Holy Helena an All-Stronach Production

07.06.2017 -

The Queen’s Plate is worth only listed black type status in the international pattern system because it is restricted to Canadian-breds, but it remains Canada’s greatest and most prestigious race, as well as one of the richest, with a $1 million purse. Despite that munificent prize and because it is a restricted stakes, the quality of the winners of the Queen’s Plate is highly variable. But it is almost certain that this year’s winner, Holy Helena, is a high-class filly by any standard.

Watch Holy Helena win 158th Queen's Plate

The Queen’s Plate was Holy Helena’s third consecutive victory from only four lifetime starts - she finished second in her first start on April 14 at Aqueduct - and came four weeks after her victory in the Woodbine Oaks at the eponymous Toronto track. Bred in Ontario by Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs, Holy Helena is 100% Stronach-bred.

Her sire, 2004 Horse of the Year and champion older male Ghostzapper, ranks as the best horse bred by Stronach in his more than 40 years in the Thoroughbred industry. Ghostzapper’s sire, 1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again, probably the holder of that title before Ghostzapper, won nine of his 11 starts, all from 2002 through 2005. A come-from-behind winner of the Grade 1 Vosburgh near the end of his 3-year-old campaign, Ghostzapper transformed into a front-running monster at 4, winning all four of his starts, culminating in a tour-de-force victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Lone Star Park, racing unchallenged through 1 ¼ miles in 1:59.02.

Ghostzapper got off to a rather slow start at stud, but his record has improved steadily as his offspring have matured. He rarely sires precocious 2-year-olds, and his best tend to begin to show their best form, just as he did, toward the middle of their 3-year-old seasons. Ghostzapper has sired 65 stakes winners from 632 foals age 3 and up, a sparkling 10.3% stakes winners to foals ratio that compares very favorably to several stallions who are much more fashionable than he.

Ghostzapper is enjoying a banner year, standing third on the general sire list, largely due to the efforts of his best son to date, Shaman Ghost (out of Getback Time, by Gilded Time), who won the Queen’s Plate two years ago, and scored this year in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap after running second to the great Arrogate in the Pegasus Cup Invitational. Shaman Ghost won the Sovereign Award as champion Canadian 3-year-old male in 2015, and Ghostzapper’s daughter Judy the Beauty (Holy Blitz, by Holy Bull) earned an Eclipse Award as champion female sprinter in 2014.

Adena Springs acquired Holy Helena’s second dam, My Marchesa, by Stately Don, privately after running seventh in the 1994 Chrysanthemum Handicap at Laurel, and she never won a race in Stronach’s black, gold, and red colors. Earlier, she did win the Gala Lil Stakes and run second in the Navajo Princess and Gold Digger Stakes. My Marchesa ran third in the Carotene Stakes for Stronach’s Adena Springs. She produced Grade 2 Twilight Derby winner Rookie Sensation, by Unbridled’s Song; Grade 3 winner Mark One, by Alphabet Soup; and Japanese stakes winner Daiwa Carson, by Carson City; as well as Archduchess, the dam of Grade 3 Ohio Derby winner Pleasant Prince, by Indy King.

My Marchesa came by her prowess as a broodmare honestly, since she was half-sister to Canadian and American graded winner Black Cash, by Deposit Ticket, a horse Stronach purchased as a weanling for $30,000. My Marchesa’s dam, Sooni, by Buckpasser was half-sister to leading sire Raja Baba, by Bold Ruler, and five other stakes winners out of the great foundation mare Missy Baba, by My Babu.

Holy Helena’s dam, Holy Grace, by Holy Bull, won 2 of 14 starts, but her second foal, Holy Boss, by Street Boss, won the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes and three other stakes in 2014. Holy Helena is Holy Grace’s fourth foal, and the mare has since produced a Fort Larned juvenile filly named Holy Fort who has not yet raced, a yearling filly by Point of Entry, and a 2017 colt by Silver Max.

It is notable that two of Ghostzapper’s best offspring are out of mares by Holy Bull, but otherwise he has shown little preference in terms of broodmare sires or their sire lines. His 10 other Grade 1 or Group 1 winners are out of mares by 10 different sires from various sire lines.

- by Daily Racing Form Breeding columnist John Sparkman (edited)

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