honor code wins metropolitan impressively and guarantees himself a significant spot at stud

The Coolmore program earned an extraordinary dividend on Saturday when American Pharoah (by Pioneerof the Nile) became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. Even before the historic accomplishment, however, American Pharoah was assured an elite place at stud because Coolmore had already purchased stallion rights to the colt.

Winning the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown moves up the colt’s fee when he goes to stud in Kentucky at Ashford Stud next year, and it also moves up the purchase price. As reported in the New York Times, the purchase price for the colt was $9.8 million, and it increased by $4 million because American Pharoah won the Triple Crown.

With the acclaim accorded a Triple Crown winner, plus the extra stud fees and greater mare quality, the higher price for a Triple Crown will be worth every penny to the Coolmore operation.

American Pharoah is not the only colt whose stud career took a sharp step up as a result of racing results from Saturday, either.

One of the best-bred colts in training, Honor Code (A.P. Indy), won the G1 Metropolitan Handicap in smashing style and a fast time. As races that “make” stallions go, few have a higher reputation than the Met Mile, which has been won by some of the greatest sires in the breed, including Native Dancer, Buckpasser, In Reality, and Fappiano.

Bred in Kentucky by Dell Ridge Farm and racing for Dell Ridge and Lane’s End Racing, Honor Code is special for a lot of reasons. Not least of these is that the victory in the Metropolitan goes a long way toward fulfilling the hopes held for Honor Code since his juvenile campaign two years ago.

In his maiden victory at Saratoga, Honor Code came from more than 20 lengths behind to win, then finished a sharp second in the G1 Champagne and won the G2 Remsen over the highly regarded Cairo Prince (Pioneerof the Nile).

An injury sent Honor Code to the sidelines for much of his 3-year-old season, and neither he nor Cairo Prince made the Kentucky Derby won by California Chrome last year.

Since returning to the races this season, however, Honor Code won the G2 Gulfstream Park Handicap in March, but then floundered in the Alysheba at Churchill Downs on Derby weekend, finishing 5th in the worst finish of his eight-race career. Well-bred and well-regarded, Honor Code needed to step up in an unequivocal fashion to be widely regarded as a serious stallion prospect for 2016.

The Met Mile made that seem a mortal lock.

Trailing a blazing pace set by last season’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern and G1 winner Private Zone, Honor Code punched his ticket to stud with a sharp finish to win the Metropolitan by three and three-quarter lengths over 2014 Belmont Stakes victor Tonalist (Tapit), another who will be of interest to breeders worldwide for his pedigree and racing record.

After three-quarters in 1:08.74, Honor Code kicked home to win in a time of 1:33.18, with a final quarter of 24.44 to hold favored Tonalist at bay.

The striking dark brown is expected to target major events such as the Whitney, Woodward, and Breeders’ Cup Classic through the rest of the year in preparation for entering stud at Lane’s End next year. With five victories and two seconds from eight starts and earnings of $1.3 million.

And with his pedigree, Honor Code will rightly have a great deal of interest from breeders. He is one of the two last important sons of the great sire A.P. Indy still racing. The other is last year’s Belmont Stakes second Commissioner, and sons of A.P. Indy are among the most coveted stallion prospects available. The sire of important sires like Pulpit and Malibu Moon, A.P. Indy is known as a source of speed that carries a distance, as well as uncommon quality.

Furthermore, Honor Code is out of a storied female family.

His dam is the stakes-winning Storm Cat mare Serena’s Cat, also the dam of G2 stakes winner Noble Tune (Unbridled’s Song), and the mare’s weanling filly by Tapit sold for $3 million at the 2014 Keeneland November sale. Purchased for $1.4 million by Dell Ridge as a weanling herself, Serena’s Cat is a half-sister to G3 winner Vocalized (Vindication) and won the Klassy Briefcase Stakes.

Serena’s Cat is out of the Mr. Prospector mare Serena’s Tune, a winner three times in listed stakes. This makes Serena’s Tune one of five stakes winners out of champion Serena’s Song (Rahy).

A winner of $3.2 million and a winner of 11 G1 races, Serena’s Song was a landmark mare, both on the racetrack and at stud. Her best produce include G1 winner Sophisticat and G2 winner Grand Reward, both by leading sire Storm Cat, who clearly fit well with this family.

With this level of quality and depth in his pedigree, Honor Code might even rival American Pharoah for the attention of breeders if his racing success continues like his results in the Metropolitan.

undrafted proves himself a sharp pick with success in diamond jubilee

With a powerful finish, Kentucky-bred Undrafted (by Purim) won the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes over six furlongs at Royal Ascot. With that victory, the powerful chestnut earned his first G1 success and pushed his earnings past $1 million, with five wins in 20 starts, plus two seconds and eight thirds.

