malagacy speaks volumes for shackleford and for the legacy of darby dan

With a victory in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn, Malagacy (by Shackleford) remained unbeaten in three starts, put himself squarely in contention for the classics, and became the third Triple Crown candidate this year by a sire standing at Darby Dan Farm.

Darby Dan owner John Phillips has been in the horse business long enough to realize the good fortune he is reaping, but the historic farm is having as a strong a year in 2017 as it experienced with Phillips’s grandfather John Galbreath, who stood such icons as Ribot, Sea-Bird, and Swaps and who bred classic winners Proud Clarion and Roberto.


Proud Clarion, winner of the 1967 Kentucky Derby, was one of two classic winners bred by Darby Dan from Hail to Reason; the other was English Derby winner and leading sire Roberto.

Both the latter were sons of champion juvenile Hail to Reason (Turn-to), and Roberto became a sire of great international significance. Winner of the 1972 English Derby and the only horse to defeat the great Brigadier Gerard (in the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup), Roberto figures in the pedigree of Malagacy, and the Rebel Stakes winner is inbred to Pleasant Colony, the classic-winning son of leading sire His Majesty, one of the stars of the Darby Dan breeding program during the 1980s and ’90s.

Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Pleasant Colony appears 4×3 in Malagacy’s pedigree, and the classic winner was the best son of his famous sire both on the racetrack and at stud. Although a confirmed two-turn performer, Pleasant Colony sired some stock that were notably quicker and more precocious than himself.

Shackleford, in possessing pace and stamina, inherited the best elements of his classic forebears Pleasant Colony, plus classic winner and champion Unbridled, who is Shackleford’s broodmare sire and whom Shackleford resembles in many respects, though not in color.

In the 2011 Preakness, Shackleford showed his pace, stamina, and courage to best effect as he held off Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. Because Shackleford is a blend of elements, many breeders didn’t know what to make of the tall, handsome chestnut. When his stock came to the in-training sales a year ago, some made a dramatic impression with their stride length and speed.

As time has proven, however, they are not really sprinters. The nicer ones so far have fallen into the Unbridled pattern of possessing good speed but requiring patience. They also seem to be following this profile and maturing nicely in their 3-year-old season, and the Rebel victory moved Malagacy to the head of the class.

Bred in Kentucky by John Trumbulovic, Malagacy is out of the Dehere mare Classiest Gem. Trumbulovic purchased the mare in foal to Whywhywhy (Mr. Greeley) for $20,000 out of the Gainesway consignment at the 2006 Keeneland November sale, and then Trumbulovic sold the mare, carrying a full sibling to Malagacy, at the 2014 Keeneland November sale for $17,000 to Twilight Stables.

For her new owner, Classiest Gem foaled a full sister to the Rebel Stakes winner, and that filly has since been named Classy Shackles. The filly was a $27,000 RNA at the 2015 Keeneland November sale as a weanling and then resold as a yearling for $26,500 at the 2016 Minnesota Thoroughbred Association auction.

In contrast to his sister, Malagacy has been in sales prep most of his life and has made money every time he changed hands. He went through the 2014 Keeneland November sale for $45,000, sold to Stoney Lane Farm. Then, consigned to the 2015 Ocala Breeders Sales auction of yearlings in August, the good-looking chestnut sold to De Meric Stables, agent, for $130,000 out of the Stuart Morris consignment.

Then De Meric Sales brought the colt to the Fasig Midlantic sale, and agent Steve Young bought Malagacy out of the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic auction of 2-year-olds in training at Timonium last year for $190,000. Malagacy races for Sumaya US Stable.

Young said, “I thought this colt was a strong and well-balanced horse who worked really well. I think he’s changed as much as a horse can change in the past few months, all in the right direction. He’s gotten better with each race, has improved mentally and physically. Took a little while to come to hand, but his last 60 days have been phenomenal. He’s going in the right direction.”

At the 2-year-old sale last year, the powerful chestnut worked a furlong in :10 2/5, which earned him a BreezeFig of 63, and he showed a stride length of 24.7 feet coming down the stretch at Timonium. The colt’s internal scoring and performance numbers indicated the potential to be a stakes horse, and he has come on in the manner his connections have hoped for.

The colt’s performance in the Rebel was the best stallion advertisement that money cannot buy, and Shackleford, who has had books of more than 100 mares each season, according to Darby Dan’s Ryan Norton, “is booked to more than a hundred mares, although we still have room for a few good mares.”

