Ren Carothers’ Pedigree Play: Exploring the Power of Affinity

Horses compete at the 2022 Saratoga Race Course meet. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Our #Pedigeek “Term of the Week” is:


weekend TV schedule

Friday, July 22: 1-6:30 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Saturday, July 23: 1-3:30 p.m. on FS1; 3:30-7 p.m. ET on FS2; 5-6 p.m. ET on CNBC; post time varies on TVG

Sunday, July 24: 1-3 p.m. ET on FS2; 3-6:30 p.m. ET on FS1; post time varies on TVG

Wow, the sixth race at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday is a salty one. You could make an argument for every entry. It was extremely hard to narrow the field down to just one horse to feature in this article. Full Moon Madness is out of the precocious By the Moon, a multiple Grade 1 winner who won her debut at Saratoga. There’s Balsa, a first-time starter from the Brad Cox barn whose maternal grandmother is a multiple graded stakes-winning full-sister to Grade 1 winner and potent sire Wildcat Heir. You have a Chad Brown first-time starter who cost $1 million. One can’t ignore Todd Pletcher trainee Summonyourcourage, either, having finished just three-quarters of a length behind Mo Strike, who went on to score the Grade 3 Sanford Stakes last Saturday.

Again, there are lots of ways to go in this race. No result would surprise. I ultimately decided to focus on the #5 Powerful, who will be debuting for Steve Asmussen with Tyler Gaffalione in the irons. On a completely superficial level, do you think connections would waste a trophy-fit name like that on a horse who hasn’t shown worthiness? Methinks not.

Seriously, though, Powerful caught my attention from a pedigree perspective, obviously that of others, too, as he was a $525,000 purchase at the 2021 Keeneland September yearling sale. The first thing that stood out was the fact he is a son of Nyquist (who, like his own sire, Uncle Mo, was an Eclipse Award winner at 2) and out of a Pulpit mare. Though it is early, with Nyquist’s first scion only debuting in 2020, we have seen what appears to be an affinity with this cross.

Vequist, the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and champion 2-year-old filly; and Gretzky the Great, the 2020 Sovereign Award winner as Canadian champion 2-year-old colt, both are by Nyquist and out of mares who are by sons of Hall of Famer A.P. Indy — Mineshaft and Bernardini, respectively. Nyquist’s current top performer, Turnerloose, is out of a daughter of A.P. Indy himself. This brings us to A.P. Indy’s son Pulpit.

Powerful’s mother, Antiquity, who won her six-furlong debut on the synthetic main track at Del Mar by 2 1/2 lengths, is a daughter of Pulpit. It is a small sample size, to be sure, but of the six foals bred on this specific Nyquist-Pulpit cross who have started, there have been four winners, among them Lady Lilly. She won her debut at Saratoga ahead of a show-dough finish in the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes in 2020, which was won by the aforementioned Vequist. One of the runners who has yet to get that first win is Hedy Lamarr, and while still trying to get her photo taken, she did finish second on debut to Consumer Spending, now a graded-stakes winner. Yes, that was routing on the turf at Saratoga, but she was 2 years old and so the information is still worthy of a nod.  

Powerful’s own half-sister, Persian Queen, won first time out sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs on the dirt at Saratoga (granted at the maiden $50,000 claiming level). It is notable that the family also includes millionaire Family Style, who was champion two-year-old filly of 1985. Combining these pieces of the puzzle along with what appears to be affinity — Nyquist’s genes clicking well with mares by A.P. Indy or his sons — then it makes Powerful all the more intriguing – providing the odds are right.  

Saturday, July 23

Saratoga Race Course, Race 6, Maiden Special Weight, 2-year-olds, 6 furlongs, 3:51 p.m. ET

#5 Powerful

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

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