The Grey Panel

MARIA'S MON: Mourning Maria's

The Kentucky Derby victory of has elevated his sire into the elite band of stallions to have sired two winners of the 'Run For The Roses". Sadly, however, this honour is received posthumously as Maria's Mon died in September 2007. At the time, his death was clearly seen as a significant loss to the American sires' ranks, but now that loss is felt all the more keenly, writes John Berry.

Very few sires have ever sired more than one Kentucky Derby winner, with this elite band containing the likes of , , , , , , and . That Maria's Mon has now been responsible for two Kentucky Derby winners from only ten crops of three-year-olds is remarkable - particularly when one bears in mind that he himself never won beyond the age of two!

Born in 1993, Maria's Mon was bred by Morton Rosenthal, who sent the colt to be broken and pre-trained in Florida by Suze and Pug Hart. The Harts' other clients included Pin Oak Stud, whose manager Clifford Barry took notice of the promising youngster early in 1995 when inspecting some of the Pin Oak two-year-olds under the Harts' care. Maria's Mon duly went into training with Richard Schosberg, under the ownership of Mr and Mrs Rosenthal. Having won his maiden, he was rapidly raised in class, winning the Grade Two Sanford Stakes over six furlongs at Saratoga and a pair of Grade One races at Belmont, the Futurity Stakes over a mile (beating and ) and the Champagne Stakes over eight and a half furlongs. He also finished third (after winning the Sanford) in the Grade One Hopeful Stakes over seven furlongs at Saratoga, beaten by and Louis Quartorze.

After Maria's Mon's Champagne Stakes victory, Pin Oak Stud principal Josephine Abercrombie, who had been observing the colt's progress through the season, approached Mr and Mrs Rosenthal with a view to buying an interest in their horse, the plan being that they would race the horse in partnership before he joined the stallion roster at Pin Oak. A deal was duly done, but sadly Mrs Abercrombie was not able to enjoy much racing with the horse: a fracture in a fetlock was diagnosed shortly afterwards, meaning that he was not able to run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and, although he did race twice as a three-year-old, he was unable to recapture his former brilliance. Maria's Mon then duly retired to Pin Oak Stud in time for the 2007 covering season, but he did so as a horse who had achieved nothing over the preceding twelve months and was duly pitched in at a relatively low fee ($7,500).

Happily, aided by his affordable fee, Maria's Mon was able to attract adequate books of mares from the outset. Pin Oak Stud supported him, and his juvenile form plus his impressive physique ensured that he attracted patronage from several other leading Kentucky breeders - although it was only after he had proved himself as a stallion that the Rosenthals and Pin Oak were joined in his ownership by Stonerside and Overbrook, both farms buying into him once he was established as a Grade One sire. Star of his first crop was undoubtedly , who came to his peak in the first half of 2001, winning the Florida Derby before heading north to make the frame in the Wood Memorial as a prelude to etching his name into the history books by winning the Kentucky Derby. Although unable to maintain this form through the Triple Crown, he still ran well in both the Preakness (in which he finished sixth) and the Belmont Stakes (in which he finished third), both of which races were won by the Kentucky Derby fifth .

Maria's Mon's first crop also included the graded stakes winners and , while his second crop showed that his first-crop success had been no flash in the pan: it too contained a Grade One winner (Selene Stakes victrix ). The crop of foals conceived in 2001, the spring which saw Monarchos' rise to prominence, was a good one, containing the likes of Louisiana Derby winner and the Grade Three winners , and . It was, though, only once Monarchos had revealed himself that Maria's Mon started to receive high-class mares in sufficient numbers to make him a regular source of stakes-class gallopers. The mares which he covered in 2002, the season after Monarchos had won the Kentucky Derby, were understandably a strong bunch, and Maria's Mon duly capitalized by producing two individual Grade One winners from his 2003 foal crop. The more prolific of these proved to be , a splendid racemare who won nine graded stakes including two Grade Ones as a three-year-old (the Yellow Ribbon Stakes and the American Oaks Invitational Stakes) and one Grade One as a five-year-old (the Yellow Ribbon Stakes again). Her paternal half-brother was not able to compile quite so full a resume, but he still was able to land the Grade One Malibu Stakes at three and the Grade Two San Carlos Handicap as a four-year-old.

