belmont stakes victory pushes tapit’s son constitution to the top of the second-crop sires’ list

Tiz the Law’s victory in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes on June 20 made him the first grandson of multiple leading sire Tapit to win a classic, and the colt’s success cemented his sire, Constitution, in a special place as the sire of the first classic winner from the freshman stallion crop of 2019.

Those horses include Horse of the Year American Pharoah (by Pioneerof the Nile), who was the leading freshman sire of 2019 over Constitution, with the Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice (Curlin) and the speedy Liam’s Map (Unbridled’s Song) and Tapiture (Tapit) filling the first five spots.

In addition to getting multiple graded stakes winners last year, Constitution was represented by Grade 1 winner Tiz the Law, who won the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park, and the sire’s stock has shown considerable improvement through the early months of 2020, even with the limited racing available to them.

Constitution — son of Tapit won a G1 at 3 and 4, was second among freshmen sires of 2019, and now has sired a classic winner from his first 3-year-olds. (WinStar photo)

Constitution has three stakes winners this season and six stakes-placed, and the overall success of his racers has put him in first place among the second-crop sires of 2020 with earnings of $2.4 million, ahead of Honor Code (A.P. Indy) and American Pharoah in virtually the same slot with progeny earnings of $1.269 million and $1.262 million. Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist sits fourth with $1.2 million and fifth-place Khozan (Distorted Humor) fifth at slightly less than $1.2 million.

Tiz the Law leads all racers by Constitution with $1,133,300 in earnings this season.

The blaze-faced bay colt was bred in New York by Twin Creeks Farm and sold for $110,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton sale of select New York-bred yearlings at Saratoga. Jack Knowlton of Sackatoga Stable was the buyer.

Six years earlier, Twin Creeks had bought the Kentucky-bred Constitution from WinStar Farm for $400,000 at the 2012 Saratoga select yearling sale conducted by Fasig-Tipton. WinStar retained a portion of the colt, who won the G1 Florida Derby and Donn Handicap, then retired to stand at stud on WinStar Farm outside Versailles, Ky.

“Constitution was a star yearling; in every way, he was so complete a package as potential racehorse that we wanted him badly enough to pay the price,” said Twin Creeks’ Randy Gullatt. “At Saratoga, he had the presence and the pedigree to be a horse that you stretched for. He was just wonderful and then showed it on the racetrack.”

As a buyer Gullatt said, “I’m attracted to the well-muscled, good-sized, lengthy yearlings who are not overly heavy and who aren’t soft in the pastern. I’m essentially looking for two-turn speed horses. American racing is geared around the 3-year-old prep season, and if you have a horse who’s good at the end of his 2-year-old season, then he’s likely to be able to progress and improve at three to challenge for the classics through the early-season preps.”

That’s what Constitution did, and although he missed the classics himself, the scopy bay son of classic sire Tapit has marked out some Triple Crown territory for himself with Tiz the Law.

In comparing the sire and the son, Gullatt said, “Constitution was a very different horse early on from Tiz the Law. Constitution was a big, grand-looking yearling. In contrast, Tiz the Law was a little smaller. He was an average-sized yearling and stands 15.3 3/4 [hands], I was told over the weekend. He was a really smart young horse who never had a bad day, was very willing to learn, very easy to work with, possessed a great mind and attitude.

“However, Tiz the Law wasn’t the typical star yearling that buyers spend a ton of money on at the sale. That’s what a lot of the Constitutions were like at the sales; as a result, they sold well but not outside of the norm of expectations.”

The Belmont Stakes winner himself sold for $110,000, which ranked him 15th among the 82 sales yearlings by Constitution, and his price compared quite favorably to the sire’s yearling average of $68,152 in 2018.

Those numbers will be adjusting noticeably in 2020.

From a first-season stud fee of $25,000 live foal, Constitution stood for $40,000 for the 2020 season, and there’s no question that demand for the stallion will rise following his current-year successes.

When Twin Creeks partnered with WinStar to race Constitution, then send the horse to stud, the Twin Creeks organization also acquired mares to help support their interest in the horse. Gullatt said that Twin Creeks retains nine shares in Constitution and that the operation bought the Belmont Stakes winner’s dam, Tizfiz (Tiznow) because “she was value and was an outcross to all our stallions,” Gullatt noted. “Physically, she was a stocky mare about 15.3, which is where Tiz the Law got his size, I’d guess. She looked like a Tiznow sprinter but was a Grade 2 winner who could go long. Just the sweetest, classiest mare to be around.”

Purchased in 2014 for $125,000 at the Keeneland November sale in foal to Horse of the Year Mineshaft (A.P. Indy), Tizfiz produced the Belmont winner as her second foal (fifth overall) for Twin Creeks. Since then, she has a 2-year-old filly named Angel Oak and a yearling colt by the Twin Creeks sire Mission Impazible (Unbridled’s Song). Tizfiz is in foal to Constitution for 2021.

On the racetrack, Tizfiz won the G2 San Gorgonio Handicap and three other stakes, and she placed third in the G2 Buena Vista Handicap. The 16-year-old mare is a full sister to Fury Kapcori, winner of the G3 Precisionist Stakes and second in the G1 Hollywood Futurity. Their dam is by Kentucky Derby winner Go for Gin (Pleasant Tap) and is out of a stakes-placed half-sister to Horse of the Year Favorite Trick (Phone Trick).

siskin outmaneuvers football team to win classic for juddmonte and for foundation mare monroe

An acrobatic little bird of the finch family, a siskin weighs about half an ounce and prefers the seeds of conifers to other food. It is one of the most entertaining and generally charming winter birds that we find at feeders in North America and Europe.

There’s not a lot in that description of the bird that links directly to the equine Siskin (by First Defence), except the part about being charming. Siskin has attracted a legion of fans with his speed and dramatic finishes; that was once more on display over the weekend, as Siskin sliced between rivals in the closing furlongs of the Irish 2,000 Guineas on June 12 to snatch victory from the six-horse Ballydoyle troop by a length and three-quarters.

