historic writer – editor – researcher joe estes established benchmarks of success for producers

As we see once more in the winner of the Grade 3 Marshua’s River Stakes at Gulfstream, better racemares make better broodmares. This was proven nearly a century ago through the august researches of Joe Estes, the first editor of The Blood-Horse magazine when it became a weekly publication, and one of the first undertakings of Estes in his early years with the magazine was to investigate what breeders could learn about breeding better horses.

The overarching results were the work of decades and many hands at the publication, but Estes introduced the analytical use of statistics as a method of selection and prediction in breeding Thoroughbred racehorses. From more than four decades of service to the industry, Estes was the force that produced the first significant investigations of how breeding and racing are intertwined with the quality of horses involved.

Estes showed that the better a horse’s racing class, the greater chance it had of producing a stakes performer in turn.

This seems so simply true that none could deny it, but a hundred years ago, many people treated breeding racehorses as if it were nothing more understandable or quantifiable than pure luck. Estes proved that wasn’t so. And the results held up in study after study across the intervening decades.

Every way a researcher sliced the data, the statistics showed that the better class of racemare made a more successful producer of the next generation of racehorses. In the Marshua’s River, the winner Magic Star is out of Grade 1 winner Meadow Breeze (Meadowlake), who won the Matron Stakes as a juvenile and has produced three six-figure winners from six foals to race.

In the Marshua’s River, the 4-year-old Magic Star became the latest graded stakes winner for the late and lamented Scat Daddy (by Johannesburg), the sire of Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year Justify and Il Campione, Horse of the Year and classic winner in Chile, along with 125 other stakes winners.

A G1 winner at 2 in the Champagne and also second in the G1 Hopeful, Scat Daddy reached the peak of his racing career with victory in the G1 Florida Derby early in his 3-year-old season but did not race after the Kentucky Derby. Instead, the dark brown son of champion juvenile Johannesburg became his sire’s first important son at stud and progressed strongly through that career until his death in 2015 at age 11.

Magic Star’s dam also won a G1 in 2006, when the chestnut filly’s sire and dam were among the top tier of juvenile performers in the country. Exactly a decade later, Meadow Breeze’s sixth foal, the Bodemeister colt Royal Copy, was second in the G1 Hopeful in a brief racing career of four starts. The mare’s seventh foal is Magic Star, who was a $500,000 Keeneland September yearling.

Despite looking the part as a yearling and having top-tier juveniles for parents, Magic Star did not race until late in her 3-year-old season. At Saratoga last year, Magic Star won her debut, a maiden special on Aug. 24, by 2 ¼ lengths, then was unplaced in an allowance at Belmont on Oct. 26.

The Marshua’s River was the filly’s third start and second victory. Magic Star has progressed so well that she is going to be an interesting contender to watch in the turf filly division.

Meadow Breeze has a 2-year-old filly of 2020 by champion sprinter Runhappy (Super Saver) and was bred back to champion juvenile Uncle Mo for 2020.

Meadow Breeze is one of two G1 winners out of the unraced mare Unacloud (Unaccounted For), who failed the “racing test” for indicators of producing potential. The other is G1 Arkansas Derby winner Overanalyze (Dixie Union), a young sire standing at WinStar Farm.

Nor is it a surprise for unraced mares to produce good racing stock. Although stakes winners produce the highest proportion of stakes winners in the next generation, they are also the smallest set of producers. Unraced mares are a large group, on the other hand, and some of those are inevitably going to be good broodmares.

Unacloud is clearly one of these, getting a pair of G1 winners and a pair of stakes-placed horses: Majesto (Tiznow), second in the G1 Florida Derby, and Mighty Monsoon (Forestry), third in the G2 Best Pal Stakes.

And a mare of what group is most likely to produce a graded stakes horse? One who has already produced a graded stakes horse.

triple crown winner american pharoah leads all freshmen sires of 2019

What seemed a certainty in the last weeks of the 2019 racing season is now official: Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (by Pioneerof the Nile) is the leading freshman sire in North America. The bay champion is also ranked second overall among all sires of 2-year-olds behind only the overall leading sire of 2019, Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday).

American Pharoah — the leading commercial sire of this set of young stallions has now proven himself the leader with his first crop of racers at the track. (Coolmore photo)

From the initial efforts of the first racers by American Pharoah, it was obvious that many of them had athletic talent, and the stallion’s tally of winners grew throughout the season to 27 by the season’s end, and he was tied with Constitution and Tapiture (both by Tapit) for the greatest number of winners by a freshman sire last year. In fact, except for the arrival of ‘The Pharoah,’ the big story of this year’s freshman crop would be the dominant importance of Tapit as a sire of young sires. Clearly in the performance of the juvenile stock by Constitution, the sire of five stakes winners, including four graded winners, Tapit has a son of eminent ability.

As good as Constitution proved with his first crop, the key to American Pharoah’s success at the top of the freshman sire standings was the consistent quality of his offspring. Last year, four of his first-crop racers won stakes and three won graded stakes, including Four Wheel Drive, winner of the Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, and Sweet Melania, winner of the G2 Jessamine Stakes. Furthermore, the sire has a half-dozen stakes-placed horses, including Monarch of Egypt, second in the G1 Phoenix Stakes in Ireland, and American Theorem, second in the G1 American Pharoah at Santa Anita.

The most surprising aspect of American Pharoah’s stud career to date is that all his stakes winners showed their form on turf, with only stakes-placed American Theorem getting a premium placing on dirt. This may mean relatively little in the long run, but the obvious fact that the horse’s stock race well on turf has elevated his profile among breeders and buyers in Europe and Australia, where nearly all the racing is on turf. That is going to make the American Pharoah stock all the more popular around the globe, especially if they progress as expected into their second season of racing.

On New Year’s Day, Prince of Pharoahs ran second in the Jerome Stakes on dirt, and many of the sire’s offspring seem certain to improve notably at 3. Aside from the fact that many showed turf form, the American Pharoah stock surprised just a bit by being quite so precocious.

As a racehorse, American Pharoah was notable for the effectiveness of his stride, and the dominant factor in his superiority to his contemporaries was the horse’s ability to stride out and maintain that stride and high cruising speed over a distance of ground. While nobody was interested in testing the classic colt against specialist sprinters, the divisional champion at 2 and 3 would have made such horses earn their hay if he’d been thrown in against sprinters at their preferred distance.

Setting one’s sights on the classics, however, was the route to equine greatness, and American Pharoah obliged with the first Triple Crown in 37 years. There is, furthermore, every reason to expect that some of his stock will find greater success over classic distances, whether in America or Europe.

