midpoint of keeneland september sale can be a source of enduring champions


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After lunch on Monday, Sept. 21, the Keeneland September yearling sale passed its numerical midpoint. The 2,083rd yearling went through the ring of the 4,164 yearlings consigned to the world’s largest yearling auction, which began on Sept. 14 and concluded on the 26th.

There are actually 12 days of selling in that 13-day span. After the three days that occupy Book 1, there is a free day, during which consignors try to get their wheels spinning the right way to simultaneously manage a double-handed slam dunk of Book 2 horses, many of whom are just as good as others in Book 1, and to carry the rest of their sales horses and staff through the whirlwind of activity that stops only near the end of the month.

As the first week closed, the early signs of fatigue began to show among those whose daily work is making every young racing prospect look as good as possible and show itself with the authority and presence that marks a nice prospect.

Some of them just don’t want to coöperate.

A few are spooky about the weird sounds and unnatural sights that surround them, and I can’t blame them. It’s a big change from the farm and the pastoral beauty where many were raised. But as one petite handler said, “They have to get their rear ends with the program, and I am the program director.”

She’s right because this is the first step in a series of steps, hurdles, challenges, and perplexing obstacles that young horses have to accept, learn to handle, and overcome as the next generation of wee racehorses.

One of the things each of them has to learn to accept with confidence, without fear or aggression, is having strangers inspect them, touch them, and handle them. I know this because I touch some of the nicest young horses in the world every year as part of my work in measuring and evaluating their promise as racehorses.

And some of these yearlings don’t see the value of my existence at all. A few would right kindly like to kick me into next month. That has not happened in part because of the knowledgeable and intuitive handlers that are part of the sales. A really good handler can keep a rascally yearling from expressing itself too vigorously.

Yet among the nervous and overbearing, there are others who are quiet and sometimes even regally composed. Some are quite strong and sizable yearlings, like American Pharoah at Saratoga two years ago. Big, strong, and well-grown as an August sale yearling, he was nonetheless a self-possessed animal whose character even then was a manifest asset to his prospects as a racehorse.

As recollections of champions or memories of interesting youngsters who never earn a headline, the volume of horses and the number of inspections ought to make the individuals blur into oblivion, but they somehow do not.

The sea of young horses in shades of brown is every teenage horse lover’s dream, and yet I don’t get caught up in that side of it. The perspective of years and horses adds understanding to what these new young athletes are attempting, and there is no question that some of them will pass the post with colors flying.

Perhaps one of them will be the lovely Curlin filly who sold Monday as Hip 2061 for $975,000 to top the session. Curlin, one of the hottest stallions in the nation, sired three of the four highest-priced lots in the midpoint session, with a pair of colts, Hips 2203 and 2093, bringing $430,000 and $380,000.

What a long, strange journey it has been for Curlin, selling out of this portion of the sale, then first becoming a Horse of the Year and now a leading sire.

Just 10 years ago, at the 2005 Keeneland September sale, Kenny McPeek picked out a grand chestnut colt, just loved the colt he told me, and bought him for $57,000 out of the Eaton Sales consignment. McPeek managed to find clients to buy the big colt, and in time, that colt grew up to win his maiden in crushing style.

When Jess Jackson bought into the colt, by then named Curlin, history had begun to unfold.

But it all started when the growthy chestnut colt, Hip 2261, went through the ring at Keeneland in September.

leading sire war front set the pace in the sales lists at keeneland september in session one


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In a briskly successful first session of the Keeneland September yearling sale, the gross price rose 35 percent to $44.6 million, with an average price of $297,613. The top three prices at the opening session — $1 million and $1.45 million for two fillies and $900,000 for the top-priced colt — were paid for yearlings by Claiborne Farm stallion War Front (by Danzig).

The 12-year-old stallion, who looks so much like his sire that it’s a little spooky, enjoyed a fuller racing career than that great sire.

Whereas Danzig was unbeaten in three starts in fast time but no stakes, War Front raced three seasons and was first or second in nine of his 13 starts. The horse’s most important victory came in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes at Saratoga, with seconds in the Vosburgh, Forego, Tom Fool, Mr. Prospector, and Deputy Minister.

So War Front was a sprinter who didn’t win a Grade 1 stakes, the Vanderbilt was a G2 at the time he won it, and took a place at Claiborne because owner-breeder Joseph Allen and a group of syndicate members believed in the horse and supported him through his early seasons with useful mares.

As a result of that support and his own innate qualities, War Front has climbed the ladder of stallion success. From being an interesting stallion prospect, the brawny bay has become one of the most respected stallions in the world, and his offspring are highly sought at the sales.


The stallion’s early yearlings looked the part, and buyers began picking them up early for good prices, which allowed breeders to continue to support him through the hard times of the bloodstock depression. Then when War Front’s first crops included major winners like The Factor (Malibu), Data Link (G1), Declaration of War (Juddmonte International and Queen Anne Stakes), and Summer Soiree (Del Mar Oaks), the breeders with foals and yearlings on the ground made a lot of money in times when they needed it.

And major breeders began flocking to the horse.

With first foals of 2008, War Front has risen to an advertised stud fee of $150,000 live foal, if you can find one. Nominations to the horse are tightly held by a syndicate. The syndicate is comprised of breeders who use their seasons. Getting one is about as easy as sneaking a gold bar out of Fort Knox.

