hong kong star racer golden sixty adds luster to an international pedigree

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The best racer in Hong Kong is the Australian-bred Golden Sixty, who won the Group 2 Jockey Club Mile, his 15th race in a row, on Nov. 21 at Sha Tin. A multiple Group 1 winner, Golden Sixty, by the measure of consecutive races won, stands even with Bayardo, Buckpasser, Carbine, and Pretty Polly. He is one victory away from the 16-race plateau of such champions as Ribot, Citation, and Cigar.

If he reaches 17 victories in a row, then Golden Sixty would match the winning streak of fellow Aussie racer Silent Witness, a legend in Hong Kong racing.

The 2020 Hong Kong Horse of the Year, Golden Sixty also was named the top miler and middle distance performer in Hong Kong last year, when he won all eight starts, including the Group 1 Hong Kong Mile. In 2021, the bay gelding has won his four starts, including the G1 Champions Mile, Stewards’ Cup, and Hong Kong Gold Cup.

Unbeaten since July 2019, Golden Sixty has now won 18 of 19 lifetime starts, earning HK$80.6 million, about $9.8 million.

Bred in Australia by Asco International Pty Ltd, Golden Sixty is by Darley‘s international leading sire Medaglia d’Oro, who stands in Kentucky at the worldwide operation’s Jonabell Farm.

Medaglia d’Oro — sire of Golden Sixty and more than two dozen other G1 winners around the world is a premier Kentucky sire and a keystone stallion for Darley’s Jonabell Farm outside Lexington. (Darley photo)

One of 26 G1 winners by Medaglia d’Oro around the globe, Golden Sixty comes from a highly distinguished family, and one that has some intriguingly old connections close up. His third dam is Konafa (Damascus), a foal of 1973 who finished second to Flying Water (Habitat) in the 1976 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Bloodstock legend E.P. Taylor bred much of this family at his Windfields Farms in Canada or Maryland and had purchased Konafa’s second dam, Queen’s Statute (Le Lavandou), out of the yearling sales at Newmarket. Unraced, Queen’s Statute bred a half-dozen stakes winners for Windfields, including Canadian champion Dance Act (Northern Dancer), as well as his maiden-winning full sister Royal Statute.

Bloodstock legend E.P. Taylor is shown with his great sire and champion racer Northern Dancer, along with trainer Horatio Luro. They created much of what we think of as modern pedigrees. (Globe and Mail photo)

Royal Statute followed suit as a producer with three stakes winners, including G1 Yorkshire Oaks winner Awaasif (Snow Knight), Akureyri (Buckpasser; G3 Fountain of Youth, second in G1 Florida Derby, first in G1 Remsen but disqualified to third), and Royal Lorna (Val de l’Orne; G3 Premio Bagutta).

Winner of a maiden, Royal Statute was bred to Horse of the Year Damascus (Sword Dancer) when she was a three-year-old and produced Konafa as her first foal. Taylor, through his Windfields Farm consignment, sold Konafa for $57,000 at the 1974 Saratoga select yearling auction.

And Konafa and her close relatives found a home in the select yearling sales that lasted for decades. After retirement, Konafa was sold in foal to leading sire Mr. Prospector for $625,000 at the 1980 Keeneland November breeding stock sale to BBA (England), acting for Stavros Niarchos.

The foal that Konafa was carrying turned out to be Proskona, who became the highweight 3-year-old filly in Italy, with a victory in the G2 Premio Umbria, among others. Konafa subsequently foaled Keos (Riverman; highweight older horse in Germany), the listed stakes winner Carnet Solaire (Sharpen Up), and Korveya, also by Riverman, a winner of the G3 Prix Chloe, and the dam of three classic winners.

These were Hector Protector (Woodman; highweight 2-year-old in France, won the French Guineas, Poule d’Essai des Poulains, and nine of 10 starts), Shanghai (Procida; French Guineas), and Bosra Sham (Woodman), who was highweight 3-year-old filly and highweight older filly. She won seven of 10 starts, including the Fillies Mile at two, then the 1996 English 1,000 Guineas and Champion Stakes. Although Bosra Sham’s career was troubled with foot problems, trainer Henry Cecil called her the best horse he had ever trained, and he had already trained multiple classic winners. (Frankel came much later.)

Korveya’s classic produce represented a high point in the success and reputation of this family. The mare’s other daughters included Gioconda (Nijinsky), who produced Ciro (Woodman). A top juvenile when he won the G1 Grand Criterium at Longchamp, Ciro progressed sufficiently to win the G1 Prix Lupin and Secretariat Stakes at 3. Another daughter of Korveya, Tapatina (Seeking the Gold), became the dam of Internallyflawless (Giant’s Causeway), winner of the G1 Del Mar Oaks.

Although Korveya was the star producer from her dam, another of Konafa’s daughters, Leo’s Lucky Lady (Seattle Slew) ran second in a minor stakes at the Meadowlands and produced seven winners, including G2 winner Gaudeamus (Distorted Humor), who is the dam of Golden Sixty.

Winner of the G2 Debutante Stakes at two in Ireland for Jim Bolger, Gaudeamus was sold privately as a broodmare for the Southern Hemisphere, where Golden Sixty is her third black-type performer and first major winner.