One of the gelding’s five unplaced efforts came last year in the G1 July Cup at Newmarket, when he was fourth in a strong renewal of that top sprint behind European star sprinter Slade Power. In addition to that serious expression of international form, Undrafted was third in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint last November.

So, with form that placed him in the hunt, it was not a surprise for Undrafted to run well in the headline international sprint at Ascot, and at the end of the Diamond Jubilee’s six furlongs raced in 1:12.69 over good-to-firm turf, Undrafted was a half-length ahead of the Australian-bred Brazen Beau. Irish-bred Astaire was a length and three-quarters farther back. Two English-breds were fourth and fifth, then the second Australian was sixth in a field of 15 international competitors.

Perhaps a greater surprise than Undrafted having the class to win at this level is the fact that he has shown his best form at sprints. A gelded son of the Dynaformer sire, Purim, Undrafted would have been pigeonholed as a turf router by many observers, and that is what his dosage profile stoutly says, too, with a dosage index of 1.00 and a center of distribution of 0, which should make him better suited to the Ascot Gold Cup than the Diamond Jubilee.

Well, don’t tell that to Undrafted. He’s a sprinter.

What’s more, a more balanced evaluation of the gelding’s pedigree than what dosage offers would indicate that there are plenty of influences for speed, and the general trend of his ancestors, not just those counted by dosage, indicates that Undrafted has every reason to be a sprinter-miler with a probable inclination for turf.

Voila. The sire Purim showed his best with a G1 success in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, and Purim is out Kirsteena, a daughter of the high-class miler influence Lord at War (ARG), who showed high form at 10 furlongs himself but was more dominant over slightly shorter distances.

Purim’s two best performers, however, show a wide variation in aptitudes. He sired two G1 winners, the Diamond Jubilee winner and Twilight Eclipse, winner of the Man o’ War Stakes at 11 furlongs.

Bred in Kentucky by Catesby Clay at the Clay family’s Runnymede Farm, Undrafted is out of the winning mare French Jeannette, a daughter of the high-class miler French Deputy and Fancy Sheba, a daughter of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Alysheba.

The chief effect of Alysheba in a pedigree, evaluated in hindsight, was to neutralize its speed, and his daughter Fancy Sheba won only a modest race, earning $5,600. She was, however, out of a good mare, Hollywood Lassie winner Native Fancy (Our Native), and Native Fancy produced a pair of graded stakes winners in Wilshire Handicap winner Blushing Heiress (Blushing John) and Anoakia Stakes winner Really Fancy (In Reality).

When bred to the high-class speed of French Deputy, Fancy Sheba produced her two best racers: French Jeannette and her full brother Biko Afire, who earned $609,621 while racing in Japan, where French Deputy was sent after several pretty good seasons at stud in Kentucky.

A $33,000 yearling, French Jeannette progressed so well that she sold for $100,000 at the 2002 Fasig-Tipton February sale of selected 2-year-olds in training, where she showed speed and power that suggested bright things for her racing potential. The buyer was Mike Gill, who campaigned the filly through her 5-year-old season, by which time French Jeannette had earned $137,262. She won a maiden special and was essentially an allowance filly in her five other successes, although she also finished fourth twice in minor stakes at Laurel and Penn National.

Runnymede Farm bought her for $24,000 as a broodmare prospect at the 2005 Keeneland November sale, and Undrafted is the mare’s third foal. All four of the mare’s foals to race are winners, with three having earnings of more than $100,000, including her first foal Financial Crisis (Broken Vow) and Undrafted’s year-younger full sibling Play Hard to Get.

Sent to sizable, even rugged, stallions, French Jeannette produced foals that didn’t attract the interest of the commercial market till Undrafted, who sold for $50,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September sale. To bring such a price, Undrafted had to have all the goods because there wasn’t a stakes performer under either his dam or second dam.

Four years and a million dollars later, a lot has changed.

birdstone: best classic sire in the world for the money?

Who’s the best $5,000 stallion on the planet? Judging by the quality of his top racers, classic winner Birdstone (by Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone) would surely ring the bell.

Sire of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird, Birdstone started like a rocket at stud, with that pair of classic winners in his first crop, as well as Brooklyn Handicap winner Birdrun.