That is, however, the traditional nature of a syndicate. And one of the virtues and privileges of being a member has traditionally been access. Yes, the right to breed to one of the best and most successful stallions in the world.

The mega-books approach to stallion management has diluted the concept of syndication out of all recognition for those of us with memories that extend past the last generation. But Claiborne Farm does have a long memory, both among the individuals responsible for its success and as a corporate body that has been a leader in bloodstock breeding in Kentucky for more than a century.

Claiborne Farm has long been a stick in the mud when it comes to newfangled ideas. And proud to be.

So now they have yet another world-class stallion.

And the world comes beating a path to their door in search of seasons to War Front or yearlings by the horse. Claiborne, as consignor, sold the $900,000 colt (Hip 106) and a $525,000 colt (Hip 109); Lane’s End, as consignor, sold the $1 million filly (Hip 99) and a $600,000 colt (Hip 182).

But Timber Town (Wayne and Cathy Sweezey), selling for major buyer and now breeder Mandy Pope (Whisper Hill Farm), put the ball out of the park with the session-topping yearling at $1.45 million. The filly is the first foal of the group-placed Galileo mare Betterbetterbetter, an Irish-bred half-sister to classic winner Yesterday and G1 winner Quarter Moon, and Betterbetterbetter was sold for $5.2 million carrying this filly at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale in 2013.

Betterbetterbetter did her job and produced a good-sized and robust foal on Jan. 16 last year who grew into a very appealing yearling. The session-topper responded well to the sales prep and presentation at the September sale by Timber Town, and her hammer price indicates how inspectors found her at the barn.

As a sales yearling and racing prospect for buyer Shadwell Farm, the War Front filly is a credit to all who knew her and helped her along the way.

from rachel, with love … and plenty of potential

With her victory in the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 5, Rachel’s Valentina established a couple more firsts. Earlier, she had become the first runner and winner for her dam, Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, with a strong performance in a maiden special at the Spa on Aug. 2.

Now, Rachel’s Valentina (by Bernardini) is the first stakes winner and G1 winner for her illustrious dam and therefore the first G1 winner for Medaglia d’Oro as a broodmare sire. In between the 2-year-old’s maiden and the Spinaway, the 3-year-old Jess’s Dream (Curlin) won his debut in a Spa maiden, and just like that, Rachel Alexandra became a 100 percent producer.

Having two winners from two foals isn’t a rarity, but it is good.

And then if anything further were needed to intensify the air of electricity around the two offspring of Rachel Alexandra, they are the only two foals from the champion racer and fan favorite. Rachel Alexandra, a big and quite robust mare, had a bit of trouble after foaling Jess’s Dream, then a bit of trouble after foaling Rachel’s Valentina. Much worse, Rachel Alexandra had surgery after foaling the filly, and veterinary surgeons found that the mare had lost blood flow to a portion of her small intestine, where a bacterial infection had resulted.

The surgery to repair the intestine was a success, but Rachel Alexandra spent five weeks in Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital recovering from it.

Quite normally, Rachel Alexandra was not bred in 2013 due to all the difficulties with her health, but it was a modest surprise when owner Stonestreet Farm announced the mare would not be covered in 2014. Nor was she covered this year, and drawing an inference from those circumstances, it would appear that the future breeding career of Rachel Alexandra is most unclear.

That is all the more unfortunate because she is a very good mare.

A winner of 13 races from 19 starts, Rachel Alexandra earned more than $3.5 million, as well as Eclipse Awards for champion 3-year-old filly and Horse of the Year in 2009. The highlights of her career included a blowout victory in the Kentucky Oaks, victories in the Preakness over Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, the Haskell over Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird, and the Woodward Stakes.

What isn’t as well recalled is that Rachel Alexandra was also a good 2-year-old, winning half of her six starts, including the G2 Golden Rod Stakes, and finishing second in the G3 Pocahontas and Debutante.

So, the typical reasoning would go, that if the mare were bred to a more precocious sire, the resulting foal would be an even earlier or more talented 2-year-old. Only problem with that reasoning is that Bernardini, the sire of Rachel’s Valentina, wasn’t a top juvenile.

He didn’t even race at 2.

At 3, however, Bernardini came round by leaps and bounds. He ended the season as the divisional champion with victories in six of his eight starts, including the Preakness, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, and he earned just a bit more than $3 million.

At stud, Bernardini has been one of the most successful sons of A.P. Indy at getting the top-level winners, with a dozen G1 winners to date.

It is also significant that both times Rachel’s Valentina raced, trainer Todd Pletcher has noted the filly acts “like more distance would be what she wants.”

In the filly’s debut, Pletcher warned that the distance might be a little short for her. But then she kicked on through the stretch and won the race. Some horses can win, even when the odds or circumstances indicate they shouldn’t, and Pletcher said: “Rachel’s Valentina was very professional, settled off the pace, closed well, galloped out strongly.”

That was the description of her debut at Saratoga a little over a month ago.

After the Spinaway, Jockey John Velazquez said the filly is “one of those horses that the farther she goes, the better she gets. Before she ran, I thought three-quarters might be a little too short, and she still got up there. She’s pretty good.”

