heritage and pattern of development suggest more late-season improvement from whiskey ticket


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(Work came before blogging; therefore there is a bit of a backlog. Hope you enjoy!)

Whatever one thinks of the form in the Grade 3 Illinois Derby on April 18, it takes a lot of guts and natural ability to jump from a maiden victory to a graded stakes success, and winner Whiskey Ticket (by Ghostzapper) is now unbeaten in two starts.

Coming from the Bob Baffert training operation, Whiskey Ticket is the trainer’s third Derby winner in the last three weeks, following Dortmund in the Santa Anita Derby and American Pharoah in the Arkansas Derby.

Like them, Whiskey Ticket will be shipped to Churchill Downs for training but that’s all in his case, and that is surely the right approach. Unraced till March 19, when the colt won his début in a mile maiden special at Santa Anita, Whiskey Ticket is clearly a talented and progressive young athlete, but like his famous sire, he will probably benefit from sitting out the classics.

There is, in fact, a tradition in this male line for giving the classics a miss but not missing out on finding their best form.

Ghostzapper was a massively talented racer who came to his best form at 4, and under the patient handling of trainer Bobby Frankel, Ghostzapper won nine of 11 starts, earning $3.4 million, plus accolades as Horse of the Year, etc. He was never defeated after the summer of his 3-year-old season, and in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Ghostzapper overwhelmed Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect, Horse of the Year Azeri, Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide, and Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone.

Ghostzapper was the best racer sired by Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again, a son of Deputy Minister who stands alongside his son at Adena Springs in Kentucky. Awesome Again’s stock includes champions Ginger Punch and Wilko, as well as Preakness winner Oxbow and Haskell winner Paynter. But the only one who really might be mentioned with nearly the same regard as Ghostzapper is mega-millionaire Game on Dude. The evergreen gelding earned $6.4 million in a lengthy career that carried him around the world and proved how game and tough the modern Thoroughbred can be.

Awesome Again was not a Derby performer, however. The handy bay began his racing at 3, still managed to claim the Queen’s Plate in Canada, but only came to his best form at 4, when he was unbeaten in all six starts, including the Breeders’s Cup Classic, Whitney, and Stephen Foster.

By far, the best 2-year-old in this male line was Deputy Minister, a growthy and precocious juvenile who was the divisional champion in both the U.S. and Canada, where he was also Horse of the Year. An injury, rather lack of seasoning or aptitude, knocked Deputy Minister off the rails for his classic opportunity. But as a sire, Deputy Minister tended to sire stock that was good at 2, such as champions Open Mind, Go for Wand, and Dehere, or that showed improved form with maturity like Awesome Again, Touch Gold, and Deputy Commander.

Deputy Minister’s sire, Vice Regent, didn’t show his form on the racetrack, being only a winner. But at stud he became one of the best stallion sons of mighty Northern Dancer with 105 stakes winners. Northern Dancer, back in the fifth generation of this male line, is the only one in this series who had the required pattern of development to become a classic horse, and the blocky little bay won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, as well as the Queen’s Plate.

As fans of sport and the great variety of racing, we can only hope that Whiskey Ticket follows the pattern of his immediate ancestors with continued improvement and becomes a better and better racehorse to challenge for the big prizes later this year and next.

super saver gearing up for further progress as a sire


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The old Aga, the present Aga Khan’s grandfather, was quoted many years ago saying that the three most important qualities of the Thoroughbred were “speed, speed, and speed.”

A great breeder and an incisive thinker, the Aga Khan raced classic winners and plenty of classic pretenders, and the truism of his statement was not that speed was the end all of the Thoroughbred but that it was the fragile commodity most likely to be lost in breeding for the classic horse.

So one of the long-held precepts of the Aga Khan, as well as world-class breeders here in the States like A.B. “Bull” Hancock and E.R. Bradley, was the importance of juvenile form in the classic colts who grew up to become champions and the most sought-after stallion prospects for creating the next generation.

And, in a day when 2-year-old racing is minimized and relatively unimportant compared to what it was 50 or 100 years ago, the 2-year-old sales have become a trying ground for precocity in a significant part of the breed, with several thousand youngsters annually being prepped for the juvenile in-training sales. There was a revelation last year with the first progeny of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver (by Maria’s Mon).

A good 2-year-old himself whose juvenile successes included the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, Super Saver is an illustration of the old model that quality juvenile form is an important factor in choosing a stallion prospect, and the good-looking bay trained on to become a classic winner at 3 before trundling off to stud.

That lack of a notable racing career after his Derby success caused some difficulty with breeders, not all of whom were strongly committed to the horse, but standing at an influential and successful stallion operation, WinStar Farm, some breeders gave the horse a chance, and when the sire’s first-crop juvenile youngsters came to the sales last season, buyers went wild for them.

As few expected, the juveniles by Super Saver were the sensation of the juvenile sales season, with multiple strong sales that were backed up by some salty performances in mid-summer and fall at the better racetracks around the country.

