pulpit left an impression on the breed and on all who knew him

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Twenty years ago at Claiborne Farm in Bourbon County, Kentucky, a muscular bay colt who had been foaled earlier that year was bounding and prancing across the rolling pastures of a farm known around to the world to breeders and racing fans.

Now, that colt is known ’round the world as well. His name was Pulpit, and he was from the first crop by the 1992 Horse of the Year, A.P. Indy.

The colt also was the first foal of a highly regarded young mare by Mr. Prospector out of one of Claiborne’s finest families, going back through major producers to Round Table’s full sister Monarchy (by Princequillo). Their dam was the English-bred mare Knight’s Daughter, whom A.B. “Bull” Hancock had imported to Kentucky in the 1950s.

Claiborne sold Round Table part-way through his juvenile season at the track, though retaining a quarter-interest in him as a stallion, and watched with pride as the iron-legged bay became the 1958 Horse of the Year and leading money earner. Hancock kept Monarchy, who won the Arlington Lassie, and bred some important stock from her.

She foaled a stakes winner by Bold Ruler named Title and another by Le Fabuleux named Fabled Monarch, but Monarchy’s most important foal was the winning Nijinsky mare, State. She produced five stakes winners, including Region (Devil’s Bag), Announce (Forty Niner), Double Feint (Spectacular Bid), and Narrate (Honest Pleasure).

State could have gotten a stakes winner by a burro, and she did considerably better with class racehorses like those above. Of her stakes winners, Narrate brings our story another step forward because she is the dam of Preach, a G1 winner of the Frizette Stakes at 2, when she also ran third in the Spinaway.

Perhaps it was the Nijinsky influence from her dam or perhaps it was just her, but Preach was what the English would call “full of character.” It was foolish to take her lightly, and she imparted some of that heat and indomitable attitude to her foals.

Of them all, Pulpit was the first and the best.

Unraced at 2, Pulpit came to hand readily at 3, rising through the ranks from maiden to graded stakes winner in Florida with a sharp score in the Fountain of Youth. Second to Captain Bodgit in the G1 Florida Derby, Pulpit shipped north with the migrating birds to race at Keeneland, and he gave Claiborne Farm a victory in the Blue Grass Stakes, which was his prep for the 1997 Kentucky Derby.

In the Kentucky Derby, Pulpit showed high courage and ability, leading at the half-mile and three-quarters and still battling head and head with Free House at the mile pole. At the wire, however, Pulpit finished fourth behind Silver Charm, Captain Bodgit, and Free House. That trio of racehorses each earned more than $1 million, but the Derby was Pulpit’s last race. A knee fracture put the talented bay on the sidelines, then eventually sent him into retirement at Claiborne, where he spent the rest of his life.

As a sire, Pulpit outshone all his contemporaries, and he was the first indicator of the impact that A.P. Indy would come to have as a sire not just of racehorses but also of breeding stock. Pulpit sired G1 winner Essence of Dubai as a member of his freshman crop and never looked back.

From 75 stakes winners to date, Pulpit has 45 graded stakes winners, and as that latter figure suggests, quality and class are hallmarks of the Pulpit stock. They also have speed, and Pulpit’s branch of the A.P. Indy line is notable for that important asset. From the sire’s third crop came Tapit, an undefeated 2-year-old who progressed to win the G1 Wood Memorial at 3. As a sire, Tapit has been his sire’s most notable contribution to the breed because Tapit is even better than Pulpit.

Other sire sons of Pulpit include Hopeful Stakes winner Sky Mesa, who has sired 33 stakes winners; the consistent value sire Stroll, a G1 winner; graded winner Sightseeing, who sired a Spinaway Stakes winner before his unfortunate death; and Lucky Pulpit, whose son California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness this year.

As a sire, Pulpit has contributed soundness and a high degree of competitiveness to the succeeding generation. From current statistics supplied by Equineline, Pulpit has 79 percent starters from foals and 56 percent winners. Both of those figures far exceed the pars for the breed, and Pulpit’s average winning distance for his progeny is nearly a mile at 7.7 furlongs.

Statistics give black and white indications of what we lost when Pulpit died, but the horse has left us reminders of his excellence, including a top 3-year-old in the Phipps stable named Mr Speaker, who is Pulpit’s leading runner of this crop.

In addition, Pulpit has 58 foals among the current 2-year-olds, but there are only 26 yearlings in the stallion’s last crop. Of those, 11 are consigned as part of Book 1 at the Keeneland September sale.

From horses like Pulpit, hopes and dreams are made, and perhaps one of these last will set another story in motion that we will enjoy 20 years from now.

*The preceding post was first published earlier this week at Paulick Report.

super-sire tapit keeps building on his success

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The leading sire in the country this year, the 13-year-old gray Tapit has gone from strength to strength with each crop of racing age. His first included champion juvenile filly Stardom Bound, and the current crop of 3-year-olds has this year’s Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist, as well as the star filly Untapable, winner of the Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose.

