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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then along came American Pharoah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s the consistency breeders dream of.

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

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

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

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

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

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

fappiano’s influence has expanded with time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

top young prospects stretching out as they reach for the classics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stellar Wind (Curlin) takes the Santa Ysabel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fasig’s florida sale provided a cross-section of interesting prospects

[The following was written prior to the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of 2yos in training last week.]

Part of the mystique of the premium sales of 2-year-olds in training is that buyers sometimes see individuals or pedigrees that are rare birds indeed. That occurred last year with the seven-figure colt who went through the ring as hip 83. By leading sire Distorted Humor, the colt is by a stallion who sired Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide in his first crop, and the colt is out of a distinguished racemare who had already produced champion Royal Delta (by Empire Maker).

That is a purely select sale pedigee, and when hip 83 looked the part at the barn, whizzed through a work in head-turning fashion, and cooled out like a champ, the sky was the limit. Al Shaqab Racing purchased the colt for $1 million and named him Khozan.

Now unbeaten in two starts and one of the most impressive performers of the young 2015 season, Khozan has been a poster boy for 2-year-old in training sales and for Fasig-Tipton’s Florida sale in particular. Khozan is the kind of horse that Fasig-Tipton would love to sell by the dozen, if they existed.

That horses are so nice-looking, well-conformed, and talented makes them special, hard to find, and expensive. For that reason, the sales company has to sift through a lot of talent to find a body of youngsters that offer the qualities that buyers at the juvenile sales find exciting. And for those reasons, the sales companies come up with offerings that are not everyday items.

For the 2015 version of the Florida Sale, Fasig-Tipton has young stock by the best sires in the country: Tapit, Malibu Moon, Awesome Again, Distorted Humor, Bernardini, Giant’s Causeway, Unbridled’s Song, and Street Cry. The sales company also has some less-common sires with offerings in their Florida sale.

Chief among the uncommon offerings are 2-year-olds by European super-sire Galileo, the well-regarded English-based sire Dansili, the Australian star stallion Lonhro, and a couple of juvies by War Front, probably the most desirable American-based sire in the eyes of European buyers. The Galileo colt is an Irish-bred who was born March 28 and is out of the Danehill mare Glass Slipper. She is a full sister to the very fast and talented racer Danehill Dancer, who became an important sire for Coolmore in Ireland.

The bay colt has an equally fascinating pedigree. He is linebred to Northern Dancer through Sadler’s Wells and Danzig, and there are six lines of Northern Dancer’s broodmare sire, the great racer and sire Native Dancer, in the first six generations of the pedigree.

This colt is Hip 19, consigned by DeMeric Sales for Golden Legacy, and there is another lot with some similar qualities: Hip 174, consigned by Thomas & Casse for JSM Equine LLC. Hip 174 is a filly bred in France and by the Danehill stallion Dansili out of the Sadler’s Wells mare Epopee. She is a full sister to G2 winner Testosterone, who was also second in the G1 Prix Vermeille. The filly’s pedigree is a reversal of the colt’s, with Danehill/Danzig over Sadler’s Wells, but there is similarity besides. There are four lines of Northern Dancer in the filly’s pedigree, plus a fifth line of Natalma, the dam of Northern Dancer, and two more lines of her sire, Native Dancer.

*Please note: Of the two juveniles mentioned above, the Galileo colt and the Dansili filly were both declared out of the sale and did not go through the ring.

The colt showed well in his breeze, getting a furlong in :10 2/5 with a stride of about 24.5 feet, but the filly did not have a breeze.

For complete results of the Florida sale, please click here.

international star putting sire ‘pegasus’ in flight along the triple crown trail

With a solid success in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds on Feb. 21, International Star proved that he is consistent and game. Only once the favorite in his eight starts, International Star has nonetheless won half of them, including the Lecomte Stakes in January and the Grey Stakes last October, both G3 events.

His sire, Fusaichi Pegasus (by Mr. Prospector), won the 2000 Kentucky Derby with such style that the racing press nearly boxed and mailed him the Triple Crown trophy. They weren’t the only ones mesmerized by the grand-looking bay.

