grass is greener for a trio of top turf fillies

The winner of the 2015 Belmont Oaks a year ago was the splendid Lady Eli (by Divine Park), a velvety smooth mover who had shown her athleticism at the 2014 Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training, then proceeded to win every start in career. She is 6 for 6.

Unfortunately, shortly after the Belmont Oaks, Lady Eli developed laminitis and has spent the intervening year first surviving the malady and then recovering her health and returning to training.

Just on July 10, the grand bay worked for the second time in her process of coming back to the races, getting a half-mile in :49.50 at Belmont.

That in itself is a notable accomplishment, and it is a credit to the filly’s handlers, including trainer Chad Brown, and to the veterinary care she has received that Lady Eli has not only survived laminitis but is on her way back to her best form.

At the time that Lady Eli won the Belmont Oaks, she was the only turf filly in America that I could find who had been able to remain unbeaten through so many starts on turf. That is an unusual accomplishment in any sphere, but turf racing, both due to the congestion of typically large fields, and to the frequent switching of horses from one surface to another, doesn’t promote “unbeaten-ness” in the States or anywhere else.

Just ask Frankel, who elevated himself to being one of the greatest of the greats by winning all his starts on his home surface.

Now, a year later, we have Catch a Glimpse (City Zip). After an unplaced finish in her debut on dirt (in a race originally scheduled on grass), Catch a Glimpse has not been defeated since, winning all eight of her subsequent starts, all on turf. So, while Lady Eli has been surviving, Catch a Glimpse has been thriving.

And Catch a Glimpse has thrived to such an extent that she was elected Horse of the Year in Canada for 2015, as well as divisional champion.

By the high-class 2-year-old racer City Zip, who has become a major sire through the consistent speed and class of his offspring, Catch a Glimpse became one of the few runners by her sire to excel at distances beyond an extended mile with victory in the Belmont Oaks. Another who did was the lovely filly, Dayatthespa, winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at 10 furlongs.

Likewise, Lady Eli is by a sire, Divine Park (Chester House), who showed his best form at a mile, with a victory in the G1 Metropolitan Handicap. Divine Park did not manage to sire performers with the consistency or high class of his star, and Lady Eli is the best performer by her sire, who now is standing in Korea.

Lady Eli and Catch a Glimpse do share the speed and stamina and class required to perform consistently at a mile in good company. The mile is no easy distance. It separates pure sprinters from those who can carry their speed somewhat, but it is too short for the pure stayers to show their advantage. The milers of highest quality also frequently become top breeding stock because they embody the speed and general level of athleticism required to perform in stakes company, either going shorter or longer than the mile.

The two fillies share some other qualities, in addition to coming from miler sires. Both won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf as 2-year-olds, and both progressed in dominating fashion against their contemporaries through mid-season of their second year of racing.

So, wouldn’t you love to see them race against each other?

If Lady Eli continues her rehabilitation and regains the form that made me rank her the best of her sex and age, regardless of surface, at 2 and 3, she would be a formidable and worthy opponent for Catch a Glimpse.

Whether they meet or not in the coming months, there is another turf mare who will be waiting for these young upstarts if they get uppity ideas about winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Last year’s Mile winner, the 5-year-old Tepin (Bernstein), won the G1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot last month. She has won her last seven races in a row and 10 of her last 12, including five G1s.

I’m not sure about the grass on the other side of the fence, but the grass right here with these three top racers sure is green.

racehorses and their breeders share more than sport, reflect the character and values of their culture

The social nexus of Thoroughbred breeding is one of the most important facets in our game and one of the least appreciated. The interconnections of people and their social institutions touch and intertwine on many levels, and adding in their Thoroughbreds makes the mix truly cosmopolitan.

Taking a general overview of this deep and dominating concept of ourselves and our racehorses, we can see quickly enough that elegance is more than a word in Europe. The Japanese fancy the lithe, almost Spartan image of their own society, and we in America have more than a touch of the go-go-go in our own racing stock.

In the Group 1 Irish Derby on June 25, the great international owner-breeder HH The Aga Khan won a sixth Irish Derby with his homebred Harzand. The dark brown son of Sea the Stars (by Cape Cross) is unbeaten this year, and, earlier this month, Harzand had given the current Aga Khan his fifth English Derby, matching the feat of his grandfather.

Across the open plain of The Curragh, Harzand turned the 12-furlong classic into a test of stamina and determination. He matched strides and sturdiness with Idaho, owned by a Coolmore partnership. The pair have made a season of their confrontations, and each time Harzand had come out the winner. So it proved in the Irish Derby also, but it was no walk in the park. Idaho is as game and good as a top-class colt is supposed to be, and he fully tested Harzand.

There was no lack of willingness or worth in the Sea the Stars colt, and Harzand added another classic trophy to the Aga Khan’s glittering trophy case at Gilltown Stud in Ireland.