Her son Golden Sixty is carrying the torch for family with his domination of racing in Hong Kong, but in addition, this year’s Breeders’ Cup juvenile turf winners both descend from Royal Statute. Modern Games descends from Konafa through Proskona, and Pizza Bianca comes from Royal Statute’s daughter Victoress (a $1.1 million Keeneland July yearling by Conquistador Cielo) through the Irish-bred Gwynn (Darshaan) and White Hot (Galileo), who is the dam of Pizza Bianca.

influence of classic winner unbridled is pervasive, includes recent graded stakes winner messier

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Twenty years after the death of Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Unbridled (by Fappiano), the influence of the towering bay stallion proliferates through the breed.

In the Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar on Nov. 14, the trifecta all descend from the 1990 Kentucky Derby winner. The winner was the highly touted Messier (Empire Maker), now a winner in two of his three starts. Second was Forbidden Kingdom (American Pharoah, by Pioneerof the Nile, by Empire Maker), and third was Winning Map (Liam’s Map, by Unbridled’s Song).

Through Grade 1 winner Pioneerof the Nile, the sire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and champion juvenile Classic Empire, Empire Maker would hold a moderate advantage as the most vibrant branch of the Mr. Prospector line through Fappiano. The other challenger from the Unbridled clan is the one from Unbridled’s Song, who has two useful sons at stud in champion juvenile Midshipman and in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map, sire of Grade 1 winners Juju’s Map (Alcibiades and second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies) and Colonel Liam (Pegasus Turf and Turf Classic) this year.

A tremendous talent on the racetrack, Empire Maker sired Kentucky Derby seconds Pioneerof the Nile and Bodemeister while standing at Juddmonte Farm, was sold to Japan, then was repatriated to stand in Kentucky again, this time at Gainesway Farm, where he sired recent graded stakes winner Messier. (Gainesway photo)

Empire Maker’s branch of Unbridled is much more classic and more consistent in aptitude with the great classic sire Unbridled than the branch from Unbridled’s Song, which flirted with levels of speed hard to believe and sometimes hard to keep sound as a result.

Breeders and buyers love both types, though.

The commercial market almost decided that Empire Maker was too classic for American racing, and then, just when the stallion was sold to Japan, Empire Maker enjoyed a resurgence in American racing and breeding with the classic aptitude of Pioneerof the Nile and his famous sons.

That brought Empire Maker back to Kentucky for the final years of his term at stud, and he has had some bright spots, both on the racetrack, as well as at the sales. Yet overall, students of bloodlines tended to love Empire Maker more than the intuitive match makers of big, beautiful yearlings.

In Messier, there is a pleasing match of pedigree elements which produced a good sales yearling. Bred in Ontario by Sam-Son Farm, Messier was sold as a yearling at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton select yearling auction for $470,000. That was a strong price for an Empire Maker yearling in 2020, and Messier has a profile in keeping with the best colts from this line: developing good stakes form late at two, before accelerating their improvement the next year to challenge for the classics.

This is the pattern of development that Empire Maker himself showed under the patient training of Bobby Frankel. After being third in the Remsen Stakes at the end of his juvenile season, Empire Maker progressed to win the G1 Florida Derby and Wood Memorial, and he was favored for the Kentucky Derby. In the classic itself, however, Empire Maker finished second behind Funny Cide, then came back in the Belmont to win at the classic 12-furlong distance.

Never out of the money in eight starts with winnings of nearly $2 million, Empire Maker possessed the racing class and physical quality and depth of pedigree to make breeders believe they could breed classic winners, and the only real knock against Empire Maker and his stock is that they are probably too classic for the American racing program, with its tedious over-emphasis on racing at distances from six to eight furlongs.

Even so, Empire Maker has sired 67 stakes winners, including 37 graded winners, and all those positive qualities attracted some splendid mares to Empire Maker, including stakes winner Checkered Past (Smart Strike), the dam of Messier.

Messier is the fifth generation of this family bred by Sam-Son Farm, including his third dam Catch the Ring (Seeking the Gold), who was champion 3-year-old filly in Canada and then the dam of Canada’s champion juvenile filly Catch the Thrill, a full sister to Messier’s second dam, Catch the Flag (both by A.P. Indy).

Sam-Son bred Catch the Ring, her two stakes-winning full siblings, and three stakes-placed racers from stakes winner Radiant Ring (Halo), winner of 11 races and $775,478. Radiant Ring was the best stakes winner that Sam-Son bred from the stakes-placed Gleaming mare Gleaming Stone, who was bred in Kentucky by Nuckols Bros. in 1976.

In addition to the stamp of the Sam-Son Farm breeding program, the other great influence on Messier is Mr. Prospector himself. Not only does the colt trace to the great stallion son of Raise a Native in the male line, but the colt’s broodmare sire is Smart Strike, a son of Mr. Prospector who led the national sires rankings twice. And the third dam is a daughter of the fine broodmare sire Seeking the Gold, whose daughters are more dominant in America but whose male line through Dubai Millennium and his classic son Dubawi is one of the most important in Europe.

aloha west’s breeders’ cup sprint victory adds to the rugged web from the danzig stallion hard spun

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Among the stallions whose stock enjoyed success at the 2021 Breeders’ Cup, Darley‘s Dubawi (by Dubai Millennium) clearly scored the most with three winners: Yibir (in the Turf); Space Blues (Mile); and Modern Games (Juvenile Turf). All three victories came on the turf course at Del Mar.

In other stallion news, Gun Runner confirmed his position as the top freshman sire with Echo Zulu’s impressive victory in the BC Juvenile Fillies, which almost certainly will translate into an Eclipse Award for champion juvenile filly, and Quality Road had a correspondingly impressive winner with Corniche, who is a virtual certainty as the Eclipse Award winner for champion 2-year-old colt.

