bloodstock breeders and fans are reeling from a somber beginning to 2016

Kentucky breeders and racing fans everywhere have been slammed over the past week or so with the deaths of champions and leading sires. Both Gulch (age 32) and Kingmambo (26) died full of years and honors; they will be missed, but the time comes for us all.

Champion sprinter Gulch was bred and raced by Peter Brant, was trained by LeRoy Jolley, then Wayne Lukas. Jolley once noted that Gulch was the “toughest horse in the world,” which was high praise from an old-style trainer who did not value weakness in man nor beast.

A source of soundness and miler class, Gulch was a significant sire, and his best offspring included Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Thunder Gulch, 1,000 Guineas winner Harayir, and Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Court Vision. In all, Gulch has sired 75 stakes winners, including a stakes winner last year.

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A son of Mr. Prospector like Gulch, Kingmambo was a stallion of even greater international acclaim. The sire of Eclipse Award winner Lemon Drop Kid, Japanese Horse of the Year El Condor Pasa, European highweights Henrythenavigator and Divine Proportions, as well as classic winner King’s Best, Kingmambo has sired 95 stakes winners to date. Kingmambo was the best racehorse and sire from his dam, the exceptional racehorse and broodmare Miesque (by Nureyev), and among Kingmambo’s sons at stud, Lemon Drop Kid in the U.S. and King Kamehameha in Japan have earned the most recognition.

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Although Gulch had been a pensioner and great fan favorite at Old Friends, both he and Kingmambo spent their years at stud in the stallion barns at Lane’s End. Therefore, the deaths of these top horses were felt particularly at Lane’s End, as well as at Claiborne Farm, where the twin losses of the important sire Arch and the champion racemare Storm Flag Flying were tough spots in an unforgiving week.

Seth Hancock, on behalf of Claiborne and Adele Dilschneider, had purchased Arch as a yearling out of the King Ranch consignment of breeders Helen Alexander and Helen Groves at the Keeneland July sale for $710,000. Claiborne raced the near-black colt in its gold silks, then retired him to a successful career at stud.

The sire of 58 stakes winners, including 11 G1 winners, Arch is best known for champions Blame (Breeders’ Cup Classic) and Arravale (Del Mar Oaks), as well as such major winners as Les Arcs (July Cup), Hymn Book (Donn Handicap), Pine Island (Alabama), and Grand Arch (Shadwell Turf Mile).

Claiborne’s Bernie Sams noted: “Anyone who had anything to do with Arch, from Helen who raised him, to people who had the yearlings, bred mares to him, or who had some of his daughters at stud, knew what a class horse he was, and so many people did well with him.

“Arch was just a really solid sire, getting racehorses with class year after year, and they stayed sound. He remained popular to the end because he hadn’t bred too many mares, and a lot of people still wanted to have one.”

Simply on the practical side, Arch was still an active stallion with a sizable book of mares, and the 21-year-old stallion was in good health. After covering 67 mares in 2015, he was already booked to 60 mares for this year. The best son of his sire at stud, Arch was also one of the last surviving sons of the Roberto stallion Kris S. and was a star choice for many breeders looking for a handy outcross or a stallion virtually certain to get a two-turn performer with potential for racing on turf.

With the horse’s sudden death, however, breeders have been in a mad scramble with those mares booked to Arch because there are so few stallions between the six-figure stars like Tapit, War Front, American Pharoah, and Distorted Humor and the nice prospects who haven’t made it yet at stud. And many of the mid-range stallions with proven ability can be hard to get a season for, especially at this time of year.

Of course, the saddest deaths were the broodmares: champion Storm Flag Flying (Storm Cat) in Kentucky and G1 winner Somali Lemonade (Lemon Drop Kid) in England.

A shooting star on the racecourse, Storm Flag Flying was unbeaten as a juvenile and was the dominant figure of her division, winning the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Frizette, and Matron. Limited to only a pair of starts at 3, Storm Flag Flying came back at 4 to win the G1 Personal Ensign named for her granddam and the G2 Shuvee, and she finished second in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Odgen Phipps, third in the G1 Beldame and Go for Wand.

Storm Flag Flying has not produced an athlete of her own exalted class from five named foals of racing age, and while that may change, the racecourse performances of Storm Flag Flying and Somali Lemonade will stand as the testament to their class and courage.

class in the dam is a cornerstone of champion racers

One of the consistent points of reference in the highly inconsistent game of breeding the Thoroughbred is that class in the dam, as well as depth in that family, give us a pretty good guide of what to select as breeding stock.

Taking the most recent Eclipse Award winners as evidence, both champion 2-year-old filly Songbird (by Medaglia d’Oro) and champion older mare Beholder (Henny Hughes) are out of stakes winners.

The dam of Songbird, Ivanavinalot, won six races and $647,300 in three seasons of racing. Winner of the Florida Stallion Stakes (My Dear Girl division) at 2, the bay daughter of West Acre improved enough at 3 to win the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss Stakes at Gulfstream, as well as to finish second in the G2 Davona Dale.

One of three stakes winners out of the Deputy Minister mare Beaty Sark, Ivanavinalot was the best racer by her royally pedigreed sire West Acre. That stallion was a son of champion juvenile and leading sire Forty Niner (Mr. Prospector) and out of the important producer Narrate, who was also a graded stakes winner during her racing career. West Acre, despite his excellent pedigree, did not race and became only a modest sire. In Ivanavinalot, however, he got a really good one.

