pin oak sire alternation gets runaway pocahontas stakes winner serengeti empress in his second crop of racers

For those who hadn’t seen Serengeti Empress (by Alternation) win the Ellis Park Juvenile Fillies by 13 ½ lengths on Aug. 19, the filly’s victory on September 15 in the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs was a revelation. The dark brown 2-year-old won the historic stakes by 19 ½ lengths, the longest margin of victory in a stakes race at Churchill Downs since Rachel Alexandra shellacked her opposition in the 2009 Kentucky Oaks.

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Alternation — high-class racing son of leading sire Distorted Humor has had a super September, highlighted by his juvenile daughter Serengeti Empress winning the Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill by 19 1/2 lengths (Pin Oak photo).

The filly is the fifth stakes winner by her sire, a big dark bay son of leading sire Distorted Humor (Forty Niner), and is from the stallion’s second crop. She is also Alternation’s second graded stakes winner; the first came 13 days earlier when the sire’s first-crop son Limation won the G3 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs.

Those two important stakes winners are coming at an opportune time, as breeders begin the process of deciding which stallions to send their mares to in 2019. With horses like these, Alternation will not be forgotten.

Clifford Barry, general manager for Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stud, which bred, raced, and stands Alternation at stud for a syndicate, said “Serengeti Empress gave us a freakish performance on Saturday. We’ve been pumped up all weekend because it’s very exciting for everybody, including the members of the syndicate who have supported (Alternation) so well.

“This has been a tremendous family for Pin Oak,” Barry went on to say, because both Alternation and the farm’s proven sire Broken Vow (Unbridled) have the Iron Ruler mare Strike a Pose as their third dam. “Mrs. Abercrombie gets a lot of credit for her patience and foresight in working to develop this family,” Barry said, and also full marks because the owner-breeder went somewhat against the current trends of the marketplace, which is hard to do, in standing a nice young horse of her own breeding and racing that fell just a shade outside the “commercial range” for a Kentucky-based sire.

Make no mistake. Alternation was a darned nice horse, winning nine races, including four graded stakes, and earning a bit more than $1 million. Any horse owner would love to have a dozen of those.

Alternation’s best performances came at 3 with victory in the G2 Peter Pan Stakes and then also at 4 with five successes in seven starts, including the G2 Oaklawn Handicap, plus the G3 Pimlico Special and Razorback Handicap.

But that elusive G1 victory essentially was the difference between being a young prospect who had to stand at a fee below $10,000 and getting to start off with a fee that was a multiple of 10. As part of securing Alternation a future at stud, Pin Oak syndicated the horse so that he would have a base of support among breeders.

One of those was bloodstock agent Jacob West, who said, “I was there at Pimlico when he won the Pimlico Special, and that’s literally the reason I bought the share.”

At the beginning of the horse’s second year at stud, West was at the Keeneland January sale “looking for an inexpensive mare that would fit Alternation, and we happened onto the dam of Serengeti Empress.” That was the unraced Bernardini mare Miss Havisham, being sold on by Darley as a broodmare prospect, and West picked her up for $5,000.

Later in 2015 at the Keeneland November sale and in foal to Alternation, Miss Havisham was bought back by her owners Tri Eques Bloodstock LLC for $34,000. That partnership (West, his father-in-law Val Henson, and an uncle of West’s wife) became the breeders of multiple stakes winner Serengeti Empress. The next year, both the dam and her weanling went through the ring at Keeneland November. Again in foal to Alternation, the dam sold to Triple Crown for $12,000, and her foal made twice that valuation, selling for $25,000 to Dixon Enterprises.

Fred Seitz Jr. said, “That’s one of our family entities at Brookdale. We resell probably 10 weanlings to yearlings every year. In selecting them, I prefer something that looks like it’s got some growing to do. There are a lot of finished products at the weanling sales.

“She was kind of awkward-looking at the time, but I thought she might grow up into something nice, and she did. Other times they don’t. [When resold for $70,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September sale as Hip 2471], we thought we got all the money [for her], but it turns out she’s worth a lot more now. The people who have her [owner Joel Politi and trainer Tom Amoss] are going to have a really good time.”

Indeed they are. If Serengeti Empress continues to progress in a similar fashion to her sire and broodmare sire Bernardini, she has plenty of improvement ahead, and that is quite a prospect to contemplate.

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‘more improvement to come’ from spinaway winner sippican harbor

The result of the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga was a positive milestone for second-crop sire Orb (by Malibu Moon), whose 2-year-old daughter Sippican Harbor came from last to first and won the stakes by two lengths.

This filly had won her maiden in masterful style by 17 lengths in her previous start for trainer Gary Contessa and owner Lee Pokoik, and she became her sire’s first G1 winner in the Spinaway.

A winner in good company at 2 who came on strongly at 3 to win the G1 Kentucky Derby, Orb has been one of the most popular young sires with both breeders and buyers at major sales the past couple of years. But the appetite of buyers does not last unless there are immediate top-tier results from a stallion’s racers. As a result, there has been a perceptibly diminishing enthusiasm for the Orb stock through the sales season this year.

That may reverse course now for the handsome bay who stands at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky. In addition to Sippican Harbor, Orb’s second-crop daughter Malocchio dead-heated for second in the Sorority Stakes at Monmouth on Saturday.