In terms of pedigree, this line descending from Unbridled (Fappiano) has shown consistent improvement in its stock from 2 to 3 and from a mile to longer distances. Unbridled himself won the Kentucky Derby and was second in the Preakness; Empire Maker was second in the Kentucky Derby and won the Belmont; and Pioneerof the Nile was second in the Kentucky Derby, finishing second to Mine That Bird.

Phenotypically, some of the quicker juveniles by American Pharoah were noted for being rather different than their sire, but the ones making the greater impression later in the season were individuals with many of the characteristics of their sire. They tend to be good-size, rather scopy, horses with good length through the body and good muscling to the shoulder and hindquarters. They are not, however, apt to be confused with sprinters; these are horses that want to go at least a mile, probably somewhat farther.

Getting a classic winner from his first crop would seem to be expecting rather too much, but American Pharoah has obliged by getting attractive and athletic-looking stock, which were appreciated by the commercial market, and by getting effective racers that have elevated him to leading sire among his contemporaries. Ranking second in the overall standings of juvenile racers, American Pharoah is lodged between a pair of powerhouses: Into Mischief in first and Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie) in third. That is elite company, indeed, and if the promising young sire continues to excel, the sky is the limit for his stock and his eventual impact on the breed around the world.

sale of california chrome prompted by market forces, economics of breeding

With the first crop of colts and fillies by Horse of the Year California Chrome (by Lucky Pulpit) ready to turn 2 on Jan. 1, their sire is going to leave for his new home in Japan sometime in the first half of January. Taylor Made Farm, which bought into California Chrome during his racing career, then syndicated and stood the horse at the family farm outside Nicholasville, Ky., announced in November that Arrow Stud in Japan had made a successful offer that had been accepted by the syndicate.

As a result of the syndicate’s decision, the horse was sold and is being relocated by the new ownership to their property in Japan, where California Chrome will stand for 4 million yen, approximately $36,500, live foal.

California Chrome — breeders in Japan are responding very positively to him, and shares in the handsome classic winner and Horse of the Year were sold out in a day. (Taylor Made / Laura Donnell photo)

To satisfy the requirements for shipping a horse overseas, the chestnut champion has been in quarantine since Dec. 3, and he is “expected to ship out during the first half of January, depending on when all the quarantine tests are completed,” according to Travis White of Taylor Made Farm.

The sale itself required a few steps and was the result of several factors.

The decision to sell the horse was made by the ownership syndicate. The Japanese had been interested in California Chrome since his classic-winning and award-winning campaigns on the racetrack. They had, in fact, tried to buy him before, and “when they came to us with an offer, it was enough that we had to ask the shareholders,” White said, and the membership of the syndicate voted to sell him on.

Like most sales of this sort, the price was not announced, but we can estimate the figure by considering the horse’s stud fee multiplied by a 100-foal annual crop, then considering that over a number of years. So it is safe to say that the offer and resulting sale price for California Chrome was quite substantial.

“To get the shareholders value comparable to the offer, California Chrome would have had to do very well and more than maintain his current level of stud fee of $30,000 for several years,” White said.

To do that, the horse would have had to be a high-level success as a sire, which made it very difficult for the syndicate to keep the horse when you realize that no more than 20 percent of new stallions succeed sufficiently with their progeny to maintain or elevate their present fee.

Making the decision to sell, however, was not an easy one, White noted. “These were people who had invested in the horse, largely had sent mares to him, and had supported him over the intervening years. Taylor Made only owned 20 percent. So it wasn’t a life-changing deal for the farm or anything.”

Nearly everyone was for the sale, however, because of the economics of raising and racing horses. Nearly everyone who raises or races horses loses money.

A significant part of the decision to sell California Chrome was the result of his yearlings’ reception at the 2019 Keeneland yearling sale, as well as other auctions around the country. From a first crop of 105 foals, 77 went through the sales ring in 2019, with 42 sold for a gross of $3,759,000, an average of $89,500, and a median of $65,000. The better stock were quite nice, not especially pretty in some cases, but they were generally of good size, well conformed, with good length and good mechanical properties to be athletes.

The sales numbers tell a tale. The commercial market was not a strong believer in the horse, and the number sold and the prices are a factual measure of that.

“A lot of commercial breeders didn’t gravitate toward him like we’d hoped,” White said. In evaluating and acquiring racing prospects, advisers and buyers typically want to limit risk as much as possible; buyers and breeders want every one of them to look the same. “The Chromes came in all shapes, sizes, colors. A lot of them tended to look like the mares.”

But that is not an absolute indicator that California Chrome will be a poor sire. All these young horses have a lot of growing to do, and some pinhookers bought stock by California Chrome in the belief that they would improve in training by early 2020.

Nor is it a certainty that we have seen the last of the ‘Chromes.’ When the horse was syndicated, “the Martins kept 50 percent and supported the horse more than anyone I’d been involved with,” White said. “They took the money from [the sale of California Chrome’s dam] Love the Chase and spent it on five or six really nice mares. They bought a bunch of less-expensive mares for him, as well. They also did some foal-share arrangements that paid for shipping mares to the horse and were very advantageous to mare owners.”

The Martins have a couple of breeding rights in the horse still and will send five mares to Japan this year; they will continue to play a role in his stallion career. White said, “We have the right of first refusal if Arrow Stud receives an offer, and when the horse retires from breeding, we have the option to return him to the farm.”

Clearly, Martin is a fan of Japanese racing and believes in its approach.

With the emphasis on racecourse performance in Japan and the exceptionally rich purse structure that allows breeders there to buy the best available at auction, California Chrome will have great opportunities to prove himself under the racing conditions in Japan. And as a star racehorse and personality, he already has a significant following in Japan, and this is likely to increase dramatically now that the stallion is located there and will have racers there also because some of the stallion’s six-figure yearlings were bought for import to Japan.

As an indicator of interest in the horse from Japan, “The horse is book full,” White said, “and the syndicate at Arrow Stud sold out of shares in a day, which tells you how different the market is over there, compared to here.”

storm the court is a 'power'-ful endorsement for both breeder and pinhooker

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Storm the Court (by Court Vision) went a half-mile “handily” in :48 4/5 at Santa Anita on Dec. 22, and that effort marked the first work for the bay colt since his big victory on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.

In the interim, the colt who finished a head second to Storm the Court in the Juvenile, Anneau d’Or (Medaglia d’Oro), came back and finished a very good second to Thousand Words (Pioneerof the Nile) in the Los Alamitos Futurity, beaten a neck, and neither of the two favorites for the Juvenile, Three Rings (Empire Maker) and Dennis’ Moment (Tiznow) has raced since.

As a result, the divisional champion is going to be chosen from colts with one major victory on their records, and the finalists will be announced Jan. 4.

