Risky

The history and influence of all great broodmares have a way of coming down to two basic qualities; versatility and longevity.  Versatility helps these families adapt to a variety of conditions in the various environments in which they find themselves.  Longevity has to do with a certain basic substance and prepotence that the stongest of sire lines would envy.

Our current subject, Risky, is a member of one of the finest female families ever to come into being, the clan of the mighty Rinovata (1887).  Bred by A. W. Savile and sold to Lord Scarborough in the year of her birth for 65 guineas, this grand matron would spread her influence from France to England to Germany to America and back again, with such diverse relations as *Sea-Bird; Gilded Time; Diadumenos; Mr. Leader; Alpenkonig; and Rustom Pasha.

Risky, whose influence is felt most strongly in the U. S., has Rinovata as her fourth dam and is inbred to her via Rinovata’s two best daughters, the excellent runner Donetta and Renaissance on a 2 x 3 pattern.  Her dam, *Venturesome II, was purchased abroad and Risky was foaled in Kentucky, with A. B. Hancock, Sr. (“Bull” Hancock’s father) her listed breeder.  Risky was a full sister to Newbury Autumn Cup and Goodwood Stakes winner *Diapason, thus though she did not run herself, she earned her place at stud.

The route that Risky’s family would take ultimately lead to Paul Mellon’s Rokeby Stud, where it was fortified by the great mare Key Bridge; to Mrs. John D. Hertz’s Stoner Creek Stud from which it would travel to Canada, at last finding its way to Kinghaven Farms where, via Cool Mood, it would supply Canada with two Triple Crown winners in With Approval and Izvestia before returning again to America, where With Approval’s half brother Touch Gold foiled Silver Charm’s Triple Crown bid in 1997.

Key Bridge, who is a purveyor of the large heart gene, was also bred by Mrs. John D. Hertz, (whose husband raced 1943 Triple Crown winner Count Fleet.)  The filly was purchased as a yearling by Paul Mellon for $14,500 and went on to carry his grey and yellow silks to victory in the Test Stakes and the Distaff and Firenze Handicaps, earning more than $100,000.

By the time she was awarded Broodmare of the Year honors in 1980, she had produced two champions, Fort Marcy and Key to the Mint, as well as stakes winners Key To Content and Key To The Kingdom.  Her daughters did not inherit her racing prowess, but they became fine producers.

But Key Bridge was a dominant mare, and she produced a strong sex-bias in her best son Key to the Mint (Fort Marcy was a gelding).  Key to the Mint was never able to get a stallion son to carry on the male line, but his daughters are priceless broodmares, having produced such major winners as Inside Information; Influent; Mountain Cat; Gorgeous; Educated Risk and Swain, to name only a few.

Yet Key to the Mint in full flight was a sight to see and as a stallion he was a handsome, pleasant horse to be around.  He came along at a time in American racing history when Meadow Stud was just about to hit the big time with the one-two punch of Riva Ridge and Secretariat.

It was, in fact, Riva Ridge that was Key to the Mint’s main rival at the races.  While the slight son of First Landing was winning the Derby, Key to the Mint was on the shelf from an injury he suffered breaking from the gate in Florida.  Both colts finished off the board in the Preakness, then Riva Ridge rebounded to defeat Key to the Mint in the Belmont.

Trainer Elliot Burch blamed himself for the Belmont loss and knew that his colt was not far from his absolute best.  As it turned out, Key to the Mint’s best arrived just about the time Riva Ridge was about to tail off and right before Secretariat’s bright presence came to the rescue for Meadow Stud.

“Key” started with a win in the Brooklyn Handicap over older horses while Riva Ridge ran a terrible race in the Monmouth Invitational.  Key to the Mint then won the Whitney and the Travers and the much-awaited meeting of the two rivals came in the Woodward Stakes.  For a while, it appeared that the crowd would get the duel it was expecting, as the pair raced neck to neck.  Then Riva Ridge stopped and Key to the Mint went on to a clear victory.  When the rivals met again in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, neither won, though Key to the Mint outfinished Riva Ridge and in so doing, earned himself the three-year-old title.

Key to the Mint returned at four to win the Suburban and Excelsior Handicaps but in the inaugural Marlboro Cup, something of a showcase for Meadow Stud’s Riva Ridge and Secretariat, he ran last and one more unplaced effort in the United Nations Handicap finished his career.  Riva Ridge became champion that season and Key to the Mint was all but forgotten – until those marvelous daughters began to be recognized for all they were.

In one of the ironies that make for interesting Thoroughbred history, Key to the Mint’s dam Key Bridge died on March 1, 1979 while in foal to none other than Riva Ridge.  The foal did not survive.

In October of 1996, Key to the Mint was destroyed due to the infirmities of old age.  Later that year, his daughter Jewel Princess became the champion older filly or mare.  She was his swan song.