Trainer Gary Contessa said the plans for the Spinaway winner are to go “straight to the Breeders’ Cup [Juvenile Fillies]. I’ve run her three times during the Saratoga meet, and I believe the two months to the Breeders’ Cup will suit her well. Her first start was a mile and a sixteenth, and believe me, she should have won. Her second race was rained off the turf, and she won on a wet track at Saratoga by 17 lengths, leading all the way. Then she showed her versatility by coming from dead last in this race and having a big kick through the stretch.

“She relishes distance and will legitimately run all day,” said a trainer who clearly relishes his position for the championship race.

In addition to training Sippican Harbor, Contessa also picked out the filly from the Dromoland Farm consignment at last year’s Saratoga select yearling sale for $260,000, which placed her in the top 20 percent of sales yearlings by her sire in 2017.

Contessa said, “Every year, I buy four or five yearlings for Lee Pokoik to resell, and if they don’t sell, we keep them and race them. I bought her at Saratoga last year, pinhooked her into the OBS March sale, where she brought only a high bid of $110,000. We weren’t going to let her go for that.”

Nor should they. Sippican Harbor had worked really well, getting a furlong in :10 1/5 and showing a stride length of slightly more than 24 feet, plus good internals that scored her a BreezeFig of 74, one of the best figs of the juvenile sales season.

“I thought she worked well,” Contessa said, “and Lee said, ‘We’ll race her.’ Aren’t we lucky to still have her.”

With a filly who will be among the favorites for the BC Juvenile Fillies, the owner and trainer are in an enviable position. Contessa added, “She was a little immature in March, not real big or heavy; you had to look a little beyond the norms to like this filly. I look for a horse that does everything well but doesn’t look that great. She’s been coming to hand ever since she came to the track, and there’s more improvement to come.”

Bred in Kentucky by Justin Spaeth, Kalvert Spaeth, and Equine Equity Partners, Sippican Harbor is out of the Deputy Minister mare Blossomed. Unraced herself, Blossomed is a half-sister to G3 stakes winner Cinemine (Mining) and listed stakes winner Flick (Dehere). The Spinaway winner’s third and fourth dams are stakes winners French Flick (Silent Screen) and Tres Jolie (Herbager).

The fifth dam is the Nasrullah mare Leallah, who was champion 2-year-old filly of 1956 in voting by the Daily Racing Form; the Thoroughbred Racing Association track secretaries placed Romanita as divisional champion that year, with Leallah second.

A deciding factor in the voting was probably the 1956 Spinaway, which Leallah missed because trainer Mack Miller scratched her after expecting the track to be muddy from overnight rains. Last Saturday, her descendant Sippican Harbor went over the muddy track at the Spa and claimed victory.

catholic boy shows his virtue in travers

With a four-length victory in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga, Catholic Boy (by More Than Ready) has taken a serious position among the 3-year-olds of 2018. Although unlikely to depose Justify in the regard of the Triple Crown winner’s legion of racing fans, Catholic Boy is a sound and progressive sort of racehorse who was good last season and is clearly better this year.

As a 2-year-old, Catholic Boy was one of the best young athletes in the country. He won three of his four starts and began his stakes career well with a victory in the G3 With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga, then progressed to win the G2 Remsen Stakes at nine furlongs at Aqueduct in the late fall. The Remsen is primarily regarded by horsemen as an indicator of promise for 3-year-old success over a distance of ground, and Catholic Boy was trained and raced with that plan in mind.

A pair of losses earlier this year, especially a fourth-place finish in the G1 Florida Derby at the end of March, sent the colt and trainer Jonathan Thomas along a different path to their late-season goals. The colt freshened for two months before coming back with successive victories on turf in the G3 Pennine Ridge on June 2 and the G1 Belmont Derby on July 7, before returning to race on dirt in the Travers on Aug. 25.

The Travers became the sixth victory for the bay colt from nine starts to date, and the bay son of More Than Ready now has more than $1.8 million in earnings. The trainer has said that Catholic Boy is likely to have one more start this fall before tackling the best older horses in training at Churchill Downs in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Bred in Kentucky Fred W. Hertrich III and John D. Fielding, Catholic Boy is out of the Bernardini mare Song of Bernadette and is the second G1 winner out of a Bernardini mare. The other is the Uncle Mo colt Mo Town, who earned his G1 brackets with a success in the Hollywood Derby on turf. Like Catholic Boy, Mo Town won the G2 Remsen Stakes at the end of his first season. Mo Town will enter stud at Ashford for the 2019 season.

Bred in Kentucky Fred W. Hertrich III and John D. Fielding, Catholic Boy is out of the Bernardini mare Song of Bernadette and is the second G1 winner out of a Bernardini mare. The other is the Uncle Mo colt Mo Town, who earned his G1 brackets with a success in the Hollywood Derby on turf. Like Catholic Boy, Mo Town won the G2 Remsen Stakes at the end of his first season. Mo Town will enter stud at Ashford for the 2019 season.

Unless something unforeseen occurs, Catholic Boy is expected to race on at 4, with further glory and riches at stake for a sound and athletic performer who is versatile on both dirt and turf and stays 10 furlongs or more well.

