laminitis may result from several factors, but management and prompt treatment offer some hope for horses

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One of the most complex diseases that affects horses — laminitis — is caused by a number of triggers and causes pain, sometimes extreme pain, in a horse’s feet. The outcome of laminitis ranges widely, from death or limited mobility to minimal discomfort and considerable length of life.

One of the specialists in this disease is Scott Morrison, DVM, who is in the podiatry department at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital. Morrison said he sees three levels of chronic laminitis, and graded worst to least, they are chronic unstable, chronic stable, and chronic low-grade.

The worst level is loads of trouble. It requires “special shoeing because the foot doesn’t grow sole and walls properly, and you need a specialist,” Morrison assessed. This is understandably the most deadly situation for a horse that is being managed.

In contrast, the stable version of laminitis presents problems, but it can be managed. Morrison said that this level of laminitic involvement is characterized by wide growth rings at the heel and narrow ones at the toe because of “uneven growth of the hoof, and there will typically be a stretched white line at the toe, as well.”

The low-grade laminitis is “common in mares, but sound management can keep them comfortable and stable” without as much intervention as the two higher-level sorts of laminitis.

Given the relative complexity of the disease and relative frequency that we see it, Morrison offered some things to look for in evaluating our own horses or in assessing horses at the sales.

He said, “First of all, I’d pick up and look at the bottom of the foot. The white line should be nice and tight. If it’s stretched, that could be a warning sign. I’d look at the growth rings on the hoof wall. At the sales, these are sometimes buffed off, but if a hoof wall was rasped down pretty hard or had another color showing through, I’d take a close look at it.

“I look at the contour of the hoof wall. Is it dished coming out to the toe? If I’ve seen that or a stretched white line, I wouldn’t hesitate to check the pulse in the hoof. And if I’m not reassured, I would take radiographs.”

Radiographs will show whether there is internal damage to the hoof. Rotation of the coffin bone is one of the clinical signs of laminitis, not foot soreness, which can occur for many reasons. Rotation, or even worse, sinking of the coffin bone is a source of great concern.

Horses with low-grade laminitis may have a slight degree of rotation, but the really bad occurrences of laminitis result in significant rotation and sinking.

Even among horses with horrific laminitis, such as sloughing of the hooves, there are some miraculous survivors, but Morrison said that “body type is a factor in that, too. The lighter horses will have a somewhat better prognosis for recovering” from even the worst-case situations with laminitis.

On the other hand, heavier horses have more problems. Morrison counseled that one of the additional physical traits to watch for in potentially laminitic animals is a heavy body, a cresty neck, especially in a mare, and fatty deposits on the body.

The reasons for concern about body type include the obvious pressure that a heavier horse puts on its feet, but also insulin resistance is one of the factors known to cause or predispose a horse to developing laminitis. And heavy-bodied easy-keepers are commonly found to have insulin resistance or equine metabolic disorder.

Other factors known to play a role in triggering this disease include stress, colitis, spring grass or other rich feed, and leg-support laminitis (such as befell Barbaro). Just from this list, a wide variety of things can precipitate laminitis, but all of these factors share the common traits of stressing the horse and creating inflammation.

Anti-inflammatories, such as bute, are among the medications used to combat laminitis. Morrison noted that “there are a range of exciting new treatments for laminitis, including stem-cell treatments, sole supports, and special shoes that help to stimulate blood flow while supporting the horse.”

The bad news is that laminitis is with us and will continue to be because it’s not caused by a pathogen like most diseases. It’s caused by multiple factors.

The good news is that research and development are making survival more likely for horses with laminitis and raising the quality of life for them.

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

leading maryland stallion not for love shows his quality and consistency with a quartet of winners in maryland million series

Can you name the best son of Mr. Prospector still active as a stallion? If you said, “Smart Strike,” you win a gold star.

But can you name the second-best son of Mr. Prospector? Hint: He is also the broodmare sire of this year’s Kentucky Derby winner.

His name is Not for Love, and he stands in Maryland at Northview Stallion Station for a $15,000 stud fee. That makes him a very pricey regional stallion, but he has proven himself worth it.

