Though the start of Saturday’s Cash Call Futurity–Hollywood Park’s last Grade I race of the year–was held up for 30 minutes while favored Comma to the Top had a shoe replaced, the two-year-old gelding came out running as if nothing was amiss. And when Corey Nakatani pushed the button, he effortlessly accelerated in the stretch of the mile and a sixteenth contest and beat everyone else to the wire, holding back even the relentless closing charge of the talented J. P.’s Gusto. He won like a good horse does, and now his sights are on next spring’s Run for the Roses.
Indeed, Comma to the Top’s victory in the Cash Call Futurity was only the latest in what is now a five-race winning skein. He’s now won six of his 10 starts, including the Grade III Generous Stakes on the Hollywood turf, and earned $551,600. Not a bad return on the $22,000 price he brought at auction earlier this year.
Comma to the Top is by far the most successful performer for his modestly priced sire, Bwana Charlie, who stands for $2500 in Ocala. The bay gelding is a member of Bwana Charlie’s second crop, and is the first graded stakes winner for this son of the tried and true Indian Charlie, who rocketed to prominence again this year because of the eye-catching exploits of his Uncle Mo, the all-but-crowned Two-Year-Old Champion Colt of 2010. His talented daughter, Indian Blessing, was Champion Two-Year-Old Filly in 2007.
A cursory glance at Comma to the Top’s pedigree wouldn’t have pegged him as one who would become one of the best of his generation, and he was largely dismissed by the commercial marketplace, fetching a bid of onloy $5000 from astute pinhooker Clyde Rice, who plucked him out of the OBS October yearling sale. Rice’s Indian Prairie Ranch subsequently resold him for $22,000 to trainer Peter Miller at this year’s OBS April Two-Year-Old-in-Training Sale. Miller ran Comma to the Top in two maiden claimers; he won his first race for a $50,000 tag at Del Mar in July.
Comma to the Top is out of the Stormy Atlantic mare, Maggies Storm, who is a half-sister to the hard-knocking Yes He’s a Pistol, a stakes-winning won of Yes It’s True who has so far won 15 races in 71 starts and compiled earnings of $336,868. It’s a family that seems to produce runners who are genuine and sound, and perhaps just a notch below the highest calibre.
So what’s the explanation for Comma to the Top’s rise to the ranks of elite runners? It might be in the fact that he’s got no less than four distant crosses of the great Almahmoud, who John P. Sparkman has called, “the single most influential broodmare of the 20th century’s second half.” And rightfully so. Almahmoud is the ancestress of Bwana Charlie’s maternal grandsire, the influential Halo (out ofCosmah), as well as of Northern Dancer (out of Natalma), who appears in Comma to the Top’s pedigree both through Stormy Atlantic and in Bwana Charlie’s fourth and fifth generation.
This pattern of inbreeding to Almahmoud by nicking the Northern Dancer and Halo lines has been a tried and true method of producing high-class athletes. Among its most famous examples is two-time Champion Filly and Mare, Ashado (by Halo’s son, Saint Ballado, out of Goulash, by Northern Dancer’s son, Mari’s Book). And this year, we saw a similar pedigree pattern repeated in Eskendereya (Giant’s Causeway — Aldebaran Light, by Seattle Slew), whose brilliance was cut short before it really had a chance to shine.
Whether Comma to the Top will be in the same league remains to be seen, but it’s clear that he’s moving in the right direction.