what’s wrong with the 2yo sales?

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There’s clearly nothing wrong with the way that Hip 55 sold at Monday’s Keeneland April sale of juveniles in training. By Malibu Moon out of Tap Your Heels, and therefore a half-brother to leading sire Tapit, Hip 55 brought $1 million from Gainesway, Mt. Brilliant Farm, and Robert LaPenta, and the beautifully balanced, quick, and grandly pedigreed chestnut colt is a shining example of what can go right at the sales.

Overall, however, the select sales of 2-year-olds have been a bloodbath for sellers this season, and Becky Thomas, who has Sequel Bloodstock, noted that “this is obviously not the same market as last year.”

As seen at Fasig-Tipton’s Florida sale last month, a handful of major buyers can be relied upon to purchase elite juveniles for large sums, and Thomas said that there is “strength at the top of the market but nothing underneath. Even yearlings bought for a lot of money can’t be expected to bring good prices.”

Simply buying a really nice yearling apparently won’t make that horse a super-select 2-year-old sales horse unless “you work fast, vet good, look right, have sire power, and all the stars align,” according to consignor Eddie Woods.

The selected juvenile sales are the first auctions held by Barretts, Fasig-Tipton, Ocala Breeders’ Sales, and Keeneland, and yet “selected” doesn’t appear to be good enough for buyers in the current flux of the market.

“Partly, it’s because some of them haven’t progressed as much as we’d have hoped when we nominated them for these sales,” Woods concluded.  ”But there’s a lot of money for them if you have what the buyers want. They’ll pay a lot for them, but there’s not a lot of depth in that pool, and you have to have everything.”

If the consignors did not bring horses who had everything that the top of the market wanted, there was not a lot of support underneath.

Thomas said, “There’s a shortage of buyers, especially in the middle market. Trainers who’ve bought from me for years tell me that they don’t have as many buyers with money. There was no more middle market at OBS, but there was a broader base of buyers because of the greater catalog.”

The OBS March catalog was about the size of all three other select sales combined but posted the strongest stats of the four opening sales of the season.

The stats for the Keeneland April sale were tough to take. Of 125 2-year-olds cataloged, 65 breezed, and 38 sold. Not surprisingly, the gross was down to $8.7 million, but the high prices pulled up the average to $230,763 and the median to $200,000.

Consignor Kip Elser said that the sale was “solid, not spectacular, but I’ll have sold everything I brought here. It’s a very demanding market at every level. You just have to keep after it.”

Among the other constructive comments from consignors was the observation from Thomas that “we’ve got to get track management to slow the tracks down. As a consignor, you can’t take a horse for a client that he paid $100,000 for and not run him fast. You can’t tell the jock, ‘Go slow!’ The fastest horse is the fastest horse, and buyers pay for that.

“But it doesn’t matter if the track puts the fastest horse at :10 3/5 or even slower. I think I speak for every consignor that we’d like to do away with the clock at the breeze shows and go to an open gallop for everything. That would be better for the horses, as well as the buyers and sellers.”

Those comments come after the fastest breeze show in history. Keeneland’s track was extraordinarily quick for last week’s breeze show on Thursday, and Elser described the situation: “Weather conditions: really cold weather that produced frost deep in the track surface, a hard rain, and a strong tailwind produced this year’s times. They’re not a reflection on anything else.”

Then Elser added his perspective on the responsibility of all parties to provide the best conditions for these young athletes. He said, “With all the added scrutiny, we need a surface that is kind to the individual, and this surface has been kind, and I’m sure that Keeneland is working very hard to make sure that next year’s surface will be just as kind. The surface doesn’t have to be as fast.”

Keeneland will have a new track surface and drainage system for the fall meeting this year, and that will be the surface that any future juvenile sale horses will work over.

*This story was first published at Paulick Report on Tuesday, Apr. 8. In the five days since, several comments relating to this topic have been published in other outlets, although principally at PR and at Thoroughbred Daily News.

In Saturday’s TDN, 2yo sale consignor Ciaran Dunne of Wavertree Stables penned the following open letter:

Wavertree Stables Inc., has been part of the U.S. 2-year-old sales market for the past 20 years. It is safe to say that juveniles and the juvenile market have been very good to us.

We were there when an 11-second workout garnered high fives on the back side and we were present last week when we saw a 2-year-old colt breeze in :9 2/5 seconds. This can be seen as a progression in the quality of stock, training, riders and track conditions that have occurred as the 2-year-old market has grown; it is also something, we have been a willing part of–for better or worse.

However, another facet of our industry has mutated to Frankenstein-like proportions and is something to which we will no longer be party. The days of how far our horses breeze being dictated by the gaggle of stop watches in the grandstand are over. Our breezes shall finish at the wire.

Starting at the OBS Spring Sale, our riders will be instructed to drop their hands and rise up in the saddle and allow our horses to gallop out in a natural fashion upon finishing their workouts.   It is in no one’s best interests, least of all our horses, to keep pushing these boundaries. How far is more dangerous than how fast in our opinion.  I have listened to and seen much written on this topic of late and would encourage all prospective buyers to leave their stop watches at home if they are serious about slowing these things down.