The 24-year-old is the leading sire in Maryland, as well as one of prominence nationally. Not for Love has sired 137 stakes horses, with 78 of those being stakes winners. That adds up to 9 percent of the stallion’s 903 foals of racing age.

But even by Not for Love’s standards, the past weekend was outstanding. He sired the winners of four races in the Maryland Million series: the Maryland Million Classic, Sprint, Distaff, and Nursery.

The winner of the Classic was last year’s winner, Eighttofasttocatch, an 8-year-old who is also his sire’s leading earner with $997,970 to date. A $47,000 yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic September yearling sale in 2008, Eighttofasttocatch was bred by Dark Hollow Farm and Herringswell Stable.

A good-looking chestnut gelding, Eighttofasttocatch has raced for seven seasons, and he has 16 victories in 48 starts, with seven seconds and four thirds. In aptitude a miler, Eighttofasttocatch has shown his best form going extended miles, and in the 2014 Classic, the gelding took the lead and refused to be caught in registering his 11th stakes victory.

The 2011 Maryland Million Classic was the first victory in the series for Eighttofasttocatch, who had placed third in the 2010 Maryland Million Turf. He has won the last two Classics for a trio of series triumphs, and he is the poster boy for many of his sire’s best qualities.

They are racehorses, first and foremost. They like their racing, show gameness, and are naturally athletic. They are also surprisingly tough, with 82 percent of his foals starting in a race and 65 percent winning.

Not for Love himself raced for four seasons, with six victories in 29 starts. As a full brother to champion Rhythm (by Mr. Prospector out of the Northern Dancer mare Dance Number), a great deal was expected of Not for Love.

As a racehorse, he did not fulfill much of it. He was pretty tough and reasonably competitive, but he earned black type only with a third in the minor Bob Harding Stakes, going a mile and a sixteenth on turf.

Still, it was black type, and with his grand pedigree, Not for Love found a place at stud in Maryland. There, he emphatically outperformed probability and expectations.

Not for Love has proven to be a bigger success at stud that his famous full brother. This is all the more surprising because Not for Love is something less than the perfect specimen, but perhaps overcoming that physical shortfall is an indication of greater ability that he was able to transmit genetically.

And Not for Love has bred his pedigree, with its speed and quality, with such consistency that he has become a leading sire.

In the Maryland Million this year, Not for Love stormed the heights with his proven competitors, which included D C Dancer, winner of the Sprint, and Classy Coco, winner of the Distaff.

Those two are 4-year-olds, presumably with plenty of racing left in them, but Not for Love also had the future on display with the Nursery winner Golden Years. The latter is a 2-year-old colt out of Sweet Annuity, by Oh Say, and the colt is unbeaten in two starts with earnings of $80,760.

Bred by O’Sullivan Farms, Golden Years is a bright prospect for his sire’s golden years. The colt sold at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic yearling sale for $120,000. He came out of Bill Reightler’s consignment and sold to Ellen Charles; Golden Years races in the name of Hillwood Stable LLC.

Just as Golden Years is a continuing advertisement for his sire during Not for Love’s latter years at stud, Maryland’s leading sire is also getting national recognition as a broodmare sire. Not for Love is the broodmare sire of Grade 1 winner Starship Truffles, but he earned greater renown and some measure of lasting fame as the broodmare sire of 2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome.

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

crown queen proves herself to be another jewel in her sparkling family with g1 victory at keeneland

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In one more example of how racehorses repay those who do the right thing for them, the seven-figure weanling Crown Queen became a Grade 1 winner in Keeneland’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup.

Besilu Stables had purchased the filly out of the Chanteclair Farm dispersal of the late Saud bin Khaled at the 2011 Keeneland November sale. The hammer price of $1.6 million was strong, but the dark brown filly was a half-sister to the top-class Royal Delta (by Empire Maker). It looks soft now.

Their dam is the wondrous producer Delta Princess (A.P. Indy), who has four black-type horses from five foals to race. A G3 stakes winner herself, Delta Princess was a talented racer out of a fine producer, Lyphard’s Delta, and this is a family that was cultivated at Chanteclair to produce an amazing proportion of stakes horses over the years.