Around the world in Japan on Sunday, the Deep Impact mare Marialite upset the heavy favorite Duramente (King Kamehameha) in the G1 Takarazuka Kinen. The victory was the second at the premier level for the 5-year-old mare, who had won the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup last year at Kyoto.

marialite 2015

Marialite – in a Keiba photo from 2015, shows the spare frame and generous scope that are typical of the top racing stock of Japan, qualities also native to the Sunday Silence line which has been predominant in Japan for more than 20 years


Both Marialite and Duramente were waited with in the 2,200-meter race, although Duramente was even farther back. Perhaps Marialite’s slightly better placement helped her catch the leaders and then hold off Duramente, but there is no doubting either the courage of the winner, nor the high class of the runner-up.

For winning the Takarazuka, Marialite gets an automatic invitation to the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf this fall at Santa Anita, plus $100,000 in entry and pre-entry fees and a $40,000 travel stipend.

Stamped in the Deep Impact mold of the Sunday Silence stock, Marialite shows plenty of structure, and this line of horses tends toward the lean, strong, rather sinewy look of Sunday Silence himself.

And whereas that strain of horses has some of the balance, agility, and physical stealth of ninja warriors, the “American type” is more about muscle and speed.

In the G1 Triple Bend Stakes at Santa Anita, Lord Nelson (Pulpit) came home a winner for owner Spendthrift Farm LLC. The handsome chestnut was winning his first G1 stakes, which will be highly important for his prospects as a stallion when he retires to stud at Spendthrift.

The 4-year-old has won five of his 11 starts, earning $598,271. A good-looking young horse with good size, rounded muscle, and the presence of a movie star, Lord Nelson sold for $340,000 as a yearling for breeder Clearsky Farm.

The colt has shown the ability to lay near the pace, and he did that, as well as responding courageously to the situation of racing between horses, and then needing to come on and win his race, after looking beaten early in the stretch.

And Lord Nelson did drop his head and persevere through the stretch to win the stakes. His performance impressed trainer Bob Baffert sufficiently that this extended sprint is the proper trip for the horse that we should expect to see Lord Nelson back at 7 furlongs or a bit farther later in the year.

Speed and good looks will further aid the cause of Lord Nelson as a stallion prospect, and it is not coincidental that the economics of breeding and racing figure so prominently in decisions about our horses here in the States. It’s part of our social fabric.

The differences among nations and among strains of the Thoroughbred are signs of our individuality, our uniqueness. But the similarities are important too. In each of three horses above, we see exceptional examples of courage, determination, and gameness. The horses are different and importantly individual, but they also share core values of the breed that they display under duress and that make them Thoroughbred. We might say the same of human beings.

freshmen sires: orb has classic prospects

One of the most exciting contests among the 2013 preps for the Triple Crown was the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Orb (by Malibu Moon) and Violence (Medaglia d’Oro) fought out the finish, with the bay son of Malibu Moon winning from the near-black son of Medaglia d’Oro.

Orb went on to win the G1 Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby; Violence never ran again. Both retired to stud for the 2014 season, and the yearlings of 2016 are from their first crops of foals.

At the Fasig-Tipton July sale, Orb is represented by a pair of yearlings: a filly cataloged as Hip 163 and a colt who is Hip 312. The latter is the first foal of the unraced Speightstown mare Mullins Bay, a full sister to graded stakes winner Bridgetown.

Bridgetown is one of three stakes winners out of the Tabasco Cat producer Ellesmere. She is out of the unraced Alydar mare Empress Aly, a full sister to Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold. So this colt has winners of Churchill Downs’s big event top and bottom.
In addition to the recommendations of his racing class, Orb has an outstanding pedigree.

His sire is one of the leading sons of the breed-shaping stallion A.P. Indy, a Horse of the Year and son of Triple Crown winner and leading sire Seattle Slew.

A.P. Indy has transmitted size, body mass, high athleticism, and class to a notable number of his descendants, and they are passing along these desirable traits, as well as speed in the cases of Malibu Moon and Pulpit, as well as the latter’s son Tapit.

Malibu Moon struck gold as a sire with his juvenile champion Declan’s Moon, who proved to astute horsemen that his sire was an important influence on the breed. That recognition moved Malibu Moon to Kentucky, where he stands at Spendthrift Farm, and that move allowed a deeper pool of top mares access to the horse.

Among those was the Unbridled mare Lady Liberty, who descends from one of the best Janney families. Sent to Malibu Moon, Lady Liberty produced Orb.

A good-sized, well-balanced horse who stayed 10 furlongs quite well, Orb could perhaps be faulted for lacking just a touch of brilliance, of raw, wild speed. Judging from the yearlings on offer in July, breeders have come to the horse with mares that boast a supply of these traits.