One of many interested parties awaiting the results of the championship voting is owner-breeder Jim Power, who bred Storm the Court in the name of his Stepping Stone Farm and sold him as a short yearling at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton February mixed sale for $5,000 to Bryan Rice, who then took the colt and resold him at the 2019 Ocala Breeders’ Sales April auction for $60,000 to Exline-Border Racing.

In a recent conversation, Power said that “I’ve known the Rice family for decades, since I got to know Clyde Rice back in the late 1970s. Bryan was the only one who came by the barn to look at this colt twice, and I needed to sell him because I’d bought back a pair of fillies already.”

Court Vision — the son of Gulch shown at Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky, where the BC Juvenile winner was conceived. The stallion now stands in Louisiana. (Spendthrift photo)

Bred on a profit-sharing arrangement with Spendthrift Farm that allowed breeders who had bred to Court Vision to keep the first $6,000 of the sales proceeds, Storm the Court wasn’t a total loss for Power with a hammer price of $5,000. In large part, Power’s recovery of those costs is due to his arrangement with Spendthrift. They wouldn’t receive any money for the stud fee until the bidding passed the $6,000; then the stallion operation would get the auction proceeds till the bidding exceeded a set point, typically $12,000 for a stud fee of this range.

Power said, “This was a really nice colt; clean-legged, good conformation, and I told Bryan, ‘I know you’re a good trainer, and I’d like to get him sold and into good hands.’” Rice bought, and the May foal turned out very well for the pinhooker. Racing a quarter-mile at the April sale in :21 2/5, Storm the Court showed a stride length of slightly more than 25 feet and earned a BreezeFig speed figure rating of 67, which was quite respectable.

The colt showed a good stride length and was speeding up through the work; both are indicators of ability to go two turns, and Storm the Court showed immediate ability in his racing, winning his debut at Del Mar on Aug. 10 and racing the 5 ½ furlongs in 1:05.17.

In his second start, the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, Storm the Court was bumped by Eight Rings at the start, and both jockeys came off. In his third start, Storm the Court was third in the G1 American Pharoah, won by Eight Rings by six lengths from American Theorem (American Pharoah), with Storm the Court 2 ¼ lengths farther back.

Gamblers weren’t looking to erase that 8 ¼ length difference in the Juvenile, where Eight Rings started the second favorite at 1.5 to 1 and Storm the Court was 45.9 to 1.

Power, however, was watching the American Pharoah carefully and thought that the colt he bred had appeared hesitant coming into the stretch, hadn’t seemed confident in “being out there and not getting knocked down,” Power said. “Then the jock came back and told [trainer] Peter [Eurton] that Storm the Court was looking around almost the whole time, and Peter had the perceptiveness to take the initiative and put the blinkers on the horse for the Juvenile. To me, that made the difference.”

Power’s attention to the colt he bred is natural. In addition to his pride in raising a good horse, Power has bred the last three generations of the family. From third dam Sarah’s Hope (Riva Ridge), Power bred the stakes-placed A Taste of Wine (Settlement Day) and his full sister Sarah’s Settlement, the dam of seven winners, including My Tejana Storm (Tejano), a winner of three races and $47,430. She is now the dam of Storm the Court.

In assessing My Tejana Storm, Power is matter of fact: “I knew that the pedigree needed Mr. Prospector, and the mare also needed some refinement. She’s real plain, ok, ugly, and Court Vision had the quality that the mare needed.” The result of this pragmatic mating is now a G1 winner.

In addition, My Tejana Storm is also dam of the US Ranger (Danzig) mare Belleoftheprairie, a winner of four races who earned $109,071. Power said, “Next year I might breed her to Court Vision. I’m breeding a Grindstone mare to him this year in Louisiana,” where the Gulch stallion is now standing at stud.

understanding risk in the thoroughbred breeding business

With the close of the 2019 sales season, one thing is clear: most yearlings lose money and therefore most breeders lose money. Likewise, losing is the key to horse racing because in any field of eight, seven are going to lose. Yet despite the prevalence of loss in our game, nobody wants to.

Losing and its effect on profit is at the apex of risk, and there is a 2019 book on the subject that offered some interesting material for anyone negotiating risk, especially anyone in the horse business.

2019 publication examines our understanding of risk

As a group, books on economics are not known for their lively titles; so Allison Schrager’s new volume, An Economist Walks Into a Brothel (and Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk), is immediately at the head of the pack for that alone.

This 204-page investigation of risk is so thoroughly broad-minded in its approach and specific in its analysis, however, that readers from many different fields – certainly not economics alone – will find value and interest in its chapters.

In this book, Schrager assesses how risk works in real businesses or economic activities, and she addresses the nature of risk in situations as diverse as the legal brothel of the title, movie-making in Hollywood, paparazzi photography, and breeding Thoroughbred racehorses.

The thematic thread linking these and other endeavors covered in Schrager’s book is risk, that odious goblin of business and professional life that nearly everyone fears.

Schrager not only defines risk but also sets forth the “rules of risk” that she sees being actively used by people, as well as those frequently being ignored. Most of us understand some of these rules, perhaps even practice them, but few of us understand them all. Even fewer, I expect, have thought through the process of risk and reward, plus the psychological requirements for managing them.

One example is the search for a lower-calorie cinnamon roll that Cinnabon won by keeping its original recipe and reducing the size of the bun to create a 350-calorie MiniBon. Sales rose. This was a lower-risk change to the cinnamon roll business than trying a diet pastry with different ingredients and likely different taste.

The most dangerous choice is following the risk-free path of doing nothing at all. This is also the norm for much of human activity because, for the most part, we are a risk-averse species. Or so economists thought until Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman introduced prospect theory, which “says when we weigh different options, the value we place on them depends on how much money we have when we start and if there is the possibility of loss. Humans aren’t risk-averse; they hate losing anything.” Anything.

Especially true for racing and breeding?

Risk avoidance in breeding has brought us to the point that only stallions who are “first-year or proven” are in demand as the sire of weanlings or yearlings. This moderates somewhat at the sales of horses in training, when breeze time and radiographs tend to play a greater role. But what about all the stallions who fit in between those criteria?

Those horses are being forced out of the marketplace so quickly that some are being sold before they have runners, as we have just seen with the sale of California Chrome to Japan, or before they even have foals on the ground, as we saw a few years ago with the champion juvenile Hansen. As a result, there is a dearth of good to useful sires who get lots of sound racehorses and winners but not many (or any) superstars.

Economist Schrager encourages us to examine risk in our lives and businesses and then to take some personal control of our choices related to risk.