The Irish classic is the latest top-level success for the international Juddmonte Farms of Prince Khalid Abdullah. He acquired the first elements of Siskin’s family with the purchase of the yearling filly later named Monroe in 1978, and Juddmonte’s Kentucky farm manager Garrett O’Rourke said that “it’s not easy to get your hands on these elite families, and it’s not easy to keep them producing at this level for decades” because of the challenges of racing and breeding at the intensely selective international level.

A foal of 2017, 40 years on from his highly successful third dam, Siskin was bred by Juddmonte, like both his parents and three of the four grandparents. The Kentucky-bred Siskin is a son of the Unbridled’s Song stallion First Defence, who is out of Toussaud’s high-class daughter Honest Lady (Seattle Slew). Siskin’s dam, Bird Flown, is by the very quick Oasis Dream (Green Desert) out of the stakes-placed Silver Star.

Silver Star’s sire, Juddmonte’s 1993 2,000 Guineas winner Zafonic (Gone West), was one of the early stars of the operation’s Kentucky breeding program, although he raced overseas. Most of the Juddmonte stock, regardless of birthplace, begin their careers in Europe, and only Honest Lady and a scant few others so suited to American racing by pedigree and type begin their careers in the States.

Racing in Europe, Silver Star was one of seven stakes horses from the Juddmonte foundation mare Monroe (Sir Ivor), who was herself a daughter of the great producer Best in Show (Traffic Judge), the dam of Kentucky Oaks winner Blush With Pride (Blushing Groom), as well as Monroe’s full brother, Irish highweight 2-year-old Malinowski. O’Rourke said, “It’s a very good family that we have a very good branch of, and it’s a family that’s been producing Grade 1 winners for longer than since I was a boy. Some families go dormant, but this one has never gone dormant. They’re lovely looking horses, they’re fast and sound, and they are versatile. I remember when Monroe was running, and she was a five-furlong sprinter, but at the same time, there was another member of the family that was a staying horse.”

The best of Monroe’s produce was the highweighted English colt Xaar, a full brother to Silver Star who won the G1 Dewhurst Stakes at 2 but failed to gain another victory at that level in two further seasons of racing.

Last year, Siskin was poised to follow Xaar’s path of success by contending for the divisional leadership in the Dewhurst Stakes against Pinatubo and others, but the dark brown colt lost his cool in the starting stalls for the Middle Park Stakes, was scratched by the stewards, and derailed for the rest of his juvenile season.

Unraced since then and making his seasonal debut in the Irish Guineas, Siskin was blocked in until quite late by what trainer Ger Lyons called “a football team,” but jockey Colin Keane helped create a seam about a furlong and a half from the finish, and once released, the colt’s closing kick was too strong for the opposition.

The manner of his classic victory leaves Siskin and the Juddmonte team in an enviable position to seek and dominate the competition at principal events at a mile, or perhaps more, through the rest of the season, and there is evidence from the pedigree that continued improvement would be a reasonable expectation.

The sire, First Defence, improved nicely from his 3-year-old season to win the G1 Forego at Saratoga as a 4-year-old. Likewise, his dam, Honest Lady, was a G2 winner at 3, won a G1 early at 4, then tilted against colts to finish second in the G1 Metropolitan Handicap and the G1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

The best previous racer by First Defence was champion older mare Close Hatches, a multiple G1 winner who is the dam of Wood Memorial winner Tacitus (Tapit), also second in the G1 Belmont and Travers. Close Hatches and her stakes-winning full sister Lockdown are out of the Storm Cat mare Rising Tornado, a winning half-sister to Bird Flown.

So, three of the five or six best offspring by First Defence are out of half-sisters from the same family. Probably just a coincidence, right?

Sure.

Siskin is from First Defence’s final Kentucky crop, as the horse was sold to stand in Saudi Arabia. Siskin is the second foal of his dam, and Bird Flown has a 2-year-old by Juddmonte-bred and -raced Flintshire, who is syndicated and stands at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm in Lexington. That filly is named Talacre, and the mare has a yearling filly by Noble Mission, as well as a colt of 2020 by Flintshire.

Bird Flown is in foal to champion Arrogate, the best son of Unbridled’s Song. A reason to hope, a reason to dream.

henry of navarre won the last nine-furlong belmont in 1894, proved top class at longer distances too

In looking forward to the first Belmont Stakes to be raced at nine furlongs in more than a century, I looked backward at the two Belmont Stakes run at that distance in the 19th century. Those were the Belmont Stakes renewals of 1893 and 1894, won by a pair of colts with some similarities, as well as one great difference. Their names were Comanche and Henry of Navarre.

Both, for instance, were bred outside the Bluegrass of Kentucky, which was less of an anomaly for a classic winner then than it is nowadays. In addition, each colt was ridden to classic success by leading jockey Willie Simms. A Georgia native by birth, Simms was of African heritage and possessed exceptional talents as a rider. In addition to the pair of Belmont victories, Simms also won a Preakness, as well as the 1896 Kentucky Derby on Ben Brush and the 1898 Derby on Plaudit, the male-line ancestor of Horse of the Year Holy Bull.

In terms of overall racing success and a lasting fame in the sport, the pair’s careers could hardly have been more different. Comanche was one of the lesser lights to have won the classic; Henry of Navarre was not only recognized as one of the best horses of his generation, but his athletic prowess was such that he was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1985.

A brave and competitive racer who was repeatedly successful against his own age group going a mile or more, Henry of Navarre proved the most memorable racehorse sired by the Preakness Stakes winner Knight of Ellerslie, who was bred by Capt. Richard Hancock, the father of Arthur B. Hancock, the elder Hancock of the three generations with that name who have bred and raced horses of high distinction at home and abroad.

The elder Hancock raced Knight of Ellerslie in partnership with Major Thomas Doswell, and after the colt was a close second in the Belmont Stakes, the partners sold him for $10,000 to Appleby & Johnson. Retired to stud at Lucien Appleby’s Silver Brook Stud in New Jersey, Knight of Ellerslie sired his best racer in Henry of Navarre, who was bred by Appleby and sold to trainer Byron McClelland for $3,000 as a yearling.

