While fans of a certain age would remember Forty Niner’s racing career, fans of every age have benefited from his influence in pedigrees. The champion who passed away Monday, at the grand age of 35, has struck gold with descendants from Rachel Alexandra to Arrogate and Songbird, and this season alone, leading Kentucky Derby (G1) and Oaks (G1) contenders Tiz the Law and Swiss Skydiver.
Forty Niner was beautifully bred himself. By the patriarch Mr. Prospector, who lived to his 29th year, Forty Niner was out of a mare by Tom Rolfe, the great *Ribot’s son who died at 27.
Forty Niner’s dam, File, was one of five stakes winners produced by the prolific mare Continue, including Tuerta, dam of ill-fated 1984 Kentucky Derby hero Swale. Continue, a daughter of noted broodmare sire Double Jay, descended from England’s champion 3-year-old filly of 1927, Book Law, who defeated males in the St Leger.
As an illustration of the vagaries of Thoroughbred pedigrees, Forty Niner’s principal son at stud, Distorted Humor, was not his top performer on the track. But the multiple Grade 2 winner has turned out to be an elite sire, with both sons and daughters carrying on the torch.
Distorted Humor made an immediate splash with his first-crop son Funny Cide, the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness (G1) champion, followed by another top-class New York-bred gelding in Commentator. Thankfully, their sire had plenty of talented colts to further the line.
Distorted Humor’s most notable stallion sons are 2005 Travers (G1) winner Flower Alley, sire of 2012 Derby and Preakness star I’ll Have Another, and broodmare sire of current Japanese Grade 1 queen Lucky Lilac; Drosselmeyer, the 2009 Belmont (G1) and 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner whose major performers include Brazilian import Jolie Olimpica; Alternation, sire of reigning Kentucky Oaks vixen Serengeti Empress; and Any Given Saturday, responsible for Hoppertunity and Mongolian Saturday. Other Distorted Humors making an impact are Brethren, Sharp Humor, and Jimmy Creed, while Ironicus hopes to follow suit with his first crop hitting the races.
Yet Distorted Humor’s chief influence in time might be as a broodmare sire. Hot young sire Constitution is out of a Distorted Humor mare, and could emulate his feat of getting a Derby winner in his first crop if Tiz the Law makes good on the first Saturday in September.
Distorted Humor daughters have also produced the likes of champion Arrogate; Reneesgotzip; Practical Joke; Guarana; Book Review (whose 3-year-old daughter Regal Beauty broke her maiden smartly at Santa Anita Sunday); New Money Honey; Elate; and Golden Sixty, who recently swept Hong Kong’s 4-Year-Old Series.
New Money Honey, Elate, and Golden Sixty have something else in common – they’re all by Medaglia d’Oro. And they’re not even his best results with Forty Niner-line mares. Medaglia d’Oro’s two leading offspring, Hall of Famer Rachel Alexandra and two-time champion Songbird, display the cross with lesser sons of Forty Niner. Rachel Alexandra is out of a mare by Roar, while Songbird’s dam is by West Acre.
In a similar vein, the Forty Niner stallion Banker’s Gold didn’t appear likely to establish a long-term presence in pedigrees. That is, until he popped up as the broodmare sire of emerging stallion Goldencents, who is represented by the nation’s leading older male to race so far in 2020, By My Standards.
Forty Niner’s top son on the track, $2 million-earner Coronado’s Quest, likewise could end up lasting through his daughters. While his multiple Grade 1-winning Society Selection hasn’t yet made a significant mark, Coronado’s Quest is the broodmare sire of Kodiak Kowboy and Boys at Tosconova.
In contrast, Forty Niner’s son End Sweep is exerting a global influence on both sides of the pedigree, in parallel to Distorted Humor if on a smaller scale. End Sweep is responsible for Japanese Horse of the Year Admire Moon, a successful sire himself, and Trippi, who’s translated his fine stud record from Florida to South Africa. Trippi figures to endure stateside as the broodmare sire of Liam’s Map and Not This Time, both sons of Miss Macy Sue. End Sweep is himself the broodmare sire of Palace, Royal Ascot scorer Acapulco, and Tosen Stardom.
Other Forty Niner stallions who’ve had their moments are Editor’s Note, the 1996 Belmont winner; Ecton Park (especially in Korea); Gold Fever (sire of Gold Mover); Jules (sire of Peace Rules); Twining; Tactical Advantage; Ide; Gold Case; Luhuk (in Argentina, sire of Calidoscopio); and from those conceived after Forty Niner was exported to Japan, Utopia and Sunday Break.
Forty Niner’s most productive daughter, Chasethewildwind, became the dam of two Grade 1 winners in Albertus Maximus and Daredevil. While Albertus Maximus still stands at Shadwell in Kentucky, Daredevil was exported to Turkey in 2019. Breeders might well be clamoring for his repatriation now that Daredevil’s filly Swiss Skydiver tops the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard. Another daughter, Honeybee (G3) scorer Shedaresthedevil, just placed third to Swiss Skydiver in the Fantasy (G3).
Forty Niner also factors as the broodmare sire of High Yield; Jack Milton; Brownie Points (herself the dam of Synchrony); Independence (dam of Group 1-winning sire Mount Nelson); Mass Media; Island Sand; and 2018 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) (G1) hero Epoca d’Oro.
If you keep mining the female lines, more Forty Niner can be found. His multiple stakes-winning daughter Tour is the ancestress of Bolt d’Oro, Global Campaign, Zensational, and Departing, while from his multiple stakes-placed daughter In Excelcis Deo descend Wicked Whisper and Point of Honor.
Given the scope of his progeny, this summary can serve only as an introduction. Pedigree mavens can unearth further nuggets, as the gold mine of Forty Niner’s legacy isn’t likely to be exhausted.
I would like to see an article that gives credit to the forgotten stallions who began the breed. For instance, all male line descendants of the Darley Arabian go back to Eclipse by Marske x Spiletta. Eclipse has the Darley Arabian only 1x in the 4th. He has the Godolphin Arabian in the 3rd. He also has multiple crosses to the Lister Turk, Darcys White Turk, Darcys Yellow Turk, The Fairfax Morocco Barb, and has Huttons Bay Barb in the 4th, and Darcys Old Montagu. His pedigree also has Leedes Arabian, Huttons Grey Barb, Helmsley Turk, Pullienes Chestnut Arabian, St. Victors Barb, and Akaster Turk. There are many other stallions who contributed to the breed also.