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Tell Me When He’s Won It!

Ellen Parker

In any horse person’s lifetime there are a handful of horses that touch you in such a way that is impossible to explain.  Friends and acquaintances that like but do not adore animals think you are a bit insane and if they’re right we really don’t care.

For us, Round Table and Dahlia were human.  Almost human were Swale and Mill Reef, Swaps and Seattle Slew.  More recently, horses like A.P. Indy and of course K One King not to mention our beloved California kids Brown Bess and Cutlass Reality all fall into this category.

When Round Table died some of us went with him.  We’ll never love another horse like that.  Just touching Dahlia was enough to bring tears – she moved us like no other.

Then one autumn day in 1993 we were watching Belmont races on television and a colt caught our eye.  You have to understand that we never used to like greys, always preferring plain bays like Round Table.  But this colt had a swagger to his walk – if he’d been a filly he’d have had that ‘walk like a hooker’ Wayne Lukas used to talk about – and when we looked at our Racing Form and saw his name was Holy Bull we had to cheer him on.

Being Catholic, we figured that a horse named Holy Bull had something to do with a Papal Bull, a formal ‘letter’ from the Vatican.  Later on we learned that he was named for the male equivalent of ‘holy cow!’ and thought ourselves a little foolish, but it didn’t change our love for the big, grey horse.

Holy Bull won that day – it was the Belmont Futurity – defeating pro tem champion Dehere and though he did not move on to the Breeders’ Cup, we voted for him for Champion two-year-old.  He didn’t get it, but he was about to embark upon a three-year-old season that would more than make up for not getting a 1993 Eclipse.

I remember him as a juvenile – a dark, gunmetal grey with a lighter face with a dark spot that was shaped something like a heart.  As he aged and the grey and finally white won the color battle the spot would disappear.  But the heart it represented never did.

In April of 1994 Ron and I traveled to Keeneland.  I needed to do some research in the library but our real reason was to see Holy Bull while he trained for the Bluegrass.   We watched him walk around after his workout one morning, saw him paw in his straw until his feed arrived in due course, chatting with his groom and patting him when he lowered his head to take an occasional sip of water.

Of all the impressions he left – and they were legion – he mostly exuded ‘core’ and power.  What good bone he had!  What a marvelous walk, what balance, what substance!  We knew right away this was one of the ones and he almost never let us down.

It was widely speculated that he was ‘gotten to’ before the Derby.  Did we believe it?  Well, maybe…so many horses hate Churchill Downs and run badly there and nowhere else.  Could have been that.  But Jimmy Croll, his owner and trainer didn’t think so, and we give our nod of believability to the man who made him what he was.

But Bull did what needed to be done the rest of the year.  And of course we remember that when he lost that Derby we went out for dinner with a friend and all of us were in a black mood, the general feeling being that ‘it seemed like we didn’t even have a Derby’.  What we remember most of all, however, was that we watched the bloody thing.

What we had been doing ever since he lost the Fountain of Youth when he displaced his palate was hiding in the guest bath whenever he ran.  We just couldn’t watch him race live.  Replays were fine, but watching him live –well, it seemed like bad luck.  So we never watched again.

As his coat grew ever whiter, his courage and ability grew ever bolder.  Race after race we remember watching those replays, often with tears in our eyes, sometimes tears that spilled down our face.  Mr. Croll took him back to a mile to win the Met, moved him onward to 1 1/16 mi. to win the Dwyer, to 1 1/8 mi. to win the Haskell and finally to lay waste the eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Concern in the Travers – a race so courageous that it ranks up there with Slew’s loss to Exceller in the Gold Cup – and that is some compliment.  Plus he proved that it was not the Derby’s 10 furlongs that had cost him his classic.

Bull returned at four and won the Olympic Handicap but suffered a tendon injury in his try against Cigar in the Donn Handicap.  I never did like Cigar after that – people seemed all too ready to jump on his bandwagon, too ready to forget all Bull had done.  

I found out about the injury in my first ever search of the web.  I was so scared of using the computer but I had to know if he was all right.  The relief was a tangible thing and my cat, Indy, sat at my feet as I wept knowing that I would see him race no more.

But that wasn’t entirely true.  There was Confessional and Macho Uno and most of all, oh most of all dear beloved Giacomo.  Macho Uno got the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner in Mucho Macho Man but only Giacomo made us feel the kind of thrill that Bull had himself.

We were sitting all alone when Giaco won his Derby; Ron was at work.  A client from Washington state had come for the Derby with a group of his friends and we had named Giacomo as our Derby choice.  It was revenge for Bull’s Derby.  When he came flying on the outside to get up in time we didn’t just feel tears down our face, we were beset with huge, wracking sobs.  The phone didn’t stop.  Every friend we had knew how we loved Bull and knew what that Derby meant to us.

