One did it on the sun-baked turf at Newmarket and the other on the rain-soaked dirt of Churchill Downs. Saxon Warrior and Justify, winners of the 2000 Guineas and Kentucky Derby respectively, each won their first classics in a way that suggested to many that at least one of the pair could become a Triple Crown winner.
Saxon Warrior’s sire Deep Impact completed Japan’s version of the Triple Crown over ten, twelve and fifteen furlongs, while his grandsire Sunday Silence won the first two legs of the US Triple Crown in 1989 but was beaten in the Belmont Stakes by Easy Goer, runner-up to him in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
Deep Impact comes from a family of British classic performers. His dam Wind In Her Hair was second in the Oaks, his great grandam Highclere* won the 1974 1000 Guineas and Prix de Diane, his fifth dam Hypericum won the 1946 1000 Guineas, and Hypericum’s dam Feola was placed in both the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks in 1936. It was the purchase of Feola for 3,000 guineas as a yearling which laid the foundations for Hypericum and then Highclere to become royally-owned classic winners for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II respectively.
Hypericum was one of eight fillies out of Feola, and with the family well represented at the Royal Studs, one of Hypericum’s half-sisters, Knight’s Daughter, went to the 1951 Newmarket December Sale where she was purchased by Arthur Hancock for 2,500 guineas. She was to become hugely successful for Hancock’s Claiborne Farm and it’s her great granddaughter Narrate who plays an important part in the pedigree of Kentucky Derby winner Justify.
First, though, Knight’s Daughter became dam of 1958 American Horse of the Year Round Table, winner of 43 of his 66 starts and three times champion on turf.
Narrate was a granddaughter of Round Table’s sister Monarchy whose wins included the Arlington Lassie Stakes. Narrate won eight of her 27 starts, with her biggest win coming in the Grade 3 Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs, a race that’s also been won by Navajo Princess and Mariah’s Storm who are better known as the dams of Dancing Brave and Giant’s Causeway.
Narrate produced only two fillies for Claiborne, both of them by Mr Prospector. Yarn’s only win came in a maiden at Churchill Downs, whereas her younger sister Preach won four races, notably the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes at two.
Both did well as broodmares, with Yarn becoming dam of the Middle Park Stakes and Phoenix Stakes winner Minardi (also third in the Irish 2000 Guineas) and the Grade 2 King’s Bishop Stakes winner Tale of The Cat, the latter being much the more successful sire of that pair. More importantly, Yarn became grandam of Johannesburg, he too winner of the Middle Park and Phoenix Stakes for Aidan O’Brien, but also the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile which prompted an unsuccessful attempt at the following year’s Kentucky Derby.
Johannesburg’s greatest contribution as a sire looks like being his son Scat Daddy whose four runners (including O’Brien’s latest challenger Mendelssohn) in this year’s Kentucky Derby included winner Justify who succeeded where both his sire and grandsire had failed (Florida Derby winner Scat Daddy sustained a career-ending tendon injury at Churchill Downs).
Narrate appears a second time in Justify’s pedigree through her other daughter Preach whose dozen winners at stud included another Kentucky Derby failure but very successful sire Pulpit by A. P. Indy**. Pulpit also ran his final race in the Kentucky Derby, finishing fourth having won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes (as Scat Daddy did) and Bluegrass Stakes beforehand. Pulpit is the sire of Justify’s grandam Magical Illusion.
Pulpit’s most successful stallion son Tapit is yet to sire a Kentucky Derby winner, but another of his sons, Lucky Pulpit, earned fame as the sire of 2014 winner California Chrome.
The 2016 Del Mar Oaks winner Harmonize is another Grade 1 winner to feature Narrate’s two daughters in her pedigree, again through Scat Daddy (her sire) and Pulpit (her dam is by Pulpit’s son Sky Mesa – whose great grandam is by Round Table).
With both her daughters producing successful stallions, it begs the question what about Narrate’s own male offspring?
Neither West Acre nor Lecture, who were by Mr Prospector’s sons Forty Niner and Seeking The Gold, became major sires but they each appear close up in the pedigree of a good horse.
The unraced West Acre sired Grade 2 winner Ivanavinalot who became dam of US champion filly at two and three Songbird. Lecture, who stands in South Africa, produced a champion two-year-old filly there named Rock Opera, the dam of Heavy Metal who enjoyed a particularly successful Dubai Carnival this year where his wins included the Group 2 Godolphin Mile.
*Highclere’s grandson Nashwan, a contemporary of Sunday Silence, won the 2000 Guineas and Derby but controversially for some didn’t contest the St Leger, while her great granddaughter Ghanaati became another 1000 Guineas for the family in 2009.
**A.P. Indy has Round Table (and by extension Feola) in his pedigree; his Triple Crown-winning sire Seattle Slew is out of a granddaughter of Round Table.