Super Saver’s top seller last year at the 2-year-old sales was Competitive Edge for $750,000, and that colt came along nicely through the summer and won the G1 Hopeful at Saratoga to be ranked among the best of his division. At $600,000 was I Spent It, also a graded winner at Saratoga and currently racing successfully in stakes this season.

Not surprisingly, the yearling buyers for the juvenile market were strong on the stallion for this sales season, and for the OBS April sale alone, Super Saver has a dozen offspring cataloged.

There are, for instance, a couple of fillies from good families that are representative of the second-crop Super Savers. Hip 509 at McKathan Bros. is a chestnut filly out of a young Cozzene mare with a second dam who produced five stakes horses and two additional mares who are multiple stakes producers. There is some depth to the family, but it’s not real flashy in the first dam.

Likewise, Hip 590 from Scanlon Training Center has a young dam with a serious second dam. The second dam is Guilded Times, by Crafty Prospector, and she produced G2 winner Icecoldbeeratreds (In Excess) and four other stakes horses.

One of the most promising young sires with classic form, Super Saver will offer much for buyers and breeders to savor with his second crop of juveniles to test on the racetrack.

* Hip 509 sold to Rockingham Ranch for $100,000, and Hip 590 sold to Barry Dolan, agent for Alan Cook, for $62.000.

raising american pharoah: ‘everyone who touched that sucker loved him’


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Behind every great racehorse, there are great horsemen who have helped to bring out the excellence that lay within. As American Pharoah sailed through the stretch to victory in the Arkansas Derby, the big bay emphasized that trainer Bob Baffert has developed a pair of very high-class racers that also includes last weekend’s Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund.

But the steps that eventually led to the son of Pioneerof the Nile being a leading prospect for the Kentucky Derby began more than three years ago with his birth at a farm on Briar Hill Road outside Lexington, Ky.

American Pharoah’s story began at Stockplace, a farm owned and operated by Tom Van Meter DVM. Van Meter recalled that American Pharoah “was born on Groundhog’s Day (Feb. 2, 2012) and was a nice, big foal. You wouldn’t have picked him out as extraordinary, but he was a nice, plain bay, like most of the Pioneers. We foaled six to eight Pioneers that year for Mr. Zayat, who sent all his mares to his own stallions.

“We kept Mr. Z’s mares for a while, and American Pharoah was in the last crop that I raised for him. He left Stockplace in June or early July,” Van Meter said, then went to Vinery, where he was weaned, and to Taylor Made Farm, where he was prepared for the yearling sales and consigned to Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga select yearling sale in 2013.

At the Saratoga sale, American Pharoah was a well-grown and progressive-looking young horse. Consigned by Taylor Made Sales for Zayat, American Pharoah proved a popular horse, and as Taylor Made’s yearling manager John Hall remarked: “Everyone who touched that sucker loved him.”

It’s true. The brawny bay made a deep impression on all who saw him, but the crowd of buyers at Saratoga can sometimes be super-critical. In spite of American Pharoah’s scope and muscle, there was a blemish on a shin from a brush with fate in a paddock.

The x-rays “showed it was okay,” Hall said, “but everyone seemed afraid of it. That was their loss and Mr. Zayat’s gain.” American Pharoah went through the ring at Saratoga, where he was bought in at $300,000 to race for his breeder.

From upstate New York, the big bay shipped south to Florida, where he was broken and put into early training at the McKathan Brothers Farm near Ocala.

J.B. McKathan Jr. said that American Pharoah “was a big, classy-looking colt. He was long, tall, and powerful. We really liked him, but he didn’t look like a speedball. He looked like a classic colt.

“But the first time we asked him, he just ran off from the other horses. He showed speed right away and improved with every work. He had so much natural ability that we worked not to do too much with him. Never put a stick on him. Went through several bits trying to get him to slow down.

“He was just naturally a very, very fast horse.”

Those are the qualities that breeders and horsemen hope to find in animals that promise to become the very best racehorses.

And on top of the obvious ability that American Pharoah possessed, he wasn’t running away from a herd of nonentities. Among the other stock that the McKathans had in pre-training were Gotham Stakes winner El Kabeir and multiple G1-placed Mr. Z, which are both slated for the Zayat Stables entry in the Kentucky Derby.

J.B. McKathan said, “We’re really excited to have three good horses in the Derby. It’s very satisfying when a horse is able to perform at the level you expect, that you hope for.”

The McKathans have found a lot of satisfaction in their work with classic prospects, and among their earlier successes for Zayat Stables was Pioneerof the Nile, the sire of American Pharoah. Second in the Kentucky Derby, Pioneerof the Nile had preceded that effort with victories that included the G1 Santa Anita Derby and Hollywood Futurity.

Due to their relationship with Zayat Stables, the McKathans have worked with a number of young horses by Pioneerof the Nile, and J.B. McKathan said, “we’ve had Pioneers in all shapes and sizes, but one thing they’ve had in common is the desire to win, which is so important.”

