peter pan stakes winner is ‘proud’ of his heritage

Victory in the Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park was the second graded stakes success for Blended Citizen (by Proud Citizen), who now falls under suspicion as a candidate for the Belmont Stakes on June 9.

The Peter Pan is a logical prep for the longest classic in the States, and the race has served its function successfully for such rising stars as Tonalist (Tapit), who subsequently won the 2014 Belmont, then the Jockey Club Gold Cup at 3 and 4, and the Cigar Mile in his final start as a 4-year-old.

peter pan 1907 belmont stakes

Peter Pan (above) is the namesake of Belmont Park’s classic prep. Here is the son of Commando winning the 1907 Belmont Stakes, racing clockwise as was then the custom at Belmont Park.

Bred in Kentucky by Ray Hanson, Blended Citizen was foaled and raised at Pennland Farm in northern Bourbon County.

John Penn said “unfortunately, Mr. Hanson died on Jan. 1. He really loved his racing and this family. He saw this colt’s half-brother run second last year in the Kentucky Derby and would have gotten a blast out of Blended Citizen. He lived in Everett, Wash., and one of his partners, George Gilbert, lives in Vancouver.”

Hanson and Gilbert were partners in the second dam of Blended Citizen, but Hanson became the sole owner of her daughter Langara Lass (Langfuhr).

Blended Citizen is the third graded stakes horse out of the broodmare Langara Lass, a four-time stakes winner at Hastings and Northlands Park in Canada. Also third in the G3 British Columbia Oaks, Langara Lass was a good racehorse but has been a revelation as a producer.
Her best-known racer to date is Lookin at Lee (Lookin at Lucky), who was second in the 2017 Kentucky Derby and second in the 2016 Breeders’ Futurity, both G1 races. Lookin at Lee won the Ellis Park Juvenile and most recently won an allowance at Churchill Downs on Derby Day.

The mare’s two other stakes winners are the full siblings Battlefield Angel (Christiana Stakes; third in the G1 Alcibiades) and Blended Citizen, both by the Gone West stallion Proud Citizen.

Winner of the G2 Lexington Stakes, Proud Citizen ran second in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness. Sent to stud at Airdrie, Proud Citizen has been one of the most consistently useful sons of Gone West at stud. The handsome and well-conformed stallion sired 634 starters (79 percent) and 481 winners (60 percent) from foals, and those stats align admirably with the high-end benchmarks of 80 and 60 percent for stallions who sire sound, athletic racing stock.

Proud Citizen’s best performers to date are a pair of fillies, the Kentucky Oaks winners Proud Spell (2008 champion 3-year-old filly) and Believe You Can. Proud Citizen also sired Mark Valeski, winner of the 2012 Peter Pan Stakes in what proved the final start of the colt’s 3-year-old season. He came back at 4 to win the G3 Mineshaft Handicap and place second in the G2 New Orleans Handicap. His first foals are 2-year-olds of 2018.

Blended Citizen is the leading earner for Proud Citizen this season, but the stallion’s consistency again is evident with gross progeny earnings of more than $40 million to date from 805 foals of racing age, which generates average earnings per runner of $64,171, according to Equineline statistics.

The dam line for the 2018 Peter Pan winner is similarly prolific and successful. In addition to being a stakes winner and stakes producer, Langara Lass is a full sister to Madeira Park (G3 Ballerina Stakes at Hastings) and a half-sister to stakes winners Overact (Sir Cat) and Ambleside Park (Fusaichi Pegasus).

Their dam is the stakes winner Capilano (Demons Begone), and that’s where the story started for Hanson and Gilbert. Penn said, “They became partners originally in Capilano, [purchased as a yearling at the 1995 Keeneland September for $17,000], and they raced that mare and all her daughters. Virtually all her daughters and granddaughters are here on the farm, including Capilano herself,” who is now 24.

“There are four daughters of Capilano here,” Penn said. In addition to Langara Lass, there is her six years younger full sister, Madeira Park. “She has a City Zip 2-year-old colt, who is her first foal; a yearling colt by Munnings; and a foal at side by Palace Malice. She is back in foal to Ghostzapper,” Penn said.

Langara Lass has a “Liam’s Map colt born a couple of weeks ago and probably won’t be bred back this year,” Penn said. “This is a leggy and good-sized colt who thinks he’s a good horse already.”

Capilano is the best performer and producer out of the Conquistador Cielo mare Bella Isabella, out of a Damascus full sister to graded stakes winner Edge, the dam of Boundary (Danzig), who is the sire of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown. This is a family that spent generations at Claiborne Farm producing quality horses for the Gamely partnership of William Haggin Perry and Claiborne.

The family traces back to champion 2-year-old filly Romanita (Roman), whom Claiborne acquired as a broodmare, and thence back through the pages of history to the chestnut mare Golden View, a 1906 full sister to the high-class racehorse and leading sire Fair Play, the sire of Man o’ War and other important performers.

The year that Golden View was foaled, a colt by the name of Peter Pan was one of the best juveniles in America, winning the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. The next year, he was the best of his age, winning the Belmont Stakes and other important races. Later a distinguished sire, Peter Pan also gave his name to Belmont Park’s prep for their classic over a mile and a half.

