With the 2014 Triple Crown in the record books, the participants are largely resting and planning to resume the fray in the heat of the summer for prizes like the Grade 1 Haskell and Travers Stakes. And now it is time to cast an eye upon the next generation of racers, those young prospects who are showing their trainers speed and early maturity.
There were good stakes in three countries over the past week that featured the younger set, with trainer Wesley Ward’s big lick at Royal Ascot coming with the 2-year-old Hootenanny, who blazed away from his competition in the Windsor Castle Stakes to win by 3 ½ lengths from 23 competitors, racing the five furlongs in :59.05.
The lanky-looking colt proved plentifully progressive and rewarded his owners, John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, with the first stakes of the Royal Ascot meeting.
Hootenanny is the first stakes winner for his sire, the Elusive Quality horse Quality Road. A really big horse of exceptional ability, Quality Road won four times at the Grade 1 level (the Florida Derby, Metropolitan Handicap, Woodward, and Donn) and was three times placed in G1s, including the Whitney at Saratoga, when narrowly defeated by champion Blame.
Quality Road came to his best form at 3, and getting such a precocious performer, on turf no less, suggests that broodmare sire Hennessy was a handy part of the equation that produced this good young performer. Although Quality Road was not a turf horse, his sire ran a record mile on the surface and has sired highweights and a classic winner on turf, like his sire Gone West. For them, all surfaces are alike, and the definitive measure is class. Quality Road stands at Lane’s End Farm for $25,000.
Here in the States, the Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs offered a fast filly the opportunity to make a case for her quality and for her sire’s prospects as a stallion. Promise Me Silver, owned and bred by Robert Luttrell in Texas, won the six-furlong race in 1:11.49 by two lengths over the warmly regarded Unbridled Reward (by freshman sire Warrior’s Reward).
Promise Me Silver is the first stakes winner for her sire, freshman sire Silver City (Unbridled’s Song). Freshmen sires – especially those who are not household names – need their first foals to get to the track, race successfully, and show some form in black-type races if those stallions are going to be patronized by mares the following year.
Standing at Valor Farm in Texas, stakes winner Silver City has those pressures in spades. Equineline shows him with 19 foals from his first crop, and 10 have already started. Four have won, and Promise Me Silver, who was making her second start in the Debutante, is unbeaten. She is also the first stakes winner out of a broodmare by Macho Uno, who was the champion juvenile colt of 2000.
Another unbeaten 2-year-old is Conquest Tsunami (Stormy Atlantic), who has won both his starts and added black type to his résumé with a 7 ¾-length success at Woodbine. The colt is the 88th stakes winner for his sire, who is one of the most successful Storm Cat sons. Stormy Atlantic stands at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm for $30,000.
Conquest Tsunami was bred in Ontario by Josham Farms Limited & Yvonne Schwabe Thoroughbreds. He is the first stakes winner out of the El Corredor mare Classic Neel and is the mare’s third foal. Classic Neel won the restricted Weekend Madness Stakes, ran second in the Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland, and was third in the G3 Sands Point Stakes.
All or none of these newly minted stakes winners may play a role in the classics of 2015, but it is worth noting that early signs of ability are not a bad thing in a racehorse. Just over a year ago, on June 15, a flashy chestnut colt dueled for the lead for a half-mile and finished fifth of nine in the Willard Proctor Memorial at Hollywood Park.
Hollywood Park is gone, but California Chrome was making his third start in the Proctor, and he came back the following month to win his first stakes, the Graduation, at Del Mar.
The next champion and the next classic winner are out there. We only have to find them.
*The preceding article was first published earlier this week at Paulick Report.