Overall, Birdstone sired seven stakes winners from 67 named foals born in 2006, which is a bit more than 10 percent stakes winners to foals. That good percentage, along with the class they showed, propelled Birdstone past crop leader (by entering stud fee) Smarty Jones (Elusive Quality) by various methods of evaluating stallion success.

Birdstone has not maintained that level of classic success, nor has any stallion. But on Saturday, he added a third G1 winner when Noble Bird came home the victor in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Bred in Kentucky by Jack Swain, Noble Bird is one of the revelations of the current season. To date, the 4-year-old has four victories from 10 starts. Winner of only a maiden at the beginning of the year, Noble Bird has come through his allowance conditions and then stepped up in class to finish a close second in the G2 Alysheba at Churchill on Kentucky Oaks Day.

In the Foster, Noble Bird graduated to stakes winner and G1 winner in one race, and the good-looking chestnut has already given owner John Oxley a tidy return on the $105,000 that it cost to acquire the colt at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale of select yearlings.

Consigned by Brookdale Sales, Noble Bird made a good impression on the grounds of the July sale. Strongly made, the chestnut has good length through the body, as well as a deep shoulder and a strong hip. Noble Bird also showed a presence at the sale that attracted buyers to keep looking, even in the summer heat, and when the sleek colt went through the ring, enough raised a hand to push his price above the sales average.

One of the reasons that buyers felt an interest in Noble Bird, no doubt, was that he looked like he might make a 2-year-old, with the expected further payout of mature development and improvement at 3. That had been the pattern of development for Birdstone, who won the Champagne at 2, then the Belmont and Travers at 3. Likewise, Mine That Bird had been champion 2-year-old in Canada, then improved to win his classic and to place second in the Preakness, third in the Belmont.

That pattern of development is an important factor in evaluating prospects by Birdstone and in selecting mates for him. The pattern of juvenile class, then accelerating 3-year-old form was muted in Birdstone’s sire, Grindstone. This dark brown was the first winner for his sire Unbridled, but then he was put away till 3, when Grindstone became his sire’s first classic winner.

Of course, Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled became a legendary sire of classic winners and competitors. His branch of Mr. Prospector, through Unbridled’s Belmont Stakes-winning son Empire Maker, is the line that produced our new Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (by Empire Maker’s son Pioneerof the Nile).

The other lines of Unbridled include Unbridled’s Song, which is highly sought after at the sales and is known for its speed.

Grindstone is the other principal line, and Birdstone is its chief.

Interestingly, this is the counterpart to Unbridled’s Song. This branch of Unbridled is good-sized but not overly large, and it is well-endowed with stamina, yet possessing speed.

When all the parts combine, the results can be very fine indeed. This is probably due to the horses putting together the needed traits of our historic classic types.

Gainesway’s Michael Hernon noted that “Birdstone combined the most sought-after qualities of American breeding by winning at the top level as a 2-year-old in the G1 Champagne Stakes and then carrying his ability a classic distance for victory in the historic Belmont Stakes at 3. Furthermore, he can get you a nice type so that commercial breeders with a good yearling have that opportunity as well.”

The crops by Birdstone beginning with Noble Bird were bred after Mine That Bird and Summer Bird had shown their form. Perhaps these subsequent crops will continue to expand their racing horizons and their sire’s reputation for combining speed and stamina.

paint color in racehorses, including current 3-year-old koda chrome

Breeder and racehorse owner Karen Babcock discusses her 3-year-old Koda Chrome (by Blue-Eyed Streaker) and the frame overo color type that he represents in the ESPN Radio program In the Gate, available as a podcast.

Host Barry Abrams asked my opinions about the colt’s color and the prospects of a horse of high class appearing with unusual coloring.

You can access the audio here:

http://espn.go.com/espnradio/play?id=13119729

And the podcast, complete with slideshow of Koda Chrome, on YouTube, here:

In addition to overo coloring, there are many sabino Thoroughbreds, and there are excellent racehorses with this much more common coloring. Typically, it is chestnut with lots of chrome, and champion Will Take Charge is one example of a flashy chestnut with some sabino fun thrown in. Marquetry is another who had even more white and who passed on some flash to his offspring.

White Thoroughbreds, such as the beloved Patchen Beauty, possess a dominant white gene, and some of those horses with dominant white also show spots or freckling in their coats. But they are different genetically from the sabino or overo stock they may otherwise resemble.

Cheers, color fans!

madefromlucky a major success for sire with victory in the peter pan

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Victory in the Grade 2 Peter Pan was a big step forward for Madefromlucky, who scored his first stakes victory in the nine-furlong race at Belmont Saturday.