Leslie’s Lady, the dam of Beholder, was no match for Ivanavinalot on the racetrack. Winner of a single stakes, the Hoosier Debutante, Leslie’s Lady won five races and earned $187,014 while racing at 2 and 3. Then she retired to become a broodmare who appears to be more important every day.

The mare’s first foal of significance was G1 winner Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday), victor in the 2007 Hollywood Futurity and winner in half of his six starts. Raced by Wayne Hughes and sent to stud as one of the early stallion retirements at the owner’s then-newly acquired Spendthrift Farm, Into Mischief has become one of the most significant young sires in America, with a stud fee that has risen to $45,000 live foal for 2016.

Harlan’s Holiday (Harlan) was a very important sire himself and was entitled to sire a stallion son or two, but the contribution of Leslie’s Lady to the genetic mix that produced Into Mischief should not be discounted. This is all the more obvious after considering the sire of her champion daughter Beholder, who is the best racer by Henny Hughes by about a mile.

Henny Hughes (Hennessy) was a good-looking and very fast stallion prospect who went to stud at Darley the same year as Bernardini and then just flopped here in Kentucky.

But don’t tell that to Beholder, who is a first-rate racehorse and who possesses excellent credentials to be a good broodmare. In addition to Beholder’s exceptional class, her dam Leslie’s Lady has produced two G1 stakes winners and has a pair of daughters who are also stakes producers.

With Beholder or any other broodmare prospect, the first thing a breeder wants to see is athletic ability. Most good broodmares don’t need to be superstars, and some don’t even have to win a stakes because they have been highly tried in very good company. But they need to stand some training and show some ability.

The second thing a breeder wants to see is a broodmare who is getting athletic-looking and -acting foals. Then if they go on to the races and prove their ability on the track, the breeder is in great shape.

That would appear to be the ticket with the dam of champion juvenile colt Nyquist (Uncle Mo), whose dam is the Forestry mare Seeking Gabrielle.

A winner, Seeking Gabrielle got the champion 2-year-old colt as her first foal. Not bad. He was a very appealing young athlete from the start and sold for $180,000 as a weanling (fifth-highest price of 15 Uncle Mo weanlings), then for $230,000 as a yearling (10th highest of 107), and finally for $400,000 as a 2-year-old in training (4th of 37).

In his work for Fasig-Tipton’s 2015 Florida sale, Nyquist showed that he was a well-balanced colt with quality and very good stride characteristics. He used himself well on the racetrack and showed himself a class animal back at the barns at Gulfstream last year.

By a really big sire, Nyquist is a good-sized colt but has shown the speed and efficiency so prized by breeders, and that complement of qualities has propelled him to an early leadership among his contemporaries.

Likewise, Songbird has matched an outstanding physique with the mental and athletic development needed for top-tier performance. An April 30 foal, Songbird was such an outstanding yearling that she was accepted for Fasig-Tipton’s 2014 Saratoga select yearling sale. A real star on the sales grounds, the striking bay filly with four white stockings had a typical profile for her sire: scope and muscularity.

She carries very good condition, has good length through the body, with strong quarters, and has the balance of shape and fluidity of motion that suggests a high-quality individual. With those attributes to recommend her, Rick Porter purchased her for $400,000 and sent the lovely filly into training and racing for his Fox Hill Stable.

Both the juvenile champions, as well as the heroic Beholder, will be back to race in 2016, and the sport will be richer for it.

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malibu moon is one of the rising forces among broodmare sires

The best stallions make the best broodmare sires. Buckpasser, Deputy Minister, and Mr. Prospector all earned top marks as the sires of champions and as leading sires before moving on to become superb broodmare sires.

A broodmare sire, however, has a time limit. The stallion has to generate a sufficient volume of producers to climb the ranks of that list, and by that time, the sire is frequently “getting along.” Then there is a time limit before the stallion’s daughters age out of the broodmare pool to the extent that he has no real chance to lead the list unless … like Double Jay, he has a daughter who produces a Horse of the Year like John Henry, who keeps on going forever.

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Aging out of the population is what happened with Mr. P, who has no daughters consigned to the Keeneland January sale this year, but younger top broodmare sires are well represented this year.

Second to A.P. Indy on this year’s list of leading broodmare sires, Unbridled’s Song has 1,550 foals out of 17 crops, with his youngest being 2-year-olds. From those, the stallion has 322 dams of runners so far, and those numbers will increase rapidly as more of his daughters from large crops age into the broodmare production pool.

Unbridled’s Song is competing at the top of the tree with star sires like A.P. Indy (337 producing daughters), Storm Cat (381), Deputy Minister (228), and Seeking the Gold (272). Those are the top five American-based broodmare sires in 2015.

It is noteworthy that four of the five – A.P. Indy, Unbridled’s Song, Storm Cat, and Deputy Minister – were G1 winners at 2, but their performance thereafter runs the gamut. A.P. Indy won the Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic, was named Horse of the Year. Storm Cat did not train on due to problems with his feet and went to stud with little fanfare.

All of them, however, became undisputedly influential sires, and the stallions’ best qualities are being transmitted by their daughters too.

