commercial market increasingly demanding on young stallions, who “are struggling everywhere”

In an earlier article, I assessed the top tier of entering stallions for 2017, which are led by Horse of the Year California Chrome (by Lucky Pulpit), Grade 1 winner Frosted (Tapit), Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist (Uncle Mo), and Preakness winner Exaggerator (Curlin).

In a rational scheme or market, a breeder would expect an upper tier of horses that anyone would like to breed to, given the required cash. Then we would expect a middle segment of strongly supported horses who do not have universal appeal and whose stud fees reflect that. Then we would have a lower tier of stock that have recommendations but for one reason or another lack a broad appeal.

Well, that’s what you might expect if breeding happened to be rational.

In truth, it was once very much like that. The very popular horses, the significantly supported horses, and then the ones that somebody loved (occasionally to their great profit).

But no more.

The market today is increasingly bifurcated (a $64 word that means chunked into two great bits). One segment is the horses everybody wants, and the other is the rest of them.

Farm owners and breeders and stallion managers are all struggling with this situation. Only one of the ironies of this situation is that some exceptionally important stallions would be on the “rest of them” list today, including Mr. Prospector and Danzig.

Both of those great sires stood all or most of their stud careers at historic Claiborne Farm, which is experiencing the same challenges in attracting mares to their lesser-priced stallions.

Bernie Sams, from Claiborne Farm, candidly noted that “the horses priced at $12,500 and under are struggling everywhere. Everybody’s in the same boat.” It’s tough out there in stallion world. The mares haven’t shown up for the stallions who are in need of them to fill their books, and stallion farms can only do so much to persuade mare owners.

A principal reason for breeder reluctance is the selling price of mares and foals that a sizable number of owners have found at the sales, where losses have become commonplace.

Carrie Brogden of the Select Sales consignment agency said, “A lot of this is fallout from the free stud-fee deals. These have become endemic to the industry, and I think there are a lot of people who traded in the $10,000 mares and the lesser stud fees, and they have lost their asses the last three or four years. I think when you are breeding to higher-risk stallions on higher-risk years, there is a lot of risk and can be a lot of losses.”

In the commercial market for weanlings and yearlings, which is the purpose of breeding most of the foals in this price range, small differences can make the difference between profit and loss.

“The perceived value in a lot of these horses is in the stallion,” Brogden said. “If a sire is perceived as ‘hot,’ then that foal will sell. Overall, I think the stallion farms are getting the backlash from the sales – where the buyers wanted to purchase either first-year stallions’ stock or proven stallions’ stock. First year or proven, and not much else.”

One of the rationales for the selectivity of the buyers is that most of them are buying to resell. Whether choosing horses for the yearling or the 2-year-old market, resale buyers usually have a specific vision of the type and sire power they want. And with the large volume of foals and yearlings available, buyers can be very selective.

Due to these considerations, Brogden said, “We are in a situation where yearlings are either worth a ton or worth-less. Worthless. The free fall is staggering now, and as a result, people are afraid to take risk. People are understandably afraid of the risk, and a poor one costs as much to keep as a good one.”

The situation for young stallions in this “at-risk” sector of the market all depends on whether the foals run. If the 2-year-olds train well and show ability on the racetrack, then commercial disfavor is forgiven.

This is the silver lining because the sales market ultimately does correct to reflect the reality of the racetrack, but till reaching that point, breeding in this part of the market can be both challenging and financially painful.

tales of the past: dissatisfaction with ‘country’ stewards led jockey club officials to issue suggestions

From the Illustrated Dramatic and Sporting News of May 18, 1878:

An influential, if not very numerous, meeting of the Jockey Club, held at Newmarket last week, has very properly left it to the Stewards to decide what steps shall be taken in the matter of suburban meetings.

Wise determinations will doubtless be come to, but Lord Hartington emphatically hit the right nail on the head when he stated that it was the intention of himself and his colleagues to “call the attention of gentlemen undertaking the office of stewards of racemeetings to the responsibility they incur for the proper management of the meeting;” and his lordship went on to express a hope that “gentlemen would not accept the office unless they intended to be present, or were fully satisfied as to the arrangements for the conduct of the meeting.”

This last saving clause, however, appears to us to take a deal of very desirable “sting” out of the suggestion which precedes it, and we do not see why stewards should be recommended to take anything for granted after recent experiences of even tolerably-respectable meetings going utterly to the bad.

The office of steward seems lately to have been regarded as a sinecure, and those who are pleased to undertake it do so without any ideas of its duties.

It is all very well to “see oneself in print” as a Steward of the Grand International Diddlesex Meeting, to swell about stands and enclosures, and to run a horse or two for the sake of “patronising” the affair; but seekers of such distinction seem to limit themselves to swaggering – if, indeed, they turn up at all on the scene of action – and somehow are never to be found when a case arises necessitating action on their part.