Schrager wrote that “We put a big weight on very likely or unlikely events and put almost no weight on anything that happens in between.” We, as horse breeders, veer strongly toward things that we perceive as very likely. For instance, we feel safer breeding to first-year sires because nobody has had a bad one. Yet.

In essence, we are so afraid of having our (and our expected buyers’) expectations dashed on the rocks of reality that we are putting ourselves in a corner, perhaps a corner that is untenable for the breed. If we as horsemen and breeders do not believe in our stock and support them with good mates, how is the breed to improve?

It won’t. At least not overall.

There are, however, some experienced breeders and horsemen who manage probability so well that they have consistent overall success. Two examples of this are Arthur Hancock and George Strawbridge.

Hancock was the co-breeder of Kentucky Derby winners Gato del Sol (by Cougar) and Fusaichi Pegasus (Mr. Prospector), as well as the co-owner of Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence. A critic might say the latter was luck, and it was. Hancock thought he was buying back the lanky near-black yearling when he bid him in for $17,000, but the breeder didn’t want the horse. But Hancock was not going out and throwing money – intentionally or otherwise – at a horse by Old Bupkis out of Something Thecats Draggedin. Sunday Silence was a select sale yearling by leading sire Halo out of a multiple stakes winner. Those are differences that matter, in the general and in the specific.

Strawbridge breeds and races elite racehorses around the world. He has had top-class sprinters, milers, classic horses, and winners at the Breeders’ Cup. This year, he also bred the colt most likely to be named Horse of the Year: Bricks and Mortar (Giant’s Causeway), who is unbeaten in 2019 and closed his career with a brave victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. No breeder, however, can afford to keep and race and breed them all, and Strawbridge realized that Bricks and Mortar was a quite nice young prospect and had him consigned to the Keeneland September yearling sale, where he brought a profitable $200,000. For owners Klaravich Stables and Bill Lawrence, Bricks and Mortar has done rather more, but the breeder was correct in seeing the colt as a very desirable prospect who would help to balance the books. That is a pragmatic decision in balancing probability and profitability.

This was a good practical decision. And in like fashion, a balance of probability, profitability, horsemanship, and knowledge should help breeders, sellers, buyers, and stable managers moderate risk and improve the chances of success in a business and sport that is all about risk.

new stallions for 2020 part 5: value in lower-priced horses

The continuing great challenge for any farm or stallion manager in standing and managing a young sire with a lower-price stud fee is getting enough mares, especially getting enough of the right mares. The challenge of getting sufficient volume to less-known or less-popular stallion prospects has been there since the days of Eclipse, but Spendthrift Farm owner B. Wayne Hughes, self-made billionaire, came up with a solution.

That was to send a young horse of this description to stud and offer breeding rights for the production of a live foal and then payment of the fee. This was labeled the “share the upside” program and struck gold with one of the first stallions that Spendthrift stood under the program: Into Mischief (by Harlan’s Holiday).

Approximately 10,000 people in Central Kentucky nearly bought a breeding right in the horse. Not that many decided to go through with purchasing a breeding right contract, however, and Into Mischief now stands for $175,000 live foal. You can’t buy that kind of advertisement for your program. It has also been a source of continuing grief for farms that do not operate a program similar to Share the Upside.

Many of Spendthrift’s subsequent stallion purchases have been wildly popular, and the farm has branched out into more expensive stallion purchases that stand for larger fees, such as Omaha Beach (War Front), $40,000; Vino Rosso (Curlin), $30,000; and Mitole (Eskendereya), $25,000. These seasons are not offered with a breeding right.

Also for 2020, the farm has a pair of lesser-priced prospects, including a son of Into Mischief, that stands available for the purchase of a breeding right. The son of Into Mischief is Maximus Mischief, unbeaten at 2 and winner of the 2018 Remsen Stakes (G2). The big bay was third in the G2 Holy Bull, his only subsequent start, and stands for $7,500 live foal.

Coal Front — fast son of Travers winner Stay Thirsty won five graded stakes at five different racetracks over a three-season career. (BitB photo)

Standing for $5,000 live foal is six-time stakes winner Coal Front (Stay Thirsty), who was a stakes winner each year he raced (3 through 5). A two-time winner at the G2 level (Amsterdam Stakes and Godolphin Mile), Coal Front won a trio of G3 races (Gallant Bob, Mr. Prospector, and Razorback) that helped push his earnings to more than $1.8 million.

A grand-looking dark brown, Coal Front is inbred 3×3 to A.P. Indy through champions Bernardini and Mineshaft.

Another striking dark brown colt out of a Mineshaft mare is Darley‘s Enticed (Medaglia d’Oro), who stands for $10,000 live foal. A winner of the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at 2, Enticed was third in the G1 Champagne, then came back at 3 to win the G3 Gotham and finish second in the Wood Memorial.

Enticed is out of one of the very best Mineshaft daughters, three-time G1 winner It’s Tricky, who showed her best form in winning the CCA Oaks, Acorn, and Ogden Phipps.

One of the attractions of Enticed is his resemblance to his famous father, leading sire and racehorse Medaglia d’Oro (El Prado). Grandsire El Prado is also sire of leading turf producer Kitten’s Joy, whose son Divisidero enters stud at Airdrie for 2020 ($7,500 live foal).

A G1 winner twice in the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, Divisidero won a half-dozen stakes over five campaigns from 3 through 7, earning more than $1.6 million.

A medium-sized and sturdy horse who showed great consistency and soundness, Divisidero was a turf performer at a high level through a long career. He is also one of a handful of turf performers who have found a spot at stud this season, in contrast to the general trend over the past 20 years, when turf horses have had an uphill battle to find support at stud.

In addition to Divisidero, turf horses entering stud for 2020 include Demarchelier (Dubawi), Heart to Heart (English Channel), Lost Treasure (War Front), and Qurbaan (Speightstown).

Demarchelier — only son of leading sire Dubawi in Kentucky won three of four starts and will get strong support from White Birch Farm broodmare band. (BitB photo)

Entering stud at Claiborne, Demarchelier is a beautifully balanced son of leading international sire Dubawi (Dubai Millennium). Great-grandsire Seeking the Gold stood at Claiborne, and the farm bred and sold the dam of Sadler’s Wells, who is Demarchelier’s broodmare sire.

Like Divisidero, Crestwood Farm’s new sire Heart to Heart had a long career, racing from 2 through 8, and won 13 stakes, including a pair of G1s, and earned more than $2 million. Inbred to Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer, Heart to Heart was a fan favorite because of his dramatic racing style and the distinctive heart-shaped marking on his forehead.

A strongly made horse, Heart to Heart is cast in the mold of his famous sire English Channel, one of the best sons of leading sire Smart Strike on the racetrack and at stud.