Of all the sires of winners at the 2021 Breeders’ Cup, however, the one who added luster to his resume at a most opportune time was the 17-year-old Danzig stallion Hard Spun, who stands at Darley’s Jonabell in Kentucky.

The 17-year-old Danzig sire Hard Spun has had a strong season in 2021, with a Metropolitan Handicap winner, as well as the Nov. 6 winner of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. (Darley photo)

Hard Spun has had a really good year as a sire in 2021, with Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap winner Silver State and a half-dozen other stakes winners, including Grade 1-placed Caddo River. At the Breeders’ Cup in full view of all the most important breeders and against the strongest competition, Hard Spun captured a major share of the limelight with the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in Aloha West, whose victory pushed the sire into the top 10 stallions nationally by total progeny earnings for 2021.

Second in the Kentucky Derby to Street Sense and second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic of 2007 to Curlin, Hard Spun was part of the splendid three-year-old crop of 2007 that included other star sires of the present like Horse of the Year Curlin (Smart Strike) and champion juvenile Street Sense (Street Cry). All three are important stallions in the immensely competitive Kentucky sire pool.

And of the three, Hard Spun would be viewed as the value play by many breeders, standing for $35,000 live foal in 2021 and 2022. For next year, Street Sense is set for a stud fee of $75,000, and Curlin is $175,000.

And yet Hard Spun has proven he can get the major racers, with 87 stakes winners, including Grade 1 winners Questing (Alabama Stakes), Wicked Strong (Wood Memorial), Silver State, and others.

Bred in Maryland by Bob Manfuso and Katharine Voss, Aloha West is out of the Speightstown mare Island Bound. The dark bay colt brought $160,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September sale, selling to Gary and Mary West, with their agent Ben Glass signing the ticket.

Various setbacks kept the handsome colt from racing at two and three, and he won his debut on Feb. 7 of 2021. Trainer Wayne Catalano noted that Eclipse Stables’s “Aron Wellman spotted the colt after he won, and he inquired about buying the horse. The Wests and their agent Ben Glass always want to know if anyone wants to buy a horse, and they say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ about selling a horse. They sell a lot of horses. They don’t know at the time just how they will turn out, and this one turned out really well. But Mr. West is a business man, and he makes business decisions.

“These are all wonderful people to train for, and sometimes, when the Wests are willing to sell a horse, I try to find owners to keep them in house. Mr. West is a great guy about allowing me to do that.”

Catalano said that he was especially happy to keep Aloha West, as the lightly raced 4-year-old colt “has a world of speed, and we knew there was ability there. But that colt has really shown so much willingness that he deserves to compete with the best.”

A nose away from winning three of his first four starts, Aloha West has also won three of his last four starts, but the Breeders’ Cup Sprint was his first stakes victory. The dark bay has now won five of nine starts, all in 2021, and earned $1.3 million.

Aloha West is the second winner of a Breeders’ Cup race for Hard Spun. His son Spun to Run won the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and stands at stud at Gainesway in Lexington.

With the pedigree and speed of Aloha West, there is clearly a spot at stud for him sometime in the future, but Eclipse Thoroughbreds has indicated that he will race in 2022, when he would obviously compete for further glory at sprints…and perhaps at somewhat longer distances.

sandstone could be the basis of something big

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On the day that Churchill Downs ran the Street Sense Stakes, Oct. 31, a daughter of the 2006 juvenile champion and 2007 Kentucky Derby winner won the companion feature, the Rags to Riches Stakes for fillies.

Bred in Kentucky by Mark and Cindy Stansell, Sandstone won her stakes debut by 10 3/4 lengths in 1:44.18, which was faster than the colts ran in the Street Sense Stakes at the same distance.

Sandstone is the last foal out of her dam, the Seattle Slew mare Seattle Shimmer, who was 20 when she foaled this stakes winner.

Mark Stansell said, “Sandstone was one of the very best physicals out of her dam, who always threw nice babies. Seattle Shimmer had a very nice hip and would put that hip on foals, even from stallions who were a little light behind,” and due to the yearling filly’s appeal on physique and pedigree, the breeders got $165,000 for Sandstone at the 2020 Keeneland September sale.

“This was a really nice yearling,” Stansell said. “One reason she only brought $165,000 was that the foals from old mares, anything over 15, are not highly sought after [in the commercial market]. If that mare hadn’t been old, Sandstone would have brought more. She was that nice.”

Now a winner in two of her three starts, the Rags to Riches was the stakes debut for Sandstone, and she became her dam’s first stakes winner. Two earlier foals, Sway Away (Afleet Alex) and Shaken (Uncle Mo), placed in Grade 2 company. Sway Away was second in the G2 Best Pal, San Vicente, and San Carlos; Shaken was third in the G2 Rachel Alexandra.

Yet, they almost never were.

The dam of these three talented stakes horses, as well as other good winners, was one of the last foals by Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew (by Bold Reasoning), himself a foal of 1974. The near-black champion had problems with his neck vertebrae late in life that required surgery and curtailed the last years of his stud career.

A foal of 1999, Seattle Shimmer was bred in Kentucky by Albert Finney, and Mickey and Karen Taylor. She and her stakes-winning dam received the best of care, but when the filly was born, she was “severely contracted as a foal,” said Kentucky horseman Bob Sliger, who spent many years with the Eaton Farms yearling division.

Contracted tendons are not rare among Thoroughbred foals, and the condition’s name accurately describes the problem. A foal’s long tendons are tightly contracted, rather than loose and flexible, when the foal is born. This can cause considerable problems with standing and nursing, and if not addressed appropriately and as early as possible, the malady has the potential to cripple a foal for life.