Looking down the list, relatively young broodmare sires with upward mobility include Distorted Humor (foal of 1993), Smart Strike and Mr. Greeley (both 1992), Pulpit (1994), and Giant’s Causeway (1997).

They fit the criteria of being both important sires and having an increasing number of daughters coming into production.

Another of this ilk is A.P. Indy’s son Malibu Moon, the sire of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb. Already with 18 stakes to the credit of his daughters, Malibu Moon is still in the early days of his potential as a broodmare sire because he began in a regional program without the customary volume of foals in his early crops.

In 2015, the stallion had only 105 producers working for him, roughly 30 to 40 percent of the total that the top-ranking broodmare sires have. But with performers like Stellar Wind to represent his daughters, bigger things are on the way.

how keeneland grew into a sales giant

With the Keeneland January sale, held on Jan. 11 – 15 this year, firing the first bullet in its five-shot cylinder, it’s hard to recall that Keeneland hasn’t sponsored a full schedule of sales since the beginning of time. Founded in 1936, Keeneland did not get to pounding the drum at the sales until several years later.

There was reason for that. The Keeneland Association was first set up to return racing to the Bluegrass in the wretched depths of the Great Depression. The racing was first-rate, and the returns from the public, as well as the support of owners and trainers, made Keeneland a superstar success.

Then, as the country pieced its way out of the Depression, the Second World War made its impact on Keeneland with wartime restrictions on travel and a “request” not to conduct a suburban race meeting during the years 1943-1945.

Although the Association was able to arrange to race its dates at Churchill Downs, the restrictions on railroad travel prompted auctions to be held at Keeneland, with the first one being held on August 9-11, 1943, under a tent in the Keeneland paddock.

Many of the same people who played important roles in the Keeneland Association got together as the building blocks of the Breeders Sales Company, which became the corporate body that ran the sales at Keeneland. This began an exceptional period of growth in horse sales in Kentucky, but I doubt that even the Breeders Sales Company’s far-sighted horsemen, such H.P. Headley or A.B. Hancock, hoped for such a phenomenon as they had just created.

In commentary about the inaugural sale in American Race Horses of 1943, racing columnist John Hervey reported: “Before the first lot was led into the ring, the air was full of doubt and apprehension. When the last one was led out, the consignors were pinching themselves to make sure they were not dreaming … [because the] average received for their offerings had soared to … more than three times Saratoga’s for 1942.”

The initial sale at Keeneland in the summer of 1943 had been a great success, and the following year, the Breeders Sales Co. began conducting fall sales, as well as their showcase in the summer.

One of the reasons for the lasting success and increasing attention given to the Keeneland sales was the undisputed quality of its offered livestock. At the first Keeneland summer sale, Hip 134 was a nice-looking bay colt by leading sire Sir Gallahad III, a French-bred son of the great sire Teddy and already the sire of 1930 Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox and 1940 Kentucky Derby winner Gallahadion. and Fred Hooper bought that good-sized, good-moving colt for $10,200 and named him Hoop Jr. Twenty-one months later, Hooper stood in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs, holding a lead on the 1945 Kentucky Derby winner.

There is nothing that ensures the popularity of a sale so much as offering winners of the major races, especially the Kentucky Derby, and the summer sale at Keeneland produced the additional Kentucky Derby winners Jet Pilot (auctioned in 1945), Dark Star (1951), and Determine (1952) during its first decade of operation.

That is some record.

Over the years, the fall sales at Keeneland eventually became two auctions: the September sale for yearlings and the November sale, primarily for weanlings and broodmares or broodmare prospects. In 1962, the Breeders Sales Company was dissolved, and the Keeneland Association took over running the sales, as well as the racing meets.

One of the subsequent winners of the Kentucky Derby sold at Keeneland was 1970 classic winner Dust Commander (Bold Commander), who sold at the 1968 September yearling sale for $6,500. Dust Commander was the first Kentucky Derby winner sold out of the September sale.

An attractive colt with a fairish pedigree, Dust Commander ushered in a degree of respect for the fall yearling sales that was hard earned. The fanciest individuals and the glorious pedigrees still continued to adorn the summer sale for a couple more decades, but the handy little chestnut who literally skipped across the mud to win both the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, then the Derby under remarkably similar conditions, was a herald for the coming day.

Today, the September sale and its breeding stock companion in November are the largest sales in the world, and Keeneland’s January sale, running this week, is notably smaller but nonetheless offers more horses annually than are auctioned over the course of a year in many racing countries.

Into such mighty oaks they have grown.

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Editor’s note: The following note came in from a reader and appears below:

Got a story about Dust Commander. He broke his maiden at Delaware Park as a 2-yr. old. I was walking through the owner/trainer parking lot when a chestnut horse threw Eldon Nelson off in the pre-race warm up. Eldon, as good a rider as anyone, landed on his feet and held onto the reins. “Red” the outrider, galloped up, got off his pony, and threw Nelson back up on the horse. As he did, he said to Nelson, “they ought to break these son-a bit*hes before they run them, eh Eldon.” Nelson, nonplussed, continued the warm up, broke Dust Commander sharply, and commenced to ride the hair off the little brat and won pretty easy.

elusive bluff makes a case for class winning out in the end

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There are a number of ways to evaluate stallions in addition to the general sire list, which ranks stallions by gross progeny earnings. The leader on that list, once again, is the great gray ghost of Gainesway Farm, Tapit. A beautiful horse who has grown nearly white with age, the son of Pulpit is fertile, frisky, and blessed with a book of mares that is the envy of any farm.