One of the factors that make top horses is the desire to win, and the sire’s first crop included colts with classic aspirations like Cairo Prince, Social Inclusion, and Vinceremos. A tendency toward classic form is also becoming a general trend with Pioneerof the Nile.

There are plenty more Derbys ahead through the spring and summer, but the one that matters most is next on the agenda for American Pharoah.

In recalling the Arkansas Derby winner as a yearling, John Hall said that American Pharoah “had a great mind. He was very intelligent, and when you introduced something new, it was like he’d done it before.”

I do wonder if the colt has ever posed with roses.

leading sires are shining as their classic prospects win major preps


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This weekend’s classic preps brought a set of Kentucky Derby contenders into the foreground. At least they are contenders if anything can challenge the great bounding stag named American Pharoah in the 10-furlong classic on the first Saturday in May.

The biggest and most perfect is unbeaten Dortmund (by Big Brown), winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on Saturday. Both he and American Pharoah are trained by Bob Baffert, who has kept Dortmund at home and sent American Pharoah travelling for spring preps.

The sire of each colt showed classic form. Dortmund’s sire, Big Brown, won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness during his championship season, and American Pharoah’s sire, Pioneerof the Nile, was second in the Derby and got last season’s champion 2-year-old from his second crop.

While both the sires above have only a handful of crops, the sires of the winners of the Bluegrass Stakes and Wood Memorial are two of the best-known and most successful stallions in the world, Giant’s Causeway and Tapit.

A chestnut son of Storm Cat, Giant’s Causeway was a top-class performer with an outstanding constitution and unrivalled competitiveness. Now 17, Giant’s Causeway has sired an average of more than 140 foals with 12 crops of racing age.

A G1 winner at 2 and classic-placed in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and in the Irish 2,000 Guineas at The Curragh, Giant’s Causeway won five G1 races at 3 and showed his form at up to 10.5 furlongs, although he was never tried over farther, and one of his most memorable races was a gallant second to Horse of the Year Tiznow in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.

Generally considered the best racing son of his famous sire Storm Cat, Giant’s Causeway has proven both an immodestly successful stallion and one who is distinctly different from his sire. The Storm Cats tend to breed toward power, speed, and precocity, but the stock by Giant’s Causeway tend to be leggier and lighter, with a noted tendency toward improvement with age and sturdiness in training.

In fact, among the graded winners this year by Giant’s Causeway, there is 7-year-old Imagining, as well as the 6-year-olds Irish Mission and Coltrane and the 5-year-old Top Juliette.

The sire’s 3-year-olds include the top juvenile filly from 2014, Take Charge Brandi, and the highly regarded Carpe Diem, who won the G1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last fall and returned to win the Blue Grass impressively.

Although Take Charge Brandi is on the sidelines, Carpe Diem has seized the day and will be one of the favored contenders for the upcoming classics. Once-beaten, in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Carpe Diem has earned the regard of handicappers, much as he impressed yearling and 2-year-old buyers.

The attractive chestnut brought $550,000 at the Keeneland September sale, and buyer Northwest Stud pinhooked Carpe Diem to the 2014 Ocala Breeders Sales March auction, where Stonestreet Stables signed the ticket at $1.6 million.

The colt races for the partnership of Stonestreet and WinStar Farm, and Carpe Diem was one of the stars at the OBS March sale last year. He scooted a furlong in :10 1/5, with the impressive rhythm and stretch that suggested he would improve greatly, and he ran with a stride length of 25 feet, which placed Carpe Diem in an excellent league and brought out the big guns when he went through the ring.

Not every good horse goes through to sale, though.

A Darley homebred, Wood Memorial winner Frosted (Tapit) never went through the sales, and he is clearly not as precocious as Carpe Diem. A maiden winner on Oct. 30 last fall, Frosted stepped up to finish second in the G2 Remsen a month later. So he had some class early on and then ran second in the Holy Bull earlier this year.

Victory in the Wood, however, was a major step forward for Frosted, who appears to be learning his lessons and progressing well toward the classics. He lurked near the rear of the field in the Wood, then made a determined run through the stretch that could be an important factor for negotiating the Derby trip.

Out of the Deputy Minister mare Fast Cookie, Frosted is part of an extended legacy because his dam was one of the mares that Darley purchased several years ago when acquiring the Stonerside operation in a deal that included its land, bloodstock, and racehorses. One of the latter was Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Midshipman, now a stallion for Darley at Jonabell.

A G2 stakes winner, Fast Cookie won the Cotillion at 3 and placed in other graded events, earning more than a half-million. Her dam, the Avenue of Flags (Seattle Slew) mare Fleet Lady, won the G2 El Encino and La Canada early in her 4-year-old season, and this is clearly a family with its fair share of speed and class.

Nor is the legacy of speed uncommon among the stock being prepped for the classics. All these classic prospects come from fast families, and it is guaranteed that some will find the distance of the Derby more of a challenge that they are prepared for at this point.