The volume of the stallion’s stakes winners, which currently number 53, is good, but their quality is excellent, and that is the key factor in propelling a stallion into the top-level. As evidence of the quality of Tapit’s stock, his horses on the racetrack include more graded stakes winners and Grade 1 winners than the runners of any other sire this season.

Tapit currently has 12 stakes winners in 2014, and nine of those are graded stakes winners.

Since the graded stakes are endowed with most of the money in purses, it is natural that Tapit is the leading sire by earnings, which can be a relatively blunt instrument in gauging stallion success. Not so in this case, however, and Tapit’s stud fee in 2014 reflects the measure of his success.

The gray son of Pulpit and the Unbridled mare Tap Your Heels stood for $150,000 live foal at Gainesway Farm. The horse has stood his entire career at that farm, beginning with a stud fee of $15,000 as a first-year stallion in 2005.

Tapit was unbeaten at 2, then showed even better form at 3 when victorious in the G1 Wood Memorial, and many of his offspring follow a similar pattern in establishing their form. Nearly all the Tapits have speed, that most indispensable quality of a racehorse, and most can carry it an extended mile, which allows them to see out the trip even at the graded stakes level.

A good-sized horse whose height and balance place him near the midpoint of the breed, Tapit has been a positive force for quality, early maturity, soundness, class, and versatility. If there is a surface that the Tapits cannot race on, it surely has not been invented.

A survey of his performers’ success over the last month shows high-class performances over dirt, turf, and synthetic with racers age 2 through 5.

And with credentials like these, Tapit has gotten better books of mares each season, and this year, Horse of the Year Havre de Grace produced a filly by Tapit. Last year, Horse of the Year Zenyatta produced a colt by the leading sire.

Neither of those élite prospects is likely to go to the sales because their owners like to race, but the buyers at sales have become ever more attentive about buying Tapit’s sons and daughters. There are 47 yearlings by Tapit cataloged for the first four days of the Keeneland September sale, and some of them are guaranteed to light up the board in the sales pavilion.

The sales results from Keeneland September can be found here.

espn interview of “franks” offers a lead-in to the keeneland september sale

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Radio and internet sports broadcaster Barry Abrams interviewed me a few days ago regarding the Keeneland September yearling sale that begins on Monday, September 8. The podcast is a ‘frank’ assessment of the situation on the racecourse and at the sales, with star jockey Frankie Dettori leading off the program.

Abrams chats with Dettori about his international successes in Europe and the Near East, as well as his venture into riding at Saratoga this summer. Then the interviewer switches horses and asks for my views on the upcoming yearling sales scene.

Readers can access the podcast from ESPN Sports here.

*********

In another piece on notable information from the net, Sid Fernando has a pair of recent updates to the “Who’s Hot, Who’s Not” blog originally penned by Jack Werk. As the current president of Werk Thoroughbred Consultants, Fernando has his finger on the pulse of the breeding business, and he offers a clarity and insight on bloodstock that is much needed.

Fernando’s most recent piece, which you can read here, is an assessment of War Front’s position in the stallion market, where the Claiborne Farm sire’s NO GUARANTEE seasons are selling for $250,000 to $300,000.

There are a couple of lessons to take from this. One is that top sires can come from nearly anywhere in the upper echelon of racehorses. War Front, for instance, was a good racehorse, but nobody ever mentioned him being in the same élite class as racehorses like Dayjur or Lure, to name two exceptional sons of Danzig.

Yet, War Front is hands down the more successful sire. (In fairness, Lure didn’t have much of a shot after his first season due to his raging subfertility and lack of access to better mares.)

The second lesson from War Front is that the demand for his seasons and the price of those seasons is the result from there not being an endless supply of seasons to the horse. Yes, he is a really good stallion, but if he were covering 200 mares in Kentucky, then shuttling to Australia or somewhere and covering a like number to “maximize” his value, just what would those seasons be selling for?

It is simply supply and demand.

wise dan indicates the limitations of pedigree as a means of gauging success

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With a slim victory in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga, Wise Dan earned his 14th victory from his last 16 starts. A multiple champion and Horse of the Year, Wise Dan is legitimately one of the most recognizable and most popular horses in training.

Wise Dan is also a poster boy for why pedigree doesn’t matter.

Now, before someone out there has a fit in the middle of a street and gets run over, let me say that pedigree does matter, part of the time.

Pedigree, at least the use of names in pedigrees, is the first thing that most observers and breeders use to select matings that produce the next generation of racehorses.

Pedigree is also important at the sales because that is a primary element in how sales companies rank horses into sessions at sales, and is anyone surprised that the horses who sell earlier in the sale bring higher prices?

So pedigree has its uses and its value, but pedigree also has its limits.

For instance, if Wise Dan’s wise owner-breeder, Morton Fink, had put the big chestnut through a sale, the likelihood is that the multimillionaire would have been placed in a late session.