Then in the TDN for Sunday, the letters to the editor picked up on Dunne’s declaration, with such as the following matching the consignor:

TERRY FINLEY, WEST POINT THOROUGHBREDS:   This letter is in response to Ciaran Dunne’s declaration that his 2-year-olds in training will not be urged in any way after the wire in their breezes.

In a show of approval, West Point Thoroughbreds commits to the following for the upcoming training sales:

We will no longer use ANY gallop out times in our selection process (pushing these 2-year-olds to, in essence, breeze a half mile is just plain wrong). We will not use a stopwatch in any form and ask other buyers to do the same.

We ask all consignors at the upcoming sale to not urge their horses after the wire.

We will take a very negative view of consignors who have their breeze riders use any physical or verbal means to cause horses to maintain or increase their speed after the wire.

We’ve talked to a large number of 2-year-old buyers and sellers. Every single person felt this was the right thing to do for the horses involved.

Simple, straightforward changes that will allow all of us to take better care of horses.

To commit to this movement email a note to the following email address: nogallopouts@gmail.com

 

the origins of leading sire tapit

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Another weekend of racing presented interested fans and attentive breeders with multiple major winners by leading sire Tapit (by Pulpit). The elegant and well-balanced gray stallion stands at Gainesway Farm, is book full at a stud fee of $150,000 live foal, and has major contenders for both the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby.

Among the 3-year-olds making a trip to the winner’s circle this weekend, Untapable won the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks, and Constitution upset all sorts of fancied applecarts in the Grade 1 Florida Derby to remain unbeaten in three starts. Perhaps slightly better known for his high-class fillies, Tapit has three sons aiming for the Derby this year: Constitution, Ring Weekend (Tampa Bay Derby), and Tapiture (Southwest Stakes; 2nd in the Rebel).

In addition to his fame and success as a stallion, Tapit has an interesting backstory.

Foaled in 2001, Tapit is out of the Unbridled mare Tap Your Heels, a half-sister to champion sprinter Rubiano (by Unbridled’s sire Fappiano). Tap Your Heels and Rubiano are out of Ruby Slippers, a daughter of English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky and the In Reality mare Moon Glitter.

Heronwood Farm bred Tap Your Heels in 1996, and bloodstock agent Reynolds Bell Jr. saw the filly “at Robert Courtney’s Crestfield Farm. We were out looking through prospects for the July sale, and Robert mentioned he had an Unbridled filly. We looked at her out in the field, and she wasn’t a real big filly. Was a little back at the knee.”

 

If Bell didn’t put Tap Your Heels at the top of his list, apparently nobody else did, either. At the 1997 Keeneland July sale, the filly was nearly friendless in the sales ring. Bell was sitting with longtime client Rich Santulli of Jayeff B Stable.

The previous fall, “Mr. Santulli and Claiborne Farm teamed up to keep Unbridled in the country when the Japanese were trying to buy him,” Bell recalled.

So Santulli was highly aware of yearlings by the Kentucky Derby winner, and when Tap Your Heels was “looking like she was going to bring about $75,000, he turned to me,” Bell recalled. “I said, ‘she’s going too cheap.’ He asked what I thought of her, and I told him that I hadn’t seen her at the sale but that I had seen her prior to the sale and that she had a great pedigree.”

So Santulli bid and bought the filly for $85,000.

Sent to Alan Goldberg for training, Tap Your Heels won the Hildene Stakes at 2, when she also ran fourth in the G2 Astarita and G3 Tempted Stakes at 2. The filly didn’t win after her first season, was bred at 4, and then culled from the Jayeff B broodmare band.

The mare’s first mate was the A.P. Indy stallion Pulpit because “we liked the horse and the cross with Unbridled and In Reality,” Bell noted, but in the annual review of the Jayeff B broodmare band, Tap Your Heels was selected for sale.

Bell noted that Jayeff B “selected a few to cull every year, and this was a young mare in foal for the first time on a cover to Pulpit.” So, selling her made financial sense. Tap Your Heels would be highly valued in the commercial market and would not be a “cull” in any breeding program not littered with champions, G1 winners, and the dams of such.

Not long before, a new client had approached Bell. He said, Wayne Oldenburg “wanted to get in the horse business and breed commercially. I told him that I was on retainer with Mr. Santulli, but this was a first-class family, and he paid $750,000 for Tap Your Heels” at the 2000 Keeneland November sale.

On February 27, 2001, the mare foaled Tapit.

Since Oldenburg Farms was formed as a commercial enterprise, they sold Tapit as a yearling, and David Fiske selected the handsome gray for the Winchell family and purchased him for $625,000 at the 2002 Keeneland September sale.

Two months later, Oldenburg Farms sold Tap Your Heels. In foal to the Storm Cat sire Forestry, the mare brought $900,000 from Nesco.

Tap Your Heels did not produce a live foal in 2003, then was barren in 2004. Since then, the mare hasn’t missed a year, producing only fillies until 2011. Her 3-year-old in an unnamed colt by Elusive Quality; the 2-year-old is an unnamed colt by Malibu Moon; and she has a yearling filly by Medaglia d’Oro. The Malibu Moon colt is consigned to the Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training and worked a furlong on Thursday in :09 4/5.