Seattle Shimmer, however, was in good hands.

Sliger continued: “We used PVC pipe to help get her legs straightened out, and it helped her a lot. She was broken but never went into training. That’s when they had just lost Seattle Slew, and they went out of the horse business. When they did that, they gave the mare to me.”

For Sliger and former Eaton Farms manager Billy Tillery, Seattle Shimmer bred some very nice prospects, including Sway Away.

Sliger recalled that “Mark had bought three foals out of the mare off me and was crazy about Seattle Shimmer. She was a beautiful mare, a kind and lovely mare. Just a sweetheart, and Mark really wanted the mare.”

Stansell said he “was buying weanlings to resell as yearlings, and I got to know Bob after buying the third foal out of the mare, went and bought mare and the foal at side, who turned out to be Sway Away.

“She is buried in my back yard, he continued. “I have 87 acres, but buried her there.”

To produce Sandstone, Stansell “bred her to Street Sense, and this was one of the very best physicals out of the mare.”

In addition to the other foals out of Seattle Shimmer, Stansell sold, then repurchased and raced Shaken, and the half-sister to Sandstone “has an exceptional Vino Rosso foal in Book 2 of the November sale,” the breeder concluded.

summer in saratoga is the result of generations of excellence

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Winner of the Grade 3 Dowager Stakes at Keeneland and a pair of other stakes this year, the 5-year-old Summer in Saratoga (by Hard Spun) is one of 86 stakes winners for her sire and is the eighth stakes winner of 10 mares in her direct female line going back to ninth dam Misty Isle (Sickle).

The dam of Summer in Saratoga is the Arch mare Love Theway Youare, winner of the G1 Vanity and second in the G1 Santa Margarita, and her dam is the stakes winner Diversa (Tabasco Cat). The line traces back to Ole Liz as the sixth dam.

Racing only at two, Ole Liz won six of her 12 starts, including the Bewitch at Keeneland, the Debutante at Churchill Downs, and the Lassie Trial at Arlington. In addition, Ole Liz ran second in the Arlington-Washington Lassie.

Ole Liz was bred by Joseph V. Tigani, who had purchased a colt named Double Jay (Balladier) and raced him with considerable success, having won six of 10 starts at 2 and being ranked as co-champion colt. Double Jay was never ranked quite so highly in subsequent seasons, but the colt was tough and brave and fast.

When Double Jay’s trainer publicly bet other trainers at Churchill Downs that his colt would outrun the highly rated Education (Ariel) at every pole, one of the witnesses was A.B. “Bull” Hancock. He went to the races again the next day to watch Double Jay and Education in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, and Double Jay outran his competition at every pole and won the race. Hancock decided he needed to stand a horse like that.

Double Jay combined the tough American lines of Domino and Broomstick (above). Racing from ages 2 to 6, Double Jay won 18 of 48 starts, earning $299,005. A good sire, Double Jay led the broodmare sire list four times and was in the top five from 1969 to 1981.

So, when Tigani decided to send Double Jay to stud, Hancock wanted him for Claiborne, but the owner had raced the horse until he was six. That had rubbed off the luster of Double Jay’s juvenile accomplishments. As a result, Double Jay wasn’t a strong candidate to syndicate, like most of the stallion prospects retired to Claiborne, but Hancock managed to persuade Tigani to stand the horse for $500 live foal without trying to syndicate him. When Double Jay hit immediately with juvenile champion Doubledogdare, the sire’s fee went up to $5,000, and Tigani began having a really fine time as a breeder and owner.

As part of supporting his stallion, Tigani acquired stakes winner Islay Mist (Roman), who produced Ole Liz as her seventh foal in 1963. Once her racing career was over, Ole Liz put the ball out of the park with her first foal, Kittiwake (Sea-Bird), an eight-time stakes winner of very high class. Ole Liz then changed hands a couple of times before being acquired by John Gaines and Bunker Hunt, who bred successive stakes winners from the mare: Oilfield (Hail to Reason), winner of the G3 Knickerbocker and Brighton Beach Handicaps, and Beaconaire (Vaguely Noble), winner of a pair of listed stakes in France.

Both of those sold as yearlings through the Keeneland July yearling sale, the premier venue for select prospects at the time. Oilfield sold for $97,000, and the following year Beaconaire went rather higher, selling for $180,000.

In July 1981, Peggy Augustus attended the sale with her mother, and “we bought Beaconaire for Jack Knight,” who married Augustus’s mother. “He couldn’t get to the sales,” Augustus continued, “so he told Mother to bid to a certain amount, and when she got to that point, said ‘Oh, to hell with it. If he doesn’t want her, I’ll take her.’ Then he ended up giving Beaconaire to my mother after the mare retired.”

In between, however, there was more to the story.

The following year, Augustus was in France to look at the young horses in training with John Fellows, and when a particularly unpromising youngster galloped past, she asked Fellows, “Tell me that isn’t Beaconaire?” It was.

“Beaconaire had a terrible case of the slows,” Augustus said, “but she speeded up enough to win a couple stakes over in France.”

By the time the Vaguely Noble filly was three, she won the Prix du Nabob, and the following year, Beaconaire won the Prix des Tourelles.

Brought back to the States and bred to leading sire Lyphard (Northern Dancer), Beaconaire produced Sabin as her first foal. A chestnut of great elegance, Sabin went to the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale, where trainer Woody Stephens told Augustus that “she was so crooked that he didn’t know how she’d stand training, but then she won a million dollars” and a dozen graded stakes for owner Henryk de Kwiatkowski, who had purchased the filly for $750,000 from Keswick Stables and Fourth Estate Stables.

