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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fillies led the way in the saratoga select sale


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


a.p. indy, hear him roar


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The old lion in the bush gave another growl over the weekend. Champion racehorse and leading sire A.P. Indy had two graded stakes winners with Majestic River winning the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher at Monmouth and Antipathy winning the G3 Shuvee at Saratoga.

Few stallions get weekend doubles with graded winners. So it is a measure of the grand old stallion’s importance and success that he has had them regularly throughout his career. Now the sire of 156 stakes winners (13 percent from foals), A.P. Indy has sired a greater number of G1 winners than most stallions get as simple stakes winners.

And it’s no easy task for a stallion to sire stakes winners.

Stakes winners have to be the best on the day against a group of good horses; graded stakes winners have to be even better. That is so because if we take into consideration all the things that can go wrong in bringing a horse to its best, a sire’s crop has to be a deep well of talent to consistently produce stock that can perform in stakes competition.

With most sires, the variation in type and aptitude is too great to furnish the consistently superior horse. But like all really great sires, A.P. Indy has all the parts.

An exceptional yearling who sold for $2.9 million to lead the Keeneland July sale in 1990, A.P. Indy became a G1 winner as a 2-year-old, then expanded on that success. He matured well as a 3-year-old, when a minor foot issue prevented him from taking a chance in the Kentucky Derby. But the growthy bay came back five weeks later to win the Belmont Stakes and become a classic winner.

Closing his career with a sharp victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, A.P. Indy was elected champion of his division and Horse of the Year for 1992. With eight victories from 11 starts, A.P. Indy earned $2,979,815.

With his looks, race record, and pedigree (by Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew out of a stakes-winning mare by Triple Crown winner Secretariat), A.P. Indy got a major chance at stud, and he made every inning a winner.

The stallion’s graded winners last weekend are 4-year-old fillies from their sire’s next-to-last crop, and A.P. Indy’s last crop of racers is 3 and contains more promising athletes.

At the beginning of 2014, I thought the old lion had another big roar or two in him. Honor Code had won the G2 Remsen and run second in the G1 Champagne as a juvenile, and he appeared the perfect type of A.P. Indy who could come along and improve out of sight as the distances lengthened and his maturity came to the fore.

Unfortunately, that has not worked out yet for Honor Code. Instead, the dark bay colt was sidelined early in the year and missed the entire Triple Crown. Co-owned by Lane’s End Racing and Dell Ridge Farm, “Honor Code went back to Shug McGaughey two weeks ago” after recuperating at WinStar’s facility near Lexington, Will Farish said.

“The colt appears to be 100 percent,” Farish noted, “but we’re going to let him tell us when he’s ready. Honor Code gets fit quickly, but we’re in no hurry. We are looking forward to his 4-year-old season, which should be worth the wait, like with many good A.P. Indys.”

So, there is positive news about Honor Code, who has been the leader from his sire’s final crop, and then there is A.P. Indy’s later-maturing son Commissioner, who was clearly progressing early in the year. Then he ran a blinder in the Belmont Stakes, leading most of the way and being caught at the wire by Tonalist.

Both of these colts are important prospects, both for racing and for stud. In addition to A.P. Indy’s contributions to sport, he has also been a steady source of classic quality, plus speed, that the breed has needed.

The depth of A.P. Indy’s influence is seen in the high regard that is accorded his sons and daughters. Pulpit, from his sire’s first crop, was the first important stallion son of A.P. Indy, but others have followed, including leading sire Malibu Moon, Mineshaft, Bernardini, Congrats, and Flatter.

As might be expected from a list of sires like that, a good number of young sons of A.P. Indy are still coming along with high hopes to make the grade as stallions. Among these are Astrology (third in the Preakness, standing at Taylor Made), Eye of the Leopard (Queen’s Plate, Canadian champion; Calumet), Girolamo (Vosburgh; Darley), and Take Charge Indy (Florida Derby; WinStar).

In addition to these unproven horses, other farms like Lane’s End, Claiborne, Ashford, Spendthrift, and Gainesway all stand successful sons or grandsons of A.P. Indy. The leading sire in the country right now is A.P. Indy’s grandson Tapit, who has spent his entire career at Gainesway and who is having a memorable season with Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist, Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable, and numerous other major performers.

So the line goes on, and A.P. Indy watches. His eyes are filled with a luminescence that suggests wisdom and depth. He is the lion in winter.

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

clarke breeding program keeps churning out top-class racehorses


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It’s hard to know whether breeder Harvey Clarke should keep all his yearlings or sell them all. From a broodmare band of modest size, Clarke has bred some impressive stakes winners. Those he kept and raced are not household names, but among the yearlings that Clarke has sold are 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner I’ll Have Another (by Flower Alley), 2013 Champagne Stakes winner Havana (Dunkirk), and Stopchargingmaria (Tale of the Cat), who won the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga on the weekend.