The winner of $3 million during his racing career, Shackleford is at Darby Dan for $15,000 live foal on a stands and nurses basis.

relaunch extending the man o’ war male line through multiple sources

In Reality’s grand gray son Relaunch has tried single-handedly to resurrect the male line of Man o’ War – Fair Play and their male-line ancestors Matchem and the Godolphin Arabian. In reality, Relaunch has done a damned good job, and the victory of Brazilian-bred Bal a Bali in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita gave his sire Put It Back a second G1 winner in the Northern Hemisphere.

That distinction is important because Put It Back has sired several G1 winners south of the Equator, especially in Brazil, where Put It Back has been leading sire and Bal a Bali was the best of his best, earning a title as Horse of the Year before his importation to the States.

Put It Back was a useful stallion during his innings at stud at Florida’s Bridlewood Farm, and G1 winner In Summation was the sire’s most highly ranked runner in the U.S. before Bal a Bali. In Brazil, Put It Back sired champion 2-year-olds Skypilot in 2008 and Nitido in 2007, both G1 winners. Bal a Bali has carried his form across several campaigns and two continents, and he was expected to enter stud this spring at owner Brad Kelley’s Calumet Farm, but the 7-year-old’s form is going to send him through another year of racing.

man o' war in hd photo 1920

Man o’ War, one of the greatest American racehorses in history, also became one of our sport’s great sires. He is widely represented in pedigrees, although principally through his son War Relic in the male lines of Europe and the Americas.


The high-profile success in California, and perhaps others through the year, will make Bal a Bali more familiar to breeders as a more significant representative of his famous male line.

Put It Back is one of several fast sons of Metropolitan Handicap winner Honour and Glory, one of three sons of Relaunch who have carved niches at stud for themselves. After his racing career, Honour and Glory sired the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old filly Caressing (G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies) and sired the very fast Argentine juvenile Mach Glory (Estrellas Juvenile). The beautifully balanced bay stallion also showed his international flair and versatility by siring a pair of UAE Derby winners (Blues and Royal, Honour Devil), a winner of the Gran Premio Jockey Club in Argentina (Indio Glorioso), and a winner of the Tenno Sho in Japan (Name Value).

Early on in his stud career, Relaunch sired his first important son, Santa Anita Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Skywalker. Retired to stud, Skywalker proved a very useful stallion, getting the Eclipse Award-winning older horse Bertrando as the best among a steady supply of stakes horses. For class and durability, Bertrando was a sliver of an improvement on his sire and grandsire as a racehorse, winning the Norfolk Stakes and Del Mar Futurity at 2, when only the absurdly impressive finishing kick of Arazi deprived Bertrando of victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the championship as top 2-year-old colt.

The following season, Bertrando was not as effective but returned in even better form at 4 to win the Pacific Classic and Woodward Stakes in a nationwide campaign that earned him the Eclipse Award and more than $3 million in career winnings. Bertrando became an indispensable asset for California breeding, but the grand old frontrunner’s best son, Officer, ended up being sold to Korea, and a third son of Relaunch is responsible for the majority of this line’s prominence in breeding today.

The only one of these sons who was gray like Relaunch was Cee’s Tizzy, who found the match of his stud career in the Seattle Song mare Cee’s Song. Their offspring included Budroyale (earnings of $2.8 million) and two other stakes winners, but the foal of foals out of Cee’s Song was Horse of the Year Tiznow, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice, with earnings of $6.4 million, and established as an important sire in Kentucky both in his own right and with good young sons like Gemologist, Strong Mandate, and Tourist, the winner of last season’s Breeders’ Cup Mile. The first and last of that trio are at stud at WinStar, like their sire.

Tiznow has been the epitome of versatile stallions, siring a champion 2-year-old filly in Folklore, as well as major winners at a mile (Tourist) to a mile and a quarter. At the latter distance, Well Armed won the Dubai World Cup, and Colonel John won the Travers. At nine furlongs, the sire’s major winners include Tizway (Whitney), Bullsbay (Whitney), and Gemologist (Wood Memorial), and at a mile or less, Tiznow’s top performers were Folklore (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies) and Strong Mandate (Hopeful).

This is a male line that is famous for its toughness, plus the versatility to show speed and stay well. Adding Bal a Bali to the mix should be a positive addition for breeders and the breed.

derby winner animal kingdom has first-crop 2-year-olds at the sales

Despite the towering influence of the Kentucky Derby in the narrative of each year’s racing season, winners of the Run for the Roses don’t play an over-sized role in the sales of 2-year-olds in training that present some of the most forward young racing prospects at auction each winter and spring.

