THE LONG AND SHORT OF BROKEN VOW

Unbridled’s son, Broken Vow is currently on a good run, with graded stakes winners in each of the last two weekends boosting his total of stakes winners for the year to six, and seeing him move into a slot among the top 20 Kentucky sires by earnings.

In his first crop – sired at a relatively modest fee of $10,000 – he came up with a very promising colt inPrivate Vow. Winner of the Futurity Stakes (gr. II) and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II), Private Vow might also have gone close in the Breeders’ Cup Futurity (gr. I) had a rein not broken in the straight. A leading winter fancy for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), Private Vow did fill the minor place behind Lawyer Ron, and subsequent Derby third, Steppenwolfer, in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I), but could finish no better than fifteenth in the Run for the Roses. He made only three subsequent starts, finishing third in an allowance race. He now stands at stud in Louisiana, and has his first runners in 2012.

Since then, Broken Vow has gone on to established himself as a very consistent graded stakes sire: he now has 43 stakes winners, 16 graded, in his first seven crops, and his offspring have averaged 12 stakes wins per year over the last five years. The high spots, however, have frequently  been with fillies and mares, such as the multiple grade one winning sprint star Sassy Image, Acorn Stakes (gr. I) heroine Cotton Blossom, and Unbridled Belle, a grade one winner of nearly $2,000,000, and turf males such asInteractifPoloniusLethal Combination, and Broken Dream, all graded stakes laureates on the sward.

As a result, we haven’t seen a lot of the Broken Vows featuring prominently on the Triple Crown trail. However, Broken Vow’s son, Done Talking almost certainly raced his way into the 2012 Derby, staying on in determined fashion to take the Illinois Derby (gr. III). The win brought Done Talking’s graded earnings to $311,000, currently 17th on the list, but with at least two or three unlikely starters above him.

If he does go to Louisville,  the speed figures suggest that Done Talking will have to find considerable improvement, but both his running style and pedigree that suggests the ten furlongs will not be a problem for him. We can certainly note that Broken Vow, himself a multiple graded winner at nine furlongs, could hardly have a more classic pedigree, as he’s by Kentucky Derby winner, Unbridled, out of a mare by English Triple Crown victor, Nijinsky II. In the third generation of the pedigree, the sires are Mr. Prospector(sire of Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus), Le Fabuleux (winner of the French Derby), Northern Dancer (winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes (gr. I)) and Blushing Groom (winner of the French 2,000 Guineas, and third in the Epsom Derby (gr. I)).

Done Talking’s dam, Dixie Talking, a daughter of Dixieland Band, won the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship Stakes over 8½ furlongs at two, and the Cicada Stakes (gr. III) over seven furlongs at three. Dixie Talking is out of Gin Talking (by the Mr. Prospector horse, Allen’s Prospect). A Maryland-bred Champion, Gin Talking won four Maryland-bred stakes events, but also took the nine furlong Anne Arundel Stakes (gr. III) and Broad Brush Stakes, and finished second in the Snow Goose Handicap. Gin Talking is a member of a prolific Maryland family, and her dam, stakes placed Vodka Talking, is a sister to graded scorer Shortley, the granddam of Henny Hughes.

Done Talking (TrueNicks A+) is bred on a cross that has proved extremely productive for Broken Vow. He, Cotton Blossom, and graded stakes winning and grade one placed Sindy With An S are three of just 18 starters by the sire of out Dixieland Band mares (17% stakes winners to starters). The broader cross of Unbridled line stallions over Dixieland Band mares has produced three other stakes winners, including the ill-fated Kentucky Derby runner-up, Eight Belles, and Secret Circle, who like Done Talking may take his place in this year’s Derby line-up.

Although – as mentioned – Broken Vow is pretty stoutly-bred, his Derby winning grandsires, Unbridled and Nijinsky II also had more than their share of speed, so it’s not surprising that Broken Vow has also sired some talented performers at shrter trips. A prime example is last year’s multiple grade one winning sprint filly, Sassy Image, and another is Lonesome Street, who took last weekend’s Commonwealth Stakes (gr. II) while covering the seven furlongs in a sharp 1:21.17. Lonesome Street is out of the Storm Cat mare, Street Cat, a half-sister to the American Derby (gr. II) winner Union Avenue. The second dam,Miss Union Avenue, was one of the best runners sired by the Champion Turf Horse Steinlen (by Habitat), winning five black-type events, including the Young America Stakes (gr. II).

Lonesome Street is rated A by TrueNicks, on the basis of the cross of Broken Vow over Storm Cat mares, and therebye hangs a tale. Given that he is by Unbridled out of a mare by Nijinsky II, we expected Broken Vow to work really well with Storm Cat (Unbridled’s Song, another son of Unbridled, had started really well with Storm Cat, and Nijinsky II combines very well with Storm Cat’s sire, Storm Bird, the two being somewhat similarly-bred). For some time, however, the cross of Broken Vow with mares by Storm Cat and his sons failed to live up to expectations (or at least, our expectations). It turns out that all was need was some time, and there are now two graded stakes winners (Lonesome Street, and the mare Broken Dreams) and a graded stakes placed horse from 15 starters out of mares by Storm Cat, and another two stakes winners, headed by Eclipse Award finalist, Sassy Image, out of mares by sons of Storm Cat. Our guess would be that it’s just taken a while for breeders to work out the right sort of Storm Cat line mare to send to Broken Vow.

By way of contrast, Unbridled’s Song sired six stakes winners out of Storm Cat mares in his first six seasons at stud (four graded and two grade one), but only one in the subsequent six crops. We suspect that in his case, the Storm Cat mares became less carefully chosen (significant, as for all his excellence as a runner and sire, Unbridled’s Song is a physical outlier) as he became a default option, and on top of that, the number of Storm Cat mares of prime producing age would have been falling. Unfortunately – as far as Unbridled’s Song is concerned there is not a lot of evidence of Storm Cat sons galloping to the rescue – the stats showing that there have been 38 stakes winners, and just one stakes winner by Unbridled’s Song out of mares by Storm Cat sons.

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