A winner of the G2 Nassau Stakes at age three, Lyphard’s Delta, a daughter of champion older mare Proud Delta (Delta Judge), was a grand producer as well. Her two daughters by A.P. Indy, Delta Princess and her year-younger sister Indy Five Hundred, put their dam on the map as a serious producer. Delta Princess won three times at the G3 level, and her full sister won the G1 Garden City Breeders’ Cup Handicap.

As an older mare of 18, Lyphard’s Delta produced G1 winner Biondetti (by A.P. Indy’s champion son Bernardini), and the old mare was provided for by the estate and not sent through the ring at Keeneland like the production-age Delta Princess and her offspring.

In the dispersal at Keeneland November, Delta Princess brought $2.6 million with a March 20 cover to leading sire Distorted Humor. Her champion daughter Royal Delta brought $8.5 million as a racehorse and potential producer. She went on to become a multiple champion and winner of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, as well as $4.8 million.

The foal now named Crown Queen went through the ring immediately following her dam and brought a million dollars less.

Following the filly’s accomplishments this year, her value is much greater, and fascinating prospects stretch out before her. Besilu Stables purchased both Royal Delta and her weanling half-sister. Besilu campaigned Royal Delta extensively, as the grand mare showed class, versatility, and soundness that led her to divisional championships in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

This is a family of racers, especially race fillies, that have shown a great deal of class and that have improved markedly with time. None have been exceptional juveniles, and the same proved true with Crown Queen.

From two starts last year, Crown Queen was third in each. But she has improved out of sight this season, stepping through maiden and allowance victories to win the G2 Lake Placid Stakes at Saratoga, and she reached a new level with a determined success in the G1 at Keeneland on Saturday.

Crown Queen is unbeaten in four starts this year, and there is every reason to expect she has some further improvement to come.

In the aftermath of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, trainer Bill Mott noted that owner Ben Leon of Besilu Stable “wanted to give her some time over the winter to mature and grow up a little bit. He made a good call.”

The skills of the trainer and the patience of the ownership have allowed Crown Queen to come to herself naturally, and Mott said, “It was a very special win for me since I trained her mother (Delta Princess) and her grandmother (Lyphard’s Delta) and a lot of the family (including Royal Delta). It’s a very meaningful win for me.”

This pinnacle of success also shows that Crown Queen is maturing and improving at a rate typical of this family and typical of the progeny of the filly’s sire, Smart Strike.

Twice the leading sire in the nation, Smart Strike is proving year after year that he is one of the most important sons of Mr. Prospector, whose other sons include leading stallions Fappiano, Forty Niner, Seeking the Gold, Kingmambo, and Woodman.

This year, Smart Strike has G1 winners Crown Queen and Minorette, as well as four G2 winners and a G3 winner. Five of the seven graded winners are fillies or mares, but Smart Strike made his name as a sire of top-class colts like Horse of the Year Curlin, champion turf horse English Channel, and top sprinter Fabulous Strike.

And Smart Strike is breeding on. Curlin, sire of 2012 Belmont Stakes and 2013 Metropolitan Handicap winner Palace Malice, and English Channel, sire of 2013 Travers winner V.E. Day, are both showing that there is a lot of stamina in this branch of Mr. Prospector.

Considering the stamina that Smart Strike can impart, the strength of Royal Delta’s G1 performances over 10 furlongs, and the emphatic way that Crown Queen battled out the finish of her G1 victory, a step up in trip might allow the filly to achieve an even higher ranking among her contemporaries.

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

daredevil scaling the heights with victory in historic champagne stakes

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By making the big leap from maiden special winner to Grade 1 by winning the Champagne Stakes in his second start, Daredevil has placed himself squarely in the mix for the season’s top juvenile colt, and he is the son and grandson of racers who also figured prominently in the Champagne and in the assessment for leading 2-year-old colt of their years.

The outcomes for the sire and grandsire were quite different, however. Daredevil is by leading sire More Than Ready (by Southern Halo) and is out of a mare by Forty Niner.

