Three Grade I Winners Reflect Godolphin's Evolving Program

Pretty City Dancer, the dam of Kentucky Oaks winner Pretty Mischevious, and her Street Sense filly Sara Gordon


From Pretty Mischievous (Into Mischief) getting Godolphin their first win in the GI Kentucky Oaks on Friday to Matareya (Pioneerof the Nile) and Cody's Wish (Curlin) both coming home with Grade I scores on Saturday, the first weekend in May was one for the books for Godolphin USA.

The global racing powerhouse is coming off back-to-back Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Owner and Breeder, but Godolphin USA's Director of Bloodstock Michael Banahan said that this year's Derby weekend ranks near the top of the list of great weekends for the American branch of Sheikh Mohammed's international operation.

“We've been lucky enough to hit some highlights, for example when Bernardini won the Preakness, or the Travers with Essential Quality or Cody's Wish last year at the GI Breeders' Cup, but to have a domestic triple Grade I weekend, I don't think we've done that before,” he said. “Obviously we've had a couple of great Breeders' Cups, but that was on the coattails of our English colleagues who helped us out big time. For us to do it here domestically, it was an amazing weekend and it meant so much to the team all across the board. Our expectations were pretty high, but we know the way the game goes. It couldn't have gone any more perfect.”

Each of the three Godolphin homebreds made a Grade I statement on Derby weekend, with Pretty Mischievous getting her first Grade I score in the Oaks, Matareya earning her second at the top level in the Derby City Distaff S., and Cody's Wish with his third in the Churchill Downs S.

Just as each member of the talented trio forged their own path to the winner's circle, the dams of each of the top-level performers had very different journeys into the Godolphin broodmare band. Each mare's story reflects Godolphin USA's evolution as a leading buyer in the sales pavilion to now a leading breeder with an inimitable broodmare band and a star-studded group of homebred performers.

Pretty City Dancer at Stonerside Farm | Sara Gordon

PRETTY CITY DANCER (Tapit – Pretty City, by Carson City). Dam of GI Kentucky Oaks winner Pretty Mischievous (Into Mischief)

While Godolphin has been markedly less active at the fall breeding stock sales in recent years, they came home with two purchases at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton November Sale with GSW Champagne Problems (Ghostzapper) and Pretty City Dancer (Tapit).

“We're very fortunate in that we haven't had to dip into the pool very often over the last seven or eight years and so Pretty City Dancer is one of the few mares we've bought over the last half a dozen years or so,” Banahan explained. “We're conscious of wanting to try to get in there and maybe get some mares that complement the broodmare band that we have at the moment.”

Pretty City Dancer was a standout at the auction as the winner of the 2016 GI Spinaway S. and a half-sister to another Grade I winner in Lear's Princess (Lear Fan). The daughter of Tapit was offered carrying her first foal by Medaglia d'Oro and sold to Stroud Coleman Bloodstock on behalf of Godolphin for $3.5 million.

“She's a beautiful-looking mare, great quality to her and well balanced,” Banahan noted. “She's the type of mare that you can breed to a lot of different stallions from a physical standpoint.”

While that first Medaglia d'Oro filly named Ornamental took six tries to break her maiden, Pretty City Dancer's second foal Pretty Mischievous was a standout from the beginning.  A 'TDN Rising Star' on debut, the bay went on to get a first Oaks score not only for Godolphin, but also for trainer Brendan Walsh and jockey Tyler Gaffalione.

Pretty City Dancer, who resides at Godolphin's Stonerside Farm in Paris, Kentucky, does not have a 2-year-old this year, but she has a Medaglia d'Oro yearling filly and a Street Sense filly foaled Mar. 28 this year. The 9-year-old mare has been bred back to Into Mischief.

Dance Card and her Gun Runner filly | Sara Gordon

DANCE CARD (Tapit -Tempting Note, by Editor's Note). Dam of GI Churchill Downs S. winner Cody's Wish (Curlin)

Dance Card was purchased by John Ferguson for Godolphin in 2011 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Select 2-Year-Old in Training Sale as a $67,000 yearling-turned-$750,000 juvenile.

“At that time, we did buy a few 2-year-olds,” Banahan explained. “Not many, but we bought a few and she was part of a pair that we bought that year. We haven't been very active in the sales pavilion for a while and obviously it was a change from a good few years ago where we were the most active buyer at the Saratoga and the Keeneland September sales, but the majority of those horses ended up racing in Europe. Not many of them really stayed here.”

Dance Card was one of those Godolphin purchases that did stay in the U.S. and she proved to be a talent on American soil for Kiaran McLaughlin. The daughter of Tapit did not make her first start until three, but she claimed the Belle Cherie S. and the GI Gazelle S. as a sophomore and came back at four to run third in the 2013 GI Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

The mare's early offspring performed well. Her first foal Bocephus (Medaglia d'Oro) was stakes placed and her second foal Endorsed (Medaglia d'Oro) has been competitive at the graded level for years–having just earned his first two graded stakes wins this year at age seven–but it was Dance Card's fourth foal, by Curlin, that was destined to be a star.

“Cody's Wish was by far her best-looking foal that she produced at that stage,” Banahan recalled. “He was probably ranked in the top five yearlings that we had that year and we had high, high expectations for him.”