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justify brings an elusive victory in the kentucky derby to the storm cat line

With his game victory under trying conditions in the May 5 Kentucky Derby, Justify brushed a couple of tedious talking points into the dustbin of history. The most obvious is the wretched “curse of Apollo,” as the unbeaten colt became first Kentucky Derby winner in more than a century not to race as a 2-year-old. Horses who haven’t raced at 2 rarely can be prepared in time for the classic on the first Saturday in May. Therefore, they typically don’t even make the race, much less win.

The glowing chestnut also became the sixth favorite for the Kentucky Derby in succession to stand in the winner’s circle with the wreath of roses. Not so long ago, mavens spewing weasel scat were telling everyone who would listen that favorites could not win the Derby. Another favored platitude has been that juvenile champions couldn’t win the Derby and that winners of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile were “jinxed.”

Well, the latter pair of fluttering absurdities were correct this year. Good Magic was only second. It looked like a pretty good second too.

But the most significant stroke of demystification by Justify came on behalf of his male line.

Prior to May 5, no male-line descendant of Storm Cat (by Storm Bird) had won the Kentucky Derby. That was a major hole in the stallion legacy of the most dominant sire of his time, and the fact that none of his sons or grandsons had managed to get a winner of the race was a glaring omission.

Storm Cat’s great-grandson Scat Daddy (Johannesburg) is the sire of Justify, who clearly has the speed and class of his famous father, with a touch more luck and stamina. In contrast to Justify, however, Scat Daddy had proven himself a top-quality 2-year-old with victories in the Grade 1 Champagne and G2 Sanford, plus a second-place effort in the G1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga.

The next season, the big son of Johannesburg was even better. Scat Daddy won the G2 Fountain of Youth and then the G1 Florida Derby on his way to the 2007 Kentucky Derby. After a trip reminiscent of Mendelssohn’s this year, the big dark brown colt ran 18th behind Street Sense, Hard Spun, and Curlin.

Scat Daddy never raced again.

Sent to stud at Ashford, where Coolmore had retired his sire, international champion Johannesburg, Scat Daddy attracted breeders with his size, balance, and excellent conformation.

And from the first, Scat Daddy was a good sire. He got winners, good winners, stakes winners, graded stakes winners, and eventually champions. The stallion’s oldest sons are now at stud, and hopes are high for them, especially in Ireland (G1 winners No Nay Never and Caravaggio), Argentina (G1 winner Il Campione), and Canada (G2 winner Frac Daddy). In the U.S., G2 winner Handsome Mike stands in Florida, G3 winner Daddy Nose Best stands in California, and G3 winner Tu Brutus entered stud in Kentucky for the 2018 season at Crestwood Farm.

As Scat Daddy’s star was rising, his sire had gone into eclipse. Johannesburg wasn’t the power at stud that he had been as a racer. As a 2-year-old, Johannesburg had taken the world by storm and was acknowledged the champion or highweight performer in England, France, Ireland, and the U.S. The sharp-looking bay’s final race at 2 was the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Belmont Park, and Johannesburg pulled away to win by 1 ¼ lengths.

After that unbeaten season of seven victories, Johannesburg was expected to deliver exceptional results the next season. Those expectations were not fulfilled. The colt was second in his debut, then a middling eighth in the Kentucky Derby. After one more attempt at racing, Johannesburg went to stud at Ashford, and there he sired Scat Daddy in his first crop.

Johannesburg was the brightest star by the Storm Cat stallion Hennessy, winner of the G1 Hopeful and second in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, where he was a neck behind Unbridled’s Song. Hennessy raced only at 2 and yet proved a major promotion for his sire, at the sales, on the racetrack, and at stud.

Bred by W.T. Young’s Overbrook Farm, Hennessy was such an outstanding specimen by Overbrook’s then-burgeoning power sire that the decision was made to sell the grand-looking colt, even though Overbrook trainer Wayne Lukas had named him as the best of the farm’s yearlings.

Unable to train the colt for Overbrook, Lukas went to major owners Bob and Beverly Lewis, who loved what they saw and ponied up a half-million to acquire the striking chestnut at the 1994 Keeneland July sale. Lengthy, powerful, and very handsome, Hennessy was worth every buck.

Hennessy earned $580,400 from four victories and three seconds in nine starts. The colt’s conformation and racing class made him a hot item as a stallion prospect, and all the stallion farms wanted the best-looking son of the hot young sire Storm Cat.

The colt could not be raced at 3, and Hennessy became Coolmore’s first major acquisition of a Storm Cat son. That began the international stallion and racing conglomerate’s love affair with the great stallion son of Storm Bird. Coolmore’s allegiance to Storm Cat paid enormous dividends, most especially with Hennessy’s Johannesburg and Storm Cat’s son Giant’s Causeway.

After standing three generations of this male line, Coolmore would naturally have liked to have a Kentucky Derby winner by Scat Daddy to stand at Ashford, but that distinction will go to WinStar Farm, which purchased Justify from breeder Glennwood Farm at the 2016 Keeneland September sale in conjunction with China Horse Club. The purchase price was $500,000.