So now our Bull is gone and Giaco remains, but he is not appreciated.  Everyone pulled out the stops loving Holy Bull in their columns and blogs and fan comments.  But his Derby winner?  He has stood everywhere but Podunk Plains.  And as we write this he languishes in Oregon not the verdant pastures of Kentucky where he belongs.

To look at Giacomo is to see all the best of Bull - to know that he is able to live on in the form of a classic winner.  Knowing Giacomo makes losing Bull a little easier.  But knowing that Giacomo is not appreciated makes it harder.  It is a bitter conundrum.

So we say good-bye to our beloved grey baby.  We are glad we begged and begged so that we could see him a few years ago.  He had been pensioned and was not shown to anyone, partly because he had the usual melanomas that almost all grey horses have as they age.  They don’t hurt anything but they are not pretty and people who do not know – or won’t accept this – might have thought it was cruel to keep him alive or question their not being removed (which is what really causes a problem, as the mass can spread or become cancerous if it isn’t already – every case is different).

Holy Bull was a horse we loved so much we couldn’t watch him run.  That’s saying a lot.  Only once since he retired has that feeling happened again when we just could not watch American Pharoah’s Belmont live.

As we write this Mucho Macho Man stands a chance of carrying on Holy Bull’s line but he is inbred to Mr. Prospector, something Bull lacked and thus was more versatile.  Mucho Macho Man also presents as a recessive, being the bay son of two grey (dominant) parents.  He is likewise very tall, angular and very much ‘on the leg’.  

Holy Bull was a good-sized horse, but he was far more solid looking than Mucho Macho Man.  Macho Uno was not very big when he ran but filled out nicely.  His smaller size came from Blushing Groom his broodmare sire, while Mucho Macho Man gets his big frame from his broodmare sire, Ponche, a son of oversized Two Punch.

It would seem that we are moving farther from the Holy Bull/Rough’n Tumble look here, which is rather sad.  We’d like to breed a Munnings daughter (broodmare sire of Munnings is Holy Bull) to see if the ‘Tartan blood’ returns.  We’ll know soon how things work out for ‘Mucho’ as he has yearlings this season.

In the meantime, horses like Munnings who is off to a wonderful start (and is a really dear horse) and Judy the Beauty will carry on from the bottom side.  When their children run, we’ll go hide in the guest bath and hope for the best while we wait for another grey one to come along with a heart-shaped mark on his face.



Triple Crown Reflections

Ellen Parker

And Then There Were Three

Well, at long last the 2017 Triple Crown is complete.  Along the way, we made stallions of Mastery and Royal Mo while Epicharis and Classic Empire managed to get hurt – in the case of Classic Empire we are not sure he was ever 100% healed.  Poor Epicharis just has the bad luck of having those horrible pink feet.

It took three tries but we finally got one helluva classic pedigree in Tapwrit.  Blows us away that everyone just seems to have discovered Tapit.  We’ll be the first to admit he scared us to death because he ran so briefly.  But we always knew what he is.  Just go look at an old photo of Beadah and you’ll see for yourself the type that Tapit imparts, because it is she, this fabulous little grey mare, which Tapit throws.  

And boy, does he ever throw it!  Nearly all of his babies are greys – Tonalist is an exception- but most wear the Beadah coat and this year’s Belmont winner is no exception.  Thanks to Tapwrit’s win, his tail-female line of Forest Song will be featured in the next Pedlines as a new Reine-de-Course.  We already had a folder set up on her, so she was always in our rear view mirror.

It is probably because of Slewpy that we loved this line so much.  This Seattle Slew son traveled to Europe to race in Teenoso’s 1983 Epsom Derby, but the ultra-soft going was not appealing to him and he beat only two of his 18 rivals.  We always loved Slewpy and his strength and substance were good for the breed but we wish he had stayed in Kentucky rather than moving to California where he did not always get the best and biggest books.

Tapwrit is Seattle Slew both top and bottom (he possesses a sex-balanced A.P. Indy/Sodeo Sodeo cross at 4 x 4.)   Sodeo Sodeo is a ¾ sister to Slewpy sharing a Seattle Slew/Prince John/Forest Song nexus).  In addition to this pattern Tapwrit has Round Table x2/Monarchy at 7 x 6 x 6.  He further has a treble of In Reality (Charedi/Moon Glitter/Valid Appeal at 6 x 5 x 4).  

Doubles or better of Somethingroyal, Mr. Prospector, Rough ‘n Tumble, Aspidistra and Nijinsky II also appear. There is more, but this is the ‘meat’.

One other note:  Famed British writer/historian Tony Morris is starting a new series on the ‘100 top shapers of the breed’.  He began with Djebel.  This is intriguing as it coincided with Tapwrit’s classic victory since sire Tapit’s lynchpin Beadah is tail-male to Djebel via Djeddah who is inbred to Teddy and Banshee/Frizette.  Beadah’s pedigree is rich in history reading – Boussac Stud/Bull Dog-Plucky Liege/Man o’ War/The Tetrarch/Black Duchess.  That is what we call in the pedigree business a serious ‘wow’.  