Sabin was the top-selling yearling by Lyphard in 1981.

For de Kwiatkowski’s Calumet Farm, Sabin produced a pair of stakes winners, as well as the winning Andora (Conquistador Cielo), and there are three dozen stakes horses so far from Andora’s branch of the family alone.

With racemares like Summer in Saratoga, there inevitably will be more.

forecasting the prospects of california chrome at stud in japan

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In mid-November two years ago, the JS Company of Japan bought one of the most popular American racehorses of the past 20 years, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome (by Lucky Pulpit), and exported him to stand at Arrow Stud on the northern island of Hokkaido.

California Chrome at Arrow Stud in Japan. The son of Lucky Pulpit is one of seven stallions at the farm, including juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby (Harlan’s Holiday), Blue Grass Stakes winner Sinister Minister (Old Trieste), and Belmont Stakes third Lani (Tapit), who raced in each of the 2016 Triple Crown events.

At the time of purchase, Keisuke Onishi of the JS Company noted that several of the young stallion’s first-crop yearlings had sold well to buyers from Japan (four of the six highest-priced lots, in fact). Other factors that made the chestnut champion a horse of interest for Japanese breeders include the fact that California Chrome was a sound horse who raced effectively from age two through six (although the horse made only a single start in 2017 in the inaugural Pegasus), winning seven G1 races and $14.8 million.

In addition to soundness and high racing class, California Chrome is an outcross to the prevailing lines in Japan, especially that of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Sunday Silence (Halo) and his sons Deep Impact, Heart’s Cry, and Stay Gold. California Chrome does have both Mr. Prospector 3×4 and Northern Dancer 4×5, but those will be a generation further back in the younger stallion’s foals.

So, as an attractive stallion for Japan, California Chrome presented racing class of a high order, physical quality and soundness over a lengthy career, and a pedigree open to easy matching with the prevailing lines in the Japanese broodmare population. Furthermore, nothing was known about the racing potential of his progeny, except what they looked like.

When the JS Company bought California Chrome, the horse had completed his third season at stud at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky, and his first-crop were only yearlings. The chestnut champion arrived in Japan on Jan. 7, 2020, spent his time in quarantine, and then came to Arrow Stud on Jan. 29 last year. On the basis of race record and physique, California Chrome was greeted with enthusiasm from breeders in Japan, who sent him a large book of quality mares.

Now, the horse’s first crop in the States is three, and according to Jockey Club statistics, there are 104 foals from the first crop by California Chrome, 93 current 2-year-olds of 2021, and 96 yearlings from the sire’s last Kentucky crop.

From the first crop, California Chrome has four stakes horses, led by Cilla, who became her sire’s first stakes winner with a victory in the Blue Sparkler Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 10, running 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.07, and another filly by the sire, Decade, was third in the race.

Cilla followed up that show of speed with victory in the Grade 2 Prioress Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 4, becoming the first graded winner for California Chrome.

Scarcely more than a month later, California Angel, a 2-year-old from the stallion’s second crop, became his second graded stakes winner on Oct. 13 with a win in the G2 Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland.

The latest graded stakes winner contributes two points of interest that offer hope for breeders in Japan that the stallion may be better suited to their conditions than to those here in American. First, California Angel won her race on turf, which is the primary racing surface in Japan and the surface over which nearly all the important races are conducted, and also, she won her third outing going a mile and a sixteenth.

California Chrome himself won the G1 Hollywood Derby on turf, as well as racing effectively on all weather surfaces when called to do so. That he has sired a good winner on turf is a point in the right direction for breeders and owners in Japan.

In addition, California Chrome physically is a type that should fit well with the training and racing environment in Japan, with an emphasis on high fitness and racing a distance. The trainers there are historically known for their enthusiastic training methods, believing that their stock should be hard and fit for any amount of racing activity.

And Onishi commented that California Chrome was an average horse in build, not especially large or heavy, but tough in training and determined in his racing. Those are insightful comments because the American commercial market wants young horses that are big, strongly muscled, and rather hefty. These horses appear likely to have speed and early maturity, which are important in any sort of racing, but they are not the principal characteristics sought in Japan.

There, many of the good races are at 10, 12, or 14 furlongs (or their equivalents in meters), and as a result, horses with better balance and efficiency of motion are at a greater advantage there than in most of American racing. These differences will not guarantee that California Chrome will become a great sire in Japan, but his stock should get a fair trial over distances and conditions that should suit their physical aptitudes.

rattle n roll ‘connects’ his sire with the leader board in the freshman sire race

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Victory in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland made Rattle N Roll the first Grade 1 winner for his sire Connect (by Curlin), who ranks now as the second-leading freshman sire behind crop leader Gun Runner (Candy Ride).

Connect won 6 of 8 races, including the G1 Cigar Mile, and he is the second son of leading sire Curlin to get a G1 winner. (Lane’s End Farm photo)

Connect is the third freshman sire from this group to have a G1 winner, so far, and the Lane’s End stallion stood for $15,000 live foal in 2021. Three Chimneys Farm stallion Gun Runner has a pair of G1 winners, Echo Zulu (Spinaway and Frizette) and Gunite (Hopeful), and Caravaggio (Scat Daddy) has Tenebrism, winner of the Cheveley Park at Newmarket on Sept. 25.

