mr (red) smith would enjoy the feel-good tale of mr maybe and ‘forty coats’


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With a victory in the Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct on Nov. 14, Mr Maybe became the latest stakes winner and graded winner for Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, the most successful stallion son of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again.

Journalist and racing scribe Red Smith, for whom the handicap was named, would be proud of the winner because there is a story to go with the gelding’s victory by four and a quarter lengths.

Bred in Kentucky, the gray went through the sales ring for the first time as a weanling in the 2011 edition of the Keeneland November sale. The youngster sold for $3,000, but that is only a snip of the story.

Gainesway Farm’s Michael Hernon recalled that he had seen the colt in the back ring at Keeneland, liked him, and followed him to the ring. He said that Mr Maybe “was a gray; so he threw to the dam and to her sire With Approval. Then the second dam was by the gray Caro.”

Caro was also the sire of Gainesway’s grand old stallion Cozzene and of the farm’s famous broodmare Winning Colors, winner of the 1988 Kentucky Derby.

Hernon also noticed that “he was a foal-share between breeders Stonestreet and our friend Rob Whiteley. This was a strong colt, was unlikely to be reserved because of the foal share. Also, I thought he was possibly a little advanced in placement at the sale, and he was medium-sized, at best. So when I went to the ring, I had a reasonable budget, and I remember the bidding opened at a thousand, and I made one bid, expecting there would be continued bidding. And it never materialized.”

Instead, Hernon picked up a future graded stakes winner for $3,000.

The lucky buyer “signed the ticket ‘Forty Coats,’ after a character from an Irish television series back in the day. He traveled around, wore several coats, though not 40, and was a bit wild-looking, and yet went around doing good deeds.”

Hernon’s good deed earned its reward the next year. The future stakes winner improved with maturity, as might be expected from his pedigree, and Mr Maybe “certainly grew up a lot and continued to grow,” Hernon said. “Trainer Chad Brown calls him a big teddy bear.”

Mr Maybe as a yearling at Gainesway Farm

Mr Maybe as a yearling at Gainesway Farm

The colt’s two first dams were both stakes winners, and the pedigree has a strong tint of turf and stamina, which Mr Maybe’s physique suggested would be his trump cards, as well.

Reading the colt’s physical type and need to progress, Hernon did not push to put the well-pedigreed young animal in a sale too early in the year.

“I nominated him to the October sale at Fasig-Tipton,” Hernon said, “because I wanted to give him every opportunity to strengthen and to stand out for perceptive buyers to see.”

The little gray weanling became a notably bigger gray yearling, and Hernon said that Mr Maybe began with “a strong body, good bone, and I put him in the Fasig October sale to give him a chance to stand out a little. Then my friend and go-to guy Chuck Zacney bought him. I had already bought Chuck One Smokin’ Lady (by Smoke Glacken), who went on to win stakes and placed in graded stakes. So Chuck was looking for a few more nice racehorses, and he sent me five names for the October sale, and of those, one name jumped off the page. So I called him up and told him that the Ghostzapper colt was mine, and he said that as long as I could recommend him, that was fine with him.”

Zacney proved the most tenacious bidder for the Ghostzapper colt, getting him for $85,000, and Mr Maybe won his second start, then went through a series of close efforts, always earning a check in his subsequent starts. When his form seemed improving this fall, Zacney sold Mr Maybe privately to Michael Dubb, Head of Plains Partners LLC, and Highclere America.

Winner of his last three starts, Mr Maybe won the Red Smith for those partners, and they are the latest beneficiaries of the “Forty Coats” trail of good deeds.

Mr. Smith would surely approve.

the ‘pharoah effect’ takes a hold on the public and breeders


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As the 2015 Triple Crown winner, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, and sports legend, American Pharoah is a mortal lock for Horse of the Year, etc. Now transferred to his home at Ashford Stud outside Versailles, Ky., the big bay is spending a lot of his time standing in two or three feet of fresh oat straw.

In addition, American Pharoah is available for shows to horse people and breeders twice a day at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., when he entertains his public with 15 minutes of posing and looking majestic. During the ongoing Keeneland November sale, a steady stream of fans and avid breeders have been keeping the staff at Ashford busy.

I cannot tell you how many photos of the champion have been taken in the last year, but the volume has to be well into the hundreds of thousands.

The popularity and star power of American Pharoah have had an illuminating effect on the sport, putting it into venues that cover racing only infrequently, when the public’s excitement reminds those publications and media outlets that the easiest way to make money is to give readers and viewers what they want.

In addition to giving our favorite sport a memorable bump in popularity, American Pharoah has been raising the profile of his entire male line. The Triple Crown winner’s sire, Pioneerof the Nile, will stand for $125,000 in 2016, more than double the stallion’s stud fee of 2015, and that would not have happened without American Pharoah.

It would not, however, be fair to say that Pioneerof the Nile is just riding the coattails of his famous son. The striking son of Empire Maker was a top racehorse, winning twice at the top level, and had already elevated his stud fee with the performance of his first crop of racers, which include graded stakes winners Midnight Warrior (Del Mar Derby), Jojo Warrior (Summertime Oaks), Vinceremos (Sam Davis Stakes), and Cairo Prince (Holy Bull Stakes and Nashua Stakes).

