Despite the general perception that “pedigree” is a fixed thing, it truly is not. Racing, particularly high class shown in top races, makes pedigree; not the other way around.
Pedigree researcher and writer Joe Estes developed his life’s work into exploring and shining light through the interwoven fabric of pedigrees and performance. As he saw it, first, there is the racecourse test. If a horse passes that test with some merit, it has a place as a breeding animal. The most recent example of this revelation through performance is last month’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome.
Had someone suggested a year ago they would pay $6 million for California Chrome and all his relations, such a comment would have been greeted with convulsions of mirth, then offers of trailer-loads of horses. Those horses had no extraordinary value until California Chrome proved his value on the racetrack.
In similar fashion, both Moonshine Mullin (by Albert the Great) and Albano (Istan) have made themselves and their relations more successful, more desirable, and therefore, more valuable, after performances this weekend.
In the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, Moonshine Mullin reproduced the form he showed last month in the G2 Alysheba and defeated a serious field of prominent older horses, including last season’s champion 3-year-old colt Will Take Charge (Unbridled’s Song), who was second.
Will Take Charge had a neck over Claiborne’s Departing (War Front), with Travers winner Golden Ticket and Pimlico Special winner Revolutionary fifth and sixth.
At Monmouth on Sunday, the promising 3-year-old Albano ran off and hid by six and a half lengths in the G3 Pegasus, one of the preps for the track’s G1 Haskell.
In a comparison of their sires, there is no question that Albert the Great, sire of Moonshine Mullin, was a better performer than Istan, the sire of Albano. Albert the Great (the best son of Kentucky Derby winner Go for Gin) won the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and more than $3 million. His career included successes in the Dwyer, Suburban, Brooklyn, Widener, as well as seconds in the Travers, Whitney, Pimlico Special, Donn, and Woodward, with a third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic thrown in for good measure.
That is some kind of resume, and Albert the Great was a big, powerful, rather impressive creature who showed a marked resemblance to his broodmare sire Fappiano, a sire of great importance.
In contrast, Albano’s sire Istan won a pair of G3 events, the Ack Ack at Churchill Downs and the Turfway Fall Championship, earning $406,792 after beginning his racing career in France. That was a thoroughly respectable record for a horse but not the same as trading licks with champions in some of the most prestigious races in the country.
Istan, however, is a son of the top-class sire Gone West and showed high speed in winning stakes at a mile. That and his powerful construction persuaded Brereton C. Jones to bring Istan to Airdrie Stud and stand him there, beginning in 2008. Right in the teeth of the colossal bloodstock depression.
That probably wasn’t the most pragmatic decision, but Jones has faith in his instincts with business and horses, and in a discussion last week, he candidly admitted that he doubled down on Istan. Jones said, “I took mares from other stallions and put them on Istan’s book to help him out.”
And despite having only 83 foals from four crops age 2 and up, Istan has had a tremendous couple of months. His daughter Istanford won the G3 Arlington Classic against colts near the end of May, and a week before the Kentucky Derby, the stallion’s son Myositis Dan had a cracking effort to end up third in the Derby Trial. Now, Albano has become a graded stakes winner.
That proof of stallion performance on the racetrack is not only good news for Airdrie but for Istan too. The horse’s stud fee has risen, and demand for his services, in bookings of mares over the past weeks, has risen sharply, as well.
Foster winner Moonshine Mullin is one of nine stakes winners by the high-class racehorse Albert the Great, and he figures in the second test of the Thoroughbred in matters of breeding. The second test is the progeny test, which means that a stallion or mare must get quality racers and get them with sufficient consistency to make the exercise less than a hunt through a haystack.
In this regard, Albert the Great was a failure. After going to stud at Three Chimneys with great earnings and considerable laurels for toughness and ability, Albert the Great reproduced his own qualities in sparing proportion, and the breeding business is not about making excuses.
Nowadays, Albert the Great stands at Pin Oak Lane Farm in Pennsylvania for a fee of $2,500 live foal. Wood Memorial winner Nobiz Like Shobiz, Donn winner Albertus Maximus, and Moonshine Mullin are the stallion’s three G1 winners here in the States, and although three G1 winners are more than most stallions ever sire, it isn’t a strike rate than can sustain large books of promising mares.
*The preceding post was first published earlier this week at Paulick Report.