Thursday, November 4, 2010

Breeders' Cup Pedigree Plays

A Look at the Breeders’ Cup Through Sire Lines

Next to the Triple Crown, the Breeders’ Cup offers horseracing fans and handicappers an exciting venue of racing with many opportunities to view some good racing and make money in the process. However, with fourteen competitive races and well more than a hundred horses entered in the two-day event (November 5-6 at Churchill Downs), handicapping the Breeders’ Cup can be a challenge.

In addition to studying the past performances, I like to study the sire lines of each divisional winner. Knowing the sire line that has produced the most winners is an important tool in the handicapper’s arsenal, and I have found that to be valuable in spotting potential handicapping angles as well as keeping up with historical trends.

In order to put the Breeders’ Cup races into perspective, an overview of American horseracing is necessary. A vast majority of thoroughbred champions in the last half of the twentieth century trace back to the sire line of Darley Arabian through his descendants Whalebone, Stockwell, Phalaris, Native Dancer, and Nearco.

Modern-day horseracing as we know it would not exist if it was not for Phalaris and his three sons—Sickle, Pharos, and Pharamond II. Born in 1913, Phalaris was a champion sprinter in 1917 and 1918, with a career record of 24: 16-2-1. However, Phalaris’ greatest contribution to horseracing was as a sire, and he was selected by Timeform as the sire of the twentieth century.

The greatest impact Phalaris and his sire line have had on horseracing has been by his great-great grandson Native Dancer and grandson Nearco.

Native Dancer, an outstanding champion—with a record of 22: 21-1-0—was sired by Polynesian out of the line of Sickle, and that line produced Mr. Prospector, which is one of the leading sire lines in the industry today.

Nearco, a champion racehorse who was undefeated in fourteen starts, was sired by Pharos, and the line of Nearco has given us most of our modern-day thoroughbred champions. Nearco’s greatest contribution comes from his two sons—Nasrullah and Royal Charger—and his two grandsons: Northern Dancer and Bold Ruler.

There are five sire lines descended from Phalaris that have had a major impact on the Breeders’ Cup races. Those sire lines are: Mr. Prospector, who is a descendent of the Native Dancer line. Nasrullah, Royal Charger, Northern Dancer, and Bold Ruler, who are descendents of the Nearco sire line.

Since 1984, a total of 208 Breeders’ Cup races have been run, and 174 (86 percent) of them have been won by horses out of the sire line of Phalaris and his descendants. Of those 208 Breeders’ Cup races, 127 (61 percent) of them have been won by horses out of the sire line of Phalaris’ grandson Nearco and his descendants, which breaks down as follows: 64 winners are out of the line of Nearco’s grandson Northern Dancer; 43 winners are out of the line of his son Nasrullah (with 19 of those out of the line of Nasrullah’s son Bold Ruler); 15 winners are out of the line of Nearco’s son Royal Charger (with 10 of those winners out of the sire line of Royal Charger’s grandson Hail To Reason); 5 winners are out of the line of Nearco’s son Nearctic.

The Mr. Prospector line has produced a total of 43 Breeders’ Cup winners. Of those 43 winners, 10 (23 percent) are from the line of his son Fappiano, and 8 (19 percent) are from the line of his son Gone West.

In all of the divisional races, the Northern Dancer sire line has the most winners in five divisions: Mile (15), Turf (10), Filly & Mare Turf (9), Ladies’ Classic (7), and Juvenile Fillies (7).

The Mr. Prospector sire line has the most winners in the Sprint (8), Juvenile (7), and Classic (6) divisions.


The Northern Dancer line has dominated the Mile with 15 winners (58 percent):

Horse, Sire

Goldikova (2009 and 2008), Anabaa
Artie Schiller (2005), El Prado
Val Royal (2001), Royal Academy

War Chant (2000), Danzig
Spinning World (1997), Nureyev
Barathea (1994), Sadler’s Wells
Lure (1993 and 1992), Danzig
Opening Verse (1991), The Minstrel
Royal Academy (1990), Nijinsky
Miesque (1988 and 1987), Nureyev
Last Tycoon (1986), Try My Best
Royal Heroine (1984), Lypheor

The Mr. Prospector line has produced five winners:

