A classic contender having Mr. Prospector among his ancestry is no great shakes—it seems almost every horse has the late Raise a Native stallion somewhere in his or her blood.Still, while outcrosses to Mr. Prospector are often valued in the breeding shed, they typically do not do as well on the Triple Crown trail. Indeed, those looking for some helping picking this year’s Belmont Stakes (G1) winner should look no further than the starter’s sire line, as three-year-old males who are direct descendants of Mr. Prospector have won 13 of the past 17 Belmont Stakes, including 11 of the past 14, seven of the last nine, and each of the past three.
Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that Mr. Prospector is directly responsible for those 13 recent Belmont winners through seven different sons: Afleet, Fappiano, Forty Niner, Fusaichi Pegasus, Gone West, Gulch, Kingmambo, and Seeking the Gold.
“The thing to point out is the branches,” said pedigree consultant Anne Peters. “The Gulch and Fappiano branches are your main ones and show how the Mr. Prospector line is diverging away from the speed that it was known for. He was so brilliant, that breeders tend to keep piling on the stamina with him, and it’s worked.”
The 2005 winner, eventual three-year-old male champion Afleet Alex, is by the Afleet stallion Northern Afleet out of the Roberto-line mare Maggy Hawk. Afleet Alex was the first winner in three years not out of a Northern Dancer-line mare and the first in four years not out of a Native Dancer-line mare.
“Three winners by Mr. Prospector-line sires out of Northern Dancer-line mares [Birdstone, Gulch, and Summer Bird] are out of Storm Bird mares, which is interesting because Storm Bird is another quirky horse who was a brilliant two-year-old but tends to be an influence of stamina,” Peters said. “[Thunder Gulch’s sire] Gulch was a versatile miler, but Storm Bird seems to have given Thunder Gulch some stamina.”
Another popular Mr. Prospector-Northern Dancer cross is through Vice Regent, grandsire of Sarava’s dam, Rhythm of Life, by Deputy Minister, and sire of Victory Gallop’s dam, Victorious Lil.
“The Mr. Prospector-Northern Dancer cross continues to prove effective on the classic level,” Peters said. “Besides producing Belmont winners Hansel, Thunder Gulch, Empire Maker, and Birdstone, the last three have all proven effective sires of stamina.
“Although a sprinter/miler himself, Distorted Humor, by Forty Niner out of a Danzig mare is from the same cross. He has turned out classic winners Funny Cide (Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1)) and [2010 Belmont & 2011 Breeders' Cup Classic winner] Drosselmeyer.”
As the longest of the American classics at 1 1/2 miles, handicappers often place a lot of emphasis on the different influences in each stallion’s pedigree. Few horses will race 1 1/2 miles (at least on dirt) again, and the right combination of speed and stamina can help a developing three-year-old male navigate the unique course.
Afleet Alex is the product of a Florida breeding program known for its speed. His sire, Northern Afleet, never won beyond 1 1/8 miles, and his dam, the Hawkster mare Maggy Hawk, won just one one-mile race from four starts.
Looking deeper, though, Maggy Hawk’s great grandsire, Roberto, by Hail to Reason, is a major classic influence, and the sires of her tail female family, *Hawaii, *Sensitivo, and Sir Gaylord are all known for throwing distance-type horses.
“It starts with the sire and then you want to look at all the males in the pedigree,” Lauren Stich said. “I think for any horse to go [1 1/2 miles] you need stamina from the second dam and third dam’s sire. Distance and surface comes from the males in the pedigree and class comes from the tail female family.”
Unbridled, a son of Fappiano who won the 1990 Kentucky Derby and finished fifth in that year’s Belmont, is responsible for two Belmont winners: Empire Maker in 2003 and Birdstone in ’04. Unbridled is out of Gana Facil, by Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) winner *Le Fabuleux.
“Unbridled is one of the few places you can find *Le Fabuleux, and that’s a tremendous staying influence,” Peters said. “Crytpoclearance is by Fappiano out of a Hoist the Flag mare, and that’s another stamina influence.”
*Ribot is the grandsire of Hoist the Flag and appears within five generations of four other Belmont winners. *Ribot-line mares produced three Belmont winners from 1988-’94 while Victory Gallop and Editor’s Note are by stallions who are out of *Ribot-line mares.
The leading sire of Belmont Stakes winners is Lexington, who sired five winners from 1868 through 1881. No sire with an active crop of three-year-olds has sired more than one Belmont Stakes winner, and no one from this year's group is by a sire with a Belmont Stakes to his credit.From this group, only Guayana Star Dweej has the Mr. P-Northern Dancer cross that appears in seven of Mr. Prospectors recent winners, but both I'll Have Another and Dullahan do have Northern Dancer influence on their dam's side. I'll Have Another's broodmare sire, Arch, is out of a Northern Dancer mare, and Dullahan's second dam is by Northern Dancer (i.e., his dam's broodmare sire is Northern Dancer).I have two Belmont Stakes anthems for Mr. Prospector. The first is The Rentals "Friends of P" and the second is Steve Winwood's Valerie with me changing the chorus to "Mr. Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeee's progeny."
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