Champions for 2021 show maternal strength matters
story by Kathy Parker
What do the results of the 2021 Breeders Crown championships tell breeders? Are certain sires the best way to go to breed a home-run horse? Can you breed a Crown champion if you don’t have a blueblooded mare? What’s changed on the breeding scene since you first gave thought to breeding for a foal that could possibly compete in this fall’s Crowns for 2-year-olds?
First of all, there is no doubt that Always B Miki may be establishing himself as a home-run type of sire. He has only two crops of racing age, but in the 30-plus years of Breeders Crown history, he is now one of just three pacing stallions to sire three or more champions in a single year thanks to his new Crown champions Monte Miki, Niki Hill and Perfect Sting.
Western Hanover is the only sire to accomplish the feat of siring four Crown winners in a single year—pacing or trotting. His credits, from the 2019 championships, are Won The West (Open Pace), Hana Hanover (Mare Pace), If I Can Dream (3-Year-Old Colt Pace) and Fancy Filly (2-Year-Old Filly Pace).
After Western Hanover, Always B Miki and Somebeachsomewhere are the only other pacing sires to sire three winners in a single year. While Western Hanover’s four winners included the champions in the Open Pace and Mare Pace, Always B Miki and Somebeachsomewhere have each had progeny win three of the four championships for 2- and 3-year-olds in a single season.
Somebeachsomewhere earned his place in this listing in 2016, when Huntsville and Someomensomewhere won the 2-year-old championships and Call Me Queen Be captured the 3-YearOld Filly Pace.
On the trotting side of the ledger, Muscle Hill and his sire, Muscles Yankee, have sired three winners in a single year to lead in this unique category. For Muscle Hill, the feat was accomplished in 2017 with What The Hill and Ariana G winning the 3-year-old events and Manchego scoring in the 2-Year-Old Filly Trot.
Muscles Yankee earned his distinction in 2005 with Mr Muscleman in the Open Trot and Blur and Strong Yankee in the 3-year-old events.
The first crop by the trotting stallion Walner have made a big impression this season. He was the sire of eight of the 20 Crown finalists in the events for 2-year-olds, but none of his offspring won a Crown. His daughter Raised By Lindy was nosed out by Joviality S in the filly trot.
Lastly, 11 different pacing sires and 17 trotting sires were represented by Breeders Crown finalists.
The Mare’s Contribution:
So does a horse’s talent come 50-50 from his sire and dam? A great deal of research has been done on the inheritability of traits, but with just a couple of exceptions, this year’s Crown results are definitive: girl power matters.
When you move on from which sires enjoyed the most success in the Breeders Crown and take a look at the maternal lines of the winners, particularly the 2-year-olds, there is a common denominator: great females, from either a racing or producing standpoint.
Monte Miki, Niki Hill and Joviality S, the winners of the 2-Year-Old Colt Pace, 2-Year-Old Filly Pace and 2-Year-Old Filly Trot, respectively, are out of mares who had their biggest earning years after their 2- and 3-year-old seasons.
Monte Miki’s dam, Montenegro, raced through age eight and made 196 career starts. Montenegro cost $17,000 as a yearling and enjoyed her biggest money-winning season as a 5-year-old. She earned a reputation as a tough-as-nails competitor in the open ranks.
“She touched a knee when racing at The Meadows (a five-eighths-mile track), but she exceled on the big track,” said Randy Bendis, who trained Montenegro for many of her starts.
“She had a really big gait and Monte Miki is gaited the same way and has her big gait,” he added.
Ohio horseman Mark Evers raced against Montenegro and admired and respected the mare. When she was consigned to the Standardbred Mixed Sale in Harrisburg in 2016, Evers and his wife, Sylvia Norris, bought her for $57,000.
Evers and Norris breed and race horses under the banner of Velocity Standardbreds. They live on a farm about six miles north of the old Lebanon Raceway and currently have six broodmares.