The sire of Henry of Navarre, Knight of Ellerslie, was a son of the good racehorse Eolus (Leamington), who became the sire that kept the Hancock family farm, Ellerslie Stud, prospering through the latter part of the 19th century. A good racehorse, Eolus was a very good sire. His best included the top racers Morello, St. Saviour, and Eole, plus the Suburban Handicap winners Elkwood and Eurus, Brooklyn Handicap winner Diablo, and Brooklyn Derby winner Russell.

Likewise, Henry of Navarre was a typical example of an elite racehorse of that era. He was tremendously durable, racing 48 times, with 29 victories, eight seconds, and three thirds. Only twice unplaced in a lengthy and adventurous racing career, Henry of Navarre possessed the consistency that distinguishes great racehorses.

At 3, Henry of Navarre was unable to handle the juvenile champion Domino at distances of a mile or less. That was no disgrace because the great son of Himyar was only once beaten at his favorite distance. At nine furlongs, Domino was competitive with his distance-loving compatriot, splitting decisions with the chestnut son of Knight of Ellerslie.

Beyond nine furlongs, none matched Henry of Navarre, and the New Jersey-bred colt won the New York classic and became the leader of his generation with athleticism and success when racing two turns. The colt repeated his domination of racing against the best of all ages as a 4-year-old, and he was the acknowledged leader when entering winter quarters.

Sold for $35,000 late in his 4-year-old season to August Belmont Jr., for whose father the Belmont Stakes is named, Henry of Navarre had a brief racing campaign at five. He won his seasonal debut, then had some training trouble. Despite this, handicapper Walter Vosburgh put 129 pounds on the divisional leader for the 1896 Suburban Handicap, but the racetrack commentary was strongly against the prospects of Henry of Navarre in the 10-furlong race against the more seasoned Clifford.

For all of 1896, the future-book wagering on the Suburban had Henry of Navarre quite firmly the favorite. In the Suburban itself, however, Clifford actually started as the favorite, and late money from the wiseguys of the racetrack was the reason. They held that Belmont’s trainer, J.J. Hyland, was having difficulty keeping Henry of Navarre comfortable with his work, and the wise opinion was that the horse was in too-high flesh and not sufficiently prepared to handle Clifford going 10 furlongs under a heavier weight than had been carried to victory in the Suburban at that time.

The New York Daily Tribune quoted Hyland’s opinion of the horse’s form and chances: “Henry of Navarre is not as good as I have seen him. He tired badly in his trial, but he will run a good race. If he beats Clifford today, it will be because he so outclasses him that he can beat him when not up to his best form.”

Carrying that endorsement from his own trainer, Henry of Navarre won.

Racing commentators praised the 5-year-old’s victory to the clouds and issued superlatives on the glory of his racing quality that would make a modern racing writer blush. Or choke with the certainty that the racing gods would soon enact retribution.

Henry of Navarre never raced again. The champion had proven himself under duress, when quite likely not at his height of fitness, and that had taken a toll. A large splint showed, and Belmont, rather than race his prize under such a handicap, retired him to stud and bred him to a quantity of elite mares at Nursery Stud in Kentucky, where he stood other notable sires, and decades later bred the great Man o’ War, among others.

At stud, Henry of Navarre found no success to enlarge the heroics of his racing history. The great champion distance horse of the 1890s sired many winners, but his old nemesis, Domino, was the sire of the future with the speed and quality of the few foals he sired before dying at age six.

When anti-gambling legislation effectively closed racing in most of the country, aside from Kentucky and Maryland, from 1908 through 1912, Belmont took several of his stallions, including Henry of Navarre, to stand at stud in France, where he also raced horses.

A poor sire in America, Henry of Navarre unfortunately wasn’t any better in France. On the horse’s return to the States, Henry of Navarre was donated to the Army Remount Service as a sire of potential cavalry mounts, and he died in 1917, aged 26.

honor a.p. raises the flag for his sire and class in the dam with a victory in santa anita derby

Class begets class. An acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. Black cats have black kittens.

However one wishes to express the nugget of understanding, horsemen recognize that quality racehorses, especially high-class racemares, produce high-class race horses. On Tuesday, veteran horseman and breeder Brent Fernung said, “If I had to choose between a group of five young graded stakes winners and five graded stakes producers, I would take the racemares. You’re on the right side of history with racing class.”

Fernung is right, of course. Joe Estes proved this statistically; Kent Hollingsworth followed up with more studies and substantiation of this proof; and David Dink used the results from entire crops of foals to show that the best racemares become the best producers, as a population.

This year’s winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby is further proof of the value of this realization.

Honor A.P. is not only by champion Honor Code (by A.P. Indy) but is out of Grade 1 winner Hollywood Story (Wild Rush). In a first-rate career, that lovely mare won the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet as a juvenile and then the G1 Vanity as a 5-year-old, while also placing in Grade 1 races each season she raced. Earning $1.1 million while racing from two through five, Hollywood Story has produced seven winners from eight foals to race, including stakes winner Miss Hollywood (Malibu Moon), her stakes-placed full brother Hollywood Star, and their stakes-placed sibling Hoorayforhollywood (Storm Cat).

Now the mare has produced a G1 winner.

Hollywood Story was the only top-level performer for her dam, the stakes-placed Dynaformer mare Wife for Life, and the probabilities of Grade 1 success indicate that Honor A.P. is likely to be the only Grade 1 winner for his dam, as well.

The probabilities for stallions, however, are not so restrictive as those for mares, who average about eight foals in a production career. Stallions, on the other hand, sire far more offspring, but their percentages of stakes winners and performers are never as good as those for top producing mares.

Stallions do get more opportunities, and the odds are good that Honor Code will get more graded winners and graded horses, as his stats from his first crop of 3-year-olds indicate.