As a yearling, Fusao Sekiguchi had paid $4 million for the brawny son of Mr. Prospector and the Danzig mare Angel Fever. Coolmore had been the underbidder for the colt, and the international breeding and racing giant came back after the Derby and bought the stallion rights in Fusaichi Pegasus for a gazillion dollars. Er, variously, the purchase price was unofficially reported as $50 to $60 million, with Sekiguchi reportedly retaining a minority share.

Whatever the exact figure in that range, the sale made Fusaichi Pegasus the most expensive Thoroughbred sales transaction. Ever.

Nothing has come close to his price since.

Was the feisty, independent, notably talented horse worth it? Not as a racehorse, it proved, because Fusaichi Pegasus finished second in the Preakness, never won a second G1 stakes, and in fact, added nothing more than the G2 Jerome Stakes to his resume later in the year.

With the giant stallion price hanging over his head, Fusaichi Pegasus went to stud at the end of the 2000 racing season and has since been industriously trying to recoup Coolmore’s investment. He’s done a fair enough job of that, I’d say.

From 12 crops of racing age, the horse has sired 1,237 foals, including 37 2-year-olds of 2015. If Coolmore earned $10,000 per foal, and some of those seasons brought in a great deal more than that, Fusaichi Pegasus would have yielded about $12.4 million for those innings at stud, but that is a very low average price per season.

Then there are the Southern Hemisphere matings, which have totaled 707 foals from 10 crops of racing age, and with upwards of 2,000 foals from the stallion, the break-even point on Fusaichi Pegasus’s purchase for Coolmore would be around $25,000 per foal.

The horse has quite probably done a bit better than that. And ponder for a moment what Coolmore would have made if the horse had been a resounding success.

Fusaichi Pegasus has sired some good horses before International Star, who is now the leading nominee for this year’s Kentucky Derby on points, but the sire has not gotten enough performers like this colt to remain in the ranks of elite sires, which he promised to do with his first crop.

Fusaichi Pegasus had his most success as a sire with his first crop, foals of 2002, which included Roman Ruler (Haskell and Norfolk Stakes) and Bandini (Blue Grass Stakes) among 11 stakes winners from that crop. With 12 percent stakes winners from that crop, Fusaichi Pegasus would have been a very serious sire if only he had managed to maintain that trajectory.

He did not, however, and today the burly bay stands for $7,500 live foal at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

Conceived at Ashford, International Star was bred in New York by Katharine Voss and Robert Manfuso.

Voss explained the mating decision for their mare Parlez (French Deputy), the dam of International Star: “Although he’s not overly popular in the commercial market, FuPeg made a lot of sense for the mare. He was good value, had good stats, and has been successful internationally.”

Longtime Maryland breeders and owners, Voss and Manfuso “send everything we breed through the ring,” and that played an important role in their choice of where to foal Parlez. “We were going through some tough times here,” Voss said, “and we thought a New York-bred FuPeg would be worth more than a Maryland-bred FuPeg.” They were right, and when International Star went through the ring at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic’s September yearling sale in 2013, he sold for $85,000 to Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

In addition to practical marketing, Voss and Manfuso liked the Darley stallion Girolamo, a G1 winner by A.P. Indy who was entering stud in New York in 2012. So Voss and Manfuso sent Parlez to New York to foal International Star on March 14, and the following year got a Girolamo filly who subsequently died.

Parlez returned to Maryland and has a yearling colt by Not for Love, was barren to that stallion for 2015, and was bred to Fusaichi Pegasus on Feb. 22.

Now the dam of three stakes winners, Parlez is a granddaughter of the renowned producer Halory (Halo), who was the dam of five graded stakes winners, including Blue Grass Stakes winner Halory Hunter.

Commercially, it would be a bit better if Parlez produced a colt to her cover with Fusaichi Pegasus, but Voss noted that “we’d be perfectly happy with a filly, especially if International Star keeps on going like this.”

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

medaglia d’oro stock grower greater in reputation year by year

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If the rich get richer in human affairs, then the best stallions get bester. And few have enjoyed as good a 2015 as leading sire Medaglia d’Oro (by El Prado), who has at least nine stakes winners in the last six weeks.

