**Unfortunately news came this morning that First Mission has been scratched from the Preakness with a left hind issue. We had previously completed this write-up so will share it anyway as the pedigree notes are still interesting. As far as a Preakness pick goes now, National Treasure looks to be the biggest beneficiary of the pace scenario and we like him to hold off Mage to win tomorrow.**
Unlike this year’s Kentucky Derby and Oaks, in both of which we had strong rooting interests because of family ties to broodmares that we’d recently purchased on behalf of our friends at Wasabi Ventures Stables & Stallions, we will be watching Saturday’s Preakness simply as as fan (though shout-out to our client Tom Rooney, who bred Preakness entrant Coffeewithchris in a mating that we did not assist with). And with that in mind, our Preakness pick is the lightly-raced but highly-talented First Mission.
Though he has only three starts to his credit, First Mission has shown plenty of class thus far in his career — after finishing 2nd to a highly-regarded stablemate when sprinting on debut, he stretched out to two-turns and romped by six lengths after sitting just off the early leader, and then jumped right into stakes company when scoring in the G3 Lexington (over the likes of next-out Kentucky Derby 4th-place finisher Disarm) following a forward trip and a gutsy stretch battle.
His tactical speed and tenacity should serve him well in tomorrow’s Preakness, as the relatively small field appears to lack a confirmed pace presence. That should allow First Mission to sit up close to a moderate pace, and get a jump on the likes of the late-running Good Magic-sired trio of Mage, Blazing Sevens and Perform.
We think of ourselves first and foremost as a “pedigree snob”, and First Mission certainly fits the mold in what we appreciate in a top class racehorse:
His sire, Street Sense, was the first horse to win the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and follow up with a victory in the G1 Kentucky Derby. Upon retirement, he has stood stud at Darley at Jonabell (save one NH season in Japan, and several shuttle trips to Australia) where his 90+ stakes winners include top class two-turn horses like McKinzie and Maxfield, plus speedier runners like Speaker’s Corner, Sweet Reason and Aubby K. Maxfield and Speaker’s Corner both now stand beside Street Sense at Darley, and interestingly both are out of mares by another former Darley star in Bernardini.
First Mission, though, was produced from a winning mare by yet another Darley stallion stalwart in perennial leading sire Medaglia d’Oro. Himself a winner of the G1 Travers at the classic ten furlongs, MDO has sired a plethora of top class, classic types like Rachel Alexandra, Songbird, Wonder Gadot, Elate, Plum Pretty, Higher Power, etc. Rachel Alexandra, Elate and Songbird are all bred on the same MDO/Forty Niner cross as First Mission’s dam Elude, who is a daughter of the Argentine champion Forty Marchanta. In fact, Forty Marchanta and Rachel Alexandra are both out of mares by Forty Niner’s son Roar, who was a favorite of ours during his racing days for Claiborne Farm when he won the G2 Jim Beam and G3 Swale, but who stood stud at Lane’s End rather than the farm of his breeders and didn’t have much success in this country (he did much better as a shuttle sire in Argentina).
There are 23 runners by Street Sense out of MDO mares, with only 11 winners so far, but four of those (17% from runners) are stakes winners, leading to an “A+” rating from TrueNicks. First Mission is the only graded winner bred on this cross so far. He likely also benefits from the fact that Street Sense has does well with Forty Niner-line mares, as well: his G1-winning daughter Wedding Toast is out of a mare by Coronado’s Quest, his G1 winner Street Fancy has a second dam by Forty Niner himself, his G2 winner Avery Island has a second dam by Forty Niner’s son Rich Man’s Gold, etc.
Should First Mission be successful on Saturday, he will likely earn himself a spot at stud at Darley with Street Sense, Maxfield and Speaker’s Corner, and given the fact that he is free of the Bernardini (and AP Indy/Seattle Slew more generally) blood that has worked so well for Street Sense (again, Maxfield and Speaker’s Corner are both out of Bernardini mares, as is G3 winner Shared Sense — whose 3YO full-sister Comparative runs in today’s G3 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico for First Mission’s connections — while McKinzie has a second dam by Houston, Aubby K is out of a Capote mare, G2 winners Air Strike and Concert Tour are out of Tapit mares, Avery Island is out of an AP Indy mare as are G3 winners Doctor Mounty and Aztec Sense, etc), he would offer an exciting option for mares from that sire-line.
First, though, First Mission has to go take care of business here in Baltimore tomorrow, which we believe his record and pedigree have him poised to do.