Dance Card's yearling filly by Street Sense | Sara Gordon

Unquestionably one of the most inspirational stories in racing this year, Cody's Wish validated Godolphin's decision to bring the champion back as a 5-year-old when he came in off a layoff to extend his winning streak to five straight scores in the GI Churchill Downs S.

“I think that on Saturday, Cody's Wish showed that he's probably even a better horse this year than last year,” Banahan said. “To me, it was his most impressive race yet thus far. We knew there was a great lineup this year for him with the Churchill Downs S., then going for the GI Metropolitan H., back to the GI Forego S. and on to the Breeders' Cup. We're hoping that maybe he can have a special campaign this year and hit some of those great races.”

At the age of 14, Dance Card has a quality lineup of progeny in the pipeline. Her 2-year-old Into Mischief colt named Hunt Ball just arrived at Bill Mott's barn and she also has a Street Sense yearling filly that Banahan said their team is particularly high on. She recently foaled a Gun Runner filly and she has been bred back to Curlin.


INNOVATIVE IDEA (Bernardini – Golden Velvet, by Seeking the Gold). Dam of GI Derby City Distaff winner Matareya (Pioneerof the Nile)

While Pretty City Dancer and Innovative Idea both wound up under the Godolphin banner later in life, Innovative Idea is a second-generation homebred for the organization and she hails from their prolific producer Caress (Storm Cat).

A three-time graded stakes winner, Caress was purchased by John Ferguson Bloodstock for Godolphin for $3.1 million at the 2000 Keeneland November Sale a few months after she produced future Grade I winner Sky Mesa (Puplit). Her daughters include Velvety (Bernardini), the dam of Grade I winner and Darley sire Maxfield (Street Sense), and MGSW Golden Velvet (Seeking the Gold), the dam of Innovative Idea (Bernardini).

Innovative Idea was a productive race filly for Godolphin and Eoin Harty, breaking her maiden on debut at two and later claiming the Iowa Distaff S. and the GIII Groupie Doll S. as a 4-year-old. Her first foal, Business Model (Candy Ride {Arg}), is a winner at three and four and he is in training with Brendan Walsh this season as a 5-year-old for Qatar Racing and Marc Detampel.

Matareya was the mare's second foal and she was one that Banahan said he noticed from the start.

“Matareya was an absolutely beautiful yearling and I think she was my favorite of that year,” he said. “A lot of guys give me a hard time because I'm so hard grading them, but she got one of the highest grades I would give and I was in love with her as a yearling. I was always excited to see what she was going to do on the racetrack.”

To be able to celebrate the achievements of a third-generation homebred like Matareya, Banahan said, is a uniquely rewarding experience.

“It has been a great family for us,” he said. “To get it from a homebred is extra special. We've been very fortunate the last couple of years that all our stakes winners have happened from the broodmare band and that makes it all the more rewarding.”

Innovative Idea, now 11 years old and thriving at Godolphin's Gainsborough Farm in Versailles, has added three foals by Uncle Mo to her produce record. Her 3-year-old filly named Methodology is in training with Brad Cox and preparing for her debut in the next few months. She also has a 2-year-old colt and a yearling colt both by Uncle Mo. This year, she produced a filly by Curlin and is being bred back to the Hill 'n' Dale sire.

Innovative Idea's Curlin filly | Sara Gordon

Examining Success and Looking Ahead

What do the three Grade I producers have in common? Banahan said it starts with noting that each of them were graded stakes-winning racehorses.

“That's a quality that we love to have in any broodmare that we have, that they're successful on the racetrack,” he said. “All three are also nice, medium-sized mares. I struggle with big mares to try and make it work properly and I think it gives you a lot more options to stallions that you can breed to when you have those quality, athletic, medium-sized mares.”

Banahan noted that all three mares also hail from A.P. Indy, with two daughters of Tapit and a daughter of Darley's late sire Bernardini.

There is an immeasurable quality too, Banahan said, that he credits for Godolphin USA's growing list of achievements.

“We've been very fortunate that we have some beautiful land–some of the best land, we feel, in Central Kentucky,” he said. “I also think the personnel that we have are second to none. From Gerry Duffy at Stonerside, Danny Mulvihill at Gainsborough and Rafael Hernandez at Jonabell, they have been involved in all our recent success from the foaling end of it. Paul Seitz and Benji Amezcua are our yearling managers and they do a great job raising those horses. We have a really strong team and they all play a big, big role in getting us to the winner's circle.”

Banahan said that one of the next goals he hopes that their organization can achieve is to come up with a broodmare for the record books.

“We're happy with the way it's going and I think the quality is very good,” he said. “We're fortunate that we have a lot of really young broodmares as well that have hit with some good runners at the moment. We're hopeful that maybe we can turn one of those mares into a blue hen.”

Looking ahead to Preakness weekend, Godolphin has the opportunity to make another run and maybe take one step closer to that latest goal. First Mission (Street Sense) will be a leading contender in the GI Preakness S. for Brad Cox coming off a win in the GIII Lexington S. The operation will also be represented by Comparative (Street Sense) in the GII Black-Eyed Susan S. and Prevalence (Medaglia d'Oro) in the GIII Maryland Sprint S.

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