Spring At LastSpring At Last (Vanessa NG)When it comes to Producer of the Week, nothing in the Thoroughbred world came close to matching Mrs. Olivia Manning’s feat. Her son Eli followed in the footsteps of older brother Peyton by collecting the MVP award at the Super Bowl, and in the process Mrs. Manning became the first woman to have sons triumph in consecutive editions of the Super Bowl.

As an Englishman, I have no idea what the odds are against lightning striking twice in the NFL showpiece. However, I do know that broodmares occasionally defy seemingly enormous odds, good examples being Windmill Girl, whose sons Blakeney and Morston landed the Epsom Derby, and Better Than Honour, who produced consecutive Belmont S. winners in Jazil and Rags to Riches. WinStar Farm’s mare Winter’s Gone doesn’t yet merit mentioning in the same breath as such as Windmill Girl and Better Than Honour, but she is developing into an outstanding producer and was represented by her second Grade I winner— and third Grade I performer—when Spring at Last took the GI Donn Handicap three days ago.

videoClick here to watch the 2008 Donn Handicap.

You would never have expected Winter’s Gone to scale such heights, judged solely on her racing career. The daughter of Dynaformer raced a total of six times at two and three for her breeder, Maycroft Farm, and was tried on dirt and turf, over a variety of distances. Nothing helped, though, and she failed to fulfill the potential of her excellent bloodlines, never finishing better than fourth. Her career earnings amounted to $2,610. I don’t know whether she was injured when she finished only 11th of 12 at Fair Grounds in the March of her sophomore season, but—whatever the reason—her owners decided not to persevere with her racing career. Instead she was mated to Coronado’s Quest before being sent to Keeneland the following January. Some idea of the strength of her bloodlines can be gauged from the fact that the WinStar Farm partners were prepared to pay $410,000 for her.

Winter’s Gone has since confirmed that, in some instances, pedigree can be far more important than performance in a potential broodmare. Her third foal, the Dixieland Band mare Sharp Lisa, became a Grade I winner in the 2005 Las Virgenes S. and her fourth foal, a colt by Silver Deputy, is none other than Spring at Last. Her fifth is the Touch Gold filly Sharp Susan, who was beaten only : lengths in the GI Garden City S., not long after taking last year’s GII Lake Placid S. So Winter’s Gone has produced three consecutive graded winners to three different stallions (two of them sons of Deputy Minister), which is a tremendous achievement (even if it doesn’t match Mrs Manning’s!).

DONN H.-GI , $500,000, GPX, 2-2, 4yo/up, 1 1/8m, 1:48 1/5, ft.

1— SPRING AT LAST, 119, h, 5, by Silver Deputy

1st Dam: Winter’s Gone, by Dynaformer

2nd Dam: Stark Winter, by Graustark

3rd Dam: Winter Wren, by *Princequillo

($675,000 HRA > 06 KEENOV). O-J Paul Reddam & WinStar Farm LLC; B-WinStar Farm LLC (KY); T-Doug F O’Neill; J-Eibar Coa; $300,000. Lifetime Record: GSW-UAE, 12-5-2-2, $1,137,650. *1/2 to Sharp Lisa (Dixieland Band), GISW, $658,100; and 3/4 to Sharp Susan (Touch Gold), MGSW & GISP, $285,843.

Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News 5/2/08