A winner in five of his six preceding starts, More Than Ready would almost certainly have been champion 2-year-old of 1999 if he had won the Champagne. Instead, he finished fifth, tiring after three-quarters and appearing not to stay the mile.

In contrast, Forty Niner won the 1987 Champagne convincingly and was elected champion of his division by Eclipse Award voters. He was also one of the scant few champion 2-year-old colts who did not compete in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile since its institution in 1984. Others were last year’s champion Shared Belief, Declan’s Moon in 2004, and Maria’s Mon in 1995.

Both More Than Ready and Forty Niner returned at 3 to perform with high distinction. Forty Niner won the G1 Travers, as well as the Haskell and what was then called the NYRA Mile (now Cigar Mile), but Forty Niner missed his most sought-after goal as victory in the Kentucky eluded him when narrowly second to Winning Colors.

More Than Ready’s most important victory at 3 came in the G1 King’s Bishop at Saratoga, and although he was a very good racer, the son of Southern Halo was clearly a tick below the best of the crop. Even so, he ran a highly respectable fourth in the Kentucky Derby and in the Cigar Mile.

Put to stud, both More Than Ready and Forty Niner showed the ability to sire precocious individuals with speed and class. While leading sire Forty Niner also got classic winner Editor’s Note before the stallion’s export to Japan, More Than Ready is notable for his quick juveniles and performers at distances up to eight and nine furlongs.

The best Northern Hemisphere son of More Than Ready to this point has been Verrazano, who won both the G1 Wood Memorial and Haskell last year, and in addition to the good performances of his stock in the U.S., More Than Ready really sealed the deal on his stallion career with the exploits of his racers in Australia.

Standing Down Under, More Than Ready is the sire of three multi-millionaires – Sebring, More Joyous, and Phelan Ready – and his stud fee is higher in the Southern Hemisphere than in Kentucky, where he stood for $50,000 live foal in 2014.

If Daredevil progresses to win the Breeders’ Cup and the Eclipse Award, that may change.

One thing that will not change is the fact that Daredevil is the second G1 winner out of his dam, the Forty Niner mare Chasethewildwind.

One of the very best producing daughters of her champion sire, Chasethewildwind won three of her nine starts, earning $95,300 in two seasons of racing.

Put to stud by her breeders, Marianne and Brandon Chase, Chasethewildwind got a stakes horse in her first foal, the Touch Gold mare Chasethegold, who ran second in the G3 Ken Maddy Handicap and earned $154,945.

The mare got a really good horse in her third named foal, the Albert the Great horse Albertus Maximus. The latter won the G1 Donn Handicap and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile before it was graded, earning more than $1.3 million.

With a pair of G1 winners and a graded-placed performer, Chasethewildwind is clearly a broodmare of high merit. She also possesses a produce record of the grittiest disappointment.

Between her first foal Chasethegold and Daredevil, who is the mare’s last reported offspring, the only foals to race that Chasethewildwind produced were Albertus Maximus and a useful winner by Malibu Moon.

There were three barren years, one year not bred, a dead foal, and an unnamed foal who presumably died. In addition, there were also three foals who were named but who have no starts.

Those mishaps must have been a grave disappointment to the breeders, who have a small but distinguished racing and breeding operation.

In 2013, Daredevil was consigned by Gainesway, agent, to the Keeneland September sale and sold for $260,000 to Let’s Go Stable. Daredevil brought the sixth-highest price for a Northern Hemisphere yearling by his sire last year, with 69 offered, and the average price for those yearlings was $118,883, with a median of $93,296.

The most important statistics, however, are those recording accomplishments on the racetrack, and to date, none of More Than Ready’s crop of 2012 has done better than Daredevil.

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

‘belle’ of the beldame proves a gallant representative of storm cat son after market

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Shakespeare wrote that “There is a tide in the affairs of men that, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” The Bard’s observation 400 years ago is still as true today, and it applies just as certainly to horses as to people.

If a stallion does not catch the rising tide to prominence with his early results at the racetrack, he is not going to last in most operations. And that proved to be the case with After Market (by Storm Cat), now exported but also the sire of the winner of the Grade 1 Beldame Stakes, Belle Gallantey, on Sept. 27.