Maria's Mon's fifth and sixth Grade One winners came from his next two crops (born in 2004 and '05) with winning the Eddie Read Handicap as a four-year-old in 2008 and winning the same year's Blue Grass Stakes as a three-year-old. Sadly, though, by the time that these two horses recorded their principal victories, their sire had died: Maria's Mon was put down on 14 September 2007 after failing to recover from a week-long intestinal illness. He was riding on the crest of a wave at the time, his fee having risen to $60,000, at which price he had covered 132 mares during the preceding spring. Clifford Barry, understandably, declared, on behalf of Pin Oak: "We're devastated. He's been our flagship horse. I think that's the sad part for me. You get so attached to them, being around them every day, and then feeling that his better stuff is just there behind him. He's bred his better books of mares over the last couple of years, and last year was the strongest by far. You can only hope he leaves us a legacy behind here."

Happily, it does indeed seem as if Maria's Mon has left a legacy, certainly as regards the youngsters whom he left behind. was a foal at the time of his father's death, and now his Kentucky Derby victory has encouraged further expectation from the stallion's final crop, who are currently two-year-olds. It seems likely that there will be some stars lurking there - and while it is early days yet to assess Maria's Mon's impact as a broodmare sire, he has been represented in this respect posthumously by two good British-trained two-year-olds, having won the 2007 Oh So Sharp Stakes at Newmarket and having finished third in the 2008 Middle Park Stakes at the same course.

Maria's Mon's reputation as a sire of sires seems secure thanks to Monarchos having made such a good start to his stud career. With his oldest offspring now aged seven, Monarchos has already been represented by the triple Grade One winner , whose three top-class victories as a four-year-old in 2009 were headed by her victory in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mares Sprint. It seems fair to assume that Super Saver will, in time, also make a good stallion, particularly as his credentials are enhanced by his female family: he descends from the great matriarch and, less distantly, has the champion filly and great broodmare as his fourth dam.

There can be no doubt, therefore, that Maria's Mon's place in the annals is secure. He did not come from a particularly remarkable family - although his granddam was a half-sister to the 1983 Santa Anita Derby winner - but he was a very good racehorse who proved able to pass on his ability and good looks (as well as, often, his grey coat, which he inherited from his dam , a daughter of the Grey Sovereign-line sire ). He also has passed on the influence of the sire-line, although not via Raise A Native's most influential son .

Although Mr Prospector was ultimately to prove Raise A Native's most celebrated son, he was far from the best racehorse sired by America's champion two-year-old of 1963. That honour arguably fell to the 1969 Kentucky Derby winner , who in time proved a very good stallion, even if he has not proved to be the principal conduit of Raise A Native blood. Pick of the 32 stakes winners sired by Majestic Prince was arguably the 1979 Belmont Stakes winner , but ran him close in achievement by winning four Grade One races: two (including the Swaps Stakes over ten furlongs) as a three-year-old in 1976 and two (including the 12-furlong Man O' War Stakes) as a four-year-old. Majestic Light in turn became a very good sire, responsible for 78 stakes winners, six of whom scored at Grade One level including Maria's Mon's sire , of whose 34 stakes winners Maria's Mon was the pick; while Wavering Monarch also featured as a very respectable broodmare sire, responsible in this role for the likes of Preakness Stakes winner , Kentucky Oaks winner , Matron Stakes victrix , Californian turf Grade One winner , multiple graded stakes winners and , and Royal Ascot-winning juvenile .

Although, therefore, over-shadowed by the Mr Prospector branch of Raise A Native's line, the Majestic Prince branch has been a very productive source of high-class horses through four decades - and Maria's Mon definitely ranks as one of its most distinguished members. Now Super Saver, for one, is likely to ensure that its story is far from over.

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