Horse, Sire

Kip Deville (2007), Kipling
Miesque’s Approval (2006), Miesque’s Son
Six Perfections (2003), Celtic Swing
Da Hoss (1998 and 1996), Gone West


The Northern Dancer line leads the Turf division with a total of 10 winners:

Horse, Sire

Red Rocks (2006), Galileo
High Chaparral (2003 and 2002), Sadler’s Wells
Chief Bearhart (1997), Chief’s Crown
Pilsudski (1996), Polish Precedent
Northern Spur (1995), Sadler’s Wells
Fraise (1992), Strawberry Road
In The Wings (1990), Sadler’s Wells
Theatrical (1987), Nureyev
Manila (1986), Lyphard

The Nasrullah line produced nine winners:

Horse, Sire

Conduit (2009 and 2008), Dalakhani
Better Talk Now (2004), Talkin Man
Fantastic Light (2001), Rahy
Kalanisi (2000), Doyoun
Daylami (1999), Doyoun
Tikkanen (1994), Cozzene
Kotashaan (1993), Darshaan
Lashkari (1984), Mill Reef


The Filly & Mare Turf was inaugurated in 1999, and in the past eleven years, the Northern Dancer sire line has produced nine winners:

Horse, Sire

Midday (2009), Oasis Dream
Forever Together (2008), Belong To Me
Lahudood (2007), Singspiel
Ouija Board (2006 and 2004), Cape Cross
Intercontinental (2005), Danehill
Islington (2003), Sadler’s Wells
Starine (2002), Mendocino
Banks Hill (2001), Danehill

The Royal Charger line produced the two remaining winners:

Horse, Sire

Perfect Sting (2000), Red Ransom
Soaring Softly (1999), Kris S.


The sire line of Northern Dancer has produced the most winners with a total of seven:

Horse, Sire

Life Is Sweet (2009), Storm Cat
Ginger Punch (2007), Awesome Again
Round Pond (2006), Awesome Again
Adoration (2003), Honor Grades
Escena (1998), Strawberry Road
Ajina (1997), Strawberry Road
Dance Smartly (1991), Danzig

The sire line of Mr. Prospector has produced five winners:

Horse, Sire

Zenyatta (2008), Street Cry
Pleasant Home (2005), Seeking The Gold
Azeri (2002), Jade Hunter
Unbridled Elaine (2001), Unbridled’s Song
Spain (2000), Thunder Gulch

The Bold Ruler line has also produced five winners:

Horse, Sire

Beautiful Pleasure (1999), Maudlin
Bayakoa (1990 and 1989), Consultant’s Bid
Sacahuista (1987), Raja Baba
Lady’s Secret (1986), Secretariat


The Northern Dancer sire line has the most winners with a total of seven:

Horse, Sire

Sweet Catomine (2004), Storm Cat
Storm Flag Flying (2002), Storm Cat
Silverbulletday (1998), Silver Deputy
Countess Diana (1997), Deerhound
Storm Song (1996), Summer Squall
Go For Wand (1989), Deputy Minister
Open Mind (1988), Deputy Minister

The Nasrullah line produced four winners:

Horse, Sire

Indian Blessing (2007), Indian Charlie
Dreaming Of Anna (2006), Rahy
Eliza (1992), Mt. Livermore
Brave Raj (1986), Rajab

The Mr. Prospector line produced three winners:

Horse, Sire

Halfbridled (2003), Unbridled
Cash Run (1999), Seeking The Gold
Flanders (1994), Seeking The Gold


The Mr. Prospector line leads the Sprint division with a total of eight winners:

Horse, Sire

Midnight Lute (2008 and 2007), Real Quiet
Speightstown (2004), Gone West
Cajun Beat (2003), Grand Slam
Squirtle Squirt (2001), Marquetry
Artax (1999), Marquetry
Gulch (1988), Mr. Prospector
Eillo (1984), Mr. Prospector

The Northern Dancer line produced six winners:

Horse, Sire

Dancing In Silks (2009), Black Minnaloushe
Reraise (1998), Danzatore
Lit de Justice (1996), El Gran Senor
Desert Stormer (1995), Storm Cat
Sheikh Albadou (1991), Green Desert
Dancing Spree (1989), Nijinsky


The Mr. Prospector sire line leads the Juvenile division with a total of seven winners:

Horse, Sire

Midshipman (2008), Unbridled’s Song
Street Sense (2006), Street Cry
Anees (1999), Unbridled
Unbridled’s Song (1995), Unbridled
Timber Country (1994), Woodman
Rhythm (1989), Mr. Prospector
Tasso (1985), Fappiano

The Bold Ruler line produced five winners:

Horse, Sire

Stevie Wonderboy (2005), Stephen Got Even
Vindication (2002), Seattle Slew
Boston Harbor (1996), Capote
Is It True (1988), Raja Baba
Capote (1986), Seattle Slew

The Northern Dancer line has produced four winners:

Horse, Sire

Vale Of York (2009), Invincible Spirit
Wilko (2004), Awesome Again
Johannesburg (2001), Hennessy
Chief’s Crown (1984), Danzig

The Royal Charger line has also produced three winners:

Horse, Sire

Action This Day (2003), Kris S.
Answer Lively (1998), Lively One
Brocco (1993), Kris S.


The sire line of Mr. Prospector has produced six winners:

Horse, Sire

Zenyatta (2009), Street Cry
Raven’s Pass (2008), Elusive Quality
Curlin (2007), Smart Strike
Volponi (2002), Cryptoclearance
Black Tie Affair (1991), Miswaki
Unbridled (1990), Fappiano

The sire line of Northern Dancer has produced five winners:

Horse, Sire

Ghostzapper (2004), Awesome Again
Cat Thief (1999), Storm Cat
Awesome Again (1998), Deputy Minister
Cigar (1995), Palace Music
Ferdinand (1987), Nijinsky

In 2007, the Breeders’ Cup committee added the Filly & Mare Sprint, Juvenile Turf, and Dirt Mile to the roster of Breeders’ Cup races. In 2008, the Marathon, Juvenile Fillies Turf, and Turf Sprint were also added to the roster for a total of fourteen races.

Descendants of the Mr. Prospector sire line have won seven of those races. Bold Ruler descendants have won three races. Northern Dancer and Nasrullah descendants have won one race each.


Fifty-six winners of Breeders’ Cup races have been produced by the sire line of Northern Dancer’s descendants Danzig, Sadler’s Wells, Storm Cat, Deputy Minister, Nijinsky, and Nureyev.

Of all the descendents of Northern Dancer, the sire line of his son Danzig (sire of War Chant, Lure, Dance Smartly, and Chief’s Crown) has produced the most Breeders’ Cup winners with a total of 19:

Ladies’ Classic – Adoration (2004), Dance Smartly (1991)
Juvenile – Vale Of York (2009), Chief’s Crown (1984)
Juvenile Fillies – Countess Diana (1997)
Turf – Chief Bearhart (1997), Pilsudski (1996)
Filly & Mare Turf – Midday (2009), Forever Together (2008), Ouija Board (2006 and 2004), Intercontinental (2005), Banks Hill (2001)
Sprint – Sheikh Albadou (1991)
Mile – Goldikova (2009 and 2008), War Chant (2000), Lure (1993 and 1992)

The Sadler’s Wells sire line produced nine winners—six were sired by Sadler’s Wells:

Turf – High Chaparral (2003 and 2002), Northern Spur (1995), In The Wings (1990)
Fillies & Mare Turf – Islington (2003)
Mile – Barathea (1994)

Sadler’s Wells’ son Galileo sired 2006 Turf winner Red Rocks, and another son, El Prado, sired 2005 Mile winner Artie Schiller. Sadler’s Wells’ grandson Singspiel sired 2007 Fillies & Mare Turf winner Lahudood.

The Storm Cat sire line produced eight winners—five were sired by Storm Cat:

Classic – Cat Thief (1999)
Ladies’ Classic – Life Is Sweet (2009)
Juvenile Fillies – Sweet Catomine (2004) and Storm Flag Flying (2002)
Sprint – Desert Stormer (1995)

Storm Cat’s son Giant’s Causeway sired 2009 Marathon winner Man Of Iron; another son, Black Minnaloushe, sired 2009 Sprint winner Dancing In Silks; and still another son, Hennessy, sired 2001 Juvenile winner Johannesburg.