Don’t confuse her with Ruffian, who loved burning from the start, but Rachel’s Valentina is a talented filly, and all the indicators are that she will only get better with time and distance and the opportunity to try for top races next season.

travers stakes winner keen ice descends from ‘chic’ family

By the “ice”-hot sire Curlin, Keen Ice struck the pinnacle of his career with a victory in the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 29. Following a third in the Belmont Stakes to American Pharoah and Frosted and then a second in the Haskell, Keen Ice was one who had stood poised to do better when conditions suited.

The 2015 Travers winner was bred in Kentucky by Glencrest Farm, which has a lengthy history of breeding quality racehorses. One of the historic farms of the Bluegrass, Glencrest sold Keen Ice as a weanling, then the colt resold as a yearling.

Farm founder John W. Greathouse bred Venetian Way, winner of the 1960 Kentucky Derby, and Glencrest has bred such other stars as Lady Pitt (1966 Coaching Club American Oaks and champion 3-year-old filly), Wavering Monarch (1982 Haskell), Roamin Rachel (1994 Ballerina), Pike Place Dancer (1996 Kentucky Oaks), and Adieu (2005 Frizette).

The elder Greathouse died in 1995, and his sons John, David, Allen, and Edward have continued the operation. David Greathouse, a founding partner in Four Stars Sales, died in October 2013, just 11 months after Four Stars had consigned the future Travers winner and his dam to the 2012 Keeneland November sale.

Allen Greathouse recalled that “we sold the colt to help sell the mare,” Medomak, that Glencrest had acquired at the November sale in 2010. A daughter of leading sire Awesome Again, Medomak “was a nice-looking mare and well worth the money we paid for her,” Greathouse said. Glencrest had paid $17,000 for Medomak as a broodmare prospect out of the Middlebrook Farm consignment. The then-3-year-old filly was a half-sister to graded stakes winner Coal Play (by Mineshaft), who also ran second in the G1 Haskell. This is the great Middlebrook family of Too Chic (Blushing Groom) and her daughters Chic Shirine and Queena, both by Mr. Prospector.

Brought to the November sale two years later, when economic conditions had improved, Medomak brought $80,000 in foal to Horse of the Year Mineshaft, and her weanling colt by Horse of the Year Curlin sold for $48,000, the fourth-highest price for a weanling from the sire’s third crop.

Chad Schumer bought Medomak for his “Saudi clients,” who sent the mare overseas, and she died in Saudi Arabia. Noting the great misfortune of the mare’s death, Schumer said that she “was 16.1, very stout and correct, with a lot of [broodmare sire] Kris S. about her.”

The mare passed on a great deal of that substance and scope to her only foal, Keen Ice, who was purchased as a weanling by Chesapeake Farm. Brought back to the sales the following season, with Three Chimneys as consignor when the colt was a yearling, Keen Ice went through the September sale and brought $120,000 from Donegal Racing.

As a yearling, the bay had progressed well and showed good length, good shoulders and hindquarters. He was typical of the better-looking stock by Curlin, which tend to have a good deal of size and substance, although they are not especially precocious in type or general appearance.

Bloodstock agent Conor Foley had selected the colt for Donegal at the September sale and recalled Keen Ice as having a “great frame, lots of bone, but immature. He was clearly going to be a later-maturing colt, and we’ve been really blessed to see that he has taken every step without a problem, has strengthened greatly this season, and has really progressed under the training and management program for Donegal Racing.”

Keen Ice has clearly come a long way, and Foley believes that the colt “will continue to improve, which is scary.” Other good performers by Curlin, such as Belmont Stakes and Metropolitan Handicap winner Palace Malice, Santa Anita Oaks winner Stellar Wind, and Coaching Club American Oaks winner Curlina likewise have progressed well.

The prospect of further good things to come makes the loss of the colt’s dam even more unfortunate. Allen Greathouse said, “Years ago, people bought mares and held onto them till they died. Now the market tells you to be flexible. Here’s a case where it comes back to bite you. The reason for buying her in the first place was that she was a nice mare, an attractive mare, and she had a very decent first foal.”

That first foal is looking very decent indeed, and he is a further tribute to the depth of family that farms like Glencrest and Middlebrook seek out and try to develop.

new header photo is from an old racetrack

The new header photo above is an early photo of the old Latonia racetrack in Covington, a town in northern Kentucky, from the early 1900s.

The design of the grandstand, as well as the clubhouse in the foreground, is Victorian, and the scene tells a story about the principals and patrons of Latonia. The racetrack and its features are brightly painted and kept in spanking trim condition, and there are four flags flying over the scene.

The combination of the design, ornamentation, and care of the grounds indicates a great deal of confidence, pride, and energy. This is clearly a progressive and positive operation at a time when national feeling and confidence are high.

The track is only one means of expressing those feelings, but they could not be clearer.

The photo has caught Latonia on a day of bright sun and a strong breeze that has set the flags flying. Judging by the leaves on the trees, it would be perhaps late summer or early fall.

A gorgeous day similar to this one.

A race has finished moments before the photo was taken, and part of the field is galloping out toward the first turn, where the photo was taken. A few of the race watchers, perhaps grooms, are sitting on the freshly painted outer fence between the photographer and the clubhouse. A small crowd is visible on the clubhouse porch, a much larger crowd is in the grandstand.

