saratoga sprint stars trace back to triple crown winner seattle slew

In addition to exceptional speed, Gamine (by Into Mischief) and Yaupon (Uncle Mo) share some other factors. In pedigree most notably, both are male-line representatives of Lord Derby’s famed stallion Phalaris through his grandson Nearco, thence through Nearco’s sons Nasrullah (Yaupon) and Nearctic (Gamine).

The winners of the Grade 1 Ballerina Handicap and Forego Stakes at Saratoga descend from the epochal 20th century sire Phalaris not only in the male line but also through numerous collateral lines in their pedigrees.

And in the bottom halves of their pedigrees, their dam’s half of the pedigree tree, is the name of a Phalaris-line horse who became one of the hottest “secrets” of the 1976 racing season with his morning works at Saratoga. The dark brown, nearly black, son of the first-season sire Bold Reasoning had an unfamiliar name and was trained by a relatively unknown conditioner named Bill Turner.

Seattle Slew, his trainer, and the members of the Slew Crew did not stay unfamiliar.

The burly, dark-coated colt was delighting clockers at Saratoga with works that allegedly included at least one three-furlong move in :33 and change that was reported as a time more expected from an unraced 2-year-old.

Clockers, who are paid something less than brain surgeons, were as reluctant as anyone to let a good thing go by without making the most of it, but Seattle Slew was one of the worst-kept secrets of the Saratoga backside that summer of 1976.

A knock in a stall kept the colt from starting at the Spa, but when he was unveiled at Belmont Park on Sept. 20, Seattle Slew was the favorite at 5-to-2. He won by five lengths.

The colt’s next race was a solid allowance victory on Oct. 5, but Seattle Slew’s third start came only 11 days later in the Champagne Stakes at a mile. Favored at slightly more than even money, Seattle Slew was quickly away from the gate, made every pole a winning one, and cruised home the victor by 9 3/4 lengths.

That race elevated ‘Slew’ to a sports celebrity, and even among fans relatively removed from the racetrack, the colt became a focus of great interest to professionals and novices alike.

A champion at two after those three dominating performances, Seattle Slew returned at three to win his prep races and the Triple Crown without defeat, then lost the Swaps Stakes to J.O. Tobin (Never Bend) and did not race again until four.

Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old in 1977, Seattle Slew returned to racing from a 10-month layoff in May 1978 with a new trainer, Doug Peterson. The dashing colt had lost none of his ability but managed to lose the Paterson Handicap to Dr. Patches (Dr. Fager), who was in receipt of 14 pounds, and as a result, Seattle Slew was not favored in his next start, the Marlboro Cup, where he met 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed (Exclusive Native) for the first time.

Although not favorite for the only time in his career, Seattle Slew raced to victory in the Marlboro Cup over nine furlongs in patented style, going to the front and setting quick, steady fractions and maintaining them throughout. The half-mile was :47, the six furlongs in 1:10 1/5, the mile in 1:33 3/5, and the finish at nine furlongs in 1:45 4/5. Affirmed was second by three lengths and simply could not gain on his competitor.

So Harbor View Farm sat out the Woodward Stakes, where Seattle Slew performed the same sort of summary execution, racing in front the whole way and winning by four lengths in 2:00 for the 10 furlongs. The very high-class multi-surface performer Exceller (Vaguely Noble) was second, 6 3/4 lengths ahead of the third horse.

When the champions reconvened in two weeks for the Jockey Club Gold Cup at 12 furlongs, Seattle Slew set off to do the same thing again, but Affirmed’s saddle slipped, and Harbor View Farm’s chestnut champion raced to the fore (along with stablemate Life’s Hope) and challenged Seattle Slew head to head through the first three-quarters of the Gold Cup with fractions of :22 3/5, :45 1/5, and 1:09 2/5.

Those fractions finished both Affirmed and Life’s Hope, but Seattle Slew kept on as Exceller closed the gap between, then raced ahead by at least a half-length at one point in the stretch. Seattle Slew, under Angel Cordero, came back and missed winning the race by a nose.

A winner in 14 of 17 starts, Seattle Slew had proved his speed and gameness to fans, historians, and notably to breeders, many of whom supported him well when he went to stud the following spring at Spendthrift Farm.

From the champion’s first crop came champions Landaluce and Slew o’ Gold, from his second crop came champion and classic winner Swale. A success from the start, Seattle Slew has become an important factor for strong bodies, solid bone, and high speed in the racehorse.

tripoli becomes the first g1 winner on dirt for turf champion and leading sire kitten’s joy

A victory in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic made Tripoli the first Grade 1 winner on dirt for the important sire Kitten’s Joy, one of the two top-tier sons of El Prado (by Sadler’s Wells) at stud in Kentucky. The other is Darley‘s Medaglia d’Oro, a top-class dirt racer who sires elite racers on dirt and turf.

Kitten’s Joy, an exceptional turf champion here in the States, has sired 14 G1 winners on turf, and his importance in that regard is such that he is one of the most consistently popular sires in the country for European breeders and buyers. With performers such as Hawkbill (Eclipse Stakes), Roaring Lion (Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes), and Kameko (2,000 Guineas) abroad, there is no question that the success which Kitten’s Joy has shown in America also translates directly into exceptional form overseas.

Based at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms outside Paris, Ky., Kitten’s Joy stands for $60,000 live foal this year, and he has high-class young sons at stud in Kentucky (G1 winners Oscar Performance at Mill Ridge; Divisidero at Airdrie; Big Blue Kitten and Real Solution at Calumet), in Japan (Hawkbill at Darley Japan), and in Europe (G1 winners Kameko at Tweenhills and Bobby’s Kitten at Lanwades). Roaring Lion unfortunately died after one season at stud, and his only crop are now yearlings.