Wiseman's Ferry, G3 winner, bred beyond his own ability when siring Horse of the Year Wise Dan

Wiseman’s Ferry, G3 winner, bred beyond his own ability when siring Horse of the Year Wise Dan

With such a catalog placement, how much would Wise Dan have brought at the sale? By Wiseman’s Ferry out of a mare by the South African stallion Wolf Power, Wise Dan does not have a fancy pedigree, nor one that would bring big bucks at the yearling sales.

When a horse begins to race, however, that is another set of criteria entirely. Racing is a test for athletic ability, confidence, tenacity, and courage. The racecourse test is the greatest of all progeny tests. It selects the fittest, the fastest, the most willing, and the most rugged.

In that regard, Wise Dan is a star. He is just what he has shown himself to be on the racetrack: a horse of exceptional ability and consistency. A champion.

Are there good horses who do not show what they can do in racing? Sure there are. Perhaps that was the case with Lisa Danielle, the dam of Wise Dan and his highly talented half-brother Successful Dan (by Successful Appeal).

They are two of the three stakes winners out of their dam, who was a winner on the racetrack. Unlike some mares who were not stakes winners, Lisa Danielle was not a great money earner and won only a single race from seven starts at ages three and four. The mare did win a maiden special at Arlington, however, and she had to have a reasonable amount of talent to accomplish that.

Her earnings of $20,120 are not large, but earning even that much places her well above average in the breed by the most reliable index of earnings per start.

But when the chestnut daughter of the gray Wolf Power and the bay Secretariat mare Askmysecretary went to stud, the results were of an altogether different level than her racing record.

The progeny test for Thoroughbreds is a slow and expensive process, but Lisa Danielle had two good winners from her first two foals, both by the Fappiano stallion, Roy. The mare’s first foal was Lisa’s Royal Guy, who won seven times from 61 starts, earning $182,386. The second was the filly Our Royal Dancer, who won the West Long Branch Stakes and $195,070 in four seasons of racing.

Not many people would have predicted a pair of six-figure winners and a solid stakes winner from the first pair of foals from a nice little maiden special winner. Lisa Danielle had “done good.”

From her next four foals, Lisa Danielle produced two winners that earned more than $100,000. And then came Successful Dan and Wise Dan as the mare’s seventh and eighth foals.

They were a major step up in quality and performance. The other foals had been outstandingly tough and race-worthy, but only Our Royal Dancer was a stakes winner.

Successful Dan and Wise Dan became competitors at the very top of racing in G1 stakes. In addition to his Eclipse Awards, Wise Dan has won 10 G1 races, including the 2012 and 2013 runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Successful Dan, victor in eight of his 15 starts, earned $998,154 and somehow missed becoming a G1 winner, although he was second in the Whitney, and third in the Clark and Woodward.

Since those stars, the mare has produced two more winners, but she has only a pair of foals from her last six years of production. Two of those years are listed as “dead foal,” tempting us to imagine what might have been.

Now 20, Lisa Danielle is past her best years as a broodmare. Pregnancy, lactation, and age take a visible toll, and it is possible the mare may never have another foal. That would not be a shock.

It is all the more unfortunate, however, because we truly know how good a producer the mare is. She foals sound and effective racehorses who can be of high class. In fact, Lisa Danielle is precisely the type of mare who would be a wonderful candidate for the cutting-edge methods of reproduction done with other breeds.

Who wouldn’t like to have another 10 or 20 or even 50 foals from a mare like this? But the rules of the Jockey Club and its fellow breed associations around the world require live cover for the production of a Thoroughbred, and that has proven an absolute barrier to mares who have shown potential to become greater influences in the breed.

*The preceding post was first published at Paulick Report earlier this week.

the return of calumet farm as a major force in breeding and racing

By any measure, sportsman Brad Kelley has taken a bold position with his acquisition of Calumet Farm and with the money and energy that he has poured into that historic farm.

Last year, Calumet won the Preakness Stakes with Oxbow (by Awesome Again); this year, Kelley’s Bluegrass Hall bred Saturday’s Travers Stakes winner V.E. Day (English Channel).

Through this period, as Kelley has developed his program for Calumet, he has added stallions to the operation that represent a broad spectrum of aptitudes for racing, from the sprinter Hightail to milers like Snapy Halo (Southern Halo), from classic winner Point Given to the stout stayer Americain.

The farm’s latest addition is English Channel, who began his stallion career at Bluegrass Hall under the management of Ben Walden before Kelley bought out the partners in that farm and took it private. Then English Channel moved to Lane’s End, where he remained until last week’s announcement that the chestnut champion would stand at Calumet in 2015.

Owned by Calumet and Jim Scatuorchio, English Channel is a son of leading sire Smart Strike (Mr. Prospector) out of the Theatrical mare, Belva. English Channel proved a first-class racehorse, winning 13 of 23 starts, including six Grade 1 races, earning $5.3 million. Purchased and raced by Scatuorchio and trained by Todd Pletcher, English Channel was champion turf horse in 2007.