One other certainty is this is not a day with an immense crowd there to see major racing. Not the Latonia Derby of that year, nor the International Special of 1924. The latter was won by Hall of Fame racer Sarazen from international star Epinard, with Princess Doreen among the beaten field. A crowd of 60,000 came out to see that day’s racing, and such numbers filled the grounds at Latonia.

Not far south of Cincinnati and part of the financially bouyant northern Kentucky area, Latonia had good purses and good horses for its time. Seven Kentucky Derby winners also won the Latonia Derby, and national racing stars like Exterminator and Black Gold raced at Latonia during the 1920s.

The racetrack operated from 1883 until July 29, 1939. The racetrack almost survived the Great Depression, but it was sold to Standard Oil of Ohio and taken down at some point during World War II. Today the property is a shopping center. In 1959, a new racetrack called Latonia opened in Florence, Ky., about 10 miles south of the original Latonia site. The newer Latonia racetrack was sold and renamed Turfway in 1986.

‘nobody was cheering harder’ than breeders for champion beholder in pacific classic

Not many Grade 1 stakes open to both sexes are won by fillies or mares each year. In part, this is due to North America having a good program of racing restricted to fillies and mares. But in part, it is also due to the majority of top-tier colts being bigger, stronger, and faster.

Just don’t go telling that to Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, and now Beholder.

Zenyatta famously won the Breeders’ Cup Classic against colts and came ever so close to doing it twice; Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness, Haskell, and Woodward against the hapless males of her crop; and Beholder absolutely tow-roped her competition in the Pacific Classic on Aug. 22.

The crowd at Del Mar was not the only group cheering her home. Bred in Kentucky by the Clarkland Farm of Fred and Nancy Mitchell, Beholder is a product of one of Thoroughbred breeding’s best family farms, and Fred Mitchell said that for the Pacific Classic, “we all got together Saturday night to watch Beholder and watched the telecast of Beholder’s race at our nephew’s house. We were cheering so hard at the top of the stretch that you could have heard us at Rupp Arena [downtown Lexington], and nobody was cheering harder for her, even Mr. (B. Wayne) Hughes.”

Part of the excitement about Beholder’s success was that she was trying to do two things she had never done before. In addition to racing against colts, she had never run the 10-furlong distance of the Pacific Classic before, and some savvy handicappers were betting against Beholder because her sire Henny Hughes (by Hennessy) is generally an influence for speed.

With a winning time of 1:59.77, Beholder stayed the 10 furlongs as if she’d have appreciated 12. So it’s a fair guess that Henny Hughes isn’t the strongest influence in the mare’s makeup, and she is out of a broodmare, Leslie’s Lady, who has proven an outstanding influence in her time at stud.

In addition to champion Beholder, Leslie’s Lady has produced G1 winner Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday), who has become one of the more popular young sires in the Bluegrass, with runners like G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents, also now at stud at Spendthrift.

Into Mischief won half of his six starts, including the G1 Futurity at Hollywood Park, and retired to stand at the Spendthrift Farm of owner B. Wayne Hughes.

Before any of her half-brother’s stock had come to the races, Beholder went to the sales as a yearling and sold at the September sale in 2011 for $180,000 to Hughes, who would naturally be interested in a half-sister to his G1 winner and got an even more accomplished racehorse.

The future champion brought the second-highest price for a domestic yearling by Henny Hughes, who now stands in Japan at Yushun Stallion Station on the island of Hokkaido for a fee of 3 million yen (about $25,000).

With the escalation of Into Mischief’s profile as a leading young sire and with a pair of Eclipse Awards for Beholder, Leslie’s Lady has become a producer of yearlings who are highly sought after.

The mare’s colt by Curlin brought $300,000 in 2012, then her filly by Curlin brought $1.1 million from Bridlewood Farm last year at the Keeneland September sale.

Although a mishap has prevented the colt from racing, Fred Mitchell reported that Bridlewood’s George Isaacs said the 2-year-old Curlin filly, now named Leslie’s Harmony, “is training like a really nice horse.”

Leslie’s Lady had an Eskendereya filly in 2014, but unfortunately, it had to have surgery, colicked after coming back from the hospital, and had to be euthanized.

Mitchell is a farmer who raises horses, and he said philosophically: “It’s the horse business, and you take the good with the bad. You enjoy the good while you can.”

Beholder has been part of enjoying the good for several years. Even before she went to the races, Beholder was a source of satisfaction to Fred and Nancy, as well as to daughter Marty Buckner, who does a lot of work with the yearlings at Clarkland.

“When we started to prep the yearlings,” Fred Mitchell said, “Beholder was a star in the ring. She progressed really well, and I’ve never had a yearling handle herself so professionally.”

Having produced a pair of really good horses, Leslie’s Lady is a source of hope every time she foals. Mitchell said the mare “had a May foal this time and we didn’t breed her back because it was late. She has a really nice suckling colt by Scat Daddy. We went back to the Storm Cat line because it had worked before with both Into Mischief and Beholder.”

Breeding a filly as good as Beholder is a rare thing, but Mitchell said that “it’s something we work for, dream of, and don’t never expect to happen.”