The 5-year-old mare is from the first crop by her sire, who also got G1 winner Lady of Fifty (Vanity Handicap), but the stallion’s overall stats did not lift him high enough to maintain a commercial profile in Kentucky, and he was sold to overseas interests at the end of last year.

After Market now stands at the Jockey Club of Turkey stud farm near Izmet for a fee of 8,000 lira (approximately $4,000).

Bred and raced by Marty and Pam Wygod, After Market is a son of Storm Cat and G1 winner Tranquility Lake, by Rahy. This is the same cross of Storm Cat with a Rahy mare that produced international highweight and leading sire Giant’s Causeway. So much was expected of After Market.

He proved a good horse early in his career who bloomed magnificently at a 4-year-old and became a multiple G1 winner in 2007, winning the Eddie Read and Charlie Whittingham Memorial, as well as the G2 Del Mar Handicap and G3 Inglewood. After Market was retired to stud at Lane’s End for the following year’s breeding season, and he covered large books of well-bred and commercially appealing mares.

Perhaps After Market bred too much in the direction of the Rahy side of his pedigree because the commercial market never enthused over the stallion or his offspring. Belle Gallantey was originally named Collection Basket and sold both as a yearling and as a 2-year-old. Her first trip through the sales ring, she sold for $10,000 to Mike Puhich, agent, and the second time she sold as a juvenile for $30,000 to Stuart Carmichael and Peter Tom.

Whatever her shortcomings as a sales horse, she proved a thoroughly useful performer at the track, winning a maiden claiming race for $30,000 and earning more than $250,000 in her first three seasons on the track. That’s a lot of money for a claiming and allowance filly, but Belle Gallantey was very competitive, winning four times, with 19 more finishes in second or third from her first 36 starts.

Now owned by Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stable, and Gary Aisquith, Belle Gallantey has been a revelation of class and consistency this year as she has climbed from a string of three allowance victories to win a pair of G1 stakes against some of the best mares in the country.

In between Belle Gallantey’s victories in the Delaware Handicap and the Beldame, she finished sixth in the G1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga, where she was tow-roped by divisional bear Close Hatches. That was one of only two losses this year in seven starts for Belle Gallantey, and she is the highest-profile descendant of a memorable champion.

Her third dam is the outstanding champion Meadow Star, a foal of 1988 by Meadowlake out of Inreality Star, by In Reality. Meadow Star was an exceptional champion at 2 when she was unbeaten in seven starts, including the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Frizette, Spinaway, and Matron. The spirited and athletic chestnut was unbeaten until she challenged colts in the Wood Memorial, where she finished fourth, and she won 11 of her first 12 starts, including a half-dozen G1s. Meadow Star’s last major victory was the Mother Goose, where she and Lite Light (Majestic Light) ran head-and-head to a dramatic finish that Meadow Star won narrowly.

Somewhat star-crossed as a broodmare, Meadow Star produced five foals, four winners, including the graded stakes-placed Grechelle, a daughter of Deputy Minister, like each of Meadow Star’s first three foals.

Field of Vision (Deputy Minister) was Meadow Star’s first foal, and she is the second dam of Belle Gallantey. Field of Vision’s third foal was Revealed (Old Trieste), and she won four races, earning $147,843.

Revealed produced Belle Gallantey as her second foal, and Belle Gallantey is her dam’s most accomplished performer, although all of Revealed’s first four foals are winners.

Belle Gallantey’s dam Revealed sold in 2010 for $70,000 at the Keeneland November sale. She was in foal to Candy Ride, and Larkin Armstrong, agent, signed the ticket for her. That foal is the 3-year-old Mr. Candy, a winner, and the mare has an unnamed 2-year-old filly by City Zip.

Revealed’s subsequent produce are View, a yearling filly by Birdstone, and an unnamed colt of 2014 by Gio Ponti.

With her ascension in class and consistency, Belle Gallantey has proven a worthy heir to the legacy of Meadow Star.

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

juddmonte farm raises its profile at the september sale with purchases to enlarge racing division in california

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One of the many interesting notes from the recently concluded Keeneland September yearling sale was the purchase of a group of eight colts by Juddmonte Farms. The yearlings all possess American dirt pedigrees, and the eight colts were purchased from five consignors: Gainesway (2), Lane’s End (2), Four Star (2), Clearsky, and Dromoland.

