A wide range of thoughts and ideas goes into deciding which mares deserve Reine-de-Course status, but the displaying of a true dominant trait – in the case of Cathy speed and precocity – is one of the most important. And while this mare speaks to our California roots, she has branches which did their best work in New York, Kentucky and even South Africa.
We also saw many of them run and wrote about many of them. Er Bear for example was one of the first horses we wrote about in our first paying horse racing job as assistant to Publicity Director Ron Supinski at Golden Gate Fields near Albany, Calif. from 1978-1979. We remember her well because her owners told us she’d been named for their granddaughter, who carried around a ragged old toy she called ‘Er Bear’.
Years later we spent hours on the backstretch with Groovy before the 1986 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Hollywood Park. While arguably the best sprinter that year, his fourth place finish behind Smile cost him the title.
As it turns out, Groovy never did have any luck in the Breeders’ Cup. A girl (Very Subtle) beat up on him in the 1987 edition of the Sprint at Hollywood Park, but that time he got the Eclipse.
Boston Harbor was one of the great loves of our life because he was by one of our favorite Slew sons, that black beauty Capote. And although when he won his own Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 1996 at Woodbine we were not there in person, we most certainly remembered seeing his sire win his Juvenile in 1986 at Santa Anita. (We remembered better that Jeff Lukas called us a liar when we said his Dad had told us we could go see Capote, but then that is another story)!
Sadly, Boston Harbor was sent to Japan and Groovy got moved around and was only a marginal sire – we’ll deal with their specific records as such a little bit later. But then in Sept. 2009 we were asked to do a story for the Washington/Oregon Thoroughbred magazine about Harbor the Gold, the excellent regional sire who stands in Oregon. Because we did such a complete story on him and because he continues to be such a force in the Pacific Northwest, we will include a good bit of that story as part of this Reine-de-Course history.
An Unraced Mare
But let us begin at the beginning with the unraced *Challenger II mare Cathy who was bred by W. L. Brann. Cathy, a sister to La Jolla Mile 2nd Challenging traced to family 6-A (Cream Cheeks) which is also the same branch of this line as 1936 Kentucky Derby winner Bold Venture.
As a matter of fact, that St.Germans stalwart and Cathy’s dam Flag Trick had a good bit in common, sharing an Isinglass/Hermit/Commando/Lute Edger nexus. Cathy’s sire *Challenger II was inbred to Canterbury Pilgrim while her dam was inbred to full siblings Jaconet and Iroquois (Leamington-Maggie B. B.).
Cathy’s most important daughter, stakes placed Dors by *Corporal (3rd Santa Susana S.) and most of her siblings were bred by Edward C. Flynn in California while her most important daughter, Tinnitus by Restless Wind, was bred by that same gentleman but was foaled in Kentucky. Tinnitus was the dam of Groovy and the second dam of Boston Harbor and Harbor the Gold.
Harbor Springs, the dam of Harbor the Gold and Boston Harbor, was purchased by D. Wayne Lukas for Overbrook Farm at the 1990 Keeneland July select yearling sale. From the Three Chimneys Farm consignment, Harbor Springs, as a stakes winning half sister to a champion (Groovy) brought a hefty price tag of $500,000.
Groovy, however, was bred in Texas by Marshall Robinson and raced for Prestonwood Farm, Inc.
More Family History
Not necessarily for use in inbreeding, but as an interesting background note, this tail-female line (Family 6) is headed by Old Bald Peg via the previously mentioned Cream Cheeks (6-A) branch.
At various times in its history, this line produced Kentucky Derby winners Old Rosebud and afore-referenced Bold Venture, as well as Belmont winner Patron. More recently, a group of mares from the family with Princess Revoked at its taproot also did well. This line gave us G1 winners Tis Juliet, Stella Madrid, Super Quercus (FR), Winona (IRE) and Twafeaj.
This same family also spawned Shimmer, which gave us the brilliant but brittle Nantallah, sire of important full siblings Moccasin, Lt. Stevens, Thong and Ridan. More recently, Irish Oaks winner Godetia and Moyglare Stud (G1) winner Belle Genius have come from the Shimmer line.
In Search Of
Because Harbor the Gold is Raise a Native line via the relatively fragile Seeking the Gold, inbreeding to this family via the two most obvious choices of Boston Harbor or Groovy can be a little tricky.