Hip 312 has a family with high-class speed close up, and the filly, Hip 163, possesses a family of exceptional speed and juvenile development. Her second dam is the Mr. Prospector mare Yarn, the dam of English highweight 2-year-old colt Minardi (Boundary) and the very fast racer and good sire Tale of the Cat (Storm Cat). In addition, their half-sister, Myth (Ogygian), produced international juvenile champion Johannesburg (Hennessy), whose speed and early maturity made him a champion in England, France, Ireland, and the U.S.

With solid physical attributes and high racing class, Orb projects as a young horse who could become a major stallion and may get stock somewhat more precocious than himself.

Results from the two hips at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky’s July sale:

Hip 163                                                                   Out

Hip 312          Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners        $190,000

off the tracks is one of the performers who keeps the curlin train a-rollin’

When competing around two turns at the premium level, you better watch out, or a Curlin might just run over you.

The 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year has sired winners of the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes (Palace Malice), Preakness (Exaggerator), Travers (Keen Ice), Santa Anita Oaks (Stellar Wind), Coaching Club American Oaks (Curalina), and Mother Goose Stakes (Off the Tracks).

The latter added the Mother Goose to her sire’s list of G1 successes over the weekend, and Off the Tracks showed high speed to lead the race from start to finish. She set fractions of :22.79, :45.53, and 1:09.62. By this time, the fillies who had been tracking in the slipstream behind Off the Tracks had been cooked, and none mounted a significant challenge as Off the Tracks went a mile in 1:34.51 and galloped under the wire of the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:41.01, winning by 3 ½ lengths.

One of the common factors among the best of Curlin’s racers to date, like Off the Tracks and Exaggerator, is that most of them have shown good pace at some point or another. Yet they also stay a mile or more and do so in exalted company.

One explanation of that is that Curlin himself had good speed, although he was nothing like a tearaway sprinter. And the mares sent to Curlin have sometimes brought very good quality speed to the mix as well.

In the two G1 performers above, both Off the Tracks and Exaggerator are out of mares by champion 2-year-olds. While the broodmare sire of Exaggerator is Vindication (by Seattle Slew), Off the Tracks is out of a mare by 2-year-old champion Boston Harbor, a son of Seattle Slew’s champion juvenile son Capote.

A half-sister to the quick and talented G2 stakes winner Concord Point (Tapit), Off the Tracks also shows good 2-year-old form and speed in her ancestors. The filly’s second dam produced graded stakes winner Tasha’s Miracle, one of the first high-class performers by leading sire Harlan’s Holiday.

In addition to Tasha’s Miracle, second dam Ms. Cuvee Napa (Relaunch) also produced Deb’s Charm (Silver Charm), who was third in the G1 Alcibiades Stakes at 2 and has produced a pair of stakes winners.

Ms. Cuvee Napa is out of multiple graded stakes winner A Penny is a Penny, a daughter of Belmont Stakes winner Temperence Hill and Raise a Penny, by champion juvenile Raise a Native.

raise a native conf3 bnw

Raise a Native – overcame limited racing career to become the most influential stallion son of the great Native Dancer, whom he greatly resembles


Raise a Native and his sire, the great racehorse and stallion Native Dancer, are two of the strongest conduits for producing speed that can go a distance.

Once-beaten in his 22-race career, Native Dancer was one of the stars of American racing in the 1950s, when his gray coat allowed him to be instantly recognizable to early television watchers. A champion every year he raced from 2 through 4, Native Dancer was a favorite of racing professionals for his speed and determination.

Retired to stud in Maryland at the Sagamore Farm of owner-breeder Alfred Vanderbilt, Native Dancer was a good sire whose impact has increased over time, rather than the reverse. Neither his Kentucky Derby winner Kauai King nor Dancer’s Image, who finished first in the Derby but then was disqualified for the presence of butazolidin in his system, made an immense impact at stud.

Native Dancer’s son Raise a Native, however, made a giant imprint as a sire.

Not a particularly sound horse, Raise a Native won all of his four races. He was a lengthy, heavily built, freakishly powerful horse who worked faster than most horses raced. His factors for speed, however, did not overcome the stamina in an otherwise classic pedigree, and Raise a Native first made national headlines as a sire with 1969 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Majestic Prince, one of the most beautiful horses ever.

Among 74 stakes winners, the only one ever mentioned as better than Majestic Prince is Alydar, second in each of the 1978 Triple Crown races and a great horse whenever not in a race with Affirmed. The latter, however, was a son of Raise a Native’s first-crop stakes winner Exclusive Native.

And a sire of sires, even more so than his fabled sire, Raise a Native became a force in reshaping the breed with sons Exclusive Native, Alydar, and Mr. Prospector.

The latter is the male-line grandsire of Curlin through leading sire Smart Strike, and Off the Tracks is inbred to Raise a Native 4×4. The Mother Goose winner has won four of her six starts, with a second and a third.

bradester’s stature continues to grow

With a wire-to-wire victory in the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs on June 18, 6-year-old Bradester became the latest Grade 1 winner for his sire Lion Heart (by Tale of the Cat), and the horse now has earnings of more than $1 million, with five graded stakes victories in 23 starts.

