It cannot be denied that the outcome of last Saturday's Desert Gold Stakes ( Gr 3, 1600m ) may hold a valuable key into also determining the likely result of March's NZ Oaks ( Gr 1, 2400m ) also to be run on the hallowed turf at Trentham.
Whilst current 3YO Fillies Series leader Belle En Rouge ( Burgundy ) noticeably skipped the Desert Gold Stakes, there was an awful lot to like about the performances of convincing winner La Crique ( Vadamos ) and the third horse Love Letter ( Wrote ) from an impending NZ Oaks perspective.
And both have more than just the letter "L" in common.
Both have a strong "Special" connection in their bloodlines, the same connection as present in the 2022 New Year's Day Perth Cup ( Gr 2, 2400m ) winner, the Bob and Sandra Peters bred and owned Midnight Blue.
The "Special" connection we refer to is of course the broodmare bluehen Special ( Forli - Thong )a particularly powerful presence in any staying pedigree.
La Crique and Love Letter are both highly eye-catching types, La Crique seemingly a longer-legged finer-boned type that the more compact muscled low slung Love Letter.
La Crique's superior early speed allowed her to race handy ( slotting into the perfect one out and one back position ) in the Desert Gold Stakes allowing her to display her "turn of foot" when exploding past the leaders upon straightening. Her ability to run through the line was impressive, qualities not dissimilar to Amarelinha in 2021 and Jennifer Eccles in 2020.
Love Letter in contrast was devoid of early speed and go a long way back in the running but once again she ran home powerfully if not eyecatchingly ( in a manner not too dissimilar to 2020 runner-up to Jennifer Eccles in Vancooga ).
It would not surprise in the least to find Formpro's Neil Davis having recorded Love Letter as having the fastest final sectionals of the race, even better than those of winner La Crique.
But, can she afford to give La Crique such a big start in the NZ Oaks?
We will use the pedigree of Midnight Blue for comparison with both La Crique and Love Letter.
Midnight Blue holds a sex-balanced 5x5 Rasmussen Factor ( breeding back to superior females through different individuals within the first 5-generations ) to Special via the latter's daughter Fairy Bridge and son Nureyev.
La Crique is 5x6x6 sex-balance linebred to Special via son Nureyev ( in Vadamos ) and son and daughter Nureyev and Fairy Bridge in Destiny Cove ( dam of La Crique ).
Love Letter on the other hand is 5x5x6 sex-balance linebred to Special via the latter's daughters Fairy Bridge and Durrah ( both in Wrote ) and son Nureyev in Divine Rio ( dam of Love Letter ).
Technically, from a pedigree purists viewpoint, the use of Special is seen as stronger in Love Letter's pedigree as she appears through three individual siblings rather than two as is the case for La Crique.
Also, Special's positioning is potentially stronger in the pedigree of Love Letter as she is bred on a 5x6 reverse-sex cross to Special ( via Durrah, 3rd dam of Wrote ) and Nureyev ( 4th sire of Divine Rio ). This provides Love Letter not only with a desirable breeding core but also a potential "engine room" and it appears obvious here that this design is more than likely the handiwork of her co-breeder and owner Phil Weal, an avid pedigree enthusiast in his own right.
With prominent 4x4 linebreeding to Special ( through two individual daughters ) Love Letter's sire Wrote is singing out for mares with a male line of Special ( i.e. Nureyev ) for sex-balancing purposes and Divine Rio ( dam of Love Letter ) gives him exactly this being a Nureyev-line mare via the Pivotal stallion Captain Rio.
When we get to the direct maternal line ( or bottom line or family line ) we do find find ourselves swayed to that of Love Letter who traces direct maternally to Derna ( her 6th dam ).
Of course breeders and readers will instantly recognise this as the immediate family of both Carnegie ( Derna his granddam ) and Zabeel ( Derna his great granddam ). Whilst Carnegie is out of Derna's daughter Detroit, both Zabeel and Love Letter trace through another of Derna's daughters in Valderna. When we touch on these horses we are automatically thinking 2400m if not further.
Another useful comparison also prevails using the pedigree of Midnight Blue.
He is by a son of High Chaparral ( So You Think ) and out of a mare by Zabeel ( Midnight Special ).
