Past The Wire — June 23, 2014 — Weekly Column by Jonathan Stettin

Past The Wire

By Jonathan Stettin

In The Blood

Considering my mom was sitting in the stands at Belmont Park the day before I was born, and that my birthday falls on Kentucky Derby day often enough, and that I learned to read the Racing Form before any Dr. Seuss or children’s book, I have always felt racing was in my blood. While most kids wanted to watch Sesame Street, I waited for Inside Racing with Frank Wright and Charlsie Canty. My father and older brother worked at the racetrack. I worked there myself when I was younger and ultimately made it my life. I was exposed to the game early and have been around it as far back as I can remember – on some good authority, perhaps even before I can remember. “In the blood.”

One of the most fascinating and interesting things in horse racing is watching sires and dams pass down traits and idiosyncrasies to their offspring. I have always found it amazing how speed horses can pass down that speed and that closers can pass down their style, as well. Sure, some things are learned but Thoroughbred racing and breeding shows us, more often than not, sometimes it’s just there. Wet track and turf often offer fine examples, as well. You even see heart and the lack of it passed on. Some can take that look in the eye and some can’t. We see win-early breeding and late developing breeding. Sure, there are exceptions but overall genetic consistencies are frequent enough to realize that a heck of a lot is “in the blood.”

There is no substitute for learning about these bloodlines over time. It can be extremely rewarding after a while when you start to recognize things you’ve seen yourself coming back in offspring. There are some things Tomlinson numbers and stat queries just can’t make jump off the page. Your own knowledge becomes priceless in these areas and if you hone the skill and focus on it you’ll reap the benefits.

There was no better recent example of an idiosyncrasy being passed on than this past Saturday at Santa Anita. I have no doubt many students of the game were as excited as I was when they looked at the last race on the card. To the casual or average player the race looked competitive with a lot of possibilities. To the student of the game, and specifically breeding and how it plays out in offspring, there was a standout. Alexis Tangier was a Ran Jan Racing homebred by Tiznow, who carries a respectable $75,000 stud fee. Since he first went to stud, I have said Tiznow’s run on anything so there was no concern there and being trained by Richard Mandela can never hurt. This particular race was a maiden special weight down the hill on Santa Anita’s turf course at 6 ½ furlongs. A tricky race over a tricky configuration. Those who know realize the course runs downhill for a portion of the backside, makes a right turn before a left turn and goes over a dirt strip entering the stretch. This is exactly why Alexis Tangier stood out and proved to be a great example of things being” in the blood.”

Alexis Tangier was out of the mare Cambiocorsa. Cambiocorsa was a talented competitive mare but she had a specialty, an affinity so to speak, for something that when she was asked to do it she excelled. That was racing 6 ½ furlongs down the hill at Santa Anita. The stat guys may say I’m wrong but if so not by much, if memory serves correct she was 8 for 10 down the hill and most of those were in a row. This is quite impressive for such an odd configuration and a great example of an affinity or idiosyncrasy. What made Alexis Tangier stand out though was that Cambiocorsa had already shown that she passed down this characteristic to her offspring. California Flag, a half to Cambiocorsa, was deadly down the hill – winning in 5 of 8 tries with none more impressive than the Breeder’s Cup Turf Sprint. Schiaparelli, another Cambiocorsa foal, had won down the hill, as well. She was competitive on paper, but first time down the hill she looked the one. Alexis Tangier delivered at $11 and capped a very nice pick 4 at $1,000 for 50-cents.

If you follow bloodlines and these types of pass-downs, the opportunities will come and they’ll come pretty often. These are the kinds of plays professionals make days, weeks, and meets out of. Not just financially but on many levels it is remarkable to see.

Producing mares can come from anywhere. Just look at Lisa Danielle, who produced both Successful Dan and Wise Dan. She has some other nice allowance horses on her resume but those two take the cake. There have been plenty of one hit wonders but the ones who do it consistently are truly special.

I remember one of my favorites, Glowing Tribute, a Paul Mellon, Rockeby Stable homebred. She produced Sea Hero who won the Derby back in 1993 but I was following her as a killer turf producer. Hero’s Honor, Wild Applause and Glowing Honor all won first time on turf and I considered her offspring money in the bank first time on grass. She also foaled Mackie and Coronation Cup – both nice horses in their own right.

There is a lot of excitement in the offspring of two great recent mares, Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra. I am anxious and excited to see what their foals do but expecting them to emulate their mama’s is not very realistic or likely. It just isn’t that easy. We just don’t know where those producing mares will come from but when you spot one stick with her like glue. It’s “in the blood.”

We are halfway through the year and we have Saratoga and Del Mar right around the corner. Both meets will unquestionably have some impact on the second half of the year. The filly division is likely to get very interesting as we go forward. I anticipate Untappable trying the older rivals, Beholder, Close Hatches and Princess of Sylmar at some point, which will only strengthen an already powerful division.

The three year old colts division also looks like it will get very interesting. Some of the better three year olds who got hurt early in the year will be coming back and looking to regain their stature: Cairo Prince, Hartford, Constitution and, maybe even, Honor Code come to mind. Shared Belief is back and looking for a spot. Bay Of Plenty may be ready to make some noise and Mosley, not exactly a household name, may say hello soon too.  Tonalist will try and prove at the Spa that his Belmont was no fluke. Given all of these players, California Chrome may not have as easy a time of things as people expect. Many think he is already Breeders Cup Classic material and I could not disagree more, at this point. In reality, he has yet to beat anyone really good, let alone face anyone of the caliber we’ve discussed. The best horse he did face, Tonalist, beat him. I’d be more concerned if he comes back in the same form as he left, after what proved to be a long hard campaign. If he does and has some forward moves left in him, maybe, but unlikely. We’ll find out soon enough and it will be an exciting second half of the year.

High Five:

Wesley Ward for going to Royal Ascot and doing it again with Hootenanny. No small feat and Wesley is obviously quite adept at it.

Low Five:

The low 5 goes to anyone and everyone involved in the game who did not sign the petition to change the ancient and ridiculous IRS rules on withholdings.

Horse to Watch:

Conquest Tsunami can flat out run. If he can carry that form from synthetic to dirt, which I expect we will find out about at the Spa, look out.

Jonathan Stettin is a profesional handicapper and contributor to He currently resides in Florida. He has several large Pick-6 scores to his name, including one for $540,000+ on August 8, 1994, at Saratoga. You can follow him on Twitter @jonathanstettin

One thought on “Past The Wire — June 23, 2014 — Weekly Column by Jonathan Stettin”

  1. Excellent article. Knew Stevens was sticking around for something but didn’t know the background. Funny how that breeding works. There are even some mares who’s baby’s win second out like clockwork. But you have to do the work.

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