The latter ranks fourth on the freshman list, with progeny earnings of about $30,000 less than Practical Joke (Into Mischief) and with about $100,000 more than juvenile champion Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile). The latter trio all stand at Ashford Stud, and the quintet are at least a quarter-million ahead of the nearest pursuer in the 2021 freshman sire race.

If this group appears rather above average, with three already siring a G1 winner, the sale and resale markets have likewise placed them highly those young sires likely to succeed.

In 2020, the first yearlings by Connect brought an average price of $51,266 for 59 sold, and in 2021, his first juveniles in training brought an average price of $112,118, with 34 sold.

Rattle N Roll is Connect’s second stakes winner, following G3 Pocahontas Stakes winner Hidden Connection, and the young stallion has a pair of stakes-placed runners, as well.

Bred in Kentucky by St. Simon Place, Rattle N Roll is out of the Johannesburg mare Jazz Tune. He is the dam’s third foal and first winner. The mare’s first foal, a Mineshaft filly named Jazz Festival, brought $160,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2018; so she looked the part of a good prospect. She is unraced, however, and the next foal, a filly by Outwork, is a nonwinner in four starts.

Jazz Tune has a yearling colt by Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit (Tapit) who brought $55,000 at the Keeneland September sale last month.

Rattle N Roll brought the same price as a weanling at the 2019 Keeneland November sale and then resold for $210,000 at the September sale last year. The chestnut colt brought the second-highest price for a yearling by his sire last year.

The buyer was trainer Kenny McPeek, agent for Lucky Seven Stable, who now has a live prospect both for the Breeders’ Cup and for the classics next year.

The trainer said, “We’re still walking him. I like to give them three days of walking after a race, and he’s going back to Churchill Downs on Wednesday. I’m still wondering whether it might not be best for this colt to point for something like the Kentucky Jockey Club to finish this year and then the classics next year. I believe this colt really wants 10 furlongs. He’s a big, leggy colt who stands over a lot of ground, and there’s a lot of stamina back in his pedigree, with Pleasant Tap as the sire of the second dam and Dance Review (Northern Dancer) as the third dam.” The latter produced three stakes winners, including G1 winners Another Review (Buckaroo) and No Review (Nodouble).

Rattle N Roll is the first G1 winner for this branch of Dance Review’s family since the pair above, but another mare out of Dance Review, the winning Pleasant Colony mare Promenade Colony, is the dam of three-time G1 winner Cavorting (Bernardini), who’s the dam of 2021 G1 winner Clairiere.

With Rattle N Roll’s victory in the Breeders’ Futurity, Connect becomes the second son of Curlin to sire a G1 winner; the stallion’s first-crop classic winner, Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, had a first-crop G1 winner in Structor, victor in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

It is one of the fascinations of breeding that both sons have sired a G1 winner at two, when Curlin was unraced and which is not the prime strength of the stallion as a sire. Instead, he is one of America’s eminent classic sires, already counting a Belmont winner and a Preakness winner (Exaggerator) among his progeny. In addition to those two, Curlin’s champion juvenile, Good Magic, was second in the Kentucky Derby, and the sire’s other G1 stars include older champion Vino Rosso (BC Classic), Stellar Wind (Apple Blossom, Beholder Mile, Santa Anita Oaks, etc.), Keen Ice (Travers), Curalina (Acorn), Global Campaign (Woodward), Off the Tracks (Mother Goose), and five G1 winners this season: star 3-year-old filly Malathaat (Kentucky Oaks, Alabama); Known Agenda (Florida Derby), Clairiere (Cotillion), Idol (Santa Anita Handicap), and Grace Adler (Del Mar Debutante).

As a sire who produces a consistent stream of G1 performers, Curlin also sires colts and fillies of equal high merit, as well as juveniles, 3-year-olds, and older horses. He is a stallion who had it all on the racetrack: speed, stamina, consistency, and toughness, and he is proving to reproduce those attributes in his offspring under a wide variety of conditions and trainers.

Curlin was also a yearling that McPeek picked out at the September sale, when the brawny chestnut was still a work in progress and was faulted by some. The son of Smart Strike, however, proved a sterling performer who won 11 of 16 races over two seasons, including the Preakness, BC Classic, Jockey Club Gold Cup twice, Woodward, and Dubai World Cup, all under the training of Steve Asmussen.

How fitting would it be, then, if McPeek found himself back at the Kentucky Derby with a son of Curlin?

hanging by a thread: less is not more in sport

In winning the premier events for 2-year-old colts on each coast in the U.S. over the weekend, Corniche (by Quality Road) and Jack Christopher (Munnings) made themselves more likely candidates for further glory in the championship event at the Breeders’ Cup.

In the American Pharoah at Santa Anita, Corniche brought his unbeaten record to two, and in the Champagne at Belmont Park, Jack Christopher did the same.

Each was making his stakes debut after an impressive first-out victory. In the case of Corniche, he had won his first start at Del Mar on Sept. 4 by 4 1/4 lengths, racing 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.01. Jack Christopher had won at first asking at Saratoga on Aug. 28 by 8 3/4 lengths, racing 6 furlongs in 1:09.85.

That each was an obviously talented young athlete who had been training well in the morning was further proven by each being the favorite in his first start.

Likewise, each has taken the step up in distance, and Corniche won the mile and a sixteenth American Pharoah and Jack Christopher the mile Champagne. Of the two other Grade 1-winning juvenile colts, Gunite (Gun Runner), the winner of the Hopeful, was fourth in the Champagne, and Pinehurst (Twirling Candy), the winner of the Del Mar Futurity, is training up to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Of those four, and a handful of others, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile would almost certainly be elected divisional championship. And just so, a statistical and inherently variable proposition is made to appear linear and sequential.

