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.

upstart makes action speak loudest with his victory in gulfstream’s holy bull

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In his 3-year-old début, Upstart (by Flatter) confirmed hopes of continued progress by racing away with the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes by 5 ½ lengths at Gulfstream on Jan. 24. Some of the handicapping organizations put their stamp of approval on the performance by rating the race strongly on speed figures, and Upstart gave the impression that he has come on nicely from his form at 2.

And that form was good.

Winner of a maiden special at Saratoga in his début, Upstart won the Funny Cide Stakes in his second. The dark bay ridgling then challenged the best colts in the East and ran second to Daredevil in the G1 Champagne and more than 15 lengths ahead of fourth-place El Kabeir, who won the Jerome in New York earlier in January.

After that good performance in the Champagne, Upstart was sent to California for the Breeders’ Cup, and he finished third behind runaway winner Texas Red (Afleet Alex) and a nose behind Breeders’ Futurity winner Carpe Diem (Giant’s Causeway).

The Holy Bull was the fifth start and third victory for the New York-bred, who was bred by Joanne Nielsen at her Sunnyfield Farm near Bedford, N.Y. Contacted in Florida, Nielsen was buzzing with excitement over the success and promise of the colt she bred. She said, “Upstart has been such a sound and willing colt that we feel almost giddy with the prospects of what might come next for him.”

Indeed, Nielsen’s planning for this colt began in 2011, when she sent her mare Party Silks (Touch Gold) to Flatter because “the mare is not really big, certainly not 16 hands, and the A.P. Indy stallions tend to be 16.1, not over-big but adding some size to the mating.”

John Grau, Nielsen’s farm manager, said that Upstart was born a dark bay, “looked black, and was foaled on Friday the 13th. So we called him ‘Lucky’ at the farm.”

Nielsen bred Party Silks from the stakes-placed Housebuster mare Intend to Win and retained Party Silks for her breeding program in New York, where she tries to keep eight producers. The breeder noted that Upstart possessed outstanding “muscularity, a good mind, and a confident sense of himself.”

The Holy Bull winner is among 34 stakes winners for the sire, whose progeny is led by G1 winner Flat Out, and is the fifth G2 winner for the good sire Flatter, a son of the grand old sire A.P. Indy out of the Mr. Prospector mare Praise. That makes him a full brother to G2 stakes winner Congrats, a leading freshman sire and a shuttle stallion to the Southern Hemisphere who stands at WinStar Farm in Kentucky, although an attack of colic threw a wrench into his 2015 season. Congrats is now scheduled to leave Australia on Jan. 31 and is expected to begin covering mares around the first week of March.

Retained to stand at Claiborne, Flatter began his stud career at $5,000 live foal, and his book of 95 mares for 2015 is full at $20,000 live foal.

Any horse beginning his tenure as a stallion at $5,000 has something to prove. In Flatter’s case, it wasn’t about pedigree, one of the grandest available, but about racing class and soundness. The massive son of A.P. Indy stands 16.2 and looks like he could pull a train down the tracks.

His size and mass probably played a role in limiting his racing career. Flatter didn’t debut until June 15 of his 3-year-old season, when he was fourth in a maiden special at Churchill Downs. The big bay won his next four races, at 3 and 4, then started in the only stakes of his career, the G2 Washington Park Handicap. Going 1 3/16 miles, Flatter was third to G1 winner Perfect Drift (Dynaformer) and Aeneas (Capote).

Flatter never ran again, but he had shown enough ability and enough class to convince Seth Hancock of Claiborne to bring the horse home and give him a chance at stud. The farm doesn’t often stand horses who aren’t stakes winners; so there was something serious about Flatter that didn’t make it into the record books.

The decision to keep the horse has paid off handsomely for Claiborne, both because the stallion has become one of the farm’s most reliable sources of racing quality and because Flatter has made money for breeders — lots of breeders — at a time when many stallions have been so overpriced that the majority of breeders wouldn’t even clear the stud fees on yearlings brought to market.