As such, he is all that a breeder could hope for in a foal, and Catholic Boy’s breeders chose to sell him as a short yearling (technically a yearling because he had passed Jan. 1 but not chronologically 12 months of age) in the 2016 Keeneland January sale, where the colt was bid in at $170,000. Trainer Jonathan Thomas was present for the sale and reported that he liked the colt quite a lot. After the colt went through the ring, Thomas hustled back to the Taylor Made representative responsible and made a deal to acquire the colt.

It is fitting that Catholic Boy should attain the pinnacle of his career to this point at Saratoga because the Spa has been “berry, berry good” to both the sire and broodmare sire of the Travers winner. In 1999, the early-maturing and fleet More Than Ready (Southern Halo) won his first five starts in a row, beginning with a contentious maiden special at Keeneland in April. The final race, and fourth stakes, in that winning series was the G2 Sanford at Saratoga. And despite a very respectable fourth in the 2000 Kentucky Derby, it appeared the Sanford might be the highlight of More Than Ready’s racing career until the good-looking colt won the G1 King’s Bishop at Saratoga later that season.

Upon his retirement to stud, More Than Ready became one of the best of the pioneering shuttle sires of the time, and he is the sire of multiple champions in both hemispheres, most recently with 2017 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Roy H, the Eclipse Award winner for leading sprinter of 2017. Standing at WinStar Farm between Versailles and Lexington, More than Ready is still an active stallion, and he will shortly be credited with more than 3,000 foals worldwide.

Likewise, Bernardini (A.P. Indy) found success at the Spa during his racing career, winning the G1 Travers in 2006, as well as the G2 Jim Dandy. Subsequently, Bernardini was named the season’s 3-year-old champion. Sent to stud at Darley‘s Jonabell farm near Lexington, the elegant bay has sired two winners of the Travers (Alpha and Stay Thirsty), in addition to Cavorting (Test, Personal Ensign), Rachel’s Valentina (Spinaway), and To Honor and Serve (Woodward).

With the infield canoe painted in the colors of co-owner Robert LaPenta after Catholic Boy’s Travers success, this is a family that really floats your boat at the Spa.

eskimo kisses shows her winning colors in historic alabama victory

Running off through the stretch of the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga to win by 6 ½ lengths, Eskimo Kisses (by To Honor and Serve) looked ever so much like her famous grandmother, Hall of Fame member and classic winner Winning Colors (Caro).

In the spring of 1988, Winning Colors set West Coast racing alight with long-margin victories in the G1 Santa Anita Oaks and Santa Anita Derby. In both races, the gray daughter of Caro led from start to finish and won by 8 lengths in the first, 7 ½ in the second. Her time of 1:47 4/5 in the Santa Anita Derby led to Winning Colors being one of the much-fancied entries four weeks later in the Kentucky Derby. Leading by 3 lengths or more for much of the race, Winning Colors prevailed by a neck in a dramatic finish with the previous year’s champion juvenile colt, Forty Niner (Mr. Prospector).

Later purchased and retired to stud at Gainesway, Winning Colors spent the rest of her life at the famed stallion station and farm on Paris Pike north of Lexington.

Bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Thoroughbreds Ltd., Eskimo Kisses is a tall, scopy chestnut much in the mold of the 1988 Kentucky Oaks winner. The Alabama Stakes winner is out of the non-winner Silver Colors, a daughter of leading sire and broodmare sire Mr. Greeley (Gone West), who stood at Gainesway, and Eskimo Kisses is the second stakes horse out of the dame, along with the stakes-placed Silver Ride (Candy Ride).

The gelding Silver Ride is the first foal from Silver Colors, and Eskimo Kisses is the fourth. In between them are a filly (Tapping Colors) and colt (Tapit High) by Gainesway’s premier sire Tapit; the latter was the sire’s most expensive yearling of 2015 ($2.1 million at the Saratoga select sale). Silver Colors had no foal in 2016.

Silver Colors foaled a filly by Union Rags (Dixie Union) earlier this year and has a yearling colt by Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker (Unbridled) consigned to the 2018 Keeneland September yearling sale as Hip 406. With his half-sister now being a G1 winner, he will have one of the salient updates of the entire catalog. Silver Colors is back in foal to Tapit for 2019.

Two years ago, Eskimo Kisses was a forward and promising yearling from the second crop by multiple G1 winner To Honor and Serve. At the sale, however, Gainesway’s owner, Antony Beck, said that Eskimo Kisses “was not vetted; there was no interest in her, despite the fact that she’s a very attractive and quality individual. So we withdrew her.”

Then, Beck was approached by trainer Kenny McPeek, acting for himself and a group of owners. Beck said, “When a judge of horseflesh as astute as Kenny McPeek asked if he could buy her and whether I would stay in, I was absolutely delighted to do so.”

McPeek said, “I thought she was one of the best fillies in the sale, and I was very happy to be able to purchase an interest in her for my client Harold Lerner” and others. The kink in the filly’s appeal to other buyers, McPeek said, was that “she was too big to be a real 2-year-old sales prospect, and she had a little activity in her knees called ‘lipping,’ that put off some people, I’m sure.

“What I really liked,” McPeek said, “was that I saw a lot of Deputy Minister about her. And to make sure her knees stay quiet and all, I train her like a distance horse, working and racing her slow and steady, and it really works for her.”