The Deputy Minister sire line produced eight winners. His son Awesome Again sired four winners:

Classic – Ghostzapper (2004)
Ladies’ Classic – Ginger Punch (2007), Round Pond (2006)
Juvenile – Wilko (2004)

Deputy Minister sired three winners:
Classic – Awesome Again (1998)
Juvenile Fillies – Go For Wand (1989) and Open Mind (1988)

Deputy Minister’s son Silver Deputy sired 1998 Juvenile Fillies winner Silverbulletday.

The Nijinsky sire line produced seven winners. Nijinsky sired three winners:
Classic – Ferdinand (1987)
Sprint – Dancing Spree (1989)
Mile – Royal Academy (1990)

His grandson Strawberry Road sired three winners:
Ladies’ Classic – Escena (1998), Ajina (1997)
Turf – Fraise (1992)

His son Royal Academy sired 2001 Mile winner Val Royal.

The Nureyev sire line produced five winners—four were sired by Nureyev:
Mile – Spinning World (1997), Miesque (1987 and 1988)
Turf – Theatrical (1987)

His grandson Mendocino sired the 2002 Filly & Mare Turf winner Starine.


Eighteen winners of Breeders’ Cup races have been produced by the sire line of Mr. Prospector’s sons Fappiano and Gone West.

The sire line of Mr. Prospector’s son Fappiano produced 10 winners:
– Volponi (2002) and Unbridled (1990)
Ladies’ Classic – Unbridled Elaine (2001)
Juvenile – Midshipman (2008), Anees (1999), Unbridled’s Song (1995), and Tasso (1985)
Juvenile Fillies – Halfbridled (2003)
Sprint – Midnight Lute (2008 and 2007)

Fappiano sired Tasso and Unbridled, who sired Anees, Unbridled’s Song, and Halfbridled.

The sire line of Mr. Prospector’s son Gone West produced 8 winners:
Classic – Raven’s Pass (2008)
Turf – Johar (2003)
Sprint – Speightstown (2004), Cajun Beat (2003)
Mile – Da Hoss (1998 and 1996)
Filly & Mare Sprint – Maryfield (2007)
Juvenile Turf – Nownownow (2007)

Gone West sired Speightstown, Johar, and Da Hoss.


Excluding Nasrullah’s son Bold Ruler, 17 winners of Breeders’ Cup races have been produced by the sire line of Nasrullah’s descendants Blushing Groom and Never Bend.

The sire line of his grandson Blushing Groom produced 10 winners:
Juvenile Turf – Pounced (2009)
Classic – Invasor (2006)
Juvenile – War Pass (2007), Arazi (1991)
Juvenile Fillies – Dreaming Of Anna (2006), Eliza (1992)
Turf – Fantastic Light (2001)
Sprint – Orientate (2002), Cherokee Run (1994)
Mile – Silic (1999)

Blushing Groom’s son Rahy sired three winners (Pounced, Dreaming Of Anna, and Fantastic Light). Blushing Groom’s Son Mt. Livermore sired two winners (Eliza and Orientate).

The sire line of Nasrullah’s son Never Bend produced seven winners:
Turf – Conduit (2009 and 2008), Kalanisi (2000), Daylami (1999), Kotashaan (1993), and Lashkari (1984)
Sprint – Safely Kept (1990)


The sire line of his great-grandson Seattle Slew produced 12 winners:
Classic – A. P. Indy (1992)
Juvenile – Stevie Wonderboy (2005), Vindication (2002), Boston Harbor (1996), Capote (1986)
Juvenile Fillies – Stardom Bound (2008), Tempera (2001)
Sprint – Silver Train (2005), Thirty Slews (1992)
Juvenile Fillies Turf – Tapitsfly (2009)
Turf Sprint – California Flag (2009)
Dirt Mile – Corinthian (2007)

Seattle Slew sired A. P. Indy, Vindication, and Capote.


The sire line of his grandson Hail To Reason produced 10 winners:
Classic – St. Liam (2005), Sunday Silence (1989)
Ladies’ Classic – Ashado (2004)
Juvenile – Answer Lively (1998)
Filly & Mare Turf – Perfect Sting (2000)

Hail To Reason’s grandson Kris S. sired five winners:
Ladies’ Classic – Hollywood Wildcat (1993)
Juvenile – Action This Day (2003), Brocco (1993)
Turf – Prized (1989)
Filly & Mare Turf – Soaring Softly (1999)

Three sire lines of Breeders’ Cup winners that are not descended from Northern Dancer or Mr. Prospector include: Ribot, Man o’ War, and Damascus.

