Every year when we gear up for the Breeders’ Cup, I always enjoy examining the pedigrees of the contenders. From the blue bloods destined for greatness from birth, to the discount stallions out of otherwise unremarkable mares, we see it all over those two days of racing.
Though years of planning, hopes, dreams, and generally a good bit of money go into breeding the best to the best (and hoping for the best), but it doesn’t always pan out that way. Because nobody has come up with a way to tell those elite foals that they are supposed to want to run fast. Perhaps they’d rather be a ballerina, if only they could tell us. Over the course of early training, they often find their own way to articulate that this is not what they want to be when they grow up. Despite illustrious sires, female families full of graded stakes performers, and six- (or even seven-) figure price tags, sometimes they are just slow. Phantomof the Nile is one such horse.
One of the most common statements made in our barn is some iteration of “he’s just so handsome” or “you’re lucky you’re pretty.” Though he commanded $300,000 as a yearling, based on pedigree and a precocious physical, Phantom seems to deeply want to be either A. a model or B. a ballerina (aka a dressage king). This fall has been hectic, and our training has mostly focused on slowly and carefully building muscle and fitness after his time on stall rest this spring. As he gains fitness, he has started to display athleticism that had previously been dormant, and gives me hope that we may actually find an athletic pursuit His Highness enjoys. So as I watch him and his “brother” enjoy the cool fall days, I think about the hope of his pedigree, and how many people thought he’d follow in the family hoofprints as a Breeders’ Cup contender.
His sire is a stranger to no one, and though his stud career was cut short Pioneerof the Nile left an indisputable stamp on the breed as the sire of the first Triple Crown winner in decades in American Pharoah. Before he was shaping the future of Thoroughbred pedigrees in the breeding shed, Pioneerof the Nile himself finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2008.
Phantom is out a mare named Magical Dream, herself unraced. Her sire is Malibu Moon, another stallion whose influence will be felt for generations. But the real reason Phantom’s pedigree turns heads is Magical Dream’s half-sister (basically Phantom’s “aunt”). Dream Rush was a multiple graded stakes winner, and competed in the 2007 and 2008 runnings of the Breeder’s Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Her first foal (Phantom’s cousin) was a filly by A.P. Indy named Dreaming of Julia. Following in her dam’s footsteps, she was a multiple graded stakes winner, and finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in 2012. Additional high achieving “cousins” include Dream Pauline (multiple graded stakes winner), Atreides (stakes winner and sire), and Perchance (stakes placed).
Part of the insanity of this fall has been due to BTE Stables purchasing a farm. This week, Phantom moved once again (hopefully for the last time), now calling North Middletown home. In a strange twist of fate, Phantom now lives next door to the farm that once stood his “cousin.” On the record of a stakes win and the merits of his parents, Atreides stood at Hill ‘n’ Dale (though not at its current location at Xalapa) prior to his move to Oklahoma. Had Phantom managed any level of success, his second career would certainly look quite different. Instead, he’s that goofy underachieving cousin that should have done more with his life, but he’s nice and kind of funny so everyone loves him anyway.