A sharp-looking chestnut, Madefromlucky showed good form as he kept improving through the spring, winning a maiden special at Gulfstream in late December and then an allowance in early February at the same Florida track.

The colt’s next start made him look a bit special, especially in retrospect, as he finished second to Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn, and Madefromlucky looked like yet another classic prospect coming off the extraordinarily deep bench from Todd Pletcher’s stable.

In the colt’s next start, however, a fourth in the Arkansas Derby did not move the case forward for Madefromlucky, nor did it gain him the important Kentucky Derby points that were essential for progressive but lightly accomplished colts to gain entry into the classic at Churchill Downs.

In both his starts at Oaklawn, American Pharoah won off impressively, and Madefromlucky clearly has quite a lot to find if sent to compete against the juvenile champion. While American Pharoah won the Arkansas Derby by eight lengths, Madefromlucky was highly competitive with the other members of the field, finishing three-quarters and a neck behind Far Right and Mr. Z, both of whom had the points and owners with the inclination to try them in the Kentucky Derby. They finished 15th (Far Right) and 13th (Mr. Z) in the Run for the Roses.

Madefromlucky made good use of his time and competitive form, going to Belmont and picking up a graded success in what appeared to be a further improvement from his level of performance all spring and winter.

In that improving arc of form, Madefromlucky is following a pattern made familiar by his grandsire Smart Strike (by Mr. Prospector), who was noted for getting stock that improved through their third and fourth years.

An outlier in that significant record of stud success was Madefromlucky’s sire, champion juvenile Lookin at Lucky. Once-beaten at 2, Lookin at Lucky made improvement at 3, was good enough to take home the classic prize at Pimlico, but had less of an edge over his rivals at 3 than had been the case a year earlier.

Now that Lookin at Lucky has his first crop of 3-year-olds racing, which is led by Madefromlucky and Sunland Oaks winner Maybellene, it is interesting to see that Lookin at Lucky’s best stock are following Smart Strike’s pattern of development, rather than their sire’s.

A rangy and good-sized horse, Lookin at Lucky actually doesn’t look like a typical 2-year-old champion. Instead, his type, with scope and size, suggests the improvement with maturity that we are seeing in his offspring’s performances on the racetrack.

Even though he is rising toward his best form now, Madefromlucky was a good sales 2-year-old, selling for $150,000 to co-owner Mac Nichol at last year’s OBS March auction out of the consignment of Crupi’s New Castle Farm. That was a good sale for the colt, who had toddled a furlong in only :10 4/5, but one of the features of Madefromlucky’s performance was a stride length of nearly 24 feet.

Now that Madefromlucky has matured and strengthened, he has a truly impressive stride, along with the power to maintain his rhythm and pick up the pace when needed. He is a nicely progressive colt who may well appreciate greater distance, and the indications are that he could get a chance to test his merit in the Belmont Stakes.

Another point of interest in estimating his potential stamina is that Madefromlucky is out of Home From Oz, a full sister to leading sire Tapit (Pulpit), who is a fount of speed and class but who also gets some performers that stay quite well, like last year’s Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist.

A nice-looking chestnut, Home From Oz did not rival her brilliant brother on the racetrack. She did not even start in a race.

But as a producer, she did not fall far from the family tree. Three of the mare’s four foals to race are winners, and A Shin Gold (Medaglia d’Oro) ran second in the Japan Dirt Derby. Home From Oz is now the second daughter of stakes-winning Tap Your Heels to produce a stakes winner. Stakes-placed Overandabeauty (Grand Slam) has produced Cicada Stakes winner Noble and a Beauty (Noble Causeway).

Madefromlucky’s second dam, Tap Your Heels (Unbridled), is one of two stakes winners out of the Nijinsky mare Ruby Slippers. The other is champion sprinter Rubiano (Fappiano), a winner three times at the G1 level (NYRA Mile, Carter, and Vosburgh) and much more a high-class miler than a pure sprinter.

Ruby Slippers is the dam of four other stakes producers, and this is the family that also has produced Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird (Birdstone), and the fourth dam is a full sister to the important sire Relauch.

This is a family littered with class, and it appears to have gotten lucky again.

heritage and pattern of development suggest more late-season improvement from whiskey ticket

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(Work came before blogging; therefore there is a bit of a backlog. Hope you enjoy!)

Whatever one thinks of the form in the Grade 3 Illinois Derby on April 18, it takes a lot of guts and natural ability to jump from a maiden victory to a graded stakes success, and winner Whiskey Ticket (by Ghostzapper) is now unbeaten in two starts.