So WinStar, which stands one of the largest groups of sires in Kentucky – including star stallions like Distorted Humor, More Than Ready, Pioneerof the Nile, Speightstown, and Tiznow – will be the future home of Justify when he retires to stud.

a tale of two fillies: monomoy girl gets the lillies

[The following was written last week before the Kentucky Oaks on May 4, when Monomoy Girl won from last year’s Canadian champion juvenile filly Wonder Gadot (by Medaglia d’Oro) and Midnight Bisou.]

When the crowd of colts enters the starting gate at Churchill Downs, any one of six or possibly even eight of the contestants could win without generating a genuine upset. The apparent breadth of quality in this group of 3-year-old colts is something in itself to cheer for.

On the preceding day, however, there are a pair of strong choices for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. Both Monomoy Girl (by Tapizar), winner of the G1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland most recently, and Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute), winner of the G1 Santa Anita Oaks, appear to be the standouts among the Oaks field, and a win by any other filly would be an upset.

But what would victory mean for the favorites?

In addition to the rich winner’s purse, the prestige of a filly classic victory, and the elevated status and value that accrue to the winner and her owners, the sire of a Kentucky Oaks winner gains status as a markedly more serious stallion.

John Sikura, who stands Midnight Lute at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm near Lexington, said “winners of the premier events are the thing that marks out a stallion as truly significant, and those winners are what draw breeders and buyers in significant numbers to support a stallion at every level.”

Following the 2018 successes by Midnight Bisou, Busher Stakes winner Midnight Disguise, their 4-year-old compatriot Sonneteer (Fifth Season Stakes), and two other stakes winners in 2018, Sikura said, “we are at a place with the horse now where we should have been all along, but the marketplace is unforgiving. You have to supply what it wants and do that consistently.”

Sikura continued, “You could say that we are the victims and the beneficiaries of the tides in the stallion market. Midnight Lute had a really good beginning to his stud career” with 11 stakes winners in his first crop, including G1 winners Shakin It Up (Malibu Stakes) and Midnight Lucky (Acorn). But the stallion’s third and fourth crops were not as strongly supported. “So there’s been some rise and fall in the horse’s reception among breeders and in the marketplace.”

In addition to market perceptions, Midnight Lute has had to do some path-making of his own as a stallion, despite his excellent racing record that includes two victories in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint and an Eclipse Award as the champion sprinter of 2007.

After looking at the race record, breeders assess the pedigree. Midnight Lute is by the excellent racehorse Real Quiet (Quiet American), winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and as narrow a runner-up for the Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown as could possibly be. A champion racer, Real Quiet was not close to that class as a sire; that circumstance is not unusual, but it inhibits breeders from applying their full confidence to the son of such a stallion.

Midnight Lute has overcome the prejudices admirably, but lack of confidence in a stallion prospect has not been a problem for the sire of Midnight Bisou’s competition (and pre-race favorite) Monomoy Girl. Her sire Tapizar went to stud at Gainesway Farm, which stands his sire Tapit, three-time leading sire and a powerful factor for speed, balance, athleticism and the mental integrity that makes a racehorse.

Tapizar retired sound after winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2012 and entered stud the next season. Gainesway’s Michael Hernon said a victory by Monomoy Girl in the Oaks “would vault Tapizar forward as a commercially viable stallion and give him additional credibility for getting an Oaks winner in only his second crop.

“Tapizar’s book has come along well since Monomoy Girl won the Ashland,” Hernon continued. “She is showing the quality of racing stock that Tapizar is capable of getting, and this horse is doing his part to extend the legacy of his great sire Tapit.”

In addition to his professional interest in seeing a daughter of the farm stallion do well, Hernon has a personal interest in Monomoy Girl as the co-breeder. He said, “It would mean a lot to be listed among the breeders of a winner of the Kentucky Oaks, and full credit goes to our co-breeders Brendan and Olive Gallaher of Frankfort Park Farm for their work with the filly.”

Speaking by phone from Churchill Downs, Hernon said “Monomoy Girl has progressed since the Ashland, and I believe she’s up to running a huge race. Given her pedigree, grandsire Tapit and Storm Cat, I would expect her to place herself in a prominent position and handle the going, no matter what it is. Tapit won the Wood Memorial on an off track, and this filly covers the ground very effectively. She might even move up her game on a wet track.”

Among other positive factors for Monomoy Girl is her familiarity with Churchill Downs, her home base and site of her victory in the Rags to Riches Stakes. Plus, Hernon believes the filly’s “natural speed and athleticism, in addition to a wonderful demeanor, make her the racehorse she is. Her composure makes her resilient in trying circumstances. We saw that at Keeneland in the Ashland, and that will be a positive factor here at Churchill Downs.”

One thing not in the big chestnut filly’s favor is her outside post position, one slot farther out than Eskimo Kisses (To Honor and Serve), who ran second in the Ashland. A granddaughter of Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors, Eskimo Kisses races for Gainesway Stable, Magdalena Racing, and Harold Lerner.

Hernon said “the strong suit for Eskimo Kisses is her late run, and she is a big, rangy filly who will only improve with time.” He believes the closers are the danger to the prominently placed Monomoy Girl, and “the most prominent closer is probably Midnight Bisou,” he said, “also by a Breeders’ Cup winner. She is going to get to run down one of the longest home stretches in America, and she will come with a bold run, and we wish her the best.”