But one will rise to the occasion, and only he will wear the roses.

classic material for classic winner afleet alex appears in florida derby winner


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For the past several months, it had appeared that multiple classic winner Afleet Alex (by Northern Afleet) would be represented at the Kentucky Derby by a high-profile contender in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red. Hampered by foot problems this season, however, the colt was declared out of the Run for the Roses by his connections two weeks ago.

Now Afleet Alex is back in the classic sire picture with a new Grade 1 winner in Materiality, who won the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.

Materiality looked strong and courageous as he defeated Upstart (Flatter) by 1 ½ lengths in the keystone event at Gulfstream, and Upstart had 12 ½ lengths on Ami’s Flatter (Flatter) in third. The top pair in the Florida Derby looked like the top-class colts they are, and both have run well every time this season.

Even so, Materiality’s jump into G1 company and success at that level mark him as a colt with serious prospects.

But the handsome bay has been a very nice animal all along. Bred in Kentucky by John Gunther, who also bred last weekend’s Godolphin Mile winner Tamarkuz, Materiality sold at the 2013 Keeneland September sale for $260,000 to Venture Six, and that price for the colt was the third-highest for a yearling by Afleet Alex that year.Brought through the 2-year-old sales program by Nick de Meric Sales, Materiality progressed into a good-sized, strongly made, and quite attractive juvenile.

At last year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May sale of 2-year-olds in training at Timonium, Materiality worked a furlong in :10 2/5, showing a stride length just shy of 25 feet. The strength of the colt’s work and his presence at the barn put him on a lot of short lists, and agent Steve Young paid $400,000 for the colt, who races for the Alto Racing stable of Gil Moutray and Eddie Harrell.

That price made Materiality the top-priced 2-year-old in training for Afleet Alex last year, which is evidence that he was showing all the right clues to those looking for the best prospects. Even with all that good potential, Materiality was nothing like a finished product at the Midlantic May sale, and de Meric Sales had left plenty in the horse for the trainer to go on with.

The nice-looking bay had a good frame and the natural aptitude to stretch out. With time and maturity, Materiality has strengthened and improved to the point that he is now being touted as a serious dark horse candidate for the classics.

One serious strike against his prospects is that Materiality has made only three starts to date. And all three of them have come this year at 3, with his winning debut on Jan. 6 and his first stakes victory coming on March 11 in the Islamadora Stakes at Gulfstream. As we draw closer to the Derby, much will be made of the fact that no Derby winner in a zillion years went unraced as a 2-year-old.

There’s something to that because seasoning, both mental and physical, is important for competitors in the crucible of the classics. And horses who are behind on their education, training, or endurance can be found wanting in the great test at Churchill Downs and the rapid challenges that follow at Pimlico and Belmont.

But it is interesting that Materiality has been through a juvenile program, although a juvenile sales program, and that the reasons for his moderately delayed appearance in official races were normal and unexceptional.

Nor will Materiality fail at the classic test due to a fault in the classic quality of his sire. Afleet Alex was one of the best classic winners of the past 20 years. His victories in the Preakness, where he went to his knees on the far turn and showed an athletic recovery that was nothing short of astonishing, and in the Belmont where he crushed his contemporaries, marked Afleet Alex as an awfully good classic winner.

The astonishing thing in hindsight was that he lost the Kentucky Derby. He was that good.

As a son of Northern Afleet, a medium-sized and chunky son of the Mr. Prospector stallion Afleet, Afleet Alex was a top juvenile, winning the G1 Hopeful and finishing second in the Champagne, but he was not expected to excel at the classic distances. In type and class, however, Afleet Alex has clearly inherited an important legacy from his broodmare sire Hawkster, a high-class grandson of English Derby winner Roberto.

Roberto also plays a significant role in the physical traits of Afleet Alex, who is much more a classic horse in the Roberto mold and can throw stock of that character.

Like Roberto, Afleet Alex can get high performing juveniles like Dublin (Hopeful) and Texas Red, as well as stock that mature well like Afleet Express (Travers) and Iotapa (Vanity). It is also worth noting that Afleet Express is out of a half-sister to the dam of Materiality.

Standing at Gainesway, Afleet Alex is one of those quality sires who is a serious value play in the intensely competitive Kentucky stallion market, where he is priced at $12,500 live foal.

firing line highlights potential of his young sire with blowout victory in sunland derby


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The first criterion in selecting a prospective racehorse is “Does this look like an athlete?”

If athleticism and its components – quickness, strength, attitude, and a sort of physical finesse – aren’t present in an individual, then it’s useless to look further.

Those qualities were most emphatically present in the bright-eyed and purposeful bay colt later named Firing Line (by Line of David) at last year’s Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Firing Line wasn’t the biggest colt at the April sale, and he still looks like a dormouse when side-by-side with the towering Dortmund (Big Brown). But this colt can really run, and he has pushed Dortmund as hard as anybody. In both the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity and the G2 Robert Lewis Stakes, Firing Line was only a head behind the brawny chestnut who is one of the contenders for the classics.