The latter, in particular, who entered stud in 2015 at Airdrie Stud, is set to prosper from some of the reflected glory attending to the Triple Crown winner. A striking horse and a high-class prospect for the 2014 classics, Cairo Prince has several things in common with American Pharoah. Chiefly, Cairo Prince was richly talented, with great speed that allowed him to roll a half-mile in :45.76 in the process of winning his début at six furlongs.

Like the other members of this male line, Cairo Prince also stayed two turns well, winning the two stakes above and racing a smashing second to Honor Code (by A.P. Indy) in the Remsen. With the increasingly high profile enjoyed by his sire and American Pharoah, Cairo Prince will get greater attention from breeders, especially since he is now the “value horse” among his near male relatives.

Perhaps the most exciting change related to the “Pharoah Effect” was the repatriation of grandsire Empire Maker (Unbridled). The Belmont Stakes winner was the best racing son of his famous dam Toussaud (dam of four G1 winners) and was one of the trio of classic winners by his Kentucky Derby-winning sire Unbridled.

There was some surprise when the stallion was sold to the Japan Bloodstock Breeders Association, but there may have been even more when Empire Maker was purchased for return to the States by Haras Don Alberto and Gainesway Farm.

A grand-looking stallion with proven ability to get big-race winners and now to sire important stallions, Empire Maker will again be available to American breeders for the 2016 season, when his stud fee will be $100,000 at Gainesway.

Sure to be one of the most popular stallions of 2016, Empire Maker has sired 11 G1 winners, all in the U.S., among his 52 stakes winners to date. The best known of them is undoubtedly champion racemare Royal Delta, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff twice and earner of $4.8 million.

Ironically, Empire Maker has only two colts among his winners at the top level: Pioneerof the Nile and Bodemeister. The latter had not been playing second fiddle to “Pioneer” before American Pharoah came on the scene because Bodemeister’s seasons and young stock have been highly sought. Bodemeister’s first crop will race in 2016 and will be watched with anticipation to see if they show aptitude similar to the early racers by Pioneerof the Nile.

The latter, however, is the star today. As famous as American Pharoah is, the stallion responsible for him is even more revered by breeders, especially because he is a clear classic influence in a time when that is sorely needed.

young sires light up the breeders’ cup with fireworks


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Among the cannons sounding at the 2015 Breeders’ Cup, such as established star stallions like Unbridled’s Song (Liam’s Map), War Front (Hit It a Bomb), Medaglia d’Oro (Songbird), and Galileo (Found), there were some young guns who lit their powder, as well.

Among the sires with first-crop 4-year-olds, Pioneerof the Nile (by Empire Maker) rang the big bell with the BC Classic victory by his champion son American Pharoah. The 3-year-old proved untouchable in his final start, ranging home an impressive winner and locking up Horse of the Year in his only start against older horses. No racehorse and no young sire have a greater following with the racing public.

A big, rangy horse, Pioneerof the Nile is typical of this sire line descending from Mr. Prospector’s son Fappiano through his Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled to his Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker and then to Kentucky Derby second Pioneerof the Nile.

Known for getting plenty of scope in his stock, Pioneerof the Nile was not a darling of the sales, and seasons to the big stallion could be purchased quite reasonably till the stallion’s stock began to race. Every season since, the stud fee has risen, and for 2016, WinStar’s Pioneerof the Nile will stand for $125,000.

Two younger stars likewise had Breeders’ Cup winners. Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver (Maria’s Mon) has first-crop 3-year-olds, and his son Runhappy had to eat some dirt early but powered through the stretch to win the BC Sprint from Private Zone. Without Rock Fall in the mix at the Breeders’ Cup, Eclipse Award voters are likely to run to form and elect the BC Sprint winner as champion sprinter. That would be a happy turn for the classic winner and for the stud prospects of his son Runhappy.

The performances of Runhappy, Hopeful Stakes winner Competitive Edge, and Alabama Stakes winner Embellish the Lace have lifted Super Saver to a high level as a sire very quickly. The Kentucky Derby winner was the revelation of the 2014 2-year-olds in training season, and his offspring last year were quick and early.

Although made in the mold of broodmare sire A.P. Indy, Super Saver is breeding on an unexpected edge of speed and precocity that appears to have come through sire Maria’s Mon, who was ironically both a champion juvenile and one of the few sires to get two Kentucky Derby winners.

Standing at WinStar Farm like Pioneerof the Nile, Super Saver will have a 2016 stud fee of $65,000.

Another sire who will get a rise in fee is Uncle Mo. The 2010 champion juvenile Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie) had led his freshman sire competition going into the Breeders’ Cup, and the massive bay stallion emerged from the BC in an even more dominant position thanks to the victory of his son Nyquist.