Andrew Rosen joined the partnership just before the Kentucky Oaks, and now the partners have a G1 winner who is clearly at her best performing at 9 to 10 furlongs, whether the surface is wet or dry. And Eskimo Kisses is a valuable broodmare prospect for the future due to her athletic ability and distinguished ancestry.

Beck said, “Winning the Alabama with this filly very meaningful to me because my father loved Winning Colors. She was a lovely mare, and physically, Eskimo Kisses takes after her.” Both are sizable, with scope and bone equal to many colts, but with quality to balance their size.

The Alabama Stakes winner is the third generation of this family owned by Gainesway, after Graham Beck acquired the 1988 classic winner and champion 3-year-old filly at auction from the 1989 dispersal of Gene Klein for $4.1 million. Gainesway initially bred sales yearlings from the big, impressive mare, and they sold $5.5 million in sales yearlings from the mare before Winning Colors hit on hard times.

Like many mares will do as they age, the grand old gray began to have trouble with her pregnancies, and from 2000 to 2005, Winning Colors did not have a foal. She was, however, a most distinguished member of the stud, and when she rewarded Gainesway with a pair of fillies by farm stallions Orientate (Ocean Colors) in 2006 and Mr. Greeley (Silver Colors) in 2007, those fillies were retained by the farm for racing and breeding.

By keeping the final two fillies out of the great daughter of Caro, Beck has a first-rate performer who has given him a trophy to pair with the Travers won by Afleet Express (Afleet Alex), so that Gainesway has raced the winners of the two biggest races for 3-year-olds at Saratoga.

best picked a ‘grand’ winner in son of into mischief

A wide-margin victory in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar confirmed the grand-looking bay colt Instagrand (by Into Mischief) is a force of significance among the current 2-year-olds racing on the West Coast, a group which appears freakishly loaded with quality and talent.

In both his debut on June 29 and in the Best Pal on Aug. 11, Instagrand showed speed from the start, controlled the pace and tempo of the race, then pulled away to win by 10 lengths in his debut, by 10 ¼ in the graded stakes. In each race, Instagrand was the odds-on favorite and performed like it.

The powerfully built bay is yet another indication that owner Larry Best (OXO Equine) is doing good work in selecting and purchasing premium racing prospects.

Best buys top-tier stock that look the part, act the part, and that produce on the racetrack. At the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of select 2-year-olds in training back in March, Instagrand breezed a furlong down the stretch at Gulfstream in :10 flat. In doing that, the handsome bay showed a stride length of nearly 25.5 feet, and his efficiency and mechanical function earned him a top ranking as a Group 1 horse for DataTrack International. I know all these details because I am a part of DataTrack, but we did not assess this colt for Mr. Best.

Others were not behind in giving Instagrand high marks, and the son of Into Mischief brought the co-high price of the sale at $1.2 million.

As part of its approach to buy the best, OXO Equine is a major player at the top of the sales market. In addition to the immediate successes of Instagrand, OXO Equine also races the Arch colt Instilled Regard, a winner of the 2018 Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Best purchased the colt for $1.05 million at the OBS March sale of select 2-year-olds in training.

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Into Mischief — the fast son of top sire Harlan’s Holiday has become one of the leading young stallions in the world with stock like as Best Pal winner Instagrand (pic courtesy of Spendthrift).

Best has another impressive juvenile winner, the Medaglia d’Oro filly Brill, who won her debut at Del Mar on July 18 by 1 ¼ lengths. She sold for the top price of $1 million at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton July sale, and at the Saratoga select yearling sale on Aug. 6, Best paid $1.2 million for a filly by 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) out of multiple G1 winner Life at Ten (Malibu Moon).

OXO Equine has already collected a group of good performers and potential stars, but the brightest light of the moment is Instagrand.

Bred in Kentucky by Stoneway Farm, the colt is out of the Lawyer Ron mare Assets of War. A longtime breeder and owner, Stoneway “sells most of its colts,” according to Terri Burch, racing manager for the operation based in LaGrange, Ky., between Lexington and Louisville.

Their introduction to this family was partly due to another longtime owner-breeder, Dreabon Copeland. Burch said, “Dreabon was a dear friend who took (owner) Jim (Stone) and me under his wing so that a good deal of credit in our success goes to him. Dreabon also was a filly man. He taught me how to pick out fillies, and a lot of the farm’s early success we attribute to Dreabon, who had a lot of good sport with his fillies and the families that he developed.”

One of the first fillies that Stoneway acquired was the winner Added Time (Gilded Time), a full sister to G2 stakes winner Added Gold and a half-sister to G3 stakes winner Added Asset (Lord at War). Added Time also brought Stoneway its first top-level victory as a breeder with the filly Irish Smoke (Smoke Glacken), winner of the G1 Spinaway Stakes in 2007.

Stoneway had pursued a reasoned policy of selling the early foals out of Added Time, which included a pair of stakes winners, but those early sales horses also accounted for all three of the mare’s only fillies.

Burch said, “When Added Time was getting a little older and wasn’t giving us girls, we bought Assets of War strictly to get back into the family” because Assets of War is out of Added Time’s half-sister Added Asset, winner of the G3 Arlington Oaks.

Added Time had been a $170,000 2-year-old at the Keeneland sale of 2-year-olds in training back in 1999, and Stoneway purchased Assets of War for $165,000 at the Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale in 2011.