It is high time all this was altered, and that people lending their names should also make a point of being present in person. A few really energetic men, content to act without fear or favour, might work wonders in the repression of those nefarious tricks which bring racing into evil repute; but the mere appearance of their names on the top of the card will not act as a deterrent to evil-doers, who must be stamped out by stronger devices than these.


 

champion and established sire ghostzapper has a major opportunity this year to extend his role in breeding to ‘classic sire’

When a stallion goes to stud amid great expectations and does not deliver – and deliver right now – the stampede away from him is emphatic. For a stallion to reverse the trend, to overturn the “disconfirmation of expectations,” as a noted breeder phrases it, requires some seriously good results and consistency in them also.

That is just what 2004 Horse of the Year and now leading sire Ghostzapper has done. The brawny bay son of Awesome Again, furthermore, has a leading candidate for the Triple Crown in McCraken, who won the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay on Feb. 11. Plus, his 3-year-old son Iliad won the G2 San Vicente at Santa Anita over the same weekend.

The strength of his offsprings’ performances this year are those of a leading sire, which Ghostzapper is. When the horse went to stud at Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs Farm in Kentucky in 2006 for a stud fee of $200,000 live foal, Ghostzapper was one of the hottest and most highly prized stallion prospects in years.

He deserved to be.

A winner of nine races from 11 starts, Ghostzapper was Horse of the Year in 2004, when he was undefeated in four starts and was by objective assessments one of the most talented Thoroughbreds of the last quarter-century, ranking very highly by career speed figures and other objective methods of evaluating form and class in Thoroughbred racehorses.

Through comparative lines of form, Ghostzapper was a monster, and the horses behind him in the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic were an outstanding group that included the previous year’s BC Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect, Horse of the Year Azeri, Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide, and Belmont winner Birdstone. In Ghostzapper’s prep for the Classic, he won the Woodward Stakes, defeating the 2005 BC Classic winner and Horse of the Year Saint Liam.

Ghostzapper himself made only a single start in 2005, an impressive victory in the Metropolitan Handicap, and a large breeding interest in both Ghostzapper and his sire were acquired by the late Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Farm.

So, when Ghostzapper retired to stand at stud in 2006, breeders lined up to send some of their best broodmares to the handsome and well-made son of Awesome Again, who was himself a red-hot sire as a winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a sire of a winner of that race, and sire as well of champion Ginger Punch, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Considering the natural speed that Ghostzapper possessed, most breeders and racehorse owners expected him to burst out of the gate as a sire of quick juveniles and sprinters that showed early maturity.

But part of a Thoroughbred’s job is to keep humans humble.

Ghostzapper had won only a maiden at 2 and did not win a stakes until the Vosburgh very late in his 3-year-old season. During his early racing, trainer Bobby Frankel also placed Ghostzapper cautiously in shorter events that showcased the horse’s amazing speed as the colt acquired the strength to maintain that speed furlong after furlong. In hindsight, Ghostzapper is breeding horses that can also maintain a steady racing rhythm but generally do not have his exceptional speed.

Overall, Ghostzapper is transmitting the qualities typically associated with his sire Awesome Again and grandsire Deputy Minister. During their lengthy and successful careers, both tended to get horses that showed their top form at a mile or more and that frequently became better with age.

That was Ghostzapper’s pattern of growth and improvement too, and many of the sire’s best racers have shown their best form at 3 or later. The 3-year-old G1 winners Stately Victor (Blue Grass) and Contested (Acorn) were the sire’s most “classic” performers, while his more numerous G1 winners include older stars like Shaman Ghost (Woodward), Judy the Beauty (Breeders’ Cup Filly Sprint), Moreno (Whitney), Starship Truffles (Princess Rooney), and Molly Morgan (La Troienne).

To date, Ghostzapper has 53 stakes winners and ranks as the nation’s second-leading sire, in large part due to Shaman Ghost’s second in the Pegasus World Cup last month. But McCraken became one of his sire’s 10 stakes-winning 2-year-olds last season and is one of the strongly fancied candidates for the Triple Crown.

With the expected pattern of growth and improvement from Ghostzapper’s stock, McCraken has more than average promise to continue to rise and prosper. Likewise, Ghostzapper’s sire results have improved year by year, and he may be poised for the best year of his stallion career.

irish raises the ‘war cry’ for curlin’s classic inclinations with a victory in gulfstream’s holy bull stakes

At the end of January, chestnut champion California Chrome closed out a career, and a week later, a fresh classic prospect with a touch of ‘chrome’ upended the form in the toughest 3-year-old contest of the new season with a victory in the G2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

The winner of the Holy Bull was the unbeaten Irish War Cry (by Curlin), and the two most impressive things about the performance were, first, the way the chestnut colt won by open lengths after leading the whole way, and second, the depth of competition in the race where he defeated last season’s 2-year-old champion Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) and the highly rated colt Gunnevera (Dialed In).