With 49 starters from his first crop so far, Uncle Mo has 19 winners, 6 stakes winners, and 2 G1 stakes winners for gross first-crop earnings of slightly more than $3 million to date. Although a bit more than half of that total comes from Nyquist, the stallion leads the second-place cluster of First Dude (Stephen Got Even), Girolamo (A.P. Indy), and Twirling Candy (Candy Ride) – all with earnings over $800,000 – by more than $2 million.

If all of Uncle Mo’s runners went on strike and earned nary a dollar the rest of the year, he would still win the freshman sire’s race by a handy margin.

Add to this impressive start the fact that Uncle Mo began his stud career as a wildly popular horse. In 2012, Uncle Mo entered stud at Ashford with a fee of $35,000 live foal and got 233 live foals in his first crop. Commercial breeders were searching for the next hot first-crop sire, and they were right, but nonetheless, the big horse had “only” 172 foals from his second book of mares, which were covered at the same fee. For the stallion’s third crop, the numbers declined slightly to 164 foals of 2015 that were conceived at a fee of $27,500. With a stud fee of $25,000 this covering season, Uncle Mo received 221 mares, more than any stallion in the country.

The numbers of mares in a book are an indication of how market breeders feel about a stallion, and the raw covering totals are an indicator of breeders’ willingness to brave the sale arena with produce from a third- or fourth-crop sire. As the covering number for 2015 indicates, the sales reception for the first-crop yearlings and 2-year-olds by the sire was quite positive. With 106 yearlings sold in 2014, they averaged $108,642, with a $75,000 median price; in 2015, the same crop of animals had 41 sold as 2-year-olds in training, with an average price of $157,683 and a median of $80,000.

Those numbers are destined to rise, in fashion akin to the performances of the stallions’ stars at the Breeders’ Cup.

air force blue is yet another international star for breeder stone farm and claiborne sire war front


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Although one of several US 2-year-old colts will win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and likely be named champion of his division, there is no great uncertainty among the juvenile colts overseas. Air Force Blue (by War Front) is the top of the tree in England and Ireland after three consecutive G1 victories, the most recent being the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes on Oct. 10 at Newmarket.

The dark bay colt was a dominating force at Newmarket, and his trainer Aidan O’Brien noted that Air Force Blue has “pace, size and scope,” and the colt’s athleticism and love of racing “make him exceptional and very exciting. He has sprinting speed, but also size and range, and is very genuine.”

Air Force Blue will get some rest and be kept ticking over through the winter. His primary goals for 2016 are the Guineas and other mile events at the top level, but there is reason to hope that he might be able to stretch out as he matures through the season and perhaps challenge at 10 furlongs later in the year.

The primary reasons for those hopes are the colt’s grandsires, Danzig and Maria’s Mon. The great son of Northern Dancer sired racers with a vast range of distance aptitudes, from sprinters to 12-furlong classic winners, including Belmont Stakes winner Danzig Connection.

Maria’s Mon, a champion juvenile, also is one of the few sires to get more than one Kentucky Derby winner, with Super Saver and Monarchos to his lasting credit.

Bred in Kentucky by Stone Farm, Air Force Blue is by neighboring Claiborne Farm’s super sire War Front (Danzig) out of the Maria’s Mon mare Chatham. The dam was bred by W.T. Young’s Overbrook Farm and sold in that famous farm’s dispersal at the 2009 Keeneland November sale. Arthur Hancock picked the mare up for $190,000, in foal to Arch, and almost immediately began making money with her.

Hancock said, “I bought her because she is a pretty mare. Nice, refined, feminine mare. She has some speed, but we almost didn’t get her. I was going to quit at $150,000 but for some reason, I just kept on trying. I suppose you should follow your intuition, your gut feeling, but that was my last bid. I guess Bill Young was looking out for me.”

The foal Chatham was carrying went through the Stone Farm consignment at Keeneland September in 2011 for $475,000. The Arch colt was an outstanding young prospect, and he sold to John McCormack Bloodstock on behalf of Yasushi Kubota. Named Schon Meer, the colt is a winner in Japan.

Including that colt, Stone Farm has sold four yearlings out of Chatham over the last five years for $1.9 million. Mr. Young would be proud.

Not the least of the reasons for that would be that this family is one that Young nurtured at Overbrook for generations and that brought him considerable reward and enjoyment.

Young got into this family with the stakes-winning Secretariat mare Cinegita at about the same time that he acquired another stakes-winning Secretariat mare by the name of Terlingua. The latter produced Storm Cat and propelled Overbrook into the stratosphere among international owners and breeders.

Cinegita produced stakes winner Storm Star by the Northern Dancer stallion Storm Bird, who is also the sire of Storm Cat. Storm Star produced two stakes winners, and her unbeaten full sister Starlet Storm produced champion Flanders (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies).

Starlet Storm is the third dam of Air Force Blue and his siblings. The second dam is Circle of Gold (Seeking the Gold), an unraced full sister to Flanders, and Chatham is her dam’s best racer.