Finding Boston Harbor and Groovy absent more Raise a Native, which would push the soundness issue to the forefront of the pedigree, is the problem. Kentucky stallion Closing Argument, second in Giacomo’s Kentucky Derby, has a Groovy cross but he also is inbred to Mr. Prospector. Using him would result in three Mr. Prospector crosses with Harbor the Gold – rather like adding gasoline to a bonfire. Stakes placed El Nino whose dam, Bay Harbor, is a three-quarter sister to Harbor The Gold, has Mr. Prospector via Forty Niner, so he is not a likely candidate either. Further, he is standing in Indiana and is thus unlikely to get very many high quality daughters.
Our most recent printout tells us that Groovy still has one son, Groovy Jet at stud, though there may be more who are not advertised. Boston Harbor has several in regional markets. Of the Boston Harbor sons, the one who caught our eye was Mauk Four whose Raise a Native blood is very far removed in his pedigree, appearing in his fifth generation and thus out to the sixth in a daughter’s offspring. He also lasted 33 starts, a very good sign and is inbred to potent sire-source mare Almahmoud via Northern Dancer and Halo.
Two of Groovy’s sons looked even better. Inagroove died in 2009 but he was a stakes winner and his dam, Rose Of Darby, is inbred to Roberto and his full sister Glorious Spring – finding one of his daughters might be worthwhile. Groovy Jett is also a stakes winner and is out of a mare by tough Foolish Pleasure and traces to the good sire-source family of Khara which produced Habitat, Northfields and Dancer’s Image.
Groovy was a tough, brilliant runner who won 12 of 26 starts and placed in five others. He won 12 stakes including the G1 Vosburg, the G2 Forego (twice), Tom Fool (twice), True North and Roseben (G3). He ran second in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 1987 and the G1 Champagne and Futurity Stakes in 1985 as a juvenile. He also set track records at Belmont and Finger Lakes.
Before dying at the age of 23 in 2006 from a neurological disorder, Groovy sired 13 crops of 354 foals. 80% of them made it to the races and 63% won. He got 17 stakes winners and 13 more stakes placed. His best offspring were the gelding Brutally Frank, winner of the G1 Carter; Bed o’ Roes H. (G2) winning filly Incinerate and Ladies H. (G2) winner Groovy Feeling. As of this writing, his offspring had earned $12,281,203.
As a broodmare sire to date, Groovy is represented by 266 foals of racing age. 74% have started, 53% have won and seven have won stakes with nine more stakes placed for earnings of $8.8 million. His daughters’ best offspring include: Meine Isle, a stakes winner in Japan; two foals out of his daughter Incinerate – High Blitz, a stakes winner in the U. S. and Canada and the G1 winner In the Gold by Golden Missile who won the G1 Gazelle Stakes at Belmont – the kind of filly who should give him a chance to remain in pedigrees, and finally Take a Check, a filly by Touch Gold who won $467,510 while placing in 14 stakes in the Mid Atlantic area.
Boston Harbor was a candle flame of a race horse, much like his sire. Not only did he win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but also the four Kentucky-based juvenile races which earned him a $1 million bonus; the Breeders’ Futurity, Bashford Manor, Kentucky Cup Juvenile and Ellis Park Juvenile. He also ran second in the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga. His consistency and class were rewarded with an Eclipse award as top juvenile colt and a top weight of 126 pounds on the Experimental Handicap.
The good news would not last much longer. The dark colt wintered well, and got a bit tired in his 1997 debut, running fourth in the Santa Catalina Stakes. When training for his next start, the San Rafael Stakes in preparation for the Santa Anita Derby, Boston Harbor fractured a cannon bone in his left front leg in a morning workout on February 25, 1997. There would be no Triple Crown for Boston Harbor; the goal now was to save his life, and perhaps his career.
The colt’s surgery went successfully and when the fracture was found to be non-displaced, there was some hope he might return to the racing wars. However, it was finally decided in July that the colt would likely not be able to return to his championship form and his retirement to Overbrook Farm near Lexington, Ky., was announced.
He stood three seasons at Overbrook before being sold to Japan in 2001. Our printout tells us he should have remained at home, hardly a surprise.
From 11 crops of racing age, Boston Harbor has sired 20 stakes winners, nearly all the good ones coming in the U. S. A. He also has another 14 stakes placed offspring, again mostly domestic runners. Among his best are G1 winner Healthy Addiction; G2 Jerome H. winner Boston Common (unfortunately a gelding); Iowa Derby and Peter Pan S. (G2) second Swingforthefences and My Boston Gal, winner of the G2 Beaumont and Golden Rod Stakes.