Coming from the Bob Baffert training operation, Whiskey Ticket is the trainer’s third Derby winner in the last three weeks, following Dortmund in the Santa Anita Derby and American Pharoah in the Arkansas Derby.

Like them, Whiskey Ticket will be shipped to Churchill Downs for training but that’s all in his case, and that is surely the right approach. Unraced till March 19, when the colt won his début in a mile maiden special at Santa Anita, Whiskey Ticket is clearly a talented and progressive young athlete, but like his famous sire, he will probably benefit from sitting out the classics.

There is, in fact, a tradition in this male line for giving the classics a miss but not missing out on finding their best form.

Ghostzapper was a massively talented racer who came to his best form at 4, and under the patient handling of trainer Bobby Frankel, Ghostzapper won nine of 11 starts, earning $3.4 million, plus accolades as Horse of the Year, etc. He was never defeated after the summer of his 3-year-old season, and in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Ghostzapper overwhelmed Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect, Horse of the Year Azeri, Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide, and Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone.

Ghostzapper was the best racer sired by Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again, a son of Deputy Minister who stands alongside his son at Adena Springs in Kentucky. Awesome Again’s stock includes champions Ginger Punch and Wilko, as well as Preakness winner Oxbow and Haskell winner Paynter. But the only one who really might be mentioned with nearly the same regard as Ghostzapper is mega-millionaire Game on Dude. The evergreen gelding earned $6.4 million in a lengthy career that carried him around the world and proved how game and tough the modern Thoroughbred can be.

Awesome Again was not a Derby performer, however. The handy bay began his racing at 3, still managed to claim the Queen’s Plate in Canada, but only came to his best form at 4, when he was unbeaten in all six starts, including the Breeders’s Cup Classic, Whitney, and Stephen Foster.

By far, the best 2-year-old in this male line was Deputy Minister, a growthy and precocious juvenile who was the divisional champion in both the U.S. and Canada, where he was also Horse of the Year. An injury, rather lack of seasoning or aptitude, knocked Deputy Minister off the rails for his classic opportunity. But as a sire, Deputy Minister tended to sire stock that was good at 2, such as champions Open Mind, Go for Wand, and Dehere, or that showed improved form with maturity like Awesome Again, Touch Gold, and Deputy Commander.

Deputy Minister’s sire, Vice Regent, didn’t show his form on the racetrack, being only a winner. But at stud he became one of the best stallion sons of mighty Northern Dancer with 105 stakes winners. Northern Dancer, back in the fifth generation of this male line, is the only one in this series who had the required pattern of development to become a classic horse, and the blocky little bay won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, as well as the Queen’s Plate.

As fans of sport and the great variety of racing, we can only hope that Whiskey Ticket follows the pattern of his immediate ancestors with continued improvement and becomes a better and better racehorse to challenge for the big prizes later this year and next.

a.p. indy’s derby influence

Among the points of contention in the 2015 Kentucky Derby is which sire line will deliver the winner. Through the 1970s, the Bold Ruler line was eminent, and in the 1980s, Raise a Native’s descendants took a leading role, with Northern Dancer also in the ascendant, while Bold Ruler took a plunge in classic success.

Currently, breeders and racing fans have seen a massive resurgence of the Bold Ruler line through Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew and his classic-winning son A.P. Indy. Although he doesn’t have any 3-year-olds in 2015, A.P. Indy is right there with five of the top 20 prospects for the Derby coming from his male line. That puts him in a tie with Northern Dancer and behind only the omnipresent force of Raise a Native’s most persistent son, Mr. Prospector, who has eight representatives, including Kentucky Derby favorite American Pharoah.

Three of the runners for A.P. Indy are sired by his son Malibu Moon, who is also the sire of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb, now a sire at Claiborne Farm. Danzig Moon, Stanford, and Mr. Z are the Malibu Moons, and all will be longshots, although Danzig Moon ran a deceptively good second in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland behind Carpe Diem.

The two others for A.P. Indy are Upstart (Flatter) and Frosted (Tapit). Second in the G1 Champagne and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last season, Upstart won the Holy Bull Stakes and ran a bang-up second behind Materiality (Afleet Alex) in the G1 Florida Derby, which is rated the top prep nationwide on the Beyer Speed Figures and by international handicappers. The dark bay son of Claiborne Farm stallion Flatter is a really good colt who has speed and adaptability. He offers genuine promise for the Derby but has to find something extra to get past Materiality, at least.

