Half a lifetime ago, I spent the summer and fall of 1984 watching Danzig’s first crop of racers set their sire on the path of a legendary stallion career. Among that first crop was the year’s champion 2-year-old colt Chief’s Crown, who won four Grade 1 stakes that season, including the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
The overwhelming quality about Danzig’s stock was their consistency and their class. He had winner after winner at the most important tracks against well-meant young prospects, and plenty of them raised their game to earn black type.
As a result, Danzig became a premier sales sire over the subsequent two decades, with his offspring bringing large sums from the leading international buyers, such as the Maktoum family, Juddmonte Farm, the Niarchos family, and Coolmore. Due to these and other major breeders, the impact of the dark bay stallion with the crooked blaze has spread round the world.
Danzig’s son Danehill was the best sire in Australasian racing and breeding, and Green Desert joined Danehill and others to balance the classic strains of Northern Dancer, such as Sadler’s Wells, with the expression of their own set of traits in European pedigrees.
Overall, Danzig has been a powerful influence for speed, and the stallion’s stock have frequently been able to carry their speed at least a mile. On occasion, they also have won major races at classic distances. Danzig Connection won the Belmont Stakes at 12 furlongs, and Chief’s Crown was placed in all three of the 1985 classics: second in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, third in the Belmont.
Coming near the end of Danzig’s stallion career, his son Hard Spun was an admirable racehorse who ran a smashing race to finish second in the 2007 Kentucky Derby behind Street Sense (by Street Cry) and in front of Curlin (Smart Strike), who was third. Curlin turned the tables by winning the Preakness narrowly from Street Sense, with Hard Spun third. At year’s end, Curlin claimed the first of his Horse of the Year titles by adding the Breeders’ Cup Classic to his season’s accomplishments. Hard Spun was second in that race and was no worse than the third-best colt of his crop.
Like Street Sense and Any Given Saturday (Distorted Humor) from the same crop, Hard Spun was acquired for stud by Sheikh Maktoum’s Darley operation to stand in Kentucky at Jonabell. In addition to spreading the reach of Darley’s stallion program into Kentucky, Sheikh Maktoum was also working to gain access to Japan as a base for breeding and racing.
After quite a lot of work and negotiation, he succeeded. As part of Darley Japan’s breeding program, they shipped Street Sense to Hokkaido to stand at the head of the stud in 2013. He returned to Kentucky for the 2014 season, and he was replaced by Hard Spun in Japan for a year.
Hard Spun will be standing at Jonabell in Kentucky for 2015, and his book will be well-filled by choice broodmares. The son of Danzig has had a very good year, with the 5-year-old Hard Not to Like winning the G1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland in the spring and 3-year-old Wicked Strong taking home the prize in the G1 Wood Memorial. On Saturday, Hard Spun’s 4-year-old son Hardest Core added a further branch of laurel to his sire’s honors with victory in the G1 Arlington Million.
Three G1 winners from three crops suggest that Hard Spun is a factor for soundness, good bone, and longevity on the track. Those seem to be qualities frequently found among the sire’s produce and that he possessed himself.
Hard Spun is a big, powerfully made animal. He stands a bit over 16.2 hands and even now gives the impression of being a leggy horse. In his own makeup, as well as in his offspring, Hard Spun can pass on quite a bit of his grandsire, 1986 champion older horse Turkoman (Alydar).
That is not a given, however, as Hard Spun’s offspring run from the elegant and refined to the big and rugged. Hardest Core is toward the latter end of the scale and shows plenty of the Turkoman influence. He was a big and progressive sort who attracted good interest at the sales but didn’t get sold immediately.
Bred by Mueller Farms in Kentucky, Hardest Core went through the yearling sales ring three times before finding a new owner. He was an RNA at $70,000 in the Keeneland January sale, then an RNA again for $60,000 at Keeneland September, before finally closing the deal for $87,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s October yearling sale. The colt was so big and strong by this time that his qualities attracted the winning bid from Adena Springs, which raced him through his 3-year-old season before selling him at the Keeneland November sale as a racing prospect.
Hardest Core showed no form as a young horse, got to the races at 3, when he won a maiden at Saratoga and an allowance at Belmont convincingly enough that Adena sold the colt for $210,000 to Gregory Bentley, and Hardest Core has proven to be worth every dime.
He is unbeaten this year at 4 in three starts, and the gelding has ascended the class ladder precipitously with an allowance victory, followed by a three-length success in the Henlopen Stakes at Delaware, and now a G1 at Arlington.
Hardest Core will not be carrying on the Danzig line, however, because he was gelded after purchase by the Bentley Stable, but he offers the promise of continuing sport on the course and appears to have the potential for further improvement.
*The preceding post was first published earlier this week at Paulick Report.