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In his 3-year-old début, Upstart (by Flatter) confirmed hopes of continued progress by racing away with the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes by 5 ½ lengths at Gulfstream on Jan. 24. Some of the handicapping organizations put their stamp of approval on the performance by rating the race strongly on speed figures, and Upstart gave the impression that he has come on nicely from his form at 2.

And that form was good.

Winner of a maiden special at Saratoga in his début, Upstart won the Funny Cide Stakes in his second. The dark bay ridgling then challenged the best colts in the East and ran second to Daredevil in the G1 Champagne and more than 15 lengths ahead of fourth-place El Kabeir, who won the Jerome in New York earlier in January.

After that good performance in the Champagne, Upstart was sent to California for the Breeders’ Cup, and he finished third behind runaway winner Texas Red (Afleet Alex) and a nose behind Breeders’ Futurity winner Carpe Diem (Giant’s Causeway).

The Holy Bull was the fifth start and third victory for the New York-bred, who was bred by Joanne Nielsen at her Sunnyfield Farm near Bedford, N.Y. Contacted in Florida, Nielsen was buzzing with excitement over the success and promise of the colt she bred. She said, “Upstart has been such a sound and willing colt that we feel almost giddy with the prospects of what might come next for him.”

Indeed, Nielsen’s planning for this colt began in 2011, when she sent her mare Party Silks (Touch Gold) to Flatter because “the mare is not really big, certainly not 16 hands, and the A.P. Indy stallions tend to be 16.1, not over-big but adding some size to the mating.”

John Grau, Nielsen’s farm manager, said that Upstart was born a dark bay, “looked black, and was foaled on Friday the 13th. So we called him ‘Lucky’ at the farm.”

Nielsen bred Party Silks from the stakes-placed Housebuster mare Intend to Win and retained Party Silks for her breeding program in New York, where she tries to keep eight producers. The breeder noted that Upstart possessed outstanding “muscularity, a good mind, and a confident sense of himself.”

The Holy Bull winner is among 34 stakes winners for the sire, whose progeny is led by G1 winner Flat Out, and is the fifth G2 winner for the good sire Flatter, a son of the grand old sire A.P. Indy out of the Mr. Prospector mare Praise. That makes him a full brother to G2 stakes winner Congrats, a leading freshman sire and a shuttle stallion to the Southern Hemisphere who stands at WinStar Farm in Kentucky, although an attack of colic threw a wrench into his 2015 season. Congrats is now scheduled to leave Australia on Jan. 31 and is expected to begin covering mares around the first week of March.

Retained to stand at Claiborne, Flatter began his stud career at $5,000 live foal, and his book of 95 mares for 2015 is full at $20,000 live foal.

Any horse beginning his tenure as a stallion at $5,000 has something to prove. In Flatter’s case, it wasn’t about pedigree, one of the grandest available, but about racing class and soundness. The massive son of A.P. Indy stands 16.2 and looks like he could pull a train down the tracks.

His size and mass probably played a role in limiting his racing career. Flatter didn’t debut until June 15 of his 3-year-old season, when he was fourth in a maiden special at Churchill Downs. The big bay won his next four races, at 3 and 4, then started in the only stakes of his career, the G2 Washington Park Handicap. Going 1 3/16 miles, Flatter was third to G1 winner Perfect Drift (Dynaformer) and Aeneas (Capote).

Flatter never ran again, but he had shown enough ability and enough class to convince Seth Hancock of Claiborne to bring the horse home and give him a chance at stud. The farm doesn’t often stand horses who aren’t stakes winners; so there was something serious about Flatter that didn’t make it into the record books.

The decision to keep the horse has paid off handsomely for Claiborne, both because the stallion has become one of the farm’s most reliable sources of racing quality and because Flatter has made money for breeders — lots of breeders — at a time when many stallions have been so overpriced that the majority of breeders wouldn’t even clear the stud fees on yearlings brought to market.

For the crop that included Upstart, Flatter stood for $7,500, and his 97 foals from that crop included 42 that sold at auction for an average price of $50,972 and a median of $37,500. Those are the kinds of numbers that once made horse breeding a business.

By any measure, Upstart was one of those yearlings who repaid his breeder for the time and care put into helping the colt fulfill his potential. At the 2013 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred sale of select yearlings at Saratoga, Upstart sold in the top 25 at the auction, bringing $130,000 from Ralph Evans.

Sunnyfield Farm’s John Grau said that “Upstart was a nice foal who progressed into a nice yearling, and while we were prepping the yearlings over our indoor ring, he just floated over the ground.”

The colt presented himself well and attracted a great deal of appreciation among buyers at the New York-bred sale. As a result, Upstart sold for the third-highest price for a yearling by Flatter in 2013.

In keeping with Nielsen’s preference of A.P. Indy sires for this mare, Party Silks has a 2014 filly by the stallion’s son Majestic Warrior and is in foal to Horse of the Year Mineshaft. Party Silks will return to Flatter this year, along with a daughter retained by Sunnyfield.

*The preceding post was first published last week at Paulick Report.

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