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The following article appeared earlier this week at Paulick Report.

As a late-maturing 2-year-old who won the Grade 2 duo of the Nashua and Remsen Stakes, To Honor and Serve was on many short lists of colts to watch for the 2011 classics. This spring, To Honor and Serve faltered a step in Florida, finishing third in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby. But that was the result of a growthy colt needing more time, and owner Live Oak Plantation and trainer Bill Mott brought To Honor and Serve along with patience.

When the rangy bay signaled readiness with a strong allowance victory, they stepped him up to the G2 Pennsylvania Derby last weekend. That race went without a hitch for the son of Bernardini and the Deputy Minister mare Pilfer, and he won by two and a quarter lengths from Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice, with the improving Tapit colt Rattlesnake Bridge in third.

Victory in his last two races puts To Honor and Serve’s overall record at five wins from nine starts, with earnings of $996,340. The colt’s continuing reaffirmation of his juvenile form also puts To Honor and Serve on a collision course with Travers and Jim Dandy winner Stay Thirsty.

Both colts are by the A.P. Indy stallion Bernardini, who was champion 3-year-old colt in 2006. In his only season of racing, Bernardini won six of eight starts – including the G1 Travers, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Preakness, G2 Jim Dandy, G3 Withers – and finished second to Horse of the Year Invasor in the BC Classic.

The successes of this pair of colts, aided by a sizable cast of supporting racers, has put Bernardini on top of the second-crop sire list, as well as placing him prominently among all stallions on the general sire list.

This level of success was just what was expected of Bernardini when he went to stud. As a champion, a classic winner, and a beautifully shaped son of champion and classic winner A.P. Indy, Bernardini was expected to become a leading sire. Yet most horses for whom such expectations are held do not deliver. Most fail or sire elite performers so erratically that they cannot hold high rank among the premium stallions of the breed.

In fairness to his contemporaries, no stallion of this group received a better book of mares, but Bernardini, in contrast to most premium stallions of the past 10 years or so, has sired winners of such quality to suggest that they were well and truly matched. His books will get even better from this point, and among his mates in 2011 was champion Zenyatta.

Yet some of the very promising young broodmares with whom Bernardini was initially mated have made a significant contribution to his success, and that should not be minimized.

One in particular, the dam of To Honor and Serve, is Pilfer, a young stakes-winning daughter of leading sire and leading broodmare sire Deputy Minister. Now 10, Pilfer produced the Pennsylvania Derby winner as her second foal, and he is her first winner and stakes winner.

The mare has a 2-year-old colt by Hard Spun named Common Bond and an unnamed yearling colt by Street Sense who sold at the Keeneland September yearling sale for $500,000.

To Honor and Serve likewise went through the sales ring at Keeneland in September two years ago, and as part of the first crop by Bernardini, the colt fetched $575,000 from Live Oak. That was money well spent, as To Honor and Serve has now earned nearly $1 million and is worth quite a bit more as a stallion prospect whenever he retires to stud.

One of the reasons for the value of To Honor and Serve is the fine Darby Dan family from which he descends.

His dam is one of three stakes winners from the Miswaki mare Misty Hour. The latter also produced a pair of stakes-winning mares by Hennessy named India and Sing Softly. Misty Hour is one of three stakes winners from her dam, the Nijinsky mare Our Tina Marie. The others were Merit Wings and Too Cool to Fool. Misty Hour was the last foal of her dam, born when Our Tina Marie was 17.

The dam of Our Tina Marie was the Graustark producer Java Moon, a lovely mare who won the G3 Comely and is a daughter of the outstanding Darby Dan foundation mare Golden Trail. This is also the family of major 2011 stakes winner Winter Memories, who likewise descends from a daughter of Java Moon, the Little Current mare All My Memories.

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