13 May 2006

Mother's Day reading

I noticed during the Derby Daze that while much is made of a horse's sire, his dam is seldom discussed. I'm not sure why that is, and I fear I'll never understand all of the subtle nuances of pedigree handicapping (though perhaps if I ever pick up Lauren Stitch's book Pedigree Handicapping, I might get a handle on that 2x4 stuff that often appears over at Left at the Gate.)

But today, it's Mother's Day, and here at the Castle, we'll reflect for a moment or two on equine mothers. Just as the folks behind Reines-de-Course ("Queens of the Turf") have. It's a site devoted to influential female thoroughbred families, so yes, there is indeed lots of 2x4 stuff going on here, but what I took away from the site is that since 1989, only 4 horses have won the Derby without the presence of the mare *La Troienne in their pedigree. (The four: Sunday Silence, Thunder Gulch, Fusaichi Pegasus, and this year's Barbaro.) Powerful stuff to ponder, but genes are only one part of motherhood.

For a more tender look at an equine mother, check out Three Strides before the Wire by Elizabeth Mitchell. It follows the story of Charismatic, and in chapter 2, describes Charismatic's dam, Bali Babe:

She was not just the star of the farm, but an especially good mother. Her milk bag was always full, and she calmed her colt and the other foals in the paddock. She nuzzled them, stood quietly beside them. She reminded Tom so much of his own mother, how she took in the offspring of others and loved them as her own.
Tom Roach of Parrish Hill Farm bought Bali Babe for $7,700 at the Keeneland auctions in 1987, and she passed on a good deal of running ability to her offspring; her 11 foals include Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Charismatic, Bluegrass Stakes winner Millennium Wind, Tossofthecoin (a stakes winner with earnings of more than $800,000), and stakes-placed runners Bahatur and Constant Demand. How many sires have percentages like that?

Bali Babe died on March 15, 1999, and according to Mitchell,
A few weeks later, Roach took out a full-page ad in his industry's magazine, The Blood-Horse. The ad was a tribute to great mothers and included two pictures: one of his own mother and another of Bali Babe with one of her foals, Millennium Wind, at her flank. When the ad ran, Roach tore the page from the magazine and hung it on the wall of his office so he could look at it every day.
OK, a full-page ad isn't for everyone, but really, don't you think it's time to step away from the computer -- and go call your mother?