This commendable effort does not make him a ready-made classic winner, but it is a heck of a step forward to that goal.

Furthermore, the prospects for Irish War Cry in the classic distance races later this year are improved by his sire, a two-time Horse of the Year and probably the most classic American sire active today.

In addition to winning a Preakness, a Breeders’ Cup Classic, a Dubai World Cup, two Jockey Club Gold Cups, and more than $10 million, Curlin proved that he was a rock-solid 10-furlong performer on racetracks around the nation and in Dubai.

The brawny chestnut son of Smart Strike (Mr. Prospector) reveled in the distance, improved through his 3-year-old season and into his 4-year-old form. There was absolutely nothing about Curlin that said “sprinter.”

And in marked contrast to the contemporary breeding norms that make early-maturing, short-distance horses the most commercial prospects for stud, Curlin retired amid plenty of acclaim on the cusp of the Great Recession. He was so wildly popular that the plans were to stand him for $100,000, the same as classic winner Big Brown, but the deepening morass of economic collapse caused a revision to both stud fees down to $60,000 their first season.

Stud fees fell precipitously in the ensuing years, not just for Curlin or Big Brown, but for practically all stallions, and many sires had to leave Kentucky for homes far away where there were breeders eager to breed to them.

Most of the stallion prospects for the entering class of 2009 that included the two stars mentioned above are now gone from Kentucky. Even Big Brown stands in New York.

Curlin, however, stands for $150,000 live foal in 2017. He does not earn that kind of stud fee because of good looks, a rich pedigree, or even his exalted race record. The robustly made son of Smart Strike is in that kind of demand because of the results that Curlin gets on the racetrack.

From his first crop onward, Curlin has shown the ability to sire horses who can win the most important races in the country over a distance of ground, and breeders want to produce the stock that could become the home-run horse. Buyers want to purchase the yearlings and 2-year-olds who can win G1 stakes, classics, and championships.

And stallions who can deliver on classic potential and championship caliber are in the highest demand worldwide.

Curlin’s first crop included Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, and the third included Keen Ice (Travers). Last season, the stallion had five G1 winners, including Exaggerator (Preakness, Haskell), Off the Tracks (Mother Goose), Stellar Wind (Zenyatta, Clement Hirsch), Connect (Cigar Mile), and Curalina (2015 Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks, 2016 La Troienne).

In 2016, Curlin finished second on the general sire list behind only all-conquering Tapit (Pulpit) and ahead of Uncle Mo, Candy Ride, and Kitten’s Joy in the top 5.

Curlin has continued his impressive pace of success into this year, and Irish War Cry is carrying his sire’s banner high.

Bred in New Jersey by Isabelle de Tomaso, Irish War Cry goes back in the female line to stakes winner Irish Trip (Saint Crespin), who is the Holy Bull winner’s third dam, and the extended family goes through the Dormello Stud-bred Italian 1,000 Guineas winner Dagherotipia (Manna), thence to the marvelous Pretty Polly (Gallinule).

More to the point, Irish War Cry is the sixth foal of his dam, Irish Sovereign, a good winning daughter of Polish Numbers (Danzig). Polish Numbers is the sire of California Chrome’s second dam and is becoming a sire of considerable appeal in the bottom half of pedigrees.

[For more information about the breeder, here are two fine articles from Ray Paulick and Sid Fernando.]

arrogate’s ascension to the top of racing’s world is marked by his rapidly rising earnings, plus his potential to become richest racer in the world

With victory in Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 28, champion Arrogate took a giant leap toward becoming the leading money winner in the States, perhaps even the world.

The current leading American money winner is California Chrome, who has earned $14,752,650 with 16 victories from 27 starts, racing from 2 to 6. Now retired to stud at Taylor Made Farm south of Lexington, Ky., California Chrome was the 1.20-1 second choice in the massive betting pool for the Pegasus, earning another $250,000.

The winner Arrogate was the race favorite, and the gray son of Unbridled’s Song leapt to third place among American-raced horses with the $7 million winner’s purse on Saturday. Arrogate now has $11,084,600 in earnings, and with several very rich prizes coming up through the remainder of the year.

If the gray colt’s owner elects to send Arrogate to Dubai, a victory there would make him the leading American racer by earnings. If they elect to forego the big race in Dubai and concentrate on a domestic campaign to take the colt to the Breeders’ Cup, and possibly the second Pegasus World Cup next January, then Arrogate would also be in a position to become the leading money winner.