That a small operation with around 10 broodmares can produce animals of such quality is a great tribute to the breeder and the people who raise his horses. Stopchargingmaria was bred in partnership by Clarke and the Seitz family’s Brookdale Farm LLC, where Clarke boards his mares, and Brookdale consigned both I’ll Have Another and Stopchargingmaria to the sales.

Neither brought in much money, with the Kentucky Derby winner initially selling for $11,000 and then reselling for $35,000 as a 2-year-old in training, and Stopchargingmaria bringing $47,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale and reselling to current owner, Repole Stable, for $220,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s March auction of select 2-year-olds in training last year.

Whereas I’ll Have Another had been an immature little duffer as a yearling, Stopchargingmaria was a nice yearling. By the time she came to the juvenile sales, she was really coming along.

At the OBS March sale, she breezed a furlong in :10 1/5, and she showed her strength and athleticism well. With a stride length of about 24.25 feet, Stopchargingmaria was striding three-quarters of a foot longer than the very good average stride length of the March sale, which was about 23.5 feet. That was an excellent effort. It earned Stopchargingmaria a BreezeFig of 69 from DataTrack International and placed her in the advisory service’s top-ranked category of young prospects.

As an individual back at the barn, Stopchargingmaria was a neatly made, not overly large example of her sire’s better type. She had a good shoulder and hindquarter, especially for her size and body weight. At the walk, she was pleasing, with a free and easy extension. She has a feminine head with an attractive and expressive eye.

This filly is not lacking in character and courage either. She has won five of her nine starts, with a pair of placings, and she went past $1 million in earnings with victory in the CCA Oaks.

Nor did it take Stopchargingmaria much time to show that she was worth every penny paid for her. The filly won her début on July 19 last year, taking a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special at Saratoga by 5 1/2 lengths in 1:04.69.

Stopchargingmaria earned G1 black type with a second in the Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga and a third in the Frizette Stakes at Belmont. Then on Nov. 3, she broke through for her first stakes victory in the G3 Tempted Stakes at Aqueduct before adding the G2 Demoiselle at the end of that month.

The filly’s first stakes victory was especially timely because her dam, the Montbrook stakes winner Exotic Bloom, went through the sales ring the next day.

Exotic Bloom, the dam of Stopchargingmaria, was sold at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton November auction. With her first foal a graded stakes winner, Exotic Bloom brought $500,000 from Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings in foal to Metropolitan Handicap winner Quality Road.

Seven years earlier, Clarke acquired Exotic Bloom in company with owner-breeder-trainer Fred Seitz at the 2006 OBS June sale of 2-year-olds in training. A well-known clearinghouse sale that annually turns up plenty of good horses, including contemporary stars like Goldencents and Wildcat Red, the OBS June auction has labored in the shadow of Florida’s trendier sales in March and April but has now come into well-earned regard as a good place to buy a horse.

Clarke and Seitz picked up Exotic Bloom for $65,000, one of the stronger prices at the June sale in 2006, and she won the Windward Stakes and My Charmer Stakes for them, placed third in the G3 Seaway Stakes, earning $257,281.

Exotic Bloom has a 2-year-old filly by leading sire More Than Ready, and the mare has a yearling colt by champion Gio Ponti (Tale of the Cat), who is closely related to the CCA Oaks winner. At the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale in May, the More Than Ready filly sold for $510,000 to Stonestreet Stables. She was the second-highest price of the auction, behind only the War Front colt Old Mountain Lane.

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

sales cycle evolving with fasig-tipton kentucky’s hybrid summer auction


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One of the charms of Thoroughbred racing is its tradition. Like the cycles of the seasons or the orbits of the planets, Thoroughbred racing operates around a calendar. One season builds upon the preceding, and as we learn more about the sport, we too partake of its tradition and begin building some of our own.

Yet all too soon we find that a search of the memory produces recollections of horses and places from further back than seems possible. It does not feel so long ago that Fasig-Tipton began its yearling sale in Lexington, but 1976 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Bold Forbes was there, along with that year’s Preakness winner Elocutionist.

The 1975 select yearling sales at Fasig-Tipton included Seattle Slew, who became the 1976 champion colt, then won the Triple Crown in 1977. Those horses provided an amazing way to begin a sales operation in Lexington, and they were necessary to get the company going the right direction.

Fasig-Tipton’s establishment of a select sale for yearlings made it the new boy in town. Across four preceding decades, the July sale at Keeneland had been the jeweled scepter that marked the beginning of the yearling sales season.