When he went to stud, however, English Channel was not widely embraced by breeders or buyers at the sales. One look told me why. English Channel is not a very big horse. He is, moreover, notably light and lean. Built more like a greyhound than a weightlifter, English Channel runs directly counter to the “American sales type” that dominates the auctions for yearlings and 2-year-olds in training.

Not surprisingly, the stallions who do produce this type with regularity are heartily embraced by the market and are rewarded with good mares that have potential to help a sire get the best start to his career.

In addition, the American racing program, with the majority of its races at six furlongs and the slimmest minority at distances beyond nine furlongs, plays a massive role in the perceptions of breeders, buyers, and sales companies.

They know what will work in most situations, and they cater to that. Otherwise, they would go out of business.

English Channel has galloped into the wind of this prevailing set of circumstances. Even so, he has sired Queen’s Plate winner Strait of Dover, who was the 2013 champion 3-year-old colt, as well as graded stakes winner Optimizer and The Pizza Man, who won the American St. Leger on Aug. 16.

That said, V.E. Day attracted plenty of attention as a sales yearling and sold for $105,000 out of the 2012 Denali Stud consignment to Pete Bradley, who regularly selects yearlings for pinhooking partnerships that sell horses in the 2-year-old sales market.

That is exactly what happened with V.E. Day, who brought $135,000 at the 2013 OBS March sale. As the sale differential of $35,000 suggests, the colt did well but did not make a massive impression at the auction.

V.E. Day breezed a quarter-mile in :21.80. That was a good breeze for a two-turn colt, but sprinters went faster. Yet the son of English Channel looked good doing it and impressed watchers enough to find a good home, where he currently races as property of Magalen O. Bryant. One of the colt’s aces was that he had a very good stride length of more than 24 feet, and both his pedigree and his physique suggested strongly that he was a colt who would improve with time and training.

Beginning his career on the racetrack this season at 3, V.E. Day has won four of his six starts and has quickly raced up the class ladder from maiden to G1 winner.

The bottom half of the colt’s pedigree indicates this pattern of development as well. The chestnut colt is out of a mare by leading sire Deputy Minister, who was a champion juvenile and sire of many fine two-turn racers. The second dam is by English Derby winner Roberto, who was a fast classic winner; and the third dam is by Graustark, one of the best sons of unbeaten Ribot.

The fourth dam is the splendid broodmare Golden Trail, and this family was developed by Daniel Galbreath at Darby Dan Farm. Galbreath bred V.E. Day’s second dam, Our Dear Sue, and she produced stakes winner Don’t Read My Lips (Turkoman).

Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds bred California Sunset, the dam of V.E. Day, and sold the unraced mare, carrying her fourth foal on a cover to Bluegrass Cat, for $220,000 to Kelley in 2007, with Ben Walden signing the ticket.

The mare’s best earners prior to V.E. Day are All About Alex (Afleet Alex) with $229,218 and English Sunrise (English Channel) with $91,781.

Their dam California Sunset has a 2-year-old full sister to the Travers winner named English Sunset. The mare was barren for 2013, and she has a weanling colt by Americain.

In keeping with Calumet’s program of breeding stock with classic potential, they are supporting their Melbourne Cup winner Americain with premium broodmares like they have done with English Channel, and only time will prove whether that may likewise prove as fruitful.

*The preceding post was first published last week at Paulick Report.

**In the meantime, Calumet Farm has announced that its 2013 Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow, who stood the 2014 season at Taylor Made Farm, has been moved to Calumet and will stand there in 2015.

***Calumet Farm, when owned by Warren Wright and Lucille Wright Markey, bred and raced three previous winners of the Travers: Whirlaway (1941), Beau Prince (1961), and Alydar (1978).

danzig and his son hard spun are passing down ‘core’ values

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Half a lifetime ago, I spent the summer and fall of 1984 watching Danzig’s first crop of racers set their sire on the path of a legendary stallion career. Among that first crop was the year’s champion 2-year-old colt Chief’s Crown, who won four Grade 1 stakes that season, including the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

The overwhelming quality about Danzig’s stock was their consistency and their class. He had winner after winner at the most important tracks against well-meant young prospects, and plenty of them raised their game to earn black type.

As a result, Danzig became a premier sales sire over the subsequent two decades, with his offspring bringing large sums from the leading international buyers, such as the Maktoum family, Juddmonte Farm, the Niarchos family, and Coolmore. Due to these and other major breeders, the impact of the dark bay stallion with the crooked blaze has spread round the world.

Danzig’s son Danehill was the best sire in Australasian racing and breeding, and Green Desert joined Danehill and others to balance the classic strains of Northern Dancer, such as Sadler’s Wells, with the expression of their own set of traits in European pedigrees.

Overall, Danzig has been a powerful influence for speed, and the stallion’s stock have frequently been able to carry their speed at least a mile. On occasion, they also have won major races at classic distances. Danzig Connection won the Belmont Stakes at 12 furlongs, and Chief’s Crown was placed in all three of the 1985 classics: second in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, third in the Belmont.