Except in Japan.

The biggest money winners worldwide all come from Japan: T M Opera O, Orfevre, and Buena Vista sit atop the world stats, and Arrogate would need to win both the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the 2018 Pegasus to leapfrog over all the rich Pacific Rim racers to lead the world in earnings at $20 million or more.

Whether that happens or not, Arrogate will be a wildly popular stallion prospect whenever he retires to stud. He is the most celebrated son of Unbridled’s Song and even represents an advance on that very talented horse’s accomplishments. There is actually a great deal of Unbridled, the sire of Unbridled’s Song, about Arrogate.

So capturing the world’s leadership in racecourse earnings would be a desirable piece of frosting on the grand gray’s cake, but it wouldn’t mean more than showing very high form, speed, consistency, and soundness.

Through the prism of history, the status of being a leading money winner may mean a little or a lot. Even taking out the non-breeding leaders like Kelso, the list is littered with very good racehorses who found markedly less success at stud. Among the solid representatives, Triple Crown winner Citation and multiple champion Nashua were goodish sires but nothing like so accomplished as on the racetrack.

In contrast, however, three very important stallions were earnings leaders. The 1958 Horse of the Year was Round Table, who won 43 races and more than $1.7 million. At stud, he became an international success with classic winner Baldric, highweight 2-year-old Apalachee, as well as major American winners like Royal Glint and King Pellinore.

More than a half-century earlier, the greatest money winner of the 1890s was the fleet Domino, winner of 19 races from 25 starts and earner of $193,550. He then retired to a brief spell at stud that made him one of the most successful sires in history for percentage of quality horses to foals. His earnings as evidence of outstanding merit was emphasized by his tenure as leading earner for 17 years.

And the horse who bumped Domino from his perch as top earner was nothing less than Man o’ War.

A winner in 20 of his 21 starts, Man o’ War also prospered from the rise in purses during the 1920s, but he became a sire of equal significance. The chestnut son of Fair Play sired classic winners American Flag, Crusader, Clyde Van Dusen, and War Admiral, plus major performers like Mars (Travers), War Hero (Travers), War Relic (Massachusetts Handicap), Scapa Flow (Futurity), Edith Cavell (Coaching Club American Oaks), and Bateau (Suburban).

These leading money winners possessed all the esteemed characteristics of top racehorses, which they translated into winning races at the highest level. Essentially, large purse earnings are one more indicator of high merit, rather like a card that gets you into the dance.

Both California Chrome and Arrogate will receive considerable support from breeders, and the success of the resulting foals will determine their sires’ ranking in the ongoing game of the great sport of the racecourse.

prominent sire and depth of family are aces in a strong hand for lecomte stakes winner guest suite

The leading third-crop sire of 2016, when his oldest foals were 4, Quality Road (by Elusive Quality) has made a good start to 2017 with Guest Suite, winner of the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds racecourse.

Quality Road had a cracking year with his top runners in 2016, which included a trio who won Grade 1 stakes. These were Klimt (Del Mar Futurity), Abel Tasman (Starlet Stakes), and Illuminant (Gamely Stakes), and Guest Suite did his bit for the cause by winning two of his four starts at 2 and finishing third in the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs going a mile.

Quality Road showed his very best form going a mile when winning the 2010 Metropolitan Handicap, and he also won the G1 Woodward Stakes and Donn Handicap, plus the Florida Derby at 3, when Quality Road was so highly regarded that he was favored for the Kentucky Derby until sidelined by a foot problem shortly before the big event.

A tall (16.3 hands), lengthy stallion with outstanding presence, Quality Road partakes significantly of the best qualities of his sire Elusive Quality, who has been perhaps the best son of Gone West at stud. Quality Road also gets some important toughness from his broodmare sire, the outstanding Australian racehorse Strawberry Road. The latter won major races around the world and became an important sire in the States as one of the chief stallions at Allen Paulson’s Brookside Farm.

In an outstanding racing career, Quality Road won eight of 13 starts, with three seconds and a third, for earnings of more than $2.2 million. His four G1 victories marked him as a superior stallion prospect, and Quality Road went to stud in 2011 at Lane’s End Farm. His stud fee at Lane’s End for 2017 is $35,000 live foal, which is testimony to the regard that breeders have for the horse.

Guest Suite comes from his sire’s third crop and is one of 11 stakes winners by Quality Road to date.

Bred in Kentucky by W.S. Farish and Kilroy Thoroughbred Partnership, Guest Suite is out of the Ghostzapper mare Guest House. This is the famous female line developed by the breeders over decades of cultivation.

