The breeding lines that indicate a promising future for new sire Vino Rosso

Champion performance: Vino Rosso (Irad Ortiz) winning the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in November. Photo: Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM/Breeders’ Cup

Like the fine red wine for which he is named, Vino Rosso just got better with age. Undefeated in two starts as a juvenile, the Curlin colt won the G2 Wood Memorial Stakes before finishing off the board in two Classic races. But, as a 4-year-old in 2019, he found another level.

Vino Rosso has just won the Eclipse Award for champion older dirt male thanks to victories in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes and the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic. He also outdueled Code Of Honor to get his nose across the wire first in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes at Belmont but was disqualified to second for interference in the stretch. 

As Vino Rosso begins stud duty at Spendthrift Farm near Lexington, where he is standing for $30,000, Carly Silver examines his fascinating pedigree in detail to get a feel of how his offspring may fare on the racetrack.


Vino Rosso’s sire, two-time Horse of the Year Curlin proved the best son of Smart Strike on the track and at stud. In doing so, he edged out formidable competition in champions English Channel and Lookin At Lucky. Like him, Curlin’s progeny excel at distances between 8½ furlongs and a mile and a half, highlighted by Classic winners Palace Malice and Exaggerator and champions Good Magic and Stellar Wind. Physically, Vino Rosso resembles a lighter-bodied version of his imposing chestnut sire, who is the #1 dirt stallion in the TRC Global Rankings.

Bearing a pedigree outcrossed within five generations, Curlin — out of Sheriff’s Deputy, by Deputy Minister — shares a third dam with 1997 champion juvenile filly Countess Diana and 2001 G1 Beldame Stakes  winner Exogenous. This family is hallmarked by consistency and the occasional flash of high class.

John Gunther bred Vino Rosso with his daughter, Tanya, in Kentucky, in the name of their Glennwood Farm. Tanya Gunther noted, “Vino Rosso, over the last year, has developed a lot. He’s grown a lot from three to four.” 

Glennwood consigned the handsome chestnut to the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling sale, where Vino Rosso fetched $410,000 from eventual owners Mike Repole and St Elias Stable. 

The Gunthers purchased the colt’s dam, Mythical Bride (by Street Cry), for $42,000 at the 2011 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. “She’s by Street Cry, who we believed was an up-and-coming broodmare sire, and we liked him as a broodmare sire and we like the overall family,” Gunther recalled. “Her dam, Flaming Heart, was bought by WinStar for quite a bit of money, so it attracted us to the page and, after buying her, a couple of her foals did very well, which was nice to see — an improvement after we purchased her with Commissioner and Laugh Track.”

A Mythical mare

WinStar bought Mythical Bride in utero, spending $1.5 million for her dam, Flaming Heart, at the 2007 Keeneland November sale. Multiple stakes winner Mythical Bride was a homebred for Frank Stronach; her sire, Stronach’s Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold, adds a second strain of his sire, Deputy Minister, to Vino Rosso’s pedigree.

The mare has gone on to pay dividends for the Gunthers. Most recently, Mythical Bride’s Super Saver colt So Alive placed in the 2019 G3 Sam F Davis Stakes. “So we’re quite hopeful for her progeny,” mused Gunther. “I think she throws nice balance on her horses; that’s one thing I would say about her [progeny] today.”

Reflecting on Vino Rosso’s mating, Gunther recalled, “Obviously, when we bred to Curlin the first time, he was at a lower fee than what he is now. I think he was around 30 grand at that time.” 

Curlin’s 2014 fee was $25,000, but it had ballooned to $175,00 by 2020. Gunther added, “When you prove the mare early on, you can then follow that stallion early on, and we’re now breeding to him at a much higher fee, of course.”

Mythical Bride’s 2017 Pioneerof the Nile colt Ramesses The Great is unraced but cost a few pretty pennies. Consigned to the 2017 November sale at — where else? — Keeneland, the youngster fetched $350,000 from Repole Stables. At the following year’s Keeneland September Yearling sale, the colt was pinhooked by Taylor Made to Coolmore’s MV Magnier for $525,000. Ramesses The Great is now with Aidan O’Brien in Ireland. 

Mythical Bride’s 2018 Uncle Mo colt realized $425,000, also from Coolmore, at the 2019 Keeneland September sale.

“To have Coolmore buy those two foals — obviously, they’ll get a great chance,” Gunther added, “and they are among the best in the world in picking out stock. So that’s so rewarding, to have buyers like that come in and buy her foals.” 

Mythical Bride has a yearling full brother to Vino Rosso. Gunther said, “We didn’t cover her in 2019, so she’s barren going into this year and we’ll breed her back to Curlin.”

Following big brother

Flaming Heart also produced 2014 Belmont runner-up Commissioner, 2013 G3 Vigil Stakes victor Laugh Track (by Distorted Humor), and G3-placed Intrepid Heart (by Tapit). A son of AP Indy, Commissioner echoed Vino Rosso’s improvement with time. A winner at two, at three he placed in the 2014 G2 Peter Pan Stakes and was runner-up in the Belmont Stakes.