And yet it did.

breeders keep circling back to curlin


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Curlin is a like a great chestnut shark: basking in the sun, looking good, taking it easy, nothing to worry about here. Then, bang! He gets you.

The two-time Horse of the Year got his latest graded stakes winner Aug. 16 when 2-year-old Exaggerator swept from last to first in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special to win by three-quarters of a length from the favored Saratoga Mischief (by Into Mischief) in 1:16.39 for 6 1/2 furlongs.

Bred in Kentucky by Joseph B. Murphy, Exaggerator is out of the stakes-placed Dawn Raid (Vindication). The Saratoga Special winner’s dam is one of four black-type offspring from Embur Sunshine (Bold Ruckus), and Dawn Raid is a half-sister to Canadian champion Embur’s Song (Unbridled’s Song).

Dawn Raid was third in the restricted Fanfreluche Stakes at Woodbine, and her dam was second in the Candy Éclair and Blue Sparkler Stakes at Monmouth, third in the Polite Lady Handicap at Woodbine. Embur Sunshine’s dam was Vevila, an English-bred daughter of The Minstrel (Northern Dancer) and a half-sister to Canadian champion Eternal Search (Northern Answer) and four other stakes horses.

Bred in Ontario by Josham Farms Ltd., Dawn Raid sold to W.S. Farish Jr. at the Keeneland September sale in 2006 for $70,000 and gained her stakes placing in the colors of a Woodford Racing LLC partnership. Consigned to the 2008 Keeneland November sale by Lane’s End, agent, Dawn Raid sold for $50,000 to Murphy, who raced her once unsuccessfully and retired her to breed for 2009.

Murphy said that “we thought there was some value in Dawn Raid as a racing and broodmare prospect, and after the losing race at Turfway, we sent her to Rood & Riddle to evaluate her breathing. They reported back that she was the fastest horse they’d ever seen on a treadmill, and we retired her.”

The mare’s first two foals were winning fillies by Any Given Saturday (Sweet Saturday) and Pioneerof the Nile (Nile Queen), and Exaggerator is Dawn Raid’s third foal.

Murphy said that “for a few years, including 2013, I sent the pregnant mares to John Downes to foal at the property he’s leasing from Overbrook.”

Downes recalled the mare and foal well. He said, “She was a nice mare who produced a good-looking foal. We’ve raised graded stakes winners (not counting Exaggerator) each of the last seasons from our resident boarding mares, which number 15 to 20.

“While the Stoneleigh mares were here,” Downes said, “I was able to arrange a deal for Dawn Raid to go to Curlin, in part because the elder Mr. Murphy was such a fan of the horse. And I had another client wanting to use the stallion, and that made it an attractive deal to breed to him.”

The resulting foal grew up to be a good-looking yearling, and when consigned to the 2014 Keeneland September sale through Warrendale Sales as agent, Exaggerator sold for $110,000 to Big Chief Racing LLC.

Murphy said “the colt had a lot of his mother about him when we were prepping him for the yearling sale. She’s a good-looking, correct, and gentle-natured horse, and he was like that too.”

Dawn Raid has a yearling full sister to Nile Queen; has no foal of 2015, Murphy noted; but is back in foal to Curlin for 2016 on a March 16 cover.

Murphy said “people started calling yesterday after the colt won the race, trying to buy her, and they are really interested, especially when they find out that she’s back in foal to Curlin. My dad doesn’t want to sell her, he’s really into the racing, but we got into this to make money. So I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Whether the mare owners decide to keep or sell, Dawn Raid appears to be the kind of mare who fits well with Curlin, possessing speed and also the ability to race at least a mile.

The breeders’ cycling back to Curlin mimics the pattern that others have followed in using the big chestnut son of Smart Strike. They have used the champion, moved on to other sires, then come back as results have led them to desire more Curlin stock.

From his early returns, Curlin was clearly no sire of juvenile stars along the lines of Storm Cat or Tapit. Not many stallions get a high percentage of top 2-year-old performers, but those who do earn regard in the market for those qualities.

Instead, the champion’s best early racer was 2-year-old winner Palace Malice, who trained on at 3 to improve significantly and become a classic winner in the 2013 Belmont Stakes. Likewise, among the stallion’s stars this season are Curalina (G1 Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks) and Stellar Wind (G1 Santa Anita Oaks and G2 American Oaks). Both improved with maturity and distance.

Now that we have grown accustomed to regarding Curlin as a sire of stock who get better at 3 and who show their form at a mile or more, we have a pair of graded stakes-winning juveniles at Saratoga.

In addition to Exaggerator, on July 24, the Curlin filly Off the Tracks won the G2 Schuylerville Stakes, and she is reportedly training well for the G1 Spinaway.

new york breeding poised for a changing of the guard, like the rest of the country


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In the aftermath of a smashing sale of New York-breds at Saratoga over the past weekend, I see a couple of trends in the breeding industry there. One is the national trend strongly leaning toward Tapit, particularly through his sons. The other is a continuing advance through the quality of dams, which is more subtle.

The influence of Tapit in the breed nationally is approaching that seen with Storm Cat a decade ago and more, and here follows a look at two stallions who are emblematic of the present and future of the Empire State: Freud, a full brother to Giant’s Causeway who has been New York’s leading sire every year since 2008; and Honorable Dillon, a Grade 2-winning son of leading sire Tapit who entered stud in 2015 and proved very popular among breeders in his first season.