In addition to ranking by raw earnings, those statistics can be sliced and diced in a variety of ways to look at horses with fewer foals, lesser opportunity, and so forth. The average earnings index (AEI) takes some of those factors into account, as does the standard starts index (SSI). The AEI list is led by Pioneerof the Nile, with Tapit fifth, and only a dozen sires have an AEI of 2.0 or greater.

Another angle that involves some greater sifting of the data is called the APEX rating used by the international bloodstock adviser Bill Oppenheim. The APEX ratings evaluate the class of races runners are competing in, and you might expect that Tapit or Pioneerof the Nile would be top of the heap in this regard too.

Au contraire, my friends.

The top-rated stallion by the APEX numbers is Elusive Bluff. I know. Elusive “who”? And thereby hangs a tale.

This son of leading sire Elusive Quality was bred in Kentucky by Eldon Farm and sold out of the Gainesway sales consignment at the 2006 Keeneland November auction for $275,000 to Bob Courtney, agent. After a couple less-remunerative trips to the sales arena as a yearling and 2-year-old in training, Elusive Bluff went into training with Bill Badgett.

The good-looking colt won his debut in September 2008 at Belmont Park in a maiden special going a mile for owner Pegasus Dream Stable. Then the colt was sold privately and went to racing for Southern Equine.

Nearly four weeks after his debut, Elusive Bluff won the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont going 1 1/16 miles on turf. And he never started again.

Although the colt had an injury, trainer Eric Guillot did not give up on the horse. As a result, Elusive Bluff did not enter stud until 2010, after two years of being on the sidelines, and as one might expect, there was not a mad rush to “secure him for stud.”

But Southern Equine found the colt a place at stud in Louisiana with Jay Adcock’s Red River Farm not far from Shreveport, La. Adcock recalled that the owners “bought him after the maiden, then were going to put him in the Breeders’ Cup, but his ankle blew up. They tried everything, but he didn’t stand training after that.

“We stood him for $1,000 live foal, or free to approved mares, and the owners were cooperative about getting mares to him in an effort to help prove the horse as a stallion,” Adock said.

The stallion’s first two seasons in Louisiana at Red River Farm resulted in 29 reported foals. Then Elusive Bluff was sent to stand in California for a season, then back to Louisiana at another farm. From his first four crops, Elusive Bluff has 36 reported foals, including 2-year-olds of 2016.

From those, the stallion has 17 starters, 10 winners, two stakes winners, including graded winner C. Zee, and gross progeny earnings of $874,618, according to Equineline stats.

Adcock recalled Elusive Bluff as a “big stout horse who weighed about 1,300 pounds, with very good fertility, who became a good-breeding horse.” The sire’s leading racer is the now-5-year-old C. Zee, and he was conceived at Red River in the stallion’s first crop.

The owners of Southern Equine “sent the mare to Elusive Bluff,” Adcock recalled, “and then they sold her at a sale in Texas while she was carrying that colt.”

At Fasig-Tipton’s 2010 Texas winter mixed sale in December that year, Jacks or Better Farm picked up the mare Diamondaire, a stakes-placed daughter of Distorted Humor, for $18,500, and they took her to their property in central Florida, where the colt was born. Bred by and still currently racing for Jacks or Better, C. Zee won the G3 Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes and is G2 and G3 stakes-placed.

In the meantime, Elusive Bluff had a second stakes winner and other winners and earners. But as a result of the respectable results from limited numbers, the horse came to the attention of Kentucky breeder Greg Justice, who purchased Elusive Bluff privately and is moving him to Southern Indiana Equine to participate in that state-bred program.

Justice said that standing stallions “is a hard row to hoe, but I believe he will fit well in the program I’m sending him to there in Indiana. Both of his stakes winners won on dirt, and I’m going to support him with 10 of my own mares. I’m realistic about the horse, and I’m hoping that a few Indiana breeders will come in and support him too.”

The purses for the Indiana program are set to rise this year, and Justice is optimistic about standing regional stallions there. He also stands Lantana Mob (Posse) at the same farm and is one of the leading stallions in Indiana.

With a minority of stallions making enormous books of mares, there will inevitably be others who have not earned a special place and will fall through the cracks. So perhaps the inequalities of the marketplace will shower benefits on attentive breeders who win the bloodstock lottery.

kentucky derby winner super saver shining brightly for winstar and as a reminder of his sire, pin oak stallion maria’s mon

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With a smooth victory in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita, Runhappy put a smile and a bow on 2015 for his sire Super Saver (by Maria’s Mon). Bred in Kentucky by Wayne, Gray, and Bryan Lyster, the dark bay 3-year-old took his third G1 of the year in the Malibu, following successes in the King’s Bishop at Saratoga and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland in November.

With that record, Runhappy is a strong possibility to win the Eclipse Award as the leading sprinter of 2015, although that accomplishment is actually rather surprising since his sire is best known for winning the 2010 Kentucky Derby and since Runhappy’s broodmare sire is the lovely Unbridled stallion Broken Vow, a grand and sturdy influence but not typically mentioned in relation to “champion sprinter.”