Coming near the end of Danzig’s stallion career, his son Hard Spun was an admirable racehorse who ran a smashing race to finish second in the 2007 Kentucky Derby behind Street Sense (by Street Cry) and in front of Curlin (Smart Strike), who was third. Curlin turned the tables by winning the Preakness narrowly from Street Sense, with Hard Spun third. At year’s end, Curlin claimed the first of his Horse of the Year titles by adding the Breeders’ Cup Classic to his season’s accomplishments. Hard Spun was second in that race and was no worse than the third-best colt of his crop.

Like Street Sense and Any Given Saturday (Distorted Humor) from the same crop, Hard Spun was acquired for stud by Sheikh Maktoum’s Darley operation to stand in Kentucky at Jonabell. In addition to spreading the reach of Darley’s stallion program into Kentucky, Sheikh Maktoum was also working to gain access to Japan as a base for breeding and racing.

After quite a lot of work and negotiation, he succeeded. As part of Darley Japan’s breeding program, they shipped Street Sense to Hokkaido to stand at the head of the stud in 2013. He returned to Kentucky for the 2014 season, and he was replaced by Hard Spun in Japan for a year.

Hard Spun will be standing at Jonabell in Kentucky for 2015, and his book will be well-filled by choice broodmares. The son of Danzig has had a very good year, with the 5-year-old Hard Not to Like winning the G1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland in the spring and 3-year-old Wicked Strong taking home the prize in the G1 Wood Memorial. On Saturday, Hard Spun’s 4-year-old son Hardest Core added a further branch of laurel to his sire’s honors with victory in the G1 Arlington Million.

Three G1 winners from three crops suggest that Hard Spun is a factor for soundness, good bone, and longevity on the track. Those seem to be qualities frequently found among the sire’s produce and that he possessed himself.

Hard Spun is a big, powerfully made animal. He stands a bit over 16.2 hands and even now gives the impression of being a leggy horse. In his own makeup, as well as in his offspring, Hard Spun can pass on quite a bit of his grandsire, 1986 champion older horse Turkoman (Alydar).

That is not a given, however, as Hard Spun’s offspring run from the elegant and refined to the big and rugged. Hardest Core is toward the latter end of the scale and shows plenty of the Turkoman influence. He was a big and progressive sort who attracted good interest at the sales but didn’t get sold immediately.

Bred by Mueller Farms in Kentucky, Hardest Core went through the yearling sales ring three times before finding a new owner. He was an RNA at $70,000 in the Keeneland January sale, then an RNA again for $60,000 at Keeneland September, before finally closing the deal for $87,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s October yearling sale. The colt was so big and strong by this time that his qualities attracted the winning bid from Adena Springs, which raced him through his 3-year-old season before selling him at the Keeneland November sale as a racing prospect.

Hardest Core showed no form as a young horse, got to the races at 3, when he won a maiden at Saratoga and an allowance at Belmont convincingly enough that Adena sold the colt for $210,000 to Gregory Bentley, and Hardest Core has proven to be worth every dime.

He is unbeaten this year at 4 in three starts, and the gelding has ascended the class ladder precipitously with an allowance victory, followed by a three-length success in the Henlopen Stakes at Delaware, and now a G1 at Arlington.

Hardest Core will not be carrying on the Danzig line, however, because he was gelded after purchase by the Bentley Stable, but he offers the promise of continuing sport on the course and appears to have the potential for further improvement.

*The preceding post was first published earlier this week at Paulick Report.

freshmen sires like derby winner super saver are heating up summer at the spa

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One of the annual rituals in racing and breeding circles is to watch for signs of young sires who are emerging with more than average promise. This is one of the endless pleasures of the sport, as we assess form and weigh brilliance in the balance.

Earlier this year at the sales of 2-year-olds in training, champion juvenile and now freshman sire Midshipman (by Unbridled’s Song) served a star turn as his first youngsters worked blazing times and drew high prices. Two other freshmen, Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver (Maria’s Mon) and Warrior’s Reward (Medaglia d’Oro) were notably well received, even with less flashy times from their young race prospects.

Super Saver, in particular, had undergone a revolution in commercial appeal as buyers began to see his stock breeze at the under-tack shows in Florida and elsewhere. Yearlings that were nice had become 2-year-olds who were really nice. The Super Savers tended to be medium-sized horses, fluent movers with frequently better than average strides, and they were indicating balance and athletic potential for all to see.

Not surprisingly, some of these sold through the roof. The Grade 2 Saratoga Special winner I Spent It brought $600,000 out of Eddie Woods’s consignment at the Fasig-Tipton Florida March sale of juveniles, making a huge multiple on his yearling price of $65,000 at Fasig-Tipton October in Kentucky only five months before.