With the success of their elder sibling Tapit, the daughters out of Tap Your Heels are guaranteed matings with good stallions, and there may be further success for the family from these young producers.

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

top colts stand out at fasig sale of 2-year-olds in florida

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Any horse at any sale needs something to stand out, really stand out, in order to bring a premium price. At Monday’s auction of 2-year-olds in training held by Fasig-Tipton at Adena Springs South, raw speed was not the deciding factor for which horses were most attractive in the market.

Instead, as some consignors and buyers groused, so many horses were clustered a fifth of a second above or below :10 flat that the works “didn’t separate them.”

Other considerations actually became more important in separating the juveniles in training and sending buyers after one but not another. At the sale yesterday, a pair of young prospects sold for seven figures, with the top price being $1.2 million for Hoby and Layna Kight’s gorgeous Malibu Moon colt, Hip 126, who sold to Demi O’Byrne on behalf of Coolmore.

At $1 million was Hip 83, a bay son of leading sire Distorted Humor out of the graded stakes winner Delta Princess, by A.P. Indy. Sold to Al Shaqab Racing, this colt also had several qualities that marked him as a young athlete of merit.

In addition to turning in a fast work for a furlong in :9 4/5, the medium-sized bay showed himself to advantage on the track and in the show ring at the barns; he possesses an athletic and progressive physique; and he comported himself in a manner suitable for a half-brother to multiple champion Royal Delta (by Empire Maker).

One of seven young horses timed in the co-fastest breezes of the sale, the Delta Princess colt was outstanding in the way he did it. Clocked at nearly 46 miles per hour in his breeze, he had a stride length of slightly more than 25 feet, which was more than a foot longer than average at this select sale. All his efficiency scores and stride quality markers were positive, and the handy-looking colt scored the highest BreezeFig of the sale with a 72.

In conformation, the son of Distorted Humor showed some notable differences from his famous half-sister. Whereas Royal Delta has the height and scope common to the stock of Empire Maker, Hip 83 was more muscular. His action was quick on the track and marked with power.

Both offspring from Delta Princess, however, show plenty of quality, a fine head and an expressive eye. The million-dollar colt had a good walk, with sound feet, a well-developed shoulder, and a powerful hindquarter.

He also looked like he had been to the wars. His forelegs bore the white hairs from scars he had inflicted on himself in an altercation with a board fence at Adena Springs Farm in Kentucky, where the colt was born and raised.

This colt, born in 2012, is the first foal that Adena raised out of Delta Princess.

At the Keeneland November sale in 2011, Adena had bid $2.6 million for Delta Princess at the dispersal of the Palides Investments bloodstock. At that sale, the mare’s famous daughter had brought $8.5 million from Besilu Stables, and Delta Princess was carrying this colt.

So, there was considerable disappointment when the bright young prospect ran through a board fence not long before his appointed date with the sales ring at Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga select sale last year.

Randy Hartley, who consigned the colt to the 2-year-old sales with Dean De Renzo, pragmatically noted that “if he hadn’t run through that fence, I don’t know whether I could have got him bought. He was a really nice colt, and the scrapes kept him affordable at the sale.”

Hartley and De Renzo purchased their future seven-figure 2-year-old for $350,000 at Saratoga.

When Hartley and De Renzo brought the colt to Ocala and began working with him, Hartley said that “he was all class. Smart and easy to work with. When I started galloping him in the fields after breaking, I knew he was something special.”

The colt progressed nicely through his early training and began picking up speed and strength in earnest for presentation at the premium juvenile sales, and Hartley said, “I actually wanted to keep him, but it’s our job to bring horses to the sales and sell.”

And as well as Hartley and De Renzo did their job, the colt matched them in doing his. Hartley said, “I hope they win the Derby with him.”

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

hoppertunity abounds for classic prospect following rebel stakes victory

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The racehorse in front of me inevitably brings to mind the elements of his pedigree that he represents in the flesh, and Hoppertunity, winner of the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on Saturday, shares not only physical qualities with his sire, G1 Haskell winner Any Given Saturday (by Distorted Humor), but especially with his broodmare sire, Unaccounted For.

A horse of striking quality, scope, and individuality, Unaccounted For was a bay son of the important Damascus stallion Private Account and was out of Mrs. Jenney, a stakes winner who was the daughter of two classic winners: The Minstrel (English Derby and Irish Derby) and Mrs. Penny (Prix de Diane).

At the 1992 Saratoga select yearling sale, Michael Hernon spotted the striking yearling who became known as Unaccounted For in the Derry Meeting Farm consignment of Marshall Jenney and helped to facilitate the purchase of the colt through Walnut Green Bloodstock.

As a racehorse, Unaccounted For ran to his exceptional looks. Racing only at 3 and 4, Unaccounted For won the G2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga in his first season of competition, and then he returned to the Spa for his greatest triumph, a victory in the G1 Whitney Stakes, the following season, when he also ran second in the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

As a horse of classic pedigree and type, Unaccounted For showed his best form at nine and 10 furlongs, and he expressed that type in his own physique and in his the aptitude he passed on to his foals.

