Pedigree Insights: Gunnevera


Anyone wanting to demonstrate the vast size and scope of A.P. Indy's legacy could do worse than point to last Saturday's Delta Downs Jackpot S. This million-dollar Grade III attracted 10 runners, of which four were sired by A.P. Indy's sons Congrats, Bernardini, Flatter and Mineshaft, while two others belonged to the first crops by Bernardini's son Stay Thirsty and Mineshaft's son Dialed In. One of A.P. Indy's great-grandsons, Tapizar, also got into the act, as the sire of Tip Tap Tapizar, and, for good measure, an eighth runner–Our Stormin Norman–is out of a mare by Stroll, a grandson of A.P. Indy.

The A.P. Indy contingent featured some high-priced youngsters, including Hot Sean, a $550,000 son of Flatter, J Boys Echo, a $485,000 colt by Mineshaft and Thirstforlife, a $240,000 weanling by Stay Thirsty. On this occasion, though, it was a victory for the bargain basement, with the $16,000 Gunnevera scorching through from last to first in a style reminiscent of another million-dollar performance, this one by Arazi in the 1991 GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

In the process Gunnevera helped catapult his sire Dialed In to the top of the first-crop sires' table, just when it looked as though Union Rags had possibly secured the championship via his third stakes winner, Tequilita. It could be argued that Union Rags is more deserving of the title, after coming up with a pair of Grade I winners in Union Strike and Dancing Rags. The Lane's End resident has enjoyed some advantages, though. At $35,000, Union Rags was the highest-priced freshman sire of 2013, whereas Dialed In was a long way down the pecking order, at $7,500.

In the circumstances, Dialed In has done very well to sire Gunnevera, winner earlier in the year of the GII Saratoga Special over 6 1/2 furlongs, and Ruffenuff, an unbeaten Canadian stakes winner. He currently has 16 winners from 33 runners, which is pretty good going for a stallion who himself raced just once as a 2-year-old, making his debut as late as Nov. 12 (when he won a 6 1/2-furlong maiden at Churchill Downs very impressively).

The Delta Downs Jackpot may be a Grade III in name, but it has sometimes proved a very effective launch-pad to Grade I success, as has been amply demonstrated by last year's narrow winner Exaggerator, who went on to win the GI Santa Anita Derby, GI Preakness S. and the GI Haskell Invitational. Previously the Jackpot had fallen to the likes of Big Drama, winner of the 2010 GI Breeders' Cup Sprint, and Goldencents, who numbered the Santa Anita Derby and GI Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile among his 3-year-old successes.

It doesn't require too vivid an imagination to envisage Gunnevera also playing his part in next spring's top 3-year-old events, even if he has ground to make up on Classic Empire. He already has 10 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby, compared to Classic Empire's 20. (Incidentally, keep an eye on next Saturday's Cattleya Sho, an allowance over a mile on dirt at Tokyo. This is the first of two races which will earn a Japanese horse an invitation to contest the Kentucky Derby.)

As he is trained in Florida, Gunnevera looks a natural contender for the Sunshine State's trials, which start with the GII Holy Bull S. on Feb. 4 and the GIII Sam F. Davis a week later. These act as stepping stones to the GII Fountain of Youth (50 points), GII Tampa Bay Derby (50 points) and the GI Florida Derby (100 points).

Coincidentally, the Holy Bull and the Florida Derby were among the races which Nick Zito used to prepare Dialed In for the GI Kentucky Derby. The son of Mineshaft won them both, notably catching Shackleford close home to take the Derby, with To Honor And Serve a well-beaten third. Dialed In's last-to-first performance in landing this Grade I was enough for him to start favorite at 26/5 in the Kentucky Derby, but this time the waiting tactics didn't work and he could get no closer than eighth behind Animal Kingdom. Although he performed better in the Preakness, working his way into fourth place, he failed to beat his old rival Shackleford, and that was the end of his 3-year-old career.

After a disappointing effort on his only start in 2012, Dialed In was retired to Darby Dan, with his owner Robert La Penta pledging to support “the most talented and exciting horse” he had ever owned. A blank year on the track can be a major hurdle for a young stallion to surmount, but Dialed In appears to have overcome it. Maybe he has been helped in this early stage of his stallion career by having the champion 2-year-old filly Eliza as his second dam. This daughter of Mt. Livermore won four of her five juvenile starts in 1992, including the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Like so many young stallions these days, Dialed In will not find it easy to build immediately on his bright start, as his second and third crops are markedly smaller than his 103-strong first crop, at 69 and 54 foals, respectively. It's a reassuring sign that his second-crop yearlings have sold for up to $260,000 and averaged over $41,000, off a fee of $7,500.

As you might guess from Gunnevera's $16,000 price tag, he doesn't possess a catalog page packed with graded-winning relatives. Indeed his page in Book 4 of last year's September Sale showed none under his first two dams, even though there were born as long ago as 1995 and 1987. His dam, the once-raced Unbridled Rage, spent much of her early broodmare career in British Columbia and Ontario, but was Kentucky-based after her sale for $13,000 in January 2005.

However, if you look at his pedigree in a different way, there is reason for thinking that Gunnevera can progress into a very smart 3-year-old. Each of his first four dams is a daughter of a top-class racehorse and sire, with some of them having links to Darby Dan's glory days as a stallion station.

The stallions involved are Unbridled (Kentucky Derby and GI Breeders' Cup Classic), Graustark (a brilliant Ribot colt who won seven of his eight starts), The Minstrel (an unbeaten winner of the G1 Dewhurst S. who went on to win the G1 Derby, G1 Irish Derby and the G1 King George) and Turn-to (a top 2-year-old who gave us Hail To Reason).

Needless to say, Unbridled has exerted a powerful influence on the Kentucky Derby, with another daughter producing the 2013 winner Orb to a son of A.P. Indy. Of course Tapit was also sired by a son of A.P. Indy from an Unbridled mare, so it is understandable that Unbridled's name is nowadays inextricably linked to that of A.P. Indy.

Gunnevera's female line is European, his fifth dam being the imported Sister Grey. Before this daughter of the Derby winner Dante left Europe, she produced a very notable son in Grey of Falloden, a high-class long-distance horse who was noted as much for his courage as his talent. There is plenty of stamina in this family, and if Gunnevera makes it the Kentucky Derby, he is sure to be running on strongly when the early speed dies.


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