Of the stallion’s juvenile sales horses, only the colt Competitive Edge ($750,000 from the Niall Brennan consignment at Fasig-Tipton’s March sale) and High Dollar Woman ($675,000 at OBS March from the Eddie Woods consignment again) brought higher prices, and there were plenty of other quite good sales for the sire’s juvenile colts and fillies. Alex and JoAnne Lieblong bought both I Spent It and High Dollar Woman.

Now at the dawn of their stallion careers, Super Saver and Warrior’s Reward have become the toastiest young sires in the country. The Kentucky Derby winner has multiple maiden special winners in New York, including all three of those mentioned above; now has two stakes winners (I Spent It and the cleverly named Hashtag Bourbon); and is the current leading freshman sire in the country.

In contrast to Warrior’s Reward, who is the first significant son of Medaglia d’Oro with racers, Super Saver has burst out with his first-crop success rather against the grain of popular prejudice. The reason is that Super Saver’s sire, the fine stallion Maria’s Mon, was the sire of not one but two Kentucky Derby winners.

The first is the grand-looking gray Monarchos, who combined good conformation, high speed, a classy race record, and a deep female family to be a commendable stallion prospect. He earned a first-rate chance at stud, went to Claiborne Farm, and has been a deep disappointment.

Monarchos, to be just, gets good winners, and he also sired the game G1 winner Informed Decision, but the good horse produced too many disappointments along the way to remain a commercial sire in Kentucky. As an indicator of how difficult a proposition that is, ask yourself when you last considered the horse’s contemporaries Point Given or Congaree as sales sires? Being a top-end sire is no fairy tale. You either is or you isn’t. The old boy has a good home at Nuckols Farm, however, and there are breeders who still use him to breed and race.

So, there was a hint of prejudice against Super Saver when he went to stud and when his first foals came to the sales, but the horse stands at WinStar, which has given him deep support and put a lot of work into promotion of him for the sales. The work has paid off.

If the athleticism that we saw at the 2-year-old trials indicated early maturity, it also suggested that the Kentucky Derby winner’s stock would stretch out well to two turns. Their greatest assets in their early tests at the in-training sales were stride length, which was consistently above average, and their power, which suggested some maneuverability and gate speed.

Likewise getting out of the gate quickly, Super Saver’s fellow freshman sire Warrior’s Reward has had seven début winners in maiden special weights, and four of those are now stakes horses, including stakes winner Strawberry Baby (Prairie Gold Lassie). In a crop of freshmen sires that includes champions Lookin at Lucky and Blame, along with the highly talented Quality Road, interested observers will have plenty to enjoy for months to come.

*The preceding post was first published earlier this week at Paulick Report.

fillies led the way in the saratoga select sale

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Editor’s Note: The piece below was written the evening of the first session of the Saratoga select yearling sale. At the second session on Tuesday night, a filly by War Front (Danzig) out of a half-sister to Will Take Charge and Take Charge Indy brought the sale’s high price of $1.25 million.

A tale of two fillies was the centerpiece of the opening session at Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga sale of selected yearlings on Monday evening. Both were daughters of leading sire Tapit (by Pulpit), and they shared a few other common traits, besides being the only two yearlings to break into a seven-figure sale price in the first session of the two-day auction.

Both fillies are gray, like their famous sire, and both showed presence and personality that attracted bidders looking for star quality. Both also sold near the end of the session. Hip 69 was the Tapit out of Rote, a winning daughter of Tiznow, and Hip 81 (of 82 hips the first night) was the filly out of the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner She Be Wild.

The Rote filly sold for $1 million, and it was no great surprise that she was going to bring a lot of money. But the crowd’s reaction to the bidding was so enthusiastic that Fasig-Tipton’s announcer Terence Collier was kept busy trying to quiet the applause and general hubbub.

Both daughters of Tapit showed a spirited demeanor in keeping with the lively atmosphere at the strong Saratoga sale opening.

They are not identical, however. The Rote filly is a darkish gray at this stage and quite robust, with more bone and body than some colts. She stands over a considerable amount of ground and shows a lot of the influence of her dam, a powerfully made broodmare by Horse of the Year Tiznow, who is one of the biggest stallions in Kentucky.

Both fillies received their fair share of the Tapit good looks, and that helped add some quality to the Rote filly. In contrast, the She Be Wild filly is a lighter gray, nearly white already, and while she is not a pixie, Hip 81 is as refined and pretty as a porcelain statue. She brought a little more money in the ring: $1,150,000.

Both fillies were very popular with yearling inspectors, and they spent little time in their stalls over the past few days. The Rote filly showed a lot of power at the walk, getting over the ground smoothly and with good extension. The She Be Wild hardly seemed to touch the ground. She was quick and alert to all the novelty of the sales barns, ever keen on observing her world.

The two session-topping fillies were not the only popular horses on the grounds by any means. There have been scores of lookers inspecting the young prospects for a good crowd of potential buyers, and Fasig-Tipton’s results spoke to the efforts of their inspectors and consignors to present a pleasing group of young horses.