Then, with the swiftness of a sword’s stroke, that changed. Fasig-Tipton was operating in Lexington with a breeders’ cooperative at the helm, and the select sale was producing classic winners bought at modest prices.

By the time the great boom in bloodstock came through the 1980s, Fasig-Tipton was an entrenched element of the yearling sales season, offering a large catalog of highly pedigreed yearlings in the sweltering July heat, almost the twin of its rival auction across town.

But then changes to tax laws precipitated the first great bloodstock depression through the end of the 1980s, and something had to give. Fasig-Tipton rewrote its yearling sale as a more select environment to find a racehorse, rather than a yearling with a bejeweled catalog page. This proved popular with buyers and sellers because both were able to operate profitably, and the Fasig-Tipton July sale became the stalwart hunting ground for the new breed of pinhookers who were beginning to trade in first-rate yearlings with average or so pedigrees that could be resold as in-training juveniles at the select 2-year-old sales in February and March the following year.

And just like the seasons and decades, so the traditions of sport and sales have evolved over the years to the present moment as Fasig-Tipton renewed its select July sale with a medium-sized catalog of yearlings, strongly supplemented with horses in training and the dispersal of broodmares and racehorses from the Melnyk Racing Stables.

The evolution of the July sale at Fasig-Tipton from a yearling sale into an élite auction of all-aged stock made a strong step forward this year. The top price for a yearling at Monday’s auction, when 265 yearlings were cataloged, was $550,000 for a bay colt by Cowboy Cal out of the Unaccounted For mare Refugee. The scopy colt is a half-brother to the top-class juvenile filly Executiveprivilege (First Samurai), who won a pair of Grade 1 stakes, and to this year’s graded stakes-winning colt Hoppertunity (Any Given Saturday), who was one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby.

The price for the top yearling, however, was nearly doubled by the overall top lot at the auction. That sale was for the 2-year-old Bedford Land, a chestnut filly by leading sire Speightstown out of the G1 stakes winner Pool Land. Bedford Land brought a sales-topping bid of $1.075 million from Three Chimneys Farm, represented by Chris Baker.

Bedford Land had won her début at Churchill Downs by three and a quarter lengths and will be pointed to the top stakes for juvenile fillies before she is eventually retired to the Three Chimneys band of high-quality broodmares.

Whether she matures and develops into a division leader in the manner of a Bold Forbes or Seattle Slew, only time will tell. But Bedford Land has put an exclamation point at the end of the 2014 Fasig-Tipton July sale with her seven-figure price.

As 2-year-old conditioner and reseller Eddie Woods said to me earlier this year: “A really good horse will bring all the money in any of these sales nowadays. If the horse is there, the buyers will find it, and they will pay serious money for it.”

So we go on, refitting our traditions to the demands of the day, and the gold dust swirls around us as the miners for a nugget of gold keep toiling in the hot July sun.

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

believe it or not, the 3-year-old champion still has not been decided, nor even voted on


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Before the Belmont, and especially in its aftermath, there has been considerable discussion and analysis of the quality and ranking of the leading 3-year-old colts. There is, however, no question who’s the best gelding in the crop: Shared Belief.

Last year’s divisional champion at 2, Shared Belief was a natural prospect for the Triple Crown but was knocked out of the classics with a foot problem. When the son of Candy Ride returned to competition in a six-furlong allowance against older horses a month ago, he showed his old flair, and the champ indicated that he is not going to hand over his Eclipse mantle without a battle by an emphatic victory in the July 5 Los Alamitos Derby.

Unbeaten in five races, Shared Belief stands as a serious challenger to California Chrome, who won a pair of classics in the absence of the dark brown son of Candy Ride and who is now having some time off before being trained for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which will again be at Santa Anita.

The possibility of a showdown between juvenile champion Shared Belief and the wildly popular Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner is a great prospect for racing. It’s a great story; it’s interesting and dramatic.

The situation also recalls the 1966 Triple Crown and its resolution. That year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness were won by snappy colt bearing the name of Kauai King (by Native Dancer), and he accomplished the double with some elan before finishing fourth in the Belmont Stakes. Is this sounding familiar?

The situation becomes almost eerily similar because the champion juvenile colt of the preceding year was Buckpasser, owned and bred by Ogden Phipps. Buckpasser was knocked off the Triple Crown trail in early 1966 by a serious quarter crack and did not return to competition until early June.

Buckpasser returned with an emphatic triumph over older horses in an allowance.  Then Buckpasser went on a tear through his contemporaries and older horses, finishing the year a thoroughly proven champion and the first million-dollar winner as a 3-year-old. Among the victories Buckpasser amassed, which eventually numbered 16 in a row, were successes over every major challenger to his supremacy, including Kauai King.