Montenegro failed to conceive the first year on two separate breeding dates. Evers said the mare was not producing correct follicles. After the two breedings they gave up and the following year everything clicked. Montenegro was bred to Always B Miki on Feb. 26 and conceived. The following winter she delivered a colt on Feb. 16, now known as Monte Miki.
Montenegro is currently in foal to Always B Miki and also has a yearling colt by Rockin Image and a weanling colt by Always A Virgin.
Always B Miki and Montenegro were both known for having size, speed and tenacity, and their son has inherited all of those traits.
“I’m not a fan of small horses, so I wasn’t even paying any attention to Always B Miki’s size,” said Evers. “I just thought he was the fastest.”
For those who look at crosses and bloodlines, Monte Miki’s closest cross is the 3x3x4 to Big Towner, with two doses of Big Towner via Always B Miki and a third through Fighting Major, a son of Big Towner.
It’s also interesting to note that until Cyber Wave, a winner of $718,758, came along and produced Montenegro as well as $828,222 earner Mach Pride, this maternal line was asleep for a generation. Barbie R Hanover—the dam of Barbietross, who was the dam of Cyber Wave—had 11 foals, but none was consequential. But going back to the fifth generation in this maternal family, one finds Barbet Hanover, whose daughters produced the notable pacing colts Albert’s Star (winner of a heat of the 1975 Little Brown Jug), General Star and Barstow Hanover.
The Mare’s Contribution:
Monte Miki’s female counterpart, Breeders Crown 2-Year-Old Filly Pace winner Niki Hill, has similar female family features. Niki Hill’s dam Road Bet also banked most of her $380,315 in career earnings after her 3-year-old campaign. She buttered her bread in filly and mare overnights as a 4- and 5-year-old, mostly at Saratoga.
Mickey Peterson, an associate judge at the Meadowlands, trained Road Bet before he moved on to become a racing official.
“She was a very talented filly. She had top speed,” he recalled. “She was just lacking depth and muscle in her body. She was a June foal and she never developed. She never had the body to carry her speed.”
Niki Hill’s breeder, Stephen Dey III, bought Road Bet from well-known owner Bill Donovan in February 2017, shortly after she gave birth to Cattlewash (by Somebeachsomewhere), who fell a neck shy of giving his dam double Crown winners in the same year.
Dey bred Road Bet to Always B Miki in 2017, but the resulting colt in 2018 has not made it to the races.
Road Bet’s third foal is Niki Hill, who was born May 4. With Cattlewash already with plenty of credentials, Niki Hill was sold as a yearling for $155,000 last fall.
While Road Bet’s dam, Road To Pandalay p,2, 1:55.3; BT1:50.2, was a stakes winner as a 2-year-old, the maternal line is not exactly stacked with mares producing champions. A champion, however, can be found far back: Niki Hill’s fifth dam is Scotch Jewel, the outstanding filly of her generation for Castleton Farm.
Road Bet has an American Ideal-sired yearling filly (Earthwindfire) who was sold at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale for $100,000, a weanling filly by Huntsville, and is in foal to Papi Rob Hanover.
The Mare’s Contribution:
Pasithea Face S
Joviality S, who rallied from post 10 on the sloppy Meadowlands oval to win the 2-Year-Old Filly Trot by a nose, was foaled on Hunterton Farm in Paris, Ky., but spent time in Sweden in order to be Swedish eligible—hence the “S” designation on her registration.
Joviality S’s dam Pasithea Face S was a stakes-caliber filly as a 3-year-old in Sweden for Anders Ström’s Courant A B. As a 5-year-old she made her presence known in North America, first by winning in 1:51.2 on the 2017 Hambletonian day card at the Meadowlands. In that race, the Dr. John Steele Memorial, Pasithea Face S won in spectacular fashion, defeating a deep field that included Caprice Hill, Emoticon Hanover, Hannelore Hanover and Broadway Donna. Later that year she won the Dayton Trotting Derby and finished third behind Hannelore Hanover in the Maple Leaf Trot.