Two Kentucky Derby winners, however, have a sizable segment of their first crops in the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s March sale of select 2-year-olds. Both Animal Kingdom (by Leroidesanimaux) and Orb (Malibu Moon) went to stud in Kentucky the same year, 2014, and have juveniles in the March sale.

In the case of Animal Kingdom, 2014 was his second covering season because he initially entered stud at Arrowfield in Australia for the Southern Hemisphere season in 2013, then migrated north to Darley’s Jonabell operation. The rangy chestnut son of champion turf horse Leroidesanimaux, therefore, has his first crop of juveniles already racing in Australia, and he recently had a sharp-looking maiden winner, Earth Angel, who won a maiden special last week.

Such was the reputation of Animal Kingdom’s great victories in the 10-furlong Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup that many fans think of him as a pure stayer, but the horse was also a cracking second in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile behind Horse of the Year Wise Dan, who was essentially invincible at the distance.

So there is form at a mile for the 2011 Eclipse champion 3-year-old colt, and there are pedigree elements that suggest Animal Kingdom could be bred in the direction of speed to get quicker, handier horses that would mature earlier, would be adaptable to 2-year-old racing and preparation.

Animal Kingdom is, after all, from the Blushing Groom branch of Nasrullah, and the Kentucky Derby winner’s sire earned the Eclipse Award as leading turf horse of 2005 for his high form with trainer Bobby Frankel in races at a mile. Furthermore, Animal Kingdom is inbred 4×4 to the top miler and top international sire Lyphard (Northern Dancer).

From the limited evidence of the 2017 sales season, Animal Kingdom may prove quite popular. At the Gulfstream sale two weeks ago, an Animal Kingdom colt bred by Walter Zent, Tony Holmes, and Tim Thornton and sold through the Eddie Woods consignment, went to West Point Thoroughbreds for $300,000.

At the OBS March sale, there are nine more juveniles consigned who are sons or daughters of Animal Kingdom. Of these, Hip 19 at Halcyon Hammock is a chestnut colt out of the Sky Mesa mare Mesa Fresca, which makes the juvenile a half-brother to 2016 G1 stakes winner Harmonize (Scat Daddy), winner of the G1 Del Mar Oaks and second in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland. Both of those races were on turf, and a turf thread is present in several of these precocious young prospects like Hip 227, a chestnut colt from the Eddie Woods consignment and the first foal of a young Street Cry mare who is a half-sister to Mr. Speaker (Pulpit), a G1 winner on turf.


The following are sales results for the Animal Kingdom 2yos at OBS March 2017:

Hip, Breeze time, sex and pedigree, consignor, buyer, price

19 10.4 C     Animal Kingdom x Mesa Fresca Halcyon Hammock Farm, Agent III
75,000 Not Sold

27 21.0 C     Animal Kingdom x Miss Lombardi Eddie Woods, Agent IX Solis / Litt

36 out C     Animal Kingdom x Mooji’s Empire Top Line Sales LLC, Agent X Withdrawn

65 10.1 F     Animal Kingdom x Oregon Lady (IRE) Craig L. Wheeler, Agent Leroy Jolley, agent for Willow Pond Stable

102 10.2 C     Animal Kingdom x Private Dining King’s Equine, Agent II 57,000
Not Sold

227 out C     Animal Kingdom x Street Dancer Eddie Woods, Agent LV Withdrawn

271  out C     Animal Kingdom x TulipmaniaCrupi’s New Castle Farm, Agent V Withdrawn

389 10.2 C    Animal Kingdom x Boleyn Eisaman Equine, Agent Plesa, Ellman & Melin 205,000

547 out F     Animal Kingdom x Four Gifts de Meric Sales, Agent VIII Withdrawn

dialed in is ringing the bell; leading freshman sire now has two classic prospects

Although Horse of the Year Mineshaft (by Horse of the Year A.P. Indy) had a good weekend with Grade 2 Gotham Stakes winner J Boys Echo, Mineshaft’s son Dialed In had a great weekend. The Darby Dan Farm stallion fielded a pair of stakes winners from his first crop of 3-year-olds, led by G2 Fountain of Youth winner Gunnevera, who was a multiple stakes winner at 2 and had been a good-looking second in the Holy Bull Stakes last month at Gulfstream Park.