For the crop that included Upstart, Flatter stood for $7,500, and his 97 foals from that crop included 42 that sold at auction for an average price of $50,972 and a median of $37,500. Those are the kinds of numbers that once made horse breeding a business.

By any measure, Upstart was one of those yearlings who repaid his breeder for the time and care put into helping the colt fulfill his potential. At the 2013 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred sale of select yearlings at Saratoga, Upstart sold in the top 25 at the auction, bringing $130,000 from Ralph Evans.

Sunnyfield Farm’s John Grau said that “Upstart was a nice foal who progressed into a nice yearling, and while we were prepping the yearlings over our indoor ring, he just floated over the ground.”

The colt presented himself well and attracted a great deal of appreciation among buyers at the New York-bred sale. As a result, Upstart sold for the third-highest price for a yearling by Flatter in 2013.

In keeping with Nielsen’s preference of A.P. Indy sires for this mare, Party Silks has a 2014 filly by the stallion’s son Majestic Warrior and is in foal to Horse of the Year Mineshaft. Party Silks will return to Flatter this year, along with a daughter retained by Sunnyfield.

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

defying the odds: string king becomes a graded stakes winner

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The 7-year-old String King became a graded stakes winner with his victory in the Grade 3 Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap at Fair Grounds racetrack in New Orléans on Saturday.

Previously graded stakes-placed, String King is one of the best Louisiana-breds racing, and he is a grand advertisement for the ruggedness and consistency the breed can produce. Racing successfully from his first season as a 3-year-old in 2011 to the present, String King has been a stakes winner each year, and his current earnings total $818,552.

From 34 starts, String King has won 15 races, including 10 stakes, with eight seconds and three thirds.

There is not a doubt that the bay gelding is a thorough and genuine racehorse and a credit to the breed. Yet if we looked at the odds of producing such a horse, the probabilities would be significantly against. Massively against.

But genetics is a divine sort of crapshoot, and occasionally from horses with few opportunities or with little to recommend their breeding prospects, horses of unexpectedly higher ability will arise.

Foaled on April Fool’s Day in 2007, String King was bred in Louisiana by Charles Smith, also the owner and trainer of the gelding.

Smith was patient with String King, not racing him till May of his 3-year-old season, when he was unplaced. String King won a maiden special in his second start, an allowance in his fourth start, and became a stakes winner in December 2011 with victory in the Louisiana Champions Day Turf Stakes, which he also won in 2012 and 2014.

What String King has shown on the racetrack could not have been expected from his sire and dam. The E.R. Bradley Handicap winner is the third of four live foals out of String Dancer, who was 18 when String King was foaled. String Dancer is by the little-known Irish-bred stallion Fly a Kite.

String King is the only stakes winner out of the dam, who won two races from 14 starts. String Dancer is out of the winner One for Emprey, by English Derby winner Empery (by Vaguely Noble), and the third dam is a nonwinner by the Northern Dancer stallion One for All. Third dam Fashing is a half-sister to stakes winners Bafflin Lil (Baffle) and Justa Little One (Tara Road). They were out of Jet Ahead (Dead Ahead), but those were the only black-type performers in the direct female line.

String Dancer’s sire, Fly a Kite, was by the top-class racehorse and sire Be My Guest (Northern Dancer). Fly a Kite was one of five stakes horses out of his dam, the Never Bend mare Honey Bend, and he may have been the best of the lot. Fly a Kite won 15 races and managed to squeak in for third in the Barksdale Handicap at Louisiana Downs. His half-brother Choco Air (Sassafras) was a modest stakes winner who also ran third twice at the G3 level in Italy.

Fly a Kite sired 56 foals in nine crops, with 24 winners. None were stakes horses.

By contrast, the sire line of String King is pretty darned good.

String King is the best racehorse by the stallion Crowned King, a 15-year-old son of the Mr. Prospector stallion Barkerville. As a racehorse, Crowned King was the typical hard-knocking racehorse, winning five stakes and more than a half-million dollars from 48 starts in four seasons of racing.

