life is good echoes the promise of the new year

The name of the winner of the 2021 Sham Stakes might as well be the year’s motto: Life is Good.

And getting better.

The dark bay son of Into Mischief (by Harlan’s Holiday) had won a maiden on his debut that staggered the speed figure makers, as the colt coasted home by 9 1/2 lengths on Nov. 22 at Del Mar. The sheets and graphs and figs were all very strong on this powerful-looking bay, and Life is Good had been working well and looking good in the meantime.

In the meantime, both the second and fourth in the maiden won by Life is Good have returned and won their maiden specials. Second-place Wipe the Slate (Nyquist) came back on Dec. 26 to win and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 88. On Jan. 3, the fourth-placed Centurian (Empire Maker) made his second start and won by 3 3/4 lengths, going a mile and a sixteenth in 1:44.88. This looks like a key maiden, and more black type is likely to come to its participants.

For his stakes debut on Jan. 2, Life is Good was the 1-to-5 favorite and won the Grade 3 Sham by three-quarters of a length over Medina Spirit in 1:36.63. The second-place finisher had 13 lengths on third-place Parnelli (Quality Road), and Medina Spirit (Protonico) was the peanut butter in a price sandwich among the top three finishers.

Whereas the winner sold for $525,000 at the 2019 Keeneland September sale and Parnelli sold for $500,000 at the same auction, Medina Spirit brought $1,000 at the 2019 OBS winter mixed sale as a short yearling, then resold last year at the OBS June (in July) sale of 2-year-olds in training for $35,000.

As a great breeder once said, “Horses can’t read their pedigrees or their press clippings, and it’s a good thing.”

Although the “thousand-dollar wonder” made a race of it, Life is Good was strong to the end, and the son of leading sire Into Mischief became the 84th stakes winner for the top Spendthrift Farm stallion.

Life is Good was bred in Kentucky by Gary and Mary West, who also bred and raced Maximum Security (New Year’s Day). The Wests’ racing manager, Ben Glass, said: “Life is Good was a really nice colt. We liked him a lot, but the consensus at the time was that the Into Mischiefs wouldn’t go a mile and a quarter. So Mr. West told me to go ahead and put him in a sale.

“We breed enough foals every year that we have to sell some, and we have to sell some of the nicest ones because people notice if the yearlings don’t include some serious prospects. For the nicer horses, we put a proper reserve on them, and if they bring it, they sell. Mr. West told me to put a half-million reserve on the Into Mischief colt,” and he brought $525,000 from China Horse Club and WinStar Farm LLC.

Owned by two of the principals behind Triple Crown winner Justify (Scat Daddy), Life is Good went into training with the man who trained the last two Triple Crown winners, Bob Baffert. The bay colt is now unbeaten in two starts and is poised to race along the same path that 2020 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Authentic (Into Mischief) trod a year ago.

Nor is Life is Good the only Into Mischief colt pointing toward the classics. On the same day and a continent’s width away from Santa Anita, the bay Mutasaabeq (Into Mischief) won the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream, covering the mile in 1:35.98. This was the progressive colt’s third victory in five starts, and it was his first stakes victory on dirt.

After finishing third in the G1 Hopeful last summer, Mutasaabeq had tried turf and won the G2 Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland, then finished unplaced in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf after an eventful trip.

Trained by Todd Pletcher for Shadwell Stable, Mutasaabeq was bred in Kentucky by Black Ridge Stables LLC. He is out of the Scat Daddy mare Downside Scenario, a half-sister to G3 stakes winner Cool Cowboy (Kodiak Kowboy). Winner of a maiden special, Downside Scenario sold to Black Ridge for $250,000 at the 2018 Keeneland January sale when she was carrying Mutasaabeq.

Expectations are that Mutasaabeq will try the classic trail, and he and Life is Good are two more examples of why Into Mischief is such a popular stallion: his racers are fast, enthusiastic competitors and everybody wants one.

Not surprisingly, the dam of Life is Good is already booked back to Into Mischief for a 2021 mating. Beach Walk is in foal to Candy Ride, carrying a colt, and due in the coming weeks. For breeders, it’s simple. Glass said, “We love Into Mischief. We bred three mares to him in 2017, including Beach Walk, and bought a share in him. Then we sold the best one, and if we had to do it again, we’d probably do the same thing.”

charlatan and the chestnut tide are rising

Chestnut coats are not the most common color in the Thoroughbred. Bay, and then dark bay or brown, far outnumber the red-headed wunderkind of the breed, and yet for some reason, there are a considerable number of very high-class racers who are chestnuts. Man o’ War, as well as Triple Crown winners Sir Barton, Omaha, Whirlaway, Assault, Secretariat, Affirmed, and Justify, to name that few, stand out as superb racers with a chestnut coat.

Racing at Santa Anita on Dec. 26 was swept with a flood of three chestnuts getting their first Grade 1 victories. The most famous of these was Charlatan (by Speightstown), who won a division of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on May 2, only to have that prestigious prize removed from his record following the discovery of lidocaine in his system after a routine post-race test.

In the G1 Malibu, Charlatan was making his return to racing after nearly eight months away due to ankle soreness, then the recovery from that, and such was the quality of his competition that the flaming son of Speightstown was not the favorite. That honor went to another impressive son of Speightstown, Nashville, who last flashed his speed with victory in an undercard race at the 2020 Breeders’ Cup.

Nashville broke first and led for a half-mile in the seven-furlong race, being credited with a quarter in :21.81 and a half in :43.95. The surface or those efforts proved tiring enough, however, for Nashville to retire rather quietly to fourth at the finish. Charlatan, a length off Nashville at each of those calls in second, inherited the lead, had four lengths on his competition at the stretch call, and won by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:21.50.

Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC, Charlatan is the second foal and second stakes winner out of the high-class stakes winner Authenticity (Quiet American), who won the G2 La Troienne, as well as the G3 Shuvee at Saratoga, but perhaps more importantly, Authenticity was second in the G1 Personal Ensign, Ogden Phipps, and Zenyatta, then was third in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Shortly after her finish in the Breeders’ Cup for owner Padua Stables, Authenticity was sold at the Fasig-Tipton November sale to Stonestreet for $1.2 million. Her first foal for her new owner was stakes winner Hanalei Moon (Malibu Moon); Charlatan was born in 2017, after his dam had slipped her 2016 pregnancy, but the colt sold as a yearling for $700,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September sale to SF Bloodstock and Starlight West. Charlatan races for those entities, plus Madaket Stables, Stonestreet Stables, Fred Hertrich, John Fielding, and Golconda Stables.

This family traces back to generations of mares bred and raced by Bwamazon Farm, and the colt’s ninth dam is multiple stakes winner Betty Derr (Sir Gallahad III), who was a yearling when her half-brother Clyde Van Dusen (Man o’ War) won the 1929 Kentucky Derby. This is one of the oldest American-bred lines, going back more than 250 years to Selima, a daughter of the Godolphin Arabian.

The other two chestnuts to become Grade 1 winners in the last week of 2020 were fillies: Fair Maiden (Street Boss) and Duopoly (Animal Kingdom). Fair Maiden comes from an exalted female family, as her third dam is Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Status (A.P. Indy), but Secret Status has been deeply disappointing as a producer, with only five winners from 15 foals. Of those, only Dunkirk (Unbridled’s Song) earned black type with seconds in the G1 Florida Derby and Belmont Stakes. She has only one known producing daughter, the Giant’s Causeway mare Code Book, who has five winners from 10 foals, including a minor stakes-placed racer. The first foal of Secret Status, Code Book produced a first foal named Shieldmaiden (Smart Strike), and she is the dam of Fair Maiden.

Fair Maiden is the third foal and second winner for Shieldmaiden; Fair Maiden is the fifth Grade 1 winner for her sire Street Boss. One of two important sons of leading sire Street Cry standing for Darley at Jonabell Farm, Street Boss showed more speed in his racing career than Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, who has eight Grade 1 winners. Interestingly, Street Boss has sired Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia and Arkansas Derby winner Danza, who then finished third in the Kentucky Derby.

The second North American Grade 1 winner for her sire, Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, Duopoly is out of Grade 3 winner Justaroundmidnight, an Irish-bred daughter of the fast, classy sire Danehill Dancer. Both Danehill Dancer and top sire Machiavellian (Mr. Prospector), the sire of Duopoly’s second dam, added quality speed to a line of mares successively sired by English Derby winner Shirley Heights (Mill Reef), English Derby winner Teenoso (Youth), and English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky (Northern Dancer). That’s a very classic line of mares, and the addition of speed has certainly perked up its versatility.

Duopoly is the second Grade 1 winner of 2020 for Animal Kingdom, who is now at stud in Japan. Earlier this year, the 6-year-old Australian-bred Oleksandra won the G1 Jaipur Stakes at Belmont Park. The sire’s third G1 winner, Angel of Truth, won the Australian Derby in 2019.

Duopoly and other daughters of the chestnut classic winner may prove a lasting legacy in the States for the internationally pedigreed Animal Kingdom, who was the son of a Brazilian-bred sire out of a German-bred mare, and no doubt, his stamina and classic quality will be appreciated in Japan’s racing program.

racing offers some rays of joy and optimism after a year of trials

The holiday season is a time of hope, and this year is especially so, as governments and people around the world look forward to a time without a pandemic. Racing is no different.

The sport was one of the bright points of a year that grated on the patience and optimism of millions because the organization and nature of horse racing allowed it to operate with few fans present but with hundreds of millions watching from afar thanks to technology.

Racecourse winners from the past several days have showcased some of the stories and horses that loom as likely pleasures for the coming year. One of the best potential stories is a follow-up to one the sharpest disappointments in two seasons of racing, with the return of the high-quality performer Maxfield (by Street Sense). In 2019, an ankle chip kept Grade 1 winner Maxfield from racing in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile; this year, a condylar fracture kept the dark-coated colt with star potential on the sidelines through the classics.

On Dec. 19, Maxfield returned for his second start of the season, here at the end of the year, in the Tenacious Stakes at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Trained by Brendan Walsh for Godolphin, Maxfield showed the class and early pace to overcome his lack of recent activity and won the Tenacious by 2 1/2 lengths from the promising Curlin colt Sonneman.

In addition to the star quality of Maxfield, owner-breeder Godolphin had a handful of results to cheer about. Highly anticipated among those was the second victory in three starts for the 2-year-old Tapit colt Proxy, who is a son of Grade 1 winner Panty Raid (Include). Proxy had won a maiden on Nov. 26, then returned on Saturday as the odds-on favorite to win his first-level allowance by 2 1/2 lengths.

The colt’s dam, Panty Raid, was a high-class performer in 2007, when she won the G1 Spinster Stakes and American Oaks at 3, then was sold for $2.5 million as a broodmare prospect the following year at the Fasig-Tipton November sale. Now 16, Panty Raid is the dam of stakes winner Micheline (Bernardini), who won the Sorority Stakes at 2, then the Dueling Grounds Oaks this year at 3, when the filly was also second in the G1 Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup at Keeneland.

In addition, Darley had an impressive maiden winner in the juvenile filly Divine Comedy (Into Mischief), who won her second start, going a mile and 70 yards at the Fair Grounds in 1:44.37 to defeat her closest rival by 5 1/4 lengths. Out of the Street Cry mare Via Strata, Divine Comedy is from the same female family as Maxfield that traces to the Storm Cat mare Caress.