The good-sized bay went to stud in Kentucky in 1996, and before his stock had much opportunity to show their quality, he was sold to the Jockey Club of Turkey in 2001 and spent the rest of his stud career as one of the important sires in that country’s breeding and racing program.

Unaccounted For died in May 2013 at 22, but before he had left the States, Unaccounted For had sired some good performers. From his first crop, the horse got Grundlefoot, a stakes winner of more than three-quarters of a million dollars, and from his second came G3 stakes winner Quick Tip, who earned more than two-thirds of a million.

Of equal importance was another filly from the stallion’s second crop. The bay Refugee ran third in the G2 Orchid Handicap and has forged a significant role for herself as a producer through the racetrack exploits of her seventh and eighth foals.

Refugee had previously produced the restricted stakes-placed mare Profit (Not for Love), and the value and status of most broodmares has greatly diminished if they have not produced a stakes winner early in their production. But Refugee’s status as a broodmare rebounded in a strongly positive direction with the appearance of G1 winner Executiveprivilege, a daughter of First Samurai (Giant’s Causeway) who won twice at the top level as a juvenile and ran second in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Days after that effort by Executiveprivilege, then-14-year-old Refugee sold for $480,000 at the Fasig-Tipton November sale, in foal to Cowboy Cal.

Now the mare has her second graded winner in succession, and Hoppertunity gave breeders Betz/D.J. Stable/Kidder/J. Betz/Robenalt another major winner.

Despite the presence of several stakes-placed horses, Executiveprivilege and Hoppertunity are the only two first stakes winners in their direct female line from third dam Davona Dale. An outstanding champion bred by Calumet Farm, Davona Dale won five races at the top level during her championship season in 1979.

By Best Turn out of a mare by Kentucky Derby winner Tim Tam, Davona Dale and her close relations were better known for stature and scope than for massive muscling, and the same can be said about Unaccounted For.

This is one version of the “classic type” that horsemen prize because they are spare of the unnecessary bulk that will limit the distance capacity of heavier horses. Through their clean and easy action, the lighter weight horses can cover ground efficiently and with little wasted effort. Then they tire less than other racers because they aren’t hauling as much weight for their size as some of the others.

Hoppertunity is much more in this type than his half-sister, and he has the potential to be a classic-distance performer, even though he was running only his fourth race in the Rebel.

*The post above first appeared in Paulick Report last week.

obs sale loaded for bear in the land of the gator

The following post was published earlier this week at Paulick Report.

While heavy rains forced OBS to sell its catalog of more than 400 horses in a one-day marathon instead of two days, from the grandstand at the OBS pavilion, the prospects for Tuesday’s sale couldn’t look brighter. The weather has improved out of sight from last week, and if the performance of buyers matches their volume and activity in looking at young horses so far, the 2-year-old sales in Florida will be off to a roaring start this year.

Furthermore, the catalog of young athletes that OBS has compiled to begin their juvenile sales season is well-stocked with fillies and colts that look the part, that clearly have some speed and natural ability, and that frequently possess enough pedigree to attract interest from a segment of serious racehorse buyers.

Among the more gifted animals in these areas is Hip 350, a fetching son of leading sire Tapit. Consigned by Eddie Woods, agent, the colt is another gray out of the major producer Rhumb Line (by Mr. Greeley) and is a full brother to Grade 1 stakes winner Zazu and to G2 winner and G1-placed Flashback, both of whom are also gray. Standing a touch over 16 hands, this colt stands over a good deal of ground and possesses the scope and quality to suggest he could become a classic prospect.

Hip 350’s sire Tapit could scarcely be having a more productive year, and on Saturday, another of the stallion’s sons, Ring Weekend, won the G2 Tampa Bay Derby. Bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Farm, the lightly raced chestnut was winning his first stakes for St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds, and Ring Weekend now has earnings of $255,660 from six starts.

In addition to the OBS March sale having young stock by established sires like Tapit, Giant’s Causeway, Unbridled’s Song, Malibu Moon, and others, there is a flock of fillies and colts on the grounds by freshmen sires. Some of them are recent racing stars like champions Blame, Lookin at Lucky, Summer Bird, or Midshipman, classic winner Super Saver, or major G1 winners like Quality Road, Eskendereya, and Warrior’s Reward.

Midshipman, for instance, had a colt turn in the fastest time at the first breeze show with a furlong in :09 4/5. Consigned by Halcyon Hammock, that colt is out of the Montbrook mare Eye’ll Be Fine and sells as Hip 139.

The dark bay colt has already been through the sales ring twice, selling as a weanling at the Keeneland November sale for $65,000 and then reselling to Hal Hatch for $125,000 at the Keeneland September sale last year. A big and robustly made dark bay, Hip 139 has a good deal of his broodmare sire about him, but he clearly also has some of the early maturity that Midshipman showed to earn a victory in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

In addition to the noteworthy speed from the works of young horses by Midshipman, every one of the freshmen mentioned above had one or more good results from their young horses’ breezes. The preponderance of good individuals and good works has prompted more than one savvy horseman on the grounds at OBS to say that this may be the best crop of freshmen sires in years.

