Pedigree notebook: Nothing hidden about Occult's cross

January 17th, 2023

There’s a lot of pedigree coverage for contenders on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail, but what about all the other divisions in Thoroughbred racing? This space will highlight a wider range of pedigree musings.

Occult – Busanda S.

When Occult drew off in the Jan. 14 Busanda S. on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks at Aqueduct, she became the latest stakes winner for perennial leading sire Into Mischief. That’s not exactly a breaking news ticker, except for the fact she’s advertising the cross of Into Mischief with mares by Empire Maker, the 2003 Belmont (G1) winner and major classic influence.

The three leading examples of this pattern are millionaire Mandaloun, awarded the victory in the 2021 Kentucky Derby and Haskell (G1); unbeaten stakes-winning filly Taraz, who promised to make noise on the 2020 Oaks trail before her untimely passing; and Laurel River, last seen romping in the Aug. 27 Pat O’Brien (G2).

Those three are Juddmonte homebreds, which stands to reason since Empire Maker was himself a Juddmonte product. The late Prince Khalid Abdullah’s operation has no shortage of his daughters from their long-cultivated families, a deep foundation undergirding this cross. Indeed, the other graded winner representing this cross, Center Aisle, was herself out of a Juddmonte-bred mare who had been culled.

Might Occult emerge as the best exemplar without the Juddmonte imprint? Interestingly, she too hails from a deep female line nurtured by a thoughtful breeder. She was bred by Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds, also the breeder of Into Mischief’s 2020 Kentucky Derby hero and Horse of the Year Authentic.

Out of the Grade 2-winning Magical Feeling, Occult is a fourth-generation descendant of Blum’s influential matron Mine Only, herself the heir of quite a legacy from the historic King Ranch. Mine Only was a daughter of the King Ranch-bred Mono, whose dam was a full sister to 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault. Igual, Assault’s dam, descended from a full sister to the legendary Man o’ War.

Thus Occult has the Into Mischief/Empire Maker cross grafted onto a female line that’s been producing major winners for a century.