One of four stakes winners out of the Affirmed mare La Affirmed, Caress won seven stakes, including three at the Grade 3 level, and is a full sister to the important sire Bernstein, the sire of champion Tepin and the promising young stallion Karakontie, who won the French classic Poule d’Essai des Poulains and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile. Caress is the second dam of Maxfield and the third dam of Divine Comedy.

Another story of note is the continuing success of leading sire Into Mischief; in 2020, he is the sire of Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Authentic, who has since been retired to stud at Spendthrift Farm, where he will stand alongside his famous sire.

In addition to Divine Comedy, Into Mischief had the maiden special winners By George and Prate. Both won on their debut. At Aqueduct racetrack in New York, By George won a six-furlong maiden by 5 1/4 lengths for owners Adele Dilschneider, Claiborne Farm, and Jump Sucker Stable. The owners had purchased the progressive colt out of the Keeneland September sale for $190,000.

Prate, on the other hand, is a home-grown gray colt racing for owner-breeder Juddmonte Farms. Making his debut at the Fair Grounds on Saturday, Prate won by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:09.81, faster than the two six-furlong stakes on the same card.

The Juddmonte colt is out of the gray Exchange Rate mare Vaunting, who was unbeaten in two starts. A full sister to Grade 2 stakes winner Bragging, Vaunting produced Prate as her first foal; the dam has a yearling full brother named Visualize and a weanling half-sister by Kantharos. Prate is the fourth generation of this family bred and raced by Juddmonte.

In addition to Prate, Juddmonte also had an allowance winner at the Fair Grounds on Dec. 18 when the Munnings filly Sun Path won her second race from three starts. Even more important was how the pretty chestnut won. She came to the fore after about three-quarters of a mile and blew the competition into the infield to win by 12 3/4 lengths in 1:42.95 for the mile and 70 yards.

Sun Path is a full sister to Grade 2 winner Bonny South, who also ran second in the G1 Alabama, and they are the third generation of the family bred and raced by Juddmonte.

Judging by the form and the connections, racing fans have a lot to look forward to in 2021.

partners’ purchase of classic prospect brings them a racer of high merit

In winning the Grade 2 Ft. Lauderdale Stakes at Gulfstream Park, Largent became the second stakes winner for his dam and the 34th graded stakes winner by leading sire Into Mischief (by Harlan’s Holiday). Largent had already won restricted stakes, and the Ft. Lauderdale was his step up into the major leagues.

The hefty bay gelding took the rise of competition in stride.

Winning for the sixth time in nine starts, Largent was second in the other three races and now has earnings of $314,470. He was a growthy colt who was unraced at two, then made a pair of starts at three, winning his debut, then finishing second. Off for eight months, Largent returned to win an allowance at Gulfstream and has continued to progress through 2020.

Seth Hancock at Claiborne Farm with Unbridled. The massive Kentucky Derby winner sired Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone, Preakness Stakes winner Red Bullet, Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, Travers winner Unshaded, and a pair of winners of the Coaching Club American Oaks: Banshee Breeze and Smuggler. (Dell Hancock photo courtesy of Claiborne Farm)

A significant part of the reason for his improvement is that during last year’s layoff, Largent was also gelded. Co-owner Randy Gullatt of Twin Creeks Racing said that “Largent was a handful as an early 3-year-old. He’s a strong horse who was a handful in the paddock, was a handful in the morning, and his behavior got to the point of making us ask what sort of racehorse we were hoping he could be. We decided the best thing was to allow him to be the best racehorse possible, and to do that, he needed to be a gelding. He’s a completely different horse now, laid-back and quiet, a push-button performer.”

Bred in Virginia by Lazy Lane Farms, Largent is out of the Unbridled mare Life in Seattle, who won two of her four starts. After finishing fourth in her stakes debut, Life in Seattle retired to stud, presumably due to a physical issue.

As a broodmare, Life in Seattle produced the stakes winner Kona Blend (Dixieland Band) as her first foal, and the now-22-year-old mare’s last reported foal is the 4-year-old Largent, who is her second stakes winner and first graded stakes winner.

Gullatt noted that “Largent is a really good doer who carries his weight well, and he has been very sound” in training with Todd Pletcher. The Ft. Lauderdale was the fifth victory in seven starts this year for Largent, and he has made significant strides this year toward becoming the quality racehorse that the owners, Twin Creeks Racing and Eclipse Thoroughbreds, envisioned when they purchased him.

Twin Creeks and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners paid $460,000 for Largent at the 2017 Keeneland September sale, the sixth-highest price of the year for a yearling by Into Mischief. He was consigned by Warrendale Sales, agent.

Gullatt recalled, “I thought he was the best two-turn Into Mischief at the sale that year;” most buyers think of speed when they approach a yearling by Into Mischief, but Gullatt was coming from another angle.

“I was thinking of the Unbridled side of his pedigree,” Gullatt said, “and looking at Largent as a classic prospect over dirt. He’s trained well over dirt, but he’s been pulling us toward the turf.” The results of the Ft. Lauderdale indicate there could be further improvement in that regard, as well.

Winner of the 1990 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic, Unbridled (Fappiano) was out of a mare by the French-bred classic influence Le Fabuleux, and Unbridled bred both speed and classic quality. He sired the winners of all the Triple Crown races, as well as the Travers and other major races at 10 furlongs and up.

Furthermore, the second dam of Largent is Life at the Top, one of the very best daughters of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. Life at the Top twice won at the Grade 1 level (Mother Goose and Ladies Handicap), and she produced Grade 3 winner Elizabeth Bay (Mr. Prospector). The third dam is See You at the Top, by Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Riva Ridge (First Landing), and the fourth dam is Comely Nell (Commodore M.), who produced Kentucky Derby winner Bold Forbes (Irish Castle) and his winning full sister Priceless Fame, who became the dam the top English juvenile Dunbeath (Grey Dawn), the unbeaten Grade 1 winner Saratoga Six (Alydar), and his full sister Milliardaire, who became the dam of four-time Grade 1 winner Lakeway (Seattle Slew).