The Ribot sire line has produced eight winners:
Classic – Pleasantly Perfect (2003), Proud Truth (1985)
Ladies’ Classic – Jewel Princess (1996)
Juvenile Fillies – Pleasant Stage (1991)
Turf – Miss Alleged (1991)
Sprint – Kona Gold (2000), Very Subtle (1987)
Dirt Mile – Albertus Maximus (2008)

The Man o’ War sire line has produced seven winners:
Classic – Tiznow (2001 and 2000), Skywalker (1986)
Ladies’ Classic – One Dreamer (1994)
Juvenile Fillies – Folklore (2005), Caressing (2000)
Sprint – Smile (1986)

The Damascus sire line has produced six winners:
Classic – Skip Away (1997)
Ladies’ Classic – Inside Information (1995), Personal Ensign (1988)
Juvenile – Gilded Time (1992), Fly So Free (1990)
Sprint – Thor’s Echo (2006)

Some interesting statistics of note:

Despite the fact that the sire line of Mr. Prospector has dominated the American Classics (see the May/June 2010 issue of The HorsePlayer Magazine), Nearco’s grandson Northern Dancer has dominated the Breeders’ Cup with 64 winners—especially in the Mile (15) and Turf (10) divisions.

While compiling these statistics, the biggest surprise was that of all the descendents of Northern Dancer, the Danzig sire line has been the most productive with a total of 19 winners.

The Filly & Mare Turf division was inaugurated in 1999, and in the past eleven years, 6 of those winners have been produced by the sire line of Danzig.

The Fappiano line has been the most productive Mr. Prospector sire line with 10 winners.

The sire line of Nearco’s great-grandsons Hail To Reason and Blushing Groom have also produced 10 winners each.

The sire line of Nasrullah, including Bold Ruler, has produced 43 Breeders’ Cup winners, which equals the number of winners sired by Mr. Prospector’s sire line. Twelve of the 19 Bold Ruler sire line winners are descendants of his great-grandson Seattle Slew.

Half of the Deputy Minister sire-line winners were sired by his son Awesome Again.

Sixty-seven percent of the Sadler’s Wells sire line winners were sired by Sadler’s Wells.

Here’s a look at the horses I like in the different divisions:


Division, Horse, Sire, Sire Line

Marathon (G3), A.U. Miner, Mineshaft, Bold Ruler
Juvenile Fillies Turf, Winter Memories, El Prado, Northern Dancer
Filly and Mare Sprint (G1), Rightly So, Read The Footnotes, Mr. Prospector
Juvenile Fillies (G1), Tell A Kelly, Tapit, Bold Ruler
Filly and Mare Turf (G1), Hibaayeb, Singspiel, Northern Dancer
Ladies’ Classic (G1), Life At Ten, Malibu Moon, Bold Ruler


Division, Horse, Sire, Sire Line
Juvenile Turf (G2), Air Support, Smart Strike, Mr. Prospector
Sprint (G1), Smiling Tiger, Hold That Tiger, Northern Dancer
Turf Sprint (G2), Quick Enough, High Brite, Royal Charger
Juvenile (G1), Uncle Mo, Indian Charlie, Nasrullah
Mile (G1), Goldikova, Anabaa, Northern Dancer
Dirt Mile (G1), Tizway, Tiznow, Man O’ War
Turf (G1), Workforce, King's Best, Mr. Prospector
Classic (G1), Zenyatta, Street Cry, Mr. Prospector

As you can see the Breeders’ Cup has a rich history with a wide variety of exciting races for fans and handicappers alike.

Good luck with your picks!


  1. Hi Charles, very nice break down for Friday and Saturday Breeders Cup events:

    Here are my selections:
    Awesome Gem

    Filly Juvenile Turf

    F&M Sprint
    Sara Louise

    Juvenile Filly
    A Z Warrior

    F&M Turf

    Ladies Classic
    Life At Ten


    Juvenile Turf
    Madman Diaries

    Kinsale King

    Turf Sprint
    Chamberlain Bridge


    Turf Mile
    Sidney's Candy

    Dirt Mile
    Vineyard Haven



  2. Barry,

    Thanks for the compliment. Good luck with your picks!