Champion older horse of 2015, Honor Code retired to stud at Lane’s End Farm and covered sizable books of elite mares. From them, he had such a quiet first season with his early juveniles in 2019 that, by the time of the 2019 Keeneland September sale, consignors were already nervous about selling the second-crop stock by the horse.

Probably, they shouldn’t have worried. Honor Code himself didn’t win a stakes until the end of his juvenile season, then missed most of his second. Coming back at four, the near-black horse showed very high class to win the G1 Whitney and Metropolitan Handicap, which allowed him to claim his position at the top of the division.

The offspring of Honor Code have followed that pattern of maturation and improvement to a fault; it made some people believe they weren’t any good. The first six months of the truncated 2020 racing season offered limited opportunities for them or any other racers, but the Honor Codes have done well.

To date the stallion has a pair of stakes winners – the Santa Anita Derby winner, as well as Max Player, who won the G3 Withers earlier in the year – and a pair of stakes-placed runners: Roadrunner’s Honor (G3 Sweet Life Stakes) and Fashion Code (Cincinnati Trophy). All those stakes horses have come this year, along with a small army of winners, and Honor Code has risen from ranking 15th among first-crop sires of 2019 to being third among the second-crop sires of 2020.

This is the sort of performance expected of Honor Code, whose pedigree is the sort that breeders dream of. By a Horse of the Year who became a legendary sire, Honor Code is out of a stakes winner by Storm Cat. The second dam is one of six stakes winners produced by champion Serena’s Song (Rahy). This is a wonderful family full of athleticism and excellence.

Honor A.P. is a fitting first Grade 1 winner for Honor Code, paying homage to his great sire. Perhaps the Santa Anita Derby winner needs a sibling to be named Honoring Serena.

maxfield may find a benefit in the irregular classic schedule this season

It’s an ill pandemic that spreads no good. Had the Kentucky Derby gone off on its appointed hour this year, one of the certain absentees would have been the unbeaten Maxfield (by Street Sense), who won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity last October at Keeneland in the style of a serious contender for divisional honors.

An ankle issue put the dark brown colt out of action for months, however, and he returned to the races in the G3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 23, nearly eight months after his portentous victory in the main event for juvenile colts at Keeneland.

Now Maxfield is unbeaten in three starts, with a wide move on the turn and power through the stretch at Churchill that carried the colt to victory.

And just like that, we have another classic contender for the first jewel of the 2020 Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes at nine furlongs. Everything else is upside down and backwards this year; so why shouldn’t the Belmont be the first race for the Triple Crown, scheduled for June 20. And nine furlongs?

Twice before, more than a century ago, the Belmont Stakes had been raced at nine furlongs. In 1893, Empire Stable’s California-bred Comanche (Sir Modred) won the first nine-furlong Belmont Stakes, and the following year, August Belmont II’s Henry of Navarre (Knight of Ellerslie) won the Belmont Stakes. At the time, the race was run at Morris Park, then was transferred to Belmont Park in 1905.

In the intervening 125 years, the Belmont Stakes was raced at 10, 11, and 12 furlongs. The race has been run at 12 furlongs continuously from 1926 to 2019. Man o’ War’s son Crusader won the first 12-furlong Belmont; the previous year, Man o’ War’s son American Flag won the last 11-furlong Belmont, and he appears multiple times in the pedigree of Matt Winn winner Maxfield.

Street Sense — the 2007 Kentucky Derby winner in his field at Darley’s Jonabell farm in Kentucky, and the striking bay son of home sire Machiavellian may strike classic gold this season with his son Maxfield, winner of the Matt Winn in his seasonal debut (Darley photo)

Bred in Kentucky by Godolphin, Maxfield is out of the Bernardini mare Velvety, a half-sister to Grade 1 winner and sire Sky Mesa (Pulpit). The tall, dark, and handsome colt traces in the female line to the outstanding broodmare Busanda (War Admiral), who was the dam of Horse of the Year Buckpasser (Tom Fool) and Futurity winner Bupers (Double Jay), and thence to her grandam, the epochal La Troienne (Teddy).

Bred in the blue, Maxfield is one of seven Northern Hemisphere Grade 1 winners by his sire Street Sense (Street Cry), winner of the 2007 Kentucky Derby and the horse who busted the phony Breeders’ Cup Juvenile jinx to small bits with his success in the Kentucky classic.

The other Grade 1-winning son of Street Sense in America is McKinzie, who has won four such: the Whitney Stakes, Pennsylvania Derby, Malibu, and Los Alamitos Futurity, in addition to seconds in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Metropolitan Handicap. The 5-year-old McKinzie is expected to race next in the Metropolitan Handicap.

Their sire is the 16-year-old star of Street Cry’s first crop, which Street Sense led at two as champion juvenile colt and at three as a classic winner. Thereafter, crop-mate Zenyatta picked up the baton for Street Cry and kept the bulky bay son of Machiavellian near the top of the sire lists in further seasons.

Zenyatta, like Winx, Grade 1 winner Street Boss, and others, showed much improvement with maturity, like their sire. Street Sense was an exception only in the sense that he was so good at two, then improved the next season. The 3-year-old season for Street Sense was marred only because of the appearance of the rapidly improving Curlin, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby, then won the Preakness at the direct expense of Street Sense. The latter regrouped and won the Jim Dandy and Travers, while Curlin won the Jockey Club Gold Cup. The pair met again in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Monmouth, and in the slop, Curlin powered away from his competition to win the divisional title and Horse of the Year.

After that, Street Sense retired to stud at Darley in a power pack of entering sires that included Grade 1 winner Hard Spun (Danzig), who also had been second in the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Haskell winner Any Given Saturday (Distorted Humor).

Last year, Hard Spun ranked sixth among North American sires after Spun to Run won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, and Street Sense ranked ninth with McKinzie as his leading earner. In the peculiarly truncated racing season of 2020, both rank in the top 20 but are sure to have more results in the coming weeks.