Some of his horses have won stakes in Japan but not graded stakes, while their earnings look impressive that is a notoriously poor way to judge Japanese horses. The best of these are Western Venus and Daiwa Bandit, the latter also a winner over jumps.
Boston Harbor’s daughters may not be plentiful, but they could salvage his legacy. To date they have produced 428 foals of racing age, of which seven have won stakes and 11 more have placed in black type events. Canadian champion Sealy Hill (by Point Given) is out of his daughter Boston Twist; Seattle Slew inbred Concord Point by Tapit won the G2 West Virginia Derby; G1 Vinery Madison Stakes Shotgun Gulch (by Thunder Gulch) is another and the hard-knocking La Rocca (by Toccet) has also done well. There’s still a glimmer of hope here.
Boston Harbor demonstrates however one of the major failings of the American market to appreciate the worth of a horse who can give a little different look to a pedigree. There was always some rather odd prejudice against Capote we never understood, probably having something to do with people rather than horses. But it was the breed who suffered the body blow for their ignorance.
Harbor the Gold -The Regional Force
As all breeders know, there is generally more gambling going on in the breeding shed than there is at the racetrack. Horses do not always breed like they ran, and some don’t even seem to breed like they are bred. Surprise is often the only real constant.
Still and all, any horse begins his life with a series of predictable pedigree pieces, a tail-male line, a family and various inbreeding patterns. Which part of the pedigree he resembles, or how well the parts come together often determines his success both at the races and as a progenitor.
Yet even if the horse has the best pedigree, race record and excellent conformation, some unknown factors can still come into play. Recessives play a big role and must be considered when inbreeding. Plus he is, for all his owners’ best efforts, very much at the mercy of the books of mares he receives or, in the case of a mare, the quality of sire to which she is bred.
Top regional sire Harbor The Gold, has some interesting surprises on all fronts, beginning with his sire line:
At present, it is clear that the strongest current branch of the Mr. Prospector line is Fappiano. Unbridled’s Song alone has helped to make this happen, but Cryptoclearance has made a late bid with Candy Ride to carve his own niche. Next in importance has to be Gone West with Elusive Quality, the late Grand Slam and Mr. Greeley all showing strongly and finally, Forty Niner, thanks in large part to Distorted Humor. This does not mean that no other Mr. Prospectors have done well – or will do well – but at present these are the big guns.
Seeking the Gold, sire of Harbor the Gold, is hampered somewhat by having lost what is arguably his best racing son, Dubai Millennium (GB), at an early age. Two other good sons, Cape Town (recently exported) and Mutakddim, are best known as “filly sires” and even the consistent Petionville has more good fillies and geldings than males representing him.
To Seeking the Gold’s credit, only now being heard from are horses like Bob and John (from the ‘sire source’ family of Hidden Talent that gave us Capote, Baldski and Broad Brush) and Jazil, a half brother to Rags to Riches.
Joined At The Hip
Yet to Oregon breeders, Seeking the Gold has an added plus that he does not enjoy in any other single place in the world and that is his close relationship to Oregon’s own flagship stallion, Flying Lark. This is particularly important for inbreeding since Seeking the Gold is not known to be particularly sound and Flying Lark was just the opposite.
The pair share much in common: Seeking the Gold’s third dam, Flitabout, is a half sister to Flying Ship, the dam of Flying Lark. In addition, both are inbred x2 to Blue Larkspur (Seeking The Gold via Businesslike and Bird Flower, Flying Lark via Light Lark and Bird Flower) and each has crosses of *Nasrullah (Nashua for Seeking The Gold, Indian Hemp for Flying Lark) and *Bull Dog (two for Seeking The Gold via Miss Dogwood and Gaga, one via Larksnest for Flying Lark). Further, each has War Admiral close up in his pedigree: Seeking the Gold via Busanda and Flying Lark as the sire of his dam, Flying Ship.
There may no longer be dozens of Flying Lark mares around, but matrons carrying lines of him are going to be very potent with Harbor the Gold, especially if they are absent Raise a Native blood, thus adding soundness, and have Northern Dancer or Seattle Slew or both somewhere in their pedigrees. Northern Dancer’s Natalma line complements Raise a Native, affecting a balanced (male/female) Native Dancer influence, and Seattle Slew crossed on Mr. Prospector gives one a minimum of three major inbreeding factors: to Frizette, Lady Comfey and Humanity. Seattle Slew should, in theory, like Seeking the Gold as well as any Mr. Prospector if not more so, as he also adds more *La Troienne via Buckpasser (Businesslike) to Slew’s existing Baby League double.