Now Chatham has produced a heavyweight racer, although the mare also has a pair of six-figure earners (Schon Meer and Bugle). The latter is a 3-year-old full sister to Air Force Blue that Barry Berkelhammer bought from the Stone Farm consignment at the 2013 Keeneland September sale for $400,000 for the racing stable of Joe Sutton.

Bugle has two victories and four seconds from eight starts and is currently recuperating at Stone Farm, where her prospects for returning to racing are considered bright, Hancock said.

The 2015 yearling out of Chatham was by Lemon Drop Kid and sold for $535,000 to Shadai. Hancock said, “You have to breed ‘em right, raise ‘em right, break ‘em right, and get ‘em into the right hands. And I’m glad my friend Terry Yoshida got him. I think that colt is going to be a good one.”

Shadai has done well with its purchases from Hancock, most notably the purchase of Horse of the Year Sunday Silence, who became the greatest sire in Japanese breeding history.

In looking back at the family of Air Force Blue, Hancock recalled his friend Bill Young and that “he was one of the handful of breeders who agreed to take a share in Sunday Silence when I was trying to syndicate him, and I really tried to get him syndicated.”

Instead, Sunday Silence went to Shadai, and 30 years later, Overbrook’s Chatham went to Stone. The great karmic cycle of racing luck and breeding wisdom sent another one to Shadai last month, with all the potential to start a new legacy in racing and breeding.

harlan’s holiday proved a force for speed and quality, now a sire of stallions and producers


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Holidays always seem too short, and the fine sire Harlan’s Holiday, likewise, was with us for too short a time.

The striking bay son of the Storm Cat stallion Harlan was a cracking racehorse, bulled his way up the rungs of success at stud, but lamentably died almost exactly two years ago at 14 during a shuttle season in Argentina.

The final Kentucky-sired crop by Harlan’s Holiday will race next season, but the stallion’s current stock on the racetrack are setting the bar high for the final crop.

On Saturday, Oct. 17, for instance, the stallion had three stakes winners, including a pair of graded winners. The juvenile colt Annual Report won the Grade 2 Futurity Stakes at Belmont Park, the 3-year-old colt Lucky Lindy won the G3 Hawthorne Derby, and the gelded Trouble Kid won the Valley Forge Stakes at Parx.

With these and numerous other good performers, Harlan’s Holiday is having yet another banner year with his racing stock and currently ranks 12th on the general sire list for North America with more than $7.6 million in progeny earnings to date.

To date, Harlan’s Holiday has 62 stakes winners from nine crops of racing age, with 10 stakes winners representing their sire this season alone.

One of the most respected of the stallion’s performers is the U.S.-bred Takeover Target, winner of the G3 Hill Prince at Belmont on Oct. 3 and the G2 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes on Aug. 7. This colt possesses a good deal of his sire’s athleticism and striking good looks.

Bred in Kentucky by Dorothy Matz, Takeover Target sold for $175,000 at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale. Mike Ryan, agent, bought the colt out of the Claiborne Farm consignment, and Takeover Target races for Klaravich Stable and William Lawrence.

The progressive colt has won four of his seven starts, earning $603,200.

As much as Takeover Target has prospects for the future, the 2-year-old colt Annual Report is yet another star on the horizon.

Bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Ltd., Annual Report sold for $600,000 out of the Eddie Woods consignment at the Fasig-Tipton March sale of 2-year-olds in training earlier this year in Florida. Out of the Seeking the Gold mare Pension, Annual Report is unbeaten in two starts and comes from one of the best families in the stud book.

The colt’s dam is a full sister to G3 winner Happy Hunting, and Gainesway purchased Pension, in foal to champion Johannesburg, at the 2008 Keeneland November sale for $160,000. Pension and Happy Hunting are out of G1 winner Furlough, one of the very best performers sired by champion Easy Goer (by Alydar). Furlough, like Happy Hunting, Pension, Easy Goer, and nearly everything in this family for generations, was bred and raced by the Phipps family.

Furlough’s dam was the Maskette and Test Stakes winner Blitey, one of the best performers by Meadow Stable’s Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Riva Ridge. The bay son of First Landing was rather like Cassius, with a “lean and hungry look,” but he was champion of his crop at 2 and 4, and a multiple classic winner at 3. At his best, only Secretariat vanquished Riva Ridge in the inaugural Marlboro Cup in 1973, which was contested by one of the most distinguished fields in racing history.

Good as Blitey was on the racetrack, she was even better at stud. She produced four graded stakes winners, including three G1 winners. In addition to Furlough (G1 Ballerina), Blitey’s G1 winners were the Mr. Prospector filly Fantastic Find (G1 Hempstead Handicap) and the Nijinsky horse Dancing Spree (G1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Carter, and Suburban Handicap). Blitey’s daughters, both top racers and lesser performers, have been important producers. And Blitey was the great producer out of her dam, champion filly Lady Pitt, whom Ogden Phipps acquired in the mid-1960s.

Futurity winner Annual Report is the most exciting prospect from the Furlough branch of this family in years, and the blue-sky potential of this colt is enhanced by the growing reputation of Harlan’s Holiday as a sire of stallions.