Out of the Silver Deputy mare Ask the Question, Heart to Heart traces to the top-class 2-year-old Fair Astronomer, who was top-weighted filly on the Irish and English Free Handicap. He stands for $5,000 live foal.

Lost Treasure stands at Hill ‘n’ Dale for $5,000 live foal and was covered in greater depth in a previous story about his entering stablemate World of Trouble.

Unbeaten at 2 and a stakes winner each year from 3 through 6, Qurbaan won the G2 Bernard Baruch at 5 and 6. A winner of four stakes, Qurbaan also placed in nine more, earning $854,408. Purchased at the 2013 Keeneland November sale as a weanling by Shadwell for $300,00, Qurbaan comes from the thriving international family of Japan’s champion Bubble Gum Fellow (Sunday Silence), Japan Derby winner Deep Brillante (Deep Impact), and classic-placed Candy Stripes (Blushing Groom), who is the broodmare sire of leading sire Candy Ride.

Qurbaan is the second jet-setting son of Speightstown standing at Shadwell, which also stands Tamarkuz, winner of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. With that gaudy G1 in his career finale and other high-class dirt-track performances, Tamarkuz stands for $10,000, compared to the $5,000 fee for Qurbaan.

A stakes winner on turf who also shone on dirt, Flameaway (Scat Daddy) is by a stallion who sired a Kentucky Derby winner out of a mare by Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, and that alone could have created some Derby fever. But the dashing chestnut won the G3 Sam Davis early in his 3-year-old season, defeating both Catholic Boy and Vino Rosso, then finished second to champion Good Magic in the G2 Blue Grass Stakes.

That was smart form, especially considering that Good Magic next ran second in the Kentucky Derby, but the colt’s only subsequent start that put him within 10 pounds of that rating was a second in the G2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga.

As a result of that decline in form, Flameaway enters stud at Darby Dan for $7,500, a fraction of the fees commanded by subsequent G1 winners, such as Catholic Boy and Vino Rosso.

In contrast to that early form is Airdrie’s other new stallion for 2020, Preservationist (Arch), who found his best form at 6 with victories in the G1 Woodward and the G2 Suburban. A big, rangy horse, Preservationist is by a stallion from an outlier among contemporary sire lines (the Turn-to line through English Derby winner Roberto). Arch sired 70 stakes winners, including champion Blame, and comes from the family of Courtly Dee.

Preservationist looks like his male line, showing the ruggedness typical of Hail to Reason and Kris S., in particular. Yet despite their size and growthy type, both those sires could sire exceptional juveniles, as well as outstanding classic prospects and older horses.

So each of these new sire prospects for 2020 offers breeders hopes of success and unheralded athletic potential. Hope not only reigns supreme among the value-oriented breeder; it is a vital and constructive force. From the ranks of horses in this price range have come leading sires, including Into Mischief, War Front, and Mr. Prospector.

new stallions for 2020 part 4: world of trouble and lost treasure

In the hyper-competitive world of managing and standing commercial stallions, the higher-end horses get a chance, frequently a superb chance, to prove whether they have the genetic and phenotypic qualities to make a successful sire.

The economic stress of the undertaking, however, means there is a pivot-point in the pricing of stallions, a point at which the market for stallion seasons balances, then goes down. That price point currently seems to be at about $15,000 for a live-foal nomination.

And among the 2020 crop of entering sire prospects, there is one stallion at that price: World of Trouble.

The 4-year-old son of Kantharos (Lion Heart) is the second stakes winner out of the Valid Expectations (Valid Appeal) mare Meets Expectations. She is a half-sister to major stakes winner Bucchero and he is also by Kantharos.

That chestnut son of G1 winner and Kentucky Derby second Lion Heart is a key to World of Trouble finding his way to John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm because Kantharos came to Hill ‘n’ Dale from Florida, “where he made it on his own,” Sikura said, “and he’s a horse on the rise that I believe is going to be a sire of the highest merit.”

World of Trouble — freakishly fast son of the important young sire Kantharos (Lion Heart) represents the Tale of the Cat branch of Storm Cat. (BitB photo)

From one of the Kantharos crops bred in Florida, World of Trouble also was one of the fastest horses in the world, maybe the fastest. From five to seven furlongs, World of Trouble won eight stakes at 3 and 4, and the only sprint he lost in that span was the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint that he lost to Stormy Liberal (Stormy Atlantic). He won all four of his starts in 2019, including the G1 Carter on dirt and the G1 Jaipur on turf. In the latter, World of Trouble outran Belvoir Bay and Om, who were first and second in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita last month.

Sikura summarized: “World of Trouble is an accomplished, elite racehorse. Hard to find a horse who’s accomplished on both surfaces, especially at the G1 level. He had a world of talent. And physically, World of Trouble is a lovely horse, medium-sized, but very well made, and I guess that’s the reason he stayed so sound. You could breed a bigger, leggier mare to him or go type to type and have a beautiful prospect. Moves very well, very correct. He has added flesh since he came to the farm and is turning into a masculine, beautiful horse.”

From discerning breeders, more is expected than simply good looks and G1 victories on a stallion prospect’s race record. Talent that transcends the generations is the image in the mist of Thoroughbred breeding.

Sikura said, “You can’t predict who will be a leading sire, but history has shown that the ‘freak racehorse’ when he reproduces himself, can be a major force at stud. And World of Trouble had freak speed. So, I’m definitely sending mares to the horse. We own a majority interest and have syndicated him.”

Whereas World of Trouble had so much speed he could beat the gate, joining him among the ranks of stallions at Hill ‘n’ Dale is a lesser-known racer who earned high praise from his internationally known trainer, Aidan O’Brien.

This is the 4-year-old War Front (Danzig) horse Lost Treasure. An Irish-bred from one of Coolmore’s best families and from a dam by the wondrous classic sire Montjeu (Sadler’s Wells), Lost Treasure combines the two most vibrant strains of Northern Dancer.

Priced at $5,000 live foal, Lost Treasure is priced among the lower tier of new stallions and is bucking the trend of the contemporary market. Sikura explained why he was attracted to the horse: “I saw him race in Ireland, and he is a beautiful, fast, masculine horse of great energy. Aidan thought the world of the horse, and as a 2-year-old, he was narrowly beaten in a G1 race in France. [O’Brien] told me that ‘this is a horse with world-class talent, but I never got the best out of him.’”

Sikura continued, “I know there will be doubters saying that he didn’t win a Grade 1, but being a student of history, I know that there have been sires like Vice Regent (Northern Dancer), who was lightly raced [two victories from five starts] and didn’t win a stakes but sired a champion in Deputy Minister and became an important sire on his own. I don’t know whether Lost Treasure can rise to that level, but we’re prepared to help him try. We’re going to send mares, and the Coolmore team are going to send mares. We’ll see how that works out.