Overall, the quality and physical appeal of the yearlings is quite high, and in that emphasis on the individual and perhaps a selection of the individual in preference to pedigree, this Saratoga yearling sale has much in common with Fasig-Tipton’s approach to stocking its July sale of select yearlings in Lexington.

To my eye, the Saratoga sale over the past decade has struggled to supply the premium yearling physicals that come with super-select yearling pedigrees. That’s really not a great surprise. American breeding has gone through a 35-year voluntary culling of many of its most desirable and deeply commercial families.

Literally thousands of yearlings representing those deep and highly desirable families have been dispersed around the world.

Many have gone to Ireland, Japan, and to buyers from the Middle East. And most of those buyers are collectors, rather than sellers.

As a result, there are entire families whose famed branches are no longer part of the American sales or American breeding. Fortunately, there are a handful of breeders here in the States who are actively collecting some of these lines, both domestically and abroad, and there are a few breeders that never sold much.

One of the most popular representatives of a line that has been among the best American families since its acquisition from Europe 60-odd years ago was Hip 53, a dark bay filly by champion Blame out of the stakes-placed mare My Mammy.

The filly’s dam is a half-sister to G1 winner Bandini, the third dam is G1 winner Hail Atlantis (by Seattle Slew and dam of the important sire Stormy Atlantic), the fourth dam is Flippers (Belmont Stakes winner Coastal), the fifth dam champion Moccasin (Nantallah), and the sixth dam is Rough Shod. This is the great Claiborne family from which has sprung Nureyev, Sadler’s Wells, and numerous top performers and producers.

George Bolton bought Hip 53 for $285,000; so she is likely to race domestically and retire to breed on in Kentucky.

And on that positive note, let us repeat Mr. Dickens’s phrase: “It was the best of times….”

*The preceding post was published earlier this week at Paulick Report.

multiple champion gio ponti is beginning his career at stud with a strong set of yearlings

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A champion three times during a rich and exciting career, Gio Ponti showed qualities as a racehorse that are not commonly seen today. Gio Ponti raced from age 2 through 6, winning stakes each season, and he won 11 of them in total, accounting for 11 more stakes placings in 29 lifetime starts. The good-looking bay showed soundness, consistency, and high ability to win seven Grade 1 races and earn more than $6.1 million.

A grandson of perennial power sire Storm Cat, Gio Ponti is by Storm Cat’s son Tale of the Cat, who was a tremendously fast sprinter-miler, but there is considerable influence in both Gio Ponti’s physical makeup, as well as in his racing aptitude, that comes from his dam and from her sire, the illustrious racehorse and stallion Alydar (by Raise a Native).

A first-class racehorse, Alydar was arguably an even better sire, getting classic winners here and abroad, and he exerted a tremendous effect on the breed as a broodmare sire. Interestingly, although most of the legacy associated with Raise a Native is speed, Alydar was a huge influence for classic performance. He introduced size and scope into pedigrees that needed those factors, and his stock were as happy racing on turf as on dirt.

Those factors for versatility make Gio Ponti a fascinating prospect for breeders, who can use a horse from a very fast male line but who stayed up to 12 furlongs in top company.

The horse’s physical traits, allied with his pedigree appeal, make Gio Ponti a very intriguing stallion for breeders, who have used him extensively in his early seasons at stud. An example of the quality of the mares sent to him was Arch’s Gal Edith, dam of Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another, and the foals from Gio Ponti’s first season of breeding are now yearlings.

There are five first-crop prospects by him consigned to the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings. Of these, the pick on paper has to be Hip 80, a half-sister to last year’s champion juvenile filly She’s a Tiger. Hip 80 is a lengthy and strong filly with a very good shoulder, pleasing head, and good hip. She has a good walk and appears well-prepared for her next step. Hers is not the only pleasing physical among the group, two of whom sell on the sale’s second day.

In fact, Gio Ponti has the first hip and the last hip of the session. Hip 83 is a filly out of the stakes winner Shy Lil (Lil’s Lad), with the second dam being a full sister to Boone’s Mill (Carson City). And the final hip in the catalog is Hip 165, a bay colt by Gio Ponti and a half-brother to stakes winner Midnight Serenade (Bandini). The colt’s dam is one of 13 winners out of the second dam, the Gallant Romeo mare Ruby Wax, who produced four stakes horses, and five of her daughters are stakes producers themselves.

*An earlier version of the preceding post was first published last week in the Paulick Report Special, distributed at Saratoga on the second day of the select yearling sale there.