That suggestion only teases the mind and raises the question of which will turn out the best.

Allowing for the presence of a dozen juveniles cataloged for a speed sensation like freshman sire Majesticperfection, it was a surprise to many that the leading freshman sire by number cataloged at this sale was Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver. He had 20 in the catalog, several of whom have scratched, but he is setting the bar rather high with the number of his young horses who worked well.

Not only have several worked fast, but they have worked well. They seemed to run quickly and efficiently, with good use of themselves. Nor are they giant horses. The Super Savers are medium-sized and well-balanced, with every indication that they might do better on the second turn of a race than they did on the first.

That would be a very significant find in the world of breeding that is always looking to discover the next good sire who can get racers that prosper at a mile and more but that still have the speed to be competitive as young horses.

unbeaten gotham stakes winner samraat comes from a noble line

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The following post was published last week at Paulick Report.

Certainly the most dramatic race of the weekend was the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, where a trio of promising colts finished heads apart. The winner and still unbeaten in five starts was Samraat, a dead game and quite appealing competitor for Leonard Riggio’s My Meadowview Farm, which bred the colt in New York.

Samraat is also the best performer to date for My Meadowview Farm’s stallion Noble Causeway (by Giant’s Causeway). At the Keeneland September sale in 2003, My Meadowview Farm purchased the yearling colt later named Noble Causeway for $1.15 million from the consignment of Catherine Parke’s Valkyre Stud, agent.

On the racetrack, Noble Causeway was a talented horse who won three of 18 starts, placing in seven more races, and earned $360,010. The horse’s best form probably came in his sixth start, a second-place finish in the G1 Florida Derby behind High Fly.

That effort propelled Noble Causeway into the Kentucky Derby a month later, where he finished 14th, and the Preakness, where he was 6th. The colt came back to race competitively after those ambitious efforts, and he finished third in the G3 Ben Ali Handicap at Keeneland, as well as fourth in both the Suburban Handicap and the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Retired to stud in Kentucky but not a stakes winner, Noble Causeway was facing an uphill battle in the market for mares. He was clearly going to require a lot of promotion to attract attention and a lot of support in the form of good mares, if he was going to stand a chance to succeed as a stallion in that most difficult stallion pool.

Noble Causeway received both.

After retiring the horse to stand at the McLean family’s Crestwood Farm outside Lexington, My Meadowview launched a promotional campaign to attract breeders and to generate interest in the horse. It succeeded so well that Noble Causeway covered 227 mares in his first two seasons at stud.

Likewise, My Meadowview also purchased a wide selection of mostly promising young mares as mates for Noble Causeway, and one of those was Little Indian Girl, who became the dam of Samraat.

My Meadowview purchased the daughter of leading sire Indian Charlie at the 2007 Keeneland November breeding stock sale for $150,000 in foal to Malibu Moon. At the time of purchase, Little Indian Girl was a winning half-sister to G1 winner Nonsuch Bay (Mr. Greeley) and in foal to a promising young stallion whose appeal would rise each year.

If that seemed a robust price to pay for a mare to breed to a $5,000 stallion, there was even better news to come. Each of the mare’s three foals preceding her sale went on to earn black type.

Her first foal was the Grand Slam colt Original Fate, who was stakes-placed in Japan and earned $793,248; the second was Kaddish (Bernstein), a stakes-placed winner of $111,395; and the third was Screen Legend, a daughter of Tiznow who ran third in the G3 Arlington-Washington Lassie.

Samraat is the mare’s seventh foal and her first stakes winner.

Now unbeaten in five starts, Samraat is expected to race next in the G1 Wood Memorial. If the colt succeeds in that race, he will certainly be one of the strong fancies for the Kentucky Derby, and My Meadowview’s saga with Noble Causeway will have taken them full circle back to Churchill Downs and the pursuit of the most elusive triumph in sport.

Samraat is a member of Noble Causeway’s third crop of foals. The Gotham winner is the stallion’s fourth stakes winner to date and his first graded winner in the U.S.  Noble Causeway now stands at Sequel Stallions in New York for a private fee.

If one holds high hopes for Samraat, one also has to like the second and third in the race pretty well. Second-place Uncle Sigh is a son of Indian Charlie, the broodmare sire of Samraat, and the Gotham third is In Trouble. The latter is a son of Tiz Wonderful who sold for $120,000 last April at the OBS sale of 2-year-olds in training.

tapit beating the drum of success across the country

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The Gainesway Farm stallion Tapit is one of the best stallions in the world, and he didn’t need a lot more good news after the positive performance of his son Tapiture in winning the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on President’s Day.  But the handsome gray had a pair of important winners over the last weekend in February as well.

At the Fair Grounds in New Orléans, the stallion’s daughter Untapable was an impressive winner of the G3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes by 9 ½ lengths, and at Gulfstream Park, the 2013 classic contender Normandy Invasion set a new track record of 1:33.13 for a mile in his long-awaited comeback.