This is a high-class classic family, and “we’ve been patient with him because we’re very confident in him and the ability that we saw at the sale,” Gullatt said. “At the time (of sale) Into Mischief was forcing us into buying one by him.”

Looks like they got a good one.

shuffled juvenile sales schedule doesn’t alter the success of its grads

The sales of 2-year-olds in training could hardly have had a more robust promotion than the results of racing over the weekend. One sales horse from the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s postponed April sale that was conducted in June won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Starlet, while another sold at the auction won the G2 Remsen in New York. In addition, a filly from Fasig-Tipton‘s Midlantic sale at Timonium won the restricted Fifth Avenue division of the New York Stallion Stakes.

A poster pony for in-training sales success, Varda (by Distorted Humor) was a star at the OBS sale held in June (not the OBS June sale that was held in July this crazy year). The progressive filly was an excellent example of her sire’s best sort of prospect, with the strength and speed of a serious athlete. Varda flamed a quarter-mile in :20 4/5 for her under-tack work, and she sold like the star she has become.

Part of the Niall Brennan sales consignment, Varda brought $700,000 from Donato Lanni, agent for Baoma Corp. The dark bay filly has now won two of her three starts, is a Grade 1 winner and Grade 2-placed, and has earnings of more than a quarter-million.

Bred in New York by Masters 2013 LLC and Distorted Humor Syndicate, Varda was a $100,000 yearling at the New York select sale at Saratoga. Then brought to the in-training sales, this filly looked so good and worked so impressively that she generated one of the greatest markups of the resale market in Ocala this year.

In marked contrast, the Remsen winner Brooklyn Strong (Wicked Strong) was a $30,000 weanling at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga fall sale, then was a $42,000 RNA the following year at the same New York-bred select sale where Varda sold for six figures. Brought back to the sales ring two months later in Ocala for the OBS October yearling sale, Brooklyn Strong was an RNA for $6,000 this time. In his final brush with the sales, Brooklyn Strong sold for $5,000 at the OBS spring sale of 2-year-olds in training, held in June.

Brooklyn Strong was hip 359 at the OBS spring sale held in June this year, rather than in April, due to the pandemic. The bay brought the surprisingly low price of $5,000 but is now a graded stakes winner. He sold out of the Coastal Equine sales consignment.

Coming out of the same massive sale, both Varda and Brooklyn Strong became graded stakes winners the same weekend on opposite coasts. The polar difference in their prices was significantly dependent on the appeal of their sires. Whereas Varda’s sire Distorted Humor is the source of classic winners and champions, Wicked Strong (Hard Spun) bred 54 mares earlier this year, as his appeal to owners and buyers began to wane, and the horse was moved to Pin Oak Lane Farm in Pennsylvania in October for the 2021 season.

Brooklyn Strong is his sire’s third stakes winner from two crops of racing age and the first graded stakes winner.

Despite the differences in price and sire power between the Starlet winner and the star of the Remsen, there are also some important similarities. Varda worked like a wonder, and Brooklyn Strong worked quite well, going a furlong in :10 2/5. In contrast to these quick workers, the winner of the Fifth Avenue, Laobanonaprayer, went relatively slow. That filly, by the sensational freshman sire Laoban (Uncle Mo), worked a quarter in :22 3/5, which is plenty quick for racing but not for a sales work. The sales price reflected that, and the big, scopy filly went through the ring for only $15,000 to owner-trainer Daniel Velazquez, who also trains Brooklyn Strong.

One of the reasons that I know so much about these sales horses is my work with DataTrack International, evaluating workouts, strides, efficiency, and athletic potential. One of the measures that DataTrack uses to evaluate horses is a proprietary item called BreezeFigs, which are essentially speed figures for workouts.

Using BreezeFigs, Varda scored a 70, Brooklyn Strong got a 68, and Laobanonaprayer had a 56. Several factors go into the computation of the BreezeFigs, aside from the raw time of the work. Rather than the high speed of the first two, Laobanonaprayer has the rather loping stride of a filly who should be even better going farther; that’s how she won the Fifth Avenue, looping her rivals on the turn and loping past them, then keeping up those big, easy strides as she pulled away to win by eight lengths as the even-money favorite.

Another similarity of these quality racehorses is that each of them showed a stride length that was longer than 24 feet in their works. A really good racehorse has to cover the ground faster than its rivals. To do that, it either has to stride farther or to stride faster. The super-powered sprinters tend to throw in more strides, while the stayers tend to stretch out farther. The ones who can keep it up are the ones who end up in the winner’s circle.

the long, strange journey of bodexpress

The wayward colt who was once known as “America’s favorite maiden” is now a Grade 1 winner after his victory in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 27.

Bodexpress (by Bodemeister) had taken his first experience in a Grade 1, last year in the Florida Derby, so well that he finished second in the race behind eventual division leader Maximum Security, and great things were expected of the handsome bay who had leapt so quickly to national prominence. Breeders, fans, and the colt’s connections shared that optimism.

As a result, Bodexpress trained up to the classics without a start and was still a maiden when he went to the Kentucky Derby. There, he was racing prominently about a quarter-mile from home when taken up sharply as part of the chain reaction from the Maximum Security incident, then was placed 13th in the initial 2019 classic. That placement in an exceptionally rough race did not deter the colt’s connections from trying the Preakness, and Bodexpress heightened the drama by dropping his jock, John Velazquez, at the start, then racing prominently through the rest of the 9 1/2-furlong race.

Riderless but not reckless, Bodexpress did not cause any trouble in the Preakness, just disappointment among his supporters.