The results for the Gio Ponti yearlings at the Saratoga sale are listed below:

24 C GIO PONTI HISTORY FOUR STAR SALES AGENT KIM M VALERIO, AGENT $150,000 PS (post sale)
42 C GIO PONTI LOFTY LIZZY SWEEZEY & PARTNERS AGENT FOR WILLOW OAKS FARM JAH RACING $90,000
80 F GIO PONTI SHANDRA SMILES WARRENDALE SALES AGENT I JOHN FERGUSON $500,000
83 F GIO PONTI SHY LIL PARAMOUNT SALES AGENT V NOT SOLD ($195,000)
165 C GIO PONTI EYEPOPNRUBY ST GEORGE SALES AGENT I BARRY BERKELHAMMER, AGENT $150,000

uncle mo is the keystone of a serious plan from coolmore stud in america

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Over the past few years, Coolmore put together an interesting group of young stallions at its American facility in Kentucky, Ashford Stud, that included four consecutive champion juvenile colts: Lookin at Lucky, Uncle Mo, Hansen, and Shanghai Bobby.

The payoff on this apparently calculated gamble to collect the most precocious American stock is about to get its first test in the wider world. The first-crop racers by Lookin at Lucky (by Smart Strike) are now at tracks across the country, as well as a choice sampling overseas, and the first yearlings by Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie) are up for sale.

From a first crop of 100 foals in the States, Lookin at Lucky has had 18 starters and nine winners. Among the most recent was a colt named Good Luck Gus who jumped tracks in his maiden special at Saratoga last week, yet nonetheless drew off to win by five and a half lengths at odds-on.

Judging from the sales reception so far, the program at Ashford is going well. At last month’s July sale in Lexington, Fasig-Tipton sold three of the four Uncle Mo yearlings that went through the ring. The high price among them was Hip 60, a colt out of the stakes-placed mare Touch of Splendor, by Charismatic. The colt, a well-grown foal born May 1, sold for $135,000 to Crupi’s New Castle I.

The leading filly in the group was Hip 191, out of the Argentine Group 3 winner Jacky Halo (Southern Halo), and she brought $110,000 from Stoney Lane Farm. The sire’s third yearling in July was another filly who sold for $44,000 post sale to Cary Frommer.

Here at the Saratoga sale, Uncle Mo has a large group of 10 yearlings consigned. Part of Uncle Mo’s appeal to breeders, in addition to precocity and speed, is that he provides a different bloodline than the most common factors in contemporary pedigrees. We see that in the sire’s first yearling at Saratoga, Hip 7, who is the second foal out of a mare by Grand Reward (Storm Cat), with a second dam by Mr. Prospector.

The speed and size of Uncle Mo have attracted a number of breeders, and they must have gotten good results from their mares, judging by the reception of the stallion’s yearlings from the Fasig-Tipton selection committee.

By pedigree, among the most appealing young athletes in the sale is Uncle Mo’s Hip 68. This is a gray filly out of Horns Gray (Pass the Tab), and she is a half-sister to G1 winner Awesome Humor (Distorted Humor), who won the Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga, then finished second a year later in the G1 Alabama Stakes. Their half-sister Surf Club (Ocean Crest) is the dam of four stakes horses, including G1 winner Emcee (Unbridled’s Song), winner of the Forego Stakes at Saratoga, and G3-placed Baffled (Distorted Humor), the dam of this year’s G1 Florida Derby winner Constitution (Tapit).

* The preceding was written for and published in the Paulick Report Special that was distributed at the first session of the Saratoga yearling sale on Monday evening.

The results from the yearlings by Uncle Mo at Saratoga were:

The lots are arranged by hip number, sire, dam, consignor, buyer, and price.

7 C UNCLE MO FLOWERS ATHEFINISH SELECT SALES AGENT DYLAN VENOSA, AGENT $100,000
18 C UNCLE MO GO MILAN GO PARAMOUNT SALES AGENT IX F GALVIN AGT FOR MARC DETAMPEL $160,000
22 F UNCLE MO HEART OF GRACE TAYLOR MADE SALES AGENCY AGENT LXV GARY CONTESSA, AGENT $215,000
68 F UNCLE MO HORNS GRAY VANMETER SALES AGENT IV WOUNDED WARRIOR STABLES $160,000
73 C UNCLE MO SACRED FOREST ROMANS RACING & SALES AGENT NIALL BRENNAN $200,000
76 C UNCLE MO SAUDI PRINCESS FOUR STAR SALES AGENT FOR JSM EQUINE LLC & GREATHOUSE HORSE PROPERTIES LLC CRUPI’S NEW CASTLE FARM I $192,000
90 C UNCLE MO SOUTHERN CHARMER SUMMERFIELD (FRANCIS & BARBARA VANLANGENDONCK) AGENT FOR FIVE OAK FARM ICE WINE STBL & A DUIGNAN $375,000
102 C UNCLE MO TAMWEEL TAYLOR MADE SALES AGENCY AGENT FOR SPENDTHRIFT FARM LLC NOT SOLD ($195,000)
104 F UNCLE MO THERESE FOUR STAR SALES AGENT FOX HILL FARM,TOM MCGREEVY AGT $310,000
163 F UNCLE MO ERICA’S MELODY HILL ‘N’ DALE SALES AGENCY AGENT GLEN HILL FARM $450,000

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