By winning the Grade 1 Woodward and upsetting heavy favorite Frosted (by Tapit), the considerably talented Shaman Ghost (Ghostzapper) was carrying through on some family traditions. His sire won the Woodward Stakes as part of his Horse of the Year campaign in 2004, and grandsire Awesome Again won the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine, like Shaman Ghost did last season.
This season, Shaman Ghost had shown himself a good older horse with a victory in the Brooklyn Handicap, but the Woodward was the bay’s first victory in a G1 stakes. His sire, Ghostzapper, won four times at the premium level, with his final G1 victory coming in the horse’s only race at 5, the 2005 Metropolitan Handicap.
While winning that race by 6 ½ lengths, Ghostzapper suffered a hairline fracture of a sesamoid in his left fore ankle, and the champion was retired. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Ghostzapper won 9 of 11 starts, earning $3.4 million.
When he went to stud for the 2006 breeding season, Ghostzapper had everything going for him. He was the best-performing son of a champion sire and high-class racehorse in Awesome Again. That bay son of Deputy Minister likewise had a top record on the racetrack, winning the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic and 9 of 12 lifetime starts to earn $4.3 million.
In addition, Awesome Again has proven the best stallion son of Deputy Minister, exceeding even the meritorious Silver Deputy and Dehere. Their sire had proven himself a towering talent on the racetrack, where he was a splendid champion juvenile colt in 1981, and although knocked out of a chance at the Triple Crown, Deputy Minister went on to an immensely successful stallion career at Windfields Farm, initially in Maryland, then in Kentucky when based at Brookdale Farm.
Furthermore, Ghostzapper is out an excellent producer, Baby Zip (Relaunch), who had previously foaled G1 winner City Zip (Carson City), a highly respected sire in his own right. Baby Zip was Broodmare of the Year in 2005.
Finally, Ghostzapper went to stud at Adena Springs with a highly committed owner-breeder in Frank Stronach, and just before the Metropolitan, owner-breeder Jess Jackson had taken a major position in the horse through the purchase of a one-third interest.
With two serious home breeders to back him, Ghostzapper went to stud with a fee of $200,000, and that’s where things turned sour, at least for a time.
The stud fee shut out a sizable portion of breeders who might otherwise have used the new horse, and then to make things much worse, the financial bottom fell out of the world long before Ghostzapper ever had a starter.
The radical depreciation of breeding stock and racing prospects at the sales combined to put severe downward pressure on stud fees.
Ghostzapper’s first-crop runners didn’t kill it at 2. Well, the horse had eight winners from that first crop of 2-year-olds, plus one stakes winner, and his stud fee eventually fell to about 15 percent of the initial price.
Breeders with prospective sales yearlings in the pipeline wanted to put their head in an oven.
There is no question that Ghostzapper’s first-crop racers were a little slow getting their game together. Stately Victor became the stallion’s first G1 winner with his success in the Blue Grass Stakes a month before the Kentucky Derby as a 3-year-old, and four other members of the first crop became graded stakes winners, including Canadian champion older horse Hunters Bay.
That initial crop set a tone for one of the dominating qualities of stock by Ghostzapper: they get better with age and distance. In regard to improvement with maturity, that was in keeping with both Ghostzapper, who was notably better from the latter part of his 3-year-old season onward, as well as his sire Awesome Again, whose absolute best form came at 4.
The other dominating quality about Ghostzapper as a sire is that a very significant portion of his foals have a lot of racing class. More than half of the stallion’s 48 stakes winners are graded winners, with about 10 percent of his foals age 3 and older being stakes winners.
The first crop eventually included a dozen stakes winners (15 percent of foals), and stats like those have largely restored Ghostzapper’s reputation, as well as the demand for his stock, and with eight crops of racing age, Ghostzapper stands today for $60,000 live foal at Adena Springs in Kentucky.