In the Lewis, they were 21 ½ lengths ahead of the third-place horse, and if this pair’s eminence in regard to their contemporaries was somehow overlooked, Firing Line went east to Sunland Park in New Mexico and won its Derby on March 22 by 14 ¼ lengths. There, the colt showed the speed and stamina to rock along on the lead through fractions of :22.33, 45.39, 1:09.12, 1:34.70, and 1:47.39. Those fractions were hotly contested, including the half, when Firing Line was a head behind.

And when the Sunland Derby competition began to wilt after the third and fourth fractions, Firing Line kept up his steady tempo, despite slowing to a :25.58 fourth quarter.

We saw his speed at the April sale last year, and it was especially appealing to see the neat bay fly through a quarter-mile work in :20 1/5 with a stride length of 24.5 feet. But the impressive things were the more subtle elements that go into stride analysis. The colt’s efficiency, sequence and timing, as well as his internal coefficients and angulations were spot on.

That kind of work attracted the right kind of buyers, and Firing Line lit up the sales ring with a purchase price of $240,000, as Ben McElroy signed the ticket to acquire Firing Line for Arnold Zetcher LLC, which races the colt.

Firing Line has always been a standout, as attested by his prices of $65,000 as a weanling at Keeneland November in 2012 and $150,000 as a Fasig-Tipton July yearling in 2013. GMEN Racing bought the colt as a weanling, then Bradley Thoroughbreds picked him up as a yearling and put him in the capable hands of Eddie Woods, who consigned Firing Line at Keeneland.

Using the sale ring as a measure of physical appeal and individual demand, Firing Line brought the highest price for a yearling by his sire and the second-highest price for a 2-year-old.

Both are indications of how nice Firing Line truly has been all his life, but they also tell us something important about the assessment of athleticism by the commercial marketplace. At the higher level, there are so many good judges of potential performers that even youngsters who don’t attract unusual attention with their pedigrees nonetheless are in significant demand.

And Firing Line’s pedigree was short of commercial appeal, until inspectors saw the colt.

From the first crop by Arkansas Derby winner Line of David (Lion Heart), this is a branch of Northern Dancer through Storm Cat, his son Tale of the Cat, and his son Lion Heart. Winner of his last three races before the Kentucky Derby – a maiden, allowance, and the Arkansas Derby – Line of David finished 18th in the Derby and never raced again.

By the time Line of David entered stud at Spendthrift Farm the following spring, he was nearly a forgotten horse. Some breeders, however, liked what they saw in the mid-size chestnut and have supported him. But in these days of mega-books as the norm, Line of David was not attracting the big numbers. His first three crops of foals are reported as 53, 45, and 33, which are quite conservative among contemporary stallion stats.

With the increasingly solid results from his racers, not just Firing Line but also stakes winner Cross the Line and five stakes-placed horses, Line of David is the leading second-crop sire in the country today. He is available for $3,500 live foal on a stands and nurses contract. That is a guarantee of a large book for Line of David this year.

Rather like the sire, the dam of Firing Line showed class on the racetrack, finishing second in the G1 Vanity and in the G2 Hollywood Oaks. Sister Girl Blues, however, is by the unraced and little-known sire Hold for Gold (Red Ransom), and she was one of his most talented performers.

Now that she has shown what sort of performer she can produce, Sister Girl Blues is going to leading sire Malibu Moon in 2015.

In its history, this is a great female line, going back to fifth dam Kamar, who was a Broodmare of the Year, and the emergence of Firing Line puts a new star in the family constellation.

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

american pharoah shows classic potential in powerful performance at oaklawn in the rebel


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Last year’s champion 2-year-old colt, American Pharoah, returned to racing this season with an easy victory in Oaklawn Park’s Rebel Stakes on March 14. Skipping over the muddy surface with power and ease, American Pharoah proved that he was as much at home on an off track as he had proven when racing on a fast one.

The bay son of Pioneerof the Nile is the most precocious of his sire’s offspring to date. Unbeaten in three starts since finishing fifth in his début in 2014, American Pharoah won the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and Frontrunner in his juvenile season.

With his enthusiasm and good health evident in the Rebel, American Pharoah is one of the easy choices for this season’s classics. The colt is the latest example of the classic inclinations of this branch of Mr. Prospector and further evidence of Fappiano’s importance to the breed.

Fappiano’s best son on the track and at stud was Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, who also ran second in the Preakness and sired winners of all three Triple Crown races.

Of his classic-winning sons, Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker was the most successful at stud and sired a pair of classic-placed colts in Pioneerof the Nile and Bodemeister.

A good 2-year-old, Pioneerof the Nile improved immensely at 3, as he was growing into his big frame, and on Derby Day, he was a respectable second to Mine That Bird, who rocketed up the rail to win on an off track. Mine That Bird is a gelded son of Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone, who is by Unbridled’s Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone.

