NEW YORK -- Toussaud, the dam of Empire Maker, the 3-5 favorite in today's $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, might be the best broodmare on the planet, but around Juddmonte Farms in Lexington, Ky., they kiddingly have another nickname for her.
They call her "The Black Widow."
It's easy to see why. Mr. Prospector, the first stallion Toussaud was bred to in 1995, has died. So have Seattle Slew, bred to Toussaud in 1996, and Unbridled, who was mated to the mare in 2000. If A.P. Indy only knew. The 1992 horse of the year is scheduled to meet Toussaud in the breeding shed before the month is out.
"The question frequently asked is why we haven't bred Toussaud back to one of the stallions she's been so successful with," said Garrett O'Rourke, farm manager at Juddmonte. "One of the reasons, of course, is that some of these sires are no longer with us."
A more appropriate appellation for Toussaud is "blue hen." That's the name breeders reserve for that extraordinary broodmare who produces multiple stakes winners. She qualified long ago.
"It's an unusual thing for a mare to keep producing horses that all just get to the races," said O'Rourke, who has been with Prince Khalid Abdullah's Kentucky division for 11 years. "So many things can happen to horses between the time they're foaled and their racing age. Toussaud's babies all wind up running, and all but one of them has run quite well."
In Juddmonte's name, Prince Khalid, from Saudi Arabia, has won four Eclipse Awards as owner and breeder, but he has never won the Kentucky Derby. Empire Maker, the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby, won the Grade I Florida Derby a month ago, becoming the fifth of six sons or daughters of Toussaud who have won stakes.
The list started with Chester House (by Mr. Prospector), who won the Arlington Million and earned $1.9 million. It's continued with Honest Lady (Seattle Slew), winner of the Grade I Santa Monica and Metropolitan Handicaps; Decarchy (Distant View), winner of last year's Jimmy Kilroe Handicap at Santa Anita; Chiselling (Woodman), winner of the Grade I Secretariat Stakes; and now Empire Maker (Unbridled), who in four races has already earned $665,800).
Decarchy, who hasn't won a race since March of last year, finished sixth as the 19-10 favorite in Friday's Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland. Royal Spy, an 11-1 longshot, won the $200,000 race.
The only gaps in Toussaud's record as a broodmare came in 1998 and 2001. The first year, her foal was named Civilisation, a son of Gone West whose career record was no wins in three starts and purses of $980. Juddmonte hadn't given up on Civilisation when, during a recuperation period in Kentucky, he was left blind in one eye after an apparent paddock accident. The injury forced Juddmonte to retire Civilisation to stud.
Three years later, Toussaud underwent surgery after being stricken with colic, a stomach discomfort. Her colic is a thing of the past, but Toussaud is receiving treatment for laminitis, a circulatory hoof disease. Many horses can live long lives despite laminitis, but Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown champion, died after foundering in 1989.
One of the downsides with Toussaud's foals is that they're difficult to train. Bobby Frankel, Juddmonte's principal U.S. conditioner, has trained them all, including Empire Maker.
"They can have minds of their own," Frankel said. "Eventually they'll do what you ask them, but you've got to let them do it at their own pace. He's better now, but [before Empire Maker's second-place finish in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita], we had a real tough time saddling him. He lunged, then reared about 10 or 12 feet in the air. I thought he would kill us all."
Like mother, like son. Toussaud was also known, to put it mildly, for her quirky ways. She is a daughter of El Gran Senor and Image Of Reality. El Gran Senor's sire was Northern Dancer, the 1964 Kentucky Derby winner. Image Of Reality was a daughter In Reality, winner of the Florida Derby in 1967. Juddmonte bought Image Of Reality, while she was in foal, for $500,000 at a breeding-stock auction at Keeneland in 1987. She was bred to El Gran Senor in 1989, and that mating resulted in Toussaud, who was sent to trainer John Gosden in England to race.
Taking on colts three times, Toussaud raced with mixed but mostly undistinguished results, then was sent to Frankel in the U.S. At Hollywood Park in 1993, she won the Wilshire Handicap and the Gamely Handicap, a Grade I race. Facing males again, she won the American Handicap. In the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita that fall, Toussaud had a difficult trip, but finished fourth as Lure won the stake for the second consecutive year. Toussaud lost all chance at an Eclipse Award when she later finished second, a neck back of Flawlessly, in the Matriarch at Hollywood.
On March 15, the day Empire Maker was winning the Florida Derby, Toussaud foaled a filly who was sired by Kingmambo. Also waiting to make her racing debut, later this year, is a Seeking The Gold-Toussaud filly.
"Matching her with the right sires is not a science," O'Rourke said. "Mostly, it's done by committee, but when it comes down to making the final call, the prince makes the decision."
So far, with five stakes winners out of six foals, the prince is batting .833. That's enough to lead almost any league.