most prolific of the breed, producing such champions as Azeri, Curlin, Point Given, and Zenyatta.

Bred on the successful Mr. Prospector/Meadowlake cross that is responsible for the grade one-winning Seventh Street, as well as the graded stakes winners Crytoquip, Majestic City, and Street Magician, My Native Blues is out of the Meadowlake mare Meadowlanding, a half-sister to a graded stakes winner. Though initially rather unimpressive, class can be found in My Native Blues’ dam line. The gelding is a direct descendant of several Reine de Course mares far back in his pedigree, including Escutcheon, a winner of the Alabama Stakes that produced an astounding 14 winners, including Bourtai, who produced six black-type runners, including two Broodmare of the Years and the champion Bayou.

Among the fifteen highest-priced horses at the Fasig-Tipton sale earlier this year, My Native Blues became my eighth juvenile sales selection of 2012 to find the winner’s circle. Here’s to hoping 2013 brings even more victories for these auction choices! 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Miss Fifty's Story on Blood-Horse

Almost exactly a year after my article about Lights on Broadway was published on Esther Marr's blog Beyond the Blinkers on, Miss Fifty's story was published on there as well. It is an honor to have two of my articles published on the website for the Blood-Horse and knowing that this story is about my own horse is unbelievable. Thank you to Esther for allowing this to happen, and of course to all that have been a part of my journey with Miss Fifty.

You can read "OTTB Spotlight: Miss Fifty" on by clicking here.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Juvenile Spotlight 12/16/12

Dr Figawi (12/6): Commencing his career with a six-furlong maiden special weight for New York-breds at Aqueduct, Dr Figawi set a quick pace before drawing off to score by an impressive 11 lengths. By Stormy Atlantic and out of a black-type-winning mare, Dr Figawi is a half-brother to the black-type winners Dance Gal Dance and Dr Disco, as well as the black-type-placed runners Dr Rico and Judge Margaret.

Flashback (12/8):
Upon debut, this colt stalked the pace of a seven-furlong maiden special weight at Hollywood Park before going wide to take the lead midstretch, drawing clear to a 3 ½-length victory. Sired by the prosperous Tapit, Flashback is a full brother to the grade one-winning Zazu, as well as a half-brother to the black-type-winning Corinthian’s Jewel and the group stakes-placed Art Princess.

Asiya (12/9):
A homebred for Shadwell Stable, Asiya finished third in her career debut prior winning by an astounding 11 lengths in her second start, which came at Aqueduct. Sired by a grade one-winning son of Awesome Again in Daaher, Asiya is out of the black-type-placed Elusive Quality mare Khalila, thus making her a direct descendant of the Hall of Fame racehorse and Reine de Course mare Real Delight, who descends from multiple Reine de Course mares.

Clawback (12/12):
A colt that played the role of runner-up in his initial two starts, Clawback set the pace in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Aqueduct in his third race, drawing off to win by 3 lengths. A son of the graded stakes-winning and -producing Put It Back, Clawback has the advantage of having Dixieland Band as his broodmare sire, therefore providing him with the same damsire as the Kentucky Derby (GI) victors Monarchos and Street Sense, as well as the additional grade one winners Diamondrella and Southern Image.

Hear the Ghost (12/15):
A first-time starter in an eleven-horse field that featured only one horse with experience, Heart the Ghost debuted at Hollywood Park, stalking the rapid pace of the six-furlong maiden special weight before kicking clear to a 3 ¼-length triumph. Sired by a Hall of Fame son of Awesome Again in Ghostzapper, Hear the Ghost is a half-brother to the grade one-winning Mani Bhavan, as well as the black-type-placed Dattt Echo.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Stallion Feature: Shackleford

Photo by Terri Cage
Taking a chance on a new stallion is, in the words of Forrest Gump, “…like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Like a beautiful piece of chocolate that makes your mouth water just by the sight of it but then causes you to gag due to its horrid taste, a horse can enter his new life as a stallion with high hopes pinned upon him, but become a failure in the breeding shed. On the other hand, a young stallion can waltz into a stud career and take the Thoroughbred breeding industry by storm like that phenomenal piece of chocolate that leaves you wishing there were duplicates in the box.