That proved the end of Pioneerof the Nile’s successful racing, but victories in the Robert Lewis, San Felipe, and Santa Anita Derby earned him a spot at stud. The big colt retired to stand at Vinery, then transferred to WinStar at the end of 2012 as Vinery shut down its operations and sold.

Pioneerof the Nile had his first racers in 2013, and they included graded stakes winner Cairo Prince, who became a well-regarded classic prospect last year. Another colt from the sire’s first crop named Social Inclusion became a second talking horse for the classics last spring, eventually placing third in the Preakness.

Then along came American Pharoah.

As exciting as his initial stakes winners had proved, getting a top juvenile was another dimension to Pioneerof the Nile, and breeders responded.

Darren Fox at WinStar said, “The horse has been booked full since November, and he’ll have a book in the 120s.”

Fox said, “Breeders’ response is what you’d expect, even at the increased fee,” which is $60,000 on stand and nurse terms for 2015.

Those fees are a hefty income stream for the farm and other equity holders in the stallion. That makes Pioneerof the Nile popular with everyone, and Fox said that “standing 16.3 and having scope and quality, Pioneer is a nearly ideal stallion from a stallion manager’s point of view. He’s a horse who is easy to match on pedigree and physique, and Unbridled is such a distinct branch of Mr. Prospector that you can even use more of that line.”

The stallion’s only inbreeding within five generations is Northern Dancer 5×5, although Raise a Native is also present 6×5. In the most basic pedigree terms, American Pharoah is Mr. Prospector crossed onto Northern Dancer through a mare descending from that great sire’s grandson Storm Cat.

Fox noted that “Pioneer, being by an Unbridled-line stallion out of a mare by the Argentine-bred Lord at War, he has a pretty open pedigree for the main sire lines, and that opens up more mares for his book and makes him easier to mate. We get good representation from Storm Cat-line mares, A.P. Indy mares, and others looking for a good classic cross.”

American Pharoah is out of the nonwinner Littleprincessemma, by the Storm Cat stallion Yankee Gentleman. The dam sold for $135,000 as a weanling at Keeneland November in 2006, with Ben McElroy signing as agent. The following year, she sold for $250,000 at Keeneland September to Zayat Stables. After breeding a G1 winner from the mare, Zayat sold her last November for $2.1 million at Fasig-Tipton. Summer Wind Farm was the buyer, and the mare produced a full brother to the champion this year.

The prospects for the mare and all her offspring appear bright as American Pharoah battles toward the classics.

*This post was first published last week at Paulick Report.

speightstown showing dominance as a sire because his runners have consistency and quality


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It takes little imagination to envision a champion sprinter as a leading sire. Racers of that ilk have speed; that’s a champion sprinter’s calling card and one of the most desirable traits in a sire prospect.

As a champ on the track, Speightstown has the speed and has proven vastly popular with breeders. A top sales yearling and a great-looking horse, Speightstown won 10 of 16 starts and earned more than $1.2million.

The only surprise in a salty race record is that Speightstown won his first stakes at 6, when most top stallion prospects are already at stud. In that championship season, Speightstown won five stakes, including the Churchill Downs, True North, Vanderbilt, and Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Sometimes a nagging afterthought like not winning a stakes till 6 will have a chilling effect on breeders and taint a horse’s opportunities. But not so with Speightstown, who has stood his entire career at WinStar and has been strongly and pragmatically promoted by WinStar and Taylor Made.

Today, Speightstown is a well-established stallion and leading sire who stands for $80,000 live foal in 2015.

Further proof of Speightstown’s standing with breeders and buyers is seen in his offspring at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s March auction of 2-year-olds in training.

The stallion had a dozen youngsters breeze at the March sale previews, and even more impressively, four went in :10 flat, and four more ran a furlong in :10 1/5. Of the remaining four, one ran a furlong in :10 2/5, and three worked quarter-miles. One in :20 4/5 and two in :21 1/5.

That’s the consistency breeders dream of.

Part of the reason for Speightstown’s success is physique and part is genetic. The 17-year-old son of top sire Gone West is out of the Storm Cat mare Silken Cat, and he combines the most prolific male lines of Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer with the unerring broodmare contribution of Secretariat.

As a result, Speightstown is frequently seen with recombinations of these famous lines. In the case of the stallion’s Hip 62, which was one of Speightstown’s four workers who sped the furlong in :10, the dam is Dance Swiftly, a stakes-producing daughter of the Northern Dancer stallion Danzig.

An unraced mare, Dance Swiftly is a full sister to the splendid champion mare Dance Smartly, winner of the Canadian Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Dance Swiftly has produced two stakes winners, Paiota Falls and West Coast Swing, the latter by Speightstown’s sire Gone West.