Indeed, let’s raise a glass to all these good fillies, and especially to the one who will wear a wreath of lilies.

fed biz has put his name on the “must-see” list with quality and consistency of his yearlings and juveniles in training

The superstars of the sport get a glorious send-off when they go to stud: notoriety, high stud fees, and coverage of their every move. Sometimes their every foal. Then there are other horses, sometimes remarkably solid horses, who get no fanfare, get no special attention from the public or press.

And yet, some of those become major sires and have a lasting effect on the breed.

Who remembers the stud announcements for El Prado, for Mr. Prospector, for Elusive Quality, or most especially, for Malibu Moon, who wasn’t even a fully proven racehorse like the others.

It is, therefore, worth remembering that good sires come from differing backgrounds. This crop of interesting young stallions has the usual stars of the Eclipse Awards like champion Will Take Charge (by Unbridled’s Song), but there are other horses, much less heralded, who are attracting attention with the consistency and quality of their stock.

 

fed biz

Fed Biz – good racehorse with a “solid pedigree” has made a strong start at stud. (WinStar Farm photo by Louise Reinagel)

 

Those characteristics, consistency and quality, are important because a good sire contributes a steady supply of positive genetic traits. They won’t be the same ones from foal to foal, but the characteristics that support athletic endeavor are the result of generations of athletes who came before.

The successive generations of good athletes create what I would call a solid pedigree, with one ancestor after another being a good racer and contributing something of that to the next generation.

In this respect, one of the brightest young stallions with his first crop of juveniles is multiple Grade 2 stakes winner Fed Biz, a good-looking son of Giant’s Causeway (by Storm Cat) out of Spunoutacontrol (Wild Again).

In addition to the legendary stallion exploits of Storm Cat and his famous son, only one of Fed Biz’s ancestors in the first three generations of his pedigree wasn’t a stakes winner. That slacker was the Mr. Prospector mare Yarn, a full sister to Pulpit’s dam Preach, who was a G1 winner herself. As evidence of Yarn’s quality, she produced European highweight Minardi (Boundary) and the Storm Cat stallion Tale of the Cat, who is still at stud at Ashford.

Furthermore, their half-sister Myth is the dam of international champion and highweight Johannesburg (Hennessy); clearly, this family crosses well with Storm Cat and his sons in producing quality racers and sires.

Fed Biz is a further example of this profitable cross, and he won the G2 San Fernando, Pat O’Brien, and San Diego Handicap, earning $770,496. He was one of the most consistent first-crop sires I saw at the sales last year, and his first-crop yearlings averaged $77,701 on a $12,500 stud fee, a very powerful multiple for breeders fortunate enough to have used the right horse. Demand for his stock continues, with first-crop juveniles averaging $164,471 from 17 sold.

As an indication of the high-end demand, at the OBS April sale last week, Hip 567 out of Lake Como brought $280,000 from Marc deTampel, and at last month’s Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of juveniles, Hip 62 out of Virtuously brought $725,000 from Linda Rice, agent.

strong mandate offers strong hopes of future success

The concept of a sire of sires is one of the most confused in breeding. In the most specific sense, it is a stallion whose many sons include a large number who are widely successful to at least sporadically noteworthy. That definition points out the unique athletic quality and genetic density of Northern Dancer.

The norm is far different. Most good stallions get only one son who is a good sire, perhaps only a goodish sire. In the usual course of things, that sort of progression leads nowhere, and nearly all the major sire lines converge on a few individuals.

The sire line represented by Tiznow is one of the imponderables, however. This is the Man o’ War extension of the male line of West Australian (by Melbourne), the first English Triple Crown winner in 1853. This is the great surviving branch of the Matchem male line, which goes back two further generations to the Godolphin Arabian, born in approximately 1724, and thence into the mists of time.

In American of the 20th century, Man o’ War and his sons kept a certain breadth to this line of horses, much as Hurry On did in Europe, but the wider distribution and vastly larger overall population of blooded horses in the last 75 years has had the ironic effect of narrowing the male lines available to breeders.

 

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Strong Mandate – son of champion Tiznow is being positively received by owners and their agents at sales of 2-year-olds in training.

 

Tiznow has been fighting this trend, like his notable grandsire Relaunch and his sire In Reality, for the duration of his stud career. Tiznow’s most effective sons to date have been Tiz Wonderful and Colonel John. The former was a wonderful success as a graduate of an in-training sale and sire of some smashing young horses of similar build and potential; in all, Tiz Wonderful has sired 25 stakes winners and Colonel John 20. Both, however, are now at stud in Korea.

And for Tiznow to carry on in the male line, clearly a young stallion would have to stand out from the crowd, both early and with consistency. One prospect for this mission is a freshman sire of 2018, Strong Mandate.

As difficult as the prospect is to become a leading sire, Strong Mandate has the immediate benefits of being a very good-looking horse and a notably talented racer, winning the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes as a 2-year-old, when he also placed third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Those accomplishments earned the robust bay a place at stud at Three Chimneys in Kentucky, and there the young sire has had large books of mares with good credentials. His first crop of foals, yearlings of 2017, were received with whoops of enthusiasm at the sales last season, averaging $78,528 for 53 yearlings sold.