Then on the evening of March 4, Dialed In’s son It’s Your Nickel won the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park, and the previous weekend on Feb. 25, the sire’s daughter Attiya ran second in the Melody of Colors Stakes, also at Gulfstream.

In addition to Gunnevera, Dialed In had two previous stakes winners, including Ms Locust Point, who won the Gin Talking Stakes at Laurel on the last day of 2016 to clinch the freshman sire title for her sire. Dialed In led the year-end freshman sire list by total earnings of $1,544,836, with Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags (Dixie Union) in second with $1,457,070. The 2011 champion 2-year-old colt Hansen (Tapit) and unbeaten McLean’s Music (Distorted Humor) led all freshmen by number of winners (20), and Hansen’s son En Hanse was second in the Battaglia to It’s Your Nickel.

As one might expect, Dialed In has become one of the most popular young stallions in the world with his freshman title and continuing 2017 successes.

Darby Dan owner John Phillips said that Dialed In’s book is “as full as we feel comfortable with; so we’re not adding any more mares.” That means there are no seasons available from the farm at the advertised price of $15,000 live foal.

But what do market-conscious breeders do when there are no seasons available to the year’s hottest young sire? Due to that demand, Phillips noted, “There is a lot of activity trading seasons among those breeders who committed earlier. In some cases, they can trade up to another stallion [for instance, with someone who has a different stallion season available] or make a little money by selling their 2017 season.”

This commerce is “mostly activity among shareholders and breeding right holders,” Phillips said, because Darby Dan was one of the farms quickest to use the “share the upside” stallion investment scheme created by Spendthrift Farm owner B. Wayne Hughes, whose Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday) was initially offered in this manner and has been a major success.

The concept of the share the upside program is that a breeder pays a stud fee for breeding a foal by a new stallion prospect, typically for two years, and then owns a breeding right in the animal for the rest of his stud career.

Spendthift’s Ned Toffey said, “John Phillips called me when he was considering using this approach with some of the Darby Dan stallions and asked if it was all right to use our concept and call it the same thing. Mr. Hughes not only said it was absolutely fine but also said, ‘Why would you call it anything else?’”

In the case of Dialed In, Darby Dan used a hybrid approach that included traditional shareholders, as well as breeding right holders in the Spendthrift model.

Phillips said, “It’s a fairly large group of 80 people and a diversified group of breeders, largely designed by Doug Cauthen, who’s been instrumental in this. The shareholders hold an equity position in the horse, can vote, and can make decisions when called upon. Breeding right owners do not have pool interest or voting power, and that’s the distinction.”

One of the rationales behind using breeding rights in stallion management is to incentivize breeders to use the horse in his third and fourth years at stud, when commercial involvement tends to decrease dramatically.

When Cauthen bought Dialed In as a stallion prospect for his clients Bill Casner, Dixiana Farm, and Siena Farm, with owner Robert LaPenta retaining equity in the horse, Cauthen helped Darby Dan structure the resulting blend of shareholders and breeding right holders that have kept Dialed In busy at stud. Phillips said, “Doug deserves a lot of credit for putting the arrangement together, and we couldn’t be happier with the result.”

Darby Dan’s Ryan Norton noted the program has worked well for Dialed In. He had 91 third-season mares in 2015, resulting in 54 currently reported foals last year, and the stallion covered 105 mares from his fourth book in 2016, which are being born this spring.

Due to the current successes of the Dialed In offspring, those foals and yearlings are going to be in demand and selling for a premium because “It’s not just one horse that’s driving this,” Phillips said. “Also, Dialed In does stamp them: he is attractive, and he gets attractive horses. That means they will be well-received at the commercial markets, and that suggests to me a real upside for all those who bought shares and breeding rights.”

And what would happen if Gunnevera or another son of Dialed In should find himself wearing roses later this spring? The prospects truly boggle the mind.

background for gunnevera’s sire dialed in

Those seeking more detailed information about the sire are referred to the following. The first is my column on Dialed In after he won the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

dialed in wins fla derby

The second is a post on Dialed In’s dam Miss Doolittle, a talented mare with a tremendous pedigree.

dialed in’s dam

The information in the produce record for Miss Doolittle is not current, but I have updated her produce information below, including the name of the Curlin filly. The Ghostzapper foal noted in the produce record above was never named, is presumed dead. Beneath the name of each foal is a summary race record, if there is one.




leading sire malibu moon has proven an “incredible success story” with his tenure at stud

The results of the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra, won by Farrell (by Malibu Moon), and the G2 Risen Star, won by Girvin (Tale of Ekati), provided plenty of fodder for ruminations on their pedigrees.