With victory in the Wood, Frosted improved notably on his juvenile form, which rated him behind the division stars represented here by juvenile champion American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile), plus the highly regarded Dortmund (Big Brown), Carpe Diem (Giant’s Causeway), and Upstart.

The Derby is not run for 2-year-olds, however, and the colts who continue to improve and those who thrive markedly as they mature at 3 are sometimes the ones who wear the roses on the first Saturday in May.

Orb, for instance, was not a stakes winner at 2, but he advanced rapidly at 3 to win graded stakes, a G1, then the Derby. That is the same pattern followed by Big Brown, sire of Dortmund.

But many other classic performers showed high form at 2, including Pioneerof the Nile, Giant’s Causeway, Afleet Alex, and Tapit.

Likewise, A.P. Indy was a top juvenile. A grand-looking colt who grew into a splendid individual on the racetrack, A.P. Indy won three of his four starts as a 2-year-old, including the G1 Hollywood Futurity. His obvious excellence and potential marked him as a genuine classic gem for 1992.

The bay won his three preps for the Kentucky Derby with workmanlike efficiency. A.P. Indy clearly had things well in hand, and there was every indication that trainer Neil Drysdale had plenty left to work with as they approached the Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, the son of Seattle Slew bruised a foot prior to the Derby and had to be scratched.

A.P. Indy came back to win the Peter Pan, then the Belmont Stakes. A colt who handled his racing well and appeared to retain his condition well, A.P. Indy was away from the races till September, when he lost his first two races back. Things were not looking well off the bare results of those races, but A.P. Indy picked up the ball and carried it to the end zone to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, cinching a championship as the best 3-year-old colt of 1992, plus Horse of the Year for his domination of all his competition.

Retired to stud at Lane’s End, where he is an honored pensioner to this day, A.P. Indy has had an illustrious stud career that has seen him sire champions and a long list of high-class performers. Over time, he has been recognized as the most classic influence in American breeding, and with his sons, and especially through his grandson Tapit, A.P. Indy looks sure to extend his classic quality to future generations.

super saver gearing up for further progress as a sire

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The old Aga, the present Aga Khan’s grandfather, was quoted many years ago saying that the three most important qualities of the Thoroughbred were “speed, speed, and speed.”

A great breeder and an incisive thinker, the Aga Khan raced classic winners and plenty of classic pretenders, and the truism of his statement was not that speed was the end all of the Thoroughbred but that it was the fragile commodity most likely to be lost in breeding for the classic horse.

So one of the long-held precepts of the Aga Khan, as well as world-class breeders here in the States like A.B. “Bull” Hancock and E.R. Bradley, was the importance of juvenile form in the classic colts who grew up to become champions and the most sought-after stallion prospects for creating the next generation.

And, in a day when 2-year-old racing is minimized and relatively unimportant compared to what it was 50 or 100 years ago, the 2-year-old sales have become a trying ground for precocity in a significant part of the breed, with several thousand youngsters annually being prepped for the juvenile in-training sales. There was a revelation last year with the first progeny of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver (by Maria’s Mon).

A good 2-year-old himself whose juvenile successes included the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, Super Saver is an illustration of the old model that quality juvenile form is an important factor in choosing a stallion prospect, and the good-looking bay trained on to become a classic winner at 3 before trundling off to stud.

That lack of a notable racing career after his Derby success caused some difficulty with breeders, not all of whom were strongly committed to the horse, but standing at an influential and successful stallion operation, WinStar Farm, some breeders gave the horse a chance, and when the sire’s first-crop juvenile youngsters came to the sales last season, buyers went wild for them.

As few expected, the juveniles by Super Saver were the sensation of the juvenile sales season, with multiple strong sales that were backed up by some salty performances in mid-summer and fall at the better racetracks around the country.

Super Saver’s top seller last year at the 2-year-old sales was Competitive Edge for $750,000, and that colt came along nicely through the summer and won the G1 Hopeful at Saratoga to be ranked among the best of his division. At $600,000 was I Spent It, also a graded winner at Saratoga and currently racing successfully in stakes this season.

Not surprisingly, the yearling buyers for the juvenile market were strong on the stallion for this sales season, and for the OBS April sale alone, Super Saver has a dozen offspring cataloged.

There are, for instance, a couple of fillies from good families that are representative of the second-crop Super Savers. Hip 509 at McKathan Bros. is a chestnut filly out of a young Cozzene mare with a second dam who produced five stakes horses and two additional mares who are multiple stakes producers. There is some depth to the family, but it’s not real flashy in the first dam.