“Coolmore was going to stand Lost Treasure themselves,” Sikura said, “but I managed to persuade them to allow me to buy in and bring him over here. I’m going to follow my conviction and breed 15 to 20 mares of my own. They will do the same, and other smart people will work it out and send him some mares.”

There is some contrarian pragmatism in Sikura’s thinking, and he said that “with a shrinking foal crop and the incentive opportunities elsewhere, a lot of horses don’t come to Kentucky, and when you’re trying to make a new horse, that situation makes it tougher. It also makes you more accountable [due to the potential losses in the market]. So you have to sharpen your eye in getting a horse and backing him extensively.”

new stallions for 2020 part 3: catalina cruiser and yoshida

One of the fascinating things about the horses entering stud for 2020 is that they show such a wide variety, in both pedigree and racing character, that breeders are virtually sure to find one or more they can’t live without.

In addition to pro-tem divisional champions like Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Vino Rosso (by Curlin) and BC Sprint winner Mitole (Eskendereya), the higher-end new sires for 2020 also include racers like Catalina Cruiser (Union Rags), who is in the model of the tried and true fast miler on dirt, and Yoshida (Heart’s Cry), who is a top-class switch hitter on dirt and turf.

For next season, Catalina Cruiser goes to stud at Lane’s End as the fourth generation of a series of stallions who earned high honors at the Versailles, Ky., farm founded by Will Farish. Beginning at the beginning of Lane’s End, Dixieland Band (Northern Dancer) was one of the three original stallions at the farm, and he was an unqualified success as a high-quality sire and broodmare sire.

At Lane’s End, Dixieland Band sired 111 stakes winners, including French classic winner Egyptband, who won the Prix de Diane, as well as G1 winners Dixie Brass, Sharp Lisa, Spinning Round, and Dixie Union.

Dixie Union became an important sire at Lane’s End and got 48 stakes winners before his death at age 13 in July 2010. A big, scopy dark brown, Dixie Union sired G1 winners Dixie Chatter (Norfolk), Hot Dixie Chick (Spinaway), Overanalyze (Arkansas Derby), and Union Rags, winner of the G1 Champagne at 2 and the Belmont Stakes at 3.

A very talented juvenile, Union Rags has risen to the lead among fourth-crop stallions of 2019 due to the quality of his later-maturing stock, such as Paradise Woods and Catalina Cruiser, although the stallion also sired the juvenile G1 winners Free Drop Billy (Breeders’ Futurity) and Union Strike (Del Mar Debutante). To date, Union Rags has 15 stakes winners, including five this year, and he will stand for $60,000 live foal in 2020.

Catalina Cruiser comes from his sire’s first crop, like Paradise Woods and Union Strike, and the brawny chestnut will be priced at $20,000 live foal. He is out of a very “Lane’s End” pedigree. In addition to the generations of sires that stood at the farm, Catalina Cruiser is out of a mare by champion Mineshaft (A.P. Indy).

A winner in his debut at 3, Catalina Cruiser won six of his subsequent eight starts at 4 and 5. The handsome horse won five times at the G2 level: the San Diego Handicap twice, the Pat O’Brien twice, and the True North, earning $711,100.

Whereas Catalina Cruiser is the prototype for the American dirt miler, with his principal victories coming at distances from 6 ½ furlongs to 8 ½ furlongs, Yoshida is cut from a different bolt of cloth.

First of all, the 5-year-old Yoshida wasn’t even bred in the U.S. He was bred in Japan by Northern Farm and is by the high-class racehorse Heart’s Cry.

Elliott Walden, president and CEO of WinStar Farm, said that “we wanted to bring back an outcross, especially something from Sunday Silence’s line, and Heart’s Cry is probably Sunday Silence’s second-best son behind Deep Impact.”

To get the colt, of course, WinStar and partners had to outbid some of the leading outfits in Japan. Walden recalled, “When Tom Ryan and I went to Japan, we were looking for a horse that could possibly come over here to stand at stud. We ended up buying five: two yearlings and three foals. At their premium sale, the breeders’ sales company auctions both at the same time in July, and the foals are still on the mares.

“He was the most expensive horse we bought, paid about $800,000 U.S. for him. He was the one we wanted and the others were nice,” Walden said. “We felt so strongly about him that we stretched to get him, and fortunately it has turned out very well.”

Tom Ryan of SF Bloodstock recalled that, when the partners embarked on the Japan project, “we weren’t exactly targeting sons of Heart’s Cry but were definitely looking to get involved in the Deep Impact – Sunday Silence sire line. That said, it’s amazing the strides Heart’s Cry has taken in the last few years. He’s about the most universally successful stallion going right now.”

At the time of sale, the point that brought both Walden and Ryan on board for this particular colt was his physical appeal. Ryan said, “What made Yoshida appealing to me personally as a yearling was his physique and his athleticism. He moved as effortlessly then as he does now.”

Walden was even more emphatic. He said, “When Yoshida was walking around the ring in the back [of the sale area], he gave me a message. He just had a presence and a sense of charisma that is something extra.”

Message received.

Yoshida has proven himself the most successful racehorse to be purchased and exported from Japan, where the purses are so rich that it is very challenging for U.S. or European owners to buy in the Japanese home market and then export to race elsewhere for relative peanuts.

Yoshida, however, has proven to be a “really special horse for the international development of our roster here at WinStar,” Walden said, and the horse has proven himself an unexpectedly versatile and talented and sound athlete. A winner in five of 18 starts over four seasons, Yoshida earned slightly more than $2.5 million, and his most important victories came in the G1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs and the G1 Woodward on dirt at Saratoga, and the handsome bay affirmed his form on dirt with a second in the G1 Whitney and a third in the Woodward this year.

In truth, there was every reason to expect that a strongly built grandson of Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Sunday Silence would prove just as effective on dirt as on turf, but Yoshida proved it, and no doubt, the marketplace will reward him for this accomplishment.

Sunday Silence’s sire Halo had been a champion on turf, as well as a multiple stakes winner on dirt, and his sire Hail to Reason was adept at getting horses whose form on dirt was as good as that on turf. This line goes back through Turn-to to Nearco’s high-class son Royal Charger, who carried high weights on turf in Europe and sired high-class performers, mostly on dirt, here in the States.