By the champion racehorse Lawyer Ron (Langfuhr), Assets of War is from her sire’s second crop, and Burch said “Assets of War looks like a Lawyer Ron: a lengthy, medium-sized mare with a good hip and a good head. She looks definitely two-turn, not a sprint kind of horse. Kind of a heavy body and good length. Added Time had a heavy body but was a sprinter type; six furlongs was about as far as she could go.”

The mare’s length and strength were assets when mated to leading sire Into Mischief, and the result was Instagrand. The farm still owns the colt’s 3-year-old full sister, Aerial Assets, who is a winner.

Assets of War has a yearling colt by Cairo Prince who is consigned to the Keeneland September sale, where he will sell in the four-day Week 1 book, and the mare has a weanling colt by Frankel’s brother Noble Mission (GB). Earlier this year, Assets of War was bred back to Creative Cause.

stride and power are key to the quality and success of champion good magic

Everything’s coming up Curlin. On July 28, the stallion’s son Tenfold won the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, with the Curlin colt Vino Rosso a flying third in the nine-furlong race, and the next day, last year’s champion 2-year-old colt Good Magic, also by Curlin, won the G1 Haskell by three lengths as the odds-on favorite.

The results of those two races are an indication of the significance tied to Curlin, the best racehorse and best stallion son of the important Mr. Prospector horse Smart Strike. Horse of the Year in 2007 and 2008, plus a winner of the Preakness, Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Dubai World Cup, Curlin was a racehorse of very considerable importance.

One of the best racehorses of the first decade of the new century, Curlin is also clearly now one of the best stallions in the country. He is all the more important because he represents a distinct branch of Mr. Prospector, one that is both quick enough to race well at 2 but is more adept at 3 when racing at distances of a mile and up.

The only other branch of Mr. Prospector to be a serious national actor in the classic scene is the Fappiano stem through Unbridled and his sons Unbridled’s Song, Grindstone, and Empire Maker. From the latter comes the 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who is by the Empire Maker stallion Pioneerof the Nile, also sire of 2016 champion 2-year-old colt Classic Empire.

Curlin has staked out new territory for himself with Good Magic because, although the sire has always had a few promising juveniles like his first-crop classic winner Palace Malice, Curlin’s strength obviously has been with his maturing stock that grow into their typically sizable frames and improve with distance.

Palace Malice was the first indicator of this pattern of development, and the handsome bay improved further at 4, winning four graded stakes from his five starts that season, including the G1 Metropolitan Handicap. Prior to Good Magic, 2016 Preakness winner Exaggerator was probably the best juvenile by Curlin. Winner of the Saratoga Special and Delta Jackpot, as well as second in the Breeders’ Futurity in his first season, Exaggerator improved notably at 3 to win a trio of G1 stakes: the Santa Anita Derby, Preakness, and the Haskell.

Exaggerator offers some important pedigree indicators for breeders hoping to produce speedier and more precocious stock by Curlin. The 2016 Preakness Stakes winner is out of a mare by the Seattle Slew stallion Vindication, an unbeaten 2-year-old champion and winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His sire, Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, was an unbeaten juvenile and divisional champion in the days before the Breeders’ Cup and then continued his unbeaten streak through the 1977 Triple Crown.

This is the male line of Bold Ruler through his son Boldnesian (Santa Anita Derby) and grandson Bold Reasoning (Jersey Derby), which includes a heritage of his speed through its effortless stride. Speed is generated either by stride or by power. The Bold Ruler line, seen in simplest terms, is a stride line, and its most famous exemplar is Secretariat, the perfect stride machine. On the other hand, the Raise a Native line is a power line and generates speed through the leverage and muscularity of its hindquarter propulsion.

The evolution of this branch of Mr. Prospector through Curlin appears to be bearing toward the stride factors that add speed. In addition to Exaggerator being out of a mare by Vindication, other Curlin stakes winners have Bold Ruler-line broodmare sires such as Tapit, Boston Harbor, and Yes It’s True.

Tenfold, for instance, is out of the Tapit mare Temptress, and the handsome bay colt looked the picture of quality in the paddock before the Jim Dandy. A scopy colt with a great length of rein, Tenfold used his stride to great effect, first pressing the pace and then taking over the lead before the three-sixteenths pole to win from early pacesetter Flameaway (Scat Daddy) and the fast-closing Vino Rosso.

One of the excellent qualities of Curlin as a sire is that he appears to be unifying the stride and power elements of his mates to produce more effective and efficiently athletic racers. And that characteristic of his stock is making Curlin one of the most sought-after sires today.

Standing for $150,000 live foal at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm outside Lexington, Curlin is covering large books of ever-improving quality, and the effect of his substance and racing excellence should be felt for years to come.

famed bloodstock adviser made a point that is true and lasting to this day

Over lunch with John Clark at the Thoroughbred Club some years ago, the sage horse trader and pedigree reader gave me a pop quiz.

When he asked, “What’s the most important nick in breeding?” I launched into an esoteric discourse on Nijinsky and Blushing Groom, the marvelous match of Buckpasser and Northern Dancer, and then before I’d reached anything like full speed, he said, “Whoa, young man.”

“You’re making this way too complicated. What Is the nick in breeding and sales?”