Less than 10 months ago, Normandy Invasion was shaping up as a challenger for the classics after closing nearly eight lengths to be a three-quarter-length second in the G1 Wood Memorial behind race favorite Verrazano. Normandy Invasion, a striking bay with scope and quality, trained well at Churchill Downs leading up to the Kentucky Derby and seemed to combine the prime factors of improving form and tactical speed in a way that made him a serious contender for the classic on the first Saturday in May. 

So it proved.

The lightly raced colt made an even better effort in the Kentucky Derby than he had in the Wood Memorial, holding a forward position early, taking a narrow lead by the mile pole, and then holding it in a pitched battle, before tiring to finish fourth. He was a length and a nose from second, although Derby winner Orb finished two and half lengths clear of his nearest pursuer.

Initially given time after the draining effort of competing in the Derby, Normandy Invasion had a foot abscess that extended his time away from racing, and owner Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm commented after the Gulfstream allowance that “we thought giving him the year off after the injury was the right thing to do. It’s hard to give them that much time off, but it turned out better than we thought it could. You can see how much weight he put on.”

Bred in Kentucky by Betz, Kidder, Gainesway, Graves, D.J. Stable and Cole, Normandy Invasion sold for $230,000 at the 2012 Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Unlike Normandy Invasion, the two stakes stars for Tapit — Untapable and Tapiture — race for their breeder Winchell Stables LLC. Both the filly and the colt descend from stock that the Winchell family has owned for generations, and both dams are multiple stakes producers for the operation.

In the Southwest, Tapiture gave two pounds and a 4 1/4-length thrashing to the highly regarded Strong Mandate (Tiznow), and Tapiture is the third stakes winner out of his dam, the Olympio mare Free Spin.

A winner of $91,440 in six starts, Free Spin was clearly talented, and when matched with leading sire Tapit, she has produced stakes winners Retap, Remit, and Tapiture. Of these, the best is clearly the latter, who also won the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last year at Churchill Downs.

Tapiture is one of 31 stakes winners out of Olympio mares, and one of the qualities that both Tapit and Olympio transmit is speed. Tapiture and his siblings have all shown good speed that allowed them to compete early and to take a competitive position in their races.

Olympio and his family have been a mainstay of the Winchell breeding program for decades, and Olympio’s dam, the Whitesburg mare Carols Christmas, is the third dam of Untapable. The filly’s second dam is Olympio’s half-sisters Bistra (Classic Go Go), and Untapable’s dam is the G2 stakes winner Fun House.

Fun House counted the Buena Vista Handicap among her five victories, with earnings of $432,922, and she already has produced G1 winner Paddy O’Prado (El Prado), who won the Secretariat Stakes, was second in the Blue Grass, and finished third in the Kentucky Derby. Paddy O’Prado, a sire at Spendthrift Farm whose first foals are yearlings, was the mare’s second foal, and Untapable was her sixth.

The winner of the 2013 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs and third in the G1 Hollywood Starlet, Untapable seems to be maturing well and adding strength to her speed and quality. Those will be valuable qualities as she develops and follows a path that will surely include the major spring prep races for fillies leading to the Kentucky Oaks.

Together, these young stars will help to keep Tapit’s name in the headlines during the coming weeks as the eyes of the racing public await the first classics, run the first week in May at Churchill Downs.

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

mchugh appeal will perpetuate artificial insemination debate

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Wealthy Australian Bruce McHugh is once again pushing for the legalization of artificial insemination in breeding Thoroughbreds.

In 2011, McHugh filed suit against the Australian Jockey Club, Australian Racing Board, and Australian Stud Book on the grounds that the live-cover regulation which prevails round the world with Thoroughbreds was an illegal restraint of trade.

Slightly more than a year ago, a Federal Court judge in Australia issued a 375-page ruling against McHugh, upheld the status quo in breeding regulations, and handed McHugh the bill for the trial, which was estimated at Aus$2 million.

Now, McHugh has been granted an appeal of the Federal Court verdict. A panel of three judges from the Federal Court of Appeal in Australia will evaluate the case over three days, as opposed to the months required for the original trial, and presumably the Court of Appeal will produce a verdict in shorter order than the Federal Court, which took a year.

Do not expect this issue to go away, however. Both sides in this struggle for the future of Australian Thoroughbred breeding are dug in so deeply that this is effectively a battle to the death.

Whether this decision goes for or against the live-cover provision, there is expected to be an appeal to the Australian Supreme Court.

And so the game goes on.

But does this legal tangle in Australia mean anything to breeders in America or the rest of the world?

For better or worse, it does.

One line of thought is that if even a single country breaks ranks in the world-wide prohibition against breeding Thoroughbreds using AI, then several more will follow in quick order.

A support to that line of thought is that, according to information from persons close to the rule-making body that governs racing precedent, only two countries are strongly against AI. Several are lukewarm, and quite a number see it as an advantage if AI became legal for Thoroughbreds.

Several things are certain if Australian courts rule for McHugh and legalize AI. It will create a nightmare of regulations for Thoroughbreds in Australia and in other jurisdictions, whether they accept AI as the law or not. Then, it will be a serious monkey wrench in the export of racing stock from Australia.