An imposing individual who combines substance and scope in his physique, Kitten’s Joy gets turf performers so consistently that Tripoli made his first 11 starts on that surface, winning two. Switched to dirt three races back, the handsome chestnut has won two and finished a close second to Express Train (Union Rags) in the G2 San Diego Handicap in their prep for the Pacific Classic.

A good horse on turf, Tripoli is evidently better on dirt. With victory in the Pacific Classic, he became the seventh G1 winner for Tapit as a broodmare sire. Is the latter fact a telling point? Probably.

An unequivocal factor for both speed and for stamina, Tapit loves grass. Eats it every day.

His racers, however, are not widely tested on turf racing. Some have excelled, but with their pace and handy way of going, they tend to do quite well on dirt, and they aren’t most trainers’ first thoughts for “turf horses.” While their action and overall aptitude indicates that the Tapit stock should be as good on firm turf as over dirt, they don’t shape like horses who would prefer racing over a bog.

Bred in Kentucky by Blue Devil Racing Stable LLC, Tripoli is the second foal of Love Train, who is one of her sire’s 283 black-type horses. A winner of three races from 10 starts and $146,499, Love Train was third in the Lightning City Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and is a half-sister to stakes winner Starfish Bay (Elusive Quality), who is the dam of stakes winner Blind Ambition (Tapit).

Love Train was bred by Gainesway and sold at the 2011 Saratoga select yearling sale for $250,000. An elegant filly with quality, typical of the Tapit fillies, Love Train showed enough ability for Blue Devil Racing to bring her back to Kentucky and put her in the broodmare band. Bred to high-quality sires annually, Love Train did not excite the commercial market with her foals, except for a chestnut colt by Kitten’s Joy.

A good-sized colt with much of his sire’s muscularity and robust stance, Tripoli was a very good yearling, and he sold like it. Bringing $450,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September sale from the Lane’s End Sales consignment, Tripoli sold for the fifth-highest price by a yearling of his sire that season.

Aside from the colt later named Tripoli, however, Love Train proved herself a noncommercial broodmare, and for the 2020 Keeneland November sale, she was entered and sold for $70,000 to Barry K. Schwartz. Although listed as in foal to leading sire Union Rags, the mare does not show a reported foal of 2020 and may have been empty at the time of sale.

Now that Tripoli has made good, both the sire and dam can bask in some of the reflected glory of their son’s G1 success.

high oak is flying high for parke and valkyre stud, as well as freshman sire gormley

The freshmen sires of 2021 are pipping like chicks ready to break out of their shells. They’ve incubated long enough, and breeders, owners, and stallion managers are ready to see the results, as well as the racing public. After a year for gestation and a further two and half years of growth and preparation, the first-crop racers by these new sires are coming to the races, and some are getting their pictures taken.

Nine freshmen sires have had a black-type winner so far. Ashford’s formerly Irish-based Caravaggio (by Scat Daddy) leads the group with three stakes winners, and Horse of the Year Gun Runner (Candy Ride) leads by earnings with a pair of stakes winners from his base at Three Chimneys. Unified (Candy Ride) stands at Lane’s End and is in the mix with a pair of stakes winners also.

Practical Joke (Into Mischief; Ashford), Mohaymen (Tapit; Shadwell), Shaman Ghost (Ghostzapper; Adena Springs North), Bal a Bali (Put it Back; Calumet), and Eagle (Candy Ride; Valor Farm) each have one black-type winner, and Gormley (Malibu Moon; Spendthrift) is the latest to join the group of stakes sires after his High Oak won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special by 4 1/4 lengths over Gunite (Gun Runner) on Aug. 14.

Bred in Kentucky by Catherine Parke, High Oak is the fifth named foal and first stakes winner for his dam, the Elusive Quality mare Champagne Sue. Parke said, “When you get a super good-looking colt, and it goes to a trainer like Bill Mott, the sky’s the limit,” and High Oak came along just when his dam needed the boost from a high-class stakes winner.

“This is such a good-looking, strong mare. She’s a full 16.1 with a big, strong hindquarter, and she reproduces those looks. She’s had several nice-looking foals,” Parke said, “including her first,” a Mineshaft colt who sold for six figures as a yearling and a 2-year-old, then won four races in Japan and earned $428,185.

Aside from that, Champagne Sue might be thought a hard-luck mare. “She had a barren year, then lost a foal,” Parke recalled. “We had a couple of years when I’d have given up on her, but for that pedigree.”

Champagne Sue is a half-sister to G3 Affirmed winner Golden Itiz (Tiznow) and G2 Prioress winner Sapphire n’ Silk (Pleasant Tap).

The latter is the dam of two stakes winners, and all told, the second dam, Golden Tiy (Dixieland Band), has five daughters who have produced stakes winners. Most importantly, one of the winning half-sisters is Silk n’ Sapphire (Smart Strike), whom Parke bought in 2008. The mare produced Grade 1 winner Shared Account (Breeders’ Cup Filly Turf) and Grade 3 winner Colonial Flag (Pleasant Tap).

Parke bought Champagne Sue in 2010 and sold High Oak as a foal in 2019 for $37,000, the fifth-highest price for a weanling by Gormley. The colt resold as a yearling at Keeneland September for $70,000, the ninth-highest of 75 Gormley yearlings. Champagne Sue is back in foal to first-season sire Instagrand (Into Mischief).

