Golden Trail

Reines-de-Course are named for a variety of reason; the only thing they must have in common is a legacy of excellence.  In the instance of Golden Trail, we have a mare whose influence has been felt at the highest international levels through both males and females.

A particularly good year for Golden Trail was 1997, when her descendents Ryafan and Memories of Silver vied for the Eclipse Award as America’s top female turf horse and her male descendents Brian’s Time and Loose Cannon made news as well.  Brian’s Time, as usual, was among the leading sires in Japan while Loose Cannon was the broodmare sire of Gentleman, a multiple Grade 1 winner in the handicap ranks.

Also of note is that Yanks Music, champion three-year-old filly of 1996, was out of a mare by Darby Creek Road, another member of this clan.

Golden Trail was bred by the Brookmeade Stable of Mrs. Isabel Dodge Sloane.  When Mrs. Sloane died, her mares were sold first to Mr. and Mrs. Winston Guest and later to Darby Dan, who bred most of the important horses descending from the daughter of Hasty Road.

Golden Trail was not much of a racemare, never winning or placing in stakes.  However, several of her daughter branches have proved priceless and all of them have contributed something to the breed.

On The Trail, a daughter of Olympia, was Golden Trail’s first important broodmare daughter.  Though she was unraced, she produced such good ones as Andover Way (dam of Dynaformer among others); Darby Creek Road; and several stakes producers.

Java Moon, six years younger than On The Trail and a daughter of Darby Dan sire Graustark, won the Grade 3 Comely and is the dam of the aforementioned Loose Cannon as well as All My Memories, dam of Memories of Silver.   Outward Sunshine, a full sister to Java Moon, is the dam of champion turf horse Sunshine Forever and Autumn Glory, another full sister to the pair is the second dam of Ryafan.  So the family can produce good runners of either sex.

However, the final word on Golden Trail’s influence as a sire-producer has yet to be determined.  With the exception of Brian’s Time, there have not been any leading sires from this family, though Darby Creek Road and Dynaformer have done reasonably well.  At this point, it would seem that a filly from this family is more desirable than a colt, and there is a good reason for this to be so.

The majority of major horses in the family are bred on a Graustark/Roberto or His Majesty/Roberto cross.  This so-called “nick” is actually a complex linebreeding equation which allows the resultant foal of such matches to be rich in the blood of Pilgrimage and Sainfoin/Sierra.  Like most nicks, it is also a matter of convenience, since Graustark, His Majesty and Roberto all stood at Darby Dan.

Such horses are naturally bred to run well on turf, though obviously some of them can handle the main track as well.  When turf is a part of the equation, the horses are usually not very popular commercially, so offspring of stallions from families like this do not sell as well as those by stallions perceived to be progenitors of fast juveniles.  This perception has, of course, hurt the males from this family and thus Brian’s Time and Sunshine Forever were exported to stand in Japan; White Bridle and Supremo to Australia; Rampart Road to Argentina; Thundering Force to Brazil and so forth. Because this is the case, the perception tends to be self-perpetuating.  With all the best males from the family sent to distant shores, it is actually rather unfair to expect the lesser ones to carry the family and suddenly turn it into a “sire source” family.  In addition, two of the more popularly-bred horses from the family, Devoted Brass by Dixieland Band and Gleaming Light by Never Bend, were geldings.  Yet another male member of the family, Sylvan Place by Graustark, died young, though Graustark has never been considered a sire of sires.

Note as well that the one rather popular sire from this family, Dynaformer, is out of a Golden Trail daughter, On The Trail, who is not by stamina-oriented Graustark, but is by speed influence Olympia.  Darby Creek Road was also from this branch, so breeders seemed more willing to accept the possibility that this family could produce American speed provided there was some evidence of quickness up close in the family; Olympia supplied just that.

Golden Trail herself was no slouch in the speed department.  Her sire Hasty Road was a wonderful handicap horse by the brilliant Roman.  She was also linebred to Domino (five crosses) but got some real substance from Fairy Gold, whose sons Fair Play and Friar Rock appeared 5 x 4 x 6.  The Rock Sand connection carried on out to a double of Sundridge which gave her linebreeding to the siblings Sainfoin/Sierra, a pattern we see repeated in the better get of Golden Trail’s daughters.  Obviously, this is one of the reasons for the family’s strength, for breeding like to like and strengthening the best parts of pedigrees is how the best female lines are built.

Until Ryafan came along, the best racehorse from this family was undoubtedly 1988 Turf champion Sunshine Forever, who had a sentimental place in the heart of all those associated with Darby Dan Farm.  It was in 1988, his championship season, that the farm’s beloved owner John Galbreath died.  Both Sunshine Forever’s sire Roberto and broodmare sire Graustark also passed away that year.

Sunshine Forever’s sparkling performances in the Turf Classic, Man o’ War and Laurel International, gave those at the farm something to remember all of them by and gave racing as exciting a turf horse as had been seen in quite some time.  Those who remember the horse will undoubtedly call his Budweiser International at Laurel his finest hour.