Mother Knows Best
Despite having several natural blood affinities with two lines found in the Pacific Northwest (i.e. Flying Lark and Seattle Slew), a stallion often draws most of his strength from his tail-female line. Our own personal preference is to see a good stallion — or two — in the first few generations. In Harbor The Gold’s case, he is somewhat challenged here, as the two best racehorses, champions Groovy and Boston Harbor, were useful at best. Another sire in the family, Mayhedo, an old California mainstay by Hillary, lacked opportunity and was not by a successful sire of sires, and Kentucky Jazz also lacked opportunity and is not from the strongest Northern Dancer tail-male line (Dixieland Band which is better known as a broodmare sire).
That leaves Harbor The Gold with two options: Use what has worked with the rest of his pedigree and/or try to inbreed to the best of his tail-female line. We think a combination of the pair – as with Boston Harbor – would be very potent, but there are other options as well and Groovy should work well as he is by a stallion, Norcliffe, which is a Buckpasser/Northern Dancer cross.
Just the “Basics”
Harbor the Gold is inbred on what we call a “standard pattern” type cross, which is to say he has inbreeding to very commonly found lines like Plucky Liege (via full brothers *Bull Dog x3/*Sir Gallahad III) and to full brothers Pharos x2/Fairway (Phalaris-Scapa Flow). He is also linebred to Selene via *Sickle/*Pharamond II/Hyperion, a very common pattern.
Challenger II appears twice in sex-balanced fashion via male Challedon and female Cathy. Challenger II is sometimes cited as a source of unsoundness, and Cathy was, in fact, unraced. Therefore, due to this double, it is likely even more important to pay attention to soundness when inbreeding with Harbor the Gold.
To date, Harbor the Gold has sired nine stakes winners and seven stakes placed individual. Many of them have Seattle Slew lines which is not surprising, as this gives the resultant foal not only more *La Troienne but also the famous trio of Frizette/Humanity/Lady Comfey that always occurs in at least doubles when Slew and Mr. Prospector meet.
Noosa Beach, the leading earner for Harbor The Gold as of this writing, is inbred to *La Troienne x3, two of which crosses are via Buckpasser. The remainder of his pedigree is rather ‘standard pattern’ in nature but he does have two nice Bull Lea crosses in close via Lump Sugar and Miz Clementine and of course broodmare sire Basket Weave is inbred to Horse of the Year Swaps and his Broodmare of the Year full sister Track Medal.
*La Troienne inbreeding is so pervasive these days that it is pretty much a ‘standard pattern’ itself. Nevertheless, these pedigrees are held together with a lot of *La Troienne background as well as the Mr. Prospector/Seattle Slew affinity. One could do worse than to repeat these successful patterns.
What The Future Brings
What any breeder would hope for in a young stallion besides, obviously, racetrack success, is that he might make a long-term contribution to the breed, even if only in the region in which he stands. This is where Flying Lark can be so important to Harbor the Gold. Seattle Slew-line horses can help as well. If anybody out there has a Seattle Slew/Flying Lark cross, that would be an almost certain fit.
Of course, any sire’s best chance of leaving a lasting legacy is predicated on the quality of his mare’s families. Sires must come from sire-source clans, mares from active producing lines.
Harbor the Gold, which was trained by D. Wayne Lukas for his breeder, Harbor View Farm, made just nine starts and did not win a stake. Nevertheless, his lineage and background gave him this opportunity. We hope that some of the suggestions contained herein will help the Overbrook legacy to live on in this fellow – perhaps with the help of Oregon’s very own super horse, Flying Lark.
We’ve given Harbor The Gold some extra space here not only because we had already researched him for a previous article but because at present he is the only stallion Americans can get their hands on from the strongest branch of this family. There is nothing we’d like better than to see someone have the foresight to cross a mare onto him with some Boston Harbor or Groovy blood.
Most families don’t show such an obvious trait; but Cathy is sound speed. That’s worth knowing about and it’s worth inbreeding to before it’s too late. We’ve also chosen this time to name this family because there are so many well-bred young mares out there still producing from the line. Sooner or later another Boston Harbor or Groovy just might come along.
For now, new Reines-de-Course includes Cathy, Dors, Tinnitus and Harbor Springs. This is one family we’d really like to come back to one day. Fingers crossed.