Winner of the G1 FrontRunner in 2016 and the G1 Santa Anita Derby in 2017, Gormley covered his first book of mares in 2018 at Spendthrift and was immensely popular with breeders, many of whom scooped up seasons that gave them a lifetime breeding right in the horse. To secure a breeding right, mare owners had to sign up to breed a mare to the horse at a stud fee of $12,500 for the first two seasons. Of those, 57 completed the program and now own a lifetime right in an upwardly mobile freshman sire. Typical of the A.P. Indy sire line, Gormley is a sizable, lengthy horse who performed best at a mile and up, and a large part of his foals seem to be cast in this type with good size and scope.

High Oak won the Special going 6 1/2 furlongs and looked stronger at the end than at the midpoint of the Saratoga Special, which suggests he could improve when racing at longer distances.

In addition to Gunite’s second in the Saratoga Special, champion Gun Runner is one of three freshmen sons of leading sire Candy Ride with a stakes winner. Both Unified and Gun Runner have a pair of stakes winners. Eagle is the third son of Candy Ride, and he stands in Texas at Valor Farm. His daughter Eagle Express won the Pan Zareta division of the Texas Stallion Stakes at Lone Star. Eagle has eight foals in his first crop, whereas Gun Runner has 103 and Unified has 88.

Unified’s daughter Behave Virginia won the Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs on June 26, with Gun Runner’s daughter Wicked Halo third. Unified added his second stakes winner on Aug. 15 when Roger McQueen won the Ellis Park Juvenile, and Gun Runner’s son Costa Terra was third.

Last weekend, Gun Runner had his first two stakes winners when both Wicked Halo and Pappacap won. At Saratoga on Aug. 8, Wicked Halo won the G2 Adirondack Stakes by 3 ½ lengths, and the previous day, Pappacap won the G2 Best Pal at Del Mar by 4 3/4 lengths. Thanks to this positive stakes activity, Gun Runner sits atop the freshman sire standings with $802.863.

While Candy Ride is riding high with three well-regarded freshmen, both Tapit (Mohaymen and Divining Rod) and Malibu Moon (Gormley and Stanford) have two sons each in the top 15 at this point.

The lengthening distances and increasing competition will continue to illuminate the merits of the sires and their offspring, while providing fascinating racing in the coming months.

sunday silence fit the bill, at least for yoshida

(A loyal reader made a query about Sunday Silence and whether the horse’s color affected the perception of breeders. The response to that question, and a bit of further amplification, is below.)

The winner of the 1989 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Sunday Silence (by Halo) is mostly remembered in the U.S. as the great challenger of 1988 juvenile champion Easy Goer (Alydar). The winner of a maiden at 2, Sunday Silence rose to prominence swiftly at 3, winning an allowance, the San Felipe, and then the Santa Anita Derby as his prep for the big event in Kentucky.

An exceptionally high-class racehorse who appealed greatly to fans for his volatile character and independence, the color of Sunday Silence didn’t affect his appeal to people. The horse had inherited the color of his sire, Halo, who had been a high-priced sales yearling sold to Charles Engelhard and later became a high-class racehorse and sire. Among racing fans, Sunday Silence had a tremendous following, but among breeders, the attitude was quite a lot more reserved. This wasn’t related to his coloring, which could be seen as an indication of inheriting quite a lot of the better Halo genetics; the drawback to Sunday Silence as a stallion prospect was 1) the breeding economics of the day and 2) the fairly obscure, non-commercial names in the bottom half of the pedigree that represented his dam.

The Reagan tax reform act of 1986 hit the horse business (and several other areas of investment) very hard because it changed the way that losses in horses, housing, real estate, and some other things could be written off against income on taxes. As a result, prices in those areas plummeted because so many people were bailing out, and horses were awash in the marketplace. People with the money to breed racehorses were very uncertain about how much it would cost them and how much it would impact their overall “wealth” to do so.

As a result, there was a serious depression in prices at sales and consequently in the private market for stallion shares. When, in 1990, Easy Goer was retired, he was not syndicated; he was retained as wholly owned by Ogden Phipps, his breeder. The same year, when Arthur Hancock tried to syndicate Sunday Silence and needed to do so for his own economic stability, he was able to get a positive response from only a couple of stalwart, essentially home-breeding operations, W.T. Young at Overbrook and Josephine Abercrombie at Pin Oak Stud. As a result, Zenya Yoshida, who already owned a quarter-interest in the horse, was able to offer enough money (about $11 million gross) to buy Sunday Silence outright and take him to stand in Japan at his Shadai Farm.

That changed the history of Japanese racing and breeding forever.

The second point of concern among breeders was the pedigree of Sunday Silence’s dam Wishing Well. She was a good racemare, winning a dozen races from 38 starts, but she had a pedigree that was contrary to fashion and familiarity. Her sire was the good Promised Land horse Understanding (who won the Stuyvesant Handicap but sired only two stakes winners). The sires of the next three dams were Montparnasse (Gulf Stream), Hillary (Khaled), and Free France (Man o’ War). Very few Kentucky stallions had such a pedigree and certainly no other highly successful stallion had a pedigree with so many unfamiliar names. Fear and uncertainty ruled.

Yoshida, on the other hand, was looking for a high-class racehorse who was an outcross for his great Northern Dancer sire Northern Taste (Northern Dancer) and for the many other Northern Dancer-line mares that were being purchased to breed in Japan. Sunday Silence fitted those requirements perfectly.

And so, history was made.

In fairness to all, up until his first crop came to the races in 1994, nobody — at least among the Kentucky commercial breeders — expected Sunday Silence to be a serious success. He was too rangy and lean and atypical of the “commercial type” that has come to dominate American racing and breeding.

Genetics and character predominated in the success of Sunday Silence and gave racing and breeding in Japan an unquestionable boost in excellence and in worldwide acceptance of that athletic ability. In a sad twist of fate, Zenya Yoshida did not live to see the horse’s great success, dying in 1993.

