arch, arch's gal edith, claiborne farm, classic winner, distorted humor, economics of breeding, flower alley, harvey clarke, i'll have another, Kentucky Derby, Rob Whiteley, steve shahinian, three chimneys farm
The following post first appeared earlier this week at Paulick Report.
Winning a classic puts the shine on any pedigree, but the luster from I’ll Have Another’s success in Saturday’s Grade 1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs could not have come at a more opportune time for the colt’s sire, the young stallion Flower Alley, whose second crop are now 3-year-olds.
From the third crop by leading sire Distorted Humor, Flower Alley followed his sire’s classic winner, champion Funny Cide, and second-crop star, multiple G1-winner Commentator, but was the first top-class son of Distorted Humor who was a colt and could go to stud. Now, Flower Alley is the first son of Distorted Humor to sire a classic winner.
The chestnut son of Distorted Humor hit his greatest stroke on the racetrack with victory in the G1 Travers Stakes, and on the basis of that and other good form, he went to stud at Three Chimneys Farm for an initial stud fee of $25,000 live foal.
I’ll Have Another was one of 73 live foals bred on that stud fee from covers of 2008 (in the midst of the world economic crash) that were born in 2009, and the economic nail through Flower Alley’s coffin came the following year at the 2010 yearling sales when 39 yearlings – more than half his second crop – sold for an average of $15,674 and a median price of $11,000.
In one of the ironies of sales statistics and racing lore, I’ll Have Another was the median Flower Alley yearling at the sales. On the track, he has proven something entirely different.
So, for many breeders and observers, it’s a puzzle why Flower Alley’s stock was not better received at the sales.
Rob Whiteley of Liberation Farm bred a number of mares to the stallion from the beginning of his stud career and confesses to being puzzled also. He said, “The sales market is a mysterious thing and is often disconnected from the racetrack and from racing performance. The sales market is driven by word of mouth and hearsay from opinion-makers who often have their own agendas, and rather than cherishing a commitment to facts, seem to look through lenses that do not reflect reality. The one fact about the market that I’ve observed over 40 years is that it’s usually wrong. And breeders and buyers that didn’t line up for Flower Alley sure missed the boat. He earned my full respect when he defeated Grade 1 racehorses like Bellamy Road and Roman Ruler in the Travers, then ran second to Saint Liam in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Now he looks ready to take off with G1 winner Lilacs and Lace in his first crop and with the Kentucky Derby winner in his second crop.”
In contrast to the later reception of his yearlings at auction, the tall and scopy stallion found interest from breeders in his initial books, and among the promising young mares attracted to Flower Alley’s second season at stud was the dam of I’ll Have Another, Arch’s Gal Edith, a reference to the wife of television character Archie Bunker.
Steve Shahinian, adviser to breeder Harvey Clarke, said that “Freddie Seitz from Brookdale Farm suggested the mating of Flower Alley for Arch’s Gal Edith that produced I’ll Have Another. If you couldn’t breed to Distorted Humor, you could breed to Flower Alley, and he’s a horse who could go a classic distance, which we wanted.”
The dam of I’ll Have Another was always a well-intended young prospect. By the good sire Arch, whose most famous offspring is champion Blame, Arch’s Gal Edith made only one start, winning a maiden special at Belmont by three-quarters of a length in 1:11.58 for six furlongs.
Said Shahinian: “We thought a lot of this filly. I believed she was stakes caliber, and she trained like it.”
She had been lightly raced by chance, but not precisely from unsoundness. The filly showed enough ability at the sales of 2-year-olds in training to sell for $80,000 but, once sent to the trainer, fractured a hock from kicking the wall of her stall. Then after winning her maiden, she developed a small chip in an ankle, and the surgery to clean it out did not resolve smoothly, necessitating retirement.
Although the oddities of chance intervened in what promised to be a good racing career, Arch’s Gal Edith has produced three good winners from her first three foals, and the Kentucky Derby winner is her first black-type horse.
Breeder Clarke still has the mare and has a 2-year-old Tapit filly out of the mare named Gloria S, a reference to the daughter of Archie and Edith Bunker. Arch’s Gal Edith was given the following year off after foaling the Tapit, and earlier this year had a Midnight Lute foal that did not survive a difficult delivery. The mare was bred back to champion Gio Ponti about a week ago.
The sire of Arch’s Gal Edith is the Claiborne Farm stallion Arch, and stepping back a generation on the bottom and two generations on the top, this is a very Claiborne pedigree, as both champion juvenile Forty Niner (sire of Distorted Humor), second in the 1988 Kentucky Derby, and major winner Arch raced for the Hancock family’s Bourbon County operation.
Whereas Forty Niner was a homebred who became a champion and leading sire, Arch was purchased by Seth Hancock at the Keeneland July select yearling sale as a racing and stallion prospect who could offer some bloodlines and aptitude that would suit Claiborne well if the robust colt proved himself the real thing on the racetrack.
Arch was more than capable as a racer, winning the G1 Super Derby at 10 furlongs, and he has been increasingly successful as a sire. From the rather stout male line of Hail to Reason, English Derby winner Roberto, and his son leading sire Kris S., Arch tends to get stock that mature well and show their best form going a mile or more. In amongst ’em, however, Arch will get some speedier animals, such as the European G1 sprint winner Les Arcs, as well as the more typical Alabama winner Pine Island, Donn Handicap winner Hymn Book, Pan American winner Newsdad, and Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch.
This mating, in general terms, is a matching of speed with stamina, sturdiness with brilliance, and natural athleticism with perseverance. As I’ll Have Another showed through the stretch of the Derby on Saturday, he came to play with the right stuff.