Key to the Kingdom, Key to the Mint’s half brother by Bold Ruler, was a far lesser runner and sire, but he has been a good broodmare sire, his daughters having produced more than 40 stakes winners including Powis Castle.  Several of Key Bridge’s daughters have established their own branches of the family, with such good runners as English St. Leger victor Silver Patriarch, multiple graded stakes winner Lykatill Hil and Brazilian champion Mensageiro Alado representing them in various parts of the world.

The Canadian branch of the family really got its start with *Mahmoud’s daughter Happy Mood, who won the Acorn Stakes.  It was her daughter, Cool Mood by Northern Dancer, a winner of the Canadian Oaks, who is responsible for With Approval, Touch Gold, and Izvestia.  Passing Mood, dam of With Approval, Touch Gold and Shy Spirit (dam of Izvestia), both were honored as Canadian Broodmares of the Year, bringing to three the number of mares earning such honors from this immediate family.  Sadly, Passing Mood died after producing Touch Gold, though she left the stakes winning fillies Bar U Mood (by Saratoga Six) and Daijin (by Deputy Minister, and thus a full sister to Touch Gold) to carry on the family line.

Happy Mood did not stop with her Canadian branch, however. There is also Christmas Wishes, a full sister to Cool Mood, whose daughter Bury the Hatchet foaled Kentucky Oaks winner Buryyourbelief and became the second dam of Alabama winner Pretty Discreet.

Also of note is a third branch of the family via Risk (1929 by *Sir Gallahad III).  She is the dam of champion two-year-old Beaugay as well as Best Risk, whose branch includes French Derby third Gunter and Breeders’ Futurity third All Hands, a useful sire.

By and large this has been a “filly family”.  With Approval has made a good start at stud and Touch Gold has no runners of racing age, but for the most part this group of mares has one of the most severe sex-biases of any major American family.  As a matter of fact, the bias seems to hold, almost without exception, throughout the entire Rinovata family.  *Sea-Bird, Mr. Leader and Rustom Pasha all are better known as broodmare sires, so with Risky inbred to Rinovata, logic dictates that she would pass on this quality in the extreme.

Inbreeding to such a family thus becomes a touch-and-go affair, since if one gets a colt with such inbreeding, he is likely to be a lesser animal unless he comes from an extremely strong sire family like Rough Shod II or Boudoir II.  A filly with such inbreeding, however, could be something quite special indeed.

At this particular point in time, it appears that the Canadian branch of the family has gained ground on the American branch.  However, there are a number of good fillies from Key Bridge’s branch that give hope for the future, including Pat Copelan (dam of two stakes placed horses), Clare Bridge (dam of French stakes winner =Wessam Prince) and Mari’s Key.  And there is one filly in particular we intend to keep our eyes on named Quick to the Mint, a 1993 unplaced filly who is 1 x 3 to half siblings Key to the Mint and Key to the Heart.

The Canadian branch has, of course, the two young daughters of Passing Mood mentioned above as well as the foals of Playful Spirit, a half sister to Izvestia (who died on the racetrack).  Then there is Pretty Discreet, the Alabama winner, and perhaps best of all the offspring of Key To The North (1977-1990).  This mare was inbred 4 x 4 to half sisters Risque Blue and Risque Reigh.

Though Key To The North was unraced, she produced stakes winner Straight South, who in turn produced stakes winner Dixie Premiere.  Another daughter, Silent North, who was unplaced, produced stakes winner It’s Silent and stakes placed Katya.

As for the pedigree of the wonderful Risky, we have already addressed the 2 x 3 cross of Donnetta and Renaissance.  But there is more.  She is also inbred to St. Simon and his full sister Angelica on a 4 x 5 x 5 cross and to the very close relatives Ormonde and Muncaster.  Muncaster is by Doncaster, Ormonde by Doncaster’s son Bend Or.  They were produced by the three-quarter sisters Lily Agnes and Windermere.

Whenever the story of Rinovata is told, one eventually gets back to Orby, the stallion whose bloodline worked so very well with her.  Lady Phoebe, sixth dam of *Sea-Bird, was by Orby and the two full siblings Diadumenos (the best sprinter of his day) and Diadem (One Thousand Guineas) both were sired by him.  The three-quarter sisters Tiara and Cos are by Orby’s son Flying Orb.  Tiara is the fifth dam of Mr. Leader while Cos is one of the Aga Khan’s taproot mares and is the dam of Rustom Pasha.

There is really nothing magical about the Orby/Rinovata cross except that it effects a great deal of linebreeding to Pocahontas (1837).  There are many other intricate balances of various relations which are further removed, but this plus the raw speed element that Orby introduced (much as Mr. Prospector introduced his own brand of speed to today’s pedigrees) was the reason that the pedigrees worked so well together.

We will return to the Rinovata family to discuss some other branches another day, but for the time being, new Reines-de-Course are Rinovata, Risky, La Reigh, Happy Mood and Key Bridge.  They are a truly remarkable group of matrons.

Family 2-N