The Sunday Silence line is not well-represented outside of Japan, but one high-class grandson, by Sunday Silence’s important son Heart’s Cry, stands at WinStar Farm in Kentucky. The horse’s named is … Yoshida.

the legend of grey flight continues with bella sofia

There once was a mare named Grey Flight.

A foal of 1945, the gray daughter of English Derby winner Mahmoud (by Derby winner Blenheim) sold at the 1946 Saratoga select yearling sale. The filly was so fine that she brought $45,000, the highest price for a filly at the Saratoga sale 75 years ago.

Smiles surround Mahmoud after winning the 1936 Derby at Epsom. The gray colt is led in by his owner, the Aga Khan, and jockey Charlie Smirke is patting the colt on the neck in appreciation of the racing success.

The buyer was the Wheatley Stable of Gladys Mills Phipps, and Grey Flight went on to become a stakes winner at 2 and 3, earning $68,990. Better at two, when she was ranked fourth among the fillies on the Experimental Free Handicap, Grey Flight won the Autumn Days Stakes at Empire City racecourse and was second or third in a half-dozen more stakes that year, including the Frizette and the Spinaway.

Grey Flight’s connections to Saratoga do not end with her sale there and good effort in the Spinaway. Most notably, the mare’s daughter Bold Princess won the 1962 Schuylerville Stakes at Saratoga, and Grey Flight’s son What a Pleasure won the 1967 Hopeful there.

Quite a few of Grey Flight’s further descendants have won major events at the Spa over the decades, and on Aug. 7, Bella Sofia won the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga, and her fourth dam is a mare named Clear Ceiling.

Like Bold Princess and What a Pleasure, Clear Ceiling is out of Grey Flight, and all three are by the Horse of the Year and great sire Bold Ruler. When Wheatley Stable retired Bold Ruler to stud at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky, the decision was made to keep the horse, arguably the fastest son of the great sire Nasrullah, as a privately owned stallion by the breeder.

Although the common practice of the time was to syndicate prominent sire prospects, Mrs. Phipps was a woman of independent mind and fortune, and she certainly loved her horses. By keeping Bold Ruler privately owned, Wheatley took a risk by losing the profits from a syndication; the benefit of keeping him private was that Wheatley was able to arrange foal-shares for its increasingly popular sire with some of the best broodmares in the country.

As luck would have it, however, Wheatley had two of the best broodmares in the breed already in their band at Claiborne: Grey Flight and her champion daughter Misty Morn (Princequillo).

In all, Grey Flight produced nine stakes winners, including three by Bold Ruler, and Misty Morn produced five stakes winners, including four by Bold Ruler. Two of those were the champions Bold Lad (champion juvenile colt of 1964) and his full brother Successor (champion juvenile colt of 1966). Misty Morn had been one of the mares in Bold Ruler’s first book, and she produced the filly Bold Consort, who won the 1963 Test Stakes.

One of Grey Flight’s foals by Bold Ruler who didn’t win a stakes was Clear Ceiling, a filly born in 1968. From 17 starts, Clear Ceiling won five races, and she became an important producer when sent to stud.

Her best racer was 1,000 Guineas winner Quick as Lightning, who proved the only winner of a top-class race bred on the cross of Horse of the Year Buckpasser to a daughter of Horse of the Year Bold Ruler.

Clear Ceiling’s second and third stakes winners were Stratospheric and Infinite, by the Phipps stallion Majestic Light (Majestic Prince). Tragically, both Quick as Lightning and Stratospheric died before producing foals, but Infinite, winner of the Garden City Stakes and third in the Diana and the Yellow Ribbon, did manage to produce the minor stakes winner Polish Treaty (Danzig), as well as the three-time winner Option Contract (Forty Niner).

Option Contract is the second dam of Bella Sofia and produced the solid stakes winner Shake the Dice, who earned $523,851, and the stakes-placed Love Contract (Consolidator), who is the dam of this year’s winner of the Test.

Bella Sofia is the third foal of her dam, following winners by Bullet Train and Overanalyze. Now a winner in three of her four starts, Bella Sofia has immediately brought a degree of attention to her sire, Awesome Patriot, that was missing before.

Retired to stud in Kentucky at Spendthrift Farm, Awesome Patriot (Awesome Again) is a full brother to 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow, who has his best racer to date in 2021: Hot Rod Charlie, who was home first in the G1 Haskell (then disqualified), second in the G1 Belmont Stakes, and winner of the G2 Louisiana Derby earlier in the year.

Bella Sofia is undoubtedly the best racer to represent Awesome Patriot and is the sire’s fifth lifetime stakes winner from five crops of racing age. Now standing at stud in Ohio, Awesome Patriot is notable for his part in reviving the G1 quality in this branch of the historic female line of Grey Flight.

lexitonian is the latest long-term dividend for the prominent sire speightstown and breeder calumet farm

When leading sire Tapit doesn’t have a major performer in a graded stakes, he is figuring as the broodmare sire of a major performer in a graded stakes. Or, the great gray son of Pulpit sometimes has both.

On July 31 at Saratoga, for instance, last year’s champion juvenile colt and this year’s Belmont Stakes winner Essential Quality (by Tapit) won the Grade 2 Jim Dandy as his prep for the G1 Travers, and on the same card, Lexitonian (Speightstown) won the G1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap and is out of the Tapit mare Riviera Romper.

A winner at two, Riviera Romper was bred and raced by My Meadowview Farm, then sold to Calumet Farm for $310,000 at the 2015 Keeneland November sale when carrying Lexitonian.