The leading son of Harlan’s Holiday at stud is Into Mischief, winner of the Hollywood Futurity at 2. The sire of a dozen stakes winners to date, Into Mischief stands at Spendthrift and is best known for his son Goldencents, winner of two runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and more than $3 million. Harlan’s Holiday’s son Majesticperfection, who stands at Airdrie Stud, got the 2015 Kentucky Oaks winner Lovely Maria, and Harlan’s Holiday’s champion juvenile Shanghai Bobby stands at Ashford, with his first crop being foals of 2015.

If Annual Report makes the grade in the coming months, his future is assured.

visiting stallions on the farms offers different insights into sires and their potential

One important part of the Breeders’ Cup takes place off the racecourse. Especially when the races are in Kentucky, breeders from around the country and around the world have the opportunity to engage with horses and breeders. Some of the most eminent farms and breeders in the region open their operations to visitors and take time out of their schedules to entertain and educate those who come to look and learn.

As part of this, there are shuttles and tours going on for days to help people see some of the highlights of Thoroughbred breeding in the Bluegrass. That’s no small thing because the farms are sometimes a bit remote, and getting around the countryside is not the simplest thing, especially “since you’re driving on the wrong side of the road,” as one British visitor exclaimed.

The joy of the program, however, is getting to see some of the finest bloodstock in the world, as well as some of the finest horse people.

From proven star stallions like Tapit and War Front to new stallion prospects for 2016 like Belmont Stakes and Metropolitan Handicap winner Palace Malice, the sire power of the farms around Lexington is impressive and informative.

Entering stud at Three Chimneys Farm in 2016, Palace Malice, for instance, exhibits the balance expected of a classic winner. He has strength and quality, allied with scope and presence. As Three Chimneys’s Grant Williamson said, “One of the most important things is to get people onto the farms to look at these horses. There are things you can see that do not translate into words or photos.”

One of those is the animation and magnetic energy that some of these fine Thoroughbreds exude as they walk, pose, and move with purpose for breeders, as well as their public.

Anyone who wondered how a Belmont Stakes winner like Palace Malice could be a good 2-year-old in training would only have to see the horse in person to know the answer. There is nothing still, not to mention nothing lethargic, about the bay son of Curlin. Palace Malice is an active athlete. His feet, head, tail, even his skin, indicate an animal fully energized by his environment.

Yet on the racecourse, Palace Malice was able to translate that nervous energy, as the great breeder Federico Tesio called this positive animation, into racecourse performances of a high order. That allowed him to become the first winner for his sire, scoring in a maiden special at Saratoga, then stepping up in class time after time.

In viewing horses on the farms, class was the order of the day with some of the best horses in the breed. Good looks were abounding, and looks matter, both to breeders and to students or historians of the breed.

Into the Lexington area for the Breeders’ Cup week, author Tony Byles was delighted to see the farms and the bloodstock available here. He said, “I was quite favorably impressed with the Unbridled stallion Broken Vow at Pin Oak Stud. He is such a classy horse and beautifully formed.

“In addition, I have quite a liking for our Champion Stakes winner Noble Mission, who’s a full brother to Frankel. I saw them both race, and this horse [at Lane’s End] is not too far behind his brother,” Byles said. “And it’s easy to see why people are breeding to Scat Daddy [who stands at Ashford]. He’s a very taking sort of horse.”

Byles knows something about the relationship between physique and performance because it is central to his book about the fraud in the 1844 English Derby, sometimes called the “Running Rein Derby” after the 4-year-old ringer who was entered in the race and won it. The book investigates how the perpetrators put their scam together and how they were discovered and relieved of their ill-gotten gains.

Called “In Search of Running Rein,” the book is a look into a chapter of turf history. Racing’s tools and means of identification have come a long way since the days of Running Rein, and this weekend, thousands of spectators will see some of our best athletes write another chapter of excitement and glory in the history of the breed.

champagne toast to a mare who knows the ‘code’

With an emphatic victory in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 3, Greenpointcrusader (by Bernardini) marked himself as one of the principal contenders for the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The same afternoon at Keeneland, Brody’s Cause (Giant’s Causeway) won the G1 Breeders’ Futurity and nominated himself for a serious role in the race most likely to decide champion 2-year-old colt with a close victory over favored Exaggerator (Curlin).
In addition to stepping forward as principals for the Juvenile, Greenpointcrusader and Brody’s Cause are also emblematic of the great international rivalry between the operations that stand their sires. Bernardini was bred in Kentucky by Darley and raced for Godolphin, and the bay son of A.P. Indy stands at Darley’s Jonabell stallion farm in Lexington. Giant’s Causeway was bred and raced by the titans of Coolmore, and the chestnut son of Storm Cat stands at Coolmore’s American satellite, Ashford.

Through the early years of the 2000s, Darley was the leading buyer of premium stallion prospects, and while they have gone relatively quiet the past half-dozen years, Coolmore has stepped up its pattern of acquisitions by purchasing successive juvenile champions in the U.S., from Lookin at Lucky to American Pharoah, and the 2015 Triple Crown winner will enter stud at Ashford in 2016.