The most striking point is that the A.P. Indy stallion Malibu Moon was sire of the first and broodmare sire of the second. The winner of a 5-furlong maiden special at Hollywood Park as a juvenile, Malibu Moon is one of a handful of stallions in the past 100 years to retire to stud without a significant race record and yet make an indelible mark as a sire.

Of the other noteworthy stallions in this small group of overachievers, Danzig (Northern Dancer) and Drone (Sir Gaylord) were unbeaten; Alibhai (Hyperion) was unraced.

Today, I wonder where a stallion prospect of this ilk would even find a place at stud. It certainly wasn’t easy when B. Wayne Hughes sent Malibu Moon to stud at the Pons family’s farm in Maryland for the 2000 breeding season.

But the striking 3-year-old with the rangy frame went to stud for a modest fee, and due to the reputation of the Pons family and the quality of the colt’s pedigree, by Horse of the Year A.P. Indy out of a G1 winner by Mr. Prospector, Malibu Moon attracted sufficiently large books that resulted in 62 foals from his first crop and 66 in his second.

The star of the first crop was the early-maturing Perfect Moon (Hollywood Juvenile Championship), and from the second came champion 2-year-old Declan’s Moon (Hollywood Futurity, Del Mar Futurity), plus the later-maturing Malibu Mint (Princess Rooney).

Sid Fernando, a well-known pedigree commentator and president of Werk Thoroughbred Consultants, said Malibu Moon is an “incredible success story. Like Danzig and Drone, he wasn’t a stakes winner, but he has kept on improving his mares, not just the lesser mares he got earlier but also after he had success and got stronger books.”

Those better and better books of mares followed when the stallion was brought to Kentucky in the wake of the Eclipse Award season by Declan’s Moon in 2004, and the resulting racers have included Orb (2013 Kentucky Derby), Devil May Care (2010 Coaching Club American Oaks), Eden’s Moon (2012 Las Virgenes), Funny Moon (2009 Coaching Club American Oaks), and Gormley (2016 Frontrunner).

The latter is among the better classic prospects of the 3-year-old colts this season, just like Farrell has placed herself prominently among the classic fillies.

Bred and raced by Coffeepot Stable in Kentucky, Farrell is one of four stakes winners out of her dam, the stakes-winning Unbridled’s Song mare Rebridled Dreams. The mare’s earlier foals include G1 winners Carpe Diem (Giant’s Causeway) and J.B.’s Thunder (Thunder Gulch), both of whom won the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, and Carpe Diem also added the Blue Grass Stakes to his resume before retiring to stand at WinStar Farm.

A similarly positive producer is Girvin’s dam, the Malibu Moon mare Catch the Moon. Unraced, Catch the Moon has produced two graded stakes winners from her first two foals. The elder is Cocked and Loaded (Colonel John), who won the G3 Iroquois Stakes as a 2-year-old, and Girvin is the second.

The sire of Girvin is the Tale of the Cat horse Tale of Ekati, named after the famous Ekati diamond mines in northern Canada.

Bred and raced by Charles Fipke, Tale of Ekati won the G1 Wood Memorial and Cigar Mile, as well as the G2 Futurity and Jerome. An earner of nearly $1.2 million, Tale of Ekati ranked 12th among third-crop sires in 2016 and has been quietly tapping on the door as another quality sire son of Tale of the Cat, in addition to G1 winner Lion Heart.

Fernando, also a consultant to Fipke, said “Mr. Fipke supports his horse and believes in Tale of Ekati pretty strongly. He feels that the best is still to come. Last fall, the horse started a streak of stakes winners for Mr. Fipke, including Tale for Ruby and Verve’s Tale. Also last fall, we began to hear from trainer Dallas Stewart, whose own Tale of Ekati colt, Saint’s Fan, won nicely in a maiden special with a Beyer Speed Figure of 82 and has since become a stakes winner. Mr. Fipke has several more promising Tale of Ekatis who should be running soon.”

A handsome and strongly muscled bay who is very similar in phenotype to his sire Tale of the Cat, Tale of Ekati is out of a Sunday Silence mare (second dam is the Alabama Stakes winner Maplejinsky, by Nijinsky), and this brings in some interesting elements that are playing out in the progeny of the young sire.

