Stars on the Rise at Saratoga: Pretty Birdie and Wit
Photo of Pretty Birdie courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Courtesy of Ren Carothers
Summer has arrived and so has the scintillating action that comes with it at storied Saratoga. The meet is a showcase of some of the best horses in the country, and also introduces us to the new names that will go on to make headlines ahead of Future Stars Friday at Breeders’ Cup.
On opening day, we saw a stellar performance from Pretty Birdie, trained by Norm Casse and ridden by Luis Saez, as she followed up her gate-to-wire, 3-3/4 lengths debut at Churchill Downs with another catch-me-if-you-can tour de force in the G3 Schuylerville. What made the triumph all the more special is that Pretty Birdie was bred and is owned by Marylou Whitney Stables, whose Hard Legacy had given Casse his first graded stakes victory, taking the 2019 Regret Stakes at Churchill.
Fitting that Pretty Birdie would fly to a win, securing not only a graded score for Casse at Saratoga, but continuing the legacy of her stable’s namesake, Marylou, whose philanthropy and smile have left an indelible impression on the community. The flashy gray filly, who finished two lengths the better of Mainstay, a half-sister to 2020’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies/Eclipse Champion Two-Year-Old Filly, Vequist, is through-and-through a Whitney homebred.
Pretty Birdie’s sire, Bird Song, winner of the 2017 G2 Alysheba and G3 Hal’s Hope Stakes, was bred and campaigned by Marylou Whitney Stables. The son of 1995’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victor, Unbridled’s Song, is out 2003’s Eclipse Champion Three-Year-Old-Filly and Kentucky Oaks heroine, Bird Town, who was also bred by the stable, by Cape Town and out of the blue hen mare Dear Birdie. The same year Bird Town won the Oaks, her ½ brother, Birdstone, by Grindstone, won the G1 Champagne and, at three, went on to win the Belmont and Travers.
Pretty Birdie’s dam, Bird Sense, is a daughter the first horse to complete the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile/Kentucky Derby double, Street Sense, and out of Bird Harbor, whose own sire, Boston Harbor, also won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 1996. Bird Habor’s mom, Dearest Gulch, by 1988’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint/Eclipse Champion Sprinter, Gulch, is, like the aforementioned Bird Town and Birdstone, out of Dear Birdie.
In short, Dear Birdie is the 2nd dam (grandmother) of Pretty Birdie’s sire, Bird Town, and Pretty Birdie herself is tail-female to Dear Birdie, with the star broodmare being her 4th dam (maternal great-great grandmother). Added to this, both Bird Song and Bird Sense are by sires who are tail-male (sire-to-sire) to Mr. Prospector.
One of the most potent crosses in breeding has historically been Mr. Prospector with Northern Dancer, and we see that pairing represented in the pedigree of Wit, who crushed the field by 8-lengths in this Saturday’s G3 Sanford. Owned by Repole, St. Elias, and Gainesway Stables, the Todd Pletcher trainee proved the 6-length debut score no fluke, and jumped 20-Beyer Speed Figure points, putting up a 90 under Irad Ortiz, Jr.
The cleverly named Wit is a son of Practical Joke, who won the 2016 Champagne and Hopeful ahead of a third placed finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He went on to win the G1 H. Allen Jerkens at three, adding to the reputation of sire-sensation Into Mischief. In addition to being a G1 winner himself, Into Mischief is a ½ brother to two Breeders’ Cup champions in 4-time Eclipse winner Beholder (2012 BC Juvenile Fillies, 2013 Distaff, 2016 Distaff), and Mendelssohn (2017 BC Juvenile Turf), and he represents the Northern Dancer sire-line. Practical Joke’s mom, Halo Humor, is herself a daughter of a Mr. Prospector-line stallion in Distorted Humor.
Like Practical Joke, Wit’s dam, Numero d’Oro is by a Northern Dancer-line sire in Travers and Whitney winner (and two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up), Medaglia d’Oro, and out of multiple stakeswinner, multiple G2 placed Numero Uno, a mare by a Mr. Prospector-line stallion, namely his son, 1987’s Sovereign Horse of the Year, and Canadian Hall of Famer, Afleet (who was 3rd in the aforementioned 1988 BC Sprint). Numero d’Oro was unraced herself, but before foaling Wit, she produced his half-brother Barkley, who won hearts in the Northwest, prevailing in the first six starts of his career, and going on to become a G3 winner, adding the Longacres Mile to his list of accomplishments. With a race-record of 20: 10-5-1 it was hard not to become a fan of the flashy son of Munnings, and these stats certainly added to the allure which incentivized buyers to go to $575,000 for his little brother at the Keeneland September Sale last year.
Also found on Wit’s catalogue page is graded-stakes winner Ivy Bell, who won the 2018 G2 Inside Information for Todd Pletcher. She followed that victory up with a pair of G1 runner-up finishes in the Humana Distaff and Ogden Phipps Stakes. What you don’t see in the sales book, however, might be one of the most fun facts related to Wit from a genetic standpoint, as far back in the lineage as it may be. His mom is tail-female to Friar’s Carse, 1925’s Champion Two-Year-Old Filly, and the dam of War Relic, a son of Man o’War, whose line has been carried forward through the likes of Hall of Famer, and the only horse to have ever won the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice, Tiznow.
Such threads in the genetic tapestry are what make pedigree so exciting. Each new generation breathes life into the heroes of old. The story of racing may feature new names chapter-to-chapter, but those like Pretty Birdie and Wit follow in the glow cast by the luminaries before them, serving as prime examples of what makes the road to Future Stars Friday an epic journey.
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