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The following post appeared earlier this week at Paulick Report.

While fans and professionals have been waiting for one 3-year-old colt to establish himself as the dominant force in the division this season, two more colts joined the group that each have won a single Grade 1 race in 2011. On Saturday at Saratoga, Stay Thirsty (by Bernardini) improved off his victory in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy to win the G1 Travers, and the following day, The Factor threw fast fractions at his elders in the G1 Pat O’Brien and took an impressive victory at Del Mar.

Stay Thirsty was bred in Kentucky by John Gunther, who was at Saratoga for the Travers to watch the scopy bay by Preakness and Travers winner Bernardini perform. Gunther was impressed by the condition of Stay Thirsty and said, “He’s filled out and matured a lot since the Derby coming to the Travers. He seems to have more weight through the body and be more mature-looking.”

Stay Thirsty looked like his sire at the Spa. That was important to his breeder, who said that “when I went to see Bernardini at Jonabell, I just loved his looks, and I bred two mares to him the first year, three the second year, and it looks like he’s going to be a good sire.”

According to the current stallion progeny earnings list, Bernardini, an 8-year-old son of A.P. Indy, is the leading second-crop sire, with The Factor’s sire, the 9-year-old Danzig stallion War Front, in second. As a classic winner with a classic pedigree and an elegant physique, Bernardini was notably impressive to breeders, who sent him some outstanding broodmares.

Among the first-crop mates for Bernardini was Gunther’s Storm Bird mare Marozia, who already had produced a pair of stakes winners.

Gunther recalled that he “bought Marozia at the November sale, she was barren at the time, and I paid $50,000 for her.” At the time of sale, the then-9-year-old daughter of Storm Bird had a pair of colts by Fusaichi Pegasus who were a yearling and a weanling. Subsequently named Andromeda’s Hero and Superfly, both became stakes winners. Andromeda’s Hero is a G3 winner who ran second in the Belmont Stakes, and Superfly won a minor stakes and ran third in the Champagne.

Stay Thirsty had made this a trio of G1-placed offspring for Marozia with his seconds in the Hopeful last year and more recently in the Belmont Stakes, but the good-looking bay took the step into the winner’s circle as a G1 winner at Saratoga, which seems to be the colt’s favorite racetrack.

The expectation is that Stay Thirsty will contest the Jockey Club Gold Cup prior to the Breeders’ Cup Classic as part of a program that might make him champion of his division and a Horse of the Year contender. Those races will test both the colt’s apparent maturity and his rise up the class ladder when he tackles older horses for the first time.

One colt who has already put the elders in their place is The Factor, a gray son of Claiborne Farm stallion War Front. A very powerful colt with fluent action, The Factor became one of the favorites for the classics this spring with facile victories at up to a mile and a sixteenth.

According to trainer Bob Baffert, however, the blazing gray does not want any part of rating and will likely be kept to distances of a mile or less. The Factor endorsed that program with his performance in the O’Brien, scorching away in front with G1 winner Smiling Tiger and pulling away to win by a length and three-quarters.

The speed that The Factor uses so effectively is part of the arsenal that sire War Front gives to many of his offspring, and breeders have been so pleased with the results that they are already clamoring about seasons to the stallion for next year.

Bernie Sams of Claiborne Farm said the syndicated stallion covered 103 mares this year and got 97 in foal. With more stakes winners to date than any other second-crop stallion, War Front will be in high demand, and the stud fee for the horse will rise for the 2012 season, although the fee has not yet been decided.

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