And it would be a wry twist of fate if the virally distorted racing calendar of 2020 allowed a son of Street Sense to win a classic after the colt’s hopes for the BC Juvenile last season were dashed by an injury that kept Maxfield off the track until now.

forty niner was gold at the end of the rainbow

In the fall of 1987, I took a road trip up Interstate 75 from the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., to Lexington, Ky., to see the pro-tem champion of his division race for the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. This was a chestnut colt named Forty Niner that Claiborne Farm had bred and raced in the all-gold silks.

Already a victor in the Sanford, Futurity, and Champagne Stakes, Forty Niner had won four of his five starts previous to the Breeders’ Futurity, and hopes were high that he could add Keeneland’s premium event for juvenile colts to his ledger.

Before going to Keeneland for the races, I had an early afternoon tour of Claiborne on a cool fall day that had brought no other visitors to the farm. The creek water was burbling as I walked out the door of the office to the gate where the stallion groom begins the show, and the leaves on the sycamores were gold and thinning with the season.

“Having Forty Niner win the Breeders’ Futurity would mean a lot to the farm,” my guide told me when I mentioned my destination for later that afternoon. In addition to breeding Forty Niner, Claiborne also had bred and raced the dam line, going back to the Hyperion mare Highway Code that A.B. ‘Bull’ Hancock had imported in 1950. Claiborne also stood the colt’s sire, Mr. Prospector.

Most of the stallions were out for the sunshine on a Kentucky afternoon with deep blue skies and just enough breeze to keep the enraptured tourist cool. Mr. Prospector was in his paddock near the Claiborne farm office, and he was quietly grazing and only raised his head to peer at us when we walked past.

If I hadn’t known who Mr. Prospector was, we wouldn’t have commented on him unduly. He looked like a nice horse, but he was just an average nice horse at stud until his young horses began racing and made him the leading freshman sire. On the racetrack, Mr. Prospector’s results were anything but average. Already standing at Claiborne was the stallion’s champion son Conquistador Cielo, winner of the Saratoga Special at two, then of seven races in a row at three, including the Metropolitan Handicap and Belmont Stakes, that made him Horse of the Year in 1982.

Mr. Prospector had moved to Claiborne in 1980 and entered stud there in 1981; so having a homebred son of the highest caliber “would mean a lot to the farm.”

The highlight of the tour at Claiborne wasn’t Mr. Prospector, however, nor his handsome son Conquistador Cielo. The star of the show was Secretariat.

The big red horse came trotting to the gate of his paddock when we approached, arching his neck, moving his feet with the precision of a show horse, and snorting softly as Secretariat stretched his handsome head over the gate.

“You ham,” my guide chuckled, “this one is ready to go back in and get fed.”

Secretariat, always the most curious and serene of animals, had been on a diet of sorts after feasting on summer grass and apparently was feeling a mite peckish.

I could have stayed at the corner paddock that Secretariat had inherited from his sire Bold Ruler and spent the rest of the afternoon in gentle adoration, but there were others concerned here besides my monotheistic idea of devotion.

Grooms need to go racing, too.

So, we finished up our tour with a walk past Spectacular Bid and Tom Rolfe. We chatted about their classic victories, and ever attentive to his fellow horse people, the groom showing me around told me a story about one of the past tours that hadn’t ended too happily.

This was a big group, and the groom had repeatedly warned the visitors to stay on the paved walk. One rebellious fellow, however, backed up against the fence to Tom Rolfe’s paddock for someone to get a photo.

And before the groom for that group could intervene, Tom Rolfe got him.

“Tom Rolfe picked that man up,” my groom said, “grabbed him by the shoulder, lifted him off his feet, shook him like a rat, and threw him. Tom Rolfe is a little horse, but he is a stallion,” and shockingly strong.

Tom Rolfe was of particular interest that afternoon in October because he was the broodmare sire of Forty Niner, who was out of the stakes-winning mare File and from the same female family as Claiborne’s Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Swale, who had died tragically in 1984.

Like Swale, Forty Niner also was trained by the legendary Woody Stephens, and when I got to the Keeneland saddling paddock that afternoon, Forty Niner looked alert but calm. Ready to race. The athletic chestnut was primed to win, and he was the heavy favorite at 2-to-5.

Racing 8 1/2 furlongs for the Breeders’ Futurity, Forty Niner pressed the pace through quick fractions, looked good on the turn, and yet just managed to peg back Hey Pat by a nose at the finish. That wasn’t the textbook way to close a campaign, but with a record of five wins from six starts, Forty Niner was the 2-year-old champion.

Racing with Forty Niner, as the next season proved again and again, was a game of inches. The brave chestnut won the Haskell and Travers from Seeking the Gold by a nose each time. And each of those sons of Mr. Prospector was second to Alysheba in championship-deciding races: the Woodward (Forty Niner) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Seeking the Gold).

But those were days to come, and on a fall afternoon in Kentucky with weather made for racing at Keeneland, the day belonged to the chestnut champion who ended his season in the Futurity.

paul jones put the st simon line in the kentucky derby winner’s circle a century ago

How the world changes. Exactly 100 years ago, the U.S. had finished the First World War late in 1918 and was just over the fearsome Spanish flu pandemic, which had its final great wave of infections in 1919. In May of 1920, the great juvenile champion of 1919 was awaiting his 3-year-old debut, but Man o’ War (by Fair Play) wasn’t going to race for the Kentucky Derby.

Instead, the chestnut champion was set to launch his second season in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse, which was not far from owner Samuel Riddle’s farm in Maryland where Man o’ War had been training over the winter. In defending the decision to send his colt to the nine-furlong Preakness on May 18, rather than the 10-furlong Derby on May 8, Riddle made the weak-minded assertion that the Derby distance was too much to ask of a horse so early in the year.

In reality, it appeared that Riddle preferred to aim his colt for the Preakness and leave the Kentucky Derby to the expensive racer of his kinsman Walter Jeffords, who had purchased Golden Broom (Sweeper) for $15,600 at the same Saratoga sale where Riddle got Man o’ War for $5,000.