Love Letter is also by a son of High Chaparral ( Wrote ) and from the immediate direct maternal family of Zabeel.
There are no illustrious Derna's in the direct maternal line of La Crique but what there is reflects high quality International performance.
Le Crique's dam Destiny Cove won 5 times including over 2400m at Trentham.
Granddam Whitehaven was a Gr2 winner at Deauville and great granddam White Star Line was a triple Gr 1 winner, amongst her 9 lifetime wins seeing her rated as the 2nd best 3yo filly of 1978 at 125 pounds, just one point behind arch rival Tempest Queen ( Graustark ), the latter a dual Gr 1 winner.
Amongst White Star Line's Gr 1 victories were the Alabama Stakes( 10 furlongs ), Kentucky Oaks ( 10 furlongs ) and the Delaware Oaks ( 9 furlongs ).
At Stud, White Star Line was to produce 12 individual winners including 2 Stakes winners, one being Valley Of Gold ( Shirley Heights ) winner of the Italian Oaks ( Gr 1, 2400m ).
If we were looking at 3YO colts for the NZ Derby it would also be necessary to take into account multiples of Northern Dancer ( 4 or more unbalanced male only strains ) as these were identified by the late Jack Glengarry in his work "Let's Breed A Champion Racehorse" as the likely cause of "Plodder's Syndrome" in a male racehorse. Fortunately, fillies were found to be immune from this quirky phenomena.
La Crique is linebred 5x6x5x5 to Northern Dancer in desirable sex-balance, her female line coming via 4th dam White Star Line, a daughter of Northern Dancer.
Love Letter, by contrast, could have been in trouble had she not been born a filly as she carries 4x5x6x6x6x7 linebreeding to Northern Dancer through all male only presences.
A lucky escape, perhaps, or meant to be!
Just as Midnight Blue carried Colt Factors at 6x4 to Mill Reef, we see Love Letter carrying full Filly Factors and La Crique carrying partial Filly Factors within their 7-generational pedigree charts.
Love Letter carries full Filly Factors to Special ( through son Nureyev and daughters Fairy Bridge and Durrah ) with male ancestors through two daughters being in abundance through the likes of Kris 5x4, Nijinsky II 5X5, Buckpasser 6x5, Prince John 7x6 and War Admiral 7x7.
La Crique on the other hand only possesses partial Filly Factors.
Whilst Special features through son Nureyev and daughter Fairy Bridge, there is a complete void of male ancestors featured through two daughters.
But all is not lost for La Crique because what she does possess is an impressive list of sex-balances to male ancestors particularly further out in her pedigree including the likes of Native Dancer 7x7x6x7x7, Nearco 7x7x7x7, Nebelwerfer 7x7, Hyperion 7x7, Tantieme 7x7, Lyphard 7x6 and War Admiral 7x7.
As you may be only to well aware, when multiples get this far out in a pedigree they usually act as a basis for stamina with a number of the featured presences well known for their stamina traits.
Finally, it would be remiss of us if we did not have a look at the likely Tesio dosage indicators based on the work of Frank Varola.
Whilst these have always been regarded as highly contentious and very subjective, in our experience they have been an adequate guide as to the likely aptitude and distance outcomes for the majority of horses.
As they say, better something than nothing at all when you are flying blind!
The dosage profile outcomes for both fillies are remarkably similar, Love Letter a points total of 23.0 and La Crique a points total of 22.0 so no clear advantage to either filly.
Nothing between them in the precocity ranks either with Love Letter perhaps her nostril in front with the same applying for raw speed inheritance. The Classic ( class ) factor does see La Crique in front by a small marging hence evening things out.
When it comes to middle distance ( including 2400m ) both capably master 2400m with nothing between them although there is a slight indicator that if we pushed things out to 3200m then La Crique may hold a slight advantage no doubt mainly attributable to the influence of her grandsire Monsun as we have already witnessed downunder in a couple of Melbourne Cups in more recent times.
As for the outcome of the NZ Oaks 2022, a real coin toss either way, too close to call.
Premier Pedigrees was born out of Ken Mackay's passion for horse pedigrees to offer a very affordable pedigree matching service and valuable recommendations to new and existing Australian and New Zealand clients for both thoroughbred and standardbred mares.