by Alan Leavitt
When Katie’s Lucky Day brought $450,000 on OnGait earlier this week, it was a triumph for classic breeding. Of course, her own racing credentials didn’t hurt — a record this year at th3ree of 1:50 4.5, with earnings of $512,416.
Katie’s Lucky Day is by Uncle Peter, and out of Yansky, by Muscles Yankee. I regard Uncle Peter as an underrated sire who not only holds his own and then some in the Ohio program but also can sire a world class racehorse such as Katie’s Lucky Day.
Yansky, the dam of Katie’s Lucky Day, evokes a number of memories for me. Her dam, Mystic Memory, is by B J’s Mac, whose second dam is the immortal Matina Hanover. I bought Matina Hanover for a $12,500 yearling credit off the half-mile track at Buffalo.
Her first two dams, both at Hanover, had done nothing worth noting, but her third dam was one of the foundation sisters that launched the Shoe Farms as a great farm. Not only did Matina Hanover give the world Mack Lobell, she also founded a family that is still influential in the pedigrees of many of the best trotters today.
Katie’s Lucky Day’s background is interesting. She was the fourth foal of Yansky, who had a 3-year-old record of 1:57 and earnings of $122,127. Yansky hadn’t produced anything of great merit before the filly we’re talking about, although her foal a year before Katie did earn good money, although too late to save her half sister from bringing only $7,000 in the sales ring.
Going back a generation, Katie’s second dam, Mystic Memory, was a pretty good producer. Hand Glider, her first foal, won $519,680, and three more of them won over $100,000. But it’s as you go back from there that the true class becomes apparent.
To begin at the beginning, as Portnoy advised in a totally different context, you find Evensong, a foal of 1925. Evensong was given a “breeder’s record” at two of 2:19 ¾, just by the skin of her teeth beating the 2:20 standard that was required to be a recorded record.
Evensong had her first foal in 1930, and kept turning them out, with a few years here and there off, through 1949. During that time she produced six 2:00 horses, including Volo Song, who won the Hambletonian, and Victory Song, who finished second in the big dance his year. Of all the foals, there were only four fillies, but that was enough to keep the line alive and well.
A word here about Volo Song. He was invincible on the track, winning everything in a day and time when there were only rudimentary starting gates, no wheel disks, soft driver’s hats, and judges who depended mainly on their own eyes.
Volo Song was 4 in 1944, still a war year, when there was a dearth of race meetings. Although Roosevelt Raceway, on Long Island, had been open for several years, it didn’t offer many racing days. Technically those racing days were in fact racing nights, because George Morton Levy was the first track operator to put up lights on his racetrack.
Parenthetically, much later, I had a complicated relationship with George Levy. Because of our shared religion, Judaism, and my higher education, Mr. Levy couldn’t understand how I would always be present on the side of the horsemen when conflict arose — and they arose a lot. Mr. Levy felt that a fair split of the betting handle with the horsemen when it came to purses was 35-65. He also felt that any money devoted to stakes purses was money thrown to the winds. As a breeder, I naturally took the other side of that debate.
At one point, in the 1960s, Levy had totally corrupted the working head of the local horseman’s association. The guy actually served as Levy’s chauffer, and was well rewarded for complying with all of Levy’s wishes. Later, the same guy was caught vote fixing on some important issue, but he still didn’t lose his job.
About this time a vote by mail was taken, and on the return envelope with my vote, I wrote: “Count this one, Carl, even if it sends you to jail.”
Shortly thereafter, the guy died, which didn’t stop his estate from suing me for libel, which is slander in written form. It wound up costing me $7,500. So much for being a wise guy.
Anyway, back to 1944 and Volo Song. There was a little race meeting every year at Mineral Point, WI. The track was known to be awful, but the fair operators there pleaded successfully with the connections of Volo Song to come there and show him off.
The result was that Volo Song broke his leg on the track, and had to be put down. As I was just getting in, there were still a number of horsemen around who had actually seen Volo Song in action. Every one of them told me that he was the only horse that could hold a candle to Greyhound.
That takes care of Katie’s eighth dam, with the next stopping point being her sixth dam, Hoot Song. Hoot Song, foaled in 1954, was by Hoot Mon, and out of Love Song, by Volomite. Hoot Mon was by Scotland, so Hoot Song represented the classic Walnut Hall cross of the day, Volomite on Scotland, or vice-versa.
In point of fact, Volomite and Scotland were closely bred, as their grandsire on the top line, or tail-male, for both horses was Peter The Great. Just another proof that close breeding can get results.
Hoot Song had a record at three of 2:01 ¾, with earnings of $133,713. That was a lot of money for a trotting filly to win in those days, and she did it the hard way.
In the 1957 Hambletonian, Hoot Song won two heats and still wound up in second place in the final standing to Hickory Smoke. That came about because she finished second to Hickory Smoke in the final race-off, after all the various elimination heats had been raced. She clearly was dead game, as well as fast, and we can see the same characteristics in her descendent, Katie’s Lucky Day.
Although Yansky, Katie’s dam, did win $122,127, her second, third, fourth, and fifth dams won a grand total of $44,590, of which $42,040 was won by only one ancestor, Mystic Memory. It’s proof once again that racing excellence has nothing to do with breeding excellence. Or, as you may be tired of hearing, the phenotype of any horse, the visible part, has no connection to the genotype, or genetic makeup.
So we can’t see what Katie’s genotype is until she has sons and daughters on the track. But based on her maternal line, the tail-mare bottom line of her pedigree, I’m betting she’ll produce top trotters, just as all those other mares have done for the last one hundred years.
Finally, more words of wisdom from Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784): “Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement.”