The development of horses is not random. A nickel claimer from Finger Lakes doesn’t show up and win the Champagne, for instance. But neither is it lacking in variability or chance. From the 1,500 most progressive premium yearling colts a year ago, we are not actually down to “just four.”

This quartet, right now, appear to be the most ready and capable of upper echelon of colts. Some of their cadre aren’t yet fully fit, or fully hardened, or mentally seasoned – for example – to tackle Grade 1 company, yet.

Some of those will get to the Grade 1 ranks. For some, it will be later this year; others will rise to the higher level at three, and a few will be persevered with and become Grade 1 performers at four and five. Much of it, so much of it, depends on what their trainers and owners think of them and how the colts respond to those perceptions.

And, even among the colts who are knocking the barn down and burning up the track right now, the difference between days or weeks, the subtleties of trips and works or feet and digestion, contribute to the final results on the racetrack at the premium level, in particular.

Looking back at the last 10 winners of the American Pharoah, for example, two won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Game Winner (2018) and Nyquist (2015) were the two, and eight did not; that did not mean they weren’t exceptionally good horses, maybe even the best of horses.

The colt for whom the race is named, for instance, won the race when it was called the FrontRunner in 2014 but was unable to race in the Juvenile due to a foot problem. American Pharoah came back the next year to become a legend. In his stead at the 2014 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, FrontRunner third Texas Red (Afleet Alex) had a tremendous day and won the event.

Looking at the Champagne with the same point of view, only one winner in the last decade, Shanghai Bobby (Harlan’s Holiday) in 2012, went on to win the Juvenile; so winning one of the great preps is not a simple, straight-line, sequential process to arriving at a winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and probable divisional champion.

At this level, each race is effectively a coin toss, using a handful of coins, and only the very best of the very best can overcome the odds time after time to win and win again and again. That is why we run races; to test the participants and effectively gauge their comparative abilities.

But, as we race horses fewer and fewer times, we have a less-accurate gauge of their abilities, as well as their toughness, durability, versatility, and enthusiasm for sport. This situation is contrary to the best interests of the sport, the fans, the bettors, the racetracks, the breeders, the owners, and the breed itself.

the elder stakesmen of racing give us reason to cheer

Fans of the sport and others involved in racing have to listen to a lot of foolishness from those with a dim view of the breed. Many of us can hear the darling, nasal whine of the PETA-phile: “Thoroughbreds are too fragile; they’re born to break down.”

Phooey.

Clearly, some horses are hustled off for breeding too early, frequently sound and healthy to race, but those are economic decisions; I’m not here to argue with that. Might as well fuss about the rain coming down.

The results of racing over the weekend, however, put a sizable dent in the argument for anyone suggesting that the breed isn’t sound and capable of racing at a high level well past the early years we tend to feature in the headlines.

By my count, seven 5-year-olds won stakes on the weekend, along with multiple stakes winners aged six or seven. Among the 5-year-olds were the Afleet Alex horse Tiergan (Ashley T. Cole Stakes), the Stay Thirsty horse Mind Control (Parx Dirt Mile), the Curlin mare Golden Curl (Ricks Memorial), and the Galileo horse Nayef Road, winner of the Rose Bowl Stakes at Newmarket in England.

These are solid performers, some with quite good pedigrees, and yet they are mere colts and fillies in comparison to the genuine elder stakesmen (sic) of the racing community.

Consider, for example, that Pink Lloyd won again, this for the 27th time. He’s a chestnut beast by Canada’s leading sire, Old Forester (by Forestry), and is also a Horse of the Year in that lovely racing jurisdiction north of the 49th Parallel.

Unraced at two and three, Pink Lloyd won three of five at age four, was third in the Grade 2 Kennedy Road. The next year at five, Pink Lloyd became Canada’s Horse of the Year. That was the same year that the 5-year-olds mentioned above were yearlings. Every year since, Pink Lloyd has won a Sovereign Award as champion in at least one division in his homeland.

From 36 starts to date, the gelding has won 27, with three seconds and two thirds, for lifetime earnings to date of $1,737,917.

A regular homebody who loves his Woodbine racecourse, Pink Lloyd has never raced anywhere else, and his triumph on Saturday in the G3 Bold Venture Stakes was the 9-year-old’s 24th black-type success. He practically fills a catalog page by himself.

Others among the elder stakesmen include the world traveler Benbatl, a homebred in England for Darley who races under the banner of Godolphin. Benbatl has raced in five countries (England, Germany, UAE, Australia, and Saudi Arabia).

Unraced at two, Benbatl progressed so rapidly at three that he was entered in the Derby as the winner of a maiden, although placed second in the G2 Dante Stakes in his prep for the main event, and finished a creditable fifth. The son of Dubawi won his first G1 in the Dubai Turf as a 4-year-old, then followed with another G1 in Germany and the G1 Caulfield Stakes in Australia in the span of slightly more than six months.

At times in his career, then now-7-year-old Benbatl has been ranked the highweight on year-end handicaps in England, Germany, and the UAE. The winner of 11 races so far, Benbatl has earned more than $7.8 million.

Although Pink Lloyd and Benbatl are horses of championship level who have continued to race past the typical age for modern Thoroughbreds, the majority of older races are not so exalted. They make no headlines, earn no awards, but show the spirit of their forefathers and the quality of their foremothers.