A week before the Kentucky Derby of 1920, Golden Broom made his seasonal debut in the Blue Grass Stakes at the Kentucky Association track in Lexington, finished a tiring fifth, and was eventually scratched from the rich classic.

That left the 1920 Kentucky Derby open for whomever could get to the finish line first, and it was to be the only great prize for 3-year-olds that Man o’ War didn’t take in his unbeaten and final season at the races. Due to the absence of the division leader and the massive $30,000-plus winner’s purse for the Derby, a record number of 22 racers were named to start, but even after scratches, a chunky field of 17 went to post, and the three-horse entry owned by Harry Payne Whitney was favored at 1.65 to 1.

Chief among the Whitney stable trio was Upset (Whisk Broom), with Damask (All Gold) and Wildair (Broomstick) well considered. At 4.30 to 1, On Watch, by Fair Play’s old rival Colin (Commando) was the second favorite as part of the George Loft entry with Donnaconna (Prince Palatine), and Blue Grass Stakes winner Peace Pennant (McGee) was the third selection of the wagering public in the Derby crowd at 6.35 to 1.

No other horse was less than 12-1, and that reflected the sentiment that this half-dozen represented the class of the race. The crowd’s judgment was justified by the result, with four of the colts above taking four of the first five places.

They just didn’t get the win, however.

The 16.20 to 1 longshot Paul Jones took the lead at the start, after breaking alertly from post two, and the brown gelding led the rest of the way, ahead by 1 1/2 lengths after a quarter-mile in :23 4/5, by a half-length after four furlongs in :48 1/5, then by two lengths after six furlongs in 1:14 4/5 on a slow track.

Whitney’s Upset, breaking from post five, had raced third and then second for most of the race and was only a head behind at the stretch call. The Derby chart reads that Upset “appeared the winner a sixteenth out, but tired right at the end.”

As a result, Paul Jones put his name on the list of Kentucky Derby immortals by a head victory over the only colt to defeat Man o’ War. On Watch was third, with Damask and Donnaconna fourth and fifth.

By the Persimmon stallion Sea King, Paul Jones was bred in Kentucky by John Madden at Hamburg Place and was the second consecutive winner of the Derby that Madden had bred. The first Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton, was bred in partnership by Madden and Gooch; Sir Barton won the race in 1919, and there were more Kentucky Derby winners to come from the fabled Lexington nursery.

Paul Jones was out of May Florence, one of the good producing daughters of the top-class racehorse and sire Hamburg, for whom Madden had named his farm.

Whereas Sir Barton was a son of the great Hamburg Place stallion Star Shoot, a top-class racehorse and sire, Paul Jones was the son of a stallion owned by Thomas Fortune Ryan that Madden had stood at the farm with comparatively little success. Presumably, the attraction to Sea King was his elite pedigree, as a son of St. Simon’s great son Persimmon and as a half-brother to Jockey Club Stakes winner Pietermaritzburg (St. Simon), who proved a good sire in Argentina.

Paul Jones was leagues the best racer by Sea King, whose stud fee was $50 by the time that the Kentucky Derby winner arrived and the sire had been at stud several years. But Paul Jones was a good horse, by no means a great horse, and certainly on the second Saturday in May in 1920, Paul Jones was a very lucky horse.

Nearly half of the gelding’s lifetime earnings ($64,171) came from his head victory over Upset, which brought $30,375 to owner Ral Parr. The only other top-tier success for Paul Jones came in the 1920 Suburban Handicap, and overall, the brown racer earned $44,636 in 1920, ranking him very highly among the year’s top earners.

Paul Jones raced on through his 6-year-old season, winning five more races, including the Susquehanna Handicap, and placing in many more.

Afterwards, Paul Jones was a stable pony at the track, then was ridden over fences and as a hunter. The gelding was euthanized at 13 in 1930 and buried at Inglecress Farm near Charlottesville, Va.

with nadal, blame is extending the male line sweep of turn-to, hail to reason through arch

Is Arch (by Kris S.) trying to construct his own male line, bridging time and space and fashion?

The effort of Grade 1 Arkansas Derby winner Nadal (by the Arch stallion Blame) suggests that this is not out of the realm of possibility, although Arch, one of the supremely solid sires of the breed, left it a little late in getting a champion colt, with Blame showing up in the stallion’s seventh crop.

A top-priced yearling at the Keeneland July select yearling sale in 1996, Arch sold for $710,000 after then-Claiborne Farm president Seth Hancock picked the striking near-black colt out of the Middlebrook Farm consignment. Winner of his debut at Keeneland in October at two, Arch won five of seven starts, including the G1 Super Derby and G2 Fayette Handicap, beating the previous year’s Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold (Deputy Minister) in the latter.

Hancock’s declared goal at the time of purchasing the first colt out of the very fast Danzig filly Aurora was to buy a top-tier racing prospect with top-tier stallion prospects. All Arch had to do was deliver the goods. Once the grand-looking horse had done so, he went to stud at Claiborne in 1999.

From the stallion’s first crop came the multiple G1 winner and highweight sprinter Les Arcs, who was a gelding, and subsequent stars included champion fillies Pine Island and Arravale, but Blame leveled the balance of quality with a trio of Grade 1 victories, including the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic, when the smooth-looking bay was also champion older horse.

Arch — a son of the Roberto stallion Kris S, the powerfully handsome Arch returned some historic bloodlines to Claiborne Farm because his male-line ancestor Turn-to began his stud career at Claiborne, where he was leading freshman sire with the 1958 champion 2-year-old colt First Landing. (Claiborne / Dell Hancock photo)

Retired to stud for 2011, Blame did not get a superstar from his first crop, although half of the six stakes winners in that initial group were graded winners, including March, winner of the G2 Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont. Since then, Blame has sired four Grade 1 winners: Abscond (Natalma), Fault (Santa Margarita), Marley’s Freedom (Ballerina), and Senga (Prix de Diane). All those are fillies, and that fact did not help Blame climb the heights of supersire stardom. The biggest buyers want colts so they can shoot for (or dream of) the first Saturday in May.