Bred in Kentucky by Doug Branham, Bradester is from the last Kentucky-sired crop by his handsome chestnut sire, who was sold to the Jockey Club of Turkey in early 2010 before covering a mare that season.

Funded by the government of Turkey through a levy on betting turnover at the country’s racetracks, the Jockey Club of Turkey has been a buyer of quality stallions for three decades. It also offers domestic breeders significant incentives to purchase mares and import them to Turkey to breed and raise their produce for the country’s sport.

The Jockey Club of Turkey’s previous purchases include stallions such as Kentucky Derby winners Sea Hero (Polish Navy) and Strike the Gold (Alydar), who became a leading sire for their racing program. The package deal with Coolmore in January of 2010 included G1 winner and Kentucky Derby second Lion Heart, champion Dehere (Deputy Minister), and the multiple G1 winner Powerscourt (Sadler’s Wells).

The first two horses were the stars of that year’s stallion purchases. Lion Heart alone is the sire of G1 winners Dangerous Midge (Breeders’ Cup Turf and at stud in Chile), Line of David (Arkansas Derby and sire of Kentucky Derby second Firing Line), and Tom’s Tribute (Eddie Read Handicap), as well as Canadian Horse of the Year Uncaptured.

The latter is at stud in Florida at Ocala Stud, which also stands Lion Heart’s Saratoga Special winner Kantharos, the sire of graded stakes winners X Y Jet and Mr. Jordan.

Lion Heart entered stud in 2005 and has now stood more seasons in Turkey than he stood in Kentucky. One of the chief commercial knocks against the beautifully balanced sire of fleet foals was that Lion Heart was not a tall horse and that he generally did not sire especially tall horses.

The sales market has a rabid distaste for yearlings that are not of sufficient height. That may have been the case with Bradester, at least early on, because he was neither a profitable sales weanling, selling for $13,000 at the 2010 Keeneland November sale, nor sales yearling, selling for $20,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic yearling auction in 2011.

Cary Frommer, who resells horses in training at the 2-year-old sales, found Bradester as a yearling and loved what she saw. “When he was a yearling, he was not a real big colt, may have been closer to 15 hands, was a plain wrapper, nothing flashy, but had nothing wrong with him,” said Frommer. “So I was waiting to try to buy him but missed bidding on him when he went through the ring because I was on the phone with an owner. As it happened, the colt didn’t sell, and I was able to buy him immediately afterward.

“I purchased him as a yearling for $20,000, put him through the breaking and pre-training that took him to the sale, and Bradester was just a grand prospect all along. So I told Barry Berkelhammer he ought to buy him, which he’s kind of reluctant to do because we have a few horses together, but once he saw the colt, he knew this was one he needed to buy.”

Berkelhammer, a Florida-based bloodstock agent, recalled: “Cary had him as a 2-year-old in training at Palm Meadows when Fasig-Tipton was holding their Florida sale there. I also had a couple horses with her, and while I was around watching how they were training, I saw Bradester, and he was training lights out. He was so good that I decided to make a few calls.”

One of Berkelhammer’s calls was to Joseph Sutton, a racing man who is in the energy business in Texas. “Joe Sutton does not usually buy colts,” Berkelhammer said, “and Bradester was the first colt that we bought.”

On Berkelhammer’s recommendation, Sutton paid $195,000 for the smooth-striding bay colt he later named Bradester. He had worked a furlong in :10 2/5, which wasn’t a wildly fast time, but the son of Lion Heart had looked good doing it, stretching out with a stride length of 24 feet.

That purchase was a good call for both parties, and Bradester “has been a fun horse, has lasted a long time,” Berkelhammer said, and “[trainer] Eddie [Kenneally] has done a great job conditioning him. The horse has got a great personality, is fun to be around, and is a neat horse.”

He’s also grown up a lot. Berkelhammer said that the once-midsize or smaller yearling is now “more of a hunter type with plenty of leg. He’s a pretty horse too and probably stands 16.2 hands.”

Looking at the handsome bay in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs, you’d have to say that Bradester has grown up the right way.

tapit has second belmont stakes winner in three years, combines speed and stamina

Although the finish of the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes looked like a Tapit trifecta, with three grays finishing one-two-three, Belmont Stakes day was more like a cross-eyed perfecta for leading sire Tapit. In addition to the Belmont Stakes victory by Creator, with Lani third, last year’s Belmont Stakes second Frosted came back this year and won the G1 Metropolitan Handicap at a mile, and second place went to the sire’s Anchor Down in the Met Mile.

Everywhere you look, there’s a Tapit. Here’s a Tapit, there’s a Tapit, everywhere a tap-Tapit. And the sons and daughters of America’s leading sire aren’t showing up in just any sort of races. If there is a stakes, it seems to have a Tapit, perhaps two.