Although Tale of Ekati looks like the quick and early type associated with Storm Cat and his son Tale of the Cat, Tale of Ekati is getting more than his share of performers who come to their best form at 3 and appreciate going a mile or more. From the stallion’s first crop, for instance, came Tale of Verve, who ran on through the stretch to be second in the 2015 Preakness Stakes behind Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

From the evidence of this and other racers by Tale of Ekati, the classic effects of Sunday Silence and Nijinsky are an important part of the contribution from the sire and should give Girvin the promise to improve as the distances lengthen.

commercial market increasingly demanding on young stallions, who “are struggling everywhere”

In an earlier article, I assessed the top tier of entering stallions for 2017, which are led by Horse of the Year California Chrome (by Lucky Pulpit), Grade 1 winner Frosted (Tapit), Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist (Uncle Mo), and Preakness winner Exaggerator (Curlin).

In a rational scheme or market, a breeder would expect an upper tier of horses that anyone would like to breed to, given the required cash. Then we would expect a middle segment of strongly supported horses who do not have universal appeal and whose stud fees reflect that. Then we would have a lower tier of stock that have recommendations but for one reason or another lack a broad appeal.

Well, that’s what you might expect if breeding happened to be rational.

In truth, it was once very much like that. The very popular horses, the significantly supported horses, and then the ones that somebody loved (occasionally to their great profit).

But no more.

The market today is increasingly bifurcated (a $64 word that means chunked into two great bits). One segment is the horses everybody wants, and the other is the rest of them.

Farm owners and breeders and stallion managers are all struggling with this situation. Only one of the ironies of this situation is that some exceptionally important stallions would be on the “rest of them” list today, including Mr. Prospector and Danzig.

Both of those great sires stood all or most of their stud careers at historic Claiborne Farm, which is experiencing the same challenges in attracting mares to their lesser-priced stallions.

Bernie Sams, from Claiborne Farm, candidly noted that “the horses priced at $12,500 and under are struggling everywhere. Everybody’s in the same boat.” It’s tough out there in stallion world. The mares haven’t shown up for the stallions who are in need of them to fill their books, and stallion farms can only do so much to persuade mare owners.

A principal reason for breeder reluctance is the selling price of mares and foals that a sizable number of owners have found at the sales, where losses have become commonplace.

Carrie Brogden of the Select Sales consignment agency said, “A lot of this is fallout from the free stud-fee deals. These have become endemic to the industry, and I think there are a lot of people who traded in the $10,000 mares and the lesser stud fees, and they have lost their asses the last three or four years. I think when you are breeding to higher-risk stallions on higher-risk years, there is a lot of risk and can be a lot of losses.”

In the commercial market for weanlings and yearlings, which is the purpose of breeding most of the foals in this price range, small differences can make the difference between profit and loss.

“The perceived value in a lot of these horses is in the stallion,” Brogden said. “If a sire is perceived as ‘hot,’ then that foal will sell. Overall, I think the stallion farms are getting the backlash from the sales – where the buyers wanted to purchase either first-year stallions’ stock or proven stallions’ stock. First year or proven, and not much else.”

One of the rationales for the selectivity of the buyers is that most of them are buying to resell. Whether choosing horses for the yearling or the 2-year-old market, resale buyers usually have a specific vision of the type and sire power they want. And with the large volume of foals and yearlings available, buyers can be very selective.

Due to these considerations, Brogden said, “We are in a situation where yearlings are either worth a ton or worth-less. Worthless. The free fall is staggering now, and as a result, people are afraid to take risk. People are understandably afraid of the risk, and a poor one costs as much to keep as a good one.”

The situation for young stallions in this “at-risk” sector of the market all depends on whether the foals run. If the 2-year-olds train well and show ability on the racetrack, then commercial disfavor is forgiven.

This is the silver lining because the sales market ultimately does correct to reflect the reality of the racetrack, but till reaching that point, breeding in this part of the market can be both challenging and financially painful.

tales of the past: dissatisfaction with ‘country’ stewards led jockey club officials to issue suggestions

From the Illustrated Dramatic and Sporting News of May 18, 1878:

An influential, if not very numerous, meeting of the Jockey Club, held at Newmarket last week, has very properly left it to the Stewards to decide what steps shall be taken in the matter of suburban meetings.

Wise determinations will doubtless be come to, but Lord Hartington emphatically hit the right nail on the head when he stated that it was the intention of himself and his colleagues to “call the attention of gentlemen undertaking the office of stewards of racemeetings to the responsibility they incur for the proper management of the meeting;” and his lordship went on to express a hope that “gentlemen would not accept the office unless they intended to be present, or were fully satisfied as to the arrangements for the conduct of the meeting.”