Freud: A Star for Storm Cat
Dominance in any field has some subjective qualities, but those who truly dominate also show consistency. They are good, every day and every way, including when they are less than their best.

Consistency of racing stock is one way to assess the importance of Freud to the New York breeding program. The 17-year-old son of Storm Cat and Mariah’s Storm has sired 69 percent starters from foals, 49 percent winners, which places him about 15 percent above the breed norms of 60 and 42. And he has 6 percent stakes winners, which puts him at nearly 100 percent above the breed norm.

Not bad.

Furthermore, the blocky bay has total progeny earnings to date of more than $35 million, with average earnings per runner of $76,252. With stats like those, it is no surprise that Freud is the leading New York-based stallion.

All this is nothing less than what his pedigree promised. As a son of Storm Cat, Freud was a desirable stallion prospect when he went to stud, and being a full brother to international star Giant’s Causeway ensured that the dark bay would get a fair assessment from breeders.

They would not have given Freud the same treatment based solely on his race record. He raced a dozen times, winning only a piddling maiden race at the Curragh. That he also made the third spot in the Group 2 Cork & Orrery Stakes at Ascot was to his credit, even more so when considering that Invincible Spirit and Bahamian Pirate were among the beaten field.

The race record, however, didn’t cut a dashing figure when the time came for him to enter stud. Freud found no favor in the major leagues of breeding, but their loss proved to be New York’s gain.

The stallion translated his own suspect form into consistent athleticism among his offspring, who are rugged enough and game enough to win lots of races. Some of them also show class, and among the stallion’s best runners are G1 winners Giant Ryan and Franny Freud. From his innings at stud in Argentina at Haras La Legenda, Freud has sired good performers like G2 winner Must Go On, who won the Gran Premio Chacabuco at Palermo.

Demand for his offspring has made Freud one of the most popular stallions in New York, with eight yearlings consigned to the New York-bred sale at Saratoga.

Among the more interesting lots are Hips 316 and 480. The first is a half-brother to stakes-placed Make the Moment (earnings of $335,720). He is out of the Silver Deputy mare Pretty Pretty, and his second dam is graded stakes winner Careless Heiress, a winner twice at the G3 level and four times graded placed. The second is out of stakes winner Fly to Me, by former New York stallion Belong to Me (by Danzig). This makes Hip 480 line-bred to Northern Dancer through Storm Bird and Danzig, and the colt’s third dam is the tough stakes winner Nurse Dopey.

Overall, for athleticism and racing enthusiasm, Freud has proven a star for Storm Cat and the New York program.

Honorable Dillon: Growing Impact of Tapit
In the no holds barred arena of stallion competition, there is little fantasizing about what it takes to make a significant sire: winners. Lots of them and the higher the class the better.

Among proven stallions in New York, Freud stands clear. He is an honorable representative of the powerful Storm Cat line, known for its speed, and is a full brother to leading international sire Giant’s Causeway.

In the continuing flux of Thoroughbred breeding, however, the king of the mountain in Kentucky these days is Tapit. There has been a changing of the guard, especially in American breeding, with a continuing shift toward the A.P. Indy line of horses. As a grandson of A.P. Indy, Tapit stands at the head of the class, along with other important sires like Malibu Moon, Bernardini, Flatter, Stroll, and Congrats.

Tapit, however, is the leading sire, and he has proven that as his books improve, his gross earnings and race results have too. And sons of Tapit are horses that breeders want to use.

Not surprisingly, enterprising breeders brought the Tapit son Honorable Dillon to New York and stood him at Rockridge Farm near Hudson, N.Y. They sent him to stud in 2015 with a fee of $5,000 stand and nurse, and breeders nearly trampled the place getting to the stallion.

One of the reasons for the interest in Honorable Dillon is the growing impact of Tapit, who has made himself the leading sire in America with champion juveniles like Stardom Bound and Hansen; classic stock like Tonalist (Belmont), Frosted (Wood Memorial), Careless Jewel (Alabama), and Untapable (Kentucky Oaks); and high-class winners like Constitution (Florida Derby), Joyful Victory (Santa Margarita), Tapizar (Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile), and Zazu (Lady’s Secret).

Rockridge’s owner-manager Lere Visagie said, “Honorable Dillon was so fertile that you could count on one hand all the mares who weren’t in foal after his first 60 days at stud. So we kept adding mares.”

The horse’s appeal is not limited to the strength of his sire. Honorable Dillon is a good-looking horse standing 16 hands. He has the balance and quality we have come to expect from the stock by Tapit, and he is a gray, mimicking his famous sire in color and deportment.

Honorable Dillon is out of the Argentine mare Shy Greeting (by Shy Tom), who was stakes-placed in her homeland. In Argentina, Shy Greeting produced Forty Greeta (Roar), a champion 2-year-old filly and twice winner at the G1 level, including the Estrellas Juvenile Fillies.

Brought to the States, Shy Greeting produced Honorable Dillon, who won the G2 Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream.