Why are they so omnipresent?

First, the Tapit stock are consistent. Most are quick, naturally athletic performers who have versatility and an enthusiasm for racing, even if some are a little set on doing things their own way, like Lani.

Second, the Tapit stock have a lot of class. They rise to the top of the level of their own ability and perform with gusto. Let’s face it, at the end of a race, all the horses are tiring, feeling the burn, and all things being equal, the winner is the one who keeps trying the hardest for the longest.

And finally, they are reasonable-sized and nicely balanced horses who tend to take their racing well, have careers that allow us to see how good they are, and make money for their owners and trainers, who will tend to shy away from rather expensive horses that continually leave the connections in the lurch after showing a good physique and ability without ever putting it together on the racetrack.

So essentially, the Tapits can do it all, and the racing results day after day, month after month prove it.

This brings up the question of where Tapit fits in the big picture of breeding, and Tim Capps – writer, racing official, historian, and now director of the University of Louisville’s Equine Industry Program  – said that “a few years down the road, we may look back on Tapit as being one of those stallions like Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector, as a game changer, a breed changer. His consistency is terrific, they run at high levels, his black-type percentages are very good, they show ability early, and they train on.”

Those are important qualities in a stallion. We see them in bits, rarely seem them all together. Less frequently do we see all the traits of top stallions transmitted with very high consistency.

But that’s Tapit, and his consistency as a sire at a very high level has translated into multiple titles as the leading sire in North America by total progeny earnings.

Tapit was the leading sire in North America for 2014 and 2015, and he is leading this year. When was the last time that a stallion was leading sire three times?

The last stallion to lead the list three times was Danzig in 1991, 1992, and 1993. Prior to that, it was Bold Ruler, who last led the sire list in 1973 and led the list eight times in all. Before Bold Ruler, Nasrullah led the list five times, with Bull Lea also at the same mark.

It is just a little mesmerizing for those of us with a fascination for the history of the sport to note that Bold Ruler is Tapit’s male-line ancestor in the 6th generation, with Nasrullah in the 7th generation of the male line. Then Nearco, Pharos, and Phalaris.

Tapit’s grandsire A.P. Indy led the sire list, likewise his sire Seattle Slew. So there’s stallion power in this male line, generation after generation.

And Capps noted that “Tapit’s got pedigree quality everywhere. You don’t find holes in his pedigree, and he has done everything you could hope for.”

That is what we expect from a horse by leading sire Pulpit and out of a stakes-winning half-sister to a champion, and Tapit’s broodmare sire is leading sire and Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled.

Looking at Tapit’s expanded pedigree, it is riddled with the right horses in the right places, and these include some of the greatest racers and stallions, such as Secretariat, Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector, Nijinsky, Bull Lea, Nashua, Native Dancer, Buckpasser, Dr. Fager, and In Reality.

And in Tapit, all the genetic subtleties bound themselves together in symmetry and harmony. Then, split and divided, halved and diminished, the horse’s better qualities are so consistently present that they dominate a significant portion of the stallion’s offspring.

As we watch the first 2-year-olds by Tapit’s freshman stallion sons, champion Hansen and Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Tapizar, get their first winners, we are watching breeding history develop because the succeeding generations will determine the influence of Tapit on the breed in the years to come.

harzand is the fifth english derby winner for international owner-breeder, first for sire

Half-brothers Galileo (by Sadler’s Wells) and Sea the Stars (Cape Cross) sent out the first three home in the English Derby at Epsom on June 4, and for the first time, the younger sibling, Sea the Stars, had the winner in the striking dark brown colt Harzand.

It was, therefore, a signal triumph for Arc de Triomphe winner Urban Sea (Miswaki), who is the dam of both Galileo and Sea the Stars. Few broodmares produce a single champion or top-class racer, and far fewer produce two. Those who produce sires of this caliber are rarer than rubies.

Bred by HH the Aga Khan, a lifelong breeder and developer of racing rubies, Harzand galloped strongly up the rising ground toward the finish at Epsom to pass Idaho, whom Harzand had defeated in his last start, and held off the closing effort of the favored US Army Ranger. The second and third are both sons of Galileo and race for Coolmore partnerships.

Like most of the stock by his famous sire, Harzand is a strongly improving racehorse, and he has won three of his four starts, each successive one being a significant step up in class and form.

Unbeaten in three starts this season, Harzand won his maiden by 16 lengths at Cork on March 23, then stepped up to win the Ballysax Stakes over Idaho and earn a spot in the Derby.

The scope of the colt’s improvement lends hope that he will continue to develop over the summer and fall, which would make good sport for all concerned.

Bred in Ireland, Harzand is the fifth winner of the Derby for the present Aga Khan, whose grandfather likewise had five winners of the classic at Epsom. Harzand is the first English Derby winner for the Aga Khan since 2000, when he won with Sinndar (Grand Lodge). The Aga Khan’s winners of the Derby began with Shergar (Great Nephew; 1981), then Shahrastani (Nijinsky; 1986), and Kahyasi (Ile de Bourbon; 1988).