Dance Swiftly is out of champion Classy ‘N Smart, dam of four stakes winners, also including leading sire Smart Strike (Mr. Prospector), who has several hot prospects in this sale. And this is the sort of family that regularly fill the book of leading sires like Speightstown, which guarantees them the best chances of reproducing success.

Following are the results for the Speightstown 2-year-olds at OBS March earlier this week:

62 10.0 C Speightstown Dance Swiftly Hartley/DeRenzo Thoroughbreds LLC, Agent Live Oak Plantation 500,000
95 out C Speightstown Dream Niall Brennan Stables, Agent XXXII Withdrawn Out
125 out C Speightstown Flawless Eddie Woods, Agent LIX Withdrawn Out
270 21.1 C Speightstown Mazucambera de Meric Sales, Agent II 120,000 Not Sold
417 10.1 F Speightstown Sheraton Park Niall Brennan Stables, Agent IV 320,000 Not Sold
426 21.1 C Speightstown Silver Sands Eddie Woods, Agent LIV Eddie Kenneally, Agent 140,000 PS
443 10.1 F Speightstown Soul Search Thomas and Casse, Agent for Global Thoroughbreds Little Red Feather Racing 75,000
466 out C Speightstown Summer Wind Dancer Niall Brennan Stables, Agent I Withdrawn Out
469 out C Speightstown Supposedly Wavertree Stables, Inc. (Ciaran Dunne), Agent VI Withdrawn Out
516 20.4 F Speightstown Valarchos Destiny Woodside Ranch, Agent III Clark O. Brewster 62,000
518 10.0 F Speightstown Vauxhall Don R. Graham, Agent Antonio Sano 150,000 PS
520 10.0 C Speightstown Via Veneto Top Line Sales LLC, Agent 240,000 Not Sold

fappiano’s influence has expanded with time

Over the course of the March 7-8 weekend riddled with high-quality racing that featured many of the best horses in the country, two bloodlines were repeatedly present. First, A.P. Indy’s son Honor Code won the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, and Tapit’s son Ring Weekend captured the G1 Kilroe Memorial.

But even with the success that fell to descendants of Lane’s End Farm’s great stallion over the weekend, an earlier star of the Lane’s End operation had a more extraordinary set of successes.

Fappiano (1977 Dark bay by Mr. Prospector x Killaloe, by Dr. Fager) was an excellent racehorse who won the G1 Metropolitan Handicap. He had speed and high class, and he was very highly regarded by breeder-trainer-adviser John Nerud.

Sent to stud in Florida at Tartan Farms, Fappiano became leading freshman sire and moved to Kentucky, where he spent his remaining innings at stud in the stallion barn at Lane’s End. From 410 foals, Fappiano sired 48 stakes winners (12 percent) before his demise.

Fappiano didn’t live nearly long enough. Like his famous broodmare sire, Fappiano died young, but both left a high proportion of quality offspring behind them. Unlike Dr. Fager, Fappiano left sons behind who have carried on this branch of Mr. Prospector as the most classic manifestation of that famous sire.

Chief of Fappiano’s sons was Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Unbridled. Out of the Le Fabuleux mare Gana Facil, Unbridled was a sure-fire classic performer whose best trip was 10 furlongs, but he also had the speed and versatility to defeat champion sprinter Housebuster at seven furlongs.

Sent to stud, Unbridled rode a classic groove like few other stallions. The giant sire’s best performers included Kentucky Derby Grindstone, Preakness winner Red Bullet, and Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker. The latter was the best of that trio at stud, but he is now in Japan. And unquestionably, the best of Unbridled’s sons at stud was his “other” first-crop son, Unbridled’s Song.

From a family of big stallions – Dr. Fager, Fappiano, Unbridled, Le Fabueux, Caro – Unbridled’s Song was as tall and long and leggy as horses need to be. He sired that type, typically bigger than average allied with extra scope and bone.

For all that size, Unbridled’s Song was freakishly fast. He was a star at the 2-year-olds in training sale, topping the Barrett’s select sale before being turned back for a “flake” in an ankle. The gray colt came on at 2 so progressively that he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, then the Florida Derby at 3, before running unplaced in the Kentucky Derby won by Grindstone.

Speed and precocity were the factors that made Unbridled’s Song a sire of superior performers. The sire of 1,542 foals, Unbridled’s Song has sired 100 stakes winners so far. His sons at stud include Old Fashioned, Rockport Harbor, First Defence, Even the Score, and Midshipman, as well as the young stallions without runners: Cross Traffic, Graydar, and Will Take Charge.

The dominance of Unbridled’s Song as a sire has not fully translated in the male line, but his presence as a broodmare sire is astonishing. G1 winner Carpe Diem, who won the G2 Tampa Bay Derby last weekend, is out of one of his daughters. Likewise, these stakes horses from the weekend are out of mares by Unbridled’s Song: El Kabeir (Gotham), Senor Grits (Swale 3rd), and Lismore (Florida Oaks 3rd), among others. The stallion is second on the leading broodmare sires list behind only Storm Cat, the broodmare sire of divisional leader Shared Belief.