Time and commentators perceived that the 3-year-olds of 1966, foals of 1963, were quite a good group, with other major winners including Abe’s Hope (Better Bee), Advocator (Round Table), Amberoid (Count Amber), Boldnesian (Bold Ruler), Buffle (Zenith), Crème dela Crème (Olympia), Graustark (Ribot), Impressive (Ambiorix), Stupendous (Bold Ruler), and the leading fillies were Lady Pitt (Sword Dancer), Natashka (Ribot), Native Street (Native Dancer), Marking Time (To Market), Moccasin (Nantallah), and Priceless Gem (Hail to Reason).

Since only half of 2014 is past, it is far too early to dismiss the crop of 2011 as either better or worse than Buckpasser’s lot.

One thing is certain. There are more than a few good horses on the sidelines from this crop who are taking the steps to return to the races, and perhaps their best form is yet ahead of them. Among the list of such colts who were fancied for the Derby, the top prospects include Cairo Prince, Honor Code, and Constitution, while Tonalist and Danza also have highly competitive form to challenge the highflyers of the division.

But they better put their running shoes on.

Shared Belief is progressing very well with his return to racing, and his next start is expected to be the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. That race will be an interesting challenge for a horse who still needs to prove a good deal, and the gelding’s effort in that race will tell the racing public several things. First, it will place Shared Belief in some context with the older horses, and second, it will show us his form going 10 furlongs, farther than he has raced to date by a furlong.

Considering how well Shared Belief handled dirt at Los Alamitos while racing nine furlongs in 1:47.01, it seems doubtful another furlong will be an impediment. But the challenges are his to overcome, and in so doing, to prove whether he is the type of racer who was unlucky to have missed the Triple Crown.

And we fans of and contributors to the most beautiful sport have six months of fun and excitement to look forward to.

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

steroid ban is a loaded gun for breeding

The announcement by the British Horseracing Authority late last week of a ban on anabolic steroid use was more than a shot across the bow of the American racing, breeding, and sales industry. It was an adversarial move that rightly surprised most observers and clearly was intended to redirect attention from the problem of steroid abuse in Britain.

That this announcement was significantly a public relations move hardly needs debate. The provocative press release provided cover for the BHA to point a finger at a straw man while enacting sweeping rules for domestic steroid monitoring and prohibition that might have taken a good deal more heat if presented differently.

While steroids are not a new topic in sport, they are already well-documented among racers in America, most notably the public discussion of them during Big Brown’s run for the Triple Crown in 2008.

Amazingly as it may seem, steroid use was largely legal at that time, but that has changed. The sales companies, as one example, banded together to eliminate the use of anabolic steroids in sales horses, and since the new rules were enacted in 2008, there have been no positive test results for sales horses – largely yearlings – in Kentucky.

There is a good reason for that. The conditions of sale for the sales companies prohibit any auction weanling, yearling, or 2-year-old from being administered anabolic steroids within 45 days of sales, and if any animal tests positive for steroids, then it may be returned to the seller.

No seller wants to get the horse back. He is selling the animal, not wasting money on a critter vacation at Keeneland or Fasig-Tipton. Therefore, the sellers are going to avoid any use of steroids because it could invalidate their sale, depending upon the decision of the buyer (who could choose to keep a horse, even if it tested positive for steroids).

The absence of positive test results is a pretty strong indicator that sellers and consignors have taken the prohibition to heart and that they have given a wide berth to steroids in any treatments related to their sales horses.

They are wise to do so because the sales companies do not intend this prohibition to be a blunt instrument.

The sales companies put a lot of time and money into the study and testing associated with the issue of anabolic steroids. They had to do this because sales companies, both in America and everywhere else around the world, rely on the confidence of buyers. The buyer has to believe he is getting value, whether he is purchasing a $1,000 horse or a $1 million horse.

The standards of operation that a sales company enforces and that sellers and consignors follow are the things that form the underpinnings of buyer confidence.

As a result, the sales companies spent money in quantity to develop threshold levels for all steroids found in horses, both the natural and the man-made steroids. Development of those threshold levels took the most time because there is natural variance in horses. Some have more natural steroids in their bodies than others, and some eliminate or process man-made steroids at different rates.

So how is a testing agency to tell the difference?

They have to study, study, study. Then build some functional guidelines. And as a result of the time and expense put into this work, the labs doing testing on sales horses can tell the principals involved what the horse’s levels are for the naturally occurring steroids, as well as the man-made ones.

As a result, the buying and betting public are able to feel confident that the regulatory structure provides proper oversight of both areas of activity for Thoroughbreds. That’s good for the horses, for the sport, and for the people who invest so much money, attention, and affection on the animals participating in the sport we all love.

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


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