Crowned King was the sort of racehorse that trainers love. Such animals race and win and earn. Trainers would love to have a barn full of them. As a stallion prospect, however, Crowned King’s greatest recommendation was that he had testicles.

Otherwise, making him appeal to breeders was a steep climb, and from six crops, the stallion had 25 foals, with seven winners. The only stakes winner for Crowned King is String King.

In essence, String King is the exception to the rule who gives every breeder the option to hope for that great stroke of luck.

Genes and the uncertainties of transmission sometimes defy the odds to result in animals with athletic potential outsize to their antecedents. And for some of those gifted individuals all the stars align and allow them to develop and express that potential. When that happens, anything from good racehorses to great ones, like John Henry, can result.

String King is a credit to the breed, the sport, and to his owner-breeder-trainer who has so successfully brought the horse to this peak of his career.

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

international racehorse ratings are a thorny thicket that provide little clarity or satisfaction

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If the point of rating racehorses is to engender controversy and heated debate, then the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Ratings is a success.

If, on the other hand, the point of such exercises is to inform or to educate, then the WBRR would be something else again.

I confess to be confounded and more than confused about the rankings issued this week, more so if the WBRR wish to be considered “official.”

For that to be so, the logic and consistency of the rankings needs to hold together better.

The WBRR certainly didn’t jibe with my own ratings of the international stars and major performers. That’s not a great issue because few handicappers will rank horses exactly the same, but we ought to be somewhat closer than I felt was the case with the WBRR.

So it was a relief to read the annual rankings just announced by Timeform and to assess some of the rationale for their weights and rankings, which Timeform’s Simon Rowlands commented on in today’s Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.

The peculiar consistency of the WBRR was that winners of certain races seemed to rank highly, while others found no traction. Clearly, someone in the handicapping panel, perhaps more than one, was viewing the racing results through a prism denied the rest of us.

The chief beneficiary of this slanted appreciation was the high-class Japanese horse Just a Way, winner of the G1 Dubai Duty Free by 6 1/4 lengths over Vercingetorix and the G1 Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo. Those were the horse’s sole victories at the top level, and reportedly, the sectional times of his performance at Meydan in the DDF were a principal reason for Just a Way’s elevation to “best horse” in the world.

If we accept that, then where is Vercingetorix in the rankings? Given an approximate 10 pound beating in the DDF, the South African is nowhere to be found on the list, but Grand Prix Boss, beaten a nose in the Yasuda Kinen, is found far down the list at 118, the same as Gentildonna.

This is the same star of racing in Japan who won the G1 Sheema Classic at Meydan and the G1 Arima Kinen at Nakayama, beating both Just a Way and WBRR second-ranked Epiphaneia by a length and a length and a quarter into fourth and fifth place.

To my eye and to my own assessments of the horses, the rankings just don’t add up. Racing in different environments requires somewhat different ability, and assessing the differences is naturally difficult. But even allowing for the difficulty, the variations among horses based in the same country, like Gentildonna, Just a Way, and Epiphaneia, do not make sense.

As an example, why are Just a Way and Epiphaneia rated first and second on the WBRR, 12 and 11 pounds higher than Gentildonna, who defeated both in their final start, the Arima Kinen? Although Just a Way did not have the simplest trip in that race, Epiphaneia had the lead a quarter-mile out. What could be the excuse to rate the mare so far below them?

The WBRR handicappers can offer any rationale to come up with the hodge-podge selection of which horse outranks another, but in instance after instance, the reality of the racetrack trumps the “handicapper’s” magic. I’d gladly take Treve, or Gentildonna, at the weights they assign against the top horses.

And I won’t even begin to get into the differential of California Chrome to Bayern … Kingman, Australia, Treve, and dozens of others.

with victory in the sham stakes, calculator adds to legacy of ocala stud at the 2yo sales

One of the truths made evident every year at the sales of 2-year-olds in training is that racing is about the individual, the burgeoning racehorse in front of you, as he shows his growing qualities both in a breeze before the sale and in physical conformation and manner at the barns.