The magnificent maiden went to a maiden special for his return in October 2019 and won his first race, then returned to win an allowance and was third in the G3 Harlan’s Holiday in December. Unplaced in the G1 Pegasus World Cup and the G2 Gulfstream Park Mile, Bodexpress then finished third in the G3 Hal’s Hope Stakes at Gulfstream, the Alydar Stakes at Saratoga, and he was second in an allowance at Churchill before killing a field by 11 1/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park West prior to the Clark.

Bred in Kentucky by Martha Jane Mulholland, Bodexpress was sold at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale. Although the good-looking colt went through the ring and was bought back for $45,000, he sold privately shortly thereafter.

John Mulholland recalled that “Bode was a little small, and we had to do a stifle surgery four or five weeks before the September sale. It was bad timing but also drew a knock from vets; so we sold him privately for about the hammer price.”

The buyer was Global Thoroughbreds through J.R. Boyd of Brick City Thoroughbreds, “which took him to Florida for breaking and early training,” Mulholland recalled.

J.R. Boyd said, “I’d liked this colt when I’d seen him at the farm before, and we were a little hesitant to buy a Bodemeister, but we love to shop with the Mulhollands because Martha Jane and John Henry are always up front and candid about their horses, and they raise a really good horse.

“The first reason I wanted to see this colt was that we’d trained his half-brother by Stormy Atlantic,” Boyd said, “and he was a really nice horse. Then, Bodexpress was such a pretty individual who looked like he could become a really good athlete. When I showed Bodexpress to our client at the sale, the owner of Global made the decision to buy the colt. He was that nice.”

Once Boyd and his wife Katie put Bodexpress into training, the colt “was a phenomenal mover, just a really nice colt.” But once again, ill luck showed up.

Boyd said, “We wanted to showcase him, put him in the Fasig sale in Miami or OBS March, but he banged his knee, and when I called Global, they said to be patient, give Bodexpress all the time that the colt needed, and so, Maryland was the spot for him.

“Our clients at Global Thoroughbreds are very game; if there’s a hiccup along the way, they don’t mind racing one, but they do like to offer everything for sale. At the Timonium sale in Maryland, I tried to tell everyone at the sales how good this colt was, but it was almost like Bodemeister had a disease. Nobody wanted one. I told the gentlemen behind the colt that we weren’t likely to get what the colt was worth.

“Their answer to me was: ‘Put a $37,000 reserve, and if someone wants to take him at $40,000, he sells. We want people to know that Global Thoroughbreds is willing to put reasonable reserves and sell their horses.”

The bright bay didn’t sell, shipped home, was given a month to relax from the sale, then shipped to trainer Gustavo Delgado, who’s had the horse ever since.

The good-looking colt never seemed to take things the easy way. He initially missed winning a maiden, although his fourth outing in that condition brought a narrow loss to Shancelot (Shanghai Bobby), who is a Grade 2 winner and finished second in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Bodexpress’s fifth start was the G1 Florida Derby, which appeared to be a giant step up, and there, the luckless colt ran into the buzz saw named Maximum Security.

Mulholland Springs has not participated in the luck of Bodexpress, either. The farm had worked with a pair of yearlings from the mare that “I had liked but not loved,” Mulholland noted, and then the mare had gone barren in 2016 after foaling Bodexpress. So, at the Keeneland November sale of 2017, the farm sold the colt’s dam, the City Zip mare Pied a Terre, for $17,000.

Mulholland said, “She was a nice-looking mare, or I wouldn’t have bought her,” but the commercial market wasn’t very responsive to her foals. So, in foal to the Tiznow stallion Gemologist, Mulholland Springs sold the mare, and the purchaser was the KOID, which exported her to Korea.

On March 28, 2018, Pied a Terre foaled a filly by Gemologist who’s since been named Gangseo Princess, and in 2019, the mare foaled a colt by the Tapit stallion Concord Point and was barren for 2020 on a cover to Take Charge Indy.

Bodexpress is the second Grade 1 winner for his sire, Kentucky Derby runner-up Bodemeister (Empire Maker), after Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, who stood his first season at stud in Kentucky at WinStar Farm in 2019.

In the fall of 2019, WinStar announced the sale of Bodemeister to the Jockey Club of Turkey, and the horse stands at their stud farm outside Istanbul for a fee of 12,500 euros, approximately $15,000.

**Since the publication of this article, trainer Gustavo Delgado announced that Bodexpress had an injury and was retired from racing. Stud plans are not finalized.

with north dakota’s graded stakes victory, starry dreamer lobs another winner through the gold hoop

For the beautifully pedigreed North Dakota (by Medaglia d’Oro), success in the Grade 3 Red Smith Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 21 was like a spring thaw after a long, hard winter.

The 4-year-old colt won his first stakes in the Red Smith and capped a remarkable season in which the racer for the Joseph Allen Stables developed from a seemingly hapless maiden at the New Year tracks to graded stakes winner here in the penultimate month, with four victories from a half-dozen races.

In contrast, North Dakota had contrived to remain a maiden in a half-dozen previous races at 2 and 3 while being one of the most attractively bred horses in training and coming from the Hall of Fame barn of trainer C.R. “Shug” McGaughey.

Bred in Kentucky by Joseph Allen LLC, North Dakota is the 10th and last foal out of Allen’s star producer, the Rubiano mare Starry Dreamer. After the Red Smith, he is also the mare’s fifth stakes winner.

Top sire War Front is a half-brother to North Dakota, the fifth stakes winner out of their dam. War Front, like his sire Danzig, stands at Claiborne Farm. (photo courtesy of Claiborne Farm)

Four of those won graded stakes, including leading sire War Front (Danzig), who stands at Claiborne Farm and is one of the most sought-after international stallions. Starry Dreamer’s other stakes winners include G2 winner Teammate (A.P. Indy), who was also second or third in five G1 races; G3 stakes winner Ecclesiastic (Pulpit), who has been four times the leading sire in Uruguay; and Riviera Cocktail (Giant’s Causeway), who was also twice placed in graded stakes. The mare also produced Jay Gatsby (also by Giant’s Causeway), who was likewise twice placed in graded stakes but did not win one.