The young stallion’s popularity with his first-crop yearlings put him among the elite of the 2017 crop, and that situation has improved this year. The sire’s first-crop juveniles in training have averaged $247,000 from 11 sold to date.

the staying power is right here

To whatever reason you assign the absence of distance racing in American racing, do not blame the horses. Grumble about racing secretaries, fuss over the monocular view of super-trainers, or diss the Derby fixation of owners, but do not suspect the Thoroughbred of being ill-made for the job of racing over any distance at all.

That is not the case.

Other reasons, usually money, dictate that a great deal of attention is paid to things other than stamina and distance racing. That does not mean that stamina and distance potential are gone; they emphatically are not.

The genetic diversity of the breed means that staying horses can come from unexpected backgrounds, and a case in point is Order of St. George (by Galileo), winner of his 2018 debut in the Group 3 Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan racecourse in Ireland.

A winner in 11 of 17 starts, Order of St. George is a very high-class performer, was the winner of the Irish St. Leger and Long Distance Cup last year, and is expected to challenge for the Ascot Gold Cup later this year.

A son of the great stallion Galileo, Order of St. George would be a fancy stallion prospect like many other sons of Coolmore’s leading stallion, but Order of St. George is a serious stayer, not a speed horse nor an early-maturing sort who would have some chance of siring the quicker, more readily raceable stock that most owners want for their stables.

As a result, the breeding of stayers is more up to genetic chance than planning, and Order of St. George is an example of that himself. He is by Europe’s foremost classic sire, and the only European sire in the same class with Galileo as a classic influence was Coolmore’s other leading son of their great sire Sadler’s Wells, Montjeu.

Although a “classic” sire, Galileo gets a range of stock. Some are high-quality 2-year-olds; most come to their best form at 3 and later; some continue to upgrade long after and seem to prefer the most extreme distances of modern racing, which are conducted at around two miles.

Back in the days of yore in the 19th century, and especially in America, there was considerable racing at three and four miles, with the winner coming home the best in two of a potential three heats. The third would be a runoff between the two winners if one didn’t win both of the first two.

Even by today’s standards of dash racing (single heats), Order of St. George is an outlier, and that’s how most staying horses of high class would be evaluated on pedigree. The Vintage Cup winner is, for instance, out of a mare by the top-quality Mr. Prospector stallion Gone West. Most breeders and pedigree commentators would mark down Gone West as an influence for horses that perform best at a mile, and most people would expect that mating a Gone West mare with Galileo should result in a performer who might prefer the sharper side the classic spectrum, say in the range of nine or 10 furlongs.

That’s not what happened.

If we human beings could predict what the genes would do, it would eliminate an element of fun and interest in the game.

Another generation back, the second dam of Order of St. George is Storm Song (Summer Squall), the champion 2-year-old filly of 1996 when she won the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Frizette. The following year, she was still good, finishing third in the Kentucky Oaks and Ashland Stakes but also demonstrating she was not the dominant force she had been as a juvenile.

As a result, the logical expectation for the champion juvenile as a broodmare would be as a source for early maturity, speed perhaps at the expense of stamina, and so forth.

Instead, she is the second dam of the best staying horse in Europe.

Not everything in pedigrees is as contrary as this. Last weekend’s winner of the longest graded stakes in America, the G3 San Juan Capistrano at 1 ¾ miles, was Nessy, a dark bay gelding by Travers winner Flower Alley (Distorted Humor) out of the stakes winner Flower Forest (Kris S.).

Nessy is a full brother to last year’s G1 Canadian International winner Bullards Alley, who recently died, and to G2 stakes winner Karibu Gardens. All three have high class, and all three like some distance in their racing. Nessy and Bullards Alley are horses one wonders about in terms of their potential for the great international staying events like the Melbourne Cup or the Ascot Gold Cup.

But to compete regularly in races at two miles or longer, horses and their owners would have to leave the country because there is no domestic program for racing stayers.

This is a shame because the staying horses are right there in front of us. We just have to offer them the program to strut their stuff over the proper distances.

unbeaten magnum moon heads to the kentucky derby as a million-dollar winner with a bit of family history

Victory in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby brought the winner, Magnum Moon, to the top of the tree among Kentucky Derby prospects by classic points with 150. The handsome bay is bred to be a classic colt, with the 1992 Kentucky Derby early favorite A.P. Indy being his male-line grandsire.

In addition to winning the Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic, then being elected Horse of the Year, A.P. Indy has become a milestone, a marker of excellence, in breeding history. An exceptionally well-made and beautifully pedigreed animal, A.P. Indy sold to his fine looks, ran to the heights of expectation, and then delivered as a stallion of the highest caliber.

One of his acclaimed racing sons, however, is not the sire of Magnum Moon. Instead, the Arkansas Derby winner is by Malibu Moon, winner of a maiden special at Hollywood Park in the horse’s second start on May 31, 1999. He won by 1 ½ lengths over 5 furlongs on dirt in :57.41.

That is not the expected profile of a future top classic sire.

Yet Malibu Moon has been a success from the start, siring champion juvenile Declan’s Moon (G1 Hollywood Futurity) while standing in Maryland, then expanding his success with prominent national racing stars like Life at Ten (G1 Beldame Stakes), and such recent premium performers as Gormley (2017 Santa Anita Derby), Carina Mia (G1 Acorn Stakes), and of course 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb.

