The dean of English bloodstock writers, Tony Morris, once described the great broodmare Mrs. Moss as a “non-interfering receptacle,” by which he meant that rather than imparting her own characteristics, she somehow allowed the best qualities of her mates to be expressed. Perhaps the ultimate example of such a mare was La Troienne, who failed to win in seven starts – although she was, admittedly, highly-tried at times – but who was arguably the most important producer to be imported to the U.S. in the course of the 20th century.
We were reminded of “non-interfering receptacles” by a recent nudge in the direction of the French Deputy mare, French Debutante, who was recently represented by the Arizona-bred Top Fortitude, upset winner of the Lazaro Barrera Stakes (gr. III) on only his third start. Add that victory to the prior achievements of French Debutante’s offspring, and it brings her record to seven foals of racing age, seven winners, five stakes horses, four stakes winners, and two graded winners.
A daughter of French Deputy, French Debutante ran just twice, finishing third in a maiden special weight at Santa Anita on her second outing. Her dam, To the Post, by the speedy Bold Ruler grandson, Bold Ego, won 11 races, seven of them stakes, including the Dixie Belle at Oaklawn Park, and was also second in the Ak-Sar-Ben Oaks (gr. III). To the Post produced a pair of sprint stakes winners in Rocky Bar (by In Excess), winner of the Harry Henson Stakes, and also several times stakes placed, including when second in the Turf Express Handicap. To the Post, there is little of note until French Debutante’s fifth dam, My Sophie, who is ancestress of several graded stakes winners, including Santa Monica Handicap (gr. I) victress Intangaroo. My Sophie goes back to the famed Frizette, through Ondulation, the same branch that produced the great racemare and producer, Dahlia.
To the Post also has her share of the Frizette family. Her sire, Bold Ego, is inbred to Frizette’s grandson, Tourbillon, once through his sire, Bold Tactics, who is by Bold Ruler (Nasrullah), out of a mare by Ambiorix II (Tourbillon), where To the Post’s granddam, In the Gate, is by a son of Nasrullah, from the Frizette family. There is some more of the same in the mating that produced French Debutante, as her sire, French Deputy, has as his granddam, Laredo Lass, who is also by Bold Ruler out of a Ambiorix II mare.
French Debutante’s first foal was the prolific Ez Dreamer. A son of In Excess, Ez Dreamer is a winner of 10 races, seven of the stakes events, including the Iowa Sprint Handicap and Phoenix Gold Cup. On our Nasrullah/Frizette kick, we’ll note that In Excess is by Siberian Express, a Nasrullah line horse from a branch of the Frizette family (actually Myrtlewood, the same branch as Seattle Slew and Mr. Prospector).
There then followed three matings with Top Hit, who is also the sire of Top Fortitude. The first of these, French Hit, won the Arizona Breeders’ Derby, and the third, Top Debutante, was “white type” stakes winner, who also took second in the Reminiscing Stakes at Hollywood Park. However, the “middle brother” of the Top Hit trio, Uh Oh Bango, made his name in far more rarified company. A winner of five races, $691,512, Uh Oh Bango numbered the San Pasqual Stakes (gr. II), Berkeley Stakes (gr. III) and Freshman Stakes among his victories, and he was also runner up in the San Antonio Stakes (gr. II), Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) and Delta Jackpot Stakes, and third in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). He retired to stand at E A Ranches, Ramona, California, for the 2014 breeding season.
Uh Oh Bango, Top Fortitude, French Hit and Top Debutante are four of the 10 stakes winners for their sire, Top Hit, winner of the Oklahoma Derby (gr. III). In turn, Top Hit is by the Forty Niner horse, Twining, who went six-for-six, including wins in the Withers Stakes (gr. II) and Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II), before suffering a career-ending injury when finishing second to Holy Bull in the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II). He was a solid sire, standing in the U.S. He was a fairly useful sire, standing in the U.S., Japan and then the U.S. again, getting 35 stakes winners, seven of them graded.
In terms of the strains we have been talking about, Top Hit is a great-grandson of Mr. Prospector (dam by a son of Nasrullah, from the Myrtlewood branch of Frizette), and his sire, Twining, is out of a mare by Never Bend (by Nasrullah out of a mare by Djeddah, a Tourbillon grandson from the Frizette family, so inbred to that mare). Top Hit’s dam, Popular Tune, is a three-quarters sister to the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) victor, Temperence Hill, who is by Popular Tune’s sire, Stop the Music out of a Popular Tune’s granddam, Sister Shannon. Although she was foaled in the U.S., Sister Shannon has an almost entirely European pedigree, as she is by the imported in utero horse, Etonian, out of the Irish-bred Idaliza. In the context of what we’ve been exploring, it’s interesting to note that Idaliza is by the brilliant sprinter, Princely Gift. He was by Nasrullah, and in female line went back to……well, not to Frizette, but to a mare called Magdalen. In turn, Magdalen is a three-quarters sister to Shotover – a mare who had the unique distinction of beating colts in both the 2,000 Guineas and Epsom Derby – and who just happens to be third dam of Frizette. Shotover was not only a great racemare, but was also an important producer, and among her offspring was not only Ornis, the granddam of Frizette, but also Ornis’ brother, Orion, a top-class racehorse who is frequently found in U.S. pedigrees through the brothers Sunreigh (grandsire of Count Fleet) and Sun Briar, and another sister, Isis, whose son Isador, is in U.S. pedigrees via the Escutcheon family (Shuvee, Levee, Nalee, Slew o’ Gold, Coastal, etc.). Funnily enough, Princely Gift’s third dam, Gleam, is also third dam of Etonian, so Sister Shannon has a double of this branch of the family.
Now, while it is quite entertaining to dig out links that tell us that French Debutante, who goes tail-female to Frizette, and who has a double of the Nasrullah/Tourbillon (great-grandson of Frizette) has excelled with Top Hit, whose sire has two more Nasrullah/Frizette combinations, out of a mare who carries inbreeding to another branch of this family, one with Nasrullah, there is a point at which the warm glow of satisfaction generated this discovery gets hit full in the face by a blast from the cold shower of reality.
Truth is, Shotover and Magdalen are a long way back in this pedigree, way, way back. In fact as far as the Top Hit – French Debutante tribe are concerned, Shotover turns up as the thirteenth dam, and of course the other instances of she and Magdalen are going to be somewhat similarly distant. With that in mind attributing ability to any genes specifically inherited from an instance or even multiple instances of Shotover is hard to justify (it’s a one in thousands shot in the case of a single strain). So, how do we square what we see, with what makes sense genetically (and observation over many years that this female line?
I would suggest that perhaps that at some point, this family evolved a very distinct haplotype which contained some positive variants for performance. If horses carrying this haplotype are very specific in what they require, then introducing other high-class performers with this strain might serve to indicate that requirement is likely to be met. When we’re talking about the Top Hit – French Debutante combination, we have in the sixth generation, three Nasrullah/Tourbillon crosses in the fifth generation, with two more Nasrullah offspring from the female line in the next two generations. At this point it’s far more realistic to believe that the immediate ancestors may have the specific variants, or some that work with them.
At this point, we’re still not back to where we started, with the “non-interfering receptical”the mare that didn’t demonstrate great ability on the track, but turns out to be an exceptional producer, a Mrs. Moss, a La Troienner, or at a more regional level, a French Debutante? Is there a genetic mechanism that is causing mares who appeared themselves not have a many of the variants that make for superior athletic performance, but who are capable of producing multiple performers that do?