The family, although based in Argentina, has some familiar names. The young stallion’s second dam is by top American sprinter Groovy and produced a sibling to Shy Greeting who is the dam of Greco Tom, winner of the G1 Estrellas Juniors Sprint. Honorable Dillon’s third dam is G1 winner Gioconda (Good Manners), the dam of Fayette Handicap winner Good Command.

This is the family of Argentine star racehorse and stallion Farnesio, who was produced by Honorable Dillon’s fifth dam.

leading sire tapit made a huge impression with buyers at fasig-tipton’s saratoga select yearling sale


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America’s leading sire, Tapit, took over the 2015 Saratoga select yearling sale, with four of his first session yearlings bringing a gross of $4,350,000 for an average price that’s just a bit more than $1 million.

The sleek, silvery-gray son of Pulpit entered stud in 2005, and his chief claim to fame at the time was victory in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. Such a victory was nothing to sneeze at, but with dozens of stallion prospects filling slots at farms around the Bluegrass, Tapit was somewhat overlooked.

What was the big deal, anyway? He wasn’t by Storm Cat.

Fifteen years ago, the best thing a stallion prospect could be was “sired by Storm Cat,” with a G1 victory or two on his race record.

For one thing, these sire prospects usually fit the Storm Cat type, which the sales market loved. A powerfully built horse himself with great length through the body, Storm Cat was a power horse who sired the same, and after he proved more than capable of getting winners at the highest level, breeders and buyers drove the market to prize the deep shoulders and massive quarters that were so distinctive in his stock.

In contrast, Tapit is a more balanced horse. On the medium side of large, Tapit and his sons or daughters generally have plenty of muscle, but they don’t look like weight lifters.

I well recall when inspecting foals nearly a decade ago, and Gainesway’s Michael Hernon told me how good the Tapit foals were and urged me to look at them. Right he was. They were smooth, elegant, and tightly muscled little athletes.

Then and now, the Tapit stock are full of activity. They are not dead on a shank when a handler leads them out of a stall to show or walks one up and down a show ring for the umpteenth time.

The stallion’s first foals looked like and acted like little racehorses, and size (wrongly) was the chief knock on Tapit’s early offspring. The foals look like foals, and the yearlings look like yearlings, not 2-year-olds before training.

Buyers and perhaps trainers have had to accustom themselves to the Tapit type, which is notably different from the Storm Cat type, but both are good.

There is a smoothness and quality to the Tapits that suggests a superior type of miler, and plenty can carry their innate speed around two turns.

For instance, Tapit’s son Tonalist won the Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup last year, and the stallion’s son Frosted won the Wood Memorial and then finished second behind American Pharoah in the Belmont Stakes this year.

The classic success of some of Tapit’s stock is important because nearly all of them have speed, that most important quality in top-class Thoroughbreds. But racing 10 and 12 furlongs effectively is a badge of honor and accomplishment that makes Tapit and his offspring much more desirable around the world.

And that was one of the things we saw in the buying at the first session of the Saratoga sale.

At the sale on Monday evening, four of the five lots sold, with only the filly, Hip 24 out of Wow Me Free, being bought back at $950,000. The session’s highest-priced lot went for $2 million to El Capi Racing, a partnership of Venezuelan investors, Hip 34 (out of Appealing Zophie) sold to a partnership of Americans for $1.2 million, and Hip 49 (out of Carriage Trade) was purchased by John Ferguson at $750,000 for Godolphin.

Godolphin, not incidentally, bred and races Frosted, who finished second, beaten a half-length by Texas Red, in the Jim Dandy as his prep for the G1 Travers, and when international racing operations purchase yearlings, they envision them going on to do the grandest things.

They also consider the big picture of breeding and the potential of sons and daughters of Tapit as breeding stock.

Important developments in this regard at the Saratoga sale include Hip 62, a fetching Medaglia d’Oro colt out of graded stakes winner Dancinginherdreams (by Tapit). The colt sold for $500,000 to Todd Quast, agent.

And two yearlings from the only American crop by Tapit’s champion son Hansen were consigned by Crestwood Farm for breeder Kendall Hansen. The filly out of Where Woody Bea (Hip 20) sold for $250,000 to Skychai Racing, and the colt out of Airizon (Hip 29) sold for $200,000 to West Point Thoroughbreds.

More important than the exact prices, both yearlings looked the part as quality racing prospects.

If Hansen’s first-crop performers, or the young racers by Tapit sons like Trappe Shot, Tapizar, and Flashback strike the top, then what we saw Monday night was only the tip of the iceberg in the demand for Tapit.


**The demand for yearlings by Tapit continued on Tuesday evening. The two-day results for the sire are below.











‘hidden’ elements in american pharoah’s pedigree are worth the attention


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In writing about pedigrees, most of the time we concentrate on the major influences. Those horses like Northern Dancer, Raise a Native, or Mr. Prospector who dominate pedigrees and who repeatedly show up in the ancestry of the most famous horses week after week, year after year.

But there are other steeds, some famous and a few scarcely known, who find a home in pedigrees without becoming stars in the firmament of pedigree writing.

Among the horses of this sort in the pedigree of Grade 1 Haskell Invitational winner American Pharoah, perhaps wonderful Lord at War is the best. The Argentine-bred chestnut was a mid-size speed machine, gifted with such early pace that few had the heart to take him on, and yet he had the fluency of stride and the competitive grit to carry his speed up to 10 furlongs.