The colt seemed on his way to a comfortable victory in deep stretch when Squill and Frankly Perfect came to him.  The former went right past and opened up as much as a length on the favorite, while Frankly Perfect continued to grind away and actually did pass him.  But Angel Cordero aboard Sunshine Forever urged him on with whip and hands and heels and the champion gallantly re-broke and came again to meet the new challenge.  Most horses once passed are unable to rally, but on that bright afternoon at Laurel, Sunshine Forever found it in his Thoroughbred’s heart to do so and no one who saw it will ever forget it.

Said Daniel Galbreath, “It’s too bad my Dad wasn’t here to see this one.  This one was for him.”  Trainer John Vietch was overwhelmed.  “It takes a very, very good horse to recover from that….It was without a doubt, his toughest race, not by the margin of victory (which was a neck) but in terms of the great character he showed.”

Unfortunately, neither Sunshine Forever’s ability nor character was enough to overcome the fact that he was not a precocious individual.  It was sad to see him exported, because one never knows when such character will show up in the next generation and such courage is welcome in a horse who sprints or stays.

Character and tenacity is a quality that has appeared more than once in Golden Trail’s family.  It was never easy to beat the determined Forty Niner, but Brian’s Time did and who that saw Ryafan hold off Maxzene’s late charge in the 1997 Matriarch could doubt that some of the family’s will to win had been passed down to her?

Though Ryafan won the 1997 Eclipse from Memories of Silver, it is the latter who belongs to Darby Dan and as such it is she who carries Golden Trail’s legacy in a more pronounced fashion.  Memories Of Silver descends from the same Java Moon branch which gave us Loose Cannon and she is out of the winning Little Current mare All My Memories.  Little Current, of course, was champion three-year-old of 1974 when he won the Preakness and Belmont for Darby Dan.  From the Reine-de-Course family of Primonetta developed by the farm, Little Current was a son of *Sea-Bird, the Epsom Derby and Arc de Triomphe winner who stood several seasons at Darby Dan before being repatriated to France.

Memories of Silver carries on the family tradition of using Roberto and she is sired by his son Silver Hawk (Ryafan is by Roberto’s son Lear Fan).  In 1997, Memories Of Silver won the Grade 1 Beverly D. and the Just A Game Handicap and placed in the New York, Flower Bowl and Yellow Ribbon.  In the latter, the filly suffered severe traffic problems and was slammed into the railing.

Prior to the Matriarch, trainer James Toner discussed his filly’s attitude about that experience and about losing in general.  “She cops an attitude,” the trainer told Daily Racing Form.  “She comes back to the barn and gets mad and starts talking.”  Sound familiar?

Sadly, we never saw a fair matchup between Golden Trail’s two superior female descendents.  The incident in the Yellow Ribbon kept Memories of Silver from getting a clear run and she exited the Matriarch with a hairline fracture of her left hind leg.  She underwent surgery and returned at five to win the G2 Diana, the G3 Ballston Spa Breeders’ Cup Handicap, and the listed Robert G. Dick Memorial Handicap.

Of course, Memories of Silver’s ill luck in no way detracts from the outstanding performances of Ryafan, who won all three of her American races this season.  This outstanding filly made the victories count, too, winning three of the most important turf events in the nation for distaffers – the Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup at Keeneland; the Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita and the Matriarch at Hollywood Park.

In reproducing her excellent European form in the U. S., Ryafan called to mind another excellent European turf performer named All Along who won three in a row in the U. S. after winning the Arc de Triomphe in 1983 and was eventually named America’s Horse of the Year.  All Along, however, was awarded largely for her ability to beat top-class colts, something Ryafan did not do.

Ryafan was an excellent performer in England, but she was no All Along.  Her last two starts in Europe were among her best – victories in the Group 2 Nassau and Falmouth Stakes at Goodwood and Newmarket respectively.

She did appear to be just a cut below classic form, as her only two attempts in that company – the Irish One Thousand Guineas and the French Oaks resulted in fourth place finishes.  However, she did win the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamps, so she finished out her career having won Group stakes in three countries.

It was racing’s loss when her retirement was announced immediately following her victory in the Matriarch.  She was bred to classic winner Zafonic.

For those breeders looking to inbreed to Golden Trail, we suggest that either the sire or dam descend from On The Trail’s branch, because inbreeding to Graustark as one would be doing with the other daughters could not only push the stamina quotient over the top, but could cause soundness problems.  That said, there are still some sires from this family including Dynaformer and Salem Drive as well as a handful of regional horses like Moon Up T. C. that are viable breeding animals.  If you own a mare from this family, remember the family’s affinity for Roberto blood and there have also been several really good stakes horses by Dixieland Band as well, since matching Golden Trail with this stallion gives a foal of the mating a cross of half siblings Traffic Judge and Hasty Road and also seems able to give this line more bone than some of the more fragile female families bred to it.

Golden Trail’s family is a relatively young one and there are many other fine young females currently at stud who are being bred to the best, so there is little doubt that we will return to this family to name more Reines-de-Course.

For the present, however, Golden Trail and her daughters On The Trail and Java Moon are the new Reines-de-Course.  With Ryafan and her dam representing the Autumn Glory branch, we feel confident she will be the next of Golden Trail’s daughters to join the Reine-de-Course list.

Family 4-R