The Farish-Kilroy connection traces back to Lassie Dear, a foal of 1974 by the great Buckpasser (Tom Fool) out of Ashland Stakes winner Gay Missile (Sir Gaylord, a half-brother to Secretariat). They acquired Lassie Dear, won stakes with her, and bred four stakes winners from her, including the Lecomte winner’s third dam, Weekend Surprise (Secretariat).

Guest Suite is the first stakes winner to light up the present generation of this branch of the family, which is still a bit young. Guest Suite is the second foal of his dam and her first winner and stakes winner. The mare has a 2-year-old full sister to Guest Suite who sold at the 2016 Keeneland September sale for $220,000 to Hartley / De Renzo, and we would expect to see her in one of the in-training sales for 2-year-olds later in the spring.

Consigned to the Keeneland January sale in 2016, Guest House sold to Silesia Farm for $100,000 in foal to Noble Mission, a full brother to the great Frankel and a stallion at Lane’s End. Guest House produced a filly by Noble Mission last year and was bred back to Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice (Curlin).

Guest House is one of six winners out of the stakes-winning mare Welcome Surprise (Seeking the Gold), who is one of four stakes winners out of the outstanding Secretariat mare Weekend Surprise. Welcome Surprise is a half-sister to classic winner and Horse of the Year A.P. Indy (Seattle Slew) and to classic winner Summer Squall (Storm Bird). Both stood at Lane’s End and were sires of Horses of the Year.

Weekend Surprise was one of a trio of superb stakes-winning daughters of the great Secretariat who produced major stallions. The others were Secrettame (Gone West) and Terlingua (Storm Cat), and such was the prevalence of these sires that we are frequently seeing them intercrossed in pedigrees, including that of Guest Suite.

A progressive 3-year-old with good expectations of producing his form at nine furlongs, Guest Suite will be interesting to watch as he attempts greater challenges on the grand trek to the classics this spring.

lockdown raises hopes for the future and memories of a historic past with victory in the busanda stakes

The 2017 Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct is named for a mare who was born 70 years ago. By Triple Crown winner War Admiral (by Man o’ War) and out of the Blue Larkspur mare Businesslike, Busanda was bred by Ogden Phipps from some of the exceptional stock that he acquired from the estate of E.R. Bradley’s Idle Hour Farm.

The Bradley estate sold the bloodstock in a private transaction to Greentree Stable, King Ranch, and Phipps, and all the parties reaped dividends. None did better than Phipps, however.

Busanda was the fifth foal of her dam Businesslike, who was the seventh foal of the great broodmare La Troienne (Teddy) and was a nonwinner from only two starts on the racetrack. Businesslike was a half-sister to four stakes winners, including champion Bimelech (Black Toney), and a full sister to stakes winner Bee Ann Mac, winner of the Selima at 2 and third in the Alabama Stakes at 3.

war-admiral

War Admiral – the Triple Crown winner of 1937 – was a son of the great Man o’ War and was the sire of Busanda, the dam of Horse of the Year Buckpasser.

 

So Businesslike would have had considerable appeal as part of the Phipps broodmare band, and Busanda was her first stakes winner. As a racehorse, Busanda was a winner at 2 and 3rd in the Selima. She then progressed notably at 3 to become one of the better fillies of her generation.

The black filly hit the headlines with a victory in the Alabama Stakes at 3, when she was also 3rd in the Coaching Club American Oaks; won the Suburban Handicap and Saratoga Cup against colts at 4, plus the rich New Castle Handicap and Top Flight against mares; and was again victor in the Saratoga Cup as a 5-year-old.

In all, Busanda won 10 of 65 starts, with 18 more finishes in 2nd or 3rd. She was tough and game, had superior stamina, and was beautifully pedigreed. What a broodmare prospect she was.

Possessing more stamina than speed, Busanda was sent first to Native Dancer’s sire Polynesian, and her first foal was stakes winner Bureaucracy, winner of the National Stallion Stakes at 2, the Dwyer at 3, and second in the Travers. The mare’s next four foals were all by Nasrullah, the best stallion in America during his lifetime, and the results were disappointing: a pair of minor stakes-placed colts and a pair of nonwinning fillies. Returned to a more specifically speed influence, Busanda produced 1963 Futurity Stakes winner Bupers (Double Jay) and champion 2-year-old colt Buckpasser (Tom Fool).

Buckpasser progressed like his dam, although starting from a higher perch on the handicap at 2 and becoming Horse of the Year at 3 after scintillating victories in the Travers, Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and many other races. A winner in 25 of 31 starts, Buckpasser was one of the greatest American racehorses, and Busanda was his dam.

These horses raced for Phipps, and it is fitting that one of the great international owner-breeders, Juddmonte Farms, bred and races the winner of the 2017 Busanda.