Broken Vow, an 18-year-old who was bred and raced by Pin Oak Stud and who has spent his entire career as a stallion there, has carved a significant niche at stud with G1 winners like Unbridled Belle (Beldame), Rosalind (Ashland), and Cotton Blossom (Acorn), as well as G3 Illinois Derby winner Done Talking and G3 American Derby winner Divine Oath.

Generally, the Broken Vows do their best running at a mile or farther, but the stallion has enough breadth and depth to his stud career that he has shown the ability to get some serious speed for shorter distances on occasion. Notably, multiple G1 winner Sassy Image was both a top juvenile and a very fast filly, and Private Vow (Futurity Stakes) was also cut from that cloth.

Even so, the early stud returns from Super Saver indicate that he is an unexpectedly strong factor for speed. His sire was a champion juvenile with four victories in five 1995 starts, but after being sidelined near the end of that season, Maria’s Mon never regained his form in two starts at 3 and went to stud at Pin Oak.

A handsome, fast horse who was attractively priced and not overbred, Maria’s Mon succeeded beyond the hopes of most stallion managers anywhere. A really good sire, the gray son of Wavering Monarch reached a pinnacle touched by few sires with a pair of Kentucky Derby winners: Monarchos and Super Saver.

While Monarchos was a beautiful animal who sired some very quick youngsters, his offspring appeared disadvantaged by soundness issues, but those who handled the game well included champion filly sprinter Informed Decision (Breeders’ Cup Filly Sprint and two other G1s) and Oaklawn Handicap winner Win Willy.

Super Saver, on the other hand, became the star of the 2014 sales of 2-year-olds in training with his first crop of young athletes. They were mid-sized, nicely balance athletes, but on the racetrack, they showed excellent stride qualities, as well as uncommonly good and consistent mechanical traits.

Some of the most exciting of the stallion’s juveniles in 2014 sold for very good prices, making a lot of money for consignors. And then the youngsters came back to win well for their new owners.

As his juveniles had suggested, Super Saver became a top sire of 2-year-olds with his first crop, ranking second among the freshmen sires of 2014, and the son of Maria’s Mon is second among 2nd-crop sires in 2015 by progeny earnings. By graded stakes winners and G1 winners, he is the leader among that group.

From the racing results of 2014, the stallion’s star of the first crop was G1 Hopeful Stakes winner Competitive Edge, who trained on well enough to win a pair of stakes this season and who will enter stud in 2016 at Ashford.

In addition to Competitive Edge, Super Saver added two more G1 winners from his first crop in 2015.

Of these, Embellish the Lace struck first, winning the Alabama Stakes. Then a week later, Runhappy made good on a monster reputation by getting his first stakes victory in the King’s Bishop. Both of these G1 winners have shown the more expected pattern of improvement at 3 so closely associated with much of Super Saver’s pedigree.

That tendency has been borne out by the earning statistics from his offspring. The stallion’s runners earned just over $1.5 million in 2014, and they tripled that figure in 2015.

The quantity and quality of their achievement has been noted by the breeders and buyers, as well as WinStar Farm, which stands Super Saver. The horse’s stud fee will rise to $65,000 live foal for 2016, and with that assurance of increasing respect and quality of mates, the future looks bright for Super Saver.

‘mo’ power to leading freshmen sires of 2015

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With 2015 now in our rear-view mirror, the runaway leading freshman sire (and overall leading sire of juveniles) was Uncle Mo, who led the completed annual list with the kind of dominance that he showed during his own juvenile campaign. The Ashford Stud stallion by deceased Indian Charlie had more than $3.6 million in progeny earnings ($3,675,388), $2.5 million more than second-placed Twirling Candy (by Candy Ride), who has $1.1 million.

The results of the freshmen sires futurity are not surprising in general terms because the well-supported stallions with big books earned most of the attention and most of the silver. Uncle Mo, not surprisingly, was the leader in numbers of foals with 138, followed by Cape Blanco (Ashford, 133 foals, 14th on the freshmen sires list) and Archarcharch (Spendthrift, 104, 3rd). Those were the only freshmen with 100 or more foals of 2013, but they were closely followed by Paddy O’Prado (Spendthrift, 91, 8th) and Wilburn (Spendthrift, 90, 12th).

That group of five were the only ones with 90 or more foals, but only one stallion who placed in the top 10 freshmen sires had fewer than 50 foals. That was the New York-based Giant Surprise (Giant’s Causeway), who had 19 foals in his freshman crop and ranked 6th on the freshman list. From his initial crop, Giant Surprise has 11 starters and four winners, and of those four, a pair became stakes winners in the lucrative New York-bred breeding and racing program.

Giant Surprise stands at Rockridge Stud near Hudson, NY, and he is advertised for 2016 at $5,000 live foal. The stallion’s stakes winner Sudden Surprise won the Bertram Bongard Stakes for NY-breds on Sept. 27 at Belmont Park, and on Nov. 21, he won the Notebook Stakes at Aqueduct. The sire’s other stakes winner is the filly Super Surprise, who won the Maid of the Mist at Belmont on Oct. 24, and Giant Surprise also has the stakes-placed Taken by Surprise and Surprise Cameo.

Ranking only a bit lower on the list at Number 13 comes another stallion with even fewer foals, Society’s Chairman (Not Impossible), who had 16 foals and seven starters, with three winners. However, each of those winners won a stakes. That pushed the stallion’s percentages to 18 percent stakes winners to foals with first-crop progeny earnings of $555,365.