This last saving clause, however, appears to us to take a deal of very desirable “sting” out of the suggestion which precedes it, and we do not see why stewards should be recommended to take anything for granted after recent experiences of even tolerably-respectable meetings going utterly to the bad.

The office of steward seems lately to have been regarded as a sinecure, and those who are pleased to undertake it do so without any ideas of its duties.

It is all very well to “see oneself in print” as a Steward of the Grand International Diddlesex Meeting, to swell about stands and enclosures, and to run a horse or two for the sake of “patronising” the affair; but seekers of such distinction seem to limit themselves to swaggering – if, indeed, they turn up at all on the scene of action – and somehow are never to be found when a case arises necessitating action on their part.

It is high time all this was altered, and that people lending their names should also make a point of being present in person. A few really energetic men, content to act without fear or favour, might work wonders in the repression of those nefarious tricks which bring racing into evil repute; but the mere appearance of their names on the top of the card will not act as a deterrent to evil-doers, who must be stamped out by stronger devices than these.


champion and established sire ghostzapper has a major opportunity this year to extend his role in breeding to ‘classic sire’

When a stallion goes to stud amid great expectations and does not deliver – and deliver right now – the stampede away from him is emphatic. For a stallion to reverse the trend, to overturn the “disconfirmation of expectations,” as a noted breeder phrases it, requires some seriously good results and consistency in them also.

That is just what 2004 Horse of the Year and now leading sire Ghostzapper has done. The brawny bay son of Awesome Again, furthermore, has a leading candidate for the Triple Crown in McCraken, who won the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay on Feb. 11. Plus, his 3-year-old son Iliad won the G2 San Vicente at Santa Anita over the same weekend.

The strength of his offsprings’ performances this year are those of a leading sire, which Ghostzapper is. When the horse went to stud at Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs Farm in Kentucky in 2006 for a stud fee of $200,000 live foal, Ghostzapper was one of the hottest and most highly prized stallion prospects in years.

He deserved to be.

A winner of nine races from 11 starts, Ghostzapper was Horse of the Year in 2004, when he was undefeated in four starts and was by objective assessments one of the most talented Thoroughbreds of the last quarter-century, ranking very highly by career speed figures and other objective methods of evaluating form and class in Thoroughbred racehorses.

Through comparative lines of form, Ghostzapper was a monster, and the horses behind him in the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic were an outstanding group that included the previous year’s BC Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect, Horse of the Year Azeri, Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide, and Belmont winner Birdstone. In Ghostzapper’s prep for the Classic, he won the Woodward Stakes, defeating the 2005 BC Classic winner and Horse of the Year Saint Liam.

Ghostzapper himself made only a single start in 2005, an impressive victory in the Metropolitan Handicap, and a large breeding interest in both Ghostzapper and his sire were acquired by the late Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Farm.

So, when Ghostzapper retired to stand at stud in 2006, breeders lined up to send some of their best broodmares to the handsome and well-made son of Awesome Again, who was himself a red-hot sire as a winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a sire of a winner of that race, and sire as well of champion Ginger Punch, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Considering the natural speed that Ghostzapper possessed, most breeders and racehorse owners expected him to burst out of the gate as a sire of quick juveniles and sprinters that showed early maturity.

But part of a Thoroughbred’s job is to keep humans humble.

Ghostzapper had won only a maiden at 2 and did not win a stakes until the Vosburgh very late in his 3-year-old season. During his early racing, trainer Bobby Frankel also placed Ghostzapper cautiously in shorter events that showcased the horse’s amazing speed as the colt acquired the strength to maintain that speed furlong after furlong. In hindsight, Ghostzapper is breeding horses that can also maintain a steady racing rhythm but generally do not have his exceptional speed.

Overall, Ghostzapper is transmitting the qualities typically associated with his sire Awesome Again and grandsire Deputy Minister. During their lengthy and successful careers, both tended to get horses that showed their top form at a mile or more and that frequently became better with age.

That was Ghostzapper’s pattern of growth and improvement too, and many of the sire’s best racers have shown their best form at 3 or later. The 3-year-old G1 winners Stately Victor (Blue Grass) and Contested (Acorn) were the sire’s most “classic” performers, while his more numerous G1 winners include older stars like Shaman Ghost (Woodward), Judy the Beauty (Breeders’ Cup Filly Sprint), Moreno (Whitney), Starship Truffles (Princess Rooney), and Molly Morgan (La Troienne).