Now Godolphin has parried Coolmore’s great stroke with the announcement last week that 2015 Derby and Arc de Triomphe winner Golden Horn will retire to their Dalham Hall stud in England.

So the two best and most acclaimed 3-year-old colts in the world this year will retire to the studs of the major newsmakers in international breeding.

And what does this matter to the pair of high-class colts mentioned in the first paragraph? One or both are good bets to be acquired by Coolmore or Darley sometime in the next year.

Greenpointcrusader, for instance, would be of special interest to Godolphin because they stand the sire, and the Champagne Stakes winner is the 13th G1 stakes winner for Bernardini. That is an exceptional statistic.

Even more than Bernardini’s percentages overall, his strike rate with the outstanding broodmare Ava Knowsthecode (Cryptoclearance) is amazing. From three foals, the pair have three winners and two graded stakes winners, G3 winner Algorithms and G1 winner Greenpointcrusader.

The only one of the three not a stakes winner is the one that Godolphin bought, Encode. A big, scopy, grand-looking colt, Encode sold at the 2011 Keeneland September sale for $625,000 to John Ferguson and won a maiden from two starts. So it would seem that he followed his siblings’ pattern in possessing talent.

Of the three, Algorithms came first as a foal of 2009 and sold for $170,000 as a Keeneland September yearling in 2010. Unbeaten in three starts, the scopy bay defeated champion Hansen in the G3 Holy Bull Stakes, then was injured and never raced again. Standing at Claiborne Farm, Algorithms has a legitimate shot to be a stallion, having a very active male line and being out of a great broodmare.

Ava Knowsthecode could not be better named because the mare apparently knows the code to genetic success, and from 14 foals, she has six stakes winners. Five are graded stakes winners. Greenpointcrusader and Justin Phillip (First Samurai) are G1 winners; Keyed Entry (Honour and Glory) was a G2 winner; Algorithms and Successful Mission (Successful Appeal) won at the G3 level; and that slacker Alex’s Allure (Sky Classic) was only a listed winner.

Ava Knowsthecode has a yearling colt by Giant’s Causeway, and that flashy chestnut went through the September sale last month for $300,000 to Rigney Racing.

Cathy Parke has foaled and raised the foals out of Ava Knowsthecode for breeder Oakbrook Farm, and she said that the mare has a weanling colt by Giant’s Causeway. Parke said, “Ava Knowsthecode had a very good colt in May, and we gave her the year off” because of the late delivery.

Greenpointcrusader was also a May foal when he came to the yearling sale 13 months ago, “but he didn’t look like a May foal,” Parke recalled, and J.J. Crupi, acting for the partnership that owns the Champagne winner, “loved him” and bought the colt for $575,000.

With five stakes winners already on the page, Greenpointcrusader proved a very good buy when he went through the ring, and Parke believes that a pair of prejudices sent buyers elsewhere, rather than homing in on the Champagne Stakes winner.

First is the preference for foals born earlier in the year and the dismissal of May foals as not being “early enough.” With a maiden victory in the summer and a G1 success on the first weekend of October, however, Greenpointcrusader seems to have slain that bogey man.

The second prejudice “is against older mares’ foals,” Parke said. “When a yearling looks like an ‘old mare’s foal’ with not much substance or vitality, I can understand passing that by. But when a yearling is strong, progressive, and very robust, I don’t understand that.”

Of course, Ava Knowsthecode isn’t your average mare.

Even at 21, Parke said, “She looks like a 12-year-old, carries her weight well, is sound and happy. Depending on how her owner feels about it, we might even breed her early next year.”

That would have to be even more tempting if the Champagne winner wheels back with a victory at Keeneland in the championship event. Whether Greenpointcrusader wins the Juvenile or not, doesn’t the mare have to be a lock for Broodmare of the Year?

songbird carries a tune of excellence for owner fox hill, as well as her gold-medal sire

With her victory in the Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 26, Songbird (by Medaglia d’Oro) won her third race without a defeat and her second Grade 1, following the Del Mar Debutante. Her time of 1:43.79 was 1.1 seconds faster than the colt Nyquist ran in winning the G1 Frontrunner earlier on the same card.

A frontrunner of obvious ability, Songbird takes a great deal after her famous sire, both in racing style and racing class. Medaglia d’Oro was a steed of prodigious frontrunning ability, and in the capable hands of trainer Bobby Frankel, the dark brown son of El Prado was first or second in 15 of his 17 starts, earning more than $5.7 million.

At the track, Medaglia d’Oro’s best victories included the G1 Travers, Whitney, and Donn, while he was also second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Belmont Stakes, and Dubai World Cup.

A horse of striking presence and individuality, Medaglia d’Oro began his stud career at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm, where the mares he covered included Lotta Kim (by the Forty Niner stallion Roar), the dam of Preakness and Woodward Stakes winner Rachel Alexandra.

