The following article was published earlier this week at Paulick Report.
The second half of the season for the 3-year-old colts jumped into high gear over the weekend with the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth and the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga. The winners, Coil (by Point Given) and Stay Thirsty (Bernardini), present a fascinating study.
On the one hand, they have these things in common. Both appear to be improving colts who are supposed to be better as late 3-year-olds, strengthening and maturing as the division prepares to begin challenging the older horses. Both are by highly impressive classic winners who showed their best form at 10 furlongs, or more, in the case of Point Given’s Belmont Stakes.
From those facts, surely the perception would be that the merits of these sires are relatively comparable, right? Well, no. The perception is that one is a failure and that the other is the second coming of … well, A.P. Indy.
Point Given – despite his storied honors as champion 3-year-old, Horse of the Year, multiple classic winner, and a horse of exceptional talent – is “critter non grata” in the commercial marketplace. The big chestnut son of multiple classic winner Thunder Gulch is actually a decent sire, but the complexities of the marketplace have overwhelmed the horse’s good points. Now the rangy stallion is considered “acceptable” if breeders are going to breed and race but not if their program includes the goal of selling some of the yearlings profitably.
The status of Bernardini could hardly be more different. The second-leading freshman sire in 2010 to the “other” A.P. Indy stallion Congrats, Bernardini got several progressive 2-year-olds who won stakes, as well as a handful who raced well but with the promise of greater things at 3.
One such was Stay Thirsty, who was second in the G1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga last year but also was the understudy to the Repole Stable’s champion juvenile colt, Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie). By making his 3-year-old debut with a victory in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, however, Stay Thirsty promised for a short while this spring to supplant Uncle Mo as the leading 3-year-old for Repole Stable.
Instead, the colt’s form went off the tracks with unplaced races in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby. Those two finishes (seventh and 11th) were so bad it appeared Stay Thirsty had been overrated after his Gotham success. A solid second in the Belmont Stakes, however, suggested the colt was moving in the right direction after all, and his four-length victory in the Jim Dandy may project him as the favorite for the Travers.
If all goes well, Stay Thirsty should meet the top contenders out of the Haskell in the Travers, including the lightly raced winner Coil, Preakness winner Shackleford, and Belmont Stakes winner Ruler on Ice.
Such a contest among the better colts in training would be worth the price of the trip to the Spa. And Coil promises to keep it interesting. Now the winner in four of his six starts, the chestnut son of Point Given and the Theatrical mare Eversmile is a dramatic performer, preferring to race in front and gallop the daylight out of his opponents.
In both his losses, he was too impetuous, pulled hard, and finished second. Therefore, handicappers would have expected Coil’s slow start in the Haskell to have dashed his chances of success. The colt, however, displayed better control of himself, went to his competition on the turn, and finished well to win by a neck from Shackleford, who was 2 1/4 lengths in front of Ruler on Ice.
These three and Stay Thirsty make a solid-looking quartet for the Travers, and trying to gauge which will progress the most and stay the best at 10 furlongs will make handicapping the race more exciting.
The conundrum for breeders, however, is that a Travers victory by Stay Thirsty would be worth rather a lot for those with Bernardini stock to sell, whereas a victory by Coil would be worth rather little to those with yearlings by Point Given (not that it will hurt, of course).
But it is the brain-twisting reality of breeding racing prospects for the sales that once the buying public has made up its mind about a stallion, it is nearly impossible to alter that perception and make the horse’s stock generally profitable to produce.
This illogical situation, like the inconsistent treatment of race-day medication and a racing program fixated on racing six to eight furlongs, is one more difficulty that racing must deal with to advance itself and become the central focus that the Thoroughbred and its sport could be.