One of the most impressive first-time out juvenile winners of 2022 has been Damon's Mound, who romped by 12 1/2 lengths in a six-furlong maiden at Churchill Downs July 2. Damon's Mound made his eagerly awaited reappearance Aug. 13 and took the Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) in impressive style over odds-on favorite Gulfport, who had a troubled trip.
Damon's Mound is by Girvin , who has become one of the surprise packages of the current freshman sires, and who also already has the Astoria Stakes victress Devious Dame among seven winners from only 17 starters.
This degree of precocity couldn't have been predicted from Girvin's own race record. Trained throughout his career by Joe Sharp, he won his only start at 2 in December at the Fair Grounds. After a second there in the Keith Gee Memorial Overnight Stakes on turf in his first start at 3, Girvin earned his way into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) with victories in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) and Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) on his third and fourth starts. A never-involved 13th at Churchill Downs, Girvin rebounded to miss by just a nose to the talented but ill-starred Irap in the Ohio Derby (G3). Just over a month later, Girvin prevailed by the same margin in the betfair.com Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1), just getting the better of McCraken, with Practical Joke, Irish War Cry, Timeline, and Battle of Midway among the beaten field. That effort represented a peak for Girvin. He could do no better than 11th in the Travers Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1), then closed out the campaign with a fifth in the Oklahoma Derby (G3). Kept in training, Girvin made just one other start, finishing second, 5 1/2 lengths behind Bee Jersey, in the Steve Sexton Mile Stakes (G3) before retiring to Ocala Stud for the next breeding season.
Girvin is the best of the three Northern Hemisphere graded winners to emerge from the first eight crops sired by Tale of Ekati. A son of Tale of the Cat, Tale of Ekati won the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) and was fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1), but was better at shorter distances, and his most notable victory came as a 3-year-old against older horses in the Cigar Mile Handicap (G1). Given the precocity shown by Damon's Mound, it's worth noting that Tale of Ekati was also forward enough to capture the Futurity Stakes (G2) at 2.
If Girvin's pedigree isn't tremendously commercial on the sire's side, it does have some interesting inbreeding. Firstly, he has four crosses of Mr. Prospector in the first five generations of his pedigree, three of them through similarly bred individuals: Tale of the Cat, a Storm Bird/Mr. Prospector cross (with Nijinsky II in his dam); Tale of Ekati's granddam Maplejinsky, who is by Nijinsky II (a horse bred similarly to Storm Bird) out of Mr. Prospector's daughter Gold Beauty, and Girvin's broodmare sire, Malibu Moon, who is out of Macoumba, a group 1 winner bred on a Mr. Prospector/Nijinsky II cross. The inbreeding intrigue continues in Girvin's distaff line. His granddam, stakes winner Catch My Fancy, is by Yes It's True out of Walk Away Rene, a half sister to Clever Monique, the dam of Yes It's True. This gives Catch My Fancy a 3x2 inbreeding to Girvin's fourth dam, Monique Rene. An extremely durable performer, Monique Rene won 29 of 45 starts, 15 of them in black-type races, nearly all at Fair Grounds and Louisiana Downs, and she is ancestress of 21 stakes winners, graded, including the previously mentioned Yes It's True; Girvin's half siblings Midnight Bourbon, Cocked and Loaded, and Pirate's Punch; as well as Canadian Champion Kiss A Native, Prince of the Mt., Silver Max, and Shancelot.
The rich female line of Girvin stands in sharp contrast to the family of Damon's Mound. His dam, the Stroll mare San Antonio Stroll, gained black type with a second in the M2 Technology La Senorita Stakes on her second outing at 2. San Antonio Stroll, however, was the only winner from two foals for her dam, the non-winning Twenty Three Red, and her granddam, Ruhletta, a three-time claiming winner at Sam Houston and Lone Star, produced just two other minor winners. To find the first black type in the female line prior to San Antonio Stroll, we have to go back to Damon's Mound's fourth dam, True Love Sue. That daughter of Temerity Prince was unraced but did produce five winners, including Pronto Paco, a three-quarters brother of Twenty Three Red, who gained his black type with a third in the Texas Stallion Consolation Stakes. There is no immediate upsurge in quality under the next two dams, either. The fifth dam, Dancing Katie, was represented by one black-type performer, the Louisiana Futurity second Amazing Allison, and Dancing Katie's sole victory made her one of just two winners for her dam, Dancing Axe. Digging back a little further, one does come to some equine royalty, and with a royal connection at that.
The seventh dam of Damon's Mound, the stakes-placed Swap Dances, was by the magnificent runner Swaps, winner of the 1955 Kentucky Derby. He's interesting as he was bred by Rex Ellsworth on the cross of Khaled with a mare by Beau Pere, a description that also fits Dancing Date, the third dam of Monique Rene, whom we have mentioned as closely duplicated in the family of Girvin. On the dam's side, Swap Dances owned a truly illustrious pedigree, as she was by Native Dancer, out of Carrozza, who carried the colors of Queen Elizabeth II to victory in the 1957 Epsom Oaks. Carrozza was certainly bred for classic success, as she was by an Epsom Derby winner, Dante, out of Calash, herself a sister to Sun Chariot, winner of the 1942 English Fillies Triple Crown, a feat that included defeating colts, including that year's Derby winner, in the St. Leger.
Although the branch of the family that led to Damon's Mound has achieved little in the intervening generations, Carrozza did have an impact through other avenues. Of her sons, two made a mark as sires, Battle-Waggon in New Zealand and Semenenko in Chile, where he was Champion Sire. Carrozza is also ancestress of Helenus, successful in the Victoria Derby (G1), MRC Caulfield Guineas (G1), and STC Rosehill Guineas (G1); Matahawk, winner of the Grand Prix de Paris (G1); and Marley's Freedom, successful in six graded stakes, including the Ballerina (G1).
If disappointing in terms of producing runners, the generations between Carrozza and Damon's Mound did offer important reinforcement of Girvin's pedigree. Damon's Mound's fifth dam, Dancing Katie, was by Prince Street, by Nijinsky II out of a Native Dancer mare, complimenting the Nijinsky II and Storm Bird/Mr. Prospector combinations that we've mentioned in Girvin's pedigree. The second dam of Damon's Mound is by The Prime Minister, a half brother to Gold Beauty, a Champion Sprinter who appears as the third dam of Girvin's sire, Tale of Ekati. Finally, Damon's Mound's broodmare sire, Stroll, is by Pulpit. He is bred very similarly to Girvin's broodmare sire, Malibu Moon, both by A.P. Indy out of Mr. Prospector mares with Nijinsky II in the dam. Pulpit is out of Preach, a sister to Yarn, dam of Tale of the Cat, and the siblings appear in at least 20 stakes winners, three of them grade 1, headed by 2018 Triple Crown hero Justify, the Leading Freshman Sire of 2022.