Peering over the rim of my tea glass, I ventured, “Northern Dancer and Mr. P?”

Thereupon, he sighed with satisfaction, gave me a grin, mumbled “not bad,” and then firmly stated, “Let’s see if we can give an equal verdict to the chef’s idea of what a hot brown is supposed to taste like.”

The lunch could not have been bad, but it was certainly less memorable than conversing with the breeder-owner-trainer-buyer-seller of Thoroughbreds and legendary teller of tales.

Clark’s maxim about cutting through the brush and seeing the bigger picture of pedigrees, especially the overarching trends in breeding, has lingered with me all these years.

The cross of the legendary sires Northern Dancer, a foal of 1961, and Mr. Prospector, a foal of 1970, earned quick success at the racetrack, drew immediate positive responses in the sales ring, and has lasted robustly over the years.

That each stallion’s pedigree was a basic mirror of the other surely wasn’t a coincidence in their compatibility. Northern Dancer was Nearco over Native Dancer, and Mr. Prospector was Native Dancer over Nearco. Furthermore, the two sires seemed to succeed interchangeably, with Northern Dancer in the male line and Mr. Prospector in the broodmare sire line, or the reverse.

One of the questions that made me wonder, as these two long-lived and wildly popular sires aged through their landmark careers at stud, was how this marvelous match would fare as they receded in pedigrees. When the two most important stallions of the 1970s through the 1990s died and then began to move inevitably farther back in pedigrees, how would their descendants evolve, and would this greatest nick of our time become dulled with overuse?

One of the amazing qualities of this cross is that it keeps on ticking, and it appears that this nick will become one of the pervasive factors in pedigrees of the future.

Consider, for instance, the pedigree of Sistercharlie, a 4-year-old daughter of the Danehill/Northern Dancer-line stallion Myboycharlie and winner of the Grade 1 Diana Stakes at Saratoga. This is a high-class bay filly who last year in France won the G2 Prix Penelope and was second in the G1 Prix de Diane and second in the G1 Belmont Oaks.

Her sire’s pedigree carries the nearly universal inbreeding to Northern Dancer, as well as inbreeding to Native Dancer through his daughter Natalma and son Raise a Native. But the story of Myboycharlie’s pedigree is Pharlaris, especially through Nearco, with special emphasis on his sons Nearctic, Nasrullah, and Royal Charger.

The top half of Sistercharlie’s pedigree looks like it has been hit with buckshot called Nearco.

The tale of the bottom half of the pedigree for Sistercharlie is somewhat different. The Diana winner’s dam is Starlet’s Sister, a 9-year-old daughter of the great international sire Galileo (by Sadler’s Wells) out of Premiere Creation, a mare by Green Tune, a high-class racing son of the important Nijinsky stallion Green Dancer.

So Starlet’s Sister is linebred to Northern Dancer in the male line and broodmare sire line. Even more interestingly, both the sire and dam of Starlet’s Sister are out of mares by Miswaki (Mr. Prospector). The sire Galileo, like his half-brother Sea the Stars and their siblings, is out of the Arc de Triomphe winner and great producer Urban Sea, and the dam Premiere Creation is a G1-placed performer out of Allwaki, a Miswaki daughter who didn’t race and didn’t produce a stakes winner. Nearly the opposite of great Urban Sea.

The big picture of the dam’s pedigree is Northern Dancer (Sadler’s Wells and Nijinsky) over Mr. Prospector (Miswaki). And Starlet’s Sister has an additional Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector in her pedigree; so it is a remarkably balanced repetition of the great cross, and this is likely to become much more common.

nearco x

Nearco – became the influence of greatest lasting importance to bloodlines of the 21st century, especially through his sons Nasrullah, Nearctic, and Royal Charger.

The Northern Dancer-Mr. Prospector cross is so widely dispersed among quality Thoroughbreds that it is difficult to find pedigrees without it, and the coming trend is repetition of the nick, probably numerous times.

Genetically, this would seem to be logical. If the combination of these two great sires produced something of athletic value, then why not double, triple, quadruple it over the generations. The repetitions would suggest the chance of connecting the valuable traits of these important sires and their good descendants. The pattern at least gives breeders something to shoot at.

And as a model of the future, Sistercharlie has five Northern Dancers and a trio of Mr. Prospectors. In greater depth, she has more than two dozen lines of Phalaris, with special emphasis on his grandson Nearco through the latter’s three most persistent sons: Nasrullah, Nearctic, and Royal Charger.

The Phalaris revolution, through the overwhelming tide of Nearco, appears ready to wash the breed into a future state where all the breed is Mr. Prospector, Northern Dancer, and their minions.

nearco x leaving bunker during wwii

Nearco – leaving his bunker during World War II. It boggles the mind to wonder how different things might have been without him.

the green monkey was a striking animal, as well as a sales icon

During the first week of July, the activity and interest in the two 2018 sales at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky obscured the reporting that The Green Monkey had been euthanized earlier in the spring. The record-priced Thoroughbred sold at auction, The Green Monkey has become a footnote in racing history due to his price, and his death was noted because of his status as a marker in sales history.

The bay son of the Storm Cat stallion Forestry will remain in record price lists and sales story leads but eventually will be replaced by another extraordinary sales horse. Yet The Green Monkey was remarkable for two things.