Instead of pedigree’s paper tyranny at the yearling sales, the premium demand at the 2-year-old sales is for the young prospect who fills the eye, works impressively, and comports himself with distinction at the barn.

As a result, there are young athletes at the juvenile sales who would not earn high credits for pedigree frills but who are such strong and appealing prospects that they bring much higher prices than is common for their sires or dams.

One colt like this is Calculator, who won the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita and who sold at the 2014 April sale held by the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company. Calculator, cataloged as Hip 966, brought $132,000 on a bid from trainer Peter Miller, agent for Richard Pell.

calculator stretches out to win the 2015 sham stakes

calculator stretches out to win the 2015 sham stakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bred and consigned by Ocala Stud,Calculator is by the useful stallion In Summation out of the Alphabet Soup mare Back to Basics.

Ocala Stud stands In Summation, a speedy bay son of the Honour and Glory stallion Put It Back, and the Sham Stakes winner is the sire’s leading representative from his second crop. In Summation has done very respectably with his first and second crops, ranking 12th and 13th nationally.

Those are very solid results for a young sire who is advertised at $2,500 live foal for the 2015 breeding season. In Summation also has considerable appeal in Florida, the home for many of the best sires in this male line, which goes back to Kentucky-based Relaunch, his Florida-based sire In Reality, and his sire, Florida-based Intentionally.

This is the male line of Man o’ War, which has had a dual resurgence over the past couple of decades through In Reality and in particular his son Relaunch, who also sired Cee’s Tizzy, the sire of Horse of the Year Tiznow, now a leading stallion. In addition, Relaunch sired Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Skywalker, sire of champion Bertrando, a leading stallion in California.

The trademark of the In Reality line has been its speed, allied with precocity and class.

A big, progressive-looking gray, Calculator worked a quarter-mile at the OBS April sale in :21 1/5. Calculator stretched out impressively in his work for a stride length of nearly 24.5 feet, and he earned a BreezeFig of 62 for the work.

His professional attitude and robust construction, combined with his good work, made Calculator a popular prospect at the April sale, and he became the top-priced 2-year-old by his sire when Calculator sold for $132,000.

Calculator is the third named foal and second winner out of his dam Back to Basics, a gray daughter of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Alphabet Soup (Cozzene), who is still standing at Adena Springs for the 2015 season.

Back to Basics is the fourth foal out of the Unbridled mare Christy Love, whose first three foals were all stakes winners: G3 winner Atticus Kristy (Atticus), Fiery Dancer (Atticus), and listed stakes winner Distorted Reality (Distorted Humor).

Christy Love also produced stakes-placed Myriad (Ghostzapper), who sold for $575,000 at the 2013 Keeneland November sale in foal to Giant’s Causeway. Also in 2013, Christy Love foaled a bay filly by In Summation.

Since producing Calculator, Back to Basics has foaled a 2013 gray filly by Kantharos (Lion Heart) and a 2014 gray colt by Overdriven (Tale of the Cat).

Like In Summation, those sires offer a great deal of speed and early maturity that are premium qualities for the stock brought to market at the 2-year-old sales. That is the model for producing athletes at Ocala Stud for more than half a century, and enough of them have class to match their speed and become important stakes horses.

We will doubtless be seeing more juveniles from Calculator’s family and sire at the upcoming sales this spring.

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

uncle mo is poised to show what he can do with first crop of juveniles

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Well-represented both by in-foal mares and by short yearlings at this week’s Keeneland January sale, Uncle Mo is the second in a quartet of juvenile champions that Coolmore acquired for its Ashford Stud operation here in Kentucky. All champions at 2 and all by different sires and from different sire-line branches, the four are Uncle Mo (by Indian Charlie, Caro male line), Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike, Mr. Prospector), Hansen (Tapit, A.P. Indy), and Shanghai Bobby (Harlan’s Holiday, Storm Cat).

Champion and classic winner Lookin at Lucky (by Smart Strike) was the first of the four, and his initial racers came to the track last season. Lookin at Lucky finished the season as the third-ranked freshman sire of 2014, and several of his offspring appear likely to improve with time and distance.