Likewise, Hip 590 from Scanlon Training Center has a young dam with a serious second dam. The second dam is Guilded Times, by Crafty Prospector, and she produced G2 winner Icecoldbeeratreds (In Excess) and four other stakes horses.

One of the most promising young sires with classic form, Super Saver will offer much for buyers and breeders to savor with his second crop of juveniles to test on the racetrack.

* Hip 509 sold to Rockingham Ranch for $100,000, and Hip 590 sold to Barry Dolan, agent for Alan Cook, for $62.000.

raising american pharoah: ‘everyone who touched that sucker loved him’

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Behind every great racehorse, there are great horsemen who have helped to bring out the excellence that lay within. As American Pharoah sailed through the stretch to victory in the Arkansas Derby, the big bay emphasized that trainer Bob Baffert has developed a pair of very high-class racers that also includes last weekend’s Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund.

But the steps that eventually led to the son of Pioneerof the Nile being a leading prospect for the Kentucky Derby began more than three years ago with his birth at a farm on Briar Hill Road outside Lexington, Ky.

American Pharoah’s story began at Stockplace, a farm owned and operated by Tom Van Meter DVM. Van Meter recalled that American Pharoah “was born on Groundhog’s Day (Feb. 2, 2012) and was a nice, big foal. You wouldn’t have picked him out as extraordinary, but he was a nice, plain bay, like most of the Pioneers. We foaled six to eight Pioneers that year for Mr. Zayat, who sent all his mares to his own stallions.

“We kept Mr. Z’s mares for a while, and American Pharoah was in the last crop that I raised for him. He left Stockplace in June or early July,” Van Meter said, then went to Vinery, where he was weaned, and to Taylor Made Farm, where he was prepared for the yearling sales and consigned to Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga select yearling sale in 2013.

At the Saratoga sale, American Pharoah was a well-grown and progressive-looking young horse. Consigned by Taylor Made Sales for Zayat, American Pharoah proved a popular horse, and as Taylor Made’s yearling manager John Hall remarked: “Everyone who touched that sucker loved him.”

It’s true. The brawny bay made a deep impression on all who saw him, but the crowd of buyers at Saratoga can sometimes be super-critical. In spite of American Pharoah’s scope and muscle, there was a blemish on a shin from a brush with fate in a paddock.

The x-rays “showed it was okay,” Hall said, “but everyone seemed afraid of it. That was their loss and Mr. Zayat’s gain.” American Pharoah went through the ring at Saratoga, where he was bought in at $300,000 to race for his breeder.

From upstate New York, the big bay shipped south to Florida, where he was broken and put into early training at the McKathan Brothers Farm near Ocala.

J.B. McKathan Jr. said that American Pharoah “was a big, classy-looking colt. He was long, tall, and powerful. We really liked him, but he didn’t look like a speedball. He looked like a classic colt.

“But the first time we asked him, he just ran off from the other horses. He showed speed right away and improved with every work. He had so much natural ability that we worked not to do too much with him. Never put a stick on him. Went through several bits trying to get him to slow down.

“He was just naturally a very, very fast horse.”

Those are the qualities that breeders and horsemen hope to find in animals that promise to become the very best racehorses.

And on top of the obvious ability that American Pharoah possessed, he wasn’t running away from a herd of nonentities. Among the other stock that the McKathans had in pre-training were Gotham Stakes winner El Kabeir and multiple G1-placed Mr. Z, which are both slated for the Zayat Stables entry in the Kentucky Derby.

J.B. McKathan said, “We’re really excited to have three good horses in the Derby. It’s very satisfying when a horse is able to perform at the level you expect, that you hope for.”

The McKathans have found a lot of satisfaction in their work with classic prospects, and among their earlier successes for Zayat Stables was Pioneerof the Nile, the sire of American Pharoah. Second in the Kentucky Derby, Pioneerof the Nile had preceded that effort with victories that included the G1 Santa Anita Derby and Hollywood Futurity.

Due to their relationship with Zayat Stables, the McKathans have worked with a number of young horses by Pioneerof the Nile, and J.B. McKathan said, “we’ve had Pioneers in all shapes and sizes, but one thing they’ve had in common is the desire to win, which is so important.”

One of the factors that make top horses is the desire to win, and the sire’s first crop included colts with classic aspirations like Cairo Prince, Social Inclusion, and Vinceremos. A tendency toward classic form is also becoming a general trend with Pioneerof the Nile.

There are plenty more Derbys ahead through the spring and summer, but the one that matters most is next on the agenda for American Pharoah.

In recalling the Arkansas Derby winner as a yearling, John Hall said that American Pharoah “had a great mind. He was very intelligent, and when you introduced something new, it was like he’d done it before.”