Interestingly, Yoshida’s sire had a nearly identical career to Yoshida, winning five of 19 starts but earning slightly more than $8 million from the better purse structure in Japan. The sire’s best victories came in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic and G1 Arima Kinen, and he was also second in the Japan Cup and third in the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

The ability of Heart’s Cry to travel and reproduce his best form bought him a good place at stud at the Shadai Stallion Station. There, Heart’s Cry has produced some notable successes, including Japan Cup winner Cheval Grand, champion older horse Just a Way, and champion filly Lys Gracieux.

Just like his sire, Yoshida has earned him a serious opportunity at stud through his racing excellence, and Walden noted that “typically we have pretty strong books. Our first-crop sires last year had books in the 160s. So, we are breeding a lot of mares. [Partners] China Horse Club and SF Bloodstock are breeders of significance and becoming more important. It’s good to have a strong group of shareholders to support these horses.”

“SF plan to support Yoshida and will do so with confidence,” Ryan said. “He retired sound and performed at the highest level on a global stage on both surfaces. He has the makings of a very versatile stallion, and that’s exactly what the world needs more of.”

new stallions for 2020 part 2: audible and catholic boy

In the first article on the new sires entering stud in Kentucky at the top end of the stud fee rankings, one point of interest was the large group of well-performed 3-year-olds in 2019 who will remain in training for 2020. This generates increased competition and produces more excitement and anticipation at the racetrack, all good for the sport.

The two stallion prospects covered in this second part of the series were leading prospects for the classics of 2018 and top-quality performers during their classic season, but neither Grade 1 Florida Derby winner Audible (by Into Mischief) nor G1 Travers winner Catholic Boy (More Than Ready) found the level of success expected of them in 2019.

After winning the G3 Holy Bull, then progressing to win the Florida Derby and to finish a strong third behind Triple Crown winner Justify (Scat Daddy) in the Kentucky Derby, Audible appeared poised to be one of the ones in last year’s crop of 3-year-olds. This colt was so highly regarded, in fact, that many handicappers preferred Audible to Justify going into the 2018 Belmont Stakes, but Audible was scratched from the race.

There was a reason for that.

WinStar Farm’s president and CEO, Elliott Walden, said “Audible went on the shelf after the Triple Crown because he was diagnosed with some bone bruising.” After rehab at the WinStar farm facility and then a return to Todd Pletcher, Walden continued, “Audible came back and ran a strong race in winning the Cherokee Run last year on Breeders’ Cup weekend. We thought we were moving the right way and that he was ready to have a great season at 4, but then he didn’t show his form at all in the Pegasus and (Dubai) World Cup. The bone bruising reared its ugly head again, and then we got behind on any return to the track with him. This year, we didn’t get to see the real Audible.”

As a result, the handsome bay son of Into Mischief comes to stud touting his accomplishments at 3 and his strong pedigree. As a very handsome son of leading sire Into Mischief, Audible is going to be popular with breeders because they have pounded on the door to use his sire to such an extent that Into Mischief now stands for $175,000 live foal.

The first three dams of Audible are sired by champions: Gilded Time (Timeless Moment), Gulch (Mr. Prospector), and Easy Goer (Alydar). The fourth dam is three-time G1 winner Classy Cathy (Private Account), one of five stakes winners out of the Tom Rolfe mare Trestle.

Another angle on the colt’s race record is that “we’ve got four Florida Derby winners on our roster,” Walden said, “and there’s something to that race that nominates it as a sire-maker. Over the past 25 years, winners of the Florida Derby include Unbridled, Holy Bull, Unbridled’s Song, Harlan’s Holiday, Empire Maker, Scat Daddy, Quality Road, Take Charge Indy, and Constitution,” who is currently second on the freshman sire list behind only Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

Similar to the Florida Derby as a “sire-making race” is the Travers, won last year by the steadily improving More Than Ready son Catholic Boy.

Spread over a broader span of time are an array of Travers winners who have become leading sires, such as Alydar, Runaway Groom, Chief’s Crown, Forty Niner, Holy Bull, Lemon Drop Kid, Medaglia d’OroBernardini, and Street Sense. These winners of the Midsummer Derby include horses who were top juveniles that matured well, along with horses who prospered at 3 and up like Lemon Drop Kid and Medaglia d’Oro.

Catholic Boy falls into the category of horses who showed high form at 2, winning the G2 Remsen Stakes on dirt at Aqueduct and G3 With Anticipation on turf at Saratoga, and then improved at 3. In his second season, Catholic Boy won a pair of G1s races, the Travers on dirt at Saratoga and the Belmont Derby on turf. This year, the colt won the G2 Dixie, then finished second to Preservationist in the Suburban on dirt in a brief season of three starts.

Catholic Boy — top-class son of leading international sire More Than Ready won the Remsen at 2, the Travers at 3, and the Dixie at 4. (BitB photo)

At both 2 and 3, the good-looking bay was a switch-hitting performer, showing his excellent form on any surface he encountered. Claiborne‘s Bernie Sams said, “That’s what makes him most attractive” to breeders. The colt’s versatility gives breeders the option of racing anywhere, in the States or in Europe or Asia, and on any surface: dirt, turf, or synthetic.

The versatility demonstrated by the multiple G1 winner and expected from his foals is central to why Claiborne has “been overrun with applications for him,” and there will be significant international interest in the horse, as well as domestic.

In addition to Catholic Boy’s race record, part of the reason for his widespread appeal is the international quality of the horse’s pedigree. He is a son of More Than Ready, a leading 2-year-old who has become a major sire in America, as well as a leading sire in Australia, and has sired 200 stakes winners. Out of the Bernadini mare Song of Bernadette, Catholic Boy traces to the champion Argentine mare La Sevillana (Court Harwell), who was top of her division at 2 and 3. From her, descend the champion fillies La Lorgnette (Val de l’Orne), winner of the Queen’s Plate, and Lucky Song (Seattle Song), winner of the Park Hill Stakes and a highweighted filly at 3 in Europe.

Still a growing boy when he won the Travers last year, Catholic Boy “has grown and filled out so well that he’s a grand-looking horse, and they tell me he now stands 16.2,” Sams added.

A steady stream of interested lookers are inspecting these young stallion prospects and filling out applications for their mares with the farms. Priced at $25,000 live foal, both Audible and Catholic Boy bring some of the best performances from the 3-year-old crop of 2018 to stud with them.

new stallions for 2020 part 1: omaha beach, vino rosso, and mitole

From the perspective of racing fans, the list of 3-year-olds and older horses coming back to race next year is excellent news. One reason for this is some of these young stars of the equine firmament need to prove themselves further on the racetrack to justify a premium stud fee. But in addition to this is the continuing squeeze on stallion operations to stand only the sire prospects that have the greatest commercial appeal. Otherwise, why would an owner or syndicate undertake the enterprise of making a stallion in the intensely competitive Kentucky sire market?