Rachel Alexandra was the biggest star in the first crop by Medaglia d’Oro, who had been transferred to his owners’ Stonewall Farm. There the dark brown horse continued as a highly popular stallion till his first-crop successes engendered an offer from Darley that could not be refused.

Now Medaglia d’Oro stands at Darley’s Jonabell stallion center in Lexington on Northern Hemisphere time for the February through June breeding season and commutes to Australia, where he stands at Darley Kelvinside in New South Wales for the Southern Hemisphere breeding season.

The sire of 72 stakes winners in the Northern Hemisphere, Medaglia d’Oro is especially well-known for the excellence of his daughters, which include classic winners Rachel Alexandra and Plum Pretty (Kentucky Oaks), as well as other major winners like Marketing Mix (Gamely), Champagne d’Oro (Acorn), Gabby’s Golden Gal (Acorn), and now Songbird.

But Medaglia d’Oro also has sired G1-winning colts like Violence (Hollywood Futurity), Warrior’s Reward (Carter), Mshawish (Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap), as well as his best racer in Australia, G1 Golden Slipper victor Vancouver.

Results such as these have guaranteed Medaglia d’Oro a steady supply of outstanding racemares and producers as his mates, and the dam of Songbird proved herself a talented and resilient racehorse during her career on the track.

In three seasons of racing, Ivanavinalot won six races and $647,300. In addition to winning the Florida Stallion Stakes My Dear Girl division at 2, the daughter of West Acre progressed at 3 to win the G2 Bonnie Miss at Gulfstream, as well as finish second in the G2 Davona Dale.

One of three stakes winners out of the Deputy Minister mare Beaty Sark, Ivanavinalot was the best racer by her royally pedigreed sire West Acre. That horse was by champion juvenile and leading sire Forty Niner (Mr. Prospector) and out of the important producer Narrate, who was also a graded stakes winner during her racing career.

An April 30 foal, Songbird has proven herself the best of her dam’s produce by far. Although Ivanavinalot had several foals to race without distinction, Songbird was such an outstanding prospect that she was accepted for Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga select yearling sale last year. A real star on the sales grounds, the striking bay filly with four white stockings had a typical profile for her sire.

She carries very good condition, has good length through the body, with strong quarters, and has the balance of shape and fluidity of motion that suggests a high-quality individual.

All these attributes caught the attentive eye of sales inspector Tom McGreevy, who purchases racing prospects for Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm, and on a bid of $400,000, the lovely filly went into the training set for Fox Hill.

After the Chandelier, Songbird will justly be one of the favorites for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, where she may meet Spinaway winner Rachel’s Valentina (Bernardini). The latter and this year’s Vosburgh Stakes winner Rock Fall (Speightstown) are early evidence that Medaglia d’Oro is a broodmare sire for tomorrow.

With the size, speed, quality, and scope of the stallion’s daughters, they seem natural selections as premium broodmares. They are already proving themselves in that, and the combination of more Medaglia d’Oro daughters coming into production every year and their selection as mates for better stallions will mark this gold medal sire as a future broodmare sire of distinction.

midpoint of keeneland september sale can be a source of enduring champions


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After lunch on Monday, Sept. 21, the Keeneland September yearling sale passed its numerical midpoint. The 2,083rd yearling went through the ring of the 4,164 yearlings consigned to the world’s largest yearling auction, which began on Sept. 14 and concluded on the 26th.

There are actually 12 days of selling in that 13-day span. After the three days that occupy Book 1, there is a free day, during which consignors try to get their wheels spinning the right way to simultaneously manage a double-handed slam dunk of Book 2 horses, many of whom are just as good as others in Book 1, and to carry the rest of their sales horses and staff through the whirlwind of activity that stops only near the end of the month.

As the first week closed, the early signs of fatigue began to show among those whose daily work is making every young racing prospect look as good as possible and show itself with the authority and presence that marks a nice prospect.

Some of them just don’t want to coöperate.

A few are spooky about the weird sounds and unnatural sights that surround them, and I can’t blame them. It’s a big change from the farm and the pastoral beauty where many were raised. But as one petite handler said, “They have to get their rear ends with the program, and I am the program director.”

She’s right because this is the first step in a series of steps, hurdles, challenges, and perplexing obstacles that young horses have to accept, learn to handle, and overcome as the next generation of wee racehorses.

One of the things each of them has to learn to accept with confidence, without fear or aggression, is having strangers inspect them, touch them, and handle them. I know this because I touch some of the nicest young horses in the world every year as part of my work in measuring and evaluating their promise as racehorses.

And some of these yearlings don’t see the value of my existence at all. A few would right kindly like to kick me into next month. That has not happened in part because of the knowledgeable and intuitive handlers that are part of the sales. A really good handler can keep a rascally yearling from expressing itself too vigorously.

Yet among the nervous and overbearing, there are others who are quiet and sometimes even regally composed. Some are quite strong and sizable yearlings, like American Pharoah at Saratoga two years ago. Big, strong, and well-grown as an August sale yearling, he was nonetheless a self-possessed animal whose character even then was a manifest asset to his prospects as a racehorse.