Shared Belief also descends from Fappiano. The dark brown son of the Argentine-bred Candy Ride has Fappiano in the fourth generation of his male line. Fappiano’s hickory son Cryptoclearance was a classy racer who won the Florida Derby, Donn, and Widener, and finished second in the Belmont, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup. He made a good sire, although his stakes-winning son Ride the Rails did not find a home at stud in the States and went to South America, where he sired Candy Ride.

The other star turn for Cryptoclearance last weekend was Ring Weekend (Tapit), who is a classy chestnut out of Free the Magic, a multiple stakes-placed daughter of Cryptoclearance. Now 17, Free the Magic is out of Pompoes, a G2 winner bred in Denmark who ran second in the G1 Criterium des Pouliches in 1979. As a broodmare, Pompoes produced three stakes winners: Three Generations (Alydar), Forest Wind (Green Forest), and Flash of Joy, a full brother to Free the Magic.

With these different antecedents through various lines, Fappiano’s contribution will play out for years to come.

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

top young prospects stretching out as they reach for the classics

As the 3-year-olds progress toward the classics, one of the factors that comes to the fore is staying capacity. It is one of the primary qualities that separates the classic contenders from the pretenders, along with mental and physical toughness, consistency, and enthusiasm for racing. But especially coming down the long stretch at Churchill Downs after a fast early pace, the ability to stretch out and maintain momentum is essential.

That said, stamina is not a single property or genetic trait but is the result of stride length and efficiency, cardio and conditioning working in harmony.

And horses who possess the proper qualities for maintaining stride and speed over a distance of ground rise to the fore in the classic preps, frequently as their more precocious competitors are found wanting.

As a result, those colts and fillies who show improvement with increasing distances become increasingly valuable, as we saw with the Blame colt Far From Over, who won the Grade 3 Withers last month, and interest in his future prospects became so significant that James Covello and Madaket Stable purchased a quarter-interest in the progressive bay from Black Rock Stables.

Over the weekend, Royal Son (by Tiznow) and Stellar Wind (Curlin) made a case for their prospects in the future classics. Royal Son won the Battaglia Memorial at Turfway while heavily favored The Great War (War Front) bled and finished last. At Santa Anita, Stellar Wind won the G3 Santa Ysabel and boosted her point total for the Kentucky Oaks by 50, making her fourth on that list.

Among the things this trio have in common is that their sires excelled at 10 furlongs. Tiznow has long been one of the most consistent sources of stamina among contemporary sires, and Curlin has made his mark with such performers as Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice.

One of the consistent characteristics of most staying horses is their smooth, even effortless, stride rhythm. Many of these horses are not quick out of the gate, but they reach a cruising speed in the early furlongs and then pass their competitors as other horses tire from their exertions.

Stellar Wind (Curlin) takes the Santa Ysabel

Hronis Racing LLC owns Stellar Wind, and co-owner Kosta Hronis in a post-race interview noted that the chestnut filly’s stride is “so fluid, she just floats over the track. She ran great and I thought her gallop out was very strong.”

The Santa Ysabel was the second victory from three starts for the good-looking filly, and the expectations for her are to contest the Santa Anita Oaks, with the long-term goal being the Kentucky Oaks on the first Friday in May.

Royal Son has more to overcome on his journey to the Derby because the Battaglia is not a graded stakes, nor a points race for the Kentucky Derby. He will be, however, one of the favorites for Turfway’s Spiral Stakes on March 21, which will give the winner 50 points.

Royal Son, moreover, was able to get the lead and dictate a pedestrian pace over the Polytrack at Turfway, and that is a style of racing that works well over synthetic but is very different from Far From Over, who closed like a rocket to win the Withers. Nothing could close on Royal Son, however, and he showed strength and steadiness as he drew away from the competition to win by five and a quarter lengths.

Royal Son is well named, as he is by a Horse of the Year out of a stakes-winning daughter of Horse of the Year A.P. Indy. The latter is one of the most consistent sources of classic stamina in American breeding, and Royal Son’s second dam is champion 2-year-old filly Countess Diana.

Royal Son (Tiznow) seen winning the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes

A.P. Indy is the common factor in these pedigrees, as Stellar Wind is out of a mare by the A.P. Indy stallion Malibu Moon, and the Santa Ysabel second, Light the City, is out of an A.P. Indy mare, and the third filly home is by A.P. Indy’s grandson Tapit.

Far From Over is out of a graded stakes-placed mare named Alchemist, and she is a daughter of A.P. Indy. Now unbeaten in two starts, Far From Over has a striking female family, with G1 winner Aldiza (Storm Cat) as his second dam, G2 winner Aishah (Alydar) as his third dam, and the great producer Courtly Dee (Never Bend) as his fourth dam.

And when they turn into the long, lonely stretch at Churchill Downs, it never hurts to have stock like that to help a horse get home.

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


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