As a result of uncertainties in the new sire market, plans call for some of the best-known racers to continue their careers at the track. These include 2018 Eclipse Award winner Game Winner (by Candy Ride), Wood Memorial winner Tacitus (Tapit), Santa Anita Derby winner Roadster (Quality Road), Kentucky Derby winner Country House (Lookin at Lucky), Preakness winner War of Will (War Front), Belmont Stakes winner Sir Winston (Awesome Again), Haskell and Florida Derby winner Maximum Security (New Year’s Day), Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Code of Honor (Noble Mission), Pennsylvania Derby winner Math Wizard (Algorithms), and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Spun to Run (Hard Spun) among the 3-year-olds.

Although the two best older horses to race in 2019 – City of Light (Quality Road) and Bricks and Mortar (Giant’s Causeway) – as well as the pro-tem champions Vino Rosso (Curlin) and Mitole (Eskendereya), are all out to stud, the ranks of this division should be nearly as full as the set of 3-year-olds soon to join them. The older horses to race again in 2020 are led by Whitney Stakes winner McKinzie (Street Sense), Santa Anita Handicap winner Gift Box (Tapit), Vanderbilt and Vosburgh winner Imperial Hint (Imperialism), Bing Crosby winner Cistron (The Factor), and Pacific Classic winner Higher Power (Medaglia d’Oro).

Not surprisingly, the new stallions entering stud for next year with a premium fee of $20,000 live foal or greater do not make a long list.

Chief among them is a pair of stallion prospects going to stud at Spendthrift Farm for owner B. Wayne Hughes. Two of the farm’s five new prospects for 2020 are also the two most expensive new sires: two-time G1 winner and scratched Kentucky Derby favorite Omaha Beach (War Front) and the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Vino Rosso (Curlin).

Omaha Beach will enter stud at Spendthrift with the most expensive stud fee of the year. Spendthrift’s general manager Ned Toffey said that “right now, Omaha Beach is set at $40,000 live foal, and that would go up to $45,000 if he wins another Grade 1, and up to $50,000 if he wins a second Grade 1” before entering stud.

Vino Rosso — son of leading sire Curlin won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Gold Cup at Santa Anita to place himself at the top of the older horse division for 2019. (BitB photo)

In a departure from the standard handling of Spendthrift’s new stallions, “both Omaha Beach and Vino Rosso will be wholly owned by Spendthrift,” Toffey said, “and they will stand for stud fees, with no breeding rights sold for either horse, along with their upper-tier companion Mitole” ($25,000).
Typically, Spendthrift stallions enter stud under the “Share the Upside” program created by billionaire Hughes, which allows breeders to acquire a lifetime breeding right in a stallion prospect by paying for a set number of seasons to the horse, usually two, when the foals stand and nurse. This also creates a pool of breeders who have a vested interest in sending good mares to the horse, as well as promoting and using the horse in the intervening years as breeders and stallion managers await results from the first crop on the racetrack.

The difference, Toffey said, “is that we’ve done a couple horses at about this price point and feel that this appeals more to people at this level. With Omaha Beach and Vino Rosso, and likewise Mitole, we felt like these horses were going to be so popular that selling the seasons straight up would be simplest.” In the future, Spendthrift would “determine on a horse-by-horse whether to go with Share the Upside.”

At the second-highest stud fee among entering stallion prospects for 2020, Spendthrift’s Vino Rosso will be $30,000 live foal for the new breeding season. A winner of the Wood Memorial at 3, Vino Rosso has improved comprehensively through his 4-year-old season to win the G1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita earlier in the year, then led the competition home in the BC Classic, winning by 4 ¼ lengths in 2:02.80.

In addition to his major accomplishments on the racetrack, Vino Rosso is a good-looking son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin (Smart Strike), who has elevated himself to the highest level in the American sire rankings. As a result, the imposing chestnut stands for a fee of $175,000 live foal at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm for the 2020 season.

Curlin’s rise to prominence has occurred through the stallion’s establishment of himself as one of the country’s eminent classic sires, and Curlin’s breeding success has made his sons important prospects at stud. The first crop by Curlin’s first star performer, Belmont Stakes and Metropolitan Handicap winner Palace Malice, have raced in 2019. To date, the stallion has 53 starters, 13 winners, and two stakes winners. Both stakes winners earned black type at 8 and 8.5 furlongs, with Structor, winner of the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, getting the mile at Santa Anita in 1:35.11. Most did not look like specialist 2-year-olds, and with Palace Malice’s pedigree, by a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner out of a mare by international G1 winner Royal Anthem, the likelihood is that their proper distances and best form lie ahead of them.

First-crop juveniles by Preakness and Haskell winner Exaggerator will be out next year, Cigar Mile winner Connect and Travers winner Keen Ice will have their first yearlings in 2020, and the champion juvenile colt, BC Juvenile and Haskell winner Good Magic, will have his first crop of foals arrive in the New Year. These young sires will establish a benchmark of commercial demand for sons of Curlin in the open market.

Vino Rosso is the next major son of Curlin to come to stud, and he has already proven a very popular prospect with breeders. The horse’s first book is already filled “because the response to Vino Rosso has been really, really good,” Toffey said. “His book is going to be in the neighborhood of 200 mares, and he’s nearly done” [book full] for 2020.

The third Spendthrift stallion at the upper tier of the price ladder in 2020 is BC Sprint winner Mitole at $25,000 live foal. A winner in six of seven starts in 2019 for earnings of $2.7 million, Mitole earned headlines with victories in four G1 stakes, the Churchill Downs on Derby Day, then the Met Mile, the Forego, and the BC Sprint. “But for brushing the gate at Saratoga [in the Vanderbilt, when the bay finished third], we might be looking at Horse of the Year,” Toffey said.

For speed and competitiveness, few would disagree. The horse’s final two starts – winning the G1 Forego at Saratoga by 3 lengths in 1:20.90 and the Sprint at Santa Anita by 1 ¼ lengths in 1:09 – showed the level of speed and determination the animal possessed, as well as the ability to reproduce his form coast to coast.

In addition to Mitole, Spendthrift also stands the 2017 winner of the Metropolitan Handicap, Mor Spirit. The powerful dark bay also won the G1 Los Alamitos Futurity at 2 and, like Mitole, is a son of Eskendereya (Giant’s Causeway). They are the only two sons of their sire in Kentucky, and Toffey said, “When they are really good-looking and really fast, they deserve a shot. Mitole carried his form all year, danced all the dances, and looks like a champion here at the end of the season. So who wouldn’t want another one of those?

“And here at Spendthrift, we’re all about diversity.”