Some of those Derby winners proved the star performer by the sire, like Kahyasi, but others such as Shergar were “simply” superstars from a significant constellation emanating from premium sires like Nijinsky and Great Nephew.

It is looking more and more that this role will be Harzand’s significant part in the offspring by his sire Sea the Stars, one of the best racehorses in Europe and now looking to become one of the best sires of classic stock.

Winner of the English Derby like his famous half-brother, Sea the Stars sired the 2016 Derby winner in his third crop. From the stallion’s first crop came Taghrooda, winner of the Oaks at Epsom and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and Sea the Moon, winner of the Deutches Derby in scintillating style and a hot favorite for the Arc de Triomphe at one point.

Sea the Moon is now at stud at Lanwades Stud in England. When the time comes, Harzand will doubtless take a place at the Aga Khan’s stud, but whether he will end up at Gilltown in Ireland or perchance in France is a matter of speculation. The principal reason to ponder the French option is that both the Derby winner’s sire and his half-brother, Irish Derby-placed Born to Sea (Invincible Spirit), are at Gilltown.

Sea the Stars stands at Gilltown for 125,000 Euros, and Born to Sea is priced at 10,000 Euros.

Would having Harzand there at Gilltown be too much of a good thing? Perhaps not, but if that were the decision, then the good-looking colt potentially could join high-class sires Siyouni (Pivotal), Makfi (Dubawi), and Dalakhani (Darshaan) at Haras de Bonneval.

Whatever the decision, Harzand will bring plenty of class to stud with him, and his dam, G3 winner Hazariya, had produced two stakes winners before Harzand, with G3 winner Harasiya (Pivotal) being the better. Second dam Hazaradjat (Darshaan) produced two stakes winners and two producers of stakes winners, including the dam of Humphrey Bogart, fifth behind Harzand on Saturday. Hazaradjat is also a half-sister to leading juvenile performer Hittite Glory (Habitat).

Hazariya, however, was sold out of the Aga Khan Studs in 2014. In foal to Fastnet Rock on a May 19 cover, the dam of two stakes winners at the time of sale brought 480,000 Euros at the Goffs November auction, selling to Oliver St. Lawrence.

Since then, the mare has produced a 2015 bay filly by Fastnet Rock, then a bay colt this year by leading sire Dansili, and Hazariya has been bred to Invincible Spirit.

Currently 14, Hazariya should have several good producing years ahead, and her appeal increased with every stride of her dark-coated son as he climbed the hill to the finish post at Epsom.

suddenbreakingnews supplies some insights into sexual development of colts and his future prospects


, ,

Some of the most surprising, and intriguing, news of the May 29 weekend came during the press conference at which trainer Donnie Von Hemel announced that Suddenbreakingnews, previously listed as a “gelding” in past performances, actually is not.

That was so surprising that I peeked out of the hedgerow bunker where I do most of my writing for a closer look.

One of the first things of note is that a racer with a live chance in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes around the massive mile and a half oval in New York has an important equipment change.

Then the questions started popping like flashbulbs. What happened and does it mean anything to the horse? What does this mean to the owner, Samuel Henderson, in terms of having a very good colt instead of a very good gelding, and is there a chance that Suddenbreakingnews could have a stud career?

What happened first is that Suddenbreakingnews was offered for sale at the 2014 Keeneland September sale as a colt. A May 2 foal, the good-looking prospect was sold for $72,000 to Henderson, who sent his new purchase to a farm for turnout and time to grow up some more before breaking and training, according to Von Hemel.

At some point, Henderson asked to have Suddenbreakingnews gelded, and at some point in the process of transforming the sales horse into a racehorse, someone checked, and it appeared that the young animal had been gelded.

This is truly understandable because there were no testicles evident.

But that didn’t mean they weren’t present. Somewhere.

As Von Hemel noted, ultrasound examinations discovered two small testicles in the abdominal cavity of Suddenbreakingnews.

Prior to this, the absence of visible, palpable testicles caused everyone associated with Suddenbreakingnews to assume that he had been gelded. It was an innocent assumption borne out by the physical evidence available for everyone to see.

If Suddenbreakingnews had turned out to be an average horse, nobody would likely have bothered to inquire. But he has turned out to be quite a good athlete, and if he won the right sort of races, he could find himself in demand as a stallion prospect.

Or maybe not.

According to experts in Thoroughbred reproduction, having testicles isn’t a guarantee of much, and having them in the wrong place is pretty nearly a guarantee of nothing.

Technically, Suddenbreakingnews is a bilateral cryptorchid, which means that both his testicles were retained, rather than dropping down into the scrotum. The norm is two fully descended testicles, and if even one descends, the colt (usually termed a ridgling) may have normal breeding function.