Bred and raced by Peter and Diane Perkins and then put to stud in Kentucky, Lord at War was not everyone’s cup of tea. Physically, he wasn’t a towering beast with massive muscling. He was more fluid in his motion than most horses, with a light action. And for a horse with such American attributes in speed, he certainly possessed an outcross (ahem, unrecognizable) pedigree.

Now, before Mrs. Perkins clobbers me with a stick for such a comment, Lord at War’s pedigree was only unrecognizable to those who were unfamiliar with international racing, in which the Perkinses were immersed.

In the male line, Lord at War was a grandson of the mighty Brigadier Gerard. Beaten only once, and then with a brilliant bit of riding by Braulio Baeza on English Derby winner Roberto in the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup, Brigadier Gerard did not possess a grand pedigree himself, being by Queen’s Hussar out of the Prince Chevalier mare La Paiva. Once Brigadier Gerard’s racers showed a bit, but not a great deal, breeders skipped along to the next horse, and the ‘Brigadier’ labored as a nearly forgotten sire.

Among his good ones, however, was General, the sire of Lord at War. Sent to stud in Argentina, the Perkinses bred the stallion’s best in Lord at War, who showed high form in his homeland, winning the G1 Gran Premio Internacional Joaquin S. de Anchorena. Transferred to race in the States, Lord at War was trained by Charlie Whittingham and won the G1 Santa Anita and San Antonio handicaps, along with four other stakes. He earned $776,945 from 10 wins in 17 starts, only twice out of the first three.

Sent to stud initially at Walmac from 1986 to 1991, Lord at War was not a straightforward “American” sire. He rarely sired 2-year-old stakes horses, but his stock lasted well, took their racing well, and generally improved when raced on turf. After the first bloodstock depression of the late 1980s, Lord at War moved to the Perkinses’ Wimborne Farm outside Paris, where he spent the rest of stallion career.

Moreover, Lord at War proved that he was a really good sire. He had 47 stakes winners from 382 foals (12 percent), and one of those was La Troienne Stakes winner Star of Goshen, who became the dam of Pioneerof the Nile, now known around the world as the sire of American Pharoah.

Star of Goshen is out of Castle Eight, a daughter of the beautifully pedigreed Key to the Kingdom. A son of the great sire Bold Ruler and the great broodmare Key Bridge, Key to the Kingdom was a useful racehorse. He won the G3 Stymie Handicap for breeder Paul Mellon, then was sold and went to stud at Airdrie Stud in Kentucky.

As a sire, Key to the Kingdom had some very good days, siring European highweight Ma Biche, as well as G1 winners Great Communicator, Louis le Grand, and For Once’n My Life.

His daughter Castle Eight was a winner three times, then produced two stakes winners. Before Star of Goshen had G1 winner Pioneerof the Nile, the more famous of Castle Eight’s foals was Powis Castle (by Rare Brick), who won the Malibu Stakes and more than a half-million dollars.

Star of Goshen’s second dam was Her Native, a winner five times. This daughter of the Native Dancer stallion Kanumera produced Blackened, who ran third in the G3 Falls City Handicap. But from six total foals at stud, four daughters of Her Native produced stakes winners.

Her Native was bred in Kentucky by Pin Oak Stud, like her sire Kanumera. A bay son of champion and leading sire Native Dancer out of the Alibhai mare Believe Me, Kanumera was an ‘almost’ horse for much of his career. He won his only start at 2, then ran second to major winners Dike and King of the Castle at 3, and outran Al Hattab at 4. But all those better efforts came in allowances, rather than black-type races.

So when Kanumera was a 5-year-old, he was a talented and well-bred horse with no evidence of stakes in his record. Then under the training of Johnny Longden, Kanumera won the Harvest Stakes and went to stud, where he met with little interest from breeders.

Sons of Native Dancer weren’t quite scarce in the early 1970s, and many had better qualifications. But a handful of breeders persevered, and Kanumera got a first crop of 11 foals, eight of whom went to the races. All were winners.

And one of them was Her Native.

From that tiny acorn, each generation has improved to Pioneerof the Nile, and his son is a mighty oak who carries on a legacy of greatness.


When published at Paulick Report, one of the comments to this column was from Comrade Tinky, which is reproduced below:

Brilliant article, and I’m delighted the Lord at War was featured prominently. A couple of small notes: Lord at War produced 387 foals; Giant’s Causeway has produced 1867 thus far. *sigh* Progress? Methinks not. Powis Castle was a runner, and was by Rare Brick. The latter was by Rare Performer (by Mr. Prospector), and I have a distinct memory of him. I was at Hialeah in 1981, early in my racetrack education, and Rare Performer, trained by the late Allen Jerkens, was contesting the Tallahassee Hcp. He washed out badly prior to the race, and I expected him to run below form as a result. A little more than one minute eight and three-fifths of a second later, he was heading back to the winners circle, having equalled the track record. It was one of those important learning experiences, as I hadn’t seen him previously, and therefore should not have been so confident that he wouldn’t run to his best. Finally, as I have a clear memory of horse foaled in 1977, am I no longer eligible to be considered a ‘Spring Chicken’?


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