Of the three Triple Crown race winners this year, Tapwrit is by far the best bred.  How far his pedigree takes him remains to be seen, but we sure like what we saw in the Belmont.  The pedigree is so versatile we imagine him racing any distance over any surface and obviously eye-balling another horse is not a problem- thank you, Seattle Slew!

The chart for his female line will appear in the next Pedlines as previously mentioned.  Tapwrit is therefore now royalty both top and bottom as his sire Tapit has always been.

CLOUD COMPUTING – The Second Chapter in a Very Strange Year

Poor Classic Empire.  Some horses just can’t catch a break.  He has a rough spring health-wise, still gets enough points to crack the idiotic Derby points list and then gets wiped out at the start in one of the rougher Derbies run in recent memory – and they are usually all pretty rough.

Despite all this, he still runs fourth.  Given just two weeks to recover he is on his way to victory in the Preakness when a horse with one of the weirdest pedigrees in recent memory comes along and defeats him in the last stride.  Without blinkers, Classic Empire would have seen him sooner and would probably have won.

(By the way, we were amazed at how many people were jumping on Always Dreaming’s bandwagon.  There was nothing we could see that gave us a Triple Crown feel with the son of Bodemeister.  We wanted to see him win on a dry track against top company.  Clearly, his Florida Derby foes were not an A+ lot.)

As a result, we are now we are faced with looking at Cloud Computing who, like the dethroned Always Dreaming, is not surprisingly skipping the Belmont.  It’s a miracle he’s run this long.

Let’s start with the sire Maclean’s Music who, with a treble of Mr. Prospector and four lines altogether of Raise a Native made a grand total of one start.  Now there may be a baker’s dozen really good reasons why he only made one start, including the ‘given’ reason that he had complications from splint bone surgery.  Call us a skeptic, but with x4 Raise a Native plus a Danzig cross we kind of think this one was fated.

Up until his first and second dam Forest Music (18 starts) and Defer West (24 starts), this line of Lady Be Good was pretty soft:  Defer (unraced), I Pass (3 starts) and Impish (1 start).  There were a lot of open/barren years along the way, too.

Cloud Computing’s broodmare sire, A.P. Indy is one of the two stronger lines of his pedigree.  The other is Waquoit.  Halo helps as well.  So everything remotely strong comes from his dam whose entire branch of Alcibiades was riddled with barren/dead foal/slipped years.  

This is also a family that tends to have a female bias that shows up again and again.  Menow got the great broodmare sire Buckpasser for example.  Free House got better fillies than colts, as did Sir Ivor.  

Still, how this reads is softly-bred sire from a good family (Lady Be Good) with some soft spots of her own and some fertility problems but with slightly better first two dams.  Cloud Computing’s dam is also okay in the first two generations but with serious reproductive problems farther along the line.

Overall we have two important inbreeding crosses – In Reality x2/Damscus – a good cross that gives us linebreeding to Friar’s Carse/Beaming Beauty/Ballantrae.  Then Seattle Slew is added to all that Mr. Prospector giving us multiples of Myrtlewood-Black Curl/Humanity and Lady Comfey – it’s been a standard cross for quite a while now.

Like Always Dreaming this is not a female line that is likely to get a heavy duty sire and with the stallion’s sire being so intensely linebred to soft Raise a Native to what line will you breed him?  Every time we get something different we either ignore it or sell it.  Of course sometimes we just move it around (Giacomo) until nobody knows where it is anymore.

Bottom line?  The winners of the first two American classic races of 2017 have big holes in them.  Which is probably why as this is being written that Classic Empire has retaken the lead in the NTRA Poll.  Those of us who have seen enough of these races know that it is Classic Empire who stands out so far even though he has not won.

We’ve always said you could tell more about a horse by how he loses than how he wins.  In the case of Classic Empire that has been the exact truth so far.

Now he still has to duck the Sunday Silence grandson Epicharis (JPN), whose form looks pretty good since Thunder Snow (who only came to Kentucky to throw a fit) ran second in the Irish 2000 Guineas to the very highly regarded Churchill.  Being a huge Sunday Silence fan, we have a lot of respect for Epicharis.

With names like Nijinsky II, Sadler’s Wells and Vaguely Noble in addition to Sunday Silence as well as a tail-female line leading to Zariba/Fairy Gold, we doubt he’ll be lacking in stamina.  

No matter, however, who wins this Belmont he will still have been the third horse to win a classic and that’s the second year in a row.  One now begins to really appreciate California Chrome and American Pharoah even more.  The Triple Crown wasn’t supposed to be easy and it’s not.

Besides, we have a feeling that this is a crop that will take far more than just three races to evaluate.  Still and all, it chokes us up a bit to think the colt we liked best, Royal Mo, never got his shot at a classic.  One can only hope that will be corrected in the next generation.

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