The Vanderbilt winner is the mare’s first foal and only winner from three named foals of racing age, including the 2-year-old Miss Raison (Raison d’Etat). The latter split the field of nine at Arlington Park on her debut in a maiden special on July 17. Riviera Romper has a yearling colt by 2015 Travers Stakes winner Keen Ice (Curlin) and a foal of 2021 who is a full sister to Lexitonian.

Their sire Speightstown is the last remaining important son of the Mr. Prospector stallion Gone West still at stud, and among all the good sons of Gone West, only Juddmonte’s classic-winning Zafonic would be a competitor with Speightstown to rank as the very best of them.

It has not always been this way.

As a yearling, Speightstown was a beauty, and well I remember his presence and charisma from the 1999 Keeneland July sale, when Speightstown was such a sensation that the gleaming chestnut brought $2 million from Eugene Melnyk out of the Taylor Made Sales consignment.

The great-looking yearling developed into one of the quickest juveniles for trainer Todd Pletcher, then started as the favorite for his debut at Saratoga in August 2000. And Speightstown finished dead last of 13, having “raced greenly and tired.”

Speightstown — the son of the top-class Mr. Prospector stallion Gone West was a superb yearling who became a champion on the racetrack and is now an important and successful sire. (WinStar Farm photo)

The horse returned almost six months later and won a maiden special at Gulfstream, then lost an allowance but jumped into graded stakes for the G3 Gotham and finished seventh. For trainer Phil England, Speightstown won three straight allowances at Woodbine, then went to Saratoga for the G2 Amsterdam. There, Speightstown and favored City Zip flamed broiled each other, with Speightstown getting the calls for the quarter in :21.69 and the half in :44.86. City Zip had his head in front at the stretch call and pulled away slightly to win by a length, but it had taken the two front runners :26.17 to finish the final quarter-mile.

Speightstown didn’t race again in 2001. Nor did he race in 2002. Twenty-one months and six days after the Amsterdam, Speightstown returned to racing at Belmont Park and won a seven-furlong allowance by a neck. The second horse was Volponi, whose previous start had been a victory in the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Arlington.

The colt’s next start was the Jaipur Stakes at Belmont and resulted in another head and head battle, this time with the very fast Holy Bull son Garnered, who won by 1 ¼ lengths. It was nearly a replay of the Amsterdam, and after a quarter in :21.64 and a half in :43.91, the two leaders took :39.58 to cover the final three furlongs.

After the Jaipur, Speightstown didn’t race for 10 months and a day. For many an owner, this would have been too much. A $2 million-dollar colt who had made 10 starts in four seasons of racing and who had shown a very high level of speed but had trouble staying healthy seems like a proposition that many would have bailed on.

Upset as the odds-on favorite in the G1 Vosburgh, Speightstown came back in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Lone Star Park in Texas on Oct. 30, 2004. The horse rated in fourth as Abbondanza and Cuvee slugged out the early furlongs, then came on in the stretch to win by 1 ¼ lengths in 1:08.11.

That G1 victory put the seal on a championship season for Speightstown, who entered stud the following year, and with the combined might of WinStar and Taylor Made farms behind him, Speightstown has risen to uncommon heights. The stallion’s first crop contained 15 stakes winners, including Reynaldothewizard (G1 Golden Shaheen), Haynesfield (G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup), Lord Shanakill (G1 Prix Jean Prat), Jersey Town (G1 Cigar Mile), and Mona de Momma (G1 Distaff Stakes).

Despite being a horse of high speed, Speightstown prospered with maturity, and many of his best offspring likewise have shown improved form as they matured. That has not always made him the most popular commercial horse, but his stock have the speed if owners have the time. To date, Speightstown has 121 stakes winners (10 percent to foals of racing age).

The stallion’s most successful son at stud to date is Munnings, a G2 winner from that illustrious first crop, and Calumet’s latest G1 winner will doubtless be given opportunities at stud, both by his breeder and by commercial breeders who appreciate speed and pedigree.

breeders and the breed need variety and depth in the pool of available stallions

What would happen to Mr. Prospector if he were a stallion prospect for 2022? Really, where would a very fast racehorse who didn’t win a graded stakes go to stud?

And don’t even think about Danzig.

Among the sires and stallion prospects at the commercial stallion farms today, there is a startling uniformity of pedigree and accomplishment. As one stallion manager told me, “If a horse doesn’t have a G1 on his race record, and preferably a G1 at nine furlongs or less, we know there’s not much reason to stand him.”

One might be surprised that the stallion operations such as Coolmore, DarleyClaiborne, Gainesway, Hill ‘n’ Dale, Lane’s End, Spendthrift, and WinStar don’t set the bar on who goes to stud and who doesn’t. They do, in a round-about way, of course, but the real test of selection is what will sell.

Stallion farms don’t want to stand stallions whose seasons they can’t sell, and commercial breeders don’t want to use stallions whose stock they won’t make a profit on. Therefore, the projections of stallion managers and individual breeders are the yardstick to measure the horses they want at stud and that end up going to stud and making a good early impression.

In the absence of very strong demand from private breeders who race their own stock, the marketplace for stallions is dictated by the majority of buyers, and those are resellers, primarily at the sales of racehorse prospects in training as 2-year-olds.

To change that dynamic, I would estimate that owner-breeder operations would need to account for at least 40-50 percent of the Kentucky stud fees sold, but today, I’d estimate those men and women who primarily race their own homebreds represent 20 percent or less of the pool of breeders who use Kentucky stallions.

As a result, the great majority of the stallion pool is predicated on what will sell to the great majority of buyers. The obvious emphasis is upon the young, very high-achieving racehorses with speed. Champions and near-champions only need apply.