This is the dark brown filly Lockdown, a full sister to champion Close Hatches, both by the Unbridled’s Song stallion First Defence. A winner five times at the G1 level, Close Hatches was a big, slashing sort of filly with a big stride and the ability to carry her speed around two turns.

Lockdown, now twice a winner from three starts, looks a lot like her full sister and became a stakes winner in the Busanda. That makes Lockdown the second stakes winner from her dam, the Storm Cat mare Rising Tornado.

Juddmonte’s Garrett O’Rourke said, “Lockdown is very close to her sister. They were like replicas till January of Lockdown’s 2-year-old year, when she seemed to grow taller, more like the Unbridled’s Songs. Close Hatches is thicker, with a touch more of the Storm Cat, but they may be coming back together” in their development now.

Rising Tornado is a winning daughter of the stakes-placed mare Silver Star (Zafonic), a full sister to English highweight 2-year-old colt Xaar. They are out of the outstanding producer Monroe (Sir Ivor), dam of group stakes winners Masterclass (The Minstrel), Diese (Diesis), and Xaar, who won the G1 Dewhurst and Prix de la Salamandre at 2.

Winner of the G3 Ballyogan Stakes and second in the G1 Phoenix Stakes, Monroe is one of four stakes winners out of Best in Show, dam also of G3 winner Malinowski (Sir Ivor) and Kentucky Oaks winner Blush With Pride (Blushing Groom).

Monroe is also the point at which Juddmonte bought into this family. Brought to sale as a yearling, the bay filly was a full to Malinowski, as well as to stakes-placed Minnie Hauk, and Monroe went through the 1978 Keeneland July sale for $300,000, the fourth-highest price for a Sir Ivor that year.

Generation after generation, this outstanding family has given racers of the highest class to Juddmonte’s international racing and breeding operation, and Lockdown is another link in this chain of excellence.

In addition, her dam Rising Tornado has a newly turned 2-year-old filly by Tapit named Hail and a yearling colt by Pioneerof the Nile. She is in foal to Malibu Moon.

magic millions attracts buyers from around the world to rich pool of super-fast prospects

The Magic Millions is a fascinating concept. And dead simple. One of the horses in this sale is going to win a race worth $1 million. As a means of selling horses and promoting racing, the Magic Millions has come a long way since its inception in 1986. From that first catalog came the following year’s Magic Millions Classic winner Snippets, who developed into a star performer on the racecourse and at stud.

As managing director Vin Cox said, “Having Snippets gave the Magic Millions a platform to attract more and better stock,” which the sales and racing scheme has multiplied year by year to its present status.

The sale earned its status as a leading auction Down Under by becoming the prime hunting ground for star juveniles, and then enough of them became important sires and dams to make breeders and buyers recognize that this wasn’t simply a sale about a single day of racing.

It was another avenue, another angle, for finding the fastest horse.

As a conjunction of racing and breeding, the Magic Millions has proven a force for shaping the breed in Australia. For 30 years of breeding, it has been a powerful financial incentive to produce a hardy, precocious, and race-ready type of yearling.

Much like the American yearlings of old, these Australian youngsters are brought to the Magic Millions in January – almost identical in timing to the Keeneland July sale – and to be truly sales-worthy the yearlings have to be well-grown and look like ready, young racehorses.

Or, at least that’s what they’ve had to look like in the past.

Cox said, “Although long a one-dimensional sale, the Magic Millions has evolved to the point of getting horses of differing types. Not just the big, forward types that you expect to sell well, but the nice prospects by sires like So You Think, Dundeel, and Shamus Award that get later-maturing stock have a place now.

“Last year was the first [Aus]$10 million race day, and it has been game changing for the sale and for the sport. Many are being kept in active training with this day of racing in mind, and so many more are eligible to participate” because of the larger race card.

Whereas the Magic Millions began with the emphasis on a single race and massive payout for the winner, the card this year features nine races with $10 million in prize money to share. Five of the races offer purses of $1 million, and two more, the Magic Millions Classic (2yos) and the MM Guineas (3yos), are worth $2 million, plus prizes. All the runners are Magic Millions sale graduates, except for winners of a special quartet of races for homebreds, and “this year, only three runners entered for the day were not sold at the Magic Millions,” Cox said.

Plus, the distances and conditions of the races allow different ages, sexes, and types of horses to partake in some of the wealth generated by the Magic Millions. The 2,200-meter event (1 3/8 miles) is the only race at a significant distance, but that is an intriguing addition for a sale that has long been the home of the “forward” horse.

And make no mistake, that is the goal of the Magic Millions consignors – selling the fastest horse. They have taken some of the lessons of American early-summer sales and bred up an indigenous auction with a winning streak at the highest level.