Especially after Orb’s success, Malibu Moon became one of the sires most strongly sought after at the sales, and so it proved with Magnum Moon.

Bred in Kentucky by Ramona S. Bass LLC, Magnum Moon was a popular colt at the sales and yet seems a “value buy,” perhaps in part due to his May foaling date, which many people still discriminate against.

Jacob West, bloodstock agent and racing manager for owners Robert and Lawana Low, found the bay son of Malibu Moon at the 2016 Keeneland September sale. West said, “We had made a big run at some colts in Book 1 but had gotten blown out of the water. So I started working through Book 2, and this colt was one of the top-rated colts in my mind.

“He was a May foal and wasn’t as forward in his maturity. But he was a nice representation of what a two-turn colt would look like when he grew up and filled out that big frame. He has worked out beautifully,” West concluded.

A good-looking yearling who sold for $380,000, Magnum Moon was a May 9 foal and is the third winner from three foals to race out of the unraced Unbridled’s Song mare Dazzling Song.

There is further good looks and good performance in the colt’s family because his dam is out of G3 stakes winner Win McCool (Giant’s Causeway). Win McCool is one of four stakes winners out of her dam, the stakes-winning Win Crafty Lady (Crafty Prospector). She produced G1 winner Harmony Lodge (Hennessy), as well as the full siblings Graeme Hall and Win’s Fair Lady (both by Dehere).

Harmony Lodge produced graded stakes winner Stratford Hill (A.P. Indy), and Win’s Fair Lady produced G3 winner First Passage (Giant’s Causeway) and stakes winner Berned (Bernardini), also G2- and G3-placed.

Graeme Hall was a high-class racer, winning the 2000 Arkansas Derby prior to that year’s Kentucky Derby, when the handsome chestnut was eased. Fortunately, Graeme Hall returned to race successfully, winning the G2 Jim Dandy at 3, then the G2 Eclipse Handicap at Woodbine and the G3 Stuyvesant Handicap at Aqueduct at 4. In all, Graeme Hall won 7 of 22 races, earning more than $1.1 million.

Now unbeaten in four starts this year, including the G1 Arkansas Derby and G2 Rebel, Magnum Moon has earned almost exactly the same sum as his Arkansas Derby-winning relation, with $1,177,800 in the account to date.

the hardest-working classic sire in america has a weekend to remember

Over the past 50 years, American racing has become increasingly more compartmentalized, with “turf horses” and “classic horses” and “2-year-old speed horses,” as if horses do not transcend categories. And the most intense emphasis has come to be placed on the small cohort of classic horses, especially classic colts, because those have the potential to soar in value and prestige to a level that is giddy even to think about.

Just over a quarter-century ago, the prince of this particular set of elite Thoroughbreds was a grand bay by the name of A.P. Indy. Winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity at 2, A.P. Indy went on to become the favorite for the Kentucky Derby, only to be scratched just before the classic by trainer Neil Drysdale due to a sore foot.

The big horse with the big talent came back fine and won the Belmont Stakes, then the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Horse of the Year. Along with his near-contemporary Unbridled (by Fappiano), this pair have dominated classic racing and performance through much of the next 20 years.

Unquestionably, Unbridled had the most individual success in siring winners of the classics, with Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone, Preakness winner Red Bullet, and Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker. Grindstone sired Belmont winner Birdstone, who in turn has sired Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Belmont winner Summer Bird.

Empire Maker sired a pair of colts who went second in the Kentucky classic, and of those, the young classic stallion Pioneerof the Nile did the near-impossible and sired the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, American Pharoah.

In addition, we regularly see up to a third of the field for individual classics made up by descendants of A.P. Indy, led by three-time top sire Tapit, sire of three winners of the Belmont Stakes; Malibu Moon, sire of Kentucky Derby winner Orb; and now Take Charge Indy, whose first crop of 3-year-olds includes Louisiana Derby winner Noble Indy.

The horse who is looking to take a piece of the classic pie from the Seattle Slew – A.P. Indy and Mr. Prospector – Unbridled clan is also a descendant of Mr. P.

By the Mr. Prospector stallon Smart Strike, Curlin is the hardest-working classic sire in America.

From his first crop came Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice. From the third came Travers winner Keen Ice and Coaching Club American Oaks winner Curalina, as well as champion filly Stellar Wind; from the fourth came 2016 Preakness winner Exaggerator, along with Mother Goose winner Off the Tracks. From the fifth came 2017 Wood Memorial winner Irish War Cry.

This year, Curlin’s contingent has been even more dominating.

In the April 7 classic preps at Keeneland and Aqueduct, a pair of robust chestnuts added victories to resumes that buff their classic credentials to a pleasing shine. On Saturday in Kentucky, 2017 champion juvenile colt Good Magic won the G2 Blue Grass Stakes, and in New York, Curlin was represented by a second consecutive winner of the G2 Wood Memorial, Vino Rosso.

There is one more G1 classic prep, the Arkansas Derby on April 14, and Curlin’s son Solomini will be trying to take the points and the prestige at Oaklawn. His primary competitor is expected to be the unbeaten Magnum Moon (Malibu Moon), who defeated Solomini in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn last month.