Joviality S’s pedigree is a testament to the idea that combining fast American blood with French horses known for both speed and stamina can produce a very good racehorse. She was bred by famed horseman Lufti Kolgjini, known for racing such greats as Revenue S, who won the 2004 Nat Ray Trot on Hambletonian Day at the Meadowlands.
Pasithea Face S is by Muscle Hill but her maternal line is mostly French. Her dam Jovelinotte was not a star, but was a good horse. She took a record of 2:00.1 and earned 165,866 euros (about $190,000). Jovelinotte also has a Workaholic-sired brother with a mark of 1:55.4.
More noteworthy is that in addition to Pasithea Face S, Jovelinotte is also the mother of the Italian-born Opitergium (by Pine Chip), with a record of 1:52.3 (earnings of €343,097), who raced in Sweden. Another offspring is the accomplished Prevedello 1:55.4 (€140,317), also by Pine Chip.
The Mare’s Contribution:
Breeders Crown 2-Year-Old Colt Trot champion Rebuff is from a maternal line full of accomplishment, but back when his dam was on the track there was no reason to believe the bloodline would produce a major stakes winner, let alone a Breeders Crown champion.
Rebuff’s dam is Meucci Madness. Maine owner/breeder Michael Andrew purchased Meucci Madness as a yearling for $200,000 in Harrisburg, buying her a few weeks after her half-sister, Four Starz Lindy, finished second in the Moni Maker final at the Red Mile and won a heat of the Kentucky Filly Futurity.
But Meucci Madness did not become much of a racehorse. Trained by Trond Smedshammer, she took a mark of just 1:58 (beaten time of 1:55.1) and earned only $31,633. She was retired to broodmare duty after making 15 starts as a 3-year-old.
Meucci Madness’ first two foals were not successful on the track. Her third, by Kadabra, took a mark of 1:53.4 as a 4-year-old but never made it to stakes competition. Then came the mare’s next foal, the $587,890 stakes winner Non Stick 3,1:54s; BT1:52.2. Since Non Stick was by Lucky Chucky, and other previous foals by Meucci Madness were by sires SJ’s Caviar, Malabar Man, Kadabra and Explosive Matter, a foal by Muscle Hill was a big step up for the mare.
Meucci Madness’ first foal by Muscle Hill showed speed as a 2-year-old with a beaten time of 1:54.3, but had soundness issues. Rebuff, her next foal by Muscle Hill, fulfilled the hopes of Andrew and Steve Stewart of Hunterton Farm, who foal share on the mare.
Rebuff, who Andrew and Stewart sold as a yearling for $200,000, made his first start in early June at the Meadowlands but did not flourish until he started racing at the Red Mile in mid-August. He took his lifetime mark of 1:52.2 in Lexington in his last start before going back to New Jersey for the Breeders Crown eliminations. He won his elim and then in the final launched a winning rally with a three-wide brush in the final turn.
Andrew has bred and/or raced three millionaire trotters—Likeabatoutahell, Obrigado and Little Brown Fox—but Rebuff gave him his first Breeders Crown winner. Meucci Madness has been one of those horses with which you take the bad with the good.
“She was a disappointment racing,” said Andrew, “but she always looked good; she was gorgeous. She just wasn’t fast enough. I thought she’d make a good broodmare.”
Meucci Madness’s maternal line showed reason to have faith in the mare as a broodmare. Her dam, Margarita Miss, produced the $900,908 filly winner Rum Boogie. If you want to see more class in the maternal line, you need to go back to Rebuff’s fifth dam, Delicia Hanover. Delicia Hanover produced 1973 Prix d’Amerique champion Dart Hanover.
Although Meucci Madness can now claim two major stakes winners among her eight offspring of racing age—Non Stick and Rebuff—she has been barren in some years. And this year more bad luck struck.
“She has no baby this year,” said Stewart. “She had a Tactical Landing baby, but we double up mares and foals together and when they were coming out of the field, the other mare kicked Meucci’s colt and it broke a leg so badly we had to put it down.
“You’ve got to take the good with the bad,” added Stewart, who did have some good news to share. Meucci Madness was bred to Tactical Landing earlier this year and is in foal.
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