Cox proudly noted that 10 of the last 13 winners of the Gold Slipper, typically regarded as Australia’s most important race for juveniles, were sold at the Magic Millions.

The 2015 winner of the Golden Slipper was a dark bay colt by Medaglia d’Oro named Vancouver, who sold at the Magic Millions, was unbeaten at 2, and was hailed a juvenile star. After covering his first book of mares for Coolmore in Australia in 2016, Vancouver will be a newcomer in Kentucky at Ashford for the 2017 Northern Hemisphere season.

Further connections to Kentucky breeding in the Magic Millions are yearlings by shuttle sires Animal Kingdom, Bernardini, Congrats, Medaglia d’Oro, More Than Ready, The Factor, and Uncle Mo. One unexpected sire is the non-shuttler Tapit, who has a pair of yearlings in the sale. Both were conceived in Kentucky on Southern Hemisphere time. Hip 165 is a good-sized gray filly out of the stakes winner Leinan (by Ready’s Image). This is the first foal of the dam, who is out of a stakes winner and half-sister to a pair. The second Tapit is a chestnut colt, Hip 532, out of the stakes-winning mare Touch Love, by Not for Love. A half-brother to stakes winner Starfish Bay, this is a flashy colt with three white stockings, similar to California Chrome, who has four white legs, and is by a son of Pulpit (Lucky Pulpit) out of a mare by Not for Love (Love the Chase).

Perhaps the lucky buyer will name this one Aussie Chrome.

midnight storm is part of the rising tide from the ‘nile’

The leading sire in America for 2017 is Pioneerof the Nile. The sire of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah had a good year with runners in 2016, but anyone counting crops, like me, knew that the stallion’s third-crop 3-year-olds were on deck last year, with the 2-year-olds coming from Pioneerof the Nile’s fourth crop.

Those third- and fourth-crop foals are normally from smaller crops than the preceding two, reducing the chance of striking the steel for that living spark to light another bonfire of success. Pioneerof the Nile, however, did just that.

In the last quarter of 2016, Classic Empire came to the fore of the juvenile crop with a pair of Grade 1 victories in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. Now the champion pro-tem among the 2-year-old colts, Classic Empire is a well-regarded prospect for the classics of 2017.

Before the arrival of Classic Empire, one of the stallion’s first-crop performers, G1 winner Midnight Storm, admirably filled some of the gap last season left by American Pharoah, and Midnight Storm again did the honors on the first day of the New Year, putting his sire atop the leading sires table with a front-running victory in the G2 San Pasqual Stakes.

Moreover, Midnight Storm has won five of his last six starts: a G1, a trio of G2s, and a G3. His only loss came in November’s G1 Breeders’ Cup Mile, in which he was third behind Tourist (by Tiznow) and champion filly Tepin (Bernstein), winner of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Mile when held at Keeneland.

Midnight Storm and Classic Empire are the two U.S.-raced G1 winners in 2016 by Pioneerof the Nile. The stallion’s third G1 winner of last year is La Alpujarra, winner twice at the premium level in the Clasico Hipico Nacional and the Clasico Cruz de Avila, both at La Rinconada in Venezuela.

Midnight Storm and La Alpujarra come from the first crop by their sire, who went to stud in the dark depths of the Great Recession, and that first crop is also represented by graded stakes winner Cash Control, who most recently won the G3 Cardinal Handicap at Churchill Downs in November.

They are evidence that the stock by Pioneerof the Nile possesses some excellent qualities for sturdiness and longevity in their racing, and the better ones are also noteworthy for their good looks.

I will never forget the first time I saw Pioneerof the Nile led out of his stall. His head and neck came out, then his shoulders, then the dark horse’s dark midsection, and finally the horse’s great length of hip went past. It was more like being passed by a ship than a horse. Pioneerof the Nile is a big boy.

Then, as the sizable colt stood quietly in the half-light of the Vinery stallion barn, his near-black coat gave off gleams like highly polished mahogany. He was a memorable sight. His length and height, scope and length of rein, and depth of hip and shoulder fitted together so perfectly that there was no indication of his size till standing next to him, and the horse’s good manners were an indication that he put his energies into racing.

Winner of the G1 Hollywood Futurity at 2, the Santa Anita Derby at 3, then second in the Kentucky Derby, Pioneerof the Nile possessed a high degree of precocity and speed, stamina and class.

He has passed on these qualities to his best progeny. The most notable of them is American Pharoah, who was never better suited than in his races for the Belmont Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, when he was allowed to power along with an enterprising ride that put his large stride and metronomic cadence to best effect.

