The Breeders’ Cup Classic annually draws the most attention from various media and the most betting interest from fans. But the Breeders’ Cup Distaff is a race of premium, if sometimes unrecognized, merit, and this year’s event should be one of the great ones with 2018 champion 3-year-old filly Monomoy Girl (by Tapizar) and 2020 pro-tem champion filly Swiss Skydiver (Daredevil) as the headline racers against a fleet of Grade 1 performers.
Both these outstanding horses share common characteristics. On the most superficial level, they are both chestnuts; both have speed and can carry it at least nine furlongs.
More emphatically, they possess the character and assertive attitudes so common among dominant racers. We have only to watch how each of these elite performers asserts herself through the stretch drive of their races to see that attitude in action.
In terms of pedigree similarities, Swiss Skydiver and Monomoy Girl descend in the male line from Eclipse through Bend Or, thence through Phalaris and his grandson Nearco, and then each is linebred multiple times through the deeper generations of their pedigrees to Phalaris in his various branches.
A foal of 1913, Phalaris was bred and raced by Lord Derby, who then put the dark brown racer to stud and reaped rewards and glories that even the avid admirers of Phalaris could not have predicted.
As a racer, Phalaris was quite a good horse. Strong and athletic, he won 16 of 24 starts, with three more efforts in the money, and he showed both high speed and the brawny determination to carry high weights successfully.
The best-known victories of Phalaris came with a pair of successes in the Challenge Stakes at Newmarket. The horse raced during the great social and economic upheaval of the Great War, during which many of the race meetings around England were suspended, but the English managed to uphold some traditions in the wake of the devastation from across the channel.
In 1916, when Phalaris was three, Lord Derby won the 1,000 Guineas with Canyon, by the Stanley House stallion Chaucer (St. Simon), and Phalaris began his 3-year-old season with a third place in the Craven Stakes, then was unplaced in the 2,000 Guineas. The colt won three races later in the season, then progressed notably in his next two seasons.
When assessing Phalaris’s performances at four, which included carrying heavy weights and giving away chunks to the competition, the Bloodstock Breeders’ Review made the following statement: “Phalaris inspires one with the belief that he is destined to make a great name for himself when he goes to the stud….”
That season, Phalaris won seven races in a row, after finishing second in his seasonal debut, and then lost his final start when unplaced in the Cambridgeshire Handicap.
At five, Phalaris won four of his five starts, at five, six, seven, and eight furlongs, but racing fans wouldn’t recognize the names of those races because of the restrictions on sport. Begun when Phalaris was a yearling, World War I bracketed the horse’s racing career and ended in 1918 after the retirement of Phalaris. Despite the limitations of a racing career during wartime, Lord Derby sent the good-looking horse to his Stanley House stud, where Phalaris stood alongside classic winner and classic sire Swynford (John o’ Gaunt) and his half-brother Chaucer (St. Simon).
Phalaris was an immediate success and led the English sire list in 1925 and 1928. He sired classic winners Manna (Derby and 2,000 Guineas), Colorado (2,000 Guineas), Fairway (St. Leger), and Fair Isle (1,000 Guineas). Lord Derby also bred the classic-placed Pharos, who became a leading sire, getting Nearco among many others. In addition, Lord Derby bred the high-class juvenile Sickle, whom he sold to Joseph Widener to stand at Elmendorf Stud in Kentucky, and his full brother Pharamond, whom Lord Derby sold to Hal Price Headley and who stood at Beaumont Stud.
Sickle is the branch of Phalaris that produced Native Dancer, Raise a Native, Mr. Prospector, and Alydar. Pharamond founded the branch of Phalaris known today mostly through Tom Fool and his great son Buckpasser.
Sickle is the only branch today that holds up as a serious competitor to the dominion of the Nearco branch, which comes to us through Hail to Reason, Halo, More Than Ready; through Nasrullah, Bold Ruler, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, A.P. Indy, and Pulpit; through Northern Dancer, Danzig, Galileo, and many others. Swiss Skydiver is the Hail to Reason branch through More Than Ready’s son Daredevil; Monomoy Girl is Nasrullah’s branch through Tapit’s son Tapizar.
Each of these exceptional racers, like much of their competition, have multiple lines of Phalaris in their extended pedigrees, and like the great founder of this great Thoroughbred family, they have speed, strength, and the determination to win.
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