Now, Uncle Mo is on deck, and his first crop will be highly anticipated at the premium sales of juveniles in training during the late winter and spring. Then we will see how the first of the stallion’s racers fare at the top tracks against the other hot young prospects of the coming season.

If the past is a guide to the future and to the horse’s prospects as a sire, the offspring of Uncle Mo will begin to progress strongly through the spring, come out to race in the summer and fall, then show their form through the fall. So far, the first-crop yearlings have been very well-received at the select sales of 2014, some of them bringing exceptional prices, even better than their sire.

As a sales horse, Uncle Mo was a good prospect, but as a racehorse, Uncle Mo was a revelation. Unbeaten in three starts at 2, the big, brawny colt was a man against boys with his romps in the G1 Champagne and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Those made him champion of the division, and the great question for the untried stallion is whether his offspring will follow their sire’s example.

The case for Uncle Mo’s success will be helped by the breeding program at Ashford. They get a high volume of mares to their stallions, and Uncle Mo has been one of their most popular. His mates will have a great variety of types and bloodlines, and those which fit him best should become obvious more quickly.

As an individual, Uncle Mo was notably precocious, and that is even more unusual because he is a towering beast of a horse. He is tall, like his tall and toweringly talented sire, Indian Charlie. The latter was the best racer by the very talented racehorse and sire In Excess. This is a line of big horses, horses with size and speed and class.

Uncle Mo is a natural inheritor of this tradition, and his combination of size and mature development proved a lethal combination against the competition. If he manages to pass along the required combination of those, plus class and soundness, then Uncle Mo could challenge for leadership at the top of the freshman sire list.

*The preceding post, in a slightly different form, was first published earlier this week at Paulick Report.

into mischief showing appeal at the sales and in the paddocks

At the Keeneland January sale, the number of mares in foal to a stallion suggests different things, depending on the horse. For instance, some sires in great demand, like Bernardini and Tapit, have only one mare in the first book of the January, and this indicates that nearly all the mares covered by those sires and intended for the sales went through the ring in November.

On the other hand, stallions that would be regarded as more representative of the middle market, such as Midnight Lute, Scat Daddy, and Into Mischief, have the most in-foal mares consigned (12 each for Midnight Lute and Scat Daddy), or the most short yearlings (11 for Into Mischief).

With mares in foal, buyers are looking not only at the mares themselves but also at what they are carrying. Clearly, mares in foal to sires with six-figure stud fees have to bring a hefty price to justify selling them, and only a limited number of buyers operate in that range. But January brings a vast array of middle-market buyers to the ring, and mares in foal to more mid-range stallions attract a great deal of attention from buyers and their representatives.

The same goes for the sires of these first-look yearlings of 2015, and Into Mischief is of particular interest because these yearlings are among the sire’s first offspring conceived after his first racers came to the races in 2012.

Those runners included Goldencents, winner of two races as a juvenile, including the G3 Delta Jackpot, and second in the G1 Champagne Stakes. Also from Into Mischief’s first crop, Vyjack was a stakes winner at 2, then added the G2 Jerome and G3 Gotham early the next season. Goldencents kept the headlines coming with his victories in the Sham and the Santa Anita Derby in the spring of 2013, and their sire’s book swelled to massive proportions.

According to statistics from the Jockey Club, Into Mischief covered 210 mares that season, with 181 pronounced in foal. From those, he got 168 foals (80 percent). Some of those foals were bred on what now would be reckoned bargain stud fees for those who beat the wave of demand for the young son of leading sire Harlan’s Holiday.

And with the unexpected death of his sire and his runners’ continuing success, Into Mischief has become a very appealing prospect for middle and upper-middle market commercial breeders.

In 2015, the big bay will stand for $35,000 at the Spendthrift Farm of owner Wayne Hughes.

With at least nine stakes winners representing the stallion in 2014, Into Mischief has been warmly received at the sales, with multiple six-figure yearlings in 2014. From last year’s foals, now yearlings, the sire had 24 sell in 2014 for an average price of $73,042, with a median of $68,500.

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