To date, Ghostzapper has 53 stakes winners and ranks as the nation’s second-leading sire, in large part due to Shaman Ghost’s second in the Pegasus World Cup last month. But McCraken became one of his sire’s 10 stakes-winning 2-year-olds last season and is one of the strongly fancied candidates for the Triple Crown.

With the expected pattern of growth and improvement from Ghostzapper’s stock, McCraken has more than average promise to continue to rise and prosper. Likewise, Ghostzapper’s sire results have improved year by year, and he may be poised for the best year of his stallion career.

irish raises the ‘war cry’ for curlin’s classic inclinations with a victory in gulfstream’s holy bull stakes

At the end of January, chestnut champion California Chrome closed out a career, and a week later, a fresh classic prospect with a touch of ‘chrome’ upended the form in the toughest 3-year-old contest of the new season with a victory in the G2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

The winner of the Holy Bull was the unbeaten Irish War Cry (by Curlin), and the two most impressive things about the performance were, first, the way the chestnut colt won by open lengths after leading the whole way, and second, the depth of competition in the race where he defeated last season’s 2-year-old champion Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) and the highly rated colt Gunnevera (Dialed In).

This commendable effort does not make him a ready-made classic winner, but it is a heck of a step forward to that goal.

Furthermore, the prospects for Irish War Cry in the classic distance races later this year are improved by his sire, a two-time Horse of the Year and probably the most classic American sire active today.

In addition to winning a Preakness, a Breeders’ Cup Classic, a Dubai World Cup, two Jockey Club Gold Cups, and more than $10 million, Curlin proved that he was a rock-solid 10-furlong performer on racetracks around the nation and in Dubai.

The brawny chestnut son of Smart Strike (Mr. Prospector) reveled in the distance, improved through his 3-year-old season and into his 4-year-old form. There was absolutely nothing about Curlin that said “sprinter.”

And in marked contrast to the contemporary breeding norms that make early-maturing, short-distance horses the most commercial prospects for stud, Curlin retired amid plenty of acclaim on the cusp of the Great Recession. He was so wildly popular that the plans were to stand him for $100,000, the same as classic winner Big Brown, but the deepening morass of economic collapse caused a revision to both stud fees down to $60,000 their first season.

Stud fees fell precipitously in the ensuing years, not just for Curlin or Big Brown, but for practically all stallions, and many sires had to leave Kentucky for homes far away where there were breeders eager to breed to them.

Most of the stallion prospects for the entering class of 2009 that included the two stars mentioned above are now gone from Kentucky. Even Big Brown stands in New York.

Curlin, however, stands for $150,000 live foal in 2017. He does not earn that kind of stud fee because of good looks, a rich pedigree, or even his exalted race record. The robustly made son of Smart Strike is in that kind of demand because of the results that Curlin gets on the racetrack.

From his first crop onward, Curlin has shown the ability to sire horses who can win the most important races in the country over a distance of ground, and breeders want to produce the stock that could become the home-run horse. Buyers want to purchase the yearlings and 2-year-olds who can win G1 stakes, classics, and championships.

And stallions who can deliver on classic potential and championship caliber are in the highest demand worldwide.

Curlin’s first crop included Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, and the third included Keen Ice (Travers). Last season, the stallion had five G1 winners, including Exaggerator (Preakness, Haskell), Off the Tracks (Mother Goose), Stellar Wind (Zenyatta, Clement Hirsch), Connect (Cigar Mile), and Curalina (2015 Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks, 2016 La Troienne).

In 2016, Curlin finished second on the general sire list behind only all-conquering Tapit (Pulpit) and ahead of Uncle Mo, Candy Ride, and Kitten’s Joy in the top 5.

Curlin has continued his impressive pace of success into this year, and Irish War Cry is carrying his sire’s banner high.

Bred in New Jersey by Isabelle de Tomaso, Irish War Cry goes back in the female line to stakes winner Irish Trip (Saint Crespin), who is the Holy Bull winner’s third dam, and the extended family goes through the Dormello Stud-bred Italian 1,000 Guineas winner Dagherotipia (Manna), thence to the marvelous Pretty Polly (Gallinule).

More to the point, Irish War Cry is the sixth foal of his dam, Irish Sovereign, a good winning daughter of Polish Numbers (Danzig). Polish Numbers is the sire of California Chrome’s second dam and is becoming a sire of considerable appeal in the bottom half of pedigrees.

[For more information about the breeder, here are two fine articles from Ray Paulick and Sid Fernando.]