That same approach to racing fits Midnight Storm equally well, and he has employed his speed and maneuverability to great effect. He has controlled the lead in each of his five victories mentioned above, and in his only loss, the third to Tourist and Tepin, Midnight Storm tracked the flaming pace (:21.81, :44.61, 1:08.59) and was pegged back to third in a final time of 1:31.71.

The good-looking Midnight Storm had his most impressive victory in the G3 Native Diver Stakes, which was less than a month after the BC Mile and preceded the San Pasqual. Racing nine furlongs on a “good” surface that looked a bit tiring, the son of Pioneerof the Nile powered away from his opponents to win by 7 ¾ lengths.

A May foal, Midnight Storm has strengthened and improved throughout his 5-year-old season, and he may be one who finds his true medium is racing nine furlongs or longer under testing conditions that put a premium on stride, sturdiness, and a game attitude.

elite new stallions for 2017: kentucky derby winners california chrome and nyquist, preakness winner exaggerator

The entering group of stallion prospects for 2017 is not large, nor should it be. There are nine new boys for the upper tier of the stallion market, and by stud fee, these are Frosted (by Tapit; $50,000), California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit; $40,000), Nyquist (Uncle Mo; $40,000), Exaggerator (Curlin; $30,000), Air Force Blue (War Front; $25,000), Lord Nelson (Pulpit; $25,000), Runhappy (Super Saver; $25,000), Flintshire (Dansili; $20,000), and Mshawish (Medaglia d’Oro; $20,000).

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Frosted – shown at Darley’s Jonabell shortly after his retirement, is the high-priced entering stallion for 2017. A multiple G1 winner, Frosted is a son of supersire Tapit. BITB photo

One reason for the small number of stallions at the top – and this is not a new situation – is the number of mares each of these horses will cover in his first season at stud. Expecting good fertility and good fortune for each, this group will likely average 125 to 150 mares apiece. That translates to about 1,200 to 1,400 mares that will be bred to this elite set of young, unproven sires in 2017.

Those stats indicate that, second only to the upper-level proven sires, the largest segment of mares bred in Kentucky will go to the entering first-year stallions. The competition for mares at this level of the supercharged stallion environment is intense beyond reason. That has been the case for at least a quarter-century because the first-year stallions are the most popular subset of the commercial market, especially when sales prices are compared to stud fees.

Why are breeders so excited about the new boys as stallions of today and potential supersires of tomorrow?

It’s simple. Buyers love them.

Year after year, the most popular segment of the foal market, of the yearling market, and of the 2-year-old market is for prospects by new sires. And the driving force behind the commercial popularity of new sires and the demand for their first-crop colts and fillies is the in-training sales market.

The sales of 2-year-olds drive the yearling sales. Period.

Without a resale market, the commercial marketplace today could not supply an outlet for the volume of yearlings produced, and the bloodstock industry as a commercial marketplace would not have recovered from the Great Bloodstock Depression of the late 1980s. The tax law changes from the Reagan administration were so adversarial to horse owners and horse ownership that the regulations literally burned out the core and structure of the breeding business.

Not surprisingly, it collapsed, and it would not have risen from the ashes – certainly not in the strength and volume that it did through the 1990s – if the 2-year-old sales market had not been there to inject cash and create demand for certain types of young horses.

The type most in demand, and I’m talking broadly across the market for yearlings and weanlings, was the good-sized, thick-bodied, progressive-looking yearling from the first crop by higher-profile sires. That is the prototype for the “2-year-old sales horse.”

Which of the stallion prospects for 2017 will most appeal to the commercial market? Surely, the best juveniles in the group – Eclipse Award winner Nyquist, top European 2-year-old Air Force Blue, and good 2-year-old performers Frosted and California Chrome – will be very popular.

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Runhappy – enters stud at Claiborne for 2017. He was champion sprinter of 2015, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and is a son of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver. BITB photo

Likewise, top sprinters Runhappy and Lord Nelson will be odds-on selections to draw interest both from breeders looking to add speed to their programs, as well as from breeders wanting to sell young horses that are very likely to be popular in the sales ring.

In addition to speed and early maturity, the next most-popular qualification for a higher-end sire is classic success. For that, this group includes two Kentucky Derby winners: 2016 winner Nyquist and 2014 winner California Chrome. The latter also won the 2014 Preakness, and 2016 Preakness winner Exaggerator also will be entering stud for next year.

Soundness and toughness are factors of significance to breeders, and California Chrome will be one to take high marks in this category. Also important for these factors and for pushing the market to accept “turf horses” are hickory tough performers Flintshire and Mshawish.

Each of these horses has shown the ability to perform at an exceptional level, and those who can pass along those most desirable of traits with some consistency will have caught lightning in a bottle for lucky breeders and buyers, and those young stallions will take their place in lighting the way for future racing generations.