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The following post was published earlier this week at Paulick Report.

The season-ending Grade 1 stakes at Hollywood Park packed a lot of joy for the Florida breeding industry, as both Hollywood Park’s Starlet and Futurity went to juveniles bred in the Sunshine State. In addition, both Starlet winner Turbulent Descent and Futurity winner Comma to the Top went through the juvenile sales at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s April sale of 2-year-olds in training.

While Turbulent Descent was always a grand prospect and attracted sufficient attention from bidders to sell for $160,000, Comma to the Top was the surprise package. The gelded son of second-crop sire Bwana Charlie brought $22,000 on a bid from trainer Peter Miller for owners Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, and Kevin Tsujihara. In his first trip through a sales ring, Comma to the Top had been a $5,000 weanling at the 2008 OBS October mixed sale.

Now he is a G1 winner, and the bay gelding has prospered mightily through an ambitious campaign of 10 starts. Comma to the Top has six victories and $551,600 in earnings.

Not bad.

Unlike Turbulent Descent (by leading freshman sire Congrats, who has moved to Vinery in Kentucky), the Futurity winner is by a stallion who is unlikely to leave Florida.

Bwana Charlie stands at Brent and Crystal Fernung’s Journeyman Stud for a stud fee of $2,500, and Brent Fernung said, “We value the support our breeders have given this horse, and we’re not going to jump up and do a lot different with him. He’s going to have a pretty good book, and we’ve been getting a lot of calls on him, especially today [Monday].”

Fernung started both Wildcat Heir, who stands at Journeyman, and Congrats in their stud careers. “There isn’t any money in it,” he said, “but there’s some personal satisfaction in having Congrats as leading first-crop sire and Wildcat Heir as the leading second-crop sire in the country.”

Depending on which sire list one consults, Bwana Charlie is in third or fifth place among Florida-based second-crop sires.

Out of the Halo mare Shahalo, Bwana Charlie is yet another good son of the once-beaten Indian Charlie, who stands in Kentucky at Airdrie Stud. Bwana Charlie has a physique in keeping with that pedigree. He has the strong shoulder, rounded hindquarter, and rather thick body that are usually part of the package with the better offspring of Indian Charlie and Halo.

And the stallion put many of the same qualities into his G1-winning son. At the OBS April sale, Comma to the Top went a quarter-mile in : 21 1/5 and looked good doing it. Evaluated off the stride data from the work, Comma to the Top had a 24-foot stride on a day when the average was 23.8 feet. The gelding showed good efficiency (motion and use of his body) in the work, and earned a BreezeFig of 65 for a group 1 rating, all of which is public information from DataTrack International for those who use their BreezeFig data through Daily Racing Form.

There was a lot to like about Comma to the Top’s work for a youngster who brought only $22,000, but at the time, some observers thought his knees a bit questionable, and he wasn’t the really big, scopey type of young athlete that most often gets the buyers to butting heads.

Although he was good at the time, Comma to the Top has gotten a lot “gooder” over the last eight months. He has prospered through a rather strenuous juvenile racing season that appears to have hardened his joints and his resolve.

Comma to the Top’s successes over the past weeks have helped his dam change hands. Breeders Richard and Linda Thompson sold Maggies Storm (by Stormy Atlantic), the dam of Comma to the Top, for $150,000 to John Sykes before the Futurity. The mare is in foal to Congrats, in whom Sykes owns the majority interest.

John Dowd, who trained Songandaprayer, brokered the deal and said, “I live here in Ocala and do some work for OBS during the sales and also work at moving horses for people in the off season.

“Earlier this year, we did some short-listing for Peter Miller at the OBS April sale, and that was how I got involved in tracking down the dam of Comma to the Top. I knew Matt Lyons, who is manager for [Sykes’s] Woodford Thoroughbreds and who happened to be right here in Ocala when I learned this mare was for sale. I gave him a call, and we went out to look her over.

“The breeders were interested in selling the package, the mare and weanling [by Belgravia], but Woodford Thoroughbreds was interested only in the mare. So they made an offer and closed the deal.”

Maggies Storm has a yearling filly by Simon Pure who is scheduled to sell through the OBS March select sale of 2-year-olds in training.

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