Those three foals are Caren (Princess Elizabeth, Victorian Queen), Sparkles’ Girl (Ontario Lassie), and Code Warrior (Golden Gate Debutante, Golden Nugget). All are fillies, and the first two won their stakes at Canada’s highly competitive Woodbine Racecourse.

Both of these little-known stallions showed some significant holes in their resumes when they came to stud. Giant Surprise won his only race, a maiden special at Saratoga, but lots of horses do that. Society’s Chairman didn’t even get to the races until he was five, but he made up for the dilatory beginning by winning a stakes that year and also at six and seven, becoming a G3 stakes winner of $772,775, with three G1 placings.

Although he possessed a respectable race record, Society’s Chairman did not possess a commercially appealing pedigree, being by the unraced Sadler’s Wells stallion Not Impossible out of a winning daughter of Olympio.

A full brother to Canadian champion Perfect Soul, Not Impossible sired 43 foals, most of them for his breeder Charles Fipke. The breeder got Queen’s Plate winner Not Bourbon from Not Impossible, as well as Impossible Time, and both won Sovereign Awards as champions in Canada.

Society’s Chairman was one of the few by Not Impossible that Fipke didn’t breed, but he raced the horse in partnership with George Waud. When it came time to send Society’s Chairman to stud, what should the owners do?

That worldly observer of the breeding scene, Sid Fernando, reported recently that Fipke “sold the horse for stud duty for a dollar but kept 10 lifetime breeding rights in him, because, well, you never know.”

Ain’t that the truth.

Last year, Not Impossible’s son Not Bourbon was the leading freshman sire in Canada and is the leading 2nd-crop sire there in 2015. And this year, Not Impossible’s son Society’s Chairman ranks 11th among all North American sires with results from a whopping crop of 16.

One moral of the story is that good stallions can come from less commercial backgrounds, and they will express their genetic potential if only given half a chance. Clearly, we are losing some of these stallions with the emphasis on breeding larger and larger books to fewer and fewer stallions.

Giant Surprise and Society’s Chairman offer a pleasant Christmas reminder that allowing more stallions an opportunity to prove themselves can pay off all round.

storm cat’s sons are still producing stars in both hemispheres

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Not so many years ago, the hottest stallion prospects in the world were the sons of leading sire Storm Cat, the blocky dark bay son of Storm Bird (by Northern Dancer) out of Terlingua (Secretariat). Beaten for the 1985 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in the last jump by Tasso, Storm Cat nonetheless became the dominant sire of his generation, and after sons such as Harlan sired major competitors like Menifee and Harlan’s Holiday, the demand for sons of Storm Cat went into the stratosphere.

Today, there are still more than two dozen sons of Storm Cat at stud, and of those, at least six have sired Grade 1 or Group 1 winners this year. Of course, Giant’s Causeway was “the” son of Storm Cat after a terrific racing career, and he has proven the most successful stallion son of his fabled sire.

This year, Giant’s Causeway has G1 winners Brody’s Cause (Breeders’ Futurity) and Carpe Diem (Blue Grass Stakes). The other sons of Storm Cat with 2015 G1 winners are Bluegrass Cat, with Chilean-raced Linda Linda (Alberto Solari Magnasco); the deceased Bernstein, with Tepin (Breeders’ Cup Mile, First Lady Stakes, Just a Game Stakes), certain finalist for the Eclipse as top turf filly; Tale of the Cat, with Stopchargingmaria (Breeders’ Cup Distaff), one of the likely finalists for the Eclipse Award as Older Female; Stormy Atlantic, with the evergreen Stormy Lucy (Matriarch Stakes); and Pure Prize, with unbeaten Hi Happy in Argentina.

Of those, Tale of the Cat and Stormy Atlantic come from the same crop, foaled in 1994, and they are two of the most reliable representatives of Storm Cat for their own individual types. Tale of the Cat was arguably the fastest son of his sire, and Tale of the Cat has sired a high percentage of quick and frequently precocious performers. They tend to be medium-sized and strongly made. Few want to race much farther than a mile, but the stallion’s most famous performer is champion turf horse Gio Ponti, who was best at 10 to 12 furlongs.

Stormy Atlantic, however, is a taller version of the Storm Cat model, significantly influenced by broodmare sire Seattle Slew, and the stallion has found particular success with turf performers, many of whom show great longevity. His best racers include Canadian champion Up With the Birds (G1 Jamaica Handicap) and multiple G1 winner Get Stormy (Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, Maker’s Mark Mile).

But one interesting facet of Stormy Atlantic’s record as a sire is his versatility. In addition to those top performers able to succeed going two turns, the stallion sires others who have high speed and precocity and who show top-level form on dirt. Among these, the best was surely Stormello, winner of the Hollywood Futurity and the Norfolk Stakes. Other good juveniles include She Says It Best (Alcibiades Stakes) and Wired Bryan (Sanford Stakes).

The sire of 97 stakes winners, Stormy Atlantic comes from one of the most distinguished American female families, that of Rough Shod (Gold Bridge). The distinguished producer is the fourth dam of Stormy Atlantic, coming through the mare’s champion daughter Moccasin (Nantallah). Moccasin produced seven stakes winners from nine foals in her time at stud, and one of those was Flippers, who is the second dam of Stormy Atlantic.