Blame’s versatility in siring horses who race well on turf, as well as dirt, have speed, and mature well have played against his becoming a more recognized sire of classic prospects. The biggest buyers (and the most commercially conscious breeders) look to the sires of prominent colts who show their form on the Triple Crown trek. Siring something else leaves a horse under the radar.

With the way that Nadal rated and finished at Oaklawn Park, however, the powerful bay may be too big a smash for his sire to stay under the radar much longer.

“Blame has the exact same number of Grade 1 winners as Into Mischief. Each has five,” Claiborne’s Bernie Sams said. “Some of this is a matter of perception.”

There is also the Kris S. – Arch – Blame sire profile, which tilts toward improvement with age. This may not be the preference of the sales community, but improvement with maturity doesn’t work against quality or excellence.

Among active North American sires of graded stakes winners, based on their percentage of graded winners to foals, War Front (Danzig) and Tapit (Pulpit) are nearly inseparable at one-two with 6.1 and six percent, and Speightstown (Gone West) – the sire of the 2020 Arkansas Derby, Division 1, winner Charlatan – is third at 4.6 percent. Quality Road and Ghostzapper tie for fourth at 4.2 percent.

It may come as a surprise that Blame is 11th at 3.4 percent, and the bay son of Arch holds the same position by percentage of Grade 1 winners to foals, with 1.1 percent.

“This horse is a lot better than some people may think,” Sams said. “We don’t breed the biggest books of mares here at Claiborne. We never have, and until we get a significant representation for the stallion with several crops on the ground, it’s tough. Arch was that way; Flatter was that way,” in the development of their stallion careers, and yet both became leading sires.

First Samurai is another Claiborne stallion who has been an under-recognized success at stud, and Blame is following in those hoofprints.

Is he about to make tracks of his own?

a century past: death of leading sire gallinule in 1912

Early in 1912, the important sire Gallinule died in Ireland. Best known today as the sire of the great racehorse Pretty Polly, Gallinule was an influence for quality and speed at stud. A son of the fine racehorse and sire Isonomy, like the extraordinary racehorse Isinglass (once beaten in 12 starts and winner of the English Triple Crown), Gallinule was unbeaten at 2, then never won another race. As a result, Gallinule wasn’t a hot stallion property early on, but the stallion’s racers made him a star stallion with their performances on the racetrack.

In addition to siring good racehorses, Gallinule was also notable for throwing a lot of color into his foals, frequently flashy chestnuts with white markings on their face and legs, similar to the Isinglass son Star Shoot, a high-class juvenile performer who became a leading sire here in America and sired the first winner of the U.S. Triple Crown, Sir Barton. Despite the significant effect of Gallinule’s sons and daughters on contemporary racing, he did not establish a lasting male line and is largely seen in pedigrees through his daughters, as well as through the daughters of his sons and grandsons. The following is an obituary that came out shortly after the stallion’s death.

Death of Gallinule (ch. h 1884 – 1912 by Isonomy x Moorhen, by Hermit)

From the London Sportsman, Jan. 10, 1912

The well-known sire Gallinule has just died at the Brownstown [this is the more common spelling I found, although it’s variously given as Brownston or even Brownstone] Stud, the Curragh, at the good age of 28 years. Bred by Mr. J. C. Hill, he was by Isonomy out of Moorhen and was foaled in 1884. He won three races as a 2-year-old in eight outings, including the National Breeders’ Produce Stakes at Sandown Park, for which he started favorite. In the following season he contested three races and was once placed, the event being the Great Yorkshire Stakes. He was seven times unplaced as a 4-year-old and thrice in the following year. He started favorite for the Lincolnshire Handicap, won by Wise Man, and was sent to the stud in 1890, his first fee being 20 guineas. This gradually rose until he was liberally patronized by breeders at 200 guineas….

Gallinule was a strikingly marked chestnut who was unbeaten against good company as a 2yo but failed to win again, presumably because he had trouble with bleeding.

As the sire of Pretty Polly, Gallinule’s name was taken right to the front, although before and since the racing days of the famous mare, his stock did well, even if all did not produce her brilliancy. Pretty Polly won 37,297 sovereigns, her successes including the 1,000 Guineas, Oaks, and St. Leger.

Gallinule was also the sire of Slieve Gallion (winner of the 2,000 Guineas and a total of 11,996 sovereigns in stakes) and Wildfowler (winner of the St Leger). Other good horses got by him were White Eagle (winner of nearly 16,000 sovereigns), Hammerkop (10,793 sovereigns), Phaleron (over 10,000 sovereigns), and Game Chick (nearly 10,000 sovereigns).

White Eagle scored in the Woodcote Stakes, Epsom, the first time out; won a Biennial at Ascot, and the National Breeders’ Produce Stakes at Sandown, the richest event for juveniles. As a 3-year-old, White Eagle appropriated the Payne Stakes, Newmarket; another Ascot Biennial; Royal Stakes, Newbury; and in the following season the City and Suburban Handicap.

Hammerkop’s victories included the Alexandra Plate at Ascot (twice); July Stakes, Newmarket; Great Yorkshire Handicap and the Cesarewitch. Phaleron was successful in the Jockey Club Stakes. Game Chick also secured the National Breeders’ Stakes.

Princesse de Galles, which won the Coronation Stakes at Ascot, and other nice races for the late King Edward, was another representative of Gallinule, also Admiral Hawke (5,000 sovereigns); Santry (4,562 sovereigns), which finished in front of Sceptre at Ascot; Lesterlin (4,033 sovereigns); Portmarnock (3,361 sovereigns); Gazetteer (3,768 sovereigns); Mount Prospect (4,282 sovereigns); Waterhen (4,488 sovereigns); and Gen. Peace, winner of the Lincolnshire Handicap, also the Auteuil Grand Hurdle. Sirenia (winner of the Duke of York Stakes, Great Jubilee Handicap, and other items to the aggregate value of nearly 8,000 sovereigns) claimed Gallinule as her sire, also Fariman (which was unbeaten as a 2-year-old and altogether won over 5,000 sovereigns) … and a host of other winners of note.