In cases when only a single testicle descends, the visible testicle may become larger than average and may produce a greater sperm volume. This may be the body’s way of compensating for the situation.

That is not how things are likely to work for a young animal with both testicles retained, however. For one thing, neither is outside the body, and that is key to sperm production because body heat (approximately 101 degrees for a horse) is too high. Furthermore, that neither has descended at this point, when Suddenbreakingnews is a 3-year-old, is not encouragement that the situation will change.

And if it did, all the veterinarians that I consulted believed that there was little chance of any horse possessing normal fertility.

As one vet said, “in 35 years of working with breeding stock, I’ve never seen it happen.” So we’re dealing with a situation that, while interesting to those of us who write about horses and breeding stock, is unlikely to have any effect on Suddenbreakingnews or his prospects.

That’s unfortunate because Suddenbreakingnews is a truly progressive and upwardly mobile young racer who may have many better days ahead.

A good-sized, rangy 3-year-old by Horse of the Year Mineshaft out of a mare by Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex, Suddenbreakingnews has shown himself to be a very good athlete through the winter and spring. And prior to the Kentucky Derby, the bay had been out of the first two places only once in seven starts, with victories in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes in February and the listed Clever Trevor Stakes last year.

In the Derby, Suddenbreakingnews had come flying through the stretch to be fifth behind Nyquist and Exaggerator, with Gun Runner third and Mohaymen fourth, a head and a nose ahead.

In the Derby, Suddenbreakingnews came within inches of making his mark with a placing in the grand classic at Churchill Downs, and it appears that we could say the same thing about his potential career at stud.

But given his prospects as an improving racehorse, the status of Suddenbreakingnews as breeding stock may be a stroke of luck for racing fans because they should get the opportunity to see Suddenbreakingnews race for years to come.

exaggerator follows pattern of his sire, horse of the year curlin, in physical type and racing aptitude with victory in preakness


, ,

With a splashing victory in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes on May 21, Exaggerator showed why Triple Crown winners come around so infrequently. The Triple Crown requires a horse to adapt instantly to multiple situations for pace, track conditions, trip disadvantages, and sheer luck.

And if any horse were to take advantage of something happening in his favor or to the disadvantage of favorite Nyquist, who better than the hard-charging second-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby to profit from the situation?

So Exaggerator became the second Triple Crown race winner for leading sire and Horse of the Year Curlin (by Smart Strike). A big, strongly made chestnut who stands over a lot of ground, Curlin burst onto the classic scene of 2007 with a startling maiden victory and a quick advance up the class ladder.

After victories in the G3 Rebel Stakes and G2 Arkansas Derby, Curlin was third in the 2007 Kentucky Derby behind the previous season’s 2-year-old champion Street Sense (Street Cry) and the classy Danzig colt Hard Spun.

As Exaggerator has just done, Curlin reversed the decision in the Preakness, defeating Street Sense narrowly in a thrilling stretch run. Thereafter, Curlin was second in the Belmont Stakes to Rags to Riches (A.P. Indy), was third in the Haskell, and finished strongly through the fall with victories in the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic, the latter over a sloppy racetrack.

Named Horse of the Year off those efforts, Curlin followed with an even better season at 4, winning 5 of 7 starts, including the G1 Dubai World Cup, Stephen Foster, Woodward, and a second Jockey Club Gold Cup, before ending his career with his only race off-the-board in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on synthetic at Santa Anita. Curlin’s season was so impressive, however, that he was named Horse of the Year for a second time.

Curlin sired his first classic winner, Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, in his first crop, then had G1 Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks winner Curalina in his third crop, and the Preakness winner comes from his sire’s fourth crop.

dawn raid at 2015 ftk nov sale

Dawn Raid as she appeared at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton November sale, where she was bought back for $625,000 while carrying a full sibling to 2016 Preakness winner Exaggerator


Bred in Kentucky by Joseph B. Murphy, the Preakness winner is out of the stakes-placed Vindication mare Dawn Raid. Third in the Fanfreluche Stakes at Woodbine, Dawn Raid is a half-sister to Canadian champion Embur’s Song (Unbridled’s Song), stakes winner Ten Flat (Meadowlake), and stakes-placed Embattle (Phone Trick).

They are all out of Embur Sunshine, a daughter of Bold Ruckus, who was for many years a top-tier sire in Canadian breeding. Embur Sunshine was second in the Candy Éclair and Blue Sparkler Stakes at Monmouth, third in the Polite Lady Handicap at Woodbine.

Bred in Ontario by Josham Farms Ltd., Dawn Raid sold to W.S. Farish Jr. at the Keeneland September sale in 2006 for $70,000 and gained her stakes placing in the colors of a Woodford Racing LLC partnership. Consigned to the 2008 Keeneland November sale by Lane’s End, agent, Dawn Raid sold for $50,000 to Murphy, who raced her once unsuccessfully and retired her to breed for 2009.

