Who’s your momma? A few candidates for 2012 Broodmare of the Year

With little more than a month remaining in the year and only a smattering of Grade I races still on the docket, the debate around which humans and equines will take home Eclipse Awards for 2012 has begun in earnest throughout the Thoroughbred racing community.

One of the more coveted awards in the industry, however, won’t be handed up until next spring when the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’ honors its 2012 Broodmare of the Year.

First awarded in 1946, the Broodmare of the Year designation is the oldest award the KTA/KTOB distributes and is voted upon by the organization’s Board of Directors (mares must be based in Kentucky). Though the KTA/KTOB awards committee determines the nominees, that doesn’t mean fans and pedigree junkies can’t banter back and forth about who they think will be in the running and ultimately prevail.

A  leading candidate for this year’s honor would be the lone mare in owner Morton Fink’s broodmare roster – Lisa Danielle. Named for one of Fink’s grandchildren, the 18-year-old daughter of Wolf Power is the dam of multiple Grade I winner and leading Horse of the Year candidate Wise Dan as well as graded stakes winner Successful Dan, both conditioned by Charlie Lopresti.

Wise Dan’s well-documented resume is a tribute to his all-encompassing talent, featuring graded stakes triumphs on all three surfaces. When Successful Dan and fellow Grade I-winning stablemate Turallure each went to the sidelines with season-ending injuries this summer, the Wiseman’s Ferry gelding picked up the ball and stuffed it, winning four straight tests on turf to close out his season including scores in the Grade I Woodbine Mile, Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile and a course record-setting romp in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita on November 3.

Before a ligament injury flared up prior to his expected run in the Grade I Whitney, Successful Dan was in the midst of a comeback from a prior suspensory ailment that sidelined him for 17-months. The 6-year-old gelded son of Successful Appeal  won an allowance race at Keeneland in April and defeated eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned in the Grade II Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 4, taking that race in track record time for 1 1/16-miles.

“Whoever we bred her to, the horse comes out looking like her and they all run,” Fink said of Lisa Danielle following Wise Dan’s Breeders’ Cup triumph. “She has had three stakes winners, five horses have won over $150,000 this is from a $29,000 mare. You have to be lucky.  You can do things right but you have to be lucky, too.”

No mare has earned the Broodmare of the Year honor more than once, but My Meadowview’s blue hen Oatsee could change that. The 2011 Broodmare of the Year might have an even stronger case for the honor this season with three of her offspring winning stakes in 2012 and two of them taking multiple graded stakes.

Already the dam of 2007 Grade I Alabama Stakes winner Lady Joanne and multiple Grade III winner Baghdaria, Oatsee produced 2011 Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford, who became a multiple Grade I victor this year with scores in the Met Mile and Clark Handicap. Twenty four hours before Shackleford closed out his career with his Clark victory last weekend, his 5-year-old half sister Afleeting Lady captured the Grade II Falls City Handicap at Churchill, her third stakes win and second graded stakes triumph of 2012.

Add in to all that the fact Stephanoatsee, Oatsee’s 3-year-old son of A.P. Indy, captured the Barbaro Stakes in October. When the 15-year-old daughter of Unbridled visits  undefeated European champion Frankel in the breeding shed this coming year, the resulting foal better have a good shoulder for which to handle the expectations heaped upon it.

Shackleford’s Grade I-winning stablemate Dullahan also gave his dam Mining My Own potential Broodmare of the Year credentials. The 11-year-old daughter of Smart Strike hit paydirt when her first foal, Mine That Bird, captured the 2009 Kentucky Derby and went on to hit the board in the remaining two Triple Crown races.

Proving she is nobody’s one-hit wonder, Mining My Own was back in the spotlight the last 12 months with Dullahan toppling champion Hansen in the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes prior to his third place effort in the Kentucky Derby. The son of Even the Score enjoyed his best moment though when he defeated older horses – including multiple Grade I winner Game On Dude – to become just the fourth 3-year-old to win the Grade I Pacific Classic in August.

A dark horse but no less admirable candidate could also be Matlacha Pass, dam of multiple Grade I winner Point of Entry. A product of the storied Phipps breeding program, the 15-year-old Matlacha Pass shows why one shouldn’t lose faith in a proven mare that has a bit of a dry spell. The 15-year-old Seeking the Gold mare produced the ill-fated, multiple Grade I winning filly Pine Island as her second foal in 2003 but didn’t have another stakes winner until Point of Entry, who was foaled in 2008.

Prior to his runner-up finish to Little Mike in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, Point of Entry had won five straight including the Grade I Man o’ War Stakes, Grade I Sword Dancer Invitational and Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.

With only one shot a season to make an impact, broodmares are the quite literally the heartbeat of any breeding operation regardless of scope. These mares are among the treasured bunch that has repeatedly delivered top level quality and given every horseman hope each time a foal hits the ground.