At four, Commissioner had his best season, tallying the G3 Skip Away Stakes and Pimlico Special. He finished his career with a triumph in the 2015 G2 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap. Retired to WinStar Farm, he ranked among the top 20 first-crop stallions by progeny earnings in 2019, siring stakes winners Soros and Two Last Words. He stands for $7,500 in 2020. 

Sean Tugel, WinStar’s director of bloodstock services and assistant racing manager, noted, “Certainly, Vino Rosso has boosted the popularity of the family. He has three stakes winners in his first crop of racing age already, so I’m pretty excited about this point in January. [He] had good numbers, they’re horses that obviously look like they’re going to be Classic horses, so seeing them having the precocity already is pretty exciting.”

To kick off 2020, Commissioner’s Island Commish tallied the January 4 G3 Kitten’s Joy Stakes on turf and became her sire’s first Graded winner. Tugel mused, “That was a great race to start the year, and any time a young stallion can have a new stakes winner, especially at a premier track like Gulfstream, that just gets his popularity going, which is a difficult thing in today’s market.” He called Commissioner’s progeny “very smart animals”, in the mold of their sire. Tugel added, “He was always a very intelligent, very classy horse. They’re not full of flash. They’re good-boned horses, very good body; they can handle training. He puts power into his offspring.”

Commissioner’s successes in the sales ring include two of his juvenile daughters selling for $475,000 and $450,000 at OBS April and March sales, respectively. His stakes-placed runners included Powerfulattraction, who ran second in last year’s G2 Sorrento Stakes. Bred in Arkansas by McDowell Farm, Powerfulattraction passed through the sales ring three times, eventually selling for $225,000 at the 2019 OBS March sale.

Bill McDowell purchased her dam, Magnet (by Seeking The Gold), in foal to Commissioner, for $11,000 at the 2016 Keeneland November sale. The mare was 17 at the time. “I bought the mare at Keeneland when she was carrying Powerfulattraction and I did happen to go and look at his mare and I really liked her appearance and her pedigree and who she was bred to,” McDowell recalled.  

“I liked everything about her and I thought she was a bargain. I go and find stuff I can like and I can afford, and she was old enough is why I could afford her.” He described Powerfulattraction as “a fabulous-looking weanling”. 

McDowell bought the Running Stag mare Miss Attractive, in foal to Commissioner, at the recent Keeneland November sale. Also 17 when McDowell bought her, Miss Attractive foaled multiple Graded stakes winner Awesome Baby before a lull in her producing career enabled McDowell to buy her for a mere $4,500. 

The Commissioner foal she is carrying will be a full sibling to Miss Chanel, a now-3-year-old Todd Pletcher purchased for $140,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling sale. McDowell hopes to replicate his past success with Commissioner and said of the stallion, “Well, he just got a good pedigree and he’s a good racehorse.”

Even bluer hens

Flaming Heart’s dam is Hot Lear (by the excellent turf runner and good sire Lear Fan) and she tallied three stakes wins in her own right, while her Graded-placed General Meeting filly Dash For Money became the dam of two stakes winners. Hot Lear is out of G3 winner Medicine Woman, a daughter of useful sprinter Dr Blum. Bred by the estate of Secretariat’s breeder, Christopher Chenery, Dr Blum is a son of Dr Fager. Hailing from one of Chenery’s most productive families, he boasts as damsire the good runner and sire Sir Gaylord, maternal half-brother to Secretariat. Dr Blum is a maternal great-grandson of blue hen Hildene (dam of 1950 Horse of the Year Hill Prince).

Medicine Woman carries two crosses of Nasrullah: one through Bold Matron, a daughter of Bold Ruler who became the granddam of Dr Blum, the other through damsire Lt Stevens, a full brother to Classic winner Ridan and champion Moccasin. 

Medicine Woman’s two stakes winners include Stronach homebred I’m A Tiger, winner of the 2005 G1 Frank J De Francis Memorial Dash Stakes. Her daughter, Hot Lear, carries an extra cross of Lt Stevens — a son of the wonderful broodmare Rough Shod II — as the damsire of Lear Fan. Rough Shod II’s prominent descendants include leading sires Nureyev, Fairy King, Thatch, and Sadler’s Wells, meaning their descendants will provide some interesting line-breeding opportunities for Vino Rosso.

Medicine Woman is a full sister to the dam of 1994 Kentucky Derby third Blumin Affair. The siblings are from stakes-placed Julita, whose dam, Jo Lar Tay, is by the excellent English sprinter Pappa Fourway. Pappa Fourway is best known as second damsire of 1991 Derby winner Strike The Gold.

A full sister to 1961 Del Mar Futurity victor Weldy, Jo Lar Tay is out of Bankline. Sent to the winning Tulyar horse Tuleg, Bankline produced Running Account. Bred to Sir Ribot, Running Account produced multiple Graded stakes winner Riot In Paris and Two To Paris, winner of the 1970 Critérium des Pouliches (now the G1 Prix Marcel Boussac). Two To Paris is the tail-female ancestress of a smattering of stakes winners, including Japanese G3 winner Golden Cast and Italian G3 winner Mamela.

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