Gallinule headed the list of winning sires in 1904, while in 1903, he was only 48 sovereigns behind the top horse, St. Frusquin. Gallinule’s daughter Sirenia, is the dam of Electra, winner of the 1,000 Guineas and Park Hill Stakes; also Cellini, which annexed the National Breeders’ Produce Stakes at Sandown, while many other sons and daughters have done well at the stud. It is interesting to record that in the last year of his stud life, Gallinule was represented on the turf by a greater number of winning horses than any other sire.

[There followed a summary accounting of winners and gross earnings per year from 1893 to 1911 that I have omitted.]

[NB: Isinglass died in December 1911, then his male-line kinsman Gallinule died early the next month, January of 1912.]

mr prospector weaves through racing’s past and present

The two early selections for the two divisions of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, set to be run May 2 at Oaklawn Park are Nadal (by Blame) and Charlatan (Speightstown). Both are fast, unbeaten colts with bags of speed. Whereas Nadal most recently won the G2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn as his prep for the Razorback Darby, Charlatan will be making his stakes debut.

The results of these races to the many race-starved sports fanatics should be interesting and perhaps of value when that other Derby, allegedly to be run at Churchill Downs, comes around.

These two Arkansas Derby favorites, along with Dr Post (Quality Road), winner of the Unbridled Stakes at Gulfstream Park last weekend, share more than racing ability. Each is inbred to the great sire Mr. Prospector (Raise a Native), with Charlatan inbred 3×4 (third generation and fourth) and both Nadal and Dr Post inbred 4×4.

Their ancestor Mr. Prospector was born 50 years ago, and 47 years ago, the sleek bay was making more headlines than any of these three. He was, for a time, even mentioned as the challenger to His Chestnut Perfection, Secretariat.

Strikingly handsome even as a yearling, Mr. Prospector topped the 1971 Keeneland July select yearling sale, showed phenomenal speed during his racing career, and became an international sire sensation (Tony Leonard / Spendthrift Farm photo).

So, how does this happen with a horse who didn’t win a stakes race until he was four? Well, that is a story.

Part of the frisson of excitement over Mr. Prospector was the result of high expectations being confirmed. The good-looking colt had been the top-priced yearling colt at the 1971 Keeneland July sale at $220,000, when Spendthrift Farm sold the colt to Florida businessman A.I. “Butch” Savin.

According to a story from the late pedigree commentator and adviser Jack Werk, who had known the buyer, Savin had come to the Keeneland sale with a list of 10 yearlings and trainer Jimmy Croll. The trainer had narrowed the list to a pair of yearlings to focus on, and Savin bought the big colt at Spendthrift.

As the top colt from the July select sale, great things were expected from the colt that Savin named Mr. Prospector. At two, the colt showed ability, then bucked his shins severely enough that he didn’t start until he was three. Mr. Prospector then turned his debut into a runaway, winning by 12 lengths, and subsequently took his second start by seven lengths.

Even though Secretariat had been named Horse of the Year in 1972, his sire Bold Ruler had never sired a classic winner, despite having multiple champion juveniles of both sexes. Secretariat was held in such high regard, however, that when the Chenery estate came to Claiborne Farm’s Seth Hancock, he was able to syndicate the gorgeous chestnut for slightly more than $6 million before Secretariat made his 3-year-old debut.

With all the hype and extraordinary expectations for Secretariat, the wise guys on the racetrack were looking for a fresh horse who had a chance to challenge the champion, and they found that new nugget of exceptional talent in Mr. Prospector.

When Mr. Prospector won his third start by 10 lengths at Gulfstream Park and ran a time of 1:07 4/5, the wise guys and even some not very wise guys thought they had found a genuine challenger for Secretariat.

The sharks certainly sensed blood in the waters when Secretariat finished third in the 1973 Wood Memorial, behind his little-fancied stablemate Angle Light (Quadrangle) and more ominously a neck shy of Santa Anita Derby winner Sham (Pretense). The Wood was the longest race that Secretariat had contested to that point, and the nine furlongs had proven an impediment to earlier sons of Bold Ruler in their progress toward the classics.

As a result, Savin was game to try his colt against the champ, and Croll brought Mr. Prospector to Churchill Downs to make his stakes debut in the Kentucky Derby Trial. Run the Wednesday before the Derby – yeah, that’s three days – Mr. Prospector finished second in the Trial and came out of the race with a hairline fracture of a cannon bone.

That was the end of the season for the dramatic racehorse who had brought out trainers to watch him train and to watch him race. Trainers who had no reason to watch Mr. Prospector other than the elation of seeing a horse who could fly.

Secretariat, of course, proceeded to win the Kentucky Derby by 2 1/2 lengths from Sham, with Our Native (Exclusive Native) third, Forego (Forli) fourth, and Angle Light 10th in a field of 13. The great son of Bold Ruler then won the first Triple Crown in a quarter-century, set official record times in the Derby and Belmont, crushed older horses, and was named Horse of the Year again in 1973.

Mr. Prospector went through recuperation, came back to the races, and was an even better horse at four – or, at least he accomplished more in winning both the Whirlaway Handicap and the Gravesend Handicap, as well as finishing second in the Carter, Firecracker, and Royal Poinciana handicaps, as well as third in the Paumonok Handicap.

The son of Raise a Native still wasn’t the best horse of his generation from the evidence of his racing career, and he went to stud in Florida at Savin’s Aisco Farm. He became leading freshman sire, leading juvenile sire, and was rewarded with a move to Claiborne Farm in Kentucky, where he eventually became leading general sire and broodmare sire.

By all measures, Mr. Prospector was a gold mine, plus a source of speed, success, and fertility around the world. At one point, he had more sons at stud in more countries of the world than any other stallion in the breed, and his daughters might have been even more valuable to the breed.

The old boy was euthanized at Claiborne in the summer of 1999, not long after completing his final season at stud at the age of 29.