Juvenile champions are an elite subset of the population, and for many years now, Coolmore has made a project of collecting as many of these as possible to stand at its Ashford Stud outside Versailles, Ky.
This has worked well, most notably with champion Uncle Mo (by Indian Charlie), champion and classic winner Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike), as well as champion and subsequent Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile).
Coolmore doesn’t catch ’em all, however, and a pair of juvenile champions that went to other studs were responsible for the winners of the juvenile stakes at Churchill Downs over the weekend. The 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and champion Midshipman (Unbridled’s Song) sired Fun and Feisty, who won the Grade 3 Pocahontas Stakes. The dark bay filly is owned by Lucky Seven Stable and was selected out of the Fasig-Tipton July sale last year by trainer Kenny McPeek for $100,000. The filly has now earned more than a quarter-million.
Midshipman, the most successful stallion son of Unbridled’s Song to date, stands at Darley‘s stallion operation at Jonabell. The Godolphin/Darley combine had acquired the colt shortly before the Breeders’ Cup as part of a giant package deal for the broodmares, farm, and racing stock of Robert and Janice McNair, which paid immediate and lasting dividends.
Following Midshipman in 2008, Coolmore acquired five of the next six juvenile champions, excepting only the eminently talented Shared Belief (Candy Ride), who was a gelding. Darley picked up the 2015 juvenile champion Nyquist (Uncle Mo), who subsequently won the 2016 Kentucky Derby. Coolmore bought the 2016 juvenile champion Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile), and Hill ‘n’ Dale stepped into the ring by securing the 2017 champion Good Magic (Curlin).
The latter’s first foals are juveniles this year, and he sired the winner of the Churchill Downs companion feature to the Pocahontas, the Iroquois Stakes.
That race featured the odds-on favorite Echo Again (Gun Runner), winner of an impressive maiden special at Saratoga, and the unbeaten Damon’s Mound (Girvin), winner of the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga. That pair led much of the race but collapsed in the stretch to finish unplaced as Curly Jack (Good Magic) and Honed (Sharp Azteca) pulled away to finish one-two in the 8.5-furlong Iroquois.
Curly Jack is the second stakes winner (both graded) for freshman sire Good Magic, and Honed is the fourth stakes horse for freshman sire Sharp Azteca (Freud; Three Chimneys), who leads all freshmen by number of winners (18).
At the moment on the first-crop sires list, the two freshmen sires above stand in reverse order to the finish of the Iroquois. Sharp Azteca is in fourth place to Good Magic’s fifth, with progeny earnings of $1.03 and $1.01 million.
The freshman leader at the moment is Bolt d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro; Spendthrift), who is narrowly ahead of Army Mule (Friesan Fire; Hill ‘n’ Dale) $1.24 million to $1.20. The leading freshman by number of stakes winners is Justify (Scat Daddy; Ashford), who has four and earnings of $1.12 million. He’s in third place on the freshman list.
With less than a quarter-million dollars separating the top five freshmen sires, this is a competitive and tightly bunched group, and we’re only now into the turn for home.
At this point, Sharp Azteca leads with total number of winners (18) from Bolt d’Oro (16), but they are tied for total starters with 52 from crops of 117 and 141.
Volume matters and not simply the number of starters. Only eight freshmen sires have more than 100 foals in their first crop, and five of those (Bolt d’Oro, Justify, Sharp Azteca, Good Magic, and Mendelssohn) are in the top seven crop leaders at present. Not only are these the most popular young prospects to go to stud for the 2019 breeding season (foals of 2020), but the leaders by number of foals also have more numerical opportunity to hit the long ball that goes over the fence, clears the bases, and makes that lucky stallion the all-star of the game.
The crop leader by number of foals among the 2022 freshmen is the “other” son of Scat Daddy, Mendelssohn, who stands at Ashford, like Justify, and is a half-brother to Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday) and to champion Beholder (Henny Hughes).
The only two young sires to have broken through against the power of numbers are Army Mule (89 foals; 40 starters; 15 winners) and City of Light (79; 17; 8).
The offspring of these well-intended young sires will continue to make competitive racing this fall, and we have miles to go before we sleep, as Mr. Frost might say.