North Dakota seems to have progressed in strength and confidence from the first of the year, as well. Just viewing him on the screen, he appeared to have strengthened through the hindquarters and across the back, and there was no hesitation in the colt when jockey Jose Lezcano angled North Dakota out to challenge wide down the stretch.

The dark bay colt kept picking up horses and responded very willingly to the challenge of the towering Red Knight (Pure Prize) in the drive to the wire, and McGaughey noted after the race that “I wouldn’t have thought he would be running in the Red Smith back when he broke his maiden at Tampa,” which came on on March 25. McGaughey added that North Dakota “had been training really well. I thought he had a big chance today. He’s got the pedigree to do it and wants a distance of ground. Jose is a patient guy, and I said just take your time with him.”

Patience has paid off for all parties, and the colt is the greatest beneficiary. If there is further improvement in him, next season should offer some tempting options for a horse who wants to race 10 furlongs or longer on turf, and with his relations, someone will want to give him a chance at stud. If that happened, he would be the seventh son of Starry Dreamer to become a stallion.

A foal of 1994, Starry Dreamer was bred in Kentucky by Charles Nuckols & Sons from the first crop by champion sprinter Rubiano (Fappiano). Racing for Russell Reineman, she became the sire’s first stakes winner with her victory in the 1996 Gold Digger Stakes at Hawthorne.

In April of 1997, Joe Allen acquired the filly privately, and she won the Palisades Stakes and Regret Stakes in her first two starts for him. In all, the gray won six of 31 starts, earning $564,789.

Retired to be a broodmare at Claiborne Farm, where Allen keeps his bloodstock, Starry Dreamer produced four stakes winners from her first four foals. Chronologically, they were Ecclesiastic, War Front, Teammate, and then Riviera Cocktail (who is a double post-barren, born after two barren years).

A couple of Storm Cat duds, one of whom was a $1 million RNA at the 2008 Keeneland September sale, were followed by an unraced Awesome Again filly named Gracie Square. The graded stakes-placed Jay Gatsby indicated that grand mare hadn’t completely mislaid the plans for cooking a good one, and then North Dakota came along as the final foal after an unraced son of Smart Strike.

Both Jay Gatsby, who ran second in the G2 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga and the G3 Knickerbocker at Belmont, and North Dakota are post-barren foals themselves. Research that I conducted several years ago into the foals of mares produced after a barren year showed that the percentage of stakes horses was surprisingly high.

The kink, of course, is that breeders don’t plan barren years. It’s counter-intuitive to try to miss a year with a mare, more especially a very good mare. The mares do that on their own; either their reproductive or immune and endocrine systems need the time off, and they get it.

It is interesting, however, that breeders may get an added benefit when their mare does go barren.

tamarkuz waves the red flag at doubters in his stallion potential

Becoming the seventh freshman sire of 2020 to get a graded stakes winner, Tamarkuz (by Speightstown) also chalked up his first stakes winner with the victory of Red Flag in the Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar on Nov. 15.

Red Flag rolled into contention at the half-mile marker after odds-on favorite Spielberg (Union Rags) and second-choice Weston (Hit It a Bomb) roasted each other with a quarter-mile in :22.73 and a half in :45.34. At the half-mile pole, Red Flag was already at Weston’s throatlatch, and the red colt went on to win by 7 1/4 lengths in 1:23.56 for the seven furlongs.

This was the second victory from three starts by the progressive colt that trainer John Shirreffs described as “not a great work horse in the mornings.” That inclination to dawdle in the mornings contributed to making Red Flag the second-longest price on the odds board, but such will not be the case in the future.

Nor was Red Flag the only longshot who succeeded on Sunday; the immediate success of his sire Tamarkuz was not a given. A handsome son of leading sire Speightstown, Tamarkuz proved his mettle on the racetrack, racing through his 6-year-old season and winning his best race at that age in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, when he had subsequent champions Gun Runner and Accelerate behind him.

With the well-proven stallion son Munnings already to his credit, Speightstown might have been expected to direct strong support for another son at stud, but as the sire of only 29 foals in his first crop, clearly Tamarkuz was not warmly embraced by breeders when the horse went to the breeding shed at Shadwell’s Nashwan Stud. Nonetheless, Tamarkuz is making believers.

For any young sire prospect to be commercially effective, he needs to attract 100 mares or more in his initial book. That general number is necessary for a new sire to have much chance of keeping up with the other top members of any entering stallion crop of the last quarter-century or so.

Yet despite bucking this trend, Tamarkuz now sits in 23rd on the list of freshmen sires, and from 29 first-crop foals, the chestnut sire has 10 starters, five winners, and a graded stakes winner.

Bred in Kentucky by Elaine Macpherson, Red Flag is the second stakes winner out of Surrender (Stormy Atlantic), whom Macpherson purchased through agent Gayle Van Leer for $40,000 out of the 2014 Keeneland November sale. At the time of sale, Surrender was a 5-year-old and was carrying her second foal on a cover to the Tiznow stallion Morning Line. The foal she produced in 2015 was a filly later named Surrender Now, and two years later, Surrender Now won the 2017 Landaluce Stakes.

Red Flag is the mare’s fourth foal and second stakes winner. Sent to the 2018 Keeneland November sale, Red Flag sold for $50,000 to Rosetown Bloodstock out of the Warrendale Sales consignment. Brought to the 2019 Keeneland September yearling sale, the colt resold out of the Eaton Sales consignment for $220,000 to Michael Dorsey and races for Tina and Jerome Moss.