All these are intended for trainer Bob Baffert, who trains a West Coast stable for Juddmonte, and “this is the third year we have purchased yearlings for this purpose,” noted Garrett O’Rourke, farm manager of Juddmonte Farm in Kentucky.

“Really this is an outgrowth of Juddmonte’s historical success of racing in California,” O’Rourke continued, cataloging a list of triumphs that go back into the 1980s. Nearly all were horses who came over from Europe to race, but in the late 1990s, Honest Lady became the first major racer for Juddmonte who was retained to stay in the States and race entirely in California under the handling of trainer Bobby Frankel.  Frankel also conditioned Honest Lady’s dam, the great mare Toussaud, during the latter part of her career. Being a daughter of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, whose offspring were not exceptional as European turf performers, Honest Lady was a logical selection for this approach, and she gave it a smashing start.

That athletic filly was a graded winner at 3 who challenged the colts in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby of 1999 and then won the G1 Santa Monica in 2000, when she was also second in the G1 Metropolitan Handicap and in Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Honest Lady’s siblings like Chester House, by a more turf-friendly sire in Mr. Prospector, raced initially in England before coming to the U.S. to win G1 races, but her half-brother Empire Maker, by Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, stayed in country, won the Florida Derby, ran second in the Kentucky Derby, and won the Belmont Stakes in 2003.

Over the years, however, the Juddmonte program has been to take their young stock to Europe for racing, then bring over those who seem suited to American racing for competition here as older horses. It is a program that has paid massive dividends with such winners as Toussaud (G1 Gamely), Skimming (G1 Pacific Classic twice), Tinners Way (G1 Pacific Classic twice and G1 Californian), and literally barns full of other outstanding horses.

In all, Juddmonte has had exceptional success as a breeder and owner, both in America and in Europe, where its operation so recently has lit all the torches of athletic stardom with the great Frankel, named for the farm’s legendary American trainer.

Frankel, the man, spent most of his life as a trainer in California, and he was the focus for Juddmonte’s development of older horses in the States. But clearly, Khalid Abdullah, Juddmonte’s owner, enjoys the variety of sport, and for an operation that focuses on breeding for Europe and the classics in general, producing stock for racing in California might require some supplements.

The first set of four yearlings purchased specifically for the California racing program are now three years old, and they include West Riding (Tapit), unbeaten and highly regarded filly who won an allowance at Del Mar at the end of July; Beach Hut (First Defence colt), stakes-placed in the San Pedro this season; Pimpernel (Elusive Quality colt out of Xtra Heat), winner of a maiden special and allowance; and the unraced Head Quarters (Curlin colt).

The second set of yearling purchases are a trio named Bassanio (Speightstown colt; $200,000), Lamu (Malibu Moon colt; $300,000), and Planet (Street Cry colt; $700,000). All are unraced 2-year-olds.

The group of eight this year represent a larger number and a great outlay of cash, which suggests an active appreciation for the success achieved and for the prospects ahead with Juddmonte in California.

As typical for this undertaking, the pedigrees suggest American speed and dirt performance, and they doubtless were selected with an eye toward the type of stock that Baffert has enjoyed success with in the past.

The group this year is exclusively colts, and they are: Speightstown x Union Waters, $400,000; Unbridled’s Song x Bubbler, $560,000; Candy Ride x Cat Charmer, $460,000; Harlan’s Holiday x True Addiction, $200,000; Scat Daddy x Unspoken Fur, $360,000; Trappe Shot x Winning Call, $600,000; Midnight Lute x Seeking the Ghost, $220,000; and Trappe Shot x Songfest, $380,000.

As was the general perception at the sales, Trappe Shot is a first-crop sire of great appeal, and Juddmonte bought two of them. Those were the only yearlings by an unproven sire that the international operation purchased, and there is a thought here that these yearlings have enough pedigree that any of them could go to stud if they do enough on the racetrack.