In one sense, that might be a good thing because it places an intense emphasis upon the expression of racetrack excellence.

We do, however, have a long and well-documented history of breeding the Thoroughbred, and despite the importance of breeding to animals with superior athletic ability, the greatest sires are not always the greatest racehorses.

For every St. Simon or Nearco, there is a Phalaris or a Bull Lea. Not to mention such relative castoffs as the unraced Alibhai or the non-stakes winner Danzig.

The obvious reason for this is that racing and breeding are different things and require different characteristics, to a degree.

In racing, the emphasis, perhaps nearly the only emphasis, is on the phenotype, the physical animal in front of us. In breeding, however, the emphasis is the genotype of the horses involved.

Genotype is trickier because we don’t know exactly what makes a great sire so successful and what makes another “just a horse.”

Consider a couple of champions from the mid-1960s: Northern Dancer and Buckpasser. The best 3-year-old colts of 1964 and 1966, respectively, each had an outstanding racing record, went to stud with high acclaim, and achieved immediate success. Would anyone question, though, which was the more influential sire?

Hands down, it was Northern Dancer, and from the inferential evidence of his progeny, I’d say that Northern Dancer essentially got all the positive, high-class alleles from both of his paternal grandsire Nearco and great-grandsire Hyperion (sire of Nearctic’s dam), as well as from his maternal grandsire Native Dancer. That inheritance resulted in Northern Dancer passing on so much positive genetic code that his offspring were able to express racing ability of a very high order from an unusually high percentage of those offspring.

The horse who receives a higher proportion of genes that help the next generation isn’t always a champion, and we have seen others, including such contemporary stallion stars as Malibu MoonInto Mischief, and Tapit, who began a life at stud with the season sales professionals beating down doors in search of mares to fill their books.

The evidence of the past and the great successes of the present clearly indicate that breeders and their advisers should advocate to have more stallions – not fewer – go to stud annually to allow those “lucky genes” to have expression, rather than smothering the breed with a mudslide of uniformity.

whitney family in the juddmonte program yields a big dividend in mandaloun

In Thoroughbred pedigrees, there are numerous beginnings. These are those moments when a family, seemingly dead or class-impaired, rises again to show speed and fly anew.

This has not been a problem, however, for the family of Mandaloun, who won the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth Park on the disqualification of Hot Rod Charlie on July 17. Tracing back in the female line to the 1902 Cambridgeshire Handicap winner Ballantrae, Mandaloun comes from one of the great families of the English and American stud books, and of the 12 generations of broodmares back to Ballantrae, only one in the female line of Mandaloun did not earn black type.

Ballantrae ended her days in the stud of Marcel Boussac and produced Coeur a Coeur (by Teddy), the second dam of classic winner Djebel (Tourbillon) as her final foal in 1921 for Boussac. In Ballantrae’s younger days, she crossed the Atlantic twice and the English Channel multiple times, and her most famous descendants outside the Boussac stud came successively in the studs of the Whitney family.

W.C. Whitney owned the mare when she won the Cambridgeshire, and he first sent her to America in 1904. In the States, Ballantrae produced a few nice foals before Clarence Mackay sent her to his stud in France.

Among Ballantrae’s daughters in France, the first of great note was Balancoire (Meddler), bred by Mackay and winner of the Prix La Fleche. At stud, her two sons made better racehorses, but her daughters made history. H.P. Whitney had acquired Balancoire and brought her to his Brookdale Stud. There she produced Blondin (Broomstick), winner of the Empire City Derby and Long Branch Stakes and second in the 1926 Preakness Stakes, and Distraction (Chicle), winner of the 1928 Wood Memorial and eight other stakes.

Five of Balancoire’s six daughters produced stakes winners, and of the group, the most important producer was Blondin’s full sister Swinging, who was second in five stakes but never won one. Swinging’s first foal was Equipoise (Pennant), who stood at or near the top of his class at 2, then again at 4 through 6, having missed his important 3-year-old season engagements due to a quarter crack.

Despite missing the classics, two of which were won by his archrival Twenty Grand, Equipoise is considered one of the great racehorses of American racing, as well as an important stallion. His best offspring was probably Shut Out, winner of the 1942 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

Owned by C.V. Whitney, Equipoise died after only four crops, and sadly, his dam Swinging produced only three foals. In addition to Equipoise, she foaled Cito (St. James), who ran second in a steeplechase stakes, then after six empty years, the mare produced Equipoise’s full sister Schwester, who did not race.

The two best of Schwester’s produce were the full siblings Recce and Mameluke (both by the Whitney stallion Mahmoud, a Derby winner and son of Derby winner Blenheim). Mameluke won the Blue Grass and Metropolitan but is rarely seen in pedigrees; his sister was virtually of equal racing class, winning the Correction Handicap and finishing third in the Pimlico Futurity against colts, and she is one of the marvels of the Whitney Stud and 20th century American breeding.

From Recce come such important racers as Fun House (winner of the Del Mar Oaks and Ramona), Court Recess (Gulfstream Park Handicap), Chompion (Travers), Divine Grace (Oak Leaf Stakes), Quicken Tree (Jockey Club Gold Cup and Santa Anita Handicap), G1 winner Court Ruling, and the stakes winner and important South American sire Good Manners (Nashua).

One of the fastest of Recce’s descendants was stakes winner Swoon’s Tune (Swoon’s Son), who produced Kentucky Oaks winner Bag of Tunes (Herbager) and multiple graded stakes winner Swingtime (Buckpasser). The mare’s first foal didn’t win a stakes, but Song Sparrow, a daughter of English classic winner Tudor Minstrel, did finish second in the Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland.