On Feb. 14, Golden Lad won the Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park, defeating classics-placed Ride on Curlin (Curlin), and Swinger’s Party finished third in the Wayward Lass Stakes at Tampa Bay. The next day, Gold Medal Dancer was third in the Bayakoa Stakes at Oaklawn.

On Feb. 7, Mshawish won the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on the same day that Valid won the G3 Fred Hooper.

That quintet are all 5-year-olds, and durability is one of the excellent traits that Medaglia d’Oro inherited from his sire El Prado, the most important son of Sadler’s Wells on this side of the pond. In addition, Medaglia d’Oro is known for the class and progressive quality of his offspring.

Many are good-sized, like their sire, and whatever their talent at 2, they become almost uniformly better at 3 and tend to continue showing progress with age.

Of Medaglia d’Oro’s nine stakes winners this year, five are 5-year-olds, and a pair each are 4 and 3. Two are Southern Hemisphere performers from the stallion’s matings at Darley’s stud in Australia.

The 2010 crop is especially interesting because they are the first runners conceived after Medaglia d’Oro had proven himself a notable sire with his first crop of runners, which came to the track as juveniles in 2008.

The stallion’s first-crop leader was none other than champion Rachel Alexandra, winner of the Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Oaks in 2009. Other important performers from Medaglia d’Oro’s first crop include G1 winners Warrior’s Reward (Carter), Gabby’s Golden Gal (Acorn), and C.S. Silk (Just a Game).

The second crop included another Acorn Stakes winner, Champagne d’Oro, and the stallion got his second Kentucky Oaks winner, Plum Pretty, from his third crop. Also in Medaglia d’Oro’s third crop was Marketing Mix, who won a pair of G1 races and earned more than $2 million, second only to Rachel Alexandra among the sire’s leading earners.

The stallion’s highest-profile racers initially were fillies, and as frequently happens, there was a lot of talk about Medaglia d’Oro being a “filly sire.” He certainly is in the sense that his fillies are really good. But … so are his colts.

There is now almost exact parity between the sire’s colts and his fillies in terms of stakes winners, and at the sales, the colts average a bit more than the fillies.

The only “problem” is that Medaglia d’Oro hasn’t sired a colt that has proven as much as Rachel Alexandra. Not many other stallions have either.

To date, with seven crops racing that are age 3 or older (none of the 2-year-olds have started), Medaglia d’Oro has 66 stakes winners, 43 stakes-placed runners, and earners of more than $52 million from 859 foals. Those are some of the better stallion stats available in these days of stallion books teetering toward 200 mares. Medaglia d’Oro has had five crops with more than 100 foals from his first seven, with a high of 156 in 2010 (fifth crop) and a low of 83 the preceding year.

Had Rachel Alexandra and her first-crop siblings not come along bright, beautiful, and fast, breeders would have abandoned Medaglia d’Oro like a smelly sock. The stallion hit the brass ring repeatedly, however, and breeders swamped him.

After beginning his stud career at Hill ‘n’ Dale, where Rachel Alexandra and others were conceived, Medaglia d’Oro moved to Stonewall Stud, and in June 2009, Darley bought the majority interest in the stallion and moved him to Jonabell, where he remains when not shuttling to the Southern Hemisphere.

The stallion’s stud fee has risen notably with the success of his runners and today stands at $125,000 live foal, due when the foal stands and nurses. That makes him one of a handful of sires standing for six figures in America, and two factors could launch the stallion into a higher orbit.

One would be to sire a winner of the Kentucky Derby. Yes, it’s only one race, but it is the race, and getting a winner of the great event makes a lot of difference to a stallion at any level.

The other factor that could notably elevate Medaglia d’Oro’s status is getting a son that makes the grade as a sire. Few stallions do so, and when one does, especially with a good-looking early-crop son, the demand ramps up for his other offspring.

Last summer, Medaglia d’Oro had one of the hottest young sires in Spendthrift’s Warrior’s Reward, whose first runners popped out of the gates and won impressively. Warrior’s Reward has 18 winners to date, and if his offspring prove able to stretch out and improve with maturity, he may become a force in the stallion ranks.

