Sunday, August 30, 2009

Summer Bird Gets My Vote For Champion Male

Commenting on Summer Bird’s win in the Travers Stakes, David Grening of the Daily Racing Form said: He is no longer the other bird.

There is also talk that Summer Bird is now the leading contender for the title of champion 3-year-old male. If I had a vote, I’d cast it for him.

I’m happy that Summer Bird won the Travers and it’s good to see him finally get some respect. But respect is not handed to you on a platter. You have to earn it

Summer Bird, definitely, has earned it.

Summer Bird ran his first race in March and since then he has been playing catch up to the rest of the 3-year-old males on this year’s Triple Crown trail. Along the way, he has become a Classic Champion Thoroughbred winning the Belmont Stakes (G1), Travers Stakes (G1) and finishing second in the Haskell Invitational (G1). In just his third start of the year, Summer Bird finished a respectable third in the Arkansas Derby (G2).

Summer Bird is the 30th thoroughbred to win the Belmont-Travers double. The last to accomplish that was his sire Birdstone who won it in 2004.

In my mind, Summer Bird has always been The Bird. He was my favorite for the Kentucky Derby. I also backed him in the Belmont and Travers.

Every now and then when I’m studying pedigrees I have a “Wow” moment. In 2009 my “Wow” moment occurred in March while studying the pedigree of Summer Bird.

I was so impressed with the pedigree of Summer Bird that I thought he had the potential to become a Classic Champion Thoroughbred and here’s an excerpt of what I posted on the DRF FormBlog hosted by Dan Illman shortly before he ran in the Kentucky Derby:

At first glance, with only three life-time starts and $100,000 in Graded Stakes earnings, Summer Bird would not appear to be a likely Kentucky Derby winner. His Dosage Profile – a numbering system created by Dr. Steven A. Romans to measure the number of Chef-de-Race stallions in the first four generations of a horse’s pedigree – is a modest 16. Summer Bird’s great grandsire, Unbridled, is the only Chef-de-Race to be found in the first three generations. Dear Birdie and Weekend Surprise are the only Reines-de-Course (Queens of the Turf) mares found in the first three generations.

So, there is not a lot of Blue Blood up close in the pedigree of Summer Bird. But, appearances can be deceiving and upon further inspection, the pedigree of Summer Bird appears to be a who’s who of Classic Champions and important sires.

In the first generation of Summer Bird’s pedigree is his sire Birdstone – the Classic Champion Belmont winner who upset Smarty Jones’ bid to be the second undefeated thoroughbred to win the Triple Crown.

In the second generation are the Classic Champions Grindstone and Summer Squall. Grindstone was a strong closer and in the 1996 Kentucky Derby he rallied for the win – trailing by 15 lengths at the half-mile mark – to edge Cavonnier by a nose in the final stride. Summer Squall finished second in the 1990 Kentucky Derby losing by three and one-half lengths to his rival Unbridled. However, in the Preakness Summer Squall turned the tables on Unbridled beating him by two and one-quarter lengths in a near-record time of 1:53 3/5. Summer Squall did not race in the Belmont because of bleeding issues and Unbridled finished third. Also in the second generation is the Reine-de-Course mare Dear Birdie – the dam of Birdstone and 2006 broodmare of the year.

In the third generation are the Classic Champions Unbridled and Alysheba; two strains of the important sire Storm Bird and the Reine-de-Course mare Weekend Surprise. In addition to being the sire of Summer Squall, Storm Bird was also the sire of the influential sire Storm Cat; the grandsire of the 1994 Preakness and Belmont winner Tabasco Cat and the damsire of the 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Thunder Gulch. Dubbed “America’s Horse” by racing fans, Alysheba won the 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness en-route to an 11-8-2 career record in 26 starts and $6,679,242 in earnings. The outstanding broodmare Weekend Surprise was the dam of Summer Squall and 1992 Belmont winner and sire of sires A.P. Indy.

In the fourth generation is one of the most outstanding sons of Mr. Prospector and important sire Fappiano; the important sire Drone – damsire of the 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone and 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Charismatic; two strains of the sire of sires and Classic Champion Northern Dancer – winner of the 1964 Kentucky Derby and Preakness; the Classic Champion Secretariat – winner of the 1973 American Triple Crown and the Classic Champion Nijinsky – undefeated winner of the 1970 English Triple Crown. In addition to being a Classic Champion, Nijinsky was an outstanding stallion who sired the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand; Epsom Derby winners Golden Fleece (1982), Shahrastani (1986) and Lammtarra (1995); Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Lammtarra (1995) and Prix du Jockey Club winner Caerleon (1983). Nijinksy was also the grandsire of the Epsom Derby winners Kahyasi (1988) and Generous (1991); Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Marienbard (2002) and Belmont winner Bet Twice (1987). Also in the fourth generation is the legendary Alydar and if Affirmed had not been his rival, Alydar would have been the 1978 Triple Crown winner. Alydar was also an important stallion who sired the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Alysheba (1987); Kentucky Derby winner Strike The Gold (1991) and the Belmont winner Easy Goer (1989).

Posted by: Calvin Carter on April 25, 2009 at 10:53 PM

Summer Bird did not finish in the money in the Kentucky Derby but he did finish a respectable 6th place in just his 4th start. However, Summer Bird did come back later to win the Belmont.

Pedigree is no guarantee for success on the race track. Some colts live up to their breeding and some do not.

I’m glad that Summer Bird is doing well. I’d like to see him win the division title.


  1. Hi Calvin ..I was thinking about you when Summer Bird won The Travers.. You have always been high on this horse, way before many of us. To see him win made me smile. I hope you bet the "farm," on him, so to speak..
    SR Vegas

  2. SR Vegas,

    Thanks for the kind words. I hope that Summer Bird keeps getting better and better. I would like to see him win the Champion 3YO Male honors.

  3. As a frequent poster at FormBlog, I can attest to how high Calvin was on Summer Bird before the Derby. My "value" horse was Musket Man, who hit the board in both the Derby and the Preakness. After the Derby I joked to Calvin how Mine that Bird was "the other Bird" (the other Birdstone that did not get Calvin's attention). So, to hear SB called "the other Bird" was always strange to me anyhow. But one thing is for certain, both horses are a threat at 10f and Birdstone is becoming a heck of a sire.

    I think Summer Bird is head and shoulders the best 3 y.o. male, and I think it is a shame that Musket Man was injured during the summer because that is the only horse that has the tactical speed, heart and closing kick to challenge SB. MM will be back soon, and MTB is a threat if things go his way and he gets "his ride".

    In any event, SB is just now coming into his own, and I really think he would pose a very real threat to RA if she runs in the JC Gold Cup. That, and the distance, tells me Jackson will avoid that race at all costs. -"vicstu"

  4. vicstu,

    Thanks for the post.

    I too am looking forward to the return of Musket Man. In addition to pedigree, I look for a horse to show brilliance on the racetrack and Musket Man was one of the few brilliant thoroughbreds on this year's trail.

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