All of Surrender’s four foals of racing age are winners, and the mare has a yearling colt by Tiznow named Tiz Toujours, who was bought back for $23,000 at the 2020 October yearling sale at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky. The mare’s weanling is a colt by first-crop sire Mendelssohn and already carries the name Calm Sea, and Surrender was covered by Catholic Boy in his first season at stud in 2020.

A non-winner from two starts on the racetrack, Surrender has a most distinguished family. By one of Storm Cat’s most consistent sons in Stormy Atlantic, Surrender is out of the Mr. Prospector mare Beaucette, a stakes-placed daughter of the graded stakes winner Mackie (Summer Squall).

Mackie was one of seven stakes winners out of the great broodmare Glowing Tribute (Graustark). The others included Grade 1 winners Sea Hero (Polish Navy), winner of the Kentucky Derby and Travers, and Hero’s Honor (Northern Dancer), winner of the G1 United Nations and Bowling Green, as well as the latter’s full sister Wild Applause.

Wild Applause was the only one of Glowing Tribute’s daughters to carry on in a fashion similar to her famous dam, producing four graded stakes winners: Yell (A.P. Indy), Roar (Forty Niner), Trumpets Blare (Fit to Fight), and Eastern Echo (Damascus).

Although not that successful, Mackie produced a pair of graded winners, the Grade 2 Arlington Classic winner Mr. Mellon (Red Ransom) and Grade 3 winner Seeking the Best (Seeking the Gold). This branch of the family went a bit quiet with Beaucette, but her daughter Surrender has put this branch of the great La Troienne family back in the spotlight again.

Sold out of Marcel Boussac’s stud in France to E.R. Bradley nearly a century ago, La Troienne produced 14 named foals, first for Bradley and then for Greentree Stud after the dispersal of Bradley’s bloodstock. Five of the great mare’s foals won stakes and even more became important producers. From the champions and major performers that her family has produced decade after decade around the world, La Troienne is a touchstone of quality in international breeding.

future stars come out at keeneland and highlight leading young sire nyquist, top proven sire tapit, and the darley at jonabell operation

Future Stars Friday at the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland on Nov. 6 produced a banner day for Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley America at Jonabell Farm.

The stallion division took the bows with freshman sire Nyquist (by Uncle Mo) as the sire of Vequist, who was the winner in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and the broodmare side of the operation scored with the victory of the homebred Essential Quality (Tapit) in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Both 2-year-olds are likely selections at the Eclipse Awards as leaders of their divisions on the racetrack.

Champion juvenile and Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist has an insurmountable lead in the freshman sire rankings of 2020. (photo courtesy of Darley America at Jonabell)

Vequist propelled her sire, champion juvenile colt and Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, to the top of the freshman sire list, where he is virtually certain to stay with almost double the earnings of second-place Not This Time (Giant’s Causeway). The third-place freshman sire is Laoban (Uncle Mo), who was recently purchased and moved from New York to WinStar Farm in Kentucky, where he will stand alongside the fourth-place freshman Outwork (Uncle Mo).

So, three of the top four freshmen are sons of Uncle Mo, and of the six freshmen sires who have sired a graded stakes winner, two are by Uncle Mo (Nyquist and Laoban), and two are by Giant’s Causeway (Not This Time and Brody’s Cause). The other two freshmen sires of graded winners are Hit It a Bomb (War Front) and Texas Red (Afleet Alex).

The most common denominator among the elite half-dozen? All but Laoban were top-class performers at two, four winning a Grade 1 and Not This Time finishing a close second in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to divisional champion Classic Empire.

Later on Friday at Keeneland, the homebred Essential Quality remained unbeaten in three starts with a smooth effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile over Hot Rod Charlie.

Prior to winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Vequist had won the G1 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga and finished second in the G1 Frizette Stakes to Dayoutoftheoffice (Into Mischief), who was second at Keeneland on Friday. Vequist’s record shows two victories from four starts, more than $1.2 million in earnings.

Later on Friday at Keeneland, the homebred Essential Quality remained unbeaten in three starts with a smooth effort in the BC Juvenile over Hot Rod Charlie.

Unlike Vequist, who was the fourth choice at 6.6-to-1, Essential Quality was second choice only to the previously unbeaten Jackie’s Warrior (Maclean’s Music), who was the odds-on favorite at .9-to-1 and finished fourth.

The Juvenile was the second Grade 1 victory for Essential Quality, who had previously won the Breeders’ Futurity, and a 4 1/4 length margin over Jackie’s Warrior probably will push the son of Tapit over the top for the Eclipse. If so, Essential Quality would be the second champion juvenile colt for his sire, who has been three times the leading sire in North America.

The first champion 2-year-old colt by Tapit was Hansen, a handsome and well-balanced gray who went to stud at Ashford, then was sold off to Korea before his first foals had arrived. In 2019, Hansen was the leading sire of juveniles in Korea and second on the overall list to perennial leader Menifee. In 2020, Hansen is currently the leading sire overall in Korea.

Additionally, if Essential Quality gets the Eclipse as champion colt, he would be the first Eclipse Award winner as top 2-year-old colt bred by Darley. Midshipman, a son of Unbridled’s Song and already a G1 winner, was acquired by Darley as part of a massive package deal with the Stonerside operation of Robert and Janice McNair. The colt subsequently won the 2008 Juvenile, the Eclipse Award, and stands at Darley today.

Darley also stands Frosted, a freshman sire son of Tapit, and stood the now-deceased Elusive Quality (Gone West), who is the broodmare sire of Essential Quality through his stakes-placed daughter Delightful Quality.