So will
Shackleford become a piece of chocolate that you regret tasting, or will he be one of the delicious treats that makes you realize why you bought the box in the first place? If his racing endeavors and stunning pedigree are any indication, Shackleford’s upcoming stud career looks to be a delectable one worth taking a chance on.

Following a ninth-place debut at Keeneland, Shackleford never raced over a synthetic surface again, redeeming himself in his second race by gamely capturing a seven-furlong maiden special weight at Churchill Downs, in which he defeated eventual 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) victor
Fort Larned to culminate his brief juvenile campaign.

Shackleford commenced his sophomore season with a 2 ¼-length victory in an allowance event at Gulfstream Park, defeating Fort Larned yet again, as well as the stakes-placed and eventual graded stakes-placed Casper’s Touch and the stakes-winning Strike Oil. After finishing fifth in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII), Shackleford yet again made amends, battling Dialed In down the stretch of the Florida Derby (GI) to miss by a scant head at odds of nearly 69-1.

It was on to the Kentucky Derby (GI) for the blazed-faced Dale Romans trainee, in which Shackleford set the pace of the prestigious ten-furlong race, holding the advantage on the field as the horses turned for home. For a moment, Shackleford appeared to be the next victor of the Run for the Roses, but was run down in the stretch by eventual Champion Three-Year-Old Male,
Animal Kingdom, finishing a game fourth.

But it was Shackleford’s next race that served as one of the defining moments of the horse’s career. Rather than setting the pace, Shackleford raced just off the quick, front-running Flashpoint, striking to the lead at the beginning of the far turn. He continued to hold the lead as the Thoroughbreds entered the homestretch, jockey Jesus Castanon urging him to maintain his advantage on his rivals. The Derby winner closed on the outside as Shackleford changed leads in late stretch, gaining ground on Shackleford as the wire grew closer. But Shackleford dug deep, exhibiting tremendous grit and determination as he held off Animal Kingdom to win the classic mile and three-sixteenths race by a half-length.

Shackleford at the 2011 Breeders' Cup
Photo by Terri Cage
Following a fifth-place performance over a sloppy track in the grueling Belmont Stakes (GI), Shackleford again showed his willingness to fight for victory in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (GI), finishing just a neck behind Coil. Less than a month later, Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge’s homebred crossed the wire a lackluster eighth in the ten-furlong Travers Stakes (GI).

Shackleford then shortened up in distance, contesting in the Indiana Derby (GII), which would be his first time to race under nine furlongs since his maiden. The horse finished second behind Wilburn in that contest prior to starting in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) at Churchill Downs, in which he again ran second, this time to the brilliant Caleb’s Posse. Despite not visiting the winner’s circle afterwards, Shackleford ran a terrific race in the 2011 Dirt Mile, pressing the pace and holding the lead until being overtaken by Caleb’s Posse.

After a very tough sophomore campaign spent in the company of the best of his crop, Shackleford returned in February 2012 as a four-year-old, finishing a dull seventh in the nine-furlong Donn Handicap (GI). Following two months away from the races, Shackleford again shortened up in distance, competing in the Carter Handicap (GI) at Aqueduct, in which the classic winner finished behind the grade one winners Jackson Bend and Caleb’s Posse.