First, The Green Monkey was an uncommonly handsome animal, a striking bay son of Forestry, who in 2006 was a notably promising young stallion by super sire Storm Cat. Not only was Storm Cat then riding the crest of his enormous success and popular sales demand, but his son Forestry appeared to be a major stallion on the horizon. The Green Monkey had the length of body and mass of muscle so frequently seen among the Storm Cat tribe, and he used his talents effectively as a sales horse.

As the evidence of the racetrack proved over time, however, Forestry was only a fairish stallion, more frequently a factor for fragility than sturdiness, despite the large books of excellent broodmares sent to the horse at his base on Taylor Made Farm.

On the racetrack, the best offspring by Forestry was 2011 Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford. The latter was a highly talented athlete who campaigned three seasons for earnings of slightly more than $3 million, plus two additional Grade 1 victories: the Metropolitan Handicap and Clark Handicap.

Interestingly, Shackleford probably exists because of The Green Monkey. The latter is out of a good-looking mare by leading sire Unbridled (by Fappiano), and The Green Monkey sold as Fasig-Tipton’s February auction of 2-year-olds in training in 2006. The Green Monkey, bred on the cross of Forestry mated to an Unbridled mare, made owners of Unbridled mares believe that great things might lie in store for those bred in similar fashion. Shackelford’s dam, the Unbridled mare Oatsee, was sent to Forestry in 2007 and foaled the future classic winner in 2008.

In addition to The Green Monkey’s good looks and effect on contemporary matings, he was also the first sales horse to work a furlong in :09 4/5.

That is much less of a distinction today when literally dozens of young horses breeze that quickly each sales season. Just this spring in Ocala, 16 juveniles at the OBS March sale and 17 juveniles at the OBS April sale each breezed a furlong in :09 4/5.

None of those sold for $16 million; so what made The Green Monkey so special? Partly, it was looks and pedigree, combined with being first on the block with a furlong faster than :10. Also, 2006 was a different time in the world economy, with seven 2-year-olds at the Fasig-Tipton sale alone that brought $1 million or more, and Godolphin, for instance, spent $2 million to purchase a juvenile son of the A.P. Indy stallion Golden Missile. Named Mercantile, he won three races and $83,160.

Godolphin, moreover, was part of the reason that The Green Monkey brought $16 million. The other part of the reason was Coolmore. With Demi O’Byrne bidding for the Irish entity, the two major international operations staged a sumo wrestling match in the sales ring, and it became a contest to see which would push the other out of the ring. Coolmore won the battle of the bucks and sent the colt they named The Green Monkey to Todd Pletcher for training.

In terms of physical looks, work time, and international competition, the purchase of The Green Monkey, and even his record price, made sense of a sort.

But to those of us on the technological side of evaluating 2-year-olds and racehorses, the sale result was dumbfounding because The Green Monkey was what my associate Jay Kilgore calls a “false positive.” The colt certainly ran fast and had a long enough stride length, but he did it all wrong.

All the way down the stretch for his work, The Green Monkey was in a rotary gallop, also known as cross-cantering or cross-firing, rather than the proper alternating gallop sequence of footfalls. As we stood in the racetrack box capturing video of the works, one knowledgeable horseman said, “He’s cross-cantering all the way” and marked him off his list of horses to inspect.

That was the immediate reaction of the people using stride and video analysis of works to select prospects.

the green monkey working ftcald06

The Green Monkey – working a furlong in :09 4/5 that helped to propel him to a record price of $16 million at the 2006 Fasig-Tipton sale of juveniles in training at Calder.

Well I remember, however, standing in the walking ring outside the temporary bidding ring at Calder racecourse, where Fasig-Tipton held its sale at the time, holding a list of a couple dozen of the top performers. About half-way through the sale, a prominent agent that I know came up to chat with me, and he asked whether I was waiting for the sales topper?

He then proceeded to tell me about the Forestry colt, who he contended was going to outsell the two well-fancied Storm Cat colts. I didn’t believe him because I knew that the numbers were all wrong. Nobody told the major players, it seems, and they proceeded to knock each other around with enthusiasm while driving the price through the roof.

The competition and the price made good copy for the equine publications, and The Green Monkey has continued to provide people with something to talk about throughout his life, especially concerning his price. After all, it’s only money.

first yearlings by triple crown winner american pharoah continue the sire’s contribution to the commercial marketplace

Heeee’s back! The first crop of colts and fillies by 2015 Horse of the Year American Pharoah are already yearlings of 2018, and a wee sampling of them were cataloged for the Fasig-Tipton July sale on July 10.

During the horse’s first breeding season in 2016, the 2015 Triple Crown winner covered 208 mares, got 178 in foal, and has 163 yearlings, according to statistics from the Jockey Club online database. In addition, the bay son of Pioneerof the Nile (by Empire Maker) is expected to be the year’s leading sire of yearlings by average and gross, just as he was the leading sire of weanlings when his first foals went through the ring last season.

In 2017, 10 weanlings by American Pharoah sold for an average price of $445,500 and a median price of $387,500. The most expensive of those was a half-sister to Kentucky Derby second Bodemeister (Empire Maker) and thus more desirable for being bred on that same male line. She brought $1 million from Narvick International, agent, at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale.