And that is not even considering the economic turmoil that AI would cause among the sectors of the Thoroughbred industry.

Part of the economic turmoil would be in stallion seasons, their pricing and availability. Although some farms will hold the line and not offer AI service from their stallions, other farms will ride the wave as far as it will take them.

So the potential volume of foals from some stallions would almost certainly reach record levels, with as many mares being impregnated as there are owners willing to pay the fee for a stallion who has a bottomless book.

These bottomless books would have a lethal effect on variety and competition in the stallion market. We have already seen what happens when a $50,000 stallion has 175 or mares in a single hemisphere. With the seemingly simple process of booking those mares, the stallion has put another horse out of business. If we consider that a 175 mare book is four times the book of a stallion 25 or 30 years ago, he has put the equivalent of three 1985 stallions out of business.

And we see the effect of “out of business” stallions everywhere. From the fees and pricing of second-tier stallions in Kentucky to the downward pressure on the pricing and use of regional stallions across the country, horses who are slightly less than the very best in pedigree and race record are not just slightly less in demand. They scarcely have a home.

These are the effects of the nearly bottomless books that currently prevail in Thoroughbred breeding. Will it get any better with AI? Certainly, I cannot imagine it.

Should breeders and stallion owners be considering their options if AI becomes available here or elsewhere? I would highly recommend it. Organizations and breeders have authority over their own actions and livestock, and there are means to make Thoroughbred breeding secure in its future, whether AI becomes accepted practice or not.

The key is to plan for the future and even to seize the initiative with AI and other technologies so that American breeding is proactive, rather than reactive, in determining its future course.

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

groupie doll made a bold finish for breeder and owner

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As we saw in her bold finish of the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie Stakes at Gulfstream, Groupie Doll has all the requirements of a racehorse. She is fast, game, and focused. When asked for her best, she gives it, and Groupie Doll has a lot to give.

The Hurricane Bertie was probably the final race of her career, and Groupie Doll showed that she is in as good a form as ever with her 12th victory in 23 starts. Coming from behind with her usual run, the powerful 6-year-old strode away from her competition to win by seven lengths in 1:14.68 for six and a half furlongs.

Bred in Kentucky by Fred Bradley and William “Buff” Bradley, Groupie Doll is the best offspring of the Dixieland Band stallion Bowman’s Band. The sire was a G2 stakes winner of more than $1.3 million, and Bowman’s Band ran second in the G1 Metropolitan Handicap and Oaklawn Handicap, as well as finishing third in the G1 Whitney, Woodward, and Pimlico Special.

Buff Bradley recalled that he went to Lane’s End Farm to see some new stallions there and “was walking through the barn when I saw this big chestnut, and they said Bowman’s Band had just come down from Maryland. I liked his looks, saw what he had done when I got home, and decided we would breed some mares to him.”

Groupie Doll was the result.

An Eclipse Award winner and successful four times at the G1 level, Groupie Doll has some credits that place her ahead of her sire as a racehorse. He was a ruggedly made horse with scope and a robust constitution. These he passed on to his famous daughter, who is the best of the stallion’s 13 stakes winners (seven percent to live foals).

Groupie Doll is out of the Silver Deputy mare Deputy Doll, whom Fred Bradley bought for $25,000 as a yearling at the 1997 Keeneland September sale. Twice a winner from 14 starts, Deputy Doll was a “nice-looking mare with a good hip and a strong shoulder,” according to Buff Bradley’s wife, Kim.

Buff Bradley said that “Deputy Doll was all class, and we thought she was something special, but she had problems; so we had to stop on her,” and Deputy Doll was an automatic choice as a broodmare because of the trainer’s regard for her talent.

The mare was unlucky, however, getting some foals who did not have the best conformation or constitution. After four so-so foals, the big, correct, and tough Bowman’s Band seemed like a choice who might bring out the best in the dam, and the mating worked so well that Kim Bradley said, “Groupie Doll’s nickname at the farm was Beyonce because she was so beautiful.”

After producing her subsequent champion, Deputy Doll’s ill luck continued. The mare had difficulty getting in foal, never produced another foal, and before Groupie Doll’s class was revealed, the mare was given to the driver who hauls horses for the farm. Deputy Doll was later struck by lightning and died.

Groupie Doll turned around that run of ill fortune on the racetrack, and over three seasons of racing, she won 11 races for the Bradleys and earned more than $2.5 million. As breeders of horses they raced, the Bradleys had a practical decision to make, and they sold Groupie Doll at last year’s Keeneland November sale to Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm for $3.1 million.

Raising her value to such a level required some serious racing on the part of Groupie Doll. The mare didn’t race at 2 because she was growing and had “some minor issues,” Buff Bradley said. “She always trained well, but we took her back to the farm, turned her out, Kim looked after her, and we started Groupie Doll back training at Keeneland in the winter.”

Groupie Doll just got better and better.

The mare clearly responded well to Bradley’s training, and he said, “When we get them fit, we don’t drill on them. When she got to racing, we didn’t gallop her more than a mile and a quarter, but she did a lot of jogging. That helped to keep her fresh and happy.”