A daughter of Belmont Stakes winner Coastal (Majestic Prince), Flippers was a good racer but lankier than her dam. Possessing less speed than champion juvenile Moccasin, Flippers was bred to champion juvenile (and Triple Crown winner) Seattle Slew. That mating produced the mare’s best performer, stakes winner Hail Atlantis, who is the dam of Stormy Atlantic.

The stallion has certainly held up the best traditions of his heritage, and he will cross the threshold of 100 stakes winners in the near future.

Another son of Storm Cat from an exceptional female family, Pure Prize is out of champion Heavenly Prize (Seeking the Gold) and won the G2 Kentucky Cup Classic. Sent to stud, the big chestnut became a racing man’s star stallion, getting solid performers at a variety of distances and surfaces. G1 winner Pure Clan was probably the stallion’s best-known performer in the States.

In South America, Pure Prize has found even greater acceptance and success. This year, he has the unbeaten Hi Happy, top 3-year-old colt in Argentina and pro-tem Horse of the Year after a powerful victory in the G1 Carlos Pellegini at San Isidro on Dec. 12.

The winner of four G1 races from six starts to date, Hi Happy won the Pellegrini by a length and a half from the 3-year-old Include colt Don Inc, with the nearest of their older competition six lengths farther back.

Bred and raced by Haras La Providencia, Hi Happy is a full brother to Hinz, a G1 winner in Chile. They are out of the French Deputy mare Historia, and their third dam is the Forli mare Islands, who is out of stakes winner Grand Luxe, by Sir Ivor out of Alabama Stakes winner Fanfreluche (Northern Dancer).

Pure Prize stands solely in Argentina, where he is based at Haras Carampangue, near San Antonio de Areco.

sunday silence speaks volumes

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Much like not seeing the forest for the trees, sometimes we don’t see the horse for the pedigrees.

Seldom has that seemed more significant than with the 1989 Horse of the Year Sunday Silence. The tall, dark, handsome son of leading sire Halo was not on anyone’s list of “must-have” yearlings when he went to the sales at Keeneland in July 1987.

The future classic winner had been foaled and raised at Arthur Hancock’s Stone Farm in Bourbon County, Ky. He was a son of the farm’s banner stallion Halo — one of the three best stallion sons of leading sire Hail to Reason. A champion juvenile colt, Hail to Reason had risen to the top of the stallion ranks through the 1960s and ‘70s as a result of the toughness and classic quality of his offspring, including Preakness winner Personality.

Hail to Reason had a lot of high-class sons on the racetrack, including English Derby winner Roberto. The latter went on to become a stallion of high international significance. He had classic stock and top juveniles, as well as rugged older horses of high caliber.

In addition to Personality, Hail to Reason’s best sons included Kentucky Derby winner Proud Clarion, Belmont Stakes winner Hail to All, and Travers winner Bold Reason, also third in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

So Halo had to be pretty special to rank among such company among the sons of Hail to Reason.

Indeed, both as a striking individual and as a force at stud, he was an animal of the first rank. A near-black horse with a stripe down his face, Halo was a high-priced sales yearling, then progressed during his racing career to be a major racehorse, especially as turf performer as an older horse.

The leading stud farms were not greatly interested in Halo as a stallion prospect, however, and after a cancelled sale to the UK, because Halo was a cribber, E.P. Taylor had the good fortune to secure Halo and send him to stud in Maryland at his expanding annex of Windfields Farm located there in the 1970s.

From the first, Halo was an unqualified success at stud. Like big raindrops ringing against a tin roof, the good Halos started pouring down. The first crop included champion Glorious Song, and a few years later, her full brother Devil’s Bag became an unbeaten champion 2-year-old colt and made a lot of people believe he was the best racehorse in a long time… at least for a short time.

In between, Halo sired Kentucky Derby winner Sunny’s Halo, and the acclaim for Halo climbed higher and higher.

Tom Tatham’s Oak Cliff Thoroughbreds made an offer to purchase Halo from Windfields, succeeded in that high-dollar endeavor, and moved the dark horse from Maryland to Stone Farm in Kentucky.

There, Halo sired Sunday Silence for Oak Cliff. The colt went through the July sale unprotected and was bought in by Hancock, who later commented that he thought he had just thrown away $17,000 when Tatham said he didn’t want the colt back.

Three years later, Hancock ended up having to sell Sunday Silence because the tax law “reforms” had worked their magic on the horse business and several other business sectors, and nobody wanted to buy into horses, especially ones that had to be held a long time like stallions and mares.

Sent to stand in Japan at Shadai by the visionary Zenya Yoshida, Sunday Silence became a legend in his new home, setting records for quality and quantity of success.

But at the time he was set to go to stud, not many breeders in this country could see the horse for the pedigree, which in Sunday Silence’s case was considered to be weak on the bottom half.

The problem with that line of thought was that the horse had clearly gotten all the good traits that were available, as he had shown on the racetrack, and he then went on to transmit them with exceptional regularity to his offspring.

The effect of their quality and consistency is still felt in Japan.

This year’s Japan Cup winner is Shonan Pandora, winner of Japan’s Group 1 Shuka Sho last year. To date, she has earned $4.8 million. The second dam of the Japan Cup winner is a full sister to Japanese champion 2-year-old and champion sprinter Soccer Boy. That full sister also produced international G1 winner Stay Gold, by Sunday Silence.