Nine months farther along, there were a pair of fillies cataloged for the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale, although one was scratched from the offering. The filly set to sell was Hip 131, a Kentucky-bred born on Feb. 3 out of the Yonaguska mare Yong Musician.

This filly is a half-sister to a pair of stakes horses, G1-placed Kingdom Road (Bellamy Road) and G3-placed Co Cola (Candy Ride). The dam is a half-sister to Canadian champion Kimchi (Langfuhr), two stakes-placed performers, and to the dam of multiple G1 winner Mind Your Biscuits.

Like American Pharoah, 2015 champion older horse Honor Code (A.P. Indy) went to stud in 2016, was the second-leading sire of first-crop weanlings in 2017, and has a strong representation of first-crop offspring that are now yearlings. And like the son of Pioneerof the Nile, Honor Code had a single yearling, Hip 264, in the July sale at Fasig-Tipton.

This filly is an Arizona-bred is out of the Buddha mare Hisse, a multiple stakes winner of seven races and  $435,681. Hisse is one of three stakes horses out of her dam, including stakes winner Ahead of Her Time (Leestown), winner in seven of nine starts.

Both Honor Code and American Pharoah earned and received large books of high-quality mares. They are apparently siring stock that has considerable appeal to buyers of racehorses, as well as to their agents and advisers. And we can look forward to seeing many more of the yearlings by these young sires in the upcoming sales at Saratoga and at the Keeneland September auction.

As an indicator of the volume of young stock by these first-crop yearling sires, American Pharoah was bred to 214 mares during the 2017 breeding season, and the results of those matings will be known in coming months. The Triple Crown champ covered another large book of mares at Ashford this season and is in quarantine for transport to Coolmore Australia for the 2018 breeding season in the Southern Hemisphere.

Note: Hip 131 sold for $200,000 to JJ Crupi, agent, and Hip 264 sold for $100,000 to Quarter Pole Enterprises.

insurance to offset the risk of first-year infertility in stallion prospects may be getting more expensive outside kentucky

Stallion farms based outside of Kentucky will no longer easily be able to purchase first-year infertility insurance on stallion prospects that are “lesser-priced horses,” according to well-placed sources with connections to the insurance agencies and stallion operations.

Although not something that’s obvious to the general public, insurance against infertility is one of the nearly invisible layers of business that allows the great bloodstock machine to work smoothly year after year by protecting the investment and confidence of stallion operations and their syndicate members.

First-year infertility insurance is a policy written to protect a farm or buyer “in case you’ve syndicated a horse for major money that somehow has a congenital problem,” said Lynn Jones of Equus / Standardbred Station insurance. “These policies are written so that if a stallion isn’t able to get 60 percent of his mares in foal, then the farm or syndicate isn’t left holding the bag.”

Instead, by going through an insurance agent and underwriter, stallion buyers spread the risk of loss from that inevitability: the subfertile or infertile stallion. To arrange for a policy, Jones said, “You want a qualified vet to do the initial examination. They will measure the testicles, run a blood test, and the result is a huge protection device. But you can’t collect him or have a semen evaluation. Everyone goes in blindfolded, so to speak. It’s so commonplace that it’s now a built-in cost of the acquisition.”

The principal underwriters of insurance policies for horses, whether for accidental death (AD&D) or first-year infertility, are Lloyd’s of London, Great American, and NAS Swiss Re. These are giant international risk underwriters that back the insurance policies that local and national agents sell to farms or individuals.

One agent in Central Kentucky who preferred not to be named said that “Horse insurance, as a percentage of their equity underwriting, doesn’t amount to a rounding error to these major underwriters. But they perceive an elevated risk in regional markets relative to Kentucky and are being more selective.”

None of the selectivity applies to stallion operations in Kentucky because “we can be a little bit spoiled by the horse market and general environment here in the Bluegrass,” one agent said. “This is the epicenter of the stallion market. In regional markets, you can find variation in horsemanship – both in stallion and mare management, as well as in the availability of world-class veterinary facilities and specialists.”

As a result of this change of availability for first-year stallion fertility insurance, some regional breeders will have to make hard decisions about adding stallions to their rosters.

One regional breeder already has collided with this unexpected situation. He said, “Late last year, I bought a stallion prospect off the racetrack, called my Kentucky agent to get a quote for infertility insurance, and was told – eventually – that they had found an underwriter to cover it, but the rate was more than double what I would have paid the previous year.”

A well-known Kentucky agent said “it is likely to be more difficult for farms to insure stallions in the regional programs, but we can still get deals done. They might be more expensive, however, but if underwriters get a run of several years that do not generate claims, then they might change their views.”

One option for farms is to self insure, which essentially means to play the odds that your horse will have normal fertility. And Mark Toothaker of Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky said, “Spendthrift doesn’t insure any of its stallions against fertility loss. We don’t have a single horse on the farm insured. So far, we haven’t had a loss.”

And, despite the reluctance among some underwriters, there will be other underwriters available to service those who want to insure for first-year infertility, according to Jones.

He said, “We’ve been doing this since 1980, and, no matter the individual situation, there are underwriters you’ve been working with will take the time to write a policy for that animal.”

The policy just may cost something more.

This is one more dampening effect on the overall stallion market, which is none too robust outside the Bluegrass. Now, it has one more inefficiency to deal with.