Big Brown’s Little Girl

The new year brings new hope for the future of Girl Power with the birth of almost Triple Crown winner Big Brown’s first foal. As evidenced by this past Monday’s Eclipse Awards, the 2009 Thoroughbred racing season was dominated by girls, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, who showed their heels to the boys in victories that cemented them as living legends. Yet the best may still be to come. And it may come sooner than the birth of Rachel Alexandra “the Great’s” daughter or Zenyatta’s first Mondatta.

On January 22 Three Chimneys Farm announced the birth of a filly by Big Brown and Seeking the Gold mare Impressive Attire. The filly, foaled January 12, is the first foal for both her sire and dam. Big Brown’s little girl comes into the world with a royal lineage. Her dam is out of multiple grade 1 winning mare Sharp Cat, by 1999 and 2000 leading North American sire Storm Cat. Sharp Cat is the winner of 14 stakes races, 12 of these being graded races including Hollywood, the Starlet, the Matron, the Las Virgenes, the Beldame, the Ruffian, the Santa Anita Oaks (the premier Kentucky Derby qualifying test on the West Coast), and the Acorn (one of the three races constituting the Filly Triple Crown). Seeking the Gold, by sire of sires Mr. Prospector, started only once at two, but in this one start he broke his maiden. At three he won the Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park, placed in the Gotham Stakes (gr.II) and Wood Memorial Stakes (gr.I) at Aqueduct and a seventh in the Kentucky Derby. He had his first grades stakes win in the Peter Pan (gr.II) at the Belmont spring/summer meeting. Promising? Yes. Yet the promise of the Big Brown filly is rooted in her sire. In 2008 Big Brown, Boundary – Mien, by Nureyev, won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, but was pulled up in the Belmont Stakes. He came closer to the Triple Crown than any other Thoroughbred, colt, filly, or mare, in thirty years. With seven wins out of eight starts he retired with earnings of $3,614,500 and the title of 2008 Champion 3 year old male.

Now five, Big Brown may avenge himself vicariously through his daughter. After all, his 2008 jockey, Kent Desormeaux, won the Belmont in 2009 on Summer Bird, the most recent Champion 3 year old male. There have been other queens of the turf; Ruffian, Genuine Risk, Personal Ensign who, if not for the incomparable Alysheba, had the 1988 United States Horse of the Year title in the bag, Rags to Riches and Winning Colors. And, as Rachel and Zenyatta have proven, there will be more queens. Pedigree, heart, conformation, all are undeniable factors in the making of a champion; sometimes they do not seem to be factors at all. But having Big Brown as a sire is undoubtedly an advantage. In a post-Belmont interview, Kent Desormeaux said, “I can’t fathom what kind of freaks those eleven Triple Crown winners were”, and regarding Big Brown, “He’s supposed to be a mile and a half horse, he’s supposed to be a distance horse.” In the end, in this Sport of Kings, what is supposed to be is not always what comes to be. The law of Any-Given-Saturday is the only guarantee. Is Big Brown’s filly supposed to be a champion? If so, what will make her one? Perhaps Thoroughbred breeder Federico Tesio had the best answer, “A horse runs with its lungs, perseveres with its heart, and wins with its character.”

Contributed by: Linda Killingsworth