In his following start, Shackleford returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since his triumph in the Preakness after battling 2011 Champion Sprinter Amazombie down the stretch of the Churchill Downs Stakes (GII), prevailing by a determined length in a final time that was just .22 seconds off the track record set by the brilliant
Groupie Doll two races later. The blaze-faced fan favorite made it back-to-back victories by taking the renowned Metropolitan Handicap (GI), also known as the Met Mile, in his subsequent start.
Photo by Terri Cage

In the Met Mile, Shackleford contested against three other grade one winners, including his rival Caleb’s Posse. He broke very sharply, going straight to the lead down Belmont’s backstretch to set a brisk first quarter of 22.77. Extending his advantage on the others to 1 ½ lengths as the field began their journey into the wide, sweeping turn at Belmont, Shackleford completed the initial half-mile in a blistering 44.73; he had completed the second quarter-mile .81 seconds faster than the first one. With John Velazquez aboard for the first time due to an injury suffered by regular rider Jesus Castanon ten days earlier, Shackleford proceeded to hold the lead as the field turned for home. His white blaze led the charge of six talented Thoroughbreds into the long Belmont homestretch as Shackleford began to open up on the others. Though Caleb’s Posse was charging on the outside, growing closer to Shackleford with each and every stride, Shackleford dug in to hold off Caleb’s Posse, who appeared to have hung just slightly, to win by a nose before galloping out well ahead of the others. The final time for eight furlongs was a spectacular 1:33.30, just over a second off the track record.

Contesting over a muddy track in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (GI) next out at Saratoga, Shackleford finished last, adding to his lack of victories over a wet track, a surface he never won upon. Despite his uninspiring performance, Shackleford was entered in the seven-furlong Forego Handicap (GI) a month later, but was scratched due to a cough. The chestnut returned at the end of September, going to post in the one-mile Kelso Handicap (GII) at Belmont, in which Shackleford set a brisk pace prior to being overtaken by Jersey Town, crossing the wire as the runner-up.

Shackleford then shipped to Southern California for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI), which had been his goal for several months in the making. But to the fan favorite’s misfortune, Shackleford stumbled at the start and never gathered enough momentum throughout the race to gallop along better than third, finishing seventh. But the Dale Romans trainee was not to end his career on a sour note.

“Shack” – as his connections and an abundance of fans have lovingly nicknamed him – made his final start at a track over which he enjoyed running, Churchill Downs, in the Clark Handicap (GI). Going nine furlongs for the first time since the Donn and being ridden by Jesus Castanon, who had been his regular jockey prior to being injured just before the Met Mile, for the first occurrence since the Churchill Downs Stakes, Shackleford emerged from the gate cleanly, quickly advancing to the lead. The classic victor held an approximate one-length lead over 2012 Florida Derby (GI) winner Take Charge Indy as the field raced past the stands for the initial time, galloping along easily as the Thoroughbreds rounded the clubhouse turn. Through a steady first quarter of 24.31, Shackleford led his rivals by 1 ½ lengths down the backstretch under Castanon’s firm hold. Appearing very comfortable along the far straightaway, Shackleford posted an initial half-mile split of 48.65, maintaining his easy lead. His opponents loomed large around the final curve, but it was clear that Castanon still had “plenty of horse” beneath him as the field turned for home. Displaying the tremendous heart and perseverance that has become a Shackleford trademark, the four-year-old held off the charges of his challengers down the stretch, easily repelling them as he coasted to a one-length victory to culminate his career.

Shackleford preparing for the 2012 Breeders' Cup
Photo by Terri Cage
Shackleford’s career was one marked by durability and versatility. A horse that remained sound throughout his racing years, Shackleford competed ten times as a three-year-old – more than any male sophomore champion in their three-year-old campaigns since War Emblem in 2002 – and eight times as a four-year-old. His total of twenty career starts exceeds the number of lifetime starts made by four of the last five different horses to be crowned Horse of the Year. In addition, in 2011, Shackleford was one of just three horses to compete in each race of the taxing Triple Crown. Notably, Shackleford won at four different distances, from a range of seven furlongs to a mile and three-sixteenths.

Not only does a victory in the “stallion-making” Met Mile bode well for Shackleford’s chances at becoming a lucrative sire when he enters stud in 2013 at Darby Dan Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, but his parentage does as well. Both of his parents have been very successful producers themselves. His sire, Forestry, has sired such grade one winners as Diplomat Lady, Discreet Cat, and Forest Danger. His dam,
Oatsee, was voted 2011 Broodmare of the Year and, aside from Shackleford, has produced the graded stakes winners Afleeting Lady, Baghdaria, and Lady Joanne. 

Notably, Forestry’s sire – Shackleford’s grandsire – is Storm Cat, one of the greatest sires to ever live. The very successful stallion was also very effective as a sire of sires, producing such sires as Bluegrass Cat, Giant’s Causeway, and Hennessy. This certainly augurs well for Shackleford, as Storm Cat is the grandsire of such productive stallions as
Johannesburg and Shamardal.
Shackleford at Santa Anita
Photo by Terri Cage

The Northern Dancer sire line from which Shackleford descends is certainly among the most influential ones of the breed. In the 1970s, the Canadian-bred champion was the leading sire once in North America and four times in the United Kingdom, as well as the twentieth century’s most successful sire. Northern Dancer’s stud record was astounding, as the son of Canadian Hall of Famer Nearctic was an incredible producer of successful racehorses, sires, sires of sires, and broodmares. Among his best sons were the champions Nijinsky and Sadler’s Wells, both of which became leading sires, the latter of which was the leading sire in the United Kingdom for an astonishing thirteen consecutive years and for a total of fourteen years.

Shackleford’s dam, 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-winning daughter of
Afleet Alex. Shackleford is, of course, Oatsee’s best offspring yet, having earned $3,090,101 during a career that saw him capture three grade ones. Oatsee is also the dam of the stakes-placed Stephanoatsee.

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 aforementioned, Shackleford’s damsire, Unbridled, sired the dam of Tapit, who was the third-leading North American sire of 2011. Unbridled himself was a very effective sire of sires, producing the successful sires Broken Vow, Empire Maker, and Unbridled’s Song.

Shackleford, a fan favorite at the racetrack, is a horse that will not soon be forgotten, as we have not yet heard the last from him. Racing fans have eagerly followed him throughout his career, moved by his tenacious victories and entertaining antics. And now that the popular chestnut has retired to the breeding shed, fans will await his foals, which will grace racetracks as spectators flock to see them, ready to see them carry on Shackleford’s charisma and brilliance. Shackleford’s career wasn’t perfect, but his journey, which exuded class, personality, and durability, ended on a textbook note, serving as the perfect ending to set him up for his next career.

Farewell, Shackleford!
Photo by Terri Cage

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Big News: PTG Now on Horse Racing Nation!

I am delighted and honored to announce that I have joined the blog list for Horse Racing Nation, a fan-powered horse racing site that brings to life a fun community for enthusiasts of the great sport. My blog on Horse Racing Nation will also be titled “Past the Grandstand.” Like this blog, an assortment of horse racing topics will be covered.

Posts will continue to be published on this blog as well, so you can catch up with me on both sites, which will feature separate articles. However, the amount of posts published on this particular blog will likely decrease and posts may be limited to blog series to that have become PTG "traditions," such as After the Auctions and Juvenile Spotlights. I thank you all for your great support; it means the world to me!

I invite you all to check out my HRN blog:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

After the Auction: Graustarkian

As an avid fan of sales with possible aspirations to become an adviser/bloodstock agent, auctions are one of my favorite topics to write about on Past the Grandstand. This is the seventh edition in a blog series called "After the Auction" that will feature horses I selected in sales that have found success after the sale. *Note: If an "After the Auction" features a two-year-old, it will also be listed as a "Juvenile Spotlight."

It took eight times for Well Armed to break his maiden, six times for Charismatic, and four times for Pleasantly Perfect and Ginger Punch. Nonetheless, these horses proceeded to accomplish great things. Graustarkian took seven tries to finally capture a win. This filly is unlikely to ever join this roster, but, like She Sleeps, Graustarkian thrilled me with her maiden victory, as she became my seventh juvenile sales selection of 2012 to obtain a win.

Photo by Terri Cage
One of my top selections at this year’s Fasig-Tipton Texas Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, Graustarkian is a daughter of Mizzen Mast, a grade one-winning son of Cozzene. Notably, Mizzen Mast sired a pair of 2012 Breeders’ Cup winners: Flotilla and Mizdirection. Mizzen Mast is also the sire of such horses as grade one winners Mast Track, Midships, and Ultimate Eagle. As a son of Cozzene, Mizzen Mast shares the same sire as the grade/group one winners Admire Cozzene, Alphabet Soup, Star of Cozzene, Star over the Bay, Tikkanen, and Zoftig.

Graustarkian's namesake is surely Mizzen Mast's damsire, Graustark. The son of the great Ribot was a multiple stakes-winning full brother to His Majesty, a track record-setting stakes winner that became a leading sire. Graustark, who stood at Darby Dan Farm, was syndicated in 1966 for $2.4 million, which was a record at the time. Named for a fictional Europe nation from the novels by George Barr McCutcheon, Graustark stood alongside his brother at Darby Dan. Graustarkian was the fictitious native language of the people of Graustark.

The dam of Graustarkian, Gilty Look, has produced six runners including Graustarkian, all of which have won. Three of those winners have earned more than $120,000. Gilty Look’s dam is the brilliant mare, Laughing Look, who produced the multiple grade one-winning Coronado’s Quest, the grade three-winning and course record-setting Warning Glance, the black type-winning Military Look, the stakes-placed Look to the King, and the dam of the multiple graded stakes-winning Air Support.

Graustarkian’s broodmare sire is the multiple grade one-winning Seeking the Gold, sire of several champions. As a damsire, Seeking the Gold has produced the dams of such horses as the grade/group one winners Blame, Dancing Forever, Excellent Art, Pine Island, Point of Entry, Riskaverse, and She Be Wild. The Cozzene/Seeking the Gold cross on which Graustarkian is bred is similar to that of the grade three-winning Cozzy Corner, the stakes-winning and group stakes-placed Robe Decollete, and the stakes-placed Mayomast.

Notably, Graustarkian’s fourth dam is Shenanigans, the dam of the great champion Ruffian, the multiple graded stakes-winning and track record-setting Icecapade, and the graded stakes-winning and track record-equaling Buckfinder. In fact, Shenanigans’ position in Graustarkian’s dam line begins a series of six consecutive Reine De Course mares.

Following a poor finish in her debut, Graustarkian ran third in a trial for the D.S. "Shine" Young Futurity at Evangeline, but finished sixth in the finals. After two in-the-money finishes at Louisiana Downs, Graustarkian finished fifth behind She Sleeps at Delta Downs.

But four weeks later, Graustarkian finally found the winner’s circle. Racing with blinkers for the first time, the gray filly broke sharply from the fourth post in the six and one-half-furlong maiden special weight. She settled along the inside as the field raced towards the sharp initial turn, rating behind the frontrunners. Several lengths separated Graustarkian and her rivals that raced amidst the vanguard as the juvenile Thoroughbreds galloped into the backstretch.

She inched closer down the backside, maintaining her fourth-place position along the straightaway on the side opposite the grandstand. Her long stride quickened as the track again began to curve, allowing her to shorten the distance between her and the pacesetters. With a notable turn of foot, the gray filly angled to the outside near the end of the final turn, drawing even with the leader as the field turned for home. Graustarkian ran evenly with Pursuitofparadise for a moment before kicking clear, galloping to an easy 1 ¾-length victory despite running on the wrong lead.

With her winning performance, Graustarkian displayed the same imposing stride that, along with her remarkable ancestry, impressed me at the auction earlier this year. This led her to be the ninth-highest-priced horse to sell. Perhaps it was the blinkers that led her to finally find victory, or maybe things finally “clicked” for the filly. Regardless, it seems Graustarkian has finally discovered the right path. I also believe Graustarkian could flourish on the turf, as her pedigree insinuates that she would succeed over the grass.