The mare’s first two foals were winning fillies by Any Given Saturday (Sweet Saturday) and Pioneerof the Nile (Nile Queen), and Exaggerator is Dawn Raid’s third foal.

Dawn Raid’s subsequent foals are a 2-year-old filly by Pioneerof the Nile named Rose Garden and a filly at side who is a full sister to the Preakness winner.

Carrying that foal, Dawn Raid was consigned to the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky sale last November and was bought back at $625,000.

Joe Murphy said, “Dawn Raid is a nice mare and gets good-looking foals. So we still have her here at Stoneleigh Farm. A number of people have called to inquire about her, but my dad is in no rush to sell her, and we’ll probably keep the foal as well.”

The full sister to Exaggerator was born March 1, and Dawn Raid is back in foal on a cover to leading sire Medaglia d’Oro (El Prado).

Dawn Raid was a money-making producer when the future Preakness Stakes winner sold for $110,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2014, and judging from the improvements that Exaggerator keeps making to the mare’s production line in 2016 with a G1 victory in the Santa Anita Derby, then a second in the Kentucky Derby, and now a victory in the Preakness, the sky’s the limit.

a sweet ride for the fast horse from argentina: candy ride making a major mark at stud


, , ,

Unified confirmed himself as a colt of high merit with a game and quick victory in the G2 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont, and the handsome dark brown colt is now unbeaten in three starts, also including the G3 Bay Shore. He is one of the latest successes for the very good stallion Candy Ride, a horse who has exceeded expectations at every turn in his life.

From his beginnings at one of the premium studs in Argentina, through his racing career, and now well into his innings at stud, Candy Ride has passed every test that a top stallion must overcome.

The initial test, however, that a colt must pass to become a prospective stallion is to show high athletic ability. And if a colt shows enough ability, even if he has an unfamiliar or unfashionable pedigree, breeders will give him some opportunity to prove his worth at getting quick racers.

Few stallions have made more of their opportunities on the racetrack and then capitalized on them at stud to a greater degree than Candy Ride. The Argentine-bred bay came north after an impressive start to his racing career in his homeland.

Unbeaten in three recognized starts in Argentina, “Candy Ride was a superstar before he went to the races,” said Carlos “Ned” Moore, who buys and sells horses around the world and breeds some in Virginia with his wife Jill. “Candy Ride was a massive talent at the country racing that goes on in Argentina. These are usually two- to three-furlong sprints, and that was the type of racing that he was participating in before they decided they would try to stretch him out at the major tracks.”

Although Candy Ride was officially unraced at 2, he had plenty of action. The exact number of these races is unknown; nobody was keeping records of them. At these impromptu meets, horse owners in Argentina will grade a length of unpaved road out in the country between farms, and they will make a day or weekend of racing over this temporary racetrack. The purses are small, but the betting can be big. The sums that change hands can sometimes be quite large, and the pressure to find a horse that prospers in these conditions is intense.

And as a strong colt with high speed and a great mind, Candy Ride was reportedly able to pull off some handsome coups for his ownership when raced over these short distances.

By the Haras Abolengo stallion Ride the Rails (by Cryptoclearance), Candy Ride was bred by Abolengo and sold to a client of theirs, Moore recalled. He said: “The new owners took Candy Ride to the interior of Argentina and proved him a champion of country racing.”

No record was taken of these races because they are officially off the books, but there were more than a couple of them. Quite a few more. Moore said, “He made himself something of a legend among the fanciers of country racing,” and in doing that, the good-looking colt showed the speed and toughness to merit a run in the big leagues. The successes of Candy Ride’s performances at these meets brought him to the major metropolitan tracks in Buenos Aires.

There, Candy Ride was unbeaten, including a pair of G1 victories (Joaquin S. de Anchorena and San Isidro). Those two major events, both over 1600 meters, were timed in 1:31.01 and 1:32.16, respectively, and each race was won by 8 lengths.

By the evidence of the times and the winning margins, Candy Ride had more than made a transition to racing effectively in the major leagues. He was the best in the country, and he was named champion miler from this brief exposure of his native ability.

Then the super-fast colt was sold to Sid and Jenny Craig and went to race in California, where he likewise was unbeaten in three starts. There, Candy Ride stretched out to win the G2 American Handicap (9 furlongs in 1:46.20) and the G1 Pacific Classic (10 furlongs in 1:59.11).

Those were his final racecourse performances.

The stallion’s performers have succeeded from the beginning. His best include champion Shared Belief (G1 Pacific Classic, Santa Anita Handicap, and Hollywood Futurity), Misremembered (G1 Santa Anita Handicap), Sidney’s Candy (G1 Santa Anita Derby), and Twirling Candy (G1 Malibu), as well as G2 winner Gun Runner, who most recently was third in the Kentucky Derby.

Unified has a step up to join them at the top level, but he has the prerequisite speed. The questions of class and versatility will be answered in time.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,974 other followers