At stud, Song Sparrow produced the good racehorse and sire Cormorant (His Majesty) and his full sister Queen of Song, who is the fourth dam of Mandaloun. A winner of 14 races from 58 starts, Queen of Song was talented and tough, with her victories including the G2 Shuvee Handicap at Belmont Park.

Early in the mare’s stud career, Juddmonte Farms acquired Queen of Song at the 1989 Keeneland November sale for $700,000 in foal to Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. The resulting foal was the fourth from the mare, who had produced Ladyago (Northern Dancer) as her second foal, and that filly had earned black type at 2 before her dam sold at Keeneland, then won a stakes at 3.

Ladyago was the only stakes winner that Queen of Song produced, but she foaled four stakes-placed racers for Juddmonte, beginning with Wise Words, the Seattle Slew colt of 1990. Then came G2-placed Private Song (Private Account), Easy Song (Easy Goer), and Aspiring Diva (Distant View), who was her dam’s last foal and finished third in the listed Prix Herod in France in 2000.

About the time that Aspiring Diva was retired to stud, her dam must have looked like a worthy attempt that hadn’t quite hit the mark, but surely one reason is that Queen of Song produced only two fillies for Juddmonte through the decade-plus of her residence in its broodmare band.

How things change.

Resident in England at Juddmonte’s Banstead Manor, Aspiring Diva produced a trio of stakes winners: listed winner Daring Diva, G1 winner Emulous, and G3 winner First Sitting, all by Juddmonte stallion Dansili. Daring Diva’s first two foals were listed winner Caponata (Selkirk) and Brooch (Empire Maker), who is the dam of Mandaloun.

On the racecourse, Brooch won a G3 and a G2 in Ireland, whereas her half-sister had managed only a pair of placings at each of those levels. Brought back to Juddmonte Farm in Kentucky, Brooch began her career as a broodmare the right way, with a winner by Speightstown named Radetsky, and Mandaloun is the mare’s second foal.

The mare has a yearling and a 2-year-old full brother to the Haskell winner, as well as a War Front colt of 2021.

examining galileo’s place among the greats

The loss of Europe’s greatest stallion, Galileo, on July 10 brought forth the question of where the exceptional racehorse and stallion ranks in the pantheon of the best of the breed. Although unquestionably the best sire in Europe, Galileo’s ranking among the greats will require more time to fully understand.

For a broader perspective on a sire, the internationally known bloodstock commentator Tony Morris wrote in his informative book Stallions that we needed to wait 25 years to properly assess a sire’s long-term influence on the breed. That is distinct from the ranking and perceived importance during a horse’s lifetime, when the immediate success of a stallion or a particularly fancy winner may shine a light on the horse that dims quite a bit over time.

In 1920, for instance, would anyone have expected that the influence of multiple leading sire Phalaris would far exceed that of his great predecessor St. Simon? Or that of any subsequent stallion? No. It was unthinkable and unforeseeable, but nonetheless, that is the bloodstock of today. The heirs of Phalaris.

Among the greatest of these is Galileo.

What we do know today is that Galileo rewrote portions of the record books with the excellence and volume of his better offspring. He sired winners of all the English, French, and Irish classics, including five winners of the Derby at Epsom. A winner of the English Derby in 2001, Galileo sired the Derby winners New Approach (2008), Ruler of the World (2013), Australia (2014), Anthony Van Dyck (2019), and Serpentine (2020).

No other stallion has sired so many, and that gift for classic expression among his many foals is likely to be the most telling of the many fine gifts that Galileo has left us.

To win a classic, especially the Derby, requires a horse to possess stamina, strength, courage, honesty, and the desire to win, along with a lilt of speed to meet the rising ground to the finish at Epsom. Galileo possessed all those and freely shared the same with his legions of sons and daughters.

Like his great sire Sadler’s Wells and world-renowned grandsire Northern Dancer before him, Galileo had a quality, not just in his physique, which was very fine, but in his manner and self-possession, that set him apart. Perhaps it is asking a bit much for a horse to have self-awareness, but with Galileo and some other elite Thoroughbreds, there is something in their character and in their interaction with others, both human and equine, that is akin to such a perception.

Certainly, when I visited Banstead Manor outside Newmarket to see the unbeaten champion Frankel, the big bay son of Galileo showed an awareness and command of his situation that was inspiring. A leading freshman sire and now the sire of two Derby winners this year in Adayar (English) and Hurricane Lane (Irish), Frankel is a key component of the future legacy of Galileo, and a significant part of the enduring legacy is that Frankel possessed so much of the ephemeral but ever-important quality: speed.

Without speed, a Thoroughbred is at the mercy of any racer who does possess it, and Adayar particularly showed that trait in leaving his opponents toiling at Epsom.

In addition to Frankel’s growing role in the Galileo legacy, 19 other sons of the great stallion have sired G1 winners around the world, largely in Europe, and mostly on turf. Will they spread round the world to dominate the breed and raise the influence of Galileo to an even greater level?

Time will tell.

For the immediate future, Galileo will have his final crop of foals born next year in 2022, and his final crop of classic performers will come in 2025. These and others will continue to swell Galileo’s number of stakes winners past 338 over the next few years.

And for those of us who watch and wonder, what if (unlikely as it is), what if the best is yet to come?

seeing was believing: arazi was an international champion who captivated the imagination of fans

Tags

In general, American dirt racing is dominated by horses with a high turn of early speed. Relatively few winners come from far back, especially in the most prestigious races. As a result, those who do make a greater impression. Few would forget Secretariat’s run from last in the first quarter of the 1973 Kentucky Derby to winning in record time.