Shonan Pandora is one of 71 stakes winners by Sunday Silence’s son Deep Impact. That stallion is the best of Sunday Silence’s many sons who went to stud, but even if Deep Impact were subtracted from Sunday Silence’s record, there would be a herd of good and important sires by the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner.

Deep Impact also sired Satono Lupin, winner of the G3 Keihan Hai on the same day as the Japan Cup, and Sunday Silence’s son Suzuka Mambo sired Sambista, winner of the Champions Cup (Japan Cup Dirt).

In America, the best son of Sunday Silence available to breeders is top-rated miler Hat Trick, and he had G3 winner Dressed in Hermes, winner of the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes at Del Mar on Nov 29. The 2-year-old gelding is from the first crop after European high-weight Dabirsim drew attention to Hat Trick with G1 successes as part of that stallion’s first-crop racers.

 

a.p. indy’s tapestry of stakes winners creates a lasting pattern

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While doing some work in a stall at Lane’s End Farm, the new groom thought he heard a deep rumble coming from a nearby stall. After the third occurrence, he stuck his head out, looked up and down the broad aisle.

A fellow stallion groom was sweeping an errant piece of straw back into a stall, and the new guy asked, “Did you hear anything?”

“Like what?”

“Like that,” as another rumble came down their way.

“Oh, he’s just reading the race results from the weekend,” said the experienced groom.

“Who’s reading, and what’s so funny?”

“The big horse is having a good time with his reading material this morning…”

“What you mean reading. Horses don’t read.”

The experienced groom sighed, “That’s A.P. Indy down there, and if he takes a notion to fly, you better start wearing a muck bucket on your head.”

What’s more, A.P. Indy had plenty to chuckle about after this weekend’s racing.

On Nov. 28 at Aqueduct, A.P. Indy’s grandson Tapit solidified his lead as the top sire in the country with the victories of Tonalist (Belmont Stakes, Jockey Club Gold Cup) in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile and of the unbeaten Mohaymen (Nashua Stakes) in the G2 Remsen. Then in Florida, Tapit’s juvenile son Rafting won the Smooth Air Stakes at Gulfstream West (nee Calder).

A.P. Indy grandson Sky Mesa sired a first-time stakes winner, the 2-year-old Family Meeting, in the G3 Jimmy Durante Stakes at Del Mar.

Sons Malibu Moon, Bernardini, and Mineshaft also had graded stakes winners. At Churchill Downs on the 28th, Malibu Moon’s daughter Carina Mia was a four and a quarter length winner of the G2 Golden Rod. The same afternoon at Aqueduct, Bernardini’s daughter Lewis Bay came home a winner in the G2 Demoiselle Stakes. Those victories were the initial stakes and graded stakes successes for those promising young athletes.

Not so with Mineshaft’s contribution to the roll of success for the A.P. Indy crowd. Established performer Effinex won the G1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and he defeated last year’s winner of the Clark, Hoppertunity, by three-quarters of a length.

And finally (small drum roll here, please), A.P. Indy himself sired the winner of the G2 Hawthorne Gold Cup on Nov. 28.

That 4-year-old colt is named Commissioner, and he is perhaps best remembered for a heroic front-running effort in the 2014 Belmont Stakes, going down in the shadow of the wire to Tonalist. A notably good prospect as he progressed toward the classics last season, Commissioner went out a good winner and will enter stud next season at WinStar Farm for $7,500 live foal.

Commissioner is one of two colts from A.P. Indy’s last crop who will enter stud in 2016. The more heralded of the pair is Honor Code, a striking near-black animal who won the Metropolitan Handicap and Whitney Stakes this season. A colt who has drawn plenty of attention since the start of his racing career, Honor Code will enter stud alongside his greatly honored and pensioned sire at Lane’s End. That farm also stands Horse of the Year Mineshaft.

Spendthrift has Malibu Moon; Darley has Bernardini; Three Chimneys has Sky Mesa; and Gainesway has Tapit. So these and other important sons and grandsons are well-dispersed among the leading stallion farms in the Bluegrass.

Commissioner makes three sons of A.P. Indy for WinStar, which also stands leading freshman sire Congrats and G1 Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy. The latter will have his first yearlings in 2016 and has bred 296 mares in his first two seasons at stud.

The popularity of Congrats and Take Charge Indy with breeders should have a positive effect on Commissioner, who comes from a female family known for quickness and good looks.

The colt’s first three dams are all stakes winners, and Commissioner’s dam, the Touch Gold mare Flaming Heart, has produced two stakes winners. Commissioner earned nearly $1 million, and his stakes-winning half-brother Laugh Track (by Distorted Humor), earned $598,014 and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

This family contributes its share of quality and strong physical appeal, and Commissioner shows their influence, plus the trademark A.P. Indy look: great length of rein, deep shoulder, width and length through the body, plus a good hip. The A.P. Indys tend to look like classic horses, with plenty of leg, and the best of them have plenty of speed to go with their stamina.

A.P. Indy and his sire, Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, pulled the Bold Ruler – Nasrullah line back to the peak of importance as a source of classic prospects, and the classic influence of these horses is a tale with stories just waiting to unfold.

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