Other sons of Medaglia d’Oro at stud include the highly popular Violence, also a G1 winner, and the stakes winner Atreides. Both stand at Hill ‘n’ Dale.

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

dortmund comes up big

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A great bull of a colt, Dortmund (by Big Brown) showed courage and determination beyond his years or experience to win the Grade 3 Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita. Dortmund led coming into the turn, but Firing Line (Line of David) took the lead coming into the stretch and led by as much as a length. Then, Dortmund dug in and won the race on sheer grit, winning by a head and getting the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.20.

A big and striking colt with a rich chestnut coat, Dortmund is unbeaten in four starts. After winning his maiden and an allowance in November, Dortmund ended his juvenile season with a narrow victory in the G1 Los Alamitos Futurity last year, and the Lewis was the colt’s 3-year-old début.

Bred in Kentucky by Emilie Fojan, Dortmund was bought back for $85,000 as a weanling at the 2012 Keeneland November sale, and then he sold for $90,000 as a yearling at 2013 Fasig-Tipton July. Afterward, the big colt went to Florida for his early training, and he was consigned to the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic auction of 2-year-olds in training in Maryland last May.

Brought to sale by the Breaking Point Farm of trainer Jim Chapman, Dortmund sold for $140,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s auction at Timonium. The well-known bloodstock agent Donato Lanni signed the ticket for the grand-looking colt, who races for Kaleem Shah and is trained by Bob Baffert.

In his breeze for the sale at Timonium, Dortmund ripped a furlong in :10 1/5, which was quick, although some of the sale works went even faster. Not many were as impressive, however.

The colt showed a quickness that belied his size, and he stretched out with enthusiasm down the stretch. His work was a combination of power and exuberance, which translated into some impressive statistics for those of us who watch the juvenile sales workers with interest.

The BreezeFig makers at DataTrack International computed that Dortmund ran with an average speed of 45 miles per hour for his work, and he did it with a stride of more than 26 feet. That was more than three feet longer than the average stride at the sale, and Dortmund was one of the longest-striding horses of the entire juvenile sales season. After transferring to California and coming through his further training with Bob Baffert, Dortmund became a G1 winner by the end of the year and is now widely considered a hot prospect for the classics.

The colt was as impressive back at the barn as he had been on the track at Timonium. Tall and leggy, Dortmund showed scope allied with plenty of muscle for a young prospect. He stood over a lot of ground and walked smoothly and with a powerful extension of his hindleg.

The only knock on Dortmund was size, and some sales inspectors thought he was too big. In fact, Dortmund was so big and powerful that some observers and buyers had reservations about his prospects for a lengthy career and continued soundness. It is, therefore, a credit to the trainer and to the horse’s constitution that Dortmund has progressed so positively through his training and racing to be in a position to challenge for supremacy among the West Coast 3-year-olds.

Dortmund’s fierce challenger in both the Lewis and in the Los Al Futurity has been Firing Line, a hardy bay colt who also came out of the sales of juveniles in training. A winner of a maiden from four races, Firing Line doesn’t sound as impressive on raw career stats, but his last two races have resulted in narrow seconds to Dortmund.

At the in-training sales last year, Firing Line went to auction a month before Dortmund and sold at the Keeneland sale of juveniles in early April. Consigned by Eddie Woods Sales, the neatly made colt worked a quarter-mile in :20 1/5, which was one of the fastest of the day, and Firing Line worked with a stride length of about 24 ½ feet. That’s a really good work time and stride length, but those numbers also indicate just how uncommon the stats associated with Dortmund are.

Ben McElroy purchased Firing Line as agent, and the colt races for Arnold Zetcher, who paid $240,000 for the multiple graded stakes-placed colt.

Both colts are highly talented athletes who are active advertisements for the in-training programs that launch so many contemporary young racehorses. Dortmund and Firing Line emphasized their quality and dominance of the Lewis field by drawing away from their competition by 21 ½ lengths at the finish.