Likewise, those of us who were there at the Breeders’ Cup races at Churchill Downs in 1991 won’t forget the Grade 1 Juvenile victory by Arazi (by Blushing Groom). The first trans-Atlantic juvenile champion, Arazi had come into the race with a grand reputation.

Second on his debut at Chantilly on May 30, Arazi had won all six of his subsequent starts, all stakes, including the G1 Prix Morny, Prix de la Salamandre, and Grand Criterium. The acknowledged juvenile champion of Europe, Arazi was untested and untried on dirt, but he was the favorite for the race at slightly more than 2-to-1 over the quick California colt Bertrando (Skywalker).

The latter sped the first two quarters in :23 and change for a half in :46.63, and he ran a remarkably brave race to finish second, beaten five lengths. All the other horses who had attended the early pace were more than 10 lengths behind Arazi, and the colts who were 12th (Snappy Landing) 13th (Arazi), and 14th (Offbeat) at the first quarter-mile finished 1st (Arazi), 3rd (Snappy Landing), and 4th (Offbeat).

Even allowing that the pace took a serious toll, the move that Arazi made had to be seen to be believed, and one of the joys of the internet is that the race is available for all to see. The dashing chestnut in the red, white, and blue silks of co-owner Allen Paulson captured the imagination of the racing public, including thousands who watched racing only occasionally, and for the next several months, anything that Arazi did was news.

The first bit of news about the lovely colt wasn’t good, however. He came out of the race with a chip in a knee. That was operated on, and the winner of seven races from eight starts wintered uneventfully with trainer Francois Boutin in France and made his 1992 debut a winning one in the Prix Omnium.

If Arazi fever had been simmering over the winter, it went to a heady boil immediately. With only a single start since the 1991 Juvenile, Arazi was made the odds-on favorite to win the Kentucky Derby.

Arazi at the mile in the Kentucky Derby. After a powerful move from far back coming into the turn and into the homestretch, Arazi nearly has the lead, but Casual Lies to his inside gallops on strongly to be second, and Lil E. Tee, looming large just behind Arazi, came running to win the classic. (Photo by Richard Mackson/Sports Illustrated)

In the race, Snappy Landing led the field down the stretch the first time, with an opening quarter in :24; at that point, the Irish-bred Dr. Devious (Ahonoora) and Arazi were 15th and 17th in a field of 18. Going into the far turn, Arazi was moving rapidly outside, his diminutive form visible between horses as he picked off one after another. The chart credits the colt with reaching second, but as the field passed into the stretch, the writing was on the wall. This would not be a coronation. Instead, it was a realization that a miler with an exceptional turn of foot was at a great disadvantage in the American classics.

From the quarter pole home, the big classic colts, Lil E. Tee (At the Threshold) and Casual Lies (Lear Fan) took control of the race, and Arazi faded just a bit to finish eighth, a head behind Dr. Devious. A month later, Dr. Devious finished really well up the rising ground at Epsom Downs to claim the Derby after his good prep in Kentucky.

Arazi likewise went back across the Atlantic, where he was unplaced in the G1 St. James’s Palace Stakes over a mile at Royal Ascot, then was third in the G3 Prix du Prince d’Orange at Longchamp on Sept. 20. The colt returned to win the G2 Prix du Rond-Point and crossed the Atlantic again to compete for the G1 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Gulfstream.

Sent off as the favorite against some of the top milers in the world, Arazi was inexplicably close up early as Lure (Danzig) set fire to the track, made every pole a winning one, and took the Mile by three lengths in 1:32.90, a new track record. Arazi must have been wondering what they were smoking after three-quarters in 1:09.09, and he backed up to 11th, the worst finish of his career.

That was the end of Arazi’s racing, but his long breeding career began in 1993. Sold to Allen Paulson as a foal at the 1989 Keeneland November sale, Arazi had a world-class pedigree to go with his distinguished racing class. As a top-class juvenile who hadn’t quite trained on at three, Arazi nonetheless had shown good form, and he was an attractive stallion prospect.

Sheikh Mohammed had purchased a half-interest in the chestnut colt for $9 million prior to the 1991 Grand Criterium and sent the colt to stud in England at his Dalham Hall in 1993. Arazi was a son of the top 2-year-old Blushing Groom, who stood at Gainesway Farm in Kentucky. Bernie Sams recalled the chestnut champion and leading sire, saying, “Blushing Groom had the best temperament you could find in a stallion. You could work with him, and he’d never get aggressive. His favorite treat was watermelon rind.”

Arazi apparently got much of the generous disposition of his sire and was characterized as a gentleman during his term at stud in Kentucky at Three Chimneys Farm. While there he sired his very best racer, the big chestnut Congaree, who was third in the 2001 Kentucky Derby behind Monarchos. In addition, Congaree won Grade 1 races at seven, eight, nine, and 10 furlongs, showing the versatility and durability that is possible with the Thoroughbred.

Out of a daughter of Northern Dancer, Arazi was pedigreed to be an outstanding sire, but the chestnut champion did not consistently sire racers with his own type and talent. His best in Europe was probably America, a filly who won the G2 Prix de Malleret and G3 Prix Vanteaux. At stud, she is best known for producing Americain (Dynaformer), who won the 2010 Melbourne Cup and entered stud at Calumet Farm in Kentucky.

In 1997, Arazi was sold to stand at the Breeders Stallion Station in Japan. From there, the stallion was sent to stand in Australia at Independent Stallion Station in 2003 in Victoria, spent a single covering season in Switzerland, then returned to the Land of the Koala to spend the rest of his life.

At the time of his death on July 1, age 32, Arazi was a pensioner at Stockwell Stud.