Some campaign to quite an age, and the eldest stakesman of the weekend was the Talent Search sprinter Hollywood Talent, who won the Parx Turf Monster Stakes at five furlongs in :59.51.

Age 10, Hollywood Talent won his first graded stakes in the G3 Turf Monster, and that made an even dozen victories for the gelding, who has 11 seconds and seven thirds for total earnings of $635,071.

A quick horse from the start, Hollywood Talent won his debut at Keeneland in April of his juvenile season, then was second in the G3 Bashford Manor Stakes and third in the G2 Saratoga Special. In between those races and the Turf Monster, Hollywood Talent has plied his trade in minor stakes and allowance, occasionally dropping into claiming races and then starter allowances.

Brave and fast, Hollywood Talent is an example of the Thoroughbred who is an athlete to the core, and on his day of days, he rose to the occasion and stood in the winner’s circle as a graded stakes winner and an ambassador for the breed.

a decade ago, all three u.s. classic winners came from the september yearling sale

With the end of the Keeneland September yearling sale clearly in view for Friday, readers and buyers can pause to reflect on sales past and the classic season from 10 years ago when all three Triple Crown winners walked the path of the Keeneland pagoda through the September sale of 2009.

Yes, each of the 2011 Triple Crown races – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes – went to a different September sale yearling, and all of them were chestnuts too.

The sales season of 2009, however, was not the bustling and booming market we have seen at Keeneland, and elsewhere, this year. Instead, 2009 was the first yearling sale season fully impacted by the global economic crisis and Great Recession that began in 2008.

As a direct result, prices for some of the better yearlings were lower than expected, but two of our subject horses – Animal Kingdom and Ruler On Ice – brought $100,000 when put through the Keeneland auction. And the third, Shackleford, brought the highest hammer price of the trio at $275,000 but was bought back by breeders Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge.

A big, rangy chestnut with a “turf” pedigree, Animal Kingdom (by 2005 turf champion Leroidesanimaux) was bred by a Team Valor partnership and was consigned by Denali Stud. The buyer was another Barry Irwin partnership under the banner of Team Valor International. The colt’s results were surely the best for any Team Valor partnership because Animal Kingdom was a truly world-class racer at 10 furlongs, and he won the Kentucky Derby at three and the Dubai World Cup at five.

In contrast to those who previously had perceived the colt as a turf horse, the Derby is raced on dirt, and the World Cup was on the synthetic track at Meydan in 2013.

In between those two victories, Animal Kingdom had suffered a cracked hind cannon in the Belmont Stakes, was laid off for the rest of his 3-year-old season, and had a recurrence of a bone crack after his 4-year-old season debut. Then, Animal Kingdom showed what a truly versatile animal can do.

After more than six months away from racing, the big chestnut returned to Grade 1 competition in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile on turf at Santa Anita. Sent off a little-considered 10-1, Animal Kingdom rallied like a champion and finished second to turf champion Wise Dan.

Following the World Cup victory in 2013, Animal Kingdom was retired at the midpoint of his 5-year-old season to enter stud in Australia, having earned $8.3 million. He retired to stud at Arrowfield in Australia and shuttled to Darley at Jonabell in Kentucky. In October 2019, Animal Kingdom was sold to the Japan Bloodstock Breeders’ Association and now stands in Japan.

At the same 2012 Breeders’ Cup, Shackleford (Forestry) raced in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, where he finished seventh. The previous year, Shackleford had been second in the Dirt Mile, and earlier in 2012, the prancing chestnut had won the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park.

The flashy grandson of Storm Cat had personality plus, making him a favorite with fans, and he had denied Animal Kingdom’s closing rush in the 2011 Preakness to prevail by a half-length. Amazingly enough, the Preakness was the first stakes victory for Shackleford, although he had been second in the G1 Florida Derby earlier in the year.

After the Preakness, Shackleford finished second in the G1 Haskell, likewise the BC Dirt Mile, then won the Metropolitan at four and ended his career with victory in the G1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs in 2012.

A winner of $3 million, Shackelford retired to stud in Kentucky at Darby Dan Farm in 2013 and, in 2020, was sold to the Korean Racing Authority to stand at stud in South Korea.

Just as Shackleford had done in the Preakness, Ruler On Ice (by the Fusaichi Pegasus stallion Roman Ruler) won his first stakes in the classic Belmont Stakes. Amazingly enough, it proved the only stakes the gelding ever won.

Bred in Kentucky like the two other winners of the 2011 Triple Crown races, Ruler On Ice was bred by Liberation Farm and Brandywine Farm, then sold at the September sale to George and Lori Hall.

Stakes-placed coming into the Belmont against the winners of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Ruler On Ice was a genuine longshot to win the Belmont, and only two of the 12 racers were at odds longer than his 24.75 to 1. One of those, Isn’t He Perfect, broke to the inside sharply at the start, pushing Mucho Macho Man into race favorite Animal Kingdom, who came out of the race with an injury.

Ruler On Ice tracked the pacesetting Shackleford from the start, and when the Preakness winner tired after 10 furlongs, the son of Roman Ruler took control and held off Stay Thirsty to win by three-quarters of a length.

Subsequently, Ruler On Ice was third in the G1 Haskell, fourth in the Travers, second in the Pennsylvania Derby, and third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Those performances confirmed the racer’s quality, and he raced to the midpoint of his 6-year-old season. Retired, he now lives on the farm of his owners near Versailles, Ky.

As with the classics a decade ago, when we look back on the September sale of 2021, someone may very well have taken home a classic winner.