Now 6, Groupie Doll has stayed happy and sound with a racing career that has propelled her to the top of her division and made her a racehorse of international interest. The trainer said that she shares some traits with his earlier star racehorse, Brass Hat.

“They both are aware of themselves. They will pose for a camera, will stand on the track, take everything in and relax. They don’t let little things bother them, and they can overcome things in racing too,” Buff Bradley concluded.

That focus and self-possession allowed both horses to put their energy into racing and to make the best of the opportunities they were presented. What more can we hope for in horses or humans?

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

In the meantime, Groupie Doll has left Buff Bradley’s training barn at Gulfstream Park and is spending some time for resting and light activity at Goldmark in Ocala. Plans for the rest of the year for the champion mare have not been announced.

concorde still a factor for speed in racehorses

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The following post was first published last week at Paulick Report.

Wicked Tune, the Florida-bred winner of Saturday’s Turf Sprint Stakes at Gulfstream Park, is a poster boy for the resilient racehorse. Now 7, Wicked Tune has won 10 of his 33 starts, with 10 more in the money, and behind him in the Turf Sprint were a pair of 6-year-olds in second and third.

In addition to being notable for toughness and speed, Wicked Tune possesses an unusual pedigree. He is inbred 2×3 to the little-known sire Concorde Bound, a Grade 3 stakes winner who died young. From 65 foals, Concorde Bound sired nine stakes winners (nearly 15 percent). Among those stakes winners was Concorde’s Tune, a stakes winner and the sire of Wicked Tune. Another of Concorde Bound’s nine stakes winners was Pretty Momma, and she is the second dam of Wicked Tune.

Through four seasons of racing, Concorde Bound was one of the stars of New England racing, and he earned his greatest distinction with a victory in the G3 Suffolk Downs Sprint Handicap at 3, although he also ran second in the race at 5. The horse won 11 of his 26 starts, with seven more in the money, but neither his solid race record nor his good pedigree suggested that he would have an unusual chance of success at stud.

Concorde Bound was the second foal out of the stakes-placed Grey Sister, a daughter of leading broodmare sire Iron Ruler (by Never Bend). And Concorde Bound was one of 20 stakes winners by French highweight Super Concorde, the “other” son of Bold Reasoning.

Bold Reasoning, a freakishly fast and imposing horse by Boldnesian (Bold Ruler), is principally known to racing fans as the sire of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. A champion each of the three seasons he raced and Horse of the Year at 3 when he won the Triple Crown, Seattle Slew was from the first crop by Bold Reasoning.

Super Concorde was from the second.

The second foal of the imported mare Prime Abord, Super Concorde was a first-class 2-year-old when racing in France, where he won the Group 1 Prix Morny and Grand Criterium in 1977.

That was the year that Seattle Slew swept through the Triple Crown unbeaten, and with the great American colt and a highweighted juvenile overseas to represent their sire, breeders and racing commentators had some inkling of the very special stallion the breed had lost when Bold Reasoning died from colic in April of 1975.

Bold Reasoning sired two and a half crops with two champions, and he produced a lasting effect on the breed as a result with 16 percent stakes winners to foals.

Uniting the speed of Bold Ruler and Boldnesian with the size of his broodmare sire Hail to Reason, Bold Reasoning was a model for the contemporary leading sires where size and speed are paramount. Perhaps not coincidentally, Bold Reasoning was also a 2-year-old in training who sold out of the Hialeah sale of Florida-bred juveniles in 1970.

Winning his first seven starts as efforts of high speed, Bold Reasoning attracted the attention of breeder-owner Nelson Bunker Hunt, who bought the horse after his 4-year-old season and sent him to stud at Claiborne Farm.

That is where Bold Reasoning sired Seattle Slew and Super Concorde, and Hunt bred the latter.

The breeder sold Super Concorde as a yearling for $200,000, and racing for Walter Haefner, Super Concorde won four of his five starts at 2, including the pair of G1s mentioned above. The colt’s natural style was to race in front, which he used to win his first three races, including the Prix Morny.

After fighting his jockey in the Prix de la Salamandre and finishing fourth, Super Concorde became more agreeable to rating in the European style and won the Grand Criterium impressively after being held up.

The big, robust colt was considered a serious prospect for any of the European classics in 1978 but did not quite reproduce his juvenile form in three starts and was repurchased by Hunt for stud in the U.S., where he went to stud at Gainesway Farm.

Standing for a $20,000 fee, Super Concorde was a moderate success as a sire, getting 20 stakes winners, including the Florida Derby winner Croesus and G1 winner Super May, as well as Concorde Bound. But Super Concorde’s European group winner Big Shuffle has been the stallion’s most important link to contemporary pedigrees.

Big Shuffle showed high speed in his racing, winning at group level and placing second in the G1 July Cup, and on his retirement to stud in Germany, he became one of the most important continental sources of quality speed. Big Shuffle led the sire list in Germany four times and was also a leading broodmare sire and an important jumps sire.

But for the brevity of Concorde Bound’s career at stud, perhaps he would be widely recognized as the best stallion son of Super Concorde on this side of the Atlantic.

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