That is a long-term goal, not an immediate one, and any major breeder would have that consideration lingering in the back of his mind when making up a list of the most interesting prospects. The next couple of seasons will tell us which make the grade, and breeders and racing fans can while away the hours of fun at their sport by observing these and other young prospects as they develop.

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

when is big too big? size in the racehorse

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After more than a week of fun at the September yearling sales, there are numerous observations to make. One of them that set me and a colleague to thinking was the question of size in the Thoroughbred.

Surely, there is nobody who goes to a sale or visits a stud farm and finds a growthy and substantial yearling and fails to note, “big and impressive,” etc.

Yet “big,” in itself, isn’t the answer to the great question of who is the better horse, and it is most certainly not the answer to which is the faster horse.

Northern Dancer and Hyperion are often mentioned as stellar examples of small horses who did great things and became landmark sires. They might have stood 15.1 or so on a tall day, but can you name a horse of equivalent ability or stallion success who stood 17 hands?

And that is an interesting question for those of us who seriously study the physique of racehorses, trying to judge the best prospects for racing success from the evidence of untrained yearlings and unraced 2-year-olds.

The closest king-sized opposites to the pair above would surely be leading sire Unbridled and his best stallion son Unbridled’s Song. The former won the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic, and the latter won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Florida Derby.

Unbridled’s Song was also a massive media favorite for the Kentucky Derby, but the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune were all against the big gray. After having an interrupted preparation and wearing an odd shoe to protect a sore foot, he finished up the track as Unbridled’s “other” son, Grindstone, won the Run for the Roses.

Both sire and son were racers of amazing talent. Unbridled, in addition to his classic performances, defeated champion sprinter Housebuster in the Deputy Minister Handicap at Gulfstream Park, going seven furlongs in an exhibition of tremendous class. Trainer Carl Nafzger told me that he could have trained Unbridled to be a champion sprinter. The horse had that kind of speed, and he passed on speed of the highest order to many of his offspring.

Both Unbridled and his famous son, like Northern Dancer and his famous great-grandsire, are outliers. They are exceptions to the norm of the breed, and yet they succeeded at the highest level of competition and represented athletic ability of the highest order.

At the yearling sales, however, only one sort of outlier is acceptable. The big one. Show a prospective buyer a small yearling, especially a genuine peanut like Northern Dancer as a yearling, and they will pass in record time. Nobody would buy the tiny bay when he went up for sale at Taylor’s annual yearling presentation. That’s why E.P. Taylor ended up racing and standing the classic winner and classic sire.

If this dislike of small horses were an equal prejudice, it would at least be just. Both types of outliers are challenged. Most small horses cannot compete with their bigger competitors because a small horse will have shorter legs, will not cover as much ground, and must be superior athletically to outrun a taller horse.

So, if that is the case, why is there a problem with bigger horses?

This is the logical issue that yearling buyers and evaluators confront. They almost always fail by grasping the big horse, just as quickly as they shy away from the small ones.

The reasons that the big horse fails to deliver the expected success are largely twofold, and both directly relate to the great lump of a body a horse has to wheel around a racecourse. First, to show speed and the athletic agility to produce a change of pace, the bigger a horse is, the more perfectly geared and proportioned it must be.

Just like any other mechanical effort, pushing a bigger weight requires a bigger gear if we are to accomplish the task in the same time, and if we want to go faster than the competition, then the gearing must be that extra bit bigger.

The second problem for the larger horse, and the larger it gets the more this is a problem, is the strength of materials. Bone and ligament can only remain stable under so much force, and as the bigger horse has to push itself harder to generate the speed of a mid-size racer, the forces on the bigger horse’s bones and tendons are increased.

The answer is already made to the questions posed by the temptations of outliers. The breed has told us simply and repeatedly that the mid-size racer, neither too big nor too small, is the best bet.

Mr. Prospector, A.P. Indy, Gone West, and Storm Cat have all provided solutions to the question of the “best horse” by contributing speed and power in different relationships, but they all fall within the general norms for the breed. They help the breed by producing a racier athlete and one that will mix well with other types to produce the next generation of stars.

*The story above was first published earlier this week at Paulick Report.

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.

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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.

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