Seven times second or third in stakes, Delightful Quality earned $253,900, and Essential Quality is the mare’s fourth foal. Her second foal, the unraced Indelible (Tiznow), had sold for $130,000 as a broodmare at the 2019 Keeneland November sale. On Nov. 8, two days after her half-brother won the Juvenile at Keeneland, Indelible resold for $1.6 million, in foal to Nyquist, at the Fasig-Tipton November sale. The young mare brought the 11th highest price of the auction, and the buyer was Nobutaka Tada.

Delightful Quality has a yearling filly by Uncle Mo and was barren this year. She was bred back to Nyquist in 2020 but lost the pregnancy.

Darley bred Delightful Quality and has bred all her foals to date. This mare is a half-sister to champion juvenile filly Folklore (Tiznow), and both are out of the Storm Cat mare Contrive. A blocky and substantial mare greatly in need of scope, Contrive produced a near-carbon copy of herself who became the leading 2-year-old filly of 2005 with a pair of Grade 1 victories, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Shortly thereafter, Darley acquired Contrive for $3 million at the 2005 Fasig-Tipton November sale in foal to BC Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect (Pleasant Colony). Contrive produced nine foals for Darley, and six were fillies, including Divided Attention (A.P. Indy), who won the listed Ladies Handicap and was second in the G3 Tempted Stakes at two.

With the success of Essential Quality, Darley has another top horse from this famous family that extends back to the great broodmare La Troienne. The French-bred La Troienne crowned the family’s roll of juvenile honor with her best son Bimelech, the champion 2-year-old of 1939 and a champion and multiple classic winner the following year.

the phalaris factor at work in the breeders’ cup distaff

The Breeders’ Cup Classic annually draws the most attention from various media and the most betting interest from fans. But the Breeders’ Cup Distaff is a race of premium, if sometimes unrecognized, merit, and this year’s event should be one of the great ones with 2018 champion 3-year-old filly Monomoy Girl (by Tapizar) and 2020 pro-tem champion filly Swiss Skydiver (Daredevil) as the headline racers against a fleet of Grade 1 performers.

Both these outstanding horses share common characteristics. On the most superficial level, they are both chestnuts; both have speed and can carry it at least nine furlongs.

More emphatically, they possess the character and assertive attitudes so common among dominant racers. We have only to watch how each of these elite performers asserts herself through the stretch drive of their races to see that attitude in action.

In terms of pedigree similarities, Swiss Skydiver and Monomoy Girl descend in the male line from Eclipse through Bend Or, thence through Phalaris and his grandson Nearco, and then each is linebred multiple times through the deeper generations of their pedigrees to Phalaris in his various branches.

A foal of 1913, Phalaris was bred and raced by Lord Derby, who then put the dark brown racer to stud and reaped rewards and glories that even the avid admirers of Phalaris could not have predicted.

As a racer, Phalaris was quite a good horse. Strong and athletic, he won 16 of 24 starts, with three more efforts in the money, and he showed both high speed and the brawny determination to carry high weights successfully.

The best-known victories of Phalaris came with a pair of successes in the Challenge Stakes at Newmarket. The horse raced during the great social and economic upheaval of the Great War, during which many of the race meetings around England were suspended, but the English managed to uphold some traditions in the wake of the devastation from across the channel.

In 1916, when Phalaris was three, Lord Derby won the 1,000 Guineas with Canyon, by the Stanley House stallion Chaucer (St. Simon), and Phalaris began his 3-year-old season with a third place in the Craven Stakes, then was unplaced in the 2,000 Guineas. The colt won three races later in the season, then progressed notably in his next two seasons.

When assessing Phalaris’s performances at four, which included carrying heavy weights and giving away chunks to the competition, the Bloodstock Breeders’ Review made the following statement: “Phalaris inspires one with the belief that he is destined to make a great name for himself when he goes to the stud….”

That season, Phalaris won seven races in a row, after finishing second in his seasonal debut, and then lost his final start when unplaced in the Cambridgeshire Handicap.

At five, Phalaris won four of his five starts, at five, six, seven, and eight furlongs, but racing fans wouldn’t recognize the names of those races because of the restrictions on sport. Begun when Phalaris was a yearling, World War I bracketed the horse’s racing career and ended in 1918 after the retirement of Phalaris. Despite the limitations of a racing career during wartime, Lord Derby sent the good-looking horse to his Stanley House stud, where Phalaris stood alongside classic winner and classic sire Swynford (John o’ Gaunt) and his half-brother Chaucer (St. Simon).

Phalaris was an immediate success and led the English sire list in 1925 and 1928. He sired classic winners Manna (Derby and 2,000 Guineas), Colorado (2,000 Guineas), Fairway (St. Leger), and Fair Isle (1,000 Guineas). Lord Derby also bred the classic-placed Pharos, who became a leading sire, getting Nearco among many others. In addition, Lord Derby bred the high-class juvenile Sickle, whom he sold to Joseph Widener to stand at Elmendorf Stud in Kentucky, and his full brother Pharamond, whom Lord Derby sold to Hal Price Headley and who stood at Beaumont Stud.

Sickle is the branch of Phalaris that produced Native Dancer, Raise a Native, Mr. Prospector, and Alydar. Pharamond founded the branch of Phalaris known today mostly through Tom Fool and his great son Buckpasser.

Sickle is the only branch today that holds up as a serious competitor to the dominion of the Nearco branch, which comes to us through Hail to Reason, Halo, More Than Ready; through Nasrullah, Bold Ruler, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, A.P. Indy, and Pulpit; through Northern Dancer, Danzig, Galileo, and many others. Swiss Skydiver is the Hail to Reason branch through More Than Ready’s son Daredevil; Monomoy Girl is Nasrullah’s branch through Tapit’s son Tapizar.

Each of these exceptional racers, like much of their competition, have multiple lines of Phalaris in their extended pedigrees, and like the great founder of this great Thoroughbred family, they have speed, strength, and the determination to win.