With a string of successful performers like that, Curlin has had a hearty rise in demand for his services. From a high of $60,000 as a stallion entering stud in 2009, Curlin had dropped in fee substantially during the Great Recession, but the horse’s big winners on the racetrack have begotten sales successes, and those drive stud fees ever higher.

For 2018, Curlin stands for $150,000 live foal at Hill ‘n’ Dale. If one of the Curlin contingent is the victor in the Kentucky Derby on May 5, not to mention the subsequent classics, that figure is certain to rise for next year.

Bred in Kentucky by Fares Farm next door to Keeneland, Curlin is now 13, and from the rising tide of good stock by him, his best years should lie ahead.

The handsome chestnut is a muscular and deep-bodied individual who stands over a lot of ground. His best stock sometimes resemble him in type; others do not. This year’s classic crew of three chestnuts most resemble their famous sire, with the shiny red coat and robust physique of their sire.

In his own makeup, Curlin is cast more in the mold of his broodmare sire Deputy Minister and his quite large and quite successful sire Vice Regent (Northern Dancer), more than the medium-sized bay Smart Strike. Both sides of the family, however, contribute to class and to classic performance, and in that regard, Curlin is the model – par excellence.

mendelssohn orchestrates a dramatic rise as uae derby victory propels him toward the kentucky derby

If you threw a bucket of mud in my face, perhaps I’d run bucking down the stretch at Churchill Downs, like Thunder Snow (by Helmet) in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby last year, but the handsome colt cast those memories aside as he raced to victory in the G1 Dubai World Cup on March 31.

Earlier on the same card, however, the colt with 2018 Kentucky Derby prospects swept to an overpowering 18 ½ length success in the G2 UAE Derby, won last year by Thunder Snow. Mendelssohn (Scat Daddy) had earned G1 brackets last year with victory in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, and after that race, trainer Aidan O’Brien said, “We knew he was a real American dirt horse [on pedigree], but we didn’t want to stop the progression, so that’s why we left him on the grass as maybe he wasn’t ready” for a switch of surface last year.

The group at Coolmore do not rush headlong into serious decisions, and the choices of what to do with Mendelssohn were serious. He is a good-looking horse who was a star yearling, and if he made a major success on the racecourse, he would be very valuable at stud.

In keeping with a formal evaluation of the realities of racing and breeding at the highest levels, the trainer at Ballydoyle said, “We had it in our head that maybe we could train Mendelssohn for the Kentucky Derby especially now we have the trials at home.

So the process was started last year, with the recognition that Mendelssohn was better suited, at least potentiallly, to dirt, and then the option to try the Kentucky Derby trials in Europe (or Dubai) offered that potential to work on things without jumping the pond and doing everything in one lick.

For Mendelssohn’s 2018 debut, the dark bay colt went to the Patton Stakes at Dundalk on synthetic. This was a prep, not the Guineas, and the colt looked professional but not spectacular in winning his race by three-quarters of a length.

That race was a sufficient step along the path, however, for Coolmore to take Mendelssohn to Dubai, rather than keep him in Ireland for a local prep for the classic in Kentucky.

That was a positive decision because this good-looking young athlete has not been the quickest learner. O’Brien said, “He’s a bit slow mentally to grasp what’s required.”

Last year at Santa Anita, Mendelssohn had taken his race well, but “when he got his head in front he wasn’t quite sure what to do.” Still, the colt had the natural ability to win his race. O’Brien said, “We felt he was still a bit green, but he was learning and getting better all the time.”

The race at Meydan represented a two-fold challenge for Mendelssohn. First, the UAE Derby was his debut on dirt, and second, it is raced at the longest distance of any of the Kentucky Derby preps at a bit more than 9 ½ furlongs. If the colt had any issues with either the surface or distance, this race should have found him out.

The result surely outshone anything the Coolmore crew could have hoped for.

Mendelssohn led soon after the break, after three furlongs was clear of his competitors, and from there on, the dark colt drew farther and farther away. By the time he broke the beam at the wire, Mendelssohn was more than 18 lengths clear of his nearest pursuer, the Tiz Wonderful filly Rayya, and won the race in local record time of 1:55.18.

It was the sort of lopsided victory that is at once hard to evaluate and yet hard not to be swayed toward enthusiasm.

“He came forward lovely from his run at Dundalk a few weeks ago,” O’Brien said. “We weren’t sure how he would handle the distance, but you have to say he saw it out pretty well.

“He is naturally quick and has a lot of tactical early speed. He did it the hard way, but he did it so easily. He is very well bred, he has a great physique, and you can see why he cost the lads a lot of money at the sales. We will look forward to going to Kentucky with him now. He is a terrific horse, really very exciting.”

So, the good-looking colt with all the promise will be coming back to his birthplace in Kentucky and representing his breeders, owners and fans in the Run for the Roses.

Bred in Kentucky by Clarkland Farm, Mendelssohn is out of 2016 Broodmare of the Year Leslie’s Lady, by Tricky Creek. He is a half-brother to both champion Beholder (Henny Hughes) and to the highly regarded sire Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday), whose 3-year-old son Audible won the G1 Florida Derby on the same day as Mendelssohn’s success in Dubai.