As recollections of champions or memories of interesting youngsters who never earn a headline, the volume of horses and the number of inspections ought to make the individuals blur into oblivion, but they somehow do not.

The sea of young horses in shades of brown is every teenage horse lover’s dream, and yet I don’t get caught up in that side of it. The perspective of years and horses adds understanding to what these new young athletes are attempting, and there is no question that some of them will pass the post with colors flying.

Perhaps one of them will be the lovely Curlin filly who sold Monday as Hip 2061 for $975,000 to top the session. Curlin, one of the hottest stallions in the nation, sired three of the four highest-priced lots in the midpoint session, with a pair of colts, Hips 2203 and 2093, bringing $430,000 and $380,000.

What a long, strange journey it has been for Curlin, selling out of this portion of the sale, then first becoming a Horse of the Year and now a leading sire.

Just 10 years ago, at the 2005 Keeneland September sale, Kenny McPeek picked out a grand chestnut colt, just loved the colt he told me, and bought him for $57,000 out of the Eaton Sales consignment. McPeek managed to find clients to buy the big colt, and in time, that colt grew up to win his maiden in crushing style.

When Jess Jackson bought into the colt, by then named Curlin, history had begun to unfold.

But it all started when the growthy chestnut colt, Hip 2261, went through the ring at Keeneland in September.

leading sire war front set the pace in the sales lists at keeneland september in session one


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In a briskly successful first session of the Keeneland September yearling sale, the gross price rose 35 percent to $44.6 million, with an average price of $297,613. The top three prices at the opening session — $1 million and $1.45 million for two fillies and $900,000 for the top-priced colt — were paid for yearlings by Claiborne Farm stallion War Front (by Danzig).

The 12-year-old stallion, who looks so much like his sire that it’s a little spooky, enjoyed a fuller racing career than that great sire.

Whereas Danzig was unbeaten in three starts in fast time but no stakes, War Front raced three seasons and was first or second in nine of his 13 starts. The horse’s most important victory came in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes at Saratoga, with seconds in the Vosburgh, Forego, Tom Fool, Mr. Prospector, and Deputy Minister.

So War Front was a sprinter who didn’t win a Grade 1 stakes, the Vanderbilt was a G2 at the time he won it, and took a place at Claiborne because owner-breeder Joseph Allen and a group of syndicate members believed in the horse and supported him through his early seasons with useful mares.

As a result of that support and his own innate qualities, War Front has climbed the ladder of stallion success. From being an interesting stallion prospect, the brawny bay has become one of the most respected stallions in the world, and his offspring are highly sought at the sales.


The stallion’s early yearlings looked the part, and buyers began picking them up early for good prices, which allowed breeders to continue to support him through the hard times of the bloodstock depression. Then when War Front’s first crops included major winners like The Factor (Malibu), Data Link (G1), Declaration of War (Juddmonte International and Queen Anne Stakes), and Summer Soiree (Del Mar Oaks), the breeders with foals and yearlings on the ground made a lot of money in times when they needed it.

And major breeders began flocking to the horse.

With first foals of 2008, War Front has risen to an advertised stud fee of $150,000 live foal, if you can find one. Nominations to the horse are tightly held by a syndicate. The syndicate is comprised of breeders who use their seasons. Getting one is about as easy as sneaking a gold bar out of Fort Knox.

That is, however, the traditional nature of a syndicate. And one of the virtues and privileges of being a member has traditionally been access. Yes, the right to breed to one of the best and most successful stallions in the world.

The mega-books approach to stallion management has diluted the concept of syndication out of all recognition for those of us with memories that extend past the last generation. But Claiborne Farm does have a long memory, both among the individuals responsible for its success and as a corporate body that has been a leader in bloodstock breeding in Kentucky for more than a century.

Claiborne Farm has long been a stick in the mud when it comes to newfangled ideas. And proud to be.

So now they have yet another world-class stallion.

And the world comes beating a path to their door in search of seasons to War Front or yearlings by the horse. Claiborne, as consignor, sold the $900,000 colt (Hip 106) and a $525,000 colt (Hip 109); Lane’s End, as consignor, sold the $1 million filly (Hip 99) and a $600,000 colt (Hip 182).

But Timber Town (Wayne and Cathy Sweezey), selling for major buyer and now breeder Mandy Pope (Whisper Hill Farm), put the ball out of the park with the session-topping yearling at $1.45 million. The filly is the first foal of the group-placed Galileo mare Betterbetterbetter, an Irish-bred half-sister to classic winner Yesterday and G1 winner Quarter Moon, and Betterbetterbetter was sold for $5.2 million carrying this filly at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale in 2013.

Betterbetterbetter did her job and produced a good-sized and robust foal on Jan. 16 last year who grew into a very appealing yearling. The session-topper responded well to the sales prep and presentation at the September sale by Timber Town, and her hammer price indicates how inspectors found her at the barn.

As a sales yearling and racing prospect for buyer Shadwell Farm, the War Front filly is a credit to all who knew her and helped her along the way.


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