I do wonder if the colt has ever posed with roses.

leading sires are shining as their classic prospects win major preps

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This weekend’s classic preps brought a set of Kentucky Derby contenders into the foreground. At least they are contenders if anything can challenge the great bounding stag named American Pharoah in the 10-furlong classic on the first Saturday in May.

The biggest and most perfect is unbeaten Dortmund (by Big Brown), winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on Saturday. Both he and American Pharoah are trained by Bob Baffert, who has kept Dortmund at home and sent American Pharoah travelling for spring preps.

The sire of each colt showed classic form. Dortmund’s sire, Big Brown, won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness during his championship season, and American Pharoah’s sire, Pioneerof the Nile, was second in the Derby and got last season’s champion 2-year-old from his second crop.

While both the sires above have only a handful of crops, the sires of the winners of the Bluegrass Stakes and Wood Memorial are two of the best-known and most successful stallions in the world, Giant’s Causeway and Tapit.

A chestnut son of Storm Cat, Giant’s Causeway was a top-class performer with an outstanding constitution and unrivalled competitiveness. Now 17, Giant’s Causeway has sired an average of more than 140 foals with 12 crops of racing age.

A G1 winner at 2 and classic-placed in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and in the Irish 2,000 Guineas at The Curragh, Giant’s Causeway won five G1 races at 3 and showed his form at up to 10.5 furlongs, although he was never tried over farther, and one of his most memorable races was a gallant second to Horse of the Year Tiznow in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.

Generally considered the best racing son of his famous sire Storm Cat, Giant’s Causeway has proven both an immodestly successful stallion and one who is distinctly different from his sire. The Storm Cats tend to breed toward power, speed, and precocity, but the stock by Giant’s Causeway tend to be leggier and lighter, with a noted tendency toward improvement with age and sturdiness in training.

In fact, among the graded winners this year by Giant’s Causeway, there is 7-year-old Imagining, as well as the 6-year-olds Irish Mission and Coltrane and the 5-year-old Top Juliette.

The sire’s 3-year-olds include the top juvenile filly from 2014, Take Charge Brandi, and the highly regarded Carpe Diem, who won the G1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last fall and returned to win the Blue Grass impressively.

Although Take Charge Brandi is on the sidelines, Carpe Diem has seized the day and will be one of the favored contenders for the upcoming classics. Once-beaten, in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Carpe Diem has earned the regard of handicappers, much as he impressed yearling and 2-year-old buyers.

The attractive chestnut brought $550,000 at the Keeneland September sale, and buyer Northwest Stud pinhooked Carpe Diem to the 2014 Ocala Breeders Sales March auction, where Stonestreet Stables signed the ticket at $1.6 million.

The colt races for the partnership of Stonestreet and WinStar Farm, and Carpe Diem was one of the stars at the OBS March sale last year. He scooted a furlong in :10 1/5, with the impressive rhythm and stretch that suggested he would improve greatly, and he ran with a stride length of 25 feet, which placed Carpe Diem in an excellent league and brought out the big guns when he went through the ring.

Not every good horse goes through to sale, though.

A Darley homebred, Wood Memorial winner Frosted (Tapit) never went through the sales, and he is clearly not as precocious as Carpe Diem. A maiden winner on Oct. 30 last fall, Frosted stepped up to finish second in the G2 Remsen a month later. So he had some class early on and then ran second in the Holy Bull earlier this year.

Victory in the Wood, however, was a major step forward for Frosted, who appears to be learning his lessons and progressing well toward the classics. He lurked near the rear of the field in the Wood, then made a determined run through the stretch that could be an important factor for negotiating the Derby trip.

Out of the Deputy Minister mare Fast Cookie, Frosted is part of an extended legacy because his dam was one of the mares that Darley purchased several years ago when acquiring the Stonerside operation in a deal that included its land, bloodstock, and racehorses. One of the latter was Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Midshipman, now a stallion for Darley at Jonabell.

A G2 stakes winner, Fast Cookie won the Cotillion at 3 and placed in other graded events, earning more than a half-million. Her dam, the Avenue of Flags (Seattle Slew) mare Fleet Lady, won the G2 El Encino and La Canada early in her 4-year-old season, and this is clearly a family with its fair share of speed and class.

Nor is the legacy of speed uncommon among the stock being prepped for the classics. All these classic prospects come from fast families, and it is guaranteed that some will find the distance of the Derby more of a challenge that they are prepared for at this point.

But one will rise to the occasion, and only he will wear the roses.

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