Consigned by Clarkland to the 2016 Keeneland September sale, Mendelssohn sold for $3 million to the Coolmore partners.

Taken to Ballydoyle in Ireland for training and preparation, the colt broke his maiden in his second start but then finished off the board in the G2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster after “he knocked himself coming out of the stalls,” according to rider Ryan Moore. In his fourth start, Mendelssohn was second to divisional leader US Navy Flag in the G1 Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, then came to Southern California and captured the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Moore assessed the UAE Derby result and the colt’s prospects: “He’s a horse with a lot of speed. He still feels like there’s more physical improvement in him. There’s more strengthening to come; he’s going to get better.”

Those might be the scariest words of all.

take charge indy beaming with pride from current base in korea

March 24 was a smashing day for the A.P. Indy tribe, and it was most exceptional for the A.P. Indy son Take Charge Indy, a winner of the Grade 1 Florida Derby during his racing career who went to stud at WinStar Farm in Kentucky but who is now standing in Korea.

The Pulpit set of A.P. Indy, primarily through leading sire Tapit, shook the trees and gathered the fruit with their usual enthusiasm. Synchrony won the G2 Muniz Memorial at the Fair Grounds racetrack in New Orleans, and Madison’s Luna won the G3 Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park to remain unbeaten. Good Samaritan (out of a Pulpit mare) won the G2 New Orleans Handicap from the Tapizar horse Hollywood Handsome and the Tapit gelding Scuba.

Among the other sons of A.P. Indy, there were good results, including in the G2 Louisiana Derby, won by Take Charge Indy’s son Noble Indy, now a winner in three of his four starts. Second in the race was Lone Sailor, by the A.P. Indy stallion Majestic Warrior, and third was My Boy Jack (Creative Cause), out of a mare by the A.P. Indy stallion Mineshaft.

 

take charge indy01

Take Charge Indy: at WinStar Farm during his three-season tenure in Kentucky (photo courtesy WinStar; Louise Reinagel photo)

 

Take Charge Indy’s first crop of foals raced last year at 2, and the results were acceptable, not notable. But getting early juveniles is not the profile of the typical A.P. Indy stallion. Instead, they tend to sire stock that comes to hand at the end of their juvenile season, improves markedly through the first half of their 3-year-old form, and frequently continues to improve with maturation.

Noble Indy became the second graded stakes winner by his sire with victory in the Louisiana Derby; the other graded success came last month in the G3 Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream. C.S. Incharge won the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay, and on Saturday, Split Time won the Maddie May Stakes at Aqueduct.

These are the four 2018 stakes winners by Take Charge Indy.

The tall, scopy son of A.P. Indy would be one of the “in-demand” sires in Kentucky this year, except that he is standing at Jeju Stud Farm in South Korea.

On Nov. 23, 2016, WinStar announced that the Korea Racing Authority had purchased Take Charge Indy with an “offer that was too good to turn down,” according to WinStar president Elliott Walden. After covering three books of mares at the farm, averaging 133 mares per book, taking the offer was not an easy call.

Reached in between sets of juveniles in-training at Fasig-Tipton‘s Florida sale, Walden said, “Financially, we had to take a look at the offer and make a judgment on the soundness of selling or not selling. Although the farm and the syndicate had supported the horse well, the commercial buyers were not as receptive. The horse’s yearlings tended to be big, kinda lanky horses that looked like they wanted two turns. With that type, the pinhookers weren’t strongly involved in buying them.”

In addition, Take Charge Indy was coming up to his fourth season at stud, and the fourth year of a young sire’s tenure at stud is always the most difficult because nobody wants to be stuck with foals from a sire that the marketplace has deemed “a failure.” When that happens to breeders, the options are to sell for less than the cost of production or to take the young animals home and race them. Neither is a happy business decision in most cases.

Bloodstock consultant John Stuart is a principal in Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services, and among their clients is “Merriebelle Stable, who owned a quarter of the horse,” Stuart said. “I brokered the horse for owner Chuck Sandford with WinStar.

“We liked what we got from the horse,” Stuart continued. “But the commercial market got it wrong on the stallion, for whatever reason, and I think the reason is that they were leggy and immature horses [as yearlings], which is typical of the sire line. As a result of the market taking it the other way, we went along with the deal to sell the horse but only because we knew there was the option to get him back if he was a star.”

Walden concurred: “The only way the deal was going to go through was for there to be a buy-back clause. It’s something that’s out there; it’s something we’re thinking about. But we’re not at a point of making a decision about that.”

Yet.

But the dark brown son of A.P. Indy has four stakes winners so far this year. He’s the leading sire among second-year stallions by 2018 earnings, and his half-brother, Travers winner Will Take Charge (Unbridled’s Song) is one of the favored prospects for leading freshman sire in 2018. Their half-sister is champion juvenile filly Take Charge Brandi (Giant’s Causeway), and the trio are out of the exceptional racemare Take Charge Lady (Dehere).

With all these considerations, bringing a horse back after a sale abroad requires the marketplace to reverse its assessment of a sire’s stock, and that is accomplished first on the racetrack, then franked by a positive reception in the sales ring.