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

pulpit, seeking the gold, and war front tie together claiborne connections

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The stakes over the weekend produced winners who had repeated ties to Claiborne Farm, as the Grade 2 San Vicente winner was Lord Nelson, a chestnut son of farm sire Pulpit (by A.P. Indy) out of African Jade, a mare by leading sire and broodmare sire Seeking the Gold. Lord Nelson defeated last season’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red by a neck in 1:22.15 for the seven furlongs of the San Vicente.

In Kentucky, the winner of one of Turfway’s preliminary stakes preps for the Spiral was the War Front colt The Great War, last seen finishing a respectable fourth in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile behind Texas Red and Carpe Diem. Already the sire of 33 stakes winners and 8 G1 winners, War Front (Danzig) is currently the most popular stallion at Claiborne.

The Breeders’ Cup form is further evidence of the quality that The Great War possesses, and he blew away his opponents at Turfway with a 7 ¼-length victory, going 6 ½ furlongs in 1:18.69 on Polytrack.

Bred by Claiborne, The Great War races for international racing and breeding giant Coolmore, which purchased the colt for $1 million at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale. The bay son of War Front is out of Guide, a daughter of Pulpit. A full sister to stakes winner Laity, Guide won a maiden among her eight starts, and The Great War is her first stakes winner. Guide is out of stakes winner Tour, a daughter of Claiborne’s champion Forty Niner (Mr. Prospector), and two of her siblings produced the major winners Zensational (Unbridled’s Song) and Departing (War Front).

Also winner of the Blenheim Stakes in Ireland, The Great War has won four of his nine starts and is now trained by Wesley Ward after doing his earlier training and racing with Aiden O’Brien at Ballydoyle.

At the same 2013 Keeneland sale, Lord Nelson sold for $340,000 to John Fort and races for Peachtree Stable. The chestnut colt was an outstanding representative for Pulpit, an important stakes winner from the first crop of A.P. Indy who was one early indicator of that stallion’s importance as a sire of racehorses and breeding stock. Pulpit was a high-class racehorse with speed and versatility, and as a sire he had success from the start, with his most important son being the immensely popular Tapit, a fetching gray who stands at Gainesway.

As an individual, Pulpit was a tidy bay of medium size who won four of his six starts, including the G2 Fountain of Youth and the Blue Grass Stakes and was second in the Florida Derby. The Blue Grass was his prep for the 1997 Kentucky Derby, in which he finished fourth behind Silver Charm, Captain Bodgit, and Free House.

At stud, however, Pulpit put his contemporaries in the shade, siring 77 stakes winners so far, and that number will grow. Lord Nelson is from Pulpit’s next-to-last crop, and there are 26 more in the stallion’s last crop, now 2-year-olds.

When Pulpit entered stud in 1998, he took up residence in the famed stallion barn at Claiborne like the great Mr. Prospector (Raise a Native), his important son Seeking the Gold, and Danzig (Northern Dancer), whose influence around the world is even greater than Mr. Prospector’s.

Seeking the Gold was approximately midway in age between the old guard and Pulpit. A top-class racehorse, Seeking the Gold had finished second to Forty Niner in the Travers and to Alysheba in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. At stud, he proved himself an even better sire, getting champion fillies right away. That was just like Seeking the Gold’s broodmare sire Buckpasser, who also stood at Claiborne.

So Seeking the Gold was a hot young sire in 1998, and his international appeal accelerated rapidly over the next couple of years due to the exploits of his son Dubai Millennium. In 1999 and 2000, Dubai Millennium won nine of his 10 starts — including four G1s — and earned nearly $4.5 million.

Sire of 92 stakes winners (10 percent), Seeking the Gold’s fillies tended to fill up his stud record, but it also included top colts like Florida Derby winner Cape Town and Belmont Stakes winner Jazil, but none was better than Godolphin’s great performer Dubai Millennium. Of Seeking the Gold’s sons at stud, the most enduring has been Petionville, but the most influential once again was Dubai Millennium, who died after one season at stud. Dubai Millennium succeeded in getting a son, Dubawi, who has proven himself an outstanding sire in Europe.

Today, Seeking the Gold is still in his old stall in Claiborne’s stallion barn. Age 30, the bay has been pensioned from breeding for several years, but his legacy and influence on the breed live on.

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

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