Photo Credit: Courtney Snow- Past The Wire
The recent news of California Chrome’s pending acquisition as sire prospect to Japan adds another layer of intrigue to an already deliciously enticing argument. The lore of California Chrome’s mystique always escorts a set of narratives rife with heated debate and contentions. On one side are ardent fans who graciously bow at the altar of “Chromies” idols, while on the other side are die-hard blue-blooded bloodline believers who aspire to lessons of high-priced yearlings and proven six-figure stallions.
There are naysayers who publicly profess to weaknesses in this maverick champion’s bloodlines. They see this type of stardom as uneasy, difficult to comprehend, or some weird form of distorted reality. Notwithstanding his charismatic style of winning, they write it off as an aberration, a freak of nature, or once in a lifetime oddity. Our role as analyst is different, we peep inside a pedigree in search of a promise; a promise for winning the next race, producing the next generation of champions.
California Chrome’s sire:
Lucky Pulpit, was a moderate stakes winner that emerges from A P Indy, a sire line that represents the last bastion of hope for the Seattle Slew male line. Not much can be added to the accolades of Pulpit besides the fact that his son Tapit is proving to be a prolific sire-of-sire and Lucky Pulpit’s female family is just as impressive as Tapit’s. Lucky Soph’s lone black-type stakes winner was Lucky Pulpit and like most mares of substance, she was non-black-typed as a racer. Her parentage shows sire Cozzene and dam Lucky Spell both stem from a branch of female line 4-m, a well-known speed source tracing back to the great foundation mare, Sallie Mcclelland, champion 2-year-old filly of 1890. Sallie Mcclelland’s 2nd dam was tap-root mare, Maggie B B, dam of Iroquois, the first American bred to win the Epsom Derby in 1881.
Lucky Soph’s sire line leads through Cozzene (4-m), a champion grass performer and son of Caro. There is something of particular importance here as Lucky Soph’s half-sister (or three-fourths if counting sire line) Trolley Song, was also sired by Caro. Trolley Song was the dam of the hugely successful sire, Unbridled’s Song, who sired Arrogate. Thus, when two of the three richest racehorses in American history California Chrome and Arrogate have the same mare, Lucky Spell, in the same pedigree position Lucky Spell is hovering above blue hen territory.
Female family A4:
Female family lines are road maps that guide us through journeys of yesteryear and California Chrome’s female line of A4 gleams with controversy and international interest. Decades ago there was the concern of this female line belonging to family 21. Our thoroughbred pedigree database, which was established in 1989, currently has this family listed as 21. Since The Jockey Club does not maintain female family numbers, other reference points include the thoroughbred industry’s premier database source at pedigreequery.com. On their page, they list the 1792 mare Calypso (Medley X Young Selma) as the progenitor of A4 and her dam Young Selma as family line 21. For the sake of conformity, we reference the family as A4. In Japan, the family’s success manifested itself in two time Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer Gentildonna (Deep Impact X Donna Blini – Bertolini), and Yamanin Paradise (Danzig X Althea – Alydar). Covfefe, Arch, Green Desert, Bertolini, Kimchi, Yamanin Paradise, and California Chrome’s 2nd dam, Chase It Down, were bred on the same cross of Danzig above with family A4 below.
Family line A4 has glorified the racing industry with these valid testimonials listed below:
Broodmare of the Year: Courtly Dee; Sea Regent.
Champions: Covfefe, Gulch; Althea; Yamanin Paradise; Festival of Light; Cascapdia; Kimchi; Mind Your Biscuit.
Kentucky Derby winners: Clyde Van Dusen; Iron Liege; Swaps; California Chrome.
Top sires or future sires: Durbar II; Creme Dela Crème; Arch; Bayern; Unreal Zeal; Green Desert.
Famous runners with indirect links: Cape Cross; Invincible Spirit; Sea The Stars; Golden Horn; Kingman; I Am Invincible; Sheikh Albadou; Heat Haze; Desert Prince; Oasis Dream; Gentildonna; Yamanin Paradise; Uncle Mo; Blame.
Dam one, Love The Chase, sire line is legendary and it traces back to one of the most successful in modern racing. The genetic influence of Mr Prospector is pervasive and permeates each and every crevasse of racing. His DNA is guilty of thousands of winners stealing rich purses by winning on the front end. His bloodline represents refinement from the historic breeders who spearheaded this highly purified speed line. Mr Prospector’s son, Not For Love, dominated the Maryland circuit for decades. His full brother, Rhythm, was Champion 2-year-old colt of 1989. Their second dam was the 1972 Champion 2-year-old filly, Numbered Account who had two direct female lines leading straight to La Troienne. Both of Numbered Account’s parents, Buckpasser and Intriguing, descended from that glamorous blue hen commonly known as 1x. To top it all off, Intriguing was sired by a California bred sire, Swaps. There is a lack of space and time to dwell into Swaps genealogy, but this guy is a genetic miracle. Love The Chase have a double dose of this recording-breaking phenom.
Dam two, Chase It Down, was sired by Polish Numbers a son of Danzig and Numbered Account. This second appearance of Numbered Account created maximized benefits with double doses of A4 plus line-breeding to some of the best female family lines including 1x. We have noticed for some time that Danzig plus family A4 match sheds a curious case of class. It’s an interesting and powerful pattern found in champions and group winners who raced in America, Europe, and Japan. A good example is Hall-of-Famer Gentildonna. These types of runners are rough, rugged and persistent in the heat of competition. They not only survived they thrived on performing at higher levels of engagement.
Dam three, Chase The Dream, was purchased as a yearling by the once flamboyant trainer D. Wayne Lucas for the equally glamorous, National Football League team owner, Eugine V. Klein. His Blue and Gold silks still cloaked Chargers players and fans, especially when the team resided in San Diego. The sales price for Chase The Dream was $260,000 which is expensive even in today’s currency as it was in 1985. Chase The Dream’s success at graded stakes level was not surprising, she was sired by Sir Ivor and out of La Belle Fleur, an unraced daughter of Vaguely Noble. This segment of the pedigree insinuates both grass superiority and stamina, which are costly commodities of extreme interest abroad. Perhaps this piqued the Japanese breeders’ interests.
The prophecy to peep into the promise of tomorrow and foresee which racehorse will flourish or fail is a benediction abounding with pain and prosperity – from the stillborn of a well-planned foal to daylight victory of a well-meant maiden. All is impossible without the strength and versatility of the broodmare or female family because even the greatest sires are dependent on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) loosely expressed in female lines. Loudly and proudly we hear daily praises of a sire-to-sire match, then listen to crickets chirping when waiting for resounding revelation of female-to-female nicks. We hear the technology is not there yet and mare’s produce records are too small a sample to accurately assess. Weekend Surprise is everywhere there is an A P Indy chart, Gold Digger and Terlingua are in every pedigree profile that housed Mr Prospector and Storm Cat. Instead of a revolutionary shift in pedigree analysis, this is a common-sense technique we have implemented with precision. California Chrome has three female-to-female matches.
There are plenty of respected pedigree professionals who publicly proclaim the weaknesses found in California Chrome’s champion bloodlines. For example, this recent post on a popular Facebook group made a bold attempt to illuminate the pricking points and fragile deficiencies of a remarkable champion’s female family. In all fairness, there were other points of discussion in the post regarding flaws of Nicking but the gist was the importance of researching female family.
“If you look only at a sire, most people will look at his conformation and his race record. Both are important and that’s all fine and dandy, but there are always going to be anomalies. A perfect example (and please forgive me for naming names, but this one is too perfect not to) is California Chrome. Winner of over 15 MILLION dollars, you would think that he should command the biggest stud fee in history. He stands for $30,000 dollars today. That is not much in the TB world. Why? Because he does not have the female pedigree to convince people that he will reproduce himself. His dam has produced nothing besides CC, despite having been bred to the same stallion three more times. Aside from Lucky Pulpit, she has been bred to Tapit, Pioneer of the Nile, Uncle Mo, Accelerate (the latter two, in their defense, are not old enough to race). Some of the most lucrative stallions in the industry today. But even when rebred to Lucky Pulpit, the most any of her other progeny have won is just shy of $68K. A far cry from the $15M CC won.”
We are glad that someone has fearless confidence to voice the concerns of many. To the author, we offer our bold opinion presented throughout this article. It is a farfetched fantasy that a mare should produce duplicity of quality runners and champions to be considered well-bred. The assessment perfectly fits Pas De Nom profile, yet we witness the awesome and powerful effect of nature in Danzig. Pas De Nom did her job, just as lightning need not strike the same place twice for us to have faith and belief in the forces of nature.
Pas De Nom’s best produce was Danzig an undefeated son of Northern Dancer in 3 starts who never had the chance to win at graded stakes level. She was bred back to Northern Dancer and did not duplicate Danzig. She was also bred to Alleged, Raja Baba, The Minstrel, Robellino, and others yet failed to produce any racehorse of significant value. Yet the measurement of Danzig’s female-to-female matches did not disqualify him from being one of the all-time greats where sires are concerned.
A P Indy was bought by Tomonori Tsurumaki for $2.9 million at the 1990 Keeneland July Yearling Sale. He would go on to win the Santa Anita Derby, Belmont Stakes, Breeders’s Cup Classic, and be crowned Horse of the Year, Champion 3-year-old of 1992. Before setting the breeding world afire with a bounty of equine greatness, his dam Weekend Surprise was bred back to Seattle Slew and produced Devongate a non-winner in 3 starts with a total earning just shy of $2,000. It would have been premature to unfairly categorize the daughter of Secretariat as weak in pedigree due to the results of Devongate while ignoring the thrilling victories of A P Indy.
California Chrome’s third dam, Chase The Dream was costly as a yearling when purchased by the leading trainer in North America. Is it inconceivable that one of the most successful American thoroughbred racehorse trainers would spend so many resources on a flimsy pedigreed filly?
Market breeders usually require black type mares in their breeding operation, this standard is more important in producing high sales prices rather than producing high-quality runners. The black type mare benchmark is an unnecessary prerequisite in terms of producing winners, graded stakes winners, champions and even great racehorses – good runners come from anywhere there is proper management, supervision and training. Trolley Song earned less than $30,000 with only one win from seven starts, yet she produced Unbridled’s Song. Love The Chase earned less than $10,000 with only one win from six starts, yet she produced California Chrome. La Troienne earned less than $200 from seven starts and zero wins, yet she produced a dynasty that’s vibrant more than eight decades later.
What more proof can this family produce? Family exhibits throughout this article clearly show a family line with numerous champions, blue hens, world-class sires, sire-of-sires, track record holders, and Breeders’ Cup winners all dotted the pedigree landscape. Most will still believe the bloodline is weak because this pedigree represents a more complex form of female matching that is unfamiliar. We’ve always thought California Chrome to be a congenitally gifted racehorse running every step and exactly in tune